Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stitchery Giftery

Spoiler alert! If you are on my Christmas card list and you don't want to see what's coming in the mail. Turn away now. (That means you, Jordan!) 

This time of year, I do everything possible to avoid shopping at the malls. So, that usually means I break out the needle and thread and spend time at the sewing machine to make cards and gifts.

This year, it seems hand embroidery has been my sewing craft of choice. And with some great patterns and idea starters, how can you go wrong!

Blueberry Backroads has a pattern series to make small ornaments for the holidays and for year-round. Once I stitched several variations and repeats of the center stitching, I went back to the sewing machine to make the mini-block. I backed it and turned it envelope-style and added a little quilting and a hanger. A little mini quilt ready for the tree!

Next, the cards were made on my printer with some help from PC Crafter clipart, a little glue, glitter, and some spongy space-makers used to create a pocket for the fabric ornament.

Moving on to gift-making. To create whimsical bags big enough to hold a small portable computer or eReader (below), I started with a small embroidery/ applique pattern from Crab Apple Hill.

Then on to the sewing machine. The resulting bag is an original pattern variation from one of the patterns in my soon-to-be-released book, Cut the Scraps. The embroidery patch really could be any machine or hand embroidered motif.

I'm sure I'll have to head to the mall at some point, but not yet, I still have some sewing to do!

Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let it Snow! Then Let it Stop. . . please!

I live in Syracuse, New York. Just south and a little east of Lake Ontario. This time of year, the big lake isn't frozen yet. Without getting too scientific, if the wind blows just right, Syracuse can get walloped with bad weather as winter sets in.

Just so happened, the 'right' combination of wind, and cold, and snow happened this week over Syracuse - and my house. It started this past weekend. It's Wednesday and it hasn't stopped snowing yet.

There is a little landing just outside the back door that leads down three or four steps to the back yard. Small railing. In the summer, it's the easiest access to the patio. In the winter, this landing becomes a wind magnet, often creating interesting shapes with falling and drifting snow.

For some reason, on Monday evening, I thought the amount of snow accumulated on the railing was rather 'amusing.' So I opened the door and snapped a pic. Little did I know what might come next.

The next morning, the wind made some interesting shapes that seemed to defy gravity. Kinda reminded me of that famous painting by Michelangelo on the ceiling - will the two 'fingers' meet or not? More snow.

This was last night. Yup. The two snow blobs are now one big blob. Snow's not done yet.

This morning. No more railing visible. I find the little red hummingbird feeder/holder a bit comical in this picture. That's about eye level for me. Much to my surprise (and dismay), not a hummingbird anywhere in sight!

Another 6-8" of snow is expected today and another 8-10" tonight.

At least I have fabric, thread and a working sewing machine. And heat.

Is it Spring yet?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Day

When I got married 10 years ago, I inherited a new-to-me Thanksgiving tradition. My husband's family gets together and does the usual - eat, gab, watch football, and repeat! This isn't just a few immediate relatives - this includes ALL of my husband's family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all their kids, pretty much. Before too long, three generations will become four, and there will be even more hungry relatives at the annual gathering. I grew up with a much smaller immediate family Thanksgiving meal and celebration.

With all the guests at the feast, and with most of the food elements covered, I often struggle with what to bring to add to the meal.

To save the day, about two miles down the road from my house, a new cookie bakery recently opened, called ICJ cookies. ICJ stands for Italian Cookie Jar, and boy-O-boy are the cookies yummy!

Okay, I know Thanksgiving is all about that 'family thing' - and the pies - not to worry. The pies will be well-accounted for. But who can resist a yummy Italian delight?

There is always room in the tummy for just one cookie! Or two. . .

And the best part is I didn't dirty one dish or bowl in the process!

I'm making a small turkey with most of the fixin's on Friday, so Dave and I can have some leftovers!

Maybe I should get another tray of cookies just for us too!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Best in Show

Okay, I'm not an official judge, so that would be in my opinion. I love to walk the aisles at Quilt Market in Houston seeking out new gadgets and ideas. Sometimes a booth strikes my fancy. This one, I thought, was really original.

Don't Look Now! That's not an order, that's really the name of the pattern designers based in Melbourne, Australia. These pictures really don't do justice to the exquisite detail and dense quilting in all the samples. The booth was light, modern, and fresh.

Loved the border treatments on the quilts. Scattered appliqued flowers, or a combination of pieced and appliqued color.
And yes, one or two of the patterns may have made it into my shopping bag! A little indulgence never hurt anybody!

Happy stitching!

Retailers, don't forget to subscribe to the no-obligation newsletter for the latest news on patterns from the Hummingbird Highway - ScrapTherapy patterns and Snap Sack packs. Lotsa changes coming!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Exciting Times!

I can't believe it's already the end of October and I'm headed off to Houston for Fall Quilt Market in the morning. Unlike many of the past trade shows, this semi-annual show finds me in a bit of a transition.

Exciting changes are happening for the ScrapTherapy program - no longer autoshipped to enrolled shops - retailers may be pleased to know that absolutely nothing is required for the quarterly inventory purchases. The same great patterns, recommended notions, and tips - the best parts of the program remain unchanged! In fact, I'm working on the next project right now. Here it is, in progress. Isn't it beautiful! (At least it is in my head!)

And the Snap Sack Small Quilt Kits are changing too! Shops may now purchase kit-your-own packs in two quantities - 24 packs and 12 packs. So smaller shops can play, too! I can't show you what the next Small Quilt will look like - don't want to spoil the fun. It's due to start shipping in early November (oh my gosh, that's next week!). Alright, here are some hints - it's featured month is January, named Winter Chill, and includes four shades of icy blue! Love it! Ask for your kit at your favorite independent quilt shop!

Two brand new patterns are available. Chunky Quarters and Chunky Halves starting this Market. Almost too easy, and definitely way too much fun to assemble! Your favorite quilt shop can prepare kits for you so all you have to do is sew your lap-sized quilt together! A great gift!

If you are a retailer and want to know all the latest product information from the Hummingbird Highway, go to the home page of either of my websites, www.scrap-therapy.com or www.hummingbird-highway.com to subscribe to periodic e-nouncements! If you are a quilter, tell your LQS to get on the list so you don't miss one thing!

As if all this isn't enough! A new website is under construction, so watch for changes and be careful of the construction dust!

Scrappy Trails to you!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Week in Review

Dave and I finally had the chance to run away for a little week-long vacation. So, if you aren't bored with stacks and stacks of vacation pictures from this past summer, here's a few more.

We first headed to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We stayed at The Brickhouse Inn, a wonderful bed and breakfast right in town. There are two buildings on the property, one dates to 1863 and has the bullet holes from the first day of battle in the brick to prove it. Daily breakfast included your choice of dessert! So I started each day with a slice of Shoo-Fly Pie, a Pennsylvania Dutch classic!

We started our journey into Civil War history with a trip to the Visitors Center. Amongst the many artifacts, a pair of gloves worn by General Lee intrigued me. They were grey, of course. Each day of the three-day battle was reviewed in depth. One room was completely dedicated to the Gettysburg Address, shown here dramatically printed on frosted glass.

Later that day, we toured the battlefield, specifically seeking out the 122nd New York Infantry monument at Culps Hill. Why, you might ask? On the side of the monument it reads "Organized Onondaga County, NY. Mustered into service at Syracuse, NY August 28, 1862." Hey, that's home!

A couple days later, on our way out of town, we stopped at Boyd's Bears. Four floors of stuffed bears and animals. Wow! This little guy with the blue ribbon found his way into our car for the trip home!
On to Washington DC. Museums, museums, museums! Spies, portraits, American Indian, and News. And a new monument. There sure is a lot to see in DC!

Our neighbors seemed nice. They were just across the street from our hotel in this little cottage. We didn't get to see them.

A couple days, and a lot of gushing rainfall later, we were on to West Point for a football Saturday at Michie (pronounced like "Mikey") Stadium. What an experience!

The cadets, dressed in white uniform, sit in a large section of the stadium. When the Army team scores, the cadets jump out of the stands to do push-ups - one for each point on the board, while the announcer says, "Drop and gimme [fill in number here]!" At the end of the game, both teams stand at attention for the school anthem (below).

Final score: Army 35, Temple 42.

Too bad the home team lost, but it was great fun and perfect weather.

Back home again, and back to business!

Happy travels,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Service and Remembrance

Once a month, I get together with a few of my quilty friends to work on unfinished objects (UFOs). Yes, I am a finisher, but I will admit, a stray project (or several) have landed on a 'short' to-do list.

Last week, during our group quilting catch-up day, I pulled out a little project I started quite some time ago and added a couple of mitered borders to a pieced quilt center. This particular project was one of the last ones I brought to work on, so I didn't quite finish it before it was time to go home. It was placed back in the stack of unfinished projects for next month.

