Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Homemade, cheap, warm winter boxes for outside cats

Well, it's that time of year again. When we worry about our outside animals and whether they're warm enough. We have quite a few porch cats and in years past we've set up a sort of kitty condo of stacked crates and blankets, but this year I decided to try something different for them. I heard about this cheap, simple solution from a family member and I have to say, it was as easy and cheap as promised and the cats love it. So, without further ado, here is my tutorial for making a cat igloo.
Step 1: Cut a hole in the box

First you need to get one of those small, cheap Styrofoam ice chests. I don't know what size this one is, but it says it holds 24 cans and it cost about 2 bucks. Using a sharp knife cut a hole in one of the short ends of the ice chest. Cut the smallest hole you think your cat can fit through. I would recommend starting out with a hole you think is too small because you can always enlarge it later. The smaller the hole, the less cold air will be leaking in.
Step 2: Add a door flap
Next, you can add a door flap if you want a little extra cold-security. I used a slice from the leg of some coveralls with a layer of batting in the middle.  Make it just wider than your hole and long enough to hang a few inches past it, then glue it (I used hot glue) to the bottom of the ice chest below the hole (this will be the top of the finished cat igloo, so the flap will hang down).  
Step 3: Glue on the lid and flip the box over.
Next, using hot glue or another glue (not superglue, it melts Styrofoam), attach the ice chest's lid.  Flip the whole box over and, ta-da! It's a cat igloo!  I stuffed an old cushions through the door hole to pad the bottom of the box.
Step 4: Set in a sheltered place
Now all you have to do is set out your cat igloos in a sheltered place and introduce them to the local cats. Ours weren't too sure about the whole thing until it got pretty cold; now they're in there every night!  I've checked the temperature in the box when one of our cats was inside and it was nice and warm, even when it was near freezing outside.

I've seen similar ideas for colder climates that involved encasing a Styrofoam cooler inside a large plastic tub with a lid and packing straw (for insulation) between the two boxes.  Cut a hole through both boxes to make a doorway and you're all set.

Hope this helps somebody!

PS: I am up to 58 blocks out of 72 done on the Ocean Waves quilt!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

My points match! (mostly)

Bit of a blurry picture but it shows the true colors
One of our local community theaters is doing "Quilters: The Musical" coming up this next summer. During the play the characters put together a quilt with 16 blocks, so of course we need to make a quilt for the show! We're actually making 2 quilts because we need one complete for the end of the show and one incomplete as a prop.

I got the task of making the two lonestar blocks we need, mainly because no one else wanted to volunteer for them. The quilter who is in charge of the whole project has, to say the least, a different quilting style than me. She's one of those quilters whose points all match and who never have a clashing color in their quilts. I was worried if I would be able to make my blocks up to her standards, but I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised. Still not sure if it will be good enough for her, but I'm impressed.
The view from the back.  I pressed all the seams open to reduce bulk.
In other, and much sadder, news.  The tall ship HMS Bounty was lost off the east coast this morning in Sandy.  14 crew were rescued, one has been found dead, and another is still missing.  The tall ship community is small and tight knit and I thoughts and prayers are with those sailors and their families today.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Harley Memory Quilt

Quilt Festival!
 It's that time of year again! I've admired the quilts in the Blogger's Quilt Festival before, but this is my first time to enter.  My entry this year is the Harley t-shirt memory quilt I made for my cousin out of some of her father's Harley stuff.
The finished memory quilt
 This quilt measures about 60x70 and everything in it except for the black solid sashing, the gray solid that the patches are mounted on, and the checked fabric in the back was made from clothes.
The original pile of "source material"
In the assortment of clothes my cousin sent there were quite a few T-shirts along with half a dozen patches from motorcycle rallies, a do rag, and a pair of boxers.  One of my big challenges was that I wanted to use everything I could, so that meant I couldn't use a traditional t-shirt quilt layout as the patches would be all different sizes. 
I designed the final layout using 12"x14" big blocks with a 5"x14" strip beside them which could be subdivided as I needed.  The sashing around the big blocks is 2" wide and the sashing within the blocks is 1" wide.  I sketched the layout and played with the random arrangement of the big blocks until I was happy with them.
Motorcycle boxers cut along the seams and stabilized with iron-on backing.

 The camo background on the front of the quilt all came from one camo shirt. I used patches that included the pockets, buttons, and tags to preserve the character of the clothing.
These buttons can be unbuttoned to reveal the small motorcycle print from the boxers underneath.
I quilted it simply because I didn't want it to lose its softness, and it was already quite heavy.  I stitched in the ditch around all the blocks and made double sure the patches were securely attached by sewing them down again, through all 3 layers.  Anywhere that needed additional quilting I chose a matching thread color and tried to outline elements of the t-shirt design or stitch along existing seams from the clothing.
The camo at the top is the shoulder panel from the back of the shirt, complete with pleats.
In the back of the quilt I used up all the bits I had leftover from the front with a simple arrangement and set it in a checked flannel sheet.  The flannel made the quilt extra cuddly.  I know that this is going to be a treasured keepsake, so I really wanted it to be comfortable and functional. 

The back of the quilt, using up leftovers.
At the last minute I remembered to cut the tags out of the t-shirts and attached a couple under the binding of the quilt.  I machine sewed the binding to the front and then turned it and hand sewed it to the back.
A tag from one of the  T-shirts
My quilting companion and Chief Quilt Inspector, Wilson, tested for quality control before the quilt made the long journey by mail to Mississippi.

Wilson: Quilt Inspector
Working on this quilt was a healing process for me.  I began work on it about a year and a half after my uncle had passed away and the wounds were still very much raw from his death.  Something about the physical labor and time put into the project helped me to feel like I was moving on. It was easier, I noticed as I was making it, to focus on the details than the big picture. It was easier if I let myself forget that these were clothes, and let them just be fabrics.  That is another reason that I try so hard to preserve the character of the original clothing when I make a quilt, because I want it to be clearly tied to the person who wore those clothes.  Unlike a quilt made from new, crisp fabrics, these fabrics show wear and tear.  Signs of love and life.

Focusing on the details
It was gratifying to feel like I was actually able to DO something to bring comfort to my cousin and her mother because for so long there was nothing anyone could do.  Really, a quilt is a small thing, and no matter how much comfort it bring that is only a drop in the bucket to the loss of a loved one.  He is gone, and nothing can bring him back.

My Uncle Steve
Steve killed himself on Aug. 17th 2010 and we miss him every day.  He showed no signs of depression, he was not in debt, had a good job and was very much loved.  He could be your friend or family member. 

Suicide is a real thing. It happens. We need to talk about it to spread awareness and reduce the stigma of seeking help.  There is help out there; no one is alone.  If you need help, call:  Suicide Hotline Directory.

Blogger’s Quilt Festival Stats
Finished quilt measures : 60″x 70″
Special techniques used : applique,peek-through fabrics behind buttons
Quilted by : myself
Best Category : Scrap Quilt, Throw Quilt, Home Machine Quilted
entry # 310

Read more posts about this quilt here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I sold a quilt!

I sold a quilt! This quilt, in fact.  One half of the New Wave set.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.  I feel like a "real" quilter now.

Not too long ago I revamped my Etsy shop and listed a few of my homeless quilts for sale.  Like most quilters, I give almost all of my quilts away.  Most of them are destined for a particular home before I even start on them.  The time and effort I pour into making a quilt that I hope the owner will enjoy are a dedication to that person.  Most people have never had a quilt that was made just for them and I earnestly hope that every quilt I give will be loved and enjoyed in its new home.

I had held off on trying to sell any of my "extra" quilts because I was afraid it would feel impersonal, to sell something that really ought to be a gift.  But... The piles of quilts around the house were getting out of hand and I could use some extra funds.  Besides, I hate having homeless quilts sitting around.  Quilts need to have a home and a purpose, they aren't made to it on a shelf.  So, I listed three quilt for sale and after a few weeks this one sold.

I was surprised, although maybe I shouldn't be, that I feel just as excited for this quilt to go to its new owner, a stranger, as I do when I give a quilt to a friend! I can't wait for it to arrive at its new home and for them to enjoy it.  Rather than feeling like I sold a quilt, I feel like it was adopted.  My homeless quilt has a home, where it will be loved for years to come.  Can anyone else identify with this feeling? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

37 out of 72 done...

Little by little the Ocean Waves quilt is coming together.  I am a little over half way there!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Scrappy Potential

I got a few of these large jars from the local BBQ place to stuff scraps in.
I've always wanted to make a ticker tape quilt and the time has finally come! This stuffed jar of scraps is about to become a ticker tape quilt with minky backing for a little girl.  I couldn't resist staring it today. I plan to do just a little bit every day and slowly work my way across the quilt.

I normally don't start a new project until I've finished the last one. I like to finish things and I usually don't have a lot of UFOs around.  For some reason though I'm going through a phase where I have a lot of ideas that I just can't wait to get started on.  I think I have four quilts actively in the works right now.
I am still putting together blocks on the Ocean Waves quilt. So far I have 13 blocks out of 72 done. On the bright side I love the way it looks. On the down side, 59 blocks to go...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

HST Insanity...

Pressed HSTs for a few hours last night.  Is that pile getting ANY smaller?!
 I'd been sort of toying with the idea of making an "Ocean Waves" quilt for a friend of mine.  It was a someday sort of project.  Well, when said friend announced intentions to come for a visit around Christmas that 'someday' project suddenly went to the top of my priority list! 

For reasons that I can only credit to temporary insanity I decided to make this quilt with 2" HSTs and without borders to help fill it out.  ...Oh my.  To make a decent sized twin quilt that's (72) 8" blocks or 864 HSTs or (1,152) 2" units or 2016 individual pieces in this quilt! No matter how you think about it, it's a much more labor intensive quilt than I usually tackle.

With a burst of productivity in the past couple days I got all the HSTs cut and sewn and spent about 2 hours pressing them last night.  Today I started assembling the blocks.  So far I have learned that I CAN get away without trimming all those little devils (Hallelujah!) but I CAN'T avoid pressing the seams open.  I have my little Clover mini-iron out to help with pressing all those seams open and I've already burnt my finger good to start the day off.
This is what 864 freshly pressed HSTs looks like, in case you were wondering.
This quilt is putting up a fight, but I will prevail!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Finish! "Pockets" Memory Quilt

A few days ago I finished the "Pockets" memory quilt. This is the second quilt I have made for my cousin from her father's clothes. (The first was the Harley T shirt quilt here.) This one used a single red jumpsuit, one he used to wear at work. It was full or lots of interesting pockets and seams and worn spots. I tried to preserve the character of the clothing in the finished quilt.
My cousin doesn't have any children yet, but I'm sort of assuming one day she will.  This quilt was made with her future kids in mind, so they can have a piece of their grandfather with them.  All the pockets and zippers work. I imagine HotWheels cars and Barbie dolls going for rides in these pockets.

I'm trying not to buy any new fabric this fall so I ended up using two different browns on the front. I blended them with some red stripes of varying widths.  I also pieced together several pieces for the back and added the patch from the coveralls.

Cute kid-friendly fabrics in one of my favorite color schemes bordering the red patches.  I very simply quilted in the ditch around the patches.
I like the signs of life, paint stains and worn holes, in quilts like these.  After I take this to show-and-tell at the LQS Saturday this will be in the mail to Mississippi.