Monday, January 15, 2018

Blog is quiet, studio is humming

I've been stitching every day and getting quite a bit accomplished, but you sure wouldn't know it by reading the blog. We're in a boatyard in Fort Lauderdale, "on the hard." That means the boat has been lifted out of the water and put on rickety looking stands so that the underwater part of the hull can be repainted.

It's a particularly messy procedure this time, since we were due to have 15 years of old paint sandblasted off down to the bare steel. Dust, sand, and bits of nasty old paint are everywhere outside, so I've been loathe to take my quilts outside for photos. Plus, the trip to the ground is down a steep ladder and I'm clumsy. So far, I've only dropped one bag of groceries 8 feet to the concrete. That bag had six glass jars of pureed pumpkin baby food in it, which exploded spectacularly, I must say. (We feed it to the elderly cat to keep her regular, works like prunes and she loves it!)

All this to say that I don't have many quilt photos to show for my effort. Here's a token sunset pic taken from our back deck, though. I made six pillowcases for the Thomas Fire Relief and forgot to take any pictures, dang it. I'm also working on two gift baby quilts that I can't show until they are received. Those two plus another gift need to be shipped out before we leave the country. I bound one yesterday and the second one is still being pieced.

I can share this finish, though. Most of these fabrics were donated to Covered in Love, so that's where the quilt will be sent to. The pattern is called "Five Yard Quilt" and is an oldie but goodie available for free here. My understanding is that it was given out free when you purchased five yards from a quilt shop that is now out of business. If anyone knows if there are copyright issues with it, please let me know.

The butterfly focal is so pretty up close. About five butterflies fit in each focal square and five fabric are used in the top. So I'm calling this one Cinco Mariposas. I did a simple big stipple in a bronzey thread to keep it soft and cuddly.


The backing fabric was also donated, this busy geometric in purple, light blue and brown. Super soft, lovely stuff. I'm quite proud of myself for how well I matched the seam. It hardly shows at all in this photo.

From a distance, the back doesn't look busy at all. I put this photo in mostly to show you the fresh, white primer coat on the bottom of the boat. Oooo! Ahhh! My poor quilt holder was anxious about not getting any dirt on the piece.

The Five Yard pattern was really fast and easy to put together, so I decided to use it again with some cute transportation themed fabric that was sent to me a while ago by Sue.  I cut and bagged the fabrics up into a kit, all ready to be pieced at some future date. I saw the idea of cutting your own kits from stash on Sandy's blog and had a real AHA! moment. What a great way to have fabric ready to go. Love it!

Another project I worked on this week was finishing up this flimsy. These are the left over fabrics from Cool Cats. I didn't use any of the black background designs in that quilt, so this piece has a distinctly different vibe. I've named it Night Cats.

I fussy cut the last few kitties from the panel and surrounded them with black, and put the rest of the black fabrics in the setting triangles. Except they aren't setting triangles! This was pieced in a straight setting, then cut into pieces along several diagonals and resewn into the on-point setting. Stitch on a border to contain the bias edges and ta da! The only tricky part was figuring out where to put the black squares so they ended up on the edges after all the magic switch-o change-o.

The latest block drive for Covered in Love is the annual String Fling in any color combo. I decided to try doing rainbow order this time. Wouldn't it be fun to do an entire quilt this way?

I enjoyed making the string blocks that I decided to join the Rainbow Scrap Challenge for 2018 using them. This month's color is light blue, which is my smallest scrap pile, so I only managed to squeak out three blocks and it used ALL my light blues. Yay!

And finally, I joined the Sunshine Online Quilt Guild. They sew for several great charities, and seem like a very kind, low key and supportive group. They have a block lotto each month if I just want to stitch blocks, and also donate flimsies and finished quilts in sizes that work well for my small studio. I'll still be sewing for Project Linus, too. And I'll be doing the Hands2Help Charity Challenge again this year. Oh, and I found a group that supports new parents of babies with Down Syndrome called Jack's Basket. They can use really small quilts, only 30"x36" which will stitch up super fast. I learned about this charity from Nancy at Grace and Peace Quilting. Check out the cute little pieces she made for Jack's already. It's nice to have a variety so that I can sew any quilt I want and always know there's a place to send it!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

SPLASH! of color QAL

Cat Cannonball makes a big splash of color and is a sewing finish. It still needs an actual splash into the washing machine, and a wild 3am dash through the dryer (because that's always when cats makes their wild dashes!)

I did a big, easy stipple in each cat panel block, carefully avoiding stitching over each flanged edge. Actually, that's a lie. I only carefully avoided it on 5 of the 6 panels. On one, I managed to get the FMQ foot caught under the flange and stitched that sucker into place permanently. At least that's how it felt as I tried to unpick those stitches, which of course were tiny and many and hard to see and wrapped around the foot! Sorry I didn't snap a photo. It was ugly and several ugly words may or may not have been heard nearby.

For the black and white blocks, I did wavy vertical lines in several bright thread colors: hot pink, yellow, orange, and a variegated blue/purple. I didn't have any lime green, but I had a softer green that worked well in the bobbin for the entire quilt. It looks a bit puckery in this photo, but it all smooths down nicely. I think there was one little pleat, but I couldn't find it this morning, so it's all good.

The quilt measures 42"x48", a nice toddler size and perfect for sewing up an easy WOF backing. I had these two black and white fabric with a "splash of color" in bright green that were just right. The binding, all machine sewn, was made entirely of 2.5" scrap pieces, woo hoo! That made a dent in the scrap bins. ( It was a very very small dent. So small even the rental car company wouldn't charge me for it.)

The change of binding color shows up a little better in this lousy photo. It wasn't until I saw this picture that I realized how much the busy backing fabrics sort of calm down at a distance. Up close, that spotty fabric in the middle makes my eyes spin a bit. But then again, this is a rather eye spinning quilt!

I'm linking up with Myra's Splash of Color Quilt A Long for final finishes and am eligible for prizes. That's always a fun incentive to get 'er done! You'll see this quilt one more time after its spa day for extra crinkly goodness.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Best of 2017

Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs is hosting a nice link party, inviting us to share our five best posts of 2017. We get to define for ourselves what constitutes "best," so I decided to share five of my favorites.

Fiery Tree is my favorite baby quilt from 2017. It was the perfect match for the baby's room, which is decorated with paintings of trees in all the seasons. I quilted it free motion quite heavily, and love the drape and feel of it.

Twist N Scrap is my favorite serendipity quilt of 2017. What is a "serendipity quilt"? That's when you make a quilt for no particular reason and then it turns out to be just the right gift for someone! This quilt was given to my husband's cousin's wife's sister, whom I had only met a few times. She is struggling with her health, and this quilt gave her some comfort. She wrote me a thank you note that still brings tears to my eyes. Never underestimate the power of an unexpected quilty gift!

Bright Astrodelic is the quilt with my favorite quilting, a tightly spaced spiral made with my walking foot. The texture is delicious! I used several brightly colored threads to match the piecing, and love how they look against the black background. This one was a serendipity quilt, too!

Gulf Coast Churn Dash is my favorite scrappy quilt of the year. It's the first quilt I ever made using an "old fashioned" block combination: chunky churn dash plus hour glass. The dashes were made completely from my strip scraps and I had no idea what it would look like when finished. I was very happily surprised! The quilt was donated to Covered in Love, one of my favorite charities.

And finally, this is the quilt I am most proud of: O Star! The quilt was made as a gift for my mother, who needed to have surgery on fairly short notice. I had about 10 days to make this large lap size from scratch. I chose the Night Sky pattern, which Mom had given me as a gift, and the triangle piecing was a challenge. I did FMQ with lots of thread color changes, and tackled the angled edge binding. It wasn't an easy quilt, but the smile on Mom's face made it completely worthwhile. And more importantly, her surgery was a total success!

Thank you for stopping by to read about my five best quilts. I'm also going to share a summary of the whole year. I've done this in previous years with the Trunk Show link up, but that seems to be defunct this year. It's useful to me to have everything all in one post to refer back to in the future, so here goes:

In the first quarter, I worked on several charity projects. The two little quilts on the left were donated to Project Linus. The house quilt was sold by my niece's sorority at a charity auction to benefit CASA in Washington state. The pillowcases were for Camp Heartland which serves youth with HIV/AIDS. The bright diamond quilt was sent to a friend in Holland to help her heal from serious illness.

Second quarter, I finished up a number of small quilts that were pieced while we lived temporarily in a tiny RV during February and March. I couldn't spread out enough to quilt there, so I accumulated a bunch of tops that got finished in April and May. Four of those went to Project Linus. It was also the time of year when Sarah runs her Hands2Help Challenge, so I made one quilt each for Happy Chemo, Camp Hobe, the International Institute of St. Louis, and Covered in Love.

International Institute benefits recent immigrants to the US, and they requested quilts no smaller than twin size. This majestic mountains design I made for them was a real challenge to quilt in my small space. It cemented my resolve to stick with pieces no larger than about 60" on a side.

In mid-summer we docked the boat in Charleston, SC and stayed for over four months. I had lots and lots of time to sew and was inspired to make a bunch of 36"x48" wheelchair lap quilts for Quilted Embrace. 

It was also a quarter with several finishes for gifts to friends and family. I'm pretty sure I sent the pink bordered Kaffe hexagon quilt to Covered in Love, but was sorely tempted to keep it. DH says we'd need a bigger boat to keep all my favorites, so that ain't happening.

The fall and winter of 2017 included more quilts for family and friends, Covered in Love, Project Linus and the Charleston UU church's charity auction. 

It's fun to look back over an entire year's worth of quilting. 2017 seemed to be a year of trying new blocks and patterns, from hexagons to kaleidoscopes, strippy scraps to attic windows, houses and hourglasses and mariner's compasses. I used lots of novelty theme fabrics and panels: cats, horses, fish, coffee and vegetables, just to name a few. I can honestly say I enjoyed making every one of these quilts, and my fondness for the craft continues to grow.

OK, let's get sewing for 2018!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sunrise and Twilight

A couple of weeks ago I bought a small charm pack of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons. They were so beautiful I wanted to make something right away that I could enjoy. Time for a little selfish sewing! A quick back of the envelope calculation showed that there would be just about enough fabric to make the fronts of two pillow covers.

So I stitched them together into quarter square triangles in the same rainbow order they came in the pack. And when this groovy Brother Sister Design yardage showed up in my mailbox later, I knew it would be perfect for the borders and envelope-style backs.

The cooler colors remind me of the sky in the late evening, so this pillow is Twilight. I quilted it with my walking foot in straight lines about an eighth of an inch on either side of the diagonal seams.

The warmer colors look like a rosy dawn to me, so this pillow is Sunrise. It is also quilted by walking foot, using an easy, liberated orange peel design. All told, the quilting on both pillows took less than an hour, and the piecing maybe an hour and a half. Fast and fun!

We anchored last night in the Caloosahatchee River, near the town of La Belle, FL. We dropped our dinghy and went ashore for dinner. When we returned, lights from onshore made our boat ride on her reflection in the dark, calm water. I love my floating home and am tickled pink to have new pillows for the couch!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Gifts Given and Received

We are in Fort Myers, FL, where we spent a very pleasant and quiet Christmas. One of the downtown restaurants, The Twisted Vine Bistro, had a nice holiday buffet dinner, with all the traditional flavors. I enjoyed pinot grigio, prime rib, turkey, potatoes au gratin, shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, coffee, pumpkin pie and sugar cookies without lifting a finger to cook or clean. The food was quite good and the servers were upbeat and pleasant.

The restaurant's cute logo features a cork screw and grapes, which leads me right into today's post!

This set of nine napkins, and the eight placemats at the top of the post, were made as a holiday gift for friends. They entertain quite a bit, filling their home with food, laughter and wine. I had decent sized scraps of lots of wine-themed fabrics and was able to stitch up this set following this tutorial video for both placemats and napkins, very straightforward.

Here are two of my favorite placemats. I really like the tumbling wine glasses fabric. To make the placemat tops, I simply cut 19" long strips of the various fabrics, in widths from about 4" to 8", and mixed them up to maximize contrast between the fabrics. 

For the backs, I used all the same fabric. I thought this pretty apple design with gold metallic accents could be used in the autumn if my friends wanted their table to be more matchy-matchy. Solid color napkins would look nice with this side. And if you're wondering why there are 8 placemats and 9 napkins, well, one of the napkins is all beer bottles! I usually prefer beer over wine, so that napkin was selfishly made for myself to use when I visit them.

DH and I don't exchange gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or holidays, preferring to celebrate those days with meals in fancy restaurants. But occasionally one of us will splurge on some item, claiming, "This will be my birthday/St. Patrick's Day/Winter Solstice present this year!" Earlier this month I was very excited to receive several big boxes containing my similarly self-appointed Christmas gift.

I've been storing my scraps strips, sorted by color, in recycled Kleenex tissue boxes. They sit on the small bathroom counter of the stateroom where I sew, stacked haphazardly. I was satisfied with the size (and price!) of the boxes, but they don't nest or stack nicely. I tend to cut my scrap strips on the fly as I'm cutting for other projects, and this system didn't make it easy to just pop one or two strips into the right bin without shuffling the whole stack.

So I treated myself to a set of multi-color Akro bins. Oooo! Aaaah! So pretty! So sturdy! So stackable! So open in the front for easy access, no matter how high the stack!

Each bin cost about $4-$5, with price varying by color. That's a bit odd, but the most odd thing is that an orange bin costs $18!! Even though it pained my rainbow-colored soul to leave the orange one behind, it just bugged me to pay THAT much more for a single color. Besides, I've been grouping yellow and orange together in a single Kleenex box anyway.

Here they are, stuffed with scraps and sitting on the bathroom counter. I'm using the taupe one for light colored neutrals, the black one for dark neutrals, and the clear one for bright multi/rainbow scraps. 

The two extras, another clear and a light blue, will be used for various other scrap projects. Right now they hold 4.5" squares and 2.5" four patches. Meanwhile, I'm keeping my eyes peeled on eBay for a used orange bin to make my set complete.

Now if I can only figure out a good system for the other side of the bathroom counter, where I stage larger scraps and FQs to be filed, and general miscellany. Sigh. Hey, Akro makes a wider, shallower bin that might work, stacked 3-4 high...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2018 Planning Party

2018 Planning Party

Yvonne at Quilting Jet Girl is having a link up for sharing our quilty plans, goals and resolutions for 2018. In the boating world, "plan" is a four letter word. The humans make a plan, and the boat laughs and laughs and laughs! The mechanical state of the vessel and the whims of the weather are really in control here. So we always use the word "goal" to talk about where we might wander next.

My quilting path also wanders. I buy lots of weird, used fabrics and get inspired by them. My scraps pile up, getting in the way, so I stitch up a scrap quilt. Babies are born, friends suffer losses, quilts are needed for comfort. Another blogger posts a fabulous finish and SQUIRREL! I gotta make my own version!

I'm extraordinarily lucky to be able to quilt whatever I want, whenever I want. Therefore, I resolve to keep on doin' what I'm doin'.

{Lowers voice to a whisper so the boat doesn't hear} Just between you and me, though, we're hoping to cruise for about six months through the Bahamas and Caribbean islands. That means my access to quilting supplies will be extremely limited from late January to around June or July. {Something goes TWANG, CLUNK!! on the boat} It's a goal! Only a goal! Not a plan! Sheesh.

Anyway, I'm kinda sorta thinking I should maybe probably have about six months worth of quilting stuff on board, just in case. Last year I finished 37 quilts, almost all of them baby, toddler, or lap sized. That felt like a good pace for me, around 3 per month, so I'll use that number as a guideline. And this blog post is a great place to calculate and record what I need to continue that pace.

In the first half of 2018, I will need the following items:

Fabric: I'd only be fooling myself if I said I needed any more fabric. My stash is up to the task, I'm pretty sure. The only exception might be light/low volume pieces, which is what I run out of the soonest.

Best Press: I don't use conventional starch, because I really don't want anything that might attract bugs. There are plenty of bugs in my life already, living on the water as I do. I have one of the big refill bottles of unscented Best Press and it's about half full. I think that's enough. If I run out, I can live without it. I do carry a spare iron, just in case!

Batting: 3 quilts a month for 6 months = 18 quilts. Let's round up to 20, just in case. My quilts average about 50" square, or 2,500 square inches. So I need at least 50,000 sq. in. Wow, that looks like a really big number! However, a king sized package of batting is 120"x124"=14,800 sq. in. So four packages should be plenty. I also have some batting already on hand and some scraps to make Frankenbatting, which gives me some wiggle room.

Thread: I have at least 50 full spools of thread. I use mostly Aurifil 40 or 50 wt in the larger size spools. Should be plenty.

Needles: OK, confession time. I don't change my sewing machine needle often enough. They say you should install a new needle when you start a new project, but my projects overlap and intermingle, so I forget until I get the dreaded clunking/popping sound. So I resolve to change my needle more often, and I'm going to buy at least 10 shiny new ones.

Rotary cutter blades: Like needles, I know I don't change 'em often enough. I have four new ones on hand, three of which are the titanium ones. What do you think? Is that enough?

505 Basting Spray: This is my preferred basting method, so I use a lot of it. I get 2-3 quilts from one of the larger cans, so I need at least 3 to last six months. I only have 2 small cans on hand, so I'll order 3 big ones. Aerosol cans aren't supposed to be shipped via air, so they need a longer lead time to be ordered. Better get cracking on this one!

Freezer paper: I've never used it, but who knows? This season might be the time I'm inspired to try it. It's about $6 at Walmart and I'm guessing it's $20 in the Bahamas, so it's a no-brainer to just stock some now.

Shipping boxes: I typically mail off my charity quilts after I accumulate 2 or 3 of them, but paying overseas postage for that will probably be pricey and hard to track. However, we'd like to stop in the US Virgin Islands for a while, so I should be able to use the US Post Office there at standard shipping rates. After this year's terrible hurricane season, I know some supplies might be limited, so I'll bring my own Priority Mail boxes. 6 Large Flat Rate boxes should do it.

As Provisioner in Chief, I'm responsible for making the same sorts of lists and calculations for everything else except boat maintenance items. I have a big spreadsheet that shows our monthly needs for food, paper goods, toiletries, the kitty's needs, etc. Most of it has to be purchased and stored before we leave the USA.

Our previous experience in the Bahamas has showed us that some fruits and veggies are readily available, but expensive. (Yes, that's a $3.30 cucumber and we were happy to pay it.) Decent meat is very hard to find. Beer is plentiful, but outrageously expensive. Toilet paper is scarce and precious. And our cat's prescription diet is impossible to buy. So my first several weeks of the new year will be filled with trips to the store, most of them aboard my little motor scooter. Then I'll remove all the packaging and tuck stuff into every nook and cranny of the boat. Our freezer will be stuffed to bursting with protein, and our bilges full of beer. Then we'll sail off into the sunset!