Thursday, January 23, 2020

Sweet Hearts Redux

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's the perfect time to pull together some stash fabrics for a fast-finish mini-quilt to add some heart-felt cheer to your decor, don't you think?

Years ago, I created a monthly kit pattern series called Snap Sacks. Independent quilt shops purchased the patterns and supplies from me and make up kits for their customers.

The Snap Sacks are now out of print, but I got to thinking over the holiday season that it might be nice to bring back some of those patterns as downloadable pdfs.



I got the get-up-and-get-going bug to get started sometime yesterday morning. Well, by now, you probably know that I write this post on Wednesdays and put it up on Thursdays.

I *thought* I could quickly convert about a dozen of the Snap patterns to a presentable PDF format in an hour or so. Well, that didn't quite work out the way I planned. . .

BUT Sweet Hearts Snap, IS available right now for download from my webstore.

It's a start!


With any luck, I hope to have a few more small projects for you to download soon! Don't worry, I'll keep you informed!

I think the best part about projects like Sweet Hearts is that you really can start and finish them in one or two sewing sessions. Easy, fun stuff. And with about 1 to 2 yards of fabric needed (including backing and binding), it's pretty easy to find some fun stash fabrics to make it up without leaving the building.

But if you're looking for an excuse to head to the quilt shop. . .by all means, I certainly won't hold you back!


CLICK HERE to get the Sweet Hearts Snap pattern

Happy Stitching!
Joan


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Good Golly, Miss Molly!

Sometimes, life just throws out a bunch of curve balls--unrelenting and rapid fire--picture the classic chocolate candy factory I Love Lucy! episode. That's kinda how it has felt for the last few weeks here on the Hummingbird Highway! Good Golly, Miss Molly, enough already!

With some heavy-duty travel coming up in April and May, I've given myself a pretty strict schedule for the first part of the year so things run smoothly when I'm gone. And don't you know it, seems like something goes haywire just as soon as I settle in with my sleeves rolled up and get ready to get busy.

No need to go into the gory details, suffice it to say, it's times like these you look for the little 'wins' in your life. . . This week, I found those, as one might expect, in the sewing studio. I can (almost) always count on my sewing machine to grant me a moment or two of balance.



I'm in between deadline-y, secret stuff, so I didn't want to start anything big. Therefore, earlier this week these two little projects were perfect to get me back on track (at least temporarily) in a few short morning sewing sessions.

These were both pre-cut kits, no brand name or anything, so I don't have links or designer names to share. They were a Christmas gift from my friend Gail. (Thanks, Gail)

The purple thingies are cord keepers. Wrap the fabric around electrical cords at the sewing machine or behind the computer. The velcro tabs hold the cords in check inside the fabric roll. 


The second mini project kit is a pencil bag. A little more involved than the cord wraps, so I have to admit, I scratched my head a bit to follow the text-only directions, but got through it.

At about 4.5x8.5" finished size, it's a great little zipper pouch to hold marking tools or embroidery floss, or about a million other things!



Any time I can collect a WIN in a week full of insanity, I'll take it! In this case, I'll take TWO; THREE if you count each cord wrap as one.

Tell me, I'm not the only one who has had a week like this? 

Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Coming Along!

About a year ago, I joined the local chapter of the Embroiderer's Guild of America. After years and years away from it, counted cross stitch and charted embroidery grabbed my attention again. Throw in new-to-me forms of charted embroidery like hardanger, blackwork, and needlepoint. . . 

I was kinda hooked, but I'm a quilter. I make QUILTS. While I appreciate them,  framed hand work pieces to hang on the wall isn't my jam. So, I started playing and experimenting with turning stitchery into quilted projects.

At the guild, a different project or technique is featured each month. For January 2019, we were introduced to a year-long 'sampler' of alphabet charts. Mostly-cross stitch, but this particular sampler featured a different stitch for each block, one to go with each letter of the alphabet.



My first thought was - what a fun way to get familiar with different stitches. My second thought was - I'm going to make a quilt, and test my 'idea.'

This stitchy/quilty concept was something I had been twirling around in my head several months prior. I wanted to incorporate quilting techniques that I know like the back of my hand and newer-to-me stitchery techniques.

Nothing new, but. . .

Adding cross stitch to quilting isn't anything new. Cross stitch on cotton or linen, much like redwork, has been part of the quilting world for a very long time.

