Amy's Sew Simple Studio is Stupendous!

Yes, I've got a thing for alliteration in my titles.....

The stand-alone studio is now functioning! It's still a work in progress, but I've been doing all my live videos here for a few weeks now.

As you can probably guess from the exterior, it's an older building and needs a lot of work. But as this gem from history shows below, it's come a long way!

This is looking through the same doorway towards the back door. It had been a salon since the 1940's.

Decades of hairspray is not fun to paint over! Once we got the paint to stick to the wall, it took many coats to cover this dark red shade.

While this space is very much the playground for and of course, for me, I believe we'll be calling it the Sew Simple Studio. Mostly I call it the studio or my studio, as we have to make sure to keep the two locations straight and make sure our locals don't think of it as a second shop. Or think that we're moving out of Lynchburg.

While I'm sure at some point there will be a small retail element to this space, it will be just to support occasional classes, workshops, and day retreats. But its core function is give me a space to do my own projects and shoot my videos without cluttering up the classroom at Sew Simple of Lynchburg. If you've ever taken over the dining room or the guest room with your quilting stuff and suddenly have a guest in this space, you know this feeling. We have important guests all day at the shop and I do not want things to look messy.

OK, and I like being able to listen to whatever I want, as loud as I want, and typically, I'm singing along! :-)

This area will eventually be a classroom/event space

Not only can I work without fear of making clutter, but I can spread out better and have several projects going at once. This is important because I have different projects sometimes for the shop, than I do for my online peeps. Plus, there are various things that need to be at different stages for my customers and students.

The studio is helping me to put some much needed boundaries in place for work, family, and other interests. When you own your own business, it's hard to separate work from life. Especially if that work supports your family. The studio is very close to home and the kids' schools. This is helping me to have a refreshed mind. It is nearly impossible to let your creativity flow when your mind is flitting from thought to thought, especially if you're running on empty.

I think I might bring my Poured Out II quilt to the studio to remind myself how important it is to fill your cup up in order to pour out onto others.

I'm very excited about the studio, even though right now it almost seems like I've doubled my workload. It's already helped me create more videos. You can see my latest video on tension adjustments for free motion quilting. Subscribe to my channel so you don't miss any new ones!

Innovative, Remarkable, Remembered

I'm feeling very introspective lately, so what follows are some thoughts on innovation, being remarkable, being memorable, and being popular. I promise it ties in with quilting and creativity.

I was listening to an online talk by Seth Godin about innovation, risk and the mass market. He mentioned the name of the man who invented the car. To be honest I don't remember the guy's name, but I do remember that Seth mentioned that he had to get a permit or permission from the king, because it wasn't legal to drive a car on the fact, in many places, there were no roads.

I don't remember his name and I bet many of you don't either. But I do remember Henry Ford. Henry Ford didn't invent the car though. What he did was make it accessible to the masses.

Singer didn't invent the sewing machine, but they sure made it available to the masses. In fact they were revolutionary in their use of the installment plan and they were wildly successful.

So successful that even non-sewing people think of Singer as the leader in the realm of sewing machines even to this day, even if those who really use sewing machines these days know that new Singer machines are no longer innovative. They still are quite affordable and their wide reaching availability in the mass merchandisers stores, the big box stores, certainly shows that they are being sold to the masses. They have their place, but they're not exactly remarkable.

Why do I write about this? Am I building up to a rant about cheap machines and big box stores? No. About the difficulty of putting a price on helping people, not just selling a product? Not really. Though this is the crux of the questions facing the independent quilt shop and sewing machine dealer these days.

I admit I certainly could launch into a rant of this type, especially as Hobby Lobby has just opened up a store across the street from our shop.

But what Seth's talk brought to mind was that the masses are the middle of the bell curve of any market of any product or concept. The middle is unremarkable. It's affordable, easy to use, doesn't do too much too well.

The remarkable, on the other hand only appeals to the outliers. To the masses, the outliers are the weirdos, the obsessed, the elite. Quilters are artists...artists know they are outliers. I think it's safe to say that we could be called obsessed, some of us might be those other terms too.

He talked about those who innovate are remarkable, but over time they might not be remembered. What, or who, is remembered isn't usually the original developer of the remarkable thing. With the main creativity of the idea and/or the basic mechanical concepts worked out, the next folks to work on the idea are the ones who can focus on the masses and make the concept or the product accessible, remembered, possibly unremarkable.

We all want to be remarkable. In what area is completely up to you and as varied as people are.

A blanket is typically unremarkable. Sure, some folks have a special blanket, and you certainly can find luxury blankets somewhere. I wouldn't know, my blankets are definitely unremarkable. I like the blanket I might add to my bed on an extra cold night, but it's unremarkable.

But a quilt, even a poorly made quilt, is remarkable. (I'm not referring to the commercially made quilts sold by the mass merchants.) They vary from maker to maker, from season to season of the maker's life, and from what materials we choose. They are unique and worthy of being remarked upon.

Remarkable and memorable is a rare combination.

Sometimes we find a rare place in our creativity and really make something remarkable. It doesn't have to be museum quality, it could be because the "market" you are making your quilts for is actually remarkable and responds to your efforts in a remarkable way. This might be the family who reminisces about their mother and grandmother as they hold their quilt.

Remarkable isn't for the masses.

Do you think about the work of your hands, your quilts, your art as remarkable? That means it likely doesn't appeal to the masses or at least isn't shared with the masses. I've been there and I know many of you have too; a ton of people want you to make a quilt for them or for someone they need to give a gift to, and they have no idea what goes into a quilt. Their desire for the quilt immediately diminishes when they learn what goes into it.

Does what I do appeal to the masses? Nope. Can I bring what I do to the masses? Do I even want to do that?

I have even been innovative, but wasn't really able to bring it to the masses within the quilting niche. Does that mean I'll fade into obscurity as others bring that innovation to the masses? Probably. But in the meantime I hope my little tribe of students and quilty friends find me remarkable in some way.

Have you tried to innovate in your life, in your craft, your art, even your sewing? Innovation doesn't have to be revolutionary or a giant step. It might just be a tiny little step out of your comfort zone, trying a new technique, a different color, or even a different substrate/fabric. Maybe it's introducing a person to what you do.

Do it! Let's be remarkable. The personal reward is great. Remember it may not appeal to the masses, but that's OK. I'm pretty sure the masses (in general) don't appeal to us!

Roses and Arrows Quilt Along Series Videos

We've been having a blast with the Roses and Arrows quilt-along over at the AmyQuilts Facebook page. Have you been quilting along? It's not too late to enjoy this fun and laid back project to improve your free motion and ruler work quilting skills. I even have a few kits still available and all the videos have been posted after the live broadcast finished.

Below are the videos so you can find them easier than scrolling through the FB page and watch them without having to be on FB. Though I suggest you check them out on FB to see peoples comments, questions, and my responses. These can be pretty helpful too.

Remember that these live videos are a little more ramble-y than my Youtube videos. I'm not sure how much of these videos, if any and when, will be added to my YouTube channel. Most are around an hour long. Feel free to skip ahead through the chit chat, but keep in mind, sometimes FB doesn't load things well when you skip ahead.

To purchase the Quilt Along Kit and the Backing Kit.
There's also a thread kit which gives you a choice of two top threads and a great color to use on the back with our backing fabric.
Finally, we're using a few rulers on this panel and they are the QPC #12 and BFF or my new Low Curve rulers #12 and Mini. I've put those into a Starter set. Plus you'll want to use a straight ruler and this is my favorite straight ruler.

First we started off with piecing the panel and borders. That link is to the blog post with instructions. Here's the video on Facebook: Roses and Arrows Part 1, which is a bit of an introduction

An Intro to McTavishing

For our next video, due to a brown out at our shop following a big snow storm, I did a video at my new studio and I demonstrated the McTavishing design I will be using in the center of the panel. Drawing this design really helps! Watch this video in Facebook or watch it below here on the blog.

Beginning to Quilt the Panel

Posted on January 23rd, watch on FB or below. Showing a little stitch-in-the-ditch followed by McTavishing in the center of the panel and discussing how to work around and through the letters across the panel.

More McTavishing....

January 26 video is about more McTavishing and another way to work around those letters to make things extra swooshy.

Starting with Ruler Work!

Next we introduce simple straight-line quilting. I'm keeping it pretty basic for folks who are new to quilting with rulers. This video was shot January 30th.

Adding in Crosshatching

This video was done February 2nd and we continued with straight ruler quilting and added in curved crosshatching.

The below 2 videos had a little technical problem and was shot in two parts on February 13th. and focuses on stitching with rulers in the flying geese.

Below, February 16th is a bit of a review.

February 23 is working a very simple design in the narrow inner border.

Curved Echo Border

February 27th, my first video in the new studio! In this video below (watch in Facebook) I show a great border design.

March 6th is a follow up to the border design. Watch it on Facebook, or below.

Starting with the video below, I move to a 3 video per week schedule: Wednesday at 1pm and Fridays at 1 and 5pm. Watch this video shot on March 8th below or directly in Facebook.

The 5pm video below or watch in Facebook. I start stitching some backgrounds fills around the "pieced" blocks.

This next video, shot March 15th at 1pm, includes another background design as well as a tutorial on thread tension and free motion quilting. Watch below or in Facebook.

Next is the 5pm video from March 15th showing a design worked around the flying geese units. Watch below or in Facebook.

In the below video, we revisit the flying geese units with a stitching path that allows the entire row to be stitched continuously. Watch this March 20th video directly on Facebook.

That's nearly all the videos, there will possibly a review video before the final one. Sections of some of these videos will be edited for use on YouTube eventually.

On March 27, at 1pm I revisited the narrow border and dressed it up a bit! Enjoy the video below, or watch directly through FaceBook.

That's the last video on the quilting folks! At least until I get one of mine completely quilted and bound.

We're gearing up for another quilt along which will start April 24th. Here's a direct link to purchase the kit for the American Valor Quilt Along.

Splendid Sampler II: Potted Paisleys

I have to say I was pretty flabbergasted when Pat asked me to contribute a block design for her Splendid Sampler II book. While I'm no stranger to making my own designs, especially since I like to do my own thing, making small 6 inch finished blocks is certainly not what I typically do.

Pat popped in for a brief visit at my shop.

Truthfully, I'm all about the quilting! Piecing, applique and embroidery (mostly machine embroidery these days as I am a Janome dealer) are just the thing I do to give myself a canvas to stitch out my heart. I am more likely to design a large block, set it on point with a bunch of negative space around it and quilt away!

I took it on as a skill builder, a challenge for myself to step outside of my comfort zone and take bite sized nibbles of techniques that I don't usually do. I think we all need to do that from time to time.

I'm getting ahead of myself! These Splendid Sampler designer posts get visited by all kinds of new folks, so an introduction is in order.

My name is Amy K. Johnson and I'm a quilter, teacher, shop owner, Janome dealer, blogger, mother and more. Not necessarily listed in order of importance, of course. You can find me at Sew Simple of Lynchburg in Virginia and online at, where I sell my favorite rulers for ruler work, tools, fabric, and more. You can even see me over at Bluprint, aka Craftsy, where I teach Quilting with Rulers. Lately, I've been having the most quilting fun on my Facebook page AmyQuilts where I've been doing live quilting videos twice a week. We're currently doing a fun free motion quilt along using a panel and added borders to play with free motion and a few basic ruler work designs.

Quilting with rulers, also called free motion ruler work, on a stationary sewing machine is something I've been doing for quite a long time. In fact, that's how I first met Pat. She had heard the buzz about using rulers to quilt on a sewing machine and contacted me to be interviewed on her radio show on the April 4, 2016 episode and again this past September. She's an amazing interviewer. Like having a chat with a friend.

Fun fact: I'm a Janome dealer and my husband is my sewing machine tech. We joke that between us we know the guts and glory of sewing. He literally knows the guts of sewing machines and I get to use them to make all kinds of gloriously fun projects.

So what's a gal like me to do when challenged to design for such a specific project as the Splendid Sampler? Well, I took my favorite quilting design and turned it into an applique block.

 That's how Potted Paisleys came to be. A sweet block with a boho vibe featuring fusible applique. I love traditional applique with a modern twist and adore ones that look like a vase of flowers. So I turned some paisleys into a potted paisley plant.

Just like any other quilter doing the Splendid Sampler projects, I started with a fabric pull. AS a shop owner, I could have been matchy-matchy, but instead I went for a kind of controlled scrappy look. I pulled across several lines by Moda and put fat quarters of several colors from each line into my project box, plus a few Grunge and white on whites. This is where I pull all the fabrics for my blocks going forward.

I think it works, don't you? I don't have a bunch of blocks to show you, but I'm trying to do a few each month.

I used my new Cutterpillar light box to trace my shapes and to flip the diagram for my placement. Tip: When using one of these fabulous light "boxes" and your pattern has printing on both sides, use a less intense light selection. Mine has 3 choices. This will let you see the lines on the top facing side far better than the back. The brightest light will make them show equally.

Building up my applique...

 Final placement on my background....

Ta Da!

Looks a bit like one of my paisley play pieces, don't you think?

Since I'm really all about the quilting, I'll be doing a live Facebook video at 1pm Eastern US time with a tutorial on free motion quilting a paisley design at my Facebook page, AmyQuilts. I'll post the recording there so you can watch when the time suits you. Don't do Facebook? Check out my YouTube channel. The video will eventually be added to it, plus there are quite a few videos on free motion and ruler work.

Don't forget to enter the activities (giveaways?) over on the Splendid Sampler page, and check out the other 3 designer's blocks for this week.

If you're looking for a great companion block to mine, I nominate Flower Child by Carolee McMullin on page 102. A match made in hippie heaven.