Thursday, September 30, 2010

Perfect Timing

Isn't it truly amazing how a random act of kindness can truly brighten a day?!...and I wonder, do friends really have a sixth sense telling them when you desperately need a "pick-me-up"?

Today the most adorable little envelope came in the mail addressed to me - totally unexpected...and inside was the most perfect scissor fob! It was wrapped in a piece of sampler fabric (and we all know I love any and all sampler print fabric!)...and it was accompanied by a very special handwritten truly brightened my day. This special package came at the perfect time and brought an immediate smile to my face - it was a godsend! I can't help but grin from ear to ear after receiving this handmade gift - it was just what I needed to lift my spirits. Thank you to my dear friend - your kindness touched my heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Holiday Table Runner Progress

Time is limited right now...I have multiple Blue Ribbon Designs projects and deadlines in the works and they are definitely monopolizing my days....but I am trying to find a better balance - or at least find a few moments each day to do something I enjoy that is not related to business. Today I took an afternoon break from my upcoming class preparations to work on my Accuquilt Holiday GO! Table Runner. I managed to piece all 96 2" half square-finished triangles into 8 strips of 12....I slightly modified triangle layout from the pattern, so the strips felt more balanced to me. I wasn't looking forward to working with all these small triangles, but it actually went quite quickly using the chain-piecing method. I also fused the applique shapes on the wider strips. Tomorrow I plan to make time to do the applique stitching...I figure if I do a step or two each day, I should have this table runner finished in no time!...and a little sewing each day is defintely good for my sanity. You can see the strips lined up on my cutting table, laying side by side below - it is starting to come together...finished size will be approximately 12" x 46"...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Friendship & Fabric

Today was a good day. I got out (broke out) of my studio to meet my dear friend Merry for lunch and some shopping at a couple great local quilt shops....friendship, fabric, and food - a perfect getaway! It was a fabulous day for fabric shopping, as I found some great new cotton prints (see below)...lots of fun new things. I also had an Accuquilt GO! free pattern with me for the Holiday GO! Table Runner, so I could choose fabrics - I wanted a bit more modern look and I wanted to use black instead of light blue (much more "me"), so Merry helped me with the fabric choices...although you can't tell from the photo, the black fabric is "tone on tone" and it is going to work perfectly. This table runner uses the Holiday Medley die - which has a holly leaf and berries, a tree, and a snowflake...I was super excited to try it out! I have been brushing up on my applique skills and I know the snowflakes will definitely challenge me. After a fabulous lunch and TONS of shopping, I came home totally refreshed...and even took the time to cut all my table runner fabric before getting back to work...hopefully I will be able to make time to start piecing/appliqueing them tomorrow. Like I said, today was a good day!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Sunday Of Serging...

Last week was a whirlwind...I spent almost every waking hour bagging charts, printing invoices, and packaging the new releases for shipment...and the good news is, they are on their way to shops and distributors and should be at your favorite LNS or ONS very soon!

I took a few hours on Wednesday to get together with my local stitching group, who I hadn't seen in months....and what a nice break it was...always fun to catch-up with my stitching friends. Of course I took along good old "Sarah Moon" - you know, my "go to" project that has been in progress for way too long. So, why aren't you seeing a photo of it here? Well, I did get quite a bit stitched, but guess what?...I counted wrong and basically had to cut out all I accomplished - quite discouraging. So when I visited with a couple special stitching friends on Friday evening, I decided to start something new...something on larger count fabric...something that wouldn't require as much "focus" I started "Winter Wonderland" by Blackbird Designs - which I feel in love with the moment I first saw it! It is Loose Feathers Pattern 39...and luckily I am auto with one of my most favorite shops Elegant Stitch for all the Loose Feathers patterns with fabric and floss - so everything was ready for me to start - I have been collecting the LF patterns since they started and I have actually completed quite a few of them! So the photo is what little I completed on Friday night...hopefully I can get it done before Christmas (I can dream, can't I?!)....

The last two days have revolved around getting the class kits ready for when I teach for Stitcher's Hideaway in a few weeks. I am so excited to make this trip to Mystic, CT....but I still have quite a bit left to prepare. Yesterday during the Michigan football game (GO BLUE!) I kitted all the threads and finishing materials. Today, I tackled the linen - it was quite the task - it started as a 15 yard cut of 55" linen - now it is in 132 custom cut pieces...and they are all serged and ready to bag up! I am so happy to have this task done - I have been procrastinating because this giant piece of linen was quite unmanageable and heavy. So the class materials are now all kitted up and tomorrow I will finish taking some photos for the finishing instructions and start printing the materials for the class binders. I can't believe how quickly the dates for these classes are approaching....

Tomorrow, I am taking the morning off to spend time with my dear friend Merry - we are going to visit a couple favorite quilt shops and have lunch...and I can't wait! It is going to feel great to break out of my studio and the organized piles of work surrounding me...time with Merry is always fun, encouraging, and refreshing...and it is just what I *need* right now....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Little Bit Of Whimsy

Have you visited the Sew Beautiful Blog?? It is such an interesting place to visit - unique articles and great tutorials! About a month ago, they had "Whimsy Week", featuring Kari Mecca's newest book "More Sewing With Whimsy" - each day they featured inspiration for the book, tutorials, tips, excerpts, and a giveaway. If you are not familiar with Kari Mecca, she is an extremely talented designer who specializes in fun, cheerful (dare I say whimsical) clothing for children...but what amazes me the most about her work is her use of trims, rick racks, ribbons, and embellishments...and her fabulous use of color. I happened to win one of the blog giveaways - the "Sewing With Whimsy" DVD (WOO HOO!!) - although I am not really a seasoned garment sewer, I LOVED this DVD - it is filled with clever trims and sewing techniques...including how to make rick rack flowers and ribbon roses...I was so inspired - it was a true treat for me to watch! After seeing the video and the tutorials on the Sew Beautiful Blog, I just *had to* order Kari's new "Whimsy Sticks" and "Going In Circles Tools" all know how much I love crafty gadgets! I finally had a moment (and only a moment) to play with my new Whimsy Sticks...and you can see my first two ribbon flowers below (they are not perfect, I am learning!)...these "sticks" are so slick - I was amazed how quick and easy it was to make a ribbon flower...just wrap the ribbon around the stick, tape, and sew...well, that is a very brief overview - but if you really want to see Whimsy Sticks in action, check out Kari's blog for a video tutorial. There are two different sets of Whimsy Sticks - a small set of four and a large set of two - six sticks in all. Now, I just have to get my hands on some of the reversible satin ribbon Kari uses - it is gorgeous - I just practiced with some ribbon I had on hand - nothing fancy. My mind is already racing with ways to use the Whimsy sticks for special trims and flowers...what a fun new addition to my sewing studio!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hope & Inspiration

Yesterday afternoon I attended the annual local Horizon of Hope Luncheon benefiting local breast cancer charities. It is a lovely event held each year by local Longaberger consultants - a wonderful lunch, an auction, a guest speaker, and a preview of the new Longaberger holiday line. The event this year was held at Bravo! Italian Restaurant (yummy)....and an abundance of baskets filled with goodies were auctioned off for the John Stoddard Cancer Center. When I purchased the luncheon ticket, it also included the 2010 Horizon of Hope Basket...which was foofed at my place setting (too cute!). It was an afternoon filled with friendship, food, and fun....all raising money for a terrific cause - I can't think of a better way to spend my Sunday.

During the live auction, I purchased a bottle of "INSPIRE #3" wine - produced and bottled at the Madison County Winery in St. Charles, Iowa. The wine label recognizes nearly 200 Iowa breast cancer survivors by incorporating their names into the design of the label...and the winery donates $9.00 for each case sold to the Susan G. Koman - For The Cure Des Moines Affiliate - even more special, several attendees at the luncheon had their name listed on the bottle. Madison County Winery combines the passion to find a cure with a passion for wine - they have found a special way to recognize just some of the many brave Iowans who have so valiantly fought breast cancer and survived....truly inspiring!

