Sunday, May 20, 2018

In the UFO trenches

My quilting process tends to go roughly like this: Be inspired either by a pattern or a fabric, and sew up a top until it feels finished. If it's a gift for a particular person, I usually launch right into quilting and get 'er done. But "feels finished" could also mean "until I run out of fabric" or "until I run out of motivation." If I don't have a recipient in mind, pieces like that can often end up as UFOs, because the final size is undetermined. Is it big enough yet?

Different charities request different size quilts. Some have a minimum and maximum range, and others are pretty strict about wanting a specific size. And of course I try to match the top to the ages and circumstances of the recipients of that particular charity. So until I've chosen the charity, a top can float around in limbo for a while.

Last week I was motivated to go through most of my UFOs and choose a final home for them. That allowed me to add borders until they were the right size, and then make backings for them. Adding long strips for borders and wrangling the large chunks of fabric for backings is a whole different mindset than piecing small blocks, and I need to be in the right mood. That mood can be fleeting, so when it arrived, I seized it. Carpe diem and all that.

I had the idea that I would take photos of each top and each backing to share with you. Frankly, the photos were atrocious. It's so windy here that even INSIDE the boat things were flapping around mightily. And most of these flimsies have already been shared here on the old blog-o-roonie. So classy pics of piles of folded fabric will have to serve.

First up is the fun fish top I made with fabric that Karen sent me. It needed another border to get it up to the right size for Wrap a Smile (WAS.) I added a watery blue print and kept the directionality so the water flows side to side and not up and down. The yellow and blue plaid was plenty wide for a backing and didn't need piecing, so easy peasy. I'll use that zesty stripe for binding.

I've started labeling tops with their rough size and potential recipient, using blue painters tape. I do this with batting scraps, too, and it's so helpful to not have to measure the same piece over and over again. 

Huh. I just realized that I didn't ever share this flimsy, so this one will have to be a surprise after it's quilted up. It is rail fence blocks with those brightly colored running horses in the center of each one. I added a couple of black and purple borders thinking it might appeal to an older child at WAS. The purple fabric with the scallops on it will serve as both backing and binding. It's a vintage print and at 45" wide, didn't need to be pieced. That's a little tight for a 44" wide top, but I'm willing to trim off any small "oops" spots if the backing shifts. There's certainly plenty of black border to spare.

This is the Ernie quilt pattern top with an added border to bring it up to size for Covered in Love (CIL.) The backing is pieced from the last bit of the floral border, and two of the stripe fabrics, salmon and green. The binding will be the solid purple. All four of those fabrics were donated to Covered in Love, and Kat shared them with me. It feels good to use them together in this quilt.

This is the top made of Asian-inspired fabrics that I shared last week. All the sashing pieces are scrappy whites and creams, so I made the 5" wide border scrappy, too. The corner that shows here looks a little dark, but the overall border blends nicely. For the back, I pieced large patchwork squares of my darker tan and taupe fabrics. They don't really go well with the bright kid's fabrics I like to use, so I'm happy they work with this piece. (Note to self: stop buying drab fabric.) The binding will be the tan and black geometric. This one is tentatively headed to CIL, or I might keep it for a while. It's nice to have a few pieces finished that I can give to friends or family members who need a fast, quilty hug.

I made the main part of this over a year ago, intending to donate it to a charity in Charleston that wanted small 36" x 48" wheelchair quilts. I didn't get it finished before we left Charleston, so it lurked as a UFO. The block pattern is called Old Italian. This week I added the black stop border and the wide dusty blue outer border. The latter was also a donation to CIL, so this piece will soon circle back to Kat's charity. I pieced the backing out a similar dusty blue in my stash, plus a burgundy/blue/white/gold stripe. The mottled burgundy should make a good binding. It has tiny metallic flecks in it. Fancy! Oh, and the blue border fabric was originally 108" wide. Man, that makes it easy to cut borders.


This piece never made it onto the blog when it was originally pieced. I have no idea why, because I really like it. It's made of orphan blocks from various projects, sashed in purple and set into a white with little purple flowers background. I really enjoyed the mental math required to get them all "floating" like that. It was actually a little too big for Quilts Beyond Borders (QBB), so I trimmed off an inch from the total width.

QBB requires a label on their quilts, so I've been avoiding finishing any pieces for them. Isn't that pathetic? That's how much I hate making these kinds of labels. I unearthed my last piece of machine printable fabric recently, so I grit my teeth and used it to make a few labels in the requested format. This one is stitched onto the backing, which is a single piece of mottled green. The aqua stripe will be the binding.

Six quilts with backings, ready to be basted and quilted. I'll share photos taken in better lighting as each one blossoms into a finished quilt. We'll be out of the Bahamas by then, so I won't have to deal with the relentless wind.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hands2Help 2018 Summary

This year's Hands2Help Charity Challenge is coming to an end this week, and it's time to link up our finishes to share with other helpers. As usual, Sarah did a fantastic job finding worthy charities and rustling up some great sponsors. If you've been following my blog, you've probably seen all these before.

This year she chose three different charities, and I sewed something for each one. The first is an old favorite, Quilty Hugs for Happy Chemo. This charity, run by Emily of Em's Scrap Bag, provides quilts for folks undergoing chemotherapy. I donated Key West Chickens. I mailed it off back in March while we were still in Florida so at least this one made the H2H deadline.

The second charity, Victoria's Quilts Canada, provides quilts to people living with cancer in Canada. They asked Hands2Help participants to provide quilt tops only, 50" x 70" in size. The tops will be quilted locally with cozy flannel backings to provide extra warmth in the Great White North. Since quilt tops are lighter, easier to ship, and faster to sew than finished quilts, I made three. The first one shown above is The UPS Quilt, made with brown and black string scraps. 

Double Four Patch was made from a variety of scraps and ended up being one of my favorite pieces.

Autumn Orphans was pieced with left over blocks and some cute panel pieces. These three tops are sitting on Sean's dresser, carefully packed away in a plastic bag, waiting to be shipped up to Victoria's after we return to the US.

The third charity is called Little Lambs Foundation for Kids. They provide backpack "comfort kits" to children of all ages who are transitioning into foster care, emergency shelter or who have been hospitalized. I chose to make "blankies" without batting to fit more easily into the backpacks, and sized them for kids aged 5 or younger. This one is called Through the Reef and has corduroy backing.

Streak of Lightning has flannel backing in a sweet blue giraffe print.

And Pink Giraffes is the same flannel in a different colorway, backed with a coordinating cotton pique. All three have satin baby blanket binding. They are also waiting to be shipped once we are out of the Bahamas. I'll miss the H2H deadline, but I know that each of these charities' work is ongoing and donations are always welcome.

Thank you again, Sarah, for the opportunity to let my hands help!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Scrippity scrappity

Pink is the color o' the month for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, and I've finished my three RSC projects for May. Even though I don't particularly like pink, and don't sew with it very much, I still had plenty of pink scraps to choose from. How does that happen? My four pink string blocks are above.

Next are my two pink spiral blocks from the book Cozy Modern Quilts by Kim Schaefer. The pattern is "Maze Madness" and there are blocks with the accent color on the outside of the block and ones with the neutral on the outside. (This book was my first exposure to modern quilting and I fell in love. Not that it's the best book, but just the idea of bold color and geometric design in quilts? Yes, please!)

My clowder of lurid cats has grown by two. I use the RSC color in the background and the color wheel opposite for the cats. The green cat of cat fabrics is very meta.

My muse: grey cat on blue background.

Most of these little projects were completed just before we had a guest aboard this week. I knew I would be dismantling my studio to turn it back into the guest stateroom, so I didn't want to tackle anything large. Much as I hate to stop sewing, it's a good exercise to completely clean up the creative mess a couple of times a year.

I unearthed a bag of Asian-inspired scraps during the process, and decided to stitch up these simple blocks. Just a rectangle with two scrappy neutral strips on opposite edges.

When set with the blocks alternating, a basket weave design emerges. This is a modification of a free pattern called Colorworks, which calls for 4.5" x 6.5" rectangles. I had lots of 6" scraps, so I cut my pieces 4" x 6" instead. I'll add a scrappy neutral border to it at some point which will complete those dangling edge blocks.

I also found my bag of non-quilting cotton scraps: flannels, piques, and corduroys. I don't have room to collect a real stash of these fabrics, so I've decided not to buy any more of them and am trying to just use them up. 

The last bits and bobs in the bag got cut into strings and stitched up into QAYG blocks directly onto batting scraps. There was just enough for two pillow shams, and they were finished in time for our guest to use them. Score!

For the pillow backs, I used more of my decorator-weight blue dinosaur fabric. The pattern almost matches in the middle. Our guest, who has two young children at home, commented that she liked how the pillows have a kid side and an adult side. (And yes, she very much enjoyed her short tropical vacation away from her kids. Her husband is a pilot so she can fly for free, and having friends who just happened to be on their boat in the Turks and Caicos worked out very nicely!)

And finally, I pulled and cut up my fabrics for Tish's Fire Burst mystery QAL. I'm making the 32"x32" baby size and have enough of the navy blue left over to perhaps add a few borders. That blue and white fabric is covered with sweet line drawings of little birds.

The flannel and Asian scraps are all used up, the pink scrap bag shrank a tiny bit, and the QAL pieces fit nicely in a new bag. We enjoyed having our lovely guest aboard for three days and now I'm setting the studio up again. Life is good!

Friday, April 27, 2018

I ain ga lie... blogging mojo has been lacking. But I have been sewing. The title of this post is a nod to the local Turks and Caicos beer. The lager is called I-Ain-Ga-Lie ("I ain't gonna lie") which is delicious. We enjoyed a couple of cold ones on the deck of a restaurant on the island of Middle Caicos. You can see both shallow, turquoise water and deep, marine blue water in the background. Lovely!

A stack of long quarters in sherbet colored homespuns has been kicking around my studio, getting in the way, so I cut them up and pieced this top. I was inspired by Rose's Ernie quilt for the combo of solids and stripes, and wanted to try a little bit of transparency play. I offset the solid and pattern rows by a half block, which was a bit fiddly and tedious to keep track of. I think this quilt is one of those that will look a lot better quilted and I'm planning to play with some fun long skinny FMQ motifs when I get around to it.

And speaking of transparency, I pieced up this Five Alarm Chili top using Sandra's Playtime Plus pattern. She's having a quilt along that just started so feel free to jump in! The piecing went really fast so I got ahead of the QAL even faster than usual. I chose mostly hot chile pepper fabrics for the small pluses, with a few other veggies and blenders for variety. The cream and red solid backgrounds make another ginormous red cross, a nod to our years as volunteers for the American Red Cross. Or possibly it refers to the medical attention you'll need if you eat cousin Christopher's homemade hot salsa.

While taking photos, the wind gusted up quite strongly and I ended up hanging onto the corner of the chiles while it flapped noisily. I didn't notice until later that all the motion had actually started to disintegrate the fabric! Good thing I have more of this cream so I can replace this frayed corner.

This little piece isn't a quilt, technically. There isn't any batting between the top and the backing, so I'll call it a blankie. The fabrics are the fun, fish-themed scraps from Hugs and Kishes Covered with Fishes that I made for my newest baby cousin. I actually pieced the top at the same time as H&KCwF, so it's nice to move this UFO along. The backing is a thick cotton corduroy in similar colors, and I used pre-packaged satin blanket binding. It is quilted using wavy lines of stitching about 2" apart. The corduroy didn't slide well along my machine bed, so I ended up quilting most of it with the corduroy on the top, using my walking foot. I'm calling it Through the Reef and we'll see how it washes up. I'm hoping the corduroy will shrink up and add some crinkle.

Similarly, this piece is just the top with a flannel backing, no batting, and purple satin binding. Streak of Lightning was pieced ages ago with the scraps from our bed quilt, which is the big checkerboard one in my blog header photo. It's been languishing as a UFO for several years but now it's a finish! Woot!

Here's the backing, a cute blue giraffe flannel with a bit of green to make it big enough. The quilting on this one is kind of a FMQ sampler with 8 different motifs in the 16 rows. Without the batting thickness, the fabric moved much more smoothly/quickly under my quilting foot, which led to some distorted shapes. It's funny how my hands are so used to the drag and resistance of a regular quilt sandwich! I think all the cottons will shrink in the wash and hide any little oopsies. Again, I decided to use satin binding to give it a little extra pizzazz to make up for no batting.

I had to pull out my other sewing machine to put on the satin bindings because that requires a zig zag stitch. Once I had The Little Kenmore That Could set up, I figured I might as well use up the rest of my stash of satin binding. I had nice big pieces of this pink giraffe flannel and a coordinating cotton pique, and put them together as a whole cloth blankie. Kind of like a receiving blanket, but big enough for a toddler who really, REALLY likes pink. 

These blankies will be donated to Little Lambs as part of the Hands2Help challenge. Little Lambs provides a backpack full of hygiene and comfort items to kids who are in transition from temporary places like hospitals, emergency shelters, and foster care. These children can be any age from newborn to teens and often have no way to carry their few belongings. I got to thinking that the really little kids might struggle to fold and pack a bulky quilt into their new backpack, so I decided that these thinner blankies might be a good alternative. The flannel and corduroy are soft and fuzzy and the satin bindings feel smooth and soft against little fingers and faces. Although I prefer making quilts with batting, it was interesting to try these alternatives and I think they will still wrap three little ones in warmth and comfort.

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.