Thursday, July 27, 2017

Guest blogging today

Today I am over at Kat and Cat Quilts as a guest blogger, writing about using scraps for charity quilting. (Yes, that's her blog header photo above. Don't you love the modern freshness of that rainbow?)

Kat is out of town for the summer and is keeping her blog active with guests, photos from her travels, and some experiments in Shibori dyeing. Check it out!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

QAYG Sampler Finish

This week, I stitched up this little Quilt As You Go sampler piece. The blocks are 12" square so it finishes 36"x48". This size is requested by the group Quilted Embrace, which gives wheelchair quilts to folks in nursing homes, so that's probably where it will end up.

The strings were sewn one at a time directly onto both batting and a backing piece. I tried to include at least one fun novelty print in each color, so there are chickens, chiles, cupcakes, basketballs, dogs, trumpets, flames, fishbones, race cars, seahorses, snakes, horseshoes, asparagus, bicycles, butterflies and hot air balloons. I hope that will amuse the recipient.

I followed Fiona's tutorial to join the blocks together. Her method has no hand stitching, which is exactly what I wanted. She wisely used black sashing on her piece and it convinced me to stay with a dark, solid color instead of the black and white stripe that was in the back of my mind. This photo shows the machine stitching that attaches the sashing in the front. Navy blue thread on navy fabric disappears nicely into the background and hides the wibbles and wobbles.

For the backing pieces, I chose fat quarters in roughly the same color as the front so you can kinda sorta still see the rainbow effect.

The actual quilting stitches show on the back, and I used the same neutral beige thread on all the backs. The sashing looks almost the same as the front. Because I sewed the sashing down from the front, I missed the back pieces by a hair in a few places. I used navy top and bobbin thread for the sashing, so the near misses show a bit on the lighter fabrics like this grey and teal medallion print. However, since it is just a line of blue thread closely paralleling the blue sashing, I decided to leave it.

I also used the same navy blue for the binding, to make the whole piece look more like stained glass. My usual method of machine sewing the binding was fast, but in hindsight I should have switched back to the beige bobbin thread. The line of bobbin stitching always shows in this method and that doesn't bother me, but using the navy blue made it stand out more. Not too bad on the purple, but pretty obvious on the pink.

All in all, it was a fun, quick project. String blocks are so rewarding, and it was nice to have the quilting finished block by block. Attaching the sashing is fiddly and clearly I could use more practice to get it to line up more evenly. I don't know that I'll use this method very often, but it's nice to have it in my tool kit.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quilt room organization

Have you been watching the progress of Janice's new quilting room over at Color, Creating & Quilting? Oo la la, look at all those built in shelves! She got me thinking about how I would fill them if it was my home. I'm definitely in the "sort by color" camp of fabric storage, so I would fill the shelves in rainbow order and continue using the same basic system I use now, but on a larger scale.

I love to read about how other people organize their lives, and I really enjoy sites like Unclutterer. I met my friend Jeri through her fun site, too. I've written a little about how my quilt room is set up in the past but it's an evolving process and I have some new readers so I thought I'd share my current setup while fantasizing about working in Janice's new studio. Feel free to skip this post if organizational stuff isn't your cup of tea.

My quilt studio is in the guest stateroom of the boat. It is located up in the bow, or as we like to call it, "the pointy end." The bed fills almost the entire slightly triangular room, with several drawers built in under the bed. There are four small, irregularly shaped built in cubbies/shelves along the walls. There is also a very small attached bathroom. There are four windows, each 8"x18" (yes, that is teeny tiny): two in the bedroom, and one each in the bathroom and shower. The walls are dark cherry wood so the room is very dark. Even with just sheetrock in place, I am totally envious of how light and bright Janice's room is!

1. I fold all my fabric exactly the same way. All FQs are folded the same direction and half yards and greater are folded into rectangles that end up 5" wide x 9" long. This allows them to fit neatly into plastic bins and I can tell at a glance the difference in thickness between 1-, 2-, and 3-yard cuts.

2. Then I put FQs in small plastic bins, and the yardage in larger ones. If I had open shelves, I would leave them out in neat stacks instead, unless the room was dusty (hopefully that won't be a problem for Janice!)

Just looking at the fabric leads me to quilt ideas, so having them all out in the open sounds dreamy to me. I could saunter up to the shelves anytime to pet and coo at my stash! Having them cooped up in bins is a bit stifling for the poor fabric and my creativity. However, on a moving boat, stuff has to be contained. Batten down the hatches and all that jazz.

3. Chunks of fabric less than about 2/3 of a FQ go into ziplock bags by color. They are too small to fold neatly, so I tuck them out of sight in a drawer. It's true: behind every carefully staged, neatly organized room, there is a drawer stuffed full of ungainly junk.

4. Smaller pieces are cut into strips of either 1.5", 2", or 2.5" width, then stored in boxes by color. The boxes are "labeled" with paint chip cards, an idea I got from Julie. Sometimes I'll keep 3.5" or 4" strips if I have a bunch left over from a single fabric, but the skinnier strips seem more useful for scrap quilts. I also have a box for 2.5" and 5" squares. They aren't sorted by color. I have a super scrappy four patch quilt in mind for "some day" so I would just grab lights and darks for that quilt out of this box.

These boxes are not very neat as I paw through them often for projects. Plus, they constantly change size as I add a bunch of scraps after finishing a quilt, or take a bunch out to sew a quilt. So all my yellow and orange scraps fit in a single box right now, but if they grow too much, I could separate them and use two boxes. I'm using cardboard tissue boxes as a zero cost investment, and I keep them on the bathroom counter where they are out of the line of sight. If I had lots of open shelves, I would use Fiona's fantastic QAYG basket tute to stitch up a bunch of fun, color coordinated storage for scraps.

5. Really short strips of those widths go in a box next to my machine, and I use them as leaders/enders. I'll grab two yellow pieces and sew them into a longer yellow piece until the strip is about 8" long, then it goes into the yellow strip scrap box. (See the retractable cord on my small scissors? I got that idea just this week from KaHolly. So handy!)

6. Precuts like layer cakes, charm packs, and jelly rolls have their own storage boxes. One box is big enough for layer cakes to lay flat. I try to keep the precuts in their own plastic baggies or rolled up and tied. I think charm packs and jelly rolls are decorative and would definitely leave them out in the open if I could! All the better for inspiration purposes, too.

7. Because I love novelty fabrics, I have those all sorted by theme. I have separate boxes for cats, dogs, butterflies, tropical fish, birds, scooters, and "adult beverages" (coffee, beer and wine!). I don't mix the scooters and the wine/beer fabrics. Too dangerous a combination.

I also have a drawer full of other themes, each in a ziplock bag: transportation, science/space, fruits/veggies, fishing/hunting/camping, music, boating, Japanese-inspired fabrics, etc. The baggies keep the fabric clean, since the back of this drawer is open to the bilge and tends to collect black dust from the brushes of our bow thruster motor. Yuck.

8. The messiest part of the whole system is the fabric that doesn't fit into these categories! That usually means it isn't folded into the right shape yet, hasn't been cut into my standard sizes yet, or just hasn't been filed in the proper box or baggie. So I have baskets labeled for those tasks and I toss fabric into them without worrying about them being neat and tidy. When the messy baskets start to bug me, or I just need something mindless to do, I take them out and iron, trim, fold, sort and file. There's also the WTF fabric pile ("What's This For?!?"), which contains the odd balls and weirdos that never seem to have a proper place.

It's important for me to give myself permission to let these baskets and the strip boxes be messy in the bathroom, while trying to keep the rest of the room mostly contained in the plastic bins and drawers. That way, the room doesn't look too chaotic if we are giving a tour of the boat, and I know everything is secured
enough for heavy sea conditions. I don't really care if the scraps fall onto the bathroom floor (and they have.)

9. Stuff that would really make a mess or be dangerous if it fell gets stored under the bathroom counter behind latching cabinet doors. This includes basting spray, my extra iron, and the Best Press starch spray. I keep this big bin of tiny trash scraps in front of the latching cabinet. These scraps eventually fill dog beds that get donated to local animal shelters.

10. Rulers are stored in two places. The ones that I use often live on hooks along the wall. The rest are stored in a cloth bag that hangs nearby. Many of the ones in the bag don't have a hole for hanging. If I had a big studio like Janice's, I would hang as many as I could and store the rest out on a counter in one of those slotted holders so they would be visible. All the different ruler shapes are inspiring to me, so I'd like to see them more often. And when I say "inspiring," you all understand that to mean, "Squirrel!!" right?

11. My most commonly used tools and notions are in a basket on a hook right next to my sewing machine. The basket is very stable there and has never budged. I can reach right next to my head for tweezers, seam ripper, Hera marker, quilting gloves, reading glasses, pins, etc.

The rest of my notions like Clover clips, scissors, and extra bobbins live in a compartmentalized bag that hangs right behind me. It swings a bit when the boat moves, but is soft sided so it won't hurt the walls if it bangs into them. The thread box also hangs here because I use it all the time, but it's a bit unstable there. It really needs a more secure hook. Time to ask Project Boy (aka Sean) for ideas.

I really like having everything so close to the machine, but ideally it would all live in small, neatly compartmentalized drawers nearby, rather than hanging from the walls.

12. Batting is stored in the shower, hanging from hooks above the floor.  I generally buy either king or queen size packages of batting. Once I open the package and start cutting, I label each piece of batting with its rough size using blue painter's tape. I admit that sometimes I just pile these smaller cuts on top of each other in a heap, since the shower door is frosted and I don't have to look at the mess! Batting is always in odd sizes, so I would probably always tuck it away in closed-front storage. Ideally, someday, I'll have a studio big enough for a giant roll of batting. Then I will pull batting from the roll like a giant paper towel, and wrap it around me like a cape and run through fields of flowers with it streaming behind me. I shall wear a tiara and sing show tunes then, too. Sigh. Until then, into the shower it goes.

13. I have two sewing machines. The Juki is my main one, and it lives on the table that rests on the edge of the bed, until seas get rough. Then I just put it on the floor next to the wall. The Little Kenmore That Could lives on the floor of the closet in the master stateroom, and I pull it out when I need a zig zag stitch to make Frankenbatting. It's a pain to keep two machines when you live in such a small space, but that was the right compromise when I bought the big, beefy, all metal, straight stitch only Juki. However, if I had a bigger room, I'd leave them both out all the time and use one for piecing and one for quilting. Oh heck, let's dream big, even bigger than the roll of batting fantasy: I'd get a long arm machine if I had Janice's studio.

Thanks for sticking around until the end of the tour. I'd love to hear about how your studio is organized! If you've blogged about it, please leave the link in a comment below and I'll be sure to visit.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Winner, winner

The winner of last week's random drawing is lucky number 13, JanineMarie of Quilts From the Little House. Janine is finishing up her improv piece called Deconstructed Coins. I just love that quilt, and can't wait to see the final quilting and binding. Go check out her latest post, where you can peek at the finished flimsy and her improvised pieced backing. Congratulations, Janine! A little bit of purple fabric will be winging it's way to you soon!

I finished two little toddler quilts this week. This one uses a fish fabric for the focal blocks and simple four patches for the alternate blocks. Simple cross hatch quilting with my walking foot made for a speedy finish.

For the back, I used one of my new pieces of fabric from Lydia. It's nice how these little quilts can be backed with a single width of fabric and no piecing.

This one features all cat and mouse fabrics. The pattern is called County Lines, and it pieces up very easily. I quilted it with a relaxed meander in turquoise thread and finished with a stripey binding on both quilts. They will both be donated to my old Project Linus group in California.

We are settling in at our marina in Charleston. This gorgeous yacht is one of our closest neighbors. She's 120 feet long and recently sold for $13,000,000. The only people we've seen aboard her are crew members. There have often been dramatic thunderstorms in the afternoons, and I love the dark, brooding sky in this photo.

On the less glamorous side of things, this wad of icky, stinky marine....stuff...was clogging the intake to our air conditioners. When the bedroom a/c stopped, we scratched our heads. But when the quilt room a/c failed with a sigh, THAT really got my attention! Stop everything and fix it now!! Fortunately, Sean is an excellent Chief Engineer, and got the cool air flowing again in about an hour. Whew!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Christmas in July

This is the time of year when quilters start thinking about holiday projects. Lots of folks are posting tutorials and photos of Christmas themed quilts. But that's not what I'm talking about today. No, today I'm sharing the fantastic gift I received in the mail yesterday. Look at that giant, 15 pound box! Even though it has "6 cans rice brown/white" written on it...

It was full of FABRIC! And not just any fabric, FREE fabric! Lovely, high quality, brand name fabric, like Moda, Jinny Beyer, Andover, Timeless Treasures, Rowan/Westminster, RJR, and more. A sweet eBay seller named Lydia sent me a big chunk of her stash after she learned that I sew for Project Linus and other charities. Opening this treasure trove was like Christmas morning!

I pulled out each piece and refolded them, sorting into piles. This stack is all yardage of light colored blenders. At least half of these are two yard pieces. Look at all those soft colors! These will be great for background neutrals.

Here's a stack of stripes, always great for bindings. I love that wild color combo in the middle!

I think this wonky grid in pale green is fun and modern. That mottled green underneath is the softest cotton, ever. Such quality stuff. And I use greens all the time and always need more.

From the big batch of more patterned pieces, here are a few of my favorites. Love the bright saturated hot colors in this big, bold poppy print.

Yellow paisley, purple tendrils, and leafy garden goodness? Yes, please! 

Fat quarters of candy canes, butterflies, monkeys and musical instruments will work so well with my other novelty fabrics. Can you say, "I-Spy?"

And just look at this huge stack of rainbow blenders! Each one is at least a fat quarter, some are half yards. Yum!

Last but not least, this full yard of black with iridescent metallic stars has some serious "Wow!" factor. It shimmers and sparkles. I originally found Lydia's fabric listings because she was selling some of her other metallic fabrics. I bought a bunch from her, and that started our conversation about destashing and charity sewing. I never dreamed that she would end up sending me over 40 yards of free fabric!

I'm so touched and thrilled by Lydia's generosity, and want to pay it forward. If you've read this far, you can win a prize by leaving a comment below. Tell me either your favorite color, or a color that is missing from your stash, and I'll send you a couple fat quarters of that color plus a brand new Hera marker. I'll choose the winner by random drawing a week from today, Thursday, July 20th. And yes, I will ship internationally. Someone sent me ~$400 worth of fabric for free, the least I can do is pop a few FQs in the mail, even to Australia. Good luck!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fancy schmancy ruler

Yesterday I stitched up two "mariner's compass" star blocks using a ruler that I purchased at the big Houston show in 2015. It's the first time I've used the ruler because the instructions were a bit daunting. 

The ruler is called "Skinny Robin," and I think it was named after the inventor's daughter. The mother/daughter team demonstrated the ruler at the show and made it look super easy. Ha!

Here's the ruler. Sorry about the bits of blue tape, but they were necessary for me to keep track of what lined up where. The ruler can be used to create 16 different sizes of stars, so there are a LOT of lines and circles and teensy little numbers on the ruler. I made 10" blocks; the 8" and 12" lines are very, very close to the 10" lines. Sheesh.

Here's part of one of the SEVENTEEN pages of instructions to make a single star from the booklet. I bought this ruler because I didn't want to make a paper pieced star because, you know, paper piecing is complicated. Um, yeah.

The star at the top of this post was my first trial block. There was a lot of head scratching and grumbling during the construction, but I actually didn't have to rip or re-do anything. When followed step by step, the instructions do work well. The hardest part was actually sewing the circular star block into the square of background fabric. I made it red, white and blue so I can donate it to Kat's July/August block drive for Covered in Love. The red fabric is fried chicken drumsticks!

The second block went together much faster. Like taking 20 minutes vs. 2 hours faster. It is a secret squirrel project, so here's just a glimpse. The wrinkling you see in the white fabric on both stars is from setting a circle into a circle. All those bias edges tend to get a bit distorted, but I know they will settle down during quilting, and after washing will disappear completely.

So after two blocks, I admit that I kinda like this ruler. It doesn't make a truly traditional Mariner's Compass, but the resulting 16 point star is quite nice. The points are very pointy and I didn't have to tear any paper. The stars start from four strips of fabric and the amount of cutting waste is acceptable to me. I'm thinking I might try some wild, scrappy combos since my scraps bins are already full of strips that are a good width for this 10" size star.

In other news, Bright Astrodelic washed up  nicely. I love how uniform the crinkliness is on the spirals. The stiff black mottled background softened up quite a bit and the quilt is good and drapey.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bee blocks

We are docked in Charleston, SC after our 48 hour passage from Fort Lauderdale. The trip was incredibly calm for about 40 of those hours, and I got a little sewing done. These two blocks are for a do.Good Stitches bee. A friend asked me to fill in for her this month since she is traveling and away from her sewing machine.

The block is a variation of "Orchid Orchestration," and I really like it. The Queen Bee asked for all yellow and white, which will make this cool yellow zig zag across the quilt. It also would be fun to do all scrappy, with a consistent background color. Brights against navy blue, perhaps?

During the calm part of the trip, Angel Kitty was extremely relaxed. I caught her fast asleep and drooling a little bit next to me on the pilot house settee. Even during the rougher part of the passage, she seemed comfortable. The boat moved A LOT during my final night watch, consistently rolling 15 degrees and occasionally as much as 35-40 degrees. You can imagine what that does to anything that isn't well secured, and we found out exactly which things needed to be tied down more firmly. Several boxes of my scraps are now one large, multicolored pile on the floor, and I found a bowl of fruit teetering on the edge of the counter just in time to save it from becoming mushy fruit salad.

Fortunately, the rolling was a large, smooth motion and not short and jerky, so no one got seasick and nothing was damaged. But neither one of us slept much Thursday night, so we went to bed early last night and crashed a full 12 hours each! Now we're tied up at a marina with all the HUGE fancy yachts, so we have lots of eye candy. We'll be here at least a month and a half while we catch up on dental visits, routine doctor's appointments, projects, etc. This is also where we will observe the full solar eclipse in mid August.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bright Astrodelic finish

Bright Astrodelic is spiral quilted and bound. It's an explosion of hot colors!

We are currently docked in downtown Fort Lauderdale and I was able to toss the quilt onto various objects for some photos. My "Kilroy Was Here" quilt holdin' husband was still asleep so I made do with benches and bushes.

The red leaves on this plant are almost as bright as my fabrics. South Florida is not afraid of color, that's for sure.

This nice fountain was only a few hundred feet from our boat. The downtown docks are on the New River. It was super busy last night with many, many boats returning from watching the 4th of July fireworks from downriver. The fireworks were shot over the beach, but we decided to just stay on board this year rather than fight the crowds. It was entertaining to watch the parade of boats as they jostled and bounced back up river around 10pm, while we calmly sipped ice cold beer.

The back of the quilt is a simple framed square. It looks solid black in this photo.

However, it's actually this rather busy print with gold metallic accents. The spiral quilting is completely invisible on the dark fabric, but you can see it easily on the sweet candy hearts outer border.

This close up shows the quilting on the front pretty well. I changed top thread color every seven go-rounds, using yellow, red, and orange threads. The spacing between spirals is about the width of my walking foot. The quilting took a loooooong time, but I'm pretty happy with it. I did a black and yellow flanged binding to give the edge sharp definition. The yellow flange actually has flecks of the pink, red and orange in it. Fun!

I started the center spiral with a circle about 4" in diameter using the walking foot. Then I used my FMQ foot to spiral back in to a smaller center. I knew it would be a bit wobbly, so I chose the red thread for the center, which is more forgiving against the black.

We'll see how it looks after washing. Right now, it's fairly stiff, but some of that comes from the black marbled background fabric. It was an off brand and full of sizing.

Today we leave on our final open ocean passage for a while. We'll be going straight from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Charleston, SC. Depending on how much of a boost we get from the Gulf Stream, that should take between 50 and 60 hours. I'm hoping we'll have internet for a couple of hours at the beginning and end of the trip, and calm seas in the middle so I can sew!