Friday, July 29, 2011

Scrapbusting...ch-ch-changes...

A while back, I set out to organize my overflowing scrap piles and fill some scrappy project bins with properly pruned little bits that are just waiting to "be someone."

Pruning scraps is very gratifying...especially if you have a good DVD or book-on-CD to listen to.   :o)

Well, now some of my scrappy project bins are overflowing!  Time to do some SERIOUS chain-piecing and get some units and blocks stitched up!

One thing that has stopped me from doing all this is my sewing machine.  Honestly, my sewing machine is a piece of crap.  I used to think that a sewing machine was a sewing machine...since I pretty much just use it to sew straight, why spend a lot of money on one?!? 

Ten or so years ago when my childhood Singer started wearing out (a 1970 "Genie" model...back when Singer was REALLY Singer...), I blindly (and stupidly) bought another Singer.  It was one of the "Quantum" models and it turned out to be a truly horrible machine (Singer is no longer Singer...).  I paid about $500 for it, which seemed like a lot of money to me at the time...my daughter was a toddler and I no longer worked full time.  It had some bells and whistles, and I blamed my immediate disappointment with the machine on the fact that it was new and fancy and I just wasn't comfortable with it yet.

Ten years later, experience has not made up for the fact that the machine is poorly lit, the throat plate "eats" the corners and edges of piecing units and "leaders," it doesn't feed well or evenly, winding the bobbin is awkward, it is clunky and noisy to use, it "walks" across the table when I am using it, there is limited room to manipulate what I am sewing, the buttonhole stitch is horrible, the foot pedal has a "delay," the tension is never correct, and the walking foot is huge and sounds like I am killing the machine when I try to use it.

And that describes its BETTER qualities!

And don't get me started on my attempts at free motion machine quilting...

Anyway, I have been paying attention to what other people sew on and I've been listening to them complain and praise various machines.  I just purchased a Janome Memorycraft 6600.  I am in love...

My friends describe this machine as dependable and a work horse...sounds like me.  I'm still learning how to use it, but decided that throwing together some wonky stars (a la Bonnie Hunter) would be a good introductory project for the new machine.  These blocks are liberated and don't require the accuracy that other piecing demands.  I can work on establishing that perfect 1/4 inch seam tomorrow...

Here are some that are finished...I make them, then trim them down a little crooked so that they look even wonkier.


Here are the last ones I made, before the crooked trimming job.  I almost got through all the neutral squares and little triangular scraps that I have been collecting.

I also managed to prep 20 more applique basket blocks...all green ones.  I have a few meetings coming up, and I always take some small handwork to do.  I listen better when my hands aren't idle...


Tomorrow I will solidify that elusive 1/4 inch seam on my new machine and catch up with some blocks for my Bee Balm group.

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)

Monday, July 25, 2011

A winner! I'm back from the wilderness...

Hello!  I am back from our yearly camping trip in the Canadian 1000 Islands.  It was good to come back to electricity, the Internet, a real bed, running water, and so many lovely comments/opinions about Moda favorites.  I wish I had a little Moda goodie from your favorite designer for all of you!


Congratulations to Kira of the Stick and Stones blog!  Send me a return email with your address and I will send you the lovely hinged Moda tin containing the beautiful Moda candy bar pre-cuts.  Thanks to everyone who posted a comment and also to Moda Mark for supplying the fabulous give-away!  (See how much everyone loves Moda?  You need to give me something else to offer as a give-away...hint hint!!)

Although it was a busy week, working and vacationing with Steve's family on the noble St. Lawrence, I did manage to open my magic box a few times and hand applique another 14 basket blocks.  Slowly but surely the pile of finished ones is growing!
When I unpacked and opened the magic box this morning to quickly take a picture of the finished blocks, a stow-away spider crawled lazily out of the box.  I was too freaked out to take a picture and I quickly put the camera down to dispatch the critter.  I tolerate being surrounded by bugs in the wilderness, but don't want them in the house!  I was on a wooded peninsula on the river for 10 days...I'm surprised that was the only thing that looked up at me as I removed the box lid.

Needless to say, I wash laundry and bedding IMMEDIATELY upon getting home, no matter how tired I am or how late we arrive home.   :o)

When the whole extended family is at Grass Creek, we stay in our tent, but don't feel sorry for us that we aren't in one of the cabins...look how cozy with crude beds moved in and made up with old quilts from home...

(It's a little fuzzy photographing through the mosquito netting...which is, unfortunately, necessary at night...I brought a few itchy bites home with me...)  And yes...that is a bathmat by the tent floor...I like camping with a few nutty creature comforts...
This is our view from the tent door.  Just across the path and through a few trees, the St. Lawrence River sparkles in the sun.  When sitting at the big table on the Main House porch, this is my view as I stitch my basket blocks.  Ahhh...just sewing and watching the boats go by...paradise!
Down by the boat dock...the water is so beautiful and inviting.

It was so peaceful when Riley and her cousins, aunts, uncles, father, and grandparents were off swimming, boating, exploring, or napping.  It was nice to have stolen moments away from the cooking and group responsibilities to sew and listen to the water and wildlife.  I managed to lose another 5 pounds, despite all the fabulous group meals we prepared together while there.  The total is now over 50...woo hoo!!  This was (hopefully) the last summer for the "Hindenburg" style fat bathing suit!
Just before we left for Canada, we went to the midnight show of the last Harry Potter movie.  Riley and her best friend were all decked out in their Hogwart's finest and the needed 3-D glasses.  Bring it on, Lord Voldemort!
Summer is winding down for us...I feel like I have not been home at all!  Time to hunker down and get some things done!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A visit from "Moda Mark"...and he gave me a give-away for you!

Hi friends,

Don't you LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Moda fabrics???  Barbara Brackman, 3 Sisters, French General, April Cornell, Simpson/Minick,  Erin Michael, Blackbird Designs, Holly Taylor, Laundry Basket, Fig Tree, Anne Sutton/Bunny Hill, Kansas Troubles, Brannock and Patek, Spain, Gervais...

I love all fabric, but the Moda is so consistently lucious and has such a nice hand.

Well, a few days ago, "Moda Mark" buzzed into the store where I work part time and spread a little Moda magic (Mark Pytel, Moda sales rep for our midwestern area).  He had some lovelies to show us and came bearing gifts.  He left me a little something to offer you as a give-away.  Bless him.

 See this beautiful little painted, hinged tin box??
Just look at the candy bar pre-cuts hiding inside (and a cute little potholder...).

Leave a comment before midnight, Saturday, July 23 and tell me your favorite Moda designer.  I will announce the winner Monday morning, July 25, drawn by the random number generator.

(I am not a paid spokesman for Moda...just really love this fabric and appreciate "Moda Mark" giving me a little something to share with you!)

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Like to do Block-of-the-Month's? Hope you have a sense of humor...

Quite a while back, I posted about Block-of-the-Month (BOM) programs and encouraged you to comment about your like/dislike of them and share some experiences.
Wow...did I ever open a can of worms!  Because I have been involved in administering a couple of these programs since then, I decided to wait a while before posting further on this topic.

I don't own a quilt shop, but I do work part time at one.  Our shop, like many, offers BOM programs...2-3 at a time.  I designed a quilt for a BOM about 6-7 years ago...wrote all the patterns, administered it, taught the class each month (technique and history), and did the kitting.  It was called "Quilting Through America" and the blocks all represented different decades/quilt styles in America, even including a "whole cloth" hand quilted eagle in the middle (hard to see in this picture...).  It incorporated broderie perse, whole cloth quilting, piecing, redwork, applique, string piecing, crazy quilting/embellishing, charm quilting, and all techniques were taught in addition to the history of the era.  (I made this sample, hand quilted the center, and the rest of the quilt was custom machine quilted by Marilyn Lange, Ypsilanti, MI).

Since then, I have administered a couple more BOM programs, working with two other people of like mind...one program was "canned," offered by Marti Michell through Maywood Fabrics ("American Beauty").  This employed her "Perfect Piecing" template system, included great patterns, and just concluded in the spring.  (Mary Jones made the sample shown below and it was machine quilted by Rhonda Loy, Dexter, MI).

Currently I am kitting and administering one that we developed from the Nancy Halvorsen book, "Count On It!" with the same two other people...both of whom are just as wacky about things being right and true as I am.  Together, we designed the outer border using previous Halvorsen designs.  We called it "Most Wonderful" and it was made entirely from Halvorsen fabrics (Benartex).  The sample was made by Mary Jones, custom machine quilted by Rhonda Loy, Dexter, MI.  There were directions to write and lots of fussy little pieces to kit.


I have tried to sum up the comments I received from the previous post below.

Why do people want to do block-of-the-month (BOM) quilts?  Lots of good reasons:

1)  Some just like the quilt. 
2)  Some like working on something where the design and fabrics are all picked out...NO DECISION-MAKING.
3)  Some are new to quilting and decide that this is a good way to learn new techniques. 
4)  Some don't have a "stash" and like the variety of materials offered. 
5)  Some like the pressure (or lack of pressure?) of working on one block at a time. (some of you just collect the blocks, and you KNOW who you ARE, LOL!). 
6)  Some want to meet other like-minded people and take the journey together.
7)  Some of you use these programs to get an INCREDIBLE amount of quilting done in a timely manner   (have you visited Yvette of the BOM Quilter blog??  OMG!  She works on SEVERAL programs at a time and gets them DONE - beautifully!!).

Why do quilt shops offer BOM programs?

1)  They provide steady, predictable traffic into the quilt shop.
2)  Some customers prefer paying for a quilting project a little at a time, one block or section a month.
3)  Great way to encourage customers to have success.
4)  Good way to introduce new techniques and/or tools to customers.
5)  Don't have to make the entire quilt kit at one time...kitting is time-consuming and this spaces it out over 6, 9, 12 months.

What are the chief customer complaints about BOM programs?

1)  The pattern has mistakes or is just unclear/not enough detail or pictures...not sure which fabric is used for what part of the block.
2)  There is not enough fabric to make the block/section featured.
3)  One or more of the fabrics in the kit have been substituted - not like the original, which you fell in TOTAL love with the first time you saw it.  Sometimes the substitution is good...sometimes, well, it's just plain hideous and looks like an after thought.
4)  Once you add up the total cost of the kits, the quilt is more expensive than if you just bought a pattern and picked out some fabric.

What are the chief shop owner complaints about BOM programs?

1)  Some quilters just collect the blocks to start the quilt LATER.  Then at this later date, if there are problems, or if the customer makes a cutting mistake, the fabric is gone from the shop and is no longer available.
2)  If the quilter's sewing room is unorganized, pieces of the quilt can get lost or separated.  Then, the shop may not have the fabric anymore when a replacement block/section is requested.
3)  Customers sign up, kits are made, shop resources are committed, then the quilter drops out or stops coming to pick up blocks.  Partial/incomplete BOM blocks are difficult to re-sell.  This costs a shop a lot of money.
4)  BOMs require buying a lot of fabric up front, then it can take up to a year to sell all the kits and recoop that initial outlay of money.  Then, the fabric needs to be stored, out of the general inventory, until it is cut for the kits.
5)  Unless the shop owner plans ahead and CUTS OFF or LIMITS ENROLLMENT, later participants don't end up making the same quilt as the sample due to fabrics becoming unavailable (especially Moda fabrics...they rarely reprint fabric lines...once that initial shipment of fabric is gone, it is almost impossible to get more).  This keeps the fabric selection fresh, but means shop owners really have to plan ahead.
6)  These BOMs are labor-intensive due to the time it takes to calculate, cut and package the kits.  This is why they seem pricey.  The labor cost has to be figured into the price of the program.

It makes me completely crazy when the BOM experience is flawed by multiple, repetitive mistakes in the patterns or fabric amounts.  I have an obsessive/compulsive personality, so I tend to check and recheck too much when it comes to calculating yardage and cutting/packaging kits.  My friends and the shop owner give me a hard time, but I know that if I were doing a BOM, I would want to know that care went into every step of offering me a quality project.

I also have high expectations of the customer...I put names on kits and hold people accountable for finishing what they start.  I want to do everything possible to assure the participant will have success in completing the project.  I love quilting, and I want EVERYONE to love quilting and have a successful experience.

Not everyone who runs BOM programs thinks like I do, and I am sure there are places for me to improve how I approach the ones I take on.  Today, one of our favorite customers was in the store and we were all thinking and commenting about BOMs.  She has a delightfully wicked sense of humor and came up with the perfect disclaimer that should be included in some BOM programs we've seen.  Thank you, M.D. - you made our day! 

(Disclaimer:  I want to share the following with a sense of humor...if you have had a bad experience, I am sorry...I am in no way making fun of your particular disappointment...)

"This is an opportunity for creativity...not everything you need is in this kit.  You are not securing a dream...you are buying a nightmare.  Have a nice day!"

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

(I will be away from civilization this week...I welcome and appreciate your comments...I will respond to each and every one when I get back...).

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)









Thursday, July 14, 2011

Potty mouth...a touchy subject...

An "issue" came up on one of my recent car trips, and I thought I would get your opinions. 

Maybe it is because I am dieting (46.6 pounds to date since May 3...woo hoo!), but I seem to have more opinions these days (not as fat and happy, perhaps...).  When you go to a quilt shop, do you like to have a bathroom available for your use?

On my recent road blitz across Michigan, I stopped at an isolated shop in western Michigan.  There were so many lovely things...I knew I would be there a while and was happily resigned that I would spend some money there...so many pretties to choose from!  Anyway, after spending some time looking at absolutely EVERYTHING, that quart of water I had been drinking for the last miles from Grand Rapids to Montegue started "talking to me"...well, started talking to my bladder, anyway.


I was in a tiny town with few options for a bathroom break.  I sheepishly asked the shop owner if she had a public bathroom.  She coldly answered, "no."  NO??  Yikes!  So much for cutting fabrics and finalizing my purchase, I needed to get out of there and find somewhere, ANYWHERE!

Maybe I'm crazy, but this greatly offended me.  Without an word (but with SEVERAL choice ones racing through my mind...), I left the shop and went to find a public bathroom (or tree) somewhere else, which was not easy to do in this town!  I did not return to this shop.

I work part time in a quilt shop.  I clean the bathroom.  How can you expect people to come in, browse, spend time and MONEY without offering this basic creature comfort?  I've heard all kinds of comments at work from the OTHER side of this issue..."why didn't they go before they left home?"  Well, I was over 230 miles from home, wanting to spend much needed dollars in Michigan, which really needs the business.  Let's face it...some of us travel miles and miles to shop at a favorite store or to find new shops when we travel.

Even if we don't travel far to shop, it should just be a convenience that is graciously offered.

The shop where I work used to be located in a historic barn...there was no running water.  Fortunately, we were part of an Antiques complex so we could send customers (and ourselves!) next door to use the facilities.  This was a great inconvenience for everyone, especially when it was raining or the snow was flying.  The store is now located in a place with indoor plumbing (ya hoo!).

Anyway, am I crazy?  As I have been blogging about shops I visit this summer, she not only missed out on my purchase, but maybe more from someone reading my blog.  Call me crazy, but I don't know of a single shop in this economy that can afford to lose sales...

That's how I see it...what do you think?

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It doesn't get any better than this...

Aahhhhh...hand applique on a perfect west Michigan afternoon, listening to fantastic music on the last day of Session One of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.  Yep...I had to actually leave home to get some sewing done this summer!  I was just hanging out in the 'cheap seats,' stitching and enjoying the perfect place to applique until my daughter's Symphony Band was ready to play.  Then we moved up to good seats and enjoyed a fabulous concert with all the other adoring parents and grandparents.

Before leaving home, I had hastily prepped some of my Blackbird Design basket blocks and placed them in my "Magic Box" with needles, thread, scissors, beeswax and my thimble.  I had everything I needed for a good time.  It was Heaven!

 
To prep the blocks, I glue basted everything together using my light box and my Roxanne's Glue Baste.
First, I placed my placement guide on the light box, lined up a background square on top, then used my pattern weights to hold everything steady.  This is what it looked like before I turned the light box on.
Now the light box is on and the placement guide shows up nicely.
Next, I put tiny dots of Roxanne's Glue Baste on the background fabric where the basket handle will go.  Can you see the tiny dots?  Remember, "dot-dot-not-a lot!"
After placing the handle, I applied tiny dots of glue on the background around the edges where the basket went (and around the edges of the peep hole!).  Once pressed in place, I set this aside to dry and prepped another block.  I am careful not to put the glue dots right at the edge of the outline...I don't want to have to stitch through the dried glue when I come back and make my applique stitches.  I only glue to hold things in place temporarily so that I don't have to work with pins.
All ready for hand applique!  Once appliqued, I will soak the block in water to remove the glue, then press it dry with my iron on the WRONG SIDE (dry iron, no steam), working on a towel placed on my pressing surface.  Once dry and pressed, I trim the basket block to 5 1/2 inches square.
Once the glue dries, into the Magic Box it goes until I have about 10-15 minutes to stitch it (and a few of its friends...).

While on the west side of the state, I had the opportunity to visit a new quilt shop (new to me, anyway...).  The shop is called "Fabric Quilt Scissors" and it is located in a charming little town called New Era, just northeast of Whitehall, where my husband and I were staying while waiting to pick up our daughter from music camp (not far from Muskegon, MI).  It was not in my Quilters Travel Companion...I asked the Innkeeper where we were staying if she knew of any quilt shops in the area.  She had hosted a quilt retreat recently, and the quilters attending had nice things to say about this shop.  I programmed "New Era, MI" into my GPS, and off I went, looking for an adventure!
What I found was a charming shop!  New Era is about 2 blocks long, and this shop was right in the middle of town.  I noticed there was a nice bakery right across the street, but since I'm dieting, I steered clear of THAT little adventure...
The shop is bright, cheerful, and full of fabric and project temptation!  Owner Kathy Szczesny (pronounced "chez-ny") carries a nice variety of fabrics...batiks, modern, baby, kids, brights, florals, color blenders, northwoods, novelties, patriotic.  There were plenty of patterns, books and notions to temp me as well.
 The back room hosts more fabric, samples and a classroom.
 I loved the Amy Bradley bug sample...
I gave into temptation many times, but by FAR, my favorite fabric purchased was this glow-in-the-dark piece from the "SKELETOONS" collection by Mark Hordyszynski for Blank Fabrics.  Fun, fun, FUN!


I love the colorful sneakers!

So, if you find yourself near the coast of west Michigan, check out Fabric Quilt Scissors, located at 4708 1st Street, New Era, MI, 49446, (888) 861-4646 (http://www.fabricquiltscissors.net/).  When visiting new places, don't be afraid to ask the "locals" about quilt shops...there are lots of charming shops that aren't listed in the travel companions.

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eat your heart out, Willie Nelson...

"On the road again...just can't wait to get on the road again...(sing it, Willie...).  It seems to be my summer to put thousands of miles on the car.  But I made a little detour about 10 days ago...
(ssshhh...don't tell Ola and Mary J where I stopped...)  I mean really, I was just passing through.  I left at 6:15 AM from Ann Arbor to take Riley to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp on the OTHER side of the state.  From there, I headed south to Alabama for the second time in a month.  I decided to take a new route, south through Indiana to meet up with my normal path in Louisville, KY.

I just HAD to go through Shipshewana, in the heart of Indiana Amish country, to get to I-69 south...REALLY...

But I forgot that it was Wednesday, which is Flea Market Day...on Wednesdays the town is filled to bursting with locals and visitors.  Buggy AND car gridlock...
As I inched through the traffic in town, I soon realized that a stop in town at Lolly's was out of the question.  Parking was impossible.  I decided that a quick spin through Yoder's was the best that I could hope for.
I was overjoyed to discover that THEY ARE EXPANDING THE ENTIRE BUILDING !!!!  The picture above is the expanded center hall, and the one below shows the HUGE new expansion of the quilting part of the department store (the tools are still set up, as they are finishing the expansion across the hall from the department store.  I'm not sure if they are expanding the grocery store, the hardware store, or BOTH.
It is well-lit, spacious and so enticing!
They had only been in the new part for 2 weeks...just in time for the big show they had a couple of weeks ago. 
This is the expansion across the hall...still working on that...
They are still moving things around and putting out new fabric and displays.  I want to go back soon and see the finished product!
 OK...enough of lurking in the hall...let's so SHOP!

Out of my way, sweetie...I just gotta get in there...
Wow...can you believe THIS is Yoder's??  I remember when the fabric was just a few displays between the straw hats and the suspenders!
 Anne Sutton fabric is featured nicely...
 Nice, wide rick-rack above a nice selection of 30's fabrics...
 Part of the color wall...
Reproduction fabrics...

Thimbleberries and Kansas Troubles...
 More color wall...
MORE Kansas Troubles (YOU could get in trouble here, Mary J...!)...
 I kept being drawn back to the color wall...

 Halloween into fall into Christmas...oh my!
NICE, comfy area with leather chairs for browsing books and magazines...

Minnick and Simpson for Moda, etc...
What is WRONG with me?  I've been here 20 minutes and there is NOTHING in my basket??
More color wall...
 Lovely samples were EVERYWHERE...
 Notions, notions, notions...

 And don't think that just because it is "Yoder's" that they aren't up-to-date with the newest items...just look at the GO! display...
 Our favorite magazines from Australia and New Zealand...
 And all the rest of my favorites...
 Halloween...



Now...THAT is more like it...
 Lot's of lovely 30's...
 This huge cutting table accommodated 4 nice ladies cutting for customers...no waiting in line...even on a Wednesday...
 For everyone loving wool and a more primitive look...
 Lovely wool...
Then I drove like a maniac the rest of the day and well into the night, bumping into a deer at the Tennessee-Alabama border at 1:00 AM (thank God I was alert enough to slam on the brakes and slow down to only 10 MPH...we BOTH survived...and I didn't wet my pants...the deer might have, though...) and rolling into my northwest Alabama destination at 2:20 EST (one thousand miles later...).  I got home to Michigan late last night, and now we are off tomorrow morning for 2 days of entertainment at Riley's camp and to bring her home.

I wish I could say that the summer road trips were over...

Happy trails...wherever they lead you...

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)