Monday, March 29, 2010

Last weekend started early for me as I headed to Twinsburg Ohio for another round of Bernina training. You are probably thinking the same thing that my little sister was when I was in Chicago for training - "Don't you already know how to do that stuff?". The answer is yes, for the most part, but with our new Bernina machines there are so many features that it is hard to keep track of them! Seriously, the 820 and 830 are so packed with features and it is much easier to learn them by using them. Bernina seems to think that sitting 40 of us down in a hotel ballroom with a machine in front of us is the perfect way to get us to use the features. They are probably right, if I were here at the store I would never find the time. That would be a shame, because I would have never figured out virtual positioning or perfect placement and it only took me 2 seconds to fall in love with those features.

I made a quick dash from Cleveland to Wheeling, West Virginia on Friday evening to join my staff for the weekend. Each year I give the girls a retreat weekend as their Christmas gift. We schedule the weekend in March to avoid the holiday rush and hopefully have better weather. Normally I stay behind to watch the shop, but this year we had a few employees that had to skip the weekend for one reason or another so I left the shop in capable hands to join in the fun.

It is amazing how much can be accomplished when you sew for an entire weekend without having to stop and prepare a meal or clean up. It is also amazing that with all of the laughter we managed to accomplish anything. I can't remember the last time I laughed until my sides hurt. Are there any better friends than quilting friends?
We are also old and wise enough to know that what happens on retreat, stays on retreat and you shouldn't try to explain it to your husband. They just don't get it.
It has taken until Wednesday to recover from all of the fun and lack of sleep. If you look closely at the photos you will see a wine glass here and there. We know how to enjoy ourselves! We also know how to kid around and thankfully everyone on staff has an exceptionally great sense of humor - especially Harriett, who will never, ever, eat another chocolate chip cookie without thinking of our weekend.
If you have never been on a quilting weekend, I highly recommend it! Start planning one NOW. The hard part is explaining to your family and non-quilting friends that you really DO want to spend an entire weekend sewing. They tend to have a hard time understanding that you really are willing to drag thousands of dollars of quilting equipment to a remote spot and stay up late just to sew. As my husband said, he never thought he would see a day that I wanted to take my ironing board on "vacation" with me! Now that I have recovered from last weekend, I would do it again in a minute!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Sewing Zone

Normally Sunday is my day off, but this week "company" was coming to visit the store and I had to get things ready. If you are adept at reading between the lines, you already know that means "clean". Our store is generally organized, but I WORK here. I sew, cut, design, publish, and all that it entails right on the sales floor, in the corner of the Bernina area. It is less than a month until International Quilt Market, so there is a mini frenzy happening as I design, stitch and write the last bit of instructions. I rarely worry about what people think because my customers ARE creative people, they understand the process. This visitor was a bit unusual. "Mr. Bernina" in the form of H.P. Ueltschi, the owner of Bernina International himself was scheduled to pay us a visit on Tuesday. I thought wearing my shoes and getting the threads off the floor might be appropriate.
I came in early, about 8am, on Sunday morning. I made a deal with myself, if I cleaned up the part of the mess I was dreading (instead of hiding it in the closet) I could treat myself to an afternoon of sewing. It seemed like a total waste of time to be cleaning without the embroidery machines running, so I powered up the 830 and let it finish the "quilting" on these pieces for a jacket. The jacket is patchworked pieces of Fire & Ice batiks (obviously I used "fire") and the stitching design is one that is pre-programmed into the Bernina 830. I stitched it randomly over the fabrics and flannel interlining before cutting out the pattern pieces. The jacket pattern is our Fun On The Run pattern. I love the way it fits and I cut it without the button closure in the front - I never button it anyway.
The plan was to clean-up, not just push stuff into a drawer. By my definition that meant that I had to deal with each pile as I got to it. Therefore I did not consider it cheating when I took the time to get caught up with this years First Friday/First Saturday project and assemble my missing blocks. I powered up the 820 and had them stitched together in no time while the 830 hummed away at embroidering my jacket pieces.
I was ruthless with the trash bin, scrap basket and charity box. I think I filled all three. If I couldn't finish it, file it or find it a proper home - out it went. Ta-Da! Clean!
Then I started to really sew! It was like being in "the zone". Everything worked perfectly. Did you ever have a day like that? One where the machine hums, you never touch your seam ripper, everything matches perfectly..... ahhh,.... it was sewing bliss. I didn't want to stop!
I constructed the smaller size tote bag for our new "Zip It" pattern (available soon) and used the 830 and my new found software skills to reduce the same quilting design that I used on this Lauren table runner to fit the 4 inch blocks on the tote bag. The virtual positioning on the 830 makes ME, with my weeks of experience, look like an expert at embroidery.
I don't see myself embroidering kittens or flowers on my shirts, but WOW do I love that jumbo hoop and the quilting possibilities!
My loving husband must have known better than to interrupt my perfect day. He stopped in to change some light bulbs and before he left he suggested that he pick up a pizza for dinner. He is a very smart man. I joined him and our son for a few slices and when they decide to watch an old war movie on TV I jumped at the chance to get back to the shop and sewing until bedtime!
The only disadvantage of spending the day sewing after cleaning, is that I made another mess that had to be cleaned up on Monday morning. Luckily I had another whole day to prep for Mr. Ueltschi's visit. I will tell you more about that as soon as I have the time!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Embroidery 101

I was going to have to dig in and learn to use the embroidery machines sooner or later. It wasn't that I didn't want to try, but lets face it, there are only so many hours in a day. I also have this never ending to-do list that is filled with things that I am totally capable of doing, without learning anything new... and I have "staff" that are embroidery experts. They embroider, I suggest projects. It has been a great relationship.

Last Saturday we had Embroidery Club here at the store. If you are in our area and own a machine or think you might ever want to own one, you should join us. The information and inspiration is excellent and the meetings are FREE. It doesn't matter what make, model or brand sewing machine you own. The meetings are for fun and inspiration. As always, my favorite part of the program is show and tell. Barb S. had a piece to show, but I was fascinated by the shirt she was wearing. It was beautiful. She graciously explained how and why she had made the shirt. The applique was to cover a stain.

BINGO! That was something that I could relate to and the whole how-to process clicked! I could do that! I happen to have a new white shirt with a coffee stain that wouldn't budge. That's a "before" photo of my shirt. With that stubborn stain it was about to go in the trash. With Barbs verbal instructions and a little help from my embroider specialists and Brandon our Tech, I (a total novice at machine embroidery) managed to turn my trashy shirt into a real treasure.

The process is a bit easier than working right on a shirt. When you embroider a garment you have to have a perfect placement. For my project the design was embroidered using white Isacord thread on a cream organdy fabric before it was placed on the shirt. Organdy has a bit of a sheen to it, it adds a little sparkle and holds the design together. The design I selected isn't a stand alone lace. I understand from the experts that without the organdy, the whole thing would have fallen apart - and we don't want that!

I am getting a little ahead of myself. Before I stitched the design I had to select one with a solid outline. I couldn't find one I liked, so we used the Version 6 software to outline the design that I had selected. The outline created a stitching line about 1/4 inch away from the design that would later become my cutting line. I popped the organdy into the hoop with 2 layers of wash away stabilizer and pushed the start button on the machine. - simple!

The idea is to create the applique, cut it out, remove the stabilizer, then place it on the shirt and stitch it in place. It worked like a charm. I used a spray adhesive on the back of the lace (after I removed the wash away stabilizer). The 505 spray allows you to peel and stick the applique in place until you are happy with the placement. Another layer of tear away stabilizer went inside the shirt while I stitched around the outside edge. Then I added a few clear seed beads for pizazz - don't you love it! Ok, I will admit it - I'm hooked!

Next month we are going to use some embroidery magic to make the cute little pouch in the embroidery hoop - the entire thing - zipper and all - in the hoop! I can't wait!

Meanwhile I am in Cleveland for yet another round of Bernina training. This time we are working on the 830 and using the Cutwork tool. Someone is going to have to figure out how to add more hours to my day.....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


This is just me being me, and if you know me well, you also know that I find this ridiculously funny.
Nancy Halvorsen's newest book just arrived to go with her latest fabric collection. Deb couldn't help pointing out the featured table runner.
Anyone see snakes? Cute little colorful garden snakes? Possibly cute little headless garden snakes? Poor things, why would she have cut their heads off?
Ok, maybe it is me........

Friday, March 5, 2010

Guest Blogging

My BFF Bernie sent me an email the other day, whining that she was bored and suggesting that I update my blog to give her something to read. HA! I wrote right back and suggested that she do it herself. As a result, today you get to be treated to a Guest Post from my friend from Florida, fellow fabric designer, mother of three, and the most laid back Catholic I know.... Bernie! I was a bit amused at the topic Bernie selected, she is obviously on her best behaviour in front of strangers, so I couldn't resist adding my own comments in italics.
Hi! This is Karen's friend Bernie, here for a "guest posting" because Karen's "to-do" list is longer than her arm. Longer than my arm. Longer than all of our arms put together. We've been really good friends for more than 20 years. Since she moved back to PA in 1991, ours has been a long distance friendship, only seeing each other once or twice a year. Thank God for e-mail!
We used to write REAL letters, with pens and paper and postage that took some real effort. E-mail is the only part of technology I "get". (We didn't weren't that good at real letters either, most of them were started one day and finished several weeks later and mailed several weeks after that! It was not uncommon to get a letter that included at least 2 major holidays.)
I was going to write about my experience at quilt judging. Just a few weeks ago I was a scribe for the judges at our local quilt show. To be honest, although it was educational, it was also a bit like watching grass grow..... for TEN hours. Maybe another time.
Instead I have decided to write to you about my pet peeves. Why you ask? Because someone cut me off this morning while they were driving and texting, completely oblivious to the fact that they almost caused an accident. That drives me crazy. So, because of that, I am in kind of a mood, and Karen has given me an audience. (Up until now, Karen was also unaware that Bernie HAD any real Pet Peeves!)
A few of my Pet Peeves in no particular order.
  • The aforementioned texting or cell phone use while driving (I don't get the whole texting phenomena anyway, if you need to tell me something, call me.. but not while driving)
  • Garish lighting in department store fitting rooms... wouldn't more flattering lighting sell more clothes? (I can attest to Bernies complete dread of clothes shopping, she has emailed me volumes on the subject and that was before she was slated to be Mother-of-the-Bride this summer).
  • People who use "supposably" which isn't even a word, instead of "supposedly". Same goes for "irregardless" which should be "regardless" (.... wait a minute, I think I do that...)
  • General rudeness, texting (there it is again) or checking a Blackberry in the middle of a conversation or talking out loud in church or the library???
  • Running out of bobbin thread with 6" left to sew. That's a killer. (see why we are friends!)

There are more, but I didn't want you to think of me as a complainer, I'm pretty easy going. (That may be the understatement of the century! Bernie is the definition of "easy going". She has been known to eat Thanksgiving dinner on paper plates. Her youngest son wore his "He-Man" pjs to school because he wanted to and her recent house guests came to visit in December and didn't leave until the end of FEBRUARY!)

Surely you have some Pet Peeves of your own... here's your chance to tell the world, or at least those reading this blog, by leaving a comment. I know I feel better, so will you.