Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Week Aweigh

I've been away on a quilt cruise for the last week or so. With so many good memories, it's really difficult to sort through tons and tons of photos. I've tried to capture the essence of the trip for you. The introductory text is brief to make this post a quick and (hopefully) enjoyable read.

For starters, I left Syracuse a day early ahead of our Saturday cruise departure. I planned it that way far in advance, just in case Syracuse (which is known for annual snowfall levels of 100" or more) experienced a weather event in early March. Turns out, this was a good plan, as a Nor'easter took hold of much of the East Coast (US) on what could have been my travel day on Friday, causing travel delays and headaches!

To make good use of the extra day in Miami, I joined a few of the other sea-going quilters for a visit to the Miami Sequarium. Such fun!

Dolphin, sea lion, and orca shows were quite entertaining. In one section of the park, I had a chat with several macaws and parrots (including the African Gray, below). When given the choice, I'll always choose 'the Highway' (below)--the Hummingbird Highway, that is. . . wouldn't you?

On Saturday morning, we were able to board the ship and say good bye, for now, to beautiful Miami. Look at those lovely yachts! (below). Time for our first of many delicious meals on board, along with a frozen mojito! (below)

Finally. .  . the big reveal of our on-board quilt project. Water Logged (right) is a generous fat-quarter friendly quilt. The project is inspired by classic log-cabin-style blocks which benefits from all four, but especially two of the BlocLoc log cabin rulers.

Everyone on the cruise received, as part of their quilt package, a pre-cut kit. The pieces were purposely cut over sized, so the BlocLoc tools could be used to trim each round to perfection.

We had forty-two very enthusiastic quilters anxious to get started sewing during our first two days at sea.

Our ship, the Celebrity Equinox (below) finally was able to dock at St. Maarten (carved map in the street pavement, below center). Along with a few others from our group, I took a tour of several art galleries on the island of St. Maarten. Ruby (below) tells of her life as an artist on the island.

Our next stop, was St. Kitts. Our group of quilters was split in three to visit Caribelle Batiks on the lush and beautiful Romney estate (right). We got to sample first-hand how batiks are printed.

Using metal stamps and hot wax, the fabric starts out white, the stamps, dipped in hot wax protect the fabrics from the dye in a wax-resist process.

The white fabric with waxed shapes is then dipped in dye, then rinsed in cold water, waxed and dipped again to add to the colors. Once the fabric is dyed the final color, it's placed in boiling water to remove the wax.

Once we got the introduction, we made our very own batik print! Elma applies the wax with a butterfly stamp (below). The group in a room below takes a break from stamping for a cheesy photo (below).

Mary (below) in a different room dyes our waxed fabric a bright orange color. Back inside the main building, we can observe the fabric artists creating larger pieces of waxed, then dyed examples (below). And of course, like any good tour, there was an opportunity to purchase some hand-painted batiks to take home (and we did!)

Both St. Kitts and St. Maarten are such beautiful islands! One of the main streets at the pier in St. Kitts is lined with sunshine and palm trees (below). So nice to see brightly colored flowers again (below).

Time to leave beautiful St. Kitts in the early evening (below) and get back to our project. Murray, one of the quilter spouses sports his new Caribelle Batik tie for dinner (below)!

Back on board in our beautiful classroom for the last few days at sea. You could find all the essentials at each work station: fabric, pattern, blocks in various stages of completion, and maybe a little caffeine (below). On the upper deck you could join Corning Museum of Glass to make a blown glass tumbler or a variety of other items, just like in Corning, NY! (below)

 . . . And did I mention the food?! Delicious meals and desserts each day (below)!

I've said this before and I'll say it again. . . Any time quilters get together--at a retreat, on a cruise, or for an event or show--it's not just about all the food, the tours, and the project. It's about the memories, the mementos, and the laughs that you take with you after the event is over!

It's not about the quilt. . . it's about the people you meet along the way to making the quilt!

Wanna come along on the next cruise? Start saving your pennies now!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

St. Patrick's Redux

Please forgive me if this Shamrock Table Runner looks familiar - if you've been around for a year or more, it should! By the time you get this note, I should be waiting for my plane to board! I'm headed to Miami to spend a week on a big boat in the Caribbean with lots of quilters!

As I'm writing (it's actually still Wednesday) my mind keeps wandering to the things I still have to do and still have to pack, and not too very much on this week's message. . .

Therefore, I thought this festive, seasonal project (it's a free tutorial and includes a bonus place mat pattern!) is worth revisiting! And it's a great use of some green scraps along with a bit o' lucky stash fabric.

  1. If you don't already have it, grab the pattern and the complete tutorial over on the BERNINA blog.
  2. If you already have it, dig it out and get sewing in time for Corned Beef and Cabbage festivities on March 17th.
  3. If you already have it and you've already made it, why not make another? It's pretty fun and pretty fast to make!
  4. Or if you already have the pattern, but can't find it (man-o-man, I've been there!) revisit step 1.

In any case, enjoy it!

As for me, back to packing!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Boxing Day!

No, it's not the holiday season (Boxing Day is typically the day after Christmas), but around here there sure seem to be a lot of boxes lately!

Little bitty ones . . . Aren't these fun and colorful? Some of these are coming with me on the cruise next week - little surprises! Some will show up in other fun places.

A few weeks ago, I had a breakfast meeting at the mall. I'm not at the mall all that often. I stopped in to Michaels to pick up some 6-strand embroidery thread and had one of those "squirrel!" moments!

In one of the main aisles, there stood a pile of colorful photo-boxes.

The sign said 'photo storage boxes.' But they sure look like a great place to store tidied up fabrics to me! 

Really fun colors, a place to insert some notes regarding the kinds of fabric treasures inside, and a great price 4 for $10! I grabbed a few, and used a couple - one for a door prize, and one for fabric storage.

Since then, I have kinda made one excuse or another to 'stop by' the Michaels near me, and then another visit to the store at the mall. I have a good collection now! I think I can stop! But not before picking up this one with the stand-out near-sighted zebra in the yellow glasses on the lid! (I think I might have a problem!) 

Then there are the BIG boxes headed to Florida where I'll meet up with them again in just about one week!

These super-sized, super-heavy boxes (weighing in at about 70 lbs each) contain the kits (and a few extra-fun goodies) for next week's cruise. They headed out the door last evening.

Our cruise project remains a secret - it's under lock and key - rather tape and cardboard until we're on board. 

What will it be? . . .

With all this boxing up, I'm feeling a little behind with the stacks and stacks of 'stuff' on my desk and the virtual stacks of items in my email inboxes.

Time to get serious before I have to step on a plane and get ready for some fun in the sun!

Happy Stitching

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Who is Opal?

First, I have to say, it has really been an exciting and intriguing journey to develop the new Your Nest™ Organizer.

By now, many of you have (or will soon) receive Your Nest Organizer if you placed an order during the shipping special I ran last week. You may have noticed the bird on the packaging. That's Opal. And she has an interesting journey all her own.

Here's one thing I know for sure. This new gadget wouldn't have happened without the contributions from some really talented people.

This is the very first sample of the packaging for Your Nest Organizer. An ugly white box with a hole in the top. The product started as a concept, then a drawing, then a couple of prototypes (the first prototype was an utter disaster!) Once we had a prototype of the product, it needed a box.

The only thing I knew for sure was that the box needed to have a hole so you could experience the funny-feeling flexible 'spikes' that hold rulers (and other cool stuff).

The package designers came up with this shape. Mission accomplished, right? Well, there were still a few adjustments to make because my original, original prototype was a different size from the final version. So the first box didn't quite fit the second prototype below - see the space indicated by the red arrow? and by the way, no that's not one of the final colors, it's prototype #2

The next step in the process was to actually create the artwork for the box.

For that I worked with Holly Scherzi Designs. I met Holly years ago at a business networking event in the Syracuse area. At that time, I never, ever envisioned that I would need her services. I'm a quilter, after all . . .why would I need a packaging expert? I liked that she is from my area. Local talent.

