Thursday, August 10, 2017

Folk Art Fun!

This past weekend Dave and I headed back into the Adirondacks for a Syracuse University Alumni event. We go every year during the first weekend in August. Usually our speaker for the weekend is someone from campus who talks about their education programs or topics of central New York interest. Sports marketing, Civil Engineering, the Erie Canal, Healthcare, for example.

This year, our speaker was Warren Kimble, graduate of the class of ’57 and former member of the football cheerleading squad! His tagline from his website is “America’s Best Known Living Folk Artist.”

Warren shared his experiences creating and licensing his artwork. this is one of the pieces typical of his work that we got to see up close and in person.

Warren always include three clouds in each of his painting. It’s a trademark. And his paintings of animals notably have human-like eyes.

Here’s Warren. For 82 years young, Warren is quite the achiever. His start on the cheerleading squad seems to have left a mark on his life. Warren is a huge community advocate for his hometown of Brandon, Vermont.

“Widows of War” is a study of the Iraq war and its toll on those left behind when soldiers leave home to fight. This is one of the paintings in that recent series of artworks.

A close up of this canvas on canvas painting. It's really pretty amazing! See the torn and raveled edges of the canvas pieces?

Next came the fun part. As a hands-on option, we each had the opportunity to create our own piece of folk art with Warren’s guidance. Our mission: painting leaf transfers onto wooden boxes. We cheated a bit, with concerns over a potential time-crunch, Warren painted each box with a black gesso base coat.

I added a layer of splashy blue with ordinary Saran wrap, crinkled up and dipped in paint, then applied onto the box.

Since the forecast for the weekend included quite a bit of rain, Warren collected bunches and bunches of leaves for us. Then things got a little messy (and very fun), painting, the leaves, then transferring the leaf shape to the wooden box.

TaDa! I used leaves and sticks for my painted shapes. Then I added bright reds and yellows to loosely interpret wild columbine flowers. Dave said I missed the mark on the columbines, but he opted out of the project, so he doesn't get an opinion. I like it!

Everyone (who participated - ahem!) had a great time creating! Look at all these painted boxes and baskets!

I think I’ll use mine to store embroidery threads, or maybe all that sock yarn that I’m collecting for a rainy day!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The List

For the past several years, my friend, Gail invites me to her camp in the woods just steps away from Panther Lake.

The location is pretty remote. Since I’ve been going there for a friends weekend of sewing, Gail has added a little improvement here and here. This year a new refrigerator and new kitchen flooring. Nice!

Out in the yard, the Indian Pipes (also known as Ghost Flowers) were in bloom. Pretty!

Sometimes Peaches gets to come along, too. She likes to supervise the sewing activity from her perch overlook.

As for that project list I was packing last week, time for an accounting. A  few things actually did get wrapped up before I left, specifically, my Splendid Sampler quilt. I’ve had a couple of questions about how I quilted it. I’ll tell you a little more about that in a future article. For now, I’m pleased that it’s done, quilted bound and labeled. I used one of the bonus blocks to decorate my label.

These small projects make from leftover class samples were the first items to get buttoned up during the mini retreat.

Next I pulled out those really fun brightly colored fabrics with the cool zipper. And got busy making colorful half-square triangles with my 2-1/2” Blocloc trimming tool. I made a bunch of 2” half-square triangles then . . .

. . . kept on going until I had a little bag that will be a special gift for a certain little niece. Sorry, there isn’t a pattern for this one. I just winged it with the fabrics and tools I brought with me.

I like it when I can take a project from start-to-finish on these sewing holidays. 1) it gets it off my unfinished project shelf and then 2) it goes right into service doing what it was made to do, and 3) I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I can actually see, touch, hold a finished project, and 4) that’s a really good feeling!

I jump around from project to project when I have to, but a sewing retreat is ‘my’ sewing time, and I’m so much happier when I can stay focused.

Next up was this little gadget bag from a pattern by By Annies. This was a last-minute impulse throw-in during my final packing push. The pattern came in a kit with everything except the fabric to make the bag. That whale fabric seems a perfect fit for this little project and a really nice use for fabric I purchased on the Alaska cruise I did a couple years ago. I have to say, the pattern threw me for a loop in a couple spots, but overall, it’s a really cute bag and I can’t wait to fill it with threads and scissors for my next cross-stitch project.

I didn’t mention this project either last week when I was making my packing plans. But I always like to have that ‘other’ project to work on while I’m piecing the main project. I started these blocks when I finished the Splendid Sampler quilt top. I had a lot of long, skinny leftover fabric strips. The Creative Grids Mini Pineapple tool made it into my sewing room at about the same time, and it was a great way to use up those skinny scraps! This weekend, I was determined to finish up the 35 blocks I had planned. Mission accomplished!

Now I just have to figure out how I’m going to sash and set the blocks.

For a good portion of the last two days I worked on these Nearly Insane blocks and got a start on my Christmas ornaments (not sharing pictures of those as some of you might be on my family/holiday mailing list!) The nearly insane blocks are all 6” finished size, and the book that inspires them has no actual instructions for the blocks. The block illustrations were drafted from an antique quilt. With a lot of measuring, cutting, trimming, and tool-using, I’m going to take my time working on these blocks whenever I’m in the mood or on a sewing holiday. Doncha love the combination of Liberty fabric and other solid colored scraps?

Camp Clammie got its nickname because we get a bag or two of littleneck clams to enjoy during our dinner breaks. So yummy!! And tradition is tradition!

And Gail makes up a bunch of fresh salads. These veggies are ready to grill. Once grilled she chopped them up into a salad with some balsamic dressing. Also yummy!

There’s Gail during one of our evening sewing sessions. The machines are set up in the garage. When the garage door is up, and the screen is in place to keep the bugs and other critters out, it almost feels like we’re sewing right in the yard!

Gail also kept pace by completing several quilt tops. Including this beauty on the design wall.

The weekend wrapped up with a little hand sewing. This is one of two Baltimore album-style quilt projects in my in-progress project stack. I keep reminding myself. . .One stitch at a time . . .

If you are paying close attention, you may have noticed that a couple of projects that I said I was going to take along didn’t quite make this report card. That includes the paper-piecing project and the cage cover. They came with me, but they didn’t get any further than that. C’est la vie!

I guess that just means I’ll have to go on another retreat. Speaking of that, are you coming to the retreat with me in Vermont at the Strong House Inn? Once summer is wrapped up, I’m going to be on a serious tear to finalize all the prep-work for that amazing (and very mysterious) project. I do hope you’ll join me.

In the meantime, let's enjoy summer!

Happy Stitching!

Joan Ford

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Everything But . . .

This week I’ve been working on a few smaller things and packing for a mini sewing retreat with a friend. It’s amazing how getting ready to go on a sewing vacation can unearth some interesting things. Read more below.

In all the packing hubbub, I am happy to say that this little project found a home in my sewing room. The hummingbird pillowcase was a gift. Jennie (the gift-giver) lives in Australia and they use the metric system there. Here in the US, as you know, we’re still stuck on Imperial measurements. So finding a simple pillow form to stuff inside didn’t work. Not to worry. Went to my stash, found some plain white fabric, cut it to size, seamed around it, and stuffed it with fiberfil. And Wallah! This comfy pillow featuring my beloved hummingbirds has a home in an easy chair in my office where it makes me smile every day! (Thank you Jennie for your thoughtful gift!!)

Kitchen Sink Sewing

Every summer about this time in July, my friend Gail invites me to her camp about an hour’s drive north of my home. We set up sewing machines either in the garage or on the dining table inside depending on weather. It sounds like we’re ‘roughing it’ but it’s really quite nice and we treat ourselves to yummy meals, like seafood and salads, and healthy-ish snacks while we work on a variety of projects.

It’s four days of *basically* non-stop sewing - a typical quilting retreat. But you know how this goes . . . you start to select the projects to bring and pretty soon a few days of sewing looks more like a few months-worth of projects.

I usually try to bring non-work-related projects so it really feels like a break from the daily stuff that I do. Translate this to: I raid my unfinished project stash and target some projects to be finished or to be elevated to their next step. With still a few days to go before I leave, I’m hoping to finish up a couple of these before I pack up the car.

Let’s see what I unearthed.

1. These little four-patch blocks and some matching border stripe prints. These are just a few steps away from getting done.

In fact, I took a little tangent from packing. (I guess I am easily distracted - and I’m not leaving for a few days yet, after all.) I threw together a quick place mat, four-patches in the center, border prints on top and bottom. Layer with backing and batting, sew around the edge . . .

 . . . Turn. Sew around the edge again, this time with a decorative stitch. Quilt. Done

Wow, this packing is getting off to a good start. Better find some more projects.

2. How about these four patches, they’re already sewn together. They need a border, backing, and quilting. Cute table topper. On deck.

Uh-oh. We hit a snag. What in the H-E-double toothpicks was I thinking when I started this? Dull boring colors. Bleh-h-h. This one is coming out of the undone project stash. Reclaim those appliqué pins. All those background squares will cut up nicely into my ScrapTherapy bins. . . NEXT!

3. Now we’re talking! I think we’re back on track. Fun colors and a zipper (from my friend Brenda). I think I need to make a little bag!

4. Reds, greens, and creams. Holiday prints. Never too early to start on this year’s holiday card stuffers. Might be fun to do this outside of the early-December-panic-mode tactic that I usually employ. What would I do without all that holiday stress this year. . .?

5. Gads. We’ve taken another treacherous turn. I had a weak moment and purchased this tissue paper paper-piecing pattern a few years ago at a show. I put this away and take this out on a regular basis. It’ll be a nice wall-hanging some day. I love the fabrics, but I just don’t *love* paper piecing. it’s coming anyway. *Cringe!*

What else can I find?

6. A trip down memory lane! Once upon a time I thought the starch method was the best thing since sliced bread when it came to hand appliqué. I started this project from a kit of hand-dyed fabrics. It will be stunning. But a good chunk of the appliqué pieces are only partially prepped for appliqué. So that means adding more starch (yuk, not happening) or trying to make this work with my preferred appliqué method (back basting appliqué - scroll down a bit to the appliqué cute). Or I suppose I could abandon it entirely (I think my heart just skipped a beat) - nope! I must persevere.

7. (Seven? - how did we get to this many?) Ahhh! This one makes my heart sing! Lots of tiny pieces, wonderful Liberty prints (from the London store thanks to Jen’s recent business trip across the pond). Each of the 6” blocks in the book only has the pattern illustration - no instructions, no appliqué, all piecing. And I want to patchwork piece each one. Some have 30 or 40 complex pieces. Lots of figuring. Love a good puzzle!

In case you were thinking, ‘she’s insane!’ No I’m not insane, only Nearly Insane - the book title says so.

8. The Sampler quilt I used last week to show you my little pin tip is all done and bound. I just need to hand-sew the binding fold to the back. So close to the finish line. This one HAS to come with me!

9. The girls (Doodle the Sun Conure and Woodstock the Jenday Conure) need a new cage cover. And I want to play with a new Dresden ruler tool I bought recently. And I’m starting with this fabric for inspiration.

That’s it. I’m not going to add ONE more project to the list! However, I still have a couple of days before I leave on Saturday. Jus’sayn!

Here’s one thing that’s certain, no matter how many projects I bring, I’ll touch each one at least twice - once to get it in the car, and once to get it out of the car.

It’s completely possible I’ll go rogue and come up with something off the list. . . .

At least I’m not planning to bring a kitchen sink . . . Everything but, though!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Butterflies and a Pin Tip

I’ve shared that I often bring my laptop out to my front porch (I call it my summer office) when the weather is nice. My house doesn’t have central air so my desk can get pretty steamy when the mid-day summer sun shines through the skylights in my office space.

Working outside has its hazards, though. For one, I can be easily distracted by birds and critters that make their way into the yard for one reason or another. This time of year, it’s butterflies that grab my attention. The cone flower bed is thigh-high with blooms, and the butterflies find this plant irresistible! In the last day or so, I spotted and captured pictures of four different butterfly varieties that stopped by to pay a visit (and sup on the flowers’ nectar).

There’s this yellow swallow tail - I think it might be a tiger swallowtail.

And this pretty orange one. A Fritillary, maybe? The butterfly field guide reveals quite a few varieties that look similar. Might it be the Great Spangled Fritillary . . .

This primarily black species had bright blue spots on it. It was a fast-mover, so the picture is out of focus, snapped quickly before it fluttered away.

And the mighty Monarch. Sadly, this species is in trouble, therefore my husband (he is in charge of the garden around here) has allowed the milkweed to carry on in the flower beds as they are the Monarch’s main diet and nursery.

A Quick Pin Tip

After getting a few projects done, I’ve shifted back to finishing up my Splendid Sampler quilt. When I start to see the end in sight, for any quilt, I usually start some sort of count down—X number of blocks left to quilt, X number of in-the-ditch lines to quilt, etc.

For this 100-block quilt - I am quilting it on my BERNINA 750, I started with some ditch-quilting to outline the blocks, then I’ve made three passes from block to block with free motion in three different thread colors - cream, blue, and brown. What do I mean by ‘passes’ - ?? I started with the cream thread, loaded it in the machine and bobbin, and evaluated the blocks one at a time - if cream thread was called for then I quilted the cream parts. Same thing with the blue thread.

Now I’m ‘on’ the brown thread - the last color. A couple of days ago, I spread out the quilt and placed a safety pin (the same ones I use to pin-based the quilt) and stuck a pin in the to-be-quilted block or its border.

As I finish the brown-thread quilting, I remove the pins one block at a time. So the pins become like a count down. A visual one.

50 pins left . . . 45 . . . 35 . . . I’m now at 20 pins left to remove.

Seems (or ‘seams’) very do-able! I guess I’ve always been a numbers kinda gal!

At the close of a quilting session, I place a brightly colored covered pin on the block where I left off. That way I’ll see exactly where my starting point is for the next session.

Once the blocks are done, there is still border quilting, binding and a label (piece-o-cake!). I bet I’ll be able to add this project to my ta-done list in about a week or so.


Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Sticky Situation

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been preparing for a series of workshops I’ll be leading during a trip to Alaska next month. Alaska isn’t exactly around the corner for me, here in Syracuse, so I’ve been engaged by three guilds who will take advantage of my being in the area.

For their workshop project, one of the guilds has chosen the "Sneaky Peek Project Pouches" from ScrapTherapy The Versatile Nine Patch. It's a really fun project!

To prepare for the class I’ve been making the smaller of the two sizes in the book to illustrate the various stages in the assembly process. There’s a fair amount of scrap sewing, using the Middle Scrap Grid Interfacing to make 3-1/2” 9-patch blocks (have I mentioned that all three interfacing sizes, Mini, Middle, and Little Scrap Grids come in 10-panel packs?)

Once the 9-patches are sewn, they are ‘wonkified’ with a bit of trimming.

There’s a vinyl window involved in the construction. This project is designed so you can store in-progress blocks, embroidery, cross-stitch, supplies -- or whatever -- and see what’s inside the pouch.

For most of the construction, the vinyl is in between layers of fabric, but there’s one seam that requires that the vinyl interact directly with the presser foot. And this is where things *can* get a little sticky.

You see, metal presser feet and vinyl get along swimmingly. Unfortunately they get along SO well that they have a tendency to stick to each other. This is a problem if the metal presser foot can’t advance because it’s stuck to its best friend, vinyl. All you get is the needle going up and down in place, creating a hole in the vinyl that can’t be mended. Or worse, a line of close together little holes that form a big hole. Not good.

(How do you like those neon green nails - hey, it's summer, a girl's gotta have some fun!)

There are a few solutions to this sticky situation. One is to buy a teflon presser foot. But I really want to use my walking toot because this particular seam has about a ka-jillian layers. I could also insert tissue paper between the presser foot and vinyl. I’m sure there are a few other savvy options to keep presser foot and vinyl from being best friends while you’re trying to sew . . .

The solution I prefer is to use a little common painters tape. If you cover the presser foot guides then metal and vinyl won’t meet. However there’s a trick to this . .

You don’t want to cover the parts of the presser foot that keep the layers of fabric moving forward (red arrows) . . . . only the metal parts.

So get your scissors out and gather a little bit of patience and cut really skinny strips of tape to cover each presser foot ‘glide.’ I equate it to Goldilocks putting socks on her skis. You don’t want the socks to be too big, or too small, but ju-u-ust right!

This should create a happy relationship between metal and vinyl and keep your stitches nice and even . . . unless your socks fall off!

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford