Sunday, May 29, 2016

St Petersburg, FL

When I started this post, I was in St. Petersburg. My fabric is still there, but I am not, alas. We rented a car and drove 14 hours to Lottsburg, VA where our old motorhome is stored. We sold it on eBay and now we're cleaning it up and fixing a few things to get it ready for the buyer.

The whole process has been full of glitches, but that's a story for our travel blog.

Before I left town, I got a few quilty things done, though. I finished this quilt top, using some of the fabric that arrived in my my latest batch of mail. The pattern is called "Movement in Squares," written by the lovely Wendy Sheppard. It's available for free from Benartex.

The pattern is well-written, easy to follow, and went together pretty quickly. It finished at 54" x 62" and will be a gift for a friend who is struggling with health issues. I have enough of the turquoise polka dot for the entire back.

I did modify the pattern a little so that all the non-black rectangles and squares are different fabrics. That allowed me to use fat quarters, since each color was then less than a quarter yard. I also calculated whether the pattern could be made with a jelly roll instead of yardage, and it could if there were at least two duplicated strips in the roll.

I also finished binding this gift quilt. It needs a trip through the washing machine and we'll see if/how it crinkles up with cotton on the front and fleece on the back. 

These blocks were sent to Covered in Love for Kat's May block drive. She asked for a soft palette of grays, blues and yellows. I didn't have a lot in my scraps, but managed to squeak out two blocks. The finished quilts should be gorgeous!

Over on Red Letter Quilts, I won the drawing for a copy of the new Crafted Applique book by Lara Buccella. I had already purchased an electronic copy of the book, and Lara graciously refunded my money in lieu of sending me another book. I'm quite excited about trying this new applique method, which uses Modge Podge to keep the raw edges from fraying. Thank you Heidi and Lara for offering the book giveaway!

We have been living in the motorhome for several days, and remembering all the things we like and dislike about it. I didn't start quilting until we moved onto the boat. There's so much less space on the motorhome, so my hat is off to those who sew in RVs. Claudia, I don't know how you manage!

It doesn't take any extra space to think and dream and plan, though, so I've been doing quite a bit of that while away from my studio. We found out that a dear friend is retiring at the end of the year, so I've been looking through patterns and researching colors for her quilt. And the Hands2Help charity drive ended this week, and it's been fun to look through all the finished quilts that are being donated. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the wonderful variety.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hands 2 Help quilts finished

This week marks the end of the Hands 2 Help Charity Challenge.  Sarah has been herding cats for a couple weeks, keeping all us quilters on track to make and donate our quilts. Each year, she selects several charities to receive the bounty. I was so happy to see that Covered in Love was chosen as one of them, and my two quilts will be shipped off to Kat soon.

My two finished quilts are Bright Bento and Scrappy Chili Peppers. They are destined to be given to a person who is receiving end of life care in a hospital. I hope they brighten up the room a little bit during such a sad time.

Kat says the chaplains at the hospital help choose a quilt from their small supply. She has heard many stories of how a quilt can really resonate with the recipient and their family...perhaps because it is in a favorite color, or features fabrics that reflect of love of gardening or bird watching, etc. I'm honored to contribute to a pool of quilts as diverse as the families that will take them home.

The back of Bright Bento used up most of these sweet prints in soft baby blues and pinks. They coordinate surprisingly well with the vibrant Rowan fabrics on the front.

A close up to show some of the crinkly texture after washing. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get this one washed in time to meet the shipping deadline. Kat offered to wash it at her end if necessary. Using the washer and dryer on board the boat requires careful planning. The washer uses a large percentage of our available water, so it's best if we're at a dock where we can refill the tank from a spigot. Since we ended up spending one night in the water at the boatyard, I washed it quickly and then hung it to dry in the engine room. It's nice and toasty in there.

I didn't realize until I started taking photos of them together that they aren't the same size. No wonder it took so much longer to quilt Bright Bento. I also thought it would be calm this morning, but they flapped around so much even on the protected back deck that I was getting nervous they would take flight across the water. Quilts sinking slowly to the bottom of the Manatee River won't help anyone!

It was a real pleasure making these two quilts and I'll definitely participate in Hands2Help again next year. A big thank you to Sarah for coordinating the Challenge!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Largo, FL

Today I visited a quilt shopKeep Me In Stitches in Largo. It is primarily a Bernina and Baby Lock dealer but had a small selection of fabrics in bright, saturated colors. I saw Cotton&Steel, Kaffe/Rowan prints, batiks, and some great blenders. The staff was very friendly and the shop sported some nice class room space. Everything is shiny brand new, having only opened about a year ago.

I bought four fat quarters. After my big eBay haul last week, I don't really need anything. However, I want to support bricks and mortar stores when I can and I enjoy seeing and touching the fabrics in person. I try to buy at least one fat quarter, so I close my eyes and pretend I'm not paying five times more than I would normally.

The second fabric from the bottom with the polka dots is Cotton&Steel. I've heard a lot about this fabric line so it was interesting to see it "live." The dots are metallic silver and it's very high quality. While I love this teal/peacock color, the rest of the colors in the line didn't wow me, so that's good to know. It's really hard to get true color representation of fabrics through a computer screen. 

The flip flops are bright and cheerful and will serve as a souvenir of this shop. Florida is definitely a flip flop kind of place.

I always ask permission before taking photos inside a store. I've seen signs in some quilt shops that prohibit taking pictures of the sample quilts, maybe to keep them from being copied. This photo shows about 80% of the fabric; there's just a little more behind the wall on the right. Love those bright colors! There were also notions on that wall, and you can see the thread display behind the little stool. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Stash overload

The boat is still in the yard and I'm away from my sewing machine while we stay with friends in their guest room. I miss sewing! I've been filling my time by taking an online Craftsy class, "Playing with Curves." It is taught by Ann Petersen and is a great introduction to curved piecing. As a bonus, she also teaches paper piecing using freezer paper. The first time I tried convention PP, I didn't care for it, but the freezer paper method looks much easier.

Our friends have been very generous by letting us stay in their home, even letting our cat Angel stay. Angel is a bit freaked out, going from the compact space of a boat to an enormous three bedroom, three level, four bath house. But she loves her Aunt Karen and Uncle Benjamin, so she's relaxing more each day.

We are taking advantage of Ben and Karen's non-mobile home and its fixed address to have packages delivered. Apparently I had deadly package build-up at our mail forwarding service, because 21 POUNDS of fabric arrived the other day.

There's gold in them thar boxes! The fabric actually arrived in about six different, smaller boxes and I've consolidated it into these two, packed absolutely full. 

I've used up most of my larger pieces of fabric on backings for my latest quilt finishes. Ideally, a backing is a single piece of fabric but I usually use several large-ish pieces sewn together. The Brewski beer quilt, however, used dozens of small scraps. While I like a scrappy back, it does take quite a bit of time and effort, and I'd rather put all that mental math into the front.

So I went eBay shopping for backings, and was pleased to find 3.5 yards of this cute red and white heart fabric. There are also 2-3 yards of the maroon pin dot, although that one is more sheer than I expected. I'll probably use it for low-volume patchwork on the fronts instead of a backing.

A few more larger pieces, found a rock bottom prices. The swirly turquoise will be useful in all kinds of kids' quilts; it's such a great, gender neutral color. The bottom piece is a smooth quilting cotton with a print that looks like burlap. The fabric line is called "Cool Weave." I thought that looked sort of interesting as a blender, so I started searching for it.

I came across an eBay seller who had a number of Cool Weave colors at $0.99 for a half yard, so I snapped those up. They are the bottom two in this photo, mint and medium blue. Since I was already paying for the shipping, I added a few other blenders into my order. 

Then my Cool Weave search hit the Mother Lode. 15 colors, one yard of each, for $15. Yeah, baby! I always need bright blenders, so this is a perfect stash addition. Those browns and tans are quite useful, too. I have some super cute forest animal fabrics featuring foxes and owls, and the woodsy neutrals will work great with those.

