Wednesday, October 29, 2008

These are More of my Favorite Things, Cont.

I have a lot of quilting and knitting gizmos that I love. Here are a few more!


This is an invention from a little company called Rollie. It's remarkably simple--a couple of plastic caps and a piece of elastic between them. When you look at it, you think it's something you could have done--but the truth is, I've thought about what you would actually have to do to make these, and quickly decided it would be a pain. I prefer letting Rollie do that job.

These gizmos hold double-pointed needles. You put a cap on each end, and the elastic keeps the caps held onto the needles. The project stays tidy, the needles stay on the knitting, nothing is ever lost again (or if it is, it's your own fault), and life is good.


This looks like an innocent, rolled-up piece of plastic. But it's not. I thas a grippy side and a slippery side. You put it grippy side down on the bed of your machine, the slippery side up, and free-motion quilting becomes a breeze.

I learned about it a few years ago when we were vendors at a quilt show. The booth next door sold nothing but Sew Slips. Over and over, for 4 straight days, I heard the Sew Slip Sales Pitch. Finally, on the fourth day, I gave in a tried it (which was a big part of the pitch).

I was completely hooked. For another 6 months, I tried to explain to Kim how cool the Sew Slip was. She thought it looked just like another piece of plastic. Finally one day, I shoved it onto her machine. She was assimilated.

Come on it. Try one out. You know--just to see if you like it.


For the rest of this entry, our theme will be hand-sewing.

Wait! Don't go away!

Hand sewing is part of both quilting and knitting. You need to do it to FINISH things. Do you like the word "finish"? I thought so. Please keep reading, because I am going to show you a few more tools to make it go more easily.


One day, a year or so ago, I started to thread a sewing machine, and I couldn't see the eye of the needle, which made threading it hard. I told Kim about it. Rather than sympathizing with me about how my eyes are going downhill, she explained that there is an automatic threader on the machine.

Thanks, Kimmie. Problem not solved. My eyes are still going downhill.

But now I will tell you, if your eyes are going downhill too--or even if they're not--about a similar invention for hand-sewing: The Clover Needle Threader.

This is the coolest little thing. You put the eye of the needle into a hole at the top of this little baby, drape the thread across, press the lever, and--voila!--your needle is threaded.

Once again--provided that you can at least discern between the eye end and the pointy end of a needle--you can put off buying those zebra-print half-glasses that are a feeble attempt at making the 40+ wearer feel "hip."

Between the needle threader and....


....Thread Heaven, I don't mind hand sewing the binding on a quilt quite as much anymore.

Thread Heaven is a simple little box of wax. It has a scattering of sparkles throughout the wax, which I was puzzled about at first, but finally figured out that these symbolically represent "heaven."

Thread Heaven lives up to its name. You just run a piece of thread across it, and you get no more tangles as you're hand sewing.


Speaking of heavenly, the next helpful thing I like is my business partner. I love her the most of all! Oh, Kimmie, just look at you--so smart, so beautiful!


Woah! Hijacked blog! I should have known to change the password. Let's be moving on. Quickly.


Knitting also requires a bit of hand-sewing to finish, and I have found several tools that make this process better too. The first is Knit Klips.

I used to use hair clips to hold my knitting together in preparation for sewing seams, but the problem was that they go caught in the yarn. About a year after I discovered the hair-clip idea, Knit Klips were invented. (I am pretty sure that I sent the inventors Special Energy Waves from My Head that made them invent the clips.)

They have a single hook in the center, which means no more tangles or catching.

By the way, all of you who know Kirsten (our Saturday godsend) know that she seems pretty mild-mannered. But trust me, that's just on the surface. If you want to dare test it, take away her Knit Klips. You will see her instantly turn into someone with the amiability of "Venom" on the TV show "American Gladiators."


The other sewing tool is the humble Chibi. (I bet you'll be unable to process any thoughts at all about Chibis as you continue trying to picture Kirsten acting like "Venom.")

The Chibi is a darning needle with a smooth finish and a bent tip.

It makes sewing yarn a breeze. It also comes in its own little storage case. The case has a little hole on the side, so you could, should you desire, put a string through it and hang it around your neck, kind of like a necklace. (Don't you want a necklace made from a plastic tube and darning needles? I'm sure it would look good with those hip, zebra-print glasses you have dangling from your neck too.)

Why it is called a "Chibi," I have no idea. "Chibi" is apparently a Japanese word meaning "small child." I am not pulling together any connections here. All theories welcome.


Here is something for everyone! It's a cute little sheep from Lantern Moon.

It's not just cute, it's practical: It has a special secret when you pull on its tail!

Everyone doing any kind of craft needs such a tape measure!


Well, there are lots more gadgets that I love, and I want to go on and on about them, but my mother was always big on telling me that I should "know when to quit." (She is a good mother and always tried hard to teach me things, and I am at least able to recite some of them back.) What I am actually trying to say is that the little sheep is helping me symbolize that this blog entry is at

the End

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Favorite Things

Because we do the ordering, and because we're in the shop every day, Kim and I often see things that you might not ever notice. Today, with that in mind, I want to talk about some of the knitting and quilting gadgets that I love; I think you will love them too. If you don't have these things at your house...well, you know us: We're never above selling you stuff.

I'll alternate them, so if you don't quilt or don't knit, feel free to skip over every other paragraph!


Let's start with quilting, shall we? I think I'll start with my newest favorite thing: Mary Ellen's Best Press.

We initially bought it because one of our customers nagged and nagged for it. I finally told her we would order it if she bought it and also made some of her friends buy it. (We have minimum orders for some items, and I didn't want to be stuck with a bunch of extra bottles of this stuff.) She promised. Kim was skeptical when she saw that I had added it to our order, but I explained that this customer and her friends had promised to buy it.

We sold out of all of it within about a week.

Whenever we sell out of something that quickly, I sure do get very interested in it. So I tried it myself.

I loved it.

Kim was not so sure; she was a Magic Sizing fanatic. But I really, really loved it, and I suggested that she just try it once, because, really, I loved this stuff. So Kim buckled under.

Our can of Magic Sizing is now gathering dust.

Now we have every scent that Mary Ellen's makes--lavender, cherry blossom, Caribbean breeze, and, of course, unscented. And we're thinking that it's about time to start carrying the gallon refills.


My next newest thing that I love for knitting is a bag.

Oh, I know. You have tons of bags. You don't need another one. But, my dear knitting friends, I'm talkin' about a bag here.

When I travel, I never carry less than 3 projects, and usually I carry many more if I'm traveling for longer than, say, dinner in Altoona. You never know what you're going to need. For example, the last time I went to Kevin's parents' for a 3-day weekend, here were my projects (circled below in a cheerful turquoise):

Lantern Moon understands my needs. They came out with a bag that is so large I can carry at least 3 full sweater projects in it. And I love the graphic, black-and-white print:

Inside, the pretty blue lining is attached in such a way as to give four additional large pockets (one for each sock project you're working on), a cell-phone sized compartment, and a zippered pocket. In addition, this bag helps people in Vietnam earn a living while being paid fair wages in good working conditions. Hooray!


The Clover Yo-Yo maker is for making an old-fashioned type of quilt with a new-fangled type of gizmo:

To make yo-yos with this thing, you no longer have to use the bottom of a glass or piece of worn-out cardboard to draw circles on your fabric. You just snap the yo-yo maker onto the fabric, trim around it, and start stitching. All your stitches are the same length, and when you're finished, all your yo-yos are the same size. If you use it once, you will never look back! And of course it comes in different sizes and shapes.


I know this might seem mundane, but I love Plymouth's stitch holders:

They are a classic style. The metal glides right into my live stitches. They come in a couple of sizes in each pack. I have never found a better stitch holder. In fact, I like them so much and hate running out of them so much that I wildly over-ordered them. Kim suggested that it might be good to talk about them in this entry, and maybe people would come in and buy a few of them.

So, knitters, if you come buy them, she will be happier.

And as soon as you do, I will order even more. Because I love these things.

Coming up soon.... I'm not done yet! I don't want you to have to spend 3 hours reading one blog entry, but I still have untold amounts of enthusiasm left! Stay tuned for more of My Favorite Things.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Wide Open Spaces

Kim has been wanting to move the fabric around for years so that we could put the quilting tables in the middle of the room. She initially wanted to put the tall bolt-holders against the window. But I nixed that idea, on account of losing all the light.

In fact, I have nixed that idea about 5 times over the 5 years we have been open. (I give both of us a lot of credit for our once-a-year stick-to-it-ness.)

Then the other week we were preparing for our Yarn Tasting. We were trying to figure out how to get more than 20 people into one space without putting them into two corners. Kim tried her idea on me for the 6th time, but this time made it more palatable: "What if we put the short bolt-holders at the window?" she asked.


We were in the middle of a quiet morning that day, so we plunged in and started moving stuff around:

It took us the better part of the day--which of course was the day before Yarn Tasting, a day we had lots of prep left to finish. But we needed the space. So we worked hard and fast.

And after a while, we had a new space:

I cannot describe how thrilled we both were.

For Yarn Tasting, we were able to take the tables down and comfortably fit all those people into the room. (I would show a picture, but all of the pictures I took were of knitters frowning as they concentrated on their knitting.)

Pictures aside, the Yarn Tasting went great. We started by giving away a goodie-bag to each person:

.....Okay. This particular person, while indeed ending up with only one bag (under duress, I might add), thought that maybe if she sorted all the nearby bags, she could find the best goodies for herself. I did not put her face or any identifying characteristics in the picture--but Bag Sorter Person, you know who you are!

We ate snacks:

See those cupcakes in the upper-left corner? Hannah made them just for this event. Let's take a closer look at her little yarn balls and little scarves:

They looked so real at first glance that one person actually asked if she knitted the icing. Hannah, I think you'll soon be ready for a job at Charm City Cakes.

Of course, the best part of Yarn Tasting was tasting the yarn. Kim served it up to everyone:

And we all played with a bunch of great yarns that night. I even let her keep all the descriptions in those handouts you see in her left hand. I had my editing pen at the ready but decided that when she wrote that "Dreams Really Do Come True," I felt as if I was at Disney. I love going to Disney. So I didn't change a word in any description.

Everyone had a blast. In fact, it may have been the most fun we've ever had at an event.

Which means we need to do it again.

Look for another Yarn Tasting, coming up sometime in the spring!