Thursday, August 27, 2015

Canyons, Waterfalls, and Blossoms

Nestled off the beaten trail in western New York, Letchworth State Park seems to have it all! Natural history--the 600-foot canyons were formed by centuries of erosion from the flow of the Genesee River. History--a place of significance for the Seneca Nation. Beauty and recreation--well-maintained trails, campsites, top-rated dining.

Perhaps, the park is best known for it's three distinctly different waterfalls. Here the Upper Falls, are just visible in the background with the grand Middle Falls at the center. The iron railroad bridge, barely visible in the distance due to overcast weather conditions, has been rebuilt from it's original wooden construction.

Letchworth State Park, Overlook

Viewing the Lower falls is best from a stone bridge across the Genesee River (the river that formed the canyon in the first place).

Letchworth State Park, Lower Falls

Of the three, the Middle Falls are perhaps the best known. Water cascades over layers of rock at this point of the park. A perfect place for a selfie with my friend and 'hostess,' Janet Lutz of Calico Gals and Row by Row Experience fame. She's from this part of the state and has visited the park many times. Making her the perfect tour guide.

Letchworth State Park, Middle Falls, Janet and Joan

The path along the river is varies between stone steps, and well-trodden dirt paths, lush with deep green, late summer foliage.

Letchworth State Park, trails

Fragrant wild honeysuckle near the Upper Falls. (Complete with busy bee!)

Letchworth State Park, honeysuckle

Can it possibly be time for the New York Aster to be in bloom? Late summer seems to have snuck up on me somehow!
New York Aster

Joepie Weed also reserves its bloom for the August show.

Joepie Weed

The park would not exist but for the donation of land by Buffalo, NY businessman, William Pryor Letchworth. His rural home, Glen Iris, includes lodging, fine dining (sampled by Janet and me, of course!), shopping, and beautiful grounds.

Letchworth State Park, Glen Iris

Decor for lunch on the outdoor porch included these huge hydrangea blossoms.

Letchworth State Park, gardens

Like any good journey, it's always so sad to come to the 'end of the trail!' I tell myself, I'll be back and I feel a little better.

How about you? Any last minute Summer vacation-grabs on your radar? Some of the best treasures can be found within driving distance from your own backyard.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pop, Twist, Furl, Twirl

A little technique review this week. This technique is called many things. I happen to call it 'furling,' a term I first heard and started using when I learned hand-piecing. So the technique isn't new, in fact it's tried and true. The technique is perhaps best known for four-patch blocks, especially pinwheel blocks.

Several seams coming together at a center point can make for bulky, lumpy seam intersections. With furling, pieced seams are pressed to one side, then pressed open and twirled at the block's seam intersection.

For this first part in a multi-part series, the focus is on furling a four-patch block.

One little given: I'm not a fan of pressing seams open in pieced blocks. There are lots of reasons for my position, which I'll save for another day (or you can find my reasoning in my books!). Now, I realize there are some exceptions, but in my mind, those exceptions are very rare. So, if you subscribe to pressing seams open, the whole furling process goes out the window.

The fabulous Four-Patch

A four-patch block typically starts with two two-patches. Each with a seam pressed (usually) to the darker of the two fabrics. The two-patches might be cross cut from strip-pieced units or could start with plain old squares. When the four-patch is made from four same-sized square, the two patch seams are short. The seam to connect the two two-patches is longer. Notice that the two-patch seams are opposing (red arrows) so the four-patch seam will nest and oppose (snap together) when sewn.

furl quilt block

Once the four-patch seam is sewn and before the block is pressed, with a seam ripper, pull out the last few stitches of the two-patch seam in between the longer four-patch seam and the edge of the fabric. Do that on both sides of the block. And in reality, you don't HAVE to use a seam ripper to pull out the stitches, sometimes the stitches will just 'pop' when you go to furl.

furl quilt block

Now place the block on the ironing board, right side down. Use the existing seams (dotted line arrows) to determine the rotation of the block seams. The remaining two seams (solid red arrows) should complete the rotation. Notice that the whole press-the-seam-to-the-dark-fabric goes bye-bye at this point. Half the seams will be pressed to the darker fabric (in this case, the green) and the other two seams will be pressed toward the lighter fabric (in this case, the cream print).

furl quilt block

As you push the seams to complete the rotation, notice how the removed stitches in the center allow the center to open up or 'bloom' . . . .

furl quilt block

At this point, with the tip of your iron, flatten the block seams. Then flip the block right side up and give the block one last sweep of the iron.

furl quilt block

While the seams don't necessarily follow the press-to-the-darker fabric rule, if all the blocks are sewn the same way, the bonus is that the blocks will 'nest' as they are sewn next to each other. A perfect example of this process is found in the very popular Bloomin' Steps quilt.

furl quilt block

You can see how the block seams will nest nicely from this back view. And guess what, when you sew the blocks together, the seam intersection between the blocks can be furled, too!

furl quilt block

Another furling bonus: it works on four-patch blocks of any size! Rectangular blocks, too, as long as the seams come together in one place.

furl quilt block

More on furling next time!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Quilt Week! Quilt, Next?

What a crazy fun time I had at AQS Quilt Week last week! Sure, it's a lot of work, setting up a booth, making sure demos and product is set up and ready. I had a lot of good help--Barb and Debi helped in the booth. And even Dave (my hubby) got to play a part. Dave is very much a behind-the-scenes kinda guy. He helps a lot when it comes to preparing my trunk shows and packing the car for a trip. But he usually stays out of the picture.

Not so this time! Here he is at the All-Star Review at the Everson Museum on Wednesday night! Before my talk at this teacher's event, I snapped a quick pic with everyone waving! (Are YOU in the picture?) There's Dave (follow the white arrow) in the back. I don't think he appreciated the caliber of quilty training he got at the event. Some of the best in the industry made presentations that evening!

AQS Quilt Week, All Star Review

As I was doing my demos in the booth, some activity caught my eye in my peripheral vision. Robbie was quite enthralled with my button carpet. (I've never met Robbie before!) His dad would state a color name, and Robbie moved to the appropriate button . . . and he even got it right. . . sometimes! So CUTE!!

AQS Booth

Love, love, love Pam's scrappy bag. She received some of the Small Scrap Grid and Mini Scrap Grid interfacing at the Genesee Valley Quilt show earlier this summer and got right to work putting this creation together in time to show it off at the show in Syracuse. She used a little bit of all the interfacing products in her bag. Fabulous!

AQS booth

Have you ever met at Joyful Quilter? I certainly have. Bunches and bunches of them stopped by the booth on Friday. Here's Susan, their fearless leader and Joyful Quilter shop owner, stopping for a quick photo-op in the booth! Their website is currently under construction. The shop is located in Scotia, NY. Thanks, for stopping by and for inviting me to join you after the festivities of the day for dinner.

AQS booth

On Saturday, after the booth was packed up, boxes stowed in the basement work room, Dave and I went out to the Brasserie CNY for some Happy-tisers and dinner. By the way, the French onion soup is killer. Dave had the Bruschetta. *The glass of wine wasn't too bad either!*


My friend, Shelly says that when you wrap up big projects, it's important to take some time, step back and appreciate what you've done before jumping right in to the next thing.

I'm not very good at relaxing. Can you tell? But with all the fun quilty stuff lurking in my sewing studio, I can't help but consider all the possibilities!!


A while back, I experimented with a curved piecing tool and a very blended set of pre-cuts. The result is this lap-sized quilt. Only recently it was a quilt top. Quilted and bound, it's now ready for its next home. My neighbor works in the palliative care unit at one of the local hospitals. A tough job for sure. He is always so appreciative of quilts that I give him for his patients and their families. This one is headed his way this week!


Continuing to work on the sample for the Country Roads Shop Hop coming up this fall. The ten shops in the hop will be distributing my pattern. I'm making the sample for the (eventual) pattern cover.

shop hop quilt in progress

Having received my first set of swapped blocks from the Ribbon Star Swap, I'm itching to start making something. . . .you can still join in the fun. The swap is on-going. Blocks are due each month. More info here.

Ribbon Star Quilt Blocks

I don't know what possessed me to purchase this pattern from A Very Special Collection. (I do know what possessed me, the quilts on display were beautiful!) Their booth was across the aisle from me at the aforementioned AQS show. These fabrics have been sitting in my stash since my Alaska cruise last summer. Paper piecing isn't my thing, but once in a while every technique should be taken out for a spin. By the way, these blocks are about 4" square. The quilts on display in the booth were stunning. But tiny, itty-bitty pieces. Oy!

paper pieced quilt

Oooh! And what's this on the sewing table. . . . Can't tell! It's a secret!

quilt in progress

And I think I have finally found the perfect project for this citrus-y collection of batiks from Hoffman California Fabrics! Can't wait to dig in.

quilting fabrics

Can't forget about this UFO shelf in the sewing studio. The pink quilt (above) came from here, but the shelf *might* have gained a new occupant or two over the course of the summer. Does this kinda thing happen to you, too? One step forward. . .

Joan Ford
So many quilts, so little time! *Wink!*

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A 'Very Big Shew' . . .

Everyone in Syracuse is all abuzz about AQS Quilt Week coming to town next week. Vendor set-up starts on Monday and the show opens on Wednesday, the 29th. If you're going to be in Syracuse, I highly recommend that you stop by the OnCenter in downtown Syracuse to check out the festivities! Quilts, vendors, classes, the whole sch-bang.

With lots still in the pre-show preparation stage, I thought I'd share some brief happenings here on the 'highway.'

Since I'll be vending at the show, the bins are filling up with all kinds of goodies to take to the OnCenter, the show venue. My booth is 1009. How perfect is that?

What? You don't see the connection? Lately, I've been all about the 9-patch, just take a '9' and throw '100' in front of it. Easy to remember! I like it!

Demos, specially-priced bundles, AND the newest ScrapTherapy pattern, Picasso's Puzzle are the star players at the Hummingbird Highway booth!

Picasso's Puzzle, a hard-not-to-touch fabric cube, features the Middle Scrap Grid interfacing. The patterns are on a truck somewhere between the printer in Minnesota and Syracuse right now as you read this note! I'm told they'll be here in the nick of time for the show! Picasso's Puzzle is SO MUCH FUN to make--in fact my Picasso's Puzzle class at the AQS Show still has openings. Grab an opening and try it for yourself!--(all the prep for the class is done, just show up--of course, you have to enroll first)

If you can't make it to the show, I'll have more details on the pattern packs next time. Ask for the them at your favorite quilt shop, or visit my online cart . . . soon!

I've been busy preparing a couple of new kit samples of the Up One Side table runner. Ridge Rock and Bright Christmas fabric lines from Hoffman California Fabrics are featured in two new kits available for the first time at the booth. And the best part: the fabrics for the quilt top are pre-cut and ready to sew! (Somebody (i.e. me) had better get a binding on that Christmas one!)

One of the show specials has nothing to do with the show itself! You've heard of the Row by Row Experience? Well, the shop where the whole thing started is right here in Syracuse. I've been working with Janet Lutz, my friend and Calico Gals owner, to put together a really special 'something' for you. For starters, you have to go to the store to pick up their water-themed row pattern, called Drip, Drip, Drop--pattern by yours truly! Bring a friend (or not) and get a great little deal and special present from Janet and me! Here's a hint . . .

And . . . as long as you are in Syracuse, whether you are visiting from far away or from right in town, I want to encourage you to take advantage of a local treasure. The Onondaga Historical Museum has a special exhibit of 20 unbelievable vintage quilts dating to the mid-1800s. Click on the link and scroll down to Patterns in History: Vintage Quilts of Onondaga County for the particulars. I was honored to be involved in helping to select the quilts for the exhibit from their amazing collection. Here's a sample of an exquisite completed crazy quilt that will be included in the exhibit. Aren't these two finely-dressed critters adorable!

While you are at the museum, take a chance to win this vintage-inspired hexagon quilt. It was hand-pieced and hand-quilted here on the Hummingbird Highway by me and donated to the Onondaga Historical Association as a fundraiser. It could be yours if you win the drawing! But to coin a phrase, you gotta be in it to win it!

If you're headed this way, enjoy the Syracuse area . . . more from me online in a couple weeks.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Going, going. . .

For the last week or so, my front yard has been 'under construction.' I blame it entirely on the folks over at The Taunton Press. Their book, The Front Yard Idea Book, gave my husband the crazy/inspired idea to install a stone patio in the front of our house! After a few visits to the Phoenix Flower Farm, Dave contracted with Delos and his crew to do the deed. From my sewing room in the front of the house, I've watched as equipment and supplies arrived, lawn disappeared, holes were dug, and stone was laid.  . .

front yard patio

 . . . It's not done yet, but it's getting close. Some of the plants are staged around the new patio, in their pots, ready for planting. I'll have to show you more pictures when it's all done. Right now, it's in that awkward stage of bland. It's quite a bold move, and such a mess while work is underway. I'm sure our neighbors will be happy when the task is done (stone saws are very noisy and dusty beasts!)

front yard patio

Speaking of messes. I made this tumbling blocks quilt several years ago using Marti Michell's instructions and templates. The quilt is in very good shape considering that is has been passed on to a few different caretakers. Most recently, my brother acquired it while clearing out some of my aunt's things when she was moved to a senior residence. Somewhere along the line this small section of the quilt top interacted with some bleach. A bad combination.

bleach stain on quilt

I decided to follow my own advice, and used some suggestions from When Bad Things Happen To Good Quilters. Couldn't find the acrylic templates, but fortunately for me, Marti's book has traceable shapes. I got very lucky and found some purple and blue fabrics, cut the shapes I needed from traced templates, and pieced a very strange-shaped arrangement of four tumbling block shapes to cover the stain.

Forgot to take a picture of the shape before I pinned it to the quilt, below. As I pinned, I turned under the seam allowance. See the red outline of the shape?

fixing a stained quilt

I used some 60 weight Presencia thread in colors to match to applique the shape exactly over the existing seam lines.

fixing a stained quilt

The colors blended so well that I could hardly find the patch for the next step. . .

fixing a stained quilt

 . . .So I placed a pin nearby to find it again.

fixing a stained quilt

Then I found a perfect match for the thread I used for the original quilting. And retraced my quilting lines.

fixing a stained quilt

Poof! No more stain.

fixing a stained quilt

The full quilt. I circled the pin so you could see where the fix is. Can't see it? . . .

fixing a stained quilt

. . . How about a closer look? Yeah, me neither!

fixing a stained quilt

When my brother dropped off the quilt to see if it could be fixed, I suspect he really wasn't counting on much.

Showed him! When bad things happen to good quilters . . . good quilters take the challenge!

Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Challenging Geese

I'm thrilled to be a part of Scrap Quilt Challenge 5! Many thanks to Shannon and her crew at Fabrics N Quilts for inviting me to participate again this year and for organizing a cool way to focus on scraps, completed projects, and summer time all at once! Prizes, too! All you have to do is make scrappy quilts! AND, there's a special deal waiting for you on this post when you make it all the way to the bottom of the tutorial. . . so let's get started!

Since there might be some folks visiting this post who may not already be familiar with me, I'll start with a short self-introduction: 

Nuff with the formalities!

Last year, my tutorial involved the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid Interfacing and this cute-as-a-button table runner project. 

button table runner

For my tutorial this year, I thought I'd provide a little twist on the traditional Flying Geese unit--we're on the Hummingbird Highway, after all, and birds are my 'thing.' I'm focusing in on the 3x6" finished size. For my tutorial I'm also using 1-1/2" squares trimmed from my 2" scrap squares from my bin of pre-cut scraps, some Middle Scrap Grid Interfacing, and some fun techniques filled with variety. 

The ScrapTherapy Middle Scrap Grid interfacing is printed by Quiltsmart, and has fusible material on one side, and lines printed on the other. Four different types of lines tell you where to align and fuse scrap squares, clip, sew, and cut. For a more general, detailed tutorial on using the Middle Scrap Grid to make 9-patch blocks, click here. For the Flying Geese, we'll take a few departures from the general tutorial so, don't go too far astray as you follow along step by step.

For starters, the Middle Scrap Grid comes by the panel and there's enough interfacing on one panel to make 24 9-patch blocks. OR, with a few variations in sewing, we can make twelve 3x6" rectangular patches from each panel. 

Middle Scrap Grid Interfacing

First, place the grid on your ironing surface, fusible side of the interfacing up. Arrange similar color and value 1-1/2" square scraps on the fusible side of the interfacing and fuse with a hot iron when the entire grid is covered with scraps. Refer to the general tutorial to trim the interfacing, place the scraps, and fuse. I'm using a variety of green, blue, and purple scraps in mostly medium values because I just finished a quilt made with green, blue, and purple fabrics. (Funny how that works!)

Middle Scrap grid interfacing and scrap fabrics

Next follow the general tutorial to sew six seams, width-wise. (Is that a word? What I mean is sew across the shorter dimension of the rectangle.) Skip the third and sixth seam markings at the red arrows. As a reminder, fold on the dotted lines; sew on the solid lines. Be sure to align the solid lines front to back before you sew, and sew directly on the solid lines 

Middle scrap grid interfacing

Should look like this from the right side. Notice the seams with the red X aren't sewn.

Middle Scrap Grid intefacing

Now clip the interfacing at EACH the seam intersection at the cross hairs (+) and at the dots (.). Five clips per seam. To make 9-patches, you'd have four clips per seam.

clipping the middle scrap grid interfacing

Be sure you clip the seam THROUGH the stitching . . .

clipping the middle scrap grid interfacing

 . . . so you can nest and oppose the seams. Make pairs of seams that are pressed TOWARD each other on one side and AWAY FROM each other on opposite sides. I call these innies and outies. See the red 'away' arrows and the green 'toward' arrows? Don't forget, fold on the dotted line, sew on the solid line.

nesting quiltng seams

Alternate seam direction as you sew each long row.

seam pressing direction

You should have five lengthwise seams. If you want to make 9-patch blocks, you wouldn't have sewn the third seam (circled in red, view from the back)

Middle Scrap Grid seams

Now cut apart the interfacing at the only two remaining unsewn seams. Cut on the dashed lines.

Middle scrap grid 9-patch

Next, we need to press. I like to 'furl' my seams. Like for 4-patch blocks. But because the interfacing is involved, I need to adjust the pressing technique a wee bit. Instead of having opened mini 4-patches on the back right at the seam intersections, you can make little compressed triangles. Refer to the general tutorial for more specifics.

furled seams

Once all your seams are pressed, the block base should be 3-1/2x6-1/2". I like to double check the measurement and trim off any spillage caused little variables in scrap placement, sewing blips, or general adjustments.


Repeat until you have the desired number of rectangular bases for your geese. I made 8, all the same, or since they are scrappy, maybe better that I say all are similar. Put those aside for a moment or two.

Flying Geese in progress

Cut some 3-1/2" squares. Two squares per block. I chose a solid, high-contrast color. Draw a diagonal line corner to corner on the back. 

HST lines

Align the square on one end of the block and sew on the line. . . . then. . .

Flying Geese in progress

. . . turn the block over.

Flying geese

See the existing seam? Leave that alone for now, and draw another line that connects the circled 9-patch seam intersection points.

flying geese

Sew on the second line, then cut 1/4" away from each line as shown. 

flying geese

Set the little triangle aside for the moment and press the dark square toward the corner. Repeat the process to add a second triangle to the opposite end of the unit. Don't forget to make the little guy, too!

flying geese

That's a Scrappy Flying Geese unit! I chose to alternate two different colors of flip-and-stitch squares on each end of each unit I made. You can make them both the same fabric, if you prefer.

Flying geese quilt block

Then I arranged the geese units to create a really scrappy block. Imagine the possibilities with matching squares on each Flying Geese, or pairs of matching squares on alternating units, cool tone scraps/warm tone stitch-and-flip squares, sashing in between geese, geese in a row . . . you get the idea. Endless possibilities. My block measures 12-1/2". 

quilt block

Now, you didn't think I was going to let any of this scrappy goodness go to waste, did you? Retrieve the small corner triangles and press the solid triangle away from the scrappy triangle. Notice the three little red dots. Use a ruler to align the middle dot with the 1" intersecting lines on the ruler, and the two outer dots with the 2" markings at the ruler's edge. All three dots should be right on the pressed diagonal seam. Trim the block on two sides. . . 

Flying Geese Leftovers

 . . .  and flip the block and trim the remaining two sides. 

Flying Geese Leftovers

Result: a cute little 2" square pieced half-square triangle unit!

Flying Geese Leftovers

Make a bunch.

Flying Geese Leftovers

Then dig out one 9-patch-worth--or more if you like--of the LITTLE Scrap Grid! And. . .

Flying geese Mini Mug Mats

 . . . arrange the 2" pieced units on the Little Scrap Grid . . . like this . . .

Flying geese Mini Mug Mats

. . . or this . . . or any number of different ways. Fuse, sew following the general tutorial for Little Scrap Grid. Then make a Mini Mug Mat, if you like! 

Flying geese Mini Mug Mats

Here's another block option incorporating the scrappy Flying geese units as well as four 9-patch blocks for the corners and four 9-patch blocks for the center. This block finishes to 12" square. Also, notice the 5" square Mini Mug Mat made from the leftover Flying Geese corners.

quilt block

AND, as long as we're considering lots of options. Why not make the base a solid fabric, and use 9-patch blocks made from the Middle Scrap Grid for the outer corners?

fllying geese

Press the seams toward the larger triangle to accommodate the bulky seams on the 9-patch stitch-and-flip unit.

flying geese

And you'll even have leftovers, just like before! 

flying geese

I hope you've been inspired! Of course, you don't need to have the Middle or Little Scrap Grid to make your wildly scrappy Flying Geese units, but I have to admit that I'm addicted to the stuff. 

Save 25% When You Purchase Your Scrap Quilt Challenge 9-Patch Bundle by July 31st!

I'd love for you to try it, too! Therefore, I'm offering a little incentive only during this first month of Scrap Quilt Challenge 5, with a special bundle for you

CLICK HERE to purchase the Scrap Quilt Challenge 9-Patch Bundle which includes four panels of ScrapTherapy Middle Scrap Grid Interfacing (enough to make 96 Scrappy Flying Geese, or twice that many 9-patch blocks), one panel of ScrapTherapy Little Scrap Grid Interfacing (enough to make 12 scrappy leftover Mini Mug Mat tops), plus a package of Mini Mug Mat Just the Batting (six pieces of 5" pre-cut double sided fusible foam batting) for the mug mats. The regular price for all the stuff in this special bundle is $50. Buy it this month for $37, and save 25%. The special price is good between now and July 31st, 2015.

Have a fantastic, scrappy summer, and
Happy Stitching!