Taking a Breath

The manuscript for The Book is D.O.N.E. Done! I finished writing and drawing diagrams and editing photos today. I do still have to complete three of the quilts (they have been started, but my editor said that it would help them if I finished up the manuscript so that they could get that asap, and the quilts could come later). I also have to separate out the text and pictures and diagrams into separate files and such, so that it’s in the right format to submit, but I’m going to take a break for a few days, and finish that up right after Christmas. I can look at the text one more time with fresh eyes after I’ve been away from it for a few days and give it one more editing run through.

Whew! What this all means is that I really did know exactly how long it would take me to finish all of this. I told the editor around the first of November that I could have everything done by the end of December, and that’s exactly how it’s turned out. I had it figured that there wasn’t a lot of time for anything but working on the manuscript and the quilts; no lunches with ITMan or friends, no breaks for casual shopping, not a lot of reading for pleasure (and I miss my reading!), none of those extracurriculars.

Other than that, it means that now I can take a small breath, try to catch up a bit and make Christmas as close to normal as it can be at this point. ITMan and I are going out shopping tomorrow and Monday to see what last minute small things we can pull together for each other and the kids, and get the food shopping for Christmas done. I might work in some Christmas baking on Sunday and Monday as well, and then I do have to make Christmas Tree Bread dough on Tuesday and shape the loaves on Wednesday, because it’s just NOT Christmas without it.

Right now, I’m headed to bed early, to read the book that’s been on my bedside table since I bought it in Houston. It’s a new book about Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey, one of my favorite authors, and it’s been sitting there calling me since the end of October. I’m sure Shadow will join me there (he’s still doing well, and we’re all looking forward to Monday when he can have stitches removed and get rid of the collar), and Patches may even deign to share me and the bed with him for a bit. *sigh* It’s the little things.

Edit: And for any of you who have been reading since last year, I did (finally) update the Christmas Tree Bread recipe post with pictures of the bread, such as they are. Maybe I can remember to get even better pictures this year!

Friends and Connections

Despite the “what not to do” list in the previous post, I really did have a great time at the show. AQS usually puts on a wonderful show, and this one was no exception. I saw (and bought) so many new things in the vendor mall, and made great connections with a number of vendors. I test-drove a couple of longarm machines, even though I’m not really in the market for one at the moment. I think I found the one I want, if I ever do buy one though!

I also made some great connections with the AQS folks while I was there; Kimberly introduced me to Bonnie Browning and Meredith Schroeder, and a whole host of others in the company that I’ve emailed back and forth with over the years when I’ve sent quilts to the show or the Quilt Museum in Paducah. It’s great to be able to put faces with the names I already know. I had a couple of really good meetings, and I hope to be able to share some super exciting news with you very shortly!

But the better part of the show was growing a friendship with Kimberly. We were great friends already, but spending so much time together made it even better I think. People couldn’t believe we’ve only really known each other for a couple of months, I guess because we are so comfortable and get along so well.

Kimberly and I are really good traveling partners. Our internal thermostats are very close most of the time, and we find ourselves reaching for the temperature control in the car to adjust it at about the same moment again and again to keep things within our 3 degree comfort zone. We both love to shop though not necessarily for the same things, but are perfectly happy to separate and shop alone for a bit, and then meet up for a drink or snack later. We tend to like the same kinds of foods and restaurants as well.

Kimberly and Nadine at Des Moines

And don’t get me started on how much time we spend dissolved in laughter when we’re together. Kimberly is “incessantly cheerful” (as one of the other instructors at the show put it), and, well, I’m anything but cheerful, incessantly or otherwise. Being the eternal pessimist that I am, I have a pretty dry and sarcastic sense of humor which cracks her up, and then I’m cracking up too. We seem to balance each other nicely.

Here’s another “what not to do”: never underestimate what an instructor goes through just to show up and teach at one of those shows. I got the inside look at it all hanging out with Kimberly. It’s damn hard work, from hauling all the quilts, books, rulers, class handouts, etc., to being on your feet and “in teaching mode” 8-10 hours per day for classes, and that’s after all the prep work at home. You’re lucky to get lunch, and it’s not like there’s anyone there to help you schlep all the stuff, so you really need the food!

I really enjoyed the time I spent in a couple of Kimberly’s classes watching her teach. She’s so professional and so good at it! She’s much better at it all than I am, and all her students loved her. Despite all the hard work and preparation, she makes it look effortless. I should have been taking notes…

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…

Moda Fabrics + Electric Quilt = Quilt Design Coolness

I was shopping for charm packs today for a small quilt I’d like to make and since Moda markets all of these cool charm packs, jelly rolls, layer cakes and other whatnots, I took a trip to the Moda site to see what’s out there now, and what’s coming up. I discovered something totally cool, and I don’t know whether it’s new, or it’s been around a while and I’ve just missed it.

If you visit the Designers page on the Moda site, you’ll see a list of all (or most?) of their current fabric designers. Click on a name, like 3 Sisters, and another window will pop up and show you a bit about the designer, and their current lines for Moda. See those dots down below the fabric line logo pictures? You can click on those and see the fabrics.

Click on the light colored solid dot for an Adobe PDF file of swatches of all the fabrics in the line, or try the darker colored solid dot to download a .zip file of .jpeg graphic files of all the fabrics plus pictures of the FQ packs, jelly rolls, charm packs, layer cakes and sometimes a quilt image that go with the line. You can also click on the outlined dot to visit the Moda section at a site called Fabric Matcher. Fabric Matcher seems to be a site where you can “shop” for Moda fabrics and find patterns, and put them together and save them as a project, but I didn’t spend a bunch of time on that, since it doesn’t seem that you can actually buy patterns or fabric there, so I’m not sure what the point really is, and that’s not really the cool part anyway.

The cool part is that if you download the .zip file with the fabric pictures in it, you can import the fabrics into Electric Quilt and design quilts! The pictures seem to be actual scans of the fabrics, and are in scale with one another, so designing a quilt with the actual fabrics you want to use is really easy and looks great when done. See?

Quilt Design with Electric Quilt and Portobello Market fabrics from Moda

This is the Portobello Market line from 3 Sisters for Moda. I love these fabrics, so I stopped in at The Fat Quarter Shop and scooped up a charm pack and some other yardage to go with it, and I can make my quilt when it all arrives! Now if only all the other fabric manufacturers would catch on to this. What a great way to market and advertise the fabric lines especially in our current economy where every trip by car counts. If I hadn’t found this today, would I have bought $50 worth of fabric online? Probably not. I checked out RJR Fabrics and Michael Miller Fabrics, and if they have anything like Moda does, it wasn’t easy to find.

Do you know of any other fabric manufacturers that share such great images of their fabrics like this? If so, share so we can all go download the latest fabrics to play with!

P.S. I found another cool page on the Moda site, the What’s New page. If you go there, you get the same fabric line logo pics with the dots, only they’re arranged by release month instead of by designer. It’s a great way to see what’s on the horizon from Moda!

Where do you shop? Part 2: Online Sources

While I’d rather be able to get everything I need locally at a decent price, it’s just not possible, so I shop online a lot. I used to shop a lot at Hancock’s of Paducah, but their shipping is kind of high depending on the size of your order, their “new and improved” website is dog slow and painful to use and calling to place an order isn’t always the most pleasant or easy experience either. Backorders have always been a problem with Hancocks as well, since they can never tell you when (or if) the backordered item might show up. I’ve shopped at Jinny Beyer’s site a few times over the years, but the last experience was soooo painful and required two phone calls and at least that many emails that I won’t do it again unless I’m desperate.

Lately I’ve discovered some new sites, some great, some not so good. I’ll list below some of my recent online shopping destinations (and some old faves) and my experiences with them, in no particular order:

Quilting Warehouse—I really like this place. The online shop is easy to use, well laid out, and has great prices from what I’ve seen so far. I discovered it while searching for the cheapest prices on fusible Velcro by the box. Not only are their prices good, they don’t kill you on shipping, and add nothing for handling at all. A small-to-medium box with two boxes of 15 feet of Velcro each, and two small packages of needles only cost $41.60 for product and $3.85 for shipping. They shipped my order within two days of receiving it, and it was in my hands in a week. Definitely a keeper.

eQuilter—Not that this is a recent find, and I’m sure you all have shopped here before. Great for fabric shopping, shipping costs are average, but it took them six days to ship my last order which was too long IMO. I do like their virtual design wall where I can see fabrics together before choosing which ones to buy. However, I wish that they would list the manufacturers names and style numbers with the fabrics in the shop, but that’s one of my giant pet peeves with many online fabric retailers. It would make it so much easier to shop for a certain fabric when you have that information in hand, if the shops would note it in the item name or description.

Amethyst Quilts—Not much to say about this place since my order never was completed. I was searching for a certain fabric and found it here through the Quilt Shops Search Engine, only to have the shop email me the day after I placed my order to say they didn’t have the fabric after all. Sad, very sad. That’s another of my huge pet peeves right there. Online shops that show fabrics and products that they don’t have in the store and don’t keep their stock levels current are really frustrating and definitely don’t inspire me to go back. The only thing is, it seems like all 210 online quilt shops that are designed and programmed by the folks that run the Search Engine look about the same; I might not even realize it if I ran across this same shop again a year down the road during another fabric hunt until after I’d placed my order for something else they might not have.

Thread and More—This one’s a mixed bag. The first time I ordered, my order was shipped the next day, and the shipping fee seemed average. The second time, it took them two weeks to ship my order out, and they charged me $7.99 shipping and $1.50 handling for a teeny tiny little Priority Mail box that cost them $4.80 to mail. The product total was only $19.92, so $7.99 was a bit steep to begin with but to add insult to injury, there was no “packaging” to speak of that would have cost them a huge amount of money or extra time. The four packages of finger cots and four packs of John James needles I ordered were inside a plastic zip top bag with the receipt, and the box was free from the Postal Service! I’m not too impressed with this place after the second go round.

Sewing Supply Warehouse—I can’t say enough good things about the service here. I buy Sulky thread from them, because they have the cheapest price that I’ve found on the ‘Net at $2.09 per spool. They ship orders out the next day for an average shipping cost without extra handling fees, and their online shop is powered by Yahoo!; nothing stellar, but very usable and gets the job done without glitches. The only complaint that I have is that they don’t carry more of the items that are on my “need to order” list. How simple life could be if they did.

Soft Expressions—I’ve been ordering from this site for years, so it’s not a recent find, but worthy of inclusion here. They have great prices, mostly much lower than retail and other sites. Timely shipping, usually just two days from order placement to shipment, with slightly lower than average shipping fees and no extra handling charges. The site is not laid out the best, but it is functional and gets the job done.

There you have it, almost all the online sites I’ve shopped at recently. I’m sure I’ve left out a couple of favorites that I’ve not visited recently. I can think of Red Rock Threads off the top of my head; always great service with extra reasonable shipping rates, probably some of the lowest in the business actually. I’m sure more sites will come to me as soon as I hit “Publish.” 🙂

Your Voice: Where do you turn when your LQS doesn’t have what you need for your latest quilting project? What are your favorite online shopping haunts, and how do they stack up when it comes to the real nitty gritty of it all with shipping times, costs and handling fees?