Remember, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, please educate yourself ~ more and more people we know are being challenged by this life-threatening disease ~ cherish the time you have with family, friends, and loved ones....PLEASE do your monthly breast self-exams and your yearly mammogram - early detection is key!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Excuses, Excuses....

I know, I know, my posts have been few and far between lately...and I do have (what I feel is) a good excuse...I have been getting the new designs ready for release at the TNNA Fall Needlecraft Market (a large wholesale trade show for needlework shops, designers, and manufacturers) next weekend in St. Charles, MO. I picked up my printed designs several days ago and since then, I have been in a sea of charts, poly bags, and Stitch Starter rulers. Here is a brief look at the floor in my warehouse...keeping in mind some stock has already shipped for display/sales in St. Charles...

I am happy to say, I finished up the last of the bagging last night and now I am on to invoicing, packing, and these new pieces will be arriving at your favorite needlework shops soon!

Although time for "me" has not really been an option for the last few days, I did manage to piece the quilt block I mentioned to you in my last post took about 20 minutes to put together, as I had cut it the day before. This is block #4 (September) in the Accuquilt BOTM series I am working on and is called "Hourglass Star". I am super excited to have the first four blocks all complete and will be looking forward to seeing block #5 in October...

I am off to do a little charting tonight - I am working on some teaching designs for 2011...and if I can keep my eyes open, I may do a little prep for my upcoming class at Stitcher's Hideaway. I can't believe I am heading to Mystic, CT in a few weeks to meet two new groups of is going to be a wonderful event...and since this is my first trip to Connecticut, I can't wait to see the area. I still have some work to do on the class kits and binders (and a few surprises), so that will be on the agenda! I will do my best to make time to post this week - I have several things I want to share with you...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sewing For Sanity

It has been a crazy few weeks getting the new designs prepared for the TNNA Fall Needlecraft Market coming up in less than two weeks. I want to thank everyone who has posted enthusiastic comments and sent me messages about the new releases - I am so THRILLED you like them - your encouragement and support has been over-the-top! My website is now updated with additional images, supply lists, and information on my new Stitch Starter Ruler. I spent the morning packaging my models for shipment to Norden Crafts for display in their booth...sending out an email to needlework shops...and answering all sorts of questions...tomorrow the chart bagging process will begin - I already have my bagging station all set up and ready to go. I picked up a large reprint order this week, so I will be bagging those charts tonight and will hopefully be caught up before the new designs are ready in the next day or two. My husband caught a glance of my to-list today and he officially thinks I am insane...and I may be by the time I get everything on it accomplished!

I have been feeling like an emotional wreck today - could be stress - or lack of sleep - or the fact I haven't had my sewing machine on in several weeks - or a combination of all three. I decided it would do my soul good to turn on the Diamond today and do a little quilting. I started by making a couple small project bags for surprise gifts - a couple special people will be receiving these soon! Then I decided to catch-up on my Accuquilt GO! Fabric Cutter block of the month series - if you remember, I completed the first two months (June and July)....but then things really got busy with BRD and I just haven't had a chance to do August or the new one for finally, I did the August block (#3) today...and it actually went pretty quick and easy (no frogging!). It is called Flashing Windmills and like the others in the series has a finished size of 12" x 12". Before I clean up my work area, I am going to cut the pieces for the September block (#4)...then hopefully I will find time to piece it together tomorrow. This quilting time has actually given me the boost I needed this afternoon and I am ready to go start bagging charts...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Blessed Beyond Measure" - Stitch Starter & Sleeve Designs

Today I want to share with you a sneak peek of my new design "Blessed Beyond Measure". I am both excited and nervous to share this with you - this design has been a dream of mine for almost 10 years....and I hope you will be as excited about it as I am! First off all...the is called a "Stitch Starter" and is a 3" square ruler for marking your seam allowance when starting a new project. Here are a few details that make this ruler special:
  • It has marking lines for both 1" and 2" seam allowances, so you only need one tool.
  • It is clear, making it easy to see your fabric placement.
  • It is 2 mil acrylic plastic, making it durable.
  • It has complete 3" ruler markings down the left side - these can be used for:
    - finishing work measurements
    - measuring between stitched designs
    - counting threads to figure fabric count
  • It has 1/4" and 1/2" markings on the other three sides.

I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of this product - it seriously has been a dream of mine since before I started designing. To go along with this special tool are five sleeve designs - these sleeves are designed to hold your "Stitch Starter". The chartpack will contain: one stitch starter tool, charting for all five "Stitch Starter Sleeves", stitching instructions, complete finishing instructions, and an alphabet/numbers for also contains instructions for using your stitch starter (which I will be posting on my website if you are confused, please be patient - answers will be forthcoming). The sleeve designs would also work great for ornaments, small framed pieces, needlework name it. The designs are stitched on 32-count Strawflower from Lakeside Lines with Weeks Dye Works cotton floss....and the finishing is quite easy. In this industry, it can be a struggle to keep needleworkers excited, intrigued, and happy - I am always striving to come up with designs that are unique....designs that will interest and challenge you - I hope this design does the trick! "Blessed Beyond Measure" will be released later this month at the TNNA St. Charles Needlework Market....meaning it will be available from your favorite needlework shop at the end of September/beginning of October....and you, my friends, are seeing it here first!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Las Vegas Vacation - Part 2

I bet you thought I would never return with the second half of my vacation photos...but I finally have a moment to post. I have a good excuse...I've been finishing up the new release design files for my printer and getting caught up on the 984 emails that came in while I was gone on vacation - I am still working on replies, so if you sent me something that needs attention or a response, please be patient with me, I will get back to you. The good news is the three new designs are now at the printer getting ready for production...and tomorrow I will finally be sharing "Blessed Beyond Measure" with you (you know, the new needlework tool and accessories I have been working on). Today, however, I am going to share a few more photos with you from my fabulous Las Vegas vacation...

One of my favorite places to visit on the Las Vegas strip is the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio Hotel. The current summer exhibit was whimsical and wonderful - an unbelievable gardening exhibit - filled with over-sized flowers and flower pots, gardening tools, bumble bees, ladybugs, butterflies, mushrooms, snails, frogs, and even hot air balloons suspended from the ceiling. I think I took over 100 photos while visiting the Conservatory. Bumble Bees and ladybugs are some of my favorite things...and seeing these large floral "happy insects" immediately made me smile!

One of our most amazing experiences was visiting Valley Of Fire State Park. This is the oldest state park in Nevada and gets it name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes 150 million years ago. The vibrant colors and unique formations had us speechless. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this park and stopped at each of the viewing areas along the way. At the Visitor Center, we were totally amused by the white-tailed antelope ground squirrels...we could see what seemed like hundreds of them running all over the rocks and formations. The most adorable thing - they would flatten out on the concrete to cool off (I spoke to a park ranger to find out about this - she also told me they can fan out their tails like umbrellas to shade themselves). I had so much fun watching them - they were super cute! But, the most awe-inspiring thing we saw was a group of four bighorn sheep in their natural habitat in the "White Domes" - we couldn't believe this sight!...and although we were not dressed in the proper attire, nor are we rock climbers, we couldn't resist climbing as high as possible to get an even closer look and some photos - it was truly a once in a lifetime vision. It was a phenomenal afternoon.

I hope you have enjoyed these images from our vacation - I have had so much fun sharing them with you! Remember, tomorrow I will be back with a new you a glimpse at the upcoming release "Blessed Beyond Measure"....

Monday, September 6, 2010

Las Vegas Vacation - Part One

Hello friends and followers...and for those here in the US, happy Labor Day!

I have returned from a MARVELOUS (and very much needed) Las Vegas vacation and once I catch up on sleep and get back on Iowa time, I will feel very refreshed. We had a lovely time and did all sorts of fun things! We stayed at the brand new Vdara Hotel and Spa, pretty much in the center of the strip (right next to the Bellagio)...our room was quite something - everything was run by remote (even the window treatments) and we had a 39th story view of the fountains at the Bellagio - it was extremely quiet without a casino, and I thoroughly enjoyed the clean, crisp, contemporary/modern decor. The sculptures and artwork were quite something - including the tree of canoes in front of the hotel (seen below). We did spend quite a bit of time next door at Vdara's sister the Aria Hotel and Casino (also brand new) where my husband could play cards and do a little gambling.

We rented a car - and not just any car, a 2010 black Chevy Camaro - and if you saw any of my tweets, you know we did quite a bit of sightseeing in the area. Our first full day of seeing the sights, we drove to the amazing Mt. Charleston Lodge, tucked away in the Spring Mountains - oh my goodness, was this drive beautiful - and although it was 103 degrees in Las Vegas, it was 68 degrees in the mountains - we sat outside at the lodge and had a delicious lunch (the photo below is the view from our outside dining table). Besides the smell of pine, one of the neatest things about sitting outside...hummingbirds were flying everywhere - they were zipping around our table for the entire meal - it was like being in a storybook.

We then drove to red Rock Canyon - and another super cool thing happened - just as I was making fun of the "Burro Crossing" signs, we came upon (guess what?)....a burro crossing the road to get a bite to eat...he was adorable and I wanted so badly to get out and pet him (but refrained) - I guess the burro and wild horse crossing signs are no joke! Red Rock Canyon was awe very beautiful and so very quiet...the drive through the park was amazing and we stopped at all of the scenic overviews to get photos and walk some of the short trails.

Then it was back to the city for another fabulous dinner and some gambling, followed by seeing Blue Man Group at the Venetian - we had special Allegiant Air tickets, right in the center, right in the front - it was a fantastic show - then we got to go to the Blue Lounge for a meet and greet (with two other couples)...which was totally cool, as one of the members actually spoke and let us ask lots of questions (check out my tweets for a photo of me with a member of Blue Man Group!)...and then each of the members signed our tickets by placing their blue fingerprints on them - a totally unique experience. And I almost forgot to mention - earlier in the day, when we stopped at the Venetian to pick up our tickets, we went to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum - what a hoot this was! - if you haven't been there, all of the stars are posed, so you can have your photos taken with them - we had so much fun walking through each room and "seeing" all sorts of famous people - and they do look SO VERY real! If you read my tweets, then you saw a funny photo of me between Johnny Depp and Justin Timberlake (talk about a dream)...the museum was great for a bunch of laughs and giggling and I would definitely go back.

The next day found us making a trip to Stitcher's Paradise, Quiltique (thank you Kathryn for the GREAT suggestion), and the Hoover Dam and Bypass Bridge. Stitcher's Paradise was phenomenal - truly heaven for a needleworker - and although I didn't buy much stash (as we all know, I have enough to last a lifetime), I truly enjoyed my visit. Quiltique - well let's just say, I think this is my favorite quilt shop I have ever visited - I was seriously speechless when I walked in the door - and I did buy some stash, in fact, probably more than I should have - my husband even left for a bit, so I could do some serious shopping - it is a FANTASTIC quilt shop! We then made out way to the Hoover Dam and Bypass Bridge - we had visited there in February and wanted to see if the bridge was completed - but they are still working on it. We saw so many neat things - I will be back with more photos soon....

Today, we celebrated Labor Day with my husband Travis's parents - we had a lovely late lunch - Travis barbecued pork loins....and I made a bunch of sides, including that great green bean salad I shared with you last month....dessert was cheese cake...mmmm, yummy....we all had PLENTY to eat (and there are lots of leftovers)! If you are in the United States, I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend...