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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sea Sewing

A quick photo journal from the highlights of the Scrappy and Happy 2017 Cruise that wrapped up last Sunday.

Winter toes need a little TLC before they make an appearance. Pokey-spots, and ready to go!

To avoid potential travel delays involving flights to and from Syracuse, New York. I arrived at the hotel a day early. The coy fish in the hotel pond didn’t seem to mind the chilly Florida temperatures.

Just down the road from the hotel in Port Canaveral is the Manatee Park. No manatee, but plenty of birds to see!

On board, ooh, there’s a Starbucks!

A cabin-pet. . .

A beautiful ship! Oasis of the Seas carries up to 5,400 guests. This is the view from the back of the ship looking toward the front and up from Deck 6. Behind me is the outdoor movie theater and dive pool. The curved shapes along the sides are balconies for the rooms overlooking the 'boardwalk' neighborhood.

A view of the ship from our first port, Labadee, Haiti. Beach time!

Back on deck, the sun sets on a beautiful day in Haiti.

. . . and smiles on our next port: Falmouth, Jamaica.

Lots of vendors set up at the port. Jewelry, rum, clothing, and crafts are available for purchase. Bargaining is allowed! Leave it to me to find some birds!

Back on board ship, quilters were busy assembling their quilts. Quilting time is available 24/7.

Quilt workshops happen on the sea-days. So everyone can enjoy the ports if they wish. Or come back a little early for a stitch or two!

This is the life! Quilting. Beautiful ship. Tropical ports.

On to Cozumel, our last stop. Lots of shopping, and bargaining. Something about this sign . . .

The ship’s photographers are everywhere. By the end of the week, the photo lounge is full of happy faces and captured memories.

One last day in Port Canaveral for me before the flight back home. A walk to the beach . . .

. . . and one more opportunities to put the pokey-spotted toes in the surf.

Walking back to the hotel, peacocks everywhere! I’m told the neighborhood is a hot spot for them. They are welcomed, and even traffic comes to a stop to allow the birds to cross the road at will.

You know, there is something about a week at sea, sewing, laughing, sewing some more, eating lots, and sewing, shopping. . .  so much fun!

But do you really want to know the secret sauce? It’s not the sewing, the food, the baubles . . . it’s the people! New friends, and quilty acquaintances . . .

. . . Table mates and serving staff!

My table mates for a week full of fun dinners: Front row: Rose, Kim, Kelly. Back row: Richard(OK), me, Nancy, (hey, who’s the photo bomber!), and Harry.

. . . and a little something to bring home to preserve the memories. Couldn’t resist this hand-beaded piece from Cozumel!

Let’s do it all again. . .

. . . but different! Join me for my next quilt cruise. This one is with Quilt Retreat at Sea. Our ports: St. Maarten, St. Kits (including a special excursion to the batik factory), and Puerto Rico. I canNOT wait! March 2018. Talk to Michele ((210)858-6399) and get on board.

Here is the very first sneaky peek at the fabric for our on-board project. Brand-spankin’-new pattern is in the works.

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, January 26, 2017


A couple of weeks ago, I think I may have mentioned that I’ve been on bird-feeder-filling duty since my husband has been recuperating from what might be a torn ligament in his foot. (I say ‘might be’ because there is an MRI scheduled to determine the extent of this foot injury—I’ll spare you all the gory details).

At any rate, we’ve had quite a varied winter so far. A fair bit of snow, then a really, really cold snap, then a thaw (all the snow melted), and this week we were back in the deep freeze with just enough snow to cover the ground and make things look pretty without creating too much of a hazard for driving.

This morning on my daily trek to care for the local wildlife, I was struck by a sense of calm and beauty around me. Every single tree branch had a coating of ice and snow.

With only a slight breeze, the tree branches above me made a gentle ever-so-slight crackling sound as the ice-covered branches clicked together.

I could see I wasn’t the first one to visit the yard. . . Deer and squirrel tracks were everywhere!

There’s a bit of repair work waiting for the springtime. But now, the contrast of dark wood and white frosting seem somewhat restful. A quilt inspiration?

A pot of mums. Still pretty, but quite different from their fall bloom.

I’m not sure what this plant is, the hubs says its a type of Eupatorium (snakeroot), but what I can say that it blooms in late September and it’s located right next to my office window.

Since it’s one of the last to bloom in the yard, the flowers draw bees and hummingbirds like crazy when all the other plants are spent. As fall deepens, the hummingbirds leave and the incoming juncos feast on the seeds throughout the fall. All of this makes for very close, undetected viewing from my vantage point just inside my office window.

Right now it’s ‘winter interest’ until the spent branches are cut back in the spring and the growing cycle begins again.

Alright, that’s enough of the tour! Thanks for indulging me in sharing a little taste of central New York January. Next up, Central Florida January . . . my flight leaves tomorrow for the quilt cruise!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

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