Sunday, April 28, 2019

Aqua scraps etc.

It's time to share our Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks over on SoScrappy. April's color is aqua, and I stitched up five different blocks. The big one, 16" square, is Scrap Crystals, above. I almost gave up on making this block after last month's green version turned out pretty uninspiring. But when I figured out that the coordinating color with aqua was going to be pink, I knew I'd like this one better and I do!

These are my 8.5" rail blocks. The skinny strips are the two colors adjacent to the RSC color. For aqua, those two are true blue and true green.

I've been making 6.5" nine patches for a while as leader/enders, but decided this month to officially add them to my RSC blocks. My scrap boxes were getting pretty empty except for 2" strips, so I decided to add 6.5" 16 patches to the list, too. 

After cutting all the other blocks, all that's left over are teensy pieces, which I use to make crumb blocks. These are 8.5" and kind of addicting to make. So much so that when I ran out of aqua, I started making white/cream/tan/light neutral blocks. It's a sickness, I tell you!

And as if that wasn't enough scrappy fun, I decided to try my hand at a scrappy Trip Around the World, using 2.5" strips. This top is only 36"x48" and I haven't decided if I'll stop here and add borders, or keep making TATW blocks and add on.

This little top uses lotto blocks from the Sunshine Online Guild, plus a bright happy panel in the center. I'll probably quilt this one up next week and ship it off to Quilts Beyond Borders.

And finally, here's Angel in her life vest. DH has been working under the helm to fix some of the problems that last week's lightning strike caused, and that's where we store the life vests for all the mammals. The kitty one was on top of the pile so I made sure it still fits our brave crew member. The huge bang of thunder that made me jump and shriek last week hardly fazed her! She looks really annoyed in this photo, but that's because she hates the camera flash and refuses to look at the camera anymore. She actually tolerates the vest pretty well. Her stylish green nails are special plastic caps that keep her from clawing my new Ikea chair. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Hands2Help and quilting along

Hello, quilty friends! I have a couple more finishes to share with you today. 

Moroccan Ornaments was made using the Quick Curve Mini ruler and a pretty charm pack. The metallic-accented fabrics feature flowers, gingko leaves, and butterflies. The charm pack made only 7 blocks, but they are fairly big at 14"x17". Offsetting the columns gave a bit of symmetry with the odd number of blocks, and a border of shiny gold brought the whole piece up to a smallish lap size.

I quilted it using a big hook and swirl motif. The backing is most of the last of this green Laura Ashley print that looks nice with a pale green Fairy Frost binding. Moroccan Ornaments will be donated to Happy Chemo as part of the Hands2Help charity challenge.

The next two quilts are quite small, only about 36" square. They are destined for Jack's Basket, which celebrates families with new Down Syndrome babies. This panel says "The day you were born, the world became a brighter place," which I think sums up the JB mission very well!


The Laurel Burch panel features cheerful pets and a big smiling sun face. It needed about 12" more in width, so I added some other Laurel Burch rainbow cat fabric, and a column of bright scrappiness left over from another piece.

The backing is this turquoise plaid. A quick, soft stipple of quilting and a reddish orange binding finish this piece up in a way that works for any happy baby!

The second baby quilt is my first ever tumbler project. I won a 5" tumbler template and a charm pack from Selina Quilts last year. It was fast and fun to trim the charms to the trapezoid shape and stitch them together, and the resulting patchwork is just a teensy bit fancier than simple squares.

In a bit of serendipity, this fabric featuring coffee cups was sitting out on my cutting table and I realized the colors matched the charms perfectly. It makes a fun border, doesn't it?

When I remembered I had the utensils to match the cups, of course that had to become the backing. The lime green polka dot makes a fine inner border and binding. Just darn tootin' cute, if I may say so myself! I'll definitely be making more tumbler quilts and have already started cutting scrappy ones for the next go-round.

Are you quilting along with Sandra and making her Beothuk Star pattern? It's fun and free, and not too late to join in. Five interlocking stars make a dynamic design, pretty neat! This week we are cutting our fabrics. My piece will revolve around the bright butterflies. They will be the center star and the yellow will be the background. 

But what is this? Looks like another fabric pull. My nephew and his lovely wife are expecting their first baby this fall, so of course I must make a quilt for the wee one. Beothuk Star finishes at 42" square, perfect baby size, so I figured I could just as easily make two quilts as one. The Mom-to-be loves teal and asked for gray as the neutral, so I pulled some fun aqua for the outer stars and the darker teal batik will be the bold center star. The gray Essex linen will be the background.

In other exciting news, our boat was hit by lightning while we sat at anchor Friday evening. My husband wrote up a blog post about the experience, including some video footage of the strike. Long story short, it went BOOM!!! but the damage was pretty minor. No fabric or sewing machines were harmed and the boat is operating at about 90% right now. In fact, as I type this we are underway between Fort Pierce, FL and somewhere in Georgia on a calm, lovely ocean. All is well!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Busy behind the scenes

It's been a very busy few months for me. I needed to travel to California several times for family medical issues, so I'm really behind on my blogging. But there's good news. First and most importantly, my relative is doing so much better. Hooray! 

Secondly, I've actually been able to get to quite a bit of quilting in the times between trips. In fact, I've finished several quilts. How did that happen? In this post I reveal my sneaky techniques for fast finishes.

UFOs for Donating

Nothing speeds a quilt finish along like having 90% of the flimsy already finished and sitting in the closet. These first two quilts have been at that almost done stage for months. 

This one is Wonky Diamonds, made with alternating multicolor novelties and neutral strings. I pieced them on paper foundations, just to see if I liked that technique. Turns out, I don't. So I stopped with just these few blocks and bordered them up with a fun yellow zebra print given to me by a guild friend. 

The back used up the rest of the zebras and this zippy apple and pear fabric. This is a donation to Wrap A Smile, so it's only about 40"x50". Using my go-to stipple, I can quilt that size piece in about 2 hours. Binding by machine takes 45 minutes or so.

Lurid Cats were one of my Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks last year. I stitched two cats per month, and ended up with two 9 block tops. Simple black sashing was all these crazy cats needed to shine.

The backing is from my seemingly endless supply of soft yellow plaid, a gift from Sean's aunt. Sean chose the red binding. I often ask him for color advice when I'm stumped. 

For the quilting on this one, I did a "hook/swirl" motif using rainbow variegated thread. This design is fast becoming a favorite with its combination of curves and points.

And here's a gratituous boaty glamour shot. Just because.

I don't think I've ever shared them before, but these kimono blocks were well aged in the orphan block stash. I made them from Asian-inspired fabrics, sewing great guns until I had an even dozen. And then I ran out of steam. They were a bit fiddly and the thought of making a dozen more just wasn't appealing.

So I combined them with a nicely designed geisha panel and added some coin-style columns to get a pleasing quilt width. The backing is bright white with tiny purple flowers. More hook/swirl in pale lavender thread. Don't you just love it when you can use pretty threads?

I'm not certain where this one will end up. Lavender Geisha is too busy sipping her tea to whisper in my ear about where she wants to go. Perhaps she'll go to Happy Chemo, a Hands2Help charity. We'll see.

UFOs for Gifting

These two quilts were made for my "nieces," who are the daughters of one of my oldest and dearest friends. Both young ladies are finishing up college degrees this spring, one receiving her Bachelors and the other a Masters.

The quilt on the right, for J, has been a work in progress for several years. The circles were one of my first forays into improv piecing. I purchased math and science themed fabrics from a lady on eBay who makes men's ties, so the scraps were all oddly shaped triangles.

After fermenting in my stash for a looooong time, I pieced the circles into a gray linen/cotton blend. Burgundy and cream striped sashing and nine patch cornerstones hold the circles together. I quilted free form offset circles in the patchwork, and simple stippling in the background.

The backing fabric is a nice big chunk of this cream with apples. J is getting her Masters in education, so this quilt is Apples for the Math Teacher!

J's sister L received a bright, happy quilt made from the free pattern called Noteworthy Labyrinth on Moda Bakeshop. I finished the flimsy back in June of 2018. With so much movement and color in the top, I kept the quilting super simple. A big stipple using rainbow variegated thread was quick and easy. Or maybe it was hook/swirl? Now I've forgotten, and I somehow managed to give L's Labyrinth away without taking any finished photos, alas.

Small and scrappy

Tiny quilts for tiny babies sure do work up fast, don't they? This quilt is a baby gift for friends who are expecting in late April. Their nursery colors are grey and white, with touches of light green. I knew I wanted to do something with my grey string scraps, and found this free pattern called Birds, Bees and Butterfly Strands.

The piecing was very fast, and the 40" square quilt came together quickly. I used this modern Blueberry Park grey fabric as the back and binding. It was a gift from Rose and I'm happy to find the perfect use for it.

Butterfly Strands is quilted in floppy feathers in pale green thread for soft, snuggly texture. 

Just the Flimsies, Ma'am

You know what makes a quilt finish up really, really, REALLY fast? Not quilting it! These next two pieces, which are both unquilted tops, are some of my Hands2Help Charity Challenge finishes. This one features little panels that look like old fashioned flower seed packets. The panels were given to me by Kathleen, one of my online guild friends. A little bordering of the panels, a few hour glass blocks, a bit of checkerboarding, and Dreaming of Spring was finished.

Sweet and Sour is made with some of my stash of fun fruit fabric with citrus-y green and orange accents. I modified a free pattern called Framed Rectangles so the blocks would be 10"x14". Both flimsies will be donated to Victoria's Quilts, which asks for 50"x70" quilt tops only. This size block makes for an easy 5x5 layout and allows the large scale fruit designs to really take center stage!

Lotto Blocks and Panels

Finally, these last two little quilts were so fun and fast to make. Apologies for strange shadows in the photos! Figuring out where to take pictures so that the sun and wind direction are kinda sorta correct has been a real challenge lately.

I sewed a grand total of about 12 seams in this quilt. The tropical birds in the lower left corner are a panel about 24"x36". The six blocks were all made by members of the Sunshine Online quilt guild, as part of their monthly block lotto. I've won the lotto three times now, so I have a nice mix of blocks to choose from.

This sweet little applique butterfly is my favorite!

All I had to do was choose some blocks that played nicely with the panel, and pick a sashing color and coordinating backing. A little stippling, a little binding, and boom! Lotto Birds is ready for Wrap A Smile.

I had so much fun, I couldn't stop at just one. Check out this darling kitty panel! Happy cats in turquoise, yellow, hot pink, black and grey. 

Plunging into the lotto block stack, I pulled out eight fun squares to surround the cats. Turquoise sashing and hot pink binding added some extra zing. Lotto Cats made me smile every time I worked on it.

For the back, I used this nautical fabric with all kinds of different sail and power boats. There's even submarines with little yellow propellers. So. Stinking. Cute. Our resident boat cat, Angel, confirms that the shippy fabric works just fine with the felines on the front.

Whew! Did you make it all the way to the end of this looooooong post? Do you have a favorite of this bunch? Leave me a comment and let me know and thanks for sticking with me while I finally got all these quilts documented. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

It's a finish: Snafu

Welcome to the Quilt Odyssey episode of Quilting in Real Life, hosted by Bernie of Needle and Foot. Or as I like to call it, the Festival of Foul Ups! Bernie asked us to "share both the mistakes and the achievements, the blunders and the best of our present a balanced picture" of our quilting. I usually share my best, so today I'll be presenting some blunders.

I happened to be in the middle of making a disappearing hourglass quilt, inspired by this post on Confessions of a Fabric Addict. Sarah's blocks looked great in solids, but I don't have many solids. However, I did have a nice batch of Blueberry Park that was given to me by Rose. The fabric line is unusual: the entire line is white designs printed on Kona(?) solids. There is SO much white ink on the front that I find the fabric feels kind of sticky when I iron it. Plus it's quite busy, which I thought wouldn't work as well with this pattern. So I flipped it over and used the plain backs instead. The printed patterns shadow very slightly to the back, which gives the solids a kind of interesting "grunge" look.

So far, so good. Fabric choice seemed to be on track, and all the blocks were pieced, so I decided I would document any errors that came up for the Festival. After all, I make a few small mistakes on every quilt. 

Never let a quilt know that you are "documenting its errors for blogging purposes." Quilts are known to be a source of comfort! They are helpful and generous! They will reach out to accommodate you in any way they can! And so this piece GENEROUSLY and HELPFULLY fouled itself up in every way.

First of all, piecing together the complex, bias cut blocks didn't go very smoothly. So many seams. So many directions. So many opportunities to have things NOT nest and NOT match. Ripping out wonky seams along bias edges led to too much distortion, so I mostly just left things alone. But I ended up with plenty of junctions that looked like this:

Ick. Nevertheless, I plunged into the quilting. I decided this one wouldn't be going to one of my overseas charities. That meant it was a good candidate for using a backing fabric that has some pigs (and other farm animals) on it. And it was exactly the right size to use up some polyester batting I had tucked into a bag. It was only halfway through the quilting that I realized that I had saved that batting SPECIFICALLY to use on a quilt for the charity that asks us not to use pig fabric. Oops. Guess I'll be buying more batting.

OK. I chose a free motion design that uses various loop de loops, but needs to be stabilized with a bit of stitch in the ditch first. I selected a pretty turquoise thread that blends pretty well with MOST of the fabrics. So let's get started! Stitch in those ditches! Except, I'm really not very good at that. So there's a bit (OK, a LOT) of stitching NEAR the ditch. In the NEIGHBORHOOD of the ditch. In the same AREA CODE? Oy.

Hooray, loop de loops! I'm pretty good at those. Lazy Louise Loves Loops. They look like letter Ls, which is part of my signature. But at least one whole line of them did not not resemble Ls. Not at all. I just lost my focus and the Ls became literally scribbles. My brain farted and I started laughing and I just finished a whole line of scribbles. I'm really sorry I didn't take a pic before I ripped those out, because they were spectacularly bad. 

What I didn't rip out, though, were the bad transitions between Ls and the leaf shape I chose for the corners of each block. 

Bad transitions, uneven stitch lengths, little tucks, poofy non-flat fabric...this quilt welcomed it all into its bosom. Such a helpful quilt, right? "Take a photo of THIS foul up, Louise! You're welcome!"

I grumbled. I ranted. I may have used a different F word when describing the Festival of Foul Ups to my husband. And I didn't rip any more out. At some point I just decided to soldier on and see what would happen. How would the final piece look with all the squirrelly, not centered, wonky quilted weirdness?

And to add insult to injury, I could feel that tell-tale tug during quilting that means the back is full of pleats like this one:

You can also see how the bobbling of stitching down the binding caught on the back incorrectly here. Sigh. 

But you know what? It was all okay in the end. Because it's a super complex design, full of movement to distract the eye from...everything. Look at all those colors and diagonal secondary designs! And after a wash and dry, everything is sooo soft and crinkly that any tucks, puckers, wrinkles and poofs are just part of the cuddliness, right? I think so:

And I know for certain that using the backs of the fabrics was the right choice. Here's a shot of the back of the flimsy before layering for quilting. Too busy, yikes! The grunge side definitely worked better.

All those tucks and pleats? They disappeared completely in the busy barnyard back:

Boaty glamour shots shows lots of nice, crinkly texture. If you can't quilt smoothly, distract with tug boats, that's my motto.

I named this quilt Snafu: Situation Normal, All Fouled Up. But don't get me wrong, I still like it! I'm really not a big believer in pointing out ALL the errors in our work, ALL the time. I'm not looking for anyone to reassure me that it's OK, because I already believe that. But every once in a while it's fun to get the full story to remind ourselves that social media like blogging is curated. Everyone carefully chooses what they want to show the world, good OR bad. Take it all with a grain of salt! If you want to read more stories of quilting woe, check out the comments section of Bernie's post.

It's normal for things to get fouled up, at least a little. And I've learned that it's always better to step back and get the long range picture on a comfort quilt like this one. It's not going to be judged on the neatness of my quilting, and the next one will (probably) be better. Unless it hears that I need help writing a blog post...