Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Working on I-Spies

A couple of months ago, I participated in an I-Spy 4" square swap at Val's Quilting Studio. Each person sent in 20 squares each of 10 different fun novelty fabrics. Val then sorted and combined all the fabrics and sent us back 200 unique squares. So fun! There was also the option of sending in a double batch, which I decided to do. So I got 400 squares in the mail, super double bonus fun!

The problem with 400 (mostly) unique squares is that they are a bit overwhelming. Since the object of an I-Spy quilt is for there to be lots of different things for a toddler to find, the fabrics are busy busy busy. I needed some order in all that chaos!

I knew I wanted to make donation quilts for Wrap A Smile and Quilts Beyond Borders, so the first order of business was to remove some squares that contained subjects we've been asked to avoid. For instance, pigs, Christmas themes, and camouflage patterns aren't great choices in some of the receiving countries. At the same time, I sorted all the squares into color families and into lights and darks within the colors.

I stitched together four patches of two lights and two darks, all the same color. This made 7.5" squares, and I wanted the blocks to finish at 10" so I added 2" raw borders all the way around. The borders are the same color as the novelty squares, and that gave the whole batch some structure. Instead of hundreds of multicolor small squares, I ended up with just over 80 larger blocks, each one very clearly a single color. That's enough for 4 toddler sized quilts, each 40"x50".

Here are the stacks of red, yellow, orange and pink blocks. I tried to make about half the borders dark and half light. That was easy with some colors, like orange, where I had both deep pumpkin orange and light tangerine. For yellow and red, though, I used off white for the light borders. I don't have any pale yellow fabric, and pale red is pink, which ended up being its own color stack.

Here are the blue, green and aqua stacks. They are much larger, especially the blue. I ended up with 21 blue blocks, but only 5 yellow and 4 purple. And there's a stack of black and white blocks, too, with I-spy fabrics that had almost no color in them at all.

My original plan was to make rainbow order quilts, but with such a imbalance of colors that didn't seem like a great idea. Instead, I decided to group analogous colors. I think I'll end up with two bluish-greenish quilts, one yellow/pink/orange, and one with the leftovers mixed with the black and white squares.

And here's the first top pieced together! Even though this is a sort of soft and girly color palette, the I-Spy subjects are a great mix. There are dump trucks, bees, rhinos, fishing lures, strawberries, kitties, and treasure chests, just to name a few! I'm looking forward to piecing up the other three tops soon and then getting them all quilted.

And speaking of kitties, here's Angel on the other project I worked on last week. This is my scrappy Christmas fabric top, pieced up last year. I'm quilting it without batting to a fleece backing. Theoretically, without batting the quilt would be a little lighter and thinner and easier to store. We aren't usually any place very cold in the winter. However, the fleece that I bought online is the thickest stuff I've ever seen! Whoa, Nelly, this is going to be a heavy quilt! Just shoving it around through the Juki has been quite a workout, so I'm setting it aside for a while. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

And the painted ponies go up and down

Greetings from Nantucket Island! This quilt is made from a panel called "Painted Ponies," and it's a finish for Wrap a Smile.

I wanted to try a panel bordering technique that I saw on a free Benartex pattern called "Cool Cats." The octagon purple border is made of eight half rectangle triangles, and makes a neat frame for the floral horses. Everything inside that purple is part of the panel.

To round out the rest of the quilt, I pieced up four big hearts using Cluck Cluck Sew's free block pattern. So fast and easy. I used some fun novelty prints for the hearts, including balloons, rainbow trees and feathers. So I'm calling this one Horse Feathers.

I didn't manage to get a photo of the feather fabric heart, but here it is in one of the little border squares. You can also see the binding fabric, a multi colored butterfly print with a purple background. I usually cut my bindings 2.5" wide, but tried 2.25" this time for a tighter finish.

The back is pieced from a chunk of dark yellow and a groovy psychedelic star print.

Here's a closeup of the stars. Aren't they fun? And I was able to put one of the Wrap A Smile labels on this quilt myself. Now I'm an official "International Quilter," I guess!

The quilting is an all over stipple for cuddly softness. The lighting in Nantucket Harbor was briefly good enough to show the texture. We were anchored a loooooong way from shore, as you can see by all the tiny boats in the background. Mostly it was drizzly and foggy during our visit this week. I call that "Quiltin' Weather."

The HRT bordering technique was pretty straightforward and should be easy to adapt to other panel sizes, so I'm glad to have this in my tool kit. These ponies are 10" finished, so the HRTs were 5" finished. The only slightly tricky part was wrapping my head around how the panel borders and heart blocks lined up with the cornerstones.

I also wanted to share this lovely box of goodies that I received from a quilty friend. A bright stack of fat quarters, tons of scraps including dogs, owls, and bears, oh my! Plus a fat eighth bundle of sea critters, so cute! And can you see the little styluses next to the bears? Rose makes those herself and they are so clever. One is a black cat and the other is a funny lady with wild hair. For my non-quilting readers, a stylus is used to guide fabric under the needle so your fingers don't have to get too close. Very useful. Thank you so much, Rose!

And finally, it's the annual parade of Pets on Quilts over at Lily Pad Quilting. Angel has been enjoying her hexagon quilt lately, after snubbing it for many months. Who knows why these preferences come and go with cats? I'm just glad that she's been feeling better. You can see where they shaved her tummy for the ultrasound. Her fur is growing back slowly but surely, and her appetite is good. We bought her one of those pet drinking fountains and she really likes it, so I think she's also drinking more water for better kidney health. Be sure to drop by Lily Pad to see lots more cute animals on quilts!

Friday, August 10, 2018

A finish and a tour

I cleaned up my studio last week and decided it was a good time to take a few photos and invite you in for a tour. A number of people have recently asked to see how I quilt on a boat. I wrote about my studio a couple of years ago here, but there have a been a few changes.

But first, the finish! This super scrappy string quilt top was pieced almost a year ago. I just recently decided to add navy borders to make it the right size for the double/full size bed in our guest stateroom. The mattress sits on a platform and is surrounded by a built in railing to keep it from moving while we are underway. I wanted the quilt to just fit inside the railing. I'm happy with how the bright yellow inner border shows along the edges.

The guest stateroom is also my quilting studio. It's pretty small, with about 2 feet on average around each side of the double bed. It's in the bow of the boat, so the room is a little triangular, narrowing significantly up near the head of the bed. I wish I could take better photos of the space, but the combination of dark wood walls, tiny (8" x 18") windows, and no way to step back for perspective makes taking pictures difficult.

The bed itself is my main work space. At the foot of the bed, it is about counter height. By adding a piece of thin plywood over the firm mattress, I have a good surface for my cutting mat and folding ironing board. I really like how I don't have to bend over to cut and iron. I also like having room for a 24"x36" mat. The iron is cordless, which is a good choice for a moving vessel. Less chance of getting tangled or caught if the boat lurches.

My Juki TL2010Q sewing machine sits on a small built in table on the starboard side of the room. The table is covered with dark brown vinyl so it's hard to see but easy to clean. It's wedged in tightly and bolted to the wall, and can be removed if we have guests. The surface of the bed acts like an extension of the table, supporting pieces as I quilt them. There's just enough room for me to sit on an adjustable stool in front of the machine, but not enough room for the stool to have a back. That's OK, I try to only spend about 20 minutes at a time sewing, then move to ironing or other activities.

Most of my tools are hanging on the wall next to the Juki for easy access. The rectangular brown basket holds the stuff I use the most often. The glass door to the right in this photo is the en suite shower, which is where I store batting in big plastic bags. There's another window in the shower, so I get a little extra light that way.

My stash is stored in every nook and cranny of the room, including inside the small attached bathroom. See the stainless steel sink? This is my scrap strings and crumbs storage area. Spray baste, starch and an extra iron are stored under the sink with the toilet paper and bottles of wine. No wasted space on a boat!

Here is the port side of the room. You can see some of the plastic storage boxes to keep out dust and salt air out of the fabric. There's a spring loaded curtain rod running between two shelves under the window to hold WIPs. More of those live on hangers behind the door and in my clothes closet. Because really, who needs more clothes?

Two of the four drawers under the bed contain ziplock bags with fabric sorted by color or theme. Equipment under the bed (the bow thruster) generates black graphite dust, so this fabric needs extra protection. Keep those ziplocks zipped!

These two larger bins on the floor next to the bed are all my yardage bigger than fat quarters. The woven basket crammed in behind that holds pieces large enough to use as backings.

The wall space is extremely limited because of all the doors and cabinets, but I hang up my frequently used rulers wherever there's a bit of room. 3M Command hooks work well and don't damage the woodwork. There's no way I can have a design wall, so I use the top of the queen size bed in the master stateroom.

So there you go, my little nautical studio! I love having all my quilting stuff close at hand and spend many happy hours here. It may be small and salty and constantly moving, but that gives me a built in excuse for any wobbly free motion stitching. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.