Friday, February 22, 2008

Pastel Challenge

SNOW is a 4 letter word.
TWO HOUR DELAY is a more welcome term. While I do enjoy curling up on the sofa with my morning coffee, watching the alphabetical list of schools scroll by to jumping out of bed and into the shower, the novelty is wearing off.

It isn’t really the snow or even the lack of business that bugs me. It’s the canceling, rescheduling, salting, sweeping, crud all over your car, wet shoes, lost glove, sweep, shovel, salt, sloppy mess that is wearing a little thin. Although I complain about it, I secretly need it. It’s February in Pittsburgh that allows me to truly appreciate May through October. I lived in Florida for 7 years. Believe it or not 80 degrees and sunny gets a little boring.

Yucky days are best spent inside sewing. No problem there. I spent all day yesterday and I do mean ALL DAY, struggling with the selection of the fabrics for a pastel quilt for Timeless. I should say “positioning” the fabrics; the selection had already been limited to 12 – 15 pieces. I laid out a project on the design wall and sent a quick digital photo to New York. Isn’t technology wonderful? I thought so too, until they saw the photo and decided it was “too square”. After some give-and -take they finally agreed to a Kaleidoscope project, tons more work than my original idea, but I have to agree, it’s more interesting. The project requirements are that I must use all pastels. I must use a minimum of 12 but not more than 16 fabrics. It should be “large” and naturally they want it to be a show stopper.

These formula projects are always a challenge. I spend hours designing and calculating to their needs, making sure that the fabric requirements work into normal size cuts, estimating yardage, analyzing the project from both the shop owner (their customers) and the consumer (my customers) point of view so that it works for everyone involved. Then I send a photo or design idea and the people that do not quilt or in most cases even own a sewing machine say things like “It’s a little too square looking”.

Let the challenge begin…… It’s why I love my job. These situations, because I refuse to give up, force me to be more creative. The silly demands insist that I think outside the box (or should I say square?) and create something beautiful that I would have sworn was not possible. Like a knock your socks off pastel quilt with little or no contrast.
I've decided to share the progress of this project with you from start to finish. That way you will get to share the joy and frustrations along with me. Let's start with the working photos. Those are cut pieces stuck to the design wall that were rearranged in each photo. The peach fabric is way too intense in the first one. The yellow is overpowering in the second. After hours of struggling with the exact placement of the blues and greens, I decided to literally scrap all of them, cut the pieces and let them fall where they may. I like that one best! I've made the yardage requests, once the real fabrics arrive we can get started. Did I mention we have a deadline to meet?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Maggie Walker

The sample of the Shell Collection Block of the Month arrived in the store this week. What a disappointment! We agreed to participate in Maggie Walker’s program at Quilt Market last October. Standing with her in her booth, in front of a beautifully hand appliquéd quilt we scheduled to have the sample in our store. Maggie’s work is exquisite and having that sample to inspire people to participate would be a definite bonus.

Last week we received a letter from Maggie telling us where the quilt would be arriving from and where we need to send it as well as strict packaging instructions and a warning that we would be charged $65 each if we lost any part of the intricate packing containers.

Imagine my surprise when we opened the box to see that the sample we were sent is fused and not hand appliquéd. Not only is it fused; I would rate the workmanship as far below average. Why would Maggie want something like this to represent her work? I understand the risk of allowing your quilts to travel; mine do it all the time. There is the danger of loss, theft and damage with each new destination. I recognize the need for a less valuable fusible sample, for all I know Maggie has several of these crisscrossing the country. That doesn’t explain the workmanship. And I still think the situation smacks of bait and switch.

On the other hand, no matter what your skill level, one look at this sample and you will be able to say, “I can do better than that”! Maybe that is the inspiration level she is looking for?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm it?

Kris from Cozy Cottage in California "tagged" me, which according to Kris requires me to post 7 interesting or unique things that you don't know about me. That's the problem with hanging out with hip, young, shop owners, they are much more tec savy than us old folks! You can check out Kris's blog by clicking on her address in the list of links. While you are there, check out Sandy's too. Sandy owns Quilt Country in Texas and you will be on your way to getting to know my shop owner friends. I promise to add Karen Snyders blog to the list......... if she ever gets one!


You probably have no desire to suffer through yet another posting about how much I detest winter weather, but I can think of at least one person that is grumbling more than I am today. I think it is safe to say that the woman I passed taking my daughter to school isn’t in a very good mood. Her car had slid off the road on the second of three major hills (for you flatlanders, think roller coaster style hills, three of them right in a row, that lead to our high school). It happened only 100 yards from our police station and municipal building (home of the salt trucks) so she had more help than she needed immediately. Somehow I don’t think that the almost instant response time will do much to brighten her day.

I have my own reason to grumble. Yesterdays “sew-day” was a total bust. It was completely consumed with paperwork. I didn’t even have the chance to turn my machine on. In this new global marketplace the people that live outside the weather bands that are affecting your area have absolutely no respect for a good old fashion snow day. Being a responsible adult means not being able to tell the New York office that you can’t possibly estimate that yardage, write those instructions or plan that ad campaign because it’s snowing and schools are closed.

