Just returned from China!

RandMeTemple-250Randy & I have just returned from Randy’s “dream trip”. 

We went to China! Honestly, I’d never wanted to go, but having run out of valid excuses, he convinced me that this was a “window of opportunity” not to be missed (i.e., everyone is healthy, including us, knock wood, and we have capable people to take care of our businesses).

The tour organizers (Kansans who once lived in China and have led 23 other trips back) sent us a reading list in preparation, and I was hooked! I absolutely loved every moment of our trip! Even the bus trip in the fog up the mountain with 396 hair-pin turns! (I am not exaggerating!)

We landed in Beijing, sort of equivalent to NYC, with the population nearly 4 x more dense!  

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Our first full day of touring included climbing a section of the Great Wall. What a blast! Had my picture taken with our excellent local guide, Jason. Notice I’m wearing my Charlotte’s Sew Natural shop shirt! :)

 

 

 

 

It is quite a hike!  You gotta wonder how in the world it managed to get constructed! 

In some places it is quite steep, i.e. gravity really played a factor.

I am as high on the Great Wall as I am going to go!  Notice my Wizard of Oz tote.  I was wishing for some magic shoes to get me down about now!  LOL

 

I am as high on the Great Wall as I am going to go! Notice my Wizard of Oz tote. I was wishing for some magic shoes to get me down about now! LOL

 

 

 

 

 

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China is just about the size of the continental US, and we got as far west as Yunnan province (like getting to Utah?), near the Himalayan Mountains, then made many other stops including a cruise on the Yangtze River, and flew home from Shanghai in the south-east of China.  

 Since our flight out of Chicago headed east and north, flying over Greenland and Russia en-route, and our flight out of Shanghai flew west to San Francisco, we actually flew around the world! How cool was that?!

SilkEmbrTchr-250We visited a silk embroidery “school & factory”, but the beautiful pictures were being produced as a commodity, not a leisure-time craft. The teacher & I had a great visit. Her English was very good, and we both talk with our hands! LOL

The silk embroidered pictures are available for sale everywhere.  We mostly ran into Chinese tourists, and they seemed really interested in purchasing the embroidery.  I wonder, with the emegence of the middle-class, whether women will start doing patchwork quilting and embroidery just for “fun”?SilkEmbrder-250

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our group visited a “silk factory”, where we learned how they get the silk from the cocoons, and I had the opportunity to “pull” a stack of 64 cocoons to add to a silk duvet in progress. It was very DIFFICULT! The white sleeved arm is reaching in to try to salvage the tourists’ attempt! LOL

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We had wonderful food everywhere.  We were cautioned that our stomachs wouldn’t handle the “local food”, or “street food”, until we’d been in China for a few weeks.  So we avoided it.  But there were so many food vendors and tiny restaurants.  It was curious to see how they make do in some places!

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The markets were so interesting.  I never saw a shopping cart with wheels, unless you count a motor bike or bicycle.  Many people wore basket back-packs.  These were made of reeds or plastic!

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I read somewhere that 95% of all the world’s socks are made in one town in China.  So my goal was to buy some socks.  It didn’t take long to find a street vendor.  All the socks had a simple sticker on them that said “Welcome to chosse [sic] and buy the socks.”

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We took a lot of pictures of amusing signs!  Here is one of our (the ladies in the group) favorites.

StampOnToilet-250You might wonder what this means.  Well, “western style” toilets are in short supply in the public restrooms.  The “norm” is called a “squat pot”, and is flush with the floor.  The traditional Chinese don’t care for our western versions.  Sign or no signs, I have to say, I never saw a porcelain pot or even a seat on a western style toilet that didn’t have foot prints on it!  LOL

One of the most memorable meals was served in a traditional home in a “Hutong”.  That is the old, traditional neighborhood of 2-story homes built around courtyards, with tiny alley ways and communal bathrooms. 

Our hostess was so gracious to invite us into her home so we could see how real people live.  Most city dwellers actually live in high-rise buildings, and only some Hutong have been designated as protected areas.  We got an old fashioned ride.  So how some have new transportation to suit their neighborhood.  Got a glimpse of one family’s home and had a great lunch!  She had added a “western style” restroom to her home. :)

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Our hostess is preparing the food in a space “tiny” by our standards.  She loved her pet fish.  They all have names.  :)

 

 

 

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Our group had to sit in two rooms.  Both small, but each had a flat-screen tv!

One of the most interesting things about China was the old and new overlap!

 

We had such an interesting trip.  The more I write, the more I remember.  I’ll write more later!

Thanks for listening!

Charlotte

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity nurtured by Mom

My mom has always nurtured our creative flames.  No matter how small, she fanned them to see if they’d stop simply smoking and maybe burst into flames!  I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the crafty ventures we tried.  But I do remember playing with dolls and making doll clothes from a very early age.  Mom encouraged that, giving me free reign over the sewing machine in the corner of her bedroom, and all the fabric from her stash I wanted, as long as I asked first. :)

Mom had a doll collection, and passed that along to me when she saw how much I loved dolls.  I kept them on display in an antique curved, glass-front china cabinet, that I was lucky enough to have “stored” in my bedroom.  Our house came with a “built-in” so this treasured piece of furniture found a permanent home with me as a child.  It is in my dining room today!

I loved playing with the dolls.  There are dolls from Canada, China, Southwest American Indian dolls & Kachina as well as antique china heads and new Madam Alexanders in my collection.  My father, an Anthropologist, contributed some interesting dolls through the years.  I think the funniest one was a cave-man.  And there were more than a few Trolls.  LOL

I progressed beyond doll clothes to making entire dolls in college.  I think my first one was a self-portrait doll, that is quite humorous!  I am only 5’2″ tall, and never was “svelt”.  But my doll is long & lean, made entirely of fine-wale cotton corduroy, wearing only bright yellow vinyl Kastinger ski boots, and leather mittens.  I was an avid down-hill skier in my youth!

I went through my “folk” doll period a decade or so ago.  And I love getting those dolls out of their boxes and straightening their aprons & dresses, as much as ever!

My good friend Susan gave me a treasured Angel, made by her mother-in-law, a well known local doll maker.  I love her natural wool roving hair and the details Earlene included.

In honor of my mother and Mother’s Day, I am giving away a neat book by Teresa Cato, FANCIFUL CLOTH DOLLS – From Tip of the Nose to Curly Toes – A complete visual guide to doll making.

I will draw one name on Tuesday May 14th. 

Please go here to enter.

http://sewnatural.net/Drawing_Entry_Newsletter.htm

 

I’m also including a bundle of 6 Cotton Fat Quarters in Black & White prints. So be sure to enter for a chance to win by Monday night.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

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Greeting 2013

   

I love pillowcases.  I don’t think I ever met a fabric that I didn’t think would make a good pillowcase!  LOL

Here are two sets of pillowcases I made just before Christmas.  We put together and you can still buy kits for these.  It is pretty efficient to make a 12 x 16 inch Tidy Travel pillow case if you are going to make a full size one.  You just need a bit more fabric!

The Mahalo girls arrived just a week before Christmas!  And I needed something for my 20 year old nephew! :)

Getting Christmas gifts made & mailed is always a challenge for me.  I got things done and in the mail the last possible day, Dec. 19th, and the adrenaline rush was great!  Then the deflated feeling, “what do I do now?”, which was temporary!  Isn’t that a funny feeling?  Kinda like when someone puts resistance on your arms while you try to raise them, and then when they stop your arms seem to “float” effortlessly!  Oh well, that lasted only a few hours. :)

Anyway, Fluffy was so happy to find the box of Cuddle Fur Scraps!  I mean HAPPY!  When Meiko challenged, she stood her ground, I mean box!  LOL

Can you find Fluffy in the box above?  She is on her back, with her head to the right of her body. 

Those are the scraps from the neatest Tidy Travel Pillow for my sister out of that Cuddle.   It is like a stuffed animal for an adult.  Only without personality!  I forgot to take a picture of it!  I also made one for the store, so I’ll have to photograph that and include it here later.

In addition to the usual Christmas decoration, I decided to put a quilt on the dining room table.  I loved it!  When a quilt is on the bed, you don’t get to study the quilting.  And this quilting is fabulous.  Jan Hutchison quilted it back in 2007 for me for the Central Kansas Quilt Shop Hop.  I have really enjoyed studying it up close!

 

 

 

 

 

Since Christmas, I’ve written 12 email newsletter!  I usually joke that I send out my weekly newsletter once a month!  But since I got the brilliant idea to offer a gift a day for the Twelve Days of Christmas, I had my work cut out for me!  It went over well and now I’ve got some more ideas perculating, so 2013 looks promising!

Our group of Central Kansas quilt shop owners met in mid-December.  That’s me far back to the left of center.  We’ve already started working on the 2013 Central Kansas Quilt Shop Hop.  This October there will be 12 shops, and the group is having fun working on a theme, custom fabric & prizes!  Stay posted, but mark October 4, 5 & 6 and plan to bring some friends!  Check the website:  http://www.centralkansasquiltshophop.4t.com and Marie, left front, is blogging about it, which should be interesting, since she’s our newest member!  http://kesslerkreations.wordpress.com/

 

I have been working on a new quilt, CONTESSA, by the Kansas design team, Toni & Jenny of Wing and A Prayer Designs.  It seemed to be going well, til I shot this photo, and noticed that I had turned two squares.  I’ve already ripped and re-stitched.  Better to catch it before it is quilted!  You do have to look pretty close to see it!

This class will probably start in April.  It looks like CONTESSA is going to meet evenings, the 2nd Thursday of the month.  We’re exploring the possibilities of meeting from 6:30 to 7:30.  Let me know if you’re interested. 

Oh yea!  Just remembered we’re also participating in VISIT YOUR LOCAL QUILT SHOP DAY.  That is coming up in just a couple of weeks. 

All day Thursday January 24th we’re going to be showing & demonstrating all different types of fusible products.  Touching & feeling is something you just can’t do here on the internet!  We’ll demo & discuss paper-backed fusible web, batting, stabilizers for t-shirts, purses, bowls, vinyl Slicker Glossy & more!  The demonstrations will go on all day, so stop in anytime, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. January 24th. 

There is currently a PHOTO CONTEST being sponsored by FabShopHop.  For details on how you might win $500, go to https://www.facebook.com/QuiltShopDay#!/QuiltShopDay and then come take your picture at Charlotte’s Sew Natural in Historic Downtown Newton!!

Anyway, 2013 will be another busy & fun year.  We’re off to a great start.  Hope you are too!

 

12 Days of Christmas Gifts

We had a good Christmas holiday here in Newton.  It presented challenges for some.  LOL

Christmas falling on Tuesday has given a weird tilt to the work week!  What day is it anyway?!  :)

I just started a new Twelve Days of Christmas promotion in my store.  If you don’t get my email newsletters, you can check it out here:

http://www.sewnatural.net/12-26-12-Gift_eletter.htm

It is unique only in the fact that I’m following the traditional view and not the popular song or the common (retailers’ ?) view that the 12 days fall somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning Christmas Day and ending on the Twelfth Night of Christmas which is always on the evening of January 5th.

It was fun and interesting to research this very old and traditional period on the calendar.

Currently, the twelve days and nights are celebrated in widely varying ways around the world. For example, some give gifts only on Christmas Day, some only on Twelfth Night, and some each of the twelve nights.

Celebrants observing the Twelve Days may give gifts on each day of the Twelve Days representing a wish for a corresponding month of the new year. 

The significance of the twelve days of Christmas to Christians is that they mark the time between when Jesus was born and when he was visited by the Wise Men. In some countries, Epiphany, January 6, is the more traditional date for giving gifts than is Christmas day. These gifts symbolize the gifts brought by the Wise Men, also called the Three Kings, or Magi.

Growing up, our family used this date as a deadline for when our home-made Christmas presents actually had to be finished and delivered.  We used the school break time to get lots done!  :)

I personally like the theory that the Magi were religious scholars, rabbis and astronomers, travelling with a large entourage, “following the star”, or some other astrological phenomenon. 

As a theoretical astrophysicist, Grant Mathews spent two years in research which led him to conclude that the heavenly sign around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ was likely an unusual alignment of planets, the sun and the moon.

For more on Grant Mathews’ theory, go to:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22347641/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/why-did-wise-men-follow-star-east/

Grant Mathews, a Notre Dame astrophysicist, points at a computer generated demonstration of the night sky of April 17, 6 B.C. in the Digital Visiualization Theater at the University of Notre Dame.

Enlightening to me is the fact that NASA has databases which with “In principle, we can see any star that was ever made from the beginning of time if we knew where to look. So the question is, could we find a star that could be a good candidate for what showed up then?” Mathews said referring to the “star” that the Biblical Wise Men are following.  Fascinating!

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

I love ART MUSEUMS!  So, I was very excited to get to visit the newest one in the region, Crystal Bridges in Bentonville Arkansas

There is so much inspiration to be found from other artists, no matter their medium!

Here were a few of my favorites of that day!

Devorah Sperber started with spools of thread, lots of them!

Her piece requires a viewing lens, and here’s what you get! Delightful!

American Gothic 2

Here were a couple of other great ones!  I think I was interested in portraits of women this day. 

John Singer Sargent – Mary Chamberlain

Norman Rockwell – Rosie The Riveter

Will Barnet – Woman Reading (me every night, only my cat is black!)

And my Lily! :)

Then there was this!  Really weird!

Evan Penny – Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be. Variation #2

It was funny that there were no barriers around any of the artwork.  A kindly guard asks you in the beginning to stay back from the artwork.  But there was no way any of these guys were getting any closer!  hahahah!

We had a great trip and I recommend you check it out if you ever get to Northwest Arkansas!  Thank you Alice Walton! 

 

Cutest Baby Apron, aka BAPRON :)

I recently ran across a link to this great on-line tutorial for a BAPRON – that’s Baby+Apron, on the ROBERT KAUFMAN web site.  I carry a lot of Robert Kaufman fabrics!  I couldn’t choose just one, and there are so many cute fabrics in MODA, Michael Miller, Quilting Treasures, etc.  Just browse my web site!
While a pillow case nicely accommodates a larger print, this project is a darling way to use a smaller, or medium size novelty print!  And they make great GIFTS too! :)
I do not have the pattern to sell, as it is copyright protected, even though it is being offered for FREE.  You must go to the web site for the complete tutorial and to download the pattern:

http://www.CraftinessIsNotOptional.com/2011/05/bapron-tutorial.html

We carry a fantastic SUPER-SOFTLY WHITE FLANNEL that is perfect for backing BAPRONS.  

http://www.sewnatural.net/nli.asp?iid=33262

Because I anticipate these being washed repeatedly, I did pre-shrink the fabrics before starting.  I do not always pre-shrink the fabric being used for the bias binding because it will not really shrink the same, being on the bias.

We have loads of novelty fabrics that will make DARLING BIBS or BAPRONS!  I used a FAT QUARTER when I just wanted to make one.  You can make 3 with a half yard or have enough to make bias for a different bib.

Have fun with this!  Let me know what you come up with!

Small Business Saturday Spent at Walmart Headquarters

It was with great irony Lily & I realized that on Small Business Saturday we were in the “mother ship” of the big-box “virus” that has single-handedly meant the demise of so many Small Businesses and Main Streets across America.  And on the very day that all were being encouraged to support small businesses for at least one day, I found myself visiting the physical center of this global phenom!  Hmmmmm. . . how did this happen?  At least I wasn’t buying anything.  Call it Research & Development!  LOL

The day before I’d done what I always do: sought out the local quilt shop!  And spent my money there!

Lily, Francis, Randy & I took a quick trip to NW Arkansas so that R & F could attend the Arkansas/LSU football game Friday afternoon. 

Lily & I had a great time in Historic Downtown Rogers, where we met Mary & her mother Clarice who run a combination quilt shop/yarn shop in a charming historic building.  The Rabbit’s Lair is a great shop if you are ever in the area.  We really liked their new BOM which you can see on their web site.  I bought some laminated Jo Morton fabric to re-cover a couple of folding chair seats.  Mary quipped, “Don’t you have any fabric in YOUR shop?!”

They have an especially nice selection of wool & wool kits.  (I bought one of those too.)  Mary kept stitching the whole time we were visiting.  Talk about valuable, friendly, “R & D”.  We really had a great time sharing ideas & comparing notes.  She was using a product that I’ve never used, didn’t recognize, and after questioning, I realized that I do sell it!  LOL  Next project!

On Saturday morning we decided to venture into Historic Downtown Bentonville.  We visited the Walmart Museum, drove past the Home Office buildings, which are very, very ordinary (homely)!  Then we went to Crystal Bridges, Museum of American Art.  It is a wonderful treat!  It is worth a trip to Bentonville.

The Museum, founded in 2005 by Alice Walton, takes its name from nearby Crystal Spring and the bridge construction incorporated in the building design by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A series of pavilions nestled around two creek-fed ponds house galleries, a large, glass-enclosed gathering hall, restaurant and more.  After we viewed the galleries, we walked the Art Trail outside, and then hiked the Tulip Trail back to the parking lot.  Beautiful setting!  Great collection of art.  What a great day!

Meanwhile, I have to thank my fantastic staff who manned both stores so I could do this family get-away & all our great customers who always support SMALL BUSINESSES, and Small Business Saturday too!  I know you appreciate that we offer top quality products, great variety, fair prices and the voice of experience every day. 

And you seemed to enjoy scooping up more than a few fat quarters at bargain prices.  Thanks again for your continued support.  :)

New Christmas Stockings are done.

I noticed that this pattern, Stocking Sweet Stocking, has been listed in the top 3 best selling patterns for months at one of my distributors.  So I thought, “Maybe I should make one.” LOL

While the pattern uses the very popular tool, LIL TWISTER, I decided to give Marti Michell’s newest tool, TESSELATING WINDMILLS, a chance, and I LOVE IT!

You can see Marti’s video demonstration here:

Marti video

If you have the LIL TWISTER, go ahead and use it, maybe.  I almost can’t endorse that, as Marti’s tool doesn’t waste any fabric or the time, since you are just cutting and sewing once!

 

I started with a MODA CHARM PACK, CHERRY CHRISTMAS by Aneela Hoey. 

 

 

 

 

 

I followed the instructions that come with Marti’s tool, using the 4″ line and added border squares. 

It cuts & sews just like a 4-patch, making it easy for beginners too.

 

        Fluffy doesn’t seem to care if a quilt is fully assembled or not! LOL

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was able to cut TWO stocking fronts from this resulting mini-quilt.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twice as good as suggested in the pattern using the Lil Twister tool which creates slightly smaller squares.

The Tessellating Windmill tool has 8 sizes marked on it.  So I was able to use the 3″ line for the cuff, which yielded the same size called for in the pattern.

 A coordinating fabric looks good on the back.

 The stocking is larger than my family has used in the past, but not too big.  The instructions are clear and easy to follow. 

Changing tools wasn’t hard, as I just skipped those steps, following the instructions with the Tessellating Windmill there, and came back when I was ready to start quilting the fabric.

I can see why this pattern is a “best seller”!

http://www.sewnatural.net/nli.asp?iid=33984

 

Shop Hop Quilt ready to hang.

I’m so happy!  My Quilt Shop Hop quilt is done and ready to hang!  It is big!  94 inches square.  You could make it smaller by changing a few dimensions if you didn’t want it to fit a queen-size bed.  And of course, it would be easy to make it larger!

Lily & I ran up to the Carriage Factory Gallery’s second floor for enough light and space to get a good image. 

Now, when it stops raining, we’ll run it up to the store and start climbing ladders! Yea!

I’m calling this quilt FRIDA’S SUNFLOWER DREAM.  If you search quotes by Frida Kahlo, this one comes up quickly: “I never paint dreams or nightmares.  I paint my own reality.”   So call it “my dream”. :)

The quilt which inspired me and the original pattern are by Deb Madir.  The pattern will be for sale in the store complete with my alternative measurements for cutting, with Deb’s permissioin. 

The quilting was done by Kay Clark of Wichita.

 

Flower & quilting detail. Frida’s Garden fabric by Alexander Henry and the exclusive sunflower BATIK, available from SewNatural.net and in the downtown store.

 

New Cell Phone Wallet

One of the nice things about living in the middle of Kansas, is our proximity to so many other places!  We’re just about 7 hours drive from Boulder Colorado, and so, with a 3 day weekend ahead of us, we sped off into the sunset on Friday evening.

But, I needed a handy wallet/carrier for my new cell phone/camera before we left!  I couldn’t risk clutching it in my hand for an entire trip.  So here was my “quickie” solution.

First I selected two pieces of fabric (just happened to have some extra Shop Hop batik lying around the sewing room) and ironed them together with Fast2Fuse in between, which has just the right amount of stiffness for the shape of my bag. 

Fast 2 Fuse fuses two pieces together. Very handy! Great body.

Next I wrapped a piece of scrap paper around the phone, and marked the shape I thought I wanted.  I added seam allowance and a bit more, then folded the paper in half before trimming to size so it would be symmetric.  I laid that on top of the fabric sandwich and cut.

Ready to cut fused body/interfacing/lining sandwich with custom pattern.

I need a secure pocket for my credit cards, driver’s license, and cash, so I cut a 2-layer pocket.  I attached one side of a zipper to the top edge and used the 2nd piece to finish the other 3 edges and attached a strip of velcro to the pocket before stitching the pocket to the inside front of the bag.  I placed it just close enough that the 2nd side of the zipper would be partially covered with the binding around the edge, that would be applied later.  I took a tuck at both lower corners to create some depth for the cards.  I should have made the pocket a smidge bigger, as it is a tighter fit than I’d like.  Just have to carry less cash! :)

One side of zipper applied to top of pocket. Other 3 sides finished with pocket lining before being stitched to bag.

After the pocket is attached, the other side of the velcro is stitched to the underside of the flap.  I folded the fabric around my phone and marked where the lower edge should be.  Then I stitched bias around the outside edge, through 2 layers on each side, and 1 layer where the fold-over flap started, from lower corner to lower corner.  I wrapped it to the inside and topstitched in place.

Cord slides into stitched loops (sewn under binding) and gets knotted at proper length, then trimmed. The seam you see here is only because I was using scraps, and stitched two together to get a bigger piece. “Make do!”

 I like my finished bag!

If you don’t want velcro’s top-stitching to show, you should remember to attach velcro before you fuse 3 layers together in step 1. I don’t mind.

 

Pocket with zipper for inside security.

I was happy to have it with me on our hikes, as the phone’s camera is so good.  Me on the right below, see it peaking out under my shirt.

Me hiking the Boulder Canyon Trail with Lily, Francis and Randy.

 

And I’m certainly glad I had my camera phone handy when we got to what seemed like the Top of the World on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.  What a gorgeous day and fun trip!

Continental Divide summit on Trail Ridge Road, between Estes Park and Grand Lake Colorado.