Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas!

I know, it is hard to believe that Christmas is already here, but I was saying to Katie the other day that for some reason, I feel more ready than usual.  Not that I have done more (you know me better than that), but somehow I am more ready in my heart - I guess that is how I would describe it.

Maybe some of you are like me - I don't look forward to events and occasions as much as I seem to look forward to them being over.  Not that I want them to end fast (usually), but I am in a hurry to get on to the next thing, or I am worried about something that I should be doing instead.   I think a lot of us are like that, and we don't take time to enjoy what is right in front of us.

I don't know if it is the grandchildren, or just that I am getting to a new stage in my life, but I am truly looking forward to having my family around me and soaking in each joyful moment of the fun and laughter that they bring.  I am also vowing to try to live my life in the moment a little more.

I hope you all have a most joyful and blessed Christmas!


My Little Sweethearts

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thread according to Carrie

Thread - a boring subject if ever there was one.  Let me start by saying that I am, by no means, a thread expert! There are so many questions that arise about thread, and so many misconceptions, that I thought it was worth writing about.  I am just going to tell you about some of the thread that we carry, what I use it for, and why I use it.  I know there are a million different types of thread on the market and COLORS - oh the colors!  You could spend a fortune and never have the right color!  Talk about counter candy...

Here are some of the threads that I like to use:

You may notice a common "thread" here (groan).  All of them are shades of beige and brown.  Truthfully, I don't use a lot of colors.  There doesn't seem to be much need for a lot of colors in the types of things I do.

Lets start on the left.  The big cone and the spool in front of it are both Signature 40 weight cotton thread in a color called Mother Goose.  Why it is called that is beyond me.  It is a great color that magically seems to pick up any color that is near it.  Our quilters have used it on many quilts that have a wide range of colors.  I even had them use it on a blue and cream quilt of mine.  It looks great!  We use this brand of thread almost exclusively on our Longarm machine, and many people like to buy the smaller spools for machine quilting on their home machines.  A 40 weight thread is a little stronger and a good choice for quilting.  We only use 100% cotton for quilting on cotton fabric.  There are stories around that polyester in you thread will eventually cut through cotton.  I am here to tell you that it is TRUE!  One of my instructors quilted her children's baby quilts with a cotton/poly thread and it eventually ripped right through the quilt.  This is in our lifetime, so you will not want to use it on an heirloom quilt - which, of course, all of your quilts will be!

The next spool and cone are Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread.  Aurifil is a fabulous thread for piecing.  I also use it for quilting smaller projects.  90% of the Aurifil I buy is color 2310 - light beige.  I use it for all my piecing.  Aurifil is a long staple thread.  So, what the heck does that mean?  Staple refers to the length of the fibers in the thread.  Inexpensive thread has shorter staple fibers which means they are fuzzier and they mess up your machine.  They are not as strong as long staple threads, either.  You really do get what you pay for, but even then, looks can be deceiving.  Nice long staple thread is finer, even though it is stronger, and you will find that if you compare the amount of thread on a spool of Aurifil with the amount of thread on a similar looking spool of some of the other brands, that there is a whole lot more thread.  When you start comparing you will find that even though Aurifil is twice the price, there is about twice as much thread on each spool as Gutterman and Mettler.  Large Aurifil spools have 1450 yards compared to 876 and 547, and the small spools have 220 yards compared to 110 & 164.  Don't be tricked - Aurifil is your best deal for price and quality.  I should get paid for this!  Another reason to use cotton thread is that it shrinks at the same rate as your fabric.  You don't want a baggy quilt, do you?

The next spool in my picture - that whitish one is water soluble thread.  This thread can be great for specific uses, but be careful - keep it in a plastic bag away from your other thread and label it.  It looks a lot like regular thread and you do NOT want to accidentally piece your quilt with this! 

Now to the pyramid.  The thread on top is YLI Cotton Hand Quilting Thread.  I use it for a lot of my hand work- not just quilting.  I use it for hand finishing my bindings and, yes, I use it for my English Paper Piecing projects.  I like it because it is a little stronger and heavier than Aurifil, and because it is treated with beeswax or something, it doesn't twist and knot as much.  Since it is 100% cotton, I know it will be alright for my cotton fabric in the long term.

Lastly, on the bottom of the pyramid are the only two colors of YLI silk that I buy - light taupe and dark taupe (or brown color 235 and beige color 242).  I ONLY use silk for applique.  I know some people have used it in the top of their machines for machine applique, too.  What is nice about silk in these colors is that the silk is kind of translucent, so it picks up whatever color you are using in on (in the unlikely event that your stitches even show).   So, why only applique, you ask.  Some people are saying you must use it for English Paper Piecing.  Seriously???  Have you ever seen an antique crazy quilt with silks and other fabrics?  What is the first fabric to shatter?  Yes, the silk.  Why would you piece with that?  At least applique would be easy for your heirs to repair.  Besides it is so fine it is hard to keep in your needle, and if you are like me you can barely see the stuff. 

Some other thoughts - GET RID OF GRAMA'S THREAD!  Unless you are displaying it in a glass jar because it looks so quaint on the wooden spools.  Old thread gets brittle and breaks.  If you have thread that is more than 5 years old, throw it away, or save it for basting or make birds nests out of it.  Sure, you have nothing else to do, right?  Throw it out! 

Nylon or other see-through threads.  I used to use these for quilting - but, isn't nylon like polyester?  Besides, it gleams in the light and looks kind of weird.  It also melts if you press it - fun!  Stick with cotton.  If your quilting is that bad, we have people for that.  Have you seen mine?  Ask my staff about my lack of skill in that department.  Thank God for my people!

Well, I hope I haven't totally bored you to death.  I would do a post on needles, which are really boring, but I couldn't stay awake during the needle class at market.  Z-z-z-z-z.

Hope this answers some questions. 


Thought for the day:   Don't do anything without a clear reason for doing it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ugly Sweaters?

So, what's this about ugly?   My thought is, "Tis the Season to be Tacky!"  What other time of the year can you wear beautifully gaudy clothing and jewelry and people think you have a great attitude, and not that you shop at the resale shop (even if you did)!?!  Here a couple of sweaters from my personal collection of Seasonal Tackiness:

The one of the left is actually mine!  I bought it at Kohl's at least 20 years ago - maybe more like 30.  It has seen many a holiday party, and more recently a slew of ugly sweater parties on my children.  I am never sure if I am insulted or amused. 

The one on the right may be even more "Vintage."  It belonged to my mother.  The giant buttons, of which several are missing, are decorated as cookies.  Could it get any better than that?  It has also seen a lot of use (and abuse).  I am pretty sure Mom is up in heaven trying to decide if she is insulted or not.  Of course, it is just not the same without her red bow blouse.  She was truly the cat's meow! 

So - you decide - Gloriously Tacky, or Ugly?

Merry Christmas to All!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giving Thanks

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone already.  I hope you all had as pleasant a day as we did.  As most of you know, I am totally spoiled.  Tony does all the cooking, and even the pies - which used to be my department - are now delivered from a friend of Katie's who bakes amazingly!  I do still have the clean-up duty, but truthfully, Tony is pretty good about cleaning as he goes, so there is not a lot of the most nasty stuff - just plates and serving bowls. 

This year's feast was better than ever.  We say that every year, but there is nothing better than waking up in the morning to the smell of roasting turkey (yes, I sleep in, too - hate me if you wish). We were a little earlier than usual this year, since John had to get to work at Target.  It has been an hour or two earlier every year since he started there.  Sheesh!  Once the little ones arrived, it started to seem like the holidays were really here.  I don't know what we laughed about before, but it is amazing how a couple of little girls can keep a room full of adults enthralled.  Such fun!  I even managed to get a couple of hours in on my Lucy Boston Quilt.  I am working hard to get a corner finished before the Open House next week.  I would love to have some more of you join my English Paper Piecing Club - but I digress....

The real reason for the day was not forgotten.  Tony said a wonderful Grace before our meal, as always thanking for family, and of course for the troops that ensure the freedom that we have, and lastly a prayer for those that couldn't be with us.  These are the important things in life, but I have to add my own thanks - for you

Whenever I count my blessings, I thank God for leading me into this wonderful business.  I joke about every day being a slice of joy here at Pieceful Gathering, but in my mind, that is really true.  Where else can you go to work every day and expect smiling and happy people to show up - not only am I blessed with wonderful friends that come in and shop, but I have been especially blessed to have my daughter join me in this craziness, and the most amazing group of women that work with me.  It took me awhile to find my way here, but in looking back, I realize that everything I did up to now was preparing me for this.  God does have a plan, and sometimes you just have to wait to find out what it is.

Yesterday as so much fun -  I would rather slit my throat than venture out to the mall on the day after Thanksgiving, but here, it was like an all-day happy-fest.  New friends and old came by to shop our sale, or just to hang out and pet the fabric.  Our Black Friday Sale continues today - and for those of you that are far away, we will be happy to honor the sale to anyone that calls in an order and mentions the sale. 

Thank you all for making my life what it is today!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I do love Lucy!

Lucy Boston, that is!  It is hard to believe that I have been at this for over a year and I have not started to lose interest!  This is way longer than my ADD usually lets me stay focused on one thing.  It is just so cool when the pieces come  together and create such awesome patterns.  I made a few blocks before I was convinced to start kitting them, so I have quite a few done, or at least planned.  The blocks I have done for kits are below.  To make the kits, I merely glue the fabric on the papers and take a picture, so a good number of these are not really done.  I am really working at catching up right now, though, since I have started Karen Styles, "Mrs. Billings Coverlet."  An English Paper Pieced Medallion Quilt.  Coincidentally, Block 33 is made from Karen's new fabric line, "Victoria Park."

If you are interested in joining me in this obsession, you can sign up to receive 2 block kits every 3-4 weeks.  Kits are usually $5.99 each, but occasionally $6.99 if I use a fabric with a large repeat that requires more fabric to make the block.  In the kits you will receive enough fabric to make the block, and some extra which you should be able to complete some of the setting blocks out of.  If you decide to do the whole quilt, you will need to make 56 blocks.  I will keep kitting blocks as long as there is interest.  You will be responsible for purchasing your own background fabric and a contrast fabric that is used in the setting.  Other items you will need are listed on our website.  Feel free to call the shop if you have questions - (847) 516-7911.

Here is a picture of the original quilt which was made by Lucy Boston in the 1950's. 
Lucy Boston was also a well-know writer who is know for her children's series about the Children of the Green Knowe.  I loved these books when  I was young, so it seems like fate that I would one day be in love with her quilt! 

The blocks shown below can be seen in a larger format on my Pinterest page:
Lucy Boston on Pinterest

 Block 1
 Block 2
 Block 3
 Block 4
 Block 5
 Block 6
Block 7 
 Block 8
 Block 9
 Block 10
 Block 11
Block 12
 Block 13
Block 14 
Block 15 
 Block 16a
 Block 16b
 Block 17
 Block 18
 Block 19
Block 20a 
 Block 20b
 Block 21
 Block 22
 Block 23
 Block 24
 Block 25
 Block 26
 Block 27
 Block 28
 Block 29 Bonus
Block 29
 Block 30
 Block 31
Block 32
 Block 33
Block 34
Thought for the day - 15 minutes a day will eventually get  you a quilt!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Practice Makes Perfect?

I am not a Quilter!

I know - you are thinking I have finally flipped out, but what is a quilter, really?  Someone who quilts.  Vonnie, Cathy, Demi, Teresa and Brenda are the Gammie Girls.  They are our shop quilters.  I am a piecer.  I am fairly skilled at piecing, but when it comes to quilting, it would seem that I am missing whatever gene it is that controls that ability,

"The right tools will make the job easier."  My sweet husband says that all the time, and based on that premise, I bought a wonderful brand new huge Bernina last year.  It has everything I need to make, and quilt, perfect quilts, including the Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR).  For the uninformed, this is a nifty gadget that you put on the machine.  It stitches evenly as you move the fabric under it.  Accordingly, you should make perfectly even stitches while you effortlessly glide the quilt under the magic needle while it dances across your quilt making wonderful smooth loops and curves. 

What Bernina doesn't tell you is that the operator of the machine (that would be me) is the one that has to be smooth.  Oh yeah, the stitches are perfectly spaced, but they are perfectly spaced in a manner that would make you think the operator might have been having seizures while moving the fabric. 

I have done several quilts now - ok, not a lot of practice, but I really only do little quilts on my own machine.  At least I am smart enough to have figured out that my "People" are worth their weight in gold.  There is no way that I am going to spend all the time to piece a large quilt and then ruin it with my horrible quilting.

No, I will keep quilting my small quilts, but for awhile I will just stick to my usual ditch quilting.  I am sure that at some point I will get the urge to prove to myself just how bad I am, and try it again.  This should make my quilters happy, though, because it makes me really appreciate their talent. 

If you think I am making this up - stop by the shop and see my latest debacle.  If you think your quilting is bad.....

Do you quilt your own quilts most of the time?  How much practice should it take to do this? 

Thought for the Day:  Practice doesn't always make perfect!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Losing your Mojo...

If you come to the shop often, you have probably heard all of my "interesting" theories.  You also probably know, that I am not a finisher.  Not that I don't ever finish anything, but I have learned to stop letting those unfinished projects block my mojo.  You know what I mean - you go into your sewing room, and right smack-dab in the middle of your peaceful spot is that project that you started last week, or last month, or maybe even farther in the past.  Guilt overtakes you - you know you should finish it before you start anything else, but you really aren't interested in it anymore.  Whatever it is that attracted you to it in the first place is over.  You probably got something out of it - maybe you learned a new method of piecing, or you tried a new ruler.  Maybe you just went outside of your box when it came to choosing the fabric, and in the long run, wished that you hadn't.  In any case, you are not physically finished, but in your heart and mind you are DONE! 

SO - you need to get over it!  It is blocking your mojo and stopping you from learning something new or starting a project that you might actually want to finish because you love it so much.  Think about it - you are clearly not alone.  Have you ever gone on eBay and seen all the quilt tops and blocks for sale?  My friend, Sandy Schweitzer - local quilt historian and AQS Certified Appraiser - says that we shouldn't worry about our UFO's.  We are just creating historic quilt tops and parts for future generations!

If you aren't really interested in going down in history as the largest producer of UFO's ever, you can do what I do - donate your UFO's to our Pieceful Auction!  This has been a wonderful way for me to relieve my guilt.  And people actually take them home, and quite often bring them back finished!  This makes me happy on so many levels. 

What is the auction you ask?  This is an event that we sponsor every year in February or March.  It is our way of rewarding our customers with a fun afternoon, and a chance to get a lot of cool Pieceful Junk.  Ok - not all junk, but some.  One woman's trash.....

We auction off lots of scrap bags, unsold kits and things that are maybe missing a pattern or fabric.  Some of the stuff is donated by our suppliers, and some is from our own collection  of UFO's.  In addition to our stuff, our customers (like you) can donate (purge) their UFO's, excess fabric, kits they will never finish, books they bought twice (yes, we all do that), and anything you can think of that is sewing related and quilt shop quality (please, give your Joanne fabric to charity). 

You are probably wondering how you can participate in this awesome sounding event.  All the bids are made with Pieceful Bucks.  This is Play Money that you start collecting at the beginning of the New Year.  You can get Pieceful Bucks in a number of ways.  The main way is by spending money at the shop.  You receive Bucks for every dollar you spend, including sale stuff and tax!  Be sure to watch the weekly email, because there are usually double and triple buck days and items that you can purchase. 

You can also get Bucks for bringing Pieceful Show & Tell to classes and clubs.  You can also just stop by and show us anything that you have made in a Pieceful Class, or using our fabric or that has been quilted by one of our Gammie Girls.   

The final way, which brings us back to the theme of this post, is to purge from your sewing room.  We will guestimate what your item is worth (retail) and give you Pieceful Bucks that equal that cost (or more - we like to round up).  What a great way to move those UFO's along and free yourself up to start something new!

Keep in mind that the finishers of the world, while being good and noble people, do not keep your favorite quilt shops in business!  I am not just talking about Pieceful Gathering, either!

Thought for the day - Get Over It!