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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Travel Projecting

Three weeks ago, now, I met up with my quilty friend and fellow pattern designer Brenda Miller in Niagara Falls. I showed you some of the pictures from our tourist activities last week.

But we both brought our sewing machines and a project or two to work on in the hotel room while  we chatted about various and sundry quilty and non-quilts topics.

Brenda created a small project from Terry Atkinson’s new book, Simple, Fun and Quickly Done. You can read about Brenda’s project here.

As for myself. I travel quite a bit. And I have one project that I keep ready to grab as I pack up my stuff for any trip. It’s always some sort of hand-work project - like hand piecing or embroidery, or even some combination.

Many years ago now (at least five years ago for sure) I started working on this pattern from Mountain Patchwork with a fat quarter bundle of fabric designed by Gudrun Erla.

Long ago, I precut and marked all the pieces for each block and put them into little mini block kits. I stuffed the kits in a vinyl pouch with everything I needed to work on a block - needles, pins, embroidery and piecing thread, an extra thimble, and scissors - everything. All I had to do was grab the pouch and stuff it in my suitcase.

And I worked on the blocks one by one in the evenings while I was away over the years. This project was reserved only for road trips. I rarely worked on the blocks at home. On the quilt cruise this past February, during my 'off' hours, I finished the 20 blocks! So I took them with me to Niagara Falls along with fabric for sashing and borders.

While Brenda worked on her Terry Atkinson project. I was determined to go home with a finished quilt top.

Each block is hand pieced and ‘double-stitched’ per the Mountain Patchwork instructions. Then embroidered in the block’s center sashing strips.

The block is pieced like regular hand-piecing along the seams, then stitched again to secure the seam allowance with a visible running stitch. The technique was originally used to reinforce well-worn bits of clothing as they were sewn into quilts. The result has a more textured look with visible double-stitched running stitches.

Over the years, my embroidery improved and got a bit more detailed. You can tell the earlier blocks from those completed more recently.

The quilt top is done, it’s quite large - keepin’ it real here - yes that’s some garlic from last summer hanging on the closet door. I really need to use that up before next growing season starts, right?

I can’t wait to really finish it with, I think, some big-stitch quilting. That part I’ll do at home in the evenings with a good movie or audible book.

That means, it’s time for a new travel project. I chose this hand-pieced project that I started a couple years ago. Yep, like before, I’ve done some advance cutting and marking for the hand piecing. This isn’t part of any published pattern, so I’m not sure where exactly I’m headed yet, but I’m sure it’ll be a nice journey - literally and figuratively.

I’ve already started packing my travel case (Isn’t this one fun? It’s from Yazzii and it has lots of little compartments) with all the essentials so I’m ready to hit the road again, but maybe not for a couple more weeks.

Do you have a ready-to-go travel project?

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Rainbow Connection

Sometimes it’s nice to get away for a little one-on-one time with a fellow pattern designer. My good friend, Brenda Miller of Among Brenda’s Quilts and Bags, and I were chatting a few months ago and decided that it would be a good idea to meet up, spend some time sewing and chatting for a weekend somewhere.

Brenda lives in Strathroy, Ontario (near London), and I live in Syracuse, NY. Looking at a map, the obvious half-way point was Niagara Falls. We made our reservations (actually Brenda handled the reservation part) for the first weekend of March, two weeks ago.

We spent some sewing time in our room overlooking the Horseshoe falls. Our room was a suite with a very small table that accommodated our sewing machines and not much else. And we both brought along some hand sewing to do while chatting.

And of course, we got out to see the Falls. Here is a little tour of our escapades.

Chilly cheesy grins with the American falls as the backdrop.

Dave and I were just watching something on public TV that stated that Niagara Falls are the most photographed park location in all of Canada. I don’t remember the exact wording on that fun fact, but let’s face it. They are beautiful and very photogenic!

And of course, being tourists had to do some site-seeing. Gift shop time with Monty the Mounty.

Maple leaves, and maple leaf texture in the sidewalks! Oh, lovely Canada!

A little early in the season for many of the typical Niagara Falls attractions, but we found some things open. Bird Kingdom? D’ya think!?

Lots of beautiful feathered friends inside!

For a couple bucks you get a little cup of nectar to hold in your hands. The lorikeets know the drill! When they see the cup, even before it’s filled with nectar, you are their new best friend!!

It has been a very long time since I’ve seen the Falls at night. The view from our room provided the best view. 

On Sunday, our last full day at the Falls, the weather predictions were expected to be well below freezing. Over night the temperatures dropped severely. At sunrise, the mist from the falls took on a life of its own, rising high into the air as the mist and sunlight mingled.

As we ventured out, the landscape, especially nearest to the falls was changed. Common items underwent a very uncommon transition. Grass blades look like frosty noodles or worms. 

This street lamp close to the Horseshoe Falls was transformed by wind and freezing mist to look like something from Pirates of the Caribbean!

A common garbage bin is transformed by freezing falls mist.

The areas directly overlooking the falls were also transformed, like icy sea monsters instead of early spring plant life.

Popcorn grass.

The guardrails along the walkway are also beautifully transformed with coats and coats of frozen accumulated mist from the falls.

If the sun is out, you can always find a rainbow. The pot o’ gold is a bit more elusive.

