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Saturday, January 26, 2019

PQ 10.2 Cozy of Last Resort

 As soon as I heard the challenge, I knew which stash of fabric was going to come out and play.  It was a set of red, white and blues I collected after finding a cute little dress in a thrift shop and deciding the colors were perfect for a quilt.  The reds were easy.  I passed up the white polka dots in my collection as being too transparent.  The blues were harder to match.  I have found that blue is actually a very hard color to match.   They are not perfect but they work.  I tried cutting the appropriate sized triangles and much to my surprise, made it all the way through the stack of fabrics.  Unfortunately, I realized I need twice as many little white ones as large colored ones.

 After much head scratching, internet perusing and seam ripping, I got the hang of using the triangle paper to make flying geese.  It was not entirely self explanatory.  It also required a degree of dexterity that I was missing.  I was making good progress once I got the hang of it all.  However, by Friday morning, I wasn't even half way through piecing.  Even with doing multiple rows at a time to cut down on trips to the ironing board, I just wasn't getting it done.  Another thing that actually made a great big difference was switching from my tiny and sturdy BL9 to my larger machine.  I had to (horror of horrors) change it from embroidery to sewing but that thread cutter and larger sewing surface really make a difference. 

Thus it became time for the cozy of last resort.  I call it that because once upon a time, the infamous Quilt Chicken made an air freshener cozy at the last minute just to say she had completed the challenge.  It is  a lovely cozy and a wonderful lesson in get 'er done.

I went to my stash and found the adorable snowpeople in trucks fabric along with the snowflake/star fabric.  I had to argue a bit to avoid getting started on another complicated design.  This was going to be your basic alternating blocks.  A quick table runner.  I did have a blue fabric similar to the red stars but I didn't want to think that hard.  So it is a just a basic checkerboard.


I should have started here in the first place.  My skills are very rusty.  There was joy in cutting and sewing simple blocks.  I managed to line up most of my corners and iron most of my seams in the right direction so they all laid flat.  I don't usually even take pictures of the back of my flimsies, let alone post them but I am pleased with how this worked out.

Here it is appropriated shot on a pile of melting snow.  It measures 16" x 24",  The batting turned out to be thicker than I thought, so the quilt is a little puffy for a table topper.  I did a simple cross hatching quilting.  I decided that because I found the walking foot before I found the FMQ foot.  It is the simple things, I know.  An important reminder to self.  Quilting causes the fabric to recede.  I should have quilted over the red squares leaving the snow people to pop out.  However, I knew the white thread would show my errors on the red.  Yes.  I could have gotten the red thread but I didn't think of that until I was already started.

Here you can see my only sort of wavy lines.  It turned out better than I hoped given my rusty quilting skills.  The walking foot is a wonderful invention!

 And an art shot just because I finished in time to try and take arty pictures rather than desperately snapping a blurry shot just to get it linked in time!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

PQ 10:1 The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Getting back into the swing of sewing for fun and quilting has been a bit more challenging than I thought it would be.  As soon as I heard the challenge for this week I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  However, it was clear I did not have the right fabrics to make it happen.  My personal challenge for this season of Project Quilting is 'use what you have'.  That meant I had to go with a second choice.  I wanted to to something that looked like the light at the end of the tunnel.   I decided I could do it by using up lots of ugly, irritating scraps and make a chenille quilt.

How is the light at the end of the tunnel hopeful?  Because I always hope it is the end of the tunnel and not a train!

The chenille quilt is a quilt sandwich made up of layers of scrap fabric between two pieces of fabric.  I've always (OK both times) used black fabric as the outside to provide lots of contrast.  Once you sandwich and pin you stitch rows of stitching to make channels.  For this project I tried to sketch out the bare bones of a tunnel.  Then you carefully cut through all of the layers, without cutting the backing.  As the fabric shreds and frays the colors come through.  It amazes me that I can use such wildly disparate fabrics with some really strong patterns and they still blend in as a color.

I wasn't able to get a good picture of the whole thing.  It measures just about 18 inches on a side.  You can kind of get the idea of the tunnel from this.  Ideally the side channels would have been curved but I knew it was going to be challenging enough to slash the center bits without adding more curves.  Plus, cutting on a curve equals cutting on the bias equals less fraying of the fabric.  That was not the best plan.  There may have been a few extra aggravated slashes here and there.

I finished everything but the binding a few days ago.  Since then we, the quilt and I, have been having a conversation about the binding.  
Quilt, "I want a rainbow colored blanket stitch with really pretty hand spun rainbow perle cotton."   Me.  "No."
Quilt.  "Rainbow."
Me.  "How about a nice solid black binding machine stitched on the front?
Quilt.  "No,  Rainbow, but not lots of rainbow.  Hand stitched rainbow."

Me.  "That would be lovely."
Quilt.  "YES.  Now go get the thread."

Me.  "Have you looked outside lately?  There is over a foot of snow on the ground and all the stores are closed."
Quilt.  "That isn't my fault.  I'll wait."
Me.  "The deadline is tomorrow."
Quilt.  "So."

Me.  "How about a lovely black thread zig zag so you are fully finished and we can maybe talk about more embellishments in the future?"
Quilt.  "It is a bit raggedy around here and I if you put me down, I'll end up in the WIP pile over there so OK.  But I still want rainbows!"
Me.  "We'll talk again." (*after I finish the rest of that pile.)

Made for Project Quilting season 10. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Castle Story

 This wee knight might be the hero of your story.  Or you might have the princess rescue the dragon from him.  The story changes every time you play.

Story starter stones are the newest addition to the Traveling Chicken and Monster Show.

The rest of the finger puppets that go along with this set include the wizard, king, dragon and princess.

These will be available at upcoming shows and in the shop soon.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Whew! Gulp!

Whew... made it through the Arts Week Golden show and had a blast.  What a well organized show.  For a first year it was very well done.  The support from the staff and volunteers of the Foothills Art Center was incredible.  Having some one greet you with a CART at check-in. Fantastic.  The crowds were a little thin but we did as well as we needed to do to cover our costs and enjoy our mini-visit with family.  I expect this show will grow and grow.  I certainly hope to be able to participate again in the future. 

The only mini-disaster for us was that my mechanical boxes went missing in the USPS service.  They never arrived so I didn't have any of them at the show.  We are trying to track them down and we are trying to produce some more.

Gulp!  The next couple months are going to be challenging.  I want to have at least one of the games I am working on ready for Taste of St Louis and Strangefolk.  I want to have the mechanical plushies ready to go as well.  Then I need LOTS of badges for Archon.  But my 'other' job is going to be taking up all of my time as I try to catch up from a long strange year. 

I'll post details about the upcoming events shortly. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Maker Life: Selling All the Things

It can be a double edged sword... 

You go to a show, a small show.  You don't have anything better to do that day but sit and sew.  The sewing you have to do is portable.  You might as well sew at the show where you can talk to people and maybe make a few bucks rather than stay home to work.

But then something happens.  You start selling things.  Lots of things.  You are sewing things up to replace what is on your table.  You sell some more.  You barely have time to sew.  You scour the bottom of the work bag for the popular items.  You discover you don't have any more.  It is a great day for sales.  One of the best ever. 

BUT...  the reason you have a giant work bag full of plushies to sew is that you have several big shows all coming up in short order and you need all the stock you can get for them.  Instead of getting work done in a pleasant location with happy people you burn through your stock and all the work you get done, gets sold immediately. 

And the panic really sets in.  Although past performance doesn't guarantee future results, the fact the customers seemed to have broken the no sales log jam may mean that you need to really kick out the product! 

EEP...  As we say around the WaggonsWest workroom.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Upcoming Shows

I am putting together a schedule of shows for this year where you can see WaggonsWest things up close and in person.  I continue to work on the mechanical plushies and will be rolling them out at some of the upcoming shows. 

We don't yet have a full schedule of St Louis Science  Center events to which I have been accepted but I am going to post them anyway.  I'll update as I know more.

MAY 4  First Friday at the St Louis Science Center
MAY 12 Crown Plaza Spring Fling
JUNE 1  First Friday at the St Louis Science Center
JUNE 1-2 Strangefolk Big Glamp
JULY 6 First Friday at the St Louis Science Center
JULY 20-22 Golden Arts Week, Golden, CO
AUG 24 Race for the Rivers Art on the River
SEPT 7 First Friday at the St Louis Science Center
SEPT 14 - 16  Stay tuned...
SEPT 28-30  Strangefolk Festival
OCT 5 First Friday at the St Louis Science Center
OCT 12 stay tuned...
NOV 2  First Friday at the St Louis Science Center
DEC 7  First Friday at the St Louis Science Center

And whenever possible I go to the Flying Monkey Arts.  But I never know if I am in until the day of so the best thing to do is follow WaggonsWest on Facebook and Instagram. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

PQ 9.6 Use Up and Make Do

The Project Quilting Challenge this week is Scraptastic.  We are required to use 12 unique fabrics.  That continues to fit my personal theme of Western Expansion.  While there are lots of wonderful examples of beautiful quilts made by women on the way West.  There were, however, even more quilts made of scraps for purely utilitarian purposes.  Use what you have.  Make a quilt to keep some one warm. 

I really like this picture of Victorian era women quilting.  I don't actually know where they are or what year the photo was taken, but it is clearly post Civil War and likely pre 1900.  So the time is right.  I love the ladies sitting around the quilt frame. 

I grew up playing under the quilting frame at my grandmother's house.  It was always set up in the living room when she was working on a project.  I would take my dolls and my own little sewing project underneath and I would apparently sing away while the ladies quilted.  Every now and then I had to find the hanging needle that they 'lost' have to poke it back up through the top.  I must have been able to do it with sufficient precision because I don't really recall having to try a lot.  My only regret is that I didn't pay attention to the conversations that were taking place above the quilt.  I am quite sure I would have a much better understanding of all sorts of family history had I been listening. 

This little quilt is about 8 x 10 inches.  The image is printed on cotton.  The 'frame is made from blocks that finish at 1/2 inch.  It has a pillowcase finish and is machine quilted with a simple stitch in the ditch... I hate stitch in the ditch...

Now go and read about all of the amazing quilts made as part of this week's Project Quilting episode. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The People You Meet: Early Departures

One of the worst things a vendor can do is pack up and leave before the end of the show.

Yes, there are some good reasons a person has to leave early.  Medical emergencies and familial crises warrant a hasty departure.  Not making any sales or being bored is NOT a reason to leave. You paid your money to be there.  You agreed to be there.  You need to fulfill your obligation. 

The show may be slow.  There may not be a customer in sight.  You may be bored out of your mind.  But it is still inappropriate to pack up and leave early.  And the worst offenders of all are the ones who pack up and leave in a huff, making as much noise as possible while blocking aisles and neighboring booths.

Customers see early packers as a sign that the show is over.  They will spend less time looking.  They avoid aisles that are blocked with a cart and boxes.  They leave.  Vendors who leave early disrupt the entire show.  They ruin potential sales for their neighbors.  It is bad form.

Furthermore, leaving early also means you miss potential sales.  I have had more than one slow day break even or make a profit because of sales at closing time or even just after.  Sometimes, it is from other vendors who were waiting for their final tally before spending. On one occasion, I slow-walked my clean up for the boy with the 5 siblings who kept tugging on his mom's sleeve as she chatted.  By the time she was done and they walked over, it was probably ten minutes**** past closing.  She quickly bought him the monster he wanted and she bought something for each of the other 5 with her.   You never know. 

If you have a crisis and have to leave it is best to try and locate the coordinator and let them know your situation.  It may not save you from being put on the naughty list but it is the correct thing to do.  Quietly letting your booth neighbors know what is going on is also appropriate.  They may be able to help let the coordinator know and they may be able to help you get packed up.

The real key if you absolutely have to pack up early is to be as discrete as you possibly can.  Start from the back of your booth leaving the easiest thing to pack in front and on display as long as possible.  Politely tell any customers who come into your booth or pause at your table that you must leave for a personal reason. Offer them a card so they can check out your on-line shop or tell them when you will be at the next show.

Move your stock and display out of the area as quickly and quietly as you are able.  Do not block the aisles.  Do not shove your cart through the crowd.  Take the least crowded, least obvious path you are able to follow. Do your best not to disrupt the flow of customers to the booths around you. 

Follow up with a note to the organizer about why you had to leave.  It is only polite.


**** Lest you think I am slowed up the works for the organizer, let me be clear that while I was waiting for the boy and his mom, I had organized and packed everything behind my booth.  My price tags were stowed.  Most of the secondary display items were packed.  I'd taken down my sign.  I'd picked up my business cards.  My paper bags were in their place just open enough so I could get to one.  I was ready to go once their purchase was complete.  And let me also say that due to the nature of my product and due to the fact I have a bunch of engineers and efficiency experts in the family, my tear down process takes at most 20 minutes start to finish if I am by myself and if I have help we are often in the car 15 minutes after we start packing (it has become something of challenge to see if we can beat the record time).  So my stalling for 10 minutes still meant that I was packed and gone in less than half an hour after the close of the show.  I would never do that if it took me longer to pack up.  

PQ 9.5: A Stitch in Time

I have long said that if my dad had been born 100 years earlier we would have been on a wagon train going West.  After a childhood of imagining that revisionist history, I eventually came to the conclusion that I would make a terrible pioneer.  I cannot keep track of my needles! 

If you think about it, a needle is a very important tool.  In a world where you have to make almost everything you need to take care of your tools.  Some things you can make or repair, a new handle for the axe, a new edge on the plowshare.  A good blacksmith can make nails and forks.  But needles?  Needles are another story.   I haven't researched how needles were made pre-Industrial Revolution.  There were stages between sharpening bone and post Industrial Revolution machine production.   Even historic needles are fine. From reading diaries of the women who traveled the Oregon Trail I've learned that a needle was a precious commodity. 

And I am notorious for losing my needles.  I try not to lose them in carpets and furniture and am successful for the most part but where they actually go?  I have no idea.  And so I would make a terrible pioneer.  My clothes would be ragged and the canvas on my tent would be un-patched.  It would not be pretty.

So my stitch in time quilt is a nod to those brave women who packed their precious things in a covered wagon and headed west, needle in hand, to face a vast unknown landscape.

The image is of the interior of a covered wagon.  Notice the fancy chair, spinning wheel, butter churn and what looks to be boxes of silverware and likely other tools.  I love the pretty dresses hanging on the pegs. 

The picture is printed on fabric and is embellished with embroidery floss.  The binding is a ruffle (new technique for me) made of a modern calico fabric.  It measures approximately 8 x 10 inches.  This quilt continues my Western Expansion theme for the Project Quilting challenges this year.

You can read more about Project Quilting and check out all the amazing quilts made this week on Kim Lapacek's Blog. 


Thursday, February 22, 2018

The People You Meet: Vendors with Children

 There are lots of discussions on various sites about vendors with children.  Look past the ridiculous flame wars of "I would never" and "My child is perfect"  and you get to the simple reality.  Sometimes you just have to take the kids with you.  It is a fact of life.

You never know the reason that vendor has the cranky baby with her.  It was most likely not her first choice.  Tales of flaky babysitters, sick grandmothers, broken cars and working husbands abound.  Some people can roll with it.  Some moms are at the breaking point.  Whatever the reason, they have made the decision that they need to honor their commitment and try and recapture their investment in show fees.  And no matter how they cope with the circumstances, it may literally be a necessity to put food on the table for the week.

The same is true for neighboring vendors.  They are there because this is their business and they need to be able to make sales. They have as many reasons to be stressed as the mom.  Maybe they were up all night finishing product or got up early to drive to the venue.  They have lives and distractions as well.

My broader point is that vendors on both sides of the issue need to take a deep breath and work together to help create and maintain a successful show.  Be open minded.  Be willing to offer and to accept help.  Set respectful boundaries. Be polite.

If you have to take kids with you, bring plenty of snacks, have their favorite toys, bring electronics.  If you can play a movie you can get a couple hours of calm. You know what makes your kids comfortable.  Do what you can to provide it under these conditions. (Unless it is bubbles, involves fingerpaint or chocolate syrup.  Don't bring bubbles, fingerpaint or chocolate syrup.)

 Make sure that you set up an area for the kids with in YOUR booth space.  You may have to give up a table or display area to make sure your kids have room.  So be it.  One of mine loved being underneath the table.  He was invisible to the customer and perfectly happy hiding out in 'his' space. It meant I had less space to store things under the table.  We worked it out.

Set boundaries for them.  Make sure they know where they can and can't play. If they are old enough to roam, set clear guidelines for where they can go, who they can talk to and how and when to check in. You need to know where your kids are and what they are doing.  They are your responsibility.  It is not the job of the vendors or the show organizer or the face painter/balloon artist/craft table monitor to keep track of your children.  Don't be that parent. 

Most of the time, those kids are just part of the scenery playing in the background. Sometimes they melt down. It is a long day and their routine is disrupted, parent is distracted, the weather is uncomfortable.  It happens.  Roll with it and do the best you can. Most people with kids understand. They've been there and done that.   If you get a customer who can't cope you are just going to have to let it go.

Children can be a huge asset in a booth.  They can wear or play with sample goods to show customers how they look or work in real life. They can assist with re-stocking, packing up purchases and tidying up the booth. At shows where it is permitted, I've seen vendors set up a small area where their kids market their own products or have a small craft project for customer kids to make. You just have to monitor things.

Read the customer to see of they are enjoying the kid or annoyed by it.  Work out a signal with your kid ahead of time that lets the child know to step out.  You can talk to them ahead of time and let them know that sometimes there are cranky people, people who are in a hurry or people who just have problems with kids.  Let them know that is isn't their fault but that sometimes you just need to take over.  Work out a plan where you can say excuse me jr would you please get the dohickey under the table for me.  The kid knows the doohickey is the signal to step out. Have them practice saying excuse me to the customer.  I need to do this thing for my parent but she will help you while I do.  Practice.  It can be a game.  A little secret your share while you make a transition to accommodate your customer.

The most important rule for kids at shows is to be respectful of the other vendors.  Older kids can walk around and look at the products.  They can talk to the vendors.  They can learn a lot.  If you or they have some money to spend you can set a budget and allow them to figure out what they want to buy.  However, you can't let them run around wildly endangering themselves and other vendors displays.  They should not be allowed to handle merchandise unless invited to by the vendor AND unless their hands are clean. You need to make sure they do not interfere with sales in the other booths.  If they are in a booth and a real customer approaches they need to wait quietly or move on. Practice this with them.  Do not let them be booth parkers. Set limits on how often and when they can re-visit a booth that they really like. 

 If they are old enough encourage then to assist others.  If they offer and the vendor agrees they can carry boxes or pick up items that may drop.  They can open doors and they can get water or even snacks.  Help them see ways to be helpful.  But also help them to understand that not everyone wants to be helped and to learn when to back off.

Pay attention to the vendors around you and the vendors with whom your kids seem fascinated.  If a vendor asks your kid not to touch then do everything you can to make sure your kid doesn't touch.  Talk to them about being careful around stock and to avoid bumping in to tables or knocking things over.  Truly do not let them handle the merchandise of other vendors.  Do not let them run and toss things in the venue.  This puts them and the rest of the vendors at risk of harm or damage to displays and merchandise.

If an accident happens.  Take responsibility for it. Don't argue. Apologize.   Pay for it.  You brought the kids for whatever reason.  You are responsible for them.    And then make sure that your child knows what they did was wrong.  Give them the opportunity to 'work' off the damages by setting a clear list of tasks for them.   Follow through.  Check things off as they are done. 

 Know when to pack it in.  Sometimes you just can't do it all.  Sometimes you will just have to give up and take the kids home.  It is a tough decision but you need to keep them safe and be considerate of the vendors and customers around you.  If you reach that point seek out the organizer and let them know what the problem is.  You may be able to take a break, close your booth and come back in an hour after you and your child get a break.  Be prepared to cover your table and take your cash with you.  If that isn't and option and you really need to leave, pack up as discretely as you are able.  Start from the back of your booth and work towards the front.  Haul things out as quietly and quickly as you are able.  Do not make a big deal out of it.  Let your booth neighbors know why you are leaving. Apologize.  Create as few disruptions for the customers and the venue as you possibly can.  Most everyone will understand.  Many will find ways to help.  You've done your best.  Cut your losses and take care of your child.

If you are the vendor next to the kids.  Be calm and patient.  Be clear.  Set your boundaries.  Communicate them both to the child and to the parent clearly.  Most kids will understand when you tell them that their sticky fingers will damage the items in your shop.  Use it as an opportunity to explain what you do.  In general it is a good idea to have a sample or a mock up or something that represents your work process on hand for everyone to touch. It is the button you can't touch that has the strongest pull so do what you can to remove that temptation from them. 

It is perfectly OK to say to the child you can look at three things and then you need to report back to your adult.  If you have a candy dish, let them know what the limit is.  Stick to it.

Be as helpful as you are able.  Your first responsibility is to your booth and your customers.  But there will be down time and you can offer to hold the fussy baby or to booth sit when the toddler needs to go to the bathroom.  With the clear permission of the adult, you can let the older kids assist.  Say thank you when they hold the door.  And no thank you when you can't use their help.  Most of all take a few seconds to let the parent know when their child is well behaved or that you understand when their baby is cranky.  Kindness goes a long way.

If an accident happens be calm.  Deal with any dangerous issues first like making sure there isn't any broken glass for some one to step on.  Then assess the damage.  You may want to take pictures.  You may want to write up a list of the times the child was in your booth handling your merch, how any times you spoke to the parent, what they said, if you talked to the organizer and anything else relevant to the situation.   It is perfectly reasonable to ask for payment for broken or damaged merchandise.  It is also possible that the parent won't have the means or ability to pay.  Be open to barter or payment plans.  Be realistic.  Carry insurance.  This is what it is for. 

Lastly, if there is a real problem and the parent is unable or unwilling to address it then you need to report it to the organizer. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Princess Chuck and the Queen Bee

When the Princess was small the Queen Bee would make her dresses.  Beautiful dresses with tiny pink or blue flowers.  They had lace on the collars and contrasting pockets and they were perfect for a princess.  Well, not the swirly twirly princess dresses of today but perfect for princess named Chuck.
She taught her how to make soap.  Tried to teach her how to make cheese and led the way through a wide swath of seventies arts and crafts.  The Queen Bee got Princess Chuck her first job as a dishwasher (the princess was not amused) and her second job as acid washing glassware in a lab (better suited to a princess named Chuck).  The Queen Bee bought Princess Chuck her first grown up hat, made her go to a fancy salon (awkward) and introduced her to Loeman's at the height of big eighties fashion.   Together they drove trucks, didn't get stuck in the mud (barely), went four wheeling, looked for rocks and flowers and had adventures.

All in all the Queen Bee is amazing.  She graduated from college in three years with honors.  She got a masters degree in geology and became an exploration geologist before there were many women in that field.  She is good at finding oil.  She walked into the petroleum club like women had always been there. This tiny little lady with the long blond hair would smoke cigars and drink whiskey with the boys (even though I doubt she ever liked whiskey or cigars).   She got another master's degree.  She and her husband started  breweries in their back yard and up the mountain and down the street and in Nepal.  Because of course you need to have a brewery in Nepal.  She takes people in and helps them on their way.  She will wear silly shoes because her friend wants her to and she will travel a long way because she is needed.  The Queen Bee is truly brave and bold. 

This wee quilt hearkens back to one of those arts and crafts projects that the Queen Bee and Princess Chuck did sitting at a table made from slab wood under a tarp in a forest of aspen.  They made mosaics on old boards using sticks and stones and pocket knives and glue.  The Queen Bee made an award winning picture of the Crystal Mill which is the focus of this quilt.  Princess Chuck made a picture of  hole in the ground mining entrance.

The picture of the Crystal Mill was printed on fabric.  It is lightly embroidered with embroidery floss.  The flowers are vague representations of alpine forget-me-knots.  It is bound with quilter's cotton.  I finally remembered that I could to do the embroidery through the batting before adding the backing so this one is a wee bit neater than the previous two.  It is just shy of 7 x 9 inches.

This quilt was made in response to Project Quilting Season 9, challenge 3: Bold and Brave

Edit:  I should probably add that my sister has been referred to as the queen for many years.  I give her crowns and queen bees whenever I find them.  I'm not really a princess but I did answer to Chuck for most of my childhood.  

Saturday, January 27, 2018

PQ 9.2 Little House on the Prairie Points

This was not the best week of quilting for me.  I was on travel for much of the week.  I was able to plan a gorgeous quilt that was going to twin size.  I managed to go to Hancocks of Paducah with that plan in hand.  And I couldn't find the right fabric.  Well, that and the fact that the twin sized quilt wants prairie points.  It would take at best guess a couple hundred prairie points.  Given that I have no idea how to sew prairie points or how to finish the binding once I put them on, making a smaller project to practice seemed like the better idea. 

I do seem to have a theme going this season.  This is an historical picture of some women and horses standing in front of a soddy, a cabin made of sod, in Nebraska.  Because, of course, prairie points make me think of Little House on the Prairie. 

The picture is printed on fabric.  It is lightly quilted with No 3 Perl Cotton.  the binding is my first attempt at continuous prairie points (OK any prairie points).  I learned many things from this.  Making miniature prairie points for a first project is not the best idea.  I have no idea how to finish/attach/do anything with the corners.  This continuous strip thing will work really well once I make it big enough to collect and hide my raw edges and once I figure out the whole corner thing.

So why prairie points for my triangles?  Because I am a rebel.  I made triangles by cutting squares. 

This quilt is part of Project Quilting Season 9.  The challenge was triangulation.  This quilt measures about 5 x 8 inches.  I quilt just outside of St Louis, MO. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Big Ear Bunny

The Big Ear Bunny is one of the newer members of the Traveling Chicken and Monster Show.  He is very quiet so I don't know much of his story.  Like the other bunnies in the show people who love him find him, hug him and take him home.  It is a strange phenomenon.  There is very little conversation around the bunnies.  Usually a comment about how soft he is.  He hasn't told anyone his name so we call him BEeB.  If he talks to you, let me know!

He is soft and huggable.  I try to work with scraps and remnants but BEB = started from fabric on a bolt.  I was shopping with my friend B at a quilt shop.  As usual, I stopped to look at the fluffy fabric.  B saw the chenille and said "you HAVE to make something out if this."  I choked on the price but picked it up.  I didn't know who was going to emerge from it but I did know that I needed some contrasting fabric so I choked some more and bought it. 

When I got home, I started flipping through my sketch book when I found this little bunny with the big ears.  It was exactly what I needed for this bunny.  So I digitized him and stitched him up. The first draft was in beige fleece.  He was on the table when a dad put the bunny in the hands of his tiny daughter.  She hugged him and that was it.  So the Big Ear Bunny is now a staple of the the Traveling Chicken and Monster Show!

I will be listing him in the shop soon.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The People you meet: Various Vendors

Over the past few years, we've been to festivals, cons, art shows and pure craft shows.  The audience has ranged from 100 - 100,000.  Throughout it all we have learned a lot about our process and practices.  We have taken what we learned and used it to make tweaks to our set up, products and patter.  We've observed how people interact with our displays and then experimented to see if we can improve their experience. It has been an amazing experience.  This series is an attempt to share what we've learned.  

The vendors around us have ranged from first time wet behind the ears to been there done that made more than you experts.  Upon reflecting about our various booth neighbors I realize we have developed a sort of short hand to communicate the various styles and a set of responses to them.  I've already addressed the polite professional.  You can read about that in this blog post.  Here are a few of the others. 

The Attentive Newbie. This is a first time vendor.  They are excited about their products.  They have high expectations for the day.  They make mistakes.  It is OK.  It can be fun to be next to a newbie.  Engage with them.  Show them the ropes. Let them know what they are doing right and then you can politely let them know what they are doing wrong.  For example, "I like your 7 foot tall shelf full of fragile things however it is in the aisle and you don't want customers bumping in to it and knocking it over.  Perhaps you should put it in the back corner where they can see it but won't break it." Engage with them and help them learn the ropes.  It can be a fun day and you can help some one become a better booth neighbor.

The Poacher.  There is an unwritten rule that customers passing in front of your booth are your customers.  This can be extended a wee bit if a customer on the edge of your space is looking directly at you.  You are free to address customers in your zone.  You can politely acknowledge customers on the edge who are making eye contact.  Once the customer passes outside of your zone, they are no longer your customer.  Retreating backs are NOT customers.  The poacher either stands in the aisle or in the front of their both.  They engage with customers outside of their zone.  They distract a customer who is looking at another booth.  Some poachers justify their practice because they are offering deals, raffles or prizes. They tend to be gimmicks and do not tend to appeal to customers looking for handmade even when it is a handmade seller.  An extreme poacher will follow customers into a neighboring booth.  While poachers think that this is a good marketing strategy it usually isn't.  Most of the time poaching reeks of desperation and customers can smell it. It frequently causes approaching customers to turn and walk the other way and can completely scare customers away from all of the surrounding booths.

Chasers.  While I described chasers under poaching, they deserve a special mention.  Chasing down customers and following them into other booths is bad form.  Don't do it.  A good show host will not allow chasers to continue.

Aisle Blockers.  There are several categories of blockers.

Space Blockers.   Each show has a set booth space.  You are expected to stay inside the boundaries set for you by the show host.  If you have a 10x10 space EVERYTHING needed to run your booth must fit within that 10x10 boundary.  Even if the aisle is 20 feet wide.  You need to keep your stuff inside your space.  Moving a rack or sign or wall into the aisle can be a violation of fire codes.  It is usually a pure safety hazard.  Don't do it.  With regards to your neighbors it is just plain rude.  It blocks the view of their booth from the aisle.  It interferes with airflow on hot days.  It causes traffic to move wide around the blockage and can cause customers to overlook small products in neighboring booths.

Some shows do have exceptions.  Sometimes there is a small aisle behind the booth between the rows.  Politely discuss use of this space with your backdoor neighbor.  It can be a very friendly spot to be in as long as you share fairly and play nicely.  Some shows also have a wee bit of wiggle room.  They may mark an11x11 spot for a 10x10 space.  That means that if you put your tent to the back of your spot you can slide out ONE foot in front of it.  Don't be a camel.  Stay behind the blue tape or the red line.  Keep it LOW.

Customer blockers.  Some booths are popular.  They have lots of customers and are very busy.  Customers line up to get in.  Customers watch from across the aisle.  A busy booth vendor can't do a lot about that.  They are usually too busy to notice what is going on outside the tent.  Good ones, however, encourage people to step in, do what they can to politely suggest they don't block the aisle and bring in more helpers to speed things up.  While it may be annoying to be next to the popular booth you should look on it as an opportunity.  There are a lot of people coming down your aisle and there are a lot of people in your zone while they wait to get into the booth next door.  Engage with them.  Offer shade, water for their pet, a bag to hold all their loose objects(a bag that has your contact information).  Ask what brings them to event, where they are from, what they are looking for.  Invite them in to look around while they wait.  That few seconds of engagement is an opportunity to attract their attention and get a second look.  Take advantage of it.

The other thing to do is to observe.  Are they selling something unique?  If they are selling the same things as everyone else, what are they doing to stand out?  What does their booth look like?  Watch how they engage with the customers.  You can learn a lot from them!

The one thing to never do is publicly grouse about it.  No one wants to hear you bad mouth another vendor and customers who like the busy booth are not going to jump in and buy from you because you gossip about their favorite.

Chatty Cathy Blockers.  These are the vendors who have 35 members of their family in and around their booth all day.  There are at least 5 people who don't fit in their space and who spill out to stand in front of the neighboring booths.  This is rude.  Don't allow it to happen. It is great to have support.  It is great to bring people to the show.  Do not allow them to block the aisles or other booths.  Move them in or move them out.  The end.

If you are next to the family reunion, it may take you a while to realize that they are probably not customers.  Once you do you will likely start to notice that they are smoking, drinking and allowing their children to run wild with sticky fingers all over your products.... take a deep breath is usually isn't that bad.  Now, you can politely ask them to move.  You can politely ask the vendor to ask them to move.  You can move in front of your booth to 'rearrange or straighten products" and say excuse me a lot.  Usually they will get the message and move for a bit.  Wash. Rinse.  Repeat.

If you are the recipient of familial love, please be aware of where they are.  Ask them to stay within your zone.  Encourage them to visit the rest of the show.  Tell them about the amazing artist in the next booth with the incredible art that they should buy for Great Aunt Esther.  If they don't get the hint tell them to go home and come back when you need help cleaning up!

PQ 9.1 Hometown Love: Fairplay

 I had big plans for this week.  Big Plans!

I've lived a lot of different places so I had a number of wonderful towns to choose from:  two coasts, mountains, flat lands, small towns, big cities, impressive landscapes.  However, I quickly choose a place I've never actually lived.  I've never had it on my drivers license and I've never even had a mailing address there.  But I did spend a portion of every year from the time I was eight years old until now missing at most two years.  As a kid, I was in school or in this town so I feel like I grew up there.  The town is Fairplay, Colorado.  It is deep in the heart of South Park.  (Yes, South Park is a real place.  Yes the cartoonists are from the next valley over.  Yes that is a thing.)

Having decided on the town the pattern was also a no brainer.  I was going to make delectable mountains.  I'd made a table runner a couple years ago for the PQ challenge and knew it was well within my skill set.  I could make a lot of those blocks with relative ease and could therefore go quickly.  I looked on line and saw a variation that looked liked an Irish Chain.  It was perfect.  

Now for the fabric.  I recently found a box of fabric that had been 'lost' in the move double digit years ago.  It had lots of treasures including several sets of fabric.  I remember some of them. Others, not so much.  However, there was one set that I obviously purchased in a quilt shop. Most likely a long gone shop in Fairplay.  It has gorgeous columbine and iris fabrics and coordinating purples and greens.   Combined with a white background it would be a glorious tribute to my 'hometown'.

Looking at the picture at the top of the post, you can clearly see that there aren't any iris or columbine or mountains in my quilt.  You see, the math doesn't work.  I was going to make cheater mountains.   My 9 inch blocks would turn into 8 inch half square triangles which would turn into a rectangle that would be about 12 x 8 inch mountains.  Those are are rectangles.  Sewing two of them together makes a block that is 12 x 16.  Still not a square.  And I needed squares to make rotate and make the pretty chain looking pattern.  I spent much of the week convinced that I could add some to the middle and I would get the right shape and it would all work out.  Unfortunately, adding fabric in the only direction that wouldn't disrupt the pattern merely exacerbated the problem.  So... no simple mountains for me. The only way to make the pattern is to go old school with lots of bias and half square triangles.  By the time I figured that out, it was way too late to get the size quilt I wanted to make finished in time.  And besides, I couldn't find my triangle paper without which this isn't happening!

So, I pouted for another day.  Then I drew some sketches.  But my flying geese paper was too big and I was still pouting and not going to try and make up the 5 paper piece patterns I would need.

I started looking for pictures of Fairplay.  I found one of the Sheldon Jackson Memorial Church.  It is a church that is so iconic... well I have to digress and tell another story.  You see I got married in that church.  I was living in DC.  My then fiance  (whose family laid claim to come from from that next valley over) was in Michigan and my mom was in Fairplay.  There were logistics.  I bought my dress in DC and was looking for a veil.  I found one in a small bridal consignment shop.  When I described my dress to the owner (long sleeve, cotton jacquard) for an August wedding, I got the usual response.  "You are insane.  You will sweat to death."  But I started to explain that I was getting married in a small town in Colorado called Fai.... "Fairplay." the owner replied "in that beautiful little church."  It turned out she spent time nearby and always wanted to attend a wedding in that church.  So I invited her.  She came.  It was special.  The picture above is my flower girl sitting on a bench in the beautiful garden of that beautiful church.  A church so memorable that a shop owner half a continent away knew about it.

Back to the quilt...  I started playing with a picture and finally settled upon an sketchy version.  I printed it on fabric and then hand quilted/embellished with with quilting cotton and number 5 perl cotton.  I had to add some of the beautiful flowers from the garden and a hint of the Colorado blue sky.  The binding is a tiny strip of my favorite forget-me-knot fabric, as appropriate as the iris and columbine.  My stitching leaves a lot to be desired.  We won't look at the back.  This was a great project to ease me back into quilting and hand stitching.  (It has been so long I don't even have a quilts 2017 folder.)  I am ready to see what the next challenges bring.

The quilt is approximately 7 x 10 inches.  It is printed on cotton with cotton backing and binding.  The batting is a synthetic.  It is hand quilted with cotton and perl cotton.

Project Quilting is the brain child of Kim Lapacek.  You can see all of the amazing quilts produced in response to this challenge here