Fireworks, Emma the Schnauzer & Serendipity Woods Shop Progress

Good Morning All,

Happy Monday-after-we’ve-terrified-our-pets-beyond-belief Day! I may have mentioned somewhere here that we’ve had miniature schnauzers for almost 30 years, and all have possessed some degree of apprehension when the 4th of July rolls around every year.  Now, however, we have the queen of Fireworks Terror, Emma:

Emma: Our ordinarily confident, well-adjusted, 1-year-old, who officially becomes a shivering, crying shell of herself during fireworks.
Emma: Our ordinarily confident, well-adjusted 1-year-old, who officially becomes a shivering, crying shell of herself during fireworks.

Not to sound like a completely unpatriotic stick-in-the-mud, but as far as I’m concerned – I can sort of take fireworks or leave them. It’s probably, in part, because I feel like it’s awfully unfair to consciously embark upon an activity that only we humans above age 3 can fully appreciate and understand. It also probably has a bit to do with the fact that for about 13 years straight in the 90s and early 2000s, we had at least one child under 3!  Fireworks are cool; they are. It’s just that they’re so loud. Am I the only one that wonders why exactly most fireworks must also be accompanied by the rapport?

Anyhoo…Aside from fireworks we only actually saw from our yard (whilst attempting to get Emma to potty, to no avail), it’s been a busy, progress filled, shop entrenched weekend for me. It’s been about 2 weeks since we officially launched our Etsy shop, and we’ve had some great success! In the meantime, I’ve been working to build our actual web store on the side, which does take time!

I think I mentioned previously that we’d arrived at the decision to work with a local design firm to create our website, which seemed like a great idea at the time. Unfortunately, the firm we wanted to use was under some construction of their own, and could not really get going on our site until mid-to-late July. Well, I’d have waited, really I would have – but I’m just too excited to wait!

So, I’ve been building it myself and getting a pretty good groove on!  Mostly, these past weeks have been thoughtful ones to determine just how it is we intend to stand apart as a fabric store amongst a whole lot of other fabric stores. Making those determinations has required a good deal of surfing from one end of the web to the other. What’s been most revealing for me is in paying attention to the quilts I’ve seen that really grab me and create an opportunity for the tiny, joyful crafting voice inside me to exclaim out loud: “Oh! I just love that!” The trick, I’ve learned, is to pay attention to ones where that emotion is consistent and long-lasting.

There’s a good deal to be said about fabrics we love not only at the very the moment we first see them, but also for as long as they live amongst our fabric stash, and more still in the quilts we hope will last for generations.

So I think what I’ve learned in all this seeking and searching of how Serendipity Woods will fit into this world of quilt stores without getting lost among them, has a fair bit to do with the styles of fabrics we will ultimately sell, once we get moved over to our permanent site. The three words that come to mind as I think of them are: Refreshing, Cozy, and Timeless.

I’ll leave you to imagine that for a bit, until next time…

Cheers and Happy Quilting,

Pam

My Latest Online Order and an Announcement!

Remember all the times I’ve shared recently that my area of Kalamazoo, Michigan is lacking in retailers who carry some of the most sought-after fabric lines and notions in today’s modern quilt market? What that has meant for most of us around here is that we have to travel to find what we’re looking for, or shop online.  Mostly, since I’m a bit of a homebody, let’s just say my mail carrier has come to expect me walking across the yard (so he doesn’t have to trudge to the door) on days he just happens to be delivering a package.  Isn’t online delivery tracking just a magical thing?  Anyway, in the mail today was my most recent order:

I've been dying to try these Clover Quilt Binding clips, fell in LOVE with these Little House Glass-headed pins, and also scooped up one yard of the most lovely Wrens and Friends fabric that was on sale at the same online retailer.
These Clover Quilt Binding clips I’ve been dying to try, some Little House Glass-headed pins I knew I would love (and I do!), and also one yard of the most lovely Wrens and Friends butterfly fabric that was on sale, all at the same online retailer.

Also in the mail today was another item which made me smile from my toes, and shriek a tiny, joyful noise (and made the mailman do a double take, just as he started to pull away):

The tax identification I applied for recently so I can become an online retailer of all the quilt fabrics, threads, and notions I've been talking about here!
The sales tax license I applied for recently so I can become an online retailer of all the quilt fabrics, threads, and notions I’ve been sharing about here!

As the details go, throughout this time since making the switch from my Serendipity Woods site to Charlotte Loves Henry, I’ve continued to learn and share about premium quilt fabrics and notions I now encounter every day.  So with support and encouragement from the peanut gallery (my family), I’m embarking upon a new venture: An online retail shop for all the aforementioned!

Lastly, my family’s cooperation is under one resounding condition: That my shop must still be called Serendipity Woods. I’ll share more about that later (it’s the sweetest story, really), and don’t worry – you’ll still find my blog right here at Charlotte Loves Henry, with a new Serendipity Woods website along with it.  I promise to keep you posted!

Cheers and Happy Quilting,

Pam

Why (and how) I Made the Switch to Premium Quilt Fabrics

Happy Monday! I’ve been posting quite a lot about ‘quality fabric buying,’ and up until now (without necessarily meaning to) – I think I’ve been a little cryptic. What I want to share today is what I mean by quality fabric. What I’m really talking about is Premium quilt fabric, but what does that mean and why does it make a difference?

For starters, I’ve been making quilts for a long time. As I’ve said before, I’ve used fabrics that run the gamut, including those that I look at now (from beneath a quilt I spent hours and hours making), and I cringe. The truth is that mostly, I bought what I could afford at the time, and as a young mom of six growing children, it wasn’t a lot. Rarely did I have time to even go to an actual fabric store, so oftentimes it meant strolling through the craft aisle with a cart full of kids, in whatever store I was in for another purpose, being pulled in by a fabric that caught my eye based on pattern, and buying 2 or 3 yards. That fabric was then added to my ‘stash’ for later use and coordination with some fabric (or two or five) I intended to find later (but often never did), once I fell in love with some pattern I’d find in a book. All well and good, right? Not really because half the time I didn’t have that fabric with me the next time I was at the store, which then only meant another one-hit-wonder would catch my attention in the same fashion. So what I wound up with was a bunch of fabric whose patterns I loved, but really didn’t coordinate together.

That said, I certainly had plenty of success over the years at coordinating fabrics together to make quilts. However, the process became about matching colors, which then opened me up to the dilemma of ignoring my discerning eye for quality fabric in exchange for a color or pattern that matched perfectly. Are you beginning to follow me, here? In a word:

Hodgepodge.

Moving on. Let me now share an image of one such fabric that caught my eye in the store a year or two ago:

Cute FabricCute, right? It’s good quality too; 100% cotton, nice dense thread count, very soft, like any good quality fabric should be. And it has lots of colors I like for the purpose of creating a whole quilt, beaming with lively colors! Now let me show you the selvedge edge:

SelvedgeAre you getting where I’m going with this? No pattern name, design collection, nothin.’ What if I need more of this fabric? What if I’m trying to match it perfectly with the same quality, same exact color match, same everything? I could call around and explain what it looks like or search online, but odds are – I wouldn’t find it.

About the time all this started occurring to me, I began learning more about Premium fabric brands and the thoughtful collections they assemble. I fell in love with Moda’s Little Apples, April Showers and Color Me Happy. Then I discovered Riley Blake. Have you SEEN Country Girls? To Norway with Love? EVERYTHING designed by Lori Holt? These are fabrics that a) have a recognizable name I can seek out, b) are great quality so there is no guesswork to be done in terms of even feeling the fabric, because I already know it’s great, and c) are part of collections of several different fabrics intended to coordinate together. There are several premium manufacturers out there; these are just the two I love most.

Aren’t premium fabric brands really expensive?

The answer is yes and no. In general, premium quilt fabrics are of better quality and yes – tend to be more expensive than your average ‘Printed Exclusively for Hobby Lobby Stores’ fabric. There are, however, ways to conquer the price difference from what you or I may have bought previously (see how I plopped you right into my happy little sand pile of Premium quality goodness? That’s because if you are not already basking in my sand pile by your own choice already, I want you to join me!). Here’s how I did it:

  • Once I figured out which collections I was in love with, I started shopping around. I can tell you that some brick-and-mortar quilt stores will carry part of a collection, but not all. I have found that to be true with my local Field’s Fabrics. If you can catch a good sale, you’re in with at least some. That said, I have all of ONE real quilt store in my area (that isn’t a ‘big box’ store like Field’s). I stopped in about six months ago, for the first time, delighted to meet the owner and share my new status as a lover of premium quilt fabric. She then cheerfully walked me around the store, showed me where to find all the different brands and lines (as the energy of this fabric heaven welled up inside me), then told me on the slide that they customarily DO NOT HAVE SALES. What? For a few moments I thought, well, it’s premium fabric; I guess that’s the trade off. Then reality spoke and I left the store, never to return. I suspect that this ‘No Sales’ policy is not universal, so do visit your local merchants and ask questions. If we can support local, I think it’s right to do so, as long as they meet us halfway.
  • I started shopping online. After leaving the aforementioned ‘No Sales’ store, I began to really delve into the online world of fabric shopping. Because I now had names of fabric lines I loved, I could search and compare prices. Craftsy.com is a great source, and they have amazing sales! FatQuarterShop.com is also on the up and up. Lastly, since I have an Etsy shop myself (where I used to sell my recycled animal friends, but am on hiatus for now), I seek to support my comrades. There are some great little sellers out there whose prices are more than fair.
  • Consider last season’s fabric lines. Like fashion, manufacturers are always introducing new lines. If you have to have the new lines right when they come out, you’ll simply have to be comfortable with the MSRP – manufacturer’s suggested retail price (but there are sales to be had – so find them). Otherwise, I find that I’m still discovering some of the retired lines are fabulous enough that I want to grab them before they’re really gone. As a warning, you WILL encounter sellers (on etsy, in particular) that treat retired fabric lines like out of print books, by pricing them sky high because they are out of print. I guess it’s just a matter of how badly you want the fabric as it relates to how much you’ll pay.
  • As previously (perhaps relentlessly) mentioned, I discovered PRECUTS.
    • 2.5″ or 5″ Charm Packs, of the entire line
    • Jelly Rolls or Rolie Polies (depending upon the brand) in either 2.5″ strips or 3.5″ strips, of the entire line
    • 10″ Layer Cakes, of the entire line
    • Fat Eighth, Fat Quarter, or Half Yard Bundles, of the entire line
Charlotte's favorite activity:  Playing with my fabrics. She's quite a little coordinator!
Charlotte’s favorite activity: Playing with my fabrics. She’s quite a little coordinator!

The thing about precuts is that although if you really add it up, they are a bit more costly by volume than yardage, I believe it’s worth the trade-off. They allow me to incorporate a variety of fabrics into my quilt projects, especially when combined with solids like white or ecru, to really accentuate the patterned fabrics. I recommend either Moda Bella Solids or Robert Kaufman Kona Solids. They tend to be more reasonable in price than the printed fabrics created by these same premium manufacturers, yet still the same great quality. The best part is that most big box stores sell the entire collection of solid colors, so I can find them locally.

Next Up:

Storing your Precuts: My Eureka Technique

Post 3: What I’ve learned about Fabric, Precuts, and How to Bail on a New Year’s Resolution with Class

Up until now here at Charlotte Loves Henry, I’ve been a bit vague about my intended purposes for this blog, in exchange for just laying out the general feel and idea of the site itself. Beyond that, however, what started with a now defunct New Year’s resolution has evolved to bring me to a very new place as an experienced quilter. I think is worth sharing and as I’ve said, I don’t want to figure all sorts of things out and then start blogging about it; I want to share as I go along.

It starts like this – I’ve been quilting for about 20 years. I’ve learned lots about piecing and cutting and precision. Though every day is, and should be, a learning day, I’m not a quilting newby. Still, no matter how experienced I’d become, there was always something with which I struggled to streamline:

How to buy fabric I loved and could truly use effectively all the time,

without just looking at on my shelf in a befuddled stupor 50% of the time

while muddling through and making due the other 50%.

As of January 1, 2015 - this was my fabric stash. Lovingly gathered throughout 20+ years of quilting (and many quite dear to my heart), but frankly, a jumbled collection of unstructured nonsense as I look at it today.
As of January 1, 2015 – this was my fabric stash; lovingly gathered throughout 20+ years of quilting (and many patterns quite dear to my heart), but frankly, a jumbled collection of unstructured, frustrating nonsense as I look at it today.

Over the years, this is what my fabric-buying tendencies resembled (and I suspect I’m not alone):

  • I’d get sucked into any fabric department that existed in any store (including actual big-box fabric stores like Field’s and JoAnn’s, but also craft stores like Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, my local Meijer store and yes even Walmart on occasion. (hey, the first step toward reconciliation is honesty, or so my 7-year-once-catholic-school-girl self was led to believe…I beg you not to judge). Moving on…
  • Once in the clutches of said fabric/craft department, at least one bolt, remnant, or fat quarter leapt somewhat uninvited into my hands, subsequently forcing me to begin the following lengthy, multi-step process that starts with…
    •  Oooooh…PRETTY! (and evolves to…)
    •  Will this match that ONE fabric I’ve had in my stash for eons, such that I can finally use it?
    • If it’s a fat quarter or remnant, are there more if this same pattern in this bottomless bin (which then evolved toward the digging/sifting process of pulling out each one that matched what was in my hand, deciding that if there are 20, I’d have to buy all of them just in case, since Lord knows I’d never find this fabric again)?
    • If so (or no – since the wrestling still ensued), I then began to rub the fabric between my fingers for an undetermined amount of time, while squinting at it up close to ascertain the thread count and overall fabric quality

Okay – since I suspect you get my point, I’ll stop there. What I’m really trying to express is this one thing:

Fabric shopping shouldn’t be that hard.

Regardless, I went about collecting fabrics over the years, becoming pretty proficient as a quilter, yet still never really feeling like my fabric stash was working for me.  It wasn’t until after I set a New Year’s Resolution goal to resist buying fabric for 2015 (so I’d be forced to use up my stash) that I truly began to appreciate just how little useful fabric I had IN my stash. The reality was this – I had nice fabric of good quality and no argument could be made to the contrary, but:

  • If I wanted to match anything with it, at least 50% of it bore no design or manufacturer name along the selvedge edge. So even if there had been a grouping of coordinated fabrics along with it when I bought it, I had no way of going about finding what they were.
  • Some of my fabric I had several yards of, which I didn’t really need, but had bought for the simple fear I might want or need more but would never be able to find it again. Know what I figured out? Just because I love a fabric at first sight, doesn’t mean I’ll want to use it for the next twelve quilts.

Simultaneously, as all these things were occurring to me, I was still committed to NOT buying fabric. I started following fabric and notions manufacturers on social media, and also other quilters who seemed to have such a miraculously easy time assembling gorgeous quilts that I knew I was just as capable of creating. I began to recognize fabric collections by name and manufacturer, all assembled into large groupings of fabrics that coordinated together. Then I started shopping around online (without buying, mind you), seeking out fabric specifically by name. I could even find some fabric collections that were out of print if I looked in the right place, because I knew their name. Lastly, and most importantly, I’d done my research, I knew I could depend upon the quality of the fabric, so no squinting, fabric-feeling or guesswork would be needed!  So I bought a Moda 5″ square charm pack online and tried it…and that was THAT.

Eureka.

That’s when I gave myself permission to bail (the rest of the way) on my resolution and try out some other quality manufacturer brands, and while I was at it – I veered away from my forever good quality thread, and tried some Aurifil; an Italian brand of thread I’d heard of and simply thought, ‘Heck. As if it will kill me to try?’ I promise I didn’t spontaneously explode (obviously), and my seams lay flatter too.

The photo below I’m calling:

Did you know that Precuts are brilliant?

(and see my little thread bowl beneath Henry’s left foot? That’s my collection of awesome Aurifil threads.)

This is my new (heavenly) fabric stash, most notably, a good many precuts.

I’ll talk more about precuts in my next post – why their so great, and especially a cool new way I’ve figured out for storing them.  Perhaps I’ll whip up a fun little tutorial to share too.

Cheers and Happy Quilting,

Pam

PS. Remind me to bridge the topic of this business of ‘scant 1/4″ seam allowances too. I’d like to share about the crummy 1/4″ foot I’ve been using on my Pfaff for years, which, let’s just say, wasn’t terribly accurate to 1/4″, let alone a scant one.

Post 2: Launch Day; Better Late Than Tomorrow!

Whew! By my clock, it’s 9:44pm and doggone it – I said I was going to get this site launched on May 1st, and I’m doing it!  Though it has been an exhausting day, it’s been extraordinarily productive!

