WASWI – How you use your time

A friend messaged over the weekend, asking for help to price a commission. We went over the costs of materials, and the time it might take to make.

Yes, it does come down to time and money. As with all work, you are effectively making a trade in hours/materials for cash.


But here’s another factor to think about in the trading of hours: those are hours of YOUR precious time, time that you get to spend only once. If the gig in question will cost you hours with people you care about, or neglecting projects that matter more to you, then the cost of that is in play, too.

Bottom line – don’t get underpaid, but even more so, don’t get underpaid while cheating yourself out of what is most important to YOU. Keeping this in sight will make the decision process easier!

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(Image borrowed from here)


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Back to School – wrap up, with direct links!

I’m back from my travels, and have just spent a lovely morning, drinking fresh mint tea from this pretty new cup I bought in Paris, and catching up with everyone’s posts from the Back To School Blog Hop.


Such great information shared! A HUGE thank you to all my fellow writers, and especially to you lovely readers!

I know that a few of my friends had some technical difficulties (why the heck do people hack other people’s websites????) so if something was missing when you looked for it on the posting day, know that it’s all there now – thank you all for your patience!

I’ve updated all the links below to send you DIRECTLY to the BTS posts (not just the blogs), so you can bookmark this page for fast and easy future reference:


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Big travels afoot!

Woohoo!!! On Sunday I’m heading to Europe for a couple of weeks… back to my beloved Paris for a workshop, and then on to Barcelona, a city that has been long on my bucket list.

Things will be quiet over here, but I have dusted off my travel blog, Art on the Road and More, and will be writing over there while I’m gone if you want to follow along.

From the business end: I won’t be answering the phone, will be checking email rarely, and the Big Cartel shop for physical products will be shut down while I’m gone. You can still grab electronic versions of patterns on Craftsy.

But I will be playing with paints, and I plan to pack a small sewing kit too (did you read Lynn Krawczyk’s great post on making a mobile art studio yeaterday? Perfect timing for me!)


Don’t forget to follow the Back to School Blog Hop too! We’re not even half way done sharing our tips and tricks with you!


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I Sew

“I Sew.”

You’re probably thinking, “Yep, so do I.” But, believe it or not, what we do isn’t ordinary. It’s a TALENT.

Fifty years ago it was rare to find a woman who didn’t sew, but today, we are less common. One of the things that inhibits our ability to earn our worth is the old fashioned idea that everyone sews, and thus it isn’t special. But it is.

Let me tell you a story:

A couple of weeks ago, I went to camp for a long weekend. Camp like when we were kids. Except when I was a kid in England, so we didn’t do that kind of summer camp. But here I was, 53 year old me, going to camp for the first time! It was up in the Catskills in NY, and it was a delightful gig run by Jonathan and Stephanie Fields of Good Life Project. It was part fun, part entrepreneurial business stuff, and 100% soul, with meaningful twenty-second hugs all day long. In many, many ways, it was a life changing experience.

Coming into this, we were told there would be a Talent Show. My talent is sewing. Really. I sew just about every day, and I’m good at it. But how do you show a talent of sewing in three minutes on stage? Without a machine?

Hold that thought…

About three weeks before camp started, Jonathan sent out a message, challenging the campers to find something to do that would fill three buckets in our lives – ones he proposes are necessary to a Good Life – those of Connection, Vitality, and Contribution.

Many of my camp pals had some amazing ideas… I think one of the best was this challenge offered by my friend Kyle Wood, who heads up Heartmen, to write notes of admiration and love to twenty fellas in your life. (This is on my list for *after* Quilt Market, and probably will include my women pals too, when I can give some serious attention to it!) But while I liked Kyle’s idea, I was still searching for my own.

What brings me Vitality is my art. I need to make art like I need air. And I mostly make art with a sewing machine. So I decided to create a signature quilt for Jonathan and Stephanie. Design was easy… I have a great alphabet at my fingertips! Colors were easy too… Jonathan likes ORANGE (kindred spirit!) and gray was great for the signature area. Jonathan often signs his missives “with gratitude…” so I poached his words for the text. I hustled the quilt together and, in true quilter fashion, squeaked out the binding the night before I departed.


When I arrived at camp, as my friends were discussing their Talent Show plans, I was still thinking “How the heck do I show people my sewing talent?” when the lightbulb went on: give them the quilt at the Talent Show.

So with the help of many campers, we got a lot of signatures done before the show without letting the cat out of the bag (the rest were done at breakfast the next day). I’ve made signature quilts before, but somehow this one was very different. Just about EVERYONE that signed it hugged me and thanked me for making it possible for them to participate in something that expressed our gratitude. The depth of their thanks, and so many powerful hugs, made me weepy to the point of giving up on mascara on the second day.

I just didn’t see that coming… Connection, Vitality, and Contribution – all wrapped up in fabric. Let me tell you… fabric is a magical thing. I thought I was “just” making a quilt. Ha!


And then back to the Talent Show. I sew. It’s my talent. So I showed it:

Camp2015TalentShow 29

Sewing IS a special talent. It’s incredibly special to make a beautiful thing, one that creates community, one that begets a couple hundred hugs, one that expresses thanks from so many, one that will last a few years and hug its owners tight with love and gratitude. What ever the reason, and however you do it, you are manifesting your talent.

It’s REALLY important that we are seen using our sewing talents, and it’s really important that we OWN that these talents are, indeed, very special.

So say it with me: “I sew. It’s my talent.”



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Back to School Blog Hop – Making Bias Binding!

Welcome to my stop on the hop!


My preference for binding is to make BIAS binding, no matter if the quilt is straight edged or not. When I first started quilting, my amazing teacher, Marilyn George (Hi Marilyn!) taught me bias from the get-go.

Here are the reasons for bias over straight binding that matter to me:

  • It lasts better before it starts splitting with age. This about the fact that there is one thread along the folded edge of straight binding. When that edge wears out, the result us usually a split running the entire length of the binding. With bias, at the fold, the threads are crossing in a pattern of XXXXXX, so if one thread gives out, it usually doesn’t take its neighbors with it!
  • It goes onto the quilt with less chance of puckers. The little bit of stretch that happens with the bias just sits right down when you roll over to finish to the back.
  • The joining of the two ends is a bit more forgiving. Again, the little bit of stretch makes it possible to not join up perfectly, yet still have it all come together.
  • Making bias binding uses barely a couple inches more of fabric than straight strips. And with the way I cut it, there is no waste at the seams.

So how to calculate the amount of fabric you need:

  • Measure the Width:  W = __________________
  • Measure the Length:  L = __________________
  • Add W + W + L + L to find the Perimeter of the quilt: P = ____________________
  • Add 20 for fudge factor: P + 20 = PF (P with Fudge!) _________________________
  • Multiply PF times the width of binding you want – for most of us, that’s 2 1/2” – to find the Area (yes, this is actually the area of the fabric needed, but no swooning just because you saw an algebra word!) PF x 2.5 = A ________________
  • Divide A by W, the Width of the fabric you have… if it’s wider than 40”, just use 40 so that you have a bit more give in your fudge factor. NOTE: if you’re using an oddly sized scrap, just use the width here and it will work: A / W = __________________
  • And that’s how much fabric you need! And I always round this up to the nearest inch PLUS ONE (or one inch more if it’s right on the line) again for a bit more give in my fudge factor. I’ll tell you what to do with the leftovers at the end :-)

So if I had a quilt that was 45” x 60”, it would look like this:

  • 45 + 45 + 60 + 60 + 20 = PF of 230
  • PF 230 x 2.5 = 575
  • 575 / Width of fabric of 40 = 14.375 – so I will cut 16” of fabric.

Now to show you how!

First cut that width of fabric, and remove the selvedges:


Lay the fabric in a single layer with the longest edge (the 40” if it’s full width) running horizontally:


Position the 45 degree line of your ruler along the bottom of the fabric (this image is correct for right-handers – reverse it if you’re a leftie)….


… And the top corner at the upper left point. Use two rulers to do this if you have to. My second ruler is a 2 1/2” x 36 1/2” yardstick by Creative Grids, and it’s the perfect ruler for the job, especially if you’re cutting anything wider than about 15” (which you will be if you’re making binding for anything other than a lap quilt).


Make the first cut at 45 degrees into that top left corner:


Then cut the rest of the large piece in 2 1/2” strips (we’ll come back to that corner piece):


Cut until you make a big triangle at the end. You might need to trim the last cut to make it clean:


Cut both the beginning and ending triangles until they are down to around 6” or 8” (that’s why I add the fudge factor):


And add those last triangles to the scrap basket:


To the machine!

Place the strips, right sides together on the diagonal seams and sew. If you’re using solids or a batik, PAY ATTENTION to which is your “right” side! Overlap the strips with a dog-ear hanging out such that the V between them is at 1/4”. You can mark the first few to get the hang of it if you like. Chain piece them together:


Clip the chains apart, and press the seams open:


And press in half, wrong sides together, along the length of the binding:




Once you’ve added the binding to your project, you can keep the leftovers to piece together into fun scrappy bindings. I keep a box of scrap binding just for this:


Dont miss the rest of the gang on the Blog Hop:


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Back to School Blog hop starts TODAY!


WOOHOO! Here we go!

As all the kiddos head back to school, I thought it might be fun for us to head back too, and learn a few new tips and tricks for our quilting and sewing practices. So I reached out to a bunch of my wildly talented industry pals and asked them to help form this hop just for all our readers.

So please help us kick it off today with a hop over to PetaQuilts for a nifty way to piece a back, and follow along below for a month of really great information.

See you with my post on Saturday!


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Back to School Blog Hop is coming next week!


I’m so excited about this!

I put a call out a few weeks back amongst my industry friends, asking for blog posts for tips and tricks on the basics of sewing and quilting, and WOWZA – do we have a great lineup forming. It’s so good that we’re taking up all of September and spilling into October!

I can’t wait to read some of them – I think I’m a smarty-pants most of the time, but I know that my pals have some stuff up their sleeves that I’ve never even thought about.

So pull out your pretty new notebooks and pencils, and stop back next week for the links –  we kick off on Tuesday September 1st!


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WASWI – Saying NO (or more Snappy Comebacks)

Recently, Karri G wrote with this question:

“What do you say when someone wants you to make them a copy of a pattern without sounding holy than thou?”

First of all, can I just say I don’t care about sounding “holier than thou”. I think a little righteous indignation is a good thing in this instance, because maybe it will change the game.


Instead of “OK, let me copy that for you” being a standard answer, let’s practice a few new ones:

  • No. Copying a pattern is stealing.
  • No. Copying a pattern is a copyright violation.
  • No. Copying a pattern cheats a designer out of the income they deserve.
  • No. If it inspires you, you should honor the designer by purchasing it.
  • No. You wouldn’t ask me to steal food for you, so please don’t ask me to help steal a pattern.
  • No. I don’t copy patterns. Please buy your own.

I know that we nice women prefer not to say NO, but in this case, I think we need to get used to it. Give it a try… it’s pretty empowering!

And Karri – thanks for writing with the question, and linking your copy-happy friends to my WASWI writings! On behalf of my industry, a huge thank you!


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WASWI – Legs of the same table

We need each other.

Every person, in every role in the quilting industry, whether it’s on the buying side or the selling side, from the CEO to the fledgling sewist, is necessary.

Absolutely necessary.

Every role is important, and without each of them, we ALL fall down. Consider each of us to be legs of a table.

Take out any one leg, and the table falls over:

  • The Designers: without the designers to generate all the wonderful ideas that inspire us, there would be little to sell, or buy. No new patterns, no new books, no new fabric designs.
  • The Shop Owners and Sellers: without the sellers, we have no place to buy the products we want. There would be no carefully curated stores and charming onlline shops to inspire the customers. No place to go to get help and a half yard of the perfect fabric.
  • The Companies and Distributors: without the companies to manufacture and distribute our products, there would be no products for the shops, and thus none for the customers. We need the manufacturers to make our fabric and develop our notions. We need the book and magazine publishers to distribute our books and ideas.
  • Customers: without the customers, none of what we make will find a home, or get turned into something beautiful.

Seldom a week goes by that I don’t hear a story of how poorly we take care of each other, or experience it first hand. So I’d like to ask each and every one of you, of us, to step up your game:

  • Designers:
    • Make the best thing you can possibly make.
    • Be original (no more deer heads, ok?)
    • Don’t sign contracts that abuse you as it teaches the people who offer them that we are OK with being abused.
    • Go the extra mile to make sure it’s right, and fix it fast when it isn’t.
    • And get back to the people who write to you.
  • Shop Owners and Sellers:
    • If you are not in business to delight your customers, it’s perhaps time to re-think your gig.
    • Treat EVERY person as if they are special, because they are.
    • Be proud that you’re on the front line of promoting the love of sewing.
    • If you run your store like an impenetrable clique of those girls from high school, you will alienate the next generation of sewists – and we will ALL suffer for it.
    • Invest in your staff.
    • Help people, and help them get excited about sewing.
  • Companies and Distributors:
    • Figure out how to make what you make in a way that supports your people, the industry, and the planet.
    • Offer contracts that are win-win, in clear language. And then stick to them.
    • And for the love of all that is holy, pay on time. A small business such as mine gets very stressed by your loose interpretation of Net 30 being “we’ll process it the week after it’s due but somehow miss getting it in the mail for another week after that.”
  • Customers:
    • Treat your stores and their staff kindly, doubly so if you are asking them to calculate yardage or help you choose fabric.
    • Buy their stuff on non-sale days too.
    • Don’t window shop their products only to buy them on Amazon. If you don’t support them, they won’t be there when you need them.
    • Stop expecting the store to give it to you for free – quilting is a luxury pastime so you should expect to part with money to do it.
    • Don’t copy patterns or books – it’s stealing, and you’re hurting the people that bring you inspiration.

Imagine how great this industry could be if we all stepped up on these points, even just a little. Can you see it in your mind? Good.

Now let’s make it happen.

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* Image found here.

Quilt Talk Bonus Pattern – Do No Harm!

I love quotes. I’ve subscribed to a few “quote of the day” emails over the years, and I’m a sucker for a chunky little book of them. I think this one might be the next in my collection. I like how they are usually a short but precise way to express things, and often come with a built in punch of a message that I usually needed to hear that day!

So I’ve decided to start putting a few of them into fabric, and as I do, I’ll be blogging the pattern notes for them here… consider them free/bonus additions to my book, Quilt Talk, just for you. Just to be clear, you’ll still need the book to access the letters, but I’ll have done a lot of the setting math for you :-)

I started plotting the letters of this one while I was in the writing phase of the book two years ago (TWO YEARS! ARGH!), but life got busy, and it ended up in the UFO pile. I paper-pieced the letters sometime last year, and again, it stalled. A couple of weekends back, I got real, and got to setting the letters. And from there, the finish was an easy one!

Do No Harm

I used the Barcelona line from Brigitte Heitland/Zen Chic – not only is she a talented designer, but she’s a lovely human as well! I used her highly successful Comma line for the Rackafrax quilt in the book.

This finished size for “Do No Harm” is 20” x 40” and this is how to do it:

  • The construction is similar to “She Just Ignored People…” in the book (p 101)
  • Copy the letters for do no, but, and no at 120% (“o” is 3”)
  • Copy the letters for harm, take, and shit at 150% (“a” is 3.75”)
  • Just to note, if you’re not keen on having a cuss word on your quilt, you can either play with the spelling by substituting an asterisk or exclamation mark for the “i”, or just change the word to a sentiment that suits you better.
  • The K space for the letters is 1/2” finished. The Word space between do and not is 2” finished.
  • The A&D strip for the 120% letters is 1.5” finished, and for the 150% letters is 2.375” (2 3/8”) finished
  • The Leading is 1.5” finished, except under do not and no, where is is 1” finished.
  • The top and bottom are 3” finished.
  • The width is 20”. So to calculate the size of the strip on either side of the word, measure the word, subtract 0.5 to get the finished word size, then subtract that from 20, then divide the result in half (one for each side) then add 0.5 to each piece for seam allowance. As an example:
    • 8.5” word
    • minus 0.5 for seam allowance = 8
    • Subtract 8 from 20 = 12
    • Divide 12 in half = 6
    • Add 0.5 to each for seam allowance = 6.5” – so cut 2 pieces 6.5” x height of the word, and sew to either side of the word.

Quilting ideas:


  • I find that a simple cross hatch, or straight lines works well with this kind of lettering, preferably done in a thread that doesn’t scream against any one fabric. I used medium gray Aurifil 2605 in this instance, with the cross hatch about 1” apart.
  • You could also densely quilt down the background with pattern or stipple to allow the letters to stand up.

I hope you have fun making this one – and if you have any suggestions for other short (keep ’em SHORT!) phrases you like to see in a Quilt Talk pattern, do post them in the comments!


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