Friday, May 30, 2008

Sew Something

I need to sew something.

I did not say that I “want” to sew something; I’m way past “want” and well on my way to the other side of “need”, right up there at the top of the “desperately need” area. I’m teetering on that fine line that separates code orange from code red.

Sewing is my job, but it is also a stress reliever for me. I honestly believe that fabric, thread, scraps, squares and triangles help to keep me sane. Some people fly fish to relieve stress, some cook, I quilt… and in my opinion “wackos” run. I’m not trying to pick a fight with the running population. I’m married to a guy that runs, my daughter is engaged to a serious runner. I’ve just never seen a runner that looks happy while they are running. How much stress can you relieve if you are miserable? Before I get too far off topic I need to remind myself that this is about sewing, not running and there hasn't been nearly enough sewing around here lately.

Lots of people and even an employee or two have asked from time-to-time if I’m “tired” of all of this yet. Tired of what? Doing what I really enjoy? Most of what has to happen around here really is “work”, but the sewing part, nothing but icing on the cake. I get cranky if the sewing doesn’t balance the work.
Any normal person would be ashamed to admit this (so naturally I am posting photos to the world wide web) but that mess in the photo to the left is my sewing center. Keep looking.... it is in there somewhere....

I should probably insert a witty comment here about how a messy desk is the sign of a creative mind, but let's face it.... that workspace is pitiful. I'm going to have to do some major excavation before anything creative can happen. It is going to be like a small scale archilogical dig. The tan fabric on the bottom is part of a tote bag that I was working on the day before I left for Market, May 13th. I haven't had the opportunity to sew since then. That explains the stress level that is rapidly approaching depthcon 5.

That nice clean spot in the upper right corner is the space where my laptop usually sits. I've been working in the office near the "big" printer so that I can print handouts and finish the instructions without being tempted to sew.

Today all of that ends! As of 8:57 last night I have officially caught up on all of the instruction writing that was looming over my head (that isnt exactly true, I still have 4 things on my to-do list, but they aren't due until the end of NEXT week, so why hurry?) and I am going to clean-up and SEW! Not too clean, just enough to get inspired. When things are too clean I hate to mess them up, so I get even LESS accomplished. The next question is what to sew next.... that cute little purse from Sandy Brawners new pattern or maybe the dimensional flower from the new American Patchwork & Quilting issue. I could finish the woven table runner or that tote bag that is under the needle and ready to go, but the samples of Batik Jelly Rolls are looking awfuly tempting. Then there is that staff challenge to make a table runner from Terry Atkinsons new book ... decisions, decisions.

How do you decide what to sew? How often do you sew? Take our poll at the top of the page and see how you compare to our other blog readers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Welcome to Summer

I don’t care what the official calendar dictates, everyone knows that summer officially starts Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day. Using that logic we actually managed to sneak in a few extra days of summer this year! I hope you plan to use them wisely. I managed to honor our veterans over the weekend by taking not one, but two afternoon naps. It could be the allergy medicine or backlash from Quilt Market or my deep desire to be a couch potato, but a large chunk of both Saturday and Sunday afternoon were spent on the sofa in a prone position.

We had travel plans for this weekend but when they had to be postponed I decided it was the perfect opportunity to get a few things accomplished, including:

Painting the kitchen
Cleaning my closet
Planting the garden
Getting some work done.

My husband did it
A little – very little.

I have selected the paint color for my kitchen at least 6 times. Every time I think I have made a decision a family member takes a look at the swatches and says “You aren’t thinking of doing THAT are you” and I revert back to square one, a sure sign that I didn’t really love the idea in the first place. I think the only way I am going to be forced into making a decision is to invite company over. Not just any company, important company, the kind of company that you would be mortified to have in your unfinished kitchen. The problem is there aren’t that many of those people left in my life. Is that a sign of wonderful friendships or deteriorating standards? There is little chance of my daughters future in-laws dropping by from Iowa, so I wonder if someone like Prince Charles will be in town anytime soon… do you think he likes red?

My walk-in closet could use some attention. On Monday I was pondering the job when a TV program about the messiest house in America came on. Whoa! Compared to that family, I am a certified neat-nick! What possesses people that live like that to allow TV cameras into their homes? One look at their mess and I decided it was intended as a high-tech permission slip to stretch out and take a nap. I did take my daughters advice about something that she learned on Oprah. I turned all of the hangers in my closet “backwards”. Now when I wear something I will return it to my closet with the hanger facing the “right” way. The clothes on any hanger that are still backward at the end of the season are to be donated, no questions asked. From the looks of things, I will have plenty of room in my closet this fall.

My husband took care of the gardening. He wasn’t impressed with my artful arrangement of the plants last year. He seems to think that things grow better in straight rows. At our house it always comes as a shock that anything grows at all. We use the “plunk’em in the ground and hope for the best” method. There is no early or late season, no plant rotation, no pinching back or fertilizing and almost no weeding (notice I didn’t say no weeds, I said no weeding!). As the poster children for Gardening with the Clueless, any harvest at all is considered gifts from the gods. Cary decides what and how many plants he needs according to the available space. The man owns not one but two roto-tillers, we have LOTS of space. Enough for 12 assorted tomato plants, 9 zucchini and more peppers than I had time to count plus other things that I won’t be able to identify until fruit appears. A good deal of that harvest ends up on the counter at The Quilt Company for “free tomato/zucchini/pepper days”. After all how much produce can a family of three consume?

Now it’s back to work! I have to send the email for our Garden Trellis Block of the Month. We are offering $5 off the sign-up fee through the end of the month and we want all of our dedicated customers to have the opportunity to fill the program first. The fabrics are all hand-dyed batiks and the patterns are exclusively ours (in other words we don’t sell the program to other stores at this time) so we are limiting the number of participants. If you are interested, click on the website at and click on to the Garden Trellis page in the upper left corner of our website (not the photo of the quilt on the right) for details.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Market Hangover

If you can imagine building a store from the ground up, stocking it, staffing it and displaying it down to the last detail and then ripping it all apart a mere 3 days later, all while your competition does exactly the same thing just inches away, you have the basic idea of Quilt Market. I creted a little video that shows from the start of set up in the Timeless booth to the final prep before the shop owners arrive, but I'm having a hard time getting it to load. (maybe later?). It is unbelievable when you think of the amount of work that goes into each and every booth space.

In addition to working the sales floor and shopping for new items, we have the opportunity to attend Schoolhouse the day before Market opens. This is an all day event where you have about a dozen different presentations to choose from every 15-30 minutes from the top names in the industry.

Although most of my day is taken up presenting those sessions for Timeless I usually try to squeeze into at least a few of the other offerings. Amy Butler offered information on items from her upcoming home decorating line and some fashion patterns for her clothing line. Her product and lifestyle will be featured in everything from European Vogue to Better Homes and Gardens in the next several months. She is red hot right now, especially with the younger set. My 17 year old was extremely impressed when she found out that I've met her in person. Apparently knowing Amy elevates my "cool" factor as a Mom! Although Amy is very nice, my favorite compliment was after my talk on marketing a group of owners stayed to tell me that I was better than Mark Lipinski. Although we have absolutely nothing in common, for some reason Mr. Lipinski is considered a heavy hitter in the quilt world, so I guess that' saying something.

I also sat in on Terry Atkinson's session on her new book "Let's Do Lunch". I have a love hate relationship with Terry. I love her books (and most of my customers do too). They are simple, well organized and professionally done. I also "hate" the fact that they are so simple from a "why didn't I think of that" perspective. As a shop owner I can tell you right now that "Let's Do Lunch" will be on the top 10 best seller list in a matter of weeks, it's THAT good.

One of the best parts of Market is that there are amazing quilts EVERYWHERE. Sometimes they are so crammed together that you cant possibly appreciate each and everyone of them. These photos are of the Hoffman booth. Check out that Mariners Compass Lone Star that is made from batiks. The photo does not do it justice. The other photo is one small section of the rest of their booth and there are several hundred booths!

The absolute WORST part of Market is the return home. We refer to it as "market hangover". Drinking need not be involved. Adjusting to a new time zone, decompressing from the hectic schedule and all that visual stimulation along with sorting through the paperwork for what you bought or didn't buy is enough to deal with.

I was thinking that in the next few days I could take the time to get back into my regular routine when a package arrived with strike-offs for the fabrics that they are considering for NEXT market. I started to complain to my husband when he pointed out that this IS my regular routine. He's right and I love every minute of it!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Greetings from Portland!

There are going to be some wonderfully happy quilters in the next few months! I've found lots and lots of things to get excited about! If you are one of our "walk-in" customers you are going to LOVE our new summer program "Happy Hour"! From 5-7 each Monday evening we are offering drinks and free demos and make it take its. Details will be in our next newsletter and e-update. One of my Market goals was to find some wonderful fun stuff to "play" with and all I'm going to say is WOW!!! You won't be disappointed!

I may also have to re-name the store "Batiks are Us". Hoffman never disappoints me. They always have beautiful, unique color combinations, the new selection includes some irresistible shades. I must be in a yellow mood, because I don't think I turned down one of them. Look for yellow and peach, yellow and aqua, yellow and cream..... beautiful!!! Wait until you see the batik jelly rolls - and you will have to wait, the first ones don't ship until July. Keep you fingers crossed that it doesn't rain in Indonesia, maybe we will get them sooner!

Timeless also introduced a new batik assortment that was impossible to resist. Toni Steer presented a program in two color assortments that makes not one but TWO trip around the world quilts at the same time. It's perfect for a buddy class! Don't worry if you will like the color I selected - I bought both! I "complained" to Ellen Brown, the owner of Timeless that they needed to offer a wider selection of batik backings. My customers love them, we need a larger assortment. Her response was, and I quote "Ok, smarty pants, pick them out". You don't have to ask me twice! I sat down right then and there and selected the prints and colors that will go into production as soon as the base goods arrive at the print plant.

I know that I promised Market photos, but those will have to wait until I have time to upload the photos and I will have to have the camera and the computer in the same building to get that done. One of them always seems to be at the convention center when the other is at the hotel.

Its been busy here in Portland, but I am happy to say that I did find time to help out a poor homeless person. The hotel that I am staying in is absolutely wonderful, but they unfortunately screwed up Karen Snyder (Author of "Bundles of Fun", owner of Anna Leana's, and fabric designer's) reservation and she was without a room on the first and last night here, so I graciously agreed to allow her to bunk with me. I think that should be good for a personal appearance and book signing and possibly even a trunk show in my store when she is in town next spring, don't you?

Back to work!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


If there is a photo accompanying this post, it has nothing to do with anything.  If the computer gods are smiling, it's a close up of one of the blocks in our upcoming Garden Trellis Block of the Month.  The only reason it's here is that I am trying to get the camera to talk to the Mac, to communicate with Blogger, to size the photos, which were saved in iphoto....... and I though you would enjoy seeing an applique block more than my daughters prom date!

If it works - and I remember all the appropriate cords to connect everything, I will post from Portland!


24 hours and counting

24 hours from now I will be on a plane to Portland. –More about the airline later.

I shipped the last of the samples yesterday. They went directly to the convention center. That took care of everything that I don’t have room for in my suitcase. The new $25 fee for a second bag "rule" is going to wreak havoc with Market attendees. Normally I would be taking an additional suitcase to bring goodies home in, but with an additional $25 fee from the airline and the joy of schlepping it myself…. I think I will let UPS do the honors.

Here is a photo of how the bargello bag turned out. I intended it to be a technique suggestion that you can apply to ANY bag, your FAVORITE bag pattern. I included the photo on my handout and captioned it “any bag”. Do you want to venture a guess on how many shop owners will call the shop after Market to see of we have any of the “Any Bag” patterns in stock?

Schoolhouse is a mind altering experience. After several hours of listening to anyone and everyone give you their sales pitch, recommendations and suggestions it becomes very difficult to keep everything straight. I try to keep it as simple as possible, provide handouts with the highlights, upload videos to watch when they get home, but there is always something that everyone seems to be confused by. After looking over my handouts (that shipped in that box) I feel pretty confident that the “any bag” is going to be it.

It feels good to have everything finished and shipped. My pants are hemmed; my suitcase is ready to pack. The prom, after prom, breakfast after the prom and recuperation from loss of sleep is over. Deb and I have reviewed our list of “wants” and “needs” from Market, now all I have to do is go SHOP! Shop, teach, attend meetings and figure out how to make the Mac talk to the camera so that I can send photos with the blog.

Now about that airline: I will be the first to admit that I have lousy travel karma. If something is going to go wrong, it is usually with my flight, so I do my best to prevent problems before I leave home. For this trip, to get the best price and best flight times, I had to purchase and pay for my ticket months ago. I booked a later in the day (10:00 am) flight that stopped in Denver. My plan was to not have to get up in the middle of the night and with the time change I would still be in Portland in time to help with set-up on the first day, which is a LONG day when you add 3 hours to it!

First I received a message that they had changed the flight time to a bit earlier. Then another message that they changed my flight to stop in Cincinnati instead of Denver, and that flight left a bit earlier. The next message informed me that they canceled that flight and rebooked me on the even EARLIER flight, at 7am. This requires that I be at the airport by 6 which means I will be up at 4:30am. Set-up in Portland lasts until 10:00pm, which translates to 1:00am our time.

My flight home originally was scheduled to leave Portland around 10:30am with a stop in Detroit and I was to be home here in Pittsburgh about 3:45 in the afternoon. That flight was canceled too. They offered me the choice of Portland, Houston, Pittsburgh or Portland, Newark, Pittsburgh. I went with Newark, I know how many flights they have to Pittsburgh and if something happens I have a better chance of getting on another flight. My trip home now starts at 7am and I get home at 8:45pm if I’m lucky. I've taken that Newark to Pittsburgh flight numerous times and I am rarely home before 10:30.

Why is it that in every other industry offering a product or service that needs to be paid for in advance and then delivering something else is considered bait-and-switch? The airlines can rearrange your life on their terms and if you aren’t satisfied – too bad, but if you try to make one teeny-tiny little adjustment, you better have your credit card available to cover the fees. I can just imagine running a quilt class having everyone purchase their materials, show up for class only to find out that I had started it several hours earlier and that we weren’t making a quilt, it was now a table runner class. Oh, if you decide to bring more than one ruler to class – there would be an additional fee.

Wish me luck on this one…….

Hopefully you will hear from me from Portland!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Could it possibly be THURSDAY?

Tuesday and Wednesday probably slipped by while I was shopping for prom shoes. My stiletto loving daughter insisted upon perfectly flat, yet dressy, prom shoes, that don’t look like flip flops in metallic silver or blue. If you plan to shop for shoes in the greater Pittsburgh area, give me call, I could save you considerable time and gas money by telling you exactly who has what. I’m now the local authority on the availability of silver flats in our region. Bohemian chic, try Journeys of all places. Over priced flip flops, try Express. Adorable little slides with the teeny tiny one inch kitten heels that according to my daughter will make you “tower” over your date, Macy’s. Next year I’m going insist that she find a tall date or at the very least one that isn’t intimidated by a girl in heels.

The Quilt Market To-Do list has been whittled down to optional items. I’ve fulfilled all of my commitments for the required projects. There are a few items that I will need to carry with me on the plane and instructions that still need to be finished, but the bulk of the pressure is over with – whew!

I’ve discovered over the years that finishing the list of required items has a strange effect. Creativity begets creativity. I work like the dickens to come up with the most creative and appealing ideas from the very beginning. Once I’ve worked through that process and begin to think that I am satisfied, a light goes on and an obviously great idea appears. Sometimes too late to make it happen in time for Market and I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner. This year it’s this bargello striped bag. Duh. How easy is THAT? One fabric cross cut and shifted to form the bargello pattern. I’m stitching the strips directly to Peltex, a stiff interfacing. I should have time to make it into a quick tote bag before I leave. I would love to have 3 tote bag/purses finished for the display but that is probably pushing my luck!

The To-Do list is still quite lengthy with items like, hem pants, print handouts, write presentation, figure out what to wear. That last one is the tough one. I present at Market every six months. What the heck was I wearing last time? What about last year? Some owners only attend spring markets. If you only see me twice a year I certainly don’t want to show up in the same outfit! I’ve also learned not to run out and buy something new. Once I picked up a great looking jacket at Coldwater Creek the weekend before Market. I soon discovered that at least 8 other shop owners had done the same thing. Talk about seeing yourself coming and going! There were enough of us that we could have formed a club! I also try to dress head-to-toe in one neutral color when I am shopping for fabric. Believe it or not, people buy what they wear. The year that I coordinated my wardrobe in shades of purple I discovered that I bought more grape print fabrics than any one shop could possibly need. I don’t want to worry you, but I did pick up this great pair of pink and orange madras plaid shoes that I am tempted to take with me ……


Monday, May 5, 2008


Compulsory, obligatory, required, requisite, necessary.

Those are the words used to describe the word “binding” in my computers dictionary. I think they should add a few more. Having spent the better part of the last 3 days hand stitching binding in place I could make some suggestions. It isn’t that I hate the hand stitching, I like to hand stitch, just not for hours and hours and hours........ and hours.

I’m actually a bit of a binding snob. I know how to do the whole process by machine. I can even show you a few tricks that you may not have thought of that will make the process go faster. BUT, if something is going to be hanging in a show with my name on it, I prefer that the binding be hand stitched. It is one of those weird quirks that I am not willing to compromise on, even if it takes the entire weekend to accomplish the task.

Squeezed in between the classes, club meeting and binding marathon I also managed to “whip up” this chenille jacket. Before you start to groan, I used my Fun on the Run jacket pattern. I’ve made this pattern enough times that I could probably assemble it in my sleep. I wanted a sample to show that you can use the chenille flannel for more than just flannel throws.

I layered 4 pieces of the Lindsay paper-cut print, matching the pattern repeat on the fabric in each layer. The flannel was added to the bottom and I cut the pieces about an inch larger than necessary before I did the stitching (no unnecessary stitching!). I only cut the top 3 layers, leaving the bottom layer of print fabric intact. The goal was to still be able to see the pattern that is printed on the fabric after the chenille process. It worked pretty well. Regular cottons don’t fluff as well as flannel after one washing. This jacket will probably need to be tossed in with a few more loads to really “bloom”. I took before and after photos of both projects – look at the difference!

Now I have to catch-up on the instruction writing that I have been trying to avoid and get to work printing the new pattern fronts so that we can send everything to our distributors before Market. Today is also my husband’s birthday. They announce the Kelly Awards for High School musicals later today (so I am typing with my fingers crossed!) and Lindsay’s prom is this Friday, so I have to allot time in my schedule for a shoe, hair or jewelry crisis…… I almost forgot! I have to hem that dress too!

Friday, May 2, 2008

No win

Yesterday was a no-win day. There are items on the to-do list that can no longer be pushed to the bottom. The reason that they are still on the list is that I have no desire to deal with them at all.

Too bad, it’s part of the job.

Numero Uno on the irritation list is a letter that I received from Judine in MN. Judine writes a lovely note requesting that I send her written permission to make six COPIES of my Select Six book. She goes on to explain that her small group will be getting together to make this project and they think it would be easier if everyone had their own copy.

Huh? My knee jerk reaction was to respond in a very sarcastic tone that the sole reason that I took 11 months to write, edit, illustrate, make samples, pay to have them professionally quilted, photographed and front the money to publish 5000 copies of the book, which by the way is protected under federal copyright laws, was so that I could then take MORE time from my life to actually sit down and write personal notes to small groups across the world and GRANT THEM PERMISSION TO STEAL MY WORK, because after all, I wouldn’t want 6 women from Minnesota to be inconvenienced. … Does that seem a bit harsh to you?

Maybe that response is a bit too wordy. What if I use the self addressed stamped envelope that she was kind enough to included to return a piece of paper with just the word “NO”. Do you think “absolutely not” would be too unkind?

While allowing my blood pressure to return to something in the normal range, I tried my best to come up with an analogy that would help Judine understand that writing, publishing and selling that book is part of how I make my living, pay my bills, eat. I’m sure that she has never considered the cost that is incurred in the process. She is probably not interested in the fact that I paid $500 alone to have the quilting done on the main project. I doubt that she understands that part of the process is providing free copies of the book to sales reps and distributors that take your book to shops and sell it to those like the one where she purchased her copy. She probably doesn’t care that part of the cost of marketing a book is paying the distributor 1/3 of the wholesale cost or that you need to sell about 2500 of those 5000 copies before you see a return on your investment. Nope, I’m pretty sure that Judine just wants a note from me to ease her mind about the illegal activity she is about to embark upon.

I emailed a MN shop owner friend of mine to see if she knew of Judines group. Sure enough, they have a reputation. They believe “sharing” books and patterns is the basis of what quilting is founded on. Sticky subject, “sharing” and “copying” are very different things. I look at it this way, allowing a friend to borrow your book falls into the same category as checking it out of the library. Making 6 illegal copies of a publication that is protected under the US Copyright laws is entirely different situation. It’s stealing. It is also something that is almost impossible to convince people that have been doing it, is wrong. Explaining it to them is futile. Saying “NO” to their request is worthless. I think we all know that they will probably do it anyway and most likely already have.

I know this won’t sit well with those of you that don’t see a problem with “friend sharing”, but I think I’ll take a stand here.

Sorry Judine, I’m not going to make it easier for you to steal. You are going to have to loose some sleep wondering if I think it is worth while having my attorney contact you. I’ve offered to sell her the additional copies that she needs for her group at a discount. Ball is in her court. Let’s hope she does the right thing. If not, ….. I hope their seams pucker.

Today is going to be better.