Posts tagged ‘fabric buying’
Once again, my mom, Ronan and I did the Eastern PA Shop Hop the first 2 weekends in November. There were only 11 shops this year, as Jeannette from Endless Mountains Quiltworks in Tunkhannock decided not to participate in favor of a new hop in southern New York state. I was sad not to go there, since it has been one of my favorite shops since I first discovered it on the shop hop many years ago, and especially because we missed The Airing of the Quilts this year since it fell the same day as my youngest sister’s wedding. However, the shorter list of shops made it more accessible to do at a leisurely pace, especially with a toddler in tow, and at least this year’s list got shorter because of a shop owner’s choice, rather than because another shop went out of business.
As with last year, I went into the shop hop with a commitment to not add to my stash unnecessarily. The only item on my actual shopping list was a backing for Alyssa’s new baby daughter Evelyn’s quilt, and even that was planned for the discount bolts. I think I did pretty well: I only bought one full price piece of fabric, and I only bought half a yard of that.
I did buy the shop hop blocks, as I really liked the color palette and it’s all batik. The line only has a few lights in it, and some of the shop quilts really demonstrate how important it is to have a range of values in your quilt. While some took advantage of those couple light prints and used them for sashing or setting triangles, others turned out muddy because they’re predominantly mediums and darks.
Also, while I wouldn’t buy the blocks if I didn’t like the fabrics, it does give me an easy out for a shop where I don’t feel called to buy anything else at any given shop. Yes, I know there is no price of admission for getting my passport stamped, and yes, I know not finding anything I want to buy is not usually my problem, but it does feel strange to drive all the way to a shop and then not buy something.
As much fun as I had making my Liddle Lamzy Divey quilt using only the Jo Morton line for the entire quilt, I have four years’ worth of shop hop block kits to make into quilts, and I plan to fill in what I can’t do with the generous kit leftovers with stash fabric. Much as I don’t need new projects in my life right now, I think I’m going to take my block kits to retreat with me and see how many I can knock out. I haven’t been doing much piecing lately since finishing the (grumble grumble) paper piecing for the challenge quilt, and I think it will be fun.
Anyway, we had a very good time. The weather cooperated for the most part, and so did Ronan, helped significantly by his affinity for both the smiling, friendly ladies that tend to populate quilt shops and for the cookies that so many of them had on offer. (I’m a little concerned that from here on out, he will expect all quilt shops to give him cookies whenever we go in.) We went to Pocono Sew & Vac and American Ribbon in East Stroudsburg, The Country Quilterie in Effort, and The Quilted Crow in Lehighton on Saturday, November 3; 118 Fabrics & More in Sweet Valley, J&B Fabrics in Nescopeck, and The Happy Sewing Room in Hamburg on Sunday, November 5; Wooden Bridge Drygoods in Kutztown on Saturday, November 10; and At Piece Quiltery in Easton, Allentown Sewing Machine Outlet, and Ladyfingers Sewing Studio in Oley on Sunday, November 11.
Obviously, I did buy fabric; I just bought heavily discounted fabric. Pocono Sew & Vac, 118 Fabrics, and J&B Fabrics all had excellent sales going on certain sale fabrics, so I finished some bolts of fabrics that I thought would make good borders or backs for projects or color schemes in the pipeline. I didn’t realize until I composed this picture that I had bought so many Christmas-themed items, as I haven’t really done any Christmas quilting for myself, and it’s been several years since I’ve made any gifts. But the panel was cute, on sale, and had possibilities; the poinsettia fabric was $3/yd (!!!) and the shop model 118 Fabrics had up of the snail’s trail variation pieced santa pattern was just too cute to leave behind. I’m very excited to try out the Inspira needles I bought from Allentown Sewing Machine Outlet for free-motion quilting on the recommendation of their sewing machine guy, but the crown jewel of my hoard from this hop is the gold-plated Roxanne thimble, the correct size for my thumb, that I bought from The Happy Sewing Room for only $42! I’ve wanted to get one for my thumb for a while, since there are certain times in hand sewing where I really need to push the needle with my thumb (plus, someday I want to try Alex Anderson‘s technique for hand quilting with my thumb.) However, Dierdre McElroy hasn’t been coming to the shows I’ve been attending in recent years, and I haven’t wanted to buy one mail order at full price and have to both pay shipping and guess on the size. This one was just sitting in the little glass case as if it were waiting for me.
So, after all that driving and shopping, it’s time, as Leah Day says, to “Shut up and quilt!” I have an excellent opportunity to do exactly that at the guild retreat next weekend. More on that soon!
Ronan, my mom, and I did the Eastern Pennsylvania Quilt Shop Hop during the first half of November. I had skipped last year due to being hugely pregnant; although I worked right up till my due date, the OB didn’t want me to be more than an hour’s drive from the hospital during those last four weeks, and while it would have been very appropriate for my child to be born in a quilt shop, I don’t imagine anyone else would have been too happy about it. There were twelve participating shops again this year, a number which has held fairly steady over the last several years, although there have been some changes and substitutions as shops have opened and closed. The absolute peak was 2007, when there were 18 shops, a number I’ve been very familiar with as I have finally finished the top from that year’s sampler blocks. However, that’s news for another post.
This year’s shops, and the order in which we visited them, were:
Saturday, November 5:
Endless Mountains Quiltworks, Tunkhannock
118 Fabrics and More, Sweet Valley
J&B Fabrics, Nescopeck
Sunday, November 6:
The Country Quilterie, Effort
Pocono Sew & Vac, East Stroudsburg
American Ribbon Outlet, East Stroudsburg
The Quilted Crow, Lehighton
Thursday, November 10:
At Piece Quiltery, Easton
Allentown Sew & Vac, Allentown
Happy Sewing Room, Hamburg
Saturday, November 12:
Wooden Bridge Drygoods, Kutztown
Considering he spent so much time in the car, Ronan did really well. Quilt shops are pretty much his natural habitat: brightly colored fabrics, smiling ladies to meet, and (frequently, during the shop hop) cookies to eat! Spending lots of time with Grandma was an added bonus. If we do it again next year, I think I’m having shop hop team t-shirts made for us.
