Patience and Persistence and (Im)Perfection

15-year-old:  Wow, that’s cool.

Me: Thanks!

15-year-old: It must be teaching you patience.

Me:  Child.  Raising you teaches me patience. Sewing is what I do to relax.

15-year-old: That’s wonderful.  That you could find something other than food to help you relax.

Sigh.

In fairness to the tactless adolescent living in our house, I have been making a concerted effort to eat properly, and he is fully aware of that.  I actually think that *he* thinks those are words of encouragement. It’s almost like he’s new around here.

The other day I found a “journal”, a spiral bound notebook, from when I was 14. I looked over the scribbles and cringed myself into a fetal position…pages and pages of teenage angst. So-and-so likes this guy, but he likes another girl and this one didn’t talk to me today at school, but another guy wanted to call me after meeting at the roller rink.  OMG. Could I be any more of a living breathing cliche?

Anyway, the point is, I wrote pages and pages about my weight. At 14, I went to Weight Watchers for the first time, and I weighed 104 lbs. It was the end of the world.

Yes, that’s Donny Osmond.

A little more digging and I found the rest of them.  An archive of my weight, my life, my loves.  You know you have them too, somewhere.

And I started thinking about the themes that run through our lives.

What are yours?

Do you have a way to revisit some of them and see if you’ve made any progress?

I imagine that this is the work of our lives…to choose the colors, to find the patterns, to do the hard work, and to make something out of nothing. Again and again. Over and over, and with any luck, we evolve.

We learn a little patience, a little perseverance, and we learn from mistakes. (Well, at least some of the time).

And, maybe, like me, you have some battles that just drag on and on.

As we get a little softer around the edges, those old battles aren’t quite so fierce any more.  We can slow down and enjoy the details and the journey.

And maybe, at the end, when all the quilts are done and all the notebooks are filled up, we’ll have something to show for it.

Maybe.

Public Service Announcement – Recognizing Shoplifting 101

Weird topic, right?

I was in the self-check line at a local grocery store the other day (the line for unlimited items) and a couple ahead of me had two shopping carts.  The woman was running things through the scanner and the man was at the end bagging and putting things into the second cart. Efficient.

I was only half paying attention, but was there for their whole transaction. When they were done, the woman moved the empty cart up behind the full cart and quietly transferred a case of soda to the “bagged” cart. She didn’t scan it. I glanced around and the clerk was busy helping someone else in the self-check line. The couple finished up quickly and off they went. Free case of soda.

Huh.

As someone who worked at a small shop, I can tell you that LOTS of people shoplift, and it’s not often who you think it might be.  I worked in a quilt shop, for Pete’s sake. 98% of the customers were women and more than half of them were over 50.

But some of them stole from us.  Sometimes it wasn’t much. They often purchased from us at the same time.  But we learned to get good at recognizing them.

Some stats (click for more): 

  • 1 in 11 people is a shoplifter. Think about any 11 people you may know.  One of them likes to steal things from stores.
  • 75% of shoplifters are adults, 25% are kids.
  • They are caught only 1 in every 48 attempts, and brought in front of police only 50% of the time.
  • Only 3% are professional, organized, international shoplifters. The other 97% are regular people who get a kick out of it. It’s a mini-thrill, probably the same as you or I would get from a chocolate treat.

Working in a quilt shop we had several types of shoplifters.  Sometimes we’d be visited by a team, one chit-chatting with workers while the other “browses”. When only one person is manning the store, a shoplifter will often give that person a task; cut some fabric, search for something online, while off they go to quietly grab.

Others will continue a conversation with a worker, making sure they are just out of your eye sight. They are around a corner, they stoop down to see something and in it goes into the handbag.

I’m not making any of this up. And you know, every quilter has a giant bag she carries around with her…mostly innocently.

At our shop, we established a code word.  I won’t give it away, because you never know when it will come up again. But if any worker at any time said the code word in any context, it was all hands on deck. We stopped whatever we were doing and focused on the culprit. All eyes on YOU. (Not you, of course, but the shoplifter.)

As a shop owner, you have no right to stop someone until they are out of the building. Then what are you going to do? Chase them in the parking lot over a fatquarter or spool of thread? Maybe.

We found that prevention was the best approach. Once someone was suspected, they were followed ruthlessly by workers, made to feel uncomfortable. The goal was “Goodbye, don’t come back, or we’ll do the same thing.” Were we sometimes mistaken? Possibly. But you develop a sense of these things and we were a vigilant group.

With eyes wide open, I see more petty theft all around than I ever did before.  I once knew someone who worked in security at the Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago.

Now THERE are some real thieves…well-known bands of pickpockets that worked in teams and preyed especially on older women with big bags, and pre-occupied moms. The more crowded the day, the more thefts take place.

My advice to you: open your eyes.

You will be surprised at what you see. And it will train you not to be a victim.

The good news is, most shoplifters won’t ever commit another type of crime. It’s their thing. Just don’t let it happen in your shop. And if you don’t own a shop? You don’t want it either, because prices will rise for all of us.

Eyes open.

 

Persistence Pays Off

Believe it or not, I found my fabric. Awhile ago, I wrote a post about a line of fabric I fell in love with, and all I had was a layer cake to use (40 pieces of 10 in. x 10 in.)

I searched at different shops, but because I no longer knew the name, it was basically impossible to find.

And then I stopped at a quilt shop I haven’t been to in a number of years. I seemed to recall that this MAY have been the place where I purchased the layer cake almost a decade ago.

The shop is hidden in the cornfields of Illinois, on a farm. When you pull in, it feels as though you are pulling into someone’s private property, and frankly, you are.  The quilt shop is located in an out-building, in back of the farmhouse. Two dogs run to greet you as you enter. Sam, the chocolate lab, is extremely friendly and looks perfectly at home lying on the braided rug at the entrance. The other dog (whose name I can’t remember, is more hesitant…a  spaniel mix of some kind, I would guess. But eventually, he warmed to me as well.)

I brought out the cutting samples that I carry with me, and turned to the owner.

“Before I waste a lot of time, do you think you have any of this fabric anywhere?”

The quiet woman took the samples in her hands and slowly wandered to the back of the shop. She ran her fingers over some scraps, and thoughtfully pointed, “There’s a bolt.”

She continued to scrounge through her clearance fabric and one by one found beautiful remnants of the fabric. A yard here, a yard and a half there, another yard here.

I was thrilled.

We found enough for the back of my 80 x 80 in. quilt, and more for any accessories I might like to add. All at clearance pricing.

9 yards total, and I felt like I had won the lottery.

The name of the fabric line is Evening Mist, by Sentimental Studios, for Moda.

And the name of the shop is Basketcases in Clare IL.

Above, over 120 – 4 1/4 in. 9 patch squares. The quilt still has a long way to go.

But I feel complete.

Wisconsin Quilt Shop Hop 2018

Hey you Mid-Westerners! Grab your friends, hop in a car and spend a day in Wisconsin.

That’s what we did.  And we loved it. Now, it didn’t hurt that the day was completely clear, sunny, no humidity and just early-spring lovely.

It also didn’t hurt that the towns were all really vibrant and attractive. And the drive between shops was pastoral and rural, with neat, well-tended farms dotting the landscape.

Relaxing.

Get your details here.

Of course, we did not cross the entire state.  We stayed along the I 90 corridor, and still got to see so much in one day.

The Wisconsin Quilt Shop Hop ends at the end of June.  So you still have plenty of time. And if you miss the shop hop? No problem.  The stores are still there, just check the hours.  Shop Hop hours are consistent throughout the region. 9:30 – 5:30 pm week days, 9:30-4 pm on Saturday. Maybe I’ll run into you in Wisconsin!

Industry Consolidation – Cotton+Steel and More

Cotton+Steel

Just in case you haven’t heard, the 5 original designers of Cotton+Steel have departed and are no longer working with RJR, who was their distributor.

Apparently, RJR owns the name of Cotton+Steel outright, so the designers are leaving that behind.

Craft Industry Alliance has a detailed article about the move, which the designers announced on Instagram several weeks ago. It sounds as though RJR was having difficulty with technology, and deliveries weren’t being made to quilt shops in a timely manner, record-keeping and accounting was faulty, with a lack of training and many other issues that make or break businesses.

It’s a shame, as Cotton+Steel was a very recognizable brand.  The quality of the fabric was definitely superior, and that was one of the main reasons the brand had such a following.  The last collection submitted by the original team was submitted at this spring’s quilt market, which means it will likely hit stores in the fall.  After that, RJR has in-house designers who will continue the brand. It’s hard to imagine, as anyone who has ever used Cotton+Steel fabric knows, the designs are unique.  Frankly, the designers are the brand.

We’ll keep an eye on what they are up to next.

Machine Quilting Unlimited and Modern Quilts Unlimited

If you are familiar with these two titles, you’ll be sorry to hear that they are both being discontinued.

Everyone knows that the magazine industry is truly suffering, as ad sales are plummeting and online content replaces a business model that has outlived its time.

Still, I am someone who prefers to read actual books as opposed to digital, and I like my magazines the same way.

I would rather turn pages while sipping a cup of hot chocolate than stare blankly at another screen.  Nevertheless, these are two more magazines that will no longer be available.

I will, however, recommend instead, the folks at Modern Quilt Studio.

They self-publish magazines called Modern Quilts Illustrated which are full of great ideas tips and tricks.  They adhere boldly to the modern aesthetic.  They have been around for decades and I imagine they will be around for decades more. Their magazines have no ads.  This husband and wife team are inspirational, skilled as artists, well-known and respected in the industry, and all-around nice people.

As the industry changes, it can only mean one thing…opportunity.  The gals from Cotton+Steel will find their way to new and exciting endeavors and the rest of us will have higher quality designs and talent to choose from…if less assortment for the moment.

 

My Wife Quilts…Tips on Embroidering on T-Shirts

Do you have someone in your life who loves t-shirts?

I do.  My husband is what in the old days, they used to call a curmudgeon. He doesn’t care what he wears, as long as it’s comfortable.  Being clean is preferable, holes are optional.

I do a lot of repair work on his stuff.

One day, many years ago, I was at some sort of quilt show and I ran across a t-shirt:

“My wife quilts, therefore I’m broke.”

I bought it for him and he has worn it ever since.  In fact, the first time he wore it, he said that women of a certain age were giggling at him. I should mention,  he also has a t-shirt that says:

“You read my shirt.  That’s enough social interaction for one day.”

And so, we have a sort of running gag.  As t-shirts wear out, I am always on the lookout for others that, I don’t know, fit his character. (He has Homer Simpson and the Grinch, if that helps.)

This past week, I found an embroidery design that I thought would be perfect, and decided to add to his collection.

A couple of tips for embroidering on t-shirts:

  1. Use a ballpoint needle. You should make an effort to do this any time you sew or embroider on anything stretchy.  It really does make a difference.  A Microtex or Sharp will cut right through the fibers and it might not happen right away, but after a few washings, you can end up with a hole.  Knits don’t like to be cut. A ballpoint needle will move the threads aside as it penetrates.
  2. Use cutaway stabilizer.  I had a nice polymesh.  But this design, at approximately 8 x 10 inches, had almost 38,000 stitches.  That’s not a huge amount, but it’s not low density either. I used two layers of black polymesh cutaway.  I just happened to have some black cutaway from a sweatshirt I did awhile back.

3.  Use your ironing board to help you hoop.  Just slide the t-shirt over the end of your ironing board as if you were going to iron it. Take your one or two layers of stabilizer and insert them under the shirt, taking care to lay them very flat under the design.  I also print out the design so I can get a good look at positioning, and pin it in place. You can then just insert you hoop underneath the layer to be embroidered and place the top part of the hoop on top. Easy.

 

4.  Remember not to pull on this fabric.  My experience has been that lots of people love to hoop their fabric and then pull it tight all they way around the hoop. DON’T DO THAT. Especially with knits. You want the design to lay flat after the hoop comes out.  Your cutaway stabilizer will help you, but not if the fabric is distorted and stretched when you start. The fabric should be flat, not pulled.

5. Clean and oil your machine before you start, and load a fresh bobbin.  This should go without saying before every project, but sometimes it helps to be reminded not to cut corners.  Take the time to clean out your machine NOW, make sure all the parts are oiled and the bobbin is full.  Why start out with issues?  Make your life easy by taking care of any obvious problems before it really gets rockin’.

6. You can use Gentle Touch to fuse to the back of the design when it’s complete, to keep the stabilizer from rubbing against the skin.  People use this a lot for baby onesies and kid’s clothes.  My husband won’t care.

Finally, you can see in this last shot how helpful it is to use a black stabilizer against black fabric.  It just keeps everything neat.

T-shirts like this are very cheap at Michael’s or Wal-Mart.  You can also purchase pretty decent t-shirts online, especially if you google “blank t-shirts.”

Maybe you have someone in your life who has great t-shirt “attitude”.

I hope so.  It’s entertaining.

Hello Sunshine! Machine Embroidery for the Season

I wanted something cheery for my basement door, and finally took down all the “Rules of the House” in pictorial form.  If my 15-year-old doesn’t know the rules of the house by now, like brushing your teeth, not jumping on the sofa, not throwing superballs, we have truly failed as parents.

Anyway, I had a nice blank door that was screaming for something to hang on it.

A while back I found these embroidery designs from Kimberbell, part of the “Hello Sunshine” quilt collection.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and didn’t really want to purchase any fabric

I had a teensy memo notebook on my desk and scribbled out a few ideas.  I printed out the embroidery designs and laid them out on some linen fabric I already owned  It was an awkward amount…not really enough for a quilt but enough for a decent wall hanging.

On the last bicycle, my machine locked up and I had to bring it into the dealer for a cleaning and tune up.

My machine is now running smooth as silk and I was able to complete the design.

I wanted something simple and cheerful.

I love these bikes as they remind me of the possibilities of the summer season.

It also gives me an excuse to create something in machine embroidery for that spot every season.

Ready for fall leaves and holiday yet?

When Your Sewing Machine Needs to go to the Spa

Well, I finally broke my machine.

Actually, I’m not sure I did anything wrong.  I just changed thread colors during an embroidery, started the machine up again and WHOA.  Needle broke and gears of death appeared.

It’s all OK.  I cleaned everything out and could only find 2 pieces of the needle.  A tiny tip is missing.  Normally I can set everything back to normal and just continue, but I think that little needle tip is scraping somewhere, so off to the tech we went.

Tech Update for Bernina 7 Series Owners

I chatted with my new tech for a while and told him about my machine issue.  He asked me if I knew that we were not supposed to oil in the top reservoir any more.

I did not know that.  I had heard some buzzing…questions from customers around the time the shop I previously worked for was closing.  However, we had not received any definitive information from Bernina at that time.

So here’s the deal:

–If you own a 7 Series, DO NOT put oil in the red-ringed reservoir under the stitch plate.

–DO oil the two felt pads in the hook and around the outside of the hook.

Heirloom Creations has a nice video showing and explaining this.

It’s important to know about this change.  If you purchased your machine longer than 6-7 months or so ago, you were likely taught to fill that red reservoir, and keep it filled.

The tech told me that too much oil was spreading, not only into the hook but also getting into the auto-thread cutter, and pieces of felt were working their way into the mix as well. I remember our tech at the store showing me how the machine looked with the thread cutter pulled out and oil getting on everything. At that time we had not heard the official “fix” from Bernina. Now it’s here.

With that resolved, I now have an embroidery design that’s not complete.

See those cute little flower buttons?  They are supposed to be embroidery.  Luckily, my “breakdown” occurred in a convenient place, and I think I can just add those flowers instead of embroidery.  Not exactly perfect, but it’s effective and I think it will work.

I’ll share the rest of the project as I get further along.

I’m determined to THINK SPRING. It has to get here eventually, right?

In the meantime, of course I have another sewing machine that I can use to continue piecing my quilt project. And it won’t hurt for my larger machine to be in the spa for a bit.

What’s Happening in Machine Embroidery?

I’ve been scrounging around on my machine embroidery sites looking for the most interesting projects and new ideas.  I’ve found that with machine embroidery, there’s always a new way to do something that’s been around awhile, or an old way to do something very fresh.

We have snow on the ground here this April, but I just KNOW that spring will get here eventually.  So I focused my search on all things inspirational for spring.

Enjoy!

Embroidery Library

Although they always have new product, I found their Garden Party Lookbook to be charming and full of spring-like ideas. You’ll want to check out all their lookbooks.  But the Garden Party book had an interesting technique (something I hadn’t seen before) for embroidering on straw hats.

 

Embroidery Design Studio

They are featuring a strong graphic spring collection called Grow Love. These cute little flowers and butterflies would be great on jeans or anything denim.  They also have their washaway stabilizers on sale through April 13.  If you are someone who loves freestanding lace (which I’m thinking about for Halloween) now’s the time to stock up on Aquamesh.

 

Urban Threads

So the big trend I’ve seen lately and it’s reflected quite a bit at Urban Threads is embroidery on garments everywhere.  Jeans up and down the legs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, everything.  This trend extends far beyond just the embroidery world.  The newest Dolce and Cabbana runway collection is just loaded with over-sized, all-over embroidery.  The kitschy-er, the better.  Urban Threads has some great examples in their Fashion Look book.  But it’s everywhere.

 

Kreations by Kara

OK, I was drawn to these lovely purple flowers in her sale bin.  I need them along the hemline of a summer skirt.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?

 

Kimberbell

Kimberbell, if you’re not familiar, is a wholesale design distributor. Their store locator is actually pretty accurate so feel free to use that to find a dealer near you.

Their products are always cheerful and sometimes over the top for me, but I fell in love with the designs on Hello Sunshine quilt. The quilt itself is a bit much at the moment, but who can live without the charming bike design, the mason jars, the watermelon?  Not me. I bought the collection and am already laying out something for a wall hanging for this spring/summer.

 

I recognize this list is not comprehensive, just a little tour to get your creative juices flowing about machine embroidery again.  I hope you find something that inspires you to dust off that embroidery module and rev it up for spring!

Old World Re-Discovery

I re-discovered a layer cake (10 x 10 in.) of this fabric from Moda that had been hiding in my fabric stash for a decade. Not exaggerating.  I no longer know the name of the collection. I tried to find more of it online, and it’s basically unavailable.

Now, like many of you, I have stashes of fabric that just don’t interest me any more. Sometimes I look at something I own, and wonder what in the world I was thinking. It’s dated or seasonal, or, heaven forbid, it was trendy and had a shelf-life of about 15 minutes.

But that’s the stuff I give away.  And, frankly, over the last few years, I’ve done quite a bit of giving away.

But this Old World fabric (that’s the name I’ve given it), is still fabulous.  Every time I look at it I think of Europe, of Jane Austen, of carriage rides and chats by a fireside, and afternoon tea..and maybe a croissant.

I still love it.

And so I recently found a pattern that’s perfect.

That’s a picture of the pattern on the cover of Miss Rosie’s Farmhouse Favorites. While it’s not a complicated quilt, it’s not terribly simple either.  Especially since the pattern calls for fatquarters and all the cutting instructions are tailored for that. As usual, I am switching out colors and modifying the instructions to accommodate the fabric I have and not what is called for in the pattern.

I have been cutting for days.

And I’m still not done as many of the squares will end up cut into quarter and half square triangles.

Still, because I fall in love with these fabrics anew each time I look at them, I am willing to start a project without thinking about how many hours it will take me to complete.

It’s like having a baby. Whatever you do, don’t think about how much it will cost or the hours of your life you will spend devoted to that project.  Don’t think about diapers or doctors’ visits, or bumps on the head, or homework, or cub scouts (or girl scouts) or spills on the sofa or orthodontic appointments or puberty or girlfriends or boyfriends or college exams.  Don’t think about the worry, the tears, the laughter, the arguments, the sleepless nights, the unexpected hugs.

It’s all just process.

And when we think too hard about it, we end up doing nothing at all.

So for today, I will enjoy.  And after all that cutting, I can finally start to sew.