Monday, December 31, 2018

Caged Samurai

I'm a bit behind in posting some of my final finishes for 2018. We're currently traveling away from the boat, helping again with family medical issues and fitting in a few visits with friends here and there. Today I have a little free time to blog and show you Caged Samurai, a finish from late November/early December.

This UFO was pieced over the course of many months. The central panel is an odd, almost tattoo-like graphic fabric. It was part of some big batch of scraps that I bought on eBay several years ago. The warrior wields a sword and strikes a fierce pose! I immediately knew I wanted to set him behind thin strips, as if being seen through vertical bars. The purple bars and frame were stitched on, and then he sat for a long time. What do you do with this kind of piece? It certainly wasn't meant to be a charity quilt for a toddler!

At some other point, I was playing with some Asian-inspired fabric scraps and used Anita Grossman Solomon's technique to make square-in-a-squares. The little squares piled up, then ended up in a baggie in a drawer. Then some other scraps got stitched together into long columns of coins, and ended up in a different baggie.

One day, all those parts told me they would probably work together, with a little help. I added the panels of fabric on the left and right of Mr. Samurai to improve the proportions and stitched on the Anita squares. That seemed a bit dark, so I added a frame and border of bright white to contain the coin strips. Getting closer to just right!

He then waited quietly on a hanger as a UFO for quite a while. One day last month, he told me to use a purple binding as a final frame, and I knew Caged Samurai was ready to be quilted. After a bit of stitch in the ditch to stabilize and define the different areas, I enjoyed playing with several different motifs.

In the coins, I quilted easy wishbones. In the squares, I did a simple dot-to-dot design in the outer triangles, and a curvy orange peel inside the squares. I was inspired by Vicki's use of the latter motif, and used her technique of chanting "fat skinny fat skinny" to keep track of which way to curve next!

The side panels are too busy to see any quilting, so I cheated with stippling using dark purple thread. I think. I couldn't see a dang thing as I stitched, so I might have drawn the Mona Lisa in there for all I know.

Inside the "cage," I used this serpentine design just to add texture without obscuring the face. The bronze colored thread looks just right in here among all the metallic gold accents.

In the white column next to the Anita squares, I mimicked the shape with more dot-to-dot stitching. It's a little wonky, but I'm OK with that.

The outer borders required just a little marking. The motif is sinusoidal waves filled with serpentine echoing, which takes longer to type than it does to stitch!

I marked the curves lightly to make sure that they ended the way I wanted in the corners.

The transition around the corner from the thin side borders to the wider top and bottom borders took a little head scratching, but I'm happy with how it turned out. White thread on white fabric, plus a trip through the washer and dryer to crinkle up, hides a multitude of "creative" stitches.

The backing is this gray quasi-Asian newspaper fabric, plus chunks of other Asian inspired fabrics. I call it "quasi" because there seems to be nothing readable among all those characters. I have an app on my phone that can look at images and pick out words and numbers in any language, but it found nothing but a few numbers in this. So it seems to be just scribbles, which I suppose is better than rude words. The big advantage of this backing is it hides EVERYTHING. Highly recommended for trying new quilting motifs!

Many of these metallic fabrics were quite stiff, and I worried that the quilt would be uncomfortable. But it washed beautifully and became wonderfully drapey. In spite of his fierce appearance, Caged Samurai is quite a softy.

A few days after I finished the quilt, I learned that a friend was really struggling to recover from a car accident. Charles is a quirky, irreverent, funny guy and I knew immediately that Caged Samurai had found his forever home. I am happy to report that Charles loves this piece and tells me that not only has he always adored homemade quilts, but purple is his favorite color! I hope it brings him comfort and healing.

Linking up with Tish's UFO Busting party.

2018 Year in Review

Welcome to my look back at 2018! If you're seeing this at the end of 2019, my apologies. I carefully put together all the photo collages a year ago but never actually published them on my blog. So I've back-dated this post to December 31, 2018, but am actually writing it on December 31, 2019. Which means it will probably be sent to subscribers on January 1, 2020. Confused? Me, too! In any case, these are old quilts that you've probably seen before, so feel free to skip this post. These summaries are mostly for myself in any case.

Starting from the beginning of the year, I made several gift quilts, some pillow covers, and several small donation quilts for Jack's Basket.

This batch is three tiny doll quilts for A Doll Like Me, a couple wall hangings for the boat, and two for other charities.

Three flimsies for Victoria's Quilts, donated as part of Hands2Help 2018. More pillow covers for us. The rest were donated to Little Lambs, Wrap-A-Smile, and Covered in Love.

A few more charity quilts. I really like that top design and should make another one of those! The Old Italian blocks, on the other hand, were fiddly enough that one quilt of those is sufficient. Too many other blocks to try to repeat ones that I didn't really like making.

I spy with my little eye one gift, one for our guest bed, three charities using panels, and at least four I-Spy quilts! 

A few more gifts, two more tiny doll quilts, two quilt along finishes, and miscellaneous charity donations. They all look like they are the same size because the way the photos are cropped, but they certainly are not!

A mystery QAL, two holiday pieces for the boat, an RSC finish. I was a pattern tester for the bottom right piece. Such a cool design!

Since I wrote this post after writing my 2019 summary, its interesting to see how my focus changed between the two years. I don't think I made any doll quilts in 2019. I also didn't participate in as many quilt alongs. And clearly we have enough quilts on board now after making quite a few to keep in 2018. If you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, thanks for sticking around. Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

2019 Planning Party

2019 Planning Party

The multi-talented Yvonne of Quilting JetGirl is hosting the annual Planning Party for quilters and bloggers. Are you a planner? Do you love a party? Then check it out!

When it comes to quilting, I am definitely NOT a planner. I really prefer a loosey-goosey approach to my projects. Maybe the correct phrase is "squirrelly-whirly" because most of my work is done very spontaneously. I see a design online and decide to make one of my own. Or I dredge up some interesting fabrics in my stash and decide to cut them up into little pieces and sew them together again.

I almost never purchase fabric for a specific quilt. I buy (mostly used) fabrics strictly for stash and occasionally a friend will pass along some of their fabrics. A good supply of blenders, fun panels, novelties in my favorite subjects, and some larger chunks for potential backings, and my studio is ready to go.

Even the recipient of the quilt is up in the air until the piece is mostly finished. I have a group of charities that I support, and each one has slightly different size, subject and material needs. This kid-friendly one that's only about 38" square? Off to Little Lambs it goes! This bigger one that uses up some polyester batting? Quilts Beyond Borders. Adult sized in softer, muted colors? Covered In Love can use it, for sure.

Other tops sit quietly in my UFO closet until they are needed by a friend or family member. I shipped one of those out last week and will blog about it soon.

What I love most about this way of quilting is that there are very few deadlines. I sew what I want, when I want to. It's fun and relaxing. When I get frustrated, I can set the offending piece aside for a few days, or forever. I order fabric when the price is right, and I don't sweat about getting just the right color. It can take three months to get that shipment of fabric, and by then I've forgotten what I ordered. Every mail delivery batch is like Christmas morning! Woo hoo, new fabrics!

So what are my goals, plans and resolutions for quilting in 2019? More of the same! I'll continue to sew for charities, making the pieces that are fun and interesting to me in the moment. I'll continue to buy fabric as needed, enjoying the hunt for the best price. Good news such as new babies and sad news like illness will probably generate a gift quilt or two. And I'll blog about it when I get around to taking some photos.

How about you? Are you a planner to keep yourself focused and on track? Or do you chase the squirrels as they whirl past? If you want to join the party of folks talking about this, visit Quilting JetGirl and link up. You might even win a prize!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

UFOpalooza Part Two


The end of the year seems like a good time to get some more UFOs finished up. Here's my next batch of finishes from the last several weeks.

This is one of my Rainbow Scrap Challenge projects. I made two of these spiral blocks each month, for a total of 20. Each pair of spirals includes one that has the featured color on the outside, and one with neutrals on the outside. The combination of these dark and light blocks makes a sort of maze effect.

These blocks were a bit of a pain to make, but in the end I loved how scrappy and fun they turned out. Twenty 10" blocks makes the perfect size little quilt for Wrap A Smile, 40"x50", and it's called Rainbow Spirals.

The backing is a single piece of this fun tan with tiny dogs wearing berets and bandanas. So cute! The binding is scrappy reds to pick up the red in the backing. Any color binding would coordinate with the front!

The quilting is simple wiggly lines that follow the shape of the spirals. Friends, this was the fastest, easiest and most satisfying quilting I've ever done! The piecing completely guided my stitching, so it was practically mindless. The wiggliness of the lines was super forgiving, and look at that texture! I'll be watching for other piecing designs that lend themselves to this technique because it was fun fun fun!

Color Wheels is also destined for Wrap A Smile. In spite of its rainbow colors, it was not made as part of RSC. It was a squirrelly diversion at some point months ago, when my kaleidoscope ruler happened to be sitting on top of some colorful scraps. At first I thought to make beach balls, but once the ROYGBIV was in motion, I couldn't stop the rainbow train. The background is white with tiny blue and green stars, a lovely fabric that was given to me by my husband's aunt.

The flimsy sat around on a hanger until this wonderful backing fabric fell into my lap. Happy little forest critters on bright yellow! It came in my big box of fabrics from Ann last month, and I knew I wanted to use it immediately.

A big, loose stipple quilting motif makes Color Wheels soft and cuddly, and the dark green binding frames it up nicely. Again, because any color would match the front, I chose the binding to coordinate with the backing.

Next up are three really little quilts. Doll-sized little. In fact, they are doll quilts, and will be donated to A Doll Like Me. The first one, Minnows, is made with scraps from a baby quilt I made for my cousin. I saved all the little flippy corner triangles in a fit of frugality. Then I had 160 tiny HSTs that needed to be trimmed to 1 7/8", finishing at 1 3/8". That sound you hear is my head hitting the cutting mat as I pass out from pondering too many tiny HSTs.

I know other quilters love to work with tiny pieces, and I admit the HSTs were darned cute, but it was many hours of labor to produce 12 small "ocean wave" blocks. I was happy to find a few scraps of the original fish themed fabrics to make the central blocks and fatten the whole thing up to about 24" square. Doll quilts are fun to make, but I don't need to spend that many hours of my life on flippy cut offs again.

Jason's Stars, on the other hand, took zero hours of my time to make the blocks. That's because they were made by Erin and I inherited them as a quilty orphan. They were originally intended for her son Jason. As I was scrounging for small pieces of batting to make Minnows, I found just enough of two different materials. Minnows' batting is polyester, and Jason's Stars uses scraps of wool.

Erin did a wonderful job making the stars, pressing the seams so they nested perfectly when I stitched the nine of them together. Her blocks were exactly the same size as each other, too. The nine wonky stars are significant: the colors represent the different karate belt colors on the way to black belt. That's why there's a white star, even though the contrast is low on that one.

This chunk of alphabet fabric, fattened up with some other scraps from Erin, makes a fun backing. The quilting is just walking foot cross hatching through the diagonals of the piecing. A zippy black and white striped binding finished it up.

Last but not least, this little owl quilt is finished. Actually, I finished it months ago and forgot to blog about it. So it's not really a UFO, but I'm guessing you are OK with me throwing it into this post. Owl Be Seeing You was made with all the owl fabrics that were part of the I-Spy square swap I participated in this summer.

I decided not to use owls in my quilts for Wrap A Smile or Quilts Beyond Borders. Some cultures associate owls with death, and since most of the quilts for those organizations go to other countries, I thought I'd save the owls for a US-based donation. 

And now I have three little quilts to share an envelope heading to their forever homes. A Doll Like Me creates soft, personalized dolls that look like the children who receive them. They are specially created for children who might have limb differences, or chemotherapy IV ports, or cochlear implants, or a number of other characteristics not found on typical dolls. It's wonderful for a child to love a doll that looks like him/herself! And very special dolls deserve their own quilt.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Giveaway winners!

Last week's giveaway has ended and I'm happy to announce our two winners. There were 35 total comments, with five people asking not to be included in the drawing. Of the 30 remaining, 5 were non-US addresses. So I asked the random number generator to pick a number between 1 and 25, and another between 1 and 5.

The winning number for the books was 11, Heide. She blogs at Heide's Quilty Hugs. Hope you find some fun inspiration, Heide!

The winning number for a pattern from The Canuck Quilter was 3, Lisa J. She blogs at Sunlight In Winter Quilts and picked the Sparkling Trail pattern. Great choice, Lisa!

Thank you to everyone who left a comment. I truly appreciate the time you take to respond to my posts. Your comments are what makes blogging fun. And congratulations to Heide and Lisa!

Saturday, November 17, 2018


In the last couple of weeks, I've been on a roll finishing UFOs. It started when Bernie at Needle and Foot put a call out for donations to Mercy Hospital in Sacramento, CA. She calls them Mercyful quilts, and they are for patients who are not expected to live. They receive a comforting quilt for their final days, and their families take the quilts home. This is similar to the work done by one of my regular charities, Covered in Love. 

Bernie suggested that we look through our UFOs to see if we had any that did not yet have a recipient, finish them up, and donate them. Since the program at Mercy Hospital is primarily for adults, the call was for adult sized and themed pieces. 

I immediately thought of two tops that were languishing on hangers in my closet. This one was made during the 12 Days of Christmas In July quilt along with Sarah of Confessions of a Fabric Addict. Instead of red and green yardage, I used red and aqua scraps. I'm calling it 12 Days of Scrappiness in July.

The piece originally ended up 51" square. I found some aqua yardage that matched nicely and added some 3" borders to make it 57" square. Another chunk of the aqua went on the back, along with this white with small violet flowers. Mostly white backings are not a good choice for most of my kid's charities, so I was happy to use it here. A scrappy red binding made from some Cinderberry fabrics (thanks, Rose!) was the perfect touch.

Sorry about the rather washed out photos, and the big sharp shadows across the quilts. We've been mostly sitting at anchor and it's been windy and cloudy and stormy for many days. So when a sunny, slightly less windy day appeared, I dashed out to take photos on the foredeck. The low sun angle really shows off the texture, but is lousy for much else. Oh well, it is what it is!

The second quilt I chose as a Mercyful donation is this one. It was made as part of My Carolina Home's Square Dance Mystery quilt along. I admit I really hated this top when the mystery was finished. Carole's own quilt was done in rich autumn colors and was so pretty. My blue, green and yellow one just looked like a big mishmash.  So I'm calling this one Homely Square Dance.

I decided that adding some dark blue borders might help, and would also bring it up to a better size. I like this celestial fabric, and figured even if the quilt was ugly, at least the borders were pretty! 

The backing is this green and cream plaid, with a stripe of leafy green to hide any mismatch in the plaid when I stitched together several pieces to make it big enough. Here's a tip for you: don't try to match plaids, just fool the eye with a contrasting stripe. 

Like 12 Days, Homely was quilted in a big loose stipple for softness and a fast finish.  The busy fabrics hide the quilting, so there's not much point in doing fancy schmancy FMQ.  I even used the same pale green thread, which turns out to be a decent neutral for quilting. Homely Square Dance has grown on me since I finished it. It's amazing how much a little quilting helps! It also helps to look at it in photos from a distance where the overall pattern is what dominates instead of the individual fabrics.

While the Juki was loaded with pale green thread, I decided to baste and quilt up this next piece, called Birds in the Window. The pattern is "Kitchen Window" by Elizabeth Hartman. It's in her book The Practical Guide to Patchwork

I used lots of different bird fabrics in the panes, a dark green fern print for the window frames, and a pale sky blue for the background.

For the backing, I pieced this mustard polka dot and a coordinating leafy stripe. This fabric is kinda ugly on its own, but it picks up the yellows and golds from the front and actually looks pretty nice. It just goes to show that even the weirdest fabrics have a home somewhere.

The quilting is another big, soft stipple and the batting is 100% polyester. Birds in the Window will be donated to Quilts Beyond Borders, and they prefer poly batting for quilts going to Syrian refugees. The poly dries faster after being handwashed. I bought a king size piece of Fairfield Poly-Fit to try and it quilted up nicely. It's so, so different from the cotton Warm and Natural that I usually use, though!

Here's a shot of our anchorage in Beaufort, NC. The land you see is Cape Lookout National Seashore, and there were often wild horses grazing on the banks. We also saw dolphins feeding in the water almost every day. Pretty neat!


And finally, here is Five Alarm Chili all quilted up and finished. This was made with Sandra's Playtime Plus pattern. I made the flimsy back in April in the Bahamas and it's been patiently waiting for me to get motivated to quilt it.

In keeping with the hot chili pepper theme of the fabrics, I quilted dancing flames in the large red central plus. I didn't have any red thread, but this bright orange turned out to be a great choice. This is the first time I've done flames, and I'm pretty chuffed about them. Of course, it's another totally washed out, over exposed photo, so you'll just have to trust me that my flame quilting is on fire!

In the white background, I quilted a horizontal flowing pattern that looks like ripples of water. That's supposed to represent the cool water (or milk, or beer) that you need to drink after eating the hot chilis!

In the small pluses, I stuck with a simple, tight stipple in medium green thread. It completely disappears on most of the busy fabrics, but you can see it clearly on this orange plus.

Lots of yummy texture in all that quilting!

This quilt is a gift for my husband's cousin Chris. Chris is a wonderful cook, and makes some killer salsas. I'm sure he'll get a kick out of the fabrics, but I didn't know if this quilt would match his decor at all. So I asked his sister-in-law about colors, and she told me that his favorite colors are orange and gray, and that he also really likes fish. So I pieced the backing out of gray and orange, with a stripe of blue and orange fishes. Why not? The same orange fabric has squiggly lines that made a fun stripey binding.

I'm still working my way through a pile of UFOs, so I'll have another installment of UFOpalooza soon.