However, adding continuous, counted stitched borders is, to my knowledge, a brand new technique that came from my brain. I've dubbed the technique Stitchery Crossover.



After testing the Stitchery Crossover technique on a few smaller projects, the alphabet blocks are my big test to see if this would really work in a quilt (or quilt-related projects). Each alphabet chart included a small border within the chart, I repeated that border in my blocks with a quilt fabric border in between (that's the key to this technique). Sounds easy enough, right?

Very quickly, I discovered to get this done right, it was not so fast, and not so easy. And I developed a system involving calculations, precision applique (incorporating a familiar applique technique from my quilting tool kit), and familiar, but slightly different, quilting construction processes and considerations.

With 24 blocks - one for each letter of the alphabet (X,Y,Z are together in one block) - this was no small undertaking! Stitching and handwork are slower sports than machine piecing and quilting, but equally enjoyable, IMO.

One year later, the blocks are almost done.

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I laid them out the other day on my work room floor to snap a picture. . .



Not done yet. . .
While the end is in sight. There are still lots of decisions to make and steps to complete. . . What size to trim the blocks; sashing, no sashing; choose an overall focus print, or use the leftovers from the blocks in a border or backing treatment, quilting that highlights the various techniques involved. 



And of course, I have one last block to finish - the border is *almost* done.

A few months ago, I invited you to join me on this continuing journey. Once the alphabet quilt is done, I'm excited to put Stitchery Crossover to the test, with some new projects already in the works.


The invitation is open, would you like to learn this brand new Stitchery Crossover technique for your quilty-crossover endeavors? Get ideas, learn the technique, and have fun as the detailed steps unfold. C'mon along!!

CLICK HERE for more information and to join.

Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, January 2, 2020

No Words

Every year, at New Years, I feel somewhat compelled to choose a 'word of the year' or make New Years resolutions. If that works for you, then great.

The word thing just doesn't do it for me. It feels too general. Eh.

This year, I am sensing a slightly different trend. I picked up a magazine a couple of nights ago that had a list of healthy choices to make into the new year. Likewise, online I've seen a few similar types of lists as I scrolled through social media.

I think I can get into that a bit more, so I came up with a short list, in no particular quantity or order to consider into the New Year. So, here goes. . . .

In no particular order:

Wonder at Technology

I have to be honest, the last couple of days have been filled with frustration for me. I print all the patterns for The FLOCK right here in my work room on these two laser printers. One of them has been giving me fits and starts since I purchased it months ago. Frustrating beyond words.

However, if I stop and think about it, as frustrating as technology can be, it's pretty awesome that we can do so much stuff in a home office setting. There are many, many evils that come with technology, but there are lots of bonuses too. I like to say, technology and systems are great, until they're not. Mostly, it's pretty cool stuff


Let it go

Speaking of technology, sometimes the best tech is low tech. And it's easy to forget that.

It's wonderful to have the answers to all of the world's questions right at my fingertips, but is that really necessary?

The roar of Niagara Falls, the experience of a stroll along a country path, the intoxicating scent of spring blooms cannot be duplicated online.

I can't prove it, but it feels like I do my best and most creative thinking when the smart phone is out of reach and turned off. I need to do that more.


Little by little

There are so many things that can overwhelm. That feeling of overwhelm kills joy.

That stack of scraps or four-patches aren't going anywhere. One pin cushion at a time, these will bring the joy of creativity and completion.

One stitch, one pin cushion, one four-patch, one scrap at a time.


Beauty can be hidden

Have you ever looked at the wrong side of a quilt or stitchery piece? There is rhythm, pattern, color, mystery, and chaos there.

Find knots or mistakes to be fixed (or not). I think there is as much joy in unstitching as in stitching - or there can be.

It's all a means to an exquisite end.


Embrace color

Colorful fabrics, interesting people, invigorating activities.

It's really about joy, isn't it?


Celebrate

If you look for it, you'll find a lot of bad stuff 'out there' - but that's always been there in one form or another. There is a lot of good stuff, too!

Treat yourself to a manicure, breathe in the smell of rain, relax with a warm beverage and a cozy quilt when a storm rages outside.


The best things in life. . .

. . . aren't things. Family, feathers, fur.

A couple of health issues in 2019 in my world reinforced that life and health is precious and not to be taken for granted. (Peaches, my blue-fronted Amazon parrot is going to be 37 years old this year!)



Happy New Year!

Happy Stitching!

joan

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Every Year. . .

Aside from wrapping up this month's FLOCK bird block shipment this week, I'm also wrapping-up a year-long project that I've hinted at here and there this year.

If you are a long-standing Good Migrations subscriber, then you know that years and years ago, I started a tradition to include a hand-made Christmas ornament in my holiday greeting cards each year.

Last year, I had the foresight to start early and avoid the typical it's-Thanksgiving-and-I-don't-even-have-my-ornaments-started-yet brown-bag-breathing panic mode.

Since that early-start concept worked out pretty well to keep panic-mode at bay in 2018. I started the 2019 ornaments way back in January.

Since the 2019 version of my greeting-card stuffer ornaments are fairly labor-intensive, I made it a goal to complete one per week throughout the year, usually starting on Sunday, finishing the ornament that day or a day or two later.

The pattern involves some pretty traditional elements of Hardanger embroidery. Something I didn't even know existed until I saw it in Eastern Europe a couple years ago on vacation.
  
Like most traditional Hardanger, the framework for the ornaments starts with a series of kloster blocks (satin stitches grouped in fives). Around that, I added blanket stitches encircling the entire ornament.




I did these two steps in traditional white thread, then experimented with some variegated threads in a couple shades and weights for the ornaments. 

Next I added a diamond of cable stitching. I've also seen this stitch called faggoting. Then a variation of a diagonal eyelit - or four of them clustered in the center





Then I added more eyelets in the square spaces created by the kloster blocks and blanket stitching.

I used the same thread that I used for the eyelets in the center.





Next comes the hard part - at least it's the hardest part the first time you do it.

Because Hardanger stitching is pulled tightly, it creates gaps in the stitchery fabric at the stitch edge.

Trim away the excess fabric by nestling small, sharp fabric scissors right over that line of gaps in the fabric. Then cut.




I tried not to cry when I was doing this. It helps to have clear vision for this step. Visions of a pile of threads are hard to eradicate.

And there you have it.

Traditional Hardanger doesn't necessarily have a back. Although, since this is a tree ornament, I did pair up a few of them, and stitched all the way around the outside edge with fine thread, to join two one-sided ornaments back to back. Since that doubled the work, most of the ornaments are one-sided, and I simply tried to keep the back of each one tidy as I buried thread ends.




From there, I added a hanging thread, and these are ready to stuff in my Christmas cards.

Wa la! (wink!)

I just realized I'm out of postage stamps! Better get to the Post Office before they Holiday rush--I may have missed that window!-- So much for planning ahead!




I made a few variations of the ornament. Different color combinations; different sizes. The 'January' ornaments are larger than the 'November' ornaments. Somewhere along the way, I had a facepalm moment - these would take less time to make if they were smaller!

There are about 40 ornaments ready to go in this basket.




I realize that I ran through those details pretty quickly. For those interested in a more in-depth close up of the step-by-step process I used to create my ornaments, I'll be adding a new module with much more detail to the Stitchery Crossover group this week!




Not to mention this new little winter project inspired by a cross stitch chart from the current issue of Cross Stitcher. I want to try my crossover technique with something other than square blocks. This heart-shaped project will be a real test. You can join the fun over in the Stitchery Crossover group, if you like.

Happy Stitching!

Joan


Thursday, December 5, 2019

After Turkey

The holidays can be great fun, don't you think. Last Wednesday, after finishing up a few things at my desk, I got down to the real business of making pies for a family Thanksgiving get-together.

Each year, we head to my in-laws, usually Dave's brother's place about an hour's drive away. But this year, thanks to a little goof-up by the local power company, something went wrong with some repairs to the power lines leading to John's house, and while there was no catastrophic damage, nearly all his electronics were 'fried.' I suppose if you're a fan of football on Thanksgiving that *could* be considered catastrophic.

Anyway, the turkey venue was changed to Dave's sister's family home. A little further away, but no big deal. The weather was clear and good to drive.

Unfortunately, Harley (my brother-in-law's red-haired golden retriever) had restricted access to the house. As you can see, he's playing up the sympathy card from the porch with his pathetic glare. Don't worry, he got some frisbee play time.



My job, was to bring desserts. I made the typical holiday fare - pumpkin and apple using my mom's recipes for pies and crusts.

And also went a bit non-traditional with the chocolate thing you see up front.



I found the recipe for the Dutch roll cream pie in a foodie magazine. I hadn't made this one before, and it was a big hit!

Simple, too! Here's what I did:

Cut about 1 and 1/2 boxes of Ho-ho's into 1/2" slices and lined the sides and bottom of a 9" spring form pan. Made 3 packages of instant chocolate pudding and poured it onto the Ho-ho shell. Then topped with one container of defrosted whipped topping (cool whip). The chocolate bits that fell off the sliced Ho-ho's were reserved to sprinkle on the top. 

Super easy, and a HUGE hit!

Thank thank you to Bob and Julia, our friends who made their way to their winter home in Florida before they could use their season tickets for the last home football game of the season. We were the lucky recipients of their tickets for the final home game on Saturday.

I'm sorry to say that the Syracuse Orangemen (my alma mater) football team has had a less-than-stellar season this year.



However, this last game was one for the memory books!

By the end of the game, the score was tied. 30-30. In college ball, that means overtime - one possession for each team until one team scores more than their opponent.

It wasn't looking good for our Orangemen! Wake Forrest (the opponent) was about to score a touchdown for the win!



But an exciting, heart-stopping play leading to a 97 yard dash for a touchdown locked down the game and the season with a win! It's hard to read, but the final score in the picture above is Wake Forest 30, Syracuse 39.

Yay!! (Are you a WF fan? Sorry, not sorry! *wink!*)

Win or lose, the graduating seniors make a final lap around the field after the last home game to greet fans and receive a heart-felt send off.

A nice tradition, made even more sweet with an unexpected WIN!

That's probably more football than you wanted or needed, and more than I typically share. (Thanks for indulging me!)


In other news, this week has been full of stuff I can't fully share. For example, I've been putting the final touches on the December FLOCK kits (the bird remains secret until it arrives in mail boxes) that will ship next week. Have you been considering joining The FLOCK? If so, now would be an especially good time to start your collection.



The photo above is a sneaky peek of the secret December bird, and just between you and me, this month's kit will include a special little giftie, just because. Are you in?


In other stitchy news, things are moving right along inside the members-only Stitchery Crossover area of the Hummingbird Highway website.

Are you a member? Check out the latest info. (Log in required)

If you're not a member and would like more info CLICK HERE and scroll through for the deets!



I know that for some of us, these few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can get a little crazy. My holiday season wish for you is that you take a moment to experience the magic of the season. Take in a holiday concert or movie, prepare something decadent for yourself or to share, enjoy the company of friends and family.

And just breathe!
 

Happy Stitching
Joan

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Even More Cookies

This cookie 'thing' has been going on for several weeks now.

Three weeks ago, I took aim at a stack of scrappy four-patches. The following week, an adorable cookie border stripe print inspired a holiday cookie mat. And last week, a few more four-patches and one last bit of the border print sent me on a new journey with less-than-pleasing (to me, anyway) results.

By the end of my sewing session, I had a light bulb moment and promised to share the results this week.

The problem was that green and white check seemed to 'need' something else.



In the far reaches of my mind, I recall having a roll of printed fusible interfacing with holly leaves and berries - Zig-Zapps by Quiltsmart.

Yet another stash-diving adventure turned up the very roll!

One panel will do. . .



I cut two 2" strips for the binding for this last installment of the Great Cookie Mat Caper . . and had just a skonch left for red berries.

Another stash-dive turned up a just-enough chunk of green.



I rough-cut the interfacing. . I'm opting for the larger of the two holly leaf shapes . .. and cut a slit in the middle of each interfacing shape to use for turning later.



Then placed the interfacing bumpy side facing right side of the fabric.

I fussy-placed the berry circles over the snowflake icing motifs.



Then sewed on the solid lines of the interfacing. . .



. . . .and trimmed on the dotted line.



Turned the fabric right side out (the bumpy fusible side is on the back.



Time to head to the ironing board with my in-the-ditch quilted cookie mat (second in the series).

Then arranged and fused the holly shapes.



Then blanket stitched around the edge with bright red fabric to off-set the green checkers.

And added a bit of free motion swish for the holly leaf veins.



Wa-la!

Ready for cookies.

Or gifting!


I'll tell you one thing, I'm ready for a new project (or an old one) that doesn't involve four-patches!

Happy Stitching!
Joan