Coming Soon! Inchie Quilts

This was a great thing to wake up to this morning:

Inchie Quilts at Amazon.com

Even without the picture of the cover, it’s still a pretty awesome feeling to see your own book listed at Amazon.com! This caused quite a stir in our house on Saturday morning! The book is also listed at the AQS site, in the Upcoming Releases section and on it’s own page, and you can actually see a picture there as well as a short description. Continue reading Coming Soon! Inchie Quilts

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Bright Lights

deer crossingMy parents live in a rural area in Southern Utah, about 40 miles from…well…anything. It’s a lovely area, mostly nice and quiet, with the expected wildlife like coyote, snakes, rabbits, squirrels, pheasant, elk and of course, the deer that wander all over and sometimes visit the yard. When we lived in Las Vegas (and when I’ve returned to the area on vacation since then), it was always imperative to plan arrival times at their house for the daylight hours, at least for me. See, if I headed for their house in the late afternoon, I was always sorry, because I’d be driving through the countryside on these twisty, curvy, two-lane roads at twilight or after dark, sharing road space with the deer.

If I didn’t time it right, I’d arrive at their house completely stressed out with aching knuckles from gripping the steering wheel so hard, just waiting for that deer to jump out in front of the car from the side of the road. What a great start to a vacation, huh? I never hit one, but I was always just sure that at some point I would, and I’d be facing those scared, shining eyes across the hood of my car as I came around a blind turn and the headlights landed on a family of deer standing in the road. My parents’ house is great, except for the getting there part!

There have been a few times in my life where I’ve felt a strong kinship with those deer though. I remember the talent show in high school, where I stood there with my platter of cookies that I’d baked, because I didn’t sing or dance or act or twirl a baton, and baking was the only thing I could think of as a “talent.” Yep, I’m sure I looked just like those deer as I stood on that stage.

I remember standing on another stage, this time in Lyon, France at the Quilt Expo in 1996. There was a show and tell gathering, where you brought your quilts or wearable art to show to the audience gathered in this giant hall. Anyone could go up on stage and share what they’d brought, all you had to do was fill out a card and stand in line until it was your turn. Judy Murrah, of Jacket Jazz fame, was the emcee, and would read what you wrote on the card as you walked across the stage and showed your quilt.

I’m not sure what convinced me that I wanted to go up there since I’ve always had a major case of stage fright, but somehow I found myself up on that stage showing off my own Jacket Jazz jacket for all of the thousand people in the audience to see. My best friend Dawn was in the audience way in the back in the standing room only section, and even from there she could see that “deer in the headlights” look that I was wearing along with my jacket! I think I literally shook inside my shoes for a good hour after I clambered off the stage and made my escape.

And then there was last Friday. One of the things that happens when your book is published by AQS is that you are expected to teach at one of the AQS shows around the time the book is published, and I guess if all goes well, they’ll have you back for another round (or two, or more). I’ve been talking with the AQS show director about when this might happen, and she originally said that she had me on the schedule for the Paducah show in 2010, which sounded great since I didn’t have to panic about it quite yet. It was sort of “off in the distance”; in mind, but not right up front where I might start to get worried about it.

I mean, I’ve taught classes before obviously, but I think there’s a HUGE difference between teaching at the Gussy Goose in Stuttgart, or teaching for the local quilt guild, and teaching at one of the biggest quilt shows in the U.S! 😯 So yes, I knew I was headed for this major thing, and I’ve been working on developing workshops that are related to the subject material of my book, since that’s what I thought AQS wanted for the shows.

Friday night, I got an email from the AQS show director saying that I’d be teaching at Des Moines in October, 2009, instead of Paducah in April, 2010. Not only that, but instead of 3.5 days full of classes related to my book, the show director only wants 1.5 days of classes related to the book, and will look at other classes that I teach if I submit them. Eeeek! There it is again, that deer imitation that I do so well.

I sat here, staring at the email, truly wondering what the heck I was going to do. Could any of my current workshops be reworked to fit into a national show format? Is there anything else I have waiting in the wings that would be suitable? I want to teach the full 3.5 days, since it’s such a long way to go for me from here, so I needed to fill out my class offerings with other techniques. I tend to teach long classes with multiple sessions which is not what you get to do at a national quilt show. Three hour focused sessions is the mainstay. I’d been developing book related workshops, but now they didn’t want as many as I had, and oh, by the way, they need my class descriptions NOW, since the registration guide has to be ready by April!

Stuff for new classes

Since imitating a deer wasn’t going to fix it, I got to work. I spent the weekend pulling it together, and reminding myself that I really can do this! I worked on a couple of new workshops and reworked some current ones, so I’ll share some pics in the next few days. And of course, I’ll let you know how it all goes with the show director, but at the moment, I’m making plans to be in Des Moines in October! Want to join me? 🙂

Keep It or Bin It: Lickety Grip, WonderFil Rayon, and the Clover Embroidery Threader

I’m finally getting around to sharing some of my experiences with some new products I picked up at the quilt shows last October. Up on the Keep It or Bin It review block today are a few products that I’ve been using and testing since then. Did they make the grade? Let’s see:

Lickety GRIP

Lickety Grip: One of the challenges when free motion machine quilting is getting (and keeping) a firm grip on the quilt. I used to use gloves with gripper dots on them, but had to take them off every time I needed to start or end a line of quilting, because I couldn’t manipulate the thread and everything else with the bulky gloves on. Then I started using a very tacky (not tacky, as in “without good taste”, but tacky as in sticky-ish) lotion, Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, a tip I picked up from Diane Gaudynski.

We all like to try new things once in a while though, and I thought maybe this Lickety Grip stuff might turn out to be even better than the lotion trick. Lickety Grip says it provides “Better Grip For Better Control,” and maybe it does, but the first problem is that it comes in a little box and you rub your fingertips across the top of it, instead of squeezing it out into your hand. I can see that after using it for a while, it will be hard for me to get the remaining product out of the box because of my nails (yes, I realize that this is a personal problem, but I’m probably not the only person to have it). The other problem: it claims to have no perfumes, but the stuff smells like exceedingly strong soap (and not in a good way, really) when it’s on your hands, despite being virtually odorless in the box. Eeeewww. In actual usage tests, I found it to be a poor replacement for the Neutrogena lotion. Verdict: Bin It.

WonderFil Rayon Thread

WonderFil Rayon thread: I use rayon thread an awful lot these days, so I thought I’d see if there was something better out there than Sulky (that comes on spools that are not ginormous). Not that Sulky is bad, not at all, but you never know when you might run across something better. I bought two assortments of ten colors each of this WonderFil thread at the Quilt Market Sample Stampede. I think I’m sorry I’m stuck with this much of it now.

From beginning to end, it’s totally frustrating. I couldn’t easily remove the plastic wrappers without sticking very sharp embroidery scissors under the wrapper to cut it, and catching the thread on the spool in the process. When I did finally get the wrapper snipped and started to peel it off, it only partly came off, and then I had to repeat the process with the embroidery scissors to remove the rest. When I put the spool on the machine to use it, instead of a hole getting poked in the paper label on the end of the spool, the entire end of the spool fell off in my hand. After using the thread, I tried to anchor the thread at the end of the spool, but the thread anchoring system on these spools is completely worthless. The thread broke more often than not while I was trying to get it to go under the little knobs, and when I could get it to go under the knobs at all without breaking, it wouldn’t stay.

Rayon thread being the slippery stuff that it is, what I’ll shortly have is a giant mess because none of the thread ends are anchored on the spools when not in use. Qualilty-wise, the thread itself is fine and comparable to Sulky so that’s not an issue, but it’s just such a pain to use because of the way it’s packaged that I know I’ll have to be desperate for a color match that I can’t get with 300 spools of Sulky to bother even looking toward the WonderFil. The WonderFil spools are just total junk IMO. Verdict: Bin It. Not worth the trouble.

Clover Embroidery Threader

Clover Embroidery Threader: I knew I would love this threader, and I hunted high and low through two quilt shows to get it. I was right, and it is a gem. The packaging says it all and doesn’t lie: “Unique design”, “Flat tip for easy threading”, and “Smooth threading even with thick threads”. I’ve been using quite a bit of embroidery floss and thicker specialty fibers lately for embellishments, and a regular needle threader just doesn’t cut it. Rather than just a slender (and easily breakable) wire threader, this threader is a folded piece of thin metal which slides through the needle eye vertically.

The instructions in the package are well written and worth saving as there is a needle chart showing different types and sizes of recommended needles as well as tips and tricks in case of difficulties with certain needles or threads. The threader itself is well made and the cover attaches firmly. It’s cool to look at with it’s elegant design in limey green, and even has a hole on the end to attach it to a cord or chatelaine to keep it handy. Verdict: Keep It. Definitely.

Note: In all honesty, “Bin It” is probably not an entirely accurate representation of what will happen to these failure products. I generally don’t throw anything away, and you never know when you might need some sticky stuff in a box for some odd job or other (though it’s too light to be a paper weight), and maybe I can think of something creative to do with the tangled mess of rayon thread that won’t stay on the spools. They probably should go in the bin, but I’m way too much of a pack rat for that!

Have you tried any of these products? Have a different view or experience? Share it!

AQS Show Des Moines–Quilts, Shopping, Walking

The AQS Show in Des Moines was a great time! Kimberly and I walked and shopped and dined our way through Des Moines, laughing the entire time. I’ll let you take in the quilt show stats and recap at her blog, and confine my first report to some thoughts and impressions:

Never let your husband (or any male, significant other or not) buy a laptop computer for you to travel with. His goals (big screen real estate, high processor speed and low price, in that order, and weight is no object) are vastly different from yours (lightweight and small, in that order, and price is no object). Pick out your own and save your back and arms when traversing three or more airports in 15 hours.

Never take just one pair of shoes, or even two, especially if they have any sort of heel or semi-pointy toes. Always have a flat backup pair with a big toe box, even if they’re ugly, don’t go with your clothing and your grandmother wouldn’t have been caught dead in them.

Never assume that the guy at hotel check in knows that you hate being right by the elevator, ice machine, soda machine, stairs, etc., or that you like to have a bathtub as well as a shower to keep your options open. Just be high maintenance from the get go and tell him what you want.

Never rely on the show literature to tell you the true walking distance from your hotel to the convention center. They measure it as “the crow flies,” completely discounting any required twists and turns through skywalks, around major buildings or via crosswalks that will save your life. If the show book says it’s .5 miles, count on a mile and a half. Each way. At least twice per day.

Never discount the value of a big breakfast at the hotel regardless of the cost. It will likely be the best and cheapest meal you have all day until dinner, which you’ll probably be too tired to enjoy properly or even consume the greater portion of anyway. And breakfast delivered to your room is even better since you can eat at your leisure (the only leisure you’ll enjoy all day as well) and have some quiet cups of coffee or tea. It’s only a couple of dollars more than eating in the restaurant, and for less than a twenty spot extra for the week, I’m there.

Never discount the benefit of laughing until you cry about something so totally off the wall (like chewing gum) that when you share it with someone later, they just look at you and say “I guess you had to be there.” When it happens though, it’s probably a sign that you need some sleep…

Never tell anyone back home that you’ll write, call, chat on IM, update Twitter, or otherwise communicate while you’re away. Chances are you won’t because you’re either too busy or sleeping like the dead, or wishing the jet lag would go away so that you could sleep at all.

Never commit to blogging while you’re on the road either. While you’re out at the show or shopping, you’ll think of all kinds of things to say on your blog, but by the time you get back to your room and the computer, your mind is complete mush and you won’t remember any of it at all.

There you have it. I did do some serious damage to the plastic, both at the mall and at the quilt show. I’ll share pictures of the loot from the quilt show in the coming days, just as soon as I gather it back up again. I had a blond moment when I unpacked and put it all away in my studio before I thought about it!

I’ll leave you with this shot of the show floor at the convention center, taken from the upper level:

Show floor at Des Moines

More to follow…

Patchwork Times: Is that smoke I smell?

I think my hair is on fire. I feel like I’m running around in circles, and I think I smell smoke, so that must be my hair. I looked at my blog today, just like I’ve done for the past two or three days when I’ve meant to post something, and thought “Where did the time go since I last posted?” I’ve been wildly busy, but not with anything necessarily “shareable” in the quilting department at the moment. I’m striving to finish a huge project before I catch the flight to Des Moines next Monday for the AQS show, which has meant long hours that turn into long days at the computer, mostly.

Paisley Pavane

My quilt, Paisley Pavane, did get accepted into the Des Moines show, and it’s arrived at the AQS offices safely and on time! I’m really looking forward to the show, and the vendors mall (and having a quilt in the show while I’m there will be completely awesome!). And I can’t wait for an entire day at the big mall in Des Moines with Von Maur and Younkers. I’m sorely in need of some Stateside shopping for clothes and the like, and some American style restaurants. Kimberly and I are of the same mind on these things (as on a lot of other things), and plan to shop and eat our fill in the short time we have on the ground.

I’m signed up to take two classes at the show, but I’m now having second (and maybe third and fourth) thoughts about both of them. Too late to cancel out and get a refund, unfortunately. I’m taking a class called Come PLAY with Me! with Dianne S. Hire, who I like immensely already and I’ve not even met her. Her supply list was written in such a fun, “I’m right here talking with you” voice, that I just know she’ll be a completely lovely person. The class looks like it will be some fun, outside the box cutting and sewing techniques, but I have to gather mass amounts of fabric, as well as rulers, rotary cutter, thread, etc., and lug it all to Des Moines in my suitcase. What was I thinking?

Not only that, the class is all day, and right over the top of the awards ceremony for the show. How dumb is that to schedule the awards ceremony in the afternoon when there are classes going on? With a quilt in the show, I don’t want to miss the ceremony; my quilt probably won’t win a ribbon, but sure as I’m not there it might, and that wouldn’t be any fun at all. 😦

I’ve also signed up for Quilts of a Different Color with Irena Bluhm, which will probably be okay, but I bought the book in anticipation of the class, and to be honest, there were about two tidbits of info in the book that I needed to know about the technique, and the rest of the book was “just okay.” I’m not sure how much more I’ll really get out of three hours with the author in person but there it is. At least this class comes with a complete kit and I don’t have to carry anything special with me.

So, before I can even leave for the airport, I have to plan and pull fabric for that class, shop for last minute stuff probably, look for new music (a must when I travel), shop for some trashy Regency romances (another traveling must-have), do all the regular “before packing” stuff (where’s my passport?!?), get the laptop ready to go with all the programs I need to handle any crises that may come up involving web programming, make ITMan’s “appointment calendar” and “meal calendar” so that he can be both Mom and Dad while I’m gone, make my own Stateside shopping lists, and actually pack the suitcases. And none of that can get done until the super big project gets done, and that gets worked on in and around all the regular “stuff” like all the Taxi Mom duties, etc.

Hopefully I’ll have some hair left when I get on the plane, though if not, then I guess I won’t have to carry all the hair care products and the straightener, which actually might be a blessing. 😉 What I’m saying is that it’s probably going to be pretty quiet around the blog this week, but I do plan to update from the show, with pics! Note to self: pack the camera…

IQA Quilt Show: Poor Mailing Practices

Material Marquetry

Some shows will treat your precious quilts like you do and some won’t. Last week I received my quilt, Material Marquetry, back from the folks at Quilts, Inc., producers of the IQA Quilt Show in Houston, where it has been since August last year as part of the In the American Tradition VI special exhibit. So begins the promised rant about why IQA and Quilts Inc. are no longer on my list of “happy quilt shows.” First, a bit of background:

I’ve exhibited four quilts with Quilts Inc., either as finalists in the IQA Quilt Show, or through special traveling exhibits. The problems always begin when it comes time for them to return the quilts to me at my APO address. The standard process is for Quilts Inc. to ship the quilts back to exhibitors via Federal Express, using dimensional weighting, which means that they cram the quilt into the smallest box possible so that it costs less to ship. The bigger problem though, is that Federal Express doesn’t deliver to APO addresses, so I’ve had to ask them to return ship my quilts via US Postal Service Registered Mail which is where the problems start.

The first quilt I sent in, I decided to have return shipped to my mother in Utah, after speaking with the show personnel about the return shipping process, and having them tell me that they could do USPS Registered Mail, but they didn’t really know how, and couldn’t estimate the cost, etc., etc., etc. Since it just seemed too hard for them to handle the USPS thing, and I was going to be visiting my mother anyway that year, I just said fine, ship it there via the usual practice. This is how I know about the dimensional weighting/smallest box possible issue.

The second quilt I exhibited in Houston was returned to me via US Postal Service, but without any insurance or tracking information, and it was shipped Parcel Post, which takes 6-8 weeks to be delivered. I can tell you there were many phone calls to Quilts, Inc. about that quilt, and much worrying about whether it would ever show up at all. Without tracking information, if it was lost, it’s just lost with no way to find it, ever, and of course shipping without insurance is unacceptable in the extreme. And honestly, they weren’t even all that apologetic, and they acted like I was the one with the problem, since I had asked them to do something so totally out of their norm, and was then unhappy with the result.

After that debacle, I picked up the third quilt in person, since I was attending the show that year. But another interesting thing occurred at the show while I was there. That year, Quilts Inc. was providing a shipping service, so that you could mail all the loot you bought back home instead of cramming it in your suitcase. That would have been wonderful, especially considering the fact that I was carrying my quilt back home with me in my suitcase to be sure it arrived safely. I arrived at the booth with my goods in hand ready to have them packed up, and was told that, you guessed it, they would only ship the loot back to your home address via FedEx! They wouldn’t even begin to think about alternative shipping methods, that just might be cheaper as well.

Fast forward to the current issue: I mailed off Material Marquetry last August with special written instructions for return shipping the quilt via USPS Registered Mail, which they promised to honor. The quilt was exhibited at five or six Quilts Inc. produced venues over the last year, and it showed up at our APO box last week, without insurance or a tracking method, having been sent via Priority Mail. I was just astounded really. What happened to the instructions that I sent in with the quilt?

I emailed the special exhibits coordinator and her assistant to let them know that the quilt arrived safely, but that there were some issues that needed to be addressed. Why was the quilt not insured, and how could they send it without a tracking method? Their answer was that the quilt is insured under their Chubb Fine Arts Insurance Policy from the time it leaves my door until the time it’s returned. Okay, my bad, I didn’t see that in the original letter that I received about this exhibit. I am glad to know that if the quilt went missing, somebody would pay me the appraised value. (But that does beg the question, does that policy also cover quilts sent in for the regular show every year in Houston, and if so, why wasn’t I told about this policy when the other quilt went astray for six weeks without postal insurance? Interesting.)

As to the tracking method and the Registered Mail issue on this quilt, they insisted that they followed my request about Registered Mail (:?:), completed all the forms required by USPS for an APO address, Registered Mail, spent over an hour online with USPS shipping my quilt, and that it was shipped with a tracking method. First, they couldn’t possibly have followed my request or completed all the forms required by the USPS for Registered Mail, since there was no Registered Service on the box. We didn’t have to sign for the box to pick it up from the mail room (which we would have had to do had it been a registered mail package), and the tracking number they provided was the number off of the customs form attached to the box. When I put that number into the tracking system on the USPS website, the answer was “There is no record of this item.” Gee, I guess that’s not really a tracking number, is it, since if it was, it would show that the package was delivered to my APO and on which date it was delivered.

Actually, as I found out after a call to the Postal Service to check the facts, that number is able to be used to track the package if it is mailed to a true international destination, but not if the package is mailed to an APO Military address. In other words, if the package was lost, the only thing the Post Office could do is file a report, but there would be no way to find the lost quilt, ever. APO addresses are a grey area; mail is shipped to APO addresses as domestic service, but it requires a customs form because it’s technically an international destination.

I wrote them back and explained all that, and how the Registered Mail process really works and what forms are needed, again. I had provided all the Registered Mail information and instructions before when I sent the quilt to them last year. I do realize that shipping via USPS to APO addresses is outside the norm for Quilts, Inc., and I respect the time and extra effort it requires, which is why I included full written instructions as to how this should be done and what forms are required by the US Postal Service for Registered Mail, to make it as easy as possible for them to do.

You may be wondering why I don’t just use FedEx for all this, and have the quilts return shipped to my actual German address. Yes, I could do that, however, the last time I was investigating that method, I think it was going to cost me nearly $100 to have my quilt returned that way, as opposed to less than $40 to use USPS Registered Mail to my APO address, and that was for a not-even-twin-size quilt (not to mention that “dimensional weighting/smallest box possible” issue. Can you say “squished and wrinkled beyond recognition”?). Why should I spend $100 when I can spend $40? At just two shows a year, that’s $120 in fabric, or a trip out to dinner with the family, and some years, I send quilts to 4-6 shows. Other shows and museums don’t have this problem, and are happy to ship via USPS Registered Mail when I ask it of them. (There is one other notable exception, Quilters Heritage Celebration, and I don’t exhibit with them anymore either, after the first go round.) Heck, AQS even has “Registered Mail” as a return shipping option on their forms now, you don’t even have to write it in, or call ahead to ask if they’ll consider doing it for you as a favor.

Yes, the quilt is here, so all is good in the end, but I really think they need to understand that the method by which they shipped the quilt wasn’t “Registered Mail” or trackable either one. I’m afraid that I won’t be sharing my work through any venues sponsored or produced by Quilts Inc. in future. It’s fairly obvious that they just don’t care to do any little bit of extra work, no matter how easy and clear-cut you make it for them. Their system must be so finely honed that any minor deviation puts an instant nick in the blade. Seems like they like people because we all keep sending in fabulous quilts and spending our money at their shows, but they hate people when they actually have to deal with them or stoop to do anything out of the ordinary for anyone. I’m sorry, but they can’t give away enough prize money to make me take a chance with their mailing practices again.

Update: I received another reply from Quilts Inc. about this issue. They have acknowledged that they shipped the quilt incorrectly. Quilts Inc. has incorporated my instructions regarding Registered Mail shipping to APO addresses into their return shipping policies and disseminated the information to all staff involved in the return shipping process. They have also changed their contact policies and will email exhibit participants if Quilts Inc. has held the participant’s quilt longer than six months, to remind them of the return shipping schedule and check for address updates (I had that issue as well with my quilt, since I didn’t know it was time for return shipping and it was shipped to my old address). It’s been a seven year, three quilt battle, but perhaps it’s finally a victory.