Thursday, February 26, 2009

Handmade Heritage.

My apologies for the lack of posts, I've been away visiting my sister in Florida for the past week. Before that, both of my sisters were here visiting. It is always a treat to have the three of us together. While I was away I started a quilt. The pattern? Grandmother's Flower Garden, a classic.
I was inspired by an article in the latest issue of MaryJane's Farm. Karen has just started carrying this magazine in the shop and I am very happy about that. MaryJane is an amazingly talented woman and a good friend. Her magazine makes you feel all warm and cozy inside. We all need a little more of that in our lives. Anyway, the article was about MaryJane's mother and her fascination with hexagons. Well, you just know that any hexagon maven worth their salt is going to have made a hexagon-patterned quilt. Helen Butters made a beauty.
Going to the website, I downloaded the pattern, enlarged it to the size I wanted to work with and printed it out on card stock. Many, many scissor cuts later, I had enough hexagons to get me started.
Now, I am a novice quilter. I do not know all of the ins and outs, but I am trying to learn. My first foray into quilting was through Strip Club and I have been quite content to perch myself in front of the sewing machine and stitch merrily along straight lines to the sounds of Pandora Radio playing in the background. This business of hand-stitching a quilt was a bit intimidating to me. What if I make a mistake? What if my sides don't line up? Ack! I wonder if MaryJane's mom felt this way?
Choosing fabrics from my stash was the easy part. A few choice vintage pieces mixed in with scraps from other projects seemed to just fall together nicely. Reds, yellows and blues abound in merry combinations. This will be a happy quilt.
My first few stitches were a bit timid. "Am I basting these correctly?" I had no idea. But, I plowed ahead and soon a small pile of fabric-covered card stock hexagons began to accumulate.

The itch to make them into a flower was too much for me and I gathered together six small "petals" and a center and began to stitch them together, side by side by side. It was then I realized what I was doing. I was carrying on a tradition of making something by hand of cloth, needle and thread and a whole lot of determination.
I thought of the woman who first cut out this pattern and the thrill she must have felt as it all came together, piece by piece, blossoming into a thing of beauty. I pictured other women doing exactly the same thing- plunging their needles into scraps of cloth and making them into something that would comfort and warm their families and decorate their homes.

The fact that women still turn to that simple, homely task today is a bit of a thumb-of-the-nose at progress. Oh, computerized sewing machines are wonderful (and fast!), but they will never be able to replicate the tiny, irregular stitch created by a woman's hand. Nor should they. When you tug at the seam of a vintage quilt you see them, each one a labor of necessity and love.
I am pretty sure that I will be working on this quilt for a long time. If this past week is any indication, I will probably finish it somewhere around my 52nd birthday. I won't tell you how far away that is, so don't ask. But, finish it I will and hopefully it will live on long after my lifetime and warm future generations of children, grandchildren and so on. A work of art left for them by me, made with a silvery needle and sturdy thread.
Have you created a handmade heritage yet? If so, we would love to hear about it!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Getting To Know...Karen & Karin!

What would this blog be without an introduction to the people behind it? So, come on! Let's meet Karen Taylor and Karin Smith, the girls behind A Thread Of Red!

When you walk into A Scarlet Thread for the first time, you will likely be greeted by this woman pictured above. This is Karen Taylor, proprietor. Or is that proprietress? Isn't she a doll?

I had the opportunity to ask Karen a few question recently, to give you, the readers and customers, a little insight to this amazing woman. Follow along and see why A Scarlet Thread is the place to be, whether you quilt or not.
1. Please tell us a little about yourself, Karen.
Well, let's see. My husband, Ken, and I have been married for almost 13 wonderful years. I am a 43-ish mom of one daughter, who is about to be married, one son and a step-son who lives in Ohio. Ken and I have two granddaughters who bridge the gap between our blended family, and who are, without a doubt, a blessing from God. Grandchildren are the best and make going through parenthood all worth while. Andy is our little 14 year-old Chihuahua and is the best dog in the world!
2. You are one of the most vibrant women I know. Where does that come from?
I don't see myself as vibrant. I have always loved an audience and I love inviting people into my conversations, no matter who I am speaking to. You know how you feel when you are having a pedicure and the technicians are all speaking in another language and you sort of fade out of the picture? I hope I never make anyone feel like that. I want everyone to be included. I can usually find something good in everyone. The bottom line is I love people. I think that is one of the most important aspects of our business. Customer service is a dying art in most places. People don't expect to get good service, so when they come to A Scarlet Thread, they are given the best customer service that can be found. My staff and I really care about the projects that are being made and our customers themselves. At the store, we all love each other and don't leave the building at night without saying it. That carries through to every person who walks through the door.
3. Your husband, Ken, is an unexpected and welcome addition to the shop. What does he think when women come in and drool over...fabric?
Ken is very much a "go-with-the-flow" kind of person, which is good because he is married to me! He may find me two miles down the river caught up in the current, and he will pull me back to shore and dry me off. I guess his experiences with me have seasoned him well enough to know not to give even a second thought to fabric droolers! Knowing him, he would just grab a mop and bucket and follow behind them, smiling the entire time and asking if they are okay.
He' s a pretty mean sewing machine repairman as well.
4. What makes you tick?
Wow, what a question! Ummm, the first thing that pops into my mind is Jesus and my relationship with Him. Second to that would be my husband and my children. But, back to the most important thing- I love the Lord! If you knew what He knows about me, well..... He sticks closer to me than a brother. Good thing, because I am an only child and need all the help I can get!
5. What made you think, "A quilt shop! I need to open a quilt shop!"?
A quilt shop was actually the last thing on my mind. I thought I was going to be selling embroidery machines! That is my passion. The reality was born out of our customers declaring that our little store, with a huge room of sewing machines and only 300 bolts of fabric was, in fact, a quilt shop! God has a great sense of humor. He changed my direction in a snap and I am very glad He did!
6. What brings you the most happiness at the shop?
I would have to say the reaction people have when they visit for the very first time! We have so many women that nearly fall out when they walk in the door. Of course there are those who try to play it off, feigning composure when we know their insides are jumping all over. Those are the funny ones. First impressions are always a blast! I am also happy when "my girls" are busy and fluttering about the shop. My staff makes me smile. They all love the store and me, and I love them right back.
7. Do you ever experience that heart-stopping moment when you see a new line of fabric?
Do I ever have a heart-stopping moment when I see a new line of fabric? Yes! Nearly every day. I should require my salesmen to carry defibrillators in their briefcases to revive me! My first thought when I see a cute fabric is, "Oh! That will make adorable dresses for my granddaughters!" Then I think about the quilts.
8. On a quilting scale of 1-10, where do you fit?
My quilting skills are limited, very limited. I would say that I am about a 1.5 on that particular scale. I don't think I will be a true quilter because of my short attention span. If I really got into quilting, I would probably not do the other things that my days are made up of- ordering new fabric, patterns, notions, coordinating classes, teaching how to use a new sewing machine, etc. No one wants that! So, I think I will stay a part time quilter and a full time buyer.
9. Why a blog?
I was not really sure that a blog was necessary, but after a few days of mulling it over, it really started to sink in. So many people enjoy coming to our shop, but they can't be there all day, every day. Well, they could, but....A blog is the perfect way to keep our customers informed about what is happening so that when they do come in, they don't feel as though they have missed out on anything. I don't personally get to talk to every person that comes in, but I would love it if I could. I actually dislike being in the office. I would much rather be on the floor seeing all the new projects and visiting all day long. But, the reality of it is that I can't. This blog may help keep our friends up on what is going on with me too, like Shop Hop plans and trips to market for new fabric. You know, the important stuff!
10. Did you ever think you would be where you are today?
In a word...No! I never dreamed that this store would be so wonderful! I knew God had a plan for me, and in true form He revealed a portion of it to me. But His ways are higher than ours. If you don't believe me, just visit the shop. There is a wonderful spirit there that comes from following His plan, the women that work with me and the customers that fill our days with laughter and friendship. I didn't think I would ever be here but I am very glad that I am.
People ask us about what it is we contribute our success to. Besides the above, I have a theory. I would say that 95% of the things bought from the shop are going into a gift for someone else. When money is tight people will stop buying for themselves, but they will not stop buying for others. People love to give and that giving heart will always prevail. How rich do you feel when you give a gift that you have made yourself to someone you love? That is why we are here, to help you do that.
Thank you, Karen, for giving us a little peek into your world!
This is me, Karin Smith, writer of A Thread of Red and big fan of A Scarlet Thread. I am married to Jim and the mother of three children; Nathan, John and Ainslie. Originally from Massachusetts, I have called Georgia my home for the past 28 years.
Most days you can find me at home, hanging laundry outside on the line, collecting eggs from the hen house, sewing in the craft room and scouring yard sales for bits and bobs to create with. On the other days, you can find me drooling over the fabric at the shop, the place that caused me to venture into quilting, one tiny step at a time. Sundays find me at church, where I continuously discover how much we are loved by our Heavenly Father.
You can find some of my work in MaryJane's Farm magazines, as well as my own blog, One Perfect Little Miracle.

Thanks for visiting with us!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A New Mouse House.

Browsing through one of my favorite blogs, Sew, Mama, Sew!, I found this: a handmade mouse pad that's actually cute!!
Because I had the supplies on hand, ten minutes later I had one of my own.

Now that is what I call mouse pad love.
To see the tutorial, just click on the "this". It will take you right there.
Tune in tomorrow for a fun little post!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Tuesday Tutorial (On Wednesday.)

It's here! The very first of our monthly Tuesday Tutorials!
I know, you're reading this on Wednesday. It took me a bit longer than I had originally anticipated to get it all together. But, it's all here, ready for you to follow to create this cute little thing here:

A scrappy Embroidery Scissor Pocket.*

It is cute, simple and extremely functional. (In addition to making a sweet birthday or Christmas gift!) You may not be like me, but when I am embroidering or hand sewing, my tiny scissors have a tendency to wander. Anywhere but where I want them to be, like under me or what I am working on, caught in the folds of the bed clothes or slipped behind the TV remote on the table. To solve this problem, I made a little pocket that hangs about my neck and holds my scissors at the ready. Without the need to search high and low or receive an unwelcome poke in the bottom.
What you will need:
Various fabric scraps
Fabric glue
Embroidery floss
Scraps of wool felt (or acrylic)

This is the template you will use to cut out your pocket pieces. Just right click and Save As "template". It will print as a photo and you will want to adjust it to a custom size- 6x8. This will give you the proper pattern size with 1/4 inch seam allowances.

The hardest part of this project is choosing your fabric.

I hope that you keep your tiny scraps, because that is all you will need for this project!

Choose five or six compatible scraps, about 1 inch wide and varying lengths (no smaller than 3 inches wide.) Strip piece these scraps together in two groups using a scant 1/4 inch seam. Spray with starch and press seams in one direction.

Pin template to each section and cut out on the solid lines to create the front and back.

Cut two pieces from a lining fabric. You will not see this as it will be enclosed in the pocket. But for photos, I had to use something pretty.

Lay your scrap pieces and linings WRONG sides together. Run a stitch line across the top of each section, to prevent the scissors from poking through.

You will have a little sandwich that will look like this. (Oops, I took this before I stitched across.)

Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, stitch around the sides and bottom of the pocket.

Cut 1 strip of fabric 1 1/2 inches wide by 14 inches long for binding. Fold in half, press, turn in sides and press. Stitch the binding by machine or by hand along the sides first, trimming at the ends. Stitch binding along the bottom, making certain to fold the fabric at the sides and stitching it together for a clean edge.

Your pocket will now look like this. Cute, huh?

To finish the top binding, unfold it and sew a 3/4 inch straight buttonhole, lengthwise, in the center. Repress the binding and attach to the top as you did on the bottom, being sure to fold in the sides. (If you are attaching the binding by machine, sew from the edge to the beginning of the buttonhole, stop, move the needle to the opposite side of the buttonhole and begin to stitch again.) The buttonhole is where the scissors will sit. Hand stitch the sides of the top binding to keep them sharp.

For the flower embellishments:

Cut three flower shapes from white wool felt.

Embroider a tiny blanket stitch around the outside edge, using two strands of embroidery floss and attach a button to the center of each flower. Cut three leaves from green wool felt and stitch on the flowers. Attach flowers and leaves in a group on one side of the pocket with fabric glue. Allow to dry.

To make the cording:

Measure the length that you would like your pocket to hang and cut two coordinating colors of baby ric-rac that length. (It will vary from person to person.) Keeping the ric-rac flat, begin weaving the two colors together, pressing flat as you go. Or, you could use a length of 1/4 inch grosgrain or satin ribbon.

Attach to the back of the pocket with a sturdy stitch and cover with a button, if desired. Buttons are always a welcome addition to any sewing project, I think.

And voila!! You are done. Wear your Embroidery Scissor Pocket the next time you start a project and you will never sit on or misplace your scissors again.
You may find you want to wear it all the time, it's that cute!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturdays Are For Stripping!

On the first Saturday of the month women from miles around gather together at A Scarlet Thread for strip club. Known as the Scarlet Strippers, they arrive in the early hours of the morning to receive their "strip kit", a cute little box that contains the strips of fabric needed for a new quilt as well as the new pattern. It is an event that is anxiously awaited by each and every one in attendance.
Karen Taylor, the vibrant owner of the shop, grabs the attention of the strippers the moment she steps to the front of the room. This girl knows how to hold an audience! The first order of business is to give everyone the heads up on new fabrics, tools and classes that will be coming to the shop, as well as showing off the creations made by the staff and friends.

The next portion is my personal favorite- sharing our quilts with each other. The Scarlet Strippers are made up of women with varying quilting experience. From beginner to expert, we cheer each other on, ooh and ah over what has been accomplished and encourage each other with advice and compliments galore.
This is Gwen, who has not sewn since high school. Obviously she had no trouble finding her sewing mojo. Just look at her quilt! The ease of strip piecing makes it accessible for anyone to make a quilt in no time. Even if you think you have forgotten how to sew.

Each quilt is as individual as the woman who made it. Like fingerprints, no two will be alike. They will be similar because of the fabric choices, but the end result is an intimate view into the creative flow of each creator.

That creative process, combined with an achievable goal, delivers stunning results each and every time. The women who come early on that first Saturday morning leave with a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that is unsurpassed.

Did I say women? Well, occasionally we will have a male stripper come visit as well.

Of course, the whole reason we gather is to hold that kit in our hands, read the new pattern over, in detail, with Karen and finally be able to see the quilt we will be making during the next month. You can actually feel the electricity as the moment of unveiling approaches. Trying to hold the suspense for as long as possible, Karen is compelled to reveal the newest piece of art with a cry of, "Will you please let us see the quilt!" Thank goodness she complies readily.

This is the quilt we will be making during the month of February. Photography does not do it justice. It is a breathtaking quilt, full of life and energy. Called Butterflies and Blossoms, it is one of the more challenging quilts we will have attempted up to this point. (I just know that there will be more challenges to follow!)
If you live in the area, come by and visit with us on the first Saturday of each month. I can promise you that you will be hooked immediately. Stripping has never been so fun!
For more information on the Scarlet Strippers, click on the badge on the side bar. It will take you right to the A Scarlet Thread website.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wholecloth Friendship.

Welcome to A Thread of Red, the companion blog to A Scarlet Thread quilting and sewing shop!
We hope you will come and visit often, to read about what is happening at the shop, get ideas and tips and maybe learn something new here and there.

Imagine yourself as a single thread, weaving yourself along the warp and weft of life. Singly, you are a thing of beauty, unique and strong.

Joined with others, you become a part of a bigger design. Your individual qualities combine with other's to create a picture with more depth and color. The more you mingle together, the more you find yourself appreciating your commonalities as well as your differences. You start to reach out to these women beside you, learn from them and about them.

And then a magical thing occurs- you become friends. It is inevitable, because you have a common bond. In this case, it is quilting, sewing, a weakness for a soft piece of cloth or brightly colored threads. You know the feeling, don't you? Your heart beats faster, you find yourself picturing the exact spot where that fabric, or that one, will work best.

The only thing better than feeling such exhileration is to find a place where everyone feels the same way. That's what we see every day. Women who come through a door searching for a piece of cloth and leaving with a friendship, quickly and tightly woven together.

So, come back and visit often. We just love making new friends.