This morning I assessed, what seemed like a massive stack of quilted projects that need to get done - several holiday place mats, a few wall hangings and a full-sized quilt. All samples for the local shop. But one little project called to me. All it needed was a plush backing and some quilting.

Like so many others, I was profoundly affected by the events of September 11, nine short years ago. And today, it seemed appropriate to dedicate my time to finish something for someone else. Someone in need. My friend Beth is director at Interfaith Works. One of the programs she supervises assists refugees resettling to this country. And one of the families due to arrive in the near future includes a baby.

I hope the family enjoys this little baby quilt as much as I enjoyed the feeling of doing something - even something small - to welcome others to this great country we call home.

In service and remembrance,

P.S. Beth has LOTS of UFOs!

Friday, September 10, 2010

On the way . . .

The two newest ScrapTherapy patterns are getting packed into boxes, headed to your favorite participating quilt shop in the next week or two. Want a preview?

Stained Glass is a cool twist on the nine-patch theme. For this project, each element of the nine-patch is a pieced on-point scrappy square with narrow lattice in between the scraps. If your stomach gets all twisted in knots with concern over sewing those skinny strips, fear not! Sewn lattice strips start twice the size and incorporate a unique piecing and cutting method to avoid the stress. You're gonna love it! The pattern includes both lap and bed sized projects.

Flower Ballet incorporates machine-appliqued flowers with three-dimensional petals. Here's a super-sized table runner that will dress up any decor.

And, of course, I do love my gadgets! You just have to have the new trimming tool by Studio 180 Designs, Square-Squared to make the on-point pieced squares for your version of Stained Glass. Plus, circles used in the table runner are fast and fun to make with the Olfa Circle Rotary Cutter. Or try my newest favorite notion to make half-square triangles, the Fons and Porter 6" Square Up Ruler!

By the way, did you know that the first sixteen ScrapTherapy pattern releases are now available to all independent quilt shops, even if they've never been 'officially' enrolled in the program? Just ask for your favorite scrappy projects, such as Bloomin Steps, the Scrap Sack, and Pick-A-Pair Pot Holders at your local quilt shop.

As a reminder, the ScrapTherapy program is a method to cut your unused fabric scraps leftover from finished quilt project into sizes that make sense. Then use those cut-up scraps in quilted projects.

Happy quilting!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Good Idea. . . I Think!

A few months back, I wrote that I would be participating in the Nine-Patch Project. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I have tons and tons of scraps I can use to make nine-patch blocks. And Karen Montgomery suggested that it would be fun, and she always has some pretty good ideas. So . . . .

I settled in and started sewing tiny nine-patches, each made from one 2" scrap square, which was cut in half twice to make four 1" squares. All batiks. Really pretty! (But small!)

Then I dug around in my stash for some fabric, big stuff. Determined to use fabric on hand, I found a cream-on-cream print. Probably about three yards, I'm guessing. And started cutting 1" strips, then 1" squares. In between other sewing, I made 2" unfinished mini-nine-patches with light centers and corners.

I know it sounds crazy, sewing all those small pieces. But I think sewing the small pieces makes sewing bigger pieces more accurate. I will admit, about two-thirds of the way through, I kinda got sick of sewing the small pieces. But I digress. . .

Then, I added either four or five 2" batiks to make 5" unfinished nine-patches, with alternating patched centers and whole centers. These were fun!

Sewed nine of the resulting nine-patches together for a nine-nine-nine patch that is about 13" square. I made twelve of these. Each one incorporates a total of 51 nine-patches - 41 teeny nine-patches, nine medium nine-patches, and the big momma nine-patch. The goal was 80 blocks for the summer. I guess I over-shot that goal, huh?

Now what?

I suppose that's my project for the fall. Stay tuned!!

To the 'nines!'

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Christmas Tradition

I know, I know, it's still summer, but it's never too early to start thinking about making that holiday quilt project.

And who doesn't love some fruitcake over the holidays?

Okay, I've heard all the jokes comparing fruitcakes to hockey pucks. But here's a nice 'Chunky Fruitcake' quilt everyone will love!

This quilt features "Fruitcake" fabric collection by BasicGrey for Moda.

It's fast and easy to make. Subtle holiday prints that don't scream 'Christmas!' Chock full of nice big chunks of fabric. Yum!

And you can get the kit at Calico Gals in Syracuse to bake up your very own!

By the way, my mom really did make a great fruitcake at the holidays. No thick, sticky goo for her! The cake part was always nice and moist.

Want her recipe?

