Training the rookie…

For those of who have wondered – and asked – what Lissa has been up to these past few weeks, that’s the line she used this morning.

The time has sure flown by.


It’s like I blinked and four weeks were done. I know! I can’t believe it either… four weeks in and I’m still not entirely sure how the voicemail works. The upside is that I don’t get too many calls, probably because I keep forgetting my phone number and extension when asked. One step at a time, right?

While I still feel like I wish I knew more about everything, I have learned a lot. I have learned to avoid the “flyover” ramp from the toll-way to I-35 in the morning and I know three different ways to work, two of which go by a Starbucks. I have learned that the weather in Dallas can be predicted using a Magic 8 ball – we’ve had a high of 38 one day and a high of 78 a few days later.

I already knew that the people here are smart, crazy-genius-talented, generous, and funny, but now I can add supportive, patient and welcoming to the list. When the list of required elements for a “dream job” is compiled, every one of their names is on that list.


Your names are too.

To everyone who followed me here on this adventure, thank you. And to everyone who is trying to figure out who this very chatty Moda rookie is, thank you too. I read every comment and I’ve been making notes about what you’d like to read about… and learn about, and hear about. And okay, see.

So this is what’s coming…

Fabric. From new fabric and Bella Solids to the idea-to-fabric process, it’s all “in the works”. Because some things here are done so far in advance, I’m taking pictures of things that won’t be ready to show until late this summer. So I’ve haven’t forgotten, some eggs just take longer to hatch.


Notions. And I can add books and patterns to this list. I’ve already started pestering certain people about when some of the new books will be arriving so I can have a look-see. Next week, I’ll have some ideas on where and how to find some of the “cool tools” I love so much. (By the way, those mini scissors were by Sullivan and they’re adorable. They’re about 2 ½” long – the whole scissor, not just the blade.)

Moda. Pictures – I’ll see what I can do. From the notions warehouse to the rows of pre-cuts, they’re all on the list. I’m also taking pictures of how things get prepped for Market, though you won’t see any of that until after. (If you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll see if I can stash some of the upcoming giveaway totes for you.)

There really is a lot coming.

It also won’t be just me. Linzee McCray and Sherri McConnell will continue to write for The Cutting Table. Sherri and I have an idea that will be fun and “challenging” but that probably won’t happen until this summer. Linzee will be here every other week to write about all sorts of things. There are people and subjects that she knows far better than I do – as in, she knows about them and I don’t – and I love the different perspective that she brings.

Now… about the office.


This is the corner where I work.  A couple of people thought I should have the computer put on the other end to enjoy the window but this has worked out perfectly as distractions from the hallway are lessened by the cabinet.  It’s been funny that people actually have to peer in to see if I’m here… it’s been suggested that I get one of those round mirror-things people use in driveways.

The shelves are still empty but I’ve been assured that it won’t be long before I’ll be looking for space to put things.  A file cabinet and some drawers are coming soon, they’ll go under the counter.


But it isn’t bare… Susan donated the three tin storage boxes and the quilt books were on the old bookshelves.  The fabric on the shelves – and in the picture above – was in a big box I found in the corner before the remodel.  Half-yard cuts that I took home and cut into fat quarter bundles.  I’m sure we’ll think of something to do with them…


There has been a steady stream of people through since it was finished last week… lookie-loos. They all say the same thing – it looks so much bigger than it did before.

The balance ball thing under the counter in the corner is what many of the ladies here use for “office chairs”.  Of course, they also do yoga.  The blocks and the big spool are from last Fall’s Market booth, they were “rescued” from storage along with the funky metal stool – thank you, Tammy for the help with that.

While I love it and I’m quite comfortable, thank you… it will always be “Lissa’s office” to me. She laughs when I tell her that but the offer stands – if / when she wants it back, I will happily move everything in both offices.

Except the chairs.  I’m keeping those.


I’m thinking “stream of consciousness” but in this case, Airstream might fit too.

Do you ever have times when you’re working on several different things that you can’t possibly image would overlap?  Then you realize that they’re overlapping so much, they’ve managed to get tied into a neat little bow.


Not these bows exactly but they’ll do.

I’ve been writing about adjusting to new living quarters, chatting with Moda fabric designers, new fabric and some terrific notions and tools. When I saw their just-shipped collection Bandana in the warehouse and pieces of their debuting-soon collection starting to arrive in the sample room, I took it as a sign that I really needed to chat with Me and My Sister – Barb and Mary – as Barb is also adjusting to new living quarters right now.

One of the things I have most looked forward to here is getting to know the ladies – they’re almost all female – who are the “Moda Designers”.  I know some of them pretty well and I know a few just a little bit… we’ve met and maybe spoken a few times.  As a group, they’re smart, funny, talented and their personalities are as varied as their fabric collections.  That makes perfect sense, right?  They’re also “real people” and sometimes life gets a little crazy.

I sometimes think it’s always crazy for Barb… but it’s especially true right now.  As she says “she’s up to her eyeballs in ‘real life’ right now”.


This is what you call a temporary office and sewing supply solution.

If you don’t know the history, here’s a quick recap. There was a sewer back-up at Barb’s house last July that caused lots of water damage, ruining the wood floors. In mid-November, just as repairs were really getting underway, they smelled smoke.  A fire was discovered in the attic and the fire department was called. The fire was extinguished and despite a “new” hole in the ceiling, everything looked good. Except the fire hadn’t been completely extinguished, so a couple of hours later, they had to go through the entire process again, only this time there was significantly more damage to the house.  (And for the whole story...)

After more than two months, everything is finally ready and the work to clear out the damage and begin getting the house livable again has commenced. Rather than move to a hotel, Barb and her husband, Michael, decided to live on the property in an RV. It was easier to supervise the construction, and easier for Bella and Frasier.

It’s not really an Airstream. Or an RV… Barb says she likes calling it that even though Michael keeps telling her that it’s a “travel trailer”.


Yes, Barb is very happy to be living in Tempe and not New England.  This is her outdoor-sewing area.  And that’s Frasier in front, Bella right behind.

So this is what I asked Barb…

What’s going on with the house? The demolition has finally begun and the walls and ceilings are being stripped to the bare bones. That will be next as most of the wood and almost all of the electrical wires will need to be replaced.


New fabric is coming and that means Spring Market, and you’re working on some “special projects”… where are you sewing? Are you sewing? I have a makeshift sewing area outside on the patio for cutting and pressing, but I’m sewing inside the RV. Travel trailer.


As much as we sew for work, we probably spend as much time on the computer… how are you adjusting there?  This is my new office!  It’s tucked under a bunk bed and while it’s a little cramped, everything fits because I created an ingenious system of sliding “drawers”.  I just slide them over, get what I need and then slide them back.

Hey Barb!  I spy a bin full of Bandana pre-cuts! 


There’s more in the garage.  I’m pretty well-organized, this is what I’m cutting this afternoon.

Other than your trusty Sidewinder and sewing machine – I know you’re a die-hard Pfaff-girl – what tools do you have with you? I have all of my basic sewing tools – rotary cutter, blades, rulers, etc. – in plastic bins.  I also have my favorite bag with my binding supplies.

Barb has had this beautiful embroidered zippered bag for years.  Clover Needle Threader?  Check.  Lovely sharp scissors.  Check.  Thread Heaven?  Check.  Barb doesn’t stitch without it.


The best thing about being one of these sisters is having some Me & My Sister fabric in the house.  It’s colorful and happy… Barb describes the RV as being “so very BROWN”.

So there you go… life, designer, new fabric, notions.

Next time I’ll pester Mary.

Yes, an office picture tomorrow.

A One-Two Punch: Win a Marianne Fons Quilt and Benefit Libby Lehman

In August we announced that Community, a fabric line from Moda’s Collection for a Cause by Howard Marcus, would benefit quilter and teacher extraordinaire Libby Lehman as she continues to recover from a burst aneurysm and stroke. Another luminary from the quilting world, Marianne Fons, has taken the next logical step and created a quilt from the Community line and is offering you…yes, YOU…a chance to win it, and to benefit Libby at the same time.

Libby's Log Cabin

Libby’s Log Cabin, stitched by Marianne Fons

The quilt is 60″ by 75″ and is featured in the January/February issue of Love of Quilting magazine. (It’s also on display at Creekside Quilting in Clive, Iowa.) Marianne named it Libby’s Log Cabin and says she stitched it in recognition of Libby’s contributions as a quilter and a teacher, roles Marianne understands well.

“Libby made wonderful quilts and taught her skills to so many people,” says Marianne. “She was always ready to help others out, for example being a leader in the switch from 35mm Kodak slides and projectors to digital image projection. She did research on digital projectors and shared the info with a whole bunch of us on the lecture circuit.”


Libby Lehman

Libby is home and learning to speak and write again, and walks with assistance. The proceeds from the Community fabric line will help pay for her ongoing therapy and 24-hour caregivers, costs not covered by insurance. That’s what Marianne hopes her quilt will do, too. She’s offering anyone who makes a contribution in any amount the chance to win Libby’s Log Cabin. The winner’s name will be drawn from a hat by Marianne on Friday, February 13.

If you’d like to enter to win, and help Libby at the same time, send a check made out to LIBBY LEHMAN MEDICAL FUND.

Mail your check to Libby’s sister, Cathy Arnold, at this address:

Libby’s Log Cabin

c/o Cathy Arnold

2220 Stanmore Drive

Houston, TX  77019

Marianne says Libby is a person she is always glad to see coming. “She always has a big smile, always has an intelligent take on just about anything, and has a great sense of humor,” she says. But Marianne also acknowledges that no one is immune from adversity. “My motivation in wanting to help her out is that this kind of thing could happen to anyone. If it happened to me, I’d hope people wouldn’t forget me.”

Libby's Log Cabin Flat

Libby’s Log Cabin




I seem to run to the extremes.  I can focus with the best of them or I have the attention span of a hyper-active toddler whose had too much caffeine.  There’s no middle ground for me.

So it’s been a bit hard to work while surrounded by gorgeous new fabric and having the furniture in my office disappear.  I’ve had men standing on the top step of ladders with their heads in the ceiling, and there have been at least twenty earthquakes in Dallas since the 1st of January – I felt a couple of those.  But the worst distraction – the worst! – has been trying to work 100 yards away from a building filled with every manner of thread, needle, scissor, ruler, book and sewing-whatnot.


United Notions. I admit it, the name still makes me think about fabric – Moda Fabrics. But United Notions came first. Mr. Dunn started it back in 1975 as a distributor for notions and fabric. The fabric was produced by other companies – V.I.P., Cranston, Peter Pan, Alexander Henry. Those were the “biggies” back in quilting back then. In 1990, the universe shifted.  That’s when Moda Fabrics was created.  You might not have realized it at the time but if you’re a quilter, that’s really when “life” began. Trust me on this… I was there.

I also remember the tools we had back then. Life really is better now.

Since I had no furniture or computer and I needed something to write about eventually, I went on a “research mission”.  For you.

That was the easy part. The hard part was limiting “my list” to just a few things… things I’ve read about but haven’t yet tried.


Yes, I put this all back when I was done.  Except for the Wonder Clips.  I had to open them for the picture so they’re now in the sample room and “we” get to use them.  I knew about those but they now come in Neon Green – on the left, under the bottle – and Multi-color.  As soon as I decided which box I prefer, I’ll get them.  Both.  (It’s a known fact that I use a lot of clips when I bind.)

Have you tried the Marilee’s Numbered Pins?  Would you try them if I told you that Lisa Bongean of Primitive Gatherings uses them?  That’s enough to get me to try them – and I did.  I think they’re terrific – if they’re used for their intended purpose.  They’re longer and thicker than the pins I use for pinning pieces together for sewing.  These are designed to mark blocks and/or rows to keep them in order for assembly, and they’re absolutely perfect for that.  I’ve used labels, tape, post-its and all sorts of other things but these worked well for me.  Do you need them for a quilt with three rows of three blocks?  Probably not, but for a quilt top or block with eight rows of eight blocks, they’re worth getting.  So I bought some of these.

Pinmoor.  I picked these up because I thought they were cute and colorful, and because I didn’t have any idea what they were.  Or what they did.  They’re little plastic-rubber pieces that are about 1/4″ diameter and 1/2″ long.  When you stick your pin through several layers of fabric, you stick the end into the Pinmoor to keep the pin from coming out.  It also protects your fingers from getting stuck by the end of a sharp pin as you’re handling the pinned-together whatever.  I used these when I quickly pinned the layers of a small project for machine quilting.  Genius.  (Not me, the Pinmoors.)

And while I’m on the subject of pins, I wanted to try some of the different types of Tulip pins from Japan.


The packaging is gorgeous, that’s undoubtedly what caught my eye first.  I will confess to not pinning any more than I absolutely have to, but when I do pin, I am quite finicky about the pins I use. I prefer those that are long-ish, very fine and very sharp.  The Tulip Patchwork Pins fit that description and they’re very nice.  The “flat-head” pins are finer than I expected but I don’t use them very often because I don’t really understand why the flat-head is supposed to be better.

Flatter – it’s by the Soak folks.  Jen Kingwell swears by it so that alone made me want to try it.


Flatter is a not-a-starch fabric treatment that leaves fabric smooth, static-free and soft.  It makes fabric easier to handle for piecing and applique – the very reason so many of us use starch or sizing.  Like Best Press, this is an alternative to starch or traditional sizing.  The difference really is the way the fabric feels, it doesn’t feel like it’s been starched or sized.  What I loved is that I won’t have to immediately wash my finished quilts to remove the starch-feel.  Or the scent – it’s heavenly.  The Fig is my favorite.

The last thing I couldn’t resist picking up was thread…


I knew that United Notions carried Aurifil but I didn’t know there were cones of the 50 wt. thread in the warehouse.  It’s a regular item in all the basic colors I use and stockpile have on hand.  I actually got light-headed.

If you’re wondering why I prefer cones, it’s simple.  It’s more economical.  A regular spool of 50 wt. thread has 1,420 yards and costs about $13.25 – less than a penny a yard or .0094.  A cone has 6,452 yards and costs about $47.00 – about .0073 a yard.  Thread-wise, one cone equals 4.5 spools of thread and 4.5 spools of thread costs $59.625 – $12.62 more than the cone.  So for every cone, you basically get a bonus spool of thread.

So what would you find the most distracting about being so close to the warehouse?  What else should I look for?

I’m here for you.  It’s my job… research.    And now that the office is done and the men are gone, I need a reason to wander over there.

Not to worry… pictures of the finished office are coming on Friday.

Out with the old…

It seems to have been my week for things relating to packing up and clearing out, at work and at home.

On Monday morning, men arrived to move out the old office furniture in preparation for the planned built-ins. They started by unplugging my computer. Well, alright. I kept busy with anything that didn’t require a desk or computer.


I’m also waiting for the desk I’m going to use for my sewing machine to be delivered to my apartment. Because I had a deadline looming, I made do with a portable table. It worked well for the sewing part but not-so-much for the machine-quilting part as things kept vibrating off the edge of the table.  That was kind of funny.

At work? As the office was being cleared out, I found a box with ½-yard cuts of several collections from Fall Market that were set aside for samples. While I teased about “finders, keepers”, the truth is that as gorgeous as the fabric is, I wasn’t tempted to keep any of it.

Okay, maybe just for a moment.

The reality is that I have been making changes with my “stash” the past year or so – down-sizing, re-thinking it and changing the “look” of it.


(This is a collage of wonderful “stash” pictures from Instagram – #showmeyourstash and a few extras that I love.)

Even before I moved, I had been giving fabric to friends and guilds that I knew I would probably never use. Moving just accelerated the process, partly because letting it go was preferable to moving it to a smaller apartment.

It isn’t that I didn’t still love every piece of my fabric – or almost every piece.  But I had more than I needed – 4 yards when 1/2 yard would have been enough – and there were pieces that I hadn’t pulled off the shelf in several years.  Even though it was pretty well-organized, there were times when the amount of it all was overwhelming.  The irony is that there were instances when I didn’t have nearly enough of what I was looking for.


(This is some of Moda’s new Passport collection… I’m going to need some of this.  Really.)

Just so we’re all on the same page, while the dictionary defines “stash” as a verb, most quilters generally use it as a noun. It’s what we call that collective of lovely fabric we’ve put away for safekeeping or a future use. It can be the subject of curiosity and envy, confusion and frustration. It’s also the question I’m asked most often – how do I know how much to buy of a fabric?

The answer is “it depends”.

The better answer is that it depends on at least seven things I can think of, and that was just in the time it took me to type that sentence. There isn’t a simple, one-size-fits-all formula.

If you love scrap quilts, have a lot of storage space, plenty of disposable income, lots of time to sew, make mostly big quilts that use little pieces, fat quarters and/or yardage and you like sewing with several different styles of fabric, then you’ll probably want – and need – a bigger “stash” than someone who makes four miniature quilts a year using only red and gold fabric.

If you’ll hang with me for the next couple of months, this is something I’d like to chat about. I’ll share some of the questions I ask myself when I’m trying to decide how much to buy of a fabric I really love, and I’ll tell you the kinds of fabrics I’m always looking to add to my “historical collection”.

I’d also like to know if you have a fabric stash.  Is it big or small – and do you wish it were bigger or smaller?  Are you happy with it?  Is there something you wish you knew about buying for your stash?

Just so you know, I only buy fabric to keep it preserved for future quilt/fabric historians. It’s my sacred duty to assist future generations in this way.

In fact, in honor of National Local Quilt Shop Day, I am going to go to the quilt shop and buy some fabric.

Moda, of course.