Thursday, March 23, 2017

Travel Projecting

Three weeks ago, now, I met up with my quilty friend and fellow pattern designer Brenda Miller in Niagara Falls. I showed you some of the pictures from our tourist activities last week.

But we both brought our sewing machines and a project or two to work on in the hotel room while  we chatted about various and sundry quilty and non-quilts topics.

Brenda created a small project from Terry Atkinson’s new book, Simple, Fun and Quickly Done. You can read about Brenda’s project here.

As for myself. I travel quite a bit. And I have one project that I keep ready to grab as I pack up my stuff for any trip. It’s always some sort of hand-work project - like hand piecing or embroidery, or even some combination.

Many years ago now (at least five years ago for sure) I started working on this pattern from Mountain Patchwork with a fat quarter bundle of fabric designed by Gudrun Erla.

Long ago, I precut and marked all the pieces for each block and put them into little mini block kits. I stuffed the kits in a vinyl pouch with everything I needed to work on a block - needles, pins, embroidery and piecing thread, an extra thimble, and scissors - everything. All I had to do was grab the pouch and stuff it in my suitcase.

And I worked on the blocks one by one in the evenings while I was away over the years. This project was reserved only for road trips. I rarely worked on the blocks at home. On the quilt cruise this past February, during my 'off' hours, I finished the 20 blocks! So I took them with me to Niagara Falls along with fabric for sashing and borders.

While Brenda worked on her Terry Atkinson project. I was determined to go home with a finished quilt top.

Each block is hand pieced and ‘double-stitched’ per the Mountain Patchwork instructions. Then embroidered in the block’s center sashing strips.

The block is pieced like regular hand-piecing along the seams, then stitched again to secure the seam allowance with a visible running stitch. The technique was originally used to reinforce well-worn bits of clothing as they were sewn into quilts. The result has a more textured look with visible double-stitched running stitches.

Over the years, my embroidery improved and got a bit more detailed. You can tell the earlier blocks from those completed more recently.

The quilt top is done, it’s quite large - keepin’ it real here - yes that’s some garlic from last summer hanging on the closet door. I really need to use that up before next growing season starts, right?

I can’t wait to really finish it with, I think, some big-stitch quilting. That part I’ll do at home in the evenings with a good movie or audible book.

That means, it’s time for a new travel project. I chose this hand-pieced project that I started a couple years ago. Yep, like before, I’ve done some advance cutting and marking for the hand piecing. This isn’t part of any published pattern, so I’m not sure where exactly I’m headed yet, but I’m sure it’ll be a nice journey - literally and figuratively.

I’ve already started packing my travel case (Isn’t this one fun? It’s from Yazzii and it has lots of little compartments) with all the essentials so I’m ready to hit the road again, but maybe not for a couple more weeks.

Do you have a ready-to-go travel project?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Rainbow Connection

Sometimes it’s nice to get away for a little one-on-one time with a fellow pattern designer. My good friend, Brenda Miller of Among Brenda’s Quilts and Bags, and I were chatting a few months ago and decided that it would be a good idea to meet up, spend some time sewing and chatting for a weekend somewhere.

Brenda lives in Strathroy, Ontario (near London), and I live in Syracuse, NY. Looking at a map, the obvious half-way point was Niagara Falls. We made our reservations (actually Brenda handled the reservation part) for the first weekend of March, two weeks ago.

We spent some sewing time in our room overlooking the Horseshoe falls. Our room was a suite with a very small table that accommodated our sewing machines and not much else. And we both brought along some hand sewing to do while chatting.

And of course, we got out to see the Falls. Here is a little tour of our escapades.

Chilly cheesy grins with the American falls as the backdrop.

Dave and I were just watching something on public TV that stated that Niagara Falls are the most photographed park location in all of Canada. I don’t remember the exact wording on that fun fact, but let’s face it. They are beautiful and very photogenic!

And of course, being tourists had to do some site-seeing. Gift shop time with Monty the Mounty.

Maple leaves, and maple leaf texture in the sidewalks! Oh, lovely Canada!

A little early in the season for many of the typical Niagara Falls attractions, but we found some things open. Bird Kingdom? D’ya think!?

Lots of beautiful feathered friends inside!

