Open House Review, Getting the Most out of the Experience

Thanks to all of you who made our 60th anniversary our biggest party ever!  And, thanks for pre-registering!  We were able to have name tags, cart labels, address labels and ordering information waiting for you at the front door – no lines!

From this ……..

To this…..

To this!
D.J.Deighan, one of our favorite sales reps was ready for the party to begin!

The focus of this event was education – first and foremost – we want to teach you how to use the products you buy and give you the tools you need to be successful! 

Andrea at Electric Quilt taught two classes on Sunday on Electric Quilt 6.  If it wasn’t for Rob, this would have never happened!  He literally created a computer lab for these classes – from scratch.   The IT department outdid themselves – and you all loved it!  As an added bonus, those customers spent the night in Maumee and had a five minute commute the next day! 

While our customers were taking classes, we were busy decorating the demonstrator’s booths and helping to set up their displays.  We had 21 authors and designers share techniques and class ideas from their latest books, patterns, and gadgets.  And we pulled the merchandise so you could buy directly from them.  Many of you took advantage of this so you could go home and start making the samples immediately. 

As an added bonus, they signed books, patterns, and even fabrics.  Many of you had them sign multiple copies so you could give autographed copies to the first customers who signed up for the class.  Others had signed copies to donate to their local guilds, etc., when asked for a door prize.  Very clever!  Good ideas and education go both ways!  We love it when you share ideas with us that make our business better too.

Authors and designers who couldn’t come sent trunk shows.  We had over 150 completed quilts and projects hanging everywhere!  It was a dazzling site!  That isn’t counting the displays that the demonstrators brought!  The latest and greatest samples for all of your favorite books and patterns were everywhere!

Samples from Sue Spargo

One woman stopped me and said she felt that it was a good use of her time if she learned ONE new thing at an event like this.  She had already learned ten – and she wasn’t done yet – music to our ears! 

Customers talking to the demonstrators

But we all love food – and all of that shopping makes us hungry!!!  Huge trays of Danish, donuts, and muffins made everyones’ mouths water.  Four lunch times eliminated lines – barbecue for everyone!  And it was delicious!  And to be surrounded by quilts…..

The lunch area

The advance placement library was a great success.  The publishers sent us advance copies of books that are going to premier at market.  Sneak peaks are always fun!  And, it was a great place to take a break in air-conditioned comfort and browse.

The Advance Placement Library

This year, Rob added a lounge too.  We noticed last year that many of you brought men for “muscle” but they don’t really like to shop.  A room with a T.V. and magazines was born. 

Shop ’til you Drop

Gina came up with the brilliant idea of giving restaurant beepers to people as they turned over their carts so they could be paged when they were “next in line”.  This not only eliminated the cart traffic jams, it also gave the customers a chance to visit with the demonstrators and the advance copy library without having to “tend” their carts! 

When you WERE next in line, the staff was ready and waiting to load your vehicle.  Each account received a gift bag at checkout that included ordering information for all of the end caps and demonstrators as well as a gift to help compensate for the cost of gas.

 And, by 7:00 the party was over, the tables were removed, and we were ready to receive merchandise the next day!  The staff at Checker is just amazing!

The next day, Rob sent out a memo asking for improvements and ideas for next year!  We’ll let you know the date for next year by Fall Market.  Get it on your calendar now – it is just too much fun to miss!  Enjoy more pictures by viewing the slide show:


Australian Patchwork & Quilting/ AQC Challenge

Australasian Patchwork & Quilting Challenge 2009
Deadline: 10 December 2008 (POSTMARK)

Australasian Patchwork & Quilting Challenge 2009
A judged quilt competition
Exhibit venues throughout Australia
January 2009 to February 2010

An entrant’s quilt may be the work of more than one person as long as all parties who contribute to the quilt are nominated on the entry form as being the entrant. There is a limit of two entries per person or group. Full-time employees of Express Publications Pty Ltd and Expertise Events or its subsidiaries, are not eligible to enter.

The theme of the 2009 competition is FANTASY! There is one category only.

Entries can either be based on a traditional or contemporary design that reflect and interpret the theme “FANTASY”.

All entries must be original.

An entrant may apply any techniques including piecing,appliqué, embroidery, whole cloth and/or manipulated fabric, etc.

Any materials may be used, but the final result must be flexible in nature and consist of three layers of fabric held together with stitching.

Each work must measure a minimum of 100cm (39 1/2in) on each side up to a maximum of 150cm (59in).

Each entry must have a 10cm (4in) hanging sleeve or casing sewn to the top back edge of the quilt.

Sleeves should be secured with stitching at the top and bottom edge.

A label with the entrant’s name, address, telephone number, and email must be securely sewn to the back of the quilt.

Each entrant may submit up to two quilts. At first instance an entrant must send to the mailing address for the competition two hard copy photographs and two digital images of the quilt.

A panel of three judges will select up to 30 finalists from the hard copy photographs and digital images of the works. The judges’ decision is final. Upon seeing the final quilts, the organizers reserve the right to decide which quilts will be included in the exhibition. The organizers reserve the right to refuse any work that does not match the images submitted to the judges.

Prizes are awarded based on the interpretation of theme, excellence in design, and craftsmanship.

FIRST PRIZE: $5,000 cash
RUNNER-UP PRIZE: $2,000 cash

Mail COMPLETED entries to:
Australian Patchwork & Quilting/ AQC Challenge
Express Publications Pty Ltd
50 Silverwater Rd
Silverwater NSW 2128

Visit website for complete details:

Download competition rules & entry forms: APQentryform_1.pdf

The AQS show in Nashville from a Shop Owner’s Perspective

I got to attend the AQS show last week – and had a ball.  It was held at the Gaylord’s Opryland Hotel which just added to the fun since everything was under one roof.  This is one of three AQS retail shows held annually – Paducah, Nashville, and Des Moines.  If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit one of these shows, try to make it to Des Moines in October.

This is the first time that I have been to a retail show in quite some time and it was an eye opening experience!  At the wholesale show we talk to vendors who tell US what our market is and what we should be buying.  At this show, I got to watch our customers – up close and personal – and see what interested THEM!  I went with an open mind and wanted to give you a heads up on the new trends I saw developing – you may be surprised!!!!

Machine Quilting is Mainstream

The majority of the quilts entered in the show were machine quilted!  I only noticed a handful that were hand-quilted.  And, a lot of the applique was “raw edge”.  These techniques have been perfected and are accepted in every category!

Every long arm company – and many new ones – have come up with machines for our customers to quilt their own projects.  There is even a new classification – mid-arms.  And, every booth was busy – those ladies were just itching to get their hands on one!

These machines sells for $4,000 to $12,000 – and no one was blinking at the price.  In fact, they thought they were a bargain after pricing many of the long arm machines!  AND, they were not buying them alone.  Groups were going together to keep the individual investment down.  At the very first booth, I heard a mother, two daughters and a friend buy one.  They were eager to tell me that they each stitched about 12 quilts a year and their mother was in charge of a charity quilt project for their guild.  They figured that their initial $1,500 investment per person would pay for itself in two years!  And they were not alone.

The co-op spirit is alive and well and flourishing in the quilting industry.  I asked one group if they had any trouble convincing their husbands that it was a wise investment – no problem!  It seems that quilters are married to men with hobbies too.  New golf clubs, golf memberships, boat payments, GAS for those boats, woodworking tools, antique car parts, etc. were ALL equivalent to the price of a machine. 

Quilters are creative people!  One woman said that her husband’s only hobby was her!  Without skipping a beat, another woman said that then she could buy anything she wanted – wouldn’t he want her to be happy???  Enough said! 

Carrying the Supplies

Many shops do not carry machine quilting supplies because the long armers had wholesale accounts.  This is going to change very quickly.  The mid armers are going to need a source for threads, templates, etc.  You may even want to start offering discounts on whole rolls of battings. 

Becoming a Dealer

And, if you live in an area where there are lots of machine dealerships so you couldn’t get one, now is your chance.  Selling one machine a month will pay your rent.  Offering classes will also help to sell the companion products.  One woman was going to teach classes – and then rent her machine out by the hour.  Shop owners could do the same thing – and sell the thread, batting, etc. – as well as charging for the machine time.  If you were like me – and couldn’t believe that quilters would plop down $6,000 for an embroidery machine – don’t make the same mistake!  Get in on the ground floor!


