Sunday, May 31, 2009

Introducing "The Fig Tree Club at DCQ"

Good morning.

I woke early today, and experienced a symphony of my senses. Warm rays of sunshine streamed through the open window. The sound of birds singing filled the air. I could smell freshly mowed green grass, clean linens, and spring flowers. The automatic coffee maker clicked on, and soon the aroma of fresh brewed dark roast filled our home. I felt the warmth of one of my favorite quilts, and snuggled a little deeper, thinking of the day ahead.

I reflected about the topic of this essay, as I usually "write in my head" before I sit down at the computer. Today, we're introducing the new "Fig Tree Club at DCQ", featuring fabrics and sewing projects designed by Joanna Figueroa (Fig Tree & Co). I realized that my early morning symphony perfectly reflected the "Fresh Vintage" style of Joanna's designs.

As strange as it may sound, fabric speaks to me. Sometimes is whispers, sometimes it sings, sometimes it shouts. For me, the "Fig Tree" fabric collections and the quilts created with them result in a beautiful concerto of color, light, texture, and beauty. They remind me sunshine, music, flowers, green grass, fresh air, crisp spring mornings, and a tall glass of creamy iced coffee with a fresh-baked sugar cookie.

Joanna's signature colors include cream, berry, pear, pink, butterscotch, and taupe. Her design style, "Fresh Vintage", combines the traditional with the new. Her designs are feminine but not "frilly". In addition to designing beautiful quilts, she creates patterns for unique garments, bags, and useful accessories.

As I stood outside her booth at Quilt Market (photo above), her fabrics spoke to me. Softly, gently, they beckoned me to come in. So inviting, so fresh, so pretty... a perfect composition of everything I love about the art of quilting.

In the months to come, "Fig Tree & Co" fabrics & patterns will have a growing presence at our shop. And, today, we're launching the "Fig Tree Club at DCQ!"

Click here to learn more, and to reserve your slot. Although the first project will begin this fall (Sept/Oct 2009), as of today, we're open for membership. Because this is a new program created for quilt shops by Fig Tree Co, a limited number of spots are available. It doesn't matter if you are an "in-store" or "online" member... everyone is welcome. Working with Joanna, we’ll be offering fun, “Fig Tree Style” projects ranging from simple lap quilts to easy bags to straightforward home decor projects like pillows table runners and aprons. The projects will be based around Moda precuts from her latest fabric collections. When the fabrics arrive in our shop, we’ll prepare an exclusive kit for each club member, and these will not be available for sale to non-club members. Over the first year, we'll feature four projects. Members will also be treated to special coupons and other fun and informative events.

The "Fig Tree Club at DCQ" will begin with a project featuring Joanna's next fabric collection for Moda, "Mill House Inn". But, if you can't wait unti then for a "Fig Tree fabric fix", check out the current collection "Patisserie" by clicking here. I had the best of intentions to make every quilt in "The Pastry Shop" book. So far, I've only finished one. "Apricot Morning Bars" is ready to go to the quilter, and I'd like to piece "French Vanilla Rounds" next.

We've all been "burning the candle" at both ends this past week, preparing for the Rapid City Quilt Show June 5-7th. With Rose's help, I actually finished a bunch of little projects: pillows, pincushions, bags, and more. We've been working with the new patterns & fabrics we found at Quilt Market. Click here too see just some of the new arrivals. So far, my favorites are the pillows I made with the Vanilla House pattern "It's A Wrap". I also used their pattern "Laptop Satchel" to make handy bag for my laptop. Both patterns were great! Easy to follow instructions, great diagrams, and clever designs.

Happy Quilting! ~ Laura, Wesley & the Staff at Dakota Cabin Quilts

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hey! Look Over There... More Quilters!

Good morning.

After our wonderful trip to market, we've settled back into our routine. Matthew completed Kindergarten yesterday, and proudly announced this morning that he's in "Kinderfirst" for the summer. He gravely explained that since he was done with kindergarten, but hasn't started first grade, he's a just a little bit of each.

As we unpack our "haul" from market, I've had time to take a second look at everything: new patterns, books, notions, and of course... beautiful fabrics. We tried to shop thoughtfully, with a plan for every purchase. We're very excited to share our ideas with you in the weeks ahead.

One of the most satisfying elements of our trip was the opportunity to personally connect with pattern and fabric designers, quilt shop owners, and experts in our industry. We approached our trip as a welcome learning opportunity, and we were not disappointed. It is truly inspiring to meet others that share our passion for quilting, and share their knowledge and talents so freely.

The best example of this is the time we spent with the talented gals from Bigfork Bay Cotton Company, located in Bigfork, Montana.

Although we didn't know it at the time, we first saw them in the Minneapolis airport, on our way to Pittsburgh. As we walked through the crowd, we spied dozens of quilters on their way to a common destination.

"The Quilters" were easily identified by their lovely hand-made garments, bags, or totes... and by the smiles on their faces and warm greetings for colleagues and friends. The Bigfork Bay team (Lynn, Traci & Carol) walked through the airport clutching carefully rolled quilts, wrapped in protective bags they'd sewn from batiks. "Look over there... more quilters!" we whispered.

Two days later, we connected at their booth. We found out what they had tucked into those pretty batik bags- the most beautiful array of art quilts we've ever seen. We fell in love with the designs by Toni Whitney, including the "Horse Series" and "Wildlife Series". The quilt "Autumn Eyes" shown here is my personal favorite, but they are all simply stunning.

In addition to tempting us with beautiful merchandise, Traci taught us how to demo the technique, explained that the fabric in each of their kits is labeled for easy identification, and spoke of their high quality materials (Batik Textiles Batiks and color-coordinated Aurifil Thread packs).

We were sold! We purchased the complete Toni Whitney collection, and are now offering it online and in the shop. Rather than cut our own kits, we'll stock kits from Bigfork Bay, so quilters can work with the same batiks the artist did. Or, if you'd rather create your own interpretation, start with a pattern and a stack of pretty batiks, and set to work (refer to Rose's version of "Spring Storm" for an example).

We are so glad we went to Pittsburgh. After a long Dakota winter, we needed to get out and "see the world" a little bit. We were enchanted by the beauty of Amish country, amazed by the sights in downtown Pittsburgh, satisfied by the delicious food we tasted, and inspired by the creative energy at quilt market.

For me, the trip forced me to separate from the things I care the most about. Then, I experienced a welcome return, enhanced by new energy, creativity, and knowledge. Most importantly, our trip reminded us of how happy we are to live where we do, loving our family and our pets, following our dreams, working hard at our business, and living each day to the fullest.

Click here to check-out our new selection of Bigfork Bay items. And, if you live in the region, be sure to stop by our booth at the Rapid City Quilt show (June 5-7, Rapid City Civic Center). We'll have a trunk show featuring the "Horse Series" and the "Wild West Series".

Since we returned, my fingers are "itching to stitch", and I've already started working on samples for our newest "Of the Month" project. Click here to learn about the "DCQ Wool Pincushion of the Month". I've been wanting to do this program for a couple of years now, but I just couldn't seem to find the perfect patterns & supplies. But, my wishes came true when I met Mary Flanagan, a hand-dyed wool artist and expert. She helped us choose perfect wool for the delightful patterns designed by Cottage Creek Quilts. It was a "match made in heaven", because she creates such an extensive selection of beautiful wool that each pincushion will be uniquely perfect. This new club is organized very much like our previous auto-ship programs. Although we welcome individual memberships, we also invite groups memberships with significant savings on shipping & kit prices. Words cannot express my excitement about this program... I love wool applique and am excited to introduce it to others. I think the small project size is a perfect fit for summertime. The applique can be accomplished by hand or machine. The finished pincushions can be useful, decorative, or make perfect gifts. We're accepting registrations now, and hope to be ready for the first shipment by mid-June. Oh.. and we promised Ellen that for every new item we added at Market, we'd clear something out! We're officially out of room at the store, and something must go. Accordingly, I marked down the Marcus Brothers wool blend bundles for clearance, so we can add Mary Flanagan's wool. Click here to shop.

As always, Edyta Sitar (Laundry Basket Quilts) was one of our favorite pattern designers at market. Her creative energy and artistic talent are second to none. Imagine our delight when we arrived home to find that the fabrics for her new Spring Meadows Quilt had arrived at the shop while we were gone. Many of you will remember the wildly popular "Let it Snow" batik quilt and runner. Well, she updated the same pattern for her new spring batik collection, and quilt kits are now available. We'll also have runner kits, but I didn't post them online yet because our sample isn't ready for a photo.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! ~ Laura, Wesley & the Staff at Dakota Cabin Quilts

Sunday, May 17, 2009

We Survived International Quilt Market

This edition of the newsletter comes to you from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, site of the Spring 2009 International Quilt Market. We've had a jam-packed weekend full of sightseeing, shopping, planning, and creative inspiration.

We're experiencing an unusual combination of complete exhaustion mixed with exhilaration, and it's hard to regroup. We're packing and repacking our overstuffed suitcases, filled with the most amazing array of lovely fabrics, fat quarter bundles, books, and great quilting tools. But, it wouldn't be Sunday without a newsletter, and this week I have a special treat for you... guest authors!

As for me, I'm on my way to a long hot bath and an early bedtime. A full edition of the newsletter will follow next weekend, overflowing with new ideas, products, and our plans for the months to come.

I'll leave it up to Wesley, Ellen, and Laurie-Ann to share the best part of our trip with you...

Ellen's Impression: This was my first year at Quilt Market. As we looked down at the convention floor from the second level, there were booths everywhere filled with color and beauty, and quilt after wonderful quilt. It took three long days for us to go up and down each aisle, picking what we thought was the best of the best. I hope you will love our choices as much as I do.

Laurie-Ann's Impression: I always love the opportunity to attend quilt market. I experience so many different emotions when we are here, that I find it hard to sum up. There is the pure excitement of getting to see all the newest items the quilting industry has to offer, the challenge to cover every inch of market and see every booth, our complete exhaustion at the end of our 14 hour day, and remember all the great ideas that we had during the day (long enough to write them down), and agonizing over the latest fabrics hoping that you are all pleased with our selections. I can't wait for you to see all the beautiful new products that inspired us at market.

Wesley's Impression: There are far too many things to potentially try to share in a few words. Please bear with us, as we try and get things up to speed over the next few weeks. One thing that I would like to share was the texture that was evident in many quilts. Is there any texture that you would like to use in your next project? Please take a moment to delve into your quilt dreams and find a challenge to yourself, for the next medium that you might like to try with your quilting.

Many new collections will be brought to your quilting e-mail in the next months, where we will try adding in some new things along with the wonderful fabric to stretch our quilting limits. There will be many patterns and wonderful ideas to share in the coming weeks. Some of our favorite designers this weekend that had new things to share were: Miss Rosie's, Mountain Peak Creations, Fig Tree Quilts, Big Fork Bay Cotton Company, McKenna Ryan and Mount Redoubt Designs. There are many others that we have added some of which used mixed techniques. Some of the techniques that I noticed were all of the texture. Including: embroidery, threads, wool, pin-tucks, pleats, many embellishment techniques, and even some silk in some of the quilts.

The other aspect of market, that the public does not see all of the time: is the opportunity to visit with many other quilt shop owners and take business classes, where some of the newest quilting opportunities are shared and motivational speakers give their best talks to keep us, as shop owners, inspired and motivated to come up with new and creative ideas to share with our customers. For myself, one of my favorites was listening to Barbara Wold speak about customer service experiences from all over the world. Ms Wold speaks to Chambers of Commerce, Main Street America, and many other groups from all over the world about marketing strategies. If anyone has an opportunity to listen to this dynamic speaker, as president of our local Chamber of Commerce, I would definitely recommend her presentations. There were also many other business classes that we attended, which have given us many ideas to implement in the near future.

As always, if there is anything that we can help you with, please do not hesitate to let us know. If there any emails in the last few days that haven't been answered, please accept our apologies, as we will be catching up shortly over the next few days.

Please accept our sincere, THANK-YOU for your past business and we promise to do our best to meet your quilting expectations for the rest of the year.

A BIG thank-you goes out to Rose, Barb and Gayla, who worked through the last week to keep your orders coming to your home, without their help, this week would not have been possible. Matthew has had the wonderful good fortune to spend the week with Grandma, who had the most important job of all. And also received a crash course: working at the Quilt Store while Matthew was in school. Can't wait to get her impression of that. Until next time. . .

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We're Driving to the End of the Rainbow!

Happy Mother's Day!

It rained most of the day Friday, resulting in a dreary, soggy, dull day. Matthew and I came home after school, and spent some quiet time reading. Finally, he declared he was hungry, and asked for some Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

Standing at my kitchen window, preparing a mundane meal on an ordinary day, I noticed a fews ray of sun peek through the grey clouds. Suspicious, I stuck my head out the back door. Could it be?

Sure enough, around the corner, a glorious rainbow had appeared.

"Matthew, come quick! There's a rainbow out there!"

He literally jumped for joy. Slippers on our feet, camera in hand, we headed out into the backyard, to take in the beautiful sight.

A minute or two later, he firmly declared, "Come on, Mom! We're driving to the end of the rainbow."

Not wanting to burst his bubble, I tried to talk him out of the idea. But, he was unwavering.

"Mom. We just HAVE to go. I've always wanted to know what a rainbow tastes like."

We loaded up in the SUV with the dog and three of Matthew's favorite stuffed animals (his "kids", as he calls them...) We called Wesley on his cell phone, asking him to meet us, and informing him that we were driving to the end of the rainbow. His skepticism was pretty evident. But, he met us at the highway, and off we went.

Paved road turned into gravel. Then dirt. Then, a winding, muddy path, slippery and full of ruts.

Finally, it seemed that the rainbow was just over the next hill. (If you look closely, you can see just the tip of the rainbow touching the horizon just left of center in the second photo.)

We stopped the car, climbed out, and looked up in awe. Matthew reached up with both hands, straining on his tip-toes, stretching for the sky. He grasped handfuls of moist air, and brought them to his mouth and nose, tasting and inhaling the scent.

"How does it taste?", Wesley asked.

"I thought it might taste like lemons. But I just don't think we're quite close enough. It does taste like fresh air," he replied earnestly.

Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the rainbow faded. We drove home in silence, admiring the stunning sunset, and stopped at Wesley's car.

"Wait a minute," Wesley said. He reappeared with a handful of lemon cookies, and gave them to Matthew.

"Where'd you find those?", Matthew asked.

"Somebody put them on the front seat of my car," Wesley replied. "I think the leprechaun might have left them for us when he decided to take the rainbow away."

Matthew looked at Wesley suspiciously. But, he happily savored the lemony taste on his tongue.

"Really, Dad? Are you sure?"

Wesley just smiled.

We think childhood should be a little magical. The harsh realities of the "real world" will be evident soon enough.

Parenthood is teaching us to live in the moment. And for that, we will be forever grateful.

We're definitely in "sample making mode", as we prepare for the Rapid City Quilt Show. Last week, Rose pieced the Recipe for Friendship quilt top. I've been enchanted by this little quilt from the first time I saw it, and an unopened kit has sat in my sewing room for a couple of months now. I just like to look at the fabric.

When Wesley & Rose surprised me with the finished top, I felt like I was greeting an old friend. Something about this quilt reminds me of my childhood... I'm not sure if it's the cute central panel, or the cheerful yellow & red prints. Whatever it is, I know it makes me happy.

Rose has spent the better part of the week working on the Blue Palace quilt top, using the pretty, fresh, two-colored prints designed by Johnny Karwan for Clothworks. Although I can't be sure, I think the photo on the pattern cover might be computer generated. So, as we see Rose piece the sweet sawtooth stars, and begin to assemble the quilt on the design wall, it seems as though the fabrics just come alive. The center of the quilt is intricately pieced (no sashing or wide open spaces to speed things up), but she keeps organized, sews "assembly line style", and it's coming together quickly. I can't wait to see the finished quilt top, not to mention how nice it will look once it's quilted!

Last night, Matthew couldn't wait another minute to proudly give me a "Mother's Day Eve" present, this little potted plant. He painted the pot himself in kindergarten class, then added a pretty pansy. Friday afternoon, he walked to the quilt store, carefully carrying the pot. It was only the second time he's been allowed to walk by himself... it's a little over a block from the school, and we watch him come down the quiet street. On the way, he searched the sidewalk for the perfect rocks to decorate the dirt. With Wesley's help, they snuck it home, and have been carefully tending to it ever since. Of course, in my eyes, it is prettier than the most decadent bouquet of roses could ever be.

And, on that cheerful note, I wish you a wonderful Mother's Day! ~ Laura & the staff at Dakota Cabin Quilts

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sewing Therapy

Good Morning!

For the first time in a month, we're home for the weekend. And, since we've barely been home all month, my "to do list" is pretty lengthy. Nothing exciting, just the usual accumulation of dirty laundry, unopened mail, and assorted piles of "stuff" to sort through and tidy up.

Our usual level of chaos is heightened by the realization that we fly to Pittsburgh for International Quilt Market in 10 days. So much to do before we leave, so little time.

Feeling overwhelmed yesterday, instead of doing everything I should be doing, I took the easy route: I did nearly nothing. Matthew and I snuggled, read stories, and watched a movie. Then, we opened the windows to the sounds and smells of spring, wrapped in quilts to warm us from the chilly air, and slept.

After supper, I finally felt able to "face the day". I retreated to the sewing room, intent on accomplishing something. This may sound crazy, but sometimes I use quilting as a reward for each "mental check-mark" on my to do list. Fold a load of laundry... check. Square up the blocks. Unload the dishwasher... check. Join blocks into rows. Tidy the kitchen... check. Join the rows together.

Bit by bit, seam by seam, task by task, I cross chores off the list, and piece my quilt tops.
Later on, with a tidy house and empty laundry basket, I rewarded myself with some "serious sewing time". Uninterrupted, focused, and organized, I made good headway on the "Apricot Morning Bars" quilt top. The hum of my sewing machine and the sound of my music woke Wesley around 2 am, and he wandered into the sewing room. Bleary eyed and tired, he volunteered to square up my blocks & press for me. A couple hours later, our top was done except for sashing & borders (photo left), and I fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of sharp points, and stubborn bias edges.

As I worked, I thought about quilters across the world, and wondered how many of them were also sewing. I'm certain many of our overseas customers were busy stitching. And, without a doubt, professional pattern designers and quilters working with the fabric companies are spending many late nights quilting. In a mad rush to get ready for quilt market, these stitchers are sewing day and night with the newest fabric collections to make sample quilts for market. They face a daunting deadline... they must design a stunning pattern, then piece, quilt, bind & ship their quilts to the show... sometimes with an incredibly fast turn around time.

But, I also thought about a mom with her young kids finally in bed for the night, stealing some quiet time. She's sewing at the kitchen table, careful not to wake anyone. A cup of coffee in her right hand, the pattern in her left, she studies it carefully. She doesn't want to make any mistakes now... it's late and she's tired, but she wants to get her blocks sewn together before she packs up for the night.

I imagined a grandma binding a quilt for a new baby, carefully folding her finished project before she goes to bed. She smooths it flat, and turns out the light. The quilt will be one of the first things the newborn will feel, soft and warm, every stitch sewn with love.

Quilting unites us. It offers us an escape from the chaos, the worries, and the stress of daily life. It gives us the chance to create, to build, and to express our love. For many, quilting is "our therapy"...soothing, healing, relaxing and inspiring.

Have you rewarded yourself with some "serious sewing time" lately?

If you haven't, I give you permission... you deserve it!

My "Reward Sewing" project was this sweet little quilt top, called the "Bye-Bye Baby" naptime quilt. The quilt uses a variety of Lakehouse prints from the "Cherry Baby" collection: a pretty mixture of pink, white, and robin blue. As we tidied up the Lakehouse collection for clearance, I was able to cut a number of "Bye-Bye Baby" quilt kits, and coordinating Diaper Bag kits. I also added backings to all of the other kits in this category, and the short bolts have been measured for 30% "All or None" clearance. With my "scrap pile" I'll plan to make a number of these little quilt tops... I pieced a couple of them last night (one for a store sample, one for a gift), and still have scraps left. Although the finished size is small (28" x 28"), the tops go together quickly, and the quilt will look great tucked into the matching diaper bag. To make a nice crib size quilt, consider purchasing two kits.

I mentioned last week that we keep Rose busy finishing our UFO's (unfinished objects). This week, she was at it again, as Wesley brought her his partially completed Fractions on a Roll quilt. This clever pattern by Mountainpeek Creations uses just two jelly rolls. Wesley's quilt uses the "Citrus Marble" roll, combined with an "Oreo" roll (just black), and the result is stunning. An eye-catching optical illusion occurs when you look at the quilt, as bright rectangles seem to jump off the dark background.

My "serious sewing project" was the "Apricot Morning Bars" quilt, using "Patisserie" turnovers from Moda. "Turnovers" are the newest Moda cut-good, and include (40) 6" squares cut in half, creating (80) precut triangles. If I could hug the clever person at Moda that came up with the "Turnover" idea, I would! I simply love the convenience of these perfectly coordinated pre-cut pieces of fabric. Not to mention, Joanna Figueroa's lovely "Patisserie" fabric collection, her "Pastry Shoppe" pattern book (exclusively featuring Turnovers), all designed in her trademark fresh vintage style.... It's just "Icing on the Cake!"

I made a mental note last night to be sure to mention Aurifil Thread in the newsletter today. In all honesty, this thread has changed my life. (Ok, laugh if you want to... but if you need verification you can ask my quilting friends... because it changed their lives too!) The 50 weight Aurifil is incredibly smooth and lint-free cotton thread. It fills a bobbin so full that you can sew for hours without rewinding. And, the standard 1300 m (1422 yard) spool seems to last "forever"... (Ok, not forever, but a really, really, long time).

The packet shown here is a "Aurifil Sewing and Hand Applique Thread Set", available in a variety of nice assortments. Each packet includes 12 spools of Cotton Mako 50wt 220 Yards each. These are the packets included in our "Aurifil Thread Pack of the Month" club, an auto-ship program that runs indefinitely. Click here to learn about the program.

A shopper recently mentioned that once she switched to sewing with good thread, she had to give away/throw away all of her dime store thread, because she couldn't stand to use it anymore. She said, "I'm hooked for life... there's no turning back!"

Have a great week! ~ Laura & the staff at Dakota Cabin Quilts