Friday, March 28, 2008

Sewing, sewing, sewing

This is why I LOVE my job. I’ve spent the last few days ankle deep in yards and yards of wonderful new fabric, pulling together the samples that will be used to sell my new line. I will admit that this love fest also includes the stress of dealing with deadlines, constant interruptions, and an unbelievable amount of hours at the sewing machine, but all-in-all, I wouldn’t have it any other way….. ok, in my fantasy world there would be a machine that photographed the finished quilt and printed out the proof read instructions. I would want them complete with illustrations, delivered right after I finished the project. Then I could go on to the next item, but lets face it, they can’t figure out how to put an entire spool of thread in the bobbin area of our sewing machines, my “instruction writer” isn’t going to be invented any time soon!

Instruction writing is a necessary evil. I think I write above average instructions. I get lots of compliments and our pattern line sells very well. Not all of our customers agree. Everyone makes mistakes (including me) but I still find it funny when people take the time to call and tell me that it is “impossible” to make the item featured in our pattern. Impossible? How can it be impossible to make the item that is photographed in real life on the front cover of the pattern? Doesn’t the fact that it exists in the photograph confirm the fact that it IS possible? I will admit that my finding the accusation of “impossible” funny isn’t the best approach to solving the problem. Once we get past the existential theory of existence I can usually talk them through the problem. Nine times out of ten it is because they “assumed” one of the steps without actually reading the written instructions and did something the way they have always done it. Quick fix, problem solved. I understand completely, I may write instructions, but I am the absolute WORST at following them.

I wanted a fun tote bag sample for the Lindsay Collection. Another shop owner suggested I try the “Schlep Bag”. Here's the photo of mine. I think this would make a great shopping bag! If you are "going green" you may want to make several of these to keep in your car.
The schlep bag suggestion came with the warning that I was to download the free pattern from:
and NOT under any circumstances just Google “schlep bag” for a pattern. It seems that there are several versions and not all of the instructions are well written. The pattern illustrations look a little weird, but I have to admit I did enjoy making the bag! No, I didn’t follow her instructions exactly; I told you I have issues in that department. I made some simple changes. I inserted cotton webbing in my handles instead of batting. This is a large roomy bag (the bottom is 10 inches square) and I think filling it up would stretch the batting handles to the point where the seams would pop. I also lined the pieced strips with flannel and added some simple quilting lines for texture. I have to question her materials list, she notes that you will need 2 fat quarters of each color. Huh? You need 4 squares that measure 8 inches. Last time I checked our fat quarters were plenty large enough to cut 4 eight inch squares.
Back to "work"!
Karen

Friday, March 21, 2008

Project Update

Mary Thomas finished the machine quilting and dropped the Kaleidoscope quilt off yesterday. It’s beautiful! Check out the detail in those stitches. It would be years before I could accomplish that kind of pattern on my “regular” machine. The little hearts and “pearls” as Mary calls them are perfect for the soft look of the quilt.

Timeless was hoping that I would use the backing fabric for the binding (so that they wouldn’t have to add another piece of fabric to the assortment) but I thought it was too light. I’m using pale lavender and they will just have to deal! Everyone that was in the shop yesterday oohed and awed over the quilt first and then they asked me what happened to the corners. I left the corner triangles off, because I like it that way! The missing triangle clips the corner and it sort of rounds them off. It also meant that I had to miter 8 corners with the binding instead of 4. I thought it was an interesting design detail, apparently other people think I goofed! Oh well, I’m going to enjoy stitching the binding down while I wait for our oldest daughter and her fiancĂ© to arrive for the Easter holiday. I have to remember to stitch the hanging sleeve on the back too – I always forget because I rarely do that to my quilts, but Timeless prefers it on the ones they display.

The sample yardage of the Lindsay collection arrived! I’ve already plugged in the iron and put a new blade in the rotary cutter. I’ve had the projects planned almost as long as the fabric line and I can’t wait to see if they work! I am going to make identical quilts in both the light and dark colorway so that you can see how different they are. One will be the “simple” version and the other the “art school graduate” look. I will post photos as soon as they are far enough along to see the plan. In the mean time I have to finish the “quick and easy” baby quilt that uses the train border and get it off the design wall. I really need to finish it, because if I just fold it up and put it off to the side – it will be doomed to the UFO pile and I would really like to pull the whole display together with the crib and bumper pads……. So much quilting, so little time……

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday weekend!

Karen

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Perspective

Busy, busy, busy. Quilt show last weekend, Easter holiday this weekend. Our youngest (a junior in high school) is on spring break and we are watching the school website for updates on a possible teachers strike. Normally Lindsay would relish the possibility of an extended vacation, but she has also landed the roll of Cinderella in the spring musical “Into the Woods” and a strike might mean pushing the performance off to the first week of May instead of the second week of April. That means that her much older siblings that have to travel in from out-of-town to see the show will need to rework their schedules. Personally, if I were the negotiator for the teachers, I would have them finish the year “out of contract” and then refuse to come back next fall unless the board met our demands. That seems like a better bargaining position, but nobody cares what I think, I’m just Cinderella’s mother, and we all know how that story goes…..

While I’m busy fretting over having to change travel plans, what color to paint the kitchen, Easter dinner, adjustments to make to my next fabric line and a zillion other meaningless details I received the following link from Patty as a reminder to put everything in perspective. Patty has been our “Thursday night” employee for the last 14 years. A dozen women that work together soon become more like sisters than fellow employees and we all have been sharing Patty’s burden of dealing with her nephew’s diagnosis of Lou Gehrigs disease. Bobby was several months shy of his 16th birthday when his diagnosis rocked their world and transformed him from a typical teenage son and pesky little brother to the center of the Suvoy universe. It has been amazing watching this family and their friends pull together to support and encourage this family in their time of need. No whining, no complaining, no requests for free handouts, no wallowing in pity, just pure, simple love and support. Bobby lives in Michigan and as Patty’s husband puts it, the regular weekend visits have made the Ohio Turnpike an extension of their driveway. Patty has produced pillows and quilts to wrap them in love and people that hear about the situation don’t hesitate to pitch in and help with whatever the family needs. While the disease is nothing but hateful, the attitude and response of those that are involved, including Bobby, are a lesson in all that is right with the world. You can read about Bobby’s favorite hockey player at the link below. Caution, it might make you cry.

I need more TIME!

It seems absolutely impossible that the calendar added an entire day in February and we only lost an hour in March for daylight savings. Why am I not 23 hours ahead? What happened? I keep thinking of things I want to discuss on this blog, like the CBS Sunday Morning segment on Ricky Tims. Here's the link if you missed it
Let me know what you think. Ricky is a very talented person, a genuinely nice guy and he deserved the attention, but why isn't the woman that made the award winning quilt that they show at festival newsworthy? They don't even mention her name.
I've also been pondering the fact that I spent most of last weekend in our booth at the local quilt show watching people fret over spending $16 on a complete, including pattern, pillow kit only to have them walk another 10 feet to the Viking booth next door and plunk down $300+ dollars for a “fabric mover” to help them machine quilt their own projects. I began to wonder if they thought that the “time” to use the fabric mover was included in the box. What exactly is that kind of purchase saying? It certainly does not validate a downturn in the economy. Do you think they are feeling guilty about having too many unfinished projects? Do you think it stems from the attitude that using a professional quilter is “cheating”? What makes a person make a $300+ impulse purchase? I say "impulse" because they had no way of knowing that it would be available at the show. That kind of thing is just another of life's mysteries that make me say “hmmmm…..”.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Progress?

I have a zillion things to get done today, including sewing the blocks together for the kaleidoscope project. I promised to keep you updated on the progress of the project, so here is my confession of sorts. I spent a few hours re-pressing the corner triangles on every other block so that the seams would nest. I knew before I started that I would have to press them in different directions. I even knew when I was pressing them at the retreat that half would need to be re-pressed; I just didn’t feel like figuring it out at the time.

It is exactly THAT kind of information that I get great feedback on in the finished patterns. Like any good designer, I’ve already MADE the mistakes or worked through the issues on the project and I can tell you what to do to avoid that type of frustration. Those little directional pressing arrows are there for a reason!

Here’s a sneak peek at my newest fabric line. It’s called the Lindsay Collection, because Lindsay, my youngest daughter thought it was the coolest thing I’ve done. These are the strikes for the final approval of the brown colorway (there was only one major reject – a beautiful shade of brown, just not the shade that works with the rest of the group!) The paint chips allow me to check the finished color with the original selection. I'm also thinking about painting my kitchen to match!
The Lindsay Collection also comes in lighter shades of blue and tan with a touch of peach. I added as many neutral shades as they were willing to allow so that I can make a scrappy looking background for a giant flower applique project I have in my mind. Hopefully the goods to make the samples will be here soon. I have to have several quilts ready for the Timeless booth at Quilt Market in May.

Karen

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Week?

Where did this week go? It’s been 7 days since I arrived home from our weekend retreat and I haven’t even found the time to unpack my sewing supplies. I had paperwork to deal with, classes to teach, instructions to write, newsletter to organize and corporate taxes that need to be filed by the 15th; I guess that’s why they call it “work”.

This weekend my store staff was on retreat. It is their annual gift from me (yep, I’m a pretty nice boss, but then again I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have them). They leave around noon on Friday and I stay home and cover the store. The threat of snow kept business to a minimum, but it certainly didn’t stop UPS and FedEx from their appointed rounds!


30 bolts of bright contemporary fabrics from Rowan (the home of Kaffe, Martha Negley, etc) arrived along with 20 bolts of baby flannels! I had Georgette, my customer-turned-employee for the weekend work the Rowan bolts into a new display before she became a fat quarter cutting expert. Georgette says working with me is fun. She doesn’t understand why the girls are always whining about cutting kits…… me neither.


Most of the baby flannels are going to be cut into chenille kits for baby quilts. I convinced Timeless to print zig-zag lines on flannel to make the chenille process even easier! One look at the printed flannel and your first thought will be “big deal”. But once you see the finished project and the light bulb goes off!!! Chenille quilts are nothing but layers of fabric that are stitched together on the bias. Once they are washed, they “bloom”. The most difficult part is marking all the stitching lines…… not anymore!

That's the bolt of flannel in the bottom corner of the photo. The lines are printed in blue, but they are only the width of a thread, so you can stitch over them in any color you like. As you can see, our sample is pink.

This week we will be preparing to vend at the North Pittsburgh Quilt Guild show. We don’t take the store on the road very often. It takes a lot of work to prep for a show if you want your booth to feature unique projects, not to mention the 4 days of extra work setting up and covering the show. My plan for the week also includes getting those kaleidoscope blocks for Timeless out of the project box, assembled and off to the quilter by the end of the week….

Ill keep you posted.

Karen

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Retreat Photos

Yesterday the weather here in the Pittsburgh area was WONDERFUL! After the blizzard on Friday and the flat tire on Sunday I took the 60+ degrees and sunshine as a personal apology from God. The almighty knows my breaking point and I think he felt a little bad about the 1-3 inches that were predicted on Friday turning into SIX accompanied by raining slush. I’ve thanked him personally for the weather yesterday and let him know how much I appreciated the reprieve to deal with the tire ordeal.

As promised, I’m posting some “video” of our weekend retreat. You should be able to click on the picture and watch it rotate through several others. Not all of the photos turned out as well as I would have liked in that wonderfully bright sewing room. I wasn’t able to include all of the projects that were finished, started or worked on all weekend, but as you can see, A LOT of sewing was done! I’ve chopped off some heads to protect the innocent. I declared Saturday the official “Stickie-Outtie Hair day”. Nobody wants to relax and sew all weekend and then find a less than flattering photo on the internet!
video
I’m also not posting the photos of us eating. The food was excellent, the accommodations and service are wonderful, but some of us have resisted sharing that information with our husbands and family at home so that we didn’t have to feel too guilty about their eating dinner out of a box!
video
The answer is “yes”. I am sure we will be doing this again.

Karen

Monday, March 3, 2008

Retreat


I know that many of you are anxious for me to post the photos of our weekend retreat. I promise that I will – right after I drive back to West Virginia with my husband so that he can remove the flat tire from our van, drive it to the bottom of the mountain to the repair place that is closed on Sunday, wait while they fix it, return to the top of the mountain replace it on the van and drive back to Pittsburgh in time to teach class tonight. Then my husband will be taking the van to the dealer to have them figure out why the thing that holds the spare tire in place refuses to release the spare tire. This is not my diagnosis, Rod the wonderful young man that was our chef and Tony the AAA tow truck driver agree that it is stuck. They had no explanation as to why there is no place in Wheeling to have a tire repaired on Sunday.

If you are wondering….. it was a wonderful weekend! Snowstorm, ice, white-out conditions, flat tire and all. Thegroup can't wait to go back!

I finished all the kaleidoscope blocks!
Karen