In our first conversation, I knew she was the right person for the job. She asked me a few questions about what I had in mind and about the product, including colors. All I had was a few of the color chips (and these aren't quite the final Your Nest Organizer colors, but it was a start).

I had no idea what Holly was going to do with that plain white package with a hole in the middle. But she was confident and all she said was that she had some ideas. . . the earliest version showed up in my email. Notice how Opal started with plain black legs, but quickly gained some striped leggings, but no dots on her tail or crest at the earliest stages.

For a very brief moment, she even had painted toe nails. But that's just silly! What respectable bird would paint her toenails? Leggings, certainly, but toe nail polish?

Opal didn't get her name until I made a mistake.

With images, there are two different file variations that you can create -- one that is optimized for print, and one that is optimized to view online. And without getting too technical, using the online version where the print version is called for and vice verse can create weird colors.

I was transferring Opal (a print version of her) to someone for online use, and I noticed that her color had transformed. She looked like an Australian opal!

All of the sudden, Opal had a name.

Opal is organized and fun. And she likes to sew, but she can be a very messy bird.

That's why Your Nest™ Organizer is perfect to keep Opal's stuff handy when she's busy creating!

This is how the online version should have looked (and does now)!

And she started as the hole in the top of a package.

Mind blown.

I dunno, I think it's a fun story.

Here's the part of the story that really hits me in the heart. I had an idea and I couldn't possibly execute all the parts by myself. I never imagined all the truly wonderful and talented people I was going to meet as this idea developed into a thing. Including:

  • My amazing US-based manufacturing partner (I knew one thing for sure when I set out on this journey, I didn't want Your Nest™ Organizers to be made overseas!).
  • A banker who believed in a really silly idea and helped with all the appropriate financial forms
  • A trusted attorney's expertise and guidance in all things legal
  • A CAD design team in Jacksonville, Florida who took a break from flood relief efforts last Fall to make a drawing adjustment.
  • The pigment supplier who just could not understand the purple I wanted until I explained that it needed to invoke the image of a purple martin - little did I know that he was a bird enthusiast, suddenly that analogy produced the 'right' purple for "Martin," one of the four color options.
  • A package designer who created the shape of the box
  • The artist who turned the circular hole in that box into Opal.
  • A crazy-talented web and logo designer behind the transitioning
  • A marketing coach standing on the sidelines encouraging me along an amazing roller coaster ride that isn't over yet - and yes, there have definitely been ups and downs on this path.
  • And the list goes on!

I feel like I'm very, very lucky, and I'm part of a very big, highly skilled, and extremely talented team that is bringing a silly, handy little gadget to your sewing room! For $18.95, Your Nest™ Organizer is not ONLY a really fun gadget to keep stuff handy - it's a fist full of amazing talent for an incredible price!

Just wow! Awesome, right?

What a journey!

In case you missed it last week, here's the link if you gotta have Your Nest Organizers

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

My Quilt Birthday!

It's my Quilt Birthday! 

On February 8th, 2003, I started making my very first quilt project.

In January and February of 2003, the winter was looking like it would never end here in central New York! And I was looking forward to learning and enjoying a new hobby on that cold, winter day.

Do you remember your first experience making a quilt? Maybe not the exact date, but the fabrics, the people, and the project?

It's a perfect day to celebrate, and to introduce something new!

I've kept this idea secret for far too long! It all started with an office supply gadget designed for papers, envelopes and pencils. Turned out it was also a nice way to keep quilting rulers handy, but there was no place to park a rotary cutter!

That was the seed of an idea. I wanted to create a tool that could keep rulers, pencils, scissors, AND a rotary cutter near at hand when creativity takes priority over tidy-ness!

From that idea, an incredible journey followed. . . from identifying a US manufacturer, working with engineers and CAD designers, testing materials, developing packaging, and finally I'm ready to share . . .


Turns out, Your Nest™ Organizer is pretty handy in in a few ways. 

I like it on my desk (below) (yes, that's my old accounting calculator - I like to keep my cell phone in that slot, but I needed it to take the picture!).

Or in the kitchen (below below). I get Home Chef meal delivery service. As soon as I open up the box, I put away the cold stuff and stack the recipe cards right on Your Nest™ Organizer. Looks like we're having Taco Salad Pizza tonight! 

And, of course, I love it most on my sewing table. Small rulers, small cutting mats, pens, medium sized rulers, pencils, scissors, really BIG rulers. . . !  It's flexible and sturdy at the same time.

With . . .  drumroll please! . . .

A place for the rotary cutter!

If you know anything about me, then you know I'm all about birds. So, you've probably already made the bird connection to the name

Your Nest even has a feathered mascot named Opal! You'll meet her soon!

So, you see I've been very busy hatching all kinds of fun plans for this cool tool.

Did I mention that it comes in four feather-friendly colors:

Top to bottom:

Martin (purple)
Flamingo (pink)
Hummingbird (green)
Peacock (teal blue)

Want one? And a gift for you!

You can't have a birthday without gifts, right? And it seems right  that if you're going to have a birthday so close to the weekend, you really should take advantage of the whole weekend to celebrate!!

Therefore for any Your Nest™ Organizers purchased between now through the weekend, I'm knocking off $4 from the shipping fee.

Canada and overseas

Unfortunately, because everything is so new, I haven't worked out all the shipping particulars for Your Nest Organizers to Canada and overseas. So, Canadian friends, you have two options (assuming you want any options!) : 1) wait for an announcement about making purchases from the Hummingbird Highway OR 2) there are two retailers in Canada who will soon have Your Nest Organizers in stock:

    Cherry Tree Quilts, British Columbia
    The Pickle Dish Quilt Shop, Ontario

Happy Quilt Birthday, and Happy Stitching!


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Pick a Pear

Last week I reported that I raided my stack of works-in-progress and targeted a stack of pieced pears ranging in not-even-started to near-complete stages.

This past weekend, and during my daily morning sewing sessions, I managed a little dedicated sewing time and I finished making all the pears. 

The pattern for the block is from Farm Girl Vintage by Lori Holt. I started the project a couple years ago as my participation in a monthly club that met at the LQS.

I don't know what possessed me to cut the fabrics for SO MANY pear blocks, but I did, and it's time to finish them. I'm determined!

With the blocks sewn, some of them, meant to represent a pair cut in half, needed seeds.

Applique or embroider? My friend, Gail suggested filling each shape with a tiny chain stitch, and it was decided. I started by placing a bit of Face-It Soft on the back where the embroidery would be for body and stability. 

By the way, did you know that Face-it Soft comes in 1-yard packages now? Personally, I love the stuff, and I used it a lot to back fabric for embroidery, or to add just a bit of body to a bag lining. But I digress . . .

For the seeds, I free-hand drew the seed shape with an air-erasable marker. . . 


. . . then started my tiny chain sittch just inside the outside edge of the shape. . .

 . . . Until I completed the outline loop. Then filled in the center with more tiny chain stitches.

For a little variety, I started some with a chain stitch in the center of the drawn shape - after all the beginning of a chain stitch (or a lazy daisy) is kinda seed-shaped.

Then I worked outward, one row of chain stitches at a time.

And of course, each of the 'inside' pears has two seeds, repeat. And repeat, and repeat. Until all the seeds were sewn onto the appropriate blocks. 

And . .. it was time to sew them together randomly. Some up, some down, different greens mixed with yellows, you know the drill.

I had enough pairs for two placemats and one nicely-sized table runner.

I was on a roll!

And then I had to put this one aside. The FLOCK delivery for February is coming up quickly so that project is calling! While it's hard to tear yourself away from any progress, I enjoy working on that project too!

I really do like when a project like this - one that has been in and out of the to-do pile, dormant and active for several rounds - gains momentum. It's energizing and the project practically gets a life of its own.

Once I finish up some specific tasks, I'll finish this one up. All it needs is some fun border treatments, quilting, and binding.


Happy Stitching!