Thursday, September 22, 2016

And the Winner Is. . .

All summer long, if you've been following along here, you've probably seen the reminders for those who have been swapping Ribbon Star Blocks. Well, this group has been having an awful lot of fun this summer, and I've got the pictures to prove it!

Starting way back at the beginning of the summer, Ribbon Star Block Swappers were given a miniature beach ball and they were instructed to go out and have fun, and swap blocks! At the end of the summer, the picture, which included the ball, representing the most fun would win big. Here are the particulars of the contest.

With summer's end, it's time to name our winners! First, I have to say that it was very, very difficult coming up with a winner, and thankfully, I had a few extra prizes contributed by my very generous quilt/pattern designer friends to spread the love to three additional runners up. Let me tell you, this is one traveling bunch of quilters - from Cooperstown, to Key West Florida, to British Columbia. Wow! Many, many, many thanks to everyone who participated. I wish I had prizes for everyone, but a contest is a contest after all.

First the Runners Up.

Brandy Michelbrink took this photo entering Goldstream National Park on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. She says the trees were as wide as her truck! I love the way the reflection of the ball makes it look like there are two, one just a few steps ahead of the other. Brandy, you'll have some sewing to do with the goodies that are headed your way!

Sharon Reynolds was quite the traveler this summer. Out west she (and her beach ball) managed to visit Quiltique in Las Vegas to visit one of the Row by Row patterns I created, played the slot machines, and took in some awesome scenery. But in the end who doesn't like a great love story? Beach ball meets snow ball and falls in love. . . Awww!

Jana Pratt's clever tag line says it all: "'Wow! These palm nuts get bigger every year'", says the tiny anole living on the aloe under the palm tree." If you look very closely at the lower right corner of the photo you see the 'tiny anole' with what sure looks to me like a puzzled look on its little 'face.' It made me laugh out loud!

And last but not least. . . drum roll, please . . . The grand prize Having a Ball contest winner is . . . Monica Richardson, Under the Sea in Bermuda! By nature, a beach ball likes to float, and I'm pretty amazed that this one came face-to-face with some pretty awesome deep sea critters--is that a blue-striped grunt checking out this strange round red-and-white air bubble? Monica, it sure looks like you're having a ball, and I think you're going to have plenty to keep your fingers busy with all the goodies coming your way!

Here's a picture of the Grand Prize booty!

A million thanks to everyone for following and playing or swapping along. And a HUGE thank you to the prize sponsors! Without them the contest wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. They are (in no particular order)

    •    Aiming for Accuracy Pattern Co., Michele Foster, patterns
    •    Debbie Brown Quilts, Debbie Brown, FabuLux Thread by Wonderfil
    •    Heidi Boyd, Stitchery kits
    •    Gina Martin, Fabric and patterns
    •    Pat Sloan, Aurifil Thread collection
    •    Perkins Dry Goods, Celine Perkins, patterns, and notions.
    •    Eva Paige Quilt Designs, Beth Helfter, pattern and fabric kit
    •    Hummingbird Highway (that would be me!)

You wanna join the fun? You can swap ribbon star blocks too. Click here for the details.

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Cool Corner Technique

The Splendid Sampler Block number 62 designed by Heidi Kaisand released today looks simple enough. It's a great block! But on closer inspection, the block--particularly the corner elements--constructed traditionally--involves sewing along lots of stretchy bias fabric edges. Sewing along bias edges can be tricky. If you aren't careful, the natural stretchy-ness of the fabric could lead to a fair bit of frustration.

Since this is a classic block, that you'll likely see again on your quilty journey, I'm sharing a detailed step by step on how I managed those corner units with great results. With some pretty standards tools.

I won't share all the pattern particulars (you can download the pattern here, only the elements I changed for my block construction. For starters, I upped the size for fabrics C, D, and E. 3-1/2" square for C and 2-1/4" squares for D and E. I cut the C squares in half diagonally as directed, and cut only four of the six D squares in half diagonally, leaving the remaining two D and two E squares uncut. On the two D (or background) squares, I drew a diagonal line corner to corner.

Then I made half-square triangle (HST) units with the background and Fabric E squares. You know the drill - place the squares right sides together - sew two seams 1/4" from both sides of the line, cut apart on the line and press (toward Fabric E). I used my 3-1/2" Blocloc tool to trim the resulting HST units to 1-3/4" square. While I LOVE my Blocloc HST trim tool, a regular square ruler will also allow for an easy trim when lining up the bias seam with the bias line on the ruler.

Next, I sewed one background HST (one of the four D squares that were cut in half diagonally earlier) to the side of each HST as shown. Press toward the triangle and trim the point.

Then use a straight ruler that has a bias (45˚) line and a really clear 1/4" marking - the pointer AND the red arrow are pointing to the 1/4" marking on the ruler (my favorite tool for this job is the 4-1/2" by 8-1/2" Creative Grids ruler because the gripper texture on the bottom of the ruler holds that bias edge steady as you cut). Trim that tiny bit of extra fabric to the right of the ruler edge. It's not a lot, but that little trim will make all the difference for this block!

Place the larger (Fabric C) HST underneath the freshly trimmed unit, centered, right sides together, with the bias edges aligned. Notice that the outer edges of the triangles don't align. And that's what we want! Secure with pins to keep the 'stretchy-action' to a minimum and sew a scant 1/4" seam along the bias edge carefully with the pieced unit facing up. Watch as your scant quarter inch stitching travels right over the seam intersection (the one in the brown fabric) or ever so slightly to the right of it, and your point will be guaranteed!

Press the seam toward the larger triangle, and trim the HST unit to 3", centering the seam intersection smack in the middle of the unit (1-1/2" from each edge) - again my favorite HST trimming tool for this job is the Blocloc, but a square ruler with a prominent bias line will do nicely, too.

Note that if all your seams were sewn properly, you'll only have a tiny bit of fabric to trim away. Look how perfect that unit is!

The rest of the block is easy - basic 9-patch construction.

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, September 8, 2016

An Idea and A Search

About a week ago, I got a quilty idea that spurred a search to unearth an old cross stitch book. Mind you, this isn't a book that I've used or even seen in years. In fact, the book - a collection of nature-oriented cross stitch patterns - would have had to move households at least four times with me over a period of 20+ years.

We all have places where we store that kind of thing - stuff you used a long time ago, liked, and kept, even though you know deep down that you may not really use that thing again. Sometimes its a basement cubby, and in my case a spare bedroom shelf.

Well, I went a-searching, and I found something--not the book I was looking for, but a couple of the by-products of that book, as well as a few other treasures.

For starters, these two pieces. Stitching completed, yet unfinished. What a shame to have done this much work, then stopped.

Look at the detail! Right down to the glimmer in each tiny little birdie eye. The whole design is about 2-1/2 x 6" on 18 count (per inch) aida cloth.

And there's more.

Right there with the two cross stitch pieces two more complete pieces, literally tossed in the corner. This one . . .

 . . . and this one . . . This one is more of a bargello than cross stitch. But still really nice, looking pathetically incomplete.

Okay. Sometimes your next challenge finds you, rather than the other way around. I gotta make something out of these guys. Just gotta.

Oh, and by the way. I didn't find the book. At least not in my household search. I did find a used copy on amazon and bought it for $9. It's in pristine condition. Notice that the original price, from publication back in the early 80s was $6. Shaking my head!

Maybe once I finish those stitcheries, I can get back to that original idea I had . . . what was that again?


Now, it's your turn--What hidden treasures are lurking in the dusty corners of your house, forgotten? Maybe it's time to go on a scavenger hunt. To be honest, I can't wait to make these four items into something fabulous . . . I'll keep you posted!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, September 1, 2016

That Box . . .

Earlier this year I showed you a picture of a box.

Well, I finally opened the box. And guess what was inside. . . Another box!

. . . Containing my Silhouette cutting machine. This thing can perform magic . . . . or so I've heard. Now I have to get up the gumption to open this box!

I simply haven't had time to take that next step to experience it myself. I should say that I haven't MADE the time to experience it myself.

To give me that little push that I needed to open the box and learn how to make this Cameo Silhouette Cutter hum in my quilty world, I enrolled in the All Things Silhouette Class with Shelly Stokes. She has become an expert on the topic, and you should see the stuff she's done with it! This is Shelly.

Then I got super busy with writing my next book (due out in Spring!). Book deadlines came first, and now that that's on to the next phase and not requiring so much of my attention any more, I'm anxious to get on with it with the Silhouette.

So I begged and pleaded, and Shelly took pity on me to move me over from the class I signed up for in May, so I can actually DO the class starting in just a couple weeks. I think I need a partner in crime to make sure I stay on track. Are you game?

Do you have a Silhouette machine still in the box? Or maybe you have one and have tried it out, but think there might just be more to this super-duper piece of technology for your sewing hobby. Or you've been thinking about making a purchase and this just might be the push you need to treat yourself to a really cool quilty tool? Why not join me?

Class starts on September 19.

I can't wait to get started. You?

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Straight Plate

This week, I've been catching up on a bunch of piecing with more than a few triangles involved. And I have a simple reminder to tell you about.

Sometimes you can't avoid inserting pieces point first. And that means every once in a while the sewing machine can get hungry, munching the first few threads of the fabric right into the needle plate.

This happened to me a couple times this week. Then I realized that I had the solution right in my sewing machine toolkit. . . . A straight stitch needle plate!

The straight stitch needle plate is on the left (above). The regular needle plate is on the right--notice the small circular hole instead of the longer horizontal slot to accommodate the needle. The straight-stitch plate virtually eliminates that pointy-point of the pieced fabric from getting 'sucked' into the the sewing machine bed.

It's also my go-to fix-it when I have some minor tension issues during machine quilting.

That one little equipment adjustment to your sewing machine can really save your sanity.

Not every sewing machine comes with a straight stitch needle plate, so you may have to head out to your dealer to purchase one. It'll be worth the trip!

Now, I just have to remember to change the needle plate back if I decide to do any decorative stitches. Otherwise, I'll be the proud owner of a broken needle!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Oh, Shoot!

Since I'm still in traveling mode as I write this note, I'll be quick and dirty with this week's update.

Last weekend started out with a trip to Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks for a Syracuse University Alumni event. Our speaker for the conference is the director of the Sport Management program at the Falk College at SU. I completely expected to be bored to tears with sports as the main topic of the event. This was absolutely not the case!

The $500 billion sports industry encompasses more than just the major league baseball and professional football events we see on TV. Many times throughout the discussions, I found myself thinking about how I might apply the topics to my own tiny little quilty business!

And of course, experiencing the venue, a Syracuse University-owned-and-operated Great Camp turned conference center, is a treat all by itself. Even the cookie dessert tray followed the Adirondack theme (see the moose cookies?).

It's not all work and no play during the weekend, Dave and I headed to the Adirondack Museum for Saturday afternoon free time. It was a dog day (see the furry guy in the doorway?)

The view of Blue Mountain Lake from the museum is breathtaking. Having an absolutely stunning day for the outing didn't hurt, either.

Following the weekend activities, I headed to Newtown, Connecticut, headquarters to The Taunton Press. On the schedule was the last big photo shoot for the third book in the ScrapTherapy series, due out in Spring 2017.

We had a loaded schedule of several dozen 'process shots' to take for the how-to sections of the book.

Since this isn't my 'first rodeo' I knew what to expect, and we got right down to work using the samples I made in advance. A very detailed list of photographs to shoot is prepared from the edited text. A first-timer might expect a glamorous photography studio as the back-drop for the photo shoot. The reality: not so much.

Nearly all of the photo-shoot took place on this paper-covered desktop within a bare-bones room! (I'm supposed to be paying attention here, but once the shot is set up, there isn't much for me to do (except sit still!) while the camera transfers the photo to a larger computer screen so the clarity, color, and brightness can be adjusted - so you got a Cheshire cat smile!)

Throughout the process, there were four of us present, each having a different role. Scott, the photographer. Carolyn, my fabulous editor who made sure we got all the pictures we needed to accompany the text. Rosalind, who made sure the pictures told the story that is intended. And moi.

Lights . . . camera . . . more lights. . . computer. . . SEW( . . . and smile!)!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Meet, Greet, and Eat

Last week seemed like such a whirlwind! To start things off, my friend Shelly received a big fat ribbon at her quilt at AQS Quilt Week in Syracuse. On Thursday evening, with the show just over for the day, several Splendid Sampler designers and a whole lot of Splendid Sampler "Splenderettes" headed to Calico Gals for a meet up just about half-way through the Splendid Sampler block introductions.

Pat Sloan, who had planned to be in town for the AQS show, had a last minute family emergency and had to cancel. No worries. Flat Pat came to the rescue to stand in. In fact, Flat Pat paired up with Calico Gals owner, Janet Lutz to greet the Splenderettes as they arrived at the Meet up!

Annie brought her super-organized completed block notebook as well as a big smile to the shop to show and tell. Wow! (By the way, Annie, thank you for the amazing gift!. . . and Barb, too! So sweet of you!)

Bonny (in the green) and Sally (in the blue) were stylin' for the AQS Show, for Row by Row and for the Splendid Sampler Meet-Up. Very fun, ladies!

Patricia gathered designer autographs for her quilt. But Pat Sloan was not there to sign! No worries, Flat Pat stepped right up to the plate and performed her duties!

Splendid Sampler Designers in attendance, Debby Brown (Splendid Quilter Extraordinaire), Victoria Findlay Wolfe (Block 72), me, Joan Ford (Block 84), Michele Foster (Block 24 Inspector Sidekick), Flat Pat, and Jacquelynne Steves (Block #76)

So many blocks and their makers were on display . . . and you could count on Flat Pat for a photo bomb!

All these Splenderettes make a girl hungry. Several of the designers headed to Syracuse's famous Dinosaur Bar-b-que. Flat Pat came too, but didn't eat much . . .

But Flat Pat being the gregarious type that she is, fit right in at the Dinosaur hostess hut!

Back at the show, I took the opportunity to take a close look at more of the winning quilts. This amazing Best in Show winner was spectacular!

Dave and I wrapped up the weekend with a trip to the Downtown Syracuse Arts and Crafts Festival. These Melon Bowls from Vegetabowls just had to come home with me! Aren't they cute?

It seems craft shows make you hungry, too! World Famous Funk N Waffles in Armory Square came to the rescue after a wander around the craft fest. Yum!

With all that excitement last week, what could possibly top it? Well, I'm off to Newtown, Connecticut and the Taunton Press to do the final photo shoot before the next book goes to the layout process. But first a quick weekend in the Adirondacks to slow down!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford