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Mini vacation and hand quilting on the beach in OBX

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

You would think with 5 long summer days and 100 miles of seashore in the Outer Banks of North Carolina (more commonly known as OBX) that you would rest easy and let the days float on by. Well, then you won't be surprised to read this because that was exactly what happened as we spent our time relaxing on one of the most beautiful stretches of beaches along the east coast. As each sun drenched day drifted into the next, I found myself fortunate to spend another small vacation making fun memories with my now, older teenage daughters and a few of their good friends.

We took in some pretty cool sites as well. This photo is of a center pivot irrigation system. Can I share with you how enormous these industrial irrigation structures are. They span anywhere between 200 feet up to almost a half mile in length. I was in awe each time we passed by one of these monster sized machines perched in a field.

Making our way south, we stopped at this fantastic farm store. This family owned business had everything, fresh fruits and vegetables, jams, baked goods, boiled peanuts, all sorts of beverages, honey, sweets, and gifts. We stopped at this same farm store last year when the strawberries were in season. This year, the peaches were ready. And we couldn't resist trying the peach cider. It was delicious!

One morning I ventured off and came across another common sight, the "southern" magnolia tree. For those of you who have never seen a southern magnolia tree, the trees tower in height and the flowers are ginormous up to 12 inches wide and the leaves are thick and leathery. I took many photos because quite possibly these gorgeous flowers could end up in one of my mosaic quilts someday.

And...then there was this well known donut shop, Duck Donuts. It’s a favorite destination of many. And let me say, very few could resist trying these warm, gooey made to order donuts with some of the most unique flavors...Maple Bacon, Smores, Peanut Butter Paradise and my favorite Pina Colada. Heavenly good!

The beach, sights, and treats of OBX were pretty awesome again this trip. But with all of this peaceful downtime and visual inspiration my creative side wanted to make something. But what? I brought no quilting supplies with me which made me wonder what quilt and sewing resources did the OBX area have?

I looked up some local quilt shops. Excited to find one, I drove 20 miles to Roanoke, to what I think was probably a very nice quilt shop but it was only open for online shopping. After doing a little more research, I learned that the next nearest sewing machine dealership/quilt shop was about a 100 miles away and this time, that trip would be out of the question.

So, I played a bit on the beach. First, making this fun little beach mosaic. In general, I adore collecting beach shells (and sea glass). It definitely was a creative joy walking the beach in search of prefect broken sea shells to whip up this little vase of flowers. Very shorty after I made this, the tide swept in and reclaimed the shells.

But I still had the urge to make something else...something with fabric. Gosh, why is it that some of us love fabric so very much? As I mentioned, there were no fabric shops close by. After pondering this for a bit, I remembered that there was a yarn shop a few miles up the strip. So, I got in my car and drove there. As I pulled into the lot, I noticed a beachwear shop in the same plaza as the yarn shop. And bingo! Just like that, an idea popped into my head.

I ventured around the beachwear shop looking for a ladies sarong. This would be the largest piece of fabric that I could purchase at a beachwear shop. And guess what? I found the perfect sarong, it was dip dyed starting from a range of blue to white and it had fringe similar to this one pictured below. Best of all, it only cost me $12.99! Many times, sarongs are made of a soft, rayon material and come in a slew of brightly dyed colors and patterns.

After purchasing the sarong, I went next door to the yarn shop and bought some embroidery thread and a package of hand sewing needles. Oddly enough, I already had a pair of scissors in my car which I have kept in there ever since my kids were young. I also had brought with me for this trip some drawing paper, a pencil and my iPad just in case I needed to sketch something. The only other items I needed to still find, was some starch and an iron. And as fortune would have it, it was easy to obtain these items. The local grocery store had the starch and our air bnb had the iron. As you read this, I bet a few of you are getting a bit curious and probably wondering what is she thinking of making?

Well, let me share my very impulsive beach quilting project with you.

First, I cut the fringe off the sarong. Then, I rough cut out some random squares from the material. Next, I used a towel folded in half and placed it on the kitchen counter to protect the surface. I starched and then ironed each of my rough cut fabric squares. Rayon is a pretty slippery fabric to work with and using starch will help stabilize it. Again, I say rough cut because once I got home to my studio, I knew that I would square up these blocks.

After my fabric was stabilized, I got busy designing. Gathering my feelings of the beach and of OBX and using both as my inspiration. I grabbed my paper and pencil to rough sketch some designs. Then I used my iPad to trace my drawings. My designs were of a sand dollar and a shell and wave pattern. I loved how both of my designs came out and especially the fish in my sand dollar design. I figured, since I would be spending long hours at the beach (with no sewing machine) that I could do some hand quilting. I hadn't done any hand quilting in years but let me share with you, hand stitching is utterly relaxing and my project was small enough to bring to the beach.

Here are my two finished designs. I am thinking that throughout the remainder of the summer, as I visit some of my favorite hometown beaches on Cape Cod and in Rhode Island, I will continue making additional beach themed designs to create several more quilt blocks. I will take all of these blocks and assemble them into a small quilt depicting some of my most favorite thoughts of the warm sun, sand, shells, fish, birds, waves and water. My peaceful place, seaside.

Enjoy summertime and happy creating!


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