Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A critical mass of quilts

Another few months have passed, so it's time for another quilt round up. Let's start with quilts that celebrate the season.

This pillow cover was finished a couple days ago. I just couldn't resist this fabric with a Christmas tree in a little red row boat. While there is quite a bit of nautical quilting fabric, and many metric tons of Christmas quilting fabric, the intersection of those two themes is vanishingly small. And what little exists showcases sailboats and lighthouses, so this is a rare find. Unfortunately, it's very low grade fabric, a bit stiff and nasty, but should be fine for a pillow used for a few weeks a year.

The pinwheels at the bottom are pieced out of scraps of other Christmas fabric, with snowflakes and festive swirls. Did you know pinwheel blocks can spin both clockwise and counter-clockwise, and you need to keep track of exactly how you're sewing them together? Me neither, so the backwards one ended on the back.

This lap quilt is pieced with hexagons and triangles, where the hexagons are "fussy cut." That means that the large flowers were (mostly) centered in the hexagon rather than just randomly placed. I guess if I was fussier, my fussy cuts would be perfectly centered. However, with the wild assortment of holiday fabrics in this quilt, a bit of fudging is hardly noticed. In fact, this quilt ended up being so lurid that we call it the Christmas Vomit quilt. It's okay, I'm keeping it for myself.

So all my Christmas themed items are what's fondly called "selfish sewing" in the quilt community: stuff you greedily keep for yourself.

But I'm not an ogre; I did make a few things to give away.

This little table topper was a gift for our friends Rod and Pauline. They really took us under their wings when we were brand new boaters and gave us tons of great advice. We've had some super fun evenings with them, drinking too much and telling tall tales, so I pieced this out of fabric with a wine theme: grapevines and corks and bottles.

I learned how to make this picture quilt in a class called "Accidental Landscapes."  It will be a gift for someone who doesn't read the blog (I think). I took the class at the Houston International Quilt Festival in October.

This lap quilt was made for a dear friend's mother. She has lost a lot of her mobility and spends quite a bit of time in a wheelchair now. My friend said her mom loved blues and deep burgundy. I had the perfect blue batiks in my stash.

While researching how big a wheelchair quilt should be, I learned that many people consider it quite helpful to be able to tie the blanket to the arms of the chair. This keeps it from slipping into the wheels or sliding off altogether. I used some pretty burgundy fabric to bind the quilt and make the removable ties. This type of quilt is similar in size to baby quilts and is a good fit for my small sewing space, so I may be making more of these in the future.

And speaking of babies and their quilts...

Amory Lloyd Gross, our first grand nephew, was born on December 13th. Baby Amory and his mother Charis (my niece) are healthy and happy and all the relatives are just tickled pink. As in pink elephants. Actually, grey and yellow elephants, to match the new nursery.

I made this fun, modern baby quilt using a free pattern from Sew Fresh Quilts and quilted it with wavy lines. Charis keeps a Pinterest board of nursery decorating ideas and when I saw this pattern I knew she would love it. All the baby elephants are following their mothers except the one in the middle who holds Mama's trunk with his own.

The back is a super soft, thick flannel that should withstand many, many years of being snuggled, dragged around, spit up upon, and washed.

Of course, this isn't the only baby quilt I've working on. No, this is only the most tasteful one.

Cartoon cats, surrounded by purple ladybug sashing, sitting on a sea of pink and purple flowers, with lime green binding? Yep.

These goofy cat faces just make me happy! More wavy line quilting on this one.

How about jungle animals in saturated colors, set in tilted blocks on a blue sky background? Every fabric needs to be different, of course. I designed my own free motion quilting pattern for this one in the shape of clouds.

Thank you, Rainbow Zebra, for your wise advice. Sean certainly dared to be different when I asked him to hold up the quilt for photos. "Now show me the back."

Smart alek.

This one is all dog and cat fabrics. They are supposed to be in the shape of big "plus" signs, but that gets a bit lost in the busyness. While I think I did a good job choosing a variety of colors, I should have chosen a wider variety of scales. All the motifs are about the same size, so your eye sees the spottiness of the fabrics even more than the color.

I still have so much to learn when it comes to design theory! Even though my style is happily lurid, there must be some method in the madness or it ends up being too chaotic. But I feel like I'm starting to hit my stride with the Project Linus quilts for kids. I firmly believe that the colors and fabrics that make me happy will be warmly received, but I want to keep getting better at my unique style.

This one is called a rag quilt. The seams are exposed and naturally fray as the blanket is washed and used. It is made of soft flannel pieces and was fun to do...once. All those exposed seams have to be carefully snipped with scissors every half inch. So. Much. Snipping. And the frayed bits filled our washer and dryer with fuzz that then ended up all over the boat. If I make another one, I'll go to the laundromat!

Look at these dog faces! I'm dying with the cuteness!

Here's the whole shebang. The dog fabric was oddly shaped scrap chunks that I trimmed down into squares, making sure each square had at least one face on it. I was left with quite a number of dog butts. Somewhere out there is a nine year old boy who would enjoy a quilt made of nothing except dog butts, but I'm not going there.

This is an I-Spy quilt. Each square of fabric is different: stars, bugs, shoes, tools, animals, vehicles, etc. It can be used to play the I-Spy game. "I Spy, with my little eye, something red that begins with the letter L." When you find the ladybug or the lips, you win that round! Lots of fun doo dads to look at on this one. I bought the variety squares already cut, but was a bit disappointed in the quality of the fabric, so now I'm accumulating my own I-Spy fabrics for the next one.

I buy the vast majority of my fabrics on eBay, so I do occasionally get some duds. It's hard to judge fabric quality from photos alone, but I'm getting better at it. I also try to visit local quilt shops (LQS) in the towns we can reach by boat. I appreciate being able to see and feel the fabric in person at the LQS, so I try to buy a little bit at each one.

I got a smokin' deal on this very nice alphabet fabric, perfect for quilt backs. The brand is Moda, one of the best manufacturers, and the theme is timeless unless kids stop needing to learn their ABCs. Who cares that it is from a line that came out in 2008?

After months of scouring eBay for heavily discounted fabric, I have enough now to be able to sew quite a few quilts without any further shopping. "Quite a few" being a very, very large number. Possibly Avogadro's Number. This condition is known as STABLE: STash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy. I'm going to try not to buy any more fabric in 2016. Ahem.

This last quilt is a special one. If I need to ask an eBay seller a question about their fabric, I usually mention that I will be using it for Project Linus. Some sellers have been quite generous, contributing to the charity by offering me extra fabric or discounted shipping. 

The lady who was selling this cute train fabric told me that her daughter had received a hand made blanket in the hospital years ago. She said, "I'm going to send this to you for free. All I ask is that you send me a photo of the finished quilt."

She also sent the coordinating fabric for the back, no charge.

When the fabric arrived, she had included a note. It said that her daughter Amy had died at age 23 and that this was a gift in her honor. I can only assume that whatever hospitalized her as a child eventually took her life. I simply cannot imagine the depths of pain this family must have gone through. I was so, so touched at her generosity, and I named this quilt "Amy's Trains." Thank you, Amy's Mom. I hope it gives comfort to another child and helps in some small way.