Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everything But . . .

This week I’ve been working on a few smaller things and packing for a mini sewing retreat with a friend. It’s amazing how getting ready to go on a sewing vacation can unearth some interesting things. Read more below.

In all the packing hubbub, I am happy to say that this little project found a home in my sewing room. The hummingbird pillowcase was a gift. Jennie (the gift-giver) lives in Australia and they use the metric system there. Here in the US, as you know, we’re still stuck on Imperial measurements. So finding a simple pillow form to stuff inside didn’t work. Not to worry. Went to my stash, found some plain white fabric, cut it to size, seamed around it, and stuffed it with fiberfil. And Wallah! This comfy pillow featuring my beloved hummingbirds has a home in an easy chair in my office where it makes me smile every day! (Thank you Jennie for your thoughtful gift!!)

Kitchen Sink Sewing

Every summer about this time in July, my friend Gail invites me to her camp about an hour’s drive north of my home. We set up sewing machines either in the garage or on the dining table inside depending on weather. It sounds like we’re ‘roughing it’ but it’s really quite nice and we treat ourselves to yummy meals, like seafood and salads, and healthy-ish snacks while we work on a variety of projects.

It’s four days of *basically* non-stop sewing - a typical quilting retreat. But you know how this goes . . . you start to select the projects to bring and pretty soon a few days of sewing looks more like a few months-worth of projects.

I usually try to bring non-work-related projects so it really feels like a break from the daily stuff that I do. Translate this to: I raid my unfinished project stash and target some projects to be finished or to be elevated to their next step. With still a few days to go before I leave, I’m hoping to finish up a couple of these before I pack up the car.

Let’s see what I unearthed.

1. These little four-patch blocks and some matching border stripe prints. These are just a few steps away from getting done.

In fact, I took a little tangent from packing. (I guess I am easily distracted - and I’m not leaving for a few days yet, after all.) I threw together a quick place mat, four-patches in the center, border prints on top and bottom. Layer with backing and batting, sew around the edge . . .

 . . . Turn. Sew around the edge again, this time with a decorative stitch. Quilt. Done

Wow, this packing is getting off to a good start. Better find some more projects.

2. How about these four patches, they’re already sewn together. They need a border, backing, and quilting. Cute table topper. On deck.

Uh-oh. We hit a snag. What in the H-E-double toothpicks was I thinking when I started this? Dull boring colors. Bleh-h-h. This one is coming out of the undone project stash. Reclaim those appliqué pins. All those background squares will cut up nicely into my ScrapTherapy bins. . . NEXT!

3. Now we’re talking! I think we’re back on track. Fun colors and a zipper (from my friend Brenda). I think I need to make a little bag!

4. Reds, greens, and creams. Holiday prints. Never too early to start on this year’s holiday card stuffers. Might be fun to do this outside of the early-December-panic-mode tactic that I usually employ. What would I do without all that holiday stress this year. . .?

5. Gads. We’ve taken another treacherous turn. I had a weak moment and purchased this tissue paper paper-piecing pattern a few years ago at a show. I put this away and take this out on a regular basis. It’ll be a nice wall-hanging some day. I love the fabrics, but I just don’t *love* paper piecing. it’s coming anyway. *Cringe!*

What else can I find?

6. A trip down memory lane! Once upon a time I thought the starch method was the best thing since sliced bread when it came to hand appliqué. I started this project from a kit of hand-dyed fabrics. It will be stunning. But a good chunk of the appliqué pieces are only partially prepped for appliqué. So that means adding more starch (yuk, not happening) or trying to make this work with my preferred appliqué method (back basting appliqué - scroll down a bit to the appliqué cute). Or I suppose I could abandon it entirely (I think my heart just skipped a beat) - nope! I must persevere.

7. (Seven? - how did we get to this many?) Ahhh! This one makes my heart sing! Lots of tiny pieces, wonderful Liberty prints (from the London store thanks to Jen’s recent business trip across the pond). Each of the 6” blocks in the book only has the pattern illustration - no instructions, no appliqué, all piecing. And I want to patchwork piece each one. Some have 30 or 40 complex pieces. Lots of figuring. Love a good puzzle!

In case you were thinking, ‘she’s insane!’ No I’m not insane, only Nearly Insane - the book title says so.

8. The Sampler quilt I used last week to show you my little pin tip is all done and bound. I just need to hand-sew the binding fold to the back. So close to the finish line. This one HAS to come with me!

9. The girls (Doodle the Sun Conure and Woodstock the Jenday Conure) need a new cage cover. And I want to play with a new Dresden ruler tool I bought recently. And I’m starting with this fabric for inspiration.

That’s it. I’m not going to add ONE more project to the list! However, I still have a couple of days before I leave on Saturday. Jus’sayn!

Here’s one thing that’s certain, no matter how many projects I bring, I’ll touch each one at least twice - once to get it in the car, and once to get it out of the car.

It’s completely possible I’ll go rogue and come up with something off the list. . . .

At least I’m not planning to bring a kitchen sink . . . Everything but, though!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Butterflies and a Pin Tip

I’ve shared that I often bring my laptop out to my front porch (I call it my summer office) when the weather is nice. My house doesn’t have central air so my desk can get pretty steamy when the mid-day summer sun shines through the skylights in my office space.

Working outside has its hazards, though. For one, I can be easily distracted by birds and critters that make their way into the yard for one reason or another. This time of year, it’s butterflies that grab my attention. The cone flower bed is thigh-high with blooms, and the butterflies find this plant irresistible! In the last day or so, I spotted and captured pictures of four different butterfly varieties that stopped by to pay a visit (and sup on the flowers’ nectar).

There’s this yellow swallow tail - I think it might be a tiger swallowtail.

And this pretty orange one. A Fritillary, maybe? The butterfly field guide reveals quite a few varieties that look similar. Might it be the Great Spangled Fritillary . . .

This primarily black species had bright blue spots on it. It was a fast-mover, so the picture is out of focus, snapped quickly before it fluttered away.

And the mighty Monarch. Sadly, this species is in trouble, therefore my husband (he is in charge of the garden around here) has allowed the milkweed to carry on in the flower beds as they are the Monarch’s main diet and nursery.

A Quick Pin Tip

After getting a few projects done, I’ve shifted back to finishing up my Splendid Sampler quilt. When I start to see the end in sight, for any quilt, I usually start some sort of count down—X number of blocks left to quilt, X number of in-the-ditch lines to quilt, etc.

For this 100-block quilt - I am quilting it on my BERNINA 750, I started with some ditch-quilting to outline the blocks, then I’ve made three passes from block to block with free motion in three different thread colors - cream, blue, and brown. What do I mean by ‘passes’ - ?? I started with the cream thread, loaded it in the machine and bobbin, and evaluated the blocks one at a time - if cream thread was called for then I quilted the cream parts. Same thing with the blue thread.

Now I’m ‘on’ the brown thread - the last color. A couple of days ago, I spread out the quilt and placed a safety pin (the same ones I use to pin-based the quilt) and stuck a pin in the to-be-quilted block or its border.

As I finish the brown-thread quilting, I remove the pins one block at a time. So the pins become like a count down. A visual one.

50 pins left . . . 45 . . . 35 . . . I’m now at 20 pins left to remove.

Seems (or ‘seams’) very do-able! I guess I’ve always been a numbers kinda gal!

At the close of a quilting session, I place a brightly colored covered pin on the block where I left off. That way I’ll see exactly where my starting point is for the next session.

Once the blocks are done, there is still border quilting, binding and a label (piece-o-cake!). I bet I’ll be able to add this project to my ta-done list in about a week or so.


Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Sticky Situation

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been preparing for a series of workshops I’ll be leading during a trip to Alaska next month. Alaska isn’t exactly around the corner for me, here in Syracuse, so I’ve been engaged by three guilds who will take advantage of my being in the area.

For their workshop project, one of the guilds has chosen the "Sneaky Peek Project Pouches" from ScrapTherapy The Versatile Nine Patch. It's a really fun project!

To prepare for the class I’ve been making the smaller of the two sizes in the book to illustrate the various stages in the assembly process. There’s a fair amount of scrap sewing, using the Middle Scrap Grid Interfacing to make 3-1/2” 9-patch blocks (have I mentioned that all three interfacing sizes, Mini, Middle, and Little Scrap Grids come in 10-panel packs?)

Once the 9-patches are sewn, they are ‘wonkified’ with a bit of trimming.

There’s a vinyl window involved in the construction. This project is designed so you can store in-progress blocks, embroidery, cross-stitch, supplies -- or whatever -- and see what’s inside the pouch.

For most of the construction, the vinyl is in between layers of fabric, but there’s one seam that requires that the vinyl interact directly with the presser foot. And this is where things *can* get a little sticky.

You see, metal presser feet and vinyl get along swimmingly. Unfortunately they get along SO well that they have a tendency to stick to each other. This is a problem if the metal presser foot can’t advance because it’s stuck to its best friend, vinyl. All you get is the needle going up and down in place, creating a hole in the vinyl that can’t be mended. Or worse, a line of close together little holes that form a big hole. Not good.

(How do you like those neon green nails - hey, it's summer, a girl's gotta have some fun!)

There are a few solutions to this sticky situation. One is to buy a teflon presser foot. But I really want to use my walking toot because this particular seam has about a ka-jillian layers. I could also insert tissue paper between the presser foot and vinyl. I’m sure there are a few other savvy options to keep presser foot and vinyl from being best friends while you’re trying to sew . . .

The solution I prefer is to use a little common painters tape. If you cover the presser foot guides then metal and vinyl won’t meet. However there’s a trick to this . .

You don’t want to cover the parts of the presser foot that keep the layers of fabric moving forward (red arrows) . . . . only the metal parts.

So get your scissors out and gather a little bit of patience and cut really skinny strips of tape to cover each presser foot ‘glide.’ I equate it to Goldilocks putting socks on her skis. You don’t want the socks to be too big, or too small, but ju-u-ust right!

This should create a happy relationship between metal and vinyl and keep your stitches nice and even . . . unless your socks fall off!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dare I Say It?

I have to admit, it’s pretty quiet around here.

After a big weekend on the road at the Vermont Quilt Festival (here is a photo of my booth at the show), the week after is all about putting stuff away, taking inventory, doing some accounting, and paying some bills.

Nothing very photo worthy. Unless you find accounting spreadsheets and checkbooks exciting.

The stuff on my sewing table is all about getting ready for my teaching events for an August trip to Alaska. I’m certain the trip will be wildly fun with outrageously fun projects on tap, but the prep is for projects I’ve already made - creating the step-by-step models that will guide the classes through the projects.

There is, however, a bunch of new stuff brewing. In about a week or so, the decks should be clear enough for me to go full bore on a couple of new things that have been in the works for a while. All very exciting, but not very much to show for any of it yet.

Fortunately, some of you have shared some lovely photos of the things you’ve been working on based on my patterns and books. I’m extremely flattered every time I see a project you’ve made, inspired by one of the patterns I’ve written.

Shall we have a look?

Here is Anne’s version of “Beach Blanket Bingo” from ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! Anne said that she just loved using nothing but scraps to make her quilt top. And the beachy-feel of the quilt makes you want to grab the sunscreen and head to the water’s edge, doesn’t it? Excellent quilt, Anne!

Clearly Sandra has a healthy collection of batik scraps! My assistant Tracy completely agrees with your decision to make "Runaway Thread" from ScrapTherapy, Cut the Scraps! It’s one of her favorites. This version is so fun and colorful - who wouldn’t love dreaming of your next quilt project as you nap beneath it?

Sandra also sent along this really colorful version of "Shining Stars," also from Cut the Scraps. I’ve only ever seen this quilt done up in patriotic reds, whites, and blues. I just love this colorful explosion of stars and secondary patterns in the quilt center and borders. Lovely! Nice job, Sandra . .  thanks for sharing!

From time to time, I like to feature quilts by you in Good Migrations, so send me pictures when you complete a project from one of my patterns. Indicate “watch the birdie” in the subject of your email.

Quiet or Crazy?

Now that I’ve acknowledged the quiet atmosphere around here, should I expect some crazy thing to happen that will shatter the peace? Hope not. Maybe I’ll throw some salt over my shoulder just to be sure!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A "Normal" Day on the 'Highway'

After a busy couple of weeks on the road, I was glad to start out this week realizing that it’s back to ‘normal’ here on the highway. Then I got to thinking: what exactly does that mean? ‘Normal.’ So I decided to take a closer look at a typical day around here. Thought you might enjoy a sneaky peak into one of my ‘typical’ weekdays.

Almost without fail, after making Dave’s lunch and he goes off to work around 7am, I start the day with a couple of hours of sewing time. If I don’t get in at least a seam or two, it seems my whole day is off. Right now I’m working on some step outs for my August trip to Alaska. I’ll be visiting three guilds while I’m there. These step-outs are for Elsa’s Prayer Quilt from the new book.

By about 9 am, it’s time for a shower and some breakfast. Basic stuff here. Oh poo, looks like I broke a yolk. . .

The girls typically insist that I share the orange juice.

I might grab a few minutes to work on some kits for the Vermont Quilt Festival. Seems like there is always an upcoming event to plan for. Sometimes I have a helper to assemble kits (Hi Barb!) but that is usually more effective when I’ve planned ahead. A-hem.

Next, it’s time for some computer work. I’d say that I spend about 8 hours a day working on correspondence, patterns, and other computer work. For about two weeks before and after Summer Solstice the skylights in my office space create some pretty heavy-glare from about noon to 2pm on sunny days.

That’s when I grab my laptop and migrate to the temporary office space on the front porch if it’s a nice day. Here is my ‘remote’ office. . . .

 . . . and here is my front-yard view. (I am a lucky girl)

During the day, the neighborhood is really quiet. But there is plenty to distract me in the yard. A little rustle in the leaves tells me I have a visitor. Can you find the baby bunny hidden among the honeysuckle branches?

The moving water in the pond brings all kinds of birds - catbirds, chipping sparrows, and robins among my favorites to come and sip or bathe. And it wouldn’t be the Hummingbird Highway without a visit from Mr. Ruby-Throat.

You would think with all the distractions of my outdoor office space, I’d get nothing done! In fact, it’s just the opposite! I find that I’m really focused on the project of the day, and I get more done than if I were in my 'normal' office space. Who knows why?

For example, I’m working on some new things to go along with The Early Bird from the Splendid Sampler (by the way, this week’s featured block for the second Splendid Sampler sew-along is The Early Bird!). The pattern in the book is paper pieced (not my thing), so if you prefer the patchwork version, you can get it here. Or, if you don’t want to do the cutting at all, (this is BIG news!!) I’m hoping to have a pre-cut version of The Early Bird for you very soon. Plus, more bird blocks are on the drawing board, too! I’m very excited about this new offering, but most of the particulars are still in the earliest stages. So stay tuned . . . And shhh! This is just between us girls, okay?

In the evening, after dinner and dishes, I like to sit down with some hand work. Lately I’ve been finishing up bindings on these Swirl Mug Mats made with the Mini Pineapple Trim Tool.

Speaking of pineapples AND the Splendid Sampler. I’ve been using the leftover bits of fabric from my 'SS' quilt (no, the quilting isn’t done yet) to make these six-inch traditional pineapple blocks. I’ve decided I’m stopping at 35 blocks, and I have 28 in the stack. Only a few more to go then I can come up with some sort of setting. This is my ‘other’ project I have off to the side at my sewing table to sew in between the workshop samples I’m making in the morning.

Fridays are different. That’s when I usually get out and run some errands during the day. And just around 5pm, Dave texts me that he’s leaving work. That’s code for ‘meet me at the brewery (a craft brewery featuring Belgian-style ales and libations that is about two or three miles away from the home office) and let’s get the weekend started!'

So many variables can come into play on any single ‘normal’ day. But I like to think that whatever the day brings, that I’m moving forward, even a little and enjoying my surroundings as the day unfolds. How about you? What does your ‘normal’ day look like? Calm, chaotic, unpredictable?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Packed Month

To say that the next few weeks are going to be busy is a bit of an understatement for me. I'll be on the road for most of the month. Here's where you can catch up with me. . .

A couple weeks ago, my work table was full of fabric, interfacing, zippers, and batting all stacked up. Waiting for a few last details before final packaging.

The kits are to make Chequed Bagues and Baguettes (wanna make spell check go crazy? try typing that sentence a few times and see what you get!)

The Bague and Baguette pattern pairs nicely with ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch since scrappy 9-patch blocks adds to the cuteness factor! They are perfect to hold a skein or two of sock yarn, pencils and school supplies, or grocery store receipts (if you save that kinda thing).

The pattern and kits will be available at my next couple events.

If you are nearby, I hope you’ll come out to Rochester, NY (Genesee Valley Quilt Fest - Booth 506), Louisville, Kentucky (Busy Lady Quilt Shop), or Burlington, Vermont (Vermont Quilt Festival) to see the demos, get your hands on a book, and a kit!

Also, there are a few new items in the Hummingbird Highway online store. I’ve just added 10-panel packs of each of the 9-patch interfacing sizes - Mini, Middle, and Little Scrap Grid. The bulk packaging saves you a couple bucks, too. Nice!

And. . . I’ll also have a little display at the Rochester and Vermont shows for something new coming to the Hummingbird Highway. The details are still in the works, however the planning has started for the Tidy Fabric Club. Patterns, bonuses, fabric boards, bonuses, organizing and fabric-using tips, and--did I mention bonuses?--will soon be wrapped up into a monthly club from the ‘highway.’ If you want to be first to know the scoop, jump over to this page to add your name to the list. . .

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Watch the Birdie

I love it when you share your finished projects with me - made from one of my patterns. I try to include them in the 'Good Migrations' newsletter when I have them at the very bottom. But that means, sometimes, you have to scroll and scroll to see them!  And they don't always make it across to the blog post.

This week, I figured I’d try something a little different. Your projects ARE the post. Please keep sending photographs when you finish something from one of my books or patterns. My virtual assistant Tracy (she lives in Wisconsin, I live in Syracuse) keeps them organized for me. You can send photos here.

For example, Anne sent me a photo of her version of the bonus pattern from The Splendid Sampler block, "The Early Bird." When the block was first released as part of the original sew-along in December, I offered a bonus wall-hanging pattern. And here is Anne’s version of the wall-hanging. I just love it. And with all the robins now bobbing around in my backyard, it’s so timely! Just makes me smile.

Turns out the traditionally-pieced version of "The Early Bird" pattern didn’t quite fit in The Splendid Sampler book, so a paper-pieced version was used instead. If you’re not a paper-piecing fan (like me!) the original traditionally-pieced version of the pattern, as well as the bonus wall-hanging, is available here. I hope you try it out!

Anne, thanks for sharing! 

One of the coolest things about scrap quilt projects is that everyone has different scraps so everyone’s project made from the same pattern will be different! And you never know where you might find some inspiration . .

Chopped can be scrappy or can be made from a collection of fat quarters. Either way, it’s such a fun quilt, and much easier to make than you might think! It’s a stunner. Julie Ann’s version has a couple of ribbons! (Wow! Congratulations!!) I just love the way she created a diagonal pattern from each of the Kaffe Fassett prints she used. Love it! Thank so much for sharing!

As for me, I’m still putzing along with this project featuring some wonderful hummingbird prints. Some pretty standard stuff here, with a unique twist. I’m not quite ready to share yet, but maybe in a couple weeks I’ll have a pattern for you. Kits too. Something small and fun for summer. . .

Have any pictures of your Hummingbird Highway or ScrapThearpy projects, send them along. I'd love to see them! And share them, too!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford