Thursday, September 21, 2017

Getting Ahead of Myself

What month is this? September?? I thought so, I was just checking because I usually start thinking about my holiday cards and the hand-made ornament insert right around December 1. Well . . . that’s actually not quite true - I start *thinking* about it in October, but usually don’t start *doing* anything about it until December.

For some strange reason, this year is different. Don’t ask me why, but I’m not going to over analyze things. I’m just going to roll with it.

I started this several years ago. Every year, I put a hand-made ornament in my holiday cards. And sometimes I struggle with an idea for the ornament. Usually the idea pops into my head right around Thanksgiving and I have less than a month to pull it all together.

This year, for some reason the idea came early. And because it came early, I’m actually enjoying the process.

Spoiler alert: If you are on my holiday card list and want to be surprised, then read no further. But if you enjoy using up some scrap fabrics, and you don’t mind piecing and sewing in some pretty darn small spaces, then read on. AND there’s a bonus bundle at the end!

I’ll start with the finish point. Here’s the result. A scrappy-mini-log-cabin-block-ornament that I’m calling Yule Logs.

First the supplies. This project features the BlocLoc Log Cabin Trim Tool. As you may already know, I’m pretty fond of the BlocLoc half-square triangle trimming rulers, so I wasn’t surprised when I tried, and really liked their log cabin tools. My ornament project uses the itty-bittiest size.

Also needed: some fusible batting squares, some scrap fabrics (actually these bright solids are cut from a fat quarter find in my fabric stash, thanks to some Tidy Fabric Club prep that is underway), a focus print for the backing and binding (I’m using this adorable mini print from the Woodland Wonder collection from Quilting Treasures (more on that below). And some Clover Wonder Clips - the Mini Wonder Clips are ideal for this tiny project.

I started with a fussy-cut 1” square from the Woodland Wonder focus print. Since I want to have my ornament hang from a corner, I cut my center as well as my backing from the focus print on the bias. Then I added the first two strips, pressed the seams outward, locked in to the seam bulk with the BlocLoc groove on the bottom of the ruler, and trimmed the three raw edges using the tool.

Then added two more scrap strips, pressed, and trimmed to complete the round.

Lather, rinse, repeat. (Just kidding - I mean keep adding, pressing and trimming two opposite sides at a time to build the itty bitty log cabin.)

The fourth round is the last one.

In case I haven’t made myself perfectly clear - these are really, REALLY small pieces. The strips are cut 7/8” wide, then trimmed *down* after sewing. The logs finish to 1/4” wide - I 100% get that this is a little bit (a lot?) crazy, but the result is SO cool, and SO much easier than it could be by using the trim tool.

With four rounds sewn, my blocks are measuring just a hair over the ’should be’ measurement of 3” square. I could give them an added trim, but I’m good with that measurement since I’m not sewing them to each other. Each block will stand alone as it’s own. I think I may be incorporating a little bit of stretch into the fabric as I press. I’ll have to watch this as I make more. But for now, I’m rolling with it.

Next I’m going to sandwich a double sided fusible foam batting square that has been trimmed to match the block size between the block and centered on the oversized backing square. Fuse.

Then I work one side at a time: fold the backing edge so the raw edge meets the batting edge, then fold again so the first fold is on top of the ornament, and the second fold is snug against the batting. And clip with the Mini Wonder Clips. You could use pins, but because everything is so small, I think the mini clips work best.  

Miter at the corner by folding once diagonally at the corner . . .

Then making the first fold to begin the binding for the adjacent ornament side.

Clip, clip, clip to secure. . .

 . . . until you get all the way around.

Then secure the folded binding edge with a button-hole, zigzag, or satin stitch. A stiletto will help to keep the layers secure near the needle as you remove clips and sew the binding edge.

Add round or two of stitch-in-the-ditch quilting as desired. This step could be done before the binding steps as well.

The Yule Logs Bonus Bundle

Now, here’s the fun part, as promised. I’ve assembled a bundle of essential Yule Logs Ornament tools, so, if you choose, you can surprise your holiday list with a little something (very little!) hand made this year.

What’s included in the Yule Logs Special Bundle:

 - 1/4” & 3/8” BlocLoc Log Cabin Trimmers
 - One Package Mini Wonder Clips (20 in the package)
 - Twelve 3-1/2” square fusible batting squares (In-R-Form by Bosal)
 - Yule Logs Ornament Pattern
 - BONUS fat quarter of Woodland Wonder print

For a special bundle price of $29.95, saving 30% off the combined full price of $39.14. This special bundle is only available through Tuesday, September 26, 2017. The offer is good only while supplies last.

Are you in? Click the green button below to proceed.

I can’t even believe I’m this far ahead of the game for my holiday cards this year. The rest of the my holiday list can wait. I’ve got all of the fall season to consider my holiday plans--while I sew little itty-bitty log cabin ornaments!

How about you?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Road Work Ahead

I’m packing again. Headed out of town for about a week or so. And you know what that means. . . .

It’s time to take a look around the studio for some travel-friendly projects to take on the road with me.

To begin, sustenance is critical. Pretzels are always good because they keep stitching fingers relatively clean. Since I’m not a big peanut butter fan, and you can find the peanut butter filled pretzels everywhere, these looked intriguing . . so they’re coming along.

I don’t like to bring too many projects when I’m on the road. So I like to focus on one ‘something’ that will hold my interest for the time away. I’ve had this project underway for years! I’ve brought it along on some recent retreats and to Alaska a few weeks ago. I’ve made some good progress. . . So it’s on deck.

The appliqué on all the small blocks around the outside are finished. When I started this all those many years ago, I thought the starch method was the best thing ever. I’ve since seen the light and prefer the back basting hand appliqué method. Unfortunately, a lot of the pieces were prepped for that other method. It’s a wrinkle. The center medallion and the outer swag, added after the blocks are sewn together, remain to be sewn.

Looking at the blocks, I kinda want to spruce them up a bit. Maybe add some embroidery . . .

So before I pack them up for travel, I want to back each of the blocks with Face It Soft to add a little extra body for the hand stitches. I used it for many (if not all) of the Splendid Sampler embroidery blocks in my quilt.

This stuff is the best! It’s woven and needles wonderfully. It’s fusible so a quick pop with the iron and it’s fused in place on the back of the blocks.

Can’t forget to bring my collection of bright and fun threads. Perle cottons by ArtFabrik and some neon six strand embroidery threads to use in moderation for a pop of bright here and there.

And a few stitchery books for reference.

I dunno, am I forgetting anything?

Maybe a toothbrush, and some fresh clothes, right?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I Confess . . .

 My fabric stash has gotten a *little* out of control.

I suppose I’m a typical quilter. I see fabric, I buy fabric. I use some, I have ‘some’ leftover for future projects.

Some = Shelves of it.

I’m not sure when it happened that one or two stacks of fabric became several stacks. A system to keep it under control and accessible that used to work pretty well, doesn’t work so well any more.

I have a work room in my basement, with spacious shelves on one wall. Really nice. I store my fabric in stacks. Generally, by color. Over time the stacks have grown.

The stacks of fabric work out okay, until I need to grab a little something for a project. Inevitably, that little something is at the bottom of one of those stacks.

So, the stacks really don’t look that bad, right? But then there’s this . . . Ugh-h.

I have decided that it’s time for a change. Time to tidy things up. Organize by color.

Then arrange fabrics like books on a bookshelf so they are much easier to access.

I have also decided that the change isn’t going to happen over night. The project to organize has become too big.

And. . . if it’s gonna work - for me, anyway - it needs to be fun.

Maybe, if you have a similar situation on your hands, you’d like to join me in my quest for a little more stash organization. I’m in the process of developing the Tidy Fabric Club. I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but now that’s quilting season, I’ll be putting my plan into action. Could it be your plan, too? Hey, if we have ScrapTherapy®, then maybe we can create a little YardageTherapy! *wink!*

If you are interested, click here, scroll down a bit, and fill in the pertinent data. You’ll be the first in the know as the Tidy Fabric Club kicks off officially.

If all this tidy stuff isn't your cup of tea, don't worry, I've got a few other new things percolating. If you're a bird lover - like me - then you may want to stay tuned for more fun stuff . . . Coming soon to a Hummingbird Highway near you!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The 49th State

For the past couple of weeks I’ve either been traveling to, from, or within Alaska, the 49th state added to the United States in 1959.

I arrived in Alaska physically tired and a bit out of sorts from the long trip through four time zones. It was raining in Anchorage as I found my way to a couple of quilt shops and enjoyed a delicious dinner in downtown Anchorage before I checked into my hotel for the night.

Next day, I transitioned to Palmer, Alaska, only a little bit north and east of Anchorage.

I couldn’t escape the feeling that I had landed in an episode of the tv show ‘Northern Exposure.’ Palmer just has that small town Alaska ‘jive.’

Along the way, a short detour to Sylvia’s Quilt Depot in Wasilla, and The Quilt Cache in Eagle River. I lost count of how many quilt shops I visited during the trip - Several.

Time for some sewing with the Valley Quilters Guild.

Our first project was Stained Glass from ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! . . .

Our second workshop is from ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch, Elsa’s Prayer Quilt. Lots of twists, turns, and interesting techniques in both these projects. These lovely ladies seemed to have a great day creating.

Following the workshops and a lovely dinner with the group. I walked back to my hotel. While in Palmer, I learned that this part of the state is well-known for farming - who knew? (I didn’t) And they are especially known for producing some pretty impressively sized cabbages! Near the town hall, there is a vegetable and flower garden. Any one can wander in, but the produce is preserved for the local senior center. Some red cabbages coming along . . .

The pincushion flower goes nicely with a sewing theme. And such pretty color!

With a day or two before transitioning back to Anchorage, I asked the quilters in Palmer for some sight-seeing recommendations. Their response: Talkeetna, about an hour drive north of Palmer, where you can take a short sight-seeing flight around Denali.

Okay. Off I go. Another ‘Northern Exposure’ throw-back town.

Ooh, there’s a quilt shop here, too!

I tried very hard to ignore the fact that it was raining fairly steadily. Good soup weather. No surprise that I had a lot of seafood while I was in Alaska, and it was all delicious. This seafood chowder was at the Wildflower Cafe in Talkeetna.

Denali. Formerly known as Mount McKinley is an impressive 20,000 feet. People come to Alaska from all over the world to climb it. It takes three weeks to complete the climb. The flight around the mountain that was recommended seemed like a wonderful substitute for a flat-lander like me.

However, the weather was not in my favor.

No flight for me, but no worries. I was told the view of Denali from the back deck of the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is amazing. So, I found the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, and the back deck. And the legend that shows exactly where to look to see the great mountain.

Um. Yeah. It’s there, but it’s behind the rain clouds.

Back to Anchorage, and of course the sun is shining by the end of the next day.

The Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters enjoyed a trunk show (I hope!), and their workshop was the Mix N Match Mug Mats from ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch. Fun!

A couple future quilt advisors - two shih tsu puppies, brother and sister - joined the workshop. 

Moving again. This time to the Kenai (pronounced KEE-nye - I was only corrected once!) Peninsula. Had to stop along the Seward Highway to take a panoramic photo. Yes, more rain, but, even so the view was spectacular! The pictures just don’t do it justice.

Ultimately, I was headed to Soldotna, but took a detour to Seward on the coast. My goal: to see puffins. It was recommended at a quick stop at the Seward Chamber of Commerce to take a 6-hour cruise-tour through Resurrection Bay to some of the out-lying islands.

I wish I had a better camera for this cruise! I only had my cell phone, which takes good pictures but many of the critters were too far away to get a good image. And I was very nervous about dropping my phone overboard! (If there is something to worry about, I’ll worry about it!) I did have my binoculars, though! And my face was glued to them! On the cruise, I saw: sea otters (absolutely adorable!), sea lions, kittiwakes, a peregrine falcon, a couple humpback whales, harbor seals, and yes, I saw lots and lots of puffins! Goal achieved!

The tour boat also approached Aialik Glacier. We idled there, very close to the glacier for about 30 minutes or so, and listened while the glacier calved a few times. The whole experience really adds perspective and makes you feel so insignificant in this vast world! To provide an idea of scale. the boat I was on held a few hundred passengers. Not small. A similar-sized boat stayed at the glacier as we were leaving. This picture is from the back of the boat I was on. The little tiny red circle is around that other boat.

This is a huge mural on the side of the hotel from which the tour boat launched. The two puffins (a tufted puffin and a horned puffin) give you an idea of those we saw on the water. They sorta look like a cross between penguins and ducks. They are also known as sea parrots, perhaps because of their brightly colored beaks. I can finally mark them off my life list!

As the boat was coming back into the dock. This male bald eagle (identified to be male with 50% accuracy) seemed to welcome us back to dry land.

Thankfully, for most of the time I was on the boat, the rains held off, although it was cloudy. I made my way on to Soldotna where I would spend the next few days. With one more day off and a mind to find some souvenir sweatshirts for Dave and me, I headed south to Homer.

After yet another halibut lunch (I was in Homer, after all) I asked my waitress if she had any suggestions where I might find a sweatshirt. Without hesitation she recommended the Salty Dawg Saloon on the spit (a 4-mile long narrow stretch of gravely land that stretches into Kachemak Bay)

A peek inside and you are overwhelmed by thousands of dollar bills tacked to nearly every inch of wall and ceiling space. The tale is that some time ago a man came into the bar, ordered himself a drink and told the bartender that his friend would be by later. He tacked a dollar to the wall so the friend could buy a drink with the tacked dollar, from then on tacking a dollar bill on the interior of the saloon became a ‘thing.’ Could this concept be transferred to quilt shops?

In Alaska, there are yellow moose-crossing warning signs everywhere you drive. They look just like the deer crossing signs I’m used to, but they have a moose instead of a deer. I’d done a fair amount of traveling to this point, and didn’t see a single moose. . . until the drive back to Soldotna from Homer (in the rain of course!) There she was on the side of the road. I pulled over to watch her cross. A few minutes later her calf crossed the road as well. . . .

Further along that same stretch of road, I saw a second momma moose and two calves. They really do catch your breath with their size!

That evening I arrived back in Soldotna for another two workshops and a trunk show at the Kenai Pennisula Quilters Guild. Our workshop projects were Elsa's Prayer Quilt (below) and the Sneaky Peek Project Pouch, both from ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch.

Everyone I met at the guilds in Alaska were such fun to be with. (Dani (in the middle) grinned like that pretty much all the time!) I truly feel that I have gained many more long-distance friends!

This short photo-journal of my travels does not even come close to portraying the vast beauty of this amazing state. I was a solo traveler for the duration of the trip, and as the driver and photographer, I was unable to capture many of the most beautiful vistas of the journey. Even if I had taken more pictures of the scenery, I’m not sure you can really adequately capture the feeling you get from the huge mountains, the quaint towns, the deep-down feeling of awe you experience when you see a humpback whale feeding, the adorable cuteness of a sea otter, or a ‘circus’ of puffins bobbing in the water. You have to experience these things for yourself.

A few years ago, my first encounter with Alaska was via a cruise to the inner passage—Juneau and Skagway, specifically. At that time, I heard several people say that the best way to see Alaska was from the ocean. And at the time, that made sense.

However, now that I’ve spent time traveling and visiting only a small portion of this huge but lovely state, I truly feel that the best way to experience Alaska is to get out and walk around in it, talk to its people, and experience its treasures.

Back to more stitchy subject matter text time. In the meantime. . .

Happy Stitching!