Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What Holiday?

Here I am in blog detention again.

I feel like I missed the holidays and much of the whoopla that goes along with them. Thankfully I think things are getting back to our normal level of wackiness.

Do you want to hazard a guess what I have been doing that has kept me so busy?

A. Stitching up hand-made items for everyone on my gift list?

B. Decorating my house, baking cookies and hosting holiday parties?

C. Starring as the Ghost of Christmas Past in the local production of "A Christmas Carol"?

D. None of the above.

Yep, you guessed it, the answer is "D" none of the above.

I've been working harder than ever before. Our store is now an official Bernina Dealership and the preparation for that has been all consuming. I have barely taken a stitch on a sewing machine since Thanksgiving. I did manage to festoon our house with exactly 2 garland swags and my cookie baking was limited to melting a few dozen Hershey kisses over pretzels and squishing a nut on top, no mixer required. I did make me feel a little like the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Being a Bernina Dealer isn't the hard part. Moving a ton of fabric to make room for the cabinets that I ordered to display the machines is another story. Cleaning out files, cabinets, nooks and crannies to make room for the machines, the accessories, the instruction books, etc, etc, etc, isn't nearly as much fun as the look on a customer's face when they make the decision and say "I'll take it"! - that makes it all worthwhile! It is fun to see happy and excited customers walk out the door with their new machines.

Naturally we don't want to be just another dealer. We want to be the kind of dealer that our customers rave about. That requires lots of training, lots attention to detail and lots of hours. To handle all of the details, Santa brought our shop an early Christmas present in the form of a Point Of Sale system, otherwise known as a POS. For those of you that don't speak "retail", a POS system is the light beam that scans the black and white barcode on your merchandise. That little "beep" that you hear means that your purchase has been rung into the register.

It is absolutely amazing that through the "magic" of technology a red beam of light pointed at a group of black and white lines can identify exactly what is being sold, know the price, the color, the manufacturer, tell you when to reorder and keep a record of customer purchases. It CAN do all of that IF someone tells it which little black lines are which. Basically a POS system is an enormous, brilliant brain that when new, is completely empty. Filling it up is a full time job. In lieu of "Jingle Bells" I've been listening to beep, beep, beep, beep, beep as we entered about a half a million items into the new brain.

Now the brain is full, the system is smart and the only thing left to do is to train the brains that work at the shop how to use it!

Anyone feel like celebrating?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I'm Old

There are times in your life, as you get older, that the outside world sneaks up on you and lets you know that you are not as young as you think. In my world this usually happens when I least expect it.

I was having a completely enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend with my family. I was thrilled to have the "big" kids home. We were laughing and talking when someone brought up the subject of old TV programs. The boys were arguing which police/detective show was the best ever and my husband and I were telling them that most of the classics happened before they were born. The subject of "The Man From Uncle" came up. I mentioned that as a young kid (I was 10 when the show went off the air) I had a horrible crush on Illya Kuryakin.

I know that I am not alone here, after all, he was young, handsome, was an exotic Russian, and when you spent the day in a classroom of boys with crew cuts, you couldn't help but love that gorgeous blond hair. Napoleon Solo may have been smart, but Illya Kuryakin always got the girl.

My husband laughed at my childhood crush and asked me if I had any idea what my long lost love was doing now.

I hadn't a clue.

He told me that I see him at least once a week.


I'm terrible at remembering actors real names (I was informed that Illya's real name is David McCallum). I rarely remember what they have played in. After much taunting, they finally informed me that Illya is now a member of the N.C.I.S team. Really? Hmm. Not Gibs. Couldn't be one of the younger officers......


The "hunk" from my childhood is DUCKY???

Say it ain't so!

This is the same man that couldn't walk down the street in New York without being mobbed by teenage girls? This is the guy that always got the girl. This is the guy that at the age of 8 I wanted to grow up and marry?

To quote Dick and Jane "Change, change change".

Sunday, November 22, 2009


My BBF, who I normally exchange emails with almost everyday, sent me a message that said "If you can't find time to write back, at least update the blog"! I'm afraid I have been pretty lax about keeping in touch electronically with the outside world.
I've been totally consumed for the last few weeks playing dominoes with my husband. Not the normal game, we are playing the grown up version of Construction Dominoes. I'm sure that you all have played this popular game where one project effects another, and another, and another... Our current game board is my quilt shop. We will be making a "big" announcement very soon and we have decided to do some "sprucing up". In preparation we plan to shift some merchandise to make more effective use of our space.

Over the years, as our business has grown, we have stretched and squeezed our building to suit our needs, but the interior walls have remained in place. For this spin on the merchandise roulette wheel, I decided that a section of wall had to go. It would open our main selling space to a nice size room that currently served as my office/wholesale/storage/ junk room. It would improve our traffic flow into the classroom space and give us room for more fabric shelves. That is the good news.

The bad news is that I would have to clean out that room to make it happen. Not an easy task. We have hundreds of copies of the patterns that we produce in that room. It also contains - or contained- a large color printer and all the paper and ink supplies, my work table, shipping supplies, seasonal merchandise, design files, as well as every other item that nobody knew what to do with. If it didn't have a home, it was tossed into that room. You know what a hard time quilters have throwing even the teeny tiny scraps away.
My idea was to spend the next several weeks (or longer) moving and rearranging as I sorted through "stuff" that cluttered the room, which I have to admit was long overdue for a good cleaning. My HUSBAND'S idea was to take the wall down this past weekend while I was away on retreat. We had an obvious conflict in timing. He won.
Ours is a mixed marriage. He is neat and organized, I'm not. If he is having a really bad day, nothing makes him happier than being able to clean something out and throw something away. I on the other hand am a quilter. I don't throw anything away if I plan to use it at some point in this lifetime. I might NEED it for a project. That scrap of fabric might be THE piece I need to complete an award winning project someday. Thirty + years of explaining this concept to him has made him a bit more understanding, but he still gives me "that look" when I try to justify my piles of pieces that are threatening to take over our lives. After all, who in their right mind would toss out 41 perfectly cut triangles or 28 half square triangle blocks that were left from a project that is not yet quilted?
My husband thinks I need an intervention. Although I think he should mind his own business, I have to admit that he might, possibly, but I am not saying he is, ... right.
If I am completely honest with myself, I have to admit that I am never going to do anything with those corners I clipped off of the 200 flying geese units that I made for the quilt I finished 8 years ago. But they are so nicely pressed, and squared up, and stacked in neat little piles. There must be enough to make....... a small table runner? I could add borders! I don't really want or need a 200 piece table runner that matches a quilt that I have given away, which explains why the neatly stacked triangles are still in the drawer. They sit right next to the neatly paired triangles that were left from a project that I can't even remember making. Those are on top of the T-shirt squares that I cut from my son's grade school shirts. My son is 28.
Ok, ok, I have to go shopping today, I guess I will add a box of extra large garbage bags to the list!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Only in New York

Tuesday and Wednesday were travel days for me. I was in New York City working with Timeless Treasures on my "next" and "next after that" fabric lines. Now that I have officially named the line that will be released at Spring Quilt Market we can eliminate some confusion and start to call to that one "Lauren".
Part of the joy of working with Timeless Treasures is that they have absolutely no restrictions on what I want my fabric lines to look like. I truly appreciate the latitude they extend to me because I love working with different styles, so why should all of my fabric lines have to look the same? They did suggest that for the new line a girls name seemed appropriate.

Several seasons ago I did a collection named "Lindsay". It was so named because my youngest daughter thought it was the "coolest stuff" I had ever done. The new line is named after my married daughter who is now Lauren Olson. The line was based on an antique floral piece that I fell in love with. It has beautiful shaded roses, lilacs and morning glory vines on a really great background. The coordinates are soft and bedroom like in a classic Ralph Lauren style. The line has a lot more in common with Ralph than it does with my 29 year old urban chic, sophisticated daughter. Unfortunately if I design an urban chic sophisticated fabric line, it wouldn't make sense to name it Lauren. I actually called my daughter to make sure that it was OK to put her name on a fabric line that isn't her taste. She graciously agreed and now I want to make a public commitment that if I ever design an urban chic and sophisticated fabric collection, I will name it "Olson".

My time in New York is always fun and frequently eventful. There is always something strange happening in that town. This time the weather was wonderful with only a slight chill in the air - until I left the office and started to walk around SoHo to do a little shopping. I was on the phone with my daughter when I literally ran right into a pile of snow!

A film crew was getting ready to shoot something right outside of the Old Navy store on Broadway. I finished my conversation with Lauren and used my phone to snap a few photos to share with you.

This one is of the crew setting up the lights and equipment on the opposite side of the street. Those are normal people walking by and lots of traffic on the street like nothing strange was happening!

I assumed that the filming was an Old Navy commercial, because the "snow" was limited to the sidewalk just outside the store, but the next day I found out that they have been filming a movie all around the area.

What you are looking at in this photo is one of the several Arctic Glacier trucks that were filled with giant blocks of ice. The crew was sliding the blocks of ice down a ramp into a tree chipper and using a hose to spread the "snow" around the sidewalk.

If those crazy Old Navy mannequins show up in a commercial standing outside in the snow, you can say you saw the "before" photos here. Come to think of it, if this is an Old Navy commercial they are filming, isn't it a bit weird that they are using real snow and fake people?

And for those of you that were wondering, I got back to the hotel too late, too hungry and much too tired to request a goldfish to keep company!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


This past weekend while average Americans were up to their normal bag of tricks and treats, six busloads of quilters took Halloween to a whole new level by taking part in our Spooktacular event!

We partnered with 5 fabulous shops in the northeast, each of whom filled a bus with excited quilters and sent them off for the weekend to visit the other 5 shops. It took months of planning to organize and prepare a schedule where each bus arrived at a shop, had time to shop, enjoy demonstrations and a delicious meal before heading off to the next shop or their hotel for the evening. Each of the six participating stores had the opportunity to show off their unique personality and everyone pulled out their "A-game" to make the busloads feel welcome.
This is a photo of my bus as we welcomed them home after three days, two hotels, 7 meals in three states and six quilt shops (including mine)

and they are still smiling!
What you can't see in the photo is the mountain of merchandise that they purchased along the way! This was a shopping trip, an ultimate shop hop, and our bus took their mission to heart. As part of the fun our bus kept track of what the entire bus spent in each store. They collectively stimulated the economy to the tune of ...... on second thought, maybe I shouldn't put the total amount in print. I doubt that any of their husbands actually read my blog, but I do know that several of them definitely don't want their loving husbands to see their next charge card statement! Let's just say that the quilting economy here in the northeast won't need a bailout any time soon.

I know they were excited with their purchases, one woman made sure that she had her fabrics and other goodies, but she went home and left her suitcase at our store!

While the happy hoppers were on the buses traveling to the next shop, my dedicated staff and a few favorite customers who graciously offered to help handle the crowds were busy stocking and re-stocking, straightening the shop and preparing for the next group. Because a meal was involved with each visit and my kitchen is close to the shop, I took care of preparing the food. Lunch was simple, we offered our guests a choice of soup, salad, bread, cheese, apples and cookies for desert. The soups were easy, we put them in crock-pots and it made the perfect fix-it and forget-it meal. Dinner was a bit more difficult.

There were 50+ women on our Friday evening bus and we were serving manicotti for dinner. Heating 50+ servings of anything and keeping it warm isn't easy - at least it isn't easy for me! I put dinner in the oven on low for what I thought was far more time than they would actually take to heat. Then in combination of my miscalculation and being informed that the bus would be arriving early, a mild panic set in. I found myself in my kitchen, in a true Lucy moment. I was literally up to my elbows in spaghetti sauce when the bus arrived. Thankfully Debby stepped right up to deal with our guests and with the help of a borrowed electric roaster and my husband to help transport things between kitchens, the meal went off without a hitch. -but my car is going to smell like spaghetti sauce for awhile.
Speaking of "up to my elbows", you may have noticed, Saturday was Halloween. In an effort to be festive, I decided to wear my favorite costume to work. Not being much for dressing-up, my favorite costume consists of two sleeves that extend from my wrist to just above my elbow and are made out of stocking fabric and imprinted with colorful tattoos. From a distance they look pretty authentic, except for the seam and the fact that they stop at my wrist with a serged edge. I welcomed our first bus wearing them. I directed them to lunch, the bathroom, the demo area and pointed out a few of our unique projects. They all just looked at me. No smiles, no giggles, no excited shoppers. I blamed it on the long bus ride and went off to start the casual demonstrations. After a few minutes one of the older ladies said "Oh my word! Those tattoos are fake!" another one added "Oh, thank heaven, I was wondering why such an attractive woman would do such a thing to her body". It never occurred to me that they would think that rose tattoos on a 50+ year old quilter were real! Then just as they were leaving one of the younger women on the bus stopped me and said "I love your store, I admire your creativity and I think your ink is cool". It took me a moment to realize that by "ink" she meant the tattoos. She was crestfallen and a I lost tons of credibility points when I told her they were fake!
When you hear the rumors, rest assured that the only "ink" I own is in my printer!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Travel with the "Other Half"

I am scheduled to log some serious air miles over the next few weeks for several different occasions. There are a few business trips and a few family trips that are all happening in rapid succession. I have a page of itineraries pinned to my wall. It is easy to tell which ones are business and which ones are pleasure. The accommodations are MUCH pricier for the business trips. I am treated to some pretty nice places, with some ridiculous prices, for business reasons. I get a glimpse of how the "other half" lives and it has me wondering about their priorities. I am also fascinated by customer service and what companies will/won't do to keep your loyalty.

I just returned from a trip to International Quilt Market that required a flight to Houston with a stop over each way in Memphis. It seems that no matter where you fly, you have to stop over somewhere. I had never been to Memphis, and all I can tell you about the trip from Concourse A to Concourse C is that the entire place smells like barbecue. Not a bad first impression. I like barbecue and now I have a favorable impression of Memphis.

In Houston we stay at the famed Four Season Hotel. Amazing service, wonderful beds, fluffy white bathrobes and the absolute best lemon verbena bath products. For the discounted rate of $160 per night you get turn down service and free coffee in the lobby, but no Internet connection. If you want to check your email you have to cough up an additional $12.95 per day. When I questioned having to pay for a simple Internet connection that is FREE at Starbucks around the corner the impeccably dressed concierge person informed me that the $12.95 included a complete 24 hour time period. Well, geez, he had a point, a whole 24 hours of Internet availability for just over .50 cents an hour is a bargain. Especially compared to the $6 glass of juice and $18 eggs I had just consumed for breakfast. When another person in our party mentioned that she hated seeing herself in the intense magnifying mirror first thing in the morning, the hotel staff offered to remove it from her room. Dismantle part of the bathroom, no problem. Allow you to check your email for free, no way.

Next weekend I am flying to Florida for parents weekend at UNF. That will require a stop over in Atlanta. Years ago they sold a t-shirt in the Atlanta airport that read "When I die and go to heaven, I will probably have to change planes in Atlanta". All I know is that it doesn't matter if you are headed north or south, if you are leaving out of Pittsburgh you will have to stop somewhere along the way.
Having booked my own accommodations, I am staying at a mid level hotel near campus and I am paying the "parent" rate of $49 per night. For that I paltry sum I am entitled to a deluxe room with in room coffee maker, frig, free Internet and a complimentary breakfast. The sheets will be clean, the room will be comfortable. I know this because I have stayed in this chain frequently and after this stay I will be entitled to a free night. That savings is important because as we all know, Parents weekend really means, take me shopping, take me out to eat and don't forget your credit card.

The first week of November I have to travel to New York City. My travel arrangements have been made for me and I will be staying at a very trendy boutique hotel in Tribecca. I am sure that it will be a nice place. The room will be tastefully appointed and the bath will be filled with spa products that will impress my daughters. My hotel will also be more hip than I am.

Checking their website, you will never believe what special, unique amenity they offer. Go ahead, try to guess.....
complimentary cocktail? nope.
heated towels? nope.

Goldfish. According to the website I can request that a goldfish be delivered to my room.

Can someone explain why? Was there some boardroom or think tank meeting where some hotel expert decided that to maximize profits in this day of demanding customers, goldfish are the answers? If you are away from home and lonely, is a fish really going to make you feel that much better? After an early morning flight and working all day I usually try to squeeze in a bit of shopping and grab some weird take-out and head for my room to enjoy the luxury of having the bed and remote all to myself for the evening.

You know what they say, "You can take the girl out of the Holiday Inn, but you can't take the Holiday Inn out of the girl".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pittsburgh Does Houston

Debby and I have just returned from a wonderful trip to International Quilt Market in Houston! Pittsburgh was well represented at this trade show in several different ways, quilt contributors, the best shop owners, the weather (grey and overcast). The photo above is of the Pittsburgh Project quilt that is the centerpiece of the quilt show section. The quilt is beautifully presented and the shear size of it is amazing. I stood for quite awhile waiting for the woman in the photo to move so that I could get an undisturbed photo, but she was intent on being in my picture. Now I am glad that she is there, she helps you to see just how large this project is! - Beautiful!

The goodies that we purchased are all being shipped home, so I thought that in the mean time I would share a bit of the quilt show with you.

We spend most of our time at the other end of the convention center, sifting through aisle after aisle of amazing merchandise that we purchase for the store, but I always try to take at least one quick walk through the show to see the amazing work from all over the world. This time I actually remembered to take my camera and snap a few shots on my way to the ladies room.

This piece caught my eye immediately. Earlier this month we had a shop display of the One Block Wonder quilts that have been created in our class program. While this quilt, hanging at one of the most prestigious shows in the country, is beautiful. Using those standards, the quilts that were flipped over our railing for customers to enjoy rank as spectacular! I hope this encourages more of you to display your work and enter contests. - YOU can do this!

My favorite quilts in the show are never from published books or patterns. I like to look at the off the wall, optical illusion quilts. This one was particularly appealing because it is part traditional piecing, part illusion, part art, yet it was still a quilt. It is an "art quilt" that was made using traditional methods. I have "issues" with artists that glue, pin, and generally stick stuff to a hunk of wrinkled fabric and call it a "quilt". Fiber Art, maybe. Quilt.... I don't think so.

This type of piece takes a special talent. One with a mastery of piecing, design and color. It is very impressive.

That isn't to say that I don't like Fiber Art. I do! This is a close up shot of a piece that was the first thing I was attracted to. What fun! The texture was amazing. You could stare at this for hours and find something different in every inch. Much of what you would find would make you smile. Candy wrappers, small toys, paper clips, fabric scraps, ribbon and tons of thread. There is no denying the fiber, I will leave the decision as to whether it is "art" up to you.
It had me thinking of that old saying "One mans trash is another mans treasure".

I truly appreciate fine workmanship even when I don't necessarily find the color of the quilt appealing. I marvel at the hours that someone will put into constructing the tiniest of details. This photo is of one of several bed size quilts that were constructed from the same type and style of fabric. My snarky comment is usually that the maker should probably be prescribed some anti depressants. All that work and no "pretty" fabric! But there is no denying the work that went into constructing this beauty.
The style and color pallet is what we refer to as Japanese Folk Art. The fabrics are all shades of taupe with very little contrast, but the results are beautiful. Below is a close-up of just one square and the side border. The log cabin blocks in the border are 1/2 inch strips that were assembled into blocks and then border and then appliqued. Notice that the horizontal sashings are completely different than the vertical ones. The vertical sashing was not only hand quilted, it was beaded too! The tiny flowers and leaves on those odd shaped blocks are all hand appliqued too!

I hope you are inspired to go sew something!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blog Detention

I know, I know, I should be sent to blog detention.

It has been quite awhile since I have had time to sit and write a post. Things have been very hectic around here. Don't worry, I have plenty of excuses. I should probably start with the computer mentdown that required the pruchase of a new laptop. A laptop with Vista as the operating system insead of the next edition of Microsoft 7. MY computer had to breakdown a month before the new version becomes available. That way I have to learn a whole new way of doing things and download a zillion printer drivers just to be able to function for 30 days. Then I get to do it all over again when I upgrade to the new system. I swear I could hear my old hard drive laughing at me just before it died. You may have heard bad things about Vista. You may have even said bad things about Vista. It is all true. Just my opinion.

I also learned that all Geeks are not created equal. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, I whole heartedly suggest that you avoid gthe Geeks in the North Hills Best Buy location. Take the additional 20 minutes and drive to the Cranberry store. Once you are there, bow down to the Geekiest of Geeks on the planet. They are truely miracle workers in my book. They saved my technological life after the North Hills Geek pronounced my hard drive "deader than dead". If I were not so busy with other things I would take my extreemly sharp Ginger sewing shears to the North Hills store and use them to snip that Geeks little black tie right off! Do I sould bitter? I shouldn't. Thanks to the Cranberry Geeks I have all of my info back, a new shiny laptop, a cute little travel laptop, a back-up drive and a much smaller balance in my checking account.
That is just one small part of my list of excuses for not being up-to-date here on the blog. Anothe one is that I spent the entire last weekend on a sewing retreat with customers. Work, work, work. Yes, it was an all sewing weekend at a wonderful retreat center. Yes, we have prepared meals in the dining room of the mansion. Yes, the comapny is fun to be with and we laugh quite a bit. But I sew for a living, so it still counts as work! Someone has to do it.
My new fabric line arrived just before I left on retreat. I hurried to find coordinates to take with me and managed to finish one quilt top and a good size tote bag over the weekend. When I returned home I realize that I took the wrong fabric and ended up having to make the tote bag all over again! That took a whole day. Because it is my fabric line I had to make several samples. Including the large table runner and smaller purse. That seemed sufficient considering that the whole line consists of just 2 pieces. Large and small butterflies.

If making the samples before Market were all that needed to be done it would be easy. BUT, once the sewing is finished I have to write the instructions, photograph the item, create the pattern front, make a UPC code (that involves adding every other number, multiplying by three, adding the other numbers, adding those to the first total and rounding up to get a check digit. Now you know what those engineers did before they created Vista). When everything is finished I have to print, print, print. Then fold and bag..... speaking of bags, I have to pack one. We leave for Houston and International Quilt Market in the morning. Market is earlier than usual this year. That moved deadlines up by 2 weeks! Excuse #23987.

I just returned from shipping the box of quilts to my hotel (to save on additional baggage fees). That means I am finished, done, period. Except for packing, and hemming my pants, and updating this blog.

NEXT week I will have to work myself out of blog detention and find time to tell you about all of the wonderful things we find at Market!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I've been busy!

I just received the latest copy of the Handcock's of Paducah catalog and I was shocked to see how busy I've been!

There is no other explanation. According to the recent Hancock's of Paducah catalog I have accomplished WAY more than I realized. Obviously I am working in my sleep. I mean if I had been awake at the time, you would think I would have remembered designing the line of Desert batiks.

It is possible that the nice people at Hancock's gave me credit for something I didn't do. I did design a quilt using those 10 batiks (a quilt which is not featured in the catalog) but I didn't design the fabric prints.

I did design the quilt on page 38 using the Tonga Batiks in the indigo shades. They don't mention my name, but they do have a nice "photo" of the quilt. That alone is pretty miraculous considering that I just put the final stitches in the binding of that quilt earlier this evening.
Wow, those Hancock guys are good, they managed to print the photo in the catalog before I finished the quilt! I don't blame them, that quilt is going to be extremely popular. The blue and white prints are crisp and clean and the pattern is very easy to make.

Actually, the Hancock "guys" are extremely nice people. Someone on their staff just took a few liberties with a computer generated image that I created before I started the quilt. I didn't even know that they had a copy of the crude printout I had created for the New York office. Thank goodness I didn't make any changes to the original design! Can you imagine if they ran this photo, offering the pattern and I had decided to make a star quilt instead?

Those little gremlins in catalog production hadn't finished their mischief yet. On pages 34 & 35 I was thrilled to see them feature our Daybreak and popular Jungle Fever patterns. But just above those photos I was a bit shocked to see that I was also given credit for designing their Building Blocks project! I didn't design that project, and I am not sure who did, but I hope that they understand that I had nothing to do with the mix up. I know I would be crushed if I was anxiously waiting to see my things in print and they were attributed to someone else!
I've been busy, but not THAT busy. After all, I'm still loosing 7 hours a week to running down hill! You and all the other runners in the park will be happy to know that I now have a pair of running pants that don't need suspenders!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Run, Run, As Fast As You Can

I did something momentous and completely out of character for me over the long holiday weekend. It may not seem significant to the rest of the world but I consider it an accomplishment. I ran a mile. Yep, a whole mile, and believe it or not, nobody was chasing me. Ok, the absolute truth is that it wasn’t a continuous mile, I only ran the down hill portions of a 3 mile route in our local park. It may not seem like much, but it is the furthest I have run since my freshman year in high school when I was forced to run a mile to pass gym class.

Where did this sudden burst of athletic enthusiasm come from? After we dropped our youngest at college I was pondering all of the changes in our life and decided that I should get serious about a regular exercise routine. The easiest way to get serious about exercise in our house is to tell my husband what you are thinking. He loves the “E” word. My husband is in great shape. I don’t have to add the words “for a man his age” to that statement. Cary is in better shape than most guys that are half his age. When I mentioned walking the park near our house he was all for it. To help me stay motivated he offered to walk with me each day, and he meant EACH and every day. There is no slacking off in Cary’s exercise world.

The walking part is actually quite enjoyable. The route through the park is beautiful, the weather has been perfect and I like getting an early start to my day. The bad part is that it takes about an hour to get ready and make that walk happen. Seven days a week. That is SEVEN hours out of my life. Seven valuable hours of SEWING time! Something had to be done. Convincing my walking partner, who considers a 3 mile walk a great way to “warm-up” his legs for a softball game, to skip a day or two was not an option. It seemed that the only way to speed things up is to start to run.

What the heck was I thinking?

Have you ever noticed that runners never look like they are having a good time? That is because they aren’t having fun. They are just trying to get home faster. It is either that or they are punishing themselves for some inexplicable sin they committed, like eating fries with their burger.

In my own personal, and I admit short, journey I have learned several things. The first of which is that yoga pants are for doing yoga, they are not made for running. Yoga is a gentle form of smooth exercise not at all like the jarring, pounding of feet on pavement. If you attempt to run in yoga pants, you will wish with all of your heart that you were also wearing suspenders. I also learned that I run with all the grace of a Clydesdale. My husbands size 12’s barely make a sound as they hit the pavement and my size 7½’s pound the pavement into submission. Then there is the fact that my face turns bright red when I exert myself. This has happened for as long as I can remember. It actually came in handy once when I attempted to mow our lawn and a neighbor was so concerned that I was going to drop dead that he insisted on finishing the job for me. Unfortunately nobody is offering to finish exercising for me.

Sunday we “ran” the lake at another local park. Once again I use that term lightly, we only jogged the downhill portions of the longer route. It was amusing watching the expressions of the runners that were traveling in the opposite direction. I think we were quite a sight. Cary, peacefully jogging beside me not having broken a sweat and me, beet red and desperately trying to control a pair of yoga pants with a mind of their own. One guy caught my husband’s eye and gave him the thumbs up. I imagine he was thinking “Nice of you to sacrifice your run to hang back with the little woman”. As he passed he probably added “I hope that guy has a cell phone to call the paramedics”.

The exercise hasn’t been all bad. I’ve made three new friends. Maybe you know them, Tylenol, Advil and Motrin.

Time to strap on the running shoes. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Who's Who?

Have you ever Googled yourself?

I'm not as Internet savvy as many people think. I do what I have to and muddle my way through most of that. The other day a fellow shop owner suggested that I should be checking myself out online on a regular basis, just to insure that everything that is said is actually true. To quote her exact words "Google yourself baby, you will never know what you are up to if you don't". I decided to give it a try. Some of the things I found were pretty funny.
This is not me.

Her name is Karen Montgomery and according to her bio she was featured in a Star Trek episode. I've never met Spock.

I'm not in this photo either,

The caption reads "Queen Karen Montgomery"
Anyone that knows me knows that I never want to be the queen of anything. Princess maybe. Queen never.

I didn't write this book. Karen Montgomery has authored a mystery series.

Not THIS Karen Montgomery, but it might be kind of fun to read them anyway.

We are getting warmer.......

This photo is of teacher Karen Montgomery and her class in front of the quilt that they made to honor the history of their town. At least that Karen and I have something in common.

I was thrilled to find this photo from a quilt show in the UK. The ladies are sitting in front of my Ashley quilt. The caption says that they ordered a kit designed by Karen Montgomery - me!

I love this photo best. The quilter used my Jungle Fever pattern and her own assortment of fabrics to create the quilt. I especially liked the comments she made about how much she enjoyed making the quilt and how well written the instructions were. Yea!
The photo is pretty low res. You may not be able to tell that the flowers at the bottom of the photo are actual flowers in her garden, they aren't part of the quilt. Isn't that beautiful?

It was fun to see what other Karen Montgomery's are up to and it was even better to see what people are doing with my patterns and fabrics.
It has inspired me to start a customer album on our website. If you have a photo of something you have made from one of my patterns or fabrics, send me a photo and your comments and we would love to include it! mailto:karen@thequiltcompany.com

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Five days, 8 states, 2 hotels, close to 40 hours in the car and I can't even remember how much coffee. I am finally back home after delivering our daughter Lindsay to college in Florida and then spending Sunday and Monday in Maumee, Ohio at the Checker Distributor Open House.
The first thing you should know is that college has changed. Well, not everything. The food is still pretty bad, the classes aren't that different, and books are still ungodly expensive, but the living conditions are definitely improving. Lindsay is attending UNF in Jacksonville Florida where they have just opened a new dorm. Long gone are the days of prison cell sized rooms and the bathroom down the hall. This photo is of The Fountains, the brand new dorm, and yes, that is a lazy river, complete with inter tubes for floating. The lazy river is directly across from the Olympic size swimming pool that is surrounded by lounge chairs and occupies the other side of the patio area. Do you remember your dorm having a patio area? I remember when we were happy to have a bean bag chair.

Lindsay is not living in the lap of luxury. She is in the older freshman dorm. Somehow sharing a huge room with 3 closets and a private bath with one other person in a building that features sun decks still doesn't seem all that bad. Classes are going well too. I think we are off to a good start.

I did feel a little guilty when we basically dropped poor Lindsay in her room, kissed her good-bye and headed home so that I could get back to work. I was scheduled to give a presentation to other shop owners at the Checker Distributor Open House in Maumee Ohio on Sunday. That required driving back to Pittsburgh, dropping off my husband, picking up Debby and heading for the other side of Ohio. A lot of work, but well worth the effort.

It was a wonderful event. If we ever have to select a committee to organize world domination, I am going to nominate the crew from Checkers! They managed to gather an amazing group of vendors, set them up in their warehouse space, allow several hundred customers to shop the warehouse, see demonstrations, attend lectures, feed them lunch, check them out, pack their cars and still see to every single need and comfort the vendors requested.

We had great booth neighbors. The girls from Quilt Branch were on one side and Nancy Zieman from "Sewing with Nancy" was on the other. In the few moments when we weren't busy demonstrating and answering questions we had the opportunity to exchange ideas and chat with the other vendors.

Proof positive that Debby and I really were hard at work!

Then, just after we were packed up and were ready to head home the staff at Checkers surprised me with this delicious birthday cake. Aren't they sweet? Then I returned home last night to a dozen roses from my wonderful husband, phone calls from my kids and an email box full of best wishes from some wonderful people. I call that a very satisfying weekend.

Monday, August 17, 2009

You Can't Get There From Here

This photo not only represents the horrendous mess that is my sewing area, it also pretty accurately represents what my brain would look like if you could peek inside my head. Everything is in piles scattered all over the place and nothing is finished. Nothing can be finished until something else is done and I can't get that done because something is missing.

I’m working on the quilts for fall Quilt Market using the batiks that will be introduced at the show. As always the yardage is limited, there is no room for mistakes and I have to squeeze out several projects from the same yardage. For the most part, changing my mind midstream is not an option.

For example, the nine patch quilt on the wall started out as an Ohio Star. It looked great on paper, but I had only cut a few triangles when I realized that it just was not going to work the way I had planned. Scrap the triangles and start plan B, a shaded Trip Around the World variation. Scrap plan B. The fabrics are individually beautiful but without a background to set them off they “mush”. I mean really mush, right into mud. These are beautiful prints in unique colors (we are calling this collection “Desert”) and they deserve to be seen. Simplicity is sometimes best, hence the Nine Patch. I love it again. To make it more interesting I alternated 2 different background fabrics, which I promptly ran out of when I made the quilt larger to accommodate a simpler cutting plan. More fabric is on the way, but I can’t go any further until it arrives. I also don't want to remove it from the design wall because I have already planned the location of each of the 9 patch blocks.

The 2 rows of crazy patch blocks on the left represent the first part of the new Block-of-the-Month program that we will be running this fall. There will be 30 different batiks in that program, including the 10 in the Desert collection. I can’t finish the Crazy Patch blocks until I am sure that I have everything I need for the 9 patch project. Once I chop the fabric up, there will be no more until the shipment arrives from Indonesia hopefully in early October. That accounts for the small piles of fabrics on the floor behind my desk. Each of those piles will eventually be a set of Crazy Patch blocks, unless I run out of fabric and have to make a substitution. That could change everything.

I’ve moved on to the Indigo project while I am waiting for background fabric for the 9 Patch. The blue and white pile on the end of the ironing board is the other half of the strip sets I need for the free handout quilt for Timeless. I have already completed one quilt from this collection so every square counts, no room for miss cuts or an "oops"! I have divide the fabrics in half so that if I accidently read my ruler wrong, only half of the remaining fabric will be wasted.

As for all of that other clutter..... it represents things that I would be sewing on if I had the time. Which I wish I had... but I don't. Personally, I think that if Obama really wants to pass his health care plan he should get rid of some of the "pork" and put in a provision to extend summer another month. Move Labor Day back to the first Monday in October and give us another 30 days of summer vibes. I don't want to be picky, but I really don't want another 30 days of hot, sticky, July weather. I prefer another 30 of warm, beautiful mid September temperatures. It would do wonders for my mental health! Who would argue with that?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

We started the tradition a few years ago at The Quilt Company of closing for one week each summer for a shop vacation. The first time we did it was out of need. My manager and I were going to be in Europe at the same time and most of our staff had scheduled events that were very important and they were unavailable. We decided that if we closed for a week, the world would not end, and it is a very European thing to do.

The next year we took the time off and my husband/landlord and I used it to do some messy work inside the shop. Now it is a tradition. This year we had the roof replaced, other than noise it did not disturb the customers. With the entire week scheduled off we decided to run an in-store retreat with a “Locked in the Quilt Shop” theme.

Our nine guests arrived Friday at 1:00. They moved into our classroom space and spread out. The doors are locked to outside customers, but the lucky 9 are free to shop, sew, eat, talk, laugh, sew, press, relax, talk and sew to their hearts content. Debby and I are providing meals, snacks and expert opinions – although they are doing very well on their own!

Debby and I are actually “working”. We are packing and shipping mail orders, taking phone orders and squeezing in a little sewing too. I managed to finish all of the blocks for our new sample of Can You Spare a Dime. Debby had made her daughter a skirt, her son a table topper and is working on a quilt for another member of the family.

Our guests are getting Lots of things accomplished! This is Rose laying out her French Kiss project from our BlockWatchers Club.

Ruth has been diligently working on the last several blocks of an applique project and keeping us entertained at the same time.

We have a second Rose and believe it or not, this is her first quilt!

Alice is doing her best to duck out of this photo, she has already finished one quilt top and is now working on our French Braid project. The quilt on the design wall behind her is a 3-6-9. It belongs to Mary Ann, who arrived with it all cut out and is already sewing the rows together!
This is Jean and her turquoise and white double wedding ring project! That pile of fabric beside her represents over 200 curved segments that will be included in a wedding gift for her niece.
Not too bad for one full day of sewing! We still have a great dinner to look forward to that is being catered by the Hartwood Restaurant, several more hours of sewing tonight and all day tomorrow!
It has been the best vacation you can have - without sand, water and sunshine!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Where's Waldo?

My BFF Bernie has a sleeping problem. (That’s Best Friend Forever, for those of you that don't have a teenager in your house. We’ve been friends for about 20 years, a lot longer than terms like BFF have been around). Bernie lives in Florida and we keep in touch, almost daily, by email, wonderful, hysterical emails. If we ever really want to be rich and famous, we could publish those emails, but our families would never forgive us.

The other morning my email contained a message from Bernie titled “Where’s Waldo?” It seems she was having trouble sleeping and had been up surfing quilting websites and reading blogs at 4am. Bernie considered this a total waste of time, but as a fellow fabric designer I have convinced her to chalk it up to research. It doesn’t help with the lack of sleep, but it does make you feel better about being awake.

Bernie had sent me this link: http://pamkittymorning.blogspot.com/ and told me to scroll to the July 24th entry and look at the photo, where I found this photo of quilts laid out on the floor.
It is a nice photo of the quilts that are going to be included in the next addition of Alex Anderson's “Start Quilting” book. The blog belongs to Alex’s “stunt quilter”, the person that does all of the actual work behind Alex’s quilts. My first thought as I looked at the pile of work on my own sewing center was “I gotta get one of those”.
Bernie had told me to enlarge the photo, so I double clicked and realized what old eagle eye Bernie had wanted me to see! The border on the Flying Geese quilt is the leaf print from my Lindsay Collection! How cool is THAT? Logically I know that with thousands of yards of fabrics out in the world there are all kind of quilts and other projects with my fabrics in them, but it is always a surprised when I see one.

I was sure that photo was what Bernie had wanted me to see until I went back to the blog to snitch the photo to include here and I scrolled down a little further and saw the cover of the new book! Whoo Hoo! We made the cover! Even better, the leaf design is my favorite print and the blue is my favorite colorway in the Lindsay line. Although the fabrics have been discontinued, we stashed away a stockpile of that fabric and will have it available for customers when the books arrive.
Life is good.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Top Secret Sewing

Are you wondering what I have been working on lately? I have been sewing and binding and writing instructions for several projects... but I can't tell you about them. I could tell you about them, but I can't show them to you. It is like being on double secret probation. Although sometimes the best place to hide something is right under someones nose..... are you curious yet?

In the last few weeks I have finished a project for American Patchwork and Quilting that will be featured in an issue of the magazine sometime next spring or summer. As you can imagine they like each quilt in every issue to be new and fresh looking and they certainly don't want the designers stealing their thunder by posting photos of the projects on their blogs. I will tell you that it was made with a group of navy blue and white batik prints that are absolutely gorgeous and it was delightfully fun to do. This project was so far in the future that the fabrics are not even ready yet, they don't debut until fall Quilt Market. I was working with a limited amount of sample yardage and I will be using the remaining scraps for a second project for Timeless Treasures. I designed and constructed the quilt top and Rebecca Stahl did an amazing job quilting the project for me. If you were in the shop you may have seen it. It was in pieces on the design wall, photographed in the classroom and spent several days draped over my ironing board. Sometime next summer you may pick up a magazine and think to yourself, "hmmm, that looks familiar".

We were also thrilled to receive a pattern order for our "All that Miters" project from... let's call them a "large catalog house". They too don't like to have their selections publicized before the catalog is released. This table runner pattern was a last minute project for my Traditions fabric line for spring Quilt Market. After finishing all of the full size projects for the market booth I realized that I didn't have one that featured the stripe print, so I made this runner using only the stripe. After hours of designing, planning and construction on the theme quilts this last minute project attracted the most attention - go figure. In this case the pattern All That Miters will be featured in the catalog, but it will also be available on our website very shortly and is already available in our store. If you would like to order the pattern now, you can call the shop at 412-487-9532.

As long as I am doing "sneak peeks" I might as well show you the newest Button Pillow in our selection. CookieTime is hot off the needle and the instructions are finished. Kits are underway and we are pre-cutting and pre-fusing the gingerbread men to be included in our kits. As always we will be including the cute embellishments and floss right in the pattern pack so that you have everything you need to finish the project. It takes the staff elves quite a bit of time to put the kits together, but we expect them to be ready very soon. You can call the shop to reserve one and we will gladly set one aside for you. The fun part about this pattern is that you have the option to dress the gingerbread men in aprons or shorts, although I prefer mine wearing nothing but icing trim!
The button people have finally responded to our many requests for sew-through buttons and you can expect to see several new designs featuring snowmen with carrot noses and birthday candles and Hanukkah items and winter trees and lots more very soon!