Thursday, October 20, 2016

Game Day at Michie Stadium

Here in the US, October is football season, and there's no better place to see a college football game (in my mind) than Michie Stadium at the US Military Academy at West Point. So off Dave and I (along with a few friends) went for a short drive to our destination on the Hudson River last Friday afternoon.

First of all, the Autumn colors along the drive south from Syracuse are nearly full color. These few photos were snapped at a rest stop along scenic route 17.

It didn't hurt that the weather offered a picture-perfect drive day.

On Saturday, game day, if you arrive on the base early enough you can watch the festivities on "The Plain." The ceremonies for Homecoming Day start in front of the Commandant's residence about 3 hours prior to game time.

. . . Shortly after, followed the Parade of Cadets in full dress uniform.

Then it was on to the stadium. The Army Black Knights' opponents for Saturday's game was the Lafayette (PA) Leopards. Across the field from our seats, the mass of white is the Cadet's cheering section. The white of their uniform hats and shirts stand out on this clear, sunny October day. The gold helmets of the Army Black Knights football team are in the foreground.

The Black Knights were victorious with a 62-7 final score. Each time Army scored, the cheerleading squad did push-ups in the home end-zone--one for each point. It's cumulative. So at the first score, it's 7 push-ups, at the next score, it's 14 push-ups! By the end of the day, the workout totaled over 300 push-ups for the whole game. (Thank goodness the crowd wasn't required to participate in those!)

The entire day was steeped in tradition and ceremony and a lot of fun. Really an awesome experience!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A 'Forever' Pumpkin

Last Friday, Janet Lutz and I played hookie. Janet is the owner of Calico Gals, and you might also be familiar with her name if you collected Row by Row Experience™ patterns this summer.

A few weeks ago Pat Sloan posted a comment on Facebook as she drove past Corning, New York in her travels. Both Janet and I commented on Pat's post. The Corning Museum of Glass has a studio where visitors can 'make' blown glass objects like ornaments and beads. During certain times of the year, a special blown glass item is featured that you can't make any other time of year. And in October, it's pumpkin season!

With Corning only a 2-hour drive away, we decided to take a day to go play. So off we headed on a beautiful sunny fall day.

Here we are sporting safety glasses for our pumpkin-making experience.

Since it was such nice weather outside, Janet was wearing sandals, perhaps for the last time this season. She had to cover up her feet with fashionable foot coverings resembling duck feet.

Our objective was a glass pumpkin like this one.

And our first task was to select colors - we could choose up to three. . . . orange and clear glass for the pumpkin, and lime green for the stem were my choices. Janet choose spooky black on black.

Jackie, our hostess, and the one that really did most of the work, explained the process. Glass is heated in furnaces in the wall, then she grabs a gob of glass (the bright red blob) on the end of the tube. (there are official names for all these things, but I was so excited to make my pumpkin, I can't remember all the technicalities)

While the glass is still hot and pliable, we were invited to blow into the tube while Jackie rolled the pipe to keep the pumpkin nice and round. Think of a marshmallow at a campfire. If you don't turn it, it becomes a saggy mess. While I blow, Jackie shapes the pumpkin.

Once the pumpkin is formed, Jackie reaches in for some more glass, adds colored glass, then sticks it on top of the pumpkin and twists it to make the curled stem. My pumpkin waits for its stem.

And there you have it. The colors look nothing like the finished product. . . yet. The glass has to cool overnight in a hot kiln which gradually brings the glass to room temperature. Only enough time for a quick photo before the glass breaks from cooling too fast.

Next, it was Janet's turn. Notice that she's just sitting on an old wooden carton! A typical working studio! Nothing fancy. (Kinda goes with Janet's footwear)

Her turn to blow into the tube while Jackie does the real work. Fortunately, both Janet and I had enough hot air to fill out our pumpkins. Hot air is never in short supply for either of us! *Wink!*

And there's Janet's spooky black pumpkin.

And here are the finished pumpkins, delivered yesterday. Aren't they cool?


It would have been a shame to go all that way and have nothing to bring home to show for it. Not to worry, we stopped in the museum gift shop for a little shopping therapy. We did not come home empty-handed!

And we had to drive home through wine country. We *might* have stopped at a winery for a taste or two.

Happy Glass-blowing and Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mail Call!

Larry the Mail Guy (his name really is Larry), along with Fred the FedEx Guy (I don't know if Fred is really his name, but it might be!) have been delivering some sweet treats to my door.

No, not sweet as in edible, but 'sweet' as in super cool!

Just before I left for Ottawa on Saturday, I received a package from my friends at Free Spirit Fabrics. I'm going to be doing some demonstrations in The Taunton Press booth at Quilt Market (Stop by Booth 655 if you will be attending the trade show in Houston). The new book is all about the 9-patch, scrappy 9-patches, of course, and you just know there are going to be some pretty slick techniques involved, right?

Aren't these luscious?

Then, I received this sample kit from Stitchin Heaven Travel. These are the kits for our January sail to the Eastern Caribbean. If you're coming on the cruise (lucky you!) and if you order the Sail and Sew Kits, this is what will be waiting for you on board. Love, love, LOVE the cut-and-ready-to-sew fabrics in this kit! - the colors and the sweet tulips on the focus print are yummy beyond words! Order early and often because kit quantities are limited. . . .And if you haven't made your cruise reservation yet. . . well, what exactly are you waiting for??

And the best for last . . . my good friends at The Taunton Press sent me the first draft of the complete manuscript for the next book! Yay-yay-yay! Lots of number crunching and cross-checking for me in the days ahead, but it finally feels like there is really a book out there on the horizon. Don't get too excited yet (okay, you can get excited), but we're still a long way off from having a book in your hands (Spring 2017 is the target shelf date). No sneaky peeks . . . yet. Stay tuned, though because you never know when those sneaky peeks will slip out! (That's what makes them sneaky!)

Okay, enough drooling. I've got some work to do!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Finish or Two

Lately, I've been thinking about that list of projects I started back around the first of the year. I gave myself a challenge to complete 12 personal quilty projects during 2016 that have been (gently) cast aside for one reason or another. With book deadlines and projects taking priority, I really haven't been working very diligently toward my plan for the past few months. This week, my progress got a happy little boost.

A couple weeks ago, I went in search of a cross stitch book I knew I had. I didn't find the book (until I bought it - again - online), but I did find four completed, but not 'finished' cross-stitch pieces. This week, two of those four pieces reached their finish line.

The first one, a mauvy/taupey piece with a cross-stitch rose as its central design joined with a 20" pillow form I purchased by mistake - A happy accident? Fate? Just Lucky?

Anyway, I measured and remeasured the cross-stitch piece to determine what size borders I should add to turn the rectangular stitchery piece into a 20-1/2" unfinished square. (Don't you hate that first cut into something that's this far complete? No matter how many times you do the math, and center and re-center the ruler, there's a sick feeling in your gut when you slice!) I decided to piece a bunch of 1-1/2" finished X-shaped blocks to encircle the embroidery.

I needed quite a few of them, and a lot of stitching. But it was easy-going once I had a plan of action in place. The first couple blocks were truly experimental.

To keep the cross-stitch aida cloth from raveling over time, I sewed my pieced blocks to the trimmed cross-stitch with the usual 1/4" seam . . .

. . . then went back over the edge of the seam allowance with a zig zag stitch. I don't have a serger, so this step is basically a serger hack.

Added a small print fabric border to each side to get to the 20-1/2" square pillow front.

The backing is just two pieces of fabric, each a little larger than half-way across, with the raw edge fused with web on the wrong side, folded over and fused again, then topstitched.

Before sewing around the edge of the pillowcase, I used a really cool upholsterers' technique to trim the sides a bit so they pillow form fills in nicely without creating unattractive poochy-empty spots. I describe this technique in detail to make the Confetti Pillow found in ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! - Look it up!

And the pillow is all done! Love it!

Then I got to work on the little Snow Bird piece.

This one trimmed down to 3-1/2" by 6-1/2" so I decided to add a small border around the stitchery and some pieced stripey elements. First I strip-pieced 2" strips following a similar technique to the one used for the sashing on the Stained Glass quilt in ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! . . . .

. . . Then cross-cut the strip into a few pieces for top and bottom borders.

I even furled all the little seam allowances on all the itty-bitty seam intersections. I didn't do the serger hack on this one because it's a wall hanging and it'll probably never get washed or squished or mangled. So, I'm not very worried that the cross-stitch cloth will get a lot of agitated wear.

Add a little quilting, and this entire piece is only about 8" by 12" but it's so fun. And it's DONE!

I have the perfect spot for a small wall-hanging in my front entrance hallway. I guess it's time to take down the one that says "Happy Spring." This one is a bit ahead of the season, as it has a winter-y feel - believe me, I'm not trying to push the clock forward by any means, but at least I won't have to worry about it again for a while! *Wink!*

Add two more finished projects to my list and I'm two more projects closer to my goal for the year.

And that is SO empowering!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

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