Friday, August 15, 2014

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Challenge!

Did you guys know that our brick and mortar shop hosts the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild? We love our local MQG members and had a blast at QuiltCon in 2013. When all of these modern quilters come together, they seem to do some pretty cool things.

For instance, The Modern Quilt Guild hosts a charity challenge. Some of you may have participated in the challenge for QuiltCon in 2013 but this year they're changing it up a bit!

This year, Modern Quilt Guild chapters will work collaboratively to create completed quilts (pieced, quilted, bound) using a color palette and alternate grid work design, determined by the MQG. Leaders of MQG chapters will be responsible for signing their guilds up by September 30.

After the quilts are finished and displayed at QuiltCon, guilds will be asked to donate their finished projects to local children's shelters. In addition to the gratification of making gorgeous quilts for deserving charities, a few lucky guilds will be featured in a post about the challenge on The Modern Quilt Guild blog next spring!

So what colors will challengers be working with? The Modern Quilt Guild is listing this year's colors as: white, light grey, chartreuse, burnt orange, sky blue, cerise, and deep turquoise.

We were lucky enough to be asked to build bundles around this gorgeous color scheme! We've put together bundles of solids (half yard, fat quarter, fat eighth) and blenders (half yard, fat quarter, fat eighth).

Interested in joining the challenge? Check out the rest of the requirements on The Modern Quilt Guild's blog.

Not a MQG member? Click here to find the chapter nearest you!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cotton + Steel Club- August

Cotton + Steel Club has officially begun!! Our first month of subscriptions have just gone out and now we can happily share with you what all our subscribers will be getting in their mailboxes in the coming days.

As many of you (hopefully) know, we were so excited about Cotton + Steel as a new company, we wanted to create a new club as a way for people to acquire this massive collection.

We knew a lot of people wanted the entire collection but buying 102 prints all at one time is expensive, not to mention overwhelming. Cotton + Steel Club will let you slowly add it to your stash.

Each month, Brenda and our staff will choose 12 prints, remixing pieces of each of the designers' collections as well as basics. All our remix bundles will be completely unique to our shop! Mixing and matching within each of the collections really is the most fun part because all the prints and colors play so well together.

The first six months of the club (August through January) will consist of prints from this first summer collection. Don't worry, you'll never receive a particular color of a print more than once. So we may use a print in more than one month's bundle, but we'll always use a color way that you haven't received yet.

After the first six months, starting with February, we'll start mixing in prints from the new collections. I know, the mere thought of another 100+ prints is overwhelming. But it's coming and we all need to mentally prepare ourselves for it.

Here's a list of all the prints we used in our August bundle:
If you'd like to subscribe to the club beginning with September, go here!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why Does Yardage Sometimes Come Up Short?

If you've shopped with us a lot, it's possible you've received an email that goes something like this:

Dear (your name),
While fulfilling your order we discovered that one of the prints you've ordered is out of stock. If you like, we can replace it with another fabric of equal value, or provide a refund for the missing fabric.

Relative to the number of orders we fill, coming up short on an order is a pretty rare occurrence. That said, when we have bad news for a customer, it's usually this. And if you're like me, you probably wonder how something like that could happen. After all, we had the fabric listed on our website, so where did it go? It's a fair question, with a really long answer.

In retail, there's a thing called shrink, which is basically any loss of profit you can't plan for. And one of the most common kinds of shrink is merchandise that mysteriously disappears.

Of course, merchandise doesn't really disappear. It either goes somewhere where it's not easily found, or it was never delivered in the first place. And sometimes you just never know which one it is.

In the fabric business, for example, we trust our manufacturers and distributors to deliver to us exactly what we order. But just like us, they're only human, and mistakes happen. We have one person (Josh!) whose job it is to check in fabric, to make sure we get what we order, but even then, we can't unroll every bolt and count every inch of fabric. Sometimes the bolts are just wrong...we get sent more or less of the fabric than we were expecting, and we don't know until we get to the end of the bolt.

And while that does happen, and may even be fairly common, there are plenty other ways for things to go awry.

For instance, we have computer software that tracks our inventory for sales both online and in our brick-and-mortar store, but there are plenty of times we have to adjust inventory manually - the first time a fabric enters the store, for example, or anytime we have to deduct yardage to cut custom bundles - and each point of contact is a chance for a number to be skewed. The fact it happens as seldom as it does is a testament to our own care and attentiveness. It's something we're really proud of.

Sometimes fabric gets misplaced. We have a lot of fabric, and if one bolt gets put back wrong, it can become impossible to find. On more than one occasion we've emailed a customer to let them know we were out of their favorite print, only to discover a short time later that we really did have was just not in its usual place.

Sometimes we actually do have the least, we do when the order is placed. But while cutting the order we may discover a defect - anything from an ink blotch to a tear - that makes it unusable. If it's a small problem we might check with our customer first to see if it they still want it, but if it's not salvageable it means we can't fulfill that particular order .

There is another big cause of shrink that we, fortunately, don't have to worry too much about: theft. Shoplifters account for a huge amount of property loss to retailers every year and it's a major concern for a lot of companies. It's also one of the hardest to control. It's a problem we're glad we don't have!

There are other causes too - bookkeeping errors, bolts being tagged incorrectly, and so on - but the above are the really big ones. We do everything we can to prevent this and we're proud of how seldom it happens. But if you ever got an email saying we were out of stock of something and wondered how that could have happened...well, we're probably asking the same question!

Friday, August 8, 2014

PDF Pattern Spotlight

Happy Friday, friends!

I don't know if you've noticed the massive collection of PDF patterns on our site. With so many easily accessible patterns, it's hard to decide on a reasonable amount of projects to work on. I say projects because who only works on one at a time? Not me.

So let's look through some of these things and pick a few favorites!

First, I love this Catawampus pattern from Freckled Whimsy. This pattern is a new interpretation of a classic Irish chain quilt and is super versatile, depending on the feel you want. I love the scrappy look the sample has and it would make a great stash buster.

Catawampus quilt by Freckled Whimsy

You could replace the white background with another color or even a different color in each square and give it a totally different look. Or feature a large print in the background and use solids for the chain.

Kitty catawampus!

Next is the Lazy Daisy quilt from Jeni Baker. I'm not much of an improv quilter (hopefully that'll change after working with Sherri Lynn Wood at Camp Stitchalot this fall) so this is about as improvisational as my piecing gets. Jeni calls it "random grab bag chain piecing" and because of that randomness, you end up with a different quilt every time you make it. That kind of piecing would also make this a great leaders and enders project!

Lazy Daisy by Jeni Baker
Close up of the Lazy Daisy
Last, and certainly not least, is the Positive Space quilt by Jenna Brand. Jenna's use of solids is absolutely gorgeous in this quilt but you could easily switch it up with prints! It would also be a great quilt for a color study, to showcase an entire collection of prints, or as a quilting sampler! Positive Space is just an awesome, simple, geometric pattern and there's so much you could do with it.

Positive Space by Jenna Brand

Positive Space by Jenna Brand

Sifting through all those patterns has given me tons of ideas. Hopefully you're inspired a bit too and have something new in mind to work on this weekend!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Loveliness

We've started buzzing about something new we're offering and hopefully you've heard a bit about it already! But I want to take a minute to look at this a little more closely: our Liberty of London stash boxes.

Here's the deal: right now, you can reserve a stash box of 45 Liberty of London Tana lawn fat sixteenths for $100. But, if 120 stash boxes are ordered, everybody gets an additional five fat sixteenths for free! That makes over three yards of fabric to use in super luxurious projects or just to beef up your stash. So when you buy your box, tell all of your friends so that everybody can get more of that Tana lawn goodness without any extra cost.

I know a lot of people see that price tag and have a bit of sticker shock. But Liberty Tana lawn is unlike any other fabric in production. The hand is so light and soft you would swear it was a cotton/silk blend. But no, Tana lawn is just made from incredibly high quality, long staple cotton that's spun extremely thin and tightly woven.

Even compared to other lawns, Liberty Tana lawn is a completely different animal. The cotton harvested for this fabric came from the shores of Lake Tana in Ethiopia. This area of sub-Saharan Africa is known for growing a unique strain of cotton plants that make up less than 2% of all cotton production in the world.

Liberty of London Tana lawn first became popular in the 1920's with the emergence of the company's tiny, ditsy florals-- what we now think of as iconic Liberty prints. Now, almost 140 years after Arthur Liberty opened his first shop, Liberty of London is staying true to their original idea of making modern interpretations of classic, historical costuming of the 1800's rather than following the trends of fashion.

I love that each of the accessories in this print features a different classic Liberty print!

It's nearly impossible to do justice to the quality and history of Liberty of London fabrics, Tana lawn in particular. The drape, durability, and easy care of Tana lawn makes it great for garment sewing, whether it's lightweight summer wear or layered under warm winter woolies. A quilt made entirely of tana lawn is completely indulgent, but the kind of indulgent that everyone should treat themselves to.

It's tough to pass up this stash box offer after knowing all that now, isn't it? About 45 people have already reserved theirs! Now feels like a good time to reserve a few for you and all your Liberty loving friends too. And don't forget-- we still have yardage of eleven prints and bundles listed in the shop now!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tips And Tricks of Choosing Your Quilt Back

You’ve put in all the hard work of piecing together your quilt top and now it’s time to finish the job— make your “sandwich” and quilt the thing! But in order to do that, you still have to choose a backing. It seems simple, right? Who even looks at the back of the quilt? But you still have a few decisions to make!

One main thing to consider is how you plan to quilt your quilt. If you’re hand quilting or doing more elaborate free motion quilting, you may want to showcase that detail more. Choosing solids or prints with more negative space will let the lines of your quilt work shine.

This Yuwa lawn is soft, with lots of negative space, showing off the detail in hand quilting.
The subtlety in this Tula Pink print helps show off your free motion work
This solid green background really makes the quilting pop!

If you’re a beginning quilter, are just straight line quilting, or maybe you just haven’t mastered the art of consistent stitches in free motion (like me), a busier print might be the better option for you! The right print will make your stitches almost disappear.

Carolyn Friedlander's Architextures crosshatch is graphic and busy, distracting from potential mishaps in stitching.

The quilting on this white on red dot is almost invisible!

And don’t limit yourself to simple quilting cottons! In addition to giving a quilt a totally different feel, choosing a different substrate like flannel, Cuddle, terry cloth, or even just using a high loft batting/wadding can help hide imperfect stitching, especially after a good wash.

Here's the real question though: how much fabric do you need to buy for your backing? That calculation doesn't come easily to my mind either so we've put together a handy little chart for you to reference back to or even print and post in your sewing room!

Backings are an often under appreciated element of quilts. Whether you use one print continuously through your backing or take the time to piece a strip or segment with fabrics from the top, different choices for color, print, and texture can totally change the look and feel of your work. Now with all this in mind, it's time to go out and finish some of those tops I know we all have piled up at home!

All the machine quilting featured above was done by Kathy Koch of Thread Bear Quilting. Hand quilting work was done by Cherie Grzych.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Winter Camp Stitchalot is SOLD OUT!!

"Aerial Grove" by Carolyn Friedlander
It's official-- Camp Stitchalot this November is completely sold out! We're so excited to have a full crowd for an awesome weekend with Carolyn Friedlander and Sherri Lynn Wood.

Just to refresh your memory, Carolyn will be teaching her Aerial Grove quilt featured in her new book Savor Each Stitch. With the quilt, she'll be teaching needle turn appliqué and her technique for foundation piecing. Sherri will be teaching her "Get Your Curve On" class, which was a huge hit at the last QuiltCon and really shows off her knack for improv piecing with curves!

If you didn't get a ticket, you can always sign up for our waiting list. While we hope no one would have to drop, you may luck out if a space becomes available.

Sherri Lynn Wood's "Mod Mood" quilt

We do still have tickets left for camp this September but only a few! If you forgot what that one's about, we'll be hosting Bari J and Vanessa Christenson. Many of you know these women for their awesome fabric design, patterns, and a million other things. They're some seriously busy and cool ladies.

Vanessa will teach you all about appliqué and Bari J will lead our campers in the construction of her "Holiday in London" duffle bag!

One gorgeous example of Vanessa Christenson's appliqué work
Bari J's pattern is a great duffle everyone should add to their bag collection!

If you've never attended camp with us before, it's awesome. I was lucky enough to attend as a camper this past June and had an absolute blast. I can't wait for these the last two camps of the year and all fun things we have coming in the future!

Click here to head to our Camp Stitchalot page for more info or to get your hands on some tickets!

Right now we're finalizing plans for next year's camps and we're almost ready to share the big news with everyone. Any ideas as to what we may be up to? Anything you'd really like to see?