Saturday, December 29, 2012

Velcro

Between holiday celebrations and end of the year inventory I also managed to eliminate one of my pet peeves the other day. I treated myself to a gift-to-me this holiday season. You might asking yourself what it is that makes me almost as happy as the diamond necklace from my hubby? It is simple. I have tamed the wicked Velcro on my winter jacket!

I hate Velcro. I know it has fabulous uses. Everything from the now defunct space program to toddler tennis shoes. I am aware that the introduction of Velcro changed the way we live. I even know that the product was developed by a guy that was trying to figure out why those thorny, chigger type plants stuck to his socks. Maybe "hate" is too strong of a word. It isn't like I rank Velcro up at the top of the list with things like..... stinkbugs. Let me correct myself.  Having exposed Velcro on my winter jacket drives me CRAZY!

I own a very nice ski jacket from L.L.Bean. It has a double zipper, tons of pockets, is light weight and warm. The strange material tabs that were used to Velcro the sleeves so that the air doesn't blow up your arm cracked and split shortly after buying it, so I cut those off. But that isn't the point. It is a nice jacket. It also has four strips of Velcro that close a flap over the zipper. The soft side of the Velcro, the kind that is left unused on my sleeves, isn't a problem. It is the gripper side that has caused me hours of frustration. When the jacket is worn open, which is more often than not, those Velcro strips grab on to anything they pass, including the remaining sleeve Velcro. I've spent a lot of time in that jacket stuck to myself - or the items that I was shopping for. If you have ever witnessed a battle between Velcro grip and a fine knit sweater, you know the bittersweet feeling as that sweater is scarred for life.

Enough of this daily aggravation! I have a kajillion dollars worth of sewing equipment at my disposal. I should be able to fix this.

I started by finding a scrap of black Ultra Suede in my stash. For all of you nay-sayers out there, this proves that saving things dating from the 1980's is not a total waste of space! The scrap was large enough to embroider and it matched the black accents on my coat.
Using the BERNINA software I quickly digitized a simple design and selected a spool of thread to match my odd shade of blue coat. Having the entire line of Isacord thread at your disposal comes in handy. I never have to worry about making a trip to the store for the right color, because nine times out of ten I'm working on these projects AT the store. Being in the store also came in handy when Brandon recommended that I use a #90 needle. Having a top-notch Tech at your disposal is pretty convienient too.

The process was simple, stitch out the design and an outline that was digitized the same size as the Velcro patches on my coat. Flip the hoop over and position soft Velcro strips in each of the outline areas. (I cut these longer than necessary and held them in place with tape) Put the hoop back on the machine and stitch the outline again. That stitched the Velcro to the back of the designs. I took them out of the hoop and trimmed them to size. Using the Ultra Suede meant that the edges were finished and will never fray. I chose a water soluble stabilizer for the project, so that was easy to remove.

 
TA-DA! Problem solved! I simply placed the decorative Velcro strips over the offending gripper strips and snag-no-more! If I ever have the desire to close the zipper flap I can simply peel off the decorative tabs and store them in one of the 17 assorted pockets.

Scrap of Ultra Suede - Free
Velcro - .70 cents
Thread to match jacket - $5.89
Software to digitize the design - $1999.00
Embroidery Machine - $10,000
Eliminating the aggravation - Priceless
Satisfaction - worth a million bucks!

I think L.L. Bean should include these with your coat!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Help Newtown Begin To Heal

The following is a re-post from Joan Fords blog.  Joan is the owner of the Hummingbird Highway pattern company.  Joan is a friend and she has a wonderful idea.  I'm sending some quilts to help her attain her goal and even if only one of you joins in, it was worth passing this along.  I know there are people everywhere that could use a quilt hug and the people of Newtown, Conneticut aren't the only ones hurting at this time of year, but we have all been struck by this tragedy.  Joan is right, Quilters understand the magic that happens when fabric, batting and stitches come together with love and good thoughts.  It is almost impossible for Quilters to not help when a something like this happens.  Let's send a Newtown some hugs.

You may know that The Taunton Press, the publisher of many wonderful books and magazines, including my own, is located in beautiful Newtown, Connecticut, just down the street from Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Taunton employees were fortunate not to be directly impacted by the events of December 14. But as I write that last sentence, I know in my heart that we have all been affected, but most especially those who live, play, work, and connect in Newtown.
Anyone who has ever made or received a hand-made quilt knows what power is created when fabric, batting, and stitches combine in a quilt. And so, I'm asking you to send a hug and a prayer to the folks in Newtown.
I have said that a quilt is a reusable hug. Specifically, I'm asking for quilts. Not because of the devastating loss caused by a natural disaster, but to help heal a broken community who may just need a reusable hug right now.
I need your help. Here's what you can do.
- Go to your stash. Find a quilt that is almost done - it only needs a binding or some last quilting stitches, or maybe a border to finish it off. And finish it up.
- You'll be sending a bit of yourself along, so think kind thoughts while you make those last few stitches. Those good thoughts will translate to healing and hope for the recipient.

-Don't worry about whether the quilt is kid-friendly or themed for any one person or another. These will be distributed to folks of all ages. Quilts in all sizes will be accepted. Child and lap sized quilts are especially welcome.
- Spread the word. I realize it's horrible timing. And the turnaround seems dreadful. But I also suspect that you might have one or two quilts that are nearly complete, a few stitches and away it goes. There's nothing like a deadline to get things done. . . . am I right?

I'm planning to deliver quilts personally on January 3, 2013 - so there isn't much time. If you are in the Syracuse, NY area, Calico Gals, Mission Rose Quiltery, and Patchwork Plus Quilt Shop have agreed to be collection points for Newtown quilts. I'll be leaving early on the 3rd, so quilts must arrive at the shops before January 2, 2013.
- If you are not in the Syracuse area, please send quilts to:


The Taunton Press

Attention: Renee Neiger

63 South Main Street, PO Box 5506

Newtown, CT 06470-5506

If you want to help stuff the CRV, you can send quilts to me directly:

Joan Ford

Hummingbird Highway

3795 Gray Ledge Terrace

Syracuse, NY 13215


My friends at The Taunton Press will make sure the quilts reach their new homes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Accomodations

I've been on the road a lot lately. On the road, in the air and in plenty of hotels and guest rooms. I've eaten more than my fair share of fast food in terminals and on the turnpike. Travel is part of my job.


Like most people, I prefer my very own bed, with my very own pillow and of course my very own quilt, but I can be flexible. I don't need luxury accommodations. Room Service is not a requirement. I have to admit when I do pay a premium price for premium accommodations I have higher expectations for that establishment.


I am a Fairfield Inn kind of girl. Those establishments are mid level, clean, have a complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi and I like their towels. It doesn't hurt that they offer the same shampoo that I use at home so there is less chance of my walking around looking like the "before" photo in a hair care ad. I have moderate expectations for a Fairfield Inn and I have to say that they usually exceed those expectations, often by leaps and bounds. See, I'm not hard to please.


Hotels with Hilton in the name are a special treat in my world.  I'm too price concious to make them my hotel of choice, but I will spend the money when it makes a difference. In Houston for Quilt Market, I thought it made a difference.  It is a matter of supply and demand when International Quilt Market rolls into town. Thousands of quilters, shop owners, sales reps, vendors and support people flood the city and its hotel rooms. The Hilton is a coveted address. It is attached to the Convention Center through a beautiful climate controlled glass walkway. For early morning appointments it doesn't hurt that Starbucks is located at the other end of that short walk. For those of us that run back and forth for teaching and lecture supplies, to drop things off, or just to grab a more comfortable pair of shoes, the Hilton is prime location, and you can expect to pay for it.

Shelling out close to $200 a night means that I expect a bit more than a clean hot shower and a comfortable bed. I've already resigned myself to the wacko economic rules that apply to internet service. Mid and budget rate hotels have no problem offering free Wi-Fi while upscale hotels, like Hilton, charge $12.95 per day to access the internet in the comfort of your room. Another reason that having Starbucks a short walk away is a benefit.

Hallway in borad daylight!

When I checked in to my room at the Houston Hilton for my 5 night stay, I was surprised that the little hall inside my room was so dark. The L shaped entrance had a chest and mirror, which were easy to see in the middle of the day with the drapes wide open and the sunshine streaming in. That same area became a black hole after dark. Why not install a light Hilton? There is clearly a cover plate where a ceiling fixture was removed or never installed. I'm pretty sure the rates you charged would cover another 60 watt bulb.

Not being able to see things in the chest of drawers tucked into the dark corner was not a problem, there was another chest of drawers at the other end of the room. I began to think of it as the haunted dresser. I never did figure out why, but for some reason the top right drawer of that chest wouldn't stay closed. If anything was put in that drawer, even remotely close to the front, it rolled open at will, usually in the middle of the night. Not a comforting sound as you are drifting off to sleep! After 3 or 4 tries to get it to stay closed I decided to just leave it open for the rest of my stay.

Suitable for the "grunge" look!

A dark hall and haunted furniture didn't endear me to the hotel chain and they didn't impede my ability to function either. Then I decided to use the iron and ironing board. Hotel irons are notoriously cheap. I can deal with that. On the other hand, in my book there is absolutely NO excuse for a lumpy ironing board. Here's a photo of the ironing board in my deluxe Hilton accommodations. Really Hilton? Has anyone on your staff ever pressed anything? The idea is to make things FLAT.
We are now quickly sliding in to the end of the year and my business travels slow considerably over the holiday season. I'm home until the end of January when I will be attending a seminar in LasVegas. When I booked my air online I was offered a deal at the hotel where the seminar is being held, for $22 a night. That's not a typo, twenty two dollars a night! I went with the upgraded to the more luxury tower room for $35 a night.  That price still makes me a little nervous.  I hope they have elevators........ I'll let you know how I make out.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Home From Market

I know that many are suffering from the effects of hurricane Sandy and I don't mean to make light of their plight. My prayers are with those that came home to devastation and a few others that are still making their way home as I post this.

 
If you follow this blog you already know that my experience while traveling is "bumpy" to say the least. Canceled flights, lost luggage, weather delays, sick crew members, you name it, I've experienced it while trying to get from here to there. This fall while attending International Quilt Market I shared my wicked travel gene with the entire industry in the form of hurricane Sandy. Early in the week I was teaching on the east coast of Florida and all of the "spaghetti" tracks for the storm that were shown on the Weather Channel clearly showed the front heading out to sea. Once Mother Nature realized that I was on the Florida coast, the models changed and Sandy did her best to make a B-line For the shore.

Outsmarting disaster is my main goal when I travel, so having experienced weather delays before, I headed for Texas as the feeder bands began. I was confident that the wind and rain would be long gone days later when I would make my trip home. As the storm started to build, much of the conversation on the Market floor revolved around who was getting home, how, and when. With market ending and Festival beginning, hundreds of hotel rooms were scheduled to change hands. If you requested to extend your stay, the hotels promised to do their best to try to accommodate you.... At a higher, much higher, rate.

 
I was scheduled to fly from Houston to Orlando, then Orlando to Pittsburgh on Southwest. I didn't even bother trying to check with the airline until my last evening in Houston. When I finally did, much to my surprise my reservation was confirmed and boarding passes were issued for on-time departures. While everyone else was scrambling for someone to share a room with, I finished my orders, picked up a few last minute items and started to say my last good-byes. That's when my phone rang. My son called to say that my Orlando to Pittsburgh flight was cancelled. No problem.

When you have the travel record that I do, you become accustom to a few bumps along the way. I had already checked with my friend in Florida, who happened to be attending a funeral in Orlando, and I could stay with her at her sister-in-laws.  Nice weather, friendly people, welcome accommodations. It is all in having a plan B, C, D and occasionally E.

Plan B, overnight in Orlando, was scrapped when I spoke to the airline. It would be two nights in Orlando, possibly three. Jacksonville? I have a daughter attending college in Jacksonville. I've made that drive many times.  I actually rented a car and drove home from there during the last ice storm that paralyzed everything south of the Mason-Dixon line. The Southwest operator offered to get me into Jacksonville at 11:35pm, for an additional $315. On to plan D. Columbus Ohio? That would be drivable. Possible, but not until Thursday (it was Monday at the time) and an additional $249. Orlando was looking pretty good.

 
I checked in at the Southwest counter at Hobby Airport for my flight to Orlando. On the off chance that I could get closer to home or at least close to a more familiar bed, I asked the counter person if they had anything going to Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is a little less than two hours south of my oldest daughter and the twins.

"Yes, I can have you there by 9pm" were the nicest words I had heard all day! Done. No matter what the fee. Stranded out of town can be both miserable and expensive, but stranded out of town with an unexpected opportunity to visit with the grandchildren is worth the price! My evil travel gene had instantly produced an unexpected bit of luck! I whipped out my Visa. "No need for that, we don't have change fees here" were the next words from the Southwest agent. Really? That never works for me. I had already spoken to Southwest customer relations earlier. Those were the very helpful, polite people that quoted me the change fees! "No problem, no fee". She did make sure that I understood that getting from Louisville to Pittsburgh would be my responsibility. I didn't bother her with the details, but getting me home to Pittsburgh would actually be Grandpa's responsibility. He could drive out and pick me up and have an excuse to see the kids too.
Quick calls to my husband who called my daughter who arranged for a rental car that I could use to drive the hour and forty five minutes to their home in Covington, KY and I was on my way. The smooth flight to Chicago gave no indication of the horrendous weather out east. We landed in Chicago a bit early and I decided to get something to eat before heading to my next gate. Waiting in line for my Chicago style hotdog my text message alert went "ping". Southwest was notifying me of a gate change. Impressive service! I arrived at gate B19 and looked at the board. Flight 842 to Louisville was scheduled to leave right on time.  This was going too smoothly.... The gate agent announced that they would begin boarding immediately after they boarded the flight leaving out of adjoining gate B 17..... to Pittsburgh.

That is correct. Hours ago in Houston there was no possible way to travel to Pittsburgh because of the storm. Customer Relations assured me that nothing was flying in. Absolutely no connections were available that would get me home before Wednesday or possibly Thursday. However sitting in Chicago, waiting for my flight to Louisville I watched as the gate agent booked 3 people through to Pittsburgh. I questioned the seat availability. The gate agent offered to transfer me to the Pittsburgh flight. In my travel world you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. With my luck the wind would pick up and that plane would need to be diverted. Probably to Orlando.

Instead I chose to keep my seat on the flight to Louisville. I would rather change planes, pay $82 for a rental car and drive a few hours for kisses from Grant and Madeline than risk another flight change that might not get me home. If you are keeping score, this is FIVE, count them F I V E trips to International Quilt Market that I have had some issue getting home. This time I got to snuggle, play and get hugs and Halloween kisses from the twins. I going to score this one:
Evil Travel Gene 4
Karen 1.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I realize that more than one Wednesday has whizzed by without my posting a photo of my design wall.  I can't really use "I'm busy" as an excuse, because when am I  NOT busy?  I'm actually just dealing with your average October craziness. 

International Quilt Market is about a week away and there are patterns to publish, instructions to proof and samples to finish to show off my two new rulers from Creative Grids.  I've been having a ball playing with my new toys and I can't wait to share them with you!  Triangle Squared is on the left and the Perfect Rectangle on the right.  Both of them will be coming to an independent quilt shop near you very soon!


One of the finished Table Runners "Any 12 Will Do"
Several projects are stitched, quilted, bound and already on their way to Market for display.  This is a photo of the stragglers still on the design wall.  These are the projects that don't have to be finished before I leave town, but I still have hope that I can squeeze in a few more hours of sewing before next Monday!

The one on the right is a second colorway of a pattern I am calling Keystone.  It uses both rulers.  The kids quilt on the left is called Sawtooth Squares and will eventually have nine blocks and a bright blue border.  It uses only the Triangle in a Square ruler.

This is the aftermath of the finished quilts.  Little piles of leftovers, discarded test blocks, scraps for the scrap bin, mistakes, bolts that didn't make the cut or contained more than I needed.  What you can't see are the threads, pins, snipped dog-ears and other goodies that will clog my vacuum cleaner when I do get around to cleaning up.  I try to make a point of doing that before I leave so that I come home to a room worth working in. 

Next Wednesday I will be in Florida, lecturing and teaching for a guild in Port St. Luci.  Then it is straight to Houston for Quilt Market.  I will be posting goodies to The Quilt Company Facebook page and I promise to share what I find as soon as I get home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Public Apology

It's official, we are happy to announce that we are the NEW HandiQuilter Dealer in the Pittsburgh area! That means that you can purchase your very own longarm quilting machine (or the Sweet 16 sit down version) right here in our store. It also means that we have cleared space to set-up the 12 foot version of the HQ Avante 18 complete with the ProStitcher here in the shop. It is beautiful. Right near-by is the table top Sweet 16 version with the Stitch Regulator and both are ready for a test drive. You can't possibly imagine how much fun they are to play with!

There is a little more to being an HQ dealer than just having the space to display a machine on the floor. You also have to learn to use the machines - properly. Not to mention the service end of the business, but I leave those matters up to Brandon our Tech and as always, he does a stellar job. The rest of the staff, myself included, have to become proficient at loading the machine, using the features, answering questions and putting the machine through its paces. That means hands-on experience. Jane and I have been loading quilts, pressing buttons, and trying out all of the features.  I have to say that now that I have had the experience of loading a quilt, basting, selecting a design and doing the quilting, I feel as if I should make a public apology to Mary and all of the other quilters that have quilted my tops in the last 20 years.

To My Favorite Quilters,

Please accept my sincerest apology for every uneven edge, out of square quilt, skimpy backing, twisted seam, lump, bulge, loose stitch, dangling thread and any other breach of quilt preparation that I may have inflicted upon you over the years. I beg your forgiveness, for I knew not the issues I heaped upon you. My eyes have been opened and I have sworn to mend my evil ways. - Karen

Our city has an amazingly gifted group of women that quilt professionally for others. I have used and abused them with tight deadlines and impossible requests over the years. To be honest, even though there is a fabulous quilting machine sitting in my store, that we will be using and renting by the hour, I still intend to send a fair number of my tops out to be quilted by others.

Why, you ask? Several reasons. First, the machine arrived in a dozen boxes that included all of the necessary parts. Not one of those boxes was marked "TALENT". Exceptional machine quilting is an art form and I will be the first to admit that I am not in the professional quilters league. I'm often lucky enough to have my projects published in books and magazines and those pieces deserve top notch creative quilting. Second, I'm a shop owner. My customers enjoy seeing and comparing the work of area quilters before they select someone to do their quilting.

With that said, not all of our quilts are headed for shows or publication. Many of them, just like yours, will be finished and given away to someone where we simply hope they will be well loved. Those are the tops that are destine for the HQ!
 
 Not only will they be quilted on the HQ18, we are using the ProStitcher, the computerized version that plots your design, regulates your stitches and makes you look like a pro! Too much fun! We can't possibly load quilts fast enough. As rank beginners we are tickled pink with the huge selection of pre-loaded designs. Edge-to-edge quilting is just fine for the time being.... but there was that custom design CD in the instructional videos....... 

November brings a trip to HandiQuilter Headquarters for training where I expect to come home with notebooks of knowledge to share. Meanwhile it is like Christmas morning here every day, and Santa brought us exactly what we wanted!  If you are in the area, stop in and share the joy!

P.S. I lieu of Design Wall Wednesday, I included pics of the butterfly quilt from the Painted Lady collection from Timeless Treasures.  It was on my design wall, but as always, I'm on a deadline so I whisked it off and on to the HQ before I took a photo.  The pattern will be a free download on the Timeless Treasures site in the upcoming months.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Birthday Wishes

I had a birthday last week.  A big, divisible by 5 birthday. 
I'm really more of an "Age is a mind over matter thing, if you don't mind, it doesn't matter" kind of person.  The older I get, the less it matters.  I also could never figure out why people over 40 would lie to make themselves younger.  Heck, I would be happy to admit that I am 60!  Hopefully you would walk away thinking "Wow she looks good for her age".  If I tried to tell you I was 40 you would wonder what had gone wrong in my life that caused all these wrinkles.  Forget 39, I'm fessing up to 60 - or better yet, 65.  That would make me 8 years older than my husband.  Does that qualify for "cougar" status?

This year to celebrate the big day, I sent an email to all of my customers asking for presents in the form of school supplies that we could then donate to a worthy cause.  I can't take credit for coming up with the idea, I stole it - ok, borrowed it with permission, from another quilt shop owner friend of mine.  Sandy Brawner owns Quilt Country in Texas.  Sandy has a July birthday and she has been collecting and donating school supplies for several years.  With a birthday that often falls on the first day of school in our area it seemed like a perfect way to celebrate.

Once again our customers came through above and beyond what we expected!  This is a photo of the "loot" that I had the privledge of delivering to the Mars Home For Youth earlier today and today was the first day of school for the kids that live there.  Needless to say they were thrilled to have a stash of supplies to fill their closet and meet the needs of the kids.  Such a simple thing, a new binder, some cool pens or a funky pencil box can make a kid feel like they fit in when other areas of their life are a little bumpy.  Thanks to everyone that donated.  It made for a very Happy Birthday indeed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Checker Open House

First let me make it perfectly clear that the Checker Open House is a wholesale event, for shop owners ONLY.  The general public is NOT allowed to attend.  Checker is a wholesale supplier to independent shop owners, they never sell to chain stores, and they are located near Toledo, Ohio.  They also own the U.S. distribution for Creative Grids Rulers.  Don't write me and ask me how you can attend next year.  If you are a Checker Customer, you already know.

Other than International Quilt Market, I consider this Open House the most fun a shop owner can have while spending money.  Checker invites an assortment of vendors to this 2 day event, host lectures from industry icons (although they ask me to do one too) and open the warehouse for shopping. 

Shop owners generally look through swatch samples to order fabric and then wait weeks or months for the bolts to arrive.  This is a grab a cart and pick-up bolts shopping experience.  And pick-up bolts they do! 

In addition to fabric overload, the warehouse is ringed with vendors, including The Quilt Company, that are there to demonstrate their products, answer questions, provide class or project ideas, etc.  The shop owners can move from booth to booth and fill their heads and shopping carts with everything they need for the fall season.  The vendor line-up is impressive!





Alex Anderson was there with her books.





Swirly Girls sharred their newest patterns







Smith Street Designs - Always one of my favorites



This is Daniela Stout's booth from Cozy Cottage, we tease Daniela about being short, but I'm pretty sure if she was in the booth you should be able to see her over the table.......



Checker takes these wonderful photos of all of the events and provides us with a CD to take home.  Not ALL of the photos are wonderful.  For the last 4 years I hold the record for the most unflattering photos possible. 


Exhibit A.  This is last years photo.

Exhibit B. This years photo.  

I could go on, but why embarrass myself?  Normally sharring horrible photos of myself with the industry would upset me, but when you are part of the Checker team, they treat you like family, and you know how family can be. 

While I was there I also shot demo videos for my ruler..... did I mention that they have a display of the top selling rulers?  Well would you look at that! The Quick Trim Ruler is right there in the upper right hand corner!  If you don't have a Quick Trim Ruler, then you NEED one!  Not convinced?  Click this link to watch the current video.  VIDEO LINK  Click here to order your very own Quick Trim from our website ORDER RULER

This is Craig, he is in charge of making me look good on video.  I gave him strict orders to shave a few years off my age and make me sound intelligent.  As for the still photos.  I give up - I'm there to explain product, so I never shut up, which is why they usually catch me with my mouth open. 

Do you want to know what the silver lining in the whole situation is as far as I am concerned?  See those red pants that I am wearing during my lecture?  They are a size 8!  YEA!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Design Wall Wednesday, Again

Did you ever stop to wonder how many mistakes a designer makes before pulling together a project that is ready to share in the form of a pattern?  The answer is LOTS.

This photo is of the generous size table runner that I planned to make for my kitchen island.  I make lots of runners, but they are on the skimpy side for an island that can handle a 5 burner cook top and still have room for 4 extra large pizza boxes.  We hosted a ton of parties when our youngest was in high school and that island has seen a mountain of pizza.  Now that the kids are out of the house I decided that a generous size runner that could double as placemats for the 2 chairs that sit at that island was in order.

It seemed like the perfect project for the Triangle in a Square projects that I have been working on.  I decided that I would use batik scraps from Timeless Treasures - who wouldn't want to have breakfast on a batik runner?  I chopped up the scraps and arranged the triangles and half rectangles like this.

Then the sewing began.  I had another project to finish, and being the super efficient person that I am (no snickering), I decide that I would sew them both at the same time.  I used the table runner units as "thread bunnies", stitching one seam after I completed each row for the other project so that something was always under my needle.  That way I could finish the required project and have my table runner well underway when the required project was finished.

Probably not a good idea.

The table runner pieces are stitched into blocks, then those blocks are cut into strips and re-assembled.  The re-assembly process flips the block around.  I had to remember to swap the colors on each side so that they reversed themselves into the proper position and would be where I wanted them in the final assembly.  Confusing?  You bet'cha!  It could have been the riveting finale to Design Star that I was watching on my laptop that had me distracted, but whoa-baby were there mistakes!

The first 2 rows went together with minor mistakes. I caught those before slicing the blocks apart.  Row three was a disaster!  That is when I decided that having all of the rectangles the same color was a much better idea.  If I am totally confused by row three and I am writing the instructions, how can I expect those of you that buy the pattern to figure it out?  I do have to consider that you won't be distracted by Vern Yip falling in love with an ugly yurt and selecting the wrong person to have her own show on HGTV, but you could be subject to other distractions.  Seriously, we sew for fun and relaxation, not because we are studying to be brain surgeons - unless you are currently in med school.....

I did manage to "fix" the disjointed issue that I normally see in this Magic Lantern block and create a table runner that is sized to make a statement.  Once I didn't have to flip, reverse, rotate and stand on my head to get the fabrics in the right place it was a lot of fun too!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Quilt Company is on vacation this week. We made the decision years ago to annually close the shop for the week closest to the beginning of August each year. Our regular customers are use to it. Out of town visitors plan around it. We tell everyone on our website, we publish it in our newsletter, we remind everyone in Email Updates, but there are always one or two people that are absolutely shocked when they find out we are closed. My apologies, but the truth is, we need the break.

So what does a quilt shop owner do with a whole week off? I SEW!

I couldn't show you my design wall last week because I was on double secret probation. I was working on a snowflake quilt for my favorite quilting magazine. The project will be featured in their winter issue. Naturally I will let you know as soon as it hits the newsstands later this fall. Meanwhile this is a sneak peek of the prototype flakes I was busy stitching all week. I used some beautiful paisley prints from Timeless Treasures for the quilt. The quilting was finished in record time by the wonderful Mary Thomas, binding has been applied and hand stitched. It goes in the mail tomorrow. Whew!

That doesn't mean that the design wall is empty! Having a whole week to get caught up on projects I planned to work on the log cabin blocks on the right. Then I got news from the Creative Grids team that after about 2 years of listening to me whine they are finally going to produce the rulers that I have been asking for! That means that the zillion ideas I have on paper to use those rulers can become quilts!

There is nothing like a new project to spur me into action! Those whopping big stars in the center of the design wall are made with half square rectangles. I use to dread half square rectangles, but like our shop tag line says, "It is all in having the right tools!" This new ruler isn't the first half square rectangle tool on the market, but I wanted a bigger one - a MUCH bigger one. I have a king size bed and making a quilt for it requires a thousand pieces, unless you can find a large block pattern that uses large pieces and still looks like you put some effort into it. I think this pattern hits the mark!

Further down the wall in the corner are a few Magic Lantern blocks that will use both new rulers. Once again, larger pieces means less work and better proportion on a large queen or king size bed. I am loving these "new" rulers even though they don't really exist yet (I'm playing with a prototype). Experimenting allows me the opportunity to work out the placement of lines on the ruler, see how they work with different fabric cuts and make sure we have included everything you will need so that you will love them too. Once I am finished experimenting they will go into production and be ready for fall Quilt Market. I can hardly wait to get my hands on the real thing!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Absolutely Nothing To Do With Quilting.

I've been running.

Not the kind of crazy busy "running" that we all do in our hectic lives, I'm talking about the kind of running that involves special shoes and sweat. I know, I know, for those of you that know me well, it's hard to believe that I drag my behind out of bed early in the morning to EXERCISE. My behind or more accurately the size of my behind is precisely what spurred me into action.

I realize that I'm not exactly a candidate for the Biggest Loser, but in my mind size is relative. I fondly remember being a size 6 and way before that a size 4. My wedding dress was a size 2. In the bottom drawer of my dresser are a stack of size 8 pants that I would like to be wearing. Hanging in my closet are my size 10's and if the truth be told, they were getting snug. Something had to be done.
Cutting out wine during the week, taking the candy off my desk and controlling my carbs helped. To make a real difference I knew that I would have to move more. My husband offered to run with me, amazing because he is athletic and I'm a rank beginner in the running world - and I mostly run downhill. We've also been down this path before. Read my entry from September 2009.http://www.karensayssew.blogspot.com/2009/09/run-run-as-fast-as-you-can.html
Naturally my renewed interest in the sport required new equipment. Shoes were not a problem. My husband had me invest in great running shoes in 2009 and they are still like new. After my experience with yoga pants, shopping for running shorts was an absolute requirement in my book! THAT is what this post is really about.
We have already covered the actual size of my behind, so could someone please explain to me why I wear a size LARGE in "active wear"? Really? A size LARGE? Is that some sick stick thin designers idea of a joke? Is that Nike/Reebok/Addis idea of encouraging you to exercise more? According to the internet the average American woman wears a size 14. Average is two sizes larger than I am right now and I wear a large? Are they assuming those woman will NEVER want athletic wear?
 
I think that we have all experienced "the more you pay the smaller your size" when dress shopping. Now that I've dropped a few pounds I'm a size 8 over $200 and I'm pretty sure I could be a 6 if I had reason and the means to shop Nordstrom's Special Occasion department. Perhaps that principle applies here? I'm not overjoyed at spending a bundle on something that I plan to only sweat in on a regular basis, but "cheap" shorts in Athletic wear are in the $24 range, they come in basic black like a model T and if you are lucky you get a pocket just large enough to hold your car key.
 
I prefer the tight body hugging shorts to the baggy gym shorts style. I have good reason for my preference, one that my husband doesn't understand, but those of you whom have thighs that rub together won't question. I'm looking at capri length or at the very least bike shorts because my thighs are not yet ready for a public appearance.  Which begs the question of why LARGE active wear is available in mini short length?  

Running everyday requires a whole wardrobe of LARGE shorts and that "LARGE" tag irritates me every time I shop for them.  To solve the problem I ordered a pair of shorts off the internet. Good price, free shipping. When they arrived the tags were in Spanish. I don't feel any better knowing that my butt is "Grande".

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It Is Wednesday In My World

Here it is folks, the photo of my design wall.



You are looking at what could be the beginning of a great idea. I love working with triangles and I love working with stripes. These triangles were cut with the Creative Grids 60 degree equilateral triangle that we use for the Easy Striped Table Runner. You own one of those don't you?

I cut these triangles out a few months ago with the idea that with just one striped fabric and a bit of background you could design your own twists and turns and create your own unique quilt.  Fantastic idea! Then I started to think and then over think the instructions. I'm still playing with them.  The simple fact is, it's almost TO EASY to explain!

Grab some striped fabric and cut it into identical 8 1/2 inch strips. Grab your Creative Grids 60 degree triangle and slice those strips into triangles. (Don't you just LOVE Creative Grids?)  Play around with the arrangement until you are happy with it. Fill in the open areas with background fabric. Stitch the thing together. Done!

Oh yea, "quilt as desired", bind and Enjoy!

Easy?

Easy to do, yes. Easy to write instructions for, NO. The problem is that I have no control of the striped fabric that you will purchase. Therefore I have no idea how many identical 8 1/2 inch strips you will be able to cut. Four seems reasonable, but I could cut 5 from the fabric I used. Other stripes that I have tried will only cut 3, but then you could get one or two more from the leftover that didn't match.  Those would have to be used in areas that were unique to themselves and not intermixed with the others or they won't work. Then there is the issue of how much fabric to buy. Obviously it depends on how many strips you can cut. What if you cut the strips smaller, say 6"? Could you get more strips? How big would your quilt be then? The size depends totally on how you lay it out!  If I say 10 triangles across and your design looks better with 8 - use 8!

This could end up being the Nike quilt pattern that I am always threatening to publish. Photo on the front cover, inside the instructions will simply say:

"Just Do It"!







Thursday, July 12, 2012

BERNINA University

It looks like I missed another Design Wall Wednesday!

This weeks excuse is that I was attending BERNINA University in Washington DC instead of sewing.  BU is the annual gathering of BERNINA Dealers from, ...well from everywhere!  It is intended as the U.S. convention, but my favorite Canadians are always there.  I also sat next to a New Zealand dealer in one class and chatted with several Europeans in other classes.  Naturally there are Swiss instructors and Techs in attendance so it is really an international event.

BU is where we learn about new products.  The newest machines are introduced (even though they won't ship for a few months) and we have the opportunity to "schmooze" with other dealers between classes.  Schmoozing is the best part in my opinion, but I can honestly say that you are also going to LOVE the new 7 series and all of it's state-of-the-art features when they arrive later this fall.

This year along with Brandon I took two employees, Jane and Honey.  This was their first time traveling with Brandon and I and I think they enjoyed the experience.  Even the parts that they didn't intend to experience. Like running 3 blocks in the pouring rain to get back to the hotel and eating with your knees higher than the table in a "zen" style restaurant.  They also laughed until their cheeks hurt and walked more miles than intended.  This is Honey being a good sport with Brandon in front of the White House.  What she didn't know is that we also intended to take in the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Mall before returning to the hotel!
 
Traveling with employees means that they too have cameras with them.  Jane posted this oh-so-flattering shot of me taking a funny photo of Brandon on her Facebook page.  Gee thanks Jane! 

It wasn't all fun and games.  There were plenty of classes to attend, important tech knowledge to absorb and new products to learn.  That's why I took Jane and Honey.  To expose them to the wonderful BERNINA product line.  To allow them to experience, hands-on the stellar features of the Swiss engineering behind the brand and to afford them the opportunity to meet the BERNINA team.  They were surrounded by the 5th generation owner of the company, the education department, the Swiss design team and top notch dealers from around the world.  It also allowed me to sign-up for some really inspiring classes.

Hey, someone had to attend...

BTW I didn't win a bottle of wine.  I guess that means I have to "study" harder!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I'm heading for BERNINA University in Washington D.C. very early tomorrow morning.  Brandon our Tech and Honey and Jane from the sales staff are going along for several days of classes, top notch education and training as well as the chance to rub elbows with the best BERNINA dealers in the country. 

We will also be there for the unveiling the newest additions to the BERNINA line and the seven hundred series.  If you want to be the first to see them - virtually, follow us on Facebook!  I will be posting about the goodies we find, the new techniques we learn and whatever else we find.  I might need your help deciding what to buy too!   Click here to find our Facebook page.
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/The-Quilt-Company/142564535755634

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is It Wednesday Again?

Last week we were vending at the Shipshewana Quilt Festival so I wasn't home to take photos of my design wall.  Not that it mattered, it was empty!  This week, I have another excuse. 
We have short house guests that are demanding all of our attention.  This is Grant and Madeline our grandkids, otherwise known as "the Twins".  They are staying with us for 10 days to give their Mom and Dad the chance to do a few things around the house without interuption.  Trust me, these two specialize in interuptions, but they are still the most adorable things on the planet even if I won't get any sewing done while they are here.  I think you will forgive me for not sharring my design wall when you see the photos of the Shipshewana show that I have for you.

The Shipshewana show was spectacular!  Yes, all quilt shows are wonderful, but the workmanship on display in this particular show, this particular year was breathtaking! 

In no particular order:

I posted the detail shot of this hand applique, hand quilted piece on The Quilt Company Facebook page while we were there.  It generated several comments and requests to see the whole quilt, so I'm showing you both.  By the way - this quilt took a SECOND place.  Those two ladies were doing their best not to get caught sneaking a peek at the back of the binding.


This quilt wasn't a top ribbon winner either, but it should have been as far as I was concerned!  The color and workmanship in the border is absolutely beautiful.  I dream of something like this being on my design wall!  
My appoligies for the poorly cropped photo, but this border and setting triangle shot was really what I wanted to share.
The quilter gave credit to an applique book for the border inspiration, but I didn't jot it down.  The only way I would be able to accomplish that border is by machine!

This was the blue ribbon winner. Baltimore Album done to perfection. 


Not all the quilts were traditional.  These were a few of my favorites:
The woman that made this one did a little shopping in our booth.  This New York Beauty was her FIRST quilt!

This is called Bali High and the photo does not do it justice.  It is made in silk and batiks.  The green background actually shades from light to dark.  Here is a detail photo of the quilting - all done in metalic threads!

Now do you really care what is on my design wall this week?