For a couple bucks you get a little cup of nectar to hold in your hands. The lorikeets know the drill! When they see the cup, even before it’s filled with nectar, you are their new best friend!!

It has been a very long time since I’ve seen the Falls at night. The view from our room provided the best view. 

On Sunday, our last full day at the Falls, the weather predictions were expected to be well below freezing. Over night the temperatures dropped severely. At sunrise, the mist from the falls took on a life of its own, rising high into the air as the mist and sunlight mingled.

As we ventured out, the landscape, especially nearest to the falls was changed. Common items underwent a very uncommon transition. Grass blades look like frosty noodles or worms. 

This street lamp close to the Horseshoe Falls was transformed by wind and freezing mist to look like something from Pirates of the Caribbean!

A common garbage bin is transformed by freezing falls mist.

The areas directly overlooking the falls were also transformed, like icy sea monsters instead of early spring plant life.

Popcorn grass.

The guardrails along the walkway are also beautifully transformed with coats and coats of frozen accumulated mist from the falls.

If the sun is out, you can always find a rainbow. The pot o’ gold is a bit more elusive.

No better way to warm up after a day of spectacular views in the cold than a nice dinner (and dessert!) with a spectacular view. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

IT is here!

What is ‘it’ you might be asking. . . .

“It” is ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch!

I wasn’t expecting the newest, coolest book in the ScrapTherapy family to arrive until much later this month or sometime in April, but SURPRISE! Here it is!

The Back Story

Somewhere along the way, I got addicted to making 9-patch blocks, what with the popularity of the cover quilt (99 Bottles) from my second book,  ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! Then there was the introduction of three awesome interfacing products to make itty bitty, mediumly-small and smallish 9-patch blocks.

It simply made sense that my next book would feature the amazingly versatile 9-patch block, and scrap fabrics, of course.

This newest book in the ScrapTherapy family, ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch includes a review of the ScrapTherapy process - seven basic steps to help you get your scrap fabrics organized so you can use them in beautiful scrappy quilts.

But the really fun part of the book is the projects - 18 of them along with full color photographs and step-by-step illustrations. Unique, fun-to-make quilty projects featuring variations on a classic quilt block - the 9-patch.

Are you an Early Bird?

I promised you some fun BONUSES. . .

Here’s your chance to get the book as well as some exciting bonuses available for a limited time only available for book purchases made through the Hummingbird Highway.

When you buy the book here, you can earn up to FOUR bonuses. Each bonus package will last 2 days. After two days, one of the bonuses will go away. Then after two more days, another bonus will go away. Two more days, and yet another bonus goes bye-bye.

Get the picture? The longer you wait, the fewer bonuses you get . . . Only trouble is, you won’t know which bonus will disappear as the clock ticks away!
Here’s the bonus time line
(all times are east coast US time):

The Early Bird
Until midnight March 11th, 2017, receive four bonuses.

The Morning Dove
From March 12th, 12:01am through midnight March 13th, receive three bonuses.

The After Loon
From March 14th, 12:01 am through midnight March 15th, and receive two bonuses.

The Nightingale
From March 16th, 12:01 am through midnight March 17th, receive one bonus.

What are the Bonuses?
  • A signed copy of the book along with a soothing cup of limited edition Republic of Tea Wild Blueberry tea (since it'll be hard to send you the cup of tea, I'll send you a tea bag - you hafta boil the water). If you want your inscription personalized with your name, add a note with the specifics in the comment section in the cart purchase.
  • A 9-patch chart excerpted from the book delivered in pdf format that details finished and unfinished size of common 9-patch blocks and the block elements needed to make them.
  • A Sampler Pack of interfacing. One panel each of the Mini, Middle, and Little scrap grid included. Several of the patterns in the book can benefit from the interfacing, so here’s your chance to try-before-you-buy! Delivered with the book.
  • A pattern for the 9-in-the-Corner Pillow. Wouldn’t you know, this author got a little long-winded when creating the content for ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch. A couple patterns didn’t fit in the book. This is one of the fabulous patterns that landed on the cutting room floor for no other reason than it simply didn’t fit! Delivered in pdf format.

This offer is only valid for purchases of ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch made through the Hummingbird Highway between March 9-March 17, 2017. No exceptions. One bonus per cart order. 

Are you ready?

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford
Head Hummer
Hummingbird Highway

Thursday, March 2, 2017



Did you get my email yesterday? I have terrible ants in my pants over a really big announcement that I have planned for next week’s Good Migrations newsletter. I may go nutty waiting for next week to get here - like a kid waiting for Christmas. . . Here's a tiny hint. . .there could be some amazing, unbelievable bonuses involved!

Just be sure you open Good Migrations next week, March 9. First thing. Just sayn.


Exactly one year from tomorrow (March 3, 2018) my next cruise with Quilt Retreat at Sea sets sail. Fabulous ports, stunning project (have you caught this sneaky peek of the fabrics we’ll be using on board?)

365 days are just going to fly by, so if you’re thinking about jumping on board with us, I have a little incentive that might just tip the scales for you to make your reservation . . .

You’ve seen the cool Grip Grass Ruler Stands? Well, I have it on very good authority that a new color is about to be released . . .

The NEW color: BLUSH

. . . I absolutely love it! It goes really great with hot pink, white, mint green or any of the other grip grass colors. And I'll tell you what else, it goes great in my sewing room!

Here’s the cruise bonus. If you register for the cruise between now and March 10, I’ll send you a FREE Blush Grip Grass Ruler Stand as soon as I have them in stock (should be later this month). You’ll be among the very first to receive it, even before you can buy it on my site. By the way, this also includes anyone who has already registered for the cruise.

As Barb said to me yesterday (she is already registered), “I just had to pay $250 to hold my spot, I don’t have to worry about the rest of the payment until later this year.”

See. Easy as that. Call Michelle at 210-858-6399 or click here to register.

Third, and Last but not Least

Did you catch the free Shamrock Table Runner project and tutorial on the BERNINA We All Sew Blog this week? Just in time for St. Patty’s Day, this runner is ready to help you welcome spring with four cheerful, scrappy shamrock blocks for your spring table. Did someone say corned beef and cabbage? . . . I’m there!

Click here for the blog post, tutorial which also includes an extra bonus pattern!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Splendid Setting, Part 2

Last week I promised a few more details about my Splendid Sampler project.

On and off, between other projects, I’ve been working on quilting my quilt. I’m treating each block individually with quilting customized to suit the design. The block I designed, The Early Bird, and its neighbors are featured in this photo

Like many folks, I absolutely loved making the blocks in this year-long journey, but I ended up with a lot of odd-shaped leftovers. I suppose I could have followed the ScrapTherapy process outlines in my books, and cut up the pieces into 2”, 3-1/2” and 5” squares. But there were a lot of coordinated leftovers and many of the leftovers were odd-shapes or skinny strips.

Enter the Mini Pineapple Trimming Tool from Creative Grids

Since you know from all the grumbling I did when paper pieced blocks were introduced (mild grumbling, I’m really not that contentious about it!) Pineapple block patterns often start with a paper or foundation piecing technique. This ruler takes all the foundation stuff out of the picture. The blocks are pieced from strips that are slightly oversized. And the mini tool is perfect for some serious scrap consumption!

The entire block is worked in rounds. Start with the center square, trimmed to size and add four strips centered and pressed to each side. That blue pops out in several Splendid blocks and in my cornerstones, so I have plenty of that for lots of pineapple block centers. And the cream was also made regular Splendid appearances in my quilt.

Once the first round is pressed and sewn, use the lines on the trim tool and the white center square markings labeled “round 1” to trim the block edges.

And Round 1 is trimmed! Ready to add scrap strips for round 2. (By the way, the trimming tool comes with REALLY detailed instructions so you know exactly what size scraps you need)

Round 2 scraps are sewn around the four sides of the block. Line up the ‘Round 2’ lines with the center square and the block and trim. . . .

Round three set the stage for the remaining rounds. . . Once the rounds start stacking up, it can get a little confusing. So before I trim each round, I count from the center out - the center is ), then I count 1, 2, 3 by zig-zagging along the triangularly shaped corners. . .

After Round 1, the even-numbered rounds use the marked squares on the tool for line-up lines before trimming, two sides of the block at a time . . . . The odd numbered rounds take advantage of a line 3/4” away from the flat edge of the ruler (arrow) and the two dotted white lines marked with an *. Align these markings with seams, then trim one side at a time for the odd-numbered rounds.

I continued to add cream-colored odd-numbered rounds, and scrappy even-numbered rounds, trimming with the tool after the completion of each round. To make a 6” round, I need 10 rounds. Ta-da!!

For this last round, before I use the Round 10 center square alignment routine, I use the 3/4” marking on the flat side of the tool to trim each scrappy strip on the round, even though this isn’t an odd-numbered round . . .

Once trimmed, add the half-square triangles (the tool instructions give you the cutting specs) . . .

. . . now line up the center with the Round 10 lines. . .and trim

 . . . and repeat! Repeatedly!

Now, I don’t know how many of these fun 6” blocks I’m going to make. I guess I’m just going to keep going until I run out of “Splendid” scraps. Then I’ll decide what to do with them—probably add some cream-colored sashing to define the blocks and add some sort of border. It’ll make a nice lap quilt, and a great project to sew one seam at a time in between the other deadline-sensitive stuff I’m working on.

As long as I was playing with this cool tool, I also tried using my scraps from my ScrapTherapy bins. Turns out that I could make a single 4” Swirly pineapple block with four 5” scrap squares. Add another for backing and a strip for binding and, *POOF!* A really fun coaster!

This tutorial makes a whole lot more sense when you have the ruler in your hand and can play with it step by step . . Would you like to try out the tool with your scraps, Splendid or otherwise?

Tell you what, I’ll throw in my pattern notes for the Swirl coaster as well as a couple of 5” fusible foam batting squares for fun. Click on the link below to grab one just for you!

UPDATE: What if you already have the Creative Grids Mini Pineapple Trim Tool, and just want Swirl? Well, click here and we've got you covered.
Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Splendid Setting, Part 1

This week, after the release of the 100th Splendid Sampler block, in the Splendid Sampler Facebook group, I posted this photo of me with my quilt top (sans border) and Pat Sloan. The photo was taken back in September when Pat happened to be teaching a workshop just minutes from my home.

My quilt center was done even though all the blocks hadn't been released yet. The design team had access to the patterns before they went public, so I was able to binge-sew during the summer.

The setting I chose for my blocks would work with just about any sampler quilt. A year ago, I started the project with a couple of packs of pre-cut 10” squares from Hoffman California Fabrics, one from Timeless Treasures, a partial pack of 2-1/2” strips, and some yardage amounts—all batiks in variations of turquoise, sea blue and beachy/earthy browns—and a fair amount of natural-colored flat cotton. After all the blocks were constructed, I still had a fair amount of fabric left.

I decided to put those fabrics to work to frame each and every block before adding thin sashing and cornerstones. The effect was to highlight each individual block in the quilt. For each block frame, I selected a fabric from the group of leftovers that suited the block itself. and cut four strips 1-1/4” wide (finish to 3/4”) by 7-1/4” long. (The blocks are each 6-1/2" square (unfinished size).)

I could have bordered each block with a strip on each side, then one on the top and the bottom. Instead, and for no other reason than to do something a little ‘unexpected,’ I added the strips to the block starting with a partial seam.

I aligned the first strip along the left edge of the right-side-up block with the top edges aligned.

Then I sewed a 1/4" seam, with the block right side facing down while sewing, leaving the last 2” or so unsewn. Pressed the attached part of the strip toward the strip.

Rotated the block 90-degrees, and added another strip to the adjacent side, and press. The ends lined up pretty good with the block!

Continued until all four strips are sewn, and pressed, leaving only a partial seam on the original strip to be sewn (between the red arrows, below).

Sew the partial strip.

Press, and Wah-lah!

With so many fussy, lovingly-sewn details on these special blocks, framing each one helped to show them off individually and set the stage for a cohesive, but scrappy quilt.

I then added very narrow (1/2” finished width or 1” cut width) cream sashing strips and vibrant turquoise cornerstones to complete the quilt center. Yup indeed, the sashing is really, REALLY narrow, but added the ‘pop’ that was needed to set off the blocks without making the quilt super-huge. 

Only problem: I still had lots and LOTS of blue and brown scraps left. . . What to do?? More on that next time . . .

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford