Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Floorclothapalooza '08

I think the photo of the floorcloth, paint brushes, hair dryer and cake says it all...

Years from now when I am old and gray I will look back on the last few days of April 2008 and remember it fondly as the first ever Floorclothapalooza, where between my mother and I, we taught over 30 people in less than 48 hours how to make a floorcloth.

The fabric floorcloth has definitely been my Mom's baby.

It's origins are kind of funny and very original to our particular situation at the shop. I'm quite confident that my mother, Barbara Neeson, is the only fabric store owner in the WORLD who does not like to sew. She does, however, love FABRIC and is really quite sneaky about finding ways to use fabric that don't include needle and thread, and that is how our fabric floorcloth was born. Being an art teacher for the past 30 years, Mom is much more of a "cut and paste" kind of gal. And who can blame her? When you treat fabric like cut paper and introduce acrylic gloss (again, I'm pretty sure that we are the only fabric store in the world stocking acrylic gloss), you get instant gratification. And who doesn't like a little instant gratification these days?

To that end, we have been teaching OUR method of fabric floorcloths (there ARE other techniques out there, and floorcloths have been around for CENTURIES, but I'm partial to our method, I'll admit!) for the last 3+ years. I've lost count of how many times we've taught this class and how many people we've taught it to. Mom started teaching it here at Alewives and imparted her wisdom on me. When I was working at the Cambridge Quilt Shop in Cambridge, MA, I taught the workshop there many, many, many times (Ironic footnote: I probably taught the class 6 or 7 times before I actually MADE a floorcloth! That's right... I faked it!) We've demo'd our technique at the Maine Quilt Show (and sold out of our stock!)and are demo-ing again this year. And this past weekend we broke our own record for number of people taught in 2 days.

We taught the floorcloth class at the shop on Sunday and then had a LOVELY time demonstrating and teaching for the Gals of the Gardiner quilt guild on Monday night. Thanks so much to Nena Cunningham for hooking us up and arranging everything. It was very fun for Mom and I. I feel like we made a lot of friends and we DEFINITELY had some good cake! You gals know how to rock and roll with the baked goods.

I think people get a kick out of our unusual Mother/Daughter dynamic. I always say that I am the Bert to her Ernie. The Oscar to her Felix (I think I have that right: I am Jack Lemmon and Mom is Walter Mathau, at any rate). The Moe to her Curly. In other words, Mom is the artsy, free-spirit, think-outside-of-the-box type and I am the OCD, strait-laced, type-A, anal-retentive-to-the-Nth degree type. It's true. They call me the "Folding Nazi" at the shop and have learned to put up with my Napoleonic ways (It's for the best, people!) and like me anyways.

But enough about that. To everyone who made a floorcloth this weekend, I salute you! Congratulations on participating in Floorclothapalooza '08.

Next year I will get some T-Shirts printed up and sell them at the concession stand at intermission.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Daddy's little tax deduction...

Yes, it's true. I'm afraid that this past Monday, April 14th, I turned another year older. This birthday was actually a bit of a milestone for me, as it marks my 10 year anniversary into the cuh-razy world of quilting and sewing and fabrics.

How did it all happen? I wandered into Alewives with my friend Amy and we were bound and determined to make our own shoulder bags, regardless of the fact that we had absolutely NO CLUE what we were doing. And when I say NO CLUE, I mean NO CLUE. I didn't even know how to thread a machine. I thought bobbins were something you went fishing with, and I thought $7.95 was the price for a whole bolt of fabric. That is, until Maia Hart (The store's previous owner and the gal who hired me) informed me that $7.95 would only get me 1 yard of fabric. Whoops. Silly me. Well, for some crazy reason it came out that Maia needed someone to work at the store and I needed a weekend job and the very next week I was given a key and began work on my very first quilt: a pink and green "Log Cabin." Ten years later I still have the key, the quilt and the job. I've got a little tear in my eye just thinking about it now...

Over the years, my life has been changed dramatically because of the store. Everything good in my life I have because I started working here 10 years ago.

For example (ahem, ahem):

• First and foremost, my knowledge of quilting and sewing.

• My AMAZING group of friends is made up almost completely of people I met through the store. Usually because I was their teacher and they were in one of my Turning Twenty classes. I always said that when I saw another young person in Maine, it was like seeing a Unicorn: this mythical creature that you didn't believe actually existed. But they do exist, and they started coming out of the woodwork over the last few years. This past Christmas, I went to a party at my friend Erica's house. Erica was one of my "Turning Twenty" girls. My other friend, Kristine (another Turning Twenty girl), came up alongside me and she said "Everyone at this party is here because they went to Alewives. This is the house that Rhea built." And I guess I like to think that's true.

• I found my teeny, tiny little hole-in-the-wall graphic design school because one of our fabric salesmen gave me his old design school brochures. Otherwise, I would have NEVER found a school like that and been forced to go to some big, bad institute of higher learning where I surely would have been lost in the shuffle. Nobody wants to be lost in the shuffle!

• I got my first apartment through a customer at the store who alerted me to a spot that would be opening up in her building. That was a great first apartment, and now, 10 years later, I have a HOUSE because of the store (conveniently located within oh, say...20 feet of the front door of Alewives). The commute is killing me...not.

• I met my boyfriend Oliver (and this is a TRUE story) because he came into the shop. You would think that a Quilt Shop would be a very unlikely place to meet a man, but meet a man I did when he came in to buy felt for the flags on his ice-fishing traps (of all things!!!) and he's been in my life ever since. I think I truly snagged him when he saw my impressive domestic skills with the needle and thread ;)

• And finally, I have a GREAT, very rewarding, very fulfilling job to this very day because I wandered in here all those years ago. Who knew that I would still be here? Not me, that's for sure, but here I am and here I shall stay.

And to prove that things really do come full circle, my friend Amy (the other gal who wandered into Alewives with me 10 years ago) now lives in Boston. I saw her Dad just the other day for the first time in many, many years.

"Rhea," he said. "How are you, what are you up to these days?"
"I'm good. I'm working at Alewives," I replied
"Oh, you're not RUNNING that place yet?" He said sarcastically.
"Actually," I said, grinning, "I am."

And that's the truth!

Happy Birthday/Quiltiversary to me: let me know how YOU got into sewing and quilting. When, exactly, was it that you "Drank the Kool-Aid?"

Hope you all got your taxes done!!!


Daddy's little tax deduction

(AKA Rhea)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Celebrity Encounter

From time to time in our little shop we have a brush with greatness. Granted, our idea of greatness is not of the "George Clooney" variety, but more along the lines of "quilting" and "sewing" greatness. Example: I almost flipped my lid and counted my lucky stars that I was in the shop when Amanda Blake Soule (of SouleMama blog fame) stopped in the shop. I was definitely star-struck then, and ultimately flattered when she wrote about and posted pictures of our shop (and even sent a shout-out to me, personally, by name!!!) on her blog. Definitely tried (and failed) to keep my cool that day.

And anyone who was a part of the Kaffe Fassett workshop in the fall of 2006 still gets a little twinkle in their eye when they remember him critiquing their quilt. He was very nice to me, although at one point he did tell me (and rightfully so)regarding a pink I had chosen to go with my greens,
"Good. Now that you've gotten that horrible "lipstick" color out of your system let's find something good to use." Yowzah. And remember, I was one of the people he was NICE to.

Well, long story short, we had ANOTHER quilting celebrity pop into the shop yesterday. Her name is Nancy Merman, and if that rings a bell, it SHOULD, because this little lady is responsible for designing the EXTREMELY POPULAR "Skrappy Sack" and "Fat Quarter Skrappy Sack."

I cannot even tell you how long I have been making (and teaching) the Skrappy Sack. It is a perennial favorite here at the store. It's something we sell all the time, teach all of the time and make kits for all the time. It's been a staple in our "Quilt Store Diet" for AT LEAST 10 years. So to meet this lady was, for me, HUGE. And Nancy was sooo nice. She and her husband Ken were staying at the Mill Pond Inn, just up the road, so naturally, she had to check out the local Quilt Shop.

Nancy, I was very glad to meet you (even though it was my day off and I was wearing my yucky "yard work" clothes and had dirt and grass and leaves all over me like some sort of crazy girl who had been raised by wild animals). I know you don't think of yourself as a big celebrity, but to us, in our own weird little "Quilt Shop Universe," you most definitely are an A-lister.

See you all soon!!!