Checker Goes To Bat for American Products and American Jobs!

This article was written by Doug Hand, the Checker Representative for Georgia, part of South Carolina, Southern Alabama, Louisiana, and Southern Mississippi.

When was the last time you were really and truly proud of something?
Of something that touched your heart and made you feel good all over!
It just doesn’t happen for me as often as I would like for it to, but
I must tell you that being part of Checker Distributors is having that
effect on me.

Considering our present economy and our unemployment rate in America
these days, Checker has risen to the occasion and added a “Made In The
USA”  icon to our home page on our website.  Have you clicked on this
button yet?  When you do, 23,004 items will come up and you can choose
from this group of American Made products by their category and
sub-categories!  They all have an American flag when you view them on
our website!   If we all took the time to focus on these products and
add some of them to our product mix, we could help put a lot of
Americans back to work in the good old USA!

Check this out; Checker supports 86,529 products on the Checker
website on June 22.  This tells us that 27% of what is offered on the
Checker website is made in the USA!  I must admit it, this is a much
higher percentage than I expected.

This “Made In The USA” project has been led all the way by our
President, Mr Rob Krieger.  It was expensive and a ton of extra work
for so many of our Checker associates, but it was the right thing to
do!  We can only hope that other companies throughout America will
follow suit and join us in making it easy to recognize and purchase
American made products.

Just in case you are interested in numbers like I am, take a look at
some of the major categories from our website and their percentages

A.) 97% of all Patterns are made in America
B.) 69% of all Zippers are made in America
C.) 56% of all Gifts are made in America
D.) 51% of all Books are made in America
E.) 48% of all Crafts are made in America
F.) 42% of all Notions are made in America
G.) Only 7% of our Threads are made in America
H.) Only 1% of our Fabrics are made in America

Tri-Folds & Banners & Mandalas….oh my

One of my favorite parts of Open House is the phenomenal trunk shows that decorate every nook and cranny of the wharehouse.  Talk about a quilt show – you will be able to feast your eyes on over 200 quilts. A picture may be worth 1,000 words – but viewing the original???? Priceless!!!

Laurie Tigner is sharing some of her exquisite designs.  She has made a name for herself by creating life like faces on banners that are breathtakingly beautiful.  This nativity scene is a perfect example.  The full color faces are included in the pattern so they can be copied onto your favorite photo transfer fabric sheets.  Your customers will be able to achieve the same results.  And, the templates are full size so no enlargement is needed.

Item #LTTN1  Retail $40.00

Laurie has created this magnificent piece so it can be displayed in the Ackfeld tri-fold hanger.  The total package!

Item #89897  Retail $29.99

These angel banners are designed to showcase everything we love about each season.  Again, these patterns include full size templates so the fun can begin immediately.


Item #LTSA1  Retail $30.00

Item #LTSA2  Retail $30.00

Item #LTAA1  Retail $30.00

Item #LTWA1  Retail $30.00

Laurie is also know for creating beautiful Mandala quilts.  These measure 24″ across so they are beautiful on a wall or the center of a table.


Item #LTOM1  Retail $20.00


Item #LTEM1  Retail $20.00

Autumn Unfolding…..

Item #LTAUM1  Retail $20.00

December Blooms

Item #LTDBM1  Retail $20.00
And, once again, Ackfeld makes the perfect hanger….
Item #22277  Retail $9.00

Deck the Halls by Anka’s Treasures

Heather Mulder Pederson is one of my favorite designers – and after visiting her at Market and seeing samples of her newest book and fabric, I was NOT disappointed!  Unfortunately the pictures I took at Market didn’t do the quilts justice, so I visited Heather’s blog to share some photos she took later that are spectacular.  This sequel to Living Large was definitely worth the wait.

Item #ANK301  Retail $16.00

The cover quilt is aptly named Spaghetti Junction.  Notice how the pattern frames and features the exquisite designs in the focus fabrics.  Picture this quilt in her new Christmas line by Henry Glass – released this month.    Visit our website at:

Heather’s by-line is “Where Trendy Meets Traditional” and this line is a perfect example of it!

I love the tree skirt (or table topper) she made with this line.  Check out the striped binding – simply striking.  Who would have thought that black is a perfect Christmas color???  And who doesn’t love polka dots???

“Hip to NOT be Square”  is an example of what a difference elongating a block can make.

“Starlit Evening” is a quilt sized version of the tree skirt I fell in love with at Market…..same star within a hexagon.

Living Large has more examples of great quilts made with large prints.  Why not make a display of large prints and include BOTH books….What is not to love….and the tree skirt is a class just waiting to happen.

Item #ANK289  Retail $17.00

Make It/Take It – Part Three

Stitchin Sisters Snap Happy

This is such a popular pattern – but many shops still do not teach it because cutting up a carpenter’s tape intimidates them….until you do it once!!!  If you follow the instructions, it is easy as pie – and can be cut with scissors.  But why send all of your customers to another store to buy the tape?  Buy them at the nearest hardware store and provide them for your customers.  Don’t buy the cheap ones – it needs to be strong enough to provide the “snap” that you need.  Consider pre-cutting them for the class so they don’t even have to do that.  Who doesn’t love to be spoiled!!!!

The original includes more than one size – and they are all adorable.  Show how to make prairie points…

Item #53Sh  Retail $7.50

Once your customers see how easy this is, they will want to try their hand at other projects.  Add a key ring to the top of this “Keep the Change” – A Snap Happy Wallet and make it in bright colors for your children’s lunch money.  It can be attached right to their book bag.  If you sell machines, show how to applique something fast and simple.  But remember, adults need wallets too….

Item #64KC  Retail $8.50

Take it one step further – and make the “Back in a Snap” book bag!  This one comes in two sizes and includes a “snappy” pocket….

Item #60BI  Retail $8.50

The Snippety Snap Purse is a great compliment to any outfit – and can be a companion to the wallet as well….

Item #54SS  Retail $8.50

Or make the “Snap Happy 2” for the perfect cosmetic bag….

Item #59SH2  Retail $8.50

Make It Snappy can be used as an I-Pad case, a Kindle case, or anything else you need.  Did you know that Kindle sales exceeded book sales for Amazon this Spring?  How amazing!

Item #63MI  Retail $8.50

Once your customers know how to make one, they know the technique – and can make any of them!  One sample and an afternoon class can become the basis to sell all the patterns!  Now THAT is a good use of your time!

Atkinson Designs

I threw this one in because many of you bought the new product that is ironed to any fabric to turn it into vinyl.  Unfortunately, when you bought it, it sounded cool – but you didn’t know quite what to do with it when it arrived!  Terry has designed the perfect project – a lunch bag that can be made higher for wine as well – hence the name “Wine and Dine”.

This is a perfect example of why a quick demo can take away the intimidation factor.  The vinyl comes in shiny (17″ x 20 yards – Item #3905); Matte (17″ x 20 yards – Item #3925); or by the package (shiny – 2 yards Item #3902).  And, if you taught a class based on her zippers, they already know how to do that part….What a great teacher gift!  Remember, giving them gift giving ideas is a part of the customer service that is not provided by the chains!

Item #ATK155  Retail $9.00

Make It/Take It – Part Two

The Hot Cakes Cupcake Oven Mitt is the perfect gift to give with a tray of cookies during the holidays.  Make them in holiday colors with the new Christmas fabric that just arrived.  What a great way to use the stripes!  Insul-Bright is the perfect batting to use for this project since it is heat resistant.  It is available by the bolt (22 1/2″ x 20 yards – Item #6320WN; 45″ x 40 yards – Item #6340WN) or pre-packaged (1 yd. x 45″ – Item #6345WN).  It works perfectly in table runners too – and since it comes in 22 1/2″ and 45″ widths, it is usually cheaper than standard battings.  Don’t you love it when that happens???

A Microtex needle is just the ticket for the top-stitching – and gives you an opportunity to give a mini class on needles.  I would recommend a multi-pack such as the Schmetz package that contains 60/70/80 sizes.(Item #1839).  Did you know that Schmetz has brochures that you can pass out that explains when to use different needles – and why????  And, they are free????  Check out Item #D-81; D-88; and D-89 on our website.

Item #ST935  Retail $5.75

These place mats and table runner are a great accompaniment to the hot pads – and would make a perfect combination for a shower gift.  Once they know how to make the pot holders, these companions will be a piece of cupcake!

Item #ST819  Retail $8.00

Or turn that cupcake into a pocket big enough to keep your phone or I-Phone…..or add needles and a cute pair or scissors for a charming gift for your sewing friends…..Demonstrate a Clover yo yo maker for the embellishment – or use one of the new flower makers.

Item #ST936  Retail $5.75

Why not buy an assortment of decorative scissors to sell with these?  They come in all different prints and are just the right size to dangle from the pockets.

Item #40080075

If you sell wool or felt, why not add this as a companion?  These little projects are perfect for a mother/daughter class and provide an opportunity to teach simple embroidery stitches.

Item #ST1003  Retail $5.75

The Twister

The Twister isn’t just a carnival ride that we all avoided, it is the ever popular template that has taken the country by storm!  If you aren’t offering it in your shop because “everybody else is doing it”, you are missing out on guaranteed sales.  This is the perfect first quilt for sewers of any age!  Sell pre-cut squares to make this quilt in a variety of sizes.  As long as the seam allowances are consistent, this quilt will fit together perfectly.  They don’t have to know how to sew that perfect “scant 1/4″ seam”.

The original – The Twister – is cut from 10″ squares.  The Lil Twister is cut from 5″ squares.

Item #TWISTER Retail $19.15
Item #LILTWISTER Retail $9.85

Be sure that they know that Mary Ellen’s Best Press is a must for this quilt!  It helps stabilize all of the bias edges so that this quilt sews together like a dream.  And, once they have made one, share this book so they can see all of the design potential!

Item #LETSTWIST  Retail $18.00

With the two sizes of Twisters, the design potential is multiplied.

Item #LTAGAIN  Retail $19.95

Throw a Chubby Checker party – because it is now available in four sizes!  Lisa Bonjean has added the miniature versions.  These squares can be cut from the scraps of The Twister.  Why not make your favorite child a quilt – and one for her doll at the same time?

Item #PRI946  Retail $12.00

This one can be cut from 2 1/2″ squares…

Item #PRI321  Retail $10.00

It;s time to get organized and display these 6 items and all of your pre-cuts in one display.  Then, take the extra step to set your shop apart from the rest.  Make a mini version of each size by sewing 16 squares together – and then cutting them with the templates.  Let your customers visualize the difference in sizes – and they will want them all….

Make It/Take It Projects – Part 1

This week marks the beginning of summer – and the living is easy!  Why not offer a series of Make It/Take It classes that can literally be finished in an afternoon?  Instant gratification is always fun – and a great way to introduce new people to quilting (by not making quilts).

These projects have all of the elements of the perfect Make It/Take It class:

1.  They are easy to kit.

2.  They are affordable.

3.  They provide a teachable moment – and sometimes removes the intimidation factor.

4.  They can be completed in an afternooon.

5.  The patterns are consistently in the top 20 so you will have a sample of the most popular patterns – and continue to sell them long after the class is over.

6.  They are so fast and fun, your customers will want to make dozens for gifts!

7.  There are additional patterns that showcase the technique so your customers will have the confidence to move onto more intricate projects.

These projects meet all of the above criteria…

Atkinson Designs

I admit to being a Terry junkie!  She designs with quilt shops in mind – and it shows!  Her zipper rack is a perfect example.  Terry adapted one of our most popular display racks by Clip It Up (Item #01-001) to hold her zippers.  Just add her Start Up Kit (Item #ATK390Z) which includes color labels, sign, and additional hooks – and the entire assortment fits within a 12″ square!  Then, she developed patterns that show how to sew these zippers so one length fits all – and using her technique, it has never been easier!

ATK397Z  Retail $213.85

Teach this Cash & Carry Purse.  Demonstrate how to insert a zipper.  Show how Best Press adds the perfect crease to a pocket.  If you sell sewing machines, show them how to monogram the pocket for an elegant touch.

Item #ATK148  Retail $8.00

Be sure to have the Zippy Stripy for sale as well.  It would be great to have a sample of this one done too for a size comparison – or have this one cut out to use as your demonstration piece.  They will finish the smaller version while you demo on the large.  Don’t forget to have a display of buttons and trims available so they can personalize their projects.  And, dealers, sew those buttons on by machine!  Quilt the base as you go or show them how to use a fusible batting….Display 2 1/2″ strips nearby.  The pattern includes three sizes.  What a great gift for friends who travel!

Item #ATK149  Retail $8.00

Pockets to Go is another great pattern that incorporates zippers into the pockets.  The pattern comes with two sizes – a square and a rectangle.  These organizers have enough body to stand alone or insert in your favorite purse.  Switching purses have never been easier.

Item #ATK150  Retail $9.00

Why not add zippers as a decorative touch?  Take this idea one step further and add them as a decorative touch to a swag or cornice in a sewing room.  Use this as an opportunity to teach how to do cording.  The Clover fusible cording makes this project a slam dunk.

Item #ATK157 Retail $ 9.00

The Quilt Company

The Easy Striped Table Runner has been one of the top 20 patterns for ages….for a reason.  This table runner is so deceptively easy – with just 6 pieces – that you may have overlooked the opportunities to teach.  Why not show them how to cut one out, stitch the six pieces together, fuse it to batting, and then machine quilt it.

Item #TQC272  Retail $8.50

And, now the 60 degree ruler that was used to cut the original, is available in a 12 1/2″ size.  The larger size allows you to increase the width to 24″ if desired.  Or, if the fabric stripe has a four repeat, the table runner will finish to 20″.  Don’t forget to pull a selection of stripes so they can choose their own.  By the end of the class, you will have the table runner completed in a multitude of colorways!  Take pictures and post them on your website – instant advertisement!

Item #CGRT60 (the original 8 1/2″ Version)
Retail $17.95

Item #CGRT12560 (12 1/2″ Version)
Retail $25.95

It is a great opportunity to teach how to bind a corner that isn’t square!  Why not give the Creative Grids Angle Finder a try?

Item #CGRAF  Retail $18.45

If you develop a reputation for teachable moments – they will not only come, they will RETURN!

And now we have an even better one.

Judy Niemeyer teaches color

Judy Niemeyer is instantly recognizable for her paper-pieced quilts that are so striking, they simply take your breath away!  Her vibrant fabric choices combined with subtle shading turns every project into a work of art.  Whether she is working in Fall colors reminiscent of the leaves changing in New England or the subtle blues and greens of the ocean, her quilts evoke memories.

Indian Summer Item #JNQ29P  Retail $17.00

Autumn Splendor Item #JNQ53P  Retail $25.00

Sea Urchins  Item #JNQ55P  Retail $30.00

Judy is not only coming to our Open House, she is giving a lecture on color on Sunday!  She is literally going to go into our warehouse and pull bolts of fabric that she would use to kit her most popular projects.  How cool is that???  And to make a great event even better, Brad (the fabric buyer), is moving all of the batiks into one location – and sorting them by color.  Checker carries batiks by four different manufacturers so the selection will be amazing.

I feel like an infomercial – but seriously folks, this just gets better and better!  Judy is featuring a new pattern released at Quilt Market; releasing a brand new pattern; AND premiering a revised version of an old favorite.

And, for those of us – like me – who have always been intimidated by her projects, she is going to demonstrate the paper-piecing techniques that make it possible for anyone to create these works of art.  You actually get to learn tricks right from the master.  Judy lives in Montana so this is a rare opportunity to visit with her East of the Mississippi!

For those of us who are beginners, Judy has created some smaller projects that aren’t as intimidating…..this Bali Bed Runner will be the focal point of any room.

Item #JNQ85P  Retail $25.00

Or make a gorgeous runner that will make your table shine.

Item #JNQ54P  Retail $18.00

For those of you – like me – that live in the Midwest and think batiks are just too bright for our decorating styles, think again.  Batiks have come a long way baby – and the subtle shades of creams and browns are quickly becoming favorites.

Item #JNQ83P  Retail $27.00

Item #JNQ72P  Retail $20.00

In many cases, additional packages of foundation papers are available so the size of the project can be adjusted to fit your needs.   By the way, Judy is also sharing a trunk show with us!  It can’t get any better than this!

Batiks the Strip Therapy Way

When I owned a shop, I wanted to get the most bang for my buck for my inventory dollar.  And this week, batiks are the way to go!  Brenda Henning of Bear Paw Productions creates both traditional and contemporary designs that give every quilter a sense of instant gratification.  She will be coming to our Open House in August.  It simply can’t get any better than this!  Brenda and Judy Niemeyer at the same event – two phenomenal artists who use batiks in totally different ways!  Stock up on a selection of these great fabrics and feature both artists.  Their combination of styles will appeal to everyone!

Brenda’s ever popular Strip Therapy series feature projects that can all be created with 2 1/2″ strips.  Just look at the range of possibilities showcased on the covers of her books!

Item #BPP560  Retail $20.00

Each book features a variety of projects – in a variety of styles – that are perfect for everyone!  S0me, like the cover quilt on Strip Therapy 6, even feature simple applique.  This quilt would be at home in any college dorm….but remember, each book features a variety of styles and patterns!

Item #BPP540  Retail $20.00

The cover of Strip Therapy 5 is a great geometric quilt that is shaded – and a perfect masculine quilt!

Item #BPP520  Retail $20.00

The positive/negative values in this quilt are spectacular and would be a great showcase for a color class.

Item #BPP510  Retail $20.00

And, this is the original that started it all…..

Item #BPP480  Retail $20.00

But Brenda has more great ideas up her sleeve….and Fat Quarter Cut-Ups is one of them.  This book features 7 projects that each use 14 fat quarters.  Stack and cut the fat quarters into 9 inch squares and sub-cut away…fast, fun and effective!

Item #BPP550  Retail $20.00

Talk about great ideas, the math brain in me fell in love with this product!  Use Triangulations to download any size of half-square; quarter-square triangles and geese on standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets.  Everything is formatted for you on one disk.  For the price of a couple of packages of the foundation papers, you can make your own forever!!!!

Item #BPP2010  Retail $27.95

And, yes, Brenda will be at our Open House to show you how to use this product and to share her books and class ideas.  This event gives you the opportunity to meet with 30 designers and plan your entire fall schedule!  Inventory will even be pulled so you can take it with you – and share these great finds with your customers immediately.  Talk about time management!!!

Best Batting?

As a professional quilter I am often asked, Which batting is the best? Which types do I carry? What do my customers like? What do I use in my own quilts? There is no simple answer so instead I share my criteria:
(in order of importance to me)

     #1. Care Instructions and shrinkage
     #2. Fiber Content and loft
     #3. Sizes Available  (width and length)
     #4. Cost – including shipping

 My #1 criterion is care and shrinkage. For many years quilters were willing to pre-shrink their batting if they didn’t want their washed quilts to have that crinkley ‘antique’ look. Well, I don’t have time to pre-shrink , and I won’t do it for my customers. So, I read the fine print on the batting packages, and choose easy-to-care-for battings.

 Criterion #2 is fiber content. I have customers who consider cotton to be the only ‘real’ batting because it is a natural fiber and it drapes so nicely, so I stock cotton.

   The customers who ask for heirloom quilting designs will often choose wool batting because the extra loft shows the quilting stitches better, so I stock (washable) wool.

   Kid’s quilts – or any utility quilt that will be washed often – work well with a polyester batting because of the durability. Just be sure not to stitch too densely because it gets stiff. Poly comes in flat (great for wallhangings) and fluffy (great for comforters & trapunto) and I stock both.

   Poly/cotton blends are a good choice because they have good qualities of both fibers – Poly-durability, and Cotton-drape. I stock Poly/cotton blends too.

   There are some new battings available now that are interesting. One claims to be flame retardant (I tried it, and it really works!) making it a good choice for baby quilts. I found a flame retardant batting that drapes beautifully and I use it in all size quilts – and yes, I stock it too.

   Another really soft batting I have tried (and I stock) is a bamboo blend. Since it is made of bamboo, it is considered ’green’. I am not sure what the ‘green’ criterion are, but I do try to make environmentally friendly choices when possible.

   There is also a green batting made of recycled soda bottles. It is green in color, and a bit stiff for my taste, but I bet it would work well for many craft projects!  

  Criterion #3 is size choice. Many of my customer quilts are queen size, so 95” width is a must for me, and I prefer to buy batting by the roll. Traditionally rolls of batting have been 25-30 yards long, and I stock at least 7 different battings, so this gets expensive (Cost is Criterion #4). Since a roll is considered ‘oversized’ it earns a shipping surcharge too.

 What to do??? Buy (and resell) batting on a bolt. The first time I saw batting-on-a-bolt, it was 60” wide, designed by Penny Haren for Checker Distributors. This is the perfect width for smaller quilts and for Quilts of Valor, which I participate in. The 60” width is so much more useful than a 48” width, and Penny has designed 60” wide fabric for backings too, but I digress – back to the battings.

   Now, many batting companies have seen the benefits of batting-on-a-bolt (also known as batting-on-a-board). It is available in many different fiber contents and widths, even queen size. These boards hold 9 yards of 95” wide batting, which is perfect for doing 3 queen size quilts, with little or no waste. Batting on a board is so reasonable, I can justify carrying 7 or more different  types of batting without needing a second mortgage.

   But, if I needed something special or I just didn’t want to keep that much batting in my inventory, it would be wonderful if I could go to my local quilt shop and purchase the batting I needed. Batting-on-a-board can be taken to the cutting counter, and custom sizes can be cut much more easily than batting-on-a-roll.

   When I need King size batting, I prefer to purchase a packaged batting, and I would buy that at my LQS too since I will get it fast. I don’t have to wait until I build an order large enough to meet the wholesale minimums, and I would not have to wait for the batting to be drop shipped from the factory. After all, time is another type of revenue, and inventory carrying costs are expenses.

   Start surfing the website, and search for ‘batting board’ or ‘batting bolt’,  logon to your account to place your order. There are lots of new batting choices for shopowners to make, and they are affordable and convenient!

 Always “checking” for a better way to quilt!     Sewlong,

Pat Barry

c 2011 By Design Quilting, LLC.  This copyright entitles you to reprint this article. All other rights reserved.

Note for professional longarm quilters –  

   I know how important it is to provide products and services that help your customers, but please remember that your local quilt shop (LQS) can also be a good business partner for you. I have adopted a “LQS Partner Policy” which simply means I will not compete against my LQS when it comes to goods and services that are not my ‘primary’ business. For instance, my primary business is quilting, not retail sales of fabrics.  I do carry some retail products (batting / backing) but I will not discount any retail products that my LQS also offers.

   My customers can bring their own battings/backing if they choose, in fact I encourage it.  I want my customers to purchase those items from their LQS because it keeps the LQS in business, it supports the quilting industry in general, and I benefit from that. So, don’t compete with them, Collaborate!

Atkinson Designs – Five Patterns in the Top 20

Terry Atkinson is my idol!  She has her finger on the pulse of the industry – and knocks it out of the park every time!  She is as down to earth as they come, and has the ability to design projects that appeal to all ages.  As of this morning, five of her patterns were listed in the top 20 and 18 out of the top 20 zippers are hers!  You go girl!

Terry is coming to our Open House in August.  She will be demonstrating her zipper technique – that is the reason your customers will buy zippers again.  Before I saw Terry demonstrate this technique, I skipped any pattern that had a zipper.  Velcro was my friend – and only option.  Not any more!  Her method is so easy, even I can do it!

But Terry didn’t just release a zipper rack ( that is the perfect and most affordable way for quilt shops to carry zippers – she designed fast and easy patterns around them so you could TEACH your students how to insert them.  These projects are simply adorable – and can be completely finished in a two hour session.  We love instant gratification!

Cash & Carry

Item #ATK148  Retail $8.00

Zippy Stripy

Item #ATK149

Pockets to Go

Item #ATK150  Retail $9.00

If you are a machine dealer, this is your dream class!  Show them how to insert zippers, sew on buttons, add trims, piping, etc. – all in one easy pattern.

This Market, Terry added the Reader Wrap.  And, once again, she predicted the trends.  Last month, Kindle sales were higher than book sales on – who would have dreamed that five years ago???  And, she has the perfect cover….

Reader Wrap

Item #ATK156  Retail $9.00

The new vinyl fabrics have been popular – but again – no one was really sure what to do with them.  This new lunch bag is available in two heights….hence the name….

Item #ATK155  Retail $9.00

This bag can also be used with the new iron on vinyl (Item #3905 for a shiny finish or #3925 for a matte finish).  Come meet Terry at the Open House.  She will show you how to incorporate these products into your next class or demo day.