Aurifil and Using the Bully Pulpit

Like many in the quilt world, I’ve watch the shaming/defending of Alex Veronelli and Aurifil go by this week. Here are three posts that I think sum up the conversation quite well:

  • Abby Glassenberg began with a thoughtful piece about her perceptions of Alex’s jokes in relationship to his position as the face of Aurifil.
  • Florence of Flossie Teacakes followed up with her thoughts on how she likes to be marketed to.
  • Angela Pingel pointed out that in the fuss, we might have missed how supportive Aurifil is of the non-famous artists in our industry.

My turn.

Before I start though, disclosure:

  • I have been using Aurifil threads for several years, and recommended them in my book with no sponsorship at the time.
  • I buy my Aurifil piecing thread by the cone because that’s how much I like it. And yes, I’ve tried all the other threads out there. I used to work for a well stocked shop so I had a lot of opportunity to test things. I always come back to Aurifil.
  • I have reached out to Alex for threads to share with participants in my upcoming threadwork workshop, and was promptly sent a very generous package for the students. Full spools, too, not 10 yard samples.
  • I’ve met Alex on several occasions, and found him to be a professional and respectful man, who is genuinely excited about making a great product and getting it into the hands of people who sew. I actually think he’s as much of an awkward introvert as I am, the sort of introvert that puts on our public faces because we care about the work we’re doing.
  • I’ve never heard any representative of Aurifil disparage the threads of another company. They just sell their selling points. I like positive marketing.
  • I reached out to Alex to partner a collection of threads for my book, not knowing that, like the book, the lead times are looong. It’s not going to happen for Quilt Talk, but he told me to call when I’m cooking up the next one. And I will.

And so onto the task at hand…

The definition of a Bully Pulpit was coined by Teddy Roosevelt: A bully pulpit is a position sufficiently conspicuous to provide an opportunity to speak out and be listened to. We bloggers write because we have something to say and want to be heard saying it, hoping to achieve that sufficiently conspicuous position. Everyone loves to be heard. And with the privilege of free speech and access to any number of free blogging platforms comes, of course.. responsibility.

The current political climate in the US is one of deep polarization. The extremes command the headlines, and the choices offered to us are very clear black vs. white options, with no room for the gray between. Frequently the choices are presented to us with inflammatory language. “Support Hole-less Donuts, or you’re a DONUT MAIMER.” Where in this statement is the option for “I prefer creme filled” or “Croissants forever!”

I think this polarizing thinking has been applied to Alex. If you like him, you’re not a Feminist – gasp! If you don’t like him, you MUST publicly declare it, and burn your thread stock, and picket your local store that STILL carries it, and whip up all your friends into an equal frenzy, and possibly even split your guild into two over it.

Where’s the gray area? Where is there the space for “I like Aurifil, and Alex, but perhaps not that last joke on Alex’s personal feed”? I mean, really… isn’t there a person in your life that you like a lot, but whose political, religious, cat, and endless cute grandkid posts on FB exasperate you? And I need to point out that, yes, the internet blurs the lines between the professional and personal, but if you follow Alex’s personal feed you are effectively in his house. (For more on this, look up Erika Napolitano – and full disclosure, she cusses.)

I understand Abby’s discomfort, although having been raised in Europe, my worldview has less puritan and more Monty Python-esque humor embedded in it – and yes, yes, YES, I’m a feminist*. One who enjoys the occasional dirty joke and hot beefcake pix of fellas in kilts. Sheesh. I think Florence brings a better perspective to it… “Hey Aurifil… market to me like I’m smarter.” Angela rightly exhorts us to see the bigger picture before we vilify a single facet.

My advice? If you don’t like something, look away. Don’t keep looking at it. Just. Walk. Away. Don’t buy the product if you don’t support the company’s mission. Extreme example: don’t keep watching porn so you can complain about how awful porn is. If you have excess energy to burn, get frothy about other, bigger issues like music and arts education for kids.

BUT – if you’re going to go further, then get involved constructively. Don’t just say “I don’t want to see that and if you don’t take it down I’m going to flay you in a blog.” Reach out in private for a meeting FIRST, and bring some possible solutions to the table. Don’t just wave an inflammatory banner. And don’t be a bully. Contrary to the current climate, no legislation needs to be enacted every time someone disagrees with something. We are a diverse crowd – let us support each other’s differences.

Look. I will ALWAYS defend your right to think what you want to think, and act the way you see fit. You get to publicly or secretly enjoy a joke or two – or not. You get to boycott what you don’t like, and speak for what you love. YOU GET TO DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU. But when you have a Bully Pulpit, please use it carefully.

* My feminist activism is here.

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Olfa’s Rotary Cutter is Having a Birthday!

(and psst… they’ve given me a present to give to you, so read on…)

I made my first quilt without a rotary cutter, and was pretty unimpressed with how it turned out. There wasn’t a single seam that matched, and it took me three years to consider making another. When I decided to take a class to make my second, I was introduced to the classic yellow Olfa cutter, and while my seams still needed help, the cutting part went well enough that I made my next quilt almost immediately.

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Although I no longer have my original cutter (I wore it out) I’ve stayed with Olfa over the years (despite handling many other cutters as a teacher) because I like how it feels in my hand. I have good blade closing habits, too!

The rotary cutter is having it’s 35th birthday this year, and Olfa reached out to a bunch of bloggy people to join the party. They sent me this, and asked for a block in exchange:

IMG_5384The block rules were 6” finished, and use “Olfa yellow” in it somewhere. Easy!

I have a great paper-pieced font at my disposal, so I thought I’d use it :-) First I fussed a design together on the computer:

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I chose the turquoise to match the Splash cutter released last year. I always precut my fabric for paper-piecing as I find it speeds things up:

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I keep a separate cutter for trimming the paper-piecing so that I don’t dull my freshest blades – and the rotating mat makes trimming these blocks so much easier:

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A few quick seams later and the block was done!

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Thank you to Olfa for including me in the party!

Olfa is giving away a birthday present to one of my readers, too, so please comment below for a chance to win! UPDATE: I’ll chose a winner on Thursday morning (August 31).

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Batik winners!

From 68 entries (I had to delete a couple of duplicate writes for fairness), Random.Org chose 58 and 42

58: sewsurprising – First pack

42: Emily C – Scrap pack + ORANGE

Look for an email from me, requesting your address!

And watch this space… working on another modern batik pattern… more fabric to share!

Square Pegs for Hoffman – plus a fabric giveaway!

If you didn’t already know, I frequently sew for Hoffman Fabrics: they send me pix of their new stuff; I choose a couple of colorways and offer pattern choices; we shake hands on an idea; they send fabric; and I start sewing.*

New collections are ready to debut, so they reached out for a quilt. This time, we chose one of my newest patterns, Square Pegs:

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While the cover quilt leans more “modern” with its clean colors, I’ve been interested in seeing it rendered in batik. There’s been much discussion of late in as to whether batiks can play well in the modern quilt arena (I contributed to an article in the latest Gen Q mag about it). My answer to the question is YES, of course batiks can be “modern.” I think how you categorize a quilt is as just as much a function of the pattern design as it is the fabric choice, and as long as you play by good fabric choice rules (mind your values… watch out for too much medium tone mush), batiks are a fabulous choice.

Hoff + Mod

Batiks are also a fit for our current hand-made vibe – they are still hand printed, even at the volumes the quilt world consumes. And if you need more eco-assurance, Hoffman has some lovely environmentally careful practices around the water used to make their pretty fabrics.

Anyway, back to that quilt. Like last time, I posted Instagram pix (@huntersds) in real time, and shot them out to the HDS FB page (please go like it! thank you!), answering questions along the way. And feel free to ask more questions over there or in the comments below.

So – fabric choices! The pattern needs 12 quarters (fat or long, or a mixture) and a chunk of background. As you know, I usually lean ORANGE, but this time I was intrigued by the elegance of these cooler colors:

Hoffman for Sq Pegs

They are much prettier than they look in the long shots on Instagram! The background is not pure white, it’s a subtle, very light, mottled blue-gray – it’s part of the Watercolor series (Snow 1895-307) which are the solid-reading batiks. The light gray at top right became the binding. And look at the bold graphic designs in the prints!

For the curious, it took approximately 22 hours over the course of 3 days. Yes, I’m pretty speedy (#sewingatthespeedofsam was coined by my friend, Z-Girl) BUT – truly, this is a speedy quilt to make. It’s all straight seams and easy construction, with lots of negative space for you to quilt-doodle through. Yes, I sew fast, but the pattern choice didn’t hurt!

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For an even faster finish, you could skip the pieced border if you like, or sew these parts together as “leaders and enders” as suggested by one of my Stunt Peeps** if you sew that way. I also copied the quilting I had done on the earlier one, which meant I didn’t spend design time testing different quilting ideas. It’s easy straight lines following the lines of the blocks, and simple stippling in alternating spaces for extra texture.

On the first day I made the blocks and the border; on the second I set it into a quilt top, made the back (ran errands, had the car break down, got towed), and basted it; and on the third, I quilted and bound it (catching up on Mad Men) – and in a rare moment of having it all together, got the sleeve and label into the binding process rather than putting them on, cussing, as an afterthought! If making it for a client, I would bid 28 hours of time to allow for more unique designing if needed, and possibly surprise them with a discount if I beat my time.