No better way to warm up after a day of spectacular views in the cold than a nice dinner (and dessert!) with a spectacular view. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

IT is here!

What is ‘it’ you might be asking. . . .

“It” is ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch!

I wasn’t expecting the newest, coolest book in the ScrapTherapy family to arrive until much later this month or sometime in April, but SURPRISE! Here it is!

The Back Story

Somewhere along the way, I got addicted to making 9-patch blocks, what with the popularity of the cover quilt (99 Bottles) from my second book,  ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! Then there was the introduction of three awesome interfacing products to make itty bitty, mediumly-small and smallish 9-patch blocks.

It simply made sense that my next book would feature the amazingly versatile 9-patch block, and scrap fabrics, of course.

This newest book in the ScrapTherapy family, ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch includes a review of the ScrapTherapy process - seven basic steps to help you get your scrap fabrics organized so you can use them in beautiful scrappy quilts.

But the really fun part of the book is the projects - 18 of them along with full color photographs and step-by-step illustrations. Unique, fun-to-make quilty projects featuring variations on a classic quilt block - the 9-patch.

Are you an Early Bird?

I promised you some fun BONUSES. . .

Here’s your chance to get the book as well as some exciting bonuses available for a limited time only available for book purchases made through the Hummingbird Highway.

When you buy the book here, you can earn up to FOUR bonuses. Each bonus package will last 2 days. After two days, one of the bonuses will go away. Then after two more days, another bonus will go away. Two more days, and yet another bonus goes bye-bye.

Get the picture? The longer you wait, the fewer bonuses you get . . . Only trouble is, you won’t know which bonus will disappear as the clock ticks away!
Here’s the bonus time line
(all times are east coast US time):

The Early Bird
Until midnight March 11th, 2017, receive four bonuses.

The Morning Dove
From March 12th, 12:01am through midnight March 13th, receive three bonuses.

The After Loon
From March 14th, 12:01 am through midnight March 15th, and receive two bonuses.

The Nightingale
From March 16th, 12:01 am through midnight March 17th, receive one bonus.

What are the Bonuses?
  • A signed copy of the book along with a soothing cup of limited edition Republic of Tea Wild Blueberry tea (since it'll be hard to send you the cup of tea, I'll send you a tea bag - you hafta boil the water). If you want your inscription personalized with your name, add a note with the specifics in the comment section in the cart purchase.
  • A 9-patch chart excerpted from the book delivered in pdf format that details finished and unfinished size of common 9-patch blocks and the block elements needed to make them.
  • A Sampler Pack of interfacing. One panel each of the Mini, Middle, and Little scrap grid included. Several of the patterns in the book can benefit from the interfacing, so here’s your chance to try-before-you-buy! Delivered with the book.
  • A pattern for the 9-in-the-Corner Pillow. Wouldn’t you know, this author got a little long-winded when creating the content for ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch. A couple patterns didn’t fit in the book. This is one of the fabulous patterns that landed on the cutting room floor for no other reason than it simply didn’t fit! Delivered in pdf format.

This offer is only valid for purchases of ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine Patch made through the Hummingbird Highway between March 9-March 17, 2017. No exceptions. One bonus per cart order. 

Are you ready?

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford
Head Hummer
Hummingbird Highway

Thursday, March 2, 2017



Did you get my email yesterday? I have terrible ants in my pants over a really big announcement that I have planned for next week’s Good Migrations newsletter. I may go nutty waiting for next week to get here - like a kid waiting for Christmas. . . Here's a tiny hint. . .there could be some amazing, unbelievable bonuses involved!

Just be sure you open Good Migrations next week, March 9. First thing. Just sayn.


Exactly one year from tomorrow (March 3, 2018) my next cruise with Quilt Retreat at Sea sets sail. Fabulous ports, stunning project (have you caught this sneaky peek of the fabrics we’ll be using on board?)

365 days are just going to fly by, so if you’re thinking about jumping on board with us, I have a little incentive that might just tip the scales for you to make your reservation . . .

You’ve seen the cool Grip Grass Ruler Stands? Well, I have it on very good authority that a new color is about to be released . . .

The NEW color: BLUSH

. . . I absolutely love it! It goes really great with hot pink, white, mint green or any of the other grip grass colors. And I'll tell you what else, it goes great in my sewing room!

Here’s the cruise bonus. If you register for the cruise between now and March 10, I’ll send you a FREE Blush Grip Grass Ruler Stand as soon as I have them in stock (should be later this month). You’ll be among the very first to receive it, even before you can buy it on my site. By the way, this also includes anyone who has already registered for the cruise.

As Barb said to me yesterday (she is already registered), “I just had to pay $250 to hold my spot, I don’t have to worry about the rest of the payment until later this year.”

See. Easy as that. Call Michelle at 210-858-6399 or click here to register.

Third, and Last but not Least

Did you catch the free Shamrock Table Runner project and tutorial on the BERNINA We All Sew Blog this week? Just in time for St. Patty’s Day, this runner is ready to help you welcome spring with four cheerful, scrappy shamrock blocks for your spring table. Did someone say corned beef and cabbage? . . . I’m there!

Click here for the blog post, tutorial which also includes an extra bonus pattern!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford