Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mendotas in paradise

Hello, hello! I teased you with this photo last week, and today I'm going to tell you more about this little quilt.

My online guild, Sunshine, calls these offset square-in-a-square blocks "Mendotas," after the retreat location where we used them. Even though the retreat is over and we are now working on "Eugene" Oregon blocks, I had a lot of pieces already cut in Mendota sizes. 

I'm also choosing a theme each month, and February was "cats." So I decided to pull all the cat-themed Mendotas and see what I had. This sweet tuxedo kitty in a knit hat looks like our much-missed George. 

Most of the kitty fabrics I already had cut were pink/red, black and turquoise. So I added enough new blocks in those colors to get a fun mix. And since I finished the quilt in March, it even fit with the latest RSC shades, aqua/teal/turquoise!

Not every block has a cat in it, unless these little cars are all going to the vet. You can probably get a cat to the vet on a bicycle, too, but I wouldn't recommend it.

And it's a stretch to get cupcakes and mushrooms to fit with cats, but hey, some child will enjoy the fun fabrics, right? 

Uh-oh! Good thing these dogs aren't right next to the cats on the left. I quilted this in Unitarian Fans (a much more liberal version of Baptist Fans). You can see the roughly parallel curves on the doggie fabric. I forgot how fun that motif can be if you take a relaxed, unmarked approach.

The block in the lower right is my favorite: silly cats surrounded by sailboats. Sounds like Angel's life!

The backing is a pink with abstract cat heads, and the binding is a solid-reading hot pink. This quilt will be donated to Quilts Beyond Borders. We have very limited fresh water here, and the mail system is not reliable. So washing and shipping will wait until we get back to the US.

In other news, I had "one of those days" recently. First, I went to iron the binding for a Covered in Love quilt, and discovered that I somehow flipped one piece over. How could I have not noticed that?

So I took it back over to my Juki, where I had just finished several free-motion quilting sessions. I expected to have to reset the machine from FMQ (feed dogs down, stitch length zero, presser foot pressure low) back to regular stitching to fix the binding. Um, it's already in regular mode? That means I quilted an entire quilt with loops and swirls and la-de-das with the feed dogs chugging away underneath and the hopping foot under full pressure. But did I notice even a tiny difference? Nope. Either I'm losing my mind, or the Juki has just taken over without any input from me.

Then later when I went back to finish pressing the binding, I managed to set my iron down flat on the cutting mat. Oh, yuck! What a mess, and what a stink! Sean did a great job cleaning up the iron, but that's the second mat I've ruined this year. Fortunately, it's only one corner, so I flipped it over and that warped area is not in my cutting "sweet spot."

On a more positive note, did you see Joy's post on the Magic Square block? As soon as I finished reading it, I pulled out a well-aged batik layer cake and started cutting. The blocks are so quick and easy that I had the whole batch finished within a few hours!

Even trimming the blocks to their final size was fast. Don't you love a pretty pile of trimmings? The blocks are sitting in a project bag (recommended by Sarah, available on Amazon) and I'll be trying different layouts this week. This will be one of my quilts for the Hands2Help Comfort Quilt Challenge.

I have more finishes to share with you soon, plus I'll show you how to tell the depth of the water here by color AND show pics of my quarantine haircut. Can you guess who wielded the scissors??

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Gift Koi

Greetings from the Bahamas! We are currently floating gently at anchor near Staniel Cay. We are safe and well, and plan to stay here for a while. If you're interested in the details of why, feel free to read my husband's post on our travel blog. This little 4-ft. nurse shark came by to greet us the first day we were here.

Like a number of others in the quilt blogosphere, I've decided to have my writing remain focued on quilting, and leave the pandemic discussions for other forums. That being said, I'm always happy to hear about your thoughts and feelings in the comments, including your reactions to this strange new world we're living in.

Meanwhile, spending even more relaxed hours on the boat means even more sewing for me. I have a number of finishes to share with you over the next few posts. Let's start with this little quilt that I made as a gift for my Mom. 

Designed to just fit the back of her loveseat, it's a simple whole cloth quilt made from a large scale koi print. I love this fabric so much that I bought it in three colorways! The green one ended up on the back of a quilt for my brother and sister-in-law, and I still have a dark blue chunk.

I quilted the fish simply and the background heavily so the koi would pop a bit. In the brown areas I did a watery back and forth motif. In the black areas, I followed the subtle printed design, which was mindless and fun.

My Mom loves horses, so I used this fun Dan Morris print on the back. You can see the heavy quilting more easily over the golden tones. A flanged binding frames the piece and finishes it off.

Here it is in her lovely home. The colors work really well with her decor. The bronze metallic accents pick up the color of the velvet cushions of the chairs and are harmonious with her oriental rug. Most importantly, she is quite happy with it!

Gift Koi was finished before we left the US and I could still mail things out. Here's a sneak peak at one my finishes here in the Bahamas, with that gorgeous blue water in the background. More about this quilt, and more soothing turquoise water pics, soon!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Giving Orphans a Home: Modern

Welcome to part five of Giving Orphans a Home, where we're exploring different ways to use your orphan blocks and finish some quilts!

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

Today I'm sharing a quilt I finished recently from blocks donated to Covered in Love. I'm calling it Modern Love after one of my favorite David Bowie songs. The blocks are all orphans from other quilters' projects and I put them together into a piece that I think is kinda modern.

The Seasoned Homemaker lists these traits as part of what defines a modern quilt. Not every element will show up in every modern quilt:
  • The use of bold colors and prints
  • High contrast and graphic areas of solid color
  • Improvisational piecing
  • Minimalism
  • Expansive negative space
  • Alternate grid work

I had a batch of mostly black, white and dark gray blocks, with many of them containing one more bright color.  Can't get much more high contrast than that! And most of the block designs were fairly minimal. Isn't this curvy ombre shape interesting? I wish I could see the quilt this orphan block is from.

I set the eclectic group of blocks fairly loosely together with a tonal white-on-white background. The columns don't line up exactly. I did that on purpose, and called it "modern  alternate grid work." It's not a mistake, it's a Design Element, ha! How do you like them apples?

Here's another orphan block quilt I did a couple years ago, with a similar feel. That "off grid" idea seemed so weird to me at the time, but putting the purple border around each group of blocks gave it a floaty feeling that seemed to work.

Remembering that, I bordered up a couple of the blocks in Modern Love, too, using various grays. Check out the cool star! She was a little on the small side, so I gave her a couple of on-point log cabin buddies.

The dark gray strips were also donated, so I figured, why not use 'em? So I added a few of the strips in random places. Oop, sorry. Not random. Modern! Minimalist! High contrast! The lipstick binding was another donation and it makes me happy to have this quilt covered with tiny kisses.

The border is made of gray and white rectangular blocks that were already sewn together. Each block contained three squares, so I laid them out in a way that no two similar fabrics were next to each other.

Some black and white pieced stripes/strip sets ended up on the back, and then dangled precariously over the water in Key West. I think this adds to the modern edginess, don't you?

OK, maybe I'm being a little silly, but I hope you're getting the idea that modern quilting can be fun and freeing. But I'm no expert, so here are some other examples of using orphan blocks in a modern way, from around the quilt blogosphere:

Modern doesn't have to be black and white! Here's Sarah's small group of blocks floating off-center, off-grid in a large background of dotty negative space. I think most of us have a big block we could stitch up like this to make a great baby quilt.

Check out Cynthia's left over strips, sewn together in chunks and set off grid onto a clean white background for tons of contrast. The blocks are different sizes, but the colors are harmonious and fun. So pretty!

Cathy's Whigmaleerie in blues and purples is a great example of a different type of off-grid work. Look at all those sizes of blocks! There's no grid at all, really, but the value contrasts within the blocks define lots of yummy edges and angles.  What a great way to use a whole bunch of orphan blocks.

I hope you got a few ideas of ways to use your own orphan blocks in a modern way. Thanks for stopping by this edition of Giving Orphans a Home. See you next time!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Baby quilts

Happy Saturday! Why yes, this is the fifth day in a row that I've blogged. Thanks for noticing! No, I haven't been finishing quilts every day this week. I just had Deadly Blog Backup Syndrome. Turns out that sewing is more fun than writing about sewing. Who knew?

But you didn't tune in to read about blogging, now did you? Too meta. So let's talk quilts instead! Today's finishes are both for babies, so small and cute is the name of the game. The one at the top of this post is a gift for my niece and her third baby. He's due any day now.

When I asked for the nursery theme, she sent this Spoonflower fabric sample. I went looking for a paper pieced curled up fox, and found this one on Etsy. I really don't like paper piecing, and this darned fox reminded me why!

Fortunately, he turned out ok for such a sneaky guy.

For the trees, I've always wanted to try Bright Birch Trees by Crazy Mom Quilts. Someone did a tutorial on the pattern a while ago, and I had that saved on my computer. Instead of doing bright trees, I stuck with black, white and gray scraps for a more natural look. Well, if you consider little anchors embedded in the bark "natural."

A soothing navy backing with little moons will hopefully help baby to snooze. My niece and her family live in Colorado, so I'm calling this one "Sleepy Fox in the Aspens." (Birches, aspens, they're all skinny stripey trunks, right?) It has arrived safely and is brightening up the nursery now.

I made this second baby quilt during Sandra's Beothuk Star quilt along last summer. In a fit of over achievement, I cut fabric for two of the design. The second set of HSTs sat quietly in a baggie until January of this year. Using the colors from butterflies in the center star, I chose purple, green and orange accent fabrics. 

When all the blocks are premade, a quilt comes together quickly! Swirly quilting makes it soft and snuggly. And at 42" square, a single piece of this fun orange kangaroo design makes a fast backing and easy binding. Coincidentally, the first Beothuk quilt was given to my other niece's baby! This one, however, has been donated to Little Lambs Foundation.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Textured pillow for L

Happy Friday! My most recent finish is this little pillow that I made as a gift for a friend. It is about 12"x18".

Each of the six blocks is a different textured design: pleats, ruffles and tucks in purple and turquoise. I used this free tutorial from Teresa Down Under. The specific blocks are:
  • 3. Double controlled pleats
  • 5. Centered tucks with bow ties
  • 6. Gathered strip
  • 8. Undulating tucks
  • 17. Pleated peakaboo
  • 18. Gathered double edge ruffles
I also tried to make #4, "Double controlled pleats with ripple," but it turned out more like "Outta control pleats with cursing." That block is currently in timeout in my crumb bin. That'll teach it!

The quilting is stitch in the ditch around each block with a few extra stitches to hold down some of the more adventurous pleats. I also added prairie points (or as DH calls them, Stegasaurus points) to the outer edge. My first prairies! They're kinda fun. The backing is a simple envelope enclosure in a tonal black.

My friend has Parkinson's disease, and I made this as a sort of "fidget pillow" for her. Fidget pillows and quilts give a person with dementia something to do with their hands. Many of them have zippers and buttons and such. I thought all the different textures would be interesting to touch. Plus, she lives far away and I miss her! So I hope this makes her happy and reminds her of me from time to time.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Wheelchair quilts with feet

Happy Thursday! Today's finishes are two wheelchair quilts that I sent off to the Joyful Stitchers in Alabama. They distribute quilts to nursing homes in their area. The quilts are quite small, only about 36"x48". This size keeps the fabric from getting caught in the wheels while still providing some warmth and color.

The first one was made in January, when the RSC color was green and my own theme-o-the-month was food. I think this panel was meant to be placemats? I fattened up the panels with a scrappy green and cream checkerboard, reminiscent of tablecloths in a casual restaurant. 

The fun panels are all Italian food, an all-time favorite here on the boat. DH's family is Italian and both his Dad and uncle are fantastic cooks. The back is also food themed: cafe tables with wine bottles, and fun teapots. I wouldn't use wine fabric on a kid's quilt, so this is a great way to use up that chunk.

And speaking of DH, here are his feet! You can tell we've gotten back into warm, southerly waters because the weather is perfect for shorts and bare feet.

The second quilt is my own design and made from a jelly roll of batiks. I pieced it many months ago and finally got it finished. One more off the UFO pile, hooray!

It's one of those stitch-and-flip kind of layouts, where you sew together all the strips and then cut sections off the ends. Those sections are flipped over and sewn back in the middle for a bit of contrast. For the quilting, I just did wiggly lines across all the seams. EZPZ.

The back used up the last of this fun VW bus fabric, plus a newspaper collage with upbeat article snippets. I hope it will bring back memories of the 60s for someone. Of course, they say if you can remember the 60s, you weren't really enjoying them fully!

You can tell this piece is slightly longer than the last one, because there are feet but no shorts. Rest assured the shorts are actually there...he was not nekkid in this pic! Is that reassuring, or disappointing?