Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Checker Open House

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to demonstrate at Checker Distributor's annual Open House in Maumee, Ohio.



Checker is one of the major distributors in the quilting world and they are celebrating 62(!) years in the business.

Checker caters to the independent quilt stores and their company philosophy stresses supporting, servicing and providing new ideas to independent businesses.

After attending their Open House, I can see why they have been so successful. Checker really is a CLASS ACT!

I have to say special thanks to my buyer at Checker, Jamye Schneider (sorry, no picture!), who suggested to the "powers-that-be" that I be invited. I had such a wonderful time and was so honored to get to "run with the big girls (and guys)" at this special event. As Jamye told me, the annual Open House is Checker's biggest and best event of the year, so I felt very honored to be included.

Penny Haren made many of the arrangements for my trip and did a great job of organizing and coordinating everything. From making hotel reservations, arranging for transportation to and from the Detroit airport, and patiently answering all my questions, Penny really made my experience delightful.



It was a pleasure to meet all of the friendly and helpful Checker staff.

Nancy Weber, Checker's chief pattern buyer, picked me up at the airport in Detroit.



Nancy had recently returned from a fun trip to Alaska, so I enjoyed hearing about the places she had visited. I also had to smile to myself because I had brought one of my cookbooks (From Halibut to Jalapenos) to give to Nancy as a small thank you.



Imagine my surprise when I learned that she had tried to purchase the very same book while there, but the store had just sold the last one! She had never connected the book with me, so it was fun to see her excitement when I gave her the book.

While in Alaska, Nancy had purchased seal skin thimbles (I'd never heard of such a thing!) for her friend, Kathy Brown (Teacher's Pet).



Kathy was thrilled to get the thimbles, saying that, with use, the hair comes off (that's good!) and they really mold to fit the finger. She says they are the best thimble she's ever used. Guess I'll have to check those out on my next trip to Alaska.

Kathy is the author of the very popular book and pattern series, Take Five, as well as Bedrunners, runners to go on the end of your bed.

She is a delightful, easy-going lady from Louisiana, and I enjoyed hearing her story about how she quit her job at a major oil company and found her niche in the quilting world. She is a great story-teller and I'm looking forward to trying her techniques for making quick and easy quilts.



Next to arrive was Amy Barickman (Indygo Junction/The Vintage Workshop). I have long been an admirer of Indygo Junction patterns and designs so it was really a treat to meet the founder of the company — and to learn that she started in business when she was only 16!

Read more about Amy's story at her website. I was especially impressed to learn that over the years Amy has teamed up with innovative artists to publish over 800 pattern title and write over 80 books. She is one busy lady!



Our last passenger to arrive was sweet Karen Eckmeier (The Quilted Lizard). I was really pleased to see that both Karen and Amy came with just a little luggage as I had taken two very large suitcases full of all my booth samples and displays. (Thank goodness for Southwest Airlines and two free bags!)



We got acquainted with each other during the 45-minute ride to Maumee, Ohio, home of Checker. Checker has recently completed remodeling their entire facility so we oohed and aahed over the beautiful offices and warehouse. Everything looked so clean and new.

After a quick lunch, we went to work to set up our booths. Checker thought of everything and had an area ready to go for each us including draped tables, sturdy wire racks loaded with our products, and beautiful wooden quilt racks for displaying samples.



While we were working, store owners were enjoying classes. We took a little break to attend Eleanor Burns' "Down on the Farm" presentation. Eleanor is a hoot so that was very fun. Of course, I bought Eleanor's American Barns book. I can't wait to try some of her techniques.



The next morning, we arrived at the warehouse early to finish setting up and take a few minutes to shop. Not surprisingly, there was already a line of shoppers waiting to get in!



Checker made it extra easy by allowing customers to pre-register for the event. That made the customers eligible for lots of wonderful door prizes and allowed them to simply walk up to the desk to pick up their registration packet.





They could start shopping immediately!







If customers had pre-ordered fabric or supplies, it was easy to pick up those items as well.



Checker is all about educating their customers to use the products they carry, so they had a great line-up of demonstrators and presenters.

Amy Barickman was showing her new Vintage Notions book and related designs.



Kathy Brown demonstrated how easy it is to make quick quilts using the great Creative Grids rulers and showed designs from her books.



Karen Eckmeier demonstrated her terrific technique for making accidental landscapes. Her quilts were stunning and the technique looks so easy and fun.



I stayed very busy showing people all the fun ways to use Texture Magic. (Every sample wanted to go along, so I had lots to show!)



Depending on the fabric you choose, the stitch you use, and the thread you pick, you can get so many different effects.



I also explained why I love using the Power Steam Pro steamer when I work with Texture Magic.



Next to me were Margaret and Betsy (MorninGlory Designs).



They demonstrated how easy it is to texturize fabric using Texture Magic.



Betsy and Margaret have the most wonderful jacket patterns -- including one that features fabric texturized with Texture Magic, the San Mortiz Jacket.



Heather (Mother Superior) and I texturized some fabric and sent it to Betsy and Margaret and they made each of us a jacket.

Here's Heather in her beautiful red and purple jacket.



I'll post pictures of my beautiful jacket soon.

Eleanor Burns (Quilt in a Day) shared lots of great techniques for making blocks quickly and easily.



Penny Haren not only helped coordinate the event, but she also demonstrated her innovative new Pieced Applique™ technique and her techniques for using the "Square It Up and Fussy Cut" rulers made by Creative Grids.



Nancy Halvorsen (Art to Heart) shared techniques and projects from her latest book, Tidings.



I was thrilled to meet Joan Hawley (Lazy Girls Designs) as I have long been a fan of her style. I love her sense of humor and enjoyed seeing her new Lily handbag.



Though I never got over to see her booth, Patsy Thompson (Patsy Thompson Designs Ltd.) was there with all her wonderful machine quilting DVDs.



And, of course, the helpful Checker sales reps and staff were available to answer questions and help customers find what they needed.





Checker thought of everything to make the day run smoothly, including passing out lunch tickets at the door. With six different lunch times, no one had to wait in line. The food was delicious — barbeque and all the trimmings. Yum.



Once customers had their carts stocked, each check-out station had assistants to organize their purchases, sort everything and pack it for the trip home.



Twelve check-out stations kept lines to a minimum.



The packers loaded the merchandise right into the customer's cars. One customer asked if she could strap the guys to her roof so they could unload everything when she got back to her store. Wouldn't that be nice?



I met so many wonderful people: fellow demonstrators, Checker staff, and lots and lots of wonderful store owners. It was an experience that I will always treasure.

Thank you, Checker, for inviting me. I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Happy stitching,

Annie

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Announcing EQ7!

Greetings!

I'm back from Spring Festival in Chicago (GREAT SHOW!) and busy working on some new patterns that I will introduce at Spring Market in Minneapolis in May. More info about that will follow soon, but for now I want to share some other just-breaking news:

The Electric Quilt Company has just announced their latest version: Electric Quilt 7 (EQ7).

I love Electric Quilt's products and use them for designing all of my patterns. The wonderful folks at EQ will be demonstrating the new program at Spring Market — I can hardly wait!

I'm accepting orders now and will have the program (or upgrade version) ready to ship as soon as they are available in early June.

You can read more about the new features and system requirements at my website:
http://www.byannie.com/shop/product/eq7/

As always, I offer special pricing on all EQ products. Just email or call me for more info. I promise it will be worth your while!


EQ Classes:

Are you interested in taking EQ6 or EQ7 classes? I love teaching EQ classes and would love to come to your area to share this wonderful program with you. Or, I can arrange classes in the St. George, Utah, area for your group.

Please note that I will be teaching EQ6 classes at the Utah Quilt Guild's annual Quilt Festival in October. As I understand it, everything that can be done in EQ6 can also be done in EQ7, so you'll be able to use either version in class. I will gear the class toward EQ6, but we'll definitely do a little EQ7 preview, too, so you can see the advances that have been made.

For more information, please contact me at annieu@infowest.com.


Finally, don't forget about my April Special:

Save $5 on a one-yard package of Texture Magic! Just type the code TEXTURE MAGIC in the discount section when placing your order. Offer expires April 30, 2010.

Until next time, happy stitching!


Annie

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My new website is up!

As you can see, it's been a while since I've blogged. But I have a good excuse! Every spare minute I've had over the past four months (which have been few and far between, let me tell you!) has been spent working on creating a new website.

It looks very similar to my old site, but there are a number of improvements:

A What's New section highlights my newest products, supplies, and tools.

You can now search for a product by typing the name or part of the name in the search box at the top right of the page. That saves time! For instance, type "Texture Magic" in the search box and you'll get all the patterns and supplies that are related to this fun product.

You will find related products at the bottoms of each product's page, so you won't have to search for how to order the headliner foam, handles, zippers, etc. that you need for your project.

I've added a lot of new products so you can get going quickly on your project rather than spend time driving all over town looking for the supplies that you need.

Kits are available for a number of projects — and more will be coming soon, so keep checking the site!

You'll also find patterns categorized by technique, so if you want to try applique, paper piecing, or traditional piecing, you'll quickly find patterns that use that specific techniques.

Postage is now based on the order's weight, so shipping charges should be reduced and you'll have the choice of determining how you want the order shipped and how quickly it will arrive.

You can pay by PayPal or by check/money order.

My past newsletters will be archived on the newsletter page making it easy to read all the news from www.byannie.com

I've got lots of fun tips and techniques to share.

The free patterns are still there. Wickedly Easy Quilts continues to be a favorite for quilters who want to use their stash and make a quick, easy quilt.

My class/show schedule is available as a monthly events calendar so you can see what's happening.

You'll also find links to lots of great sites and places I find inspiration.

I hope that you will take a minute to check out the new site — and let me know what you think of the new design!

Happy stitching,

Annie

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Texture Magic Thoughts

Greetings!

It's been too long since I've made time to blog. I've been so busy writing new patterns, making samples, and going to shows that blogging has had to take a back seat. I will try to do better in 2010.

Last week we began our 2010 show schedule with a great show at Road to California. After almost a year of playing with Texture Magic, it's become such a part of my life that I'm always a bit surprised to find someone who hasn't heard of it. However, I have to say, a good percentage of the folks stopping by the booth at Road had never seen or heard of Texture Magic.

It was fun to watch them stroll by the booth, catch our Celebrate quilt in the corner of their eye, do a double-take and come back to the booth to take a closer look and ask, "How did you do that?"





Texture Magic is a fabric that shrinks when exposed to hot steam. It shrinks about 20% in every direction, so the secret to producing texture is to sew the Texture Magic to a piece of fabric so that when the Texture Magic shrinks, the fabric goes along for the ride.

The amount of texture that you get when using Texture Magic depends on how much stitching you do. So, if you stitch in an all-over meander with lines about 1/2" apart, you will get more texture than if you stitch in a grid with lines 1" apart.

I usually recommend stitching no closer than 1/2" or further apart than 1-1/2", but what you choose to do is certainly up to you. Play with some different fabrics and stitches and see what you like.

The Little Charmers blankie and block are a great project for experimenting with Texture Magic. Designed to be made with a charm pack, the project can be quickly made with a pack of precut 5" squares. (The pattern does include instructions for cutting pieces if you prefer to use fabrics from your stash.)

Pick the squares that you want to texturize for the block and blankie. Then have fun trying a different stitch on each square as you sew the fabric to the Texture Magic. The best part? When you're done experimenting and playing, you've got a great, easy little project to assemble and a cute gift for a baby shower!





Another fun idea for a baby or toddler gift are the Baby Bibs that are accented with Texture Magic.


(Click on the link above to see more detailed images of each bib.)

Heather Purcell (aka Mother Superior) came up with the great idea of using decorative stitches to sew the Texture Magic to the fabric. That's what she did on my On the Town handbag and on the Little Miss Sunshine dress.










On the Serenity Shoulder Bag, I just followed the design printed on the fabric. Before stitching, I added a layer of wool batting between the fabric and Texture Magic. This makes the texture even more predominate.



One important note: It is very important to just use hot steam to shrink the Texture Magic -- not a hot iron. So, if you are using a steamer that doesn't get hot on the bottom, you can set it right down on the Texture Magic to make it shrink.

If you are using an iron with a hot sole plate, you either want to hold the iron a bit above the Texture Magic so that the hot sole plate doesn't touch the fabric or you want to steam from the fabric side.

You do not want the hot sole plate to touch the Texture Magic. It won't melt it or ruin it or make it stick to your iron, but it makes it stiff -- kind of "plasticy" feeling. It will stay very soft and supple if you just use steam.

That's why we are comfortable using Texture Magic to texturize fabric clothes and quilts that even a baby will enjoy. Wouldn't a little girl in your life love this cute little Tickled Pink ensemble?



If you are interested in taking a hands-on class to play with Texture Magic, please check back soon for my 2010 class schedule. I taught the Texture Magic Totes class at Road to California and am pleased to say that every person in the 3-hour class went home with a finished tote bag!

I'm hoping to get the new class/show schedule on the website soon. In the meantime, here is a quick list of upcoming Texture Magic classes:

February 6 - Serenity Shoulder Bag class - Fabric Arts Studio Retreat, Moab, Utah
February 7 - Textured Totes & Accessories class - Fabric Arts Studio Retreat, Moab, Utah
February 19 - Texture Magic class - Dixie Quilt Guild Retreat, Zion Park Inn, Springdale, Utah
February 27 - Texture Magic Totes Class - Sew Expo, Puyallup, Washington
March 29 - Texture Magic! class - Quilted Works, St. George, Utah
August 12 - 14 - Serenity Shoulder Bag, Architexture Table Runner, and Baby Bibs classes at Pacific West Quilt Show in Olympia, Washington

Please contact me for more info about any of these events. Thanks!

Happy stitching,

Annie