Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Today's Question:

"Who is this good looking guy and why does he want to be my friend?"

Not that I am opposed to having great looking Italian men find me fascinating, but honestly, why would this guy want to be friends with a 50+ year old married quilt shop owner? Months ago when I joined Facebook for the lone reason that I wanted to sign-up for Sandy Brawner's "I bet I can find 1,000,000 people that love quilting" page I was introduced to a whole new world of technology.

For those of you without Facebook pages (if you have lots of time to waste on the computer) I suggest that you give it a try. It is fascinating what pops up! Once you fill in the harmless (I hope) part of your profile, it immediately starts suggesting "friends". People that you went to school with, people that you have common interests with, people, people and more people. As you accumulate "friends" it suggests more with the added bonus of telling you how many friends you and this new person have in common.

From day one this good looking Italian guy was on my list. We have several friends in common. Who the heck is he? His photo certainly stood out among my quilter friends and family! The thing about Facebook is that you can't see someones profile unless both of you agree to be friends. I didn't want to ask this guy to be my friend just to figure out who he was - I've read about Internet stalking! (at this point both of my daughters will laugh out loud and exclaim "Yea right Mom - you wish!!!)

Early today I received a friend request from him!

"Karen, Alex....here today, Karen I see we have 24 mutual friends, I will be very happy to have you on my friends list too. Alex.".

It took about 2 seconds for me to click on that link and see who this guy is!

Reading his profile explained everything. Alex is part of the Italian sales team for Aurifil Thread. We love that thread so much that I purchased a huge floor rack of it at Quilt Market. So much for my summer of Italian intrigue, but to be honest, at this point in my life I would rather have a fling with a really great thread. Alex and I are going to be really good friends.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Hot New Thing!

As if by magic the convention center goes from a huge empty hall to this!
If you walk down the blue carpet starting at the lower left corner of the photo and make a left at the second corner you would be in our booth. If you made a right, you would be in the Timeless Treasures booth. Keep in mind that this photo only shows a portion of the sales floor!

At every Quilt Market there is always a buzz on the convention floor that starts sometime after lunch on the first day. Shop owners that are struggling to cover 26 aisles of merchandise start talking or asking each other about "the hot new thing". It can be anything from a new notion to a special buy on fabric to a technique that has been reinvented in a way that will inspire customers. There always seems to be something that everyone is talking about and there is no real way to predict what it might be.

We had an amazing first day in our booth. Standard procedure for shop owners is to walk the floor on day one without buying anything. Then after they have seen everything they formulate a plan and start to shop. At least that is the plan. I know it never works for us! Sometime on day one we begin to realize that if we want it, we want it. There is no reason to come back, we just get it when we see it. Many shop owners seem to feel the same way. Our pattern sales on day one far exceeded our expectations and people started to show up at the booth telling us that someone had sent them to check us out. Let the buzz begin!

By the end of day one, Debby looked at me and said "I think WE are the hot new thing!" and I think she was right! This was the first Market that we offered our full line of Button Pillow Patterns to the rest of the world. We sell tons of them here in the shop and we wholesale them on a very low key basis. We know they are wonderful, but it was very gratifying to find out that the rest of the world thinks so too! The small size, easy to accomplish patterns and the opportunity to try a little something new on a small project has a lot to do with their appeal. The thing that pushes them over the top is that we include all of the embellishments right inside the pattern. Buttons, beads, ribbon, whatever you need, it comes packed in the pattern. All for just $10 retail. The only thing you add is fabric!

We have 11 pillows in the series. If you want to check them out, you can see them all under the Button Pillow tab on our website at http://www.thequiltcompany.com/ .

By the end of day two we had spoken to a magazine editor that ask me to design a pillow just for them. Several Media writers had stopped by to see what all the talk was about and Timeless informed me that they were going to have to air in additional fabric to handle the demand.

Please don't be concerned that all this popularity will go to my head. The world has a way of keeping me grounded. For example: Bernie, Debby and I stopped by the Quilts Inc Education Office to check on the location of my lecture. The Director of Education took one look at Bernie and said "I was in your store yesterday". Bernie, my friend from Florida replied "No, you were in Karen's store" and pointed to me. I had greeted this woman when she walked in the door. She looked me head to toe and said, "No, if you were there I don't remember you". Proving that I have no need for dark glasses.

Day three is always a slow day on the Market floor. People start to head home. It is the perfect time for buyers to visit and negotiate with vendors. It is also a great time to catch up with old friends in the industry. It was also the first time that Debby and I had a chance to sit and place fabric orders. I also snuck out to lunch with the other members of the My Quilt Village so that we could plan the next several months. There are going to be some interesting changes and some great offerings. Keep an eye on this blog for announcements.

Now that all the whoopla is over we are doing our best to catch up on our sleep and get back to the normal level of chaos around here. We have tons of orders to ship. I have lots of designing to do. I just booked my flight to New York to plan for October. Another week or two and we start this craziness all over again!

To be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More on Market

Friday morning is the first day that the Market floor is open. Vendors are ready. The convention floor has gone from a vast empty space to booth after booth of amazing merchandise. Quilt Market has to be one of the most colorful places on earth! On the first morning of the show you can feel the excitement and anticipation of everyone involved, but the floor does not open until 9:30.

To fill the early morning hours Quilts Inc. offers educational lectures and classes. I was asked to give a one hour talk on buying. It was both an honor and a humbling experience to be singled out by the powers that run Market to give this talk. Anyone that knows me is well aware that talking for an hour on almost any subject is not a problem for me. But this invitation was extended by Marti Michelle and she specifically asked that I speak on the topic of "how to buy". I will admit that I am a successful shop owner, but I also have a degree in ART, not FINANCE. Preparing for the talk was a bit intimidating. Not normally one to use notes, I prepared an outline - color coded of course, with 4 key points. I printed it out in large type (so that I could see it without my glasses) on 8 separate pages. All I had to do was run through it early in the morning and I would be set and ready to go.

A little secret: I put my lecture notes inside a magazine for safe keeping and you guessed it, during the chaos of set-up we lost the magazine! Luckily I had left a second copy of the outline at home and as I was doing my best to control my panic Thursday evening with a lemon drop martini my husband got out of bed and saved the day by faxing the pages to the hotel. Whew!

We had a few minutes before getting to work in our booth to run over to the Henry Glass booth and take photos of Bernie's cupcake quilt made from her new fabric line. They had these adorable matching chair covers made too!

We had a very busy day in the booth, but I had to leave my very capable staff in charge to run home. Friday evening was Lindsay's senior prom. They had a perfect evening for the event. Thank heaven Market was in town and I didn't have to miss any of the fun! My daughter is the one in the middle!

Tomorrow I will tell you about the "hot new thing"!

Can you spell exhaustion?

Market is finally over and I am exhausted.
I think that everyone that was here for the convention has left town. We had a few shop owners visit the store today and I put my best friend and fellow fabric designer Bernie, on a plane back to Florida this afternoon. Slowly but surely we are getting back to normal. There is far too much to try to tell you about in just one post, so here is an overview of just the first two days.

It has been a week like no other. I had intended to snap photos throughout the week to share with you. I even got off to a good start by taking these shots of our store on Wednesday morning as we did the last minute prep before the visitors and the bus load of shop owners arrived.

I don't know what I was thinking. Once the front door opened and visitors started streaming in, there was absolutely no time to take photos!

We were very excited that everyone from magazine editors and publishers to owners of our favorite shops across the country to Moda designers and international visitors from Brazil, England, New Zealand, Ireland and everywhere in between stopped by to say hello.

Once we closed the shop at 5pm it was time to hit the convention center floor and start setting up our booth. My most wonderful husband and best friend Bernie had already schleped an over stuffed van of furniture, carpet, drape and merchandise to our space. We just had to get it organized and make our 10" by 20" home for the next 3 days say "wow" and stand out against the competition.

Getting noticed in the convention center isn't as easy as you might think. Here is a glimps of just half of the convention floor on set-up day. Imagine 3 full football fields of nothing but quilting products, fabrics, patterns, books, notions. When you are a pattern designer, that is pretty humbling competition!
Thursday is not only the second day of set-up, it is also Schoolhouse and Sample Spree day. We are in the booth getting things ready by 8 A.M. Classes run from 10am to 6pm and Sample Spree is from 8pm until 10pm. It is a LONG day
I always try to take time out to hear my favorite speakers and friends give their presentations. This is Deb Welsh from Quilting Possibilities talking about the class program that she created.

My presentations were a bit later in the day. Here is what it look like from the podium as people stream into the room to hear me speak.

After class it is back to the booth to hang the quilts and schlep the Sample Spree merchandise to our table location. Sample Spree is difficult to describe. Photos don't do it justice. Without the sound of stampeeding quilters headed for the Moda booth you don't get the full effect!

Once the bedlam was over we went to the hotel, had a well deserved lemon drop martini and went to bed! We needed a good nights sleep. Friday I had an 8 am lecture to give and the Market floor opened at 9:30.