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