Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quilters from Mars?

Have you ever been out-of-your-skin excited about something in a room full of grumpy people?
That's the way I felt traveling home from Quilt Market last evening as Debby and I sat in the Houston airport discussing all of the wonderful items we had purchased for our store. Market was filled with great new product, wonderful new patterns, exciting ideas and color and excitement everywhere you looked. The airport was filled with grumpy people flying home to nasty weather, political polls and dire stock market reports. Looking around at the reaction to our excited chatter I think they were wondering exactly what planet we were from.

The world could use more quilters.

I took a quick photo of the Timeless Treasures display of my new fabric, projects, patterns and accessories before the festivities began. My fabric line is only about one tenth of their booth space but I was thrilled with the look and the "feel" of the display. Thankfully so were several other "important" people in the industry.
You can tell everyone that you "saw it here first" when the fabrics and patterns start showing up in catalogs and magazines!

I will be sending out a "News Flash" when the bolts of fabric arrive and are ready for sale both in the store and on the website. If you want to keep up with the news, log on to our website and sign-up for the E-Updates. http://www.thequiltcompany.com

One of the absolute BEST parts of Quilt Market is having the chance to meet in person with a wonderful group of shop owners that I am thrilled to call friends. We jokingly refer to ourselves as the "Village People" - maybe you have seen our page in McCalls Quilting? We also have a website http://myquiltvillage.com where we have created a virtual "town" of 8 wonderful quilt shops. To be honest, the best part of the site right now is the blog. Although we sat down together and planned some great new additions that will be added in the coming weeks, so there is LOTS more instore for the site, including free pattern downloads. The group includes fabric designers, pattern designers, top selling machine stores (assorted brands) and we stretch from California to New Jersey and Minnesota to Texas and our ideas and opinions are almost as varied! You won't find a better group of caring, sharing individuals with more deversified tastes.

You have heard the saying "Two heads are better than one" - just imagine the amazing things that happen when the 8 of us get together! It is exciting to be able to bring that energy and enthusiasm to our site, my store, my customers and my own blog!


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quilting by phone

My sister Paula called.

Paula is my older sister. She works in banking (proving she has a math brain). She and her husband are fabulous, innovative cooks, one of her daughters is a chef and is married to a chef. I on the other hand was usually asked to bring ice to the family dinners.

Paula lives in Atlanta and has just become a Grandmother for the second time this year.
She wants to finish her "old" quilt, that she started here in Pittsburgh, so that she can start new ones for her new grandsons.

I tried to explain to her that "real" quilters don't bother finishing an old project before starting a new one. She claimed that she needed to brush up on her skills before starting a new project. She also pointed out that she still has the first 6 blocks of the very first block-of-the-month we taught in the shop (15 years ago) in a drawer somewhere. That should count for something.

Naturally I agreed to help.

Our conversation went something like this:
Paula: You remember the quilt, it was blue stars with strips around the outside.
Me: Strips? Do you mean sashing?
Paula: Ok, if you say so. Now I need the stuff that goes around that.
Me: Borders?
Paula: Is that what comes next?
Me: Are the blocks sewn together into a quilt top?
Paula: Uh-huh.
Me: Then you are ready for borders.
Paula: How big are my borders?
Me: How big would you like them to be?
Paula: As big as you tell me to make them.
Me: Do you have fabric?
Paula: No, how much should I buy?
Me: How big is your quilt?
Paula: I don't know.
Me: 3 yards.

Sometime this week my sister is going to walk into an unsuspecting quilt shop carrying an unfinished blue and white Ohio Star quilt that she started 10 years ago as a high school graduation gift for her daughter. That same daughter is now married and has just had her first baby. My sister is going to drive the clerk crazy trying to match 10 year old fabric, having no idea what she needs or how to finish her project. My hope is that the clerk is not only kind and understanding, but that she keeps it simple. Paula plans to call me so that I can talk her through the finishing process. I know what she really wants is for me to say "just send it and I will finish it for you".

In our family DNA, Paula got the cooking genes.

Tonight, I sleep.


Not exactly completely finished, but pretty darn close! Close enough that I can relax, enjoy a glass of wine and get a good night's sleep. The quilts that have to be completed are stitched, quilted, bound, photographed and I've even written and illustrated the instructions. All I have left to do is press the "print" button on the big bad color printer.


Here's a photo of the last item I finished. This is a 9 block project that was made using the technique in "Wonderful 1 Fabric Quilts" by Kay Nichols. I love the idea, and yes, the entire thing was made using just ONE fabric, the repeating stripe from the Refresh line.

Sure, there are still lots of "wouldn't it be nice" projects that I might be able to get done. I want my displays to look like those in an expensive specialty store. I want them to stand out in a convention center filled with color and beautiful quilts and wonderful displays. I like to add fun or interesting items like a big fluffy white bathrobe trimmed in the soft blue and white Counterpoint prints and a matching spa bag filled with bath products. ..... wouldn't that be cool!.... maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Look, I'm a Cover Girl

Here in Western Pennsylvania our local governments are townships. We live in a very small one, just 4 miles by 4 miles. Hampton Magazine is our version of the town newspaper. It is published about every 3 months, mailed to every home in the area and contains all of the important information (like when to sign-up for swimming lessons and which teachers are retiring and the water treatment report, which as you can imagine is spellbinding.). In every issue they write a feature on a local resident or business. The Quilt Company was chosen for the issue that was published and distributed on Monday.

When they contacted me to tell me about the feature, they said it was about the STORE. When they called to schedule the photographer they said that I would need to be in the photo. I hate having my photo taken. I love having my work featured, but photos of me..... not so much.

The first photo shoot was scheduled on the same Monday that hurricane Ike blew threw town causing major power outages. No power also means no hair dryer or curling iron. The photographer had the decency to not show up for that appointment. We rescheduled for Tuesday. He was busy taking school photos and ran late. We scheduled for Thursday, then Friday then the following Monday afternoon. By Monday morning I was pretty confident that there would be another cancellation and I would be off the hook and only a stock photo of one of my quilts would make the cover. No sooner had that thought entered my mind and the photographer, with a spare 15 minutes, walked in the door.

Now you would think that a woman that was going to have her photo taken for a magazine cover would at LEAST bring a hairbrush to work with her. Nope. I had planned to go home for lunch, change and get ready for the shoot. That plan didn't work. The publisher also had the idea that the photo should be in "fall" colors and as uncluttered as possible. As you can see, that didn't work either.

In an E-Update message that I send to my "regular" walk-in customers, I told them that the photo shoot had happened and I was having a bad hair day that day. I inserted this photo in that message. An amazing number of people assumed that the person in the photo was me. Even the people that see me ALL the time thought that this person was me - without makeup.
What on earth were they thinking? My eyes are brown.

I've been taking lots of friendly harassment from the clerks at the post office, the bank and the guys at the printer (who claim they like the idea of my being a cover girl, but were really hoping for a centerfold - I pointed out that I am old enough to be their Mother). Funnier still are the comments from the people in town that have known me my entire life. Most of them are like very proud parents. They've been stopping me in the store to tell me that they always knew I'd "do good". One older man claimed that I must be a genius. I've figured out how to make money doing something that his Mother and Grandmother did all their lives and all they ever got was "sore fingers."!
Ahhhh..... the glamor of it all.......

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tax plan

Yesterday didn't go exactly as planned.
Our meeting with the Sales Rep was cut short so that he could catch an earlier plane. The 3:30 bus didn't arrive until 5pm and it took 3 trips to the post office to ship all of the Block of the Month packets. We lived through it. I was exhausted and everyone is happy and that is what customer service is all about.
Now it is back to sewing for Market.
The endless sewing of strips and squares for simple projects gives me plenty of time to think. Usually I think about sewing, patterns and project ideas. Lately I, along with the rest of you, have been bombarded with political opinion. Almost 75% of the emails I receive are politically based. One reason is that my husband is an elected official. He is a small town council person, but it is still an elected position, so everyone in town knows which side of the fence we reside upon.
One of those political emails contained a laundry list of "pork" added to the economic bailout package. I wish I would have know about that sooner. I would have applied/lobbied for some major quilting "bacon". I think we could have qualified. With the right "spin" I can be pretty convincing. When you get right down to it, quilters in general can have a much larger impact than say, a wooden arrow manufacturer?
How is this for an economic plan:
I think the US Government should send you a check equal to the value of 20% of your unused fabric stash. A rebate of sorts. A little thank you from the Government for stimulating the economy and spending money on things you really didn't need in the first place.
When calculating the value of your stash to determine your rebate it would be important to be honest. Just include the value of your unused stash, don't include the cost of your U.F.O.'s. For my plan to work, we have to be fiscally responsible. We don't want to bankrupt the economy! We can account for the value of your U.F.O.'s in phase 2 of the plan ; ).
Each of us would be getting a hefty check in the mail. And what would you do with that check? Exactly. You would spend it. Probably on more fabric. Thus stimulating the economy. A direct infusion of cash right into the base of our economy, the retail sector. Wall Street would have to love that. Some of you may actually spend MORE than the actual rebate check. Lets face it, as a group, we understand consumer spending.
What's not to love about that plan?
It makes about as much sense as the one Congress came up with..... maybe more.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Today is going to be one of those "everything has to happen today" days. I have tons of sewing to do to get ready for Quilt Market, but we run a store here and sometimes it takes everyone available to make it run well. Luckily I shipped the quilt on the left off to the quilter last night and the one I am currently working on only needs a few seams and the border added to finish it off.
The weather is cool and crisp and it is a school day, the perfect combination to spur our customers into stopping by the shop. We are normally busy on beautiful fall days.

It is the first Tuesday of the month, which means we will be shipping several hundred Block of the Month packets. We do that on the first Tuesday of every month. It takes hours to process them, stamp them and deliver them to the post office. This happens every month. It is more time consuming than difficult, but interuptions can drive you nuts when you are trying to keep everything straight. Canadian postage, sales tax, no sales tax, expiration dates, it takes total concentration to get everyting processed properly.
One of our Sales Reps is due here later today to show us the new fabric line. Normally we set those appointments for early in the morning before the shop gets busy. This time we have made an exception and alowed her to schedule her appointment later in the day because she is traveling with the National Sales Manager for one of the companies she represents. What that really means is that "company is coming". Keep in mind that I design fabric for one of his competitors. I buy his fabrics as a shop owner, therefore I am also a customer. The situation makes for an interesting dance. He wants to win me over, without giving me too much information, he wants my feedback, but doesn't know if he can trust me. I love the opportunity to discuss business, but I want him out of here by 3:00 at the latest.

If that isn't enough fun for one day, we will be topping it off with a bus trip of 42 (hopefully) happy quilters that are scheduled to arrive at 3:30. They are planning a 2 hour stop at our store to shop. We are providing a demo and make-it take-it for them. I believe the trip originated somewhere in the midwest. We are one of the many shops they are visiting on their tour. I hope they are running on schedule, have a few dollars left to spend and enjoy their stop here in western PA.
Today, timing is everything.

Monday, October 6, 2008

11 days?

I have a confession to make.

The sample yardage of my new fabric line arrived 11 days ago. UPS walked in with a very early morning delivery just a few hours before I left on a retreat weekend with customers. That's a photo of us having breakfast at the retreat center. Nice huh? There is nothing better than sitting down to a civilized meal then getting up, walking away from the dishes and clean-up to go back to sewing until the next meal is served!

You better believe I took that box of new fabrics with me! I've got deadlines! Sample yardage is at a premium. It is all that is available in the country until the bolt yardage arrives weeks later. You have to be careful not to "goof". Normally I would make all of the large and important samples first, but in the last minute rearranging of the projects I packed for the weekend I forgot to take some of the important elements (like notions and rulers) to the retreat. That meant I had to start with the scrappier pieces and work my way up to the big ones, without using any of the yardage I would eventually need for the large pieces, even though I had no idea what yardage I would need because I hadn't designed them yet! Are you confused? Me too.
I did manage to put the body of this project, which will be the free handout quilt from Timeless, together. The prints are positive/negative and it looks very peaceful in person. The white fabric for the large border should be arriving today.
I've also finished the "theme" quilt for the Refresh line and I am working on a combination project using the tan Counterpoint pieces in combination with the Refresh line. I will be photographing those later today before they go to the quilters and will post them, tomorrow? Whew, this daily posting thing isn't easy.