Fore!

Or is it “Four”? I don’t know anything about golf!

Right now you can get one of my favorite time killers, Fairway Solitaire, for FREE! Yup. Bigfish Games is offering Fairway Solitaire and THREE other games absolutely free…no strings attached. There’s a little trick to placing the order (they have multiple check out options) so read through the steps HERE.

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You can read all about the freebies and get the other coupon codes on my favorite casual game site, Jay is Games.

Fairway Golf is the perfect casual game (they have it for Mac and PC.) You can start and stop anytime and you don’t have to “remember” anything about where you were. The gameplay is ridiculously easy. But for some reason, it’s an addictive little application that keeps you happily clicking away.

Have fun!

April 30, 2009 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

So tempted…

Wow! Little Knits got Koigu in stock!!! And she has a ton of colorways. AND it’s listed for $12.25/skein…which is less than a lot of other places nowadays. (Still freaking expensive considering Shibui – another fave of mine – is usually under $10/skein.)

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Since I have, let’s just say – a LOT of KPPM already, I thought I’d share this news with you. If you get some, let me know so that I can stash vicariously through you!

April 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

Unboxing Stitch Simple

I have been intrigued by the concept of Stitch Simple since I first heard about it a couple of months ago. It seems like such a stroke of brilliance to offer pre-washed, pressed, and cut fabric for quilting. Personally, the washing and pressing parts of fabric prep are my least favorite part of the quilting process so this shop seems like the perfect solution. Stitch Simple offers a variety of sizes of prepared squares and rectangles as well as fat quarters and fabric by the inch. Stitch Simple’s owner, Jen, also has two convenient customizable kits you can choose from. I chose to get the 40×50 CYO (Choose Your Own) kit.

To order your kit you use this clever little tool that allows you to preview what your quilt will look like with your selected fabrics. You select from Stitch Simple’s fabric swatches (see more about this below) and the quilt preview to the right shows you exactly what you’re going to end up with. I loved how easy it was to use and how it took the guess work out of the selection. I have to admit, I went through dozens of variations of the kit until I finally locked down my choice.

I ordered my kit on Thursday and it arrived the following Monday. I have to say I was surprised (pleasantly, of course) at how quickly it came! I had fun opening my package and thought I’d share the experience with you.

Opening the box you see your invoice, a note about the fabric, and detailed info about fabric care.
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Dig down a layer (which are all neatly separated by cardboard) and you find your backing fabric. Yes, the kit includes backing!!! And really, there’s enough fabric to make the binding too.
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The next layer contains the heart of the matter…the instructions and the precuts. You also receive a cute cardboard ruler. The instructions include the info you need if you want to use the pattern again with your own fabric or more precuts. And yes, Stitch Simple sells refills for the kits.
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I was pleasantly surprised at how detailed the instructions are. The guide is in full color and basically take you step-by-step through the assembly. This kit would be great for a first time quilter. As a neat little bonus. Stitch Simple provides a color print out of your quilt preview too!
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But c’mon, let’s get to the good stuff! Nestled in the recycled paper packing material are your neatly wrapped bundles of precuts. Somehow it feels like candy to me! Each fabric is sandwiched in cardboard, wrapped in plastic, and is clearly labeled.
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Another bonus of the kit are the two “extras” you get: Practice pieces and an “emergency kit” for repairs in the future. Both inclusions are incredibly thoughtful and shows that Stitch Simple knows crafters and is all about sending you a package that will create an heirloom.
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I chose the David Walker Robot line of fabric for my kit. I love the bright colors and cute motifs. And look at how perfectly those rectangles are cut!
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For some reason, the profile of a stack of fabric is always more appealing to me than a head on shot. See?
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So there you go. The Stitch Simple CYO Quilt Kit unboxed. I hope you enjoyed going through it with me. I can’t wait to start piecing this together.
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Stitch Simple is a young company that has a bright future. There are definitely areas that they can grow in – especially around fabric selections. I can only imagine the challenge of managing an inventory of fabric that you’re washing, pressing, AND cutting. But for now the fabric selection is a little sparse. Thankfully, Jen has a good eye and although small, there is a nice selection (big enough that I had a tough choice to make between some Amy Butler and the David Walker) of high quality prints. And I hope in the future Jen will offer additional patterns/kits beyond the two she currently sells.

For the order-by-piece precuts, Stitch Simple also offers some suggestions on how you can piece them together for a variety of blocks. I can see how I would order loose pieces or another kit in the future. I think the kit would make an especially nice gift for a new quilter (or an old one for that matter.) The price, considering the labor of fabric prep, the quality of the fabric and cutting, and all the extras is, in my opinion, more than fair. And if you sign up for the mailing list, Stitch Simple offers occasional coupons too. Finally, after interacting via email with Jen a bit, I can tell you that the customer service is top notch. And after my rants on fabric cutting you know I’m serious about my customer service.

If you’ve never heard of Stitch Simple, I hope I’ve introduced you to a new shop. If you’ve heard of it and wondered what it’s all about, I hope my unboxing helped you learn more. I, for one, can’t wait until I get my sewing machine fixed so that I can start quilting!

(And for the record…I wasn’t given a freebie, paid, or in any way compensated for this post.)

April 28, 2009 at 3:56 am 2 comments

A Fabric Shopper’s Code of Conduct

I wrote a little manifesto about fabric stores cutting yardage. But to be fair, as a customer there are rules we need to adhere to also.

I’ve worked plenty of retail in my life, and let me tell you – it’s TOUGH. I’ve had some terrible customer service at stores before. But then again, I’ve experienced and witnessed some truly indecent treatment of employees. So to play fair, here’s my Code of Conduct for us shoppers as we build our fabric stash.

(and note – the manifesto and code of conduct for yarn shops is slightly different.)

  • Be friendly. If you can’t be friendly, be kind. If you can’t be kind, be respectful. If you can’t be respectful, be polite. These are human beings that work at the store. Just like me. Just like you.
  • Be patient. I know it stinks when someone is getting 14 single yard cuts in line in front of you…but that stuff happens. Huffing and puffing in line doesn’t make anyone work any faster.
  • Recognize limits. Keeping stock is costly. Buying merchandise is an artform and every store has its own style and priorities. If the shop you’re at doesn’t have what you want, don’t throw a fit.
  • Be creative. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people upset because every exact fabric in the store sample is no longer in stock. Things sell out…especially when a pretty sample is displayed. And it’s not like the store owner is going to take down a great sample just because a few of the prints sold out. For goodness sake, you’re crafting! Get innovative. And heck, chances are the employees would be happy to help you find a nice alternative if you just ask.
  • Don’t hog the help. It’s one thing if you’re the only customer in the store…but on a busy day, be cognizant of your fellow shopper’s and the employee’s mandate to try to help everyone. Sure, it’s nice to have a second opinion as you select 20 prints for your heritage project. But it’s awkward for the employee when you drag them from corner-to-corner with you while you shop.
  • Have clean hands! The best thing about shopping in a store is feeling up the fabric. The tactile reward of strolling through a shop and touching all the pretties is wonderful. So please don’t mess it up for those who come after you by leaving your Slurpee remnants behind. And if your store has a no food/no drink policy, please respect it.
  • Finally, don’t steal. Sure, this one is obvious, right? But I’ve seen stores go out of business because they simply couldn’t handle the “shrinkage.” Shoplifters do very real damage to the store owner and our crafting community at large.

And now a pretty picture to break up all this darn text!
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And for those of us who shop a lot online too…

  • Pay promptly! It’s a hassle to track stock and sales and shipping. Don’t order until you’re ready to pay.
  • Communicate. I find the vast majority of store owners are very friendly and more than happy to describe a product, put together a bundle, or make custom cuts if you just ask. And make sure you ask your questions before you buy. It’s a lot easier to ask ahead of time than figure out how to return later.
  • If you have a problem with your order, try to talk/email the owner first. Mistakes happen to the best of us. Leaving negative feedback without trying to find a resolution directly with the seller probably won’t solve anything and you can leave a good seller who made an oops with an unfair blemish on their record.
  • Research your seller. If the seller doesn’t have any feedback, buy at your own risk. If the seller has negative feedback, take that into account. And remember…if it’s too good to be true…it’s too good to be true.

Phew! All this laying down of the rules makes me sound like a harridan. Really, I’m not that much of a hard-ass. And to think, all of this started because I got a half-yard cut that was only 16″ wide.

Any store owners out there? I’m interested to see if I hit the mark at all with this list. I can remember what it used to be like as a worker…but that was years ago in a different industry. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can make your life easier (thereby giving you more time to stock fabulous fabric!)

April 20, 2009 at 4:52 pm 3 comments

Don’t prick your finger

Now how lovely is this little notion?

Tazaki pincushion

It’s a pincushion RING! I love the design, the craftsmanship, and the pseudo-practicality of it. I have no doubt my finger would end up with more pins in it than the actual pincushion, but that doesn’t stop me from loving it.

BUY IT at ART STAR GALLERY (via Popgadet)

April 16, 2009 at 10:42 pm 1 comment

A Manifesto on Fabric Cutting

There are few things that tick me off in a fabric store more than poorly cut fabric. Ok, the customer that snags that clearance bolt that I wanted kills me. But after that…it’s the mis-cut fabric that I seem to often get from both brick and mortar and online stores.

Every store seems to do it differently. Scissors, rotary cutters, snip and tear…I’ve seen ’em all…and I’ve been hosed by them all. I just finished folding fabrics from 3 different shopping trips and was amused and bemused by the inconsistency in the cuts of fabric I had. To that end, here’s my little manifesto about fabric cuts.

  1. Whatever cutting method you use…use it consistently. Store owners…pick your method, train your employees.
  2. Recognize that you are likely not cutting in a straight line. Look at the piece you just cut from the bolt. If you just take a step back, you can usually see if the cut is really wonky or not.
  3. Grant your consumer a 37″ yard. Sure, they’re only paying for 36″…but that extra inch goes a long way to covering up miscut issues, length lost in pre-washing tangle, and cultivating customer goodwill.
  4. The shortest length of the fabric should be the length requested by the customer. Most stores only look at the side (fold or selvedge) closest to them when cutting. But often, cuts veer inward as you extend your arm which means you may have 36″ near you but only 34″ away from you. I don’t call that a yard.
  5. Slow down. I know it’s tough when the store is packed and you’ve got a bajillion fabrics to slice. But take an extra nano-second to make your cuts in an effort to make them straight and even.
  6. Offer bolt ends at a discount as a continuous cut. A bolt end would be anything shorter than 18″ left on the bolt if you made that final cut. This is easy to eyeball before you cut and it leaves the customer with nice long length and it clears you out of the bolt if they take you up on it.
  7. Keep your cutting area clean. Fabric loves picking up on random gunky bits on tables and it’s terrible to get home only to realize you have an errant ink, ice tea, or envelope glue stain on your beautiful fabric.
  8. Not necessarily related directly to the cut…but please don’t roll your eyes when I bring up a large stack of bolts. You sell fabric. I’m buying fabric. Sure, it may not be fun to cut 14 individual yards, but that’s what you signed up to do. (In return, I promise to try and pace myself and hold back if you’re really busy. Unless it’s a sale. Then all bets are off.)

Of course…the counterpoint to this is probably a code of conduct for us customers. I’ve seen some pretty horrific behavior from customers in stores before that I wouldn’t want to put up with.

So fellow fabric lovers…what say you? Am I being too strident? Did I miss any big things? These are my thoughts on getting yardage cut but there are other peeves I have when I shop for fabric. But that can be for another grumpus day.

April 16, 2009 at 3:32 am 8 comments

Heather Ross, Fabric Shopping, Google, and 15 minutes…

…or how to spend less (theoretically so that you can buy more.)

I’m a notorious stasher. It’s pretty well known amongst my friends that I collect certain things with an uncompromising passion (ie obsession.). Stamps, yarn, paper, and fabric… I have tons of it all. I know I’ll get around to using it eventually. In the meantime, it helps insulate my house which reduces energy costs, right? *nudge*

Since I’m not made of money, I’ve had to become a pretty savvy shopper to keep me in excessive supply. I almost never pay retail for anything and when I do, it’s only after I’ve done a lot of research to make sure I can’t find it cheaper elsewhere.

Thanks to online shopping, we’ve got stores from across the country (and around the globe) available to us. I’m a big fan of shopping locally and supporting your town’s craft stores. You can find great deals in the sale sections and with coupons and you should take advantage of those when you can. But barring local deals, the internet is a shopper heaven…and hell considering the sheer amount of info out there. But it’s often worth the effort.

For example, Heather Ross recently announced that she will not be releasing new designs in the near future and existing lines will not be reprinted. Suddenly her fabrics (which were already in high demand) are instant collectibles. But what does that really mean? It means some sellers are raising their prices from sale/retail to collectible/rare prices. But that doesn’t mean you have to pay that.
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The Fabric Shopper, which is an absolute favorite site of mine, is running a little piece on finding some of Heather’s fabrics. (What’s that, you didn’t know about The Fabric Shopper?! Quick…subscribe to their feed asap! It’s awesome.)
West Hill Article Lightening Bugs and Other Mysteries Article

They’ve done a great job of finding the fabric for you on Etsy and other major online sellers. But as I started cruising those links (and I won’t list any specific stores here to protect the “innocent”) I realized that there was some definite supply-and-demand pricing going on. A yard for one pattern was listed for $35! Fat quarters are being listed for $13 and $15. I, personally, am not willing to pay that much…especially when 15 minutes of my time will suss out everything I want for more reasonable prices. And I had to find more reasonable prices since Ross is one of my favorite designers and I have to get my hot little fingers on some of that fabric before it’s gone gone gone! 🙂

Here’s where Google comes in. Through my day job, I have a solid knowledge of search engine practices. And here’s the thing…sometimes you have to go deeper than page 3 of the search results. Corporations pay companies like mine a lot of money to help them figure out how to optimize their website so that it appears on the first page of search results on Google. And there’s a business reason why. Studies show, clicks are maxmized from that first page and that most people don’t dig into the results more deeply than the 3rd page.

But for bargain hunters, there’s treasure to be found beyond page 3. Small retailers don’t have the website build/taxonomy know-how or website traffic to get their pages on those first results pages. But they have the product, and they have it at good prices. Sure, their site may not be flashy or pretty…but who cares?

I spent 15 minutes searching through Google results for “‘Heather Ross’ fabric” and I went through the results up to the 20th (!) page of results. But what did that yield? I found Heather Ross prints I didn’t find on Etsy or ebay. I found prints listed in the sale section of stores for 1/2 off retail (and that’s for yardage going for premium prices on Etsy sellers and on Ebay.) Sure, it took some digging on the various websites…but when an Etsy seller lists a fat quarter for $13 and I find a yard of it for $8.95 it’s worth it to me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Etsy and eBay fan…especially Etsy. I find great bargains there all of the time. But the Heather Ross example is a great instance where Etsy/eBay are not going to yield your best deals or even your best selection.

You may be asking “What’s your point?!” by now. My point is – I hate spending more than I need to and in today’s economic times, I wanted to share my experience with you so that you can save a little money but still fuel your craft habit too. The Heather Ross example is just a single example. Dig deeper in search results and you’ll find a plethora of buried bargains for anything you want to buy.

And to save you some time…here are the prime links I found for Heather Ross’ Lightening Bugs and Other Mysteries and West Hill collections. You can often find pieces of her other lines at these stores too…but I focused on the two previously mentioned lines. Happy shopping!
On Board Fabrics 1
On Board Fabrics 2
Sew Mama Sew
Crafters Vision (search for Heather Ross)
Quilt Home
(update 4/6/09 – After a couple of reports from you, I’ve removed Around the Block from this list as it appears they are out of business but still taking orders. Grrr. Thanks for keeping me informed everyone!)
Shop Crafty Planet
Allegro Fabrics

March 8, 2009 at 2:51 am 12 comments

More about crepe and flowers

This is probably more than any of you want to know…but I’m in a rambling kind of mood.

A few people have asked where to find 2-ply crepe paper. To be honest, that’s partly why I wrote up the rose tutorial. I’m hoping more people pick up crafting with crepe paper so that crepe is easier to get a hold of.

As mentioned before, 2-ply paper is really hard to find. Martha Stewart Crafts sold pre-packed 2-ply crepe for a short while in season-themed color packs at Michael’s craft store. But it appears to have been discontinued. (Darn it!) Kim’s Crane store sells some double-sided crepe but has (at last check) a pretty limited color range. I’ve heard FlaxArt sells 2-ply crepe too. I don’t think they have an online store, so you’d have to call for an order.

It’s pretty easy to make your own 2-ply crepe and you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching front and back colors. So I suggest you just go for that. See the “notes” of my crepe paper rose tutorial for quick instructions.

Crepe paper is sold in “folds” and can be most easily found at your local party supply store. It is essentially wrinkled tissue paper. And of course it’s the wrinkles that enable you to shape the paper and have the shaping hold. The beauty of this craft is that it’s inexpensive. You can find crepe folds for $1.00-$1.50 usually.

Dennison and Canson are two of the oldest brands you can find. A lot of vintage paper you’ll find are one of those two brands. In fact, Dennison is the manufacturer that created most of the instructions on crepe flowers (and crepe costumes!) all the way back to the 20’s. Dennison seems to have morphed into Dennefold today. Any paper under those three brands should work fine.

I hate to be negative, but I would say beware the Cindus brand of paper. I’m not sure why it is, but there paper is uncomfortably stiff and less crinkly than others. I’ve found Cindus does not make good paper flowers.

Of course the internet should be a good source. But do your own Googling and you’ll quickly find that it’s not that easy! Crepe paper just doesn’t seem like a hot commodity. I found THIS STORE that has a TON of colors and at a good price. I have NOT ordered from them yet so I can’t vouch for the product. But it’s the most promising online resource for crepe that I’ve found.

If you want to learn how to make a ton of crepe flowers and you don’t want to spend a lot of time crawling the web then you should pick up THIS BOOK. It’s a reprint of some of the original Dennison instructions. The photos stink and it’s just from a reprinter, but it’s better than nothing.
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Your next best shot is finding some of the original Dennison books on eBay or in your local used book store. I have a neat little collection of those and that’s where I’m pulling my info from for my tutorials. The BEST books are the Crepe Paper Flower Making 3 book series from the Dennison-craft Home Course set. It was copyrighted in 1926 and I’m lucky enough to have all three books. There are instructions for dozens of flowers from the Azaelea to the Zinnia and a ton of flowers in between.

Dennison went on to publish a number of little books/pamphlets for flower making, but they have a varying number of patterns in them. Moreover, some of the pamphlets don’t even have the templates in them. So if you by on eBay make sure you really know what you’re getting. Make sure the listing info tells you the condition of the book and whether or not the template sheets are included and intact.
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And every once in awhile Martha Stewart does a little article on crepe flowers. The best one was in the Spring 2001 Wedding special. It was a multi-page layout with great photos and she gave templates for a number of different flowers.

Phew! I hope this info is helpful to some of you. I’ve spent a lot of time (and $$$) over the past years figuring out some of this stuff so, if nothing else, I hope I saved you some time.

February 17, 2009 at 9:15 pm 9 comments

::Crepe Paper Roses::

And now for something completely different…

I’m drawn to almost any craft that involves a somewhat realistic looking flower as a final product. Hence my foray into French Beaded Flowers (fun…but takes FOREVER and expensive). A quicker, much less expensive, and very gratifying craft is making Crepe Paper Flowers (CPF.)

Making crepe flowers is a classic craft that was popular in the 1950’s. I’ve been surprised by the total lack of good online tutorials or instructions on how to make these pretty flowers. Thanks to eBay, I’ve manage to create a nice little collection of old instruction books on the art. Martha Stewart Crafts also had CPF kits going for awhile, but they appear to be discontinued. I want to spread the joy of the craft with others so I thought I’d create a few tutorials for y’all.

There are two primary methods for making CPF: single petal and continuous petal. Carnations and Daisies are made using the continuous petal method in which you cut long long strips of petals. Peonies, Morning Glories, Tulips, and Roses are made using the single petal method in which you cut individual petals.

We’ll talk about the continuous petal method another day because with Valentine’s Day looming, it’s all about ROSES!
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Tutorial below. Let me know if something is unclear. Enjoy!
(Forgive the terrible quality of the photos. I tossed these instructions together in between night feedings for the baby.)

(more…)

February 13, 2009 at 2:42 am 30 comments

Lofty goals

Free time now (ie “Quick, the baby is napping!) is dedicated to one of the following things: sleeping (YAY!), showering (how did this become optional?), cleaning (HA!), or leisure (I wish.)

Crafting, unfortunately, falls into the “leisure” category. So while my sewing-knitting-paper time may be drastically low right now, that doesn’t stop me from growing my project want-to-do list. Here are some of my recent list adds…

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Simple Modern Baby Quilt from Elizabeth at Oh Fransson
Pear Pincushion from Heather Bailey
Happy Stackers from Heather Bailey

Bunny from Wee Wonderfuls
Mrs Perkins from Melly and Me
Tanglewood bag from Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy

OWLS sweater from Needled
Lillyfield mittens from Jen
Selbu Modern from Kate at Zeitgeist Yarns

Have you made up any of these projects? If so…share with me! I need to find people to craft vicariously through.

January 29, 2009 at 10:34 pm 1 comment

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