Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Favourite Things

Bernina 440QE
In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews might have had "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens", but with the all the wonderful things in the store, my favourite things are somewhat different!  To go with my Bernina, which I love, there isn't a foot I don't like.  Collecting Bernina feet is like my shoe collection... always growing and useful!  From the Overlock foot to the Invisible Zipper foot and everything in between because I could not do without my Walking foot, there's a Bernina foot for every application I could ever want. 

Olfa Frosted Square Ruler
Together with my Bernina feet collection, I have a lot of rulers, but not just any rulers.  I discovered the Olfa Frosted rulers about 5 years ago.  What a revelation!  I could cut without the ruler slipping!  Needless to say, I have all the sizes imaginable.  The ones that I really like are the 6" x 12" and the 4.5" square.  
Add-a-Quarter Ruler

While I'm on the topic of rulers, the June Taylor Shape ruler is easy to use and fantastic since it helps you cut multiple quilting shapes in perfect 1/2" increments quickly and accurately.  There is also one that will cut in 1/4" increments.  Fantastic!  The Add-a-Quarter Ruler is also great... I use it mainly for paper piecing; it really makes paper piecing that much easier.  Who knew rulers could be so much fun?  

Gypsy Gripper
(small, medium and large)
The Gypsy Gripper Handle is the icing on the cake, when it comes to safety.  You just place the gripper on the ruler, and there is no more danger for your fingers.  How great is that!!!

Clover Seam Ripper
When I'm quilting, I'll admit that things don't always go my way.  For that reason, I have to say the Clover Seam Ripper has come to my aid.  It's easy to use, ergonomic, and oh so sharp!  Does the job with minimum fuss every time.  

Digital Velocity Iron
I also really like my Velocity Iron.  Coming from someone who really doesn't like the word "iron" at all, that's saying quite something.  The iron is heavy; it steams when I want it to steam, and it just makes ironing easier and faster, which are two words that I do appreciate when talking about ironing.

Martelli Zip Clip
Miriam introduced me to the the Martelli Zip Clip.  WOW!!!  How come I didn't have that tool before?!?  The Zip Clip allows me to do binding without pinning or using anything else.  It's the ultimate binding tool; all you have to do is push the lever and the clip does the rest.

I love gadgets.  For me, they beat "Brown paper packages tied up with string" any day of the week!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Warm Company

Since its inception, The Warm Company has been dedicated to manufacturing innovative products that make sewing and quilting easier and more enjoyable.  Some of their well-known products are Warm & Natural, Insul-Bright as well as Steam-a-Seam and Steam-a-Seam 2, just to name a few.

I love innovative produce!  Gadgets and tools can save you from untold frustration.  Steam-a-Seam adds an extra element of flexibility when you are creating, which allows you to change your mind at any time.  Nothing is permanent until pressed with an iron.  If you change your mind about the applique fabric you are using, you can simply peel off the Steam-a-Seam and stick it to new fabric!

There are two types of Steam-a-Seam products available: the original and 2, which brings up with question: "sticky back" or "double stick".  The bond is the same, but depending on your project, you may prefer one over the other.

The original Steam-a-Steam ("sticky back") has the pressure sensitive adhesive on one side only, which allows for a temporary hold to the applique material.  It moves freely on the second material, which allows you to reposition your pieces until pressed with an iron for a permanent bond.  Once fused, the bond is the same as Steam-a-Seam 2.

Steam-a-Seam 2 ("double stick") has the pressure sensitive adhesive on both sides which allows for a temporary hold on both the applique material and the background material.  This gives you the ability to hold your project vertically and have the pieces stay in place, which still being repositionable, until fused with an iron.  Before fusing, tack your project to a wall or, if it is a garment, try it on.  You'll be able to make sure the pieces are exactly where you want them to be... or make any adjustments you want.  

There's nothing like it! 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Canadian Thanksgiving

Did you know?

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to Martin Frobisher, the explorer, who had been searching for the northern passage to the Pacific Ocean.  Frobisher had safely returned from an expedition and in 1578, to commemorate this safe homecoming, he held a formal ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey.  This feast was one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations by Europeans in North America.

At the same time, French settlers, having crossed the Atlantic and arrived in Canada with Samuel de Champlain in 1604, also held feasts of thanks.  They formed The Order of Good Cheer. 

After the Seven Years' War ended in 1763 and New France became part of British North America, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving.  In 1799, Thanksgiving was observed, but it was still not yet held annually.  After the American Revolution, American Loyalists came to Canada and brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving with them.  The first Thanksgiving observed after the Canadian Confederation was established was on April 5,  1872 to celebrate the recovery of the Princes of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

Starting in 1879, Thanksgiving Day was observed yearly, but the date was flexible.  The theme of Thanksgiving also changed annually to reflect an important event to be thankful for.  In its early years, Thanksgiving was often celebrated for an abundant harvest, which is the tradition that we are familiar with today. 

After World War I, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday in the week of November 11th.  In 1931, the two days were separated as holidays and Armistice Day was formally renamed Remembrance Day.

There you have it!  The quick Canadian version of how Thanksgiving came to be.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting Hooked!

Antique Primitive Red Rug
Rug hooking has a very long history.  In North America, rug hooking has its roots as original folk art.  Once a craft utilized to cover the drafty floors of primitive settlers' homes, it is now a fine art practiced by talented and skilled artists.  In its earliest years, rug hooking was a craft of poverty, using strips of used material, among the first examples of recycling.  In the past few decades, rug hooking has reached new heights as a fine art form, and modern rug hooking is often described as painting with wool.

Three Churches of Mahone Bay with Gazebo
Hooked by Janice Daniels
Design by Encompassing Designs

The mother of modern rug hooking is Pearl McGown.  In the 1930s, she popularized guidelines for rug hooking, formalized its study and established the modern preference for using only cut wool strips in hooked rugs.  Her vision of rug hooking and teaching grew into a family business and then beyond as she was determined that rug hooking not become a lost art.

I Have My Eye on You
Designed and Hooked by Christine Gibson
Recently, hookers have followed quilters in exploring new materials and developing techniques.  This experimentation, combined with knowledge of the past, has allowed rug hooking to evolve and grow.  Rug hooking today falls into two genres, primarily based upon the width of the wool strips used to create a rug: fine and primitive hooking.  Generally speaking, fine hooking uses very small strips of wool.  Designs of the fine-hooking genre use more fine shading, accomplished by over dyeing wool in gradated colour swatches.  On the other end of the spectrum, primitive (or wide-cut) hooking uses wider strips of wool (up to a 1/2 inch wide).  The wide-cut hooking accomplishes shading and highlights using textures in wool, such as plaids, checks and herringbones. Wide-cut designs are generally less detailed and tend to mimic rugs of the past (pre-McGown designs).

Patrick & Logan Summer 2009
Hooked by Trish Johnson

A big Canadian connection to hooking is Loretta Bluher-Moore who stumbled upon rug hooking by chance.  On impulse, Lorette  purchased a rug hooking kit, which got her started down on a path to artistic fulfillment.  She attended rug hooking class in Montreal, where she credits her teacher with instructing her how to dye wool.  Loretta loves creating exactly the right hues to execute her original designs.  Of colour, she says "when you can control the colours, it opens up so many possibilities!"

Robertson Glacier
Designed & Hooked by Betty Calvert

Within a few years of taking up hooking, Loretta was invited to exhibit and demonstrate traditional rug hooking at a show in Roxham, Quebec.  She sold dyed wool and was inundated by people asking for lessons and kits, so Loretta created her first rug hooking kit.

In addition to creating unique pieces to sell and for herself, Loretta has developed a number of kits for hooked wall hangings, seat covers, runners, rugs and purses.  She also enjoys the artistic challenge of designing specialty items on commission as well as teaching.  Loretta was featured in a fall issue of A Needle Pulling Thread, a Canadian fibre arts magazine, along with one of her traditional hooked patterns.

Celtic Flow
The Running Stitch is excited that it will start retailing wool and rug hooking kits in the near future!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Velocity Iron

No one likes ironing.  Let's be honest.  It's not exactly fun, but more something that has to be endured.  But... let me tell you: with the Velocity iron, it's actually a piece of cake!  Surprising, I know, but the result means you can get on to better parts of life, like quilting!  No spit, no drip, no muss, no fuss!  And it is an eco-intelligent product to boot, saving on water and energy.  I can't believe that I'm saying this about an iron, but it's a wonderful tool, completely unlike the traditional iron.  

Its list of fantastic features makes ironing less painful.  The Velocity iron has few holes, which mean better steam, and the bottom line is that ironing goes faster.  When it comes to ironing, I like fast.  It's ergonomic, so it even works with you.

You know it's a fantastic product when The Oprah Magazine selects the new Velocity V50 iron to be part of the esteemed O List - Makeover Edition.  The Velocity is featured on page 92 of the September 201 issue as one of the several select items that Oprah and her team thinks are better than ever!  

When you add Mary Ellen's Best Press to your ironing regime, combined with the Velocity, life gets even better and you almost don't realize that you're ironing!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fibrefest 2010 in Almonte

Post Office designed
by Thomas Fuller

Almonte is notable for being the boyhood home of Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, but the village's history reaches further back than that.

In a region where the early settlers' Irish, English, and Scottish origins are prominent in the names of the communities they founded -- Lanark, Corkery, Glen Isle, and Scotch Corners to name a few -- it is interesting that Almonte's namesake is Mexican.

Burnside House
The combination of Canadian Loyalists and American Revolutionaries led to tensions between the two countries.  The War of 1812 did nothing to help the situation, nor did US military incursions into Mexico during the 1840s.  The border skirmishes between Mexico and the US during this time were seen by Mexicans as a land-grab, and this worried Canadians that the American Republic was ready and willing to use force against its neighbours to achieve its territorial goals.

Mill Street (c. 1910)
At this time, Mexican General Almonte was primarily a diplomat as well as the ambassador to the US.  He was recalled to Mexico, and served in the field against the invading US forces.  He was taken prisoner, later released, and died in 1869, lauded by the English press at the time as "a kindly and accomplished gentleman".  In the political climate of the day, this lead the British citizens agreeing to rename the village to its present-day name.

Rosamond Woolen Co.
In 1819, David Shepherd obtained a Crown grant of land, and he began construction of a grist mill and sawmill in the area that would later be named Almonte.  Sadly, fire destroyed the sawmill the following year, and he gave up the entire project.  The Crown re-granted the land to Daniel Shipman, who successfully developed the grist and sawmills, among numerous other ventures.  By 1870, Almonte boasted 30 stores and nearly 40 other businesses.  Chief among these were the textile mills that gave Almonte its reputations as the "Manchester of North America".

North Lanark Agriculture Hall
(c. 1910)
The rapid expansion of the nation rail system, combined with the emergence of an industrialized middle-class spurred the growth of Almonte's textile industry.  By the turn of the century, there were seven woolen mills in operation.  However, by the 1950s, competition from foreign producers had shut the flow of textiles from Almonte down to a trickle, and the mills closed or were converted to other uses.  The massive mansions (formerly belonging to mill owners and business men) lends to Almonte's historical past and demonstrates how lucrative and important the textiles industry was.  The village has incredible 19th century architecture.

The Running Stitch Kiosk
Almonte was the perfect location for Fibrefest 2010 which was held at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum (MVTM) and the North Lanark Agriculture Hall.  MVTM is located in the annex of the former Rosamond Woolen Company.  Constructed in 1867, this National Historic Site of Canada now houses static and working displays of textile equipment, focusing on the region's heritage, culture, and the role of the textile industry in the development of Canada. 

The Running Stitch Kiosk
Fibrefest itself was quite the event.  There were demonstrations and textile art exhibitions of spinning, weaving, lacemaking, and smocking just to name a few.  William Hodge was the featured artist.  There were also a wide range of vendors (including The Running Stitch!) in attendance, and it made for a great weekend.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mary Lajoie

Strippy Quilt
Mary was raised in the small town of Wallaceburg, Ontario.  In high school, she taught herself to sew in order to expand her wardrobe.  Her Aunt Marie taught her some of the finer details, and from there, her addiction to fabric was born.

Amelie's Table Runner
Mary went on to become a teacher, and by the end of her career, she was a Coordinator and a Principal.  Throughout her career, not only did Mary's interest in sewing hold fast, but it blossomed into a love of quilting.  It started with collecting antique quilts; Mary found them in flea markets, antique stores, and auctions.  She loved their uniqueness and wondered about the history of the maker and the designer.  Mary was especially intrigued by the variety of colours and shapes could all come together to make a masterpiece.

Le Jardin d'Amelie
Mary's professional career in quilting began to thrive in her retirement.  As an owner of a quilt shop in Brighton, Ontario, she became even more passionate about fabric and quilting.  After moving to Ottawa, she spent time teaching at Dragonfly Fabrics and working at The Running Stitch.  Her quilts have won awards at the Picton Quilt Show and the Ottawa Valley Quilt Show.

Blue Tulips
Now specializing in quilt patters, to date, Mary has created 5 which have been published under her company name of "Country Angel Designs".  Two of her patterns were named after her granddaughter Amelie (Le Jardine d'Amelie and Amelie's Table Runner), who has a special place in her heart.  Her other patterns to date are Strippy Quilt, Blue Tulips and Booty-ful.  She sees her future as being filled with more quilting, pattern designing and getting into computer software to expand her designing horizons.  The Running Stitch hopes to see more of Mary's patterns in store soon!

Mary plans to grow her pattern business to other locals through a greater network of distributors.  Her own website will be up and running soon, so do keep an eye out for it!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Judge Allan A. Fradsham's Quilt Canada 2010 Conference Speech

Judge Allan A. Fradsham is a Provincial Court Judge in Calgary, Alberta.  He delivered the following speech to a standing ovation on Saturday, May 1, 2010 as part of the final evening celebrations at Quilt Canada 2010 held in Calgary. A friend of mine, Sherida, shared this speech with me and I thought it was interesting and funny.  I hope you get a kick out of it as well!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FBC Special Event

This Sunday (August 29th), we had an in-store special event for the ladies who purchased a Frequent Buyer Card (for those of you who don't know, the Frequent Buyer Card entitles the holder to 15% off their purchases, except Bernina products, classes and magazines).  It was a lot of fun and quite the afternoon.  I enjoyed myself a lot. 

I had good intentions to take some pictures of the ladies enjoying the demos and the refreshments.  My intentions were so good that I'd even put new batteries in the camera so that there wouldn't be any technical glitches.  But... all my good intentions went out the window because we didn't stop hopping until all the ladies had left!  What can I say?

The turnout was fantastic and very much appreciated.  We had a bunch of demos prepared for the event.  There are so many tools of the trade out there and demos are a great way to see what tools can do for you.  There were special discounts, and because I like surprises, there were also additional bonus discounts in the form of coupons hidden around in bolts of fabric and in books.

There were a lot of happy people - me included!  Thank you to all who attended to make for a great afternoon!  Also a big thank you to Gabriele and Miriam who helped make this event as great as it was.  I look forward to doing another event like this one in the future.

ps: I apologize that not everyone got their mailed invitation.  Please make sure that the address that we have in our system is correct for future mailings!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nancy Crow

Construction #83
Undoubtedly, Nancy is among the most widely known of all art quilters, and she is considered the vanguard of modern art quilting.  Her influence is far reaching, and she has been pivotal in advocating for a definition of the art quilt.  Her work is creative, prolific, and constantly evolving.

Structures #90
The Ohio artist, credited with being one of the early revolutionaries of the art quilt movement, became disillusioned with the restraints of the form's traditional heritage.  Her early work were very much grounded in traditional quilt making techniques, using templates which then fit together.  Nancy made big works at the beginning of her career, and she worked that way until the mid-to-late 80s.  Feeling that she couldn't really create with templates, Nancy realized that she had to go a different route to truly make art with fabric that pleased her.
Linear Studies #7

Anna Williams, an African-American quilter from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, played a very influential role in helping Nancy free herself creatively.  Anna's spontaneous approach to design, achieved without using rulers or templates, showed Nancy the power of letting go.  Some of her quilts are reminiscent of work from the heralded African-American quilting community of Gee's Bend in Alabama.  Inspiration for Nancy comes from everywhere as she is influenced by diverse sources: her travels, nature, social issues, politics...

Structures #5
For Nancy, creating a quilt is an entire process that beings with the dying of all her fabrics to achieve the intense colour that she is looking for.  She cuts and machine pieces that fabric and hires someone to hand quilt the patters that she's marked on the quilt.  Nancy includes the name of the quilter along with her own on the back of each quilt.  Nancy takes a holistic approach to creating a quilt.  That is to say that when she works on a quilt, all other thoughts are put aside and her energy is channeled toward her creation.  She sees shapes in her head and decides how to cut them out of her hand-dyed fabrics.  Her time in her studio creating is also a time of self-discovery for Nancy.  She enjoys pushing herself to think and come up with more complex ideas because she knows those ideas are out there.  Her focus is second to none.

Construction #65
Nancy has been given solo exhibitions at such prestigious venues as the Smithsonian's Renwich Gallery in Washington, D.C., The Snyderman Gallery in Philadelphia, and most recently, at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, New York, just to name a few.  Additionally, she has published numerous well-received books and won several awards.  Nancy has taught extensively and internationally and her workshops range in skill from beginner/intermediate to advanced and master composition.

Chinese Souls #3
Nancy says of herself "I identify who I am with my art work... in other words, I love the work, the experience of making each quilt.  It's my life, my life's work!  I feel lost not doing art, unsatisfied, anxious, bored.  Everything else in comparison seems not terribly important.  The purpose of my quilts is to make something beautiful for me but at the same time they are a means of expression representing my deepest feelings and my life experiences.  In addition, my quilts are all about how I see color and color relationships; how I see shapes; and how I see line and linear movements.  They are also about complexity, sadness, and hope."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Edyta Sitar

Location, Location, Location
Edyta Sitar is the successful designer and co-owner of Laundry Basket Quilts line of patterns and one of my favourite designers.  Her love for fabric began at a very young age, when she used her mother's newly hung drapes to create her first fabric project.  Edyta's journey with sewing and fabric started with clothing, but evolved into creative textile designs.  From there, the first person to inspire her to quilt was Anna Sitar, her husband's grandmother.  With more than six decades of quilting experience to share, Anna taught Edyta the basics for hand quilting and scrap piecing.  Her first sewing machine was a wedding gift from her mother-in-law, Carol, which Edyta still has and her daughters, Anna and Delphina, love to use.

Elegant Garden Album
Midnight Bloom
Edyta says "Every time I begin a new quilt, it is normally because of a person or event that has inspired me.  Sometimes it can be for a loved one in need, birth of a child, a thank you or simply a tribute to a natural beauty that I have experienced, such as a lovely sunset".  Quilting has enabled Edyta to express herself artistically, especially through creating her own designs.  The combination of inspiration from nature, a love for fabric, and a keen eye for colour has blended into a fantastic talent for both designing quilts and quilting patterns.  This has further extended into Edyta's creation of fabric lines with MODA which range from batiks to more traditional fabrics.  Edyta's patters range from more traditional pieced quilts to appliqueed quilts (including raw edge applique). 

Edyta has been published in magazines world-wide and her quilts have received numerous awards.  She has also published books including Hop To It and Friendship Triangles as well as numerous beautiful patters such as Bon Voyage, Winter Lily and Maryam ... just to name a few.

Visit Edyta's website Laundry Basket Quilts at  

There's all kinds of good stuff there, including a free patter for a quilt called Treasure Box, which can be found under the icon Free Stuff.  Take a look and come to the store to pick out batiks to make one of your own!
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