The days of carrying one rack of 50 weight cotton threads are over!  Threads were everywhere – and variegated threads stole the show!  It was that 64 box of Crayola crayons – for adults – and they wanted them in every color!

An Example of King Tut Variegated Threads 

Now our customers need threads for machine quilting, machine embroidery, as well as quilting!  Even counted cross-stitch is making a comeback.  One booth had beautiful samplers that were all done in variegated threads.  Red work was also done with variegated flosses and pearl cottons.  These threads added texture and depth without having to re-thread a needle!  Who could ask for anything more???

Combining Fabrics

Designers are combining wools, cottons, flannels, chenille’s, silks and velvets in the same piece to achieve that cottage chic look that is so popular in home dec these days.  And,they are machine quilting it all.  I don’t know where I got the idea that a wool quilt had to be tied….I was so wrong.  Sue Spargo had a quilt appliqued on a wool background with a flannel backing – and the entire quilt was machine quilted!  It hung beautifully – and the variety of fabrics added texture, depth, and tactile interest.

The variety of Weeks Dye Works Wools

Consider doing a block of the month.  It is easier than you think.  Checker carries Weeks Dye Works wools that are packaged in 16″ x 22″ pieces so kitting it can be reasonable.  You don’t have to buy bolts of all of the colors.  And, you can showcase a block a month and complete your quilt one step ahead of your students.  Sue Spargo has several sampler quilts that would be perfect for block of the months – and by kitting them from fat quarters – the initial investment is minimal!

Flower Garden by Sue Spargo

Visit a National Show

If you have an opportunity, visit a retail show before you go to quilt market in the fall.  The Des Moines AQS show is just two weeks before Houston Quilt Market.  Use this as an opportunity to make a shopping list for the wholesale show.  Many times our own interests influence what is hot in our area.  By visiting a national show, you get a more accurate perspective of what is happening – and can see the industry through a fresh eye.  In my own case, I am not a thread or machine person – but if I want to stay current in this industry, I am going to have to learn fast!  I will be featuring more articles on both in the future – promise!




Sue Spargo Creates Art in Wool

If you have ever considered handling wool in your shop – but thought it was too country, too dark, too drab….think again!  Sue has been around for a long time creating happy, quirky, folk art quilts and projects that reflect her childhood memories of Africa and her years living in England.  But, recently, all of the planets seem to be aligned so that Sue has truly come into her own!

Flowerbed #SS42 $22.00

What is not to love???  She has created a style that is instantly recognizable and just far enough out of the box to appeal to the child in all of us.  Whether you are 20 something and decorating your first apartment or 50 something and wanting to add some spice to your life – her quilts appeal to us all! 

In fact, we just received her trunk show for the Open House next week – and the pictures do not do them justice!  Brooke, the new book buyer, loved them so much that she asked if she could drape one in her office until it had to be hung!  (She is the 20 something).  I fell in love with it too so we are talking about making one as a block of the month and sharing wool. (O.K. – I’m the 50 something!).

Folklore – #SS43, Retail $25.00

How can you look at these quilts and not smile!  And, the beauty is in the details!  You’ll never get tired of looking at one of these quilts.  The embellishments are subtle but add just the right touch of whimsy!  Rickrack and buttons show up where you least expect them.  And, I’m surprised that these quilts are so soft and pliant.  I thought that the wool would be bulky – not true!  It is supple and drapes beautifully!  But, not everything is wool – Sue mixes cottons, silks, and wools for stunning effect!

New Patterns

But, if something this large is a little intimidating, why not try something a little smaller?  Her two new needle rolls may be just the ticket to whet the appetites of your customers!

Item #SS45, Retail $9.50
Saffron Needle Roll

Notice the details on Greta’s Needle Roll.  The buttons, beading and rickrack add even more depth to this quirky design!

Greta Needle Roll
Item #SS45 – Retail $10.00

Wool Threads

Sue has teamed up with Tristan threads to create a collection of 12 weight Genziana wool threads that can be used on the sewing machine for decorative stitching.  But for those of you who love handwork, a double strand works beautifully – and since Sue chose them, they blend beautifully with the colors she uses most.


50 color assortment

I am not a thread person – until now!  They have the muted shading of wool but are 50% acrylic so they don’t break and fray like the threads of old!  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I was so impressed, I called the owner of the company – who is an absolute delight!  She said that a double strand of this thread would be the equivalent to stitching with a #8 pearl cotton – without the sheen – if you have any doubts, just order five different colors and make your own assortments.  Your customers will love it – it would be a great Christmas gift.  We have to start thinking about it.





Grandma’s Lye Soap, an Old Fashioned Remedy for Everything that Ails You

Grandma’s Lye Soap – why would a quilt shop be carrying such a thing???  Pat Berry, our showroom manager, swears by it.  She told me that it would cure poison ivy, psoriasis, acne – and even stop mosquito bites from itching! 

Item #60018, Retail $5.60

Pat knows everything, so if she says it’s so, I’m not going to argue with her!  So, I started researching it on line and read testimonial after testimonial on the merits of it.  Grandma’s lye soap is an old fashioned 7oz hand cut bar of soap that contains lard, water and lye – that’s it. 

According to one source, acne didn’t exist until after World War II when the drug companies had to find a substitute for the lye due to war shortages. The lye cuts through natural oils on your skin and removes dead skin cells.   That is why it is so good for poison ivy, poison oak, and athlete’s foot.

But according to the experts, the lard has moisturizing abilities that soothes a sunburn and the dryness of eczema and psoriasis.  The natural oils even hide the human scent for hunters!  I know I sound like a snake oil salesman – but I couldn’t believe how “green” this is right now!  It is all over the Internet.

And, if there is any left after you’ve cured all of your family’s problems, it is also supposed to be the perfect soap to wash quilts – no suds – no residue!  They even have a stain stick that is supposed to remove those brown spots on old quilts.  If I was lucky enough to OWN some old quilts, I’d test it for you, but unfortunately….

Item #63012, Retail $3.25

Natural Beauty Bars

For those of you who just like a natural product, try their Oatmeal/Almond or Lavender Soap.  The clean, fresh scent is wonderful!

Oatmeal/Almond – #61607 Retail $4.75
lavendar – #61610 Retail $4.75

Non Greasy Hand Lotion

If you like the soap, try their Winter Soother Hand Lotion.  It contains Shea and jojoba so it is perfect for chapped skin and weather beaten hands and feet.  A friend is undergoing chemo and dealing with one of the side effects – cracked hands.  I can’t wait to get this for her.  She has to quit sewing at times because her hands are so sore.  The testimonials say that this will heal and protect them – what a blessing!    

2 oz. Size #53012 Retail $5.99
4.1 oz. #53023 Retail $7.99

In this age of “go green” why not try going natural?  Your customers will be glad you did! What a perfect stocking stuffer or Secret Sis gift!  school is starting here this week – that means Christmas is right around the corner!

Checker Distributors turns 60 in Style

This month marks the 60th anniversary of Checker Distributors.  It has been 60 years since Bob Krieger and Jerry Van Walbeck started the business.  Their main customers were the large chains of the day – J.C. Penney; Woolworth; and Kresge.  These stores would sometimes have to wait six weeks for merchandise from other supply sources.  Bob and Jerry realized that there was a need for next day service.  Times have changed, but the commitment to our customers hasn’t.  We still strive to ship any order received before 2:00 the same day. 

That business – which started in Jerry’s basement in Toledo – now fills a 100,000 square foot warehouse!  And, for the last 45 years, has been owned exclusively by the Krieger family.  Checker now ships all over the world and is respected throughout the industry.  

Rob returned from the Army in 1971 and decided to work in the family business.  At that time there were six full time employees; five part time; and two part time sales people.  My how things have changed!

For those of us over 50, reading the history of Checker is a walk down memory lane!  All of the following changes happened AFTER I graduated from high school! 

In 1974, Checker began using a Burroughs L4000 automated billing system.  Prior to that, all invoices had to be typed or hand-written!  That same year, the first complete catalog was published.  Two national WATS lines and one Ohio WATS lines were added – the precursor to 1-800 numbers!

In 1980, our first computer, an IBM System 34 was installed to help in all phases of business.  Fabrics were added in 1984 to support the declining demand for notions.  Once again, being a privately owned company allowed Checker to react quickly to trends in the marketplace and diversify quickly.

Books and patterns were not added until 1989!  In 1992, we expanded our sales forces on the East and West coasts as our reputation as a nationwide distributor continued to grow. 

In 1995, Checker moved to it’s present location and a new phone system and computer were added.

In 1996, bar codes were added to all products so they could be scanned for paperless processing.  Can you imagine – that was “state of the art” just 12 years ago!

In 1998, our first on-line store was launched – the beginning of the Internet!  Internal e-mail was installed in 1999.  Can you imagine!  In less than 10 years, business as we know it has totally changed!  What would we do without e-mail today?

In 2000 we initiated our NICHE (Not In Chains) product identification program to identify for our independent businesses items that are not in the chain stores. We are the only distributor to provide this service.

The same year, Checker also formed a partnership with Creative Grids UK to become the exclusive distributor for Creative Grids® Non Slip Quilting Rulers for the western hemisphere. We maintain our commitment to Independents by insisting that these rulers not be sold in chain stores.

In 2002the Maumee warehouse increased to 100,000 sq. feet. In addition, we installed 5 carousels to speed the processing of orders. Connected to our computer networks and radio frequency hand held computers, we set a goal to ship all orders received by 2PM the same day. This is another enhancement of our commitment to Customer Service.

Our 4 Seasons Promotional Fabric division also made its debut. Realizing the demand for low price, high quality, 100% cotton fabrics, we combined our buyers’ expertise and Checker’s resources to sell and promote these products to businesses worldwide.

In 2006 our Team worked hard on developing a new comprehensive website that incorporates advanced search capabilities, a fabric color selector, top 20 selling items and newest products by category and “How to Use” product videos. The “Where to Buy” feature was designed to guide consumers to Independent businesses & to bring “wish lists” of products they selected to the Independent.

In 2007, we added our newsletter – – to keep our Independent Quilt, Sewing, and Needle art businesses up to date on all that is happening in the industry. 

Checker’s future is bright. Commitment to customer service is paramount in everything we do. Our customers are our future and we will do all that is required to provide the very best of service!

We are proud of our tradition, prompt shipping, team effort and customer service. Welcome to our TEAM!

Join us on Monday, August 25th, as we celebrate our history and look forward to a bright future.  You must be a Checker customer to attend this one day event.  More than 22 demonstrators will be sharing ideas, techniques, and class ideas.  At least 15 vendors are sharing their projects and quilts with us.  There will be special sales going on all day.  And, every business that comes will receive a door prize worth at least $50 to help off-set the cost of gas.  Join us for a fun, educational day – we look forward to visiting with you!   

Have your Cake and Eat it Too (Recipes included)

Two Sisters at Squirrel Hollow have released their first book – and you’ll be glad they did.  This collection of quilts are all constructed of 2 1/2″ strips; 5″ squares; and 10″ squares.  There are also cake recipes to coincide with the quilt names!  And, what quilter doesn’t love to cook, bake or eat??

Item #SASH819 Retail $21.95

Consider teaching these quilts as a series of classes – and making the cake as a dessert!  They are easy to kit, easy to cut – and some of the cakes are actually easy on the waistline!  (Angel Food Cake is every dieter’s dream!)

Why not have a Birthday Cake class to celebrate your store’s anniversary?  Your students can complete this table runner in just a few hours.  When completed, it is the perfect back drop for birthday cakes in the future – why not start a family tradition?

None of them are complicated, so your students will have instant gratification.  Most of them can be completed in a six hour class.  Make it a Girl’s Night Out and you have a winner!

And, who could resist an Angel Food Cake party with fresh berries – yum!  This would be the perfect quilt for a new baby.

But for those of you who crave meat – make a “Beef Cake” party might be just what you need.  It is a gret masculine quilt that may be just the ticket for the man in your life.  And, when they were naming that quilt – I’m sure they were thinking of hamburgers! 

Consider starting a “Caring Cupboard” class.  These simple quilts could be the foundation of a gift cupboard.  We all need gifts for friends and family.  Who wouldn’t love to have a stash of quilts for those special occasions?  These simple quilts are just the ticket!



Block of the Month Possibility in “A Year of Paper Piecing” with Beverly Maxvill

In her new book “A Year of Paper Piecing”, Beverly Maxvill can teach you the skills to become an expert paper-piecer.  She has designed twelve seasonal paper-pieced blocks that can be incorporated into a quilt; placed in the center of a wall hanging (pattern included); or framed individually as a special gift.

A Year of Paper Piecing by Beverly Maxvill
Item #B900T Retail $26.95

But, my first thought was that shop owners may appreciate how easy it would be to turn this book into a “class of the month” or “block of the month”.  Beverly has provided guidelines for cutting instructions that would make it quick and easy to kit.

In many instances, she has gone one step beyond and added embellishments to the completed blocks.  These embellishments – in many cases embroidered accents – add an additional teaching opportunity.  And, since many of the designs are intricate, the class could appeal to beginners who want to learn the technique as well as those quilters who have been exposed to it – but want to perfect their skills.

Beverly recommends “Papers for Foundation Piecing” as the foundation.   Why not use this class as an opportunity to compare products?  Each month, open a package of  a different brand and give your students a chance to try them and give you feedback.  Their input could be invaluable – and help you choose the brand that you should carry.     

 Papers for Foundation Piecing
Item #TPP131
Retail $12.95 for 100 sheets

Beverly will be joining us at the Checker Open House on August 25th.  Just a reminder – this show is only open to wholesale customers of ours!  She will be sharing her paper-piecing techniques as well as autographing her books.  Why not have her sign a dozen – and have them available for the first 12 people to sign up for the class??? 




Laundry Basket Quilts Patterns are Perfect Choices for BOM & Demos

I am proud to say that I now call Edyta Sitar – the designer and owner of Laundry Basket Quilts – a friend.  She is not only the nicest, kindest, gentlest soul you will ever want to meet – she is a natural born teacher!  She always thinks outside of the box and comes up with ways for beginners to create difficult patterns.

Applique Affair

Applique Affair Item #LBQAA01 Retail $38.00

Her latest applique quilt pattern consists of 25 – 12″ blocks.  It is just screaming to be a new block (or two blocks) of the month.  Edyta gives instructions for three different methods.  Your students can try them all, and then choose the method they like best to complete the quilt. 

And consider batiks – they have a tight weave so there is little fraying.  They are easy to turn, mix well with other fabrics, and add depth and texture to any quilt.  You don’t have to finish the whole quilt!  Premier a block or two on the same day every month – and your customers will love the anticipation!

Jolene’s Star

Many of you are looking for demos and Jolene’s Star fits the bill.  The pattern includes two sizes – a table topper and a quilt.  The table topper is perfect for a class – smaller to get everyone comfortable with the techniques. 

It is scrappy and fun!

Jolene’s Star – Item #LBQJS01 – Retail $8.00
Templates – Item #LBQJS02 – Retail $9.00


This Dresden Plate quilt is just adorable – bright and happy.  And is so simple – as in all of Edyta’ s patterns – they just look difficult until she does her magic! 

Lollipops – Item #LBQLP01 – Retail $9.00

Midnight Bloom

This applique quilt consists of four blocks that are absolutely beautiful – and finishes to 59″!  You can also buy a template for all of the pieces to make it even easier to create beautiful results.

Midnight Bloom – Item #LBQMB01 – Retail $9.00
Stencil – Item #LBQMB02 – $7.00

I am a little prejudice, but everything she designs is fresh and new!  I love her sense of style.  Enjoy the rest of her spring offerings as well.  She will be demonstrating and sharing her techniques at the Checker Open House on August 25th.  Come meet her.

Let It Snow – Item #LBQLS01 – Retail $9.00             Vine & Berries – Item #LBQVB01

 Dreaming – Item #LBQDR01 – Retail $9.00