Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How 'bout some SUGAR?

Do you like sugar in your coffee? Your iced tea? On your cereal? How about with your quilts? Until this week we thought sugar was something to avoid—or at least limit--but then participants from the SUGAR (Statler Users Group and Reps) began stopping off at the store on their way home from this year’s conference, and we discovered SUGAR was a good thing!

With the energy and enthusiasm of the newly inspired, the SUGAR gang dropped by on their way back to their longarms. This bubbly bunch examined Connie Gresham’s quilting on our shop samples, put together exciting combinations of fabrics for their next projects, and took time to share a few stories before they got back on the road to head home.

Hughetta, a Homestead Hearth friend from a Nashville event, told her SUGAR tale of being in the right place at the right time. Thanks to an encounter with a man in charge of outfitting Disney World’s Cinderella’s Castle, Hughetta and her buddy Jewell’s ability to stitch more than straight lines earned them the opportunity to quilt 17 comforters. Isn’t that a fairy tale come true?

About the time the SUGAR folks wandered away a three-generation group of gals stepped into the store. Mothers, daughters, and a daughter of a daughter roamed the shop matching completed embroidery tops to border cloth, hand-picking colors for new projects, and browsing the books. One of the mothers in the clan, Connie, shared this creative idea during her time at the cutting table.

Take one son-in-law who works as an over-the-road trucker. Put him on the highway for weeks at a time. Stir in a little boredom and Connie’s inspiration (and determination) to find a cure. What do you get? A postage stamp (2x2”) quilt built from novelty fabrics accompanied by a printed Seek-and-Find guide. How much of the puzzle do you predict he’ll solve before his next trip home?

When the afternoon rolled around our Thrilling Thursday continued with an invasion from Burlington, Iowa. When the bright, red Trailways bus pulled up we were thrilled to welcome 37 enthusiastic quilters from across the border! While some of the gals holed up in the brights, others delved into the Civil War fabrics. The rest? They spread out throughout the store—and the other two fabric stores in town. We’re sure Bonnie at Mexico Sewing Center and Mona at Sticky Wicket enjoyed the Iowa gals as much as we did. Y’all come back now, you hear?

Don’t you love summer when you can get out and go? Whether passing through on the way home from a conference, making a special bus trip, or just out for the day, it is wonderful to have all of you filling the store with your excited voices and the opportunity to tap into your amazing ideas.

Lately many of our visits have been from folks traveling to family reunions. One couple, Quilter’s Travel Guide in hand, was making the journey from Utah to Quincy, Illinois, one shop at a time. Another day a multi-generational trio took time out from their adventures at Lakeview Park to wander into the store and pick a project for the campsite. Once in a while grandmothers and grandchildren stop by to select fabric for “Grandma Camp” projects. And of course there are always remembrances under construction for weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and soon-to-come babies.

Quilting is such a wonderful way to celebrate the milestones and connections in life, but as you create those projects remember to include labels with the Who, What, and Where. Nothing is sadder than digging through a box of lovingly made quilts or old family photos not knowing the hands, hearts, and faces behind them.
Labeling can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. Handwritten information can be done with a permanent pen, or some quilters prefer to write and then embroider over their lettering for more longevity. Whether you use your computer to print labels, the embroidery feature on your sewing machine, or your own best penmanship, we created the Family Album panel to help simplify the preservation of your family’s history.

Get your own Family Album panel by clicking here.

Loved enough for a quilt? Certainly loved enough for a label.

Summer is definitely here, so enjoy your travels, enjoy your families, and enjoy making memories of simpler times.

Happy 4th of July!
Sue, Sarah, Dolores & the Homestead Hearth gang

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Growing pains

Thanks to the internet, visitors from all over the globe make their way daily to Homestead Hearth. And sometimes our cyber friends even find their way to our brick and mortar store here in small town America.

This past week we enjoyed meeting Penny, staffer at Suzy’s Quilt Shop in Garland, Texas. Penny was making her annual pilgrimage to muggy Missouri to visit her dad for Father’s Day. Thankfully she also managed to squeeze in a bit of time for us. It was great seeing you and safe travels, Penny!

If you’re ever in the area we’d love to meet you face-to-face. We’re easy to find--just look for the building with the jeep over the door. The flock of flamingos from the back seat has flown the coop, but you’ll still recognize our store front. Some days you might get to meet Harvey, our unofficial mascot:

Our building was last used as a restaurant, and that owner was into recycling long before being “green” was in style. As you stroll through our store you’ll see:

chunks of airplanes,

walls made of old doors, a variety of floor tiles,

an old bathtub

and yellow duck prints leading straight to the restrooms.

Of course we also have hundreds of patterns, 1,000s of fabric bolts, a variety of notions, and a J.C. Penney catalog outlet desk.

Lori’s Penney catalog business (right inside the front door) always gets a second look from our quilt shop customers. Her catalog business represents the resources of a company with over 1,000 stores and 150,000 associates. The J.C. Penney distribution centers are spread throughout the nation and offer an inventory of millions of items. In comparison, our sole location serves all of the retail, wholesale, and internet needs of our worldwide customers.

Our staff of less than ten employees stays busy cutting kits, taking orders, packaging, and shipping. They answer phone calls, pull orders, bundle fat quarters, and give stitching advice over the phone and in person. Despite our small number of staff members, life at the shop was going pretty smoothly. Then came your overwhelming response to the Civil War Tribute block of the month (BOM) program.

Partnering with Judie Rothermel and Marcus Brothers to present this BOM project was a dream come true. We worked for months preparing ourselves for the changes and challenges we knew would come. What we hadn’t foreseen was the exponential enthusiasm for the project—and the growing pains such rapid growth would mean.

It didn’t take us long to realize that our original printing arrangements weren’t going to be adequate for the increasing requests from our customers. The search for a reliable printer with appropriate capacity led us to a town 45 miles from the shop, and soon we were taking turns making the drive to shuttle boxes and boxes and boxes of patterns from the printing facility to our store. Then came a series of unexpected delays.

First the printing machinery broke and a part had to be ordered from out of state. Next the weather didn’t cooperate as schools and businesses across the region were closed due to blizzard conditions. Then our building flooded.

Pipes in an unused area on an upper floor separated and doused the ground floor with several inches of water. The inventory of patterns wasn’t damaged, but we were too busy rescuing bolts of fabric, mopping floors, and removing water with shop vacs to get any orders shipped out for a while. It was definitely a series of events that led to the point where you just had to laugh so you didn't sit down and cry.

Once the printing was back under control the multitude of questions began. As more shops stitched their shop samples and more customers began their own versions, we were inundated with questions. Questions about yardages. Questions about instructions. Questions about hints for easier sewing. Questions about readability of diagrams. As each concern was shared we worked to find ways to respond.

Pattern updates were posted on our home page. Diagrams were changed from gray scale to patterned backgrounds. An alternate block was offered for a universally troublesome piecing challenge. Quarterly shipments were added to the original shipment choices for store owners. Despite the glitches and adjustments you stuck with us—and we will be forever grateful!

Backed by your enthusiasm and shaped by the lessons we’ve learned over the past year, Civil War Chronicles will be our second BOM offering in partnership with Marcus Brothers and Judie Rothermel, and we know you'll enjoy the improvements.

Vivian Ritter, experienced technical editor, has written the pattern directions for clarity and accuracy. Quick piecing tricks are included. For those who prefer picture examples, improved layouts and color coding have also been added.

Finally, just in today is info on the new Gettysburg Memorial quilt kit. Order yours now!

As we get closer to the Chronicles kickoff date, we will be sharing more information about this second heirloom project reminiscent of simpler times.

Sue, Sarah, Dolores & the Homestead Hearth gang (including Harvey!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's All in a Name . . .

The phone rang at the shop the other morning and a voice asked, “What time is check in?”
“Excuse me?”
“What time is check-in?” the voice repeated. “We’d like to get into our room as soon as possible.”
“There is no check-in here. We’re a quilt store.”
“A quilt store?” the voice said. “I thought you were the hotel on the edge of town.”
Country Hearth Inn and Suites is a popular stopover for visitors to Mexico, but they don’t sell quilt fabric. On the flip side, Homestead Hearth doesn’t take room reservations. This little slip was easily mended, but not every phone request is so easily solved.



A second caller had a question we struggled to solve. She was working on the Civil War Tribute block of the month (BOM) and needed a tad more fabric due to a "whoops" in cutting. We got her name, phone number, and fabric requirements then scoured our records for her shipping information. No matter where we looked (in paper files or computer) she was nowhere to be found! Finally, we were forced to call her back. "I'm so embarassed," she said. "I forgot I was doing the BOM program with XYZ shop. I called you because your name was on the pattern." Mystery solved!

Not all questions come to us by telephone, sometimes they walk right in the front door. One bright, sunshiny day a pair of friendly visitors strolled in with a quilt in hand. “We’re looking for the name of this block,” they announced, unfurling a gorgeous quilt with precision piecing. We oohed, we ahhed, and then gave our best guesses. It looked like a pinwheel, but along with the pinwheel-style blocks was a troublesome (but lovely) modified sashing. Could it really be a pinwheel? No one knew. Before they left the visitors discovered a similar block in one of our 30’s display quilts, but that still didn’t help because we couldn’t remember the name.

As you’ve probably discovered, the same quilt block can be found under several different names. Haven’t you seen all of these designs alternately referred to as Churn Dash, Shoo Fly, Monkey Wrench & who knows what else?

Regions of the country, different time periods, or even misprints can bring different titles to the same design. When we created our Civil War Tribute quilt our goal was to select blocks and titles from that time period. The battles we selected to highlight had direct significance to the war. And the blocks themselves? All were in general use but have no direct ties.

Sometimes confusion is the name of the game. Book titles, fabric lines, pattern names, and magazine issues can be hard to keep straight. Although we can’t always come up with the answers you need, we’ll be glad to try. Phone us (573-581-1966) or email (info@homesteadhearth.com) and we’ll do our best to make your life simpler.

Sue, Sarah, Dolores & the rest of the gang at Homestead Hearth

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Blog comes back to life!

Hi guys!
So, we've not been too good at keeping the blog updated, but a friend gave us a great idea. We're hard at work on our follow-up to Civil War Tribute. Another great quilt design using Judie Rothermel's fantastic 1800s reproductions is underway. As we've worked to incorporate so many fabulous suggestions from folks who are working on Tribute, we wondered if folks would like to see what goes into a block of the month quilt design and pattern? We'll share some of the craziness that is our daily life, give you sneak peeks at some of the quilt & more. So, whaddya think? Are you in? We'd love to hear about things you'd like to see and we'd love to have your friends join us. Watch for more in the coming week!