Thursday, February 14, 2019

Stitchin' Workin' Creatin'

I've been a busy bee this week. It has been cold outside, so the motivation to find an indoor sport has been pretty strong. Stitching has made it to the top of that short list!

Just before heading out for the quilt cruise a couple weeks ago, I spent the day with some friends in Florida; we made a stop at the Cross Stitch Cupboard in Fort Lauderdale.

A really cute little store! I picked up this Elephant Biscornu pattern by Jody Rice of Satsuma Street and floss while at the shop. I started stitching the biscornu panels on board the ship during some quiet time between classes or as I settled in for the evening. I finished the side stitching to put it all together a couple days ago. Cute, huh?

I'm also working on this cross stitch pattern series by Erica Michaels. Each small panel (about 4" square) features a letter of the alphabet. As you can see, I have 25 letters left. Rather than make this completely stitchy, I'm attempting to cross over with a quilty-stitchy project when all is said and done.

But, as I say, there are quite a few letters between today and done. Tally ho!

I used the same border technique on the little Valentine-y wall hanging that I showed you last week and that now hangs in my front entry way for February. The center stitching was inspired by this book (affiliate). The rose wreath is one tiny section of a larger floral pattern in the book.

And in the sewing room, I'm doing Facebook Live videos roughly once a week with FLOCK sewing tips for members of The FLOCK Quilters group - you have to be a member of The FLOCK or The FLOCK Lite to be in the group.

This small ad hoc wall-hanging project features the September bird kit - the European Robin - and a  Pine Cone machine applique pattern (a past FLOCK bonus pattern/kit). It was this week's featured project.

Individual FLOCK block kits are now available to purchase HERE. Much better deal if you join The FLOCK and get access to member pricing on current and past block kits and lots of extras. You can learn more about joining The FLOCK HERE.

Back in the office - it's not all fun and stitches around here - I'm fighting hard to reacquaint myself with the surface of my desk. But that means first working on some accounting (it's tax season, after all) and some new creative projects including upcoming bird blocks and quilt cruise patterns.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

That's my week in a nutshell! What about you? Are you tangled happily in threads this week?

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Stitchin' of the Sea

As you may be aware, I was out of town last week. I joined the Stitchin Heaven Travel crew to teach on a quilt cruise to the Western Caribbean. It was incredibly fortuitous timing to be floating around in the Caribbean when the temperatures reached record lows back home. Sometimes this job can be pretty darn excellent!

Once on board the Royal Caribbean ship, Harmony of the Seas, it seemed like hints of quilts were everywhere.

Is it me, or is that the beginning of a double wedding ring quilt in the hallway carpet pattern?

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I opted to stay in my room and have mine delivered. Fresh fruit pastries anyone?

Quite the morning view as we arrive in our first port - Labadee, Haiti.

Labadee is purely a beach stop. Local Haitians have some small pop-up crafty shops on the island, but the best bet is to pull up a lounge chair in the sun or the shade, enjoy a barbeque lunch, and relax. . . .

The view from my lounge chair! Sweet!

Back on the ship, I elected to have some fresh pasta from the pasta bar in one of the ship's dining facilities. Steaming, delicious pasta with an ocean view. Can't beat that. . . .

And it's very important to stay well hydrated when you are away from home!

Tons of excursions offer the sights, sounds, and tastes of each country we visit. If you opt out of the excursions or have a little extra time before getting back on board, exquisite and unique shopping opportunities are available, too! Falmouth, Jamaica, and Cozumel, Mexico shops offered color, tradition, and a little something for Super Bowl fans as the big game approached.


The whole point of a quilt cruise is that we actually do some QUILTING! The conference room is all ours for the duration of the cruise. I stepped in as a replacement for a teacher who had a scheduling conflict. And you know that I took the opportunity to turn a matchy-matchy quilt pattern into something scrappy-scrappy! A special Welcome to the folks from the cruise who are now reading this edition of Good Migrations!

Back in my cabin, my cabin mate settled in with a bit of TV while I was off teaching quilt classes.

(Hey! Those look a lot like MY sunglasses!).

After teaching class, and in between port stops, I took advantage of some stitching opportunities. This little Valentine's cross stitch piece (only about 8" square with borders) is something different I'm trying - to incorporate two of my stitchy loves - charted stitching (cross stitch, in this case) and quilting.

All too soon, the sun sets on our travels and we're headed back to port and back home to the deep chill.

Just a reminder, I've got another cruise on the calendar with Quilt Retreat at Sea! I'm headed to Hawaii  in April 2020, and I'm creating a brand new quilt project just for the trip. Space is limited and it's filling up.

Do you want these to be your quilty vacation photos next year? Sign up (call 210-858-6399 or click here) and join me at the port in Seattle! We'll head out to Hawaii from there and have a marvelous time! I promise!

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Treats for You

If you've been following along for a while, you know that about one year ago, I released The FLOCK, a new, innovative bird block kit series featuring pieced block made from precision laser cut shapes. After many requests to produce a 'lighter' version of the series, The FLOCK Lite was introduced this month.
Since I've had a few questions about the two, I thought I'd take a little moment to make some comparisons.

PLUS keep reading because there's a tasty treat to be found at the end!

The FLOCK vs. The FLOCK Lite


The FLOCK has always been and continues to be the BEST way to receive the newest bird block patterns, and pre-cut fabric and kits within this innovative program.

Here's what you get when you enroll in The FLOCK:
  • A new, original bird block design each month.
  • 100% of the fabrics needed to make the block are included, curated to match the bird species being depicted
  • Kits are delivered to your home each month.
  • All fabric shapes (many of them are odd shapes that are not easy to cut using standard rotary-cutting methods) are precision pre-cut and ready to be pieced (not paper-pieced). Applique pieces are pre-cut and pre-sewn.
  • Open the package and sew!
  • Detailed pattern instructions and full-color step-by-step illustrations
  • A practice unit to sew each month
  • PDF version of the full-sized templates is delivered to your email about two weeks after the block kits are shipped.
  • No defined start or end date. No one is behind regardless of when you start
  • Access to members-only tips and member pricing on previously released block kits.
  • Entrance to an online facebook group to discuss and share questions and progress.


The FLOCK Lite

The FLOCK Lite is, simply and redundantly put, a lighter version of The FLOCK, with blocks that are released in PDF format one year after their original release in The FLOCK.

What you get when you enroll in The FLOCK Lite:

  • PDF format Pattern and full-sized Template set for the block released as a kit one year prior. Sent to your email shortly after your purchase, then upon renewal each month.
  • Tips for cutting the templates using freezer paper
  • No pre-cut fabrics
  • No practice unit, although Practice Unit instructions are included.
  • No defined start or end date. No one is behind regardless of when you start
  • Access to members-only tips and member pricing on previously released PDF version block patterns and templates (each available one year after their original block release date).
  • Entrance to an online facebook group to discuss and share questions and progress.

CLICK HERE to join The FLOCK Lite.


Tropical Fruit Cake

Now, for the sweetest deal!

Since I'm headed to Fort Lauderdale this weekend where I'll board a cruise ship as a quilt teacher with Stitchin Heaven Travel, I've got a little bit of the tropics on my mind, even as snow and cold are in the forecast in my backyard (and front yard, too, for that matter!)

This recipe for Tropical Fruit Cake is so stinking easy, and so stinking delicious, I thought I'd run in past you, just in case you want to sail away with me, if only in your dessert selection paired with a quiet dinner at home!

There are only four ingredients:

  • 1 package of yellow cake mix, the moist, pudding kind is best
  • 17-ounce-ish can of fruit cocktail
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13x9x2" pan.

In a mixing bowl, blend the cake mix, the fruit cocktail, and eggs until moistened. Then beat for 2 minutes at the highest speed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. The fruit cocktail will be chopped up and blended into the mix.

Sprinkle coconut over the batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean.

Cool completely, and drift away to the Caribbean with every bite! Enjoy!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Finish the 'Finish'

As I mentioned last week, I've been trying to make the time to finish up a table runner inspired by the Journey to Paducah pattern on the AQS blog.

And this week, it's done. Since binding is one of those 'quilting essentials' and since we have some new quilters following along, thought I might provide the run-through my binding steps.

The first few quilt binding steps can be found here if you missed the message last week.

Once the binding is made. I start on one side of the quilt (or table runner, in this case). Top of the quilt facing up, raw edges of binding and trimmed quilt top aligned.

I secure the layers with lots of sturdy pins, about one pin every 2-3".

I start sewing (1/4" from the edge) at about the halfway point on the side of the quilt leaving about 12" of binding unsewn at the front end, so I can connect it at the back end. Assuming my corners are the standard 90 degree angles, I make a 45 degree turn about 1/4" from the end of the trimmed quilt and sew off the corner. This keeps the corners crisp over the quilt's lifetime of use and washings.

Before I start sewing again. I fold the binding to the right at a 45 degree angle, then I fold the binding on top of itself at a 90 degree angle (from the raw edge) then pin the binding to the quilt to repeat the process for the next side. At the corner, I start sewing the 1/4" binding seam right at the edge over the folds I just created.

I repeat the miter, pinning, and sewing, until I'm almost back to the beginning. I stop sewing about 12-15" away from my starting point. If I did a good job estimating how long my binding should be (last week) then I should have a long tail for the continuous binding connection.

Continuous Seam

There are lots of variations on these next few steps. This is how I create the continuous binding seam. First I place the two binding ends so they meet, and fold the binding ends back so the folds just touch, or 'kiss.'

Then I measure half of the binding strip width away from the fold and make a makr. In my case, I cut my binding strips 2-1/4" wide (in last week's article), so I measure 1-1/8" away from the fold.

I make two marks, one on each side of the fold.

Next, to create a little slack so I can maneuver things a bit easier, I accordion fold the quilt - just the space between the start and end of the binding seams  - and pin it with a sturdy pin. I then open and place the left binding end onto the work table, so I can see the mark (red arrow, top photo), and then open the right end of the binding, open the fold and re-fold, wrong sides together so the marking is directly on the fold (bottom photo) and align the markings and edges as shown (dashed lines, bottom photo). . . .

Then I open the fold, and make a diagonal mark that runs basically parallel to the quilt edge. . . secure the binding layers with pins. . .

. . .  sew on the line and trim 1/4" away from the seam.

Press the binding seam open (I usually finger press at this point). When I unpin the quilt, and align the remainder of the binding and quilt edge, everything should lay flat.

A few more pins to secure the layers, and sew!

Almost there. . .

Securing the binding by hand

For the last part, I make myself comfortable in an easy chair.

Last week I said that 'technically' the binding should be cut 2" wide. Once sewn to the front of the quilt, ideally, the binding fold, turned to the back, should just cover the binding/quilt seam (red arrow). You can see that I have more than enough of the binding folded edge to accomplish this so I really *could* have cut my binding strips narrower. The 2-1/4" width just gives me a little extra comfort level.

As you can see, the binding stitch is a lot like an applique stitch. Sink the needle into the quilt (with thread that matches the binding), travel through the quilt guts, and come up to grab the very few threads of the binding fold.. and repeat. 

I take a couple extra steps at the corner.

As I approach the corner, I park the needle, and miter/fold the binding so the bulk on the bottom is opposite the bulk on the top.

Once my stitching arrives at the corner, I take a stitch along the diagonal (yes, my needle has a severe bend in it  - how difficult would it be to grab a new needle? - why do we do this to ourselves?)

I then take a stitch through all the layers to the front and grab the binding miter fold.

Like the 45 degree turn when I'm sewing the binding to the front of the quilt, this extra step helps to ensure that the corners stay square over time and use.

Ta da!

And the pay-off! Finito!

(Of course, I added a label to it!) Now, it's ready for gifting! Not even a full month after Christmas. Not bad!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

In a Bind

This is one of the projects I've been mentioning over the last couple weeks. It's a table runner based loosely on the Journey to Paducah pattern on the AQS blog. I didn't want to make the whole quilt, and I unearthed a fat quarter bundle from my stash that really isn't my cup of tea, but the combination of fabrics and project would be a perfect gift for some friends - it suits them beautifully! 

I started well enough in advance (I thought) to have this little project done by Christmas.
I am fairly certain, there might be one or two other quilters who may have had a similar circumstance this holiday season. Not *you* of course, but, perhaps someone you know. . .

We are two or three weeks after Christmas, and my table runner is 'done.' Quilted, too! So it's time to bind it. 

There are about a million different variations to bind a quilt. This is my step-by-step process that has served me well for many years and many quilts.

First, I start by trimming the quilted sandwich. I trim the backing and batting even with the quilt top (above).

In this case, I'm using wool batting for this project, so those long bits of batting scraps are perfect for pin cushion or biscornu stuffing. Save those!

I cut my binding strips 2-1/4" wide from selvage to selvage.

Technically, double fold binding is supposed to be cut 2" wide. Once folded to 1" wide and sewn with a 1/4" seam, 1/2" inch will live on the front of the quilt and 1/2" will live on the back of the quilt. But that doesn't leave much for the quilt thickness. That's why I cut 2-1/4. Conversely, many folks cut strips 2-1/2" for binding. It's a preference.

I don't typically do bias binding, although, technically, bias bindings are said to wear better.

Next, I do a rough measurement of the quilt (or runner) perimeter. My runner is a rectangle about 15 by 50". So roughly, 2 times 50 is 100, plus 2 times 15 is 30. Or a perimeter of 130". My binding strips will be about 40" long so I'll need 4 strips--3 strips times 40" is only 120" so that won't make it around the perimeter, but 4 strips times 40" will be 160" - plenty!

I loved math back in high school, and I'm so glad that I use it - both the simple stuff and the more complex stuff - nearly every day!

Connecting the strips with a diagonal seam is just about the only time I use the lines on a cutting mat. Line up two strip ends right sides together, one horizontally and one vertically with the cutting mat lines, draw a diagonal line connecting the intersecting edge points, pin on both sides of the line, sew on the line and cut 1/4" (give or take) away from the seam. Connect all four strips into one long one.


Press seams open (to reduce bulk).

Then press the entire binding strip, wrong sides together.

Now, I have approximately 160" of binding that is ready to add to the runner or quilt.

Since I ran out of time, this will be continued next week!

By the time you read next week's newsletter, this project should be bound, labeled, and ready to gift.

Unless it's not.

Hey, anything can happen!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Old, New, and In Between

When I wasn't celebrating holidays with family and friends, I set aside some time to work on projects. Some old, some new, and some fall somewhere in between.

First, before I get too far along, in the last newsletter, I mentioned something about using the waste threads from my ornaments as bird nesting material. I don't actually put out thread and yarn scraps for the wild birds to use in their nests. It's actually not a good idea - threads can get tangled in tiny birds' feet and legs, eventually strangling them. 

This article gives a really good overview of what to include and not include if you like to put out nesting materials for your wild feathered friends. Be sure to read through the comments for more specifics than outlined in the article. It may seem early to think about this kind of thing, but migrating birds start hunting for nesting sights as early as February and March even as far north as my area (central New York), and even earlier in other parts of the country.

Back to stitchy stuff. . .

Old stuff. Just before Christmas I lamented that this project (below) wasn't going to make it under the Christmas tree gift pile this year. And it didn't. But I'm happy to say that during the week in between the holidays, I spent some concentrated effort to get the four-block table runner to the ready-to-quilt stage (below, below). The pattern is loosely based on Journey to Paducah a free pattern from AQS. 

Sorta Old, Sorta New Stuff. Every month, a new bird block is released and a block kit, including pre-cut fabrics and pattern, is shipped to members of The FLOCK. Before any kit is shipped, I make the block at least twice, once with scrap fabrics and once with the 'real' fabric from the kits. Then I use the 'real' block to make a quilted sample - like in the photo below.

But that doesn't leave me with any 'real' blocks to make into projects. That means I make more blocks 'when I have time' which translates to: I don't get back to it! I started making bird blocks on a regular schedule this past week. The Gray Catbird block (one of my favorites!) is shown, in progress, below.  

New stuff. I'm a jigsaw puzzle girl. Love them! Perhaps that's why I like quilting so much, quilt blocks feel like jigsaw puzzles to be solved. Normally I don't have time for them, but treat myself to one or two puzzles during the holiday season.

I spread out the pieces on a table, then listen to a recorded book. I mentioned something a while back about the Outlander books, that they didn't really grab me when I first tried listening. Well, I gave them another try. I'm on book two. Lordy, they are long. Good thing this puzzle is a toughie. Plenty of puzzling time ahead if I stick with the 7 (plus 2) books to come in the series.

Not New but Not Old either. These hardanger sampler blocks are on hold for the moment. I ran out of thread. I'm using some variegated threads  from Artfabrik (my favorite for any kind of embroidery) and ran out of this color - I think it's called Wild Rice.

Now that I've looked up the website, I should place my order before the next 'squirrel' crosses my path.

Definitely New. I've had the threads for this cross stitch project for a while. I love the bright colors. This is going to be a very stylized hummingbird. It kinda looks like a flying fish right now, but give it time. . .

Lots of teeny-tiny X's in this one. I'm using 32 count jobelin cloth - that's a pretty high thread count. I might be blind by the time I'm done stitching!

I think that should keep me busy into the first few weeks of 2019. How about you? Did you start something new, play with something you've already started, or forget the stitching all together and get cozy with a quilt, a movie, and a cocktail or two?

It all works for me! *Wink!*

Happy Stitching!