Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year in Review

Happy New Year's eve! Lots of quilt bloggers are looking back at 2019 today to see what we accomplished, so I'm joining in. I had a busy year, and I've collected my photos in collages sorted roughly by date. Early in the year I had a batch of gift quilts, with a few charity ones thrown in. 

This group featured several panel quilts, a finish from 2018's Rainbow Scrap Challenge (RSC,) and the fruit-themed flimsy. One of the charities I support, Victoria's Quilts, asks for only tops.

This next batch had more panels (yes, that's a second quilt with the same Geisha) and the start of my new journey of finishing other people's orphan blocks for Covered in Love (CiL.)

Toward the middle of the year, I was up to my eyeballs in "Mendota" quilts for the Sunshine Online Quilt Guild. Most of the Mendotas were tops made by others, finished by me. I did make a few of my own "from scratch." A couple more CiL orphan finishes, too.

More orphans and Mendotas! This is when I decided to write a series of blog posts on different ways to put together orphan blocks: Giving Orphans a Home. This series will continue in 2020.

This next batch shows a few finishes for 2019 RSC, more orphans, and a Round Robin from 2018 that finally got quilted and bound.

And finally, my latest finishes. They are a few more for CiL, both orphans and original piecing by me. Whew! One thing I've learned this year is that quilts sure go together quickly when someone else makes all the blocks or when using a panel. Or both!

I had a great quilty 2019 and am looking forward to 2020. Lots more orphan blocks are waiting for their chance to meet their forever homes, and I have plans to do a deep dive into my stash and use up some hoarded fabrics. And I'm so happy to be part of the larger online quilting community, sharing inspiration and encouragement with all of you. Your kind comments keep me connected even when I'm out in the middle of the ocean. Thank you for being a BIG part of my journey!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Four for Covered in Love

Happy Boxing Day, quilty friends! We're having gorgeous weather along the Florida panhandle. That has allowed me to finally, FINALLY take some photos to share with you. I've had a stack of finished quilts waiting for their glamour shots before I could mail them off to Kat for Covered in Love.

This first one is made entirely of other people's orphan blocks. The colors in the scraps are really bright and saturated! Like wiggly kindergartners, they needed just a little bit of help to calm down and play nicely together, so I sashed them with a tonal brick red and gray cornerstones. I also trimmed them all to a consistent size so they could be sewn in this even grid. The overall effect is interesting and cheerful without being chaotic, I think. 

Kat sent me quite a bit of donated fabric in larger chunks, great for piecing into backings. I used all the jungle animals here, plus a few extra orphan blocks. The binding was premade by a CiL contributor, too, a nice time saver for me.

This next one came to me as finished flying geese, already sewn together into loooooooooooooooong strips. Included was a note from Gail H. who had sent it to Kat: "These pieces were given to me by LaVonne Bevens in 2000. Someone had given them to her, she said." So those geese flew from "someone" to LaVonne to Gail to Kat to me. I'm at least the fifth quilter to handle them, so it was definitely time to let these geese fly home! The note also included some photos of possible layout ideas, and this one struck my fancy. The mustard yellow fabric was also a donation. I quilted wishbones all along that yellow, using yellow thread, so it's completely invisible. Good thing I find wishbones to be rather pleasant and meditative because I doubt anyone else will even notice them.

The backing is pieced from fat quarters that were part of the same fabric line as the mustard. They are reproduction prints with Americana motifs, and super nice quality cotton. This quilt is so soft!

This one is my favorite of the bunch. Look at that sweet birdie panel! SO cute! Kat sent this to me, and I'm not sure if it was donated to her or from her personal stash (edited to add: Kat says it was donated.) I know the jelly roll strips that I used to make the 16 patches and binding were her own fabric. They were lying next to the panel in my studio and I had one of those "Aha!" moments. They look made for each other, don't they?

I love the modern, stylized design of these birds and the pretty autumn colors. The deep, rich, chocolate brown borders were also part of the Americana fabric line donation. Aaaaaaand now I want some dark chocolate.

The backing is pieced from a combination of my own yardage and donated pieces. The birdhouses at the top are a chunk I've had for ages that never went with any of my other fabrics, but it works thematically and chromatically here. Every fabric has a destiny!

All the darker pieces of the argyle came from a donated fat quarter bundle, and I added the black polka dot sashing and cream background. I've loved argyle since I was in high school, so it was really fun to stitch up! I think my Mom will approve of this one, too. I wish I had taken more close up photos of the fabrics; they have really pretty metallic accents. Maybe Kat will do that when the quilt arrives in Texas.

The back is a big chunk of a funky donated mod olive green print, with the leftover squares from the argyles. I left this photo uncropped so we can all enjoy the shadow of my hand on the camera. Apparently I hold my fingers out JUST SO to take pictures, because every single one of these photos have that same shadow!

Three quilts got boxed up today (how appropriate!) and are winging their way to Kat. I would have sent more, but to paraphrase Donald Rumsfield, you to go the post office with the boxes you have. And there are more quilts that finally were photographed today that are ready to feature in my Giving Orphans a Home series, so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Fat Quarter Challenge

One of the charities that I support, Quilts Beyond Borders, has a fun challenge. It is sponsored by the Fat Quarter Shop, who have been generous with prizes. In a nutshell, the challenge is to make a quilt using at least one fat quarter, and send it in to the challenge coordinator. That's it! Easy peasy.

I submitted my quilt at the end of November, while we were still in the Metal Shark boatyard. Taking photos in that filthy environment was a bit of a challenge! The pattern is an old one called Five Yard. It doesn't really use full yards so it was easy to modify to the size needed. 

I made my piece using some fun Australian-inspired fabrics. There are kangaroos and Aboriginal art motifs. These were pre-cut 6.5" squares that I had in the stash. 

I pulled more fabrics in purple, turquoise and royal blue to complement the Aussie themed ones. The actual "challenge" fat quarter is this bold zigzag, which I think is from the Kaffe Fasset collective. 

Of course, the quilt needs to meet QBB's size and labeling requirements, which can be found here. I pieced together the backing with some more aquas and blues, added the sewn-in label, and quilted an easy stipple. 

Isn't this royal blue stained glass fabric neat? I had enough for a bit on the back after I made the binding with it. 

This piece of the backing is metallic stars to represent the Southern Cross constellation and that's the name of this quilt. True story: I visited a friend in Australia for a few weeks in 1985. We stayed at a goat farm in the outback, far from the city lights. One night, I stepped outside my room and was completely overwhelmed by the unfamiliar night sky. So many stars! All in the "wrong" places! It was like being on an alien planet. Suddenly a kookaburra cried out its weird laugh right next to me and scared the bejabbers out of me. I scrambled back into my room and ducked under the covers!

If you have a FQ lying around (Ha ha! Who doesn't?) consider making a quilt and donating it to the Fat Quarter Challenge for Quilts Beyond Borders. Once your quilt is received, it is eligible each month for a $25 gift certificate AND the end of year $100 prize. How many contests put your name back into the hat month after month? It's a win-win!

Friday, December 20, 2019

2020 Planning Party

2019 Planning Party

I'm joining Quilting Jet Girl Yvonne's 2020 planning party. We're sharing plans, goals and resolutions for the new year. She's giving away lots of nice prizes, so it's definitely worth checking out and joining in!

Tubs stuffed with neglected FQs
I'm not normally one for setting things out in advance like this, but had already been thinking about playing a game with myself in 2020. Normally I participate in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. This year I'm changing it up a bit and making it the Rainbow Stash Challenge. And more specifically, the fat quarters in my stash. They have been languishing, unused, lately. So as Angela announces the new color each month, I'm going to try to make a dent in the FQs of that color.

Deep drawer o' orphans

In addition, I have enough orphan block projects for Covered in Love that each one can be kinda-sorta assigned to a color:

Red: Patriotic red, white and blue orphans
Pink: Caribbean houses
Orange: Orange/green mix orphans
Yellow: Donated kit of yellow and blue florals
Lime green: Lime stars
Dark green: Green and purple mix orphans
Aqua: Primarily aqua mix orphans
Light blue: More patriotic blocks and scraps
Dark blue: Lone star top to be finished
Purple: Purple and chocolate brown orphans
Brown: Autumnal blocks
Black: Bright colors with black background orphans

Big stack o' panels

I also want to make a dent in my novelty and themed fabrics and panels. So I've divided them into 12 subjects and will draw one out of a hat each month to work on. Doesn't this sound like a fun game? Time to get these happy fabrics launched!

Adult beverages: coffee/wine/beer/cocktails

(Edited to add:) I went through my panels a week after writing this and decided to add 5 more themes. Time to stop hoarding these panels!

I know myself well enough to expect a LOT of deviation from the plan! After all squirrels come in all colors, and if trains are chosen for purple month but I have some great purple butterflies, then I MIGHT get derailed. (Heh. See what I did there?) But it doesn't really matter, you know? Whatever gets worked on is fine!

Do you make these kinds of advance plans? Or are you a "fly by the seat of your pants" type?

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Happy Thanksgiving! Today I am grateful for the photographer who captured some of my quilts hard at work in Guatemala. What a special treat to see them comforting patients before and after surgery!

As you know, one of the charities that I donate to is Wrap-A-Smile, which provides quilts to Rotary-sponsored medical missions. The quilts are used on the operating table during surgery to keep the patients warm. The quilt wraps them up afterwards, too, and goes home with them. Most of the people receiving the free surgery are children, so I focus on making bright, happy quilts for them. In September 2019, Rotaplast had a mission in Guatemala City. And at least three of my quilts were there!

The two little I-spy quilts in the photo at the top of this post were made in fall of 2018. They traveled together to Guatemala. The blue one on was backed with a big dinosaur print that was given to me by Sean's aunt Graciella. If you click through to this photo, you can see those distinctive dinos folded up behind the doctor's back as he listens to the little boy's heart.

The pink quilt also has a unique backing: hot pink/magenta with bright jungle animals.

Recognize it? I sure did! This was the first photo I saw with one of my pieces and I admit there was shouting, and clapping, and even some happy tears. This patient looks to be a bit older than most and is probably a bit more worried, pre-surgery. I hope the procedure was successful and the recovery speedy!

As you can see, documenting the backs of the quilts here on Ye Olde Quilt Blogge can be vital to identifying them later. So I got really lucky on this next piece. The top was finished last fall, like the others, but I never took any photos of the finished quilt with its backing and binding.

It was made of crumb blocks alternating with these cute animal panels and sashed with a tiny black and white polka dot. Each animal is surrounded by an oval "frame."

And here it is, folded up under the shoulders of this child, post surgery. What a wonderful destiny for a funny little quilt! I hope it continues to bring you comfort, small person!

If you're interested in learning more about Rotaplast, you can read about their
current mission on their blog. Each mission is a little different, but the essence is the same. The quilts are a small part of a very organized process of bringing high quality surgical care to under-served populations.

I leave you with this photo from Guatemala, which is not of my quilt. But I love the smile on this cute girl! It captures what I hope for each of my donation quilts, that they will make a child happy. I'm so lucky to have the time and resources to spend hours doing a hobby that I love. And I'm grateful to the huge network of volunteers who bring these vital medical missions to distant countries. It feels good to be a small part of this important work!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Another RSC finish


Hello, quilty friends! Today I'm sharing two small pieces that were actually finished a few weeks ago. They have already been mailed off to Joyful Stitchers, who will give them away this holiday season. Each is about 36"x48" which is a good lap size for someone in a wheelchair. The narrow width helps keep the fabric out of the wheels.

The first one is made from one of my RSC block projects, Scrap Crystals. This is a Bonnie Hunter pattern that I reverse engineered. I think this complicated block really wants to be joined with, like, 20, of its buddies to really get the sparkly feel of the pattern. But after making six, spread out over 8 months or so, I wasn't feeling the love anymore. It was either stop at six, or make nine or twelve. Hm. Six it is.

To compensate for giving up before the full rainbow was achieved, I backed it with this fun nautical print. I hope someone will enjoy having this piece on their lap. There are certainly plenty of interesting scraps to peek at.

When I mail quilts off to charities, I like to pack the box nice and full. One little wheelchair quilt seemed insufficient, so I finished up this Scrappy Trips, too. Another Bonnie Hunter pattern, this one also wants many more blocks. I think that's true of pretty much all of Bonnie's designs! But once again, I wasn't feeling the motivation to sew up any more blocks, so another small piece it is.

The backing is a chunk of this cat flannel, which picks up a lot of the colors in the front. Plus: fuzzy kitties! What's not to love? And they are non-allergenic, to boot.

Meanwhile, we are now in an industrial boatyard having our bottom paint touched up. This yard doesn't normally work on pleasure boats, but builds and services large tow boats. So their lifting crane is GIANT. Our boat looks like a toy in their slings! The eight tires on this beast are each 10 feet in diameter. Yowza! It's a filthy yard, so taking quilt pics here is going to be a challenge.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Rainbows Beyond Borders

Two of my Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilts were finished this week. They were both made from uneven rail fence blocks. The blocks are made using three strips 2.5"x8.5" in the monthly RSC color, and two strips 1.5"x8.5" in the next closest color on the color wheel. For instance, red blocks were made with skinny strips of either orange or purple. These blocks stitched up fast and used up a lot of my stash of scrappy strings!

This first one is laid out in rainbow order with scrappy black strips offsetting the blocks in each column. This makes the blocks kind of wiggle across the rows. I sized the black so that there was no seam matching on the color blocks. Why make it harder than it needs to be?

The backing is pieced together from some fun dog-themed prints. The white background fabric is flannel. 

The quilting is a sort of really large meander that looks a little like a topological map. The binding is rainbow trees on a black background.

The second piece is made from the same blocks on point and surrounded by white setting triangles. I really like the look of on-point quilts, but they are a PITA to make. Because I don't have a design wall and lay everything out on our bed, once the blocks are arranged they need to be completely sewn together before bedtime. Otherwise it's too hard to keep track of how all those diagonal rows go together.

My online guild, Sunshine, received a call from Quilts Beyond Borders to contribute quilts for the Navajo people. The quilts will be distributed in December, so I hustled to finish these two in November. The recipients will be mostly teens and adults, so the quilts needed to be a bigger than my usual QBB donations. In order to get this one the right size, I added a fun green border with a vegetable theme. The red tomatoes, purple eggplants and other veggies picked up various rainbow colors. I didn't have quite enough to extend that fabric into the binding, but found a brown and green dinosaur print that matched quite well, You have to really look closely to see the dinos, and I hope that makes someone smile.

I was in the mood for some fancier quilting with this one, so I did a dot-to-dot four lobed design in each block. It was fun to find matching threads in all the colors. And the texture is super yummy!

The backing on this one is a very cute cat flannel, fattened up with a chunk of green. So one cat quilt and one dog quilt for this go-round.

I think I ended up with only two extras of these RSC blocks, so they are resting quietly in the orphan block box for now. Meanwhile, lots of string scraps were busted with these two quilts, and they have been mailed off to find their forever homes!

Linking up to Angela's ScrapHappy roundup. Click through to see more Rainbow Scrap Challenge fun!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Giving Orphans a Home: Row, Row, Row your Boat

Welcome to part four of Giving Orphans a Home, where we talk about different ways to use orphan blocks in a quilt. Today I feature row settings for your orphans.

If you have just a few blocks in the same design, think about setting them in rows or columns. For Swooning in Pink, I was given the two big swoon/carpenter's star blocks. I knew they would make a great quilt center, but couldn't figure out how to make a medallion out of them. Setting them vertically and then surrounding them on all sides was going to make the quilt the wrong shape.

I had terrible lighting the day I took these photos; sorry about that! But you can get a glimpse of how soft and pretty the fabrics are in the stars. People have donated so many lovely blocks to Covered in Love!

In order to make the swoons fit the way I wanted, I needed rows. Fortunately, the selection of orphan blocks sent to me had some nice choices, like these triangles. Over on her blog, Kat says they came from this baby quilt she made. I'm tickled to find out the origins of these cute prints! They worked really well as a row. 

I also had just enough of the buzzsaw star blocks (no idea if that's a real block name!) for a row and to fill in between the swoons. There were enough pink and orange string blocks for two rows, but not enough for a border all the way around. That's OK, just having matching top and bottom still adds symmetry and purpose. With a little pink sashing, things started tying together and a quilt was born!

In order to make the central buzzsaw stars work, I had to trim them down just a smidge. Can you see that the lighter one is narrower than the purple one? This is an example of my Rule #2 that it's okay to do a bit of trimming to make a block work. After all, all orphans want to be useful!

The backing of this quilt is fun row house fabric in the same pinky-greeny-purpley-orangey colors, plus a strip of the pink dot also used for the binding. The quilting is a simple, loose stipple.

Hold onto your hats, this one is a wild ride! My batch of orphans didn't just include those soft pinks to "swoon" over. No, there were some really vibrant hot hot hot pinks and lots of turquoise, too. Throw in a little yellow and the ingredients for Diamond Glow were ready to sizzle.

This big center diamond arrived as a single piece, along with a slightly smaller sibling. I cut the smaller one into quarters and placed them around the big one to end up with a rectangle. These blocks have fabulous piecing; a big thumbs up to whoever made them! They make a great center medallion. Diamond Glow is kind of a medallion/row hybrid. The diamonds are obviously the central focus, but there's no complete surrounding "frames." Sometimes a few bits of symmetry and lots of bright color can make it work. And when in doubt, add a bit of interesting quilting!

Here are a few of the smaller blocks. Many were not quite standard sizes: 8.25" instead of 8.5", for instance. Some had cut off points. And some were seemingly perfect. I used sashing to get them to size.

The six Hunter's star blocks have very subtle internal contrast, so they give the top and bottom rows nice big blocks of turquoise. I zhuzhed up the texture on those with swirly quilting.

The back is just as wild 'n crazy as the front on this one! There were several blocks that fit the color scheme nicely, but didn't quite work as elements on the front. I think they make the back interesting, though. I especially like the turquoise star. It might have gotten a little lost on the front, but really shines here.

My final example of orphans in rows is much quieter, but my favorite of the three. Serene Neutrals uses a selection of blocks with scrappy neutral backgrounds and bold geometric shapes. Amazingly, each set of blocks was almost exactly the same width when sewn together; I think I only needed to fudge the final sizes about 2-3" to make them fit the longest row, the Majestic Mountain blocks. Also amazingly, the pops of color in all the neutral blocks were either orange, green, or dark blue. That's a great palette, don't you think?

Check out these hexagons! I only needed to add corner triangles to finish them up, and the one octagon in the center was exactly the right size to play along.

These HSTs with the lions and the orange ones at the other end of the quilt are clearly from the same fabric line. I made giant flying geese out of them and used them to add symmetry at top and bottom. They are echoed by the tiny orange flying geese below the hexagons, too. You can also see a little bit of the binding here. It is a VERY traditional blue and beige stripe, ancient of days. But the colors work and I like that it looks kinda scrappy when you can only see a little slice of it.

This row is just the coolest design! I've never seen this pattern of interlocking squares before, and it looks like it was a real challenge to piece. It came to me as an already sewn-together row and I love how it works in Serene Neutrals.

The back is just big chunks of more neutral fabrics. The overall floral quilting is almost invisible, just nice soft texture. And yes, those are VW buses in the upper left corner.

So there you go, three very different orphan block quilts, all using horizontal rows as the underlying design. Do you have any blocks that could work like this? I'd love to hear about it!

If you missed it, here are the first three parts of this series: