Thursday, February 23, 2017

Astrodelic Stars

In October of 2014, I came across this pattern, called Astrodelic. It is a free download from Art Gallery Fabrics. At the time, it seemed way more difficult than my skills could handle, so I tucked it away in a folder. 

I've looked at the pattern several times in the last two and a half years, yet it always intimidated me. I recently bought a fat quarter bundle of Multiple Blessings by Caroline Simas, and the colors are similar to the ones in the pattern example, so I read it over again. Hmm, this doesn't seem all that complicated. It's really just four big blocks, and there are only two color combos. The piecing went quickly and I finished the top in about five hours!

However, I'm not thrilled with the result. The fabrics are very pretty and the colors are sweet for a girly baby quilt, but I didn't pay enough attention to value. Several very similar fabrics are right next to each other, and the pale yellow almost disappears against the Kona snow background. The small brown diagonal squares work well, but the pink ones mush into everything else. I also put all the solid reading fabrics in one set of blocks, and all the more patterned ones in the other.

I decided to try again with a much bolder and higher contrast palette, and this is the result. You don't get much more contrast than between black and yellow! I wanted a hot, bright star, so I kept everything in the yellow, orange and hot pink range with some older Kaffe Fasset fabrics and a couple of blenders. The patterns in yellow alternate with the solids/blenders in orange and pink. I used black for the diagonal small squares, and added an outer border so the bright points really pop out of the black.

An unintended consequence of using the small black diagonals is that I ended up with a larger black central square instead of a crossing four patch. Oh well, I think it still looks pretty neat, and I'm happy with this one. All that negative space will be great for some FMQ practice, maybe even in some contrasting gold or pink thread. We'll see how brave I am at the quilting stage.

Astrodelic was a well-written and straight forward pattern, in spite of my newbie quilter jitters. The second top took me less than four hours. I'll probably make this pattern again and do some more color and value playing. How about a rainbow next time?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Little Boy Blue

This small quilt top, measuring 42" x 42", is called Little Boy Blue. The focal fabric is a small panel that I bought in a local quilt shop in...Maine? I think. There were only the four blocks on the panel, then the pattern repeated, so I fattened the quilt up with scrappy 25 patches in creams and pale blues. The sashing is a brighter blue. Another row of scrappy 2.5" squares around the perimeter used up most of those bits and pieces. I'll use the same sashing fabric for the binding, which should tie it all together nicely.

The adventurous boys in the panels are so sweet! I'll take more detailed photos after I quilt this one so you can see their happy little faces.

While sewing one of the longer seams, my bobbin ran out. I changed it quickly and continued to sew. My machine suddenly was much, much smoother and quieter! Hmm, I wonder why? No matter, it sounds great! I sewed another long seam, then moved over to the ironing board. Those two seams were long, curved bows and when I tugged on them gently, the thread snapped. Wha??! It turns out that I hadn't put the bobbin in quite right, so the tension was super high on the bobbin side. I have no idea why that made the machine quieter, but lesson learned. Even what seems like a sudden improvement in sewing should be viewed with suspicion. Rethreading (and two looooong seams to rip) solved the problem.

Linking up with Sew Some Love, since this is a charity quilt for Project Linus.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

First Four RV projects

We've moved off the boat and into the RV; let the sewing begin! I've stitched up four small quilt tops, and even finished the smallest one. To be fair, they are all quite simple, but I'm feeling really productive here.

I'll warn you up front that the lighting is TERRIBLE in here, so the colors in my photos are really off. I'll try to take more pictures outside in the future.

First up is this pink flannel 16 patch. After dabbling briefly with flannels, I decided that I don't have the space to store a decent stash of this bulkier material. So one of my RV goals was to use up the rest of my flannels. All these pinks came from someone else's scraps that I bought on eBay. The individual squares on this are 3" finished, so the entire piece is about 36" x 48", a good baby quilt size.

The backing is several of the wider scrap strips. The true colors of both the front and the back are mostly soft baby pinks with a few hot pink accents.

With the handful of leftover 3" squares, I pieced this doll quilt. Isn't it cute? I have no idea who to give this to, since I don't really know any kids who are at the baby doll loving stage. But it's small enough to tuck away until the right home comes along. This one is finished, pillowcase/envelope style with no batting inside.

Next, I cut up the four panels from the "Good Seasons" line by Andover fabrics. Each panel depicts one season of the year, with a large central square and four smaller squares. This one is Summer, and has a beach/lake theme. I set aside the small squares for another project.

Each panel had a different background color, so I trimmed them down so that wouldn't show. Then I added a thin black border to three of them. Autumn already had a black background, but had been cut from the bolt poorly so I had to add more black to one edge.

Then I auditioned several fabrics for the sashing, including a very safe and dull beige. This black and white pattern almost made the grade, but I decided it was just a bit too busy.

I ended up with this yellow and cream leaf pattern as sashing, since yellow and black were the only two colors that could be found in each of the four panels. The black edging really pops off that yellow! I wish the two blue panels could have ended up diagonally across from each other for balance, but there was no way to do that and have the seasons in order. 

Right now the top is about 48" square, which is a little on the large size for a wheelchair quilt, but a good size for a kid's quilt. With another border or two, it could be a good couch quilt. I think this fabric works well for both kids and adults, so I'll set it aside as is until I know where it's going. I'll choose a backing later, too.

Today I whipped up quilt top number four, a little toddler quilt from a soft book panel. This photo shows the panel before cutting. You can see there are directions for sewing it into a book, but kids grow out of fabric books much sooner than blankets, so it will have a longer life as a quilt.

The book "pages" were already outlined in a little block pattern plus the light blue, so I just added alternating blocks of a lime green seersucker fruit print. I thought that went nicely with the panel's theme, "Garden Friends." The fruit fabric is really quite bright and my camera couldn't capture it's limey goodness at all. A fairly plain purple border wraps it all up neatly, and I'll probably use one of my larger pieces of flannel for the backing.

I found the panel on line, and could see that it was a fun, cute print. Smiling bugs, frogs and flowers! Unfortunately, it was printed on really thin cotton, so I'll need to quilt it fairly heavily to shore it up a bit. Unless I'm very familiar with the designer and manufacturer of a particular fabric, it's a bit of a crap shoot to buy online. I've gotten pieces that were printed poorly on gorgeous, high quality cotton and ones like this where everything was great except the underlying material.

And finally, there is a fifth project but alas, no photos. One of our regular blog readers, Tom, came by to meet us a couple days ago. Tom and his partner work at See's Candies and brought us two boxes! It was such a sweet thing for him to do, that I decided to make them two mug rugs using some fun chocolate themed fabric I have. I used the heart block pattern from Cluck Cluck Sew and they turned out super cute, if I do say so myself. I was a bit rushed to get them finished before Tom came for a second visit, so I forgot to take photos.

No photos of the See's box of Nuts and Chews, either, since that was eaten so fast it would make your head spin...

Monday, February 13, 2017

One more for the road

Here is my final quilt finish for a while, Peaceful Pastures. I have decided that I will be doing only piecing work in the RV so that I can leave most of my bulky batting behind on the boat.

This little lap quilt was pieced, um, maybe a year ago? It promptly got folded up and forgotten until last week. Isn't it amazing how I can lose projects, even in as small a studio as mine? Anyway, I originally planned for it to be Project Linus kids' quilt, but the fabric is appealing to all ages. So when I learned this week that a friend's mother was very, very ill, I decided to make it a wheelchair quilt instead.

The pattern is a simple Attic Windows design, with the large scale pastoral scenery "viewed" through the window panes. Even though the pattern repeats a bit, with blue sky showing up in places other than the top, I think it still works. The other bits of sky blue read perhaps as ponds or lakes.

This big tree and larger birds seem to be right outside the window, with the rolling hills and grazing animals in the distance beyond. 

The back is pieced from a small scale floral and a spring green giraffe spot fabric. I bound it with a tonal dark brown to look like a picture frame.

I quilted it fairly sparsely to keep it soft by ditch stitching around all the window frames and sills, then loosely outlining all the animals and trees. Nothing too precise, just enough to make all the domestic beasties poof up a bit. Peaceful Pastures is off to its recipient in Seattle today.

And speaking of domestic animals, Angel is no worse for wear in the boatyard, even with all the noise and commotion. "Loud equipment vibrating through the boat? No problem, I'm just chillin' on this flat box."

"Piles of packing material and miscellaneous boat parts strewn everywhere? Cool, I'll explore this long skinny box." I hope she settles into the RV quickly, too. We should be moving either tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On a Roll

Yesterday I finished this little toddler quilt for Project Linus. It's made of bigger rectangles of transportation-themed fabrics with smaller orange bars in between. Most of the bus, truck, scooter, and car fabrics came from Sue and were from the same collection of fabrics. However, I guess the same blue, orange, brown and green palette was used over the years by several fabric companies, because I had quite a bit of stuff that matched in my stash. Serendipity!

I actually pieced this quilt back in the summer, and basted the quilt sandwich in the fall. It's been folded up on a shelf since then. In preparation for the inevitable layer of dust that will end up everywhere after the boat painting, I'm trying to get as many WIPs finished and mailed out before they get dirty. Anything I don't finish will end up in big plastic garbage bags for protection.


For the backing, I had a single piece of this fun print with bright numbers and letters on an orange background. 

I think Sue's fabrics must have been either an Australian or British line of fabric. This "classified ads" print uses some non-American terms like "tip truck" instead of "dump truck," and the place names are unfamiliar to me. Any guesses on the origin?

My absolute favorite fabric in the whole batch is this fleet of tiny, multi-colored dump trucks. Aren't they adorable!? I used them for the outer border. You can see the bright striped fabric I used for the binding in this photo, too.

For the quilting, I used a medium orange thread and did SITD around the bright blue inner border, straight lines in the outer border, and big stipple in the main section. My stipples/meanders tend to be quite small and time-consuming, so it was good practice to open up the design. It should also make the quilt more floppy and soft for a little one to cuddle. Big stipple actually goes fairly quickly, so I thought to myself, "Woo! I'm on a roll!" and then, "Hey, that's a good name for this quilt!" On a Roll is is, then.

It's a special part of the process to sew in one of the nice labels that Project Linus provides. On a Roll will be winging its way to my California chapter early next week.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dutch Diamonds finish

All the bad weather here in New Orleans hasn't slowed me down much in the quilt studio. Yesterday I finished putting the binding on a new quilt and today it took its first spin in the washing machine.

Meet Dutch Diamonds

I know I haven't shared any photos of this quilt in process, but it has been difficult to get decent photos. The boat is docked next to a high wall, so the portlights (windows) on the lower level are in deep shadow and my room is quite dark. I really have been sewing in my "quilt cave" this week! 

So this quilt made it all the way to the finish line without any documentation on the blog, alas. I was also in a bit of a hurry with this one. It is a gift for MarieAnne, who lives in Holland. She recently had major surgery for a serious condition, so I wanted to get the quilt to her for her recovery time at home. I need to get it to the post office soon, hopefully today, for its long journey to Europe.

Dutch Diamonds came together fairly quickly. I already had the diamond blocks pieced and sitting in my stash. They are quarter square triangles made with leftover charm squares from 3 or 4 different projects that I sewed together several months ago when I was just fiddling around. I set them on point with the darkest quadrant of each block in the lower left hand corner to make them seem a bit three dimensional, like diamond facets. They are arranged in a rough rainbow order with Kona snow white background to let the bright colors shine.

I did simple straight line walking foot quilting along each edge of the 2" sashing. The dot-to-dot free motion quilting in each diamond looks a bit like the facets on a gem to me. The Aurifil thread color is a very pale blue, although it reads white on the quilt. I used it everywhere, rather than change thread colors on each colored block, to save time.

This is my favorite block, with the bicycle fabric. MarieAnne, like many people in the Netherlands, rides her bike just about everywhere.

The binding is an aqua floral and bird print that I attached all by machine. I think aqua makes a great neutral with a bright rainbow palette.

The backing is a single piece of fine wale 100% cotton corduroy in this pretty minty floral. Corduroy is a bit wider than quilting cottons at 54", so a single piece was just right. It's the first time I've quilted with corduroy, and it worked out well. I knew from my research that it was stretchy material, so I took extra care with the basting to make sure things didn't shift much. There is one small area that pleated a bit, but it isn't too bad so I left it. It's cold in the Netherlands right now, so I thought the added weight of the corduroy would be warm and cozy. It is quite heavy!

I apologize that my photos of the finished quilt are limited to these taken inside the boat. The boatyard is a very, very dirty place so there's really no good areas for "glamour" shots. Plus, the outside of our boat is in complete disarray while the yard preps us for paint.

All the hand rails have been removed, and you can see goopy pink fairing compound around all the entry gates. The distance from the gate to the dock varies with tide and wind direction, and sometimes is quite the leap of faith, so to speak.

I'm having a hard enough time just stepping through these openings without covering my clothes with gunk or plunging into the murky marina water. I certainly wasn't going to risk ruining a brand new quilt by squeezing it past the mess for an outdoor photo. No, this quilt will be wrapped in plastic and sealed in a shipping box before it passes the portals of painting.

The good news is that our temporary RV home arrived today and we'll be moving aboard soon. The RV will be parked just outside the main yard area, where there is grass and other nice landscaping. Much cleaner and prettier, so hopefully better for photos.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Quick tornado update

All is well here aboard m/y Vector. The serious tornado that touched down in New Orleans today missed us by about three miles. We had hail and big wind gusts, but no damage.

Several quilting friends have reached out to make sure we are OK. Thank you to everyone for your concern and care! Your kindness means a lot to me.

We'll be making a donation locally to help the folks who were directly impacted by the tornadoes. As long time Red Cross volunteers, we know that right now cash is king when it comes to donations. People will need to be fed, housed and probably clothed in the immediate future and money makes that happen. If you're moved to donate, here's the link.

The biggest, most dangerous tornado touched down in a neighborhood east of us while almost everyone was away at work or school. So while many homes were badly damaged, there were no fatalities and only a few serious injuries.  I'm thankful for that!

Edited 8 February 2017: We found out today that one of the boat yard workers lost his home in the tornado. We're hoping they will take up a collection to help him and that we can contribute, too.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Quilt in the wild

Remember this quilt? I finished it in December and was a bit cagey about the recipient since I didn't want to spoil the surprise.

I can say now that it was a retirement gift and the official name of the quilt is Retirement Cuddling Strategy. It's a play on the name of the company where she used to work. Her retirement party was this week, and the quilt was presented to her then. I'm sorry I couldn't attend the party, but she sent me this lovely photo of the quilt in her living room. I'm happy to see that it coordinates so nicely with her decor.

One of my favorite things to see on quilting blogs is the finished quilt in use. On the bed, on the couch, wrapped around a baby, keeping two cats warm...I just adore those photos. So here's mine. I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Boatyard Discombobulation

I was excited this week to connect with Torina who is collecting pillowcases for Camp Heartland, a camp for youth with HIV or AIDS. Each kid leaves with a new set of their own bedding, and they also can use the pillowcases to carry personal belongings. The ages range from 7 to 15 years old.

Psychedelic turtles, autumnal cats & dogs, bones & Boston terriers pillowcases

I made these pillowcases using the "burrito" technique from The Seasoned Homemaker. It was a great way to use some fabrics that have been underfoot, since I'm on a mission to really clean up right now.

A pillowcase burrito getting pinned together

We are currently tied up in a boat yard in a rather industrial part of New Orleans. In fact, it is along the Industrial Canal, infamous for the levee breach here that flooded the Lower 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina. The views are rather, um, industrial, but I can see both nice sunrises and sunsets between the cranes and rusty metal work buildings.

Pile o' burritos ready for sewing

We'll be here for at least two months while our boat is being repainted. About a month from now, we'll have to move off the boat altogether when they get to the super dusty and dirty sanding part of the job. We'll be moving into an even smaller space, a friend's 30 foot RV, so I'm organizing my fabric into piles of stuff to take with me and stuff to put completely away into sealed containers.

Sweet little owls, laid out to show full size of pillowcases

I'm often a DReami (DRop Everything And Make It) quilter...I rarely plan out my projects, but get struck by inspiration and plunge into my stash up to my elbows. I want to take it all with me to the RV! But it's smarter to try to plan a few things in advance and only bring the fabric for those projects.

While doing my thinking and sorting, I kept stumbling across my WTF fabrics (that stands for "What's THIS For?") As my style and my stash coalesce, there are pieces that just don't GO, you know? Certain pastels, for instance, that don't work well with my very brightly colored stuff aimed at older kids. And my small remaining stash of fleeces and flannels, now that I've decided not to buy any more of them because of how bulky they are to store. I'm happy that I was able to make pillowcases out of some of this yardage and get it out from underfoot.

Kid friendly, but not my style at all. Baby pink is my least favorite color, and the cats are too "down-home old fashioned" for me

I wanted to make pillowcases that appealed to both boys and girls across the entire range of ages, so not all these are WTF fabrics. The teal horses are actually one of my very favorite pieces that I've been hoarding. I thought they might be just right for an older teen, and paired them with a subtle heart print to keep the pillowcase more sophisticated than, say, the lurid turtles.

Laurel Burch teal horses. I love this fabric. Sigh.

All told, I made eleven pillowcases over the course of two days. This was a great project and I'm sure I'll make more in the future. Since each pillowcase uses three fabrics (main fabric, cuff and accent stripe) I spent a couple of fun hours pulling and matching colors and patterns. I love that part of quilting! There's not a huge amount of ironing, so I was able to use the rest of some cotton/polyester blend fabric that make lousy quilting fabric. (It's the tiny cream heart fabric in the main body of the teal horses above.) I'll keep that in mind next time I accidentally purchase some blends.

Linking up with Sew Some Love for this new to me charity donation opportunity!