Monday, December 17, 2012

A Request for Hugs

12/18 Updates in green.
12/19 Updates in purple. 
1/2/13 Updates in garnet

You may know that The Taunton Press, the publisher of many wonderful books and magazines, including my own, is located in beautiful Newtown, Connecticut, just down the street from Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Taunton employees were fortunate not to be directly impacted by the events of December 14. But as I write that last sentence, I know in my heart that we have all been affected, but most especially those who live, play, work, and connect in Newtown.

Anyone who has ever made or received a hand-made quilt knows what power is created when fabric, batting, and stitches combine in a quilt. And so, I'm asking you to send a hug and a prayer to the folks in Newtown.

I have said that a quilt is a reusable hug. Specifically, I'm asking for quilts. Not because of the devastating loss caused by a natural disaster, but to help heal a broken community who may just need a reusable hug right now.

I need your help. Here's what you can do.

 - Go to your stash. Find a quilt that is almost done - it only needs a binding or some last quilting stitches, or maybe a border to finish it off. And finish it up.

 - You'll be sending a bit of yourself along, so think kind thoughts while you make those last few stitches. Those good thoughts will translate to healing and hope for the recipient.

 - Don't worry about whether the quilt is kid-friendly or themed for any one person or another. These will be distributed to folks of all ages. Quilts in all sizes will be accepted. Child and lap sized quilts are especially welcome.

 - Spread the word. I realize it's horrible timing. And the turnaround seems dreadful. But I also suspect that you might have one or two quilts that are nearly complete, a few stitches and away it goes. There's nothing like a deadline to get things done. . . . am I right?

 - I'm planning to deliver quilts personally on January 3, 2013 - so there isn't much time. If you are in the Syracuse, NY area, Calico Gals, Mission Rose Quiltery, and Patchwork Plus Quilt Shop have agreed to be collection points for Newtown quilts. I'll be leaving early on the 3rd, so quilts must arrive at the shops before January 2, 2013.

 - If you are not in the Syracuse area, please send quilts to:

                      The Taunton Press
                      Attention: Renee Neiger
                      63 South Main Street, PO Box 5506
                      Newtown, CT 06470-5506
(Please ship quilts so they arrive at The Taunton Press no later than January 7.)

 - If you want to help stuff the CRV, you can send quilts to me directly:

                      Joan Ford
                      Hummingbird Highway
                      3795 Gray Ledge Terrace
                      Syracuse, NY 13215
(Quilts must arrive at this address no later than January 2 to earn travel miles on the Hummingbird Highway!)

My friends at The Taunton Press will make sure the quilts reach their new homes.

If you can't get your quilt(s) done in time for the January 3 date, don't stress! Another address will be provided very soon where quilts shipped after the 3rd may be sent. Please check back to this blog post for an address and any additional updates.

Can you help? I hope so. Nothing will replace what has been lost. But a needle and thread can do wonders to ease the soul.

I have a question . . . How many hugs fit into the back of a Honda CRV? Let's find out, shall we?

January 2, 2013. All quilts arriving in the Syracuse area are ready for their journey. Many thanks to all for your beautiful work and heartfelt messages. The car is not quite packed yet, but it's going to be pretty darn full!

As I'm sure you have heard, many, many gifts of all kinds have been arriving in Newtown since the events of December 14. The world weeps for this New England community. Therefore storage spaces are full. As promised (above in purple), one last deadline has been identified for this project. 

Please finish up any quilts you have in progress and get them to Renee at Taunton's address above by January 7. At that time, Renee will work with a local agency to deliver quilts to Newtown families and first responders. Any quilts received after January 7 are not likely to stay in Newtown.

If you cannot make the January 7 date, consider completing your project and making a local donation in the name of the Newtown families.

A huge thank you (and a big hug) to the folks at The Taunton Press, especially Renee, for helping to coordinate these efforts for all of us. . . .

Questions? Send me an email.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Deck the Halls with . . . Paper(?)

Every year, finding a holiday decoration for my front door is a bit of a challenge. I love a fresh evergreen wreath, but because the door is painted black and is mostly in the shade, a dark green wreath just doesn't stand out against the dark door. And sure, I could spray the wreath with paint or that white foamy stuff that looks like snow. But doesn't that defeat the purpose of having a wreath made of natural branches?

So when I saw this idea, made with plain white copy paper, I couldn't resist giving it a try.

I stopped at the local craft and hobby store to buy a straw wreath and went to work.

