Eleanor Burns: American Barns Trunk Show

18 03 2011

After the first day of the Quilting Academy, we were invited to Eleanor Burns’ Quilt in a Day store, and attend her 90 minute American Barns Trunk Show.

She was just like she appears on TV, except even more personable. The American Barns Trunk Show was full of information and techniques  and some history of the barns , the quilt blocks, and the project to get quilt blocks painted onto barns (some 3000 barns now have them). The evening was full of fun, laughter, song and dance (yes, really!). Her whole family is involved, with her son, brand new daughter-in-law and granddaughter all performing or being featured in some way.

While she may try to come across as a little hokey, behind that facade is a very bright and astute businesswoman!

Some pictures from the Trunk Show; click on a small image to see it full size.

Tomorrow is the day I spend in her class — after tonight’s performance, I’m really looking forward to it.

Behind the scenes at Quilt in a Day

18 03 2011

After the first day of the Quilting Academy, we were invited to travel to San Marcos (about 30 minutes away, but maybe less if we had taken the right turn!) to see Eleanor Burns’ Quilt in a Day store, and attend her 90 minute American Barns Trunk Show.

The store was like many others, though it did have quite a lot of fabric on sale (Yes, I bought some! At sale prices of $4 and $5 a yard, who wouldn’t? especially as fabric in Australia is upwards of $20 a metre.)

The highlight though was the ‘backlot’ tour conducted by Eleanor herself. This is a MAJOR one-woman brand industry! Most of her sales are via the internet and the back area is HUGE. Even at close to 7 pm, many staff were still working, packing orders, cutting fabric for packs, testing new designs, etc. They even have their own art department (for magazines, books, and web), and their own digital printing press for short-run books on demand. Oh, and she has her own recording studio, which is where she held the Trunk Show (and I suspect it was video’d as the full studio lighting was turned on when she came out to perform.)

Some ‘backlot’ pictures; click on a small image to see it full size.

Quilting Academy: Day 1, March 2011

18 03 2011

Today was the first day of the 3-day Eleanor Burns Quilting Academy in Del Mar, California. I’m not sure how many women attended but I suspect somewhere around 70 to 100. We were split into six groups (I was in a group of around 15 others) and allocated session times. Each group gets to spend one day with Eleanor working on one of her projects. And the other two days are spent with other trainers working on other projects or learning about other techniques and equipment. The whole Academy is being run by the SewingMachinesPlus.com people and Eleanor’s Quilt in a Day people.

The group I was in spent the first day in two separate 3-hour sessions.

The morning session was conducted by the lovely Debi from Babylock.  Under Debi’s  expert guidance, we made a project that allowed us to learn how to use some of the features of the Babylock Ellisimo embroidery machines.  These are really high-end machines that cost some US$9000. I’d never used a computerised embroidery machine before, so it was a great opportunity to try one out first hand. While it was a pretty spectacular machine, I doubt I’d ever buy one as I couldn’t see myself using many of the high-end features that make these machines so expensive.

The photos below show the room, the machine and part of the piece we worked on (yes, this is mine); click on a small photo to show it full size.

At lunch I met a few people, in addition to those I met at the continental breakfast and at registration. Ages ranges of those attending appear to vary from early-mid twenties to mid-seventies. Nearly all are from the local area, though there are a few from out of state — Michigan, Virginia, etc. and me, of course, from Australia.

The afternoon session was disappointing. We were meant to learn about long-arm quilting machines and get to play on them.  When we walked into the room, three machines were set up — two big ones and a HQ Sweet Sixteen. This was going to be good! The presenter then spoke to us AT LENGTH (two hours out of the three) on how to choose a long-arm quilting machine. She didn’t do a single demonstration in all that time. Then, when it was time for us to play, she had difficulty rolling up the previous group’s work (she was introduced as an expert in all types of these machines). Once one machine was ready to go,  it wouldn’t run as the bobbin had run out and no-one from the two stores had thought to put in a spare or two!  So we all moved over to the second big machine (except those who heard that icecream was being served for the afternoon break!). She took ages to roll that one too, and had to get help. Then after about 1 minute, its bobbin ran out too! So now BOTH large long-arm machines are out of action! Many left at this stage, particularly after the lady from SewingMachinesPlus said that she’d open the doors to that room at 8 am tomorrow to let us play for an hour. Problem is: 8 am is when they serve breakfast. I don’t know why the presenter didn’t prepare the machines BEFORE the class (there was an hour’s break between classes), or even as she was talking for TWO hours (she could’ve then demo’d how to roll a quilt further on the machine). Instead she spent an inordinate amount of time on her favourite threads!

I did get to play on the HQ Sweet Sixteen — and it was wonderful. The motion for free motion quilting was really smooth and even, and I was very impressed with its small ‘footprint’ (the table it sits in is about 30 x 36 inches) as well as its ease of use. I want one!! Fortunately, a friend of mine in Perth sells them, so it’s not out of the realms of possibility 😉

After the day was over, we were all invited to go to Eleanor’s Quilt in a Day store, then stay on to attend her American Barns Trunk Show.