Thursday, February 15, 2018

Who is Opal?

First, I have to say, it has really been an exciting and intriguing journey to develop the new Your Nest™ Organizer.

By now, many of you have (or will soon) receive Your Nest Organizer if you placed an order during the shipping special I ran last week. You may have noticed the bird on the packaging. That's Opal. And she has an interesting journey all her own.

Here's one thing I know for sure. This new gadget wouldn't have happened without the contributions from some really talented people.

This is the very first sample of the packaging for Your Nest Organizer. An ugly white box with a hole in the top. The product started as a concept, then a drawing, then a couple of prototypes (the first prototype was an utter disaster!) Once we had a prototype of the product, it needed a box.

The only thing I knew for sure was that the box needed to have a hole so you could experience the funny-feeling flexible 'spikes' that hold rulers (and other cool stuff).

The package designers came up with this shape. Mission accomplished, right? Well, there were still a few adjustments to make because my original, original prototype was a different size from the final version. So the first box didn't quite fit the second prototype below - see the space indicated by the red arrow? and by the way, no that's not one of the final colors, it's prototype #2

The next step in the process was to actually create the artwork for the box.

For that I worked with Holly Scherzi Designs. I met Holly years ago at a business networking event in the Syracuse area. At that time, I never, ever envisioned that I would need her services. I'm a quilter, after all . . .why would I need a packaging expert? I liked that she is from my area. Local talent.

In our first conversation, I knew she was the right person for the job. She asked me a few questions about what I had in mind and about the product, including colors. All I had was a few of the color chips (and these aren't quite the final Your Nest Organizer colors, but it was a start).

I had no idea what Holly was going to do with that plain white package with a hole in the middle. But she was confident and all she said was that she had some ideas. . . the earliest version showed up in my email. Notice how Opal started with plain black legs, but quickly gained some striped leggings, but no dots on her tail or crest at the earliest stages.

For a very brief moment, she even had painted toe nails. But that's just silly! What respectable bird would paint her toenails? Leggings, certainly, but toe nail polish?

Opal didn't get her name until I made a mistake.

With images, there are two different file variations that you can create -- one that is optimized for print, and one that is optimized to view online. And without getting too technical, using the online version where the print version is called for and vice verse can create weird colors.

I was transferring Opal (a print version of her) to someone for online use, and I noticed that her color had transformed. She looked like an Australian opal!

All of the sudden, Opal had a name.

Opal is organized and fun. And she likes to sew, but she can be a very messy bird.

That's why Your Nest™ Organizer is perfect to keep Opal's stuff handy when she's busy creating!

This is how the online version should have looked (and does now)!

And she started as the hole in the top of a package.

Mind blown.

I dunno, I think it's a fun story.

Here's the part of the story that really hits me in the heart. I had an idea and I couldn't possibly execute all the parts by myself. I never imagined all the truly wonderful and talented people I was going to meet as this idea developed into a thing. Including:

  • My amazing US-based manufacturing partner (I knew one thing for sure when I set out on this journey, I didn't want Your Nest™ Organizers to be made overseas!).
  • A banker who believed in a really silly idea and helped with all the appropriate financial forms
  • A trusted attorney's expertise and guidance in all things legal
  • A CAD design team in Jacksonville, Florida who took a break from flood relief efforts last Fall to make a drawing adjustment.
  • The pigment supplier who just could not understand the purple I wanted until I explained that it needed to invoke the image of a purple martin - little did I know that he was a bird enthusiast, suddenly that analogy produced the 'right' purple for "Martin," one of the four color options.
  • A package designer who created the shape of the box
  • The artist who turned the circular hole in that box into Opal.
  • A crazy-talented web and logo designer behind the transitioning
  • A marketing coach standing on the sidelines encouraging me along an amazing roller coaster ride that isn't over yet - and yes, there have definitely been ups and downs on this path.
  • And the list goes on!

I feel like I'm very, very lucky, and I'm part of a very big, highly skilled, and extremely talented team that is bringing a silly, handy little gadget to your sewing room! For $18.95, Your Nest™ Organizer is not ONLY a really fun gadget to keep stuff handy - it's a fist full of amazing talent for an incredible price!

Just wow! Awesome, right?

What a journey!

In case you missed it last week, here's the link if you gotta have Your Nest Organizers

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

My Quilt Birthday!

It's my Quilt Birthday! 

On February 8th, 2003, I started making my very first quilt project.

In January and February of 2003, the winter was looking like it would never end here in central New York! And I was looking forward to learning and enjoying a new hobby on that cold, winter day.

Do you remember your first experience making a quilt? Maybe not the exact date, but the fabrics, the people, and the project?

It's a perfect day to celebrate, and to introduce something new!

I've kept this idea secret for far too long! It all started with an office supply gadget designed for papers, envelopes and pencils. Turned out it was also a nice way to keep quilting rulers handy, but there was no place to park a rotary cutter!

That was the seed of an idea. I wanted to create a tool that could keep rulers, pencils, scissors, AND a rotary cutter near at hand when creativity takes priority over tidy-ness!

From that idea, an incredible journey followed. . . from identifying a US manufacturer, working with engineers and CAD designers, testing materials, developing packaging, and finally I'm ready to share . . .


Turns out, Your Nest™ Organizer is pretty handy in in a few ways. 

I like it on my desk (below) (yes, that's my old accounting calculator - I like to keep my cell phone in that slot, but I needed it to take the picture!).

Or in the kitchen (below below). I get Home Chef meal delivery service. As soon as I open up the box, I put away the cold stuff and stack the recipe cards right on Your Nest™ Organizer. Looks like we're having Taco Salad Pizza tonight! 

And, of course, I love it most on my sewing table. Small rulers, small cutting mats, pens, medium sized rulers, pencils, scissors, really BIG rulers. . . !  It's flexible and sturdy at the same time.

With . . .  drumroll please! . . .

A place for the rotary cutter!

If you know anything about me, then you know I'm all about birds. So, you've probably already made the bird connection to the name

Your Nest even has a feathered mascot named Opal! You'll meet her soon!

So, you see I've been very busy hatching all kinds of fun plans for this cool tool.

Did I mention that it comes in four feather-friendly colors:

Top to bottom:

Martin (purple)
Flamingo (pink)
Hummingbird (green)
Peacock (teal blue)

Want one? And a gift for you!

You can't have a birthday without gifts, right? And it seems right  that if you're going to have a birthday so close to the weekend, you really should take advantage of the whole weekend to celebrate!!

Therefore for any Your Nest™ Organizers purchased between now through the weekend, I'm knocking off $4 from the shipping fee.

Canada and overseas

Unfortunately, because everything is so new, I haven't worked out all the shipping particulars for Your Nest Organizers to Canada and overseas. So, Canadian friends, you have two options (assuming you want any options!) : 1) wait for an announcement about making purchases from the Hummingbird Highway OR 2) there are two retailers in Canada who will soon have Your Nest Organizers in stock:

    Cherry Tree Quilts, British Columbia
    The Pickle Dish Quilt Shop, Ontario

Happy Quilt Birthday, and Happy Stitching!


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Pick a Pear

Last week I reported that I raided my stack of works-in-progress and targeted a stack of pieced pears ranging in not-even-started to near-complete stages.

This past weekend, and during my daily morning sewing sessions, I managed a little dedicated sewing time and I finished making all the pears. 

The pattern for the block is from Farm Girl Vintage by Lori Holt. I started the project a couple years ago as my participation in a monthly club that met at the LQS.

I don't know what possessed me to cut the fabrics for SO MANY pear blocks, but I did, and it's time to finish them. I'm determined!

With the blocks sewn, some of them, meant to represent a pair cut in half, needed seeds.

Applique or embroider? My friend, Gail suggested filling each shape with a tiny chain stitch, and it was decided. I started by placing a bit of Face-It Soft on the back where the embroidery would be for body and stability. 

By the way, did you know that Face-it Soft comes in 1-yard packages now? Personally, I love the stuff, and I used it a lot to back fabric for embroidery, or to add just a bit of body to a bag lining. But I digress . . .

For the seeds, I free-hand drew the seed shape with an air-erasable marker. . . 


. . . then started my tiny chain sittch just inside the outside edge of the shape. . .

 . . . Until I completed the outline loop. Then filled in the center with more tiny chain stitches.

For a little variety, I started some with a chain stitch in the center of the drawn shape - after all the beginning of a chain stitch (or a lazy daisy) is kinda seed-shaped.

Then I worked outward, one row of chain stitches at a time.

And of course, each of the 'inside' pears has two seeds, repeat. And repeat, and repeat. Until all the seeds were sewn onto the appropriate blocks. 

And . .. it was time to sew them together randomly. Some up, some down, different greens mixed with yellows, you know the drill.

I had enough pairs for two placemats and one nicely-sized table runner.

I was on a roll!

And then I had to put this one aside. The FLOCK delivery for February is coming up quickly so that project is calling! While it's hard to tear yourself away from any progress, I enjoy working on that project too!

I really do like when a project like this - one that has been in and out of the to-do pile, dormant and active for several rounds - gains momentum. It's energizing and the project practically gets a life of its own.

Once I finish up some specific tasks, I'll finish this one up. All it needs is some fun border treatments, quilting, and binding.


Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Social Pearing

A few years back and for several years in a row, I was involved in a social sewing 'class' - more like a club - at the local quilt shop. Each year, the shop would select a new project, one that could be nurtured through the year with a variety of quilt blocks to make assigned at each meeting. 

The meetings were on Thursday evenings once a month - I think it was the second Thursday of each month, the meetings were quite fun and very social. The bulk of the meeting was dedicated to the group members sharing their progress on that year's selected project. The monthly club has ended, but some of the projects linger - in my stack of stuff to finish.

I made a few more of the Nearly Insane blocks I mentioned last week, and then decided to put those away for the time being. A little bit of head-scratching calculations can go a long way. I'll come back to the Insane blocks when I'm in the mood for more of the fussy-math-brain work.

Then I pulled out one of the projects from that monthly club I mentioned above. (Yeah, I know, it doesn't look like much, eh?)

The club project was from Farm Girl Vintage by Lori Holt. 

I have to be honest, if I weren't in the club, I'm not sure I would have been drawn to this book. The blocks are fun, scrappy, but a little too farm-y for my taste.

The club parameters were very loose, so I chose one block, and decided to make several that block.

Like lots. And lots.

I chose some batik fabrics from my stash and started cutting. I have some notes in the margin of the Pear-pattern, that I can no longer understand - I'm sure they made perfect sense at the time!

I decided on the 6" version of the Pear Block (each block in the book has a 6" and a 12" version).

And I think my goal (based on the cryptic notes on the page) involved place mats. . .That was then. This is now. 

I'm shooting to finish the blocks, and turn them into a summery table runner. . . in time for summer! (Rolling my eyes a little right there)

I'm determined to get this baby done. The pressure is on.

I've got several pears made - except for applique seeds - the yellow pears are supposed to be a pear sliced in half with the inside - and a couple seeds - exposed.

I've got lots of pieces cut (I've noticed that I have a lot more stems that pear-parts, so I'll have to figure that out some how).

And ONE lonely block complete (a block is two pears), no seeds - yet.

I'm making the pears in between the prep for the upcoming cruises, so they really aren't the main focus of my daily sewing sessions.

But the pieces are small enough to be the 'other' project that keeps the chain piecing going while I'm working on the gotta-do cruise teaching step-out samples.

I'm on a snit, and when that happens, I can get pretty focused, so let's see how long it'll take me to finish up a very 'peary' table runner! (Nyuk-nyuk!)


Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

More Insanity

To *keep* my sanity, every weekday morning I start out my day with a little sewing. I pack up Dave's lunch, send him off to work, then by 7am, I'm usually at the sewing machine to sew a few stitches. I've been doing this for as long as I've been quilting. It sets up my day, settles my mind, and gives me a moment or two to just breathe before jumping into the many tasks on my desk and at the computer.

A few months back, I mentioned that I was headed off for a little sewing retreat at my friend, Gail's camp this past summer. I was taking along a book that had nothing but 6" block piecing designs.

The blocks in the book are all pieced, and they range from really simple with just a few pieces, to really complex and odd-shaped pieces, some of them very small and fussy.

I think there are about 100 block drawings in the book, and I'm working the blocks in order. Just because.

My inspiration for this particular project is this set of Liberty prints - fat quarters and quarter-yard strips which were brought back from at trip to London, thanks to another friend, Jennifer.

They are really pretty with lots of small-scale prints. Each one stands alone, but they also work together in a scrappy sorta way.

The book, Nearly Insane, by Liz Lois, includes very little instruction. I have almost exclusively been referring to block layouts, one per page. 

As I mentioned, some blocks are pretty straightforward, others, like the one below, below have over 150 pieces.

Some of the layouts within the blocks make this tidy-butt mind a little crazy, so have been changing some of the unit arrangements - otherwise you might observe me going COMPLETELY insane! For example I rotated the outer row of HSTs on the right side of the block  shown above in my version, even though the drawing has the triangles going the opposite way. OCD sometimes kicks in. What can I say?

The way I tackle each individual blocks is much like how I would tackle an entire quilt.

First, I select a focus print from the array of Liberty prints. Then choose from a variety of solid-reading colors from a bunch of hand-dyed fabrics I've been collecting and from some scraps that I haven't cut-up for my ScrapTherapy bins yet.

And, using a ruler, I measure and I make notes for finished sizes on the pattern.

From the finished sizes I can derive what I need to cut. Now, if there are weird shapes - triangles without standard 45 degree angles, for example, I may involve some freezer paper techniques. I haven't crossed that bridge yet - I'm only as far as block #12, after all, plenty of adventure yet to come!

Once I sort through the fabric I selected - and I always pull out more colors than I need for a block - I'll cut the pieces and arrange them for sewing. Sometimes I'll take a photo like the one below to make sure I'm getting the look I want. Sometimes I just let it come together. This block is looking pretty scrappy - I might switch out some of those middle squares to calm it down a bit - or not!

The photo below is the same block. The one above is waiting to be sewn, the one below, assuming all goes well with the sewing, is the objective.

However, time's up! At 9 am, I'm ready to take a shower and switch gears to computer and desk work for the day. I'll have to carry on with the block tomorrow.

Just in case you think, I've really gone off the deep end, I've also been playing with these 3/4" finished size triangle in a square units. . . .

I'm using a miniature Blocloc tool for the cutting and trimming. Tiny pieces for sure, but it's fun! Or insane.

Maybe both!

So, I'm curious. Do you have a daily routine to work in some sewing to your busy life? Or do you just grab time to sew when you have time to sew? For me, if I don't make the time, I won't have the time. 

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Pretty Ice-y

Least week, the news was full of the 'bomb cyclone' that headed up the east coast, creating heavy snow, all kinds of travel delays, and hyper-cold temperatures.

All the initial reports said that Syracuse (my home town) would be on the very edge of the storm, with limited snowfall predicted.

All that changed on Friday afternoon. I guess the storm decided to head a bit further east. It was bad enough traveling through the weather for our Friday night plans, but once we got home, we were stuck there all day Saturday, socked in by several inches of snow and severely cold weather and wind. Our snow plow guy didn't clear the driveway until Sunday morning.

Fortunately, we were warm and safe inside with plenty to do without venturing too far away from the house.

Only a few steps outside the front door, the snow, clinging to surfaces where it doesn't usually, created chilly but beautiful textures, worthy of quilt inspiration, perhaps. A few photos follow to document the short-term wonder.

A snow seagull rests in the drifts outside my basement workroom.

Normally protected from snowfall, this wall is speckled with a random snow pattern.

Snow clinging to the woven chairs creates texture and contrast.

The snow clings like popcorn to the leeward side of the porch supports. White and all its variations.

In summertime, this is a climbing rose. For now, it waits patiently, like I do, for a change in season.

The textures were so rich, that it was difficult not to touch them. By later Saturday afternoon all these speckles and popcorn formations were gone.

Sometimes it's nice to stop and smell the roses - or the snow roses, depending on the time of year.

Have I inspired you? Makes me want to snuggle under a quilt!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

One More Gift from Me to You

What gift?, you say. I bet you thought the holidays were over! Read on!
I've been busy in the sewing room this week.

As you may be aware, the cut-off for the inaugural month of The FLOCK, the new membership pre-cut bird block kit program from the Hummingbird Highway, is January 10th. Less than one week away!

And I've been working on something special to commemorate the first kit delivery in January.

I've mentioned that, from time to time, I plan to include suggested settings for the blocks with the membership.

Well, my sewing project in the studio this week is just that. The first project suggestion for The FLOCK uses exactly two of the 8" bird blocks, plus some stash fabrics.

For my sample, I used the Gray Catbird block and the American Robin block. But you can use any two 8" square blocks, bird themed or otherwise.

I've been stitching the blocks together. . .

Adding some fun border prints. . .

Basting the layers . . .

Burying thread ends . . .

Stitching in the ditch. . .

Creating texture . . .

And creating MORE texture! . . .

And even more texture within the blocks! . . .

And finishing with some wild colors for the binding. The wild color part is up to you, and your fabric stash might have a say in that part, too.

All the while fighting an odd feeling that someone was watching me from atop my sewing machine.


This is where I show you the completed project . . .

Drum-roll, please. . . .!

Oop! I said I have been busy in the sewing studio, I didn't say I was done! *wink!*

Give me a day or two before the big reveal . . . You're gonna love it!

Did someone say Gift?

Yup! I did! The pattern for the two-block bonus project will ship with your first kit from The FLOCK - right around January 12th, a couple day's after the final cutoff for the first month's block delivery. All you have to do to get the pattern is join The FLOCK. Right now. Before the January 10th cut-off date.

Happy Stitching!