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And so to giving away fabric! I have 2 bundles…

Bundle 1: A Square Pegs pattern plus 14 almost Fat Quarters – I cut a couple of the fabrics wrong, so they’re a tad short (wasn’t wearing my glasses… sigh) so you get the 12 you need for the pattern and a couple extra because I’m a goof (and the pattern doesn’t use the entire FQ so you’ll have plenty if you want to use them for this).

Bundle 1

Bundle 2: A Square Pegs pattern plus all my big scraps – most of which are 1/4 yard or more. You’ll have enough to do the non-background parts of the top, but might need to be creative with how you cut. And I might put in some ORANGE just because.

Bundle2

Comment below to win – and tell me what you think of batiks as potential modern fabrics. And yes, you’re welcome to disagree with me – I love the discussion! I’ll choose winners on Friday. And yes, this is open to international folks too.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

* I disclose my arrangement with Hoffman Fabrics out of a desire to be transparent in the name of my commitment to the We Are $ew Worth It movement. That said, I love working with Hoffman, and like and respect their people – and wouldn’t play with them if I didn’t! I only do what works for me with people I like :-)

**Square Pegs was test driven by Stunt Sewist Peeps Karyn, Jennifer, Karen and Julie!

My Top Ten Sewing Studio Hacks

Do you have tips, techniques, tools or hacks that make life in your sewing space easier or more efficient for you? Here are some of my favorites… please share yours in the comments!

1. Table Extensions

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Whether you sink your machine into some kind of sewing furniture (I use both the Janome Table and the Sew-Ezi table), or spring for the portable extension for your machine, having the bed of your machine extended across a table will allow you sew with more accuracy. The table gives you space to line up and straighten out your fabric before it reaches the needle.

2. Velcro on the Foot Pedal

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I sew on carpet, so my foot pedal is fond of going walkabout. A chunk of the hook side of sticky-back Velcro allows it to get a grip on the carpet. Your space isn’t carpeted? Try a decent sized square of the rubber mat sold for lining cupboards (I carry one in my portable kit so that if I sew somewhere else I’m ready for either).

3. Noodle on the Knee Lift

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The bigger machines of today all have knee lifts, and as the machine throats (or Harp Space, if we’re getting technical) get bigger, the knee lift gets further out to the right. Reaching it can be a bizarre form of inner thigh stretch. Buy a pool noodle that has a big hole through the middle, saw off a chunk (a bread knife is perfect for this) and slide/tug/push it on. It will bring the knee lift edge closer to you, and you won’t have mismatched thighs! Bonus: One pool noodle will get you three or four pieces so share with a friend!

4. Different Rotary Cutters for Different Uses

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I keep a selection of cutters around so that I can make it easily through different techniques. The 60mm one is for batting, fusible fleece, and when I’m cutting through more than 4 layers of fabric. I have an extra 45mm one specifically for cutting paper, or trimming paper pieced blocks (this gets my older blades). The 28mm is for smaller pieces and curved templates.

5. Cone Stand Hack

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Don’t have a cone stand? Do this instead… Grab a big coffee mug or a big canning jar. The base of the cup or jar needs to be bigger than the spool’s base or it will wedge. If using the jar, go wide-mouth so you can get your hand in if needed. Pop the thread into it and set it up next to your machine. Tape a safety pin (closed, sharp point down) to the edge of your machine such that you can go from the jar into your thread path in as straight a line as possible. Thread through the end hole in the safety pin and into the thread path.

6. Slider on the Machine

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Cover the path to the needle of your machine with a chunk of Supreme Slider (I had a damaged one that I cut in half for this). It will help stop seams from flipping the wrong way underneath as you come into the needle. For paper-piecing, it helps the paper slide across the machine bed, and stops the dreaded flip of the underneath piece. Tip: rinse the slider off at the beginning of every sewing session to keep it sticking on the bed.

7. Needle Threader

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If you can see to thread a needle easily, huzzah! File this away for the day after your 40th birthday for when, suddenly, your arms need to be longer to read anything. This little goody is the Desk Needle Threader made by Clover. Put the needle in eye down, lay thread across the path, push the lever, pull out the threaded needle. It also has a cutter across the top so you don’t have to risk your scissors to the capriciously enforced rules of the TSA.

8. Sticky Notes

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Do you go back to same machine settings over and over? Keep them close by on sticky-notes. I also use them to mark cuts of fabric when I need to keep it all straight.

9. Zippy Bags

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I use these relentlessly to corral projects and their parts. Being as I paper-piece a lot of words (and always precut for them), I bag the parts for each word as I’m cutting. I play a lot less 52-pick-up when I move things around in bags.

10. Tweezers

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I keep two sets on hand – one has teeth in the tip, the other has flat ends. I use the first mostly for pulling paper out of paper-pieced seams, and the flat ones for pulling up threads at the machine.

