Friday, May 31, 2013

Getting it done!

It was one of those days, one of those rare days, when I seemed to just be on the ball, getting done everything I set out to get done.  Some of that was sewing:

I finally finished the pillows for the READY afterschool program students who didn't finish during our classes.  I love that they went scrappy like I did.

I also like the fun fabrics they picked out for the pillow backs.

I'll get these to the students on Monday - just in time, since the last day of school is Tuesday!

I finally made that bifold fabric wallet I wanted to make for myself.  I used this tutorial and here's what I came up with.

Sewing through those thick seams was a challenge, but what I loved about this tutorial is that she had us sew with a 1/2" seam allowance and then trim down to 1/4".  I felt more confident about catching all layers that way.  I can't wait to fill it with my cards and cash and start using it tomorrow.  I've had that brown outside fabric for ages and could never decide what to do with it.  I love brown!

While working on these two things, I managed a couple more blocks for my hubby's quilt from his mother's shirts.

I'm thrilled at how closely these stripes are lining up without me having to work too hard to match them.
I wonder if I can have the top pieced in time to present that to him on Father's Day?  Hmmm.  I might need to make that my goal.  As far as quilting, I saved all the buttons I cut off the shirts, and I hope to tie it with those buttons.  Can you sew buttons on with a sewing machine?  I love the idea of the buttons, but the thought of sewing them all on by hand doesn't excite me.

Some of what I got done was business related.  I got my federal employer ID number and my VA retail sales tax certificate.  I got my local business license and paid my estimated business taxes for the year (strange to pay taxes BEFORE I even open!).  I opened my business bank accounts.  I figure if I just tackle one step at a time, this seemingly huge undertaking will seem less overwhelming.  Oh, and yesterday, I visit a Baby Lock dealer and decided on the Grace for my classroom sewing machines.  They are over 4 lbs lighter than the Janomes, and there was a pricing special going on that saved me over $400 on the set of 6 machines.

Finally, I got our summer pool pass, and visiting the pool with the boys.  While there, I swam 10 lengths (gotta ease my way back into my summer lap swimming) and disassembled two more of my MIL's shirts.  But while there, a woman saw me cutting and said, " Are you the quilt lady?  The one I read about in the newspaper?"

How flattering! (But this is a small town - anyone know that country song that tells how EVERYONE is famous in a small town?  That's us.)

But what was more flattering is that she works for our local newspaper and told me she's been wanting to do a story on me.  Could the timing be any better with me opening my shop later this summer?  The trip to the pool turned out to be even better than I had hoped!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's Official!

I met with the attorney to set up the LLC and I signed my lease - it's official, folks, I'm opening a business!

The Stitchin' Post, a creative space for fiber artists to sell their products, teach their craft, share their resources and engage with a supportive and collaborative community of other fiber artists, will open at 117 S Main Street, Lexington, VA in late August.  Can you believe it???

Google Maps will show you the storefront, but the image is old.
View Larger Map There is a new striped awning where it now says Rockbridge Interiors - that will be me!  We took those "Envision Your Business Here" signs out of the window yesterday.  Aren't those display windows GREAT!  The owner is painting the exterior, and she consulted with me on colors.  We decided on two historic greens (the building was built in 1913 and has to conform with historic norms) with a lavender door for POP!

I'll be starting with 6 sewing machines for classes, and right now, I am debating between the Janome Magnolia 7330 and the Baby Lock Grace.  Does anyone have an opinion of either of those?  I'm looking for something simple enough for children to use, but sophisticated enough for an experienced sewist to appreciate, a hard working, reliable machine that won't give me trouble when multiple users operate it.  I'm limiting my machine search to those with dealers within 50 miles so I can have reliable service.  I'm also keeping costs in mind (sorry, Bernina and Viking - I just can't afford you!).  If anyone has any input about either of these machines or something else I should be considering, please comment!  I've also made an inquiry about Pfaff, but I haven't heard back from the dealer yet.  The dealers have been wonderful about working with me to get a volume discount on the machines.

Ack!  I can't believe it!  Big thanks to all of you for believing in me and encouraging me.  Please know that I'll be needing even more of that encouraging support in the months to come.

My husband called the other day and asked to speak with "my entrepreneurial wife."  Earlier this week he told me how proud he was of me, and last night he explained to my son how fearless I am, how brave you have to be to walk away from a perfectly good job to start something new on your own.  I love seeing myself through his eyes.  I couldn't have asked for a better husband and friend!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I get by with a little help from my friends

A surefire way to keep your mind off feeling blue is to keep busy and surround yourself with others.  That was the strategy this past weekend.  We visited my husband's grandmother in Southeastern Virginia.  I though we were just going to a cookout, but there were at least 50 people there, so it felt more like a family reunion to me.  I knew next to no one, but pull out a quilt to work on, and all of a sudden you are surrounded by interested folks.  That was my strategy, and it worked wonderfully!  Everyone has a quilt story to share.  I even found a cousin who designs cards and signs, and he's working on a design for me for my new business.  Plus, I'm halfway done hand quilting the second rainbow baby quilt!

Back at home, I worked on the quilt blocks from my MIL's shirts.  I need to pull out some of them with wider stripes to give my eyes a break - those tiny stripes make me seasick!  But so far, everything is lining up pretty well, although I'm not being a stickler about it.  Let's face it, I'm not much of a stickler for rules and things being orderly.
The larger blocks are 8.5", the smaller are 4.5".  So far, I've used 4 sleeves total - who knew there was that much fabric in a sleeve???
Then yesterday afternoon we went to a cookout at a local friend's house (that's right - two days in one weekend when I didn't have to cook dinner!), and I was working on cutting up the rest of the shirts when a quilter friend got some scissors and gave me a hand.  My friends are the best!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


On this Saturday eight years ago (although the date was the 28th of May, not the 25th), I was sitting at work, talking with a colleague when I got the phone call.  Without even saying "Hello," my cousin Khadijah sobbed, "Uncle Craig is dead!"  I went home immediately, stunned.  My father was gone.  My larger-than-life, fun-loving, vibrant, effusive father had died in a car accident.  The thought that kept running through my head was, "Donald will never get to meet him."  I was 9 months pregnant at the time, and Donald was born 3 weeks later.

No worries, Dad, Donald has met you many times over in the stories we tell and the photos we share.
Dad graduated from college the year I turned 11.  I see that I get my aversion to ironing from him!
Luckily, he was able to meet Jason several times.  In every photo, Jason is gazing at him, enthralled.
One of my favorite photos - my dad and my brother
So this Memorial Day weekend, my father, who served in the US Air Force, occupies my thoughts.
He looked quite dapper in his uniform (with my grandmom)
So does my mother-in-law.  Knowing that she was dying didn't make losing her any easier.  I wailed after losing my father that I never had a chance to say "goodbye."  Having had that chance with Wilma, I realize there isn't enough time or words to say all that needs saying.

I've started making my husband a quilt from his mother's shirts.  She loved striped cotton oxford-type shirts, usually in blue, so I'm making a Kaffe Fassett inspired Shirt-Stripe Boxes quilt.  Luckily, she had a TON of them!  I've disassembled several shirts, but have only made one square so far.
First block made from Wilma's shirts
It is hard to cut and sew with tears in your eyes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wrapping things up

The theme for my life these days is tying up loose ends, finishing things, wrapping things up.

I finished piecing rainbow baby quilt #2.  It is much bigger than the other rainbow baby quilt - the same width but longer.  That's OK, right?

I finally finished my pink toothbrush rug.  I didn't measure it - I just kept going until I ran out of the solid pink.  Both my kids want it in their rooms, but I have a feeling I'll be keeping it for myself, selfish mommy that I am!

The afterschool program ended on Wednesday.  4 of my 7 students were able to finish their patchwork pillows on time - I'll finish up the others at home and send them in to school for them next week.

I've met with the landlady of the space in town where I want to open my shop.  We've come to agreement on lease terms.  I'm finalizing my business plan, and now I just need to sign on the dotted line and DO IT.  I think I'm gonna do it.  I'm 99% sure.  I'm so excited!  Going into business for myself, and doing something I love!  Send lots of successful wishes my way.  In case you missed my blog post about this earlier this year, here are some excerpts from my Business Plan to give you an idea - my Statement of Purpose and my Business Philosophy:

Statement of Purpose
The Stitchin’ Post is a creative space for fiber artists to sell their products, teach their craft, share their resources and engage with a supportive and collaborative community of other fiber artists.
Business Philosophy
The Stitchin’ Post strives to empower local fiber artists to create a revenue source for themselves by introducing their talents to a wider audience.  The Stitchin’ Post values creativity, collaboration and integrity, and seeks to create a welcoming, inclusive community that celebrates these values. 

Adam has started the long process of wrapping up his mom's estate.  A most unenviable task.

I'm on my next to last business trip for my current job.  It is about time to start the countdown - 37 days left until I no longer work at my current job.  Lots of wrapping up to do there before I leave.

But for now - I'm enjoying San Francisco with my sister before tonight's meeting and tomorrow's conference.  We went for a run this morning - I hate running, but my clothes are getting tight and I don't believe in dieting so it seems a necessary evil.  It is so much less onerous with someone else, and I ran much farther and faster than I would have on my own.  Now, it is time to explore!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Taking comfort from the mouths of babes

On Thursday, the boys and I drove to PA to be with my husband at his mother's bedside.  We took our time getting there, stopping for 2 hours at New Market Battlefield in Virginia.  Battlefields and museums of war do not excite me, but my children read a book that took place there and have been begging to visit.  I enjoyed the homestead that was there - the 19th century Bushong Farm - as well as the mile-long walk through the battlefield.  Donald, of course, started to complain, but Jason, wonderful big brother that he is, offered to carry him.

When we finally made it to my mother-in-law's house, I was shocked at the difference in just a few short weeks.  She could no longer speak or move more than her head and hands.  Her breathing was labored and she only opened her eyes for short periods of time.  I could tell the end was near.  She died surrounded by loved ones on Saturday afternoon.

My heart is broken -

for my husband and his sister who lost a mother who was always there to help in any way she could,

for my children who lost a generous, patient and loving grandmother,

for Adam's grandmother, who will bury her firstborn child just days before she herself celebrates her 94th birthday,

for her best friend of over 40 years,

for her entire extended family for whom she was the rock, the foundation, the voice of reason and the beacon of hope,

and for myself, as she was as much a friend as a mother-in-law.

But my 10-year-old, Jason, who sat with her on her bed, holding her hand and breathing with her for most of her last two days, telling her over and over that he loved her, reminded me that "she doesn't have cancer anymore."  She is no longer in pain, and for that, I am grateful.

Snapshots of this weekend are seared into my heart:

Jason being sent to bed on Friday night, and him kissing his grandmom and saying, "I gotta go now, Grandma.  I love you.  Goodbye."  He didn't see because he was walking out the door, but her lips trembled and tears leaked from her closed eyes.  I know that she heard him.

The keening wail that my sister-in-law released when her mother took her last breath.  She has been by her side, caring for her day and night, for months.  This is not going to be an easy transition for her.

Walking around the neighborhood with my husband on the incongruously beautiful day that she died, stopping in the middle of the street and holding him when he couldn't be strong anymore.

The surprised sob that escaped me when I started the car just half an hour after she died on my way to take the kids for an outing so they could escape some of the pain in the house for a while, and the first words I heard on the radio were from Sarah McLachlan "'re in the arms of the angel, may you find some comfort here..."
Jason and his grandmom - summer 2012
The night before we got married - May 2000
Our last vacation together - Bermuda, August 2012
My favorite photo of her of all time!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In need of distraction - YOU can help! (and win!)

In the world of college admissions, today is the day when the admitted students have to let us know if they are accepting or declining our offer of admission.  I try not to take their decisions personally, but I'll tell it to you straight - I do.  I let myself get so excited after reading their applications and meeting them, that when they say "no" it feels like a personal rejection.  Of course, just a month ago, they were the ones feeling these emotions as they received news from the colleges to which they applied, and we were the ones repeating over and over that the decisions shouldn't be taken personally.  Easier said that done.

Luckily, I have a lot to distract me. I have just a week and a half until the baby shower for my karate instructor who is having twins.  I am finishing up sewing down the binding on quilt #1...
I decided to go REALLY colorful for the binding!
The back is a light purple
and I have all of quilt number 2 cut, and it is partially assembled.  It will be zigzag rainbow quilt made from half square triangles.  Here's one assembled row...

As my Leader/Ender while I assemble this, I've been sewing some pre-assembled colorful strips that were donated to me to some black strips that I have cut, no real plan in mind yet, but we'll see what emerges...

But the thing that is taking up the most of my time is planning for what comes next.  Regular readers know that I gave notice at my job after 10 years.  My dream is to do something different, something creative, something that involves QUILTING!  I've been working on a business plan.  Here are a couple blurbs I've excerpted from there to give you an idea about what I have in mind.  "The Stitchin' Post" is my working name for now, a placeholder.  I know that there is a famous Stitchin' Post store in Sisters, plus many others scattered across the country.  It is just such a cool name!  But who knows what name I'll eventually go with - any ideas?

Statement of Purpose
The Stitchin’ Post is a creative space for fiber artists to sell their products, teach their craft, share their resources and engage with a supportive and collaborative community of other fiber artists.
Business Philosophy
The Stitchin’ Post strives to empower local fiber artists to create a revenue source for themselves by introducing their talents to a wider audience.  The Stitchin’ Post values creativity, collaboration and integrity, and seeks to create a welcoming, inclusive community that celebrates these values. 

So, it isn't a quilt store selling fabric or a yarn store selling yarn.  It would be more of a community center for fiber artists of all kinds - quilters, knitters, weavers, everyone.

Wanna help out? I'm still in the market research stage of things.   I have a quick 10-question survey to help me determine my direction. (I have other surveys that I'll  be sharing with local quilters and knitters and whatnot, but this particular survey is for fiber enthusiasts anywhere.)  Everyone who completes this survey will have his/her email address entered into a drawing for a $25 ETSY gift certificate that can be used at any ETSY shop that accepts gift certificates.  I'd love it if you'd complete the survey.  I'd love it if you'd share the survey with other fiber enthusiasts that you know - you can either link to today's blog entry, or you can just share the survey link with them -

But don't forget to take the survey yourself! Click here to take survey.  (I've gotten my 100 responses - thanks!  The winner was respondent #55, Angela C from FL.)

THANKS!  Reading your responses will be one more way for me to distract myself.