Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Sewing Help

As a pattern designer/instruction writer I get lots of feedback from consumers. Mostly in the form of phone calls and emails, because my name, address, email and every other bit of contact information possible is on everything I publish. I always cringe, just a little bit when the staff hands me the phone and says "It's a customer with a problem". I am human, and try as hard as I possibly can not to, I do make mistakes. We go above and beyond to correct an issue as quickly and efficiently as possible and do everything we possibly can to remedy the situation they create. I want you to be happy with our products. I also appreciate constructive criticism. It is nice to hear that you think another illustration or arrow or red line would help someone be more successful in the future.

Sometimes is isn't me with the problem. From time-to-time we get calls or emails from extremely irritated customers, that insist I am A COMPLETE MORON THAT SHOULD BE TAKEN OUT BACK AND SHOT for writing such horrid instructions. After walking them through the step-by-step instructions that I KNOW are correct because they have been followed hundreds of times, we discover the step they skipped or what they "think" they read and get them back on the right track. Most of customers are grateful for the personalized attention. Sometimes, much to my amusement, when the light bulb finally goes off in the consumers head, they are so embarrassed by the conversation they simply hang up on me!

Sometimes the messages are just plain funny. If you are stressed over holiday sewing, you are going to enjoy the following. Bernie is my BFF. She lives in Florida and has a degree in Family and Consumer Science - that's Home Ec. for us common folk. She recently had an issue with our Tea Towel Apron pattern and the following is the email she sent me. Enjoy!

"I want you to know, that despite your best intentions, your "Quick and Easy Apron" pattern directions are not idiot proof. I am living, almost breathing (despite a stuffy nose) example of it. May I suggest that in future printings you print the "finished edge" line in RED with the caption "Do NOT cut on this line, you Moron". I have already altered my directions in this way - too late. Never mind that I had already made one of these with great success. I'm blaming the cold meds for this disaster. It might also be helpful to suggest that the consumer use a "good quality" tea towel and not one with a rather loose weave that cost $2.

Of course the SMART thing to do, once I realized my cutting error, would have been to attach a casing out of "regular" fabric. I decided instead to sew the corners, that I had just lopped off, back on. Great idea, except that I sewed one of the corners, wrong sides together, instead of right sides together. I had to rip that one out, a nightmare on the loosely woven fabric. Except, I ripped out the one I had sewn correctly, so I ended up ripping them both out. It would have been "smarter yet" to sew them back on using the serger. Except the one I own has been buried in my closet since we did the kitchen remodel, seven years ago..... and it is threaded in black.

Despite ending up with a ravelled mess, I forged ahead. By the time I had everything sewn back on, trimmed correctly and top stitched, the bottom of the casing ended up too "high" on the sides. I decided to sew grosgrain ribbon loops further down to pull the ties through so that they were not right under my boobs. By the time I finished sewing the cute contrasting pocket on, it had been 2 1/2 hours since I started! I fully expect it to unravel the first time I wash it, but it looks SO cute hanging on the side of my fridge!

My plan was to make these for my quilt group for next Christmas. I have 12 months to make 7 aprons. I better get started."

Ho Ho Ho..............

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Sewing

The Christmas crunch has started. We have hosted our first session of Handmade for the Holiday demonstrations at the shop. Fliers, ads and circulars have started to arrive at my house by the pound. There are turkeys in defrost mode in millions of refrigerators across the country. I have received catalogs for every food product that could possibly be shipped as a gift - and a few that you might not want to receive! It is time to turn on the sewing machine and get started on those gifts that I intend to give. That was today's plan. Get going. Check some gifts off that list......

I did get to sew for most of the day. First I had to prepare an email blast that will go out on Monday morning to our local customers. I try to send a sampling of photos of new fabrics and products to those that can walk into our store. Very few of our fabrics are uploaded to our website. Sometimes I make a suggestion for what the new fabric might be used for.

On Friday Jerry, our UPS man delivered the mother lode of novelty fabrics. Each one was more adorable than the last. Opening the boxes in a fabric delivery is like Christmas all year round. Judging by this shipment, we have been very good girls this year.

There were chef prints and daisies and stripes with fruit. PacMan looking ghosts and French postcards and knitting sheep. Adorable knitting sheep. I suggested to my email audience that the sheep would make a great looking knitting bag. Too cute. Back to sewing.

My oldest would love something made out of the French line. We can always use a new sample of the Easy Stripe Table Runner. My baby sister had those chef prints in her kitchen at one point. I wonder if she would like an apron, or maybe a table runner. I should get started....

Several hours later I had done a lot of sewing. No gifts to show for my time, just some class prep for next week and this adorable knitting bag. I don't need a knitting bag. Nobody on my gift list knits. I just couldn't resist. Those sheep, trimmed with a sweater print, stitched into my version of the Chinese Take-Out bag was just too perfect to not stitch up. I even made and added those great looking handles using the pattern from Aunties Too. I had a great time making that bag.

Anyone on my gift list want to learn to knit?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Introducing the Quick Trim Ruler!

I mentioned late in the summer that I had designed a ruler for Creative Grid and promised to show it to everyone here on the blog as soon as we had samples and video ready to go. I have to admit that it took longer to find time to shoot the video than it did to produce the ruler! We filmed quick demonstrations at Quilt Market that are available on You Tube and on the Checker Distributors website. Keep in mind that these are last minute videos that were filmed on the convention floor, not professional studio shots. You will hear lots of convention noise in the background as people stopped by asking questions and making comments just off camera. I can hear them, but you can't, that explains my temporary distractions. If you would like to see me, exhausted, having a bad hair day on the last day of Market, click on the link below. Keep in mind it is all about the RULER - not me!

Designing the ruler and working with the Creative Grid team has been a delightful experience. When they agree to do something, consider it done. I suggested the ruler on a Friday afternoon. I emailed drawings of what I wanted it to look like Monday morning. One week later the design was approved, changes had been made, Plexiglas had been ordered and two weeks later I had a prototype in my hand. For someone that is use to taking a year to pull a fabric line together that is like working at the speed of light!
I have had the ruler to work with for almost 2 months. I LOVE the way it works and I hope you will too! Naturally I had to design a few quilts to work with the ruler - although the ruler works with ANY 45 degree angle line on ANY pattern you already own.
Both our Sea Glass, pictured here, and the Migration pattern have step-by-step illustrations of how to position the ruler right in the instructions. Both quilts are "jelly roll" projects as well. One set of 40 strips with just a little more fabric added will make either one of the quilts.
My absolute favorite part of the ruler is that I no longer have to draw a zillion lines to sew on. I simply pre-trim the pieces and sit down and sew. Perfect every time. Demonstrating the ruler to both customers and other shop owners I have discovered that everyone else loves the idea of using the ruler to trim their binding strips. Apparently that has been a big issue for most quilters - problem solved! Feel free to go back and watch that segment of the video if you missed it or stop in the shop, we would love to show you in person! If you don't live near The Quilt Company, stop in your favorite quilt shop and ask for a demo on the ruler, I am pretty confident that I showed it to every quilt shop owner that attended Quilt Market! Tell them I sent you!
PS If you can't find the Quick Trim Ruler in your area, call the shop and order one by phone. The price is just $16 + postage and we would be happy to send you one.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I have to say that the combination of joy, exhaustion, creativity and adrenalin of attending International Quilt Market has me wishing I was facing a three day weekend instead of a full work week, but I wouldn't want to miss it for the world.

Four full days of teaching, demonstrating, walking the floor, and placing orders, combine with drinks and dinners with other shop owners and vendors that feel more like family is more fun than work, but exhausting just the same.

Debby and I have fun no matter where we go. Sometimes I am pretty sure that we are the only two people that find the situation funny, but that doesn't deter us from having a good time. For example, Ty Pennington was at Quilt Market. He is offering a new fabric line called Impressions and you could stop by this booth to meet him. During set-up time, when the walls of the booth had to be screwed together, Ty was nowhere to be found. There were a few girls and a cordless drill manhandling things into place. Where is that DIY guy when you need him?

Talk about fun.....

The Swirly Girls pattern company has designed a new block of the month program for Michael Miller fabrics. MM was gracious enough to invite us to a beautiful breakfast so that Susan, from Swirly Girls could explain the program to us. Deb loved it immediately, but I was a bit more cautious. I know what it is like to be in over your head, making promises that you only hope you can keep for the next 12 months. I usually prefer to be in charge of my own destiny, so I decided to think about it. By our last day at Market neither of us had seen anything that we liked better than the new Clubhouse program, so we stopped by to give it another look. I then realized that if you bought the program, Swirly Girls (also girls that know how to have fun) allowed one person from your party to be entered into their glass wind tunnel. You had the opportunity to "grab" as much Swirly Girl cash as possible in 30 seconds.

That made the decision.

We were definitely doing the program.

Guess who was going in the booth

Deb secured enough cash to
win two charm packs of the
same fabrics that are used in the block of the month.

I guess she will still be buying lottery tickets if she really wants to strike it rich.

Deb's quote "That isn't as easy as it looks!"

Luckily the quilt is beautiful and you can look forward to making it starting just after the first of the year.

Wind tunnel not included.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite Things

I've been busy getting ready for International Quilt Market in Houston. Normally I am knee deep in fabric scraps of a new fabric collection right about now, but this year things are different. I don't have a new fabric collection.

Last year, about the time I should have been working on the artwork for this Market, we chose to take on a BERNINA sewing machine dealership. It wasn't a decision that I took lightly and the time commitment to new dealer training, staff training, store adjustments, etc. was too important to share or impose on my design time, so I decided to let this Market slide.

Now that the dealership is up and running in full speed, over the last several months I've been contemplating how nice it will be to just go and enjoy the Market atmosphere. No sales side of the aisle, just the buying side of the aisle. Everyone knows buying is much more fun than selling! Buying is good, very good, but in my mind creating is ever so much BETTER!

Without the pressure of Market samples for a new fabric line, I have had time to create. I've still been ankle deep in fabric scraps, they just aren't mine! Along the creative journey I have found a few new items that have made me very happy. I have access to just about anything that I want in the sewing world and I have very discriminating taste. A notion has to really be worth it's weight in gold to make it into my stash or earn a recommendation to my customers. I also like things that work with ease and hopefully do more than one thing. Working on my most recent projects I have discovered a few new favorites.

Sue Hausmann told me about Steady Betty. It may not look like much, but like a tried and true friend, Steady Betty is there when you need her. I have the 15 by 24 inch size. Betty is a foam covered pressing surface that is suitable for ironing but is unbelievably helpful when hooping a project for machine embroidery. If you have ever felt like you needed another set of hands to get a project in a hoop, I suggest Steady Betty. She comes in smaller sizes, but in my opinion, get the big one! Your little hoops won't mind. Naturally we have them in our store, but if you are not local, I would bet the quilt shop in your area could order one for you too.

My sewing moto has always been "It is all in having the right tools" but sometimes I don't take my own advice. When we get the time, most of us are just happy to be sewing. We can figure out how to make do with whatever we have. There are always multiple ways to accomplish a task and if we can do it without having to invest in something special, all the better. The other day I was working on a wall hanging that needed some "in the ditch" quilting. I wasn't looking forward to doing it. I can do it and I can do a good job if I go slowly, but those few stitches that "jump" out of the ditch drive me crazy. I decided to try a specialty foot for my BERNINA. They call it an Edge Stitching Foot, because there is a center fin in the foot that helps you guide your fabric so that you can stitch an even distance from the edge. BUT if you put that same guide in the "ditch" created by your seam, the needle stays right there - in the ditch! Wow that was easy! I have the BERNINA 830, which is why this foot looks so huge. The 830 is a 9mm machine with differential feed, so the foot is wider. You can get a "regular" one for your machine.

As long as I was in fancy feet mode, I decided to give the foot for sewing on buttons a try. I can't honestly remember the last time I stitched a button on by hand. Any machine that zig-zags will sew a button on. Simply set your stitch length to zero. The holes on all buttons are standard, no matter what size the button is. Technically you are zig-zagging in place. Who the heck needs a special foot for sewing on buttons? Any zig-zag foot works just fine. Ok, fine. Occasionally you break a button or a needle. It is rare that one slips out and zings its way across the room. It isn't like I've ever put anyone's eye out. I guess that explains the little rubber grips on the specialty button foot. They hold the slippery little devils in place while you sew. Some genius also thought about adding that little bar in the middle that gives just the right amount of slack to the thread so that if you plan to actually button the button, there is room for the buttonhole to close underneath - what will they think of next......

Thursday, September 23, 2010


If you call me and I don't answer, I apologize.

If you text me, I am going to need you to call me so that you can tell me what your text says.

I will call/text you back.... eventually.

Earlier this week my husband needed a new cell phone. After about an hour in the phone store, we decided that he is not really ready for top notch technology. To make a long story short, he now has my old phone and I have a brand new, newfangled phone with a touch screen. We decided that with all of my traveling, it would be nice to have Internet access on my phone. Now I have to learn to use it. My husband told me it would be simple, I think he used the phrase "anyone can do it". This is the same man that was adamant with the clerk at the phone store that whatever phone he chose, she would have to transfer his ENTIRE contact list to the new phone. There was no way he would find time in his busy schedule to type ALL of those numbers into a new phone. She agreed to perform the service at no charge. I'm sure that she was wildly amused when she discovered that my husbands extensive list of contacts, that he said would take "forever" to transfer, contained exactly EIGHT numbers. I am not married to a phone geek.

My new phone is sleek and wonderful, and I have no idea how to use it. It has been a very busy week getting ready for Fall Festival at the Chautauqua Institute. It has not been a good week to learn new technology. I thought I would start with the instruction book. Have you seen the instructions for the new phones? The booklet that explains how to make a call, send and receive text messages, access the Internet, play games, track your entire life with an "App", take photos and about a zillion other functions is smaller than the phone!

My first clue that this would not be as easy as I thought was when I discovered that the print in the teeny tiny booklet was too small to read - and I was wearing my glasses! I had my son give me a few tips, a quick lesson on the 19 things I have to touch to get to the screen that allows me to dial. Answering is still a bit tricky and you can forget finding text messages. I set the tone that lets me know when one arrives, so at least I know I'm missing something. I just have absolutely no idea how to retrieve them.

At the store the clerk was more interested in showing me how to download Apps. She flipped a few things, handed me the phone and said "Go ahead, type in anything you are interested in" I typed in "quilt". She looked at me and said "really?" Meanwhile up popped 4 new "Apps". One was marked "Binding Calculator" and it was free, so I touched it. I now have an App on my phone that allows me to calculate quilt binding. I don't really need that app, I can calculate binding in my sleep, but it was free, and it is the only thing on my phone that I know how to use, so I am keeping it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Road - AGAIN!

In my last post I mentioned that I was off to Chicago for more Bernina training. I wasn't kidding and as you can see from the photo, neither was Bernina. This is what the hotel ballroom looked like as over one hundred of us arrived to a find a sea of 830 boxes ready and waiting for us to unpack and get down to sewing. That is exactly what we did and every minute of it was a learning experience.

We did some amazing things with the 830 in our action packed days, although I do have to say that I think we could have accomplished even more if they didn't stop to feed us every 2 hours!
All that eating wasn't necessarily a bad thing, meal times were spent getting to know our fellow dealers. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner with some old friends and many new ones. Getting to know Beverly and Nancy from Abigayle's Quiltery in Olmstead Falls, Ohio was an absolute delight. That came in handy for my next road trip.

I was scheduled to teach and speak at Quilts'N Gifts in Bluffton, Indiana last weekend. Mary Porrata the owner had requested that I bring as many quilts as possible with me for the event. When you are traveling with quilts, the only way to make sure they arrive safe and sound is to travel by car. Quilts are HEAVY and it only takes one or two to put you over the weight limit. Although we love our men in brown, and they "guarantee" delivery, if they don't deliver, the guarantee only means they return your shipping expense. I would still be left standing in the middle of an empty ballroom with no show and tell for my lecture. So my husband packed up the car and we left a day early for Indiana.
Not having to hurry meant that I could toss the Quilter's Travel Companion in the car and program the Garmin for one quilt shop after another. Stop #1 was to visit Nancy and Beverly at Abigayle's. Just a bit over 2 hours from Pittsburgh, this shop and the wonderful little village that they are located in, is well worth the trip. Both Nancy and Beverly are delightful and tons of fun. If you stop by, be sure to drool over their wonderful samples and then wander upstairs to see their classroom that is completely stocked with 830 machines. - can you tell I am jealous?