11. Non-sticky Hand Lotion

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Fabric will steal the moisture from your hands, so I use these little tins of hand lotion bars. Lavishea and LoLo Bar make my two faves, and I like the citrusy smells. Dump the bar into your hands, give it a quick rub, pop it back into the tin, and massage the lotion into your hands. Neither of these products leave a sticky residue! Bonus: when your hands have some moisture, you’ll be able to grip the fabric better, and pick up single pieces from stacks.

12. Scrap Pillow Case

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No matter how many scraps you keep, there’s still a point at which you’ll toss out the smallest bits of fabric. Put together a simple pillow case from that “what was I thinking?” fabric you bought a while back, and throw your scraps into it. When it’s full, run a sturdy seam down the edge, and drop it by your local animal shelter next time you’re out running errands.

Ooops – that was twelve! No matter!

Please share your fave tips in the comments.

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WASWI: Quilters Newsletter Magazine talks about Value

The conversation about what are quilts are worth has reached one of the big guns, Quilters Newsletter Magazine! The Aug/Sept 2014 issue includes a very sharp article titled “What’s Your Quilt Worth?” It begins on page 38.

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Gigi Khalsa interviewed several industry professionals, including yours truly, and put together a well informed article stuffed with facts, opinions, and “behind the green curtain” advice.

  • Nancy Henry talks about the business arc of her Etsy shop, nhquiltarts.
  • Samantha Harvey of Sami’s Quilts and Crafts discusses the formulae she uses rigorously to price quilts. “Quilters who undercharge make it harder for anyone to get a fair price.” Woman after my own heart!
  • Katie Ringo of Katie’s Quilting Corner gives strong commission advice. She also says “Educate your buying public.” Right on.
  • Patricia L. Cummings of Quilter’s Muse Publications reminds us that the price of a quilt should include the wear and tear on our tools and machines, and the power to run them.
  • Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry discusses the price-per-square foot formula she uses (similar to a lot of fine art painters). She also talks about correct pricing when a gallery carries your work. Never undercut your gallery!
  • LUKE Haynes also uses a pricing formula, but he talks about his long toil in the trenches to build a body of work at prices that cover a living wage.
  • Carol Ann Waugh of aBuzz Gallery discusses the difficult job of competing with cheaply made imports.
  • And I talk, as always, about my belief that if we all work on this together, we will all benefit from it.

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That’s me, in the opening paragraph! I’m the closer too!

From the core of my being, I believe that We Are $ew Worth It. And I hope you’ll join me in that.

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Quilt! Knit! Stitch! Come see me there!

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Portland (Oregon) is hosting Quilt! Knit! Stitch! here August 14-16 at the Convention Center. This is a new type of show, catching all the needle skills in one place, and I think it will be a feast of new ideas!

I’m thrilled to be on the faculty, teaching two different classes – check them out and hurry over to the enrollment link (look for Online Enrollment in the middle of the page) if you’re interested in coming to play with me. Online enrollment ends in a couple weeks so don’t dally. I will be there EVERY DAY teaching, demo-ing or lecturing:

#304 – Learn to Paper Piece. Saturday August 16th, 9am to Noon.

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Learn to paper-piece while making the top of this LOVEly wall hanging (15” x 17”). The provided kit includes patterns on three different types of paper for you to test, pre-cut fabric for easy piecing, and clear written instructions for putting the top together. Baby Lock is providing machines for this class so you just need to show up with some cutting tools. BONUS: Megan Dougherty, The Bitchy Stitcher is my class minion helper for this session, so come meet her too!

#311 – No Fear Thread Painting. Saturday August 16th, 2pm to 5pm.

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Learn to thread paint (by machine) over a drawing using the basic art principles of shading and value. No drawing skills needed – truly! Baby Lock is supplying the machines for this session also. I’m bringing the drawings and stabilizers for you to play with, and all you need to bring are basic sewing supplies and a handful of threads. Megan says she wants to come help out in this class too! Lucky me and you!

We Are $ew Worth It – Lecture. Friday 3pm.

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I’ll be delivering the live talkie version of We Are $ew Worth It. I tell stories, make a fool of myself, and open the floor up for Q&A at the end. It’s fun stuff, not to mention important information… you should be there!

Open Studios – Paper-Piecing Demonstration. Thursday 4pm to 6pm.

PP Letters Orange

I’ll be in the Open Studios area, showing you how to paper-piece big things and little things, and featuring the letters from my upcoming book, Quilt Talk. If you can’t make it to a class, stop by and get some free tutelage. Or just stop in to say hello and show me the spoils of your shopping adventures!

I hope to see you there!

Questions? Leave them in the comments below.

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