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