Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Winter Quilting Book Recommendations 2016

Hello friends!

Owning a quilting shop has a lot of perks.  I get to choose pretty fabrics to sell and see all the great projects that people are making at Quilt Market and meet fabric designers and other awesome folks who work in the industry.  But I think above all that fun stuff, it's great to just help quilters when they come into my shop.  I don't get to work on the floor every day (or else the bills would never get sent out) but when I do I get a chance to connect with our customers.  It's a lot of fun to help someone choose fabrics for a project or give great recommendations to someone who has an issue with a quilt. 

I get a lot of customers ask me for book recommendations as well.  I can't carry everything at Pink Castle Fabrics and one of the things we don't carry a lot of are books.  So, I decided that every few months I will tell you about a few of my new favorite books of the season.  This will help those of you out there who are trying to wade through the crazy amount of sewing books that are being published now.  Here are my top choices for quilting books!

Every Last Piece by Lynn Harris  - Lynn is an amazing quilter.  I'm lucky enough to be in the same quilt guild (Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild)!  I love seeing Lynn's quilts.  Lynn really does use "every last piece".  She saves small scraps and then turns them into something wonderful.  The cover quilt on her book is incredible in person.  The stars are tiny and the quilt is huge.  But, this book is great for projects that you can make over time with your small scraps.  You can make a star or two after a project and then save them until you have enough for a quilt.  We all have scraps and I know I hate to see them go to waste!

Lines by Design Quilts by Debbie Grifka - Debbie is also a quilter that I'm lucky enough to share a quilt guild with!  Debbie has the most calming style.  I am really impressed with her book!  She has a really modern style that really matches a lot of people's style and decor.  I can see these projects in my living room!  And Debbie really knows how to use solids in a quilt to give a nice impact.  It's daunting for some people to choose just a few colors for a project.
I also want to point out that this book has 17 projects in it!  That's more than the usual quilt book so you are getting each project pattern for less than $2!

Patchwork Essentials: The Half Square Triangle by Jeni Baker - Who doesn't love a half square triangle?  It's such a versatile block!  Jeni has put together 12 awesome quilts using this one technique!  We have sold out of this book in our shop twice now. That is saying a lot.  The quilts in this book look original (you know sometimes things just look like you've seen them before) and adorable!  If you are a beginner and you want a starter book, this is a great choice!  Jeni teaches you some great ways to create perfect triangles.  I even picked up a few tips and I have been making HSTs for years!

Quilt Local by Heather Jones - Heather is another one of those quilters who has a calm style.  She uses such fun and bright colors and has a great grasp of how to use solids in a quilt for a big impact.  Quilt local takes a look at local inspiration and how to put that into a project.  Heather talks about colors and how to choose and shows you how the look of a project can change based on the colors you choose.  If you love modern art (like Ani Albers) you will love the projects in this book!
Talk about value!  There are 40 projects in this book!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sister Sampler Quilts - A new book from Gen X Quilters!

 Sister Sampler Quilts Book Review

I'm pretty excited about a new book by my friend AnneMarie from Gen X Quilters!  Sister Sampler Quilts: 3 Modern Sampler Quilts with Paired Sister Blocks is a really cool concept.  AnneMarie shows you how to make 25 blocks (which have a modern flair to them) and then 3 different layouts for the blocks.  Of course you can use these blocks in any way that you would like (pillows, quilts on their own, your own layout) but I really like that AnneMarie has given us some non-traditional  quilt layouts.  We ran her Moccasin block of the month at our shop, Pink Castle Fabrics, for 2015 and it got a great turnout and good reviews!  It's inspiring to see quilts that aren't just blocks all lined up in a row with sashing.

When we received the Sister Sampler quilt book I was so excited that the girls and the shop and I went to work and made up an entire quilt top!

We used Cotton and Steel Basics and some RJR Cotton Supreme Solids for the background!  I think it turned out really great!  I can't wait to see what it looks like all quilted up!  We will be running this as a block of the month at Pink Castle Fabrics for 2016!  We used the Vice Versa pattern in the book for this quilt. I really love the striped blocks on the edges!  Head over to Pink Castle to join the Block of the Month and you will get the book your first month!

I hope you all love the book as much as I do!  Thanks AnneMarie for sending me a copy!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Janome Skyline S7 Sewing Machine Review and FREE Mini Quilt Pattern!

Hi everyone!

I don't think I've ever been this excited about a sewing machine.  Oh sure, I get excited about new sewing tools.  But a new machine is really the most exciting, isn't it?  When I was asked to review the new Janome Skyline S7 I was all for it!  I got a chance before agreeing to test drive one of these babies at Janome Impact Institute, a convention for Janome Dealers (we are now Janome dealers at Pink Castle Fabrics!), and I really love this machine.  It has ALL the features that I personally want in a sewing machine.  SO, from my quilting point of view I want to tell you why you also need a Skyline S7.

Who is the Janome S7 for ?
This machine has a power needed for a sewist who likes to create bags, garments or quilts.  It really is a versatile machine.  You will have no problem going through several layers of fabric and interfacing if you are making a bag.  The S7 will also be gentle enough to sew light and delicate fabrics for garment sewing.  I'm a quilter primarily so I will be focusing on the awesome features for quilting but know that it's not just a quilter's machine!

If you are a quilter, the S7 is a nice mid-priced machine (MSRP $2999) that has all the features of the $10,000+ machines without the embroidery and the crazy price tag.  It has 8" of throat space on the right of the needle and 4" to the left.  This is going to be a great machine for piecing and quilting but it is still mobile enough to travel with you to a retreat or sewing event.

What comes with the S7?
One of the many things I love about Janome is that I don't have to buy a lot of extra feet and accessories for my machine.  This machine comes with all the accessories you see in this photo!  For quilters, it already comes with the 1/4" piecing foot and the Accufeed Flex walking foot you need for quilting.  

The foot pedal that comes with this machine is huge (you can see it in the photo above)!  I love that this actually stays put under my sewing table and I don't have to chase it around with my foot.  And I do a lot of traveling with my machine to sewing events and the cord actually wraps up into the bottom of the pedal for storage!

Here's a photo of all the accessories that come with the machine. There are also 5 Janome branded bobbins that come with the machine as well that aren't in the photo.  For quilting, you are already going to have the straight stitch plate, the 1/4" foot for piecing, the Accufeed Flex walking foot for quilting and the darning foot for free motion quilting.  There is also a knee lift bar that comes with the machine for lifting the presser foot with no hands but the S7 also comes with and automatic presser foot button so you don't even need the knee lift bar!  This is one of those features I didn't know I needed until I used it!

Janome Apps:
The apps are a feature that aren't on all the Janome machines.  These are typically only on the high-end super pricey machines.  What are apps and why do you care?  Apps make it easy to work on a specific project by automating settings on your machine.  Here are the photos of the two pages of the apps menu:

So, let's say you are sitting down to do some patchwork.  You open the apps menu (the T-shirt button) and then choose the Patchwork app!  All of this is done with the LCD touchscreen.  There's a little stylus that comes with the machine but I just use my fingers.  Here is what you see in the Patchwork app:

The machine will automatically put the needle position in place for a 1/4" seam and it will shorten the stitch length to 1.8mm!  You don't have to remember to do any of that.  Also see in the bottom left corner, the machine tells you that you should put on the O foot, which is the 1/4" piecing foot.  Instantly, a perfect 1/4" seam!  All these settings can be adjusted and saved to your personal specifications as well.  

In this Patchwork app, the S7 will also memorize how far you are stitching and ask you if you want to repeat that length if you are chain piecing.  It will automatically sew the length you need and then stop and raise the presser foot (automatically!) ready for your next piece!  Easy chain piecing!  This was really the feature that sold me on this machine.  I do a LOT of chain piecing with the type of quilts I like to make and this was really easy to pick up and learn.  

A Little Video for You!
Please ignore the fact that I am sick and exhausted in this video and just fix your eyes to the machine.  I can tell you all about all the features but really, it's easier to see them.  You can see the functionality of Janome machines by looking at where everything is placed on the machine.  Janome takes the time to make quality sewing machines that are MADE with the sewist in mind.  

Conclusions and Benefits:
All in all, I recommend this machine.  I now have 3 Janome machines and I'm always impressed with the quality of the machines.  They are easy to use right out of the box.  

The S7 is going to last you a long time.  You are getting cutting edge features with this machine so you aren't going to need to buy something else in a few years.  It has an all metal body on the inside and is sturdy enough to last for years and years.  I know that I don't have the time and money to be looking for a new sewing machine every few years.  

You won't feel like you are "cheaping out" on a machine.  Again, you are getting all the cool features  and accessories on the S7.  You aren't going to need to buy some extra foot or accessory right away to start quilting (even though there are some cool specialty feet you can buy in the future).  There's hidden cost with other brands that don't include enough accessories with the machine.  It's all in one package. 

You are getting a quality stitch.  Really, that is what you need in a sewing machine.  You aren't going to have to wrestle with the tension (auto tension is amazing) or worry that you can't make a certain project on this machine.  There's no problem going through layers of fabric or quilting and you don't have to sit there and adjust everything when you want to make a different project.  Just click the app to help and sew.  I don't want to mess around with the machine, I want to sew!

Okay, now I need a Skyline S7!
I knew you would. We have these machines in stock at Pink Castle Fabrics if you live in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area.  Please, feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments and I will get the answer for you!

***  We have some open box S7 Machines left over from our Glamp Stitchalot event! Please call us at 877-808-8695 for pricing!  ***

Seeing is Believing.
To really test the Janome Skyline S7 I made this Welcome Home mini quilt!  I wanted to test all the features that I would use regularly when I quilt.  Here is the result!  This turned out great and I was happy with the Accufeed Flex walking foot for quilting, the stitches look great!

 Welcome Home mini quilt pattern

This mini finishes at 24" x 24" and I made mine with all RJR Cotton Supreme Solids. You need 10 Fat Eighths for the blocks (they finish at 8" square).  And I used the January 2016 bundle from the  RJR Color Inspirations Club.  

Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Modern Sewciety Podcast #69 - Featuring Me!

Hi everyone!

Check it out!  I'm on the Modern Sewciety podcast!  I was lucky enough to meet Stephanie at Quilt Market last year and we got to talking about everything I have going on. I apparently talk a lot because I'm the only one on this episode!  So you can hop over to her blog and hear me talk for an hour about me, my fabric line Pie Making Day, Pink Castle Fabrics, Sew Pro, and Camp Stitchlaot and just quilting in general.  

This is the first time that I've really talked about Sew Pro.  I will have a post soon with a lot more details but I spill the beans about this new venture that Sara from Sew Sweetness and I are putting together.

Anyway, go over and listen to me chat with Stephanie!  Let me know what you think!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bento Box Quilt for Modern Patchwork Summer 2015

 Modern Patchwork Magazine

I can finally show off a quilt that I have been holding onto a while!  The new Summer edition of Modern Patchwork is on newsstands now.  I have my new Bento Box quilt pattern in this issue!  This finishes at lap size and is a great way to use up your scraps if you wanted.  

I really love the way this quilt turned out!  Teal is one of my favorite colors and I love the texty-low volume prints too.  This quilt incorporates both!  This is a beginner friendly quilt and it has a unique way to put the blocks together.

We have some magazines for sale at Pink Castle if you can't find it locally.  This will look great using the Word Up bundles and Low Volume bundles that we have in stock as well.  And of course we have all the aqua and teal stash builders in stock that will work with this pattern too.

I'm glad to finally be able to hang this quilt up in the shop!  It's nice and bright hanging up on the wall.  I've been so busy lately at Pink Castle.  We are participating in the Row by Row this summer.  I've been really pleased with the turnout so far!  It's fun having folks stop in from other states while they are on vacation.  And so many women have been telling me that their husbands have been mapping out all the quilt shops to stop at on their road trips...what great husbands!  If you find yourself in Ann Arbor, MI this summer make sure to stop in at Pink Castle!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pie Making Day! My very first fabric collection!

 Pie Making Day Fabric

Some of you may already be aware of this but I now am able to add "Fabric Designer" to my CV!  I'm happy to start telling everyone about my very first fabric line!  I've been working with RJR Fabrics for a few years now with their Cotton Supreme Solids collection and working on the Color Inspirations Club.  And now I have a line of vintage inspired prints!

We have called the line Pie Making Day.  It's inspired by fabrics from the 30s, 40s and 50s with an updated color palette.  For me, making pies and eating with my family has always been a fun tradition.  Now I'm always the one in charge of pie at Thanksgiving and picnics but I really learned from the best!  My pies are nowhere near as perfect as my mom's though.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be showing you projects made with my collection and pictures from our booth at Quilt Market.  The Pie Making Day collection is shipping to shops in July (just a few more weeks)!  We have it on pre-order at Pink Castle Fabrics now.  I'm very excited!  Make sure to tell your local quilt shop that you like my line!  They can contact their RJR representative or RJR directly Phone: (800) 422-5426 Email:

 My brother Matthew J Ratliff is an awesome pastry chef! He studied pastry at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and now works at a resort in West Palm Beach, FL. He has been on the Food Network Challenge three times and also on the show Sweet Genius! I'm really happy to share with you some pie recipes that he came up with to go along with my new line!

Everything he makes is really great!  I'm excited to try making these this summer!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sunset Strips - Alison Glass Handcrafted Lap Quilt

I'm really pleased with the way this quilt turned out!  I was so excited when I first saw the Alison Glass Handcrafted line at Quilt Market a year ago.  Alison does such a great job with color.  It's all handmade (like a batik) so you get small variations in the print.  The line is really great to work with!

I started this quilt last Fall at Camp Stitchalot.  All the Campers were oohing and ahhing over the colors in this project.  I decided to use my Sunset Strips pattern and break up the bold colors with some bars of Cotton Supreme Solids in French Vanilla.

This quilt is lap sized (54" x 66").  I used the French Vanilla as the binding as well and it's all hand sewn to the back.

This pattern is quick and easy to put together.  It was nice to have a project to take to the sewing retreat that I could actually finish in the weekend!  It would be even easier if you have a jelly roll sitting around.  I ended up using the Accuquilt strip die to cut these out and it took no time at all!  

My quilter Kathy (Threadbear Quilting) used this really cool plus pattern with this big meander in it.  I think it looks perfect with the plus pattern in the Alison Glass fabrics.  

I'm looking forward to see what the next Alison Glass handcrafted line looks like!!!