Saturday, December 29, 2007

Isn't that store beautiful?

I showed you the inventory mess. I think it is only fair that I share the results of the staffs hard work. It takes about 100 man hours to take the place apart for inventory and put it back together again (not to mention 2 trips to the chiropractor, a considerable amount of Advil and in my case several glasses of wine!), but look at those results!

I'm sure that the people that know me and are familiar with the store are thinking "where's the photo of Karen's work area"? OK, I'll admit that that space is still a work in progress, but I have managed to find the counter top, my sewing surface and have all of my bins off the floor. I spent several hours sorting through "stuff" and have made numerous trips to the dumpster. Donations are piled, bags are sorted and I'm feeling pretty good about the progress I've made.

I've also spent well over an hour dealing with our new E-Update server. Those of you that are computer savvy have NO idea how impossibly slow a simple task, like sending out a bulk email message, can be if you are computer clueless. I'm figuring it out .....s l o w l y....... The 4 pages of instructions from a VERY nice tech person are helping. Now it's just a matter of understanding if my HTML edit in "Simple WYSIWYG" is working (Don't you love that they say "simple"? Is there a "complicated" WYSIWYG? What the heck is WYSIWYG?) I think the message was sent, including photos to those that are set up to receive photos, even though I never have figured out steps 8 & 9!

I've worked hard and I think I deserve a treat! I plan to either install our new photo digitizing software that allows you to create quilts from your favorite photographs (a perfect way to use my new line of Completion Collection fabrics from Timeless) or break out the sponge brush and jar of Mod Podge and prep some fabrics for a penny rug project that you have to see to believe. What ever I decide, Ill post some photos of the results. I hope all of you have the chance to take some time to try something new too!


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oh No Inventory!

I hope that all of you are enjoying your holidays! Around here “Happy Holiday” is quickly followed by “Oh No Inventory”. I have a theory about inventory. It’s required by federal law, but I think it is a religious experience. First you have to prepare and follow the “commandments”, and then you have to “confess your sins” (like forgetting to record markdowns!) that process is quickly followed by “penance”, otherwise known as the tax that is accessed on existing inventory. It’s an exhausting ordeal.

If we have to touch every bolt of fabric in the store, I see no reason to put it back in the same place. Everything gets a new home. This is the perfect time to clean nooks and crannies, clear cobwebs, and corral dust bunnies that are obviously on steroids. The best part is that we also get to incorporate several dozen new bolts that have arrived in the last 2 weeks. This year that includes the entire assortment of chambray blue batiks, the same fabrics that are featured on the current covers of McCalls Quilting and Fons and Porters magazine. A new Laurel Burch line that features her fabulous feline artwork that was in the works before she passed away. A new Peter Rabbit line that will make sweet baby quilts. The Toulouse Collection from Timeless that is a perfect coordinate to the aqua/brown Gatsby Collection and a dozen or more bolts of Valentine fabrics. But as you can see, the process makes a horrible mess! Don't worry, everything will be back in order when we re-open January 2nd.

Although most of you are probably contemplating taking down your Christmas tree, I’m still in the process of putting one together. I know that your first thought is that this must be something that I wasn’t able to finish in time for this season, but actually, I’m WAY ahead for NEXT year! My holiday fabric line for 2008 is called “The Pines” it is my answer to the requests to repeat my Pine Garland line from 1999! This line has the packed pine, sparse pine and a stripe coordinate that will be suitable for all of the original patterns.
Naturally we need to have some new patterns too! This photo is of the Bargello Tree in progress. I’m still undecided on the border and I may change the cream on the bottom to a darker shade to look more like a shadow, but one thing I know for sure, the tree itself will be free motion quilted and I think I’m going to quilt a starry sky into the background. I’ve toyed with the idea of appliquéing red birds that will look as if they are draping garland and maybe a few woodland creatures in the foreground ………. maybe I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself!

Happy New Year! - Karen

PS Do you know that you can post comments to this blog? Simply click the "comments" button at the bottom of this post and feel free to express your opinion!

Monday, December 17, 2007

I thought I would share a little publishing magic with all of you today and it might help you with your last minute gift ideas. Quite some time ago I created a holiday version of this Easy Striped Table Runner as a free handout for Timeless Treasures. The project is so much fun that it has become one of their most requested handouts. We decided to update the instructions using a new non-holiday stripe and these photos are of the piece in progress. Making the actual runner is light years easier than taking the step-by-step photos! I actually have to take several photos of each step to make sure I get a good one and I have to take each and every step so that there is no confusion! The process includes putting the white table on the floor so that I can stand on the chair, hold the camera directly above the project and snap the shots "blind". Then I have to edit my toes out of the photos, color correct the best ones and send them on to New York. Isn't my life glamorous? I'll bet you thought some fancy schmancy studio was involved.

This runner makes a wonderful last minute gift! It only has FIVE seams! The trick is to use a stripe fabric and a 60 degree equilateral ruler. If you can't find the ruler, you can use the 60 degree lines on your regular ruler, but the specialty ruler takes all the guess work out of measuring. Once the top is assembled, the instructions have you put the top right-sides-together with the backing and stitich around the outside edge, pillowslip style. Personally, I prefer to quilt first and apply a binding, but if you are short on time, that pillowslip style works just fine. You also don't have to mark any quilting lines, just follow the stripes!

The instructions for the runner are available as a free download on the Timeless Treasures website at Click on "patterns" in the menu bar. Once you get the listing, take a look around, you will find the instructions for some great projects and all of them are FREE! The Bejeweled Table Runner uses the same equilateral triangle shape as the Easy Striped Runner, if you have the ruler, print them both!

I am FINALLY catching the holiday spirit! We managed to get the tree and the house decorated over the weekend. The tree has been up and lit for well over a week and I was beginning to think it looked pretty good without decorations. I love the lights and our tree has a ton of them all "professionally" wired in place by me. Years ago I decorated trees for a chain of Christmas stores. Starting in August I would begin to light artificial trees, wrapping the lights from the trunk, out each branch and back into the center. The cord is well hidden and you never see any "wires" draping from branch to branch. It's beautiful, but it takes HOURS to do and you can calculate 100+ lights for each foot of tree. Our 10' tree has 1200 lights!

I had so much help with the decorating that much to my families delight, I decided to spend the afternoon baking cookies. The chocolate chip (my husbands favorite) were finished, when he asked for "those ones with the Hershey Kisses". I told him that if he would run to the store I would make fudge too. Even though the weather was wicked, he agreed and I made him a very precise list. Unfortunately he FOLDED the list and only got the items on the "top half". Chances are he had forgotten his glasses and I should be happy that he remembered the Kisses. That man can fix anything, thinks nothing of a home improvement that involves a bulldozer, is willing to do the family laundry and will clean anything, but when it comes to cooking, he is clueless. The bad news is, no fudge, the good news is, I got out of the kitchen earlier than I had planned.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Speaking of new fabrics, the sample yardage for my Choo Choo line has arrived. This is a small collection in denim blue shades that were designed around the double border print. The train border is sized to be used for crib bumpers and quilt borders. The coordinates are small checks and the reverse triangle print as well as my 7966 "solids". The colors work with the red, yellow and green pieces that I already have in the line so I have plans for an entire crib ensemble - I don't have any need for a baby boy crib ensemble, but it is going to make a great display to inspire those of you that do!
It's a rainy gray day and there are mutterings that it will be changing to ice and possibly snow. I'm not a fan of ugly weather, so I'm going to spend the rest of the day sorting new batik samples for a project I have to design for Timeless and Spring Quilt Market. The prospect of facing a design wall of beautiful colors is certainly more appealing than freezing rain. I love my job.

If you are in the mood for some internet shopping, we've added an "Intenet Specials" page to our website. The kits are not only discounted we are also offering free shipping. If you are a "walk in" customer, make a note in the comment section if you would like to pick yours up in the store. Visit our web page at

Gone Crazy

As you can see, I've been enjoying the prep work for the Crazy Patch Block of the Month. It's a little more work on my end, because I have to have 4 months of blocks finished before I can show you just one, but I do have to say that I have enjoyed every minute of it. Each block has a different specialty technique, including couching, ribbon insertion, pin tucking, pleating, etc. We are preparing kits that include the fabrics as well as the trims and embellishments so that all the participants need to supply is thread (and eventually batting, backing and binding).

As some of you know, I've uploaded some how-to videos to YouTube for Timeless Treasures. We've had such a great response to them that I have decided to add video instructions for the specialty techniques for the Crazy Patch. The techniques are simple, especially when you can see it done instead of deciphering the written instructions. Not to mention that viewing them on YouTube is free. Keep in mind that these are not professionally filmed video instructions, they are me and a camcorder and what you see for the most part are my disembodied hands talking you through the techniques. If you want to see the type of video I'm talking about you can follow this link . The Abby Lane video deals with fussy cutting the triangles for the kit quilt. You can look for the entire line of my Abby Lane fabrics to be available in the store right after the first of the year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday? What Holiday?

In an effort to make all of you reading this feel better about your holiday shopping, I’ve decided to confess that as of today December 12th, I have exactly TWO gifts purchased. One that I picked up at the office supply store and to be honest I can’t remember the other one…… I know I have a bag hidden, but Ill have to look inside to jog my memory!

It isn’t that I don’t want to shop; I even have some good ideas for people on my list. I am in major denial that Christmas is just around the corner. I exist in the strange world of publishing and product that has Easter deadlines before Thanksgiving and Christmas fabric arriving in May. I need the rhythm of the traditional world to keep me on track. School starts and I know it is fall. People smell like suntan lotion, it must be summer. I actually gave up trying to pay for things with a check because it was embarrassing to ask for the date and have the cashier say “It’s the fifth” and have to inquire “Of what month?”

I missed the traditional Halloween this year. I left Quilt Market in Houston and went directly onto a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Halloween was spent onboard with 4 other shop owners and an extremely interesting group of people that took “dress up” to a whole new level, but it was most definitely not a traditional trick-or-treat Halloween. Thanksgiving was absolutely lovely. Our daughter Lauren prepared the meal for the first time and the weekend was spent meeting her future in-laws. It was perfect, but the days before I found myself staring into an almost empty frig, no pies to bake, no stuffing to mix. Then after we returned home, I had no leftovers to deal with. Earlier this month I found myself standing in Macy’s looking at all of the lights and sparkle, listening to the holiday music, thinking “What are these people doing”? The 50 degree temperatures aren’t helping either. Not that I’m complaining. Better rain than snow in my book. We don’t have to clear rain off the parking lot.

Now I logically know that I need to get myself in festive gear, but I can’t seem to shake this “I’ll worry about that tomorrow” attitude. Debby, our Store Manager and perennial shop elf, has handed me a list of last minute items that would make great gifts or stocking stuffers for any quilter. I certainly wouldn’t mind finding a Purple Thang or a trial size version of Soak in my stocking. A Purple Thang makes a great stiletto when you are sewing, it “pokes” corners when you turn something right side out and it’s perfect for putting the drawstring back in your sweatpants! Soak is a fabulous product for your hand washables. You don’t have to twist, or wring, and it rinses clear. She has also stocked up on Snag Nap It’s. This is a handy little tool that pulls any knit snag to the inside with just a quick twist. It is perfect for all those holiday sweaters you will be receiving. We also have mini irons and Mary Ellen’s Best Press, a wonderful, great smelling starch alternative. ….. now that I think about it, I might be able to get a good start on filling my girls stockings without even leaving the shop!

I have managed to finish the shop newsletter for Jan/Feb/Mar. Our classes are planned, samples are yet to be hung (we usually hold off until after inventory) and we have several new offerings that we expect to create quite a buzz. Our local customers have the opportunity to take part in our Retreat Weekend at Sandscrest. Space is limited for several reasons. We like having room to spread out and we don’t want to risk overloading the electrical circuits! I wish all of you could come along, an entire weekend spent doing something you love, with a little pampering thrown in is a very good thing!

Now I have to get some work done, sample yardage of my new Choo Choo line and The Completion Collection (shades that are appropriate for skin tones) arrived yesterday. I will post the progress of the samples as soon as I have something to show. Thanks for stopping by! - Karen

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pillowcase Project

I have been asked by one of our customers to be the drop off point for pillowcases for the ConKerCancer project. My immediate response was "Yes"! I've experienced first hand how much this simple gift can mean to a child in treatment. A family member lost their 7 year old son to leukemia just over a year ago. While Nathan was in Boston Children's I sent him a pillowcase made from karate fabric with a solid cuff and "yellow belt" trim. He loved that simple little gift and insisted that it be washed and returned immediately to his pillow. It gave the professionals that came to treat him something to talk about. It made him special in a sterile hospital atmosphere. He, his Mom, and Grandparents all told me how much he enjoyed that simple gift. I jumped at the chance to be part of a network that brings a smile to another child.

To learn the details of the ConKer program check out their website at and drop off or mail your donations to our store. Doris will make sure that they are delivered to the kids. - Thanks for your help!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The learning curve

As you can see from the photos and slide show below, I've been taxing my brain all day learning how to upload, manage, and post images. Thanks to my shop owner friends both far and near who answer questions at a moments notice, it wasn't that difficult. The REAL test comes in a day or two when I try to do it again!

The video of quilts are all from file photos I have on my computer that were also used on pattern fronts, handouts or publishing. A few of them may look familiar. The Mostly Martha project is featured in The Quilt Gallery Shops ad in the current issues of both McCalls Quilting and Quiltmaker. This quilt is a result of a challenge agreed to by 11 wonderful shops all across the US. If you would like to see the other quilts or purchase kits for the projects, log on to . We have agreed to be creative with 6 different blocks. The first was Martha Washington. The second had to be a basket block, those are featured in the Jan/Feb issue. Then corn and beans, Jacobs Ladder is on my design wall right now and there are still more in the pipeline!

TQC Quilts

This is the center section of the Block of the Month that we will be offering in March. The 9 floral blocks are hand appliqued inside 6 inch circles. Now to figure out the border!

Work in Progress
This photo shows the first round of strike-offs for the Lindsay line. Once they have been color corrected I will have to pick and choose the pieces for the final assortment

Welcome to my blog

I'm new to blogging, but not necessarily new to rambling on, so this will be both a learning experience and hopefully lots of fun! The plan is to add something new each week and keep you informed about what I am working on in my fabric design, pattern writing and quilting world. My store, The Quilt Company in Allison Park PA, my fabric line for Timeless Treasures and my kids (3), husband (1) and staff (11) are an inseparable part of my life, so you can plan on hearing about all of them.

I've been counseled by more experienced bloggers to avoid topics like politics and religion. That's not going to be easy. My husband is an elected official in our township and hearing about stupid political decisions is part of my daily life. In the religion area, it just so happens that I have a Catholic Store Manager. Debby calls on St. Anthony (the patron saint of lost items) so often at work that we now call him "Tony". As in "Have you seen the shipping log?", "No, ask Debby to check with Tony". I have to say, Tony has never let us down. I've never been one to avoid controversy and I certainly don't intend to offend, but sometimes politically incorrect topics are part of my life.

Hopefully you will find the fabric design process interesting. I am lucky to work for a wonderful company that allows me the freedom to work as I please, designing the pieces I want to work with and be as creative as time allows. Right now I am correcting the strike-offs for my "Lindsay" fabric line that will be introduced at Quilt Market in the spring. Lindsay is also the name of my youngest child. She is 16 and thinks these fabrics are the best thing I've ever done, so I named them after her.

Things tend to overlap in the fabric world, so I am also working on the projects for my Christmas of '08 line, The Pines. I need to have these projects done ASAP so that the Sales Reps can show them to Shop Owners when they show the fabric line right after the first of the year. I can tell you from a shop owner perspective, the LAST thing you want to see in mid January is more Christmas fabric, but that is the way this industry works.

At the same time I am also busy creating the samples for our January, February, March class schedule here in the store. For the first time in several years we are introducing not one, not two, but THREE new Block of the Month projects. One of them is Maggie Walkers new sea shell pattern, so the work is done, all we need to to is prepare the kits. The other two are my original design. Therefore I need to have the entire project finished before I can offer it to the rest of the world, piece-by-piece. Normally that isn't a problem, but I am having so much fun working on the Crazy Patch blocks that I don't want to stop and call them done! Debby is starting to hyperventelate, because she orders everything for the kits in the future and the ribbons and beads that I am including today will have to be available to include in the kits that we will be shipping 9 months from now. The more I add, the more she has to track! I'll post photos of the blocks as soon as they are ready.

Now it's time for me to get to work! Thanks for stopping by my blog, feel free to bookmark me and check back often!