Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Ornament for the Tree

If you've followed this blog for a while, you know that every year, I include a hand-made Christmas ornament with my mailed holiday greeting cards. Nothing too fancy, something colorful and fun for the tree. Last year, it was elf mittens. This year, the ornament is an ornament! Scroll down to get the tute.

Start out with a simple shape, printed on freezer paper. The circle is 2-inches in diameter. You can download a sheet-full of shapes here.

Fuse the freezer paper to some yummy felted wool. I like this stuff from Purl Soho--the bright colors and texture of the wool felt are fabulous! For the base, I used white, but you can use any color. With the freezer paper fused to the wool, I cut out the ornament shapes.

Remove the freezer paper from the ornament base, and add some colorful strips. I rotary cut strips--some 1/4-inch. Some 3/8-in. Some 1/2-inch. Rough-cut the strips to fit across the ornament and give it a couple of whacks with a needle felting tool and mat to hold things together. . .

. . . and add a few decorative stitches with pearl cotton.

Make matching pairs.

Different colors, too! Place two matched ornament sides, wrong sides together, and button-hole-stitch them together around the edge. Stop when you've gone about three-quarters of the way around. . .

 . . . and stuff in some batting scraps. I used wool batting bits, you can use batting scraps or fiberfil.

Rotary cut ornament tops--3/4-inch by 1-inch rectangles. Fold the rectangle in half . . .

 . . . With a color-coordinated piece of pearl cotton, come up from the 'inside' of the fold in the middle, then pull the thread back down to the inside a couple of thread-widths way, leaving a loop, 2 or 3-inches long . . .

 . . . put a knot in the loop.

Pull the knot even with the felt, and square knot the short tail with the long thread end. Trim the short thread tail. Keep the long thread end on the needle to complete the ornament top.

Re-fold the rectangle and secure it to the top of the ornament with a running stitch around the edge. Bury the thread end in the ornament middle-fluff.


Repeat . . . Repeatedly . . . Mix it up with different stitches and playful color combinations.

Happy Holiday Stitching!
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

One year ago . . .

On the morning of December 14, 2012, I punched a couple items off my to-do list on the computer and was heading to the car dealership for a routine annual inspection and oil change. I had a moment to check the weather forecast so I opened my internet browser and saw the headlines. Something about a shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, many details were still pending. Newtown?! I immediately fired off an email to my editor, Renee at The Taunton Press expressing positive thoughts for the staff with whom I have worked over the past few years. Taunton is located in Newtown. Mine is a business relationship. But the people who are The Taunton Press are also my friends.

At the car dealership, the television in the waiting room aired non-stop coverage. And the news kept getting worse. The world stood still as horrible details emerged. By the next morning I was back in touch with my friends at Taunton, and the details were put in place. A call for quilts. Email communications and social media spread the word. And quilters responded.

Overall 120 quilts were received during a three week time frame. Each quilt--enough for family members and first responders--was specially selected for the person receiving it. Members of local community organizations like Women Involved in Newtown helped distribute each quilt personally along with a note from me:

What is a quilt? It seems simple enough: pieces of colorful fabric sewn together, with a simple fabric backing, and batting in the middle to make it warm and cozy. The stitches that run through all the layers are what hold it together and add to its beauty.

Newtown is like that quilt—held together by so many beautiful stitches. And The Taunton Press, my publisher, is one of the largest employers in Newtown. Many of its employees are residents of the town. Some have children that attend Sandy Hook Elementary, and many others are friends with the teachers, students, parents, and first responders who were there that day. After hearing about what happened, I, along with many other quilters, had the desire to help—to make something positive, something meaningful that would honor those we lost, thank those who were the first to respond, and help the community move forward.

Through the years, many problems have been discussed and solved with needle and thread in hand. When something terrible happens in the world, quilters get stitching. And so we did for Newtown.

This quilt was handmade, finished, and selected so that it might bring comfort and hope to a community in distress. Hang it on a wall. Store it for a needy time. Wrap yourself in warmth. Feel the gentle embrace from someone who cares very deeply. Because, a quilt is so much more than the fabric, batting and stitching it is made of—it’s a reusable hug.

And that's the end of the story . . . so I thought.

The good news is that no one in the Taunton family was directly affected that day. The bad news is that everyone in the Taunton family was directly affected that day. I received touching personal messages of gratitude--hand delivered, heart-felt thank-you notes, emails, personal conversations--from parents whose children received quilts--children who were at the school that day. The quilts were from us. The thanks are for you. . .

In September, I was back in Newtown, working on a new project. The town seems to be back to 'normal.' The balloons and make-shift memorials have been moved away. Traffic whizzes down the main road at a speedy clip just like before. But there are differences. You can see it when a police siren is heard in the distance. In any other town, it's normal to hear a siren from time to time. In Newtown, people stop and catch their breath for a moment and remember.

And I thought you should know, too. I'm writing this message to pass along the sincerest thanks to those who participated in this project from those who received the quilts you made. Whether you sent a quilt or said a prayer . . . message received. Thank you.

What's next? For more information on some of the grass roots efforts in Newtown, these websites offer some additional information.

 - The Sandy Hook Promise. Upon entering the site, you are immediately invited to join, but you can close down the prompt window and have a look around the site first. If you like what you see and want to be a part, then join. If not, that's okay.
 - The Newtown Action Alliance. Lots of information here. Learn more about the Newtown Foundation, a non-legislative not-for-profit organization. Purchase ornaments and cards in the shop.
 - Learn more about each of the victims and the individual memorial funds set up in their honor at My Sandy Hook Family.
 - Participate in the National Vigil for Gun Violence Survivors, live streamed from the Washington National Cathedral today, Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm (eastern).
 - I bet you have an unfinished quilt that could make someone smile or help them heal. Look around your own community and offer a quilty hug. Women's shelters, refugee organizations, hospitals, veterans' groups.

Quilters know that a quilt is more than fabric, batting and thread.

A quilt is love.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Three Weeks Left

If you celebrate the Christmas holiday, then you probably don't need me to point out that there are less than three weeks to go before the big celebration!

I don't know about you, but I still have a few things to get done before I can really relax and enjoy.

There's quilting. . .

 . . . and binding. . .

and piecing . . .

and ornament-making and greeting-card stuffing . . .

And baking . . .

Not to mention shopping, wrapping, and taking in some holiday shows and concerts.

*Phew!* I'm getting tired just thinking about everything on my to-do list! I think I need a nap!

I'd better put it on the list!

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the hoilday and be sure to set aside some quiet time for stitching! - joan

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quilts in a Factory

Two weeks ago, I visited the Wings Falls Quilt Guild in Glens Falls. We had a terrific time making the Stained Glass quilt in an all-day workshop. Then I presented a trunk show full of ScrapTherapy quilts. And in between I managed to visit a quilt shop or two.

Glens Falls is on the very edge of the Adirondack Park in New York State, about an hour's drive north of Albany, the state's capital. But it's also a short drive from Saratoga, where in the month of August, the story is thoroughbred horse racing. This permanent display at the Landmark Motor Inn, where I stayed, is a reminder of summer excitement.

It's always nice to visit an old building that has been given a second chance to shine. Such is the case with The Shirt Factory in Glens Falls, New York. As you might guess from the name, the building originally housed a shirt factory. The building is now home to a variety of boutique artisan shops and other businesses, including Adirondack Quilts. It was dark by the time I got to the building, so I confess to grabbing this photo off one of the website galleries.

Shannon and Bill own the quilt shop filled with all kinds of wonderful quilty treats. But I got the impression that Bailey and Goldie are really in charge! Here’s Bill along with the two canine attention-grabbers.

Look, a display of Snap Sack kits!

Wander down the hall a bit and you'll find handmade beads, pottery, and a huge variety of local crafts people who occupy their own space in the large building. On the walls, old pictures give you a fascinating history of the building! Unfortunately, I visited after dark and wasn't equipped to take photographs in the low light. You'll just have to take my word for it--or visit yourself--it's a wonderful shopping experience off the beaten trail!

Back at the guild, by the end of the day-long workshop, several versions of Stained Glass appeared.

Bright and colorful. . .

Soft, muted color, paired with gray. . .

A stack of pastel. . . pretty. . .

Tricks and treats. . .

And Christmas!

Every Stained Glass project looks so different based on the varying scrap collection. It's like each quilt is uniquely personalized.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Last Minute Goody Bag

Two weeks ago, I went on a little quilty retreat with friends. Because it was Halloween, we exchanged tricks and treats. One of the treats I received, was some fabric and a short pattern for a goody bag. The person offering the fabric treat and her guild members assemble bags like these and fill them with toiletries to be distributed to folks in need in the community. I made one up, made a couple of adjustments to the pattern,  and I thought I'd share it with you.

Wouldn't this be nice made up in holiday prints? A quick gift purchase is wrapped and ready to go under the tree, and the fabric bag is re-usable! It's super easy to customize, and you can make it up in a flash and have a few on hand for a last minute hostess gift, a little something for your hair-stylist, or for a child's treat bag. Or fill it with some soap, toothpaste and shampoo for a nice gesture at the homeless shelter any time of year.

You need an 11x26" scrap of fabric and some ribbon, about 26"--you can change the dimensions if you want something a little smaller or a little larger. If you have a Purple Thang, that will come in handy, too.

Fold the fabric in half, so you have an 11x13" rectangle. The fold will be the bottom of the bag. Measure 1-1/2" from the top edge down the sides and 1" in on each top edge. Draw a line.

Cut on the line. Repeat on all four corners.

Fold each cut end of the fabric toward the center of the bag twice to hide the raw edge.

Then fold the remainder of each 11" side down about 1/4" and press.

Edge stitch the short ends . .

 . . . then edge stitch each of the 1/4" folded seams along the top edge of the bag.

Next fold the top edge of the bag wrong sides together, creating a pocket for the drawstring ribbon. The bottom edge of the pocket should be even with the side cut. Edge stitch. Do this on both short edges to create a pocket for the ribbon-tie.

Then fold the fabric in half again on the original fold, wrong sides together, and sew a 1/4" seam down both sides.

The bag looks like this so far. The bottom fold is at the top of the picture and the drawstring-pockets are shown at the bottom.

Turn the bag right sides together, and tuck in each top corner, forming a 45˚ fold at the top of each side to hide the raw fabric edge.

Starting from the top, cut-out edge of the bag, sew down the side along the red line. Sew a straight seam, or sew closer to the edge once you get past the tucked-under corner to give the top of the bag a little shape. Repeat the French style seam on both sides of the bag.

The side seam will completely incorporate the original 1/4" seam allowance.

To make boxed corners, open and flatten the side seam at the bottom, draw a line about 1-1/2" from the corner and sew on the line. Trim the extra corner bulk, if desired, and zig zag along the edge to reduce fraying.

Cut the ribbon in half, or keep it whole and feed the ribbon through the top pockets. Pin a small safety pin to one end of the ribbon and feed the safety pin through the pocket, or insert the ribbon through the slit in the Purple Thang and feed the ribbon and Purple Thang through the pocket. Tie the ribbon ends.


Stuff with goodies and tuck it under the tree--it'll be as if you planned it all along!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Boo" Mountain Lake

Last Thursday, on Halloween, I headed to the the Minnowbrook Conference Center in Blue Mountain Lake for a long weekend of tricks and treats, great food, good laughs, and quilty inspiration. I found it all--and a little more!

To start out the weekend, the wind was whipping up a frenzy on the lake. I've been to this lake many times in the last few years, but haven't ever seen it this 'angry' with waves and white caps.

What a difference a day makes. Next morning the lake was like glass.

Since it was Halloween, spooky decorations prevailed.

And Treats! Our weekend event coordinators organized a 'Trick or Treat' exchange. Everyone brought a quilty or yummy treat to share, and we went 'trick-or-treating!' Everyone participated and we all came away with quite a pirate's booty!

Of course, there were projects to inspire. Some finished, some in progress, and some in parts. . . .

Happy Stitching!