Friday, March 31, 2017

Going Global!

Once upon a time, there were two friends who loved quilting so much that they decided to start a business. They were going to quilt, appliqué, and embroider stories together until their arthritic hands quit working. (Like forever...)

One day, Teri's husband said their house was too big. So they searched and searched until they found a new one that was just right. And it would only be about 45 minutes away from Kara. BUT, then Kara's husband shared that he had a job opportunity in Germany, which was much farther away than 45 minutes. They love adventure, and suddenly, Through the Needle's Eye was to become a global enterprise (of two)!

Teri's new house: we have a roof!

Kara's new house
Just kidding!! But it's not too far from her new house.

We are still brainstorming what that will look like, but in this day of technological "world-shrinking," we know that we will still be able to plan, design, and write together. And now, we have the opportunity to "divide and conquer," teaching and/or lecturing in twice the places, on different continents. Of course, we will plan to gather to do some teaching together: we will have to schedule our visits carefully. I (Teri) have always wanted a good excuse to visit Europe, and especially Germany, as many of my ancestors were German.

Next week, we will have our first practice opportunity of dividing and conquering. This weekend, I am joining the sisters that we met at Quilt Festival in Houston and going to the AQS QuiltWeek in Lancaster. And Kara leaves for their "Farewell Tour" to the midwest to visit family, which happens to coincide with Quilt Festival Chicago, where she will have the opportunity to visit our Fairy Tale Album, which will be in the exhibit. We are both a bit jealous of the other. We will have to get over that. Fast.

At Quilt Festival Houston in November 2016

So we will each be sharing quilty news and stories from different parts of the US. Soon, from different parts of the world. Who would have thought that we would become an international company?! 

We are excited about our future opportunities! 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Spring Wool "Egg"citement!

Well, at least in Maryland, spring seems to be determined to stay this time. Given typical Maryland weather, I (Kara) wouldn't bet my life on it, but my hope "springs" eternal. Winter always seems to hold on just a bit longer than we would like, but now the forsythia is beginning to come out (for the second time) and my hyacinths have deemed it safe to bloom. When I have had enough of winter but it is still sticking around, I like to put touches of spring inside the house—just to remind me that warmer weather and flowers will come eventually. That is why it seemed like a good time to come up with some new spring decorations. 

Our wool acorns last fall were so much fun, I thought I would adapt that process to make some wool eggs in happy, spring colors. I went through my wool stash and was able to find some scraps that would work perfectly. Once I picked the wool, it was time to choose the embroidery floss. I have really enjoyed working with Weeks Dye Works floss, so that was what I decided to use for this project.

The floss and wool colors are almost an "eggs"act match!

The first step was to cut out a pattern. I wanted to keep these eggs small so my egg shape was 7/8 of an inch at the widest part and 1.5" tall. 

Next, I traced my 3 egg pieces on the wool and then cut them out.

Using two strands of floss, I put two egg pieces together and starting from the bottom (the fatter part of the egg) I blanket stitched them together, stopping at the top.

The first two pieces ready to stitch
Blanket stitched from the bottom, stopping at the top

Two sides stitched together
When I got to the top, I added my third piece and blanket stitched to the bottom.

After the two sides were stitched, I added my embroidery embellishment using various stitches: stem, chevron, herringbone, lazy daisy and french knots. I started at one end and traveled across to the other. 

A few little straight stitches using two strands of floss
Herringbone and stem stitches

Once I was happy with the embellishment, I stitched the third side starting at the top and stopping about a 1/4 of an inch from the bottom center.

Stopping at this point leaves an opening just big enough for stuffing.
I unthreaded my needle at this point and put it aside, leaving the threads hanging. Then I used a toothpick to help me get the polyfill stuffing in the egg and I packed it pretty tightly.

This much stuffing actually fit into the egg.
Almost full, but needs a little bit more to round it out.

When the egg was full, I threaded my needle again and stitched the hole closed using a blanket stitch.

A finished egg!

As part of this project, I really wanted to create a nest using the sari silk that I used in the Secret Garden. My first attempt was to stitch the sari silk into a nest, but I quickly realized that sewing it was not going to work, mainly because I didn't have the patience for it. So I thought I would glue it together using some fabric glue and a pyrex dish as a mold. The glue I was using wasn't holding very well and it showed up on the outside. 

Attempt #2
Not loving the glue
Not what I was going for 

My next thought was to still use the pyrex cup as a mold, only this time use the inside. I soaked a length of sari silk in starch, layered it into the cup, and baked my nest for a couple of hours until it was dry. It worked to a certain degree, but the layers did not stick together very well. I think this process has potential, but I was tired of fussing with nests.

Starch soaked sari silk.

My nest before baking.

A loosely woven and somewhat crunchy nest.

The creative process has its ups and downs, and my nest-making efforts were mostly downs, but that is the way it works sometimes. I really wanted to have a nest for my eggs and remembered that I already had a pre-made nest from Michaels and decided it was just perfect!

My hyacinths provided a lovely photo backdrop for my nest full of eggs

Five tiny eggs all in a row

While my nest attempts didn't turn out, these eggs went together so quickly and turned out "eggs"actly as I had hoped. If you give them a try, let us know; we'd love to see your pictures! If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section. Hopefully, spring will come to your neck of the woods soon. If she hasn't, make up some of these little eggs to remind you that she is on her way.

P.S. If you haven't already, go over to our post, Happy Birthday to Us! and leave a comment there, telling us which of our posts over the past two years is your favorite—and why. You could win a Marcia's Flowers pattern in the color palette of your choice! The giveaway closes on Sunday, April 2, at midnight.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Happy us!

We can't believe we started this blog two years ago! Time certainly has flown, and we have come a long way in those two years. Here is a peek back at our humble beginnings:

Once upon a time, there were two friends who loved to quilt. They set out for a weekend away from their families to take some classes at a quilt show in Gettysburg, PA. Sadly, they waited too long to reserve a room, and upon check-in were a bit disgruntled with the accommodations. Not to be discouraged, they decided to stay in the humble lodging rather than return home to the kids. (Even though they loved them dearly.)

Kara, the perky one, got into her pajamas and leaped through the air onto her bed in excitement. Teri, the cautious one, was lifting the covers on her bed and closely examining the wrinkles and strange fibers on the sheets. 

"Someone's been sleeping in my bed," cried Teri.  

"What do you mean?!" chirped Kara.

"There are hairs in my bed, and they aren't mine!" Teri exclaimed.

"Really? Are you sure? ...Oh, ewww! Someone's been sleeping in my bed, too!"

Thus began our adventures stitching together. Suffice it to say that we got clean sheets, stayed the night, had a great weekend of quilting, AND learned to make our reservations early. It may not have been Goldilocks in our beds, but we have been blessed to combine our creative energies, and working together has been just right.

We have learned and experienced so much since our Gettysburg adventure. Here are a few of our highlights:
  • Teaching at the Academy of Appliqué in Williamsburg
  • Having our quilt, A Fairy Tale Album, accepted into the Houston International Quilt Festival
  • Going to Houston to see the quilt and experiencing all that excitement
  • Going to our first Market
  • Meeting other quilters from all around the world
  • Designing our first pattern (Marcia's Flowers)
  • Lecturing at the Baltimore Appliqué Society and other guilds
  • Teaching at the Baltimore Appliqué Society and various local quilt shops
  • Having almost 90,000 views on our blog in our first two years
  • Launching our website
Speaking of websites . . . we have been meaning to catch up on a few things that we had to put aside while preparing for the Academy. On the list of things to do was to add a few items to our website. If you pop on over there, you will see what is new in our shop. We started our store with the Marcia's Flowers wool patterns in two palettes, and now we have the wool kits to go with them. Each kit contains enough wool to complete the project, which you can then use to top a wooden box or turn into a pillow.

Marcia's Flowers Pattern bright palette
bright palette

warm palette
Marcia's Flowers warm palette

As we promised in our Pansies post, we now have pansy ribbon kits available. Each kit makes four, five-petal pansies, with a little bit left over to make a violet or two. The how-to directions are in our pansy post (linked above). Our students in Williamsburg were all amazed at how realistic these pansies are and how easy they are to make! You can buy the kit in two different sizes: 1" wide and 5/8" wide ribbon.

5/8" pansies

5/8" pansy ribbon kit

1" pansies

1" wide pansy ribbon kit

Also in our shop, we have a limited supply of kits for our Floral Wreath block and our Secret Garden block. The Floral Wreath kit comes with everything you need to create this beautiful and realistic wreath of flowers—even the background is included! In the kit you will find River Silks and Hanah silk ribbon, French ombré wired ribbon, Gentle Art threads, as well as detailed directions.

Floral Wreath

So many beautiful ribbons in this kit!

While you provide the background, the Secret Garden kit contains all the appliqué fabric, ribbon, and threads needed to create your own garden. There is River SilksHanah silk ribbon, French ombré wired ribbon, and sari silk for the wisteria tree not to mention all the threads needed for the embroidered garden. The kit also includes a comprehensive set of directions to help you as you complete this block inspired by children's novel, The Secret Garden.

Secret Garden block

Ribbon, sari silk, and threads—oh, my!

We couldn't have achieved our milestones without you, our readers, so what better way to celebrate our two-year birthday, then to have a GIVEAWAY! The winner will receive a Marcia's Flowers pattern and kit in their choice of colorway. All you need to do to be eligible for this giveaway is to leave a comment on the blog below telling us which of our posts over the past two years is your favorite—and why. That's it! (If you are reading this in email, hop over to the blog by clicking here.)

 Good luck!

We thank you all for traveling with us on this journey as we tell the stories of the many different ways we, and others, use a needle. Our love of stitching binds us together, and it has been our pleasure and honor to share these stories with you. Here's to many more years of stitching and storytelling!


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Williamsburg's 2017 Academy of Appliqué: A Photo Journal

This functional colonial doll, with her sewing apron,  was as ready as we all were to spend a week with our stitching friends, enjoying the art of appliqué. This lovely lady was found in one of the gift shops in Colonial Williamsburg.
Aren't those hand-dyed ribbons behind her just screaming to be turned in to flowers?!

Kara and I (Teri) spent the day on Monday setting up our classroom in the Resort Center at Kingsmill Resort. Our first class was the Floral Wreath, above left, and the second class was the center block of The Secret Garden quilt, above right.

Our display tables were filled with samples of our appliqué work and a few wares:
threads by The Gentle Art, French wired ribbons, Hanah hand-dyed, silk bias ribbon for pansies,
an assortment of silk ribbons by River Silks, needles, pens, and our patterns and kits.

Fairy tale stitching on display, above left. Our Fairy Tale Album will be in the
Chicago Quilt Festival,  so a notebook of block photos had to take its place.

All ready! Kits, schedule, and goody bags—with chocolate, of course!—are all in place.
(Many thanks to Kristy for helping us set up our classroom!)

When we returned to our room, we were greeted by this welcoming committee,
who just looked at us calmly when we got out of the car to go inside.

We awoke to this spectacular view of the sunrise from our balcony!
The birds were singing, and we were ready for a great day.

On our walk to the Resort Center, we spotted this rainbow;
how could this day be anything but perfect?
(In fact, our whole week was perfect!!)

Such a focused group of stitchers! We started back-basting leaves, before moving on to wired-ribbon boat leaves.
Don't let the serious stares fool you: we had plenty of laughter interspersed with those quiet stitching moments.

Ann is appliquéing her rose leaves.

Gayle, Rosa, and Nancy are busy creating pansies with bias silk ribbon.

Joanne and Ann are gathering wired-ribbon roses.

Joanne's rose and pansy

Janet and Phyliss are stitching clematis petals.

Progress! Phyliss did a lot of "homework" the previous night;
look at all those blooms!

Mila is stitching a jasmine bloom next to her rose.

Rosa is working on the turkey work center of her clematis. 

The first day of the Secret Garden class required lots of appliqué to build the garden wall,
in preparation for "planting" our wisteria trees.

Everyone was excited to start the wisteria, which is made with twisted sari silk, appliquéd to the wall.

Susan, Heather, Sandy, and Kate look on as Kara demonstrates rolling a wired-ribbon rose.
And I can assure you that this class also knew how to have fun; this deep concentration had the propensity to turn to raucous  laughter at the drop of a pin. At times I wondered if the staff would peek in to see how stitching could be so funny.

Our collective bouquet of roses, with a few buds

Breakfast and lunch were served daily, included with our registration.
Each day, one or two teachers would give a short presentation, sharing a few pieces of their work. Pictured above is Rita Verroca, who spoke the last day—the only day I was settled enough to remember to take some photos! After lunch, I took a little tour into the other classrooms and took a few photos.

Kerry Burke, of Simple Bird Studio, teaches prepared-edge appliqué. To read about her Academy experience, click here.

Barbara Carper, from Williamsburg, taught the stunning urn of flowers, far left.

I decided to make one last stop in the Huzzah Quilt Shoppe, owned by Barbara Blanton,
who is also the proprietor of the Academy of Appliqué.
She had some amazing fabrics available that just flew off the bolts!

Barbara Blanton and a friend packing up the shop.
Those big smiles reflect the fabulous week we had all had!

Kathy Richardson of the Suffolk Shaker Shop with her amazing wood items, ...

... including Shaker baskets... 
...and a lovely assortment of stitching tools.

Rita's class chose one of two blocks to stitch, and they worked hard until the very end! 

Judy Severson's class is busy working on their broderie perse projects.
Such creative designing goes on in this room!

Alas! Sunday arrived and it was time to go home. We did get to sleep in a bit, so the sun was up and shining brightly as we left the room and packed the van. We had one more stop to make before heading back to Maryland.

We enjoyed a brisk walk through Colonial Williamsburg, enjoying the sights of yesteryear, ...

... as well as a few sights of spring!

Since my head was more in teaching this year than taking pictures, I didn't even get around to the other rooms during the first half of the week. Therefore, I've only given you a glimpse of half the week. Wonderful classes were also taught by Andi Perejda, Nancy Chong, Marylou McDonald, and Barbara Burnham. (I'm so sorry I missed their rooms!) 

If you have ever attended the Academy of Appliqué, then you know how special the week is: an opportunity to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones. (Rather, long-time friends—many of them are quite young!😊) As Barbara reminded us each day: "There are no strangers; only friends we have not met yet." And what a wonderful place to find friends who share the same passion! If you have never attended, consider putting this on your bucket list. You will not regret it. Hope to see you next year! 

Check it out! It's never too soon to start planning for next year.