Come join me tomorrow!

Come join me tomorrow for a Bernina Webinar, where I talk about what I think about when I work out how I’m going to quilt a top!   This is a quilting design discussion, and applicable to domestic or longarm machines. Denise will also be talking about the QuiltMotion later in the show.

You do need to register in advance, but there are three different times you can attend.  Should be fun and informative!  Happy quilting, y’all.

Simple tip today: label your fabric

So I’ve been working with lots and lots of fabrics lately, some bundled and some not. Some of my choices are quite close in color, and some come from different collections, but need to be eventually grouped together in a project.  I like to prewash, so colors that are similar all get washed together. But, yeah.  You can see how this might be a problem, breaking up groups.  Or remembering quickly which is which.  Hrmph.

So here it is.  The should-have-done-this-sooner tip.

Write the name on the darn selvedge before washing.  That's it.  Then write the name on it again, if you cut it off.

Write the name on the darn selvedge with permanent ink before washing. That’s it. Then write the name on it again, if you cut it off.

Seriously.  *facepalm*

I’m off to go do this with all my various shades of white and not-white, including company name.  Some of them are awfully close.  While I liked the final look of the white and snow together well enough to incorporate it into many more quilts (this quilt is maybe 3 or 4 years old?), sometimes you don’t actually want that.  If, like me, you work in sometimes less than ideal lighting conditions, then knowing what’s what can make a hell of a difference.

Your Quilting Business: Do You Need a Media Kit?

One of the things that turned up several times in the comment thread for “The Problem With Free Milk: Giving Away Your Quilt Work”, was how to present yourself and your business as a bona fide business, and there was some discussion in the comments about media kits, what they were, and how they are used.

Sam Hunter at Hunter’s Design Studio has been working on her We are $ew Worth It campaign, and has been collecting resources to that end.  In Sam’s new post  We Are $ew Worth It Resources: Press Kits, she talks about the press kit she is putting together for a book event she is doing at Powell’s, and what she is and is not including.  It got me to thinking about what I would want to include, and how I would present it, both online and in print.  It most certainly wouldn’t be a static object, done once and never touched again.

If you have one, would you be willing to share your experiences in the comments here or over at Sam’s blog?  It would be much appreciated!

OK.  My deadline is in 2 1/2 weeks, and I have to put nose back to the grindstone.  Happy Quilting, friends!

How did I miss this Quilty-type fashion?

Well, honestly.  How did I miss this dress?  I kind of love it.  Granted, I don’t watch TV so I have no idea who the lady is (Apparently shes on Revenge,and her name is Ashley Madekwe), but I do love her dress.  It’s Monique L’Huillier, deconstructed black and white houndstooth.

(I don’t have rights to the image, which is why I am not posting it on my blog. That’s why I don’t post any of these kinds of pics, actually.  Sorry!)

Memories of the World Cup, 2001

In 2001, I spent the summer studying ceramics at the American Academy in Rome (specifically, I was studying Terra Sigillata from a site located on the Palatine Hill).  On occasion, the group of fellow analysts would take weekend trips to places, to see the ancient sites and collect information for future lectures and classes we were thinking of offering.

On weekend, we decided to go to Florence.  We left from Termini in Rome, and arrived in the mid afternoon, the same day Ethiopia was playing in the World Cup for the first time ever.  A little background: migrant workers from Africa and elsewhere are brought in (usually by mafia types and many from Ethiopia in particular) to sell knock off goods on the streets throughout the country.  It’s cheap labor, there aren’t many restrictions, and the lure of a better chance at life brings many hopefuls and refugees to Italy.  On the day we arrived in Florence, all of the TVs that usually displayed train schedules had been co-opted and turned to show the World Cup, where Ethiopia was playing, and every TV had a group of people around it, Italians, Africans from Ethiopia and elsewhere, tourists, kids, adults, you name it.  It was a cross-section of the city, right there.

We glanced at the screen, and then headed for the Duomo.  I hadn’t been to Florence, and wanted to see the square and have a coffee before we met up with the others.  As we were sitting there, at a table in the square across from this, I heard a faint sound way off to my left, almost like drums.  In a few more seconds, I heard the sound of drums for certain, this time to my right.  Then, louder and louder from both sides, I heard this jubilant singing and drum playing, clearly getting closer to the central square.

I will never forget, in that moment, seeing in the clear afternoon light, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in the background, the ecstatic faces celebrating Ethiopia’s win, celebrating the fact that this country, predicted to be knocked out in the first round, was still there and still fighting, and dammit, they’d won.   These men, and they were almost entirely men, were dancing the dances they’d been taught growing up, playing drums they had brought from home, and some playing whatever else they got their hands on.  Those of us who were there were clapping and cheering and sharing that moment of triumph and happiness with them as, draped in flags, decked out in every scrap of red, green, and yellow that could be found, they celebrated that they, too, mattered on this world stage.

Are you going to QuiltCon?

Y’all. Are you going to QuiltCon?  I will be there, and hopefully some of my quilts will be, too, both my own and ones I’ve quilted for others!

However, did you know that if you’re a member, you get a discount for the things you sign up for?  JUNE 13 is the last day to become an individual member and still receive the discount.  If your’e a member of your local Modern Quilt Guild, then the guild cutoff is JUNE 16.  Just a heads up :)


OK.  Back to book writin’.



Really worth a listen: Wide Ranging Conversation on Modern Quilting with Jacquie Gering

Allison Rosen over at Within a Quarter Inch has a really great recorded interview with Jacquie Gering.  They touch on a whole number of different topics, including things that I’ve touched on, such as working for free, the non-existent divide between traditional and modern (will update when I find the right post!), and taking ourselves seriously as professionals (are we a hobby or business?).  I’ve listened to it twice right now, and it’s really great.

I won’t lie.  It felt validating to hear Someone Important say these things.  I’ll be writing more on this later, when I’m done with some of my book stuff (one month to go… it’s hitting the fan, right??)

A quilt for Memorial Day

Right before Market, I quilted a sweet little thing for Scott Hansen at Blue Nickel Studios.  This quilt is made from the new solids American Made Brand from Clothworks.  Scott wanted something simple and linear that wouldn’t compete with the fabric or the design, an abstract American flag.  We brainstormed a few ideas, and settled on the idea of a road map.  What is more perfect and simple than the lines on a map?  Loved this collaboration!!

The lines themselves are in "mushroom" So fine by Superior, and the compass rose is in several layers of "military gold" Glide by Fil-Tec.

The lines themselves are in “mushroom” So fine by Superior, and the compass rose is in several layers of “military gold” Glide by Fil-Tec.

When it’s washed, this will really give the feel of a map worn with age, crinkled by being stuffed into someone’s glovebox, the ink smudged a bit where it got wet in the rain searching for where to go.

scottbackmap scottdetailmap

This Memorial Day, with our soldiers still overseas and our veterans here at home, I can’t help but think of these roads that connect all of us, spiritually and physically, and how travel between the states in this gigantic nation of ours really defines our national spirit.   We may not all follow the same religion (or any religion), we may not agree on our politics, but we do know that the freedom often is often protected by a few.

If you want to do this on your own quilt, think about the north/south and east/west main arteries (wouldn’t they look cool in red?)  Look at a map and see how a town or city looks, with its loops of interstate that circle it.  Think about open spaces and tighter packed urban areas.  Then don’t worry about backtracking and making it wobbly.  Most big interstates have an old road running alongside it for some distance, the precursor to the interstate system.  And have fun!  If you do make a map with your quilting, please share!

Hobby or Business?

In responding to a comment from the previous post, I thought the information about whether something was business or hobby was important enough to highlight on its own.  The IRS does distinguish between a “hobby” vs.  a “business”.  If you aren’t sure where to start to figure out which is a fit for you, then this page over at the IRS website might be a good place to start, particularly the questions from the site which I am pasting below:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

The Problem With Free Milk: Giving Away Your Quilt Work

I’m a Southerner, and we often speak in idioms or with phrases that have special meaning.  You know something more is being said without vocalizing it when someone says “Bless his/her heart,” or “Oh, honey, it’s so sad”.  That last one is usually followed by an awful story about someone else which should be a warning to you.  Bless your heart.  So here’s mine, for today: who wants to buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

I just got back from my second Quilt Market, and spent some serious time discussing modern quilting and the industry with many, many people like Cristy over at Purple Daisies and her mom, Sharon Schamber, Ebony at LoveBug Studios, Sam at Hunter’s Design Studio (which is what originally got me thinking about this, when Sam wrote her post that started the We Are $ew Worth It campaign), and Maddie at BadAss Quilter’s Society, and I think it’s time to share some of the things that have really begun to make me think about where I’m going as a business.  My word for 2014 is “forward”, after all.

Ebony over at LoveBug Studios has already addressed the new credentials at Quilt Market this year, and why they are a good thing.  Before I go any further, I think that she’s totally right in her assessment, and it applies most particularly where the “modern quilter” is concerned. I want to expand on something that Ebony discussed, particularly about making things for a company in exchange for goods. You may have noticed that there is a dynamic in our modern quilting world between bloggers and various companies (and smaller or local companies too, but more on that in a bit) where the blogger gets sent a line of fabric in exchange for making something and writing about it on the blog.  The idea is that the blogger gets attention and free fabric, and the company gets a “shout out”.

I will be the first to admit that I have done this. Not often, but enough to know that while there can be a positive benefit (supplies for my book, new-to-me products that I wouldn’t prioritize to buy on my own, but which I want to try out so I can provide things that I think are best for my projects that I plan on selling), it’s still a slope that can slide on you.

We all know this story, because it happens all the time: there are quilt bloggers to whom a company sends out free fabric, for which the cost to the company is minimal.  The blogger then spends a great deal of time making something out of that fabric. Let’s say a minimum of 2-3 hours for design, 5-10 hours for piecing, and 5-10 hours for quilting.  That’s a MINIMUM of 20 hours committed to a project.  The company receives a huge return on investment, with that person doing all of the work for free.  That blogger got a bump in her traffic, along with lots of fluffer comments that made her or him feel good, but oh honey, it’s so sad…those poor bloggers are mistaking the accolades of the public for money, can you believe it? But honey, it’s so sad, because modern quilters are all about getting “free” stuff, and giving away their work for free.  And those comments that make a person feel good?  They may be sincere, but they’re also part of the problem.  They aren’t money, and unless they’re buying fabric from that blogger, that blogger won’t see a percentage of sales due to his or her hard work.  Bless their hearts.

In all seriousness, though, these companies are making money off her work and her designs when people buy fabric from them to make something that SHE has created, and there is a good chance many of these bloggers won’t see a dime of that beyond the free fabric they’ve received.  It’s not a fair trade.

You are doing yourself and others–professional or not–a disservice by giving away your work for free.  This may sound harsh, but the reality is that we are devaluing our work and receiving less than a living wage because of it, and there is no way to maintain a viable business.  If we do not start this conversation among ourselves, being open and honest about what our expectations must be AS PROFESSIONALS, then we are dooming ourselves as business people.  Lest you think that this is just something that happens with big companies, it happens in local shops as well.  Think long and hard about giving your work away for free so you can “get out there”.  Your work still matters and still has monetary value.  Don’t be a sucker, and give yourself the value you have earned with the time and money you have put into honing your art and craft.

This is the dark underbelly, and it’s probably scaring the crap out of some of you.  To be honest, it scares the crap out of me. I don’t think it has to be this way, but it’s going to take a concerted effort to discuss it amongst ourselves, to keep discussing it, and also to learn from the quilters who worked in this industry before us; these women and men have things to teach us about getting on.  They have contracts, they have protected themselves, and they also have made mistakes that we need to learn from, which only happens through talking with them.

I also want to point out that we in the quilt world are not the only ones who suffer from our egos driving our decisions.  I really recommend reading some of the articles below and watching the video.  Spend some time thinking long and hard about giving away the milk for free.

No!Spec is a website for graphics designers who face similar problems (“spec work” stands for “speculative work”, and is work you do for free, that may or not be purchased after you’re done.  You can see the problems.)

I think we all need to read the book by Mike Monteiro of Mule Design called Design Is a Job, and there’s an excellent review of it right here at The Designer’s Review of Books, which I think you should read, too.  You should really watch this video of Mike Monteiro putting it out there.  Language is NSFW, but seriously, *make* it your job to see this.  And then watch it again.  And take notes.

And then think about your business and the decisions you need to make to make it a viable income for you and any dependents you may have.  I know I am.


This post is going to be in its own category “Why Buy the Cow” and “Value Your Work”.  I’m not sure if this will be a series, but I really believe it’s time for us modern quilters to start talking about this, often and openly, especially since so many of us are seriously considering making this a home-based business, or have already done so.  I also want to add that I do know several bloggers and businesses who can and do make this work for them equitably, where the exchange between parties is reasonable and both parties benefit, and I hope they add their thoughts in the comments.  I think, as Ebony says in her post, that in instances like this it is even more important to examine the give and take of transactions like this. It is also important to think about whether or not you should be a business and what that means for you and for those who are working to make a living from quilting.   I am leaving open comments on this post, but please maintain a positive and supportive atmosphere.  It’s a HUGE topic, and I have only covered a tiny portion of it.  Thanks for reading, y’all.

ETA here are some additional links that have been shared in the comments, from other souces:

Added 5/19/2014: “Should Designers Be Paid for Their Services” at Craftypod (note the date on that post, friends)

Added 5/20/2014:  Quilting in America 2010 (instant download PDF)  If you don’t want to download this, essentially it breaks down the different aspects of the quilt industry by where people spend their money, and their demographics.  In 2010, the quilting industry brought in $3.58 billion.

Added 5/20/2014: Part of the problem stems, I think, from the “heyday bubble” of blogging, which reached its height about 3 years ago.  Many modern quilters read and saw the big names of people who managed to monetize their blogs with ads and posts, and think that is the way it works, always.  This article on DesignSponge talks about just this problem, and I think those of us quilters who have dreams of using our blogs as a monetized platform (and I don’t make $ to speak of, and if I do, I disclose my monetized links) need to consider what this means for us.