Putting a positive spin on things, I have to admit that yesterday was very productive – even if my portion of it was 100% paperwork. Kits were cut, instructions written, projects planned and goods were ordered. Timeless let me know that a few magazine editors have picked up my Complexion Collection of fabrics for their “What’s New” columns and I’ve sent photos of my work-in-progress.

Meet Katherine. Right now she is a fusible appliqué developed from a photo. I used my Corel Draw program to create the appliqué THEN I learned that the newest version of EQ has the ability to do this for you – it even spits out the templates!!! The fabrics are from my Complexion Collection, 10 shades of skin tones from alabaster to java. We have the bolts and fat quarter bundles in the store. I’m going to have to put “have Amy get them on the web” on my to-do list.
I created them because I was tired of trying to find face fabrics for my customers that didn’t make the finished project look like they were jaundice, sunburned or coming down with a dreaded disease. They are perfect for things like Santa faces and doll making, put them all together – wow! What a great design tool for those that really want to get creative!
It makes me wonder why didn’t someone think of this sooner?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Winter Weather..... ugh.

I believe that the only "good" snow is either printed on fabric or contained in hand held glass globes!

I would like to go on record having said that if spring started right this very minute I can not think of one single person I know that would be heartbroken that winter was over. It’s true that the people that own the ski resorts are not among the people that I know. I’m not sure how those that own snow plows would feel. My husband plows/salts our lot and I know that he would be happy not to have to do it again for another dozen months.

This has been a wicked weather week and it is only Tuesday! Things got off to an interesting start on Sunday. About 45 minutes into our Schoolhouse event we lost power due to high winds. There were trees and power lines down all over the area. The 30+ women that were here for the 10:00 – 3:00 event were great sports about the lack of electricity. Everyone thought that being able to pee by candlelight in our windowless bathroom added a “romantic” touch. We managed to get through all 6 classes, 3 make-it take-its, lunch and write up their purchases in the dark. Thank heaven the high winds and sub zero temperatures were accompanied by lots of natural daylight. Our power came back on around 4pm and we were among the lucky ones. Those that live near the downed tree were without power until 4pm on MONDAY!

The sub zero wind chills caused a 2 hour school delay on Monday. Now it’s early Tuesday morning and the 2 inches of snow that we have on the ground is predicted to accumulate to 3-5 by tonight with a lovely layer of freezing rain sandwiched in the middle. At the rate it’s been falling I expect that they will be adding to those accumulation totals by the noon forecast.

Looks like it is going to be a great day to stay inside and SEW! Now I just have to decide what to work on….. The pile of fabrics for our Crazy Patch BOM looks inviting. I could assemble the next few blocks for our First Friday/First Saturday program. This is the perfect weather to work on the samples I need for my 2008 Christmas line. (It’s much easier to work on Christmas prints in this weather than it is to force yourself to get them finished when everyone else is at the beach.) I could stitch up those Wizard of Oz samples…….. one snowstorm might not be enough to get everything done!

Monday, February 4, 2008


I wanted the Giants to win the Super Bowl!

Truthfully, I would have preferred that the Steelers were in it, but that didn’t happen so I was rooting for New York. More than anything, what I really wanted was for New England to LOOSE. That whole cheating episode, paying a fine and then going on to become world champions would have bothered me. I hate the standards that professional sports set for our kids. The “Idolize us and make us millionaires” attitude that does a 180 to “We are only human” when they are caught doing something wrong bothers me too.

When you get right down to it, the thing that irritates me the most about the New England team is Bill Belachecks sweatshirt. There is something about those cut-off sleeves that is disrespectful. Arrogance is almost expected in professional sports. Cheating seems to have become part of the game. Add in disrespect from the coach, and Belacheck has achieved the trifecta of jerkdom.

I heard on the radio that the Patriots had copyrighted the phrase “The perfect season” last week before the game. Wonder what they are going to do with that now?


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy Halloween?

This week has included deadlines, video editing, the kick-off of our Crazy Patch Block of the Month, club meetings, an ice storm, prep for our Schoolhouse event, plans for our Meet the Author evening and the delivery of a mountain of new spring fabrics. With that said, you will never guess how I spent Thursday evening….. go ahead, guess….. Yep, I made this Halloween Table Runner using our Flip'n Strip pattern.

Welcome to my world. I like to think of it as “seasonally challenged”. Timeless requested a project to show off these adorable Halloween prints, naturally they need it yesterday. Due to the lead time involved in having the Sales Reps show the new fabrics to the shop owners, who order the bolts, and want them shipped in time to have a sample made in time to show it to customers who need time to make it before the holiday… in the fabric world it IS Halloween. Last month was Christmas. Don’t try to figure it out. Christmas comes again in July and then again in December, when those of us that work retail tend to be sick-and-tired of the holiday season. Now you know why.

In the “other projects” department I also managed to get my class prep done. I love working on the Crazy Patch Block of the Month. I really need to spend some time this weekend making my daughter Lindsay a new tote bag. She asked for one before school started (the day before) and selected the fabrics. She has been happy using a blue and white floral bag from Timeless but the strap finally gave way under the weight of a zillion text books. She has repaired the gaping hole with tape and the strap has been mended with not one, but four tacky looking safety pins, in a vain attempt to shame me into repairing it for her.

I may spend the rest of the day (after I teach a class) whipping one up for her. If that doesn't happen, I think it is time she hear the story about the shoemaker’s kids.