A Needle Pulling Thread – Review

I think one of the best words in the English language, or in any language for that matter, is the word FREE. In the past, I have shared freebies on Friday that I’ve run across on the internet. As Gomer Pyle would say, “What a dumb thang. What a dumb thang to do.” Here I am trying to sell patterns, you can’t believe how many are here until you actually see for yourself, and I turn around and give you information on freebies. Then I wonder why patterns aren’t selling all that well. Duh…

It seems to be a problem for shops who are trying to sell patterns by great designers while having to compete with all the freebies that are out there online. While I totally understand the giving personality of crafty/creative people, those who consistently give away freebies aren’t doing themselves or their fellow creative person any favors.

Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion on a couple of occasions and all of her Quilt Academy events, of which I believe there were five. Loved those Quilt Academy events by the way. They were absolutely awesome!!! Talk about brain overload that very first event! The only person I knew about on the program was Nancy Zieman, and seeing her in person was the only reason I went. Had someone told me then that later on I would own a quilt shop and get to better know some of those big names in quilting that I met at the academies, I would have told them they needed to be committed because that was never going to happen. This is why I told my children when they were growing up to never say never. Yes, some things I have had to learn the hard way.

Anyhow, in one of Miss Martha’s talks on turning your hobby into a business she said something that has stuck with me. It went something like this, “If you don’t charge anything for what you’re giving folks, they won’t place any value on it. If it’s only $5, charge them so they will feel like they’ve gotten something worthwhile.” Over the years since I’ve had the shop I’ve determined that she was right. While we tend to like to get things for free, we don’t always value them as much as we do something that we’ve had to work for or save up in order to purchase. There’s a whole other sermon that could go along with this thought, but I won’t go there right now. That’s not the purpose of this writing.

Mag-Needle Plg Thread-Sprg 2016The purpose of this writing is to share with you something that was sent to me, quite unexpectedly, free of charge. Now, I give lots of “stuff” away at our camps, to guilds for their special events, and during special events that we hold throughout the year here in the shop. Although I greatly enjoy giving, I also like getting just as much as the next person, especially when what I’ve been given comes as a complete surprise. Such is the case with the most recent copy, Spring 2016, of A Needle Pulling Thread magazine. It came one day in a brown envelope with the word SAMPLE on the outside. Surprise!

I have bought this magazine a few times, mainly the holiday issues, at Books-a-Million. The thing I enjoy most about this Canadian publication is that it’s chocked full of all kinds of creativity. Instead of being a one-sided publication, as are the quilting magazines that I tend to peruse, this publication has a little bit of everything, because after all, aren’t most of us who are creative multi-faceted and creative in more than just one arena? I know I am. Of course, there comes a point when we have to choose which creative areas we desire to excel in because there’s just not enough lifetime to do them all, much less do them all well.

So, what’s in this issue I have you wondering? It might be easier to tell you what’s not in this issue. For example, there’s no woodworking or macramé. But I was delighted to see that there are six quilting projects including a table runner, lap quilt, placemats, chair back covers, a bed scarf (we tend to call them bed runners), and a quilt made using denim. Can you say “recycle!”?

One project that really caught my attention and made me giddy was the pattern for making a teapot cozy. Those who know me well know I enjoy having and collecting tea things. Trust me; I have enough tea in the house to float a battle ship! But after all these years of enjoying tea on pretty much a daily basis, I have yet to buy, let alone make, a tea cozy. I’ve bought the patterns for making one but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll give the pattern in the magazine a whirl. If/when I do, you’ll be the first to know. The plus with the cozy pattern here is that the handle is not covered. I’ve learned that covering the handle of a good teapot is not a good idea. Not only does the tea stay hot when covered, but the handle gets hot as well. When I say hot, I mean really hot, as in too hot to handle. No pun intended. Since the pattern can be adjusted, I can make a cozy for my large teapot that holds several cups as well as my two-cup teapot that I won from teadog.com. I love that little teapot!

Ok…moving right along…Remember I mentioned how we creative types like to give to others? Well, there’s a pillowcase pattern in this issue that you could make and donate to Junior’s House. Just bring your finished pillowcase to the shop and I’ll pass it along to them. As always, if you have another charity in mind then go for it.

Not into quilting or sewing? How about knitting, cross-stitch, punchneedle, rug hooking, crochet, embroidery – either hand or machine, purse making, or beading? If you enjoy any of these needlearts then you need to give this magazine some serious consideration. Of course, there are more than just projects to do amidst the pages. There are book reviews for new books in each of these disciplines, an article on a great looking quilt shop in Oshawa, Ontario you can visit next time you’re in the area, and an informative article on the history of knitting tools in Canada.

I am so grateful to whoever it was that so kindly sent me this copy of A Needle Pulling Thread. It’s a great publication and one that I hope will continue enticing us with multiple needlearts to enjoy in each issue for many years to come.  Be sure to visit their website where they have photos of all the projects contained in this issue. You can also enjoy looking through a free issue there as well.  While I do not have copies of the magazine for sell at the shop, you can order online if you’re unable to visit or find a copy at your local Books-a-Million store.



There’s Still Time!

Proj-2015-RudyNeed a really quick and cute project to make before Christmas Day? We have just the thing for you then. This little stuffed reindeer can be made in just a few hours, and you probably already have everything you need on hand.  Is he not the cutest thing?!  And at about 6-1/2″ tall he’s small enough to fit into a little a little basket or on the branches of your tree.

As with most projects I do using someone’s pattern, I don’t follow it to the letter. In this case, rather than using freezer paper to make my template I just made a copy of the pattern and cut the reindeer out on the outside edge of the black line. I placed my fabric with right sides together (or print sides together for those who know there is no wrong side to any piece of fabric as both can be used equally well by those who are willing to do so) and pinned the pattern to my fabric. I then sewed along the edge of the paper pattern, cut away the excess fabric ¼” from the stitching, and snipped the curves so it would lay well once turned inside out. There were a couple of places where I stitched through the pattern, but I was able to pull the edge of the pattern out from under those stitches and can use it again to make more reindeer if I so desire.

I gave my little reindeer button eyes and a ribbon that was a bit narrower than the one specified by the designer. The designer by the way is none other than Miss Anne of Bunny Hill Designs. The little snowman in the mitten that I shared in a previous post is also from Bunny Hill Designs. Yes, you might say we like her designs quite well and have lots of her patterns in the shop. Not all have been made into samples mind, but we do love her work.

Proj-Snowman Candle MatWhile I was stitching my little reindeer by machine, Miss Martha was stitching a candle mat in wool felt by hand. It turned out quite nicely, but I’m not sure I want to hide the snowman’s face in the Proj-Snowman Candle Mat CUmiddle by actually putting a candle on it. It might just have to lie around and decorate instead of making itself useful being what it’s supposed to be.  I mean, look at him, would you want to cover up that cute, cute, cute smiling face?   This mat is a nice size, around 11″ give or take.  It still needs three little buttons going down the front of the center snowman according to the pattern by Penny Lane Primitives… or does it?  Our wool felt is the good kind and comes from National Nonwovens.  We love this product so well that we have close to 50 different colors on the bolt.

We will be making kits for the snowman candle mat and could easily put one together for the reindeer as well if you need it.  Patterns at present are limited, so let me know if you want one, or both.  Since you’re coming down to the wire where making handmade gifts is concerned, a kit will make it much quicker to accomplish your goal of giving nothing store boughten, as the old folks around here use to say.



New Projects and Giveaway Winner!

First, I’d like to announce the winner of the sweet sixteens set I used to make the first block of Moda’s Sampler Block Shuffle. Now the winner can make one just like mine, or some variation thereof. The winner is…Janet! Congratulations Janet! While I didn’t say you had to use your new fabrics to make this first block, I do hope to see something that you’ve used them in…eventually.

Now, on to our projects. Miss Martha has been keeping herself busy making new samples for the shop. The latest two are both geared to winter which is fast approaching. The first project I’d like to share with you is actually the last of 12 in the With Thy Needle series that we’ve been doing this year. These are made from wool felt, and we do have kits for each month available if you didn’t participate but would like to. Just give me a call and I’ll put a set aside for you.
This last installment showcases a boot which has been filled with holly, greenery, and candy canes. It can hang from a background designed to be changed out each month, made into a wall hanging, or framed. It could also be turned into a small pillow or hung from a wire hanger. At only 8″ square you won’t need much room to display your handiwork once finished.

The second little project is just too cute! Made from wool felt, and measuring around 4″x7″, you can whip this up in no time. Not only is it quick, but it is a very versatile project as well. So, just how versatile is it? Well, let me clue you in.
Pic-BHill-Snowman in Mitten
The original intent is of course as a tree ornament. However, you don’t have to just hang it on a tree because you could just as easily hang it on the door knob of a kitchen or bathroom cabinet, or the knob on a dresser in a child’s bedroom. Anywhere you’d like to put a little color and cute into your décor would work.

Maybe you’re not one to buy lots of presents and have gotten into the habit of buying gift cards instead. Let’s face it, when you have teenagers on your list it’s usually the best way to go these days. If that’s the case, you could make just the mitten and put the gift card inside. That way they get two gifts in one. They can still hang the mitten on the tree to enjoy long after the gift card has been used up. You could even include the date on the back of the cuff or stitch the recipients name to the front of the cuff in the event you make multiple mittens for the same family. You could also include the snowman if you’d like depending on how much time you have to work with and whether or not you think the recipient would appreciate your efforts. A gift card could easily slid in behind him.

The snowman isn’t attached to the mitten. This means that he can be made as a stand alone ornament by attaching a small loop to the back of his head. Better yet, why not make him into a pin that can be worn all winter long on a coat, toboggan, or purse. Snowmen can be displayed and enjoyed for several months you know.

Maybe you have smaller folks for which to make gifts. This little snowman would make a great finger puppet by leaving the bottom open. With a little imagination you could make a whole snowman family. Make two snowmen the size given in the pattern for a mom and a dad and then shrink the pattern just a bit and make a brother and sister, or maybe one for each member of the family that you gift the puppets to depending on the family’s configuration. What better way to foster a child’s imagination than with finger puppets?

We have a couple of kits ready to go with plans on making more as soon as we get more patterns. If you think you need help making this project, we can set up a time for you to work one-on-one with Miss Martha at no extra charge. While this project is something you could do in an evening or two, especially with all the fabrics on hand, you don’t want to wait too long to get started. I mean, who’d of thought it would be November already!? That means December is fast approaching and will be here before we’re ready. I know that for a fact because it always does. Agreed?

Sampler Block Shuffle – Block 1

Those who have hung around me for a while know that I rarely make a block/pattern like the pattern says to make it. Don’t ask me why because I’m not sure I have an answer. It just seems to me that when I look at a quilt block for example I sometimes see it put together differently than the directions say to put it together. Such was the case with the first block in Moda’s Sampler Block Shuffle. What the directions said to do and what I did to come up with my block are two different things. How so? Well, I’ll show you. WARNING: This turned into somewhat of a tutorial so be prepared to be reading for a while. Here’s a bit of music by one of Victoria’s favorite fellers to enjoy while reading since it seems to go quite well with me doing this block my way.

First, I want to make it perfectly clear that the directions given for the first block, designed by Sandy Gervais, are correct as written, and my sharing here of how I went about making this block is in no way a criticism of the block’s design or designer. I guess you could say I’m just following through on what my mom taught me long ago. She always said that there was more than one way to skin a cat (not that we’d ever actually do that in reality of course), which is probably why my brain saw a totally different way of putting this block together.

If you’ve not already found the patterns they are under the “Free Patterns” tab at the top of the page. The first three patterns are only going to be available for a short time and then they will be replaced by new block patterns. Meaning…go find the patterns, save them, and don’t procrastinate about doing it!

Again, if you’ve known me for a while you know that I hate drawing on fabric. I have no definite answer for why that is, but I just do. For me it’s akin to someone raking their nails across a chalkboard (~shudder!). I will go to great lengths to keep from having to draw on my fabric. That being said, my first change to this design was to use Thangles and make half-square triangles (HST) instead of marking squares to sew on either end of a rectangle. That meant that the strips that I used to make the HST units could also be used to cut solid squares from the background fabric, a white tone-on-tone dot, as well as the dark fabric, which was the red fabric in my block.

Some folks who have never used Thangles think that they’re difficult to use Pic-Blk 1-Thangles Cvrbecause they don’t know which size to work with. Actually, it’s very simple because the finished size of your HST unit is in dark black print on the front of the package and the width of the strip you need to cut is given right underneath it. In this case, I knew the finished block was to be 6” square. Since there are four sections across the block each section had to finish at 1-1/2” square doing it my way. So, I pulled out my 1.5 Thangles and set to work. Another clue in this case as to what size Thangles to use was the size given for the solid squares for the background and Print 2, i.e. 2” squares.
Pic-Blk 1-Components
Once I figured out how many of each HST I needed, I took my Thangles paper, measured it and found that I would need a 2”x6” strip set to make four HST that were red and yellow. I would need a second 2″x6″ strip set to make four HST that were yellow and white. I also needed to allow for the solid squares so I cut a 2”x15” strip from the background fabric, a 2”x15” strip from the red fabric, and a 2”x13” strip of yellow fabric. From those three strips I ended up with all the components for the square.

I’ve used Thangles for a while now because to me it’s like paper-piecing and I Pic-Blk 1-Thangles 1can sew on a line, more or less. Here are a few things that I have learned work best for me. I always use a 50 wt. silk finish thread when piecing. I put the fabric strips right sides together with the lightest colored fabric on top. I pin the Thangles paper in the open triangular spaces to the strip set so that it doesn’t shift while sewing. Instead of sewing right on the broken line I sew just to one side towards the solid line. That means I’m sewing into my seam allowance just a thread orPic-Blk 1-Thangles-Seam Line two in the fabric and allowing for the thickness of my sewing thread. When I fold the HST open, it won’t be too small because I’ve allowed for the thickness of the thread I’m sewing with and for the threads caught up in the seam line. I sew down one broken line, lift my presser foot and pull the unit out a little so that I can flip it and sew down the other broken line without cutting the thread. Hopefully, you can see the thread loops at the sides of the photo to the left. This saves both thread and time. Depending on what size Thangles I’m using I may or may not do the same when moving from one HST section to the next. In this case I repeated this practice so that I didn’t have to cut my thread until I had essentially chain pieced all the sections for one unit and moved on to the next unit.

Now it’s time to cut the HSTs apart. Obviously you’re going to cut on the vertical solid line. What’s not always so obvious, meaning you might need your reading spectacles here, is a very thin white line that is between the other thin solid black lines going across the paper from side to side. You want to cut across that thin white line to separate the sections. The more accurately you do this the more accurate your HST units will turn out.
Pic-Blk 1-Dog Ear B4 Trim
One of the other pluses in my mind when using Thangles is that there’s already one dog ear cut off for you. Yes, that’s another thing I don’t like doing because I’m always afraid I’ll cut it crooked or cut into my seam allowance and compromise accuracy. I’ve found that if you fold back the paper on the seam Pic-Blk 1-Thangles-Dog Ear Trimline, you have a nice guide for cutting of the second dog ear neatly and without cutting into your seam allowance. I place my blade up against the edge of the paper and push down firmly in order cut off the little triangle that’s sticking out to one side. Voila! No more dog ears.

Pic-Blk 1-Squarg UpBefore I tear the paper off I press the triangles, fabric side up. Thangles are printed with a special kind of ink so there’s no need to worry about the ink being transferred to your fabric when heated. The darker fabric will be facing up which means you’ll be pressing to the darker fabric as we most often do. I then take my HST unit to the cutting mat and make sure it’s the size it needs to be, in this case 2” square. I prefer to use a 4-1/2” square ruler for this step. That way I can see all around the edges easily.

Now comes the even funner (yes, that’s a word in my vocabulary) part, laying outPic-Blk 1-Layout all the components of the square. I use a block keeper which has a fuzzy texture to do this as it will keep each piece in place until I’m ready to sew it. If I have to leave for some reason, I can fold the attached clear sheet of plastic over it to protect my layout from intruders in my sewing space be they two legged critters or four legged critters. It has also saved me from sewing the wrong side of the seam or a HST in the wrong direction more than once.

Pic-Blk 1-Pin HSTThe pattern directions have you sewing two squares and a rectangle together to form a unit and doing this four times. Then you sew the four units together as you would a four-patch. I, on the other hand, sewed my components in a row and I did this for four rows. I guess you could equate that to a sixteen-patch. To make sure the points for HSTs turned out all right, I pinned them either side of the seam line. Since the seams are pressed to the dark side they line up without any trouble at all.

Pic-Blk 1-PinningWhen sewing the two rowsPic-Blk 1-Alignment together I wanted to make sure the seams in the first row were pressed in one direction and the seams in the second row were pressed in the opposite direction. To help keep things lined up I pinned on either side of the seam within the 1/4” seam allowance space. If you can do this so that the fold on top is going away from you when you’re sewing then the seams should line up and look great once sewn. I learned this trick by watching Alex Anderson on The Quilt Show. If you’ve not already signed up for this extravaganza of learning you need to do that right after you finish reading this post. Pic-Blk 1-Rows 1 n 2

Another trick I used I also learned on The Quilt Show from a lesson with Jo Morton. Instead of pressing whole seams to the dark, she sometimes snips a seamPic-Blk 1-Cut Seam so that those who want to face towards the right can and those that want to face toward the left can. It makes for a flatter seam and reduces bulk. You just have to be careful and not snip through the seam. It’s an interesting idea and does make things nice and flat as a result. Once I had all four rows sewn together I pressed the joining seams open.

Pic-Blk 1-Finished BlockMy preferred block size is 6″. I like how my block turned out and am pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever done a block in red and yellow. I just picked up two strips that I had close at hand, you know, those strips I tear off the ends of new bolts to straighten them up. Now I have to decide if I want the rest of my blocks to follow this bright color path or not. What do you think?

GIVEAWAY! If you’d like to make a block just like this one, leave me a comment by Sunday, November 8. I’ll give one person, drawn at random, a sweet sixteen (approx. 9”x11”) of each of the fabrics I used. That way we can match or you can reverse the colors if you like and make your block look totally different. I’d love to see your blocks and Moda would too. You can post them at #modasamplershuffle. I’m guessing that’s an Instagram site. I don’t have one set up for the shop yet but am working on it. I’ll let you know once I’ve got it up and running.

So, start pulling out some scraps and lets have some fun!

21…Can You Believe It?!

Yes, Victoria turned 21 on the 29th. Can you believe it?!!! It doesn’t seem possible that 21 years ago God presented us with a baby girl who miraculously survived having the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice. Had she not come a week early I fear she might not be here today. While we had already picked out the name Victoria, the circumstances surrounding her birth made that name, which can mean victory, victorious, or conqueror, all the more fitting.

So what’s has she been up to since her last birthday? Well, the big news is VA-Graduationthat she graduated from UAH on May 3. Yes, she finally graduated and has put college behind her. Needless to say she’s ecstatic to be out of school. But, for all her grumping and gripping about having to go to college and take a bunch of “stupid” classes she did very well, especially if you recall that she went in at the age of 16. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in music performance and had the third highest GPA in the College of Liberal Arts. She was also one of the first to graduate from the newly accredited Honors College and the first harp student to graduate from the music program. To put these accomplishments into perspective, while in school she coached gymnastics, taught ballroom dance classes and private lessons, and taught harp lessons. Now you can better see why she was gone more than at home during the school year.

Another biggie for her was buying a new-to-her concert grand harp this past March. Seems she’d outgrown the semi-grand we’d bought her and needed the VA-HSV Harpslarger harp to play some of the selections for her senior recital this past April. It was a great recital, and in addition to playing several solo pieces she was joined by The Harps of Huntsville for one number, a violinist for another number, and a VA-Sr Recital 2015pianist and her harp teacher for the last number. It was one of those times when you wished the music could go on forever, but in reality, you know that a harpist’s fingers can only last for so long.

Her new harp was also a plus when she was asked by the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra (HSO) to play in their England: A Sea Symphony as second harpist along with her harp teacher, Katherine Newman. The concert was on September 18. She and Mrs. Newman added so much glitz to the setting with their matching gold harps. It was thrilling to see her sitting on that stage with a full professional orchestra. This is what all her years of hard work have been for.

Pic-VA-HarleyAnother big purchase for Victoria since her last birthday was of a 1970 Harley Davidson Electra Glide. Yes, she is the owner of a very large and powerful motorcycle. It had belonged to Rick’s late cousin who took excellent care of his bikes. At present it needs a bit of work so it’s not on the road. A month or so back Victoria witnessed an accident between a truck and a motorcycle. She’s having second thoughts now about actually riding her “new” bike. What she figured out after seeing the wreck was that she had an 80% chance of losing a finger she needed for playing the harp and only a 20% chance of losing one that didn’t matter, i.e. her pinkies. She’d also be in a world of hurt (no pun intended) were she to lose the use of her legs or feet. It’s pretty tricky dancing or changing the pedals on her harp without them. If her face were messed up in a wreck she couldn’t compete as a ballroom dancer because looks are part of the equation in addition to dancing ability. So, she might just decide to sell the bike to her dad and be his scooter trash (that’s the person who rides behind) on occasion.

Pic-DecWhile Miss Martha was away last year, Victoria took over making the samples for the Li’l Woolies projects and packing the kits. Miss Martha returned to work back in February and inspected Victoria’s work. I overheard her tell a visitor that Victoria had done a better job than she could have done on the Li’l Woolies samples. That’s high praise indeed coming from one so skilled as Miss Martha. Together, they have been working on our monthly handwork offering, With Thy Needle, and it’s good to see them working as a team again.

October 29 is the perfect day for Victoria to turn 21 because it’s also National Cat Day. If you’ve followed us the past 11 years you know that Victoria is a cat person. When she was four or five she prayed every night for kittens. Her prayers were answered when Rick found several newborn kittens just off the front porch one day while he was mowing. We’ve had cats, in varying numbers and colors, ever since. Currently, we only have two left outside, Nike and Sylvester. They were Belle’s children from a few years back. Sadly, Belle is no longer with us. Victoria was given a little butterscotch colored kitten and when Belle found him in her room she was not at all happy. Victoria was afraid Belle would hurt the kitten, so she put her outside. We’ve not seen her since. Yes, we think Belle got mad at Victoria and ran away from home. We’ve greatly missed her.

Big RedJust before Labor Day, Victoria was given a fluffy, adult male cat. It took about two weeks before he’d even come out from under the couch in her room. He’s been a very quiet, very shy cat. She’s been waiting until her birthday to give her dad the good news about her “early birthday present” and that she once again has a cat in her room. This cat with no name is getting more curious though, and I’ve heard him meow a couple of times when she wasn’t at home. It’s about the only time I’ve been thankful that Rick’s hearing isn’t what it used to be. I don’t think he’s going to be overly thrilled that we have an indoor cat again, but maybe he’ll get over it when he realizes how happy it makes Victoria to once again have a cat to keep her company when she’s at home.

Another couple of milestones this past year included a second trip to New York City over spring break with the Huntsville Youth Orchestra. That was a surprise because after the first trip she said she wouldn’t go back. This time, however, they dangled going to see The Phantom of the Opera under her nose and she couldn’t resist. That plus Mrs. Newman and one of the other harpists went so she knew she’d have a good time even if she were in NYC. She also managed to fit in two trips to the beach this summer as well. One was a graduation gift from us and the other was with some of her friends from the dance studio. She comes by her love of the beach honestly because if I had my choice of places to live it would be at the beach.

As you might guess we are indeed proud of our youngest daughter. Her stubborn determination got her through the past four years of college with flying colors. She’s enjoyed teaching all her students be they dancers, gymnasts, or harpists. We’re hoping that she’ll continue to enjoy her youth unencumbered until the right young man comes along. That will be our prayer focus for the future. It would be such a shame for her to settle for anyone less than the man God has in mind for her. Please join us not only in wishing Victoria a very happy 21st birthday, but in prayer that she will wait upon the Lord to guide her as she walks into the adult world which all too often is like walking through a field full of land mines. One false step could be the end of a very bright and promising future for this talented young lady.

Love ya darlin’!

Another Cute Spider!

Oct Spider
We’ve never celebrated Halloween as a family. No, our poor, poor deprived children never went trick-or-treating, but they also never lacked for candy because I would go the day after and buy candy I knew they actually liked for half price. They had a lot more candy and it was all eaten as opposed to being thrown away. Of course, since we homeschooled, our children could dress up any day of the year that they liked. They didn’t need a special holiday for that either. Personally, I think they came out much better than their peers in the long run.

When you own a quilt shop you don’t always have the luxury of skipping some holidays. That’s because we sometimes pick a set of patterns by a designer who likes holidays that we the owners might not put too much emphasis on, if any. Because of that, you invariably end up with a project that has icons of a holiday that you’re not keen on. Such is usually the case with Halloween and Christmas especially.

This year we did Buttermilk Basin’s With Thy Needle series when Miss Martha came back to work in February. While the designer used wool for these 8” square projects, we used the much less costly wool felt. After all, we have 50 colors from which to choose. Anyhow, Miss Martha took off like a shot with these little projects and we found it difficult to keep up with her. You’d think she missed stitching while she was retired for one year. She should be finishing up the projects for the last two months here before long. In truth, it’s been a joint effort between her and Victoria, with Victoria packing the kits and doing some of the embroidery work while Miss Martha stitched down all the big pieces.
With Thy Needle Base
The base pattern for this group gives you three alternatives for displaying your handwork. You can frame it in a wooden frame, stitch it into the center of a wall hanging, or make a hanging that allows you to change out the project each month while also keeping track of your needles, pins, and scissors. My plans were to do the latter because I liked the idea of hang the larger piece from a yardstick. Notice that I said “plans”. I’m sure you’re not surprised when I tell you that I’ve not made the background that these projects are supposed to hang on yet. No, I knew you wouldn’t be.
With Thy Needle-Oct
The project for October has a jack-o-lantern wearing a witch’s hat. While we don’t push either of these symbols we can’t dictate what others choose to do. After some debating, we went ahead and made the project as it was designed. Well, we sort of made the project as it was designed. I thought that there should be more light shinning through, so our pumpkin’s eyes and mouth are reversed and have more yellow than black. The kits are packed so that you could do whichever way you prefer. After all, flexibility is a good thing when it comes to stitching. I do have to admit to liking the little spider hanging from the hat though, along with his web in the corner. Being a crazy quilt fanatic I relate those two things with good luck, which I need heaps of these days. It appears our spider has lost a couple of his legs though, so some of his luck may have run out. I sense a fix in the near future.
With Thy Needle-Oct
This is how our version turned out. Didn’t they do a great job!

Even though this series is quickly coming to an end, we do have some kits left if you’d like to claim a set for yourself and get started. Miss Martha is especially pleased with the colors of the one for November and should be bringing the one for December in soon. I’ll try to remember to post those as well, but in the event that I forget, or find something else to post, you’ll just have to come in and see them in person. Trust me, they’re much better in person than they are in a photo.

Spindly Spider Pincushion

SNT-2015 Spider w Bent LegsNow that our fall Stitchin’ Camp has come and gone, I can share with you what we made for our campers. Is this not the cutest thang!!! The number for their door prize was pinned to a spider like this one. After their name was called they picked a spider out of a large box with a sea of spiders in it. Based on the number pinned to their spider, a number that was folded up so it couldn’t be seen, they were given the prize that matched that number. That way, no one could accuse us of playing favorites and giving one camper a better prize than another. The prize they took home was based on the luck of the draw. Speaking of which, on the bottom of one spider, with the number 13 pinned to it, was a tiny red hourglass stitched on the belly. The camper that picked that spider got an extra prize!

As you might guess, plans for camp always start months ahead of time. So, when I ran across a pattern by Elaine Walsh that was in the Fall 2011 issue of Simple Quilts & Sewing I knew our campers would love them. Of course, being the rebels that we are we didn’t follow the pattern exactly. Heaven forbid! We just used it as an inspiration and made a couple of changes so our spiders could stand on their own eight legs.

As always, the making of the spiders was a team effort. I did the majority of the cutting out while Victoria sewed the majority of the spiders together. After I realized she could make two spiders to my one it was a no brainer on my part to let her do them all. Yes, bless her heart, she stitched and stuffed 23 of the 25 spiders that we made.

The original pattern called for baby rickrack for the legs. While I had that item in stock, Victoria suggested pipe cleaners, better known as chenille stems these days. Since we decided to change out the legs we had to change out the fabric for the body because I SNT-2015-Spider Equiptdidn’t want to sew over the metal parts of the legs and then try to turn the spider inside out as instructed in the pattern using the rickrack for legs. We opted for black wool felt for the bodies. Rather than cutting out the body pattern given on the pattern sheet, I used a lid from a candle that I had on hand that was just about the same size. Given there was no seam allowance needed when using the wool felt, I figured the resulting spider would be about the same size. I used a white marking pencil to draw around the lid on a folded piece of wool felt which meant I could cut the top and the bottom of the spider at the same time. I cut the strip about 3-3/4” wide, and from one width (approx. 36”) I got five complete spider bodies.

I traced the eye pattern on a scrap piece of Transfer-Eze, cut on the drawn line, peeled off the paper backing, and stuck the sticky film to a scrap of white wool felt. Then I cut out the white of the eye. This became our eye pattern and was used to cut out eyes for all 25 spiders, times two. I just noticed that I don’t have the original eye that I used to cut out all the others, so one of our campers must have a spider with an eyeball that has Transfer-Eze on the back. That’s OK though, it won’t hurt anything.

Before sewing the spider together we placed a teeny weeny (3/16”) black button from Hillcreek Designs in the center, more or less, of a white eye. Then we stitched that unit, times two, to one of the black circles to make the top of the spider. The bottom circle was added and the two pieces were buttonhole stitched in order to keep them together. Before getting too far around though, the legs, which were cut to 8”, were added one at a time. This made it easier to stitch around one side than it did around the other. That’s because by the time you get to the other side of the body you have all four legs to deal with at one time. Yes, that’s a bit tricky so take your time if you decide to make these yourself. Also, if you need a smaller or larger spider just find a circle the size you need, i.e. saucer, drinking glass, spray starch can, etc. You can easily have a whole army of spiders in various sizes. You can have mommy spiders, daddy spiders, baby spiders…you get the picture.

Of course, it should go without saying that you have to leave a hole in order to stuff the spider to, in this case, make it pincushion worthy. We used Poly-Fil and tried to stuff it fairly tightly. This helps to hold the legs in place, but they can still slide from side to side, so if you let a child play with these do keep an eye on them as the legs might come out all together. Tightly stuffing your spider also helps to keep the pins from pushing through and out the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still poke through if you push them hard enough so be careful when picking up your spider once he has pins in place. That’s when picking him up by the legs would be a good idea. By the way, in case you don’t already have Poly-Fil on hand, we do carry a small 2 ounce bag in the event you only want to make a few spiders and don’t want to buy a huge bag and have to find somewhere to store it.
SNT-2015 Splatted Spider
Once made, your spider will look like this. No, one leg isn’t longer than the others, it’s just an optical illusion. Rick said the first one he saw looked like a splatted spider, and after he said that I could see why he’d think so. We had other designs in mind for our spiders though. We wanted them to stand up, so we bent the legs in two places (refer back to first photo). You could bend them only once if you prefer. After all, it’s your spider and you can make his/her legs do whatever you want them to do. You could even add a little bow to one side of the eyes in order to differentiate your girl spiders from your boy spiders. We didn’t do that though because time was a bit of an issue. Yes, even though I found the pattern a while back, as in a couple of months ago at least, we didn’t make the spiders until a few days before camp began. I know, I know. I don’t set a very good example for my daughter where getting things done ahead of time is concerned. I do set a great example though of waiting ‘till the last minute and pushing, I mean persevering, to get things finished. Does that count for anything? Anything at all…? I mean, surely that life skill will come in handy one of these days when she’s handed a project that needs doing in a hurry. Won’t it?

Speaking of projects, Victoria will be helping in the decorating of the dance studio this year for fall. Instead of using these as pincushions, she will be taking a few of our spiders to the dance studio to use as decorations. She might even hang one or two from the ceiling all tangled up in that white fluff stuff that’s supposed to look like spider webs. We ended up with four extra spiders that she can use. There should have been five extras, but we had to give Miss Martha one. Yes, we HAD to give Miss Martha one because she whined about wanting one. I know…if you know Miss Martha you’re not surprised one little bit to hear that.

All in all I think our campers liked their little spiders. Hopefully, every time they use it they’ll think of all the fun they had at camp and endeavour to join us again at a future camp. I’ve said it before but have to say it again. I have an awesome group of ladies who come together for camp. They’re not always the same ones, although many don’t miss a camp if they can help it, but they’re all awesome. I cannot brag on them enough! Not only are they patient with me when I’m slow in getting information out to them on camp, but they’re always helpful and willing to teach a newer quilter in my absence. They get so much accomplished during our three day camp that I’m getting more and more tempted to close the shop and join them. Who knows, maybe one day I will!

We Have a Winner!

BlueRibbonBefore I could even get the shop door opened this morning, I had someone parked out front waiting on me. That someone wasn’t here just to shop either. No! That someone brought her finished quilt for the Row by Row Experience contest. Yes! Now we have a WINNER!!! And yes, our row was amongst the eight that she included in the quilt. Super! Who is our winner? Her name is Stacy Houk. She’s a local supporter of the shop and has been ever since we bought it back in 2004.

Stacy had help from her daughter in obtaining rows from outside of our area and in deciding which rows to put into this quilt. The quilt will eventually make its way to her daughter’s house, but for now it will be on display here for all who visit us to see and marvel over. Then I think she needs to enter it into our local county fair, or better yet into the Tennessee State Fair.

One of the criticisms that has cropped up with regards to some of the first quilts to be submitted to participating shops is that the quilts haven’t been completely complete. While the quilts are quilted, bound, and do have a label per the contest rules, many of the appliqué elements aren’t necessarily stitched into place. Sometimes none of them are. They’re just ironed on with a fusible webbing product. Anyone who’s worked with raw-edge appliqué knows that if it’s not stitched down it will eventually release from the project and might even fall off completley. Ask me how I know this. If you don’t believe me I can show you an example of what happens to a quilt when the appliqué elements are not stitched in place.

MermaidBubblesI can honestly say that every element on Stacy’s quilt was stitched in place as it should be. In fact, not only were all the appliquéd pieces stitched down, she even added quite a few extras. For example, the mermaid has some lovely golden tresses thanks to the Razzle Dazzle thread that has been couched down. Even her eye and lips are stitched around as are all the little bubbles.
LemonadeH2O Bottle
Then there’s the sugar bowl. It has “sugar” beads pouring out of it and into the lemonade pitcher. The pitcher looks like glass because Stacy used a clear plastic for the pitcher. The bottle of water that helps to make the lemonade was also made using that plastic. Look at all those little drops of water pouring out of it that were stitched around, not to mention the stitching done on the lemons to make them look like they’ve been sliced. Makes my fingers tired just thinking about it.

The first row had lots of raindrops. All those raindrops were pieced! It would have been much easier to make each raindrop from one fabric, but I love the effect of the pieced raindrops much much more. In fact, I love that technique so much that I’ve been working on a project that does something similar with a couple of the appliquéd pieces. That will be show-n-tell probably when the snows of winter are falling.
HOQ SunbrellasStacy even got extra creative with our row. The designer had used a blue fabric for the background and we had suggested you could also use tan to simulate sand thanks to a suggestion from Jo. The first weekend of the RxR hop a lady came in and suggested that the row could be split in half lengthwise with tan (sand) on the bottom and blue (water) on top. What a great idea! I wish I’d of thought of that. Stacy took that idea a bit further and split the row into three parts – sand, water, and sky. I love it! She said she carried out my idea of using scraps in the sunbrellas and pointed to a bright piece of fabric with jungle animals that had been used in a special quilt that she’d made. You can see it in the circle on the sunbrella as well as in the section on the right of the photo.

There was another row with pieced umbrellas and she hand embroidered the handles on each one of them. The more I looked over her quilt the more I wondered if she’d even been sleeping for the past several weeks.
Pic-Winning Quilt-Label
Last, but not least, her label listed the name of each row, the shop it came from, and the city and state of the shop. The edges of the border around the label were stitched down by hand with a blanket stitch. I told her Miss Martha would be proud of her because I know for a fact she would.

You can tell Stacy put a lot of time and effort into her quilt. She’d hoped to get it further along with the rows she had on hand before her daughter and grandson visited in July but said she spent too much time cleaning house. Why do we do that for our children? It’s not like they’re real company or anything. But I digress… Amazingly, even with the welcomed distraction she managed to get her rows put together, embellished, and quilted before anyone else around here. Yes, I am impressed to say the least. Can you tell?

Now, before you get the impression that Stacy is Wonder Woman, I must tell you that the quilt was actually quilted by someone else. Yes, Stacy had it longarm quilted by Rhonda Griner who did a great job, as always, and got it done in record time. I don’t even want to think how much more difficult it was for Rhonda to quilt given all the little extras Stacy added, but she rose to the challenge and did a fantastic job. Well done Miss Rhonda!

So, put your hands together and join me in a big round of applause and a heartfelt congratulations to Stacy! Oh, yes. Feel free to give a long and loud whistle while clapping if you know how. If you don’t know how I’ll be glad to teach you next time you visit.

Winning QuiltWinning Quilt-Stacy

Eleven Years Ago Today…

CA-Hpy Anniv-BrightWe became the new owners of Hooked on Quilting. What was meant to be an investment in our children’s future and a real-life learning ground for them has proven to be that and so much more. Not only did our children learn to interact with older folks, something that I personally think is vital but missing in today’s society, they also learned to help some of those older folks by carrying machines upstairs when we were in our original location, or heavy bags filled with treasures out to cars. When anyone would give them a little tip you’d have thought they were King Midas. To say they were thrilled, not to mention pleasantly surprised, would have been an understatement.

In addition to learning how to get along with their elders, Victoria and Nathanael both learned to make a Convergence Quilt from Ricky Tims when he came to the shop in April 2005. They both did a very good job if I do say so myself. Ricky Tims and VictoriaAfter the workshops were over and we had some free time, I remember having them tell me what to do while I cut their strips. Since they were only ten and twelve respectively at the time, I didn’t want to take a chance of either of them losing a finger via the rotary cutter blade. They did all the sewing together of the strips and walked me through every step of the project. I think if we’d had a class with them as teachers the next day, their students would have been able to make a top just as they did. It was a testament to the great teaching ability of Mr. Tims, and the fact that they actually sat, listened, and learned during the two days he was with us. Oh yes, we can’t forget that they even got to wear his cowboy hat. What a thrill that was!

What else have they learned? Well, Victoria has been working at Dance Rocket City for the past year and a-half as a ballroom dance instructor who also has to sell folks on the positive aspects of learning how to dance. She will tell you that she learned her selling techniques from watching Miss Martha who has always professed to being able to sell an igloo to an Eskimo. After watching Miss Martha for several years, I have no doubt that she could do just that and even make sure they had a polar bear as an indoor pet. In addition to learning how to gently persuade people that they needed to learn something new, Victoria also learned to blanket stitch from Miss Martha. She does a great job according to her teacher. That ability was a blessing for me when Miss Martha retired at the end of 2013. Victoria was able to pick up Miss Martha’s M&M Club where she’d left off and finish the samples and pack the kits. All I had to do was make sure we had enough patterns and wool felt.

Of course it goes without saying that we have met and learned to love some of the most wonderful ladies, and a few gentlemen, in the world over the past eleven years. It’s always such a boost to see all the projects that are created and you can bank on the fact that I’m always looking at the fabrics to see which ones (hopefully several of them) came from this shop. It might sound odd, but it’s like having a little piece of myself infused into their project. That’s because when I buy fabric I buy it with not only my eyes but with my heart. It’s hard to explain really. Maybe the act of buying fabric will be a topic for a future blog post.

While I might be the owner of the shop and some folks think I know everything (I have no clue where they got that idea from either), I actually learn something new almost every week from those who pay us a visit. Sometimes I learn something new about quilting and sometimes it’s more of a life lesson. Either way, I too am learning as are those who grace us with their presence from time to time.

I wrote about the shop’s anniversary in June 2011. After re-reading that post, I realized that not a lot has changed. There are still more projects on the wanna-do list than will ever be done, seasoned quilters are still pulling from their stash, and there is still a great need to involve new folks in our creative pastime. So, it appears that as the old saying goes, a woman’s work is never done. We need to get busy and do those projects, use up that stash, and get some new blood into our world of quilting before having a brick and mortar quilt shop to visit becomes a memory of the past.

The Merry Month of May

May has always been a favorite month for me. When I was much younger it was my favorite monthBalloons because it meant school was winding down and summer vacation was getting closer and closer. Plus, my birthday was in May. When I was younger I didn’t mind birthdays because it meant there would be cake and ice cream – two of my favorite food groups.

When we lived in Albuquerque, I had a friend leave a lovely little May Day basket on my door. How she managed to get up early enough in the morning to hang that basket on my door still amazes me. It was the first, and only, such basket that I’ve ever received. Given that it was over 20 years ago you can tell what a lasting impression her gesture and generosity made on me. I’ve often thought that I would follow her example and surprise special folks in my life, but I’ve never gotten around to doing it. May 1 always seems to sneak up on me somehow. You’d think by now I’d know to be watching the calendar and start making plans by mid-April, but I think I never make it because April doesn’t have a 31st day. That’s my excuse anyhow. Were I to be honest, I would have to say it’s because I’ve never been overly good at planning ahead of time for some things, and putting together May Day baskets seems to be one of those things. At least I do a decent job planning ahead for Stitchin’ Camps.

To say it is now May just floors me. My brain is still back in January somewhere. Then again, my brain is used to being left behind. Next thing I know, it will be October and I’ll be wondering where the summer went. As I’ve said before, I don’t know where my time goes, but it sure goes there quickly.

Speaking of time passing quickly, I had thought that I’d have lots of time to do lots of things by closing the shop three days a week. Not so I’m afraid. I’ve gotten more done than I would have had the shop remained open six days a week, but I’ve not even scratched the surface of all the different areas in my life that I’d hoped to get straightened out. I still find myself behind and doing some things at the last minute that I thought I’d be able to do ahead of time. Some things I’ve not even started to tackle, mainly because the job seems to be so big. I keep telling myself that you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time, but you have to identify him and catch him before you can even begin. Maybe there’s where my weakness lies. I have yet to really identify what I want to do with what I have to work with.

One of the things that seems to take up a lot of my time is clerical “stuff.” When asked about owning a quilt shop I’m quick to point out that it’s a good thing I took typing in high school and had several business courses in college. The experience I had as a secretary and administrative assistant in my former life has come in handy too. If I had to give myself a title I’m not sure it would be “Shop Owner” but more like “Glorified Secretary.”

I’d hoped to do a better job of blogging this year, but as you can see I’ve not managed to do so. In thinking about it, I’d like to ask you these questions. And yes, I really would like to hear your answers. Do you prefer bloggers who send you something every day, once a week, once a month? In other words, how often do you want to hear from me? Also, do you want to hear about life in the quilt shop past quilt related information? In other words, how much of our lives do you want to share in over and above what goes on inside the shop? I ask because some of the bloggers that I tend to follow post daily and include details of the goings on in their life that to me would be something I’d share with a very close friend or relative but not with hundreds of unknown readers, not that I have hundreds of readers but I gather they have. I know I’ve written about the kids in the past, mostly on birthdays, but that’s mainly because those who visit the shop regularly, and some who just visit on occasion, have watched them grow up during the years that I’ve had the shop. I mean, Victoria was just nine when we bought the shop, now she’s 20. While none of us have changed that much or look any older, she definitely has and does. It’s a good thing she doesn’t read these posts isn’t it.

Should I make the posts more frequent and therefore shorter? Although I won’t guarantee that posting more often would result in shorter posts. Once I get on a roll with a thought it’s like a snowball rolling down a very long, very steep hill. It takes a good long while for the end to be reached. Would you like to see tutorials, or posts dedicated to book reviews? Do you want me to share links to freebies like quilt or embroidery patterns or BOMs, or do you have enough of each to keep you busy ‘till the year 2525?

Do you even read blogs any more? One of the bloggers that I’ve been following for a while now recently posted that she was going to be blogging less and using Facebook and Instagram more. I don’t particularly like Facebook, and I haven’t a clue how to use Instagram, nor have I ever used Twitter. Yes, you might say I’m still in the dark ages where social media is concerned. Because of that, blogging is easier, and more meaningful to me. That’s because it’s like writing a letter to a friend. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and receiving, letters. You should see my collection of stationery! I know we’re all very busy these days, but those other forms of keeping in touch just seem somewhat cold and impersonal. I know for a fact that posts on Facebook that go more than three or four short sentences tend to not be completely read. So in my mind I’m thinking it’s a waste of time to post something that no one is going to take the time to read through to the end. Am I missing something?

Since I don’t have an actual web site, I tend to use this blog in place of one. That’s why there are all those little tabs running across the top of the page. Each tab represents a different section of the shop. Which of those could you live without and which could you not live without? For instance, if I put coupons on more often, how likely would you be to use them? I’ve put some on in the past and not seen a single one brought into the shop, and we’re talking about 40% off coupons here. So, it’s another one of those things where I feel I’m wasting my time designing and posting if no one is going to take advantage of them. Again, am I missing something?

Yes, you might say I’m at a point where I’d like to simplify my life. With Victoria graduating this Sunday, I’m looking at being able to possibly make up for lost time and to spending more time with her doing some fun things. I know, she’ll probably end up spending her newly freed up time at the dance studio teaching folks how to waltz and such. But I can dream and when I dream I dream of having quality time with her where I’m not having to teach her something she doesn’t really care about learning or drive her somewhere she needs to go. She thinks she’s going to be able to go to the beach multiple times this summer, and I wouldn’t mind being able to go with her. You see, I love the beach just as much as she does and have done for much longer than she has.

So, help me out here. What method(s) of keeping in touch with shops do you prefer and how often do you want/need to be reminded that they’re still out there waiting to serve you? This inquiring mind really wants to know.

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