Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sewing Inspired!

We got back about a week ago from Bernina University, lunged right into VIP at the store and the rest feels like a blur. Learning about the new 8-series machines was awe inspiring in so many ways. I think when I listen to the details of what a sewing machine can do, it is a lot like listening to my husband talking to other farmings about tilling the land. It is foreign to me, but the twinkle in their conversation indicate something electric and magical.
I felt this way when I saw the 830 and the 820 machines for the first time. We got to play on emulators of the machines and watch the fine details of locking off stitches, the new features of drag and dropping stitches. Imagine the beauty of dragging things around like you do on your computer but now it is in a sewing machine. However, after working on emulator, I didn't rush right down to see the sewing machines as my staff did. When you own the store, there are lots of not-fun business details that get in the way of fun and explorations of the details of sewing. Our daughter Therese came to get me out of a meeting (I suspect I was picking some new fabrics for all of you.) and she howled, "HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW MACHINES?!" When I admitted I hadn't, she went on to tell me how beautiful they are on top of how fast they are and as many details as could come out of her in a hurried second. She rushed me to the room where the beauties all awaited. I agree with her and wanted to bring one home right then.

When you look at that picture of Therese and me with Gail Hillert, study that machine and remember that there are THREE people standing behind that beautiful machine. The 830 with her embroidery module spans 40" from left to right. I can't wait to see what we can do with that much space not only for quilting but for all kinds of sewing and embroidery. Mrs. Hillert is the visionary that has inspired this machine and so much in our previous Bernina machines. I am so grateful for her vision. She is an amazing sewer and instructor and her energy for these products and what they can do for your sewing world is unparalleled. Anything I could hope for in a machine, Gail Hillert has exceeded with fabulous features and conveniences that have me awe-struck.

I think this is like having the big box of crayons! I don't know about you, but I didn't get a big box of crayons until I was an adult. I distinctly remember going out and buying the big box to share with my toddlers. Being the oldest of three kids in four years, my parents had their hands full and I doubt big boxes of crayons made much sense to them. However, being a creative person, I always loved crayons and colored pencils and gadgets for drawing and playing. When I got that big box to share with my toddlers, we spent a lot of lavish going through the names of the colors....periwinkle, azure....what glorious names and glorious colors. We had lots of fun with those crayons. To this day, the bits and pieces are still in a box in our closet and we still use them when kids come over. Perhaps we ought to get them out now with most of the kids being adults and play again! Or maybe we all just moved on to big boxes of crayons in other mediums. I think mine is sewing and embroidery machines and the 830 is definitely on my wish list for the big box of crayons!

It isn't always about big boxes of crayons. I think there is a measure for good classics which brings me to my other favorite that I met at Bernina University. This is a sewing machine that inspired me by its beauty and its elegance. The White Pearl has many of the features of the Activa 230...with some added classy features such as the CFL light which is a must for all of our eyes. The White Pearl is wearing white buttons and a hand-painted image. With only 3,300 being painted in the world, we have ordered White Pearls for our store to have for not only those of us who want a classic that will be in limited quantity but also for that new sewer. Who of us can't remember her first sewing machine? I think the White Pearl is the machine that I would love to send with the young sewers I know into their future. My own daughters are in their early twenties and our youngest is 15. All three of the girls love their first Berninas; and even given the chance, have told us they will keep it forever as their first machine and pass it on to someone else. I have included information on the White Pearl on our web site. We have a great gift that will be going along with the White Pearl and they will be ready to start going home with you early this thinking of the holidays for yourself.

Can I be inspired by a sewing machine? Absolutely. The relationship with my sewing machine makes my ability to soar with my creativity limitless!


Monday, July 21, 2008

Kicking Up Our Heels!

The staff and I got back from our time at Bernina University. We had a great time kicking up our heels with our friends from Bernina and fellow dealers from across the country. Best of all, we got to get our hands on the new offerings Bernina has created in the 8-series machines. The news releases just hit the web sites. You will want to go to Bernina's web site to read and see it all. These machines will set the world aglow with creative inspiration. Watch our emails and publications to get your chance to try out these new technologies and learn more about the machine.

Another favorite sparkler in the offerings is the Bernina White Pearl machine. With only 3,300 of this Bernina White Pearl available, these will go fast. The machines are hand-painted and numbered. This rare gem will be available in our store soon and just made me want to hug her and bring her home. I want one for me! I think this is going to be a classic and will also be a great invitation to the young sewers....or those of us who think young (that would be you too!!).

While we were at Bernina University, we worked hard but we also had times to play. We got to go for an evening at the Jazz Museum and had a fabulous dinner there....Kansas City style....barbeque of course. We got to celebrate with Therese (our daughter and manager) and her husband Joel. Joel is joining Team Pine Needles as a technician. Training with Deb and Henry, Joel is learning fast. Joel has already declared that his personal sewing machine will be the new Bernina 830 machine. He got a chance to stitch out on it and is already loving the creative side of his job.

Along with the fun and the work, we got to celebrate with our friends Marcia Nagel and Suzie Diemer. Marcia and Tom Nagel, owners of Pine Needles of Cresco and Racine, were honored with the distinction of being designated as the 2008 District Dealer of the Year in our District. Pine Needles of Cedar Rapids began in Cresco and the Nagel family took over Pine Needles of Cresco in 2005 and expanded to Racine, MN. Their hard work and commitment to carry on the traditions that we began are commendable and we are so proud of this honor on their behalf. They have certainly earned this award. Congratulations from the Cedar Rapids team and our family.

As always, the sewing inspiration is my favorite part of Bernina University. Between the Fashion Show, the displays and the many new ideas from fabric designers, national educators and the teams of many companies, we come home exhausted but full of memories of ways to grow our creativity. When I got home tonight, I felt a bit frustrated that I was too exhausted to sew. So, for that weariness in my bones, I will just go to bed and dream of the things I saw and see where that takes my sewing experience for a more rested time to sew! I can't wait to see Therese's camera to capture her pictures as I know she has more to share with us!


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bernina University

Wow...I am in Kansas City at Bernina University. I have been telling people about the great time we had with Susan Cleveland recently. My brain is churning with inspirations I gained from listening to Susan and questions I have for her. I love it when a teacher comes in and causes me to wonder what I could be doing with my creative energies....and Susan surely did this to us at the store. There was so much incredible detail work in the Hot Piping Macaroni that not only inspired my creative energies for quilting but got my brain churning on garment applications. I also found myself dreaming of placemats with macaroni on it. What do you think?

Today I met with Linda Lee as well. She and I put our heads together and came up with some great plans for her trip to Iowa. Watch our next schedule to see the plans. We are so excited about our plans and you are going to love this day out with your friends...or come by yourself and be garment inspired.

Alex Anderson said to tell everyone HELLO and she along with so many designers, authors and corporate execs have asked about all of you affected by the recent weather. The country watched with shock. But, again and again, we heard people tell how they were confident that the Iowans were picking up and doing their best to help one another. It has been heartwarming to hear their concerns and reminds me all over again of how very proud of you I am that you have survived the flooding with dignity and very proud of those who are serving even this many weeks past the tragedy. What a great place to live and a great place to call home!

Wishing you All the Best, jill

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pillows and Comfort

Ready for a Color Journey with Me??
Along with being nurse-mom to Monica, I am helping her spruce up her new apartment. It has been fun making do with what she has because what she has is so much of what she has made! Check out these great pillows that were inspired by her journey into Amy Butler's book In Stitches. Pillows are fun to make and they go together so simply. In Amy's book, she has created a great explanation for how to make a button tufted pillow. When you go to our web site and study the books we have available, you will also see that our team has (with permission) been able to add pictures from the inside of a book. WOW....this is so helpful when I look through a book, I love to see what is inside and the Internet doesn't always make that so easy.

Therese has been playing back at the store with some photos from the store. She sent me this great picture that shows Fairy Dust in the background and a stunning image of the flowers at the store. We are fortunate to have our friends at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids bring us flowers every week for us to brighten your visit at the store. We love the florals they bring since they are such a great expression of florals typical of Iowa. We especially love them these days since the flowers from Brucemore are a good expression of Cedar Rapids motivation to re-build its beauty from the flooding.

When I went to their web site, I found a fascinating piece that describes Brucemore's efforts to educate the community about restoration of historic buildings as were affected by the recent flooding. Check them out.

Until I got this photograph, I hadn't really noticed how stunning the color shading can be in a tiger lily. I think we tend to shy away from using such vibrant coloration in our work. However, seeing the lilies in this image inspired me to also share the work I have been doing recently with the oranges, pinks, reds and yellows. I had started to dig through my scraps from several projects when I was working with the half yard cuts of bundles that I had been working out of for a couple of quilts you will be seeing soon in the store. I forced myself to ONLY use my scraps as I put this together. It is a little harder working from the outside to the inside on a quilt but the challenge is like reading the end of a book and then going back and trying to figure out how it attaches to the end. (If you understood all of that....consider yourself in MY universe.) Nonetheless, I am keeping my mind vibrant by going at creativity from every angle. Enjoy my vision of Tiger Lily...which is a batiks quilt that is like nothing you have seen. Of course, it doesn't match anywhere in my house. But it will always make me think of the Flood of 2008 as I had started cutting this out the first day we were hearing reports of the water.....for future reference, I will call that the F-word.....have we NOT hear enough about that nasty word. I will now only refer to flood in small letters for big actions....such as the flood of support and the flood of energy and the flood of empathy for those suffering through the tremendous loss. How appropriate that the vibrant colors of tiger will represent new hope and a new vision for Iowa as people recover. To that end, I will close with a couple of other pictures that we recently captured that show the beauty of these grand colors before I finish this quilt top. One is a raging fire in our fire pit and the other is the radiant sunset on the night we enjoyed the fire. Seems my Tiger Lily inspiration is about everywhere. Now I can see why I got so excited about playing with this color box of fabrics in batiks and others in the color wall. I can't wait to use the YLI Variations thread "Sunset" to quilt this.

If you haven't been inspired to machine quilt because you just can't get into meandering or stippling, you aren't alone. I used to struggle with this too. However, as I am piecing a quilt, I often let it speak to me as to that which I hope to pull forward in the design. The tiger lilies and the fire are actually great inspiration for design work in free motion quilting. As I work through machine quilting, I may actually use the tiger lily as a root for my initial design work and then use the flames of the fire as an inspiration for the fill stitches around the lilies. For me, meandering and stippling has never worked because it is a very short and abruptly changing design, which requires a lot of changes in directions....more movement in my shoulders and forearms. I prefer long swooping designs that don't require a lot of circular motion on the fabric as it is easier for me to sustain consistency in my design and keep from having to change directions. In short, I don't breath as much when I am having to swing the direction around 360-degrees for every inch of movement on my quilt. When I don't breath as much, I don't think well and my muscles don't work well for long periods of time. Machine quilting should be like a long leisurely jog and not a sprint. If it isn't that for you, come into the store and ask us to show you how to make it easier. I personally have developed a real love for machine quilting after I quit trying to do what everyone else does and do what works best for me.

I am off now to put more of my quilt together so that I can envision more of the quilting. Look around your world and see what colors are calling to you!
All the Best to You.....jill

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Monica's Mama in Detroit

Hey Sewing Friends... I am in Detroit with our oldest daughter, Monica. She had surgery on her nose last Monday and I have been helping her dress her apartment and get some rest from surgery. She has had this surgery twice before, knew the recovery and was dreading it. The surgery went very well but she is a little self-conscious with a cast on her face. Today she did some sewing and I convinced her to let me take some pictures of her sewing. She had made a handbag from Stephanie Kimura's Goddess Bag pattern and is making placemats for her new kitchen.

Monica is starting her last year of med school and she likes to play piano and sew as her break time from studying and working. (She is next to her purple 153 sewing machine that has travelled with her through college and med school.) I am havinga lot of fun seeing how much fun she has creating for her apartment. She and her friends love to re-vamp stuff they have bought at Goodwill or things that they got online from Such smart kids! I especially am fond of her black and white kitchen. She made a great little table runner and put it on her Goodwill table by the lamp saved from the dump and the artwork that someone else decided they could live without. She covered the lamp shade with a smart little print she found in my stash and recycled some beads from something (maybe it was a dress from my days as a flapper?!) Check out our store web site in my blog section....

We are also going to try to tackle recovering a chair. The way this week is going, I am guessing they will be recycling men's overcoats to cover the chairs. It is a sort of fun way to tackle things....a little different than what I am accustom to but inspiring all the way around. Sure am glad she has her trusty Bernina to dig through this heavy duty sewing. I suspect that we could sew together the screen door while we are at it.

hope this inspires you to take on a project that you have been dreaming about.


As you can see, Monica isn't ready to show off the results of the surgeon's handiwork. I will be sure to let Dr. Craig know tomorrow that she showed off her stitching before she showed his work.

all the best to you....jill