I feel pretty good about my spending and acquisition habits for this shop hop. Although I certainly did buy fabric, I didn’t buy a single piece at full-price, and not for lack of desire. There are too many gorgeous fabrics out there that seem designed just to catch my eye and get my imagination working overtime. But with little time to quilt and many many projects either unfinished or in the queue, I was able to stifle those expensive flights of fancy and repeat my Bonnie K. Hunter-inspired mantra: “I trust that when and if I need it, there will be an equally gorgeous fabric available. The fabric can live at the store until then.”
I bought several printed panels, again all at a discount. Not only do these form a nice foundation for quick and easy gifts, as well as excellent practice pieces for machine quilting, but I’m also considering working up instructions for my lattice window process that I came up with for Window on Whimsy as either a class or a magazine article (you know, in all my free time) and I would need some additional samples for that. I will NOT be piecing lattice strips on the bias into the animal map panel at the bottom of the photo, as that one is flannel. It is a testament to how much I liked that design (and how deeply discounted it was) that I bought it, despite its being flannel. I absolutely despise piecing with flannel. I love how it looks, love how it feels, HATE working with it for anything that requires precision. So I just don’t.
My favorite purchase of the shop hop has to be my ConeFlower thread holder, pictured above to the left of the fabric. I’ve had the standard functional one from Superior Threads for a few years now, and definitely appreciate how its use allows me to not only buy my thread in bulk cones, but also to tame some otherwise difficult threads. I had seen the ConeFlower in a magazine some time ago, then saw it in person at the Happy Sewing Room’s booth at Quilt Odyssey. I told myself then, that if they still had them at the shop hop, and if I’d been keeping my spending in check, that I would give myself permission to buy one. Not only was I staying within my budget, but I was able to buy the last one they had in stock. I’ve been using it ever since and have been very happy with it. Pretty, functional, and made in the U.S.A.: how could I go wrong? I’ve long been inspired by William Morris’ statement, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Ideally, I’ve been seeking out objects and furnishings that unify both, and the ConeFlower certainly fits the bill. It makes me happy whenever my eyes rest on it, and in an ideal world I would react that way to every functional object in my home. Someday, perhaps.
I did also buy the kits for this year’s sampler blocks. I struggled with the decision, as I still have unmade block kits from 2008 and 2009, but 1) they used Quilts of Valor fabrics this year, which are gorgeous, forward a great cause, and address an underrepresented area of my stash; and 2) buying the block kits means that I don’t feel pressured to buy something I don’t want or need at any given shop. Certainly there is no minimum purchase to participate in the shop hop, but I would feel awkward getting my passport stamped without buying anything, and even making the drive to a shop causes me to feel I should have something to show for my efforts. I had given myself a mental budget of $15 per shop, subject to review in the face of unprecedented bargains and/or fabulosity, and a few $4.95 block-kit-only purchases helped offset the bigger-ticket stops.
I don’t know when I might assemble the blocks, or how I might set them when I do, but I certainly got some great ideas on setting sampler blocks from viewing the shop hop quilts on display at each shop. In fact, seeing a different quilt made from the same blocks at each shop is one of the annual high points of the shop hop for me; even if I don’t follow any given pattern for my own eventual quilt, the photos end up being a textbook of setting ideas for any collection of blocks. Click any image to enlarge. Enjoy!
The baby’s asleep — I can get a post up here!
When my friend Alyssa asked me, roughly a month before her November 2009 wedding, if I knew anyone who’d be willing to make a wedding signature quilt for hire, I jumped at the opportunity: ”Let me do this as my wedding present to you.” I was very sincere in this. Despite having already planned for 2010 to be my Year of the UFO, I thought this project would make a worthy exception. I love signature/album quilts; they’re such a wonderful tradition, and speak to me so volubly of Why We Quilt — they are literally a way for the recipients to wrap themselves in the good wishes of people who care about them. Besides, it was going to be a simple quilt: big blocks, straight-line piecing, nothing fancy. This wouldn’t take much time.
Ha. Ha. Ha. Because this became Murphy’s Quilt.
Everything started well: I prepared a basketful of precut 4 1/2″ squares of the JoAnn Fabrics Kona cotton in a nice cream, prewashed and ironed onto freezer paper, with a 1/2″ seam allowance premarked with blue washout marker. (I figured, mostly correctly, that a marked 1/2″ seam allowance would probably yield a useably empty 1/4″ seam allowance.) As their wedding colors were dark blue and chocolate brown, I brought along fine-tip Sharpies in navy and brown, which I had pretested for colorfastness. Dan made a nice sign for the table at the reception, explaining the project, and the guests did a nice job leaving signatures, notes, wishes, and even some artwork on the squares.
I had planned the quilt to encompass 25 Air Castle blocks, measuring 12″ each, as I wanted it to be big enough for them to share as a couch/cuddle quilt. I chose the Air Castle block because it’s simple, attractive, and contains 5 solid squares; thus the quilt could accommodate up to 125 signed squares. Projected attendance was roughly 100, and I made sure I had plenty of extra squares available to allow for mistakes, but as most couples and families signed just one square to represent them all, and some guests didn’t sign at all, I ended up with only 39 signed squares. This was fine; it meant that I could put a signed square in the center of each block, with a second one in the lower right hand corner of slightly more than half the blocks. It also gave me room to make an additional square to place in the center of the quilt with their names, wedding date, and details.
I had warned Alyssa when I offered to take this project on that it wouldn’t be finished anytime soon; there was no way I could start it before the new year, and she was fine with that. I was able to pull all the necessary brown fabrics from the leftovers from Window on Whimsey, but the not-quite-navy of the bridesmaids’ dresses wasn’t really represented in my stash, so it gave me something to look for on the Shop Hop last year. I then bundled up the fabrics, the sketch, my copy of Marsha McCloskey’s Block Party book, and set them aside. And then my life got complicated. I started this blog; I found out I was pregnant; three weeks later, I found out I was losing my job; and two months after that, I lost said job. Then I started traveling so I could work for the military dental contractor, and next thing I knew, it was the middle of summer and I hadn’t yet started this quilt. (Hello, quilt guilt!) I had taken the supplies to the April guild retreat, but didn’t actually work on it. In fact, I didn’t start the quilt until the weekend before my mini home retreat with Rhonda and Diane; I had started the cutting at my parents’ house during a quilting day with my mom, thinking I’d be able to knock out the whole top the following weekend.
Again: Ha. Ha. Ha.
As regular readers may recall, that was when I mistakenly cut a large portion of my fabric into the wrong size triangles, having forgotten in the criminally long interval between planning and starting that I had changed the block size from the 9″ in the book to 12″. And I couldn’t just change my mind and make either more blocks or a smaller quilt, because the signed squares were 4 1/2″ and could not be cut down. All I could do was get over myself and recut the pieces. Fortunately, I had enough of the brown and blue fabrics, and the cream was a standard solid from JoAnn’s, easy to procure more of, right? Right???
The first time I looked for more of the solid cream fabric was when my mom and I were in Pittsburgh to hear Bonnie Hunter speak, and we stopped into a local JoAnn’s to kill time before the meeting. I couldn’t find anything that looked like what I’d been working with, but I didn’t have a swatch with me for comparison so I didn’t worry. I started to worry, however, when I did take a swatch to my local JoAnn’s and still couldn’t find anything that matched. I remembered having bought Kona cotton, but I started to second-guess myself and looked at all their solids. Still nothing. Could they have discontinued an entire line of solids between November and July? Could there be a missing off-white that no one was stocking? I was really puzzled. I finally bought a yard each of the two closest matches, the Kona cotton and the Egyptian cotton, hoping that one or the other would look significantly different once it was washed.
And surprise, it did! Turns out, both fabrics apparently have so much sizing and finishing additives on them that they radically changed in appearance once they were washed and dried, and the Kona cotton was indeed the winner as I had remembered. Washed, it looked lighter in color, much more matte, and with nearly a seersucker texture even after pressing. If I needed a reminder of the importance of prewashing, this was it. Another obstacle surmounted.
I finished the top and also pieced the back. I’d found on last year’s shop hop not only a beautiful blue and brown large-scale Oriental floral perfect for this purpose on the bargain rack, but also a piece of Gail Kessler‘s life-size piano keyboard fabric, which I thought would be very appropriate to incorporate into a pianist’s quilt. It made the construction of the back somewhat more challenging, but I think it was worth it:
I then basted the quilt and started quilting. And that’s when the final round of Murphyness raised its ugly head. As previously discussed here, I had unprecedented problems with skipped stitches and frayed threads, especially every time I crossed a heavy intersection of seam allowances. In a pieced quilt, there are a lot of these, and it made me nervous about my prospects for quilting both Ruby Wedding and Taupe Winding Ways. Manipulating tension and needle choice solved most of the problem, but I still had to periodically stop, rip out, and restitch throughout the project, which really ruined my momentum and greatly prolonged the process. I was happy with my choice of quilting design, though: a virtually no-mark, Pam Clarke-inspired combination of continuous curve quilting in the blue and brown triangles and in the signature squares, with additional loop and curl embellishments in the solid cream squares and triangles. The light blue thread created enough contrast for visibility without distracting from the primary focus of the top. I finished the quilt with a scrappy binding of all the blues, once again using the Sew Precise, Sew Fast machine binding technique.
If this were a fictional story, this whole tale of woe would culminate with my putting the finished quilt in the washing machine to remove the washout blue marker and the water-soluble thread, and having all the Sharpie signatures inexplicably vanish off the fabric, thus ruining the entire project. Fortunately, this is real life, and I really had tested the markers first, so there was no final tragedy. I was able to give them their quilt on their first wedding anniversary, and they loved it. Despite all the roadblocks I encountered, I am happy I made this quilt for them, and it certainly was a learning experience! Therefore, I’ll leave this happy dance in the capable hands and feet of Mr. Gene Kelly, who danced happier than anyone:
I’m not normally one to track international commodities trading; much to the dismay of my 401(k), business is not my strong suit. However, today for obvious reasons, the following headline caught my eye:
From the article, emphasis mine:
“Bad weather in cotton-producing regions of India and China, and flooding in Pakistan, resulted in poor harvests this season, driving cotton prices up nearly 80% since the summer. So far, most clothing makers haven’t passed that cost increase along to consumers. But in recent weeks, the parent companies of a variety of brands – including retail chain Bon-Ton, Jones New York, Hanes, premium denim producer 7 For All Mankind and outdoor clothing maker North Face – have said they expect to raise their prices by up to 10% in 2011. At this point, says Randy Allen, an associate dean for The Johnson School at Cornell University, ‘they can’t afford not to.’”
At no point does the article discuss the impact of this news on cotton fabric by the yard for quilting, but it only stands to reason that if clothing manufacturers are raising their prices to adjust for the rising cost of cotton fabric, the quilt fabric companies will need to, as well. In fact, since I would imagine that the cost of the initial greige goods represents a higher percentage of the final manufacturing cost for yard goods than it does for an item of clothing, quilt fabric prices will probably rise by more than the 10% cited for apparel, as likely will the price for cotton batting.
But, much as the article goes on to recommend that consumers take advantage of holiday sales and January white sales to stock up on cotton-heavy items like jeans, underwear, and bedding before prices rise, we quilters can do likewise. I know that several of the quilt shops I frequent have a pre-Christmas and a post-Christmas sale, not to mention the ever-popular Superbowl Sunday sale. (I may know next to nothing about football, but I always know when the Superbowl is!)
This will also be an excellent time to revisit and reevaluate the stash, to “shop” from what we’ve already accumulated, rather than reflexively acquiring more. And that scrap bag/ box/ basket/ basement could use some attention too: as Bonnie Hunter says, “I’m sure we’ve all heard ‘Oh, it’s just scraps.’ Have you ever stopped to realize that your scraps cost you just as much per yard as the original fabric purchased that they came from? Your scraps could be worth $9.00 or more a yard. Makes you think twice about tossing them out, doesn’t it? Or relegating them to the lowly position of ’just a scrap’?”
And of course, when we do need something new, for a back, a border, or just because, we should all do what we can to support our local quilt shop owners, who will be paying out more in wholesale and aren’t just raising prices on a whim. It’s hard enough, I’m sure, trying to run a quilt shop in a recession, without learning that you’re going to have to charge even more for a yard of fabric to maintain that wafer-thin profit margin most of them run on.
On the bright side, I’ve recently discovered how much I love working with soy, bamboo, and wool batting. Perhaps they will enjoy a popularity surge in response. And I’ve seen some gorgeous quilts pieced with silk…
In other words, this news isn’t going to help me control my stash, is it?
I recently had the opportunity to travel to eastern Tennessee to participate in one last military dental event while I was still allowed by the obstetrician to do so. (Aside: I checked the airline guidelines to make sure I wasn’t going to be denied a seat on account of my gravid status, and found out they only restrict travel within seven days of the due date! And it’s by honor system! I guess even airline employees follow Dave Barry’s Rules for Living on the subject: ”You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she’s pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.”)
Anyway, I had never been to eastern Tennessee, or, for that matter, any part of Tennessee that wasn’t the Memphis airport, so I jumped at the opportunity. I’m so glad I did. My itinerary wound up providing me a free Friday afternoon and a free Sunday afternoon for sightseeing, so before leaving I did some internet detective work to find out what I might want to see. Needless to say, my first thought was of quilty things, and a quick search revealed an impressive density of quilt shops in the greater Johnson City-Jonesborough area. But it also revealed something very intriguing: the Appalachian Quilt Trail.
The concept was started in Ohio nearly ten years ago, to promote tourism by painting quilt block murals on the sides of barns. The state of Tennessee picked up the idea with a vengeance, placing 330 of the 8′ x 8′ hand-painted wooden murals on the sides of barns over a 300 mile looping trail in central and eastern TN (there are quilt murals in southwestern VA and western NC as well.) Rather than just being assigned randomly, several of the quilt blocks replicate family quilts inherited by the owners of the sites. There was an open house event happening on Saturday, October 16, but as that was the day that I was screening the dental health of Army National Guard troops for 10 1/2 straight hours, I was otherwise occupied. Apparently, though, several of those family quilts were on display at selected sites that day. The very helpful map and brochure indicated not only the location of each mural, but also whether it was located at a “drive-by,” private site, or if there was a shop, museum, or farm stand associated with it. Thus, not only does the Quilt Trail create a lovely rationale for driving around the stunningly beautiful Tennessee countryside, but it also provides opportunities for ecotourism, agritourism, historical tourism, and shopping.
I landed at Tri-Cities Airport around 1 pm on an absolutely picture-perfect fall day, the kind with sunny blue skies and a crisp breeze that just makes you want to rake leaves, carve a pumpkin, and bake an apple pie. I didn’t have to be on base until 7:30 the next morning, and I had a rental car, so I drove around to several of the sites and quilt shops in the greater Johnson City – Jonesborough area. I got lost a decent amount; street signs are not apparently much of a priority in that area, but in daylight and without a strict time schedule, I didn’t mind much. I started out at the Knob Creek Museum site in Johnson City, planning to see the museum as well as the mural, but it turned out to be open by appointment only, and that always makes me feel awkward. I did get a picture, though:
From there I headed towards the next location on the map, but made a wrong turn. However, in my attempt to get turned around, I spotted a quilt shop I hadn’t prescreened at home, In Stitches. It’s a small shop, primarily a Bernina dealership, but they have an eye-popping collection of modern, graphic fabrics. These two juvenile prints recommended themselves immediately:
However, this was also where I found out the downside to being a tourist in Tennessee: nine-and-a-half percent sales tax! Everyone I met there was very friendly and very proud of their state, and I’m sure it’s a nice place to live, what with no state income tax and all. But as a tourist who doesn’t get that benefit, 9.5% sales tax is a little… chafing. Oh well. Delaware has no sales tax at all, but is nowhere near as pretty.
From there I went to another quilt trail site:
And from there, to another shop. Somewhere Sewing is about to move to Ohio, so everything was 30% off. A new shop is opening in the next town over and has already hired all the staff, so morale was excellent and the selection was vast. I called my mom from the shop and did a little remote personal shopping for her as well:
I then attempted to find a quilt mural that my iPhone’s GPS was quite confident it knew the location of, but I never found, despite driving by three or four times. I did, however, get a picture of this:
I apologize for the dark picture, but it was very sunny that day: it’s the intersection of Crockett Court and Boone Drive, which explains part of my difficulties navigating. Everything in that area seems to be named after either Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone, which led to plenty of unfortunate singing on my part.
I then proceeded to Jonesborough, otherwise known as Historical Jonesborough, the Oldest Town in Tennessee, Storytelling Capital of the World. (They seem both very proud of their history and very fond of capitalization.) I wasn’t initally going to go to The Sewing Bee because I couldn’t find a website for them (I’m such a websnob) but they had an ad in my Quilt Trail booklet, so I gave them a try. It turned out to be a very nice shop with beautiful class and shop models, a strong notions department, Patsy Thompson DVDs, and a good back room clearance selection! This was where I really had to remind myself that all purchases had to fit in my suitcase.
Based on their website, I was expecting Tennessee Quilts to be a nice shop. I wasn’t expecting this:
And yes, the whole two stories was occupied by the shop. It was huge, and had the most comprehensive Kaffe Fassett selection I have ever seen in person, including multiple shop models of his designs. I think I spent the first 20 minutes of my visit just wandering aimlessly around, taking it all in. I didn’t actually buy much, just a couple of bargain fabrics, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and the friendly saleslady tipped me off to a small exhibit of guild quilts across the street (Boone Street, naturally) at the Historical Society.
Saturday was all about work, and I expected to put in almost as full a day on Sunday, but my team was finished early. My flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until after 6, and a call to Delta resulted in no better options, so I devoted my afternoon to seeing a few more Quilt Trail murals. I had another glorious day of clear weather, with the leaves just starting to turn and the Smoky Mountains in the distance, so I couldn’t think of a better use of my time. I’ll let the pictures do the talking:
It was actually a good thing that my flight schedule put an endpoint to my natural tendency to apply a Pokemon-style “Gotta Catch ‘em All” philosophy to a project like this, or I could have happily driven around much longer. And on that note, a parting shot from Dave Barry’s Rules for Living: ”There is a very fine line between ‘hobby’ and ‘mental illness.’”
I took Friday, the second day of GenCon, off from the convention to do some shop hopping. Indianapolis is the state capital of Indiana and the biggest city in the region: #14 in the nation by population, it’s a 3 1/2 hour drive southeast of Chicago (#3) and a 3 hour drive west of Columbus, OH (#16.) For comparison’s sake, Baltimore is #21 and Pittsburgh is #61. (Here‘s the list, it makes entertaining browsing.) The reason I got all statistical is that, living in the grand Northeast American megalopolis as I do, it’s easy to forget how open so much of the rest of the country truly is. Midwest cities rise out of the prairie like the Emerald City, with little of the continuous suburban sprawl that so characterizes the older colonial cities. (Does that sound weird and snobby? ”Oh, your city is sooooo post-Louisiana Purchase.”)
So what, pray tell, does this all have to do with quilt shops? Well, quilt shops want to be where their customers are, and in a less densely populated state, that means you get a lot of them clustered around one densely populated area. In Indiana, that means the quilt shopping is going to be good around Indianapolis. And it does not disappoint.
I started at a shop I’d never been to before, Always In Stitches in Noblesville, IN. The shop is just down the road from Conner Prairie, the frontier living history site (think Colonial Williamsburg meets Laura Ingalls) that I had fully intended to visit if it hadn’t been disgustingly hot and humid. Stupid August. Anyway, the shop was lovely, with a much wider range of products than most I’ve been to recently: along with standard quilting supplies, they also carry cross-stitch and embroidery patterns and materials, yarn and knitting patterns, and wool applique supplies. These other departments, though smaller than the quilting area, were not afterthoughts, but were well stocked and varied in their own right. And the quilting selection was no slouch, either. I managed not to buy any fabric there, as I’m not currently collecting for any new projects and I am so over full-price fabric that I don’t have a specific project in mind for, but I was powerless against their adorable shop models of purses and bought two patterns:
The “Maggie” bags are tiny, for holding an iPod or a cell phone, but are really nicely constructed, and the brag book holders would make excellent gifts. Both patterns are easily adapted to using patchwork instead of solid fabric as the outside, which ties right into a lot of my Japanese designs, as well.
Next, I visited Quilt Quarters in Carmel, IN, the site of my second fabric miracle from a previous post. It’s a good thing I had checked their website before heading out there, or I might not have survived the shock when I walked into a nearly empty store. All is for the good, though: they’re not going out of business, they’ve moved. They’re keeping the old location open until August 20 to do an inventory reduction sale, and while I was there, some customers were getting amazing deals on floor model Berninas and sewing cabinets. I concentrated on the fabrics, and even that was an embarrassment of riches. I stayed as conservative as I could, limiting myself to some color basics and some fabrics that promised to be useful as backs or borders, but it was difficult. They had some great fabrics, and all at 50% off:
More than eight yards of gorgeous fabric for under $35 is not a deal to be taken lightly, so I didn’t! The poor staff was overwhelmed, but I had nice friendly quilters to chat with in the cutting line, so the time passed pleasantly. I then, in the interests of completeness, went to the new location to check it out:
Considering they’d been open less than a week at this point, I was really impressed at the layout and organization. They have a much larger classroom space in the new shop, and models and fabrics were really nicely displayed. Of course, there were no sale items at this location, but I managed to be taken in by a couple of taupes:
I do recognize I have a taupe problem. They’re just so pretty, and just hard enough to find to be a challenge! Although, the one on the right is by Moda, so I might not have the scavenger-hunt excuse for too much longer. I’m glad this shop is continuing to do well; it used to be owned by Kaye England, the famed quilt designer, teacher, and author, who had a local chain of three shops. This is the only one that survived her retirement.
My last stop was at Quilts Plus, on the north end of Indianapolis. This is a great shop; I manage to make it here every year, and once I even took a hand applique class they were offering while we were in town. While their specialty is Civil War-era reproduction prints, they have a large selection of just about everything else as well, and their shop models are not to be believed: tiny tiny pieces, beautifully executed. They seem to have a knack for recognizing the great patterns with lousy cover photos and making much more attractive models of those; I wouldn’t be surprised if they outsell all other shops on certain patterns on the strength of their model alone. I’ve bought several patterns from them that I never would have looked at twice on the rack.
This trip, I limited myself to a couple half-yards: a taupe (hey, I’m on vacation!) and two juvenile prints. I don’t have a specific baby quilt in mind just yet, but we’re expecting a baby boy in November, so I’ve been picking up cute prints as I find them. As with baby clothes, the girls’ stuff is just overall more attractive for the most part, but designers seem to be picking up on the disparity and making it better — it’s not all just trucks and footballs any more.
The moon and stars print is from Mark Lipinski‘s new collection, “Good Morning, Sunshine.” I had seen the title fabric from the line at Quilters Corner in Pittsburgh, and although it’s darling, all the phrasing on it is along the lines of, “Time to get up!” I had joked with my mom that, as a first-time mother at 38, I need a fabric that says, “Go to sleep! Why won’t you sleep? It’s nighttime!” Turns out, Mark had already made it for me. Not only is it retro-cute, but it says, “Good Night Sleep Tight” and “See You In the Morning.” Smart man.
There were actually a couple shops in the area that I could have reached the same day but decided against. I had already been to Back Door Quilts on Wednesday (site of the batik fabric miracle!!!) and didn’t want to return to the same part of town to get to Sew Much More, and I had heard that the shop in Avon, west of the city, didn’t have much inventory. One that I really wanted to go to, irrationally based on its cute name, The Fussy Cut, wound up getting stricken from the list because their website didn’t have hours listed and no one returned either my phone call or my email. With customer service like that, I guess they don’t need customers! Besides, that gave me plenty of time to get back to the B&B, have lunch, and bike back down to the convention center to meet my husband. And, of course, Wolverine. Because it’s GenCon.
(This continues my series of posts written on my recent vacation; I have not corrected references to dates.)
The second and third instances of fabric miracles I’ve experienced were less dramatic, but no less miraculous. I unexpectedly found a Halloween print I wanted more of for the inner border of my still-UFO Halloween quilt at one of the shops I’ll be visiting again soon on my mini vacation shop hop, Quilt Quarters in Carmel, IN. I had long since given up on finding it, and had settled on an unsatisfactory work-around. At the shop, I was alone, so had no one to share my amazement and joy with, and had to stifle my whoops so as not to be thought crazy.
I also had given up on being able to buy the “Nature’s Whimsey” panel in blue and brown, and had gone so far as to order the less-attractive yellow and gray colorway from a website (see, I’ve learned that trick now) when I came across a bolt of it at The Quilt Place in Rockledge, FL while visiting my sister. That, obviously, became the inspiration and focal point of my “Window on Whimsey” quilt.
But this is the first time I’ve experienced a fabric miracle on someone else’s behalf. Diane has been working on an absolutely stunning Ohio Star quilt, for which she purchased three yards of the gorgeous batik she’s using for the stars; the backgrounds are a fabulous collection of purple and blue batiks.
The star fabric has an almost luminous quality to it, kind of a firefly-light yellow with a subtle pattern of lavender dots and an even subtler lavender stripe every few inches. It’s very distinctive. Now, normally I tend to underestimate how far fabric will go in a project; I was appalled to see how much fabric I had left over from making the aforementioned “Window on Whimsey.” It’s a huge quilt, and was supposed to be a stashbuster. Instead, it was more of a stash-dinger, or perhaps a stash-scratcher. I’ve also seen a great “quilter’s helper” tip on how many of different common sizes and shapes can be cut from a single fat quarter, and it’s daunting. So to my mind, three yards would be more than enough. Turns out, it isn’t. She only had enough to cut pieces for 125 of her 6″ blocks, which doesn’t add up to a bed-sized quilt.
So the search was on. Unfortunately, for all the advantages inherent in using batiks (great colors, usually no wrong or right side, limited fraying, crisp texture) one of the disadvantages is that there is no helpful printed selvage information. Once a fabric has been cut from the bolt, there’s nothing to tell you who made it or when. If you’re lucky, you remember where you bought it, but if they’re out of it, there are no clues to go on. Diane sent pictures and swatches to multiple retailers, as well as to multiple quilter friends, in hopes that someone would recognize this fabric. Until Wednesday, no one had found anything even close.
When I saw the bolt sitting on the shelf at Back Door Quilts, I nearly started to hyperventilate. Could it be… THE FABRIC? When I pulled it out, I realized it wasn’t an exact match. Still, it was so close… I took it over to the cutting table and unrolled a few lengths to get a better look. The colors were right, and it had a similar small dot pattern, but the lavender stripes were wider and closer together, and were far less regular in their contours, bleeding into the yellow more than in the original. But even still…
At this point, one of the ladies from the shop came over to offer help. I told the story, showed her the swatch, and when I laid the swatch down on the unfolded fabric, it practically vanished. I could barely distinguish the cut edges of the swatch from the yardage, and the saleslady and I just gaped at it. At that point, I realized I was in the presence of an honest-to-goodness fabric miracle. I called Diane, who immediately authorized me to buy another three yards of the not-quite-exactly-right-but-miraculously-close-enough fabric. She’ll be able to pick it up in a few weeks.
(I wrote several posts while on vacation, but I’m spacing them out over the next couple weeks. I’m not going to go back and edit them to make the present tense past and so forth, so there may be some temporal anomalies. I trust you all to manage them gracefully. Thanks! – Sarah)
We’re on vacation, and I imagine having an antique Lone Star quilt on the wall above the bed in our room is an excellent omen as far as good quilt-y things happening.
We’ve been coming out to Indianapolis every year for GenCon since 2003, and staying at the same bed & breakfast, the Nestle Inn. We always try to get the quilt room. Although GenCon is primarily a games convention, I make it a point each year to not only attend some crafty events there — this year, including a costuming workshop held by two sisters who make prizewinning costumes, and a workshop to learn a new chainmaille pattern — but to also take the time away from the convention to explore the local shops and guilds. In addition, I have in the past attended a show of antique quilts held in an historic home, and even gotten my husband to accompany me on a pilgrimage up to Marion, IN to visit the Quilters Hall of Fame!
Last year, I had the inspiration to investigate the Indianapolis quilt guild, and discovered their meeting fell within our visit, thus allowing me to hear Bonnie Hunter speak for the first time. This year, the convention fell a week too early to coincide, but I found a wonderfully helpful webpage listing all the Indiana guilds and their meeting times, allowing me to discover a local chapter of The Applique Society which met Wednesday. A very nice, informal group of skilled appliquers (appliquists?), they welcomed me as a guest and held an informative program about quilt labels in which all the attendees participated. They also had excellent show and tell, as well as providing a friendly, cool place to sit and do handwork for a while (it’s been in the 90s and very humid.) They meet at Back Door Quilts, a shop in Greenwood, IN, just southeast of Indianapolis. It’s a lovely shop, with an interesting dichotomy of strengths: 19th cent. reproduction fabrics and batiks. I don’t always get to their shop, as all the other Indy-area shops are to the north of the city, so I was happy to have an excuse.
And there I found… THE FABRIC!!!
I have to back up a little here and explain. Every quilter knows the pain of having passed up a great fabric, only to never see it again, or of finding the perfect fabric for a project and not getting enough of it. The Quilter’s Corner in Chadds Ford, PA has brass plaques mounted on their cutting tables that say something along the lines of, “Remember, If You Try To Come Back For It, It Will Be Gone.” While this normally doesn’t happen to me, as I tend to work very scrappy — if I run out of a fabric, it’s just an opportunity to use an additional fabric — sometimes, you just need a fabric miracle. This has occurred in my life three separate times in the roughly ten years that I’ve been quilting as an adult.
The first time was when I offered to make a quilt for Kathy, several years before she started sewing. We had visited her local quilt shop while attending a craft fair that sets up along the main street in Haddonfield, NJ, and I had floated the idea that I would make her a quilt if she picked out the fabrics. As we walked past the crafters’ booths, a woman was selling adorable toddler- and preschooler-sized raincoats with matching pants. The raincoats were all made of shiny vinyl in bright colors, but were then lined with various juvenile and conversation print quilt fabrics, of which the matching pants were also made. I was admiring these, and lamenting the fact that my family didn’t currently include any children of the appropriate size, when Kathy pointed at one set and said, “That’s what I want my quilt made out of.” The fabric in question was a delightful watercolor-style large print in pale green, aqua, and bubblegum pink, depicting two little Chinese girls in traditional dress.
My heart sank, and I did my best to explain the quilting facts of life to Kathy: I had no idea how long ago that fabric had been produced. The crafter may have had that fabric in her stash for years before making that raincoat. And even if it were a relatively new fabric, there was no way to be sure that I would run across it anywhere, as not every shop stocks every brand or every line of fabric, especially a large specialty print such as this one. (This was before I found out you could shop for fabric on the internet! Such a long-ago, simpler time!) We would find another fabric that she liked just as much. She took it well, and we moved on.
Nearly a year later, Diane and I were at Quilt Odyssey (back when it was still held at the Eisenhower in Gettysburg, shudder shudder) and as we walked towards the booth for The Fieldstone House, I saw — Kathy’s fabric! I think Diane thought I was having a seizure or something, until I regained enough composure to explain my reaction. I bought five yards, which I NEVER do, and made Kathy’s quilt from that. I have never seen that fabric on the bolt anywhere else. Fabric miracle.
To be continued…
As I mentioned in the last post, Quilt Odyssey’s quilt exhibit and vendor area are separated by a large lobby area. Considering that we had parked the car and entered the building on a hot, sunny, humid morning, as we walked from the quilt exhibit to the merchant mall, we were taken rather aback to see that, less than two hours later, this was going on:
Anyway, the merchant mall at Quilt Odyssey never disappoints. The same vendors do tend to come back year after year, which suggests they must have a successful show. I was conservative in my purchases this year, so my apologies to the vendors (although not to my budget.) The only really big-gish ticket item with which I indulged myself was the new free motion foot from Janome.
Brubaker’s Sewing Center was there with their Janome machines and accessories, and they were doing a pretty brisk business while I was in the booth; I suppose Sunday afternoon is the time when you want to buy a machine so that a) you can take it right out to your car; and b) you can strike a good deal with the dealer, who doesn’t want to have to pack it back up to take home. Although a show booth seems like a great place to see a lot of machines and get demos, it struck me as odd that someone would buy a complicated machine from a dealer located far from them. I overheard an older couple closing the deal on a $6000 embroidery machine, and they mentioned they were heading home to Connecticut. Either there are no Janome dealers in Connecticut, or that was a really good deal. I’m very glad that I bought my machine from a dealer I could easily get to for my new user class and any troubleshooting I might need, but I’m glad for Brubaker’s that not everyone thinks like me!
Anyway, I am very happy with my Janome MC6500, which I’ve had for 6 years now; the only two quibbles I’ve had with it, almost since the beginning, were that it didn’t have a bobbin alarm and I didn’t like the free motion foot. The bobbin alarm is a lost cause; it’s not like they’re going to develop an aftermarket add-on for that. It just seems so short-sighted to not put one on a machine that’s been designed with an extra-long throat space for machine quilting! Apparently the designers didn’t think it was necessary, since it has a clear acrylic drop-in bobbin, but when you’re quilting a big giant quilt, you can go hours without seeing the bobbin. Oh well.
The included free motion foot is clear acrylic and kind of bean-shaped. I’m sure there are plenty of quilters who like an acrylic free motion foot, but I cannot count myself among them. The acrylic may be clear, but it catches the light and reflects, especially if there’s any lint or residue of chalk marking pencil on it, obscuring my view of the quilt top. I prefer a metal foot, which can be significantly smaller and thinner without being too weak. Also, I want a round foot, so that I can use the foot itself as a guide for echo quilting; an oblong foot doesn’t stay a constant width from the stitching line. I have tried feet from other companies and have found some reasonable substitutes, especially when custom-modified with my Dremel tool, but nothing was exactly what I wanted.
Hopefully, this new one will be. It’s billed as a convertible foot, because it comes with a single (offset shank, hooray!) attachment base with three interchangeable feet: open metal, closed metal, and big honking acrylic. (Suffice to say I am not currently a fan of #3.) So far I’ve only just goofed around with it; the real test will be actually quilting an entire quilt and seeing if the magic stays. I’ll most likely primarily use the open metal foot, as this is the most like the Bernina foot I have coveted, but the closed metal foot will be nice for quilts with puffy batts (or badly pressed seams!) as it will be less likely to catch on things. Also, this foot does not hop, but rather glides above the surface of the top. This will take some getting used to, but may end up being a real benefit. I certainly hope so, because the 3-foot pack was $72, which while it doesn’t compare to Bernina foot prices, I can assure you it’s an awful lot to pay for a Janome foot. But if it solves my lingering discontent on the topic, it’ll have been worth every penny.
Other than that, I bought 7 taupe (enough already!) Red Rooster fat quarters from Traditions at the White Swan, a 1/2 yard of a cute owl print from Smile Spinners, and a spool of MasterPiece from Superior Threads. MasterPiece is the only thread by Superior that I haven’t been entirely happy with, but the only spool I had bought (and just recently finished) was black. My experience with DMC embroidery floss suggests that perhaps the black dyeing process renders cotton thread a little more temperamental than other colors, so based on the strength of the rest of their product lines, I thought I’d buy a nice neutral piecing color and give it a second chance to see if it changes my mind. If not, I’ll continue to use all their quilting threads, but I’ll stick with Presencia and Aurifil for piecing.
The show was closing at 4:00, but we were done in the dealer hall in time to get out to the lobby for the prize drawing. We had gotten tickets as part of our show admission for a must-be-present-to-win drawing for a $1000 cutting table. Even with the rain and with being the end of the day on Sunday, there was quite a turnout in the lobby, and to the show staff’s credit, they held the drawing right on time. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Quilters Unlimited show!) Unfortunately, no one in our group won; fortunately, the woman whose ticket they pulled was indeed there to claim her prize, so there was no tortuously drawn-out process. Then, with a quick stop at Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet on the way, we were back home to quilt some more! I’m always happy when I can quilt right after a show, while my motivation’s still up.
You’ve already heard me rant about the poor vendors who were consigned to the Siberia-like Liberty Place building. Well, we did our level best to make sure that Batiks Etcetera had a good show despite their undesirable location. I bought a yard of western/cowboy themed batik for my mom, and Diane bought… well, the picture says it better:
I know it’s bad form to ask someone what they’re planning to do with the fabric they’re buying (it implies that a plan is required,) but she volunteered that this is for an Ohio Star quilt. I won’t give away more details, but based on her description I can’t wait to see it.
We then proceeded to the Spring Quilt Blossom Festival, which has historically been held across the street from Quilters’ Heritage Celebration at the Continental Inn. I was surprised to learn, some months ago, that it was still planned, despite the fact that the show was no longer held at the Lancaster Host Resort. It became an AQS Sanctioned Event, and a shuttle bus ran between it and the convention center. I had been curious which vendors would be there, since several of the vendors who have in the past been at Quilt Blossom (Quilter’s Express to Japan,Traditions at the White Swan, Quilter’s Fancy, SewBatik) were now at the AQS show. As it turns out, most of the regulars were still at Quilt Blossom; Traditions at the White Swan actually had two booths, one there and one in Liberty Place. The major difference this year was that there were no vendors on the second floor in the emptied-out hotel rooms (I always enjoyed those.) I don’t know if this event will continue, as when we were there in the final hour of the show on Saturday, I heard some vendors grousing loudly about how bad a show this had been for them. I’m sure they were hurt by the same constraints that hurt Liberty Place: they were open 9-6 daily, which meant you couldn’t go after the AQS show had closed for the day, and I can’t imagine how long that shuttle bus ride must have taken (Google Maps claims it’s 6.5 miles and 12 minutes, but in Saturday evening traffic it took us closer to 30 minutes.) Plus, even with the mention in the AQS show program, none of the new attendees would have really known it existed or what to expect.
Still, I’m glad we went there; The Stencil Company is always one of my favorite booths to visit, and I found more background fillers and an odd border design I liked. And I’ve had at least two conversations with the woman from SewCraft Imports about making me a custom acrylic template set for the Hearts and Gizzards block, but I hadn’t followed through (I’ve had plenty to work on, thank you very much.) Well, this year — she had it! She just went ahead and added it to their catalogue, no custom order required. Naturally, I had to buy it; it would have been rude not to.
Frighteningly, QFNJ and AQS Lancaster have just been the beginning of quilt show season for me. This year I also plan to attend:
- Quilters Unlimited, Chantilly, VA, June 4-6
- York Quilters’ Guild Celebration of Quilts, York, PA, June 26-27
- Quilt Odyssey, Hershey, PA, July 22-25
- Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza, Oaks, PA, September 16-19
- Quilting with Machines, Huron, OH, September 22-25
So I’m trying to pace myself. Trying, trying, trying…