Friday, April 29, 2016

Whoop, whoop!

I was very excited to see a couple of my blocks today on Kat and Cat Quilts! Kat asked for adult-themed I-spy quilt blocks for the month of March, and I sent in several but forgot to take any pictures of them. 

That's my little plover in the navy blue square, and my artichoke surrounded by kitchen appliances. You should go look at the entire quilt at the link above; it turned out beautifully!

If you're unfamiliar with the term "I-spy" or "eye-spy," it comes from a children's game of the same name. One person says, "I spy, with my little eye, something that begins with the letter B." The other people playing the game looks around and tries to guess: Boat? Box? Oh, that bicycle! Whoever guesses correctly gets to spy the next object. I-spy quilts are very popular for children, and I made this one last year. 

When Kat asked for the blocks, she specified "novelty prints that would make adults smile." Hence the kitchen appliances, French horns, and Alexander Hamilton blocks. And speaking of adult fabrics, here's a bit more of the gift quilt I've been working on. Hmm, seems to be a definite theme here. 

I stitched red hearts all along the red border, and outlined each cup in dark brown. Once again, the blending threads hardly show on the front, but are quite visible on the back. The hearts look very heart-like on the back, but the cups are strange blobs! Today I'm doing a fill pattern on all the oval shapes...can you guess what they are supposed to be?

Linking up with Confessions of a Fabric Addict for the Friday "Can I Get a Whoop, Whoop!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cabbage Key, FL

Today I did a little free motion quilting (FMQ) on a gift quilt. The center of this quilt is large, pieced hearts in five different fabrics: a green, a gold, a dark brown, a medium brown, and a rusty red.

I wanted each fabric to have its own FMQ motif, so I sketched a number of ideas. Because the hearts are squared off, it was a real challenge for me to come up with five different designs. Ones that look good on my sketch paper didn't always work the way I wanted them to on the large heart. I use a piece of clear plastic and a dry-erase pen to test the designs.

The blue tape around the edge of the plastic keeps me from drawing right off the edge onto the fabric! I need to write something like "draw only on this side" on the tape, too. Even after wiping off the pen, there is still some that lingers so I try to draw on the same side of the plastic each time, keeping the pristine side down. The plastic is 8.5" x 11", so you can see how big these hearts are.

Ready to stitch the first red heart. I wear Wonder Grip gardening gloves to keep a good solid hold on the fabric as I guide it under the needle. There are specialty quilting gloves for this, but garden gloves work just as well and are cheap. I like this brand because they are nice and tight on my small hands.

The first time Sean saw the gloves, he read the brand as Wonder Girl and commented that it was a bit grandiose! Harrumph! I may not be very good at FMQ, but I'm getting better all the time.

By the way, for my non-quilting readers, the "free motion" part of this technique means that instead of letting the sewing machine pull the fabric through in a straight line, the feed mechanism is disengaged so the fabric can be pushed and pulled around in any direction. The direction and stitch length is completely controlled by various body parts, with stitch speed controlled by the foot pedal. At first, this feels a lot like patting your head while rubbing your stomach while writing cursive in a mirror.

Anyway, the FMQ design that I chose for the red hearts is a simple, angular set of triangles and diamonds that fill up most of the space. I used Angela Walter's "dot to dot" method, and finished quilting those today. That's the good news. The bad news is that because I used red thread, the motif is very difficult to photograph on the red fabric. But here it is on the back. If you look closely you can see the squared off heart outlined in cream thread.


The backing fabric for this quilt is fleece, and I used no batting. I had this great red, cream and tan argyle fleece, but it wasn't quite big enough to cover the entire back. So I pieced it with some cream fleece in a big checkerboard. Fleece is interesting to work with: it doesn't fray, but it also doesn't iron flat. So I finished the seams by sewing them down on the back (the inside of the quilt.) Fleece is also quite stretchy, which is a mixed blessing.

On the green hearts, I chose a FMQ motif that makes the heart look like a giant hosta leaf. It ended up right between two sections of fleece.

I'll share more bits and pieces of this quilt as I work on it, but the big final reveal won't happen until after the recipient has it safely on his/her lap.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sanibel Island, FL

Time for another big quilt round-up post. One of the major reasons I wanted to spin off this new blog is that it's kind of a pain to write huge summaries like this one. I've been thinking it would be simpler if I wrote shorter posts more often so that blogging wasn't such a Major Event.

But what seems more interesting to me to write about each day is much more of the nitty gritty of the quilting process, and I know that our travel blog readers probably aren't the target audience for that. So if you're checking in from Our Odyssey, where you've come to love an obsessive level of detail about boat repair projects, this is your last quilt summary post. After today, it's going to be nonstop musings on fabric selection, block design, free motion quilting motifs, and stitching blooper reels.

Charity Quilts

First up is the most recent Project Linus quilt I've finished. It's called "Cat Family Portrait." 

Those cat faces are just so cute and friendly! I think they will charm any kid with their funny little whiskery smiles. The triangles were leftover from the Pinkly Purply Hearts quilt, cut off from the corners of the heart shapes. I went looking through my stash to find something else in those colors and found the cat faces. They were part of a larger panel that I will use in a different quilt. The faces were arranged randomly around the large panel, but I tried to cut them out as squarely as possible to match the size of the arrays of 3x3 triangle blocks.

The striped border is sewn with mitered corners, the first time I attempted that. Turns out that a wide, super busy stripe is kinda tricky, so the little scallops and doohickeys don't line up very well. However, the overall effect is nice, and I though it looked like a big, fancy picture frame. 

Here's the back, a couple of semi-matching flannel pieces for fuzzy softness. It's a small quilt so I figured it would end up with a small person. I did a combination of walking foot straight line quilting on the borders and free motion quilting in the main section. The triangles have back and forth squiggles, and the cats are simply outlined. You can also see the nice labels that Project Linus provides for us to attach. Very professional!

Next up is "Scrappy Chili Peppers," which I have made for the Hands2Help charity challenge. It was made with a variety of green fabrics from my stash, plus red, yellow, green and black scrap 2.5" strips. Many of them feature fun, bright chili peppers, which came with a large group of novelty fabric samples I bought on eBay. I'll write more about that purchase in another post.

I quilted this one in a free motion pattern based on the traditional Baptist Fan motif. I modified it so that there would be no travel stitching, but just one long, continuous line of stitching. I'm calling this more liberal version "Unitarian Fans" and will definitely be sewing it again. It was fast and easy.

I used a vareigated Aurifil thread in green, yellow and red. It seemed like a good choice with these fabrics. Vareigated threads are gorgeous on the spool, but I think they are tricky to implement well. You never know when you'll end up with a really high contrast area, but it's usually when I make a sewing wobble. Hey, the boat moved right then! That's my excuse.

The back of this quilt is one of my favorites. I had a large piece of this striped fabric that is just perfect. Gotta love that kind of serendipity. I don't plan my backings or bindings in advance; there's a whole lot of "winging it from the old stash-a-roonie" here on Vector.

This is a small, wheelchair sized quilt made in an attic windows type pattern. I'm not sure yet where I'll donate it, possibly to a charity that supports ALS patients. I just love this bird fabric and thought it looked nice in the "windows."

Here's a closer view of the birds before I did much quilting. Each little feathered friend is outlined and I loosely followed the swirling branches. I did a wood grain free motion motif in the dark blue, which was fun and new.

Selfish Sewing

That's the term in the quilting world for projects you sew for yourself.

This piece is made of silk dupioni. I bought a book of small, discontinued sample swatches from an upholstery or drapery company. Each 6"x9" piece was backed with paper and stapled into a cardboard book binding. The eBay seller reassured me that the paper backings would come off easily when heated with a medium-hot iron.

Wrong. The first sample I ironed scorched into a brown mess. The second piece melted the glue into a sticky morass that bonded permanently to the silk. After doing some internet research, I soaked the third piece in water, then soapy water, then rubbing alcohol, then acetone. Each bath softened another angstrom-thick layer of paper but none of the glue. Arghhh! 

Fortunately, the paper only covered half of each piece of fabric, so I sent photos of my science experiment failures to the seller, who graciously refunded half my money, and I set my sights on a smaller quilt. As you can see, it's an odd size: too big for the salon table, but definitely not big enough to be a lap quilt.

But it fits nicely over the master stateroom bed, even if the colors of the silk are a bit muted compared to the bed quilt. 

The silk was easy to sew. I think the dupioni samples were treated with something that made them a bit stiff. I cut most of the edges with pinking shears to keep them from fraying, and that worked well. The few unpinked edges did fray aggressively.

Why quilt with silk at all? Look at that sheen! This is gorgeous, gorgeous material. It catches the light beautifully, and rustles like a Southern belle's petticoats when you touch it. I chose a triangular quilting motif, using Angela Walter's "dot to dot" technique, which was fun and pretty straightforward. That being said, I won't be doing much else in silk. It's very expensive, which is why I started with the used drapery sample book. By the yard it can be four to five times more than cotton, and in order to get this much color variety I'd have to purchase a small fortune of fabric.

On the back I used a nice Asian vase patterned quilting cotton and tried a binding technique called "facing." The facing is wrapped completely on the back so that none shows on the front of the quilt. It is often used for quilts that are entered into shows, la di da! I didn't want a plain cotton binding to show against the fancy silk, so this worked well. It isn't harder or easier than regular binding; just different.

Gift Quilts

My final finished project to share today is "Brewskis."

I found out a couple weeks ago that my stepmom's nephew, Will, had been very, very badly injured in an explosion at his work. He faces multiple surgeries and many weeks of rehabilitation. It is a scary time for our extended family. 

I had only met Will once, many years ago, when he was a child. So I asked my stepmom Kay what he liked to do as an adult, and she told me he was a quintessential Western Guy: a fishing, hunting, outdoorsy fellow who appreciated a cold beer at the end of a long day. So I made him a beer quilt to brighten up his hospital stay, and this week I'll mail it off to him.

I had this fun beer themed panel that I cut up for the centers of the blocks. They have cheeky sayings on them: "I never met a beer I didn't like," and "A well balanced diet is a beer in each hand," and about seven or eight others.

These were part of the same set of novelty fabrics as the chili peppers. There are bottles of beer, and mugs of beer. And glasses of wine, because there's always someone who doesn't like beer but will drink the wine. And tortilla chips, because who doesn't like a few munchies to go with your brewskis?

I think the colors are rather manly, quite different from my usual rainbow hued kids quilts. This green leafy piece was left over from the Star Surround quilt I made for Kay and my Dad, for a bit of family connection.

All the remaining bits and scraps got integrated into the back, along with larger pieces in the same blue/brown/green/sand color scheme. I figured I probably wouldn't be able to use beer stein scraps in my Project Linus quilts. Scrappy backings can be fun to look at, too.

Brewskis is about 54" x 54": not huge, but also not overwhelming for a small hospital bed. As I made it, I concentrated on sewing loving, healing thoughts for Will into each stitch. I hope it provides a bit of cheer and amusement for him and helps to speed his recovery.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A blog of my own

Well, looky here! I've whipped up a brand new blog, just to talk about quilting. The online quilt world seems to be quite large and I'm getting more involved in it. There are block drives, bees, link up parties, contests and more, and having a dedicated blog makes participating in those a lot easier.

So welcome to my Quilt Odyssey, a journey (by boat, of course) from beginner to something slightly more than a beginner. I've moved all my previous quilt-related posts from our travel blog, Our Odyssey, over here to have them all in one place. If you've been following along over there, everything below this post is old material (Ha! Get it? Quilts, cotton, material!)

If you're a new reader, here's the story in a nutshell. I live full time aboard a boat named "Vector" with my husband, Sean, and our cat, Angel. We are currently traveling up the western coast of Florida. About two years ago, I got the quilting bug and started sewing in our second stateroom, now called The Quilt Room. It's a pretty big room for a boat, but a pretty small room for a sewing studio, so I am concentrating on smaller projects like lap- and child-sized quilts.

I have made one large quilt, though: a queen sized cover for our bed. It seems huge to me, and it certainly is difficult to take photos of something that size on a 52-foot long boat. You know how other bloggers spread their quilts on the lawn or drape them artfully from a tree in the backyard? Yeah, that's not happening for me. Since forgot to take a picture of the back of when I originally documented it, today Sean fixed that omission. The photo at the top of this post shows the back of Exuberant Color, and the front is on the far right in the blog header picture. We took a number of photos to get the blog header and it was nerve wracking to have all my hard work hanging precariously over the water from spring loaded clamps. The boat is salty and dirty, too, so I didn't want to drape anything freshly washed over the side. I won't be setting up many more "side of the boat" photo shoots.

In the meantime, watch this space for more frequent quilting updates, and thanks for following along. If you leave me a comment and aren't a "no-reply" blogger, I'll write back.