Category: Ramblings

It’s Fall, y’all

There’s a gentle breeze coming in from the windows at my house. I can see the leaves dancing in the afternoon light as I sit at my dining room table with Miss L, helping her with today’s homework.

Fall might be my favorite time of year. I love the crisply cool mornings, the leaves changing colors, football games. For me, summer is about going with the flow but fall is projects and new beginnings.

I’m in the midst of preparations for Quilt Market and spending more time at the sewing machine (or computer) than planning or playing. At my doctor’s appointment yesterday, Dr. A gently suggested that I scale back on my commitments. I have a tendency to view downtime as a bad thing (my husband jokes about my inability to relax, even on vacation) but I’m seeing this fall as an opportunity to learn how to better balance things.


 

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Indie vs the Chain

The fine folks over at Sew Mama Sew posted a link on Facebook today to a blog post by author Christine Haynes about the closing of Sew L.A. If you’ve not yet read it, I highly recommend it before you go any further. Go ahead; I’ll wait right here for you.

Welcome back!

I commented on the link but decided to elaborate on my thoughts here because it’s my blog and I have thoughts. Many, many thoughts. As someone who works and teaches at an independent quilt shop, I found Christine’s insights eye opening and, frankly, quite sad.

I keep seeing people blaming the big corporations for the demise of shops like Sew L.A. and others but, ultimately, the blame lies with the consumer who stops supporting the small, indie business. I absolutely understand the need to be cost conscious; however, I know that money spent at local businesses like the one where I work/teach directly benefits other small businesses. For example, today I used some of my most recent paycheck at a funky local boutique on a cute pair of socks and letterpress card (made by an indie artist), then had a scoop of ice cream from a cool mom-and-pop shop on the walk back to the car. Tonight, my daughter had gymnastics practice at a family-owned gym she’s attended since age 3, which my paycheck also covers. And I’m not going to go into detail about how much of my paycheck is reinvested at work. (Oh, like you could resist after being around all that gorgeous fabric, day in and day out.)

No chain store comes close to the experience and knowledge of our employees and teachers, who have been known to spend hours helping a customer pick fabrics for a single quilt. (And those customers return with their finished projects, so happy to show them off — and we love it!) The folks who work at chain craft stores don’t have the ability to devote that much time to helping customers but that doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced or knowledgeable. Two of my friends — who also are two of the most talented seamstresses I know — I met while they worked the cutting counter at a chain store.

It’s no secret that my older son spent nearly three years working for a chain store. It was a great experience for him and he always got a kick out of surprising customers with his crafty know-how. The same store carried my first book — as did other chains — and I’m so grateful they did. I’m equally grateful that so many independent stores not only carried the book but taught classes from it (which made my heart grow five sizes!). I loved doing book signings and trunk shows at quilt shops, meeting the store owners and their employees (and often their families), chatting with folks about the projects they like to make and the loved ones for whom they sew.

I don’t think big chains are evil and out to destroy small businesses. I think there is room for everyone because they fill different needs. As consumers, we need to be cognizant of those roles and place as high a value on service, experience and community as we do bargains or we lose not only the choice of shopping with independent businesses but also the distinct character they add to our neighborhoods.

 

At the Movies

Ahh, summertime. I love the lazy days of summer and have spent the past 10 days enjoying Miss L and our more relaxed schedule.

Today was a movie day, thanks to a 60 percent chance of rain. “Mirror, Mirror” finally made it to the $2 theater near us, so it was the perfect remedy to a rainy day.

It’s just an OK movie but the costumes! Oh, the costumes! The late Eiko Ishioka (who won an Academy Award for Bram Stoker’s Dracula) just blew me away with her over-the-top designs. The textures, the details, the colors — total eye candy. I also spied some familiar fabrics.

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Being a total fabric addict, I had to hop on Google to find pictures to back up my discovery: That’s quilting fabric! One dress was definitely from the Kaffe Collective and there was another featuring motifs from Pillow & Maxfield’s Gypsy Bandana Line. On closer look, I saw that Patty Young’s Andalucia was used for the skirt on the same costume.

My fabric geekiness knows no bounds.

To Market, to Market

I may officially be the last person to blog about Quilt Market. Seriously, I’ve been home more than two weeks and still haven’t finished scanning in my pics. Instead of waiting for the planets to align and that to happen, I’m going to just dive in with a few pics and my thoughts on some things I saw there.

Above is the view from our hotel room in SLC as the sun rose our last morning there. The weather was all kinds of perfect and Salt Lake City has to be one of the nicest cities I’ve ever visited.

It’s always fun to go to Market but exhausting, too. This trip was no different, with Sarah and I up and at ’em early every morning, on the go all day, attending social/networking events in the evening, then winding down in time to grab some (not nearly enough) sleep. Even with all that time on the floor, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and miss so much of what’s there. After comparing notes, Sarah and I noticed a few trends:

  • Solids are big and definitely getting attention from a lot of quadrants. Manufacturers, pattern designers and authors are all tapping into this one. I love me some Kona but I’m also grooving on the FreeSpirit Designer Solids (touch them and see if you don’t agree that the hand is just amazing).

  • Stitchery — embroidery and cross stitch — is being shown lots of love, too. Sarah Jane and Anna Maria Horner both come to mind but they’re far from the only ones (the awesome Rashida Coleman-Hale even gave out a free cross stitch pattern that goes with her new fabric line). The new aida cloth from Westminster is some of the nicest I’ve touched and may even seduce me into trying some more cross stitching.

  • Modern quilting styles meet more challenging techniques. Personally, I’m loving this! I am so enamored of the “modern” aesthetic but I’m ready to challenge myself every now and then with some more complex piecing — but nothing so overwhelming that I can’t finish it in a weekend (Mariner’s Compass, you’re just going to have to wait your turn).

Quilt Market, Part 2

The subhead of this post could easily be “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

My first book signing for Little Girls, Big Style was the Saturday of Market, with my second book signing the following day. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. My anxiety was compounded by the fact that I wrote – -by hand — my signings on 300 postcards and put the wrong times. Seriously. Would anyone show up? Would people actually want my book? My friends, bless them, were quick with the hugs, reassuring words and promises to stand in line to get their copies. (I have to give major props to Sarah and Taffy who spent nearly every minute of the trip with me and heard it all, times 10.)

When I arrived 20 minutes before my first book signing was scheduled to start, I found this:

A line! Wheeeeeee!

In all honesty, I was at Quilt Market and people will get into a line without knowing why, just on the off chance they’ll get something for free. (Which my friends were kind enough to point out after my signing. See why I love them?) But I’m going to enjoy it anyway — it certainly made my butterflies zip on out of there.

Adrianne caught me in action the first day, as did my friend Joyce at Quilting Adventures, and then Patty the next day (although darned if I can find it right now). I met so many nice folks from all over the world and also was happy to sign some books that went home with some of my favorite people (including one super sweet gal who has since left a lovely review of the book on Amazon, in spite of the fact that I would not let her have my shoes). For the first time, my book was in the hands of people outside my family and Stash/C&T and it finally felt real.

Yes, I really did write a book and now other people can read it!

Thanks to everyone who supported me, loved me, hugged me and/or came by to get a signed copy of my book. You helped make my weekend in Houston even more memorable.

Up next: Part 3 of my Quilt Market series, which is actually about some of the gorgeous fabrics we saw.

Snow Day

I live in the South so it’s always an event when we get snow. Always.That’s why I’ve kept one eye on the weather forecast all week. The closer we got to Friday, the more our chance of snow increased: 30 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent.

How about 100 percent?

I think we’re up to about three inches and another two to four hours of snow falling still to come. It’s rumored that more of the white stuff is one the way Sunday or Monday. Not what I’d planned for this weekend at all.

Honey worked from home today and took a break late this afternoon to take Miss L out to play in the pretty snow. I followed behind, my trust camera in hand and my favorite insulated duck boots on.

The neighborhood kids were having a blast outside and thrilled to have a grown-up to gang up on with snowballs. Liesl could not get enough of playing in the snow, whether she was sledding, throwing snowballs, making snow angels or attempting to make a snowman. (Her big brother spent about two hours out there with his friends.)

As for me, I snapped a bunch of pictures then popped back into the warm, quiet house to enjoy the snow from my favorite vantage point: the living room.

A Little Campy

I’ve been teaching a sewing and quilting summer camp at the shop this week, so my days have been busier in a new and different way. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, since most of my teaching has been one-day or half-day kind of things. Would my students get along? Could they get through each of the projects in the amount of time allotted? Would it be fun for all of us?

It’s been an absolute blast.

I have two 11-year-old girls in my camp — lifelong friends of each other — and they are just the coolest kids. Love to sew, excited about every project, thrilled with everything they’re learning. And oh my gosh, are they fast! They would have finished Thursday’s big project before they left today if I’d had the right elastic with me. (They literally groaned when I told them the news; they were that bummed!) They just beam whenever they finish a project, so absolutely pleased with themselves and their work.

I’ve even been able to get a little sewing done myself this week which makes me happy: a baby quilt top, a new dress for Miss L, a wristlet, a halter top and two skirts for Sarah‘s daughter.

I’ve made them promise to bring all of their projects on Friday so I can photograph all their work (which should be at least one tote bag, two wristlets, a pair of pajama pants, two key fobs, an Amy Butler Sun & Surf Halter and three skirts — plus whatever they make Friday). I’ll be sure to share pics so you can ooooh and aaaaah as much as I have!

In a Parallel World

I have done the unthinkable:

I have installed Windows XP on my MacBook.

Back in the fall when I bought my embroidery machine, I figured that I’d take over Honey’s PC laptop when he got his new netbook for Christmas. What I did not expect at that time was the loose connection that would make turning on his laptop — and keeping it on — some special type of AC adapter acrobatics.

I scoured Ebay and Craigslist for a cheap laptop but couldn’t find anything in my admittedly low price range. I had all but decided to suck it up and buy a netbook for myself when I decided to look into PC emulator software for my MacBook.

Jackpot!

I picked up a secondhand copy of Parallels Desktop 3.0 for Mac for a whopping $20, then installed it and our unused copy of Windows XP. In short order, I had my embroidery software (Embird and Monogram Wizard Plus) up and running on my little Mac. OK, it actually took a couple of hours to get everything installed and running, and included having to reboot my computer because the Windows installer CD managed to get stuck in the drive. But once that was done, I was in business, putting together monograms and saving files to my heart’s content.