To make the wreath, you need a wreath base, about 50 sheets of plain copy paper, some hot glue and a glue gun, some festive ribbon to make a bow, and some wire for hanging.

First, cover the front of the wreath with paper. Wrap each sheet around the wreath to create a base, and hot-glue it in place.

First layer done! Don't worry if the back of the wreath (pictured) isn't pretty, no one will see it any way.

Next, turn the wreath to the front, and crumple one sheet of the copy paper, with just the right amount of crumple - not too much and not too little. Hot-glue the crumpled paper in place.

Keep adding crumpled paper, one sheet at a time. First around the outside of the wreath, then around the inside, then on the front.

Add a bow, and hang the wreath on the door.

What could be easier? Now imagine using pink paper and a pastel-colored bow to celebrate spring!

Happy crumpling and gluing! Have a terrific week!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Elf Mittens for the Tree

A few years back, my sisters and I started an annual tradition to get together over Thanksgiving weekend to make our Christmas greeting cards. Some years, it's on, some years, the timing just doesn't work out. This year we were in all different directions over the Thanksgiving weekend, so we didn't get together, but I'm still going to include an ornament with my greeting cards from my husband and me to family and friends.

This year, I'm making little sets of elf mittens. Wanna see how?

Start with some quilters freezer paper that you can load right into your inkjet printer. Prints lots of little mittens on each sheet. You can download a pdf of the mitten file here.

Roughly cut apart the mitten shapes and fuse the freezer paper shape (shiny side down) to a small piece of wool.

Cut the wool around the freezer paper shape. I trimmed a little off the sides of the cuff section. I also cut two shapes at once to save time, but cut carefully!

Remove the freezer paper. . .

. . . and pin two layers together.

Using pearl cotton in a color that matches the mitten, sew a blanket stitch by hand around the mitten edge, leaving the end open, then snip the thread. Make two.

Stuff a small amount of scrap batting into each mitten.

Cut two 1" x 1-1/4" rectangles from white wool. Fold the rectangle in half, and pin ends on either side of the mitten at the cuff.

With white pearl cotton, sew a running stitch around each cuff. Make a small knot to finish and bury the end.

 Make two.

Cut a 6" length of pearl cotton, and make a quilters knot by wrapping the end of the thread around the needle twice, then pulling the needle through the thread knot to the end. . .

. . . to make a knot at the very end of the pearl cotton.

From underneath, pull the needle through the cuff fold near the outer edge of the cuff, and pull the thread until the knot catches on cuff fold.

From above the cuff, put the needle through the cuff fold on the second mitten . . .

. . . give yourself a little slack in the thread, then knot the pearl cotton. . . pull through . . .

. . . and snip close to the knot.

Repeat! And repeat! And repeat! These mittens are hanging over the edge of a basket until I'm ready to stuff my greeting cards

Hang them on the tree for a Christmas elf with cold fingers!

Happy stitching and have a terrific week!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Little Bite of the Big Apple

For me, Thanksgiving was a very relaxing holiday. I enjoyed time with family and friends. But no sooner was the table cleared from the big feast, and I was off to New York City for a whirlwind one-day tour filled with shopping therapy.

About a week ago, my neighbor sent out an email. Her nephew was playing in a big hockey game at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, November 24. She had rented a bus to take the family to see the game and she had a few extra seats. "Would you like to ride along?" she said in her email.

It didn't take long for me to decide a day in New York would be just the ticket to kick-off the holiday season with some shopping therapy. So my quilty friend, Wenda and I climbed on the bus. Our goal: To answer the question "How much 'damage' can two quilters do in an afternoon in New York City?"

Here's a few pictures to address our 'research.'

Shortly after noon we hit the ground running, so to speak. Just a short walk and we arrived at The City Quilter on 25th Street. No surprise, we managed to make a few choice purchases!


Then it was on to Purl SoHo on Broome Street, just a few blocks south of Houston Street (SoHo), an area known for swanky shopping opportunities.

Purl Soho Entrance

From inside

In between, we walked through neighborhoods and parks, like Washington Square near NYU, which has a fascinating history, as it turns out.

As day turned to evening, we found a yummy restaurant near Union Square, where the Holiday Market - jammed with wonderful shops - offered a unique city-style shopping experience.

And of course, we had to do some window shopping, taking in the holiday displays at Lord and Taylor on 5th Avenue

and at Macy's at Herald Square.

And of course, a stop to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. Decorations in progress. . .

Wow! And I thought I had storage problems. Look at all those boxes of lights!

On the way back to Madison Square Garden, we wandered through Times Square with about a million of our closest friends.

Back on the bus, and back to reality. And back to making holiday treats . . . more on that soon!

Have a terrific week!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Starting with the Basics

A while back, my niece Karen asked for some advice about making her first quilt.

She lives in Chicago, I live in Syracuse, New York. (And she's a lobster fan, like her aunt!)

 There are about 1,000 miles between us. Might as well be a million, right?

After a few emails back and forth, we decided it might be fun to take this quilty journey together--online. Why not?

So, I put together a very basic quilted table topper pattern called First Timer Table Topper. Set up a button on the Hummingbird Highway website and on this blog, called Quilting 101 that links to a separate blog that will take Karen, and anyone else who would like to follow along, step-by-step though making a first quilt.

Each step will be introduced with lots of detail. Karen will blog about her experiences, also. And we'll comment back and forth. You are welcome to follow along, too!

It is not a race to the finish. No deadlines. Each step will take as long as it takes. A new post will appear when it appears. It's the beginning of the holiday season, after all. It's all about fun, learning a hobby, and chatting about it.

Check it out. . .

Speaking of 'the Basics' . . .

For the last several years, I have included a small hand-made Christmas tree ornament in our holiday greeting cards. About this time of the year, I start to stress over what to make.

Then once I decide what I'm going to make, I tally up how many 'whatevers' I need to make for all the cards on my list. And I start to stress again.

But then it all becomes fun as the plan emerges and production begins in earnest.

Well, I'm stressing, right on schedule.

But . . . I think I may feel a plan beginning to emerge.

It's going to involve some pieces of felted wool. The yummy kind, in bright fun colors.

And some embroidery thread. 12-weight, Valdani pearl cotton is my favorite, in fun colors! Maybe some 8-weight too!

And freezer paper I can throw in the printer. (Well, maybe not 'throw', but you get the idea.)

Some tools: nice sharp scissors to cut the wool, my favorite pair of thread snips, and That Purple Thang. Oh, and maybe some small batting scraps.

Now what?!

Stay tuned . . .

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's a Sister Thing. . .

Every year, my two sisters and I take a break from a hectic fall schedule to head to Fly Creek Cider Mill in Fly Creek, New York. It's a bit of a drive; Fly Creek is about two hours by car from Syracuse. But it's the one day all year that we get to run away and have some fun, just the three of us.

We try to schedule the trip so we can enjoy the beautiful fall foliage in Central New York. Well, more often than not, we lose track of time and miss the colors altogether. No matter, it's still fun to go.

We even have a 'uniform.' Several years ago, we all got sweatshirts at a craft sale, each shirt with an applique pumpkin on it. We almost match. For some reason, my sweatshirt is a slightly different color than the other two. (My sisters would say that's because I'm different!) The shirts are starting to show a little wear-and-tear, but tradition is tradition, after all.

I must admit, it feels a little goofy walking around wearing matching clothes like we are triplets. We're not triplets, but I guess you can say we are pretty goofy. Eh, well.

It seems like I write something about this trip every year. Sorry if this sounds familiar. There will be new material next week . . . or not! Eh, well . . . again.

What fall adventure is complete without a tractor full of pumpkins?

Once inside the mill, visitors are greeted with an amazing array of yummy tastes and treats. Dips, marinades, sauces, soup mixes, and unique kitchen utensils. Lots of items are available to try before you buy.

Peek upstairs for a taste of the holidays! Wish they would come to my house to put up my tree!

Shelves full of colorful items to buy for a gift or for yourself!

It is a real working cider mill, too! First the apples are crushed into mash (the barrels on the left), then the mash is placed in layers under the press. Then the cider press squishes the living daylights out of the apples to make cider!

On the way to the check-out, don't forget the fudge. There are about a million different flavors. Yum-yum!

Uh-oh. Somebody (me) got a little carried away! My receipt is about a mile long!

You can purchase cracked corn to feed the ducks that live in the pond adjacent to the mill. This duck is ready for snack time!

To wrap up the day, we always stop at Gems along the Mohawk for more shopping and for lunch. That's my sister Valerie on the left, and Cathy on the right.

Me on the left and Valerie. We couldn't find anyone to take a picture of the three of us together. Notice the goofy shirts?

Okay, now that the official Fly Creek visit is behind us, it's time to turn my attention to my Christmas cards. Each year I try to make a hand-made ornament for my greeting cards for friends and relatives. I'm running out of time already, and don't have the slightest idea what I'll be making this year. Got any suggestions?

Have a terrific week!