October 23, 2013

Fall Quilt Market 2013

Houston here we come!

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Tomorrow Ranelle and I will caravan from DFW to Houston.

For me it is the 20th trip to Fall Quilt Market since the year American Quilt Retailer began. Ranelle has been many times on buying trips with her mother, Gayle Smith owner of Quiltin’ Country in Killeen. She helped me last year at market, but this year — this year is her first trip as the new publisher of America Quilt Retailer.

She has had so many firsts this year, I have no doubt she will settle right in to this one with the greatest of ease.

American Quilt Retailer is in booth 2237. We’re both looking forward to meeting everyone and discovering what’s new in the marketplace to share with you in future issues.

Always an exciting time!

See you soon! — Susan

September 5, 2013

Customer participation — who can resist!

Sewists love to have a purpose or goal to sew. Here are two promotions to get them going!


Eazy Peazy’s Gifts has a super cute pattern — “Hang-it!” — for a custom covered clothes hanger. Of course, the book has all sorts of “easy-peasy” gift projects, but the “Hang it!” has a shop promotion planned by Lisa Mullins of Wandering Stitches in Orlando, Fla.

Here’s how it works: customers buy the book and create their own special “Hang it!” clothes hanger. Set a deadline, display the entries and ask customers to vote for their favorite. The best part is that Lisa has suggested a 25 cent fee for each vote placed with this money going to breast cancer research. Of course, no restrictions on the number of votes per person!

Start now, for September sewing and October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) for voting. Eazy Peazy has a downloadable pdf bag stuffer to promote the event and a class outline to get everyone started. It’s good for all — your shop, your customers and women everywhere.


Then how about joining forces with Pokey Bolton of Quilts, Inc. Last year she kicked off the Quilt Festival’s Pet Postcard Project. Pokey knows she just can’t adopt them all (although she has done her part!), so she started the Pet Postcard Project to benefit Friends for Life, Houston’s fastest growing no-kill animal adoption and rescue organization. Last year (without a long lead time) sewists made and sent in at least 1,000 four- by six-inch pet postcards. They were displayed at International Quilt Festival in Houston, where more then 50,000 attendees visit over the long weekend yearly. The cards sold for $20 each and yes, do the math, Pokey’s pet project raised $20,000! This year Pokey hopes to surpass this total and she needs your help to do so.


Click here and head to Pokey’s Ponderings for details on how to participate. Get your sewists going — post details in your blog and on your Facebook page. Help those tail-waggers find their forever families and have some fun doing so. — Susan


September 3, 2013

What I learned from Ranelle today

Ranelle and Susan

Working with Ranelle King, the new owner of American Quilt Retailer, has been educational for me since day one! And my most recent lesson was how to use bloglovin.’ Unbeknownst to me the blog world was up in arms when Google reader ceased earlier this summer. I had looked into using Google reader several years ago, but being slow to catch on to new ways and feeling comfortable with my old ways — well — I’m afraid I didn’t catch on to the benefits.

As Ranelle patiently explained that now people were jumping to bloglovin’ as a replacement for Google reader and while she was at it she patiently explained how Google reader worked, and how bloglovin’ works and the benefits of using bloglovin’.

Okay so now I’m hooked! It is easy and efficient to use and I’m lovin’ bloglovin’ — and I guess this is the whole idea!

Go to www.bloglovin.com and set up an account. Then in the upper right hand corner of your home page you can search for all your favorite blogs and mark each with “follow.” Create special groups for your interests and you can sort your blogs by category: business, style trends, quilts, embroidery or even cooking and decorating. Whatever works for you.

At the end of each day you will get an e-mail with the lead in to all the new blog posts on the blogs you follow. Click on those you want to read, at your leisure, whenever you want to read them. Mark them as read or keep them in a list down the right-hand side. You can then search for a specific blog and read all the entries for that blog — again whenever you want to read them.

Here are just a few of my favorites:

Anna Maria Horner

Cluck Cluck Sew

Moda Bake Shop

Stash Books Blog

Retail Adventures in the REAL World



Rosebud’s Cottage

To name just a few!

Be certain to “follow” this “Missing Pieces” blog — you don’t want to miss a post! — Susan

PS — Two new blog hops just started  — a great way to add some great designer blogs to your bloglovin’ page:

Moda Fabrics, Moda Cutting Table “Size Matters” 

Clothworks, The Works “Everything Blue” 

July 15, 2013

Cheer and gratitude are very contagious

Bonjour, madame! Bonjour monsieur!

As they say, “When is France …”. Despite rumors to the contrary, the French are graciously friendly! You just have to know a secret or two. Propriety and civility are of the utmost importance, and long-standing manners and customs are still held in high regard — definitely — de rigueur!

In June, on my fourth trip with Kaari Meng and French General to Chateau Dumas in southern France, I finally had the confidence and presence of mind to walk into a shop or up to a vendor at the weekly market, and first and foremost look for the shopkeeper to say “Bonjour, madame” or “Bonjour, monsieur.” And, I tried really  hard to pronounce the words correctly and with the lovely, cheerful almost “sing-song” lilt the French all use.

