Thursday, December 22, 2016

Down to the Wire

I do about 30 holiday cards for family and friends each year. Ever since I’ve been a quilter, I’ve made a point to make a small quilty ornament to insert in my annual holiday greeting cards.

Some years, the ornament idea pops right into my head - an ornament pattern I’ve found, or something I’ve made up. This year, nothing struck me. No lightning bolts. Nada.

Until . . . rather than make an ornament to insert with the card, I made the quilty object the card itself.

At first I thought about making and sending a holiday postcard, but the post office recommended against it. Too dirty, postage staying put was problematic, etc. I realize that quilty post cards are mailed all over the place all the time, but with the holiday mail volume, I thought it would be a good idea to take their advice.

Of course, all this discussion started after Thanksgiving. A ticking clock seemed to be a constant at my back side.

A trip to the stationery store, some windowed floppy disk storage envelopes, some holiday fabric scraps, several packs of Mug Mat Batting Packs, a couple of fun rulers to play with and this idea started to click. I still have a few more to complete — only a few short mailing days left to stitch, stamp, and send, and this year’s greeting will be history.

I really need to start thinking about this a bit earlier in the year, don’t you think?

At any rate, whether or not you are on my holiday greeting card list, I want you to know that you inspire me every day with your nice comments, notes, and messages throughout the year.

Thanks you so very much for following along. Many happy wishes for a wonderful, peaceful holiday season.

My holiday wish for you: whether you’re quietly relaxing with a small gathering  of friends and family, or if you’ve got lots of visitors, make some selfish time for needle, thread, and fabric during this special season of miracles.

Happy Christmas! Merry Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, December 15, 2016

An Elf-like Opportunity

Several folks have noticed the Grip Grass Ruler Stand announcement at the top of the sidebar in my weekly newsletter message for the last couple weeks. Since I think this little guy makes a really great stocking stuffer for the quilters on your holiday list (or maybe a little bit of a personal holiday indulgence as a reward for surviving a busy holiday season), I didn’t want you to miss it!

You know how your favorite, go-to rulers can easily get buried in the stack of fabrics on your cutting table? This handy, lightweight stand solves that problem!

Pick from a dozen fun colors and place it on the corner of your cutting mat in your studio. Put your most-used rulers in the stand, and no more searching! Personally, I have a couple at my work table and in my quilty travel bag for quilty getaways and retreats. The other ladies think I’ve flipped my wig (and I have all my own hair) until they see how easy it is to keep track of my rulers and marking pens at the retreat.

With the clock ticking away, I didn’t want you to miss out on something fun. Order soon (or suggest it to Santa) to receive it in time for the Christmas holiday.

Happy Stitching! And Elfing! 


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Rhymes with 'Bone'

On Saturday, I had a list of things to do about a mile long. With holiday season approaching, it seems like the to-do list is relentless no matter how hard you try to stay on top of things, don’t you agree?

So I set out to my first stop—the local Target store—to make a return.

I chose to do this on a Saturday in December.

Was this a wise move? Would there be crowds or long lines during this busy time of year? Could I encounter cranky customers or customer service reps while waiting to make my return?

I threw caution to the wind and accepted whatever fate might come my way.

And I was pleasantly surprised. A short line at the customer service desk. All the appropriate paperwork was presented and processed and the return was done, quick as a wink.

Success! Time for a reward. This Target store has a specialty coffee shop just inside the entrance, so I treated myself to a hot beverage and a moment or two to collect my thoughts for the rest of my chores.

I placed my order, waited for my drink which was delivered with a smile, and found a quiet table in the corner of the cafe to reflect on the exceptional start to my day  . . .  

Then I laughed out loud. The name on the cup: Jone. Let’s face it, Joan isn’t all that common a name. And the barista must be taking one drink order after another in this busy location. . .

Flawed coffee cup in hand and a good chuckle, I now felt I could carry on.

Happy Stitching!
Joan (as opposed to Jone!)

PS: Is Santa Claus stuck for ideas for a quilty present for you? How about a fabulous trip to the Caribbean? I’m headed out to sea on a quilt cruise in January 2017 with Stitchin Heaven, and it’s not too soon to plan ahead to March 2018 with Quilt Retreat at Sea. Two fantastic quilty tropical voyages that would make a fabulous holiday surprise just for you under the tree!! 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Early Bird for The Splendid Sampler

A little over a year ago, I got an email from my friend Pat Sloan. The gist of the note: Both she and another quilty friend Jane Davidson were creating a year-long sew along and would I like to join by creating a block to share?

The concept sounded outrageously fun. Each of the 80 or so designers was asked tell a story in the space of a 6” square quilt block—the story of how sewing brings happiness to our lives—in 100 personalized tales, one per block designed. I couldn’t say ‘no.’ I’ve always felt that quilting, really isn’t about the quilt as much as it is about a community of quilters and our shared experiences.

So this is my story:
I’m a bird girl. I love birds! I also love the change in the seasons. Even so, I’m usually happy to see the cold, long winter end, naturally leading to splendid springtime. When I see the first robin, my heart sings! It means winter is over, days are getting longer, and warmer weather is within reach. Soon, I can stitch outside under a shady tree once again; my favorite, favorite quilty thing to do!
And so my block is a pieced interpretation of an American Robin, or in Latin Turdus migratorious. The quintessential symbol of the end of winter and the change in seasons - at least here in North America.

Right about now, you may be looking at the pattern and the long list of tiny pieces to cut, and you might be thinking this person (me) is off her ever-loving bird-brained rocker!

I’m okay, really!

Yes, this block has a lot of pieces, and some of them are really small, and weird sizes that involve accurate cutting along 1/8" ruler markings.

However, the block is almost entirely made from stitch-and-flip units. Easy, like making a snowball block—drawing 45-degree lines on the back of one fabric (usually a square, but not always). . .  placing fabrics right sides together so corners align,. . . sewing on the line, . . .

. . . trimming excess fabric to reduce bulk,. . . 

. . . . and pressing in one direction or the other.

As you cut the long list of pieces, notice that this block is constructed in units. Make a little ‘kit’ from the fabrics required for each of the seven units, plus the final background pieces and arrange the little kit-stacks in place on your work table following the unit diagram on page 1 of the pattern.

Build each unit one at a time, paying close attention to the fabric alignment instructions, the direction of the drawn line seams, and the pressing suggestions. Sew deliberately and as accurately as possible. Be extra careful with unit 7 as the narrow legs don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for fabric placed or sewn out of alignment. . . .

. . . Then replace each unit back into the block arrangement. 

Then sew the units into rows. And sew the rows together. 

Well, we all know that every early bird is searching for the worm, but he (or she) also needs to find a mate! The Early Bird and The Reversed Robin were combined into a wall-hanging for the blocks December 2016 release date.

By the way, my label, courtesy of an embroidery pattern from Urban Threads, shows the natural progression that occurs when nature brings two birdies together. . . .

Many, many thanks to Pat and Jane for including me and my early birdie block on this most splendid journey. Thanks also to you for following along and for all of your encouraging words along the way.

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, November 24, 2016

For You from Me and The Universe

I receive daily notes in my email from the universe (look for the red bar, top right). No, it's true (and yes, I'm okay!).

I received one such message earlier this week that made me think of the Thanksgiving holiday. Not the one depicted on a classic Norman Rockwell cover of the Saturday Evening Post, but a real one, with real people on various sides of heated conversations covering current issues. The message hit the nail on the head:

Know everyone by their good traits.

And it made me think, that’s a really good message to keep in my back pocket as friends and family gather this holiday season.

And more specifically, I am very, very grateful for your friendship and support throughout the year. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? And so much more fun stuff to come.

Stay safe, and count your blessings on this Thanksgiving Day!

Happy Stitching!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Joan Ford

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Keystone Corner

Last week, I traveled to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and the Chambersburg Quilt Guild.

For mid November, the weather was remarkably warm and sunny, making for a lovely drive to and from the guild from my home in central New York.

Chambersburg is very close to Gettysburg, a place of historic significance from America's Civil War. While Chambersburg is well away from the Gettysburg battlefield, it did not escape the battle unscathed. With the exception of a few buildings, the entire town was burned during Lee's retreat.

No sign of any discord amongst the guild members! We got busy on our task. The first workshop was Bloomin Steps from the book ScrapTherapy, Cut the Scraps.

And the second workshop focused on the Warm Memories quilt project from When Bad Things Happen to Good Quilters. This project really takes everything you know about making a T-shirt quilt and turns it on its ear. These ladies are boldly slicing into their T-shirts for their quilts.

Chris arrived at the T-shirt workshop with her version of Scrappy Trails from ScrapTherapy, Cut the Scraps! Lovely!

It goes without saying, when quilting is involved it's just going to be a good time! I can't speak for everyone, but I can say that I had a great time spending some quality sewing time with some folks from a small corner of the Keystone State! And I certainly can't wrap up my conversation about my visit to Chambersburg without a shout-out to my hosts! Between the workshop and the guild meeting I was treated to a yummy ham sandwich from Jim's Farmers Market - oh my goodness! What a treat!

Upon my arrival back home, I got back to work on my Splendid Sampler quilt. My quilt top has been done for a while, and I'm now in the quilting phase. One block done, 99 to go!

Speaking of The Splendid Sampler, have you seen the cover yet? You can actually pre-order the book full of all 100 patterns here! My block will be released on December 1.

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I am SO Embarrassed!

Sometimes, you just know it's time (or long past) to do something!

My office. A tiny little corner in the back of my house. Trouble is that it's open space. Lots of natural light, windows everywhere, beautiful view of the back yard, and no door. I love this about my office space.

But it's also a curse. And an embarrassment.

Originally this was going to be a sitting room with a lovely view of the backyard. A big fluffy sofa took up most of the space in the room. And a little desk in the corner for quick correspondence or internet surfing. That's before I started writing quilt patterns and books.

Here's the 'before' picture. I'm showing this to you so you'll help to keep me accountable. Something must be done, plain and simple. I've got a few weeks without any travel, so I want to fix this up before the end of the year. (That sounded a lot like a deadline, yikes!)

The big empty floor space: Sofa gone. Hey, it's a start! Shelves to come.

The white cabinet on the left was never supposed to be filing space, and now it appears that one more folder may just send the whole thing a-tumble.

All the stuff on the small shelf on the right needs an empty recycle bin. And the black printer (under the stack of folders) died this week. I think it just couldn't take it anymore.

The tiny desk needs a facelift and a better filing system. The paper. There must be a forest worth of trees in this tiny space. Recycle, recycle, recycle!

Rolling up my sleeves! Do you have a space like this that you need to tackle? Whaddaya say? Shall we tackle it together? Stay tuned!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Houston, We have a Quilt Show

By now, if you follow anyone who was in attendance at Quilt Market in Houston last weekend, you've probably already seen lots of beautiful photos of the displays. But everyone sees something a little different, so here's my quick tour of the show.

Quilt Market is where the industry comes to get inspired. Even though it's a wholesale show and only members of the industry with credentials as buyers (your favorite local quilt shop owner), designers (like me!) or manufactures (like the fabric companies) can attend. My publisher, The Taunton Press, hosted a book signing of the first two ScrapTherapy titles on Saturday afternoon. Even though the new book (ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch) isn't ready until April, folks were anxious for their own personalized copy of one of the first two books, ScrapTherapy, Cut the Scraps, or Scrap Therapy, Scraps Plus One. Here I am at the booth book-signing.

Alexia Abegg's (Green Bee Sewing Patterns) new fabric line from Cotton + Steel is called Flower Shop. The big brown paper flowers in her booth were so creative and pretty.

It's always nice to see Carolyn Friedlander at the show. Love that quilt on the wall behind her. Carolyn also has a special exhibit in the quilt show in Houston (just next door to the vendor exhibits in the convention center).

A few of the displays featured elaborate apparel. This gown had butterflies that seemed to be escaping from the folds of the dress in an fantasy-like train. I'm sorry to say that I happened to snap this picture in a rush past the booth, and missed the name of the booth sponsor.

Camelot Fabrics converted bolts of fabric in shades of sea foam green into a woman's dress form for its display.

When you are an exhibitor at the show, it's so hard to steal away time to see the quilt show next door. When you're more of a 'free agent' like I was this time, it's a bit easier to carve out some quiet time to take in some quilty inspiration.

On a side note, Row By Row Experience™ revealed its theme for 2017 - Row by Row On the Go! Couldn't help make the connection to this quilt, Trixelated Transportation by Dionne Matthies-Buban and Martha Peterson, made entirely from equilateral triangles.

Here's a close up of some of the piecing.

Don't look now, but this quilt, A Long Way From Home by Amy Pabst, is made entirely from log cabin blocks. I wish I had something in the foreground to show the scale. The blocks are tiny, making the pieces (over 3,000 of them) within the blocks even tinier.

Take some old linens, save the best bits, and embellish. Just wow. Second Chances by Rhonda Dort

A closer look . . .

Speaking of hexagons, my room-mate for my stay in Houston was none other than Katja Marek. She's about to launch her next online hexagon sew-along using patterns from her recently released calendar. You can sign up for notifications at her shop site, if you're interested. I got tattoo-ed at the show, but didn't get to photograph it until I got home. Peaches from her perch above and behind (red arrow) was not impressed! The 2017 hexi sew-along quilt debuted at Market, and, unlike Peach, I was VERY impressed! Shall I start another project? We'll see!

It was a great trip! I made some great quilty connections and planted a few quilty seeds. We'll see what takes in the next few months, in the meantime, back to stitching!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Magic Salt

When you travel, it's easy to fall into some bad habits. Tempting cookies in the hotel lobby, not-so-healty easy-to-grab snacks in between meals. But at the end of a long day, it's so nice to be able to treat yourself to a good dinner. Whenever I'm in the Northlake area of Atlanta, I try to visit Northlake Thai, for some yummy Asian fare. This coconut shrimp dish tasted every bit as good as it looks!

At lunch time, my friend Shelly Stokes and I enjoyed lunch with two women from Indiana, Holly Kile and her Aunt Gin. We all ordered lunch, and the drinks arrived first. Nothing unusual about that. When Aunt Gin received her cold drink, she picked it up off the napkin, reached for the salt shaker and 'salted' the napkin and returned the glass to the napkin, without skipping a beat in the conversation.

Wait, what? Neither Shelly nor I had ever seen this trick before. Shelly simultaneously vocalized the question that was going through my head: What are you doing?

Aunt Gin's reply: If you salt the napkin then put a glass full of a cold drink on the salt, the napkin won't stick to the bottom of the glass when you pick up the icy/sweating glass. I didn't know that! Did you?

I just had to share. I bet now you'll sent me a note saying that you knew this little trick all along. . . . I'm not sure how I have managed to survive without this tidbit of critical information!

Anyway, back on the home front . . .

On my return home, I found this single coneflower in bloom in the garden. I guess I'm not the only one trying to hang on to every last bit of the summer season. With a trace of snow accumulated on the cars yesterday morning, it's getting harder and harder to live in my little world of denial. I guess you could say this is a late bloomer in the truest sense of the word.

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Game Day at Michie Stadium

Here in the US, October is football season, and there's no better place to see a college football game (in my mind) than Michie Stadium at the US Military Academy at West Point. So off Dave and I (along with a few friends) went for a short drive to our destination on the Hudson River last Friday afternoon.

First of all, the Autumn colors along the drive south from Syracuse are nearly full color. These few photos were snapped at a rest stop along scenic route 17.

It didn't hurt that the weather offered a picture-perfect drive day.

On Saturday, game day, if you arrive on the base early enough you can watch the festivities on "The Plain." The ceremonies for Homecoming Day start in front of the Commandant's residence about 3 hours prior to game time.

. . . Shortly after, followed the Parade of Cadets in full dress uniform.

Then it was on to the stadium. The Army Black Knights' opponents for Saturday's game was the Lafayette (PA) Leopards. Across the field from our seats, the mass of white is the Cadet's cheering section. The white of their uniform hats and shirts stand out on this clear, sunny October day. The gold helmets of the Army Black Knights football team are in the foreground.

The Black Knights were victorious with a 62-7 final score. Each time Army scored, the cheerleading squad did push-ups in the home end-zone--one for each point. It's cumulative. So at the first score, it's 7 push-ups, at the next score, it's 14 push-ups! By the end of the day, the workout totaled over 300 push-ups for the whole game. (Thank goodness the crowd wasn't required to participate in those!)

The entire day was steeped in tradition and ceremony and a lot of fun. Really an awesome experience!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A 'Forever' Pumpkin

Last Friday, Janet Lutz and I played hookie. Janet is the owner of Calico Gals, and you might also be familiar with her name if you collected Row by Row Experience™ patterns this summer.

A few weeks ago Pat Sloan posted a comment on Facebook as she drove past Corning, New York in her travels. Both Janet and I commented on Pat's post. The Corning Museum of Glass has a studio where visitors can 'make' blown glass objects like ornaments and beads. During certain times of the year, a special blown glass item is featured that you can't make any other time of year. And in October, it's pumpkin season!

With Corning only a 2-hour drive away, we decided to take a day to go play. So off we headed on a beautiful sunny fall day.

Here we are sporting safety glasses for our pumpkin-making experience.

Since it was such nice weather outside, Janet was wearing sandals, perhaps for the last time this season. She had to cover up her feet with fashionable foot coverings resembling duck feet.

Our objective was a glass pumpkin like this one.

And our first task was to select colors - we could choose up to three. . . . orange and clear glass for the pumpkin, and lime green for the stem were my choices. Janet choose spooky black on black.

Jackie, our hostess, and the one that really did most of the work, explained the process. Glass is heated in furnaces in the wall, then she grabs a gob of glass (the bright red blob) on the end of the tube. (there are official names for all these things, but I was so excited to make my pumpkin, I can't remember all the technicalities)

While the glass is still hot and pliable, we were invited to blow into the tube while Jackie rolled the pipe to keep the pumpkin nice and round. Think of a marshmallow at a campfire. If you don't turn it, it becomes a saggy mess. While I blow, Jackie shapes the pumpkin.

Once the pumpkin is formed, Jackie reaches in for some more glass, adds colored glass, then sticks it on top of the pumpkin and twists it to make the curled stem. My pumpkin waits for its stem.

And there you have it. The colors look nothing like the finished product. . . yet. The glass has to cool overnight in a hot kiln which gradually brings the glass to room temperature. Only enough time for a quick photo before the glass breaks from cooling too fast.

Next, it was Janet's turn. Notice that she's just sitting on an old wooden carton! A typical working studio! Nothing fancy. (Kinda goes with Janet's footwear)

Her turn to blow into the tube while Jackie does the real work. Fortunately, both Janet and I had enough hot air to fill out our pumpkins. Hot air is never in short supply for either of us! *Wink!*

And there's Janet's spooky black pumpkin.

And here are the finished pumpkins, delivered yesterday. Aren't they cool?


It would have been a shame to go all that way and have nothing to bring home to show for it. Not to worry, we stopped in the museum gift shop for a little shopping therapy. We did not come home empty-handed!

And we had to drive home through wine country. We *might* have stopped at a winery for a taste or two.

Happy Glass-blowing and Stitching!
Joan Ford