Stop #2 was in South Amherst, Ohio at Quilt's and Creations. As luck would have it - they were having a SALE! Located in a 100+ year old building right on Main Street, this shop is easy to find and very well stocked. Don't worry about shopping after a sale here, there will still be plenty of bolts to choose from.

I couldn't resist taking my husband to The Door Mouse in Betsville, Ohio for stop #3. This shop, which qualifies as being located in "the middle of nowhere" in my book, has more fabric in the building than any other shop I have ever been to. When you own a store and your husband does your accounting, it helps if you show him shops that make you look like you are controlling your inventory! The Door Mouse is packed with fabric. Perfectly organized, neat, clean, aisles of overwhelming amounts of fabric. They have great samples too, on the walls of the "second floor". You can see them from the loft, which is filled with flannel. If you visit this shop, take a map with you. My Garmon never did find it and google maps insists that it is located in Kansas, Ohio.

Our 4th shop was in Bluffton, but the Ohio Bluffton, not the Indiana Bluffton. Forever In Stitches is located on Main Street in a picture perfect small town. The shop is beautiful and much to my surprise I ran into a customer that has moved to that area and now works in that shop. I looked around a little, but both my husband and I were fascinated by the TWO Gammill quiting machines in the back of the store. We had a lovely visit and stopped at the ice cream store on the way out of town as we headed for the Bluffton in Indiana.

The remainder of the weekend was spent with Mary at Quilts'N Gifts. Saturday I taught 2 classes to a delightful group of customers that will be the first to attest that I can TALK about quilting! Mary provided a great lunch and we all enjoyed her store. I was especially amused at Mary's use of all of her available sales space, including the ceiling!

Sunday I was the featured speaker at Mary's customer appreciation luncheon at the local Country Club. Now you know why Mary wanted me to bring as many quilts as possible. She wrapped the room with quilts, including the entrance and hallway. The majority of the quilts were mine, but she also included a few customer quilts that were made as part of my 9 patch summer challenge that launched right here on the blog. It was an absolutely delightful way to spend the weekend. We headed home on Sunday evening and enjoyed a beautiful drive through the Ohio countryside.

Tomorrow I head for Eden, New York to do another presentation and next weekend, the Chautauqua Institute for Fall Festival. Then I really am going to stay home and SEW - until Quilt Market at the end of October!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Life As A Long Haul Trucker

I don't really drive a big rig. I drive a mini van. What many of you would consider a brand spanking new mini van, we only took delivery of it at the end of June. I would much prefer to be driving something small, sporty, with dual exhaust and 5 on the floor. Owning a quilt shop means that you haul a lot of "stuff" with you when you travel for work. So much stuff that something small and sporty would never do.

The reason that I feel like a long haul trucker is that when I arrived at work today and parked my brand spanking new mini van the odometer read 6314 miles. A mere 61 days old and I am averaging a little over 105 miles per day. That is a lot of mileage for someone that has a commute to work that is measured in FEET!

Most of the mileage accumulated making 2 trips to Florida. The first was for a wedding at the beginning of July, the second was last Thursday, returning our daughter Lindsay to college in Jacksonville. I drove Pittsburgh to Jacksonville, moved her into her dorm room, and drove back home to Pittsburgh in 36 hours. Then I drove to Maumee Ohio, near Toledo the very next day for the Checker Open House. Checker is our favorite wholesale distributor and I was scheduled to give a lecture on Sunday and demonstrate my new Creative Grid ruler to other shop owners on Monday. It was great fun - even if it did require an additional 3 1/2 hours of driving- each way!

This is a wholesale event for shop owners only.
On Sunday the shop owners were treated to lectures by Electric Quilt, myself, Sue Hausmann and Eleanor Burns. Between and after the lectures they shop the warehouse for goodies to take back to their stores. On Monday the shopping frenzy included the opportunity to stop by one of 20 or so booths and chat with designers, authors and manufacturers of a whole assortment of product. That is me in the back corner demonstrating my new Creative Grid Quick Trim ruler. - you are going to love it!

Susan and Mary Jane of the Quilt Branch, authors of the "Six Halves Make A Whole" series were on our right. Susan's House ruler is a Creative Grid product too. We love their stuff!

Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs was on our left. I think I have been watching Joan demonstrate her purse patterns for well over a decade - is that possible? Her two new patterns are just as detailed and well thought out with step-by-step photos as they always have been.

Finishing out our little corner was Nancy Halvorsen. We are pretty excited about a new product we found that prints patterns right on to fusible web using your home printer. Nancy explained to Debby how to access a pdf of her artwork for the newest book and print the designs on the product - NO tracing! 'ya gotta love that!

From my point of view, one of the best things about this Open House is that Checker truly appreciates how hard we all work and Sunday evening after close, they take us all to dinner. It is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with other designers. I sat across from Eleanor Burns and next to Karla Alexander. Our table was close enough that I also had the opportunity to lean back and have a great conversation with Sue Hausmann. How's that for dinner companions?

I've known Eleanor for years, and it was nice to catch up on how her family is doing. This was my first opportunity to meet Karla, and it is easy to see why her books and rulers are so popular, we could easily become great friends! Check out that great mass of color behind her. Isn't her work beautiful!

It was my first opportunity to meet Sue Hausmann too. Naturally I feel like I know her from TV and I am quite sure that Sue had no idea who I was. She was gracious, delightful and I have to say that Sue is younger and so much more energetic and fun in person - I think PBS is so old fashion it actually ages people!

Sue and I have several things in common. This weekend tons of people were busy snapping photos and I don't think anyone took a good photo of either of us.

I don't think anyone would say that about Eleanor - she looked fabulous and entertained everyone with her barnyard presentation.

I'm adding this photo so that the next time your husband gives you a hard time about shopping at your local quilt store, you can prove to him that it could be worse - you shop by the yard - we shop by the bolt!
Now I am home for a few days before I have to head to Chicago for more Bernina training next week. The work here at home is piling up - what I really want to do is SEW!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Super Simple Sashing

Our very last setting option for the nine patch quilt is SIMPLE PIECED SASHING. There are hundreds of other options to explore, but this was intended to be a simple summer project, so let's not get too complicated! I do have to say that I am really looking forward to seeing photos of your finished quilt (or quilt top!) so please post them to the facebook page or email them to me at and I will post them for you.

Feel free to comment, make suggestions and let me know if you are interested in starting another project. We have momentum - why not keep going!

I think this simple sashing idea is the one that I will select for my finished blocks. I haven't decided on what color the sashing will be, although I have pondered the idea of colorwashing the blocks so that they shade across the quilt and doing the same with the sashing - in the opposite direction...... there I go complicating things again....

Before you select the fabrics for the cornerstones for your project, you need to decide if you want them cut from one piece of fabric or if you want them scrappy. Scrappy seems logical, especially if you, like me, cut WAY too many squares for your nine patches to begin with! But I do like the look of that constant periwinkle with those green blocks - it is so hard to decide!


66" BY 82"

80 nine patch blocks

2 1/4 yards of sashing fabric

1/2 yard of cornerstone fabric (or 99 leftover squares)

2/3 yard of binding

5 yards of backing (you may be able to run the backing the opposite direction and use less fabric, but your fabric would have to be at least 44" wide after washing, with selvedge edges removed)

Cutting Instructions
From the sashing fabric cut:
30 strips 2 1/2" by the width of the fabric, cross cut these into 178 rectangles measuring 2 1/2" by 6 1/2"

From the cornerstone fabric cut:
7 strips 2 1/2", cross cut these into 99 squares measuring 2 1/2"

From the binding fabric cut:
8 strips 2 1/4" by the width of the fabric

1. Arrange the nine patch blocks in 10 rows of 8 blocks each, inserting one sashing strip between each block. Press all seams toward the sashing strip. Each row should begin and end with a sashing strip.

2. Construct the sashing strips for between the rows by stitching together 8 sashing strips and 9 cornerstones for each row. The rows should start and end with a cornerstone. Press all seams toward the sashing strips. Make 11 rows.

3. Stitch the rows together to form the completed quilt top. Press.
Then add borders if you like and 'quilt as desired".
Is that enough inspiration to finish your project? Could you use a little more encouragement? Post a comment here on the blog about how you plan to finish your quilt between now and August 31st and I will select a winner from the comments and award a beautiful fat quarter pack of batiks! The winner is determined by random number generator, so everyone has an equal chance to win, but you have to sign your post to be eligible for the prize - I can't send a package to "anonymous"! You don't have to have your quilt finished to post a comment, just let us know how many blocks you have made or how you plan to finish your quilt. I can't wait to hear from you!

Monday, August 16, 2010

To the Point!

Give your basic setting block option an Art School Graduate look by turning the blocks on point!

On point settings are not complicated, you simply assemble the quilt in diagonal rows instead of straight ones. We are going to use the same 8 block by 10 block layout and alternate the nine patch blocks with solid squares of the fabric of your choice. Once again, the black squares indicate the setting squares in my design wall photo.

I want to encourage you to think about your quilting design before you select the fabric for your setting blocks. If you plan to use a simple all over quilting design, then a print fabric like a floral or multi color print to compliment your 9 patch blocks will be beautiful. If you want your 9 patch blocks to really make a statement, select a fabric that has a more solid look. Then fill those blocks with knock-your-socks-off quilting!

You may have seen my Desert Nine Patch quilt that was featured in a full page ad in several quilting magazines. Keepsake Quilting is offering a kit for it (so are we on our website.) I created the 9 patch top, but the quilt was really brought to life with the quilting that was done by Maryjane Efstathiou of Thistles & Thimbles. Those solid squares gave Maryjane the perfect place to show off her talent - to rave reviews!

If you look closely you will notice that not all of my solid squares are the same color. To make the quilt more interesting, I chose 2 shades of off white, Straw and Parchment, and alternated them in the setting blocks. I made that decision before constructing any of the 9 patch blocks, so I was also able to make the light blocks in the 9 patches coordinate with the setting blocks. Parchment against Parchment and Straw against Straw - after all I AM an Art School Graduate!

Now before things get even more complicated, lets get going on the instructions!


68" BY 85"


80 nine patch blocks

3 yards for setting squares

2/3 yard binding

4 1/4 yards backing

Cutting Instructions

From the setting square fabric cut:

11 strips 6 1/2 inches

From these strips cut 63 squares measuring 6 1/2"

3 strips 10", cross cut these strips into 9 squares measuring 10 inches

Cut these squares diagonally twice to yield 4 triangles from each square for your side setting triangles

Cut 2 squares 6 inches and cut both in half, diagonally one time to yield 2 triangles from each square. These will be your corner triangles.


1. Arrange the 9 patch blocks in 10 rows of 8 blocks each, having each block on point. Fill in the center spaces with the setting squares. Fill in the outer edges using the large triangles. Place the smaller triangles on each corner.

2. Stitch the rows together diagonally beginning in one corner. Take care to orient the side triangles in the proper direction on each end of the pieced row. Press the seams in each row in the opposite direction of the previous row.

3. Stitch the rows together to form the completed quilt top. Press,

The setting triangles are cut to size, but the corner triangles are a bit over sized. Trim the corner triangles as needed.

Tomorrow we will cover sashing options!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nine Patch with Setting Blocks

Yesterdays simple Block-To-Block setting option results in a 48" by 60" finished quilt. If you are looking to make something a bit bigger, the easiest way to enlarge the project is with solid setting squares! I am going to assume that you are making 6 inch finished nine patch blocks for these instructions. If you have chosen to make another size, you are going to have to do some calculating on your own.

The photo shows just 9 of my blocks on my design wall with black setting blocks. I don't know that I am going to use black in my finished quilt, but it photographed the best with my block assortment and made it easy for you to distinguish which areas I am referring to. You are also going to have to make a few more 9 patch blocks for this setting!


66" by 90" - a nice size for a twin bed


83 Nine Patch Blocks

2 2/3 yards fabric for alternate blocks

2/3 yard binding

5 1/2 yards backing

Cutting Instructions
From the alternate block fabric cut:

14 strips 6 1/2" by the width of the fabric
Cross cut these strips into 82 squares measuring 6 1/2"

From the binding fabric cut:
8 strips 2 1/4" by the width of the fabric.

1. Arrange the blocks in 11 rows of 15 blocks each. Begin and end the top and bottom row with a nine patch block (you should have a 9 patch on all 4 corners)

2. Stitch the rows together, pressing the seams in each row in the opposite direction of the previous row.

3. Stitch the rows together to form the completed quilt top.

Adding borders to your quilt if you have an extra deep mattress is always an option! Remember to calculate for the "shrink" that will take place when you have the quilting done. When making a bed quilt I like to have the top at least 4 inches larger than necessary before it is quilted so that when the quilting is completed it isn't too short for the bed!

If you would like a much larger quilt, make 85 nine patch blocks and cut 84 solid squares. Set them in 13 rows of 13 blocks each for a 78" by 78" quilt. With the addition of 10" borders on all sides your quilt will measure 98" by 98" which is suitable for a nice size queen. - I mean queen size bed, I'm sure you deserve to be treated like a queen and your size is very nice too - but I meant the quilt! Before I get into too much trouble, you are going to need 3 yards of fabric for the border.

Tomorrow - on point options!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Nine Patch Project

I started the summer Nine Patch Project on Facebook way back in June, a little over 75 days ago. The concept is simple, make one nine patch each day and by the end of the summer you will have enough for a quilt. Easy.

It is now mid August, I have a stack of 9 patch blocks (and many more squares that will eventually become 9 patch blocks when I get "all caught up" - see the vacation post below.) For those that have been diligent (and in some cases over achievers) it is time to post the assembly instructions. Easier said than done. Technology and I don't always agree on what is possible and what I am capable of accomplishing. Normally I write and illustrate instructions for publishing, paper publishing, not electronic publishing. I draw diagrams, layouts and write step-by-step instructions. That is WAY to much to post on Facebook, so I am directing all 800+ participants in the project here to the blog for the finishing details.

I am going to post one simple setting option each day for the next several day. That way I can show you photos, give you dimensions and discuss the options for finishing your 9 patch quilt. These will be simple finishes, nothing complicated, but I've taken the math out of calculating the sizes and numbers of things to cut.
There are a few "first-quilt-ever" participants in the group, so I thought that I would begin by giving simple, detailed instructions to start. If you have no idea of how to finish this project:

48" by 60"

80 nine patch blocks measuring 6 1/2 inches including the seam allowance.

1/2 yard for binding

3 yards for backing


Cutting Instructions
From the Binding fabric cut:
6 strips 2 1/4" by the width of the fabric

From the backing fabric cut"
2 pieces 54" by the width of the fabric. Remove the selvedge edge and stitch the pieces together to form a rectangle 54" by approx. 80".


1. Arrange your blocks in 10 rows of 8 blocks each. The seams in your blocks should be pressed to one side. Turn your blocks or re-press a few seams so that the seams that touch when the blocks are stitched together are pressed in opposite directions. This will allow the seams to "nest" and make it easier for you to match the intersections.
2. Stitch the rows together, matching the seams in each block to the adjoining block. Press all of the joining seams in one direction, alternating the direction in each row. For example press row one to the right, row two to the left, three to the right, etc.
3. Stitch the rows together and press the seams in a uniform direction. All of the seams can be pressed in one direction or they can be pressed from the center out toward the edge.
Your quilt top should measure 48 1/2" by 60 1/2" including seam allowance.

4. Layer your quilt top with the batting and backing and baste the layers together. I prefer to thread baste instead of using safety pins, but pins are fine too. Your basting should be done in both directions (up and down and across) and close enough together that you can't put your hand on your quilt without touching it, about 5" apart is great.

5. Quilt as desired. - the infamous quilting instructions! You can easily quilt this project by hand or machine. If you are working by machine, you will need a walking foot for straight line quilting. If you have never done quilting before, taking a class at your local quilt shop is a great idea, or at least stop by and ask a few questions.

6. Trim the batting and backing so that it is even with the quilt top. Stitch the binding strips together end-to-end on a 45 degree angle to form one long strip. Press these seams open. Press the binding in half so that the right side is showing. Pin the binding to the quilt top, mitering the corners and stitch in place by machine. Fold the binding over the raw edge to the back of the quilt and stitch in place by hand.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vacation Time Warp

Last week our shop was closed for "vacation".

Webster defines vacation as "Time away from work devoted to rest or pleasure". I must be doing it wrong. I spent everyday last week at work, cleaning, sewing, organizing and attempting to accomplish everything that I have been putting off until "later". If you are anything like me, you already know that "later" never comes, you have to put your foot down and make it happen.

My number 1 priority for the week was to make curtains for my bedroom. These are the very same curtains that I intended to make on our week of shop vacation LAST year, but I ran out of time. I have had the fabric from my Counterpoint line ready and waiting for about 18 months. Enough is enough. If nothing else happened, I intended to stitch up 8 simple panels for the 4 windows in our bedroom. To be perfectly honest, I also had in mind that with an entire week to get the job done I would also be able to stitch up pillow shams, bedskirt and bathroom curtains to coordinate. The quilt top was already assembled and ready to go to the quilter. Piece of cake - I had a whole week!
Before I could start on my bedroom project, I had a bit of work to finish up. I haven't mentioned it to anyone yet, but I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to design a custom ruler for Creative Grid. I love the Creative Grid brand and we sell tons of their rulers. A few weeks ago I was starting a project and found myself adding markings to the ruler I was using to make it work the way I wanted it to. I gave my friends that make Creative Grid a call and the next thing I knew, my ruler design is being put into production! I will be introducing it at a wholesale show later this month - and of course I will debut it here as soon as I get my hands on one!

I have to have quilts ready to show what the ruler can do for the show. Because of the tight timing, I have to make the quilts using my hand drawn version so that I can get them finished, quilted and the patterns published. Here are the two quilts that I made before I could start on my bedroom project. Both quilts were made with Tonga Treats 2 1/2 inch strips, but the ruler is a general use ruler, not something that has to be used with strips.
I quilted both of the quilts myself with lots of help from our Bernina 830. I'm really new to this whole embroidery machine thing, but I think that they came out BEAUTIFULLY! The quilting patterns are from the Holice Turnbow collection that was included with the Version 6 software. It was amazingly simple to resize, adjust, and position the designs exactly where I wanted them right in the machine. If you have never used your embroidery machine to quilt a project, I encourage you to give it a try.
Although the retail shop was on vacation, the wholesale side of our business still needs tending to. Just about the time I was ready to unroll the curtain fabric, the fax machine spit out a huge pattern order. Without "staff" it was up to me (with help from my husband and kids) to print, fold and bag a few thousand patterns. It was Thursday before I touched the curtain fabric.
Friday was a day of determination. Curtain panels or bust. If you know anything about making curtains, you know that the rods have to be installed before you can start because you need them in place to take your measurements. That required husband help. While I was at it, I talked him into painting too. My husband, like most, likes to have "help" when he does a job. The curtain panels were pushed back and finished on Saturday. We agreed to paint on Sunday.

While I was finishing up the curtains, I sent my husband with fabric in hand, to Home Depot with specific instructions to have them color match the blue for the wall paint. It is a computer generated color matcher and professed to be perfect - I disagree. It isn't even remotely close - but it is on the wall.
The room is clean, the curtains are up and the week is over. Now you just have to imagine what it will look like with the quilt, bedskirt, shams and bathroom curtain..... maybe next year.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Alive and Kicking... and having fun!

We got a call at the shop today from a woman that heard that I had been in a terrible accident and that the shop would most likely be closing. I am happy to report that isn't true. I am happy, healthy (to the best of my knowledge, knock on wood) and have no plans to close the shop anytime soon.

Funny how rumors get started. It always seems like it is the bad ones that stick. My usual response when someone tells me something like that is to laugh and ask them if they have heard the one about my having slept with Mel Gibson. Unfortunately that worked better when Mel was the "Sexiest Man Alive". After his outbursts of late I have decide to replace him. I have tossed around the idea of starting a "thing" with Harrison Ford, but after some thought, I decided that I have always harbored a small crush on Richard Gere. My husband was in Naval Flight Officer Training when we got married and I have always had a soft spot for the movie "Officer and a Gentleman". I'm going to have to see if Richard is available for my rumor mill. I love that white uniform......

While we are on the subject of rumors, you might not realize that I went to high school with Taylor Lautner. Ok, that is a bit of a stretch, but follow me here. I went to Hampton High School. Taylor Lautner is currently working on a new movie (where he does not play a vampire) that is filming right here in town and in the movie he attends Hampton High School - the very same one I attended. They aren't just using the building in the film, the producers decided to actually call it Hampton High and keep the mascot the same - the Talbot. Anyone else have a Talbot as a mascot at their high school? ..... I didn't think so. Hampton has the distinction of having the only Talbot mascot in the U.S. ... or possibly anywhere. If you are wondering, a Talbot is not only an upscale woman's clothing store, it is also an extinct, snow white hunting dog (although our mascot was always grey). So, on some obscure level, I went to high school with a vampire. Toss that one into the rumor mill and see if it sticks! Check it out here
One thing that is not a rumor is that I have a pretty fantastic hometown. Allison Park is our zip code, but here in Pennsylvania we have a government of Townships, ours is Hampton. Another strange fact is that Pennsylvania is technically not a state, we are a Commonwealth. Your American History teacher lied to you about there being 50 states, but that isn't the point. I live in a township with different boundaries than our post office. Hampton is a very small community measuring just 4 miles by 4 miles, but we pack in as much greatness as we can. Now the rest of the world, or at least Family Circle Magazine, has taken notice. We were rated the #2 best place to raise a family! We are pretty thrilled with that distinction and I am especially proud because my husband is an elected official that helps make this place so wonderful. Check it out:

I am pretty sure that Family Circle got this right. I was raised here, my kids spent all or at least part of their childhood here and after living 11 different places my husband and I moved our family back here to open the store - The Quilt Company -the one that isn't closing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

still busy, busy, busy...

My BFF Bernie told me to get off the stick and update this blog because she was tired of reading about the Shipshewana Quilt Show. I've been busy! Bernie should know that, I spent the 4th of July weekend in Orlando attending her daughters wedding.

July is flying by and I am doing my best to savor every moment of it. Those of us that were socked with 24 inches of snow in 24 hours last winter want to soak up as much July as possible. We want to wallow in the sunshine, feel the heat on our bare skin and relish the feeling of only wearing one layer of clothing. It is time to show off parts of our pasty white bodies as proud survivors of Jan/Feb 2010!

In an effort to enjoy every moment summer has to offer, we have been checking out local art festivals, attending the summer theater series and eating out as much as possible. Things have been really busy at the shop with Monday night Happy Hour and our regular schedule of events. Not to mention those one-per-day Nine Patch blocks that I have to keep up with!
This week we are hosting our Chirstmas in July event. We take a different approach to our holiday fabric presentation. The bolts start to arrive as early as April/May, but we don't put them on the sales floor. We stockpile all of the holiday prints until mid July and THEN we bring them all out at once. That way our customers get to see the entire holiday selection at one time. Everything we have to offer is available at the same time. No wondering if something else you like better will arrive next month. No disappointment because the theme print is sold out before the coordinates arrive. It also means that as the temperature climbs into the 90's this week, I will be digging out Christmas decorations!
To prepare for the event I've been doing a lot of sewing and instruction writing. I've finally finished and published the instructions for the Hanukkah pillow in our button pillow series.
It always seems like Halloween comes about a minute after our Holiday Open House. I have no desire to rush the season, but to get to publishing and distribution in a timely fashion I also had to finish our new Fright Night pillow. Each of these 12 by 16 inch pillows feature a different technique. Hanukkah has detailed instructions for mitering corners. Fright Night features a chenille cat! The cat is made of 4 layers of black flannel that "fluff". As always, the cute decorative buttons are included right inside the pattern.
Both of the patterns and fabric kits will be available for our holiday event next weekend and the patterns will be available on our website very soon.
Summer also brings lots of out of town visitors. We have some "regulars" that stop by to see us and shop every summer as they pass through on their way to the beach or visit friends or family here in town. If you are "local" stop by and show us what you bought on your travels or join us any Monday night for Happy Hour at 6:30 for a free demo. If you aren't local and are passing through the Pittsburgh area this summer, stop in and say hello! No matter where you live, post a comment and tell me what you are doing to enjoy the summer!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shipshewana Quilt Show

Here are the photos of some of my favorite quilts from the Shipshewana Quilt Show that I promised you!

The quilts are absolutely beautiful, my photography leaves a bit to be desired. You may have to tilt your head a little this way or that way to view them, but I hope you enjoy this tiny glimpse of the show.

This tall ship masterpiece was hand appliqued and won the hearts of the judges. It is stunning in person and believe it or not, it is a block-of-the-month quilt!

Anyone looking to start a new project?

This contemporary piece was my personal favorite. It is a large quilt and when I read the description, it said that the woman that made it collected the fabrics, which were all silk, by purchasing silk shirts from thrift shops!

You have to love a person that can walk into a thrift shop and envision THIS!

I couldn't resist taking photos of these large quilts with mini blocks. Our First Friday/Saturday club was based on 4 inch blocks this year and there was a fair amount of whining and complaining from the participants. I wanted to prove that some people LOVE working small!

The quilt with the blocks on point in the border has 1/2 inch sashing. Those inner borders are made up of 1/2 inch triangles and 1 inch squares on point. I would love to own a quilt like this. I doubt that I will ever get around to making one like it, but I would like to think I might...... a girl can dream can't she?

Talk about small, these next few are really, really small!
This is an "Inchy" project. The tiny squares are each one inch square. The more colorful squares are individual works of art. The squares are stitched, embellished, beaded and have satin stitched binding and then they are appliqued to the pieced background.
The Inchy idea isn't original, there are lots of books and even Internet swap groups for inchy projects.
This quilt is really, really small..... this Lone Star quilt was created in the folded pineapple technique. That is difficult enough to do with precision, but this quilt maker took it to the extreme! Those "logs" are about 1/8 inch and the whole quilt measures 9 inches!
In the next photo you can see it hanging in the bottom right corner under some of the other quilts in the small quilt category. What I don't understand is why it didn't have a ribbon on it! - WOW!

From small to bed size. These wonderful pieced wheels are 15" blocks. It was one of the most unique scrap quilts I have ever seen. The pieced centers were made up of every fabric imaginable and they were all tied together with the backgrounds.... and why not add a hand appliqued border while you are at it?
Every show seems to have a selection of Stack and Whack or One Block Wonder quilts. This one was huge and was meticulously put together. The fabric selection was a unique color combination, the pinks and yellows seemed to glow against the red background fabric. Well done!

There were more, but it is much better to enjoy them in person.