This grouping of chicken fabrics was just too fun to pass up. Which came first? The chicken? The baby chicken? The fried egg? Or the drumstick? I'll mix these with royal blue for a primary colors quilt. Half yard of each, plenty for a Project Linus quilt. Hmm, I think I need a chicken wire fabric to go with these...

And speaking of kid's quilts, these are part of a scrap bundle I bought that features robots and flying machines. There are similar pieces in red. I think the plaid and camo coordinating fabrics are neat and unusual. Not a huge amount of each fabric, but I can fatten it up with pieces of Cool Weave and other fabrics from my stash.

And lastly, a bargain I simply could not resist. This is an older line of fabric, "Anything Goes," by Barbara Jones. There are 29 fat quarters, plus six larger pieces ranging from a half yard to a yard and a quarter; approximately 12 yards total. Lots of fresh, cool colors like peach and mint and gray, with bright pops of lime, orange and yellow. All the patterns are geometrics: polka dots, chevrons, squares and stripes. Ten bucks plus shipping! I have no idea when this fabric was produced, but I think this a fun, cheerful line that is rather timeless. Henry Glass fabrics have a wonderful hand and sew like a dream.

We drove to the boatyard today to check in, and it looks like we might be able to move back aboard on Thursday or Friday. I thought maybe I'd sneak a little sewing in while we were there, but with no air conditioning and no breeze, the boat was hotter than the hubs of Hades. I have a few more days of Jonesing for my Singer before I can make that Barbara Jones fabric sing.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Palmetto, FL

We are in a boat yard today, having some maintenance done. It's a dirty, dusty place. But I have two finishes to share, so I took photos in this less than lovely location.

I thought Bright Bento would look good against the white boat, but it's so far away that you can't really see much except the wash of colors. That's because I was standing on the ground, and the boat is "on the hard." That means it is out of the water and propped up on pieces of wood with the keel on the ground.

It's a loooong way up that rickety ladder near the back. It wobbled and swayed with every step I took. 

Here you can see the yard guys working underneath. I worried about the quilt falling down onto them. I think they were amused by it hanging above them, though.

Here it is, up closer. The flybridge was in half sun, half shade. Oh well, I'll try to get better photos after I wash it. It might be a week or so before that happens, though. Our fresh water supply is limited, so we have to carefully plan when we use the washing machine. 

Here is Charming Cupcakes, with the binding finished. It matches the kayak. It will also need to wait for it's trip through the washer and dryer. You can see more boat yard equipment in the background. That teal blue structure is the crane that lifted the boat out of the water. There's a short video of that on my Instagram feed.

If you can look up and past the yard, the view is lovely. This is the Manatee River behind the quilt. Hopefully, the boat will be splashed back into the river by the middle of next week. For now, though, we can only stay aboard during working hours and must leave in the evenings and for the weekend. I probably won't get much sewing done during this time unless the weather cools down. My sewing room sits mostly below the water line, and the river or ocean keeps it fairly cool. Out of the water and sitting in the hot sun, unable to run our air conditioners in the yard, it is hot hot hot down there!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hands 2 Help update

Just a quick update today. I've been plugging along on the Unitarian fans quilting for Bright Bento, my second quilt for the Hands2Help charity challenge.

It's slow going, because I keep getting distracted by other things in my studio. However, the delay allowed the perfect material for the binding to appear in my life.

This solid lavender fabric was part of the extra freebies in my last fabric delivery, and I think it blends beautifully with all the Kaffe Fassett designs in this quilt. I may combine it with another solid for a flanged binding.

Hands2Help is approaching the final deadline of May 22, 2016 to get our quilts completed. I'm hoping to get this one done this week. If I finish the quilting and sew the binding on by hand, I can do that handwork in the rental car when we drive to Virginia in the next ten days or so.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

St Pete, FL

Here are the last four FMQ motifs I used on Charming Cupcakes.

In this pink that reads as fairly solid, I used a fan shape that radiates out from one corner. Three lobes plus two half lobes along the adjacent sides. As I was stitching these, I felt like the lobes were really uneven. Where they all come together or cross near the corner seemed especially variable. But when the block was finished, that all kind of disappeared in the overall shape. So this one is a keeper. It was fast and forgiving. Starts in one corner, ends in an adjacent corner, no travel stitching.

After having quilted the turquoise and orange versions of this busy medallion fabric, I knew it would almost completely hide whatever motif I chose.  And sure enough, here is a photo that shows almost nothing of the FMQ! You're welcome. 

The pattern was actually concentric squares radiating out from one corner. Because the lines are supposed to be parallel to the sides, it isn't very forgiving. It worked fine with the busy fabric, but wasn't terribly interesting, in my opinion. This surprised me, because I'm usually drawn to geometric shapes.

On this darker green batik, I used a motif from the diamond shapes part of the book. Squares are, after all, just diamonds with all 90 degree corners. I like these fluid curves; they are fast and simple and don't need to be completely symmetric to still look okay. Starts in one corner, travels half way along one edge and ends in the middle of that same edge.

And finally, the green zig zags. I knew this fabric would be a challenge to quilt. There's so much movement in the design that no matter what quilting motif I chose, there would be a certain amount of conflict. So I chose a pattern that I have used before: a diamond with a curved iris shape inside it, then an inner fill of loops. Since I had several other designs that were open in the center and more densely quilted around the edges, I wanted this one to be the opposite of that.

All the remaining blocks on this quilt are the cupcake fabrics. I decided to leave those completely unquilted to make them stand out from the others. We'll see how it all plays out after it is washed and dried.

Now that I've tried a dozen or so motifs from Shape by Shape, I feel like I've made some progress in my FMQ journey. 

Lessons learned:

1. The fabric really makes or breaks the quilting. Busy fabrics and matching thread almost completely hide the stitching. While that's good for practicing, it's kind of a waste of time to put a lot of effort into fancy quilting there. Solids or near solids usually show the quilting more, but not always. The navy blue blender in this quilt looks completely unquilted. Maybe that's because it is dark?

2. Sometimes a motif is much easier for me if I stitch it in a different direction. Clockwise vs. counterclockwise; up and down vs. left and right; outside in vs. inside out. Try all the variations before giving up.

3. How the block is oriented can also make a difference. Turning the quilt so the block is square vs. on its point makes some motifs easier to visualize and stitch.

4. I don't like travel stitching, so I'd rather avoid motifs that require more than an inch or two of it. I do like patterns that let me move efficiently from block to block without traveling.

5. I don't like marking, but sometimes a single line or a few dots of marking can make a huge difference. I'm certainly not going to pre-draw an entire motif, though.

6. Simple motifs with only 4 to 12 lines of stitching per block can be just as pretty as fancy, dense quilting. On this size block (charm squares finishing 4.5") I like the more open quilting anyway. 

7. Most importantly, I really can't tell in advance how I feel about a motif. Some of these I picked out of the book because I thought they were really attractive, but my hand-eye-brain combo butchered them. Others looked "meh" in the book, but I really enjoyed stitching them and felt pleased with the finished block. 

Next time you see Charming Cupcakes, the binding will be on and it will be finished!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fabric delivery

Living on a boat makes it tricky to acquire fabric. I try to visit local quilt shops (LQS) when I can, but that doesn't happen very often. It turns out that most quilt shops are not located within easy walking distance of navigable waters. I guess they figure their typical customer probably lives in a land-based home and owns a car. Who knew those people quilted?

We do own two small motor scooters, and we launch them any time we stay at a dock for more than a day or two. However, we really prefer to anchor the big boat and use the smaller dinghy to get ashore. The scooters don't fit in the dinghy, but we have folding bicycles which do fit. So my LQS world is mostly limited to shops within walking, bicycling or public transit distance of a dock where we can tie up the dinghy. The intersection of that Venn diagram has resulted in maybe a dozen different LQS visits in three years. One of my goals on this blog is to start documenting those visits.

But today's post is about my latest stash acquisition from my primary source of fabric: delivery from online sources. About 90% of my fabric is ordered online and delivered to our mail forwarding service in Green Cove Springs, FL. The service holds all our mail until we have a good local address. They will box everything up and ship it to a marina, a friend's house, General Delivery at a local post office, or a UPS Customer Care Center. This happens every 1 to 3 months, and I've usually forgotten by then what I ordered.

While we are in the Tampa area, we are very lucky to be close to our friends Ben and Karen, who have graciously allowed us to ship all kinds of JCS (junk, crap and stuff) to their house. We had dinner with them last night, and they brought along our mail. Oh, happy day! Beer, laughter, and chow with good friends, followed by the Unboxing of the Fabric!

I actually buy very little brand new fabric from online retailers. I much prefer to scour eBay for folks who are selling their own fabric stash ("destashing") or reselling items they found at estate sales ("dead people's fabric.") This type of fabric is considered "used" because it was cut from the bolt at the fabric shop, then stored in someone's home for months, years, decades. However, it hasn't been sewn into a project so as long as the storage was smoke-free, it's pretty much like new. My goal is to give this fabric life in a quilt, and to do it at 75% or more off retail prices.

I have found a number of super nice eBay sellers who know that I sew for Project Linus and will offer me great bargains on kid-friendly fabrics. Some lower their shipping fees, others throw in extra fabric for no charge. I try to send them photos of my finished quilts, because I know they often are emotionally attached to the fabric and enjoy seeing it used.

I bought this batch from one of my favorite sellers. It is a Robert Kaufman fat quarter bundle from the Imperial Collection and a Makower UK Advent panel in fun, modern colors. The shipment also included three yards of the basketball fabric shown at the top of the post. I'll use the basketballs on the back of a boy's quilt for Project Linus, so that was the main purchase. The others will marinate for a while in my stash before becoming gift quilts, but there was no additional shipping for them.

So that's what I was expecting in the medium sized flat rate USPS box. Imagine my delight when I opened the box and found at least four more yards of fabric! Woo hoo!

Only two are specifically kid fabrics: sweet elephants and fun kangaroos. But I will definitely find a way to work the others into Linus quilts.

Turquoise and purple are both great gender neutral colors, so these are quite versatile. And I love using geometrics like this one; the crisp lines make a nice foil for the florals that are so common.

These three fabrics aren't from the same line, but they play really nicely together in black, white and green. Another gender neutral combo! The mottled green is from a really high end line called Fairy Frost. It has a metallic shimmer that is so neat.

I have another shipment (or two) coming when we are in Palmetto next week to have some work done on the boat. I'm not completely sure what's in that batch and I'm deliberately not looking back through my records to refresh my memory. I like being surprised. Tune in next week and you can be surprised, too!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

More FMQ in Tampa

Today I worked on the yellow and orange blocks of Charming Cupcakes, and tried six more FMQ motifs from Angela Walter's Shape by Shape book. In no particular order:

This four lobed shape is a definite keeper. It was super easy for me, which is surprising because it is so similar to the loop-de-loops in the navy blue block that I just hated. I think it's because on this one, the diagonal stitching is done first and that makes clear lines to guide the rest of the shape. It reminds me of leaves, and since leaves are an organic shape, I don't mind if the lobes aren't completely symmetric. It starts in one corner and ends at either adjacent corner, good for moving between blocks.

How about a little onion? Or is it garlic? A flame? Either way, this one was also really fun and easy. I chose it for the yellow striped blocks to try mixing the curvy shape and geometric fabric. The stripes made it really simple to line up the pointy tops of each, uh, thing. It starts and stops in the same place along the middle of one side. It looks odd in this photo because this is a corner block and I left a quarter inch allowance along the sides for the quilt binding. The rest of them sit right along the block edge.

OK, this is a terrible photo. But it doesn't matter, because I won't be doing this motif again and I'm glad it completely disappears in this tonal orange block. If you squint and have an active imagination, you can see that there are three (!) diagonal lines bisecting the block, with tight parallel lines filling one half and a curvy stipple filling the other. Fiddly, busy and time consuming. I think this one started in one corner and ended in the opposite, but I'm already blotting it out of my memory, la la la...

In this orange block, the motif is gentle arcs between each corner, then the outside edged filled in with ribbon candy. I like it OK and might use it again, maybe with a different filler than ribbons. (My ribbon candy looks like it might be an unappetizing flavor. Durian fruit, perhaps.) Even though I did six of these blocks, I never got them to look symmetric. My gentle curves really vary depending on whether I'm going left, right, up or down in the block. But I do like the contrast between the poofy open center of the block and the more densely quilted edges. Same point start and stop.

This one is very similar to a shape I learned in Angela's Dot-to-Dot quilting class and used in Polar Bears With Old Man Hairs. The idea is that very little marking is needed to create the shapes. After a few really blobby ones, I started putting in crease marks from corner to corner and that helped. This is one of the better ones I stitched, and it's still pretty wonky. Wonkiness in a straight line geometric shape like this is more obvious than in the curvy organic ones. However, the whole quilt is busy enough that I'm happy with it. Same point start and stop.

And finally, another block that was hard to photograph. This shape is curly brackets from corner to corner. It's a bit easier to see on the back.

See the shape on the giraffe butt? This one was very, very fast: just four lines. The curves make a bit of organic asymmetry fade away, and it was a good choice on a super busy fabric. The pointy part of the bracket shape extends well into the block, so it fills the space nicely. My only complaint is that I had to wrap my brain around making brackets going up and down, after so many years of drawing them left and right. Practice, practice, practice. Same point start and stop.

Three definite keepers in this batch, two maybes and one never again. I'm learning a lot about what works for me. After the final batch of blocks, I'll try to summarize.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tampa, FL

As a break from quilting Bright Bento, today I've been working on Charming Cupcakes. This little quilt for Project Linus is mostly scrappy, simple 5" patchwork squares. 

I recently purchased Angela Walter's book Shape by Shape. It's full of ideas for filling various geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, triangles and hexagons. I modified a couple of the designs to fill the heart shapes I was working on last week. I thought the charm squares would be a great way to try out a bunch more motifs, and decided to quilt each fabric a different way. There are about six to eight squares of each fabric.

This turquoise one has a "spiraling in" square pattern that I really like. I'll definitely do this one again. The only drawback is that it ends in the middle, so you have to break thread to move on to another area; there's no way to travel except back along the entire spiral.

This one has lines radiating out from one corner. It was easy and requires no marking. The pattern ends not in the original corner, but in the ditch in the middle of one of the opposite sides, so good for moving to the next square.

This one is hard to see because of the very low contrast between the dark blue block and the navy thread. That's a good thing, though, because it was a tricky shape for me. I had to mark some guidelines. It's basically a diamond shape inside the square, with loopy curves in each corner.  It starts and stops in the same place. While my loopies improved a little each time (especially after I started working counter clockwise around the diamond), they were never consistent within each block. Meh.

Here's that same motif from the back of the quilt. Yes, those are the backs of circus animals wearing jackets. I scored six yards of that fabric for about $15 on eBay! It makes great backing fabric for Project Linus quilts. The official name of the print is "Animal Tails," but Sean and I both call it "Guess What? Animal Butt!" and giggle because we are highly mature.

The last set of squares I worked on today are these busy turquoise medallion bursts. The quilt motif is super hard to see on this one, too.

A bit easier to make out on the back. The design divides the block into four equal squares and fills in two opposite ones with a tight back and forth wiggle. Because it was so hard to see on the front, at first I really hated this one. But after four or five repeats it started to grow on me and I got into a nice rhythm. I'm going to try it again on a plainer block, maybe a bright yellow one. With a little thinking ahead, it can be sewn to start and end pretty much anywhere in the block.