Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Postcards From Ikea finish

Ta da! Here is my finished quilt from Sandra's Quilt Along. I feel that I can post it guilt-free now that the QAL is ending. The truth is that I hung it on our bedroom wall on February 22nd. What can I say? I was really motivated to fill that dark wood wall with something bright and cheery.

I'm calling my version of the Postcards from Sweden pattern Postcards From Ikea: enough like Sweden for the average American. The original pattern uses Kona solid fabrics, but I chose similar colors from my stash. Most of them are blenders, so the look is a bit different. I also reduced the size of the blocks so the final quilt would fit the wall space.

The backing is this super fun, big dinosaur print. It was part of a very large and generous batch of fabrics given to me by DH's aunt. It's a bit thicker and stiffer than quilting cotton, so it works well for a wall hanging like this.

PFI is quilted in straight lines using my walking foot. I chose several places to start quilting a small square, then echoed out with a spacing of roughly an inch. When the echoes encountered each other, I veered out toward the edge. The result is nicely geometric, but not terribly rigid. Because the quilting lines cross all those 45 degree triangles, the lack of consistent spacing is lost in all the angles and colors. That's how I like my quilting: lookin' good without workin' hard.

Occasionally, a patch of sun comes in our small portlights and moves across the quilt. The texture is really yummy, even though the piece has not been washed and dried.

The binding is one of the darker colors from the piecing, a deep burgundy that I used as the pattern's color #23, Cerise. Did anyone get to the point where you just knew the colors based on their numbers? "Oh, another #10, my cross hatched peach. 31 is the pink with big polka dots..."

I like this outtake photo that shows our ensign blowing straight out in the wind. You can see why I use the strong clip on the left to hold the quilt onto the chair. Sean just took our long handled net back to the restaurant where we ate last night, to recover his sunglasses that blew off the table into the water. I really don't want to do that with a quilt! The water might be a gorgeous color, but it isn't very clean in the marina.

I really enjoyed making this quilt and love seeing it every day. A big thank you to Sandra for hosting the quilt along! She has forgiven me for turning it into a Quilt Ahead At Breakneck Speed, and I truly appreciate that. I've already started on her next one!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Turks and Caicos Islands

Greetings from the beautiful islands of the Turks and Caicos! We are docked in a marina in the city of Providentiales. The marina is nothing special, the docks are pretty beat up from various hurricanes, but it makes a great base to explore this island.

Since we arrived, I've managed to finish two more tops for the Hands2Help charity Victoria's Quilts. This one went together very quickly because the leaf blocks were already hanging out in the block orphanage. The center section is four small autumn themed house panels, which I surrounded with a charm pack that matched the leaf blocks. A few dusky purple sashing pieces and some larger chunks of apple fabric in all the same colors, and it was done.  

This double four patch top has been my leaders/enders project for over a year. When I started stitching together pairs of 2.5" squares, I decided to do no color matching at all. I just sorted the squares roughly into darks and lights and paired them up in that way. Same thing when sewing together 2-patches into 4-patches, and again when adding in the larger squares: ignore the color, look only at value. The stacks of blocks finally got tall enough for me to count them and see I was pretty close to having enough for Victoria's preferred size (approximately 50"x70".) A few concentrated hours to make the final blocks and I was ready to make the top. 

I'll admit that it totally looked like scrap vomit in the block stage. I was pretty discouraged because all I could see was ugly color combos. There was some agonizing until I used my phone's black and white filter to look at the top. Hey, the dark and light diagonals show up pretty well! At least it has some structure. 

And when I stepped back to take this photo, I thought, wow, this value thing really does work. All those icky browns and strange purples mixed with lime green and bright orange turned into a classic scrap quilt. Actually, before that I thought, "Um, it's sideways."And, "I wish the sun was out." But around here, you take photos in the two minutes that the wind isn't blowing, no matter how bad the lighting or sideways the quilt.

I also finished my yellow spiral blocks for this month's RSC. I took to heart several comments that encouraged me to use dark golds to get the contrast necessary for the spiral shape to show. I'm happy with these!

I'll leave you with this photo of a local road that ends in Chalk Sound. That's me standing next to my little scooter, Allegro, squinting into the strong sun and wearing a shirt the exact same color as the water. We unloaded the scooters for the first time in a foreign country and I drove on the left side of the road for the first time in my life. All the intersections are roundabouts, which twisted my brain up a bit initially. It's an adventure! We were a bit nervous about the legality of using our own bikes here, but the Customs official didn't seem to think it was a big deal, and the police car that passed us didn't give us a second look even with our Florida license plates.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A few yellow bits and pieces

The Rainbow Scrap Challenge color for April is yellow and gold. So I pulled out my scraps and made a few blocks. Here are the string blocks, sewn onto foundation fabric. 

And here they are with the photo edited to try to catch the true colors. I thought most of my yellow strings were sort of pale, but these turned out quite bright and saturated. It's been really hard to capture color correctly on my camera because the blue water reflects off every surface including our white boat ceilings. Even the underside of the clouds are turquoise here! 

I'm really happy with these scrappy stringy blocks and would have made a bunch more, but four seems to be about right for each color. I figure at the end of the year I'll have either 40, 44, or 48 blocks, depending on whether any of the monthly colors are neutrals. Any colors that seem to be missing can be stitched up later to fill in.

Two yellow backgrounds were put together from larger scraps, making the 12"x15" block for the wild cat appliques. Once again, I had to piece a smaller chunk of cat fabric for the vine/paisley print. I tried six ways from Sunday to make the seam match, but didn't have anywhere near close to a fabric repeat. It doesn't bother me too much because I think all the busyness of the quilt will mask a multitude of sins. And the photo is crooked because the wind kept trying to blow these into the water...see the lifted corner in the lower right? I let go just long enough to snap a pic, any pic!

My third RSC blocks, the spirals, aren't pieced yet. The design depends on fairly good contrast between the color and the background. Since I started with light neutrals for the backgrounds, that's a bit tricky. Do I switch to a darker background like gray for the yellow spirals? Or try to find my darkest gold scraps and select very very light neutral backgrounds? Cut pure white backgrounds just for these two blocks? Hm.

I also finished the flimsy from the blue fabric pull I showed last week. It turned out so well that I'm thinking about giving it as a gift. So now it's secret sewing and I can't show you. Sorry about that! I can tell you that I used Liz's Haphazard pattern, available for free. It's computer generated and each run is unique, which tickles my engineering soul. And if you don't follow Liz yet, go check out her blog and her amazing free motion quilting. She makes it look so easy...

We're thinking about moving on to Conception Island tomorrow. It's a very remote Bahamian National Park, so I don't think there will be any cell phone towers and connectivity there at all. There is a special species of endemic boa, though! I like snakes and hope we get a glimpse of one. Don't worry, they are only about 3 feet long and too skinny to squeeze humans. We'll be traveling with another boat and I'm looking forward to getting to know Steve and Barb and their (large, not boa snack sized) dog Molly a little better. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A binding shortcut tip

It's "Tips, Tutes, and Tasty Things" week over on Sarah's blog. She has this link up every year as part of Hands2Help. So today I'm sharing my little binding short cut. In a nutshell: you don't have to trim off the selvedges after cutting your WOF strips. 

Instead, leave them in place while you sew together the strips at a 45 degree angle. Just make sure to place the strips as shown in this photo, with the selvedges hanging over past where the strips cross each other.

I have pieces of blue painter's tape on the bed of my machine that mark various seam allowances. The right edge of the longer piece of tape is aligned with the needle.

I don't mark the 45 degree line to be sewn. I put the needle down right in the corner where the two strips meet, then line up the other intersection point with that edge of the tape. My index finger is pointing to that spot. (When did I get old lady hands? Sigh.)

Then I sew from intersection to intersection, gently holding the two strips at right angles the whole time. You see the selvedges still well past the seam.

Without cutting thread, I then grab the free end of the top strip, flip it so it is right sides up, and place another strip on it, right side down. Again, I hang the selvedges past the cut sides.

Keep adding another strip to the end of the top one you just finished until you have the length of binding you need. At this point, they are all attached to each other from chain stitching.

With your scissors, carefully clip the chain stitching between just the last two sets. 

Then trim the 45 degree seam approximately a quarter inch. It's not important that it be exact because it will be hidden inside your binding. This removes most of the selvedge in one fell swoop!

What's left behind are the tiny "dog ears." Trim those with your scissors parallel with the length of the strips. Snip, snip!

Now your diagonal seam is neat and tidy. Clip the next chain stitching and repeat for each seam.

All the triangle trimmings and selvedges and dog ears end up in a little pile, easy to clean up. Don't feel guilty about tossing those right in the trash.

Next, I lay out the strips on my ironing board, sort of snaking them back and forth so that the seams are all roughly next to each other, with wrong side of the fabric up.

This makes it easy to press the seams open. Because I trimmed the dog ears, the pressed seams are pretty clean on the binding edges. Please don't look too closely at how stained my ironing board cover is getting. I'm going to miss those bright birds when I replace the cover. And yes, those are fried eggs on the binding fabric!

Finally, press your binding in half lengthwise as usual. Easy peasy! I'm all about reducing the number of steps in a process, and find this method to work well for me. I hope you find it useful, too. Don't forget to head over to the link up to read more handy hints.

Oh, and here's a sneak peek of my next project. I pulled fabrics inspired by the wonderful colors surrounding us here in the Bahamas...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The UPS quilt

Today I finished this quilt top made completely of 2.5" wide scraps from my "dark neutrals" and "light but darker than off white neutrals" bins. I've been wanting to make a black and white quilt, but didn't have enough black scraps. So I added brown. The pattern is Myra's Jelly Roll Waves, which I won for participating in the Splash of Color QAL. It measures 50"x70".

When Sean saw the top, his first response was the UPS slogan, "What can Brown do for you?" So that's what I named it. If you click over to Myra's site, you'll see the "waves" in most of the photos are bright colors against a contrasting neutral. That's what appealed to me about the pattern. In my mind, this quilt was going to look like dark ribbons of chocolate against cream. But the high contrast isn't there, and I was originally kind of disappointed in that. However, it has really grown on me. 

There are tons of really fun scraps in this top, from old fashioned telephones to camping tents to snowmen to chili peppers to leaves and dog bones. The mix of browns and blacks and the softer contrast with the tan/taupe/gray background pieces gives it a more homey, old fashioned feeling. 

I made it specifically to donate to Victoria's Quilts as part of Hands2Help. Victoria's provides quilts to people in Canada who are living with cancer, and they've asked for tops only, not completed quilts. I think this top has a nice, masculine and almost woodsy vibe that could provide warmth and comfort to a man who is ill. Maybe he'll enjoy finding the little hidden images in all my scraps. 

I started piecing WCBDFY? when we were still in the Berry Islands and the water was this gorgeous turquoise. The water is this color when it is shallow, around 15-20 feet deep.

When the water is this lovely clear blue it means it is deeper. Much deeper. Yesterday we crossed over depths of 10,000 feet, almost 2 miles straight down. It was a little rough so I didn't sew until we made it all the way into Nassau harbor. Today we were back in turquoise waters, flat calm and lovely. I was able to finish the top while we were underway. While I love looking at the water, 6 hours of chugging away at 6mph leaves plenty of time to nip down to the studio for 10 minute sewing bursts. Enough little bursts and many seams are sewn.

For those of you who asked if I was able to put my sewing machine on the back deck to sew, the answer is not yet due to wind! I tried to capture the wind in my hair in this photo. That thing on my ear is my hands-free microphone headset for communicating with the captain while out on deck. I raise and lower the anchor on the foredeck while Sean maneuvers the boat from inside the pilot house. We learned early on that electronic doohickey communicators are real marriage savers! No yelling with these puppies, just conversation at normal volume levels. One of our training captains told us that you can use hand signals, too, but most couples still manage to yell at each other using only their hands and proceeded to pantomime an argument about where to anchor that ended with a flurry of hilarious gestures that left me in tears of laughter.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Goat Cay, Goop Craft

Greetings from the Berry Islands! We are anchored near a tiny island called Goat Cay (pronounced "key") and waiting for the wind to die down before we move again. Our next passage will be across very deep water, where high winds make big waves, so waiting is prudent. It's also too windy to sew out on deck, alas.

Sitting at anchor with no place to go ashore (the islands around us are all private) means plenty of time for relaxing and sewing. I've been working on a couple of scrappy projects, including my RSC2018 (Rainbow Scrap Challenge) blocks. March's color is bright green.

I've made four green string blocks,

and two green spiral blocks.

In addition, I've added to my clowder of rainbow crafted applique cats. These blocks are 12"x15" and use the RSC color as the background. Last month, I used 3.5" purple squares for the background, and this month I used 3.5" green strips. The cats are the opposite color on the color wheel and I am deliberately choosing the loudest, wildest fabrics I have in my stash. So flowered and fiesta-ed yellow cats on the purple.

And groovy pink and paisley red cats on the spring green. The colors are brighter than these photos show. I really like the swirly red fabric up close, but the hot pink floral looks better from a distance, I think.

A couple people asked me about my experience with the crafted applique, so here's a little bit of the process. I have a simple paper template of the cats that I just lay on the backside of the fabric. This big, easy shape is held in place with my hand, no pins or sticky stuff. If the shape was smaller, I'd probably use freezer paper ironed in place.


I lightly trace around the cat with a pencil.

Then I daub the magic Modge Podge goop* roughly on the pencil line using a foam brush. I would estimate that this is about a teaspoon of goop, total, spread over the perimeter of the cat. The book recommends putting plastic on your work space, but I just did it right on my cutting mat since the goop isn't very close to the edges of the fabric. It doesn't soak through to the front, either. It's also water soluble before it dries, so theoretically I could sponge off any spills.

*There are several formulas in the Crafted Applique book and I don't want to steal the author's intellectual property, so I'll use the term "goop." You should buy the book if you want to use this method. She does not show step by step photos of the gooping process, though, so I think I'm in the clear sharing this tutorial.

Then I spread the goop out thinner using the brush so that there were no thick spots that would dry as lumps. It's pretty easy to see the pencil through the goop. It doesn't need to cover the entire cat shape since its purpose is to seal the cut edges and hold them in place for applique. But it does need to cover the entire pencil line and about an inch inside, so I just roughly aimed for that. (The seam down the middle is just because I didn't have a big enough piece of the paisley fabric. Turns out that I should have moved the cat outline a bit left or right so the seam didn't end up right along the edge of the ear, but it worked out OK.)

After the goop dries in about 45 minutes, it is very clear and shiny. The pencil line is easy for me to see (although hard to photograph), and I cut right along it with my good scissors. It feels a bit tacky/rubbery but didn't leave any residue on the scissors. Now the edges of the cat are ready to be ironed onto the background, where they adhere quite nicely. I used a pressing cloth to protect the iron from any extra goop on the cut edges, although nothing stuck to the pressing cloth, so it probably wasn't necessary.

As the final step, I used my machine to straight stitch just inside the cat outline, a simple edge stitch next to the raw edge. Sorry no close up photo of this part! There was no shifting of the applique and the needle didn't get gummy or feel any different than going through 2-3 layers of fabric as normal. The goop is supposed to seal the edges so they don't fray. I won't know if that is true until I make enough cats to sew up a quilt. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Quick update from the Bahamas

We're finally here! And it's just as lovely as I remembered. Our Internet is super slow, though, so reading and writing blogs will be very intermittent. If you don't hear from me on your own site, I apologize in advance. I'm going to try to keep reading as much as possible, if and when pages will load. Getting a comment to go through will be an extra credit assignment!

Here's a quick look at my works in progress. Lots of cutting and sorting on some scrappy projects. I might bring my old Kenmore up to the back deck so I can sew with a view of that turquoise water...

Today we will leave Bimini and head to the Berry Islands. We'll stop halfway there to anchor for the night on the Bahama banks in about 20 feet of water depth. We'll be about 30-40 miles from the nearest dry land, something possible in very few places on Earth. By Monday afternoon we should be anchored in the Berries where we'll sit for a few days and let some windy weather pass us by. Hopefully we'll have a bit of connectivity there, but wind protection is more important and will drive our choice of anchorage. 

If you're curious about the position and status of the boat while we travel internationally, you can always check this Twitter link. We will use our satellite phone to post short updates there so our families don't worry about us.