Free Pattern: Hedgie Pincushion

Hedgehogs

I don’t like to dispose of sharp metal in the trash – I’m always worried that it might hurt someone – so I’ve been putting my dead machine needles into an old pincushion for a few years. I thought it might be fun to make one where the needles become part of the design. A hedgehog is the perfect needle-y critter! Of course, pins work too.

How often do you change your machine needle? You should be changing it after about 8 to 10 hours of sewing time. A dull needle makes the machine work unnecessarily harder, so changing your needle regularly is like changing the oil in your car – smart maintenance. And a heck of a lot cheaper than a new motor!

You can download this pattern for FREE on Janome’s site here. It’s easy-peasy… you can make one in less than 2 hours – faster if you don’t get caught in an “indecision loop” when choosing your fabric! I know you know what I mean :-)

Enjoy!

Oh, one more thing… remember that discussion on designing patterns to “make a quick buck”? Here’s a picture to show you how quickly this pattern got designed:

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The published pattern was the ninth iteration. Just sayin’.

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I recently attended a guild meeting, where the speaker began her talk by making a statement along the lines of “those ugly charity quilts some people make are not art.”

Yeesh. Talk about divide the room.

I’ve been quilting since the late 1980′s, and back then the argument was that if it wasn’t hand pieced, or at least hand-quilted, it wasn’t a quilt, because our grandmothers made them all by hand.

Then in the 1990′s it was art quilting vs. traditional quilting. And now, it seems, the rivalry is modern vs. everything else.

What’s with the US vs. THEM thing? As a Facebook friend remarked last week, she’s so OVER the conversation of whether or not a quilt can be called “modern.”

I can’t help but think that, in this mostly female endeavor, any such divisiveness is just corrosive. Our grandmothers laid the foundation of feminism (in the true sense of the word, as in the respect of women as equal members of society), and I can’t help but think they’d be ready to swat our hands with a wooden spoon for not cheering on our sisters, regardless of how different from us they may be. Incidentally, I think they would also be howling with mirth at the idea we should turn our backs on sewing machine technology out of some Luddite-driven sense of reverence for the good ol’ days.

It doesn’t matter how you make quilts, or even why. Yes, I know that there are people who imbue every thread of their composition with deep meaning, and trust me, with an MFA in Fiber under my belt, I would enjoy the intellectual wrangle of a good chew on the “making meaning” conversation with you. But I’m also equally happy to cheer you on when you decide to make a quilt with pink frog fabric for no reason other than pink frogs make your heart soar.

You get to make the thing that turns you on. You get to spend your free time making charity quilts. You get to spend ten years piecing hexies for an insanely large bed quilt. You get to make everything in purple because it’s your favorite color. You get to try new things. You get to do the same things you’ve always done and be damned with the new-fangled stuff. You get to use nothing but batiks. You get to use Kona Ash in everything. You get to sweat the details on a competition-level quilt. You get to chop your points off because accuracy isn’t all that important to you. You get to quilt it on a home machine. You get to quilt it by check. You get to make your version of beauty. You get to abandon things that are not your cup of tea.

The point is YOU GET TO DO IT YOUR WAY. And the meaning it makes is the meaning you give it. This isn’t brain surgery, although I would argue that the pursuit of it is just as important… a surgeon can heal the body, but a quilt can heal the soul. But enough of debating all this. No more making other people’s art “wrong” – okay?

Just go make something you think is lovely. We’ll all be better off for it!

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

 

 

Fabric Crush: Introducing PAINT!

Welcome to my hop on the blog tour for PAINT, the latest fabric line from Carrie Bloomston of SUCH Designs!

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To read more about my friendship with Carrie (and one her beautiful “wise-woman” stories) go here.

PAINT continues the conversation begun in Carrie’s first line, Collage. The elements we know and love are there in new shades – the “torn” stripes, and the text prints (psst… Carrie handcrafts the text to be full of positive and inspiring words).

I’m thrilled to see all the solid-reading blenders in this line – they are so needed to bring together a pretty composition – but I’m utterly wowed by the border print! Carrie sent me some to play with, and so I featured it in the flap of a couple Chunky Wee Bags:

PAINT CWBags

 

I made the littlest bag especially for Carrie’s daughter, who is featured in the Lookbook that Windham Fabrics created for the fabric. It’s worth a peruse – it has a bunch of sweet projects in it, showing the versatility of the fabric. And don’t miss the inspiring prayer flags created by a community of Carrie’s readers on the last page!

Carrie and Windham have a charm pack of the fabric for you to win – just leave a comment below, and I’ll choose a winner on Tuesday morning. And look for the fabric at your LQS in July/August (tell them to order it at Spring Quilt Market!)

Don’t miss the rest of the blog tour!

April 9 April Rhodes
April 10 Sally Keller + Julie Goldin
April 11 Shea Henderson
April 12 Ramona Burke + Jenny Kelly
April 13 Sam Hunter A Vintage Fairytale (Staci Barrett)
April 14 Rachael Gander + Erica Sage
April 15 Karen LePage + Tia Curtis
April 16 Shelly Figueroa + Fabrications2b (Bonnie Bobman)

 

Making a Quick Buck

Well! It seems that my last post about quilting patterns touched a couple of nerves… it seems that any of us who have designed quilt patterns got a bit prickly about the comment that we do it to “make a quick buck.” (insert hysterical laughter).

Bags on Mannequin

So I thought I would give you a peek behind the green curtain on how my Chunky Wee Bag pattern got designed. I wrote this up for Generation Q Magazine last year for their Sept/Oct issue. While it’s definitely a humorous look at the monologue in my head, please don’t miss how many times I made and tested the bag before I let it out of the house. Seriously.

Here goes…

The 17th Time’s the Charm – OR – What it Took to Make the Chunky Wee Bag Pattern (said in my best Rocky and Bullwinkle voice-over)

It started out with a need (necessity being the mother of invention and all that): I had a date with my son and Disneyland. I needed a small bag that would go across my body, and carry just a wallet, glasses, phone and a snack. My usual handbag is part backpack, and had previously proven hard to manage in the cramped confines of a rollercoaster, so I thought I would just whip up something else. I’m a miss-fancy-pants-pattern-designer, right? Right. Read on for a peek into the mind of a (mad)woman on a mission to make the perfect bag.

Studio. Hmmm… what size bag? Let’s start with 8” x 8” shall we? Love that square! Love that balance! Couple inches deep. Flap. No zippers! Definitely need pockets inside to keep stuff separate. (What does the Bagginses have in its pocketses?) A ring… to clip keys onto. Where’s the calculator? Graph paper! Sketch, draw, redraw, recalculate.

OK, I think I have it, wait… adjust that a smidge… strap should be narrower? Yes. Fabric! ORANGE! The robot fabric! (Bad Robot!) Aha! Needs something. Grey? Yes… but something else. (Garlic? Chocolate?) Ooh, the retro one with the boomerangs! Yeah, baby! Groovy, baby! (But with better teeth!)

Can I do it all with black thread? Yessss. New needle, walking foot… who put felt under my bobbin again? Drop of oil. Water in the iron? OK!

Cut, fuse, sew, pin, wrangle, sew. Ooops. Flap’s in backwards. Bah! Pout. Rip, rip, rip. Pin. Check. Really? Sigh. Re-pin. Re-check. Sew. Yes! Post picture on FB. Awww, lots of likes :-)

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Disneyland! Wheeee! Works perfectly. Yay for pulling it out of my hat yesterday! Except for the flap needs Velcro. Why, thank you, yes, I made it! The strap could be a smidge wider. But still… success!

Home. I wanna use my cute wee bag! Too small. Can’t get the sketchbook in there. Huh. The tissues. The little box of emergency medical stuff that all mothers MUST carry even when their kid lives in a different state now. (I checked the handbook, it’s in there. Trust me). Pens. Nail file. Lip balm. Emergency chocolate.

Duh. Make it bigger.

Studio. What about 9” x 10”? Draw, calculate, funky Halloween fabric, cut, sew. Hmm. Don’t like the proportion much. Cute but… meh. Yes, you can have it.

DSC_9971 = 2nd bag Halloween

What about deeper? Chunky deep. Like four inches deep? Oooh. Need a base board to hold that bottom out square. And how to get from a 4” side to a thinner strap?

How to get from a 4” side to a thinner strap??

Really. How to get from a 4” side to a thinner strap???

Toss and turn. Wee hours… EUREKA! That’s how to do it! Throw on clothes, grab tea, OMG MY HAIR. But no one’s gonna see me today. I hope. Baseball cap. Car keys. Studio!

Template plastic, more robot fabric, cut, sew. Hold breath. Turn inside-out. Iron. YES! (By George I Think She’s Got IT!) Topstitch that thing and get it into the bag. LOVE IT. (I know).

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Move stuff into the bag. Fits! HAPPY!

Inside the bag

Pattern? No… didn’t make a pattern for it yet. Yes, I should. Well, sure I’ll make you one while I write it. Have to test it anyway. And one for you. Oh, you want it bigger. That tall? To carry your iPad. Got it. Tall version coming up. Let’s try 8” x 10”.

Studio. Draw, calculate, cut, sew. Two sizes… officially a Pattern In Development. Flap’s funny on the tall one. Make it again. Try magnetic closures. Make it again. Ok, I’ll make you one. But I’m still working out this flap, OK?

Taller bag

Email blast to the Tester Peeps! Make a bag! Two sizes! Come on down!

Sorry for the hand sketches. Let me know if the writing makes sense. Yes? Argh, you’re right… I have no idea what I meant by that, obviously needed more chocolate. Yep, that sure is a better way of putting it. Thank you. That step should go first? Got it. Is the velcro in the right place? You think the flap’s fine? How are we doing? Ready to turn the bag? Yay! You made it! Pix for the blog!! THANK YOU!!

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Still not sure about that taller bag. Flap still looks funny.

Rinse and repeat with second group of Tester Peeps. Wow, these gals totally saved my patootie. AGAIN. Whew.

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Flap still looks funny. Harrumph. Back to the drawing board. Rules of design proportion? Rule of thirds? The Golden Rule? Shorten the flap? Yep, that helped. Still looks funny. The bag’s too tall. But it has to be 10” for the (#@*$) iPad. Too tall! Can’t shorten it. Waitaminute! I can make it wider!

Try 10” x 10”. Echino airplanes and scooters! Sweet fabric, but why didn’t they make it in ORANGE. Because not everyone luuurvvvess ORANGE, Sam. (Fools!) More for me! (Wicked laughter!) Cut, sew, flip, and BINGO – doesn’t look funny anymore. Love that square! Love that balance! Oh, you’d like one, but in linen. Sure. I need to test it again.

10 in square

It’s Karen’s birthday and I could make her one of these. Except for the small one is too big for her – she likes them wee (she’s a Scot!) Make it smaller. SMALLER? Are you NUTS? Hmmm… 6” x 6” could work. If I move that and squeeze this and keep it SQUARE, and how the hell am I supposed to get my hand through there and yes, it’s so cute! Perfect. THREE sizes for the pattern now. Oh, you’d like one? Sure. I’m still testing it. No, it has to stay SQUARE. Trust me.

6 inch

A pattern? Of course it’s a pattern. It will be out soon… I just need to run one more test!

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References:

  • What does it have in its pocketses? – Gollum, in The Hobbit
  • Bad Robot – J.J. Abrams’ production company (and on the end of every episode of Lost)
  • Yeah, baby! Groovy, baby! (But with better teeth!) – Austin Powers
  • By George I Think She’s Got It! – My Fair Lady
  • Love it. I know – (“I love you.” “I know.”) Princess Leia and Han Solo, in The Empire Strikes Back
  • Fools! – Mr. T from the A-Team

Chunky Wee Bag - COVER - 72dpiRGB

The Quality of Patterns – A Discussion

A friend forwarded a post from Marianne of The Quilting Edge this weekend, in which she invites discussion on the topic of poorly written patterns. Give it a look, and check out the lively discourse in the comments!

As a pattern designer, I’d like to address a few of the points from this side of the aisle!

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First up: this is part of my internal “mission statement” when I design a pattern. I can’t speak for every other designer, but I do know that my closest designer pals are like me, all striving to do a conscientious job:

  • Mind the fabric. The fabric “generosity” in the materials list is a tricky tightrope to walk. I round up to the nearest 1/4 yard, or add an 1/8 yard if I’m on the 1/4 line. This only changes if the fabric is being used for cuts larger than an 1/8 (say an 8” cut) in which case I give you one extra large cut in case of an oops. C&T’s rule for my upcoming book was add 1/4 yard to my calculations. I do work hard at writing patterns that use up most of their parts… in several of my jelly-strip based ones you can use the strip scraps to make a binding (I happen to love the puzzle of using it all up!)
  • Be honest about my assumptions. At the beginning of every pattern, I tell you what the pattern assumes you already know: how to sew a 1/4” inch, how to rotary cut, how to layer/quilt/bind, etc. In my paper-pieced patterns, I give you links to several tutorials that I think will help you as my assumption on paper-piecing is that you will learn it from a book or video, not the pattern. And it just isn’t cost effective to put all that extra tutorial into the pattern – the paper cost goes up, and most of the time how you do it is not how I do it so it’s wasted.
  • The pattern should be the key to the kingdom on the cover. For me, this means I give you accurate steps to make the exact thing in the picture (exceptions noted above), and maybe a couple of other sizes. If it’s a special technique, then you get ALL the steps. I once bought a pattern that said the equivalent of figure out how big you want to make it, then figure our how many of these blocks fit into that, and have at it. I don’t consider that a pattern.
  • Be honest about the skills required. On the back cover of every pattern, I call out the skills needed. I don’t just say Beginner or Intermediate because I don’t think that’s enough information at all. I list the skills you will actually employ. As I write mostly for the Confident Beginner Peeps, I call out specifically if you need an accurate 1/4” seam, or just a mostly consistent one. If there are templates or paper-piecing involved, I say so. If you will be dealing with bias edges, I say so. I want you to know what you’re getting into, and I especially don’t want you unsuspectingly biting off more than you want to chew.
  • Draw as much as possible. Every one learns differently – some people need all the words, some people need the drawings. I attempt to add computer drawn illustration to as many of the steps as I can. It bulks up the paper, but I think my readers are worth it.
  • Make it MAKE-ABLE. I dream up a lot of things that, in the end, would be horrid to have to make or worse, explain. So I don’t turn those into patterns. Frankly, if my reader could make such a convoluted thing, she is probably figuring it out her own way, and isn’t buying a pattern to do it! Instead, I figure out how to break things down so you don’t sweat through them. I learned a little of this from a composer friend, whose superpower is writing music for each instrument that the musician could play easily (not writing it at the edges of the instrument’s range or sitting on its octave breaks). I fundamentally believe that quilting should be fun, so I try hard to write things that are fun, too.
  • Get it tested. I have a bunch of people on board to check my work. One friend is the master of sorting out my grammar. Another sorts out the flow of steps (“no, Sam, put this before that.”). Another catches the instances where the parts on her design wall don’t look a thing like my drawings. One hates to read the words, so she sees if the pattern can be navigated by the pictures. Another does the opposite, making sure my words actually describe what’s going on. Others spend their precious time and fabric stash actually making the pattern. It really does take a village – and most of them do it FOR FREE.
  • ‘Fess up when you blow it. While all of the above should catch everything, sometimes it doesn’t. When that happens, I fix the pattern, update the print masters and PDF files, and publish the oops on the Patterns/Errata page. And I’m eternally grateful to the person that told me about the problem.
  • Be open to feedback. Critique is necessary to making a better product, even if it stings. I do my best to listen openly to suggestions for improvement, with the understanding that I just won’t be able to please everyone.

And now, my answers to some of the comments on the Quilting Edge:

The shop that sold the pattern is responsible for the quality of the pattern. NO – the buck stops with the author. AND such gatekeeping just isn’t possible for most shop owners. Like you, they buy a pattern based on the appeal of the cover, and sometimes have it made into a sample if they think they can sell fabric or a class for it, but they cannot read the fine print of everything they carry. I would imagine if you let them know a pattern is a mess, they probably won’t buy more of them (or others from the same designer). It’s certainly how we did it in the last store I worked in. But like Target can’t be responsible for the content every crappy DVD it sells, neither can your LQS read and test every single thing. If you want to buy a pattern in a store, you can always ask to open it and give it a once over before paying (every store I’ve been in has been cool with this). I don’t think the LQS should foot a return because they have no way of ensuring the buyer didn’t pirate a copy before returning it – I know this screws over a scrupulous buyer, but unfortunately, there are more folks who wouldn’t think twice about copying and returning a pattern, thinking copyright law is merely a suggestion.

The pattern designer is trying to make a quick buck. If only! There are precious few quick bucks in the pattern business. If the designer does half the steps I listed above, they still worked on that pattern for DAYS. And bought a bunch of fabric too. Let me break this down for you… on a $10 pattern in your local quilt store – $5 goes to the store, $5 to me if I sold it directly to the store. My expenses to make the pattern (paper, printing, bags, assembly) come out of my cut. If one of my distributors sold it to the store, the store still gets $5, the distributor gets $1.50, and I get $3.50. And I still need to cover my expenses in that $3.50. So I get maybe $2.50 of that $10. Yes, I get most of the $$ on a download (minus hosting fees and banking charges) but still. Trust me when I say the buck is not quick.

The free patterns aren’t written well. Part of this is you get what you pay for – truly. Part of it is that a lot of the free patterns are paired with lines of fabric, and they often get written at the 11th hour before the fabric debuts at Quilt Market (and the designers get offered little or no payment). I have been approached by more than one fabric company to produce a fully tested pattern with a 2 week deadline before market for no payment (“we’ll show people your pattern!”) other than an offer of the fabric to make the quilt (not the batting). I certainly don’t do my best work in those circumstances, so I imagine other designers don’t either. It would also help if people stop expecting to always get it for free. If you expect a free download, then you should also expect that the designer or fabric company probably didn’t PAY a team of editors and testers to make sure it’s right. Yes – everyone should make the best product possible regardless (I certainly strive to – my reputation matters to me) – but as I said you often get what you pay for when FREE is involved.

The patterns aren’t well written – part 2. One comment was from a person who released a pattern that she said she had tested, but she also admitted that she doesn’t read other people’s patterns. I would hope that people who take pattern designing seriously take the time to learn their craft and research their competition. That said, you’re still likely to come across something that looks as cute as heck, but is perhaps written by someone who doesn’t have a depth of experience to construct things more easily, or even use commonly understood vocabulary (FWIF, I voraciously read other patterns to see how they are written and illustrated so that I can constantly improve my game – I do it to invest in my business). I wish some of our newest pattern designers would take some time to hone their craft, and learn from their fore-mothers (I’m a HUGE proponent of learning the rules before you go about breaking them). But I also accept that there’s nothing new about the new kids on the block wanting to blaze the trails a new way, and sometimes we get new and exciting techniques from it – yay for innovation! The other side of the coin is that we sometimes get caught when that new fangled stuff doesn’t work out so well. With the ease and speed of pushing content out to the internet, we are going to get a lot of amateur work out there, jumbled in with the good (just look at YouTube). I think you just have to accept that you will occasionally get rick-rolled.

The patterns aren’t written well – part 3. Just like in other industries, there is good and bad, and unfortunately, it’s up to us to determine which is which. One comment said we need a pattern review site – and yes, that would be wonderful. But would you pay to belong to it? Someone has to foot the bill to provide that service to you, and they should be able to profit from their labor, no? Also… would you take the time to write when things are good? I have sold a bunch of patterns in places that allow a review, and no one has written to say if they’re good. I’ve had more emails about my errors than I have had thanking me for making a pattern that was easy to follow. So unless you are willing to review the good, the data will be radically skewed. Another comment said that they felt no responsibility to write to a pattern author – but may I stick my neck out and say I’d rather hear WHY you think my pattern is lacking (in technical terms) than just sit here an wonder why the sales are slack?

In conclusion, the pattern making business is just like any other area of commerce. While, like you, I would love to never buy a bad pattern again, the reality is that there will always be good, and there will always be bad. It doesn’t excuse bad writing in any way, and it is the unfortunate burden of we buyers to sort through that. Hopefully the laws of business will take effect such that the cream rises and the people who write poorly cease to thrive and quit doing it. But I would also offer this… yes, it’s a bummer to pay good money for a pattern that doesn’t live up to your expectations. But I know you’ve also paid for disappointing movies or meals. It happens occasionally. NO ONE CAN PLEASE EVERYONE ALL THE TIME. If it happens to you, please take the time to write the designer to let them know what disappointed you, so that they can improve. The good ones will take this critique and up their game. As for the designers that choose to ignore it, you need not shop them again. And if you DO like it, please, please, please drop us a quick note. It might be the note that stops us from throwing in the towel on the design business. It might just inspire us to make more good things for YOU!

And yes… please comment away – I love a good discussion!

 

 

A new Sassy Button – Heroes!

I’ve recently had a lot of requests for deals on buttons to give out at volunteer sew-a-thons for the various Quilts of Valor and Quilts of Honor type organizations – the people that make sure that active service-people, veterans, and their families are blankets with good quilt love. This world is a better place for such volunteer quilting!

While I appreciate being asked to contribute to these organizations (and am thrilled that they like the Sassy Buttons!) I’ve hit a point where I can’t cover the freebies any more – this girl has to make a living! So rather than greet these requests with a big fat no-thank-you, I decided to design a button just for the volunteers.

heroes

I’ve made arrangements with my wonderful USA-based button folks to be able to drop ship these to you at the best bargain they and I can manage: You order them from me here in increments of 50, and I arrange for them to come to you for the best price we can pull out of the hat, with shipping included.

Please pass along to anyone you know who sews for the heroes – cheers!

 

 

Stunt sewists needed!

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Hi peeps!

Got a spare hour to sew a block or two for me? I’m working on a new pattern of paper pieced blocks, and I need a hand getting them all sewn for various deadlines that are coming up on me too dang fast, as always.

What I will send you: pre-printed paper pieced patterns, instructions, plenty of fabric to make the block, and a postage paid envelope to get it back to me. You get to keep any leftover fabrics. When the pattern publishes, you get a free copy of it. And my heartfelt gratitude!

Interested? I hope so!

Here’s how to apply…. send your answers to the following questions to me via email at sewsamsew ( a t ) gmail (d o t ) com. Just cut and paste this into the email and answer away.

Your name:

Your email addy:

Your mailing addy:

Your phone number (just in case we need to gab):

How many quilts have you made?:

Your blog (if you have one):

If you don’t, please attach an image or two of your work:

How do you assess your quilting skills? What do you do well, what do you hate doing, etc?:

What’s your comfort level with paper piecing? (note that this particular project is paper-pieced, but if you want me to keep you listed for others that aren’t, let me know):

How are you with deadlines?

Anything else about you that you’d like me to know?

THANK YOU!