Thursday, January 29, 2015

Double Duty

I left Syracuse early in the morning two Saturdays ago. The temperature gauge read -7 degrees Fahrenheit (that's a minus sign in front of the 7, in case you missed it!). By the time I landed in Ontario, California, it was early evening and it was significantly warmer outside. 

Ontario Convention Center


I planned to arrive in California a day early for the Road to California workshops I was leading. That extra day allowed for travel delays (there were none to speak of), and a little down time once I arrived. A chance to check out the Convention Center, just steps away from my hotel, and to take in the sights and scents of summer time, still a long way off in central New York. This rose, on a bush right outside the Convention Center smelled heavenly!

California roses


Monday's workshop at Road to California was Chopped. You start with a whole mess of squares. . .

scraps for Chopped quilt pattern


. . . then make even more half-square triangles. . . .

half square triangles for Chopped Quilt Pattern


. . . and eventually you get some blocks.

happy quilter making the Chopped quilt pattern


. . . times 25 or so in the class!

Happy quitlers with their Chopped quilt blocks



On Tuesday, we worked on the 99 Bottles quilt from ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! We were so focused on the project, I didn't manage to take any pictures. Regardless, it was a fun group and project!

Then it was time to head home. All too soon, I might add.

No worries. A quick change of clothes--unpack warm-weather clothes, pack cold-weather clothes and a sewing machine and head back out again to a ski-vacation rental near Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks, northern New York.

Adirondack ski rental home


Beautiful rustic interior.

adirondack ski rental


Quilters certainly know how to convert a regular living room into a quilting studio in no time flat. I happened to snap this picture first thing in the morning before 'production' was in full swing.




In between the here and there, I had a note from Mary. She visited my booth at a show last fall and purchased one of the Mini Scrap Grid packs. She tweaked the pattern a bit to make Valentines ornaments (out of 9-patches) for all the residents at her mom's senior living center. She didn't share a picture of her project, but I played a bit with a square of the grid and came up with this version following inspiration from Mary.

I worked with only one 9-patch section of the grid to give the idea a test-drive. Place squares cut from two bright pink scraps and one background square on the grid. Fuse. . .

Taste of Nectar Pin pattern variation


Fold and sew. . .

Taste of Nectar Pin Pattern variation


Snip, press, and furl. . .

Taste of Nectar Pin Pattern variation


Ta-da! (For more detail on the Mini Scrap Grid how-to, click here)

Taste of Nectar Pin Pattern variation


Add borders, a backing and the fusible foamy stuffing to give the pin structure.

Taste of Nectar Pin Pattern variation


Add a little heart-shaped quilting . . .

Taste of Nectar Pin Pattern variation


Attach the pin to the back with some perle cotton.

Taste of Nectar Pin Pattern variation


Pink the edges. And you're done. . .except . . .

taste of Nectar quilted pin variation


I wanted a more heart-shaped shape. So I re-pinked around the heart-shape.

Taste of Nectar Quilted Pin pattern variation


What do you think? Better as a square? Better as a heart?

By the way, just in case you want to make some for yourself or for your sweetheart (or your mom's senior living community!), you can ask for Taste of Nectar Pin Packs (and refill packs) at your favorite quilt shop, or find them at the links shown. The packs even have the foamy batting and pin backs included! What a deal!!

Happy Stitching!
joan

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Paint-In-Progress

Every five years or so, Joe stops by to see if we need a new paint job on the exterior of the house. Such was the case last fall. Come to find out Joe also does interiors, and we hired him to paint an upstairs bedroom and hallway at the same time he completed the latest paint job on the exterior of the house.

So, when Joe contacted me last week and said he had some painting time open, I jumped on board.

The small half-bath on the main floor and the dining room have never been painted. I guess I always felt that each room had some unique characteristics that required a little extra care. And that I would 'get right on the project any day now.' We moved into the house nearly 15 years ago. It is time to stop thinking I was going to 'get right on it!' I could also hear my business coach rewinding the words over and over again in my head: "painting isn't your 'brilliance'--let someone whose experience and expertise IS painting handle it."




It's true, Joe has all the right tools and equipment. And he knew exactly what to do to get right down to business. For as long as it took him to do both rooms start to finish, I would have only gotten started and would have lost precious sewing time!! Priorities should always come into consideration!

Only trouble is, you have to be prepared for your life to be completely disturbed for a few days. The contents of my china cabinet found a temporary home on any horizontal surface in my kitchen. Nothing goes back into the cabinet without first experiencing a cycle or two in the dishwasher! (I don't really like to dust, can you tell?)




I have an addiction to . . . I mean . . . a healthy collection of cookbooks, normally stored on a baking rack in the dining room, now relegated to a corner of the floor off the sun room. Some favorites, some not so much. It's time to make some tough decisions . . . Sometimes, less is more.




The dining room kinda looks like a scene from Ghostbusters!




Joe hard at work in the Ghostbusters room!




I'll be putting dishes away for a while, and sorting through cookbooks for the next few weeks, but I have to say, the rooms both look fantastic! And the best part is that I didn't even skip a beat on the sewing machine! Have I motivated you to look up your friendly neighborhood paint-dude?

Happy Stitching!
joan

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bling in the New Year!

My friend Janice Pope--oh, you know Janice, she' the creator of the Two-Hour Tulip Purse--is running a contest. All you have to do is make a Two-Hour Tulip Purse and 'bling' it up! Get creative, the more over-the-top, the better! Send a picture of your blinged-up Two-Hour Tulip Purse to Janice by the deadline, and you could WIN big!

You have until March 31 to make your purse and bling it big! Seems like a very realistic deadline considering it's a TWO HOUR sewing project! Rules, deadlines, and all the deets are right here. If you are a winner, you might just find a copy of the new book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Quilters in your prize package.

What? You don't have the pattern? Well, here's another contest to get you started. Make a comment on this blog entry just below, and you'll be entered for a random draw to get a signed copy of the pattern, straight from Janice herself. Don't delay! The random drawing to receive the pattern happens Monday, January 12, so only those comments made before midnight Sunday, January 11th (East Coast Time) are eligible. All you have to do is comment!

Good luck!

Oh, and before I forget, if you are a shop owner and would like your shop to join in the challenge, Janice is offering some special wholesale pricing just in time for the contest. Check her website and get in touch with Janice for the specifics!

Update: We have a winner! Janice Pope drew the random number 11. That means Char Popson wins the autographed copy of the Two-Hour Tulip Purse pattern. Congratulations Char--bling it on!! 

But there's more! . . . If you still want the pattern so you can enter the big contest, order the pattern here, and Janice will refund the shipping cost. This special only lasts through Friday, January 16th! So, don't delay!


___________________

Those of you who follow this newsletter regularly know that I travel a lot! It's one of the great perks of doing what I do! Sometimes, all the travel leaves me missing my sewing machine. Whenever I get a good stretch of quiet time at home, like during the holidays, I try to take full advantage of some glorious, decadent sewing time. Here are a couple of projects I busied myself with this holiday season . . .

I saw a sample of this table runner pattern at Quiltique when I was in Henderson, Nevada in November. With new living room furniture delivered just in time for the holidays, this table runner, entitled Open-Weave from the Tiger Lily Press, was calling me. Stash fabrics in neutral tones, a spurt of time here and there, and call this one 'done!'




I made a second Hummingbird quilt using the pattern from the new book When Bad Things Happen To Good Quilters for Tim, one of my editors at The Taunton Press. I don't know why he didn't feel confident enough to pull out the sewing machine and make one for himself after spending all that time reading and re-reading the book text . . . Anyway, he tells me the quilt is going to be a special gift for someone who just loves hummingbirds--I can relate to that!

To make this version of the panel project, I opted for some hand quilting in the main section of the quilt. It's so nice to step away from the sewing machine for some hand work during the crazy holiday season! The pattern, and even some tips for hand quilting, are in the new book! The beautiful hummingbird fabric from Blend Fabrics might be tough to come by since it's been out for a year or two.




Speaking of hand stitching. This detailed cross-stitch kit was one of the treats I purchased just for me last summer during the Alaska Quilt Cruise. I started working on the stitching in August, and I've been chipping away at it fairly diligently ever since. Once the stitching is complete, I plan to add a quilty-scrappy border--maybe sometime this coming summer at the rate I'm going. . .




Oh, and I started working on a new project featuring the Mini Scrap Grid. It's still really early in the process to share very much, but here's a sneaky peak . . .




What about you? Did you get any holiday stitching in between cookie-baking, gift-wrapping, deck-the-halling? Do share!

Happy Stitching!
joan

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas,
Happy New Year,
& Happy Stitching!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quilty Stuffing

Each year, I send about 30-40 holiday greeting cards to friends and family. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary about that! What makes my greeting cards a bit unusual is that I include a small hand-made holiday ornament with the greeting card.

I started this little tradition a few years ago. And now, it has become somewhat of a highly anticipated event for my friends and family. The pressure is on when October turns into November and I haven't started the card-stuffing-creation-process. Sometime in Mid-November I typically bump into a neighbor who says something like, "I can't wait to see what you've done for your cards this year!" Nothing like a little added pressure during a crazy time of year.

This year, my plan was pretty easy. The Mini Scrap Grid (sorry, if you are tired of hearing about this!--but I must admit that I'm rather addicted to the stuff!) allowed me to create a whole miniature quilt to stuff into each of my holiday cards.


Hand-made holiday quilt ornaments


While the grid is designed to make 9-Patch blocks, there are plenty of ways to create 9-patch blocks that have a bit of an attitude! All using a grid requiring 1" squares!

I decided to make some itty-bitty half-square triangles. Well, I cheated! They really didn't start out all that itty-bitty. I used two holiday-themed 2" scrap squares from my ScrapTherapy bins. On one I drew a diagonal line, then placed them right sides together and sewed two seams. Cut them apart, pressed, them, then trimmed them down to 1" square using my 2-1/2" Bloc loc half-square triangle trimmer.


making mini half-square triangle ornaments



I was making a LOT of cards, so I needed a LOT of half-square triangles, leaving a LOT of holiday-themed 'confetti!'


holiday confetti



I made a bunch of itty-bitty four-patches, too! These were strip-pieced with 3/4" wide fabric strips. You can get a lot of 3/4" by 5" fabric strips from a 5" scrap square (you got it, the scrap square came from the ScrapTherapy bin!).


quilted ornament making



I placed them on a section of the Mini Scrap Grid interfacing, one 9-patch at a time and fused them in place.


Fuse fabric pieces to interfacing



Sew. Cut apart. Press and trim.





I even 'furled' the seam intersections from the back, so my ornaments would be perfectly flat!


furl the seam allowance



Then stacked up the blocks. Lotsa stacks of fancy 9-patches! Ready for borders.


holiday 9-patch quilt blocks



Fused the batting in between the little quilt top and matching backing fabric. This is starting to look festive!


Quilted ornaments


A little pinking around the edges and add a perle cotton loop for hanging . . . Repeat about 50 times to have enough for my list (after checking it twice)!

Now, all I have to do if find time to stuff my cards! . . . Any one know any unemployed elves who know how to lick an envelope?

Happy Stitching!


PS. While it might be a bit late to begin your ornament-making project for this year, I say, it's never too early to start thinking about next Christmas. Ask for a Taste of Nectar Ornament pack at your favorite quilt shop, or order one (or more) right here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What's New!

Well. Look what arrived in the mail last Friday. All the months and months of preparation seemed like they'd never end. Then all of the sudden an actual book shows up! I received my first author's copies of the new book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Quilters on Friday.

It's quite different from the previous two books. This book is full of stories, tips, best practices, and advice--and even a little humor--to get a quilter out of a jam. Ask for it at your favorite quilt shop. Or place your order here, keep in mind, I haven't received my 'real' order yet, so it might take a bit before I can ship them!



I can't wait to hear what you think about the book. I hope you like it, if you decide to make a purchase. (It will be arriving in stores everywhere just in time to make it on your holiday wish-list!--just sayn *wink!*)

In the meantime, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I headed to Las Vegas, Nevada. No, not to take advantage of the entertainment 'opportunities' available almost anywhere you go (like here at the airport).




I was actually headed to Henderson, Nevada and Quiltique.




Your first impression as you take your first step through the door is all about color, fabric, and pure inspiration.



. . . more color is around the next corner . . .



 . . . and the next one, too!



In fact, you can find colorful fabric and project ideas to inspire in every corner of this Bernina dealership!



Wait! I wasn't there only for the eye-candy. We had some 'work' to do. A trunk show and two workshops! The Runaway Thread quilt was the first of two workshops to be held in the spacious classroom.



Doesn't the quilt look beautiful hanging right behind the counter!



The second workshop, the Bloomin' Steps quilt yielded some beautiful scrappy colorful blocks made with some slick techniques.



Perhaps what made this trip more memorable than most is that the staff bowling outing coincided with my visit, and I was invited along. It's funny, I found my bowling 'skills' improved after a cocktail or two. Let's just say, I don't expect to see my picture hanging in the Bowling Hall of Fame any time soon!

It was difficult to leave my new friends in Nevada to head back home to New York state. But it was wonderful to see that everyone's scrappy masterpieces were under construction.

Happy Stitching,
joan

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Say that again?

Recently, I exhibited at two big quilt shows in Houston, Texas: Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. This post isn't about the shows; it's about the things I heard over and over again--frequently asked questions or comments--in the booth.

My objective for both events was to spend a fair amount of time visiting with quilters and introducing them to the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid. My display prominently included the 99 Bottles quilt from the book ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! And my demonstrations featured the Mini Scrap Grid.



The 99 Bottles quilt has about 500 nine-patches that finish to 1-1/2" square. It's a beautiful quilt; it was fun to make; but no doubt about it, there was a fair amount of work involved in making it.



"Look at those little 9-patch blocks! That was done by sewing strip-sets, then cutting them apart."

Actually, the quilt wasn't made from strips, using the cut-up scrap fabrics from my ScrapTherapy bin, I started with 2" squares to make the miniature 9-patches. When you cut the colorful squares in half twice, the result is four matching 1" squares. To make a 9-patch, I needed five more 1" squares and I chose a cream-colored solid for contrast--those squares were cut from yardage. It was just easier to make the seams one at a time for each miniature block than to try to figure out how to do a strip-piecing routine, one 9-patch at a time.



Working with small fabric squares isn't for everyone. For me, I found that sticking to a small piecing goal each day was rewarding and kept the project moving in a positive direction. As a bonus, my 'regular-sized' piecing became much more accurate as a result of handing the smaller pieces. And it was really gratifying to watch my scrap fabrics being converted into a project, even if it was only one little square of fabric at a time.


"Did you use the Mini Scrap Grid interfacing to make the quilt?"

Actually, no. The interfacing (the Mini Scrap Grid) came after the quilt. I never intended the quilt to be a pattern at all, making the miniature 9-patches as a personal challenge (sick as it may seem!). As the quilt came together with some additional cool techniques in the sashing and borders, it seemed like a good idea to include it as one of the projects in the book.

The interfacing was developed for the quilt and it's job is to make miniature 9-patches that finish to 1-1/2" square. The small squares are fused or stabilized to the interfacing following the printed grid. Once fused to the interfacing, the small squares become easier to handle, plus the sewing lines are printed right onto the interfacing. I have to say, I think I'm addicted to the stuff and have developed a few more patterns for it with more on the way.

"You can use the interfacing to make the larger 9-patch, too!"

Well . . . not so much. For the 99 Bottles quilt, the miniature 9-patches are sewn alternately with 2" scrap squares to make a medium-sized 9-patch. Then medium-sized 9-patches are sewn together to make the block.


It would be a waste of fabric to fuse a larger than necessary solid fabric square on the interfacing between the 9-patch squares (a mock-up with red arrows pointing to the oversized scraps is shown below), then sew seams through everything (the purple-ish dashed line), including the solid fabrics. Trust me, it's sounds like a good idea, but meh.



"Why start with 5" scrap squares to cut 1" fabric squares? Can't you just cut 1" strips from yardage?"

The 99 Bottles quilt isn't the only pattern I've written that uses the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid. Several additional patterns--Mini Mug Mats, pins, and the Toss Across runner--start with 5" squares. With a few quick cuts, the 5" squares become 25 smaller ones that are 1" grid-ready. Why 5"? The 5" square is one of the three scrap sizes that I recommend to cut and store in the book, ScrapTherapy, Cut the Scraps! And it's a common size for popular pre-cut fabrics. Could you cut 1" strips from yardage? Of course! But I like to use my cut-up scrap fabric in the sizes I use frequently whenever I can!



"Why bother cutting the grid apart to make the mini 9-patches? Just sew between the mini 9-patches before cutting them apart to make a larger mass of 9-patches."

Yes, you could do that, but the grid was designed specifically to be a 9-patch grid, not a 'watercolor,' all-over grid. So the process of cutting apart the nine-patches (where the red-dashed lines are), pressing and trimming them to size works better than sewing the seams (along the red dashed lines), at least in my mind--but then I'm a serious tidy-butt with my piecing!



Is this the only interfacing you have?

Quiltsmart prints my interfacing and they have a whole bunch of different interfacing-intensive projects to make everything from Mondo Bags to full-sized quilts to applique shapes. The ScrapTherapy Small Scrap Grid is used in several of the quilt projects in both books, but is perhaps best known as the vehicle to make the super-scrappy border on Bloomin' Steps. And, besides the Mini Scrap Grid, there just might be another ScrapTherapy interfacing product in the works. You'll just have to stay tuned for more information . . .

If you would like the complete how-to for using the Mini Scrap Grid interfacing, a detailed step-by-step tutorial can be found here.

Happy Stitching!