Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cat out of the bag #2

Hi everyone:

Well, one of the cats is out of the bag - my interview with Helen Dickson of Bustle & Sew has now been published.

Charlie out of the bag
Remember I told you that there was another exciting event happening this week? Okay, time to let that cat out of the bag.
Time to let Teeka out of the bag

One of my patterns is going to be featured in Bustle & Sew! I'm thrilled that Helen wanted to include Flourishing Heart in the December issue of her magazine. This little heart-shaped ornament is one of my favourite designs and is very quick and easy to create. It makes a wonderful tree ornament for Christmas or a sachet for your favourite aunt's closet. While my blog readers are aware of this pattern as it is on my blog's sidebar, I doubt that it has yet made it's way "across the pond", so I'm excited that it will now be available to Helen's readers. I hope they enjoy it as much as my North American readers have. 

Flourishing Heart pincushion, ornament, shelf sitter or sachet
If you haven't yet subscribed to Bustle & Sew, you can always do so by clicking on the Bustle & Sew button on my blog sidebar; either button will take you to the website. 

Whew! It's been a great week and I'm looking forward to more excitement next week. I have a special treat for my blog readers on Monday, so see you then!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Meet Helen of Bustle & Sew

Hi everyone:

When you're a pattern designer, I think most people believe that you work in your own little world, focussing on your own creation and oblivious to what others are creating. In reality, I believe that it's the opposite - well, at least it is for me. I do focus on my own designs, but am influenced and inspired by the projects other designers are creating. Helen Dickson of Bustle & Sew, is one of those designers.
Helen Dickson, publisher of Bustle & Sew
Photo courtesy of Helen Dickson
For the past few years, I've been a subscriber of Bustle & Sew, a monthly e-zine published by Helen. 
Bustle & Sew ezine
Photo courtesy of
I must admit that I'm in awe of Helen's accomplishments: not only is she an incredible designer with whimsical and sweet patterns, she also manages to publish her magazine every single month! And each issue has not one, not two, but many patterns in it! You'll find stitchery designs, quilt patterns and always a stuffie or two. I eagerly anticipate receiving each issue every month to see what she's created this time. Since Helen lives in Devon, England, many of you may not be aware of her accomplishments. She has graciously agreed to an interview so you can get to know her a little better.
One of the free patterns offered on Bustle & Sew
Photo courtesy of
Thanks, Helen, for taking the time to chat with me today about Bustle & Sew. 

Before we get going, I’d like to thank you for inviting me to feature on your blog.  It’s very exciting to be here and I’ve really enjoyed having a good look around at all your lovely designs.

You're welcome and thank you for the compliment.

Your patterns all feature hand embroidery, so it's obvious that this is your first love. How did you get into hand embroidery and what is its appeal for you?
Yes, I love hand embroidery and have been stitching for as long as I can remember.  Both my mum and grandma were very talented embroiderers and I learned literally at my mother’s knee.  Hand embroidery is great because it’s so easy to try for yourself – you don’t need any expensive tools and equipment, just a needle and thread, and possibly a hoop.  It’s a great hobby to take around with you too as it’s so portable, it’s really easy to stuff your project into a bag and just bring it along when you’re on the move.  I also love that there is such scope for personal interpretation in freestyle hand embroidery.  Often people send pictures of projects they’ve completed from my patterns – and you can really see how they’ve stamped their own personalities on the design – creating something that’s truly unique.
One of the Rosie and Bear stitcheries (January)
available at Bustle & Sew
Photo courtesy of
In your e-zine, Bustle & Sew, you have a variety of projects from quilts to wall art to stuffies. What made you decide to branch out into these types of projects and to merge hand embroidery with other crafts?

Ah, well, this is because I have a bit of a butterfly mind – with a very low boredom threshold and quite unable to concentrate on one particular aspect of sewing for very long.  When I’m working on a design I always try to think of how the finished project can be incorporated into a useful item – whether that’s a bag, cushion, quilt – or anything at all really.  I like my work to be used and handled every day, with a life of its own, and I don’t mind when it gets a little worn or tatty as that’s a good excuse to stitch some more!

I love softie making as I love animals (all kinds apart from spiders.  I know that spiders are good, useful creatures but I do not love them).  I’m not at all keen on dolls and didn’t play with them at all as a child.  Instead I had a soft toy menagerie and could often be found pushing my favourite panda around in my doll’s pram, whilst my dolls languished unloved at the bottom of my toy box.
Little Geese Softies from
Bustle & Sew (November 2012 issue)
Photo courtesy of
I think our minds work in a similar way - I call it monkey brain since I jump from idea to idea. I like how you see this as a positive thing since it allows you to create many different types of patterns, which I'm sure help you when it comes to designing an issue of Bustle & Sew.

Speaking of Bustle & Sew, I love the variety of patterns in each issue of the magazine, and there are so many of them. How do you manage to make all these projects each month – what's your secret?

Thanks so much for your lovely comment – I’m so pleased you are enjoying the magazine – I put a lot of myself into every issue and it’s great to hear that others like it too.    I worked full-time in an office for 30 years, during which time I raised my daughter – and all of this left very little time for sewing, just a few moments snatched from a busy schedule either late at night or weekends.  Now, through Bustle & Sew, and the internet, I am able to spend all my time doing something I really love.   So I guess you could say that 30 years’ worth of ideas are bursting out of me now!   Also, I am the sort of person who can’t bear to sit and do nothing – I always have to have something to do with my hands.  When my daughter Rosie was little, I used to knit and sew for her – I think her most demanding request was for a cardigan – featuring sparkly buttons and dancing mice! (I managed in the end).  I still do find myself sewing and knitting for her mind you, even now she’s all grown up!  When she visits (luckily she doesn’t live too far away) she always has a good rummage through my project cupboard and usually goes home with one or two things.  This month she’s snaffled my Nordic Reindeer Cushion and SewFlapdoodle Christmas Bunting! 
Nordic Reindeer Cushion from
Bustle & Sew (November 2012 issue)
Photo courtesy of
I can certainly see why she would've taken these two items, but am surprised that she left you with the Starry Night Embroidery cushion and the Little Geese Softies, just two of the wonderful designs in the latest issue of the ezine. I would've taken these projects as well! 
Starry Night Embroidery cushion from
Bustle & Sew (November 2012 issue)
Photo courtesy of
It's obvious that you devote a lot of time to choosing the projects and creating each issue of Bustle & Sew, what's your favourite part of publishing it?

Definitely not the uploading bit!  That has given me so many grey hairs!  I don’t think I could really choose a favourite part of the publishing process – but what I do love is when my readers take the time and trouble to send me feedback on each issue.  They’re all very lovely, and hardly ever say anything unkind – but do make some really good suggestions, which I try to incorporate as I go along.

I empathize with the computer part of the publishing - this seems to be what slows me down in producing new patterns. I'm glad to hear that you're receiving positive feedback from your readers and I'm sure this helps you to decide on what you'll include in future issues of Bustle & Sew. 
Summer Birdie Bag from Bustle & Sew
Photo courtesy of

What direction would you like the e-zine to take in the future?

Last year I carried out a reader survey to ask just this question and over the last 12 months have tweaked the contents in line with the survey results.  It was a very worthwhile exercise which I’m planning to repeat in the New Year.  So … if you’re a magazine subscriber and you’d like to see any changes to the magazine – whether that’s to the content – format – or anything at all really, then please do complete my survey when it lands in your in-box.

One exciting new development is that I’ve started publishing the magazine as a “proper” publication – available from Amazon.  It’s great to see it in print as well as online.

Congratulations! I didn't know that there was a "hard copy" of Bustle & Sew available through Amazon. I'll definitely have to look for this. Any other ideas you'd like to incorporate into the ezine?

I would like to have more interactive media in each issue – embedded video or sound would be good – if I can master the IT skills necessary!  I’d also like to include more guest contributors – and am totally delighted that you’re going to be contributing to the January issue – can’t wait to read your article! 

I would love to see videos of you giving helpful tips for completing your patterns with Ben helping! I'm also looking forward to the January issue - and had better start focussing on that article :) 
Detail of Calendar Bunnies quilt
Photo courtesy of
When you're not designing or creating projects, what do you enjoy doing?

That’s easy .. walking on the beach with Ben, my enormous Newfoundland dog, enjoying tea and cakes with friends, snuggling in front of the fire with Townie Husband, shopping with Rosie and … very soon ….. playing with Ben’s new “little sister”.   Daisy will be joining our little family in the spring – watch the blog for updates!

More exciting news, Helen! Perhaps Daisy and Ben can both help out with Bustle and Sew :) At least Daisy may provide you with more design ideas - do I see a Newfie stuffie in the future?
Ben, Helen's Newfoundland companion
Photo courtesy of
Now, I've left the most important question for the end: what's your favourite snack to eat while you're working on the next issue of Bustle & Sew?

Chocolate has definitely been proven to aid creativity.  So I feel obliged …….

I feel the same way, Helen, and chocolate has never let me down!

Thanks so much for allowing my readers to learn about you and Bustle & Sew, Helen. I'm sure they'll want to visit your blog to hear more about the projects you're working on and subscribe to your newsletter for sneak peeks of upcoming issues, special deals and free patterns. Visit Helen's store to purchase all of her patterns, including those featured in this article, as well as back issues of Bustle & Sew. 

If you're not already receiving Helen's ezine, you'll want to subscribe to Bustle & Sew, because the December issue is going to be outstanding - and you'll receive a free ebook just for subscribing. 

Now if I can just be a patient for a few more days until the December issue is published...

Monday, November 26, 2012

3 exciting events

Hi everyone:

This is going to be a great week! First, I've finished some stitchery patterns that I've been working on for some time and that feels great! 

I love it when I've finished instructions, tweaked photos, created PDF's and finally "finished" a pattern. But it's not really finished until it's been uploaded on several sites and that's what I'll be working on this week. 

Look for these new patterns, and maybe another one, on my website by next week-end. I'll also have a special treat for my readers on December 3, so mark your calendars now.

You may have noticed a few new blog buttons on my blog sidebar. Yes, I have added Snow Cool as a free pattern, but that's not the one I'm talking about. 
Snow Cool appliqué and embroidery pattern
by Chatterbox Quilts

I'm talking about this button. 

And this one:

What's this all about? If you haven't heard about Bustle & Sew, you'll definitely want to read my upcoming interview with the publisher, Helen Dickson, which will be posted later this week. I'm very excited to introduce you to her and her whimsical designs from "across the pond".

There's one more event coming up this week that I can't tell you about yet. I really want to let the cat out of the bag on this one, but... no, I must resist. You can read all about it - yup, you guessed it - later this week. 

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scraps, stitcheries and what I've been doing

Hi everyone:

I'm writing this post today as a break from pattern designing and to catch you up on what I have been doing this past week. 

I've finally finished two stitchery patterns, which you'll soon see for sale as downloadable e-patterns on my new website soon - hopefully by next week-end or sooner if my IT guy (hubby) is able to upload them. These are perfect for Christmas gifts or ornaments, and can easily be stitched up in a couple of hours. 

Christmas Stitchery Set by Chatterbox Quilts
Winter Stitchery Set by Chatterbox Quilts
Speaking of my new website, thanks to one of my quilty friends for pointing out that I may have neglected to advise my readers how to find my new website. I guess it was obvious to me, but I forgot that not everyone can read my mind (I have a hard time doing this most days!), so I didn't really give you the website address. It's the same as my existing one - The address is the same; only the contents have been changed (are you old enough to remember Dragnet?). 
I can't believe you forgot to give them the website address!
Now that you know where to find Chatterbox Quilts, let me tell you about my week.

Last week was busy, but productive. Lee of Lala's Lovelys was over on Monday to help me organize my fabric scraps - at least one bin of them! Lee loves to make scrap quilts and I've never made one, so I appreciated her help in getting me set up and pointing me towards some on-line resources with free scrap quilt patterns and helpful tips.

If you aren't familiar with Bonnie K. Hunter of Quiltville, you'll find lots of advice  on her website about cutting up and organizing your scraps to create magnificent quilts. Bonnie has many free patterns on her site and does a mystery quilt each year. She just started her 2012 mystery quilt, Easy Street, on November 23 (I'm sure Lee will be doing this one). 

Another website to help you use up your scraps is Heartstrings Quilt Project. This website represents a group of quilters who make string quilts for local charitable organizations. If you are interested in joining them, they have a yahoo group and welcome donations of quilt tops and backings. They have lots of free pattern instructions for string quilts and wonderful photos to inspire you.

On Wednesday, I met Diane McGregor of Castilleja Cotton for lunch. Diane and I usually get together every month or so to catch up and talk quilt business. As usual I came away with lots of new ideas and will be doing a video with Diane later this year, so keep your eyes pealed for this one. Diane is a prolific pattern designer and art quilter, whose advice and suggestions I appreciate. I'm sure you've seen Diane's designs in your local quilt shop or in some of your favourite magazines (Catching Hearts is on the front cover of McCall's Quick Quilts this month), but if not, you'll want to browse through some of her over 400 patterns (or is that 500 now?!). Yes, I did say prolific :)
Catching Hearts from Castilleja Cotton in
McCall's Quick Quilts December/January 2013
Photo courtesy of
Well, that was last week. Check back with me tomorrow to see what I've got up my sleeve for this week. Some really exciting things happening and I can't wait to share them with you!

Have a great Sunday evening and go Stamps go!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Drumroll please!

Hi everyone:

Well, the day is finally here. Drumroll, please! Ta da - Chatterbox Quilts' new website is up and running. 
Our new header

You might remember that my hubby and I have been working on this design for several weeks now. It's been an uphill slog from learning new software (my husband) to revamping photos and pattern covers (me) and editing information (me again). I'm really pleased with the new, streamlined look of the website and especially excited because I'll now have a "real" store on the site. In addition to being able to buy all my patterns directly from me, you'll also have the downloadable patterns sent to you right away. No more waiting for me to get the email and then physically sending the pattern to you as an email attachment. I like the fact that someone across the world can order a pattern and have it right away - even while I'm sleeping! I think this automatic download program will be fantastic and will save me so much time!

A peek at the storefront on the new website

You'll find lots of information on the website from tutorials to videos, blogposts to free patterns. Be sure to check out all the areas so you don't miss out on anything. 

I hope you will explore the new website and let me know if everything is working okay. I also welcome any suggestions on the site. Thanks for supporting Chatterbox Quilts!

Monday, November 19, 2012

To market, to market

Hi everyone:

No, I wasn't at Quilt Market in Houston, but at two Christmas markets in Calgary. I look forward to attending at least one market each year and this year it was a double whammy. My daughter and I went to Spruce Meadows for their International Christmas Market on Friday and then went downtown to Art Market at the Telus Convention Centre on Saturday. I was shopped out by Saturday night, but enjoyed seeing all the vendors and buying just a thing or two - as well as a few Christmas gifts.
The entrance at Spruce Meadows
I love going to Spruce Meadows as part of the market is outside and the decorations always get me in the Christmas mood. My favourite part of Spruce Meadows is Santa's reindeers. There are always several in a pen outside the barn and this year Sarah was lucky enough to have her picture taken with one of them - not sure if it was Dasher or Dancer, but it was a special treat.
Sarah and one of Santa's reindeer
Taking a break from pulling Santa's sleigh
As you can see, Rudolph was unavailable for autographs
Thank goodness for signs or I might've ended up at the North Pole!
One of the decorations at the entrance to one of the buildings - yes, there are several!
At Spruce Meadows, you "whoa", not "stop" when leaving
I didn't take too many photos inside at Spruce Meadows as it was very busy and a bit dark in the buildings making it difficult to get a good photo of the booths - or maybe it was because I was too busy shopping! I tried to do better at Art Market the next day.
In the foyer at Art Market
One of several showcases highlighting items from the artisans
These were eggs with wonderful Christmas scenes inside them. Very unique.
Loved these little critters made from wrench, cutlery and other miscellaneous metal bits. Very creative and great recycling.
I thought that these trophies were very clever - and cruelty-free as they were made from wool felt.

A view inside the booth of my friend, Diane McGregor of Castilleja Cotton. These quilts are all made from Castilleja Cotton's patterns. As you can see, they're beautiful and varied in theme. I love her designs.
This vendor had the great idea to use book covers to create pocket books and purses. See the Chatterbox one? It was only on the poster or I'm sure that it would've been going home with me!

My favourite part of Art Market was the Pook Toque booth. My kids have been wearing these warm and distinctive hats for years and I enjoy listening to the patter of these vendors. It's great entertainment. Who would've thought that you could style these toques into the George Washington or (my daughter's favourite) the Princess Leia? They also have scarves and mitts (I bought a pair for both of us) lined with fleece. And the best part - they're Canadian, eh! 

Don't let their solemn looks fool you - these two are quite the characters!
Sorry, I can't show you the items I bought. Some have now been consumed - yes, I bought a few cookies, candy, chocolates, ... and some are gifts and I don't want to spoil the surprise. 

All in all it was a fun couple of days and now it's time to get back to the pattern designing business - and maybe a bit more Christmas shopping.

Speaking of business, I have an exciting announcement tomorrow, so be sure to check out my post then! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Patchstitch - Stitchpatch - Stitchery and sore fingers

Hi everyone:

This past week I've been focussing (yes, I have been!) on a new stitchery project. I have several small stitchery patterns that I will be releasing soon, but I've also been working on some designs that are a combination of quilting and stitchery. I'm still trying to find a technique name for these patterns: patchstitch just sounds like something cobbled together and stitchpatch isn't any better. Perhaps they'll just have to be quilt with stitchery patterns. 
Patchstich or Stitchpatch pattern in progress
Since my patterns usually include fusible web appliqué, these new designs do as well. As you know, fusible web adds a bit of stiffness, as well as an extra layer, to the fabric. 

Lots of hand embroidery through 3 layers of thickness
This isn't much of a concern for those designs that aren't going to be used as quilts, such as table runners and wall hangings. Nor is it a problem if you're machine quilting the completed project. It is a concern if you're trying to hand stitch through fabric, fusible web and more fabric - as I was this past week. 
More hand embroidery stitches through
fabric, fusible web and more fabric
I often have problems with my fingers cracking due to dryness (it's very dry here in Calgary and this only worsens in the colder winter  months). I always have a generous supply of Curel in the house and use it profusely, both at home and at work. It's not very easy to continually apply cream to your hands when you're hand stitching. What makes matters worse is when you have to push the needle through the fabric, fusible web and fabric and then pull it out the other side. Since I use a no. 5 or no. 8 perle cotton in my work, I need an embroidery or chenille needle since they are the only ones that have an eye large enough for this type of thread. 

Ouch, split finger!
These are also big needles with not nearly sharp enough ends to pierce through the fabric, fusible web, fabric sandwich without some force. As a result, I have sore fingers with small cuts (splits) on them this past week. Usually a generous dollop of Polysporin and a bandage overnight helps to restore them. I suppose that using a thimble might be helpful, but I haven't been able to find one small and comfortable enough to work for me. Of course, stopping the embroidery until they heal might also work, but I really wanted to finish this one project - and I did, late on Saturday night.
An ouchy on the index finger on my left hand too -
probably poked myself with the needle to get this one
Now my fingers will have a rest as I'm working on the pattern on the computer and doing some machine sewing. I think the next hand stitching that I'll be doing will just be through regular, thin fabric and my fingers should be okay.

What's your best suggestion for minimizing finger damage when stitching through thick materials? I could really use any ideas. I thank you - and so do my fingers :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Procrastination, procrastination - it's making me wait...

Hi everyone:

Anticipation Procrastination!

Okay, if you're old enough to know who Carly Simon is, you'll get the title reference - with a minor change!

It seems like the more I have to do, the more I procrastinate. Pattern instructions to type up - I think I should do some baking. A project just needs to be quilted - I think I'll watch the next chapter in that Craftsy course I started. Blog posts to do - well, I think you can see where I'm going with this. 

I have at least 3 dozen of these pumpkin cranberry
muffins in the freezer - not that I'm avoiding work at all.
I'm not sure why I find it easier to delay projects, because it would really be quicker to just do them, but that's just the way I am (a personality trait that my husband just can't understand). I really do work better under pressure and need firm deadlines to keep me on track. 
I'm also one of those quilters who has several projects on the go at any one time. 
I admire quilters who can start one project and see it through to completion before starting the next quilt, but I don't think I'll ever be one of them. UFO's are the standard, not the exception, in my studio. 
A few of my projects in the works
I love designing the pattern, choosing the fabrics and even cutting up the fabric, but the enthusiasm starts to wane partway through the piecing and by the time I've come to the quilting part, well... This dwindling enthusiasm may be the reason that I have several drawers full of quilt tops and bins of partially completed projects. 
Teeka inspecting some of my UFO's
I need to conquer this procrastination so that I can be more productive, especially in finishing and publishing patterns. 
Winter patchwork and stitchery pattern partially completed
Here's how I'm going to do it:

  1. Make a list of patterns that are pending.
  2. Determine what remains to be done for each pattern.
  3. Determine the appropriate time to publish these patterns. Ex. Christmas patterns should be released in the early fall.
  4. Start to work on the patterns that I want to release next. 
I also find that I'm easily distracted by new design inspirations. I feel that I must work on this new idea immediately or I'll forget about it. Dropping what I'm currently working on - and may be almost finished - to focus on a new idea isn't very productive. I'm now writing down any information about the new idea and then putting it in a file folder where I can refer to it in the future - after I've completed the existing project.
New idea folders
I now have a plan - and can hopefully stick to it. I also need to limit disruptions and distractions, so am not checking my emails as frequently and am trying (!) to minimize my Facebook reading. Boy, do I find that difficult to do. 

So, if you don't hear from me or are wondering why I'm not commenting as much as usual, you can assume that I'm quilting or working on patterns. At least I'd better be...

If you have any hints for avoiding procrastination and focussing on one project at a time, I'd love to hear them.