Monday, June 30, 2008

Splish Splash

I haven’t been able to complain about our weather lately. The days have been warm and sunny with a few hot, hot, hot spells and an unseasonably low spell tossed in for variety. Many late afternoons and evenings have been accompanied by showers (meaning that I don’t have to worry about watering the garden) and a few of them have been bucket dumping downpours but all in all it’s been a nice variety…. Until Saturday.

I had mountains of paperwork to produce for our BOM and class programs that start this week so I returned to the store after hours on Saturday evening. When the store is closed I usually just pull my car up to the front steps, right in the middle of the parking lot and leave it there. If I put it in an actual parking space, people driving by tend to think that we are open and even though the lights are off they are always knocking on the window trying to coax me to let them in to look around. Parking in an odd spot seems to make them realize that my stay is temporary (even if it is parked that way for hours on end).

Saturday was a beautiful day, but there was a threat of evening thundershowers (no garden to water!) I’m a sunroof kind of gal, I hate driving with the windows down, but my sunroof is always open. I carefully closed it and although I never drive with the windows open, I double checked the front windows, just to be safe. An hour or more into my printing extravaganza it started to rain. It made being stuck at work on Saturday evening a little easier. Then I heard the skies let loose and we got a real drenching. It came down in buckets for quite sometime. I couldn’t help wondering if those poor tomato plants could take this kind of soaking.

After the rain had let up I had to go into the other room for something and as I walked past the front doors I happened to glance at my car. The BACK windows were OPEN! Wide open! Who in the world would have opened my BACK WINDOWS? Who would have left them that way? …….. ok, technically I left them that way, but then I never open them. It never even crossed my mind to glance back and check them. They are never open. Then it dawned on me, I now share my car with my teenage daughter. Besides having the fuel gauge terminally pointing toward “E” and the radio on some unfamiliar station, I guess I will have to adjust to new window procedures too.

Needless to say the backseat of my car was filled with water. Filled. A half full water bottle that was tossed on the floor was actually floating. I began to wonder if “Waterfront Seating” would add value to my trade-in because the idea of cleaning up that mess wasn’t something I wanted to tackle at 10pm. Three beach towels and lots of mopping up later the leather seats have never been cleaner. The floor mats are still drying out in the garage. I think it is possible that the humidity level in my car is better than 100%. The slightest bit of heat and everything steams up on the inside. I don’t even want to think about mold…… If you see me out driving around, Ill be the one with the windows WIDE open.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

TAXI ! ! ! !

While I was in New York last week working with Timeless my main goal was to work on my future fabric lines and the projects to support them (more bout those details later). I also had meetings with the Timeless staff to discuss the past Quilt Market in Portland, the next Market in Houston and started preliminary planning for next spring when Market will be here in Pittsburgh.

One of the amazing things about the Portland Market was the success of the TAXI fabric line from Timeless. The theme print for this line is a HUGE black, white and yellow graphic print. It's BIG, really BIG. Those swatches don't begin to show the scale of the print. The coordinates aren't as large, but they are just as bright, just as graphic and just as popular. Go figure?

We all agreed that if the line had failed we could think of dozens of reasons why it didn’t work. Too big, too bright, not “quilty”, too contemporary, I could go on. What we couldn’t agree upon is exactly why it DID work, and it is working and working and working. What is it about this fabric that appeals to you? Why did black white and yellow strike a nerve at this particular place and time?

Looking around New York it is easy to see the inspiration. Fashion there is different. Timeless is located in Soho, near Tribeca, a fashion forward, artsy section of the city. I love the TAXI line, but I also live in “fly over” country where TAXI meets Thimbleberries. Thimbleberries style makes more sense to many of my customers. I understand that, Thimbleberries it is easy to live with. The colors are soothing (and sometimes too muddy for my taste) which is why my store has a different look. I think the lines from places like Thimbleberries and Kansas Troubles also tend to look the same season after season. Is TAXI popular because it represents a change? Have we all listened to so many political speeches that we now want to change everything?

Maybe everyone is sewing smaller projects? Taxi makes great tote bags and accessories. It is also fun for throws and looks great in a dress (if you have the figure for a screaming yellow and black print!), but I can’t imagine using it to redecorate a whole room – at least not one I expect to live and relax in!

What sells and why it sells never ceases to amaze me. Why do you think it's popular? Did I miss a mainstream TV show with black and yellow decor? Do you count yourself as part of the TAXI loving masses or are you wondering what the heck you would do with it?


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cherry Pie

I would have posted sooner, but I was busy making a cherry pie from scratch. Yes, scratch. You remember “scratch”, it’s the method that pilgrims used until Mrs. Smith was born. It involves LOTS of ingredients. The recipe should start “In the beginning there was flour”. The biblical reference is appropriate here because my baking a pie from scratch happens about as often as plagues of locust or the parting of the red sea.

Why the culinary interest? We have 2 beautiful cherry trees in our yard that have just started producing volumes of fruit. The trees are two different varieties. I don’t know what they are; I just know that they aren’t the same as the Bing Cherries that you buy in the store. I refer to the first one as the sacrificial tree. It ripens first and the birds get 90% of the cherries. I have decided that the purpose of tree #1 is to guilt me into doing something with the fruit of tree #2. Watching all of those beautiful bright red cherries go to waste just outside my kitchen window starts me thinking that I really should DO something with those tart cherries. Something. But what? Pie is the only thing that comes to mind, and who has the time? About the same time I run out of excuses, the second tree is ripe and ready for picking.

I arrived home from work to find that Lindsay and a friend had spent the afternoon picking huge bowls of cherries and had deposited them on my kitchen counter. I’m talking HUGE bowls of cherries. When I am at my best I can conjure up the energy for ONE pie. There were enough cherries in my kitchen for multiple pies. I claimed ownership of more than enough cherries for one pie and did the only other thing I could think of. I sent the rest of the cherries to work with Lindsay.

Lindsay works at a wonderful small restaurant, The Hartwood, with a very creative kitchen staff. Allison, the pastry chef was thrilled with the impromptu gift (she feeds the masses and vats of just picked cherries are not intimidating to her). She was also gracious enough to send home a sampling of her finished product. THAT would be my favorite method of baking!

I was just beginning to think that if I played my cards right I could supply volumes of produce to the restaurant all summer in turn for enough finished product to feed our family of three when my husband walked in, fork in hand, to announce that I had just made the best cherry pie he had every tasted….. drat. Now I am going to have to do it AGAIN.

I better hurry and make that next pie, the blossoms on the zucchini plants are multiplying like rabbits and I will be up to my ears in zucchini any day. We have FAR TO MANY zucchini plants and they seem to be very happy with our recent hot days and evening showers. I counted 56 blossoms and several small zucchini the other evening. Free zucchini days can’t be far off!


Monday, June 23, 2008

They call it "work"

Very few of you out there in the blog reading world post a comment on my ramblings. That sometimes makes me feel like I’m writing to myself. I recieve lots of comments in person, so I know you are out there, you’re just very quiet. When I don’t post for awhile all I hear is “Why haven’t you kept up with the blog”? The funny part is that when I ask someone why they didn’t post their comment they almost always respond that they don’t want the rest of the world reading what they have to say. Funny. Here I am yacking to the world and you don’t want anyone to know that you think I’m nuts? I think Freud would say that one of us has a complex. …. No wait, Freud would say BOTH of us have a complex … or is it our mothers fault?

What I have been doing – instead of blogging - is “work”. Yes, it IS work. I’ll admit that it is the best kind of job I can imagine, but none the less, the IRS acknowledges that it is my job, so therefore, I’ve been working.

Last week I “slaved” over the 208 four patch blocks for this scrap quilt that will be part of a club program here in the store this fall. The pattern had an option for inserting a solid square, the 4 patches (the option I chose) or mini 9 patch blocks. Can you imagine? Two hundred and eight 9 patch blocks using 1” squares – that WOULD be work!

The program is all about scrap quilts. It includes 12 patterns designed to help you use, organize and make beautiful quilts from your fabric stash. How many scraps did I use in the construction of this quilt? ….. That’s right, none. Zip. Nada. Zero. Every piece of it was cut directly off a bolt. Oh, I have PLENTY of batik scraps. I could probably make something to rival the size of Rhode Island if I dipped into my batik stash. But those are my FAVORITES, I don’t want to USE them, because then they will be GONE. …… now who needs psychiatric help?

Don’t worry, I’ve got “crazy” covered. I spent a few days catching up on our Crazy Patch Block of the Month too. We are just past the mid point in this 9 month program and I needed to finish up a few of the older blocks. That might be a revelation for those of you that are in the program. No, I don’t always assemble all of the pieces right away. I normally go right from filming the video to editing (because I’m usually right up against the deadline and have to upload the video the next day) and all of those “parts” get swept into a big clear storage box until I have time to sit down and sew. Now I’m not only caught up, I’m ahead! Ahh, the pleasure of calling your husband and saying “Honey, order a pizza for dinner, I have to work late” only to return to your sewing machine and a pile of ribbon, lace and a pile of beautiful fabrics!

Ok, it isn’t ALL fun and games. I spent the better part of yesterday, a gorgeous, sunny, perfect temperature Sunday, sequestered in my office here at the shop. I was pretty much chained to the color printer, scanner and work table trying to prepare the artwork for my next fabric line. I’m flying to New York tomorrow to work with the art department at Timeless on my next two fabric lines and the merchandising ideas for Quilt Market in Houston.

Early yesterday morning I had more than a dozen good ideas for where I want to go next with my fabric line. Unfortunately the ideas don’t work together. Two of the ideas are pieces for a killer floral graphic line. Four pieces are for a way-out-in-left-field graphic collage looking line. Three or four others would make great fabric prints, but don’t necessarily work with the other ideas. One of those ideas is based on a Fimo clay project that I made with Lindsay another is a bandana style print. What I really want to do is a tone-on-tone graphic print collection. After 9+ hours yesterday I’ve managed to clean up the art and loosely organize it into possible collections. Tomorrow I will sit down with the Art Department, Sales Manager, Advertising Manager, Owner and we will look over everything they have in the works and decide which ideas should move forward. Then the real work begins. I’ll keep you posted.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's the little things...

Sometimes it is the little things in life that make me happy. Right now it is this little “Teeny Tiny Tote” that makes me smile. My friend Sandy Brawner gave me a finished one at Quilt Market, but she sells the pattern through her store and pattern company Quilt Country in Texas. I carried mine all around Market. It’s just big enough to hold your phone (or ipod) some credit cards, cash and a few tissues. It’s darn near perfect. The strap is long enough to go over your head and shoulder, across your body for hands free shopping. It was the first time I came home from Market and didn’t feel like I needed a chiropractor from lugging a heavy tote bag all day.

Naturally I bought patterns to sell at the store. It was the featured demo at our “Happy Hour” last Monday night and everyone agreed that it would be a perfect “gift card holder” for the holidays. Better yet, I stitched up the sample that I had cut out and it only took about 15 minutes to make! The flap is just the right size for embellishing if you are looking to try something new. We foiled the one we made.

Another little project on my sewing list is a new stash of fabric belts for my oldest daughter, Lauren. I started making them for her a few years ago as a birthday gift. She loves them, and claims she gets more compliments on her belts than the rest of her wardrobe. They are simple to make (especially since she is a size 4!) One eighth yard of fabric, fuse some interfacing on the back, fold, stitch, turn and then add pair of D-rings to use as the buckle and you’re done. Ok, as a sewing professional, I top-stitch them too, I have a reputation to uphold, but I can still make a dozen of them in no time at all.

Sewing success. Finished. Sometimes it takes so little to make me happy.



There are also “little things” that don’t make me happy. For example: My husband and I were just sitting on the sofa last night contemplating going to bed when our phone rang. It was after 11:30pm and at that hour a ringing phone is never a good thing. I answered and on the other end was our daughter, Lindsay; the one that still lives at home. She was calling from her cell phone from her room upstairs. She asked for her Dad. It seems that there was a small field mouse in her room. At that point I immediately gave the phone to her Dad. That call was DEFINITELY for him. There was lots of pounding, door slamming and other noise after he went up the stairs and I think I heard the garage door too. I can’t say exactly what went on, because I refused to move off this sofa until the whole thing was over. I hope that little mouse wasn't an excellent chef, or owned a red motorcycle or starred in some other Disney movie because my husband assures me that the only place he will be appearing now is in the obituaries.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hello again

Wow, more than a week with nothing new to say…. How is that possible? I could blame it on being busy. The summer newsletter deadline was Tuesday. The Western PA Shop Hop started Wednesday and that alone takes more than a weeks worth of prep. I should be working on art work for my next line of fabric, but it’s been hard to concentrate lately. I managed to scratch my cornea and I was just a bit cranky while I was waiting for it to heal. If you ask my family I think they will tell you that it was more than just “a bit” cranky, but if they want to complain, they will have to get their own blog. Thankfully the eye seems to be better.

Speaking of family, yestreday was my daughters last day of school, the end of her junior year. It has been a magical year, one of those ones you hate to see end. According to her, as of 12:30 this afternoon she is officially a senior. Now it’s the race to the end, packed with college trips, applications, special events and all the trappings of a senior year. More importantly, this means that I have, assuming perfect attendance, exactly one hundred and eighty four more school lunches to pack in my life. Figure in a few snow days and a bout with the sniffles and it could be less. Hallelujah!

The Western Pennsylvania Shop Hop got off to a great start! We saw lots of happy hoppers, the weather cooperated and everyone seemed to be in a very good mood. The hop has a party theme and our store is celebrating New Years. Deb answered the phone all day with “Happy New Year from The Quilt Company” which made the person on the other end pause for a moment, but it certainly added to the fun. Hosting the hop is a little like having house guests for 4 days. You love having them, but you don’t get much accomplished except for entertaining and you do your best to keep everything neat and tidy. That makes sewing a little difficult. I try to stay on top of the computer work and visit with everyone at the same time, which means that no “real” work gets done until after hours and if the hop is successful you shouldn't have enough energy to work after hours!
But the store looks good! Because I shared my messy photo, I thought I should share the "cleaned up" version too.

The table runners on the wall in photo 2 are the samples of our store kits. The ones on the counter top are from the new "Let's Do Lunch" book by Terry Atkinson. The staff each made a runner to match their dishes and the customers have been having fun guessing which one is which. That's the trunk show from Karen Snyder's "Fat Quarter Fun" book, hanging on the wall behind the railing in photo 3. My customers LOVED her first book "Bundles of Fun" and are really going to enjoy this one too. Photo 4 is of our batik room and photo 5 is of the one classroom that we will not be using during the hop so we have pushed the tables to the wall and are using it as additional display space.
Time to HOP!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Nothing to do with quilting.

I live in the suburbs of Pittsburgh PA, the home of Champions. Despite the pitiful state of our baseball team we are a sports minded community. It’s not a “get out and do it yourself” culture, it’s more of a “sit on the sofa with a beer and watch it happen” society. We love our Steelers, Penguins and yes, even our miserably ranked Pirates.

That explains why I, who knows nothing about the game of hockey, was in front of the television at 12:45am watching the Penguins win game 5 in Detroit.

After a 14 hour workday that included a drive to Indiana PA to pick-up items for the Shop Hop prize baskets and an evening BlockWatchers meeting I was just about to turn off the TV and head to bed when I decided to check the Penguins score. Detroit was ahead 3-2 with less than a minute to go and the announcers had decided that everything was over except Detroit’s victory party when the Penguins scored and tied it up.


Having no idea how they solve a tie game, I had to stay up and watch, it turns out that they play “overtime”. After another period of hockey (and we all know how sporting event time works) the score was still tied. Now what? Clean the ice and begin a second period of overtime. I was exhausted and I haven’t had ice skates on in years! End of overtime 2 and still no score. On to a third period! If you stick it out THIS far, you have to see it through to the end, no matter how tired you are going to be in the morning. More to the point, all Pittsburghers know that our teams only win because WE make it happen. WE suffer right along with them; WE send the proper vibes, even if we don’t understand what is going on. If they loose it is because WE went to the frig or the bathroom at an inopportune time, or God forgive, bed, and let them down. I just couldn’t let that happen. One of our players literally “took one for the team” (a stick to the face that drew blood) and their player had to go sit in the “bad boy” box. That allowed the Penguins to finally score and me to go to bed! There are a lot of tired people in Pittsburgh today. Feeling as if I had done my part, although I’m not exactly sure what that was, I am one of them.


Sunday, June 1, 2008


Did you happen to see me on TV?

Were you watching Good Morning America Weekend? There I was, plain as day! Ok, it wasn’t actually “me”. No they didn’t mention my name. No the story wasn’t about quilting. If you blinked you probably missed it, BUT….

If you saw the segment about the guy who works for Home Depot that ended up as the lead singer for a rock group because his daughter posted a video of him singing karaoke on MySpace, I was right there. You had to look quickly, but in the segment that was at least several seconds long, they showed his daughter sitting on her bedroom floor, if you looked closely at the quilt on the bed behind her – TA DA! Some of those fabrics were from my Stix & Stones line!

-no autographs please!

You’re not impressed? Think about the cosmic forces that had to align for me to up at that hour sitting in front of the TV and not off in the kitchen getting another cup of coffee. What are the odds that I would select THAT channel from the zillion that are available, and for me to have looked up at the exact moment to see MY triangles on national television. (Actually seeing the triangles wasn’t that hard, we have a 54” screen).

Still not enough to impress? Consider this; I had to look up from my stitching to catch a glimpse of those now famous triangles. Can you guess what I was stitching? Yep! I was sewing the binding on the Stix & Stones quilt made from the exact same fabrics. It is the quilt that is featured in the ad in the new issue of McCalls Quilting magazine. What are the odds of that? (If you are wondering how I could just now be stitching the binding on the quilt that has already been photographed and published in the magazine, chalk it up to publisher “magic”).

I wonder if I have to deduct those few seconds from my 15 minutes of fame?