Mrs. Kolis' Delicious Fruitcake

1 cup white raisins
1 cup cut up candied fruit
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp lemon flavor
1/4 cup orange juice, then add brandy to bring liquid to 1/3 cup line on measuring cup

Plus pecan halves and candied cherries to decorate top of cake.

1. Mix flour, salt, baking powder and sift over the fruit and chopped nuts. Blend well and set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
4. Add mace, and lemon favoring
5. Stir in floured fruit
6. Add orange juice mixture and blend
7. Grease and flour baking pans, either two loaf pans or one tube pan. Important! Place paper liner in bottom of pan  Pour batter over paper liner, then decorate with pecan halves and candies cherries.
8. Bake in slow oven (275 degrees). Bake two loaf pans, about 1-1/2 hours, or bake tube pan 1 hour, 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes clean. Place a large shallow pan of hot water on rack directly underneath cake in oven.

Store in airtight container.

Please pass the Fruitcake!

Clipart available at www.pccrafter.com

Monday, August 9, 2010

One hundred thirty-seven. . .

. . . days left until Christmas!

Plenty of time! Looking for a great holiday project to sew up in a jiffy? How about a Christmas-themed Baltimore Album quilt?

Normally, I wouldn't dream of attempting to finish a Baltimore Album quilt in just a few months. All that detailed applique. Lots and lots of stitching. Yikes!

However, I was inspired to make this quilt using Mimi Dietrich's "Christmas in Baltimore" fabric line by P&B Textiles. And you guessed it, you can make one just like it in time for the holidays with your very own fabric kit, complete with original pattern by yours truly.

Don't worry. Those beautiful applique blocks are cut from a printed panel. All you have to do is chop up the panel, sew up the sashing and borders, and it's ready to quilt!

Make yourself an impressive holiday treat before the first snow flies! Or, better still, before the leaves start to turn.

Oh, by the way, kits are available at Calico Gals in Syracuse, NY. You want one?

Happy stitching!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time to Fly!

Shortly after I put it up, this hanging planter full of purple flowers caught the eye of a pair of expectant parents - house finches. Nest building began in earnest shortly thereafter (see the piece of grass sticking out of the plant?), and Mama Finch laid five tiny speckled eggs.

Just by looking at the plant, you'd never know the bird's nest is deep inside, near the base of the plant.

Since one of my favorite summer pastimes is doing hand work on the front porch, this activity has been somewhat reduced this year, as Mrs. Finch spooks off the nest quite easily.

The baby birds, now a mass of brown feathers and fluff, are just about to fledge. The nearby window leads to my sewing room and the vocalizations from peeping babies and twittering parents are really very pleasant.

But I do miss my sewing spot. One of these days, very soon, maybe I can take up my hand work again on the porch. We'll see. . .

Happy first flight!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Chunkies

Two new Chunky quilt kits just joined the 'Chunky' family. As usual, kits are available at Calico Gals in Syracuse.

The 'chunkies' are a super simple quilt kit series featuring big bold blocks, super easy construction, and an extra-wide binding.

Chunky Bloomers 3, featuring "Peony Tales" fabric by Betty Wang for South Sea Imports.
Chunky Moxie, featuring "Moxie" fabric by Kim Schaefer for Andover Fabrics.

Have a 'chunky' kind of day!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lavender Fields

Last evening I attended a business networking event at Lockwood Farm in Skaneateles, New York. The weather was cool and overcast, but fortunately, no rain.

Lockwood Farms is a 120 acre flower and fiber farm that overlooks scenic Skaneateles Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Karen Lockwood, our hostess, says she has lost count of the number of sheep in her herd, raised for their fleece. Here's Karen with a two-week old lamb, which was as cute as can be!

Karen's passion is the lavender. She grows sixteen varieties of lavender plants for fragrance and culinary uses. The plants need to be hearty varieties to survive the harsh central New York winters in the Finger Lakes.

The intensity of the dark purple lavender hue is nearly overwelming in the flower patches that are approaching full bloom just in time for the Lavender Festival, scheduled for July 10th and 11th at the farm. The farm is open to the public on weekends in the summer and even features a small shop with all sorts of lavender products.

We were also treated to a fabulous spread of traditional fresh Lebanese cuisine made especially for the event by Julie Sageer (on the left in the photo below). Each dish incorporated lavender flavors and Lebanese culinary tradition.

A feast for the eyes and for the tummy!

Consider a summer drive to the farm.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ahoy Maties!

Last weekend, I headed north to Alexandria Bay on the New York/Canada border. The 1,000 Islands in the St. Lawrence River is such a beautiful spot for a wedding. Unless it's raining!

My sister, Valerie's wedding weekend started out perfectly. Blue sky. Warm weather. Terrific sunset. So I settled into my room in Alex Bay on Friday evening, ignoring the forecast for Saturday, wedding day.

I woke up to buckets of rain water falling outside my hotel window. I snapped a picture of this barge crossing in front of Boldt Castle on Heart Island, the location for the wedding later in the day. You can see how gray the skies were first thing in the morning.

Because this area is heavily tourist and resort oriented, it's easy to forget that it's also a major shipping thoroughfare. Then you see the barges and you are reminded of the river's importance to commerce.

Fortunately, as the day went on, the weather cleared. We caught the boat for Heart Island for the short ceremony around four. George Boldt built the castle on Heart Island as a summer residence in the early 1900s. As the story goes, all work stopped on the construction when his wife, to whom the structure was dedicated, died. The Castle fell into hard times until it was purchased by the Bridge Authority. It is now beautifully restored and the grounds make a perfect wedding destination. And it's a popular tourist stop on the tours through the 1,000 Islands.

Even though the clouds didn't completely dissipate, the short ceremony was in the clear.

My sister has always loved the Popeye cartoons. Can you tell by their cake?

Here's the happy couple. The wedding theme featured tropical flamingos! Notice the fun glasses. Al may not be happy that this picture is now on the internet.

But that's what sisters-in-law are for!

Stay dry!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Birdie Bags

I've been busy. I'm going to a small wedding this weekend. I made a bunch of sweet little embroidered bags for all the women guests.

For starters, I downloaded the Blue Wren's Nest embroidery patterns from one of my favorite blogs by Natalie Lymer of Cinderberry Stitches. Once I downloaded the pattern, I did a little Photoshop magic and reversed the stitching pattern, then printed it onto Quilters Freezer Paper Sheets (made by C&T Publishing) on my inkjet printer.

Using a light source, I traced the stitching pattern on the front of the background fabric, in my case I used muslin. The freezer paper stabilizes the fabric so it doesn't shift while I'm tracing. Neat trick!

And I stitched. . . and stitched. . .  and stitched some more!

Cash and Carry, a terrific little bag pattern by Atkinson Designs became the basis to finish my project. I adjusted some of the sizes from the pattern sightly to accommodate the stitchery. Instead of making a pocket for each side of the bag, I have a pocket on one side and the stitchery on the other.

Great pattern! Really easy. Zippers, too!

Added the little birdie zipper fob to finish it off.

Fourteen handy little bags ready to go to a wedding with me!!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm doin' it. Are you?

I'm talking about the Nine-Patch Project, of course!

During the course of the summer, grab some fabric - anything - your scraps, some fat quarters, something from your stash, or heaven-forbid run out and buy some fabric at the quilt shop! Then make one nine-patch block every day throughout the summer. Read Karen Montgomery's June 1st blog for more details.

As I understand it, there's no Nine-Patch Police, so even though this whole thing started on June 1st, you really can start any time. You can play catch up and make three blocks today, or make two nine-patches for the next three days and you'll be right on track. Or just start today. By the end of the summer you should have a bunch of nine patches - if you count one for each day of June, July, and August, that's 92 blocks!

You can follow along on facebook, or watch for more information here. 

For my blocks, I went scrounging around in my ScrapTherapy bins and found a bunch of 2" batik squares. I pulled out some cream fabric from my stash and rolled up my sleeves. I decided to make nine-patches within nine-patches, so I cut my 2" square twice to make four 1" squares. Then cut 1" squares from my cream fabric (bet this would also look good with black fabric!) and went to the sewing machine.

Once the mini-blocks were sewn, I added more 2" scrap squares to make a 5" unfinished nine patch. For odd days of the month, I'll do a nine patch with five mini nines, and for even days of the month, I'll do a nine-patch with four minis.

Yep, those are tiny pieces of fabric, but I find that every once in a while, it's good to stretch a little bit. Besides, when you piece something small, you have to be accurate. When you have to be accurate, your overall piecing improves. Kinda like being an average Sudoku or crossword player. Then you try your hand at an uber-difficult puzzle. You fail miserably (or at least I do!), but when you go back to the average skill level puzzles, they are so much easier!!

By the way, my blocks have all the tiny squares. Yours can be any size you want, scrappy or not, lights and darks or not, light centers, dark centers, or not. Here's a simple scrappy nine-patch to show you what I mean.

One simple block each day. Now that's not so overwhelming, is it?

See you on the 'back nine!'