In France, if you will do this, you will be graciously rewarded with a warm, welcoming smile and someone eager to assist you whether you are seeking unusual antiques or simply trying to explain with sounds and gestures that you need a pack of tissues and some cough drops.

When you enter a shop in France it is like you are entering someone’s home — someplace special, that is prepared and waiting to welcome you. If you had a wonderful neighborhood friend and an open invitation to “come on over,” I doubt you would walk into their house without knocking and calling out “Hello Sally!”

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I found this simple greeting worked every time! (Just look at the smile on the fellow above!) And, the more it worked, the more I wanted to speak up and out. It was fun! I was happy to know a few simple words, that evoked such a quick, pleasant response, when the only other words I know well in French are “Parlez-vous Anglais?” Which even this, if said with a smile — also provoked a smile — as long as you had said “Bonjour, madame” or “Bonjour, monsieur” first!

Then upon leaving any business even if the communication has taken place in broken French and English along with necessary gesturing, it is again, customary and well-appreciated if you depart with an equally cheerful “Au revoir, merci!”

On our last night in Toulouse, my husband and I needed a taxi to return from the city to our airport hotel. Being that there was not an abundance of taxis circling the streets, we ducked into a random hotel and after our “bonjours” were said, we were pleased to find eager assistance — they called a cab for us. We got in the taxi saying “bonjour, monsieur,” mentioned our hotel and headed off for the short ride during which the driver got his dispatcher on his phone and was most likely seeking a return passenger to make his trip to the airport beneficial. We basically understood none of this, but during this short drive, he must have said the word “merci” with meaning at least — at least — a dozen times!

Think about it — how many times have you said “thank you!” (with or without meaning) today?

Upon returning back to the states, heading out on my usual errands and I realized I missed saying my cheerful “Bonjour, madame” and “Bonjour, monsieur.” Our grocery store does have a sales associate behind a desk at the entrance. This — and I’m sorry to be critical here, the store is trying — but this usually bored-looking person does offer a half-hearted “hello” as I grab my cart and walk on. And, as I quickly fell into my old ways, I probably would have been perplexed if he had said “Good morning, ma’am!” in a nice sing-songy voice (actually I was grateful I didn’t get a “Hi, sweetie,” which at my age, and not being a born southerner, drives me crazy!)

I’m going to try an experiment and walk into a shop, seek out a sales associate and say a big cheerful “Hello” that says “I’m happy to be here,” and then upon leaving make a point to say “Goodbye, thank you!” and see what happens.

Since this lovely civility is not “de rigueur” in these parts, what would happen if you reversed the roll and whole-heartedly welcomed your customers as if they were your best friends, visiting your home and you were doing nothing but waiting for them to come visit. Please don’t do this to see an increase in sales, do it because it feels really good and, with cheerfulness and gratitude being contagious, you may just make someone’s day in the course of doing so, and make yourself feel good as well. Au revoir, merci! — Susan

PS — Want to go on the French General Chateau Dumas Getaway in June 2014 and try out your “Bonjour Madame!” and “Bonjour Monsieur!”? Sign-ups have started at French General!



July 12, 2013

Vacate and fill her up please



“Where shall we go next , dear?”

“Honey, I’ll go where you go, but I don’t think we should let the children ride on the dashboard anymore.”

No, this is not a stock photo. Truth can be stranger than fiction sometimes, can’t it? This van (drivers real) was seen in the small town of Saint-Antonine-Noble-Val on the first day of the French General Chateau Dumas Getaway in Auty, France.  At least 20 of us piled out of our parked cars and saw this handsome pair across the drive. They appeared to be waiting while their owners (the real drivers?) shopped the Sunday morning market for the week’s food and they were totally unruffled by our unabashed stares.

This morning was the first of many fun mornings on yet another delightful getaway hosted by Kaari Meng and her French General helpers, Molly, Kick and Cathy. The week was full of laughter, creativity, shopping as well as eating and drinking the most amazing local food and wine. Oh, and did I mention the laughing and talking with new friends? It was all just grand!

At one point in the week, I realized my head was vacant — no worries, no deadlines and every need was being lavishly met. I was in a state of total leisure and it dawned on me that this is what the word vacation means. Vacation comes from the root word “vacare” which means to be be empty, free and at leisure. Not only had I vacated my duties at home, but somewhere in France I had also vacated my brain. Oh, such a blissful state.

Yet anything empty is just waiting to be filled up. This is what a really good vacation like the French General Getaway does — once your indulge in the most leisurely activities, it renews, recharges and fills you with so many thoughts, ideas, memories and energy to begin anew. How could being in such a setting with 20 other wonderfully interesting women not fill you up?



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My wish for you, my shopowners and friends, is that you, too, may have some kind of “vacant” and fulfilling experience this summer. Wipe the slate clean, find your place of peace and fill your tank to hit the ground running when you arrive home.

And, if you would like to make plans for the 2014 French General Chateau Dumas Getaway in Auty, France the sign-ups for the first week are open! Word is spreading fast about this incredible experience and it is bound to fill up fast! Abientot! — Susan

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