The Checker Open House – Behind the Scenes

One of my favorite jobs is coordinating the Checker Open House each year.  Many of you know that I am not an official Checker employee.  I work for them on a consulting basis – but during the month of August, I get to work there full time, and they are the most fun, thoughtful, hard working bunch of folks you could ever imagine!

What’s not to love – we get to throw a party for hundreds of our favorite people, who share the same passion.  And it just gets better and better.  This year we heard positive comments from everyone who attended.  I thought you might like to see the behind the scenes decisions that were made BEFORE you arrived that make this event such a success!

Bottom line, everyone at Checker cares and are team players!  The day after the event, we all met and wrote down every possible improvement that we could implement to make your visit more enjoyable next year.  That is why Checker is the leader in the industry – they don’t want you to be a customer for a day (or one sale) – they want you to be a customer for life!

Brad is the fabric buyer.  He bought thousands of bolts before this event so that you had a great selection of fabrics at reasonable prices.  He opened boxes of fabric collections and had them shrunk wrapped so you could see how gorgeous they were.  Then he stayed in the warehouse every day – all day – to answer any questions.

There were advantages to pre-registering.  Not only did that make you eligible for thousands of dollars in door prizes, it also meant that there was a packet waiting for you at the front desk.  That packet included name tags including your account number; invoices for pre-ordered merchandise; a claim check if you won a door prize; order forms; labels with your store information; etc.  The vast majority of our customers pre-registered so they simply walked up to the desk and picked up their packet.  They were ready to start shopping immediately.

The entire building underwent a face lift before you all arrived.  Everything was painted, furniture was replaced, kiosks were designed literally days before the event.  Here are two women shopping at one of the displays in the showroom.

My favorite part of the showroom is the book and pattern area.  These women are taking full advantage of shopping in air-conditioned comfort surrounded by the books and patterns they love!

Gina, the IT director, had a touch screen computer installed in the showroom so customers would have easy access to the website.

Let’s face it – when you are lucky enough to buy fabric by the bolt, instead of the yard – shopping carts need to be bigger too.  So how do you accommodate hundreds of large carts in a limited area?  If you are Rob Krieger, you remove some lower shelves so carts can be stored there – and the aisles are still accessible!  Mo more traffic jams!!!

How do you serve over 600 people for lunch?  Pass out lunch tickets at the door, of course!  By having six different lunch times, no one had to wait in line.  The food was wonderful – and they even had someone passing out anti-bacterials wipes so you could “wash” your hands before you got your food.  After all, shopping for fabric is a dirty job – but somebody has to do it!!!

But how do you make eating in a warehouse look appealing?  You call your vendors and have over 250 quilts brought in to make the room eye candy for the soul.  Then you lay carpet – for just one day, bring in tables, cloths and skirts to create a gathering place for everyone!

But what really makes Checker different is the people.  They love what they do – and it shows!  Pat Berry usually mans the front desk – but looks like she is having a good time working one of the twelve check-outs at this show!

And, each check-out station had assistants to organize your purchases; sort everything; and pack it for your trip home.  No lines!!!

The packers loaded the merchandise right into your vehicle.  What a luxury!  The only time you had to touch it was when you put it in your cart!  One shop owner wanted to strap these guys to her roof so they could unload it when she got back to her store!  (As you can see, there was no room in her car!)  Sorry – we aim to please – but draw the line at breaking several traffic laws!!!

And, thanks to the improvements that are in store for next year, it will be bigger and better than ever!!!  See you next year – August 21 and 22!  Save the date!!!

The Open House Demonstrators in Pictures

Checker is all about educating our customers to use the products we carry – and we had a stellar line-up of demonstrators and presenters this year!  I learned so much from these industry legends!  We hope you did too!

First and foremost I learned, as one shop owner commented, that Sue Hausmann could sell birth control to a houseful of nuns!  And she taught us how to do it too.  I also learned that there is someone who talks faster than I do….

Karen Montgomery also gave a lecture on event planning for your store.  As you can see she had everyone’s attention! Standing room only…..

Gail Whadley gave a class on how to use Electric Quilt 7.  Unfortunately, we were so busy, we didn’t get in there to take pictures…everyone was too busy setting up over 70 computers for the class.  Overhead wiring was a blessing….

Eleanor Burns invited everyone to her farm – to great applause!

And our own Jim McDonald could have sold cases of udder cream – if we would have only known…

Carol Porter demonstrated all of the latest Clover products – and as you can see, was grinning from ear to ear…

This is me – and yes, I know it is a bad picture, but I couldn’t find one with my mouth shut…..I think Rob, Jim, and Brad have mentioned that before……

Nancy Halvorsen was sharing techniques and projects from her latest book – Tidings – and yes she always looks that good…..even after eight hours with no air-conditioning……but we still love her….

Nancy Srebro-Johnson showed everyone how to use her new templates that are companions to her book – Fusible Magic.

Dennis Horcher of Sizzix came to learn!  They are branching into quilting from the scrap booking world – and who doesn’t love a man who listens????

Patsy Thompson is one of my favorite people!  She is constantly trying to learn new techniques – and visited every station to see how she could incorporate their techniques and technology into her first love – machine quilting!

Kim Templin – designer of the Double Diamond Ruler – is a joy to work with and is having a ball designing patterns around her new ruler.

Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs showed off a new Lily Pocket Purse that will be available in September.  It is absolutely adorable – and our customers did not have to wait until Market to see this latest addition!

Karen Eckmeier of the Quilted Lizard showed everyone how to do beautiful landscapes – with none of the stress!

Karen Montgomery was demonstrating the new ruler she designed with Rachel Cross for Creative Grids.  Watch for more details in upcoming newsletters!

Susan Knapp and Mary Jane Mattingly of Six Halves make a Whole shared their two latest books – and the ruler they designed with Creative Grids to make it possible to create these quilts easily.

Annie Unrein was a big hit when she demonstrated her patterns that feature Texture Magic.  All I can say is WOW!!!

Kathy Brown of Teacher’s Pet is one of my favorite people – who can resist that Louisiana drawl???  They should picture her under warm and fuzzy in the dictionary…..

Pat Barry brought in a long arm machine so she could demonstrate her line of templates for Creative Grids that make short work of machine quilting.  She is one brilliant lady!

Rita is the Creative Grids demonstrator – and was having fun with the six new rulers that were released for this show.  She will be demonstrating them at Fall Market so stop by and check them out!

The gals from MorninGlory Designs showed off their line of quilted jackets – with style that fit…..

Anthony Fischetti demonstrated the new products from Simplicity.  (Yes there are men in our industry who actually know their products!)  Mimi Shimp is his partner in crime but must have left him in charge while she ran to get something to eat!  Yes demonstrators get to eat too – they just have to eat fast!!!

Karla Alexander was taking the intimidation factor out of curves – yes it really is doable – for everyone – even me!!!

Amy Barickman showed off her new book – Vintage never looked so good!
Can you think of a better day to spend a day – or two???  Getting up close and personal with this kind of talent only happens once a year – and only at Checker!!!  See you next year!

The Quilts are the Star of the Show

We all love quilts – and for two days we hung hundreds of them all over the warehouse.  What a beautiful backdrop to a great event!  Our customers loved the quilts in the lunchroom.  Each was labeled with the name of the designer.  Who doesn’t love to eat lunch and shop at the same time???

The lunchroom wasn’t the only place where gorgeous quilts were displayed.  The end caps of all of the fabric aisles were draped with works of art!  Auntie’s Two and Common Thread created a breathtaking display.

The Quilt Branch displayed some quilts created with the new House ruler by Creative Grids.

Clover Needlecraft draped some projects made with the new templates by Nancy Zieman.

Atkinson Designs and Stitchin’ Sisters were a perfect combination.  There new patterns are always in the top 20.

Vanilla House and Olive Ann’s creations looked like a dream children’s closet!  Who would not love to have their little ones dressed in style???

MorninGlory Designs showcased their jacket designs.

Eleanor Burns displayed beautiful samples of the Quilt in a Day pattern line.

Karla Alexander of Saginaw Street displayed some smaller versions of her award winning quilts.

And to top off the event, Louis Carson of Clover Needlecraft presented two lucky winners with a Clover Door Prize worth over $450!  No wonder the lucky winners are smiling!
What an end to a wonderful event!

Previews at Checker Open House

We can’t wait to see you at the Checker Open House August 22 and 23.  You know all about the presentations on Sunday – who could resist the likes of Eleanor Burns, Sue Hausmann, Karen Montgomery and Gail Wadley.

We just found out that some of your favorite Checker personnel will play the parts of the Farmer, cow, etc. in Eleanor’s show – bring your cameras ’cause we want THAT on every blog in the country!  I’m not sure what will be better – their expressions when they are playing the parts – or their faces when they found out about it!!!  Let’s just say that bribes were involved!

Item #1082QD  Retail $29.95

Pat Barry will also have her long-arm set up and will be demonstrating new  products – as well as her line of templates that are exclusives to Creative Grids.

There are also thousands of bolts of fabric.  Brad has been busy buying all of your favorite lines – and wheeling and dealing to get special pricing from the top designers and manufacturers.  The selection has never been better – in fact, we had to add extra shelves to hold it all!

You have also heard about all of the demonstrators who will be showing you all of the latest fabrics, notions, and patterns.  What you didn’t know is that you will also be the first to see patterns and rulers that are so new, they won’t be ready to ship until right before Market.  You get to see – and order it – before Houston!

Joan Hawley will be showing her latest creation – Lily.  She just finished the sample – the pattern won’t be available until September, but you can order it here!

Item #LGD128  Retail $12.00

Carolyn Griffin of Far Flung Quilts designed a tree skirt out of Nancy Halvorsen fabrics using the new CGR120R ruler that was premiered at Spring Market.  It is the perfect class – an heirloom quality tree skirt that can be made in a day!

Item #FFQ019  Retail $8.50

Item #CGR120R  Retail $26.00

Karen Montgomery of The Quilt Company has not only worked with Rachel Cross to design a new Creative Grids ruler, she has also designed two new patterns around it.  This one is soooo new, we don’t even have photographs for it.

Rita Fishel, the Creative Grids goddess, will be premiering the five new Creative Grids rulers.  There are two multi-sized triangles that Rachel has created with the help of Pam Lintott.  These rulers have a 45 degree triangle on one side and a 60 or 90 degree triangle on the other.

Lynne Edwards and Rachel have been busy creating two new strip rulers.  One makes a Drunkard’s Path and the other makes a 3″ finished Curve to Corner.

I love Dresden Plate quilts so this ruler created by Christine Porter makes quick work of a 12 petal Dresden Plate.  I fussy cut the blades in the sample – and fell in love….

Kathy Brown of Teacher’s Pet has designed three new patterns using the CGRDBS90 ruler – and I can’t wait to see them!

Item #CGRDBS90  Retail $25.00

And, these are just the last minute items that we found out about this week – wait until you see what arrived LAST week……

The Quilted Lizard will turn you into an Artist

Karen Eckmeier came across my radar screen when Happy Villages came out.  The cover was just beautiful – and she made art quilts possible for traditionalists like me!

Item #203305  Retail $16.95

But Karen didn’t stop there.  She writes books and patterns that help – even a beginner- create backdrops that are gorgeous enough to stand on their own.  But, they are the perfect foundation for your favorite embellishments or appliques. In “Accidental Landscapes” she teaches you how to create quilted scenes that will remind you of your favorite locales.

Item #203312  Retail $21.95

In “Layered Waves”, she teaches you how to add curves and movement to all of your OWN works of art!

Item #203329  Retail $24.95

If you just want a taste of Karen’s technique, try one of her patterns….

Item #QLALB  Retail $7.00

Or try the latest in her line of patterns that are just plain fun.  These snowmen would make anyone smile…..

Item #QLCF8  Retail $9.00

Come meet Karen at the Checker Open House and see the originals!  She would love to show you how to sponsor a class at your shop!

Sew Simply for Toddlers

Olive Ann has an adorable line of children’s clothing – up to size 5 or 6, depending on the style.  These are fun, easy, and quick!  These classic styles change dramatically depending on the fabrics and embellishments you choose.  And with such sleek, simple lines, it is easy to add your own personal touches.

“To Tie For” can be made into a dress or top – and any length in-between if your favorite gal loves leggings.  There is even a pattern for a doll dress – don’t you love a bonus???

Item #OAD56 Retail $9.50

“Jump-N” is a wrap-around that can be a top or dress – and again, there is a matching doll dress for HER favorite gal – a photo op in the making!

Item #OAD57  Retail $9.50

Every little girl needs a party dress – and this one will make your special little one feel like a princess!

Item #OAD58   Retail $9.50

Ruffles would be adorable on any beach or fairgrounds this summer.  But add a turtleneck – and it can go right through to winter!

Item #OAD63  Retail $9.95

It’s a wrap turns a T-Shirt and leggings into a storytime outfit with a simple button.

Item #OAD64  Retail $9.95

Easy Curves dress, top and leggings is fat quarter friendly – and a great way to use up scraps!  And, then make a doll dress to match!

Item #OAD65  Retail $10.95

See a trunk show of all of these outfits at the Checker Open House. A picture is worth a thousand words – but the real thing is priceless!

Use your Batting Scraps

Heat Press Batting Together (Item #HPBT) is a product that is long overdue!  Once you use it, your only question will be – where have you been!  It is so logical, you will wonder why someone didn’t think of this long ago!!!  Now that I have peaked your interest…..

Item #HPBT  Retail $7.99

This product is a tape that has adhesive on one side and comes in ten yard packages for $7.99 a roll and is only 1 1/2″ wide.  That means you can piece together three king size quilts with one package or six standard baby quilts – out of your scraps!!!!  Don’t you love it when a product saves you money?

Butt two straight sides of batting together on your ironing board.  Center the tape over it and press.  It is that simple!  This tape is so lightweight and thin that you will not know it is there – and you’ve just saved yourself the cost of a batting!

All Dolled Up and Ready to Go

Joan Hinds is an expert on doll clothing – and has written thirteen books on the subject – so I am not surprised that her newest endeavor is simply charming!

“All Dolled Up” includes over a dozen patterns of matching outfits for your favorite girl – and her favorite 18″ doll.

Item #Z5688  Retail $29.99

You will have a hard time choosing which is your favorite – and may just give up and decide that your #1 girl needs an entire new wardrobe – along with her doll.  These outfits are easy to fit and easy to sew.  In fact they are sew simple, that you can adjust the patterns so that you may add a third generation – mother, daughter, AND doll!

Most of these patterns are so simple that they could be the perfect project to start your little one on a life long journey – and shared passion for sewing!  Start simply – matching aprons followed by a session in the kitchen making chocolate chip cookies would be wonderful – making memories that will last a lifetime.

Or why not make matching p.j.s followed by a slumber party – and put the sleeping bags in front of the fire.  Marshmallows and cocoa are what dreams are made of…..

But, who can resist a party dress followed by a fancy tea – with ALL of the dolls in attendance…..

So choose the book….choose the occasion…..choose the fabric…..and make a memory…..

A New Die Cut Machine that is Affordable

The Sizzix is a die cut machine that comes in two sizes – Big Shot and Big Shot Pro (for those of you that just can’t get enough)!  It is fast and easy – just turn the handle and crank out hundreds of shapes!

Item #SX656815  Retail $99.99

The Big Shot Pro is 13″ wide and the tray is 27″ long.

Item #SX656820  Retail $399.99

The dies are made to best utilize the fabric.  They are placed close together so there is little waste.  Prepare the fabric by ironing Print n Fuse to the wrong side and you are ready to turn the handle!

Item #PNF12  Retail $11.99

The dies are available in a multitude of shapes and sizes.  Grandmother’s Flower Gardens have never been easier – in whatever size you need!

Item #SX656664 Retail $19.99

But if penny rugs are your passion, they have that covered to – again in a multitude of sizes!

Retail #SX656660  Retail $19.99

If applique is your passion, they have that covered too – leaves in a multitude of shapes and sizes.

Item #SX656667  Retail $19.99

Words of inspiration always make me smile – and Sizzix has that covered too.

Item #SX656571  Retail $11.99

Check out all of the possibilities – you will only be limited by your own imagination…..

Give a Quilter a Helping Hand

As soon as I saw these carts, I bought one.  This is one of those items that we are not going to be able to keep in stock!  Buy one for every vehicle, one for home, AND one for the shop.  This thing weighs less than 15 pounds – and holds up to 275 – now that is a lot of bang for your buck!


When stored, the cart measures 3″ high; 16 1/2″ wide and 27″ long – simple and compact.  The wheels fold up into the bottom and the handle lays flat in the base.  But see those little red tabs that are on the brace between the handles?  Simply squeeze them together, the handle comes up and the wheels come down.   It is THAT easy – unless you want to extend the handle – up to 39″.  Then you have to squeeze another handle.  Yep – that’s all there is to it!  You don’t have to be an engineer to figure this one out!

And, it comes fully assembled – you take it out of the box, squeeze the tabs, and start hauling everything from groceries to bolts of fabric.

This thing is built to last.  It is constructed out of nylon, aluminum and stainless steel with four wheels that rotate 360 degrees – which means it is easy to maneuver as well.  That durability means that it can hold up to 27 bolts of fabric, UPS shipments, and anything else you need to haul – even if it is an odd size.

Did you know that a bolt of fabric weighs an average of 5 pounds?  That means that every time you arrange a display, you can move 130 pounds of fabric from one location to another without any back strain – safer and faster.

If you ever vend at shows, this cart is a must!  It also holds the big plastic tubs – two high securely (the raised edges on the sides stops the tubs from slipping.  You are going to love it!

Stop by and see me at the Checker Open house – my fabric collection will be stored on this puppy so you can take it for a test drive.  We’ll have two so you can see how easy it is to set up too.  You can even take one…or two…or three…with you so you can haul your purchases into the store when you get home!