Thursday, January 19, 2017

Retreat Repeat

Last week, I told you about my three-day retreat with friends. I packed what I figured would be just enough projects to work on during our dedicated sewing time.

Well, it’s time to fess up and see how I did.

Class Models. First, the fabrics for my step-by-step models for the upcoming quilt cruise needed to be assembled in to step-by-step models for Scrappy Trails.

I keep my steps in a handy fabric book I created for my teaching events. Each page has a pocket for spare parts and a miniature batting 'design wall' so all the class participants can see the steps unfold into blocks.

Class Sample Project: COMPLETE!

Spare Parts. In the process of completing the class models, I brought along the original models from the very first time I taught this project. Well, there were tons of spare parts that weren’t doing anyone any good in there. I suppose you could call them orphan blocks, but the fabrics all went together. I decided to create two small projects from all the spare parts. Without any advance planning, I was only able to assemble the quilt centers, so I’ll have to go stash-diving to find some coordinates to finish these guys up before they are doomed to the shelf of UFOs (UnFinished Objects)!

Class Sample Spare Parts Projects: WORKS IN PROGRESS

Place mats. While packing for the retreat, I ‘found’ this bag of partially completed scrappy place mats. Another workshop demonstration project long forgotten and collecting dust on the shelf in my work room.

I’m happy to say that of the eight place mats in various stages of completion in the messy bag, five place mats were assembled and sewn with backing and batting envelope style. And three still need batting and backing materials from a future stash-diving excursion for completion.

Sometime early in the weekend I discovered that I had forgotten to bring my walking foot. Otherwise the five nearly-complete place mats would be done. This is not the first time my walking foot remained at home when the rest of my sewing supplies (and me) were on the road. I really do need to buy another walking foot and put it with my travel BERNINA machine!


Mystery Leftovers. Last but not least, this little box of leftovers that fit into a sandwich sized storage box was the target. Other than fiddling with an idea or two the morning before I packed up the car for the retreat, I really didn’t know much about where these scraps were headed.

The stack of white squares (who knows how many there were) was a cutting error from some unknown, long forgotten project. And the strips were leftovers from a project made with charm packs - the leftovers were about 1-1/2” wide and either 3-1/2” or 5” long. All Kaffe Fassett prints from Free Spirit Fabrics.

Lots of trimming, cutting, sewing, more trimming, and more sewing, and all thirty six 4” blocks were assembled into a nice-sized table runner. I’m not giving you much more than a sneaky peek because this little project could very well be one that I share with you in depth at a later time. (Frustrating, I know, sorry, but it’ll be worth the wait, I promise! All I can say is that it's VERY fun, and VERY pretty!) Only a short stack of the white squares and strips remain.

I left the retreat with the table runner center assembled. Then at home on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I added borders, a backing, quilting, and a binding. For all intents and purposes this project is complete.

Leftover Scrap Stack: COMPLETE

To sum things up. As far as the projects were concerned, I feel pretty good bringing each item that I brought with me to its next step. Over the next few weeks, as time allows, I hope to finish them up. But we’ll see. You know how it can be in a busy sewing room, right?

As far as the rest of the retreat. . . great food, great friends, and lots of fun. A total good time.

Thanks for joining in my journey. On to the next adventure!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Packing Planning

I’m headed out of town this weekend for some decadent quilting time with some girlfriends.

When I’m packing for a guild event or workshop, I feel like I’m the queen of packing with lots of lists of quilts and quilty items to vend. I pack the stuff up in containers and bins, and Dave juggles the bins into the back of the car for the trip.

Packing for a social sewing retreat is an altogether different thing. With only three days to sew, and two other quilty women riding along, space should be considered as well as many other essential needs. See if you agree with my packing plans . . .

First, projects to bring. I absolutely have to finish (start AND finish, *a-hem!*) my step outs for the cruise project. My cruise with Stitchin Heaven launches at the end of the month, and I suspect the cruise participants will be eager to learn a few assembly tips. These are the luscious fabrics for the kit. The project is Scrappy Trails.

Once I finish up the step-out samples, I’ll suspect I’ll have some extra time for more projects. This plastic bag contains a mishmash of in-process placemats. This is perfect sewing retreat fodder! It looks like a mess, but it is in fact more organized than you might think. I would sure love to put these on the ta-done list!

And I need an in-between project. You know, that ‘other’ secondary project—the alternate project sewn one seam at a time as the main project is under construction. That stack of white squares was a ‘mistake’ (you’d think I’d figure out it was a mistake before I cut so many!) and the other stuff are leftovers from some pre-cut charm squares. Lots of great color. I think this combo will make a nice something . . . Not sure what exactly, but the fabric will tell me when it needs to. . . .

Can’t go on a retreat without my favorite rulers and cutting tools!

And a little diversion from the quilting, if we can tear ourselves away for a little light-hearted non-sewing break. My niece introduced me to this fun, artsy game on a Chicago visit.

Gotta have some snacks! Kettle corn made by my brother-in-law and Samurai Mix hoarded from my last trip to the Phoenician in Houston.

Oop! Better not forget the sewing machine!

That should do it. For the sewing part, that is. I should probably pack some clothes, a toothbrush, and some PJs.

Tell me, when you go on a sewing retreat, do you plan ahead, or do you grab and run? I kinda feel like I get more done if I do a little planning, then let the chips fall where they may. The real question will be what comes back from the retreat! Even if I spend the whole time socializing and not a stitch sewn, it will be time well spent, don't you think?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Next . . . .!

Last year I decided to take a slightly different spin on New Years Resolutions, and instead of setting an unrealistic expectation (complete all unfinished projects this year) I decided to focus on a more reasonable goal. One personal project per month—12 for the year.

I started with a target list that included:

 - Complete the hand quilting on a Patriotic quilt
 - Complete a wall-hanging incorporating cross stitching panels and facing instead of binding
 - two sets of curtains
 - a couple more quilt tops to be sandwiched and hand quilted

But I left a good portion of that original list incomplete. It was important that my target list be flexible, open to make adjustments, to drop or add projects, or to start something new or work on something from the stack of started project.

The key to success would be to focus on one project at a time until it was done, or until it was time to put it down (for whatever reason - and ANY reason was okay, including being bored with the project). Working on one project one evening, then another the next evening and yet another on the next evening, meant everything was moving forward, but nothing was moving forward with any kind of focused energy. Seeing progress is important to keep me motivated.

It was important that the process be joyful and fun. It’s awfully hard to get motivated to work on something that has become tired in one way or another. And for me, it doesn't work if what I'm working on is based on a lottery or an obligation.

The projects in my target list were only the personal sewing stuff, not work-related quilts or quilted projects.

And so, the results are in:

In 2016 I finished 11 personal projects included two hand-quilted quilts, scads of mug mats (many of these featured panel fabrics I’ve had in my stash for years - it REALLY felt good to move those out), a set of curtains, two table toppers, a pillow, and a couple of wall-hanging quilts.

Some items I pulled out of my stack of unfinished items and finished them, some items I started cold turkey, and finished them. Many were gifts made for someone else. But to make the completion list, they had to be finished, labeled, bound, ready to use.

This small lap quilt made from leftover 4-patches and a fresh and fun birdy print just barely made the deadline as it was finished on December 31, . . .

. . . hand quilted, . . .

. . . bound and labeled (with an embroidery pattern from Urban Threads).

I missed my mark by one. And I’m good with it.

For 2017, I’m upping my goal to 14 for the year. I’ve targeted six projects so far, and have even made some good progress on one of them! (and it's only the 5th of January!)

And this project, Snow Days by Crabapple Hill might be the most ambitious project on my 2017 target list. I started this years ago. I'll be happy if I can report some progress, not necessarily completion, on it this year.

How about you? Do you have a quilty project plan for 2017?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Down to the Wire

I do about 30 holiday cards for family and friends each year. Ever since I’ve been a quilter, I’ve made a point to make a small quilty ornament to insert in my annual holiday greeting cards.

Some years, the ornament idea pops right into my head - an ornament pattern I’ve found, or something I’ve made up. This year, nothing struck me. No lightning bolts. Nada.

Until . . . rather than make an ornament to insert with the card, I made the quilty object the card itself.

At first I thought about making and sending a holiday postcard, but the post office recommended against it. Too dirty, postage staying put was problematic, etc. I realize that quilty post cards are mailed all over the place all the time, but with the holiday mail volume, I thought it would be a good idea to take their advice.

Of course, all this discussion started after Thanksgiving. A ticking clock seemed to be a constant at my back side.

A trip to the stationery store, some windowed floppy disk storage envelopes, some holiday fabric scraps, several packs of Mug Mat Batting Packs, a couple of fun rulers to play with and this idea started to click. I still have a few more to complete — only a few short mailing days left to stitch, stamp, and send, and this year’s greeting will be history.

I really need to start thinking about this a bit earlier in the year, don’t you think?

At any rate, whether or not you are on my holiday greeting card list, I want you to know that you inspire me every day with your nice comments, notes, and messages throughout the year.

Thanks you so very much for following along. Many happy wishes for a wonderful, peaceful holiday season.

My holiday wish for you: whether you’re quietly relaxing with a small gathering  of friends and family, or if you’ve got lots of visitors, make some selfish time for needle, thread, and fabric during this special season of miracles.

Happy Christmas! Merry Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, December 15, 2016

An Elf-like Opportunity

Several folks have noticed the Grip Grass Ruler Stand announcement at the top of the sidebar in my weekly newsletter message for the last couple weeks. Since I think this little guy makes a really great stocking stuffer for the quilters on your holiday list (or maybe a little bit of a personal holiday indulgence as a reward for surviving a busy holiday season), I didn’t want you to miss it!

You know how your favorite, go-to rulers can easily get buried in the stack of fabrics on your cutting table? This handy, lightweight stand solves that problem!

Pick from a dozen fun colors and place it on the corner of your cutting mat in your studio. Put your most-used rulers in the stand, and no more searching! Personally, I have a couple at my work table and in my quilty travel bag for quilty getaways and retreats. The other ladies think I’ve flipped my wig (and I have all my own hair) until they see how easy it is to keep track of my rulers and marking pens at the retreat.

