Thursday, June 15, 2017

A "Normal" Day on the 'Highway'

After a busy couple of weeks on the road, I was glad to start out this week realizing that it’s back to ‘normal’ here on the highway. Then I got to thinking: what exactly does that mean? ‘Normal.’ So I decided to take a closer look at a typical day around here. Thought you might enjoy a sneaky peak into one of my ‘typical’ weekdays.

Almost without fail, after making Dave’s lunch and he goes off to work around 7am, I start the day with a couple of hours of sewing time. If I don’t get in at least a seam or two, it seems my whole day is off. Right now I’m working on some step outs for my August trip to Alaska. I’ll be visiting three guilds while I’m there. These step-outs are for Elsa’s Prayer Quilt from the new book.

By about 9 am, it’s time for a shower and some breakfast. Basic stuff here. Oh poo, looks like I broke a yolk. . .

The girls typically insist that I share the orange juice.

I might grab a few minutes to work on some kits for the Vermont Quilt Festival. Seems like there is always an upcoming event to plan for. Sometimes I have a helper to assemble kits (Hi Barb!) but that is usually more effective when I’ve planned ahead. A-hem.

Next, it’s time for some computer work. I’d say that I spend about 8 hours a day working on correspondence, patterns, and other computer work. For about two weeks before and after Summer Solstice the skylights in my office space create some pretty heavy-glare from about noon to 2pm on sunny days.

That’s when I grab my laptop and migrate to the temporary office space on the front porch if it’s a nice day. Here is my ‘remote’ office. . . .

 . . . and here is my front-yard view. (I am a lucky girl)

During the day, the neighborhood is really quiet. But there is plenty to distract me in the yard. A little rustle in the leaves tells me I have a visitor. Can you find the baby bunny hidden among the honeysuckle branches?

The moving water in the pond brings all kinds of birds - catbirds, chipping sparrows, and robins among my favorites to come and sip or bathe. And it wouldn’t be the Hummingbird Highway without a visit from Mr. Ruby-Throat.

You would think with all the distractions of my outdoor office space, I’d get nothing done! In fact, it’s just the opposite! I find that I’m really focused on the project of the day, and I get more done than if I were in my 'normal' office space. Who knows why?

For example, I’m working on some new things to go along with The Early Bird from the Splendid Sampler (by the way, this week’s featured block for the second Splendid Sampler sew-along is The Early Bird!). The pattern in the book is paper pieced (not my thing), so if you prefer the patchwork version, you can get it here. Or, if you don’t want to do the cutting at all, (this is BIG news!!) I’m hoping to have a pre-cut version of The Early Bird for you very soon. Plus, more bird blocks are on the drawing board, too! I’m very excited about this new offering, but most of the particulars are still in the earliest stages. So stay tuned . . . And shhh! This is just between us girls, okay?

In the evening, after dinner and dishes, I like to sit down with some hand work. Lately I’ve been finishing up bindings on these Swirl Mug Mats made with the Mini Pineapple Trim Tool.

Speaking of pineapples AND the Splendid Sampler. I’ve been using the leftover bits of fabric from my 'SS' quilt (no, the quilting isn’t done yet) to make these six-inch traditional pineapple blocks. I’ve decided I’m stopping at 35 blocks, and I have 28 in the stack. Only a few more to go then I can come up with some sort of setting. This is my ‘other’ project I have off to the side at my sewing table to sew in between the workshop samples I’m making in the morning.

Fridays are different. That’s when I usually get out and run some errands during the day. And just around 5pm, Dave texts me that he’s leaving work. That’s code for ‘meet me at the brewery (a craft brewery featuring Belgian-style ales and libations that is about two or three miles away from the home office) and let’s get the weekend started!'

So many variables can come into play on any single ‘normal’ day. But I like to think that whatever the day brings, that I’m moving forward, even a little and enjoying my surroundings as the day unfolds. How about you? What does your ‘normal’ day look like? Calm, chaotic, unpredictable?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Packed Month

To say that the next few weeks are going to be busy is a bit of an understatement for me. I'll be on the road for most of the month. Here's where you can catch up with me. . .

A couple weeks ago, my work table was full of fabric, interfacing, zippers, and batting all stacked up. Waiting for a few last details before final packaging.

The kits are to make Chequed Bagues and Baguettes (wanna make spell check go crazy? try typing that sentence a few times and see what you get!)

The Bague and Baguette pattern pairs nicely with ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch since scrappy 9-patch blocks adds to the cuteness factor! They are perfect to hold a skein or two of sock yarn, pencils and school supplies, or grocery store receipts (if you save that kinda thing).

The pattern and kits will be available at my next couple events.

If you are nearby, I hope you’ll come out to Rochester, NY (Genesee Valley Quilt Fest - Booth 506), Louisville, Kentucky (Busy Lady Quilt Shop), or Burlington, Vermont (Vermont Quilt Festival) to see the demos, get your hands on a book, and a kit!

Also, there are a few new items in the Hummingbird Highway online store. I’ve just added 10-panel packs of each of the 9-patch interfacing sizes - Mini, Middle, and Little Scrap Grid. The bulk packaging saves you a couple bucks, too. Nice!

And. . . I’ll also have a little display at the Rochester and Vermont shows for something new coming to the Hummingbird Highway. The details are still in the works, however the planning has started for the Tidy Fabric Club. Patterns, bonuses, fabric boards, bonuses, organizing and fabric-using tips, and--did I mention bonuses?--will soon be wrapped up into a monthly club from the ‘highway.’ If you want to be first to know the scoop, jump over to this page to add your name to the list. . .

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Watch the Birdie

I love it when you share your finished projects with me - made from one of my patterns. I try to include them in the 'Good Migrations' newsletter when I have them at the very bottom. But that means, sometimes, you have to scroll and scroll to see them!  And they don't always make it across to the blog post.

This week, I figured I’d try something a little different. Your projects ARE the post. Please keep sending photographs when you finish something from one of my books or patterns. My virtual assistant Tracy (she lives in Wisconsin, I live in Syracuse) keeps them organized for me. You can send photos here.

For example, Anne sent me a photo of her version of the bonus pattern from The Splendid Sampler block, "The Early Bird." When the block was first released as part of the original sew-along in December, I offered a bonus wall-hanging pattern. And here is Anne’s version of the wall-hanging. I just love it. And with all the robins now bobbing around in my backyard, it’s so timely! Just makes me smile.

Turns out the traditionally-pieced version of "The Early Bird" pattern didn’t quite fit in The Splendid Sampler book, so a paper-pieced version was used instead. If you’re not a paper-piecing fan (like me!) the original traditionally-pieced version of the pattern, as well as the bonus wall-hanging, is available here. I hope you try it out!

Anne, thanks for sharing! 

One of the coolest things about scrap quilt projects is that everyone has different scraps so everyone’s project made from the same pattern will be different! And you never know where you might find some inspiration . .

Chopped can be scrappy or can be made from a collection of fat quarters. Either way, it’s such a fun quilt, and much easier to make than you might think! It’s a stunner. Julie Ann’s version has a couple of ribbons! (Wow! Congratulations!!) I just love the way she created a diagonal pattern from each of the Kaffe Fassett prints she used. Love it! Thank so much for sharing!

As for me, I’m still putzing along with this project featuring some wonderful hummingbird prints. Some pretty standard stuff here, with a unique twist. I’m not quite ready to share yet, but maybe in a couple weeks I’ll have a pattern for you. Kits too. Something small and fun for summer. . .

Have any pictures of your Hummingbird Highway or ScrapThearpy projects, send them along. I'd love to see them! And share them, too!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Busy, Busy!

A lot can happen in two weeks! Due to a three day software seminar, I wasn’t able to post to this blog last week. Seems like the time just flew by, but looking back, I surprised myself with the things I managed to accomplish in just two short weeks.

For starters . . . It’s done! Finished! Yay! I finished the hand quilting on the quilt I’ve been talking about forever. This one is from a pattern called Square Dance by Mountain Patchwork. I started it about a million years ago, and I took it with me on several road trips to work on in the hotel. It was all done by hand except for the final assembly. Finished the quilting, added the binding . . .

 . . . and it even has a label. Sad to say it doesn’t have a home yet. But it will . . .

I made a bunch of little 9-patch pins for BEA (the Book Expo America - a booksellers trade show at the Javitz Center in NYC). I won't be able to attend, but my publisher, The Taunton Press will be there and so will these pins. A little incentive for the industry book buyers never hurts, right?

I’ve been working on a couple of row quilt patterns for this year’s Row by Row Experience®. I’ve only worked with three shops this year - Buttons 'N' Bows in Houston, Quiltique, in Las Vegas, and Calico Gals (the home of Row by Row) here in Syracuse. I typically leave the sample-making to the shop, but it’s kinda tradition for me to make the sample for the Calico Gals row. Without giving too much away, here’s a sneaky peek of Calico Gals’ row - quilting in progress. It’s all done now and it’s off to St. Louis for it’s Quilt Market reveal with that ‘Gals.’

I’ve got a couple of vending events at the Genesee Valley Quilt Fest in Rochester, June 1-4, and the Vermont Quilt Festival in Essex Junction, Vermont, June 22-25. I never like the cardboard signs we’re supposed to use for the booth display, with the booth number on it. Instead, for the last several years, I’ve made booth numbers, (kinda like Mini Mug Mats, but with bigger parts) out of nine-patch blocks. I was missing a few numbers for my upcoming booth, and decided to complete my set. FYI, I'm booth 506 at the Genesee Valley Show, and booth 43 (Just inside the lobby entrance in the north buildling) at Vermont Quilt Festival (come see me!).

And you can’t vend at these shows without having fun stuff to sell. I’ve been preparing fabric and all kinds of goodies for some wildly fun kits to go with The Versatile Nine Patch book! You’ll have to come on out and pick up a few things . . .

And the quilt show certainly wouldn’t be any fun without an appearance from the colorful and ever-popular Grip Grass Ruler Stands! These are all packed up and ready to roll. . . But the box looks pretty full, I think I'll need a few more boxes!

And a little something new is on the sewing table. I spy  . . . hummingbird fabric in a fabulous new project . . . coming soon to a Good Migrations Newsletter issue (doncha love a good tease!)

Looking back on the last two weeks, I feel pretty productive. However, I have to say, that it didn't *feel* like I was being very productive when I was in the middle it all. I guess, sometimes it helps to take a step back and assess your progress sometimes. You might surprise yourself!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Book It!

I used to include a calendar listing in my weekly Good Migrations newsletter, but I changed things up a little bit when I switched email providers several months ago. Plus, I’m not traveling nearly as much as I used to, but you wouldn’t guess that looking at my calendar for the next few weeks.

Here is a quick run-through of what's coming up on my calendar . . .

May 7, Sunday. Noon - 2:30 pm. Cafe Sewciety Quilts, Webster, NY. Conversation, quilts, and refreshments. Book signing. Call to make a reservation. 585-374-4852

June 1-4. Genesee Valley Quilt Fest. Gordon Field House, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY. Vending.

June 7. Busy Lady Quilt Shop, Mt. Washington, KY. Noon - 3 pm. Demos and book signing.

June 23-25. Vermont Quilt Festival. Essex Junction, VT. Vending.

August. Details pending. Kenai Peninsula Quilt Guild, Valley Quilters Guild, Log Cabin Quilters, Alaska.

September 13 and 14, Creekside Quilting, Arcade, NY. Lecture and workshop. Call Sandy for the scoop.

Looking ahead to 2018:

March 4-11, 2018 Eastern Caribbean Cruise! Contact Quilt Retreat at Sea to make your reservation. A new quilt project is being developed just for this trip!

April 13-15, 2018. Quilting in Vermont. Spring Mystery Project! Strong House Inn, Vergennes, VT. Three days of sewing a brand-new mystery quilt project with a Spring theme. Mary is ready (waiting by the phone, actually) to take your reservation! 802-877-3337

Make your summer plans and c'mon out and see me!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, April 27, 2017

See You Around

I know I keep coming back to this quilt. The blocks were hand stitched from a pattern and technique by Mountain Patchwork. The blocks have been my travel project for years, and only recently I finished the blocks, and assembled a quilt during a mini-retreat to Canada with my friend Brenda Miller.

I was all set to add a small border to the quilt, but Brenda suggested a much bigger border than I had originally planned. I acquiesced. And I do like the wide border on this quilt. I haven’t measured in a while, but I’m pretty sure the quilt qualifies as a generous lap quilt, if not a twin.

This week I completed a milestone, the blocks (all 20) are quilted, generally done in the ditch with a few quarter-inch and half-inch lines of quilting (all in bright blue thread).

Almost done right?

Except for that border. This 6” border goes on for miles and miles around this quilt!! And all that mileage needs to be quilted!

Because I’m probably a little bit crazy, I decided to break the border into three sections - the light green border is getting quilted 1/4” away from the seams (as well as in the ditch).

At this point, I’m ready to have this quilt done, so wasn’t feeling particularly creative when it came to deciding on a border quilting design for the larger blue border. Not to mention that the blue border was too big for any of the stencils I have.

So I improvised with two different stencils and a line of straight stitching separating them. Love the blue thread however (and I can’t believe I’m saying this because blue is one of my favorite quilting colors) I’m getting a little tired of the blue!! (Does this happen to you too?)

Enter red for the straight line of stitching, and bright green for the inner stencil pattern. Sticking with the blue thread for the outer pattern. Not sure if you can see, but the ropey egg and square are on the inside edge of the blue border and the scallops with diamonds are going on the outer edge of the border.

I can see this train heading for 'Disaster Station' based on two distinct possibilities. . . First, using stencils for borders can get interesting as you approach the corners. You have to plan ahead and unch the stencil a little bit one way or the other as you reach each corner - or the corner pattern doesn't match up. A disastrous corner experience could launch this nearly complete quilt into exile.

And second. This basket of in-progress handwork is starting to call my name somethin’ awful.

And third (I know I said two, but #3 kinda goes back to the original issue) did I mention there are miles and miles of borders around this thing??

In auto racing, a white flag means one more lap to go, but in just about everything else, a white flag means ‘I give up!’

Shaking my head. . . I see the white flag, and I hope that I make it to the checkered flag.

Happy Stitching! 
Joan Ford

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Good News Week

I’m gonna give it to you straight - I’ve had a crummy week.

We've all had them. Nothing *really* terrible happened, but things kinda started out a little bit in a funk and then just kept going downhill. Until the other day when I received a bit of news that made my heart very sad. Nothing earth-shattering or health-related - thank goodness, no one close to me is sick or injured.

It was one of those soul-crushing things that just happens - and it happened to me. I can’t share much more than that right now, but hopefully I’ll be able to share more details soon.

In the meantime, I have a lot of great things going on and I really need to get out of this funk. Do you know the feeling?

To escape from the mud, I’ve got a hankerin’ to do something positive and soul-lifting, but I need your help. Can't do this alone. I thought we all could benefit from a little good news, and I’m declaring that it’s Good News Week on the Hummingbird Highway!

Let’s have some fun with this

It’s this simple: Share some good news.

Share a photo of your child or grandchild in their Easter finery. Tell me a funny story about your pet. Show a picture of a beautiful plant in your garden. Tell me about the first hummingbird you saw this season. Make me laugh with a silly tale. You just finished a great book (be sure to share the title! -maybe it's The Versatile Nine Patch *wink!*)

Share something really big like the birth of a baby, or a grand vacation. Or a little miracle like a spring-time flower bud, or something as simple as the completion of a first quilt block.

Just share something happy.

I’ll start . . .

My good news is that I finally finished this quilt! No, it's not a pattern, just a favorite traditional block. I started it (at least five) years ago, and I worked on it a little bit here and a little bit there. A few months ago, I sandwiched it and started hand quilting it. It’s done. Quilted, bound (who binds a quilt with white fabric? Oi!), and labeled.  This makes me VERY happy!

Okay, now it’s your turn.

Share your Good News story with a comment on this blog.

Go over to the Hummingbird Highway Facebook page and write a post on my page. Pictures or text, either or both. Tag me, @Joan Ford. (make sure you get the right Joan Ford, there are a few of us out there!)

Is Instagram your thing? Post a photo to instagram and be sure to tag me @hbridhwy and use the hashtag #goodnewsweek

Don’t want to share publicly? That’s fine, send me your good news in an email. Click here to send a short good news note.

Let's have a good smile together! Feel free to share this post!

Happy Good News Week and
Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Years ago (lotsa years ago), I took an art illustration class and the instructor used this book, The Norton Book of Light Verse, for some inspiration for one of our class projects.

It’s filled with whimsical poetry, most of it pretty short, quick to read, and not very deep.

For some reason, I picked it off the shelf this week and found a little poem that I thought would be fun to share.

Since it’s Spring, and eggs are a staple to celebrate all things Spring, this little poem seemed to fit the bill for this week.

Enjoy. . .

Happy Easter! 

Happy Passover!

Happy Spring!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Quilting the Sandwich

After posting the article last week about making the quilt sandwich from my travel project, I heard from a few of you asking about ‘big stitch’ quilting.

In my mind, there’s really not much difference between big-stitch quilting, and ‘regular’ quilting. The stitching motion is the same, meaning the needle is inserted at a 90-degree from front to back, and again from back to front. At all times the needle stays on top - not like stitching cards when you were a kid - where your hand keeps switching from the top to the bottom of the project to pull the threads through.

The fabric inside the hoop is given a little bit of slack before the hoop is secured in place to help lift the quilt sandwich to achieve the 90-degree angles on both sides of the section being worked. When I hand quilt, the right hand (with a thimble on my middle finger) does most of the work with the needle, but the left hand does a lot of pushing and positioning of the quilt.

During any given quilting session, my index fingers on both hands get a work out, preferably without drawing any blood in the process.

For big stitch quilting both the needle (usually a size 6 sharp or embroidery needle) and the thread (usually a perle cotton) are bigger. I like this pack of needles from Colonial Needle, because it has a nice variety of needles to choose from.

For hand quilting - big stitch or otherwise, I start in the middle of the project and work outward. Whereas for machine quilting, I start all over the place - as long as I've been diligent with my pin-basting.

In addition, I start several strands of thread at once. You can see all my tails here in the middle of the hoop (red arrows). I’ve just moved my hoop to this spot.

Then I quilt each strand as far as I can go, and it’s time to move the hoop again. See the red arrows have moved, with the stitching progression?

One thing I do that may be somewhat unusual, I don’t knot the threads then bury the knot in the layers. Especially with big stitch quilting, the perle cotton knots can get pretty bulky and I don’t like tugging at them to move them to the batting in-between layer. In theory the holes in the fabric where the knot pops through go away, but I dunno, I just don’t like doing a tug of war with some of these knots after putting in so much work on the quilt top. Plus, all the tugging weakens the thread even before I take my first stitch, IMO!

Instead, I start with a really long strand of thread - like 4 or 5 feet long, find the middle of the thread, insert the needle and make the first stitch and pull through until the thread tail is about half the length, then start stitching in one direction (as a righty - I usually stitch from right to left). Later I’ll come back to that other end and work it in the opposite direction (after flipping the hoop around so I can keep working right to left).

You can see where I started this strand (the red arrow on the right side of the picture). The thread end is waiting there for its turn. The circled bit on the left side is that same strand of thread, after following the stitching along the ditch (between the burgundy and creamy-green prints)

Once the thread is all used up, I try to leave about 3” on the needle, then take a teeny tiny back stitch before weaving the thread back and forth in the batting layer in between the last few quilting stitches. No knots.

You know, I have a question. Sometimes a process like this is hard to describe with photographs. I've been considering enhancing my newsletters with some short video clips, but to be honest, I'm a little chicken to venture into a new (for me) media. Would you like to see more videos in future articles? Let me know what you think!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Making a Sandwich

Last week I discussed the travel project I finished when I visited Niagara Falls a few weeks ago. From a Mountain Patchwork pattern called Square Dance, I completed this quilt top, after several years of working on it in dribs and drabs as my travel project.

Time to get it ready for quilting! That means sandwiching and basting.

This is one of those quilty things for which there are about a million different methods. With pictures, I’m going to do a quick walk-through of the method I use to sandwich (layer backing, batting, and quilt top) and baste (temporarily secure the layers) of the quilt.

By the way, there are lots of ways to do this, but if you’ve chanced upon a tutorial featuring Elmer’s Glue as the means of holding the layers together - to be blunt . . . that one’s not recommended. Not in my book, anyway. Puleeze.

A side note: I’m going to hand quilt this with big stitches. Big stitch quilting usually involves a thicker thread (like a perle cotton) and larger needle. Generally speaking, it less precise and more forgiving than ‘regular’ quilting with quilting cotton thread and between needles. For hand-quilting, typically, you should thread-baste the quilt sandwich. . . but I’m not a fan of thread basting. So I pin-baste - the same method I employ for machine quilting. You may say, but doesn’t the hand quilting thread catch on the pins? It does. But that doesn’t bother me as much as thread basting does. So you see, it’s a trade off.

On with the tutorial. . .

Start with the backing. In this case I pieced two similar pieces of fabric with a bit of leftover border material in between. Seams pressed open. You might be thinking: how clever. Truth be known, I didn’t have enough of either rusty-brown color to do the whole backing so I used one strip of each. They looked weird right next to each other, so I added the border fabric in between. Looks like I planned it that way! Don’t tell anyone my little secret, okay?

I have a finished workroom in my basement with a Pergo floor. That stuff is hard as nails, so no worries that the pins will scratch the floor. I start with some painters tape, the 2” wide variety

Then tape one side of the backing to the floor. Notice that I leave very little space in between tape.

Then I secure the opposite side of the backing to the floor. As I place the tape, I gently pull the backing to smooth out any rumples.

Then the ends. I lift the tape and adjust as needed.

The idea is that the backing is flat, and taught against the floor, held in place with the tape.

I roughly measure out some batting. I like Hobbs Heirloom Wool—nice hand, transitions seasons beautiful, wonderful for hand and machine quilting, and it’s machine washable in the gentle cycle. A puff of steam miraculously removes any folds and wrinkles.

Place the batting on the backing, roughly aligning one corner to maximize any scraps - this stuff ain’t cheap so let’s get the most out of the leftovers!

Next the quilt top. This top is pretty big, so I start with it folded so I can align one side with the batting and backing edges. Notice I didn’t trim the batting yet. I put myself right in the middle and smooth out any rumples with my hands working from the center outward. This will also create the velcro effect - ‘sticking’ the quilt top to the batting. (and it feels nice to smooth your hands over the finished top).

Now trim about 1” away from the quilt top edge.

These beautiful batting scraps will be perfect for a runner or three.

Kwok-Clip. Love this tool. Makes pinning so easy.

Use the tool (or an old spoon) in your left hand, to lift the pointy end of the curved safety pin. . . .

Then with the pin end lifted, close the pin with your right hand. Of course, this is completely reversible for left-handers.

Now I place my mushy butt in the middle of the quilt, and, starting at the top corner (if I were thread basting, I’d start in the middle and work outward - I have found that where you start doesn’t matter with pin-basting) create a pattern within the block and pin, pin, pin.

This part can be a nice time to think, listen to a book or music, or just get into the zen of the repetitive motion.

Make sure a fist placed anywhere will touch at least one pin, more is better. You want the pins to be placed kinda like cookie dough on a cookie sheet. Not too close, and not too far away.

I like to get the pin-pattern set up, then walk away. I’ll work on the pinning in a couple sessions or in one marathon session. It usually takes about an hour to pin-baste a decent sized quilt like this one.

Then, it’s time to remove the tape, release the quilt from the floor, and get quilting. Since I’m going to big stitch hand quilt this one, I’ll use a hoop, and remove pins to accommodate the hoop.

As I quilt, I like to think I’m re-claiming my pins for the next project.

Here is the next to-be-finished project, so you can see. The hand quilting is almost done. I like to mark small sections at a time with an air-erasable pen. This quilt has been on my to-do list for quite some time. Soft pastel colors, perfect for springtime.

During the summer months, unless I’m using a table to support the quilt, I switch gears from quilting to other types of handwork, like embroidery, cross stitch or appliqué. All that fluff on my lap in the hot summer months will cause a quilter to melt!

Hmm, maybe that’s one way to de-mush my butt! (Probly should stick with a walking plan . . .)

Happy stitching!
Joan Ford