For starters, in my last (first) post (which nobody’s read, since I haven’t yet technically launched my site…maybe it wouldn’t hurt for you to read that first…scroll down…yep, that’s it), I mentioned something about there not being any quilts here at my site (which I also explained). Pish. Noble of you to consider waiting (as if you read the post, which you didn’t, so now not only am I explaining the quilt you see at the top of the page, I’m also explaining why it’s there when I said it wouldn’t be).

Plain and simple, I couldn’t launch this, a quilting site, without at least one quilt, no matter how much I may want to take you along on my journey from the very beginning.  So aside from a Women’s Varsity Lacrosse game, a trip to Menard’s with my sweetie, and relentlessly walking two much-too-old-to-still-be-having-accidents-in-the-house puppies, I finished my first Charlotte Loves Henry Quiltworks quilt.

SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCI feel like it sort of looks like a full sized quilt when all laid out on the grass on this beautiful day. But it isn’t.

SAMSUNG CSCAs alluded to in my previous post, this is a bunny-sized quilt created at the request of Charlotte and Henry, so they could play cards in the yard without having to sit in the itchy grass.  It measures 24″ x 30″ and was created with my very first little bundle of Moda precuts, which came along with my very first set of (heavenly) Aurifil 50w threads.

IMG_4897A Daysail mini charm pack of 2 1/2″ squares which I combined with some El Gallo yardage (which as you might notice, matches Charlotte’s ears), and some Kona Solid White.  Plain and simple, my goal was to start with plain and simple. Well, it doesn’t get much simpler than 20 – 9-patch blocks!

IMG_4902Oh Gosh – it’s already pushing 10:30 (I’m still launching today, I really am!). Let me just wrap up with a few more photos I just have to share before I drop like a rock onto my pillow.

Charlotte may just be the most photogenic bunny I have ever had the pleasure of creating.
Charlotte may just be the most photogenic bunny I have ever had the pleasure of creating (and she plays a mean game of Rummy to boot).
SAMSUNG CSC
Henry actually won the game, but that’s only because it was his turn to deal and he forgot to shuffle the cards first.

Okay. So that’s that, at 11pm on the nose. Hi and welcome to Charlotte Loves Henry Quiltworks!

Next Post: My first stab at Quilt Along participation. Admittedly, I missed the kickoff for Lori Holt’s Farm Girl Vintage: Farm girl Fridays Quilt Along today in order to get things wrapped up here with my kickoff.  I’m thrilled to say the results of my Monday shopping spree at Sew for a Song’s Etsy Shop to prepare resulted in a happy little (heavy!) package of fabric in the post yesterday.

Mostly Riley Blake Fabrics and a good many from Lori Holt's gorgeous stash of various vintage-y designs, I spent all morning shopping at Sew for A Song's great Etsy Shop.
Mostly Riley Blake Fabrics and a good many from Lori Holt’s gorgeous stash of various vintage-y designs, I spent all morning shopping at Sew for A Song’s great Etsy Shop.

I’ll post a better link tomorrow too, but for now it’s below, in case you’d like to check it out and/or join as well. It’s really awesome. I can’t wait to get started!

http://beeinmybonnetco.blogspot.com/

Cheers and Happy Quilting,

Pam

Charlotte Loves Henry, Post 1

Hello and welcome to Charlotte loves Henry.  It seems a little strange to be writing a ‘first blog post’ when I’ve been blogging for years. You may know me from my original site, Serendipity Woods, where I’ve been crafting and blogging about animals and other wares that I make from recycled clothes. So why the change? Great question; and that one, and more, deserve explanation.

For starters, I’ve long been considering making a change from my original web host to wordpress. There are lots of reasons, but ultimately, let’s just say the old host served my original needs, but not my growing ones. That said, have you any idea how complicated it is to move your online LIFE from one place to another, intact? Let me tell you – it’s brutal. So, for a long while, I just winged it, even though I began posting less and less about the recycling of clothing, and more and more about quilting. Long story short – the hodgepodge was starting to make me twitch, and taking my online presence with me from one place to another seemed less and less important. What’s more, 2015 arrived and little did I know an out-loud declaration to ‘Resist buying new fabric in 2015 and use up my current stash,’ would incite just the opposite, and then some.

My Fabric ALLAs of January 1, 2015, the above is what my fabric stash looked like, all in one place. Many of these fabrics I’d had for eons. Some I loved and treasured, but always seemed to struggle to find other fabrics to coordinate with them on a large scale to make quilts. Some I held onto for the simple purpose that they might ‘match’ something that struck me to make.  As the early part of 2015 progressed, I began to realized that even though I had all this fabric, it looked very little like any of the fabric I’d begun to adore as I stumbled around the web reading blog after blog, and following a variety of quilt makers, manufacturers, and designers on social media.  The other revealing thing I realized was that the vast majority of the fabric I owned – almost none of it possessed a pattern name or designer/manufacturer along the selvedge edge. ‘What does that mean,’ you ask, and ‘why should it matter?’ In a nutshell, it means that although I’ve always been thoughtful to choose fabric that looks and feels like good quality, there were features about fabric-choosing I wasn’t taking into account.

Now, before I lose you into the abyss that is complete and utter – ‘What is your point, really?’ let me just stop there and table a ‘What I’ve learned about fabric’ post for somewhere in the near future.

What I really want to do is wrap up this post by sharing a quick clarity for what happened after that, and what’s to come here at my new place, Charlotte loves Henry (fyi – I’ll explain the name later).  Ultimately, in all that resisting of fabric buying in order to use up what I had, I realized I didn’t want to use up what I had (at least for now).

  • I wanted to start making things like I was seeing online and in current magazines.
  • I wanted to be able to easily seek out a fabric by name and manufacturer (yep, this is where a name along the selvedge edge helps enormously, and not all manufacturers do it). I also wanted to have easy access to other fabrics that were DESIGNED to go along with it.
  • I wanted to start focusing my blogging on other sewing/quilting products like threads and other notions so I could really give people like me a clearer sense of just how to go about making the most of this short life we’re given to make as many quilts as we can! Indeed it starts with great fabric, but there’s a whole lot more to consider!

Last on my list, I wanted to start using and blogging about quality fabric lines and especially PRECUTS. Other than the occasional (non-descript and of marginal quality) jelly-roll with which I had experience, this resistance-to-fabric-buying-resolution had brought me to the realization that (among other brilliant reasons) precut bundles are so great because they include a coordinated collection of heaven – er, I mean, all the fabrics match, and can be combined with solids or used in happy scrappy fashion to assemble just about any yummy, quilty, cheery thing (see what happens when I start thinking about it? I get all befuddled with silliness).

The very last thing I want to clarify in this, my first post, is the answer to the question that you MUST CERTAINLY be asking:  Why is your site/blog so empty, and more importantly – why are there no quilts?  Well, it’s simple, all my past projects don’t really reflect the style I’d like to invoke here. So I had two choices:  Figure all the amazing things I want to share here and lay them all out (and make them) BEFORE I shared my new site with the world (in which case you might think to yourself, ‘wow, this Serendipity Pam chick is a pretty amazing quilter/crafter, which would be a perfectly lovely way to be regarded right off the bat, but…), OR – I could take you along with me in my journey (so we can become amazing together).

I decided on the latter, and am currently in process of building my stash of quality fabrics and precuts.

IMG_4901This is my new stash so far (but OH MAN did I just have some fun shopping for an order that is set to arrive at the end of this week!).  Alongside and above these fabrics, are indeed some of my bunny friends, Charlotte, her dear brother, Henry (who is rarely far from her side) and Big Sophie. Though this blog is not intended to really involve my sharing of recycling projects in the customary way I did at Serendipity Woods, my existing animal friends live all over my studio. Their presence amongst my new venture as cheerful inspiration will undoubtedly find its way into photos, descriptions and tutorials, and of course – the new name of my new place…because Charlotte loves Henry, it’s true – and when you work around that sort of happy, connected joy, it just spills over everywhere.

I hope you stick with me as I share what I learn about great products, cool patterns by my quilting friends and also some of my own as I go along.  Cheers!

Up Next:

Project 1:  A quilt is needed upon which Charlotte and Henry can play cards in the yard (since grass is awfully itchy)

My very first precut project for sharing: A miniquilt project with Bonnie and Camille's Daysail, by Moda.
My very first precut project for sharing: A miniquilt project with Bonnie and Camille’s Daysail, by Moda Fabrics.