With the clock ticking away, I didn’t want you to miss out on something fun. Order soon (or suggest it to Santa) to receive it in time for the Christmas holiday.

Happy Stitching! And Elfing! 


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Rhymes with 'Bone'

On Saturday, I had a list of things to do about a mile long. With holiday season approaching, it seems like the to-do list is relentless no matter how hard you try to stay on top of things, don’t you agree?

So I set out to my first stop—the local Target store—to make a return.

I chose to do this on a Saturday in December.

Was this a wise move? Would there be crowds or long lines during this busy time of year? Could I encounter cranky customers or customer service reps while waiting to make my return?

I threw caution to the wind and accepted whatever fate might come my way.

And I was pleasantly surprised. A short line at the customer service desk. All the appropriate paperwork was presented and processed and the return was done, quick as a wink.

Success! Time for a reward. This Target store has a specialty coffee shop just inside the entrance, so I treated myself to a hot beverage and a moment or two to collect my thoughts for the rest of my chores.

I placed my order, waited for my drink which was delivered with a smile, and found a quiet table in the corner of the cafe to reflect on the exceptional start to my day  . . .  

Then I laughed out loud. The name on the cup: Jone. Let’s face it, Joan isn’t all that common a name. And the barista must be taking one drink order after another in this busy location. . .

Flawed coffee cup in hand and a good chuckle, I now felt I could carry on.

Happy Stitching!
Joan (as opposed to Jone!)

PS: Is Santa Claus stuck for ideas for a quilty present for you? How about a fabulous trip to the Caribbean? I’m headed out to sea on a quilt cruise in January 2017 with Stitchin Heaven, and it’s not too soon to plan ahead to March 2018 with Quilt Retreat at Sea. Two fantastic quilty tropical voyages that would make a fabulous holiday surprise just for you under the tree!! 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Early Bird for The Splendid Sampler

A little over a year ago, I got an email from my friend Pat Sloan. The gist of the note: Both she and another quilty friend Jane Davidson were creating a year-long sew along and would I like to join by creating a block to share?

The concept sounded outrageously fun. Each of the 80 or so designers was asked tell a story in the space of a 6” square quilt block—the story of how sewing brings happiness to our lives—in 100 personalized tales, one per block designed. I couldn’t say ‘no.’ I’ve always felt that quilting, really isn’t about the quilt as much as it is about a community of quilters and our shared experiences.

So this is my story:
I’m a bird girl. I love birds! I also love the change in the seasons. Even so, I’m usually happy to see the cold, long winter end, naturally leading to splendid springtime. When I see the first robin, my heart sings! It means winter is over, days are getting longer, and warmer weather is within reach. Soon, I can stitch outside under a shady tree once again; my favorite, favorite quilty thing to do!
And so my block is a pieced interpretation of an American Robin, or in Latin Turdus migratorious. The quintessential symbol of the end of winter and the change in seasons - at least here in North America.

Right about now, you may be looking at the pattern (you can download it here) and the long list of tiny pieces to cut, and you might be thinking this person (me) is off her ever-loving bird-brained rocker!

I’m okay, really!

Yes, this block has a lot of pieces, and some of them are really small, and weird sizes that involve accurate cutting along 1/8" ruler markings.

However, the block is almost entirely made from stitch-and-flip units. Easy, like making a snowball block—drawing 45-degree lines on the back of one fabric (usually a square, but not always). . .  placing fabrics right sides together so corners align,. . . sewing on the line, . . .

. . . trimming excess fabric to reduce bulk,. . . 

. . . . and pressing in one direction or the other.

As you cut the long list of pieces, notice that this block is constructed in units. Make a little ‘kit’ from the fabrics required for each of the seven units, plus the final background pieces and arrange the little kit-stacks in place on your work table following the unit diagram on page 1 of the pattern.

Build each unit one at a time, paying close attention to the fabric alignment instructions, the direction of the drawn line seams, and the pressing suggestions. Sew deliberately and as accurately as possible. Be extra careful with unit 7 as the narrow legs don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for fabric placed or sewn out of alignment. . . .

. . . Then replace each unit back into the block arrangement. 

Then sew the units into rows. And sew the rows together. 

Well, we all know that every early bird is searching for the worm, but he (or she) also needs to find a mate! Just for you, I’ve recreated a separate pattern for ‘The Early Bird’ in reverse - like having two blocks in one! Would you like your own copy of 'The Reversed Robin,' as well as a bonus within a bonus for this two-block wall hanging quilt? 

Fill in the form below with your name and email address, click on the green button below it, and then wait a few minutes, and watch your email inbox for 'The Reversed Robin' and bonus wall-hanging pattern. If you aren’t already on the Good Migrations newsletter list, this will also get you all set up to receive my weekly communications as well. They're fun, they're quilty, and they're free!


By the way, my label, courtesy of an embroidery pattern from Urban Threads, shows the natural progression that occurs when nature brings two birdies together. . . .

Many, many thanks to Pat and Jane for including me and my early birdie block on this most splendid journey. Thanks also to you for following along and for all of your encouraging words along the way.

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford