Sunday, March 25, 2012

How was your weekend?

I spent my days at the North Pittsburgh Quilt Guild Show. This is a local show for me. It is so close to home that I could stop in the shop each day before heading to the show and sleep in my own bed each night. Good perks as far as I am concerned! The show opened at noon on Sunday which gave me an entire morning off. A luxury in my book!

I don't have time to do many small shows, but this one is so convenient and the timing was right. I also recognize many of the quilts that are on display. This version of our Picture This pattern had a ribbon. It depicts Betty's trip to France.

The prolific Quilts of Valor group that meets in our store had their own section. The quilts on display will be shipped off to soldiers shortly. Bonnie and her team of volunteers do an amazing job. The quilt they are unfolding in the photo just came back from the quilter and will be taken home by another volunteer to bind. Last year they made and donated over 80 quilts and are well on their way to breaking that record this year. One of the things I like best about this group is that their focus is on quality not quantity. They haven't given away one quilt that I wouldn't be proud to own.

Kudos to my award winning staff for their performance this weekend! This is Nancy's redwork quilt that she designed and stitched and her sister hand quilted.

Missy's Lone Star shared multiple ribbons, including best machine quilting with "our" Mary Thomas! Mary is the angel that quilts most of my quilts - in record time. Now you know why I felt so bad about adding my scribble next to her precision feathers on the flying geese quilt!

It was fun to get out and catch up with friends and customers that we haven't seen all winter and spend the weekend just enjoying quilts. After I unpack the boxes and bins from this show I will be loading the car up with a different assortment of quilts and patterns. I'm heading to Columbus Ohio to present a lecture and class for the Common Threads Quilt Guild.

Then it is on to Cincinnati for a well deserved treat - a visit with the grandbabies and a little bit of spoiling. The plan is to kidnap the twins and their Mom and bring them back to Pittsburgh for a week with Grandma and Grandpa so that their Dad can get a few things done around the house.

After that I'm really going to need a rest!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Isn't this a cool quilt?

In a few months this Flying Geese project will be a free download on the Timeless Treasures website. You will be able to purchase the 30 luscious fabrics that I used for the geese, the background fabric and download the instructions and print them out absolutely free. What a deal! What you won't get are the "real" instructions. The download will be the condensed version, highly edited, for the sake of your sanity. The edited instructions will allow you to make this quilt quickly and easily and you will be amazed at how perfectly things fit together. I know, I designed it, but that isn't how it was made.

I'm going to share this designers dirty little secret.

The original idea for this quilt was in just two colors, red and white. I toyed around with the layout on my computer and filed it away in my "future" file. When Emily from Timeless called and offered me the opportunity to work with this eye popping group of gorgeous batiks. How could I say no? Flipping through the "future" file I immediately saw a colorwash of geese on a dark background - perfect. How big did they need the quilt to be? "Any size" was the reply. Timeless is in the business of selling beautiful fabrics. When you make a quilt for advertising, they want the fabrics to show. I decided to cut the geese 4 by 8 inches and make 4 of each color. That would show off the fabrics nicely. I could deal with the layout later.

It was time for the geese assembly process, which because of my schedule took place on numerous occasions, in numerous places on a variety of different sewing machines. No problem, a quarter inch is a quarter inch.... right? I will spare you the details, but suffice to say that among other things on one occasion using a different brand of machine, I neglected to adjust the needle position after a power glitch. At the final pressing of all 120 geese I had an assortment of sizes! I also had a big problem.

Those 4 by 8 inch geese were way too big anyway....... I think 3 by 6 look much better. Spend an entire day trimming geese........

Final assembly took place in my "new" sewing room. Our son had been living at home while house hunting and he finally moved into his own place. His old room was immediately filled with a sewing table, my machine, ....... and ...... what happened to our ironing board? No time for design wall or shopping for a new ironing board. That 18 inch pressing mat would have to do. I needed to get this quilt top assembled and off to the quilter. It was a bit like camping. Crawling around on the floor made me truly appreciate my design wall!

I delivered the quilt top to Mary, a true quilting angel, with instructions to "quilt the blue areas and not the geese". Those were my instructions and that is exactly what she did - beautifully. There are feathers quilted into every triangle of background fabric. Exactly what I had asked for.

I decided quite some time ago that the epitaph on my tombstone should read "It was a good idea at the time". I know better than to leave areas of a quilt unquilted. Quilting shrinks a quilt. The stitching puckers the fabric and makes them smaller than the areas without quilting. You have to balance your quilting or your quilt will not be flat. I know that..... Why did I forget?

The geese were a little "puffy" after quilting, but I was pretty confident that a good steam iron and I could take care of that. I'm nothing if not overconfident. I trimmed the edges to get ready for the binding. I didn't have time to add the binding after trimming, so I folded the quilt........ AAAHHHHHHHHHHHH.

The top edge of the quilt was a full inch and a half LARGER than the bottom! It was square when I pieced it! I know it was.... wasn't it......? Spend another hour with the calculator, the computer, a set of rulers, checking math. Why aren't they the same size? Measure again. Admit that the top is almost TWO inches larger than the bottom. What could have happened?

Yes, people will notice. No you can't just whack off the "extra".....

Realize it's the quilting. More unquilted geese at the top, more quilted background at the bottom. Is it possible that a little bit of quilting could make THAT much difference?

Yes it is.

I know for a fact that WAS the problem because I spent an entire afternoon quilting each of those geese with mono filament thread. Next to Mary's beautiful feathers you will see my @#$% scribbling in clear thread on each color triangle so that the fabric shows instead of the thread. Thanks to the BERNINA Stitch Regulator, my stitches are even - not in a pretty design - but they are even.

And the quilt is back to square.... or technically a rectangle.

Trust me the free instructions will be much easier than the process I used! This quilt is now bound and will be boxed up and sent to New York to be photographed. Emily is going to ask me if I have a name for it. I'm thinking "Gone South" is appropriate.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

While The Staff's Away

My entire staff has left town. Everyone except Patty, who has concert tickets for tonight. The shop is open our regular hours 9:30 - 5:00 and we also have a booth at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show which is 10 - 10 today and 10 - 6 tomorrow and 99% of my staff is gone. It is an understatement to say that we are spread a little thin. I'm going to be exhausted on Monday, but it is worth it and it is my own fault.

Each year for the last several years my Christmas gift to The Quilt Company staff has been a sewing weekend at a retreat center in West Virginia. Rather than squeeze it in to the holiday rush, we book it for March when the staff can go and have fun while I hold down the fort here at the shop. I should have checked the calendar before agreeing to the Home Show, but it is what it is. I'm not superwoman, even with help from my Husband and son, I needed to call in help from retired employee Rose who understands the value of the get away weekend for the girls.

I know, I know, I'm a great boss. The truth is, I couldn't do all that I do without the help of these fun loving women. Believe me, having to work with me all year, they have earned a weekend away! This is the group photo they sent earlier today.

The retreat center has a nice open sewing room where they each have a table to themselves. Rooms are dorm style, but the best part is the food. Sarah, the young woman that runs the place is a trained French Chef and she serves the meals on china, in the dining room of the main house. You wake up to a cooked breakfast, sew until lunch, more sewing until dinner and then if you aren't too stuffed to move, you sew even more until you can't keep your eyes open. They sent me this photo of Jane's blocks arranged on the floor. I'm not sure Jane has gone to bed at all!

That might sound a little like a sweat shop atmosphere to some people, but if you are a quilter, it is heaven and naps are optional. Being able to push yourself back from the table after a fantastic meal that you didn't cook, grab the left over wine and head for your sewing machine instead of a kitchen full of dishes is a real treat in my book. And don't forget the laughter. When these women get together there is ALWAYS laughter! It is good for your soul. They learn things about each other, they tease like sisters and they laugh until their sides hurt. And they get a lot done too! This is the photo that they sent of Missy's first project. Missy is the resident over achiever!

If you have never been on a retreat weekend, grab some friends and start planning now! There are church camps, colleges, YMCA and scout facilities as well as retreat centers that are built specifically for sewing groups that would love to have you use their space. Some are more luxury, some are more rustic, but if you are traveling with a group of quilters I can almost guarantee that any of them would be fun!