Who’s Your Doctor? And a Giveaway!

Peter Capaldi has taken the stage, and according to my son (a geek’s geek), it’s all gonna be okay.

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Peter Capaldi as Dr. Who – image from the BBC site.

I’ll have to wait to find out because I’m not caught up yet. I know – heresy! But I only sew to stuff I’ve already watched so I get behind easily (and I’m currently watching a certain kilted Scotsman).

Being as FABRIC is the thing we use most, I thought it might be good to spend a moment looking at the good chap’s costume. I LOVE the red lining of the coat! It’s like an unexpected crazy back to a quilt. I can’t say I’m keen on the sweater vest as it reminds me a bit of my granddad. And I have a soft spot for a nice pair of Doc Martens….

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Image from drmartens.com

Ha – I went searching for an image of Docs and I might just have to buy these… the tops are needlepoint tapestry – perfect for a British born fiber geek like me!

In honor of the new Who, I’m giving away TWO pairs of patterns – you’ll get both the Tardis and the Dalek. US peeps, I’ll send you the hard copies, international folks, I’ll email you the PDF versions.

HDS.016 - Whos the Bad Guy - Cover 2014 - 300dpiRGB RelativelyDimensional - Cover - 72dpi

Leave me a comment, and tell me who’s your favorite Doctor, and how you’d dress him if you were in charge of the costume department! Winners drawn on Monday Sept 1 via random number.

(I still have a soft spot for my first doctor, Tom Baker, and knitted a scarf like his for my son’s dad when we were courting!)

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10 Quilty Little Secrets – A Challenge

Thirteen Spools did a fun blog post where she outed some of her guilty-quilty secrets.

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After a couple of my friends had a go (Hi Molli! Hi Cath!) I thought I’d join in… here’s my version:

1. I believe that most sins can be pressed, tugged, eased, or stretched out with a hot, steamy iron.

2. I would huff spray baste if I could, I love it that much. I know air-born adhesives are wretched things for both body and environment, and you have to keep buying it (I’ve had my pins for over 20 years), but I just don’t care. I don’t want to ever spend hours hunched over a quilt to pin it again. Glue rules.

3. What’s with deer heads in all the new fabrics? Is there a secret club that decides the cute-animal-motif-du-jour? First owls, then foxes, now deer. Bleh.

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4. I don’t bury my threads. I lock the stitch and cut. And I sometimes don’t trim the back threads off for months, especially if all I’m doing it shooting for a pattern cover.

5. I don’t hold my threads when I start a seam, or use leaders/enders. If it nests a little, who cares? It’s in the seam allowance. And it hasn’t screwed up my accuracy enough to bother me. (I always pull the bottom up to the top when quilting though.)

6. I cut off the mat on anything bigger than about 10”. I figure that if I’m off by a thread or two, then it will press, tug, ease or stretch out with a hot, steamy iron.

7. I will mix straight and bias binding if that’s what it takes to get the job done.

8. I throw away seam rippers the second they start snagging when I try to run them up a seam. I buy them in multiples so I always have a fresh one waiting.

9. I dislike PINK with the heat of a thousand suns. I’m so happy other people like it, because then I don’t have to. And I think it’s great when other people dislike ORANGE because that means there’s more for me.

10. I utterly fail at and hate stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. I can’t stay on the line, wandering back and forth on it unless I slow waaaaay down. And I hate slowing waaaaay down – gotta Sew at the Speed of Sam, baby! So I stitch a 1/4 off the ditch like an outline. And some people think I’m being crazy creative… nope, just lazy!

What’s your quiltiest secret? Leave ‘em in the comments!

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WASWI – Molli Breaks it Down

I wrote the original We Are $ew Worth It post almost two years ago, and have been thrilled to see it take laps around the world. When it went viral, it reached our cousins in Australia, and one cuz in particular took it and ran, wearing high heels!

Through the course of emails about WASWI, Molli Sparkles and I have become friends, and today, Molli has given us a great and transparent look at his No Value Does Not Equal Free quilt, a stunning tour de force in shades of white. Read it HERE.

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with "Hell yeah!" permission!

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with “Hell yeah!” permission!

I encourage you to read to the end of the post – there are many important and subtle details in there, and Molli gives us the reasons for every number in the projects sheets. He also generously gives you a version of them to use for yourself (a super beefed up version of my original simple time/materials sheets).

Perhaps the most important sentence in the post is this:

“For those in the USA, where quilting is nearly a four billion dollar industry, I created a more localised costing sheet for you. As previously mentioned, I altered the fabric cost to $10.00 / yard, and the labour rate to $14.00 / hour based on the most recently documented US median wage.”

We help generate $4 BILLION for this industry, and I know many of us struggle to charge $10 an hour.

You are worth so much more than that. We all are. We ARE $ew Worth It.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

Thank you, Molli!

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WASWI – Where Should You Buy a Quilt Book?

One of my readers, Rebecca R., kindly wrote me last week, concerned, regarding the price of my book on Amazon. As she put it, “Amazon is price gouging you.” Yep, pretty much.

As I say a lot, I’m committed to being as transparent as possible in the name of sharing information that will benefit us all as part of We Are $ew Worth It. So here’s what I know about the numbers surrounding my book – a peek behind the green curtain, with some hard math numbers. I would love for anyone else to chime in with more knowledge in the comments.

1. A publishing company spends between $30-50K to produce a book. They edit, photograph, design, print, and distribute it, using a combination of salaried and contract staff. C&T Publications/Stash Books is my publisher.

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2. I did not receive an advance to make my book. I have no idea if more established authors in this industry get advances. An advance means you get some money up front, your royalties pay for that until the advanced amount is paid off.

3. The rest of the quilting industry (fabrics, batting, notions, etc.) helps authors by supplying materials and tools in exchange for exposure in the book. In my case, that was about 90% of the materials I used. This was seriously helpful, especially with no advance. Everyone who helped is listed in the back/resources pages. You should read this to see which companies help out the most, so you can support them. Yes, it seems rather incestuous, doesn’t it? But trust me, without this help designers couldn’t make new stuff for you.

4. It took me 8 months to design, write, piece, test, and quilt the projects for my book, and it was pretty much all I did for those 8 months (the pattern side of my business, my bread-and-butter income, was neglected). I had a couple of group sewing days where friends furiously paper-pieced letters for me, and another where a friend showed up to help spray baste everything. I sent out only one quilt to a long arm artist (and as it happened, we didn’t include that project). It was an intense and grueling time.

5. It takes about 12 months from when you deliver the manuscript and quilts before the book gets out into the world. During those 12 months, I have had more deep commitments in the editing, technical editing, design review, and especially the marketing end of it. The author is expected to do the brunt of getting out the marketing word across any and every platform possible. So while I turned everything in a year ago, my time is still being consumed by this. And will be for a while yet.

6. Pricing: My publisher determined the price of my book to be $24.95. It has 144 pages, and a jumbo pullout pattern sheet for the letters. This seems to be good value in comparison to others… I’ve seen 112 page books for this price.

7. My royalties on this book are 8%, which means 8% of the price that the publisher sells the book for after returns and other things that can eat into that number. Most shops that will buy the book will buy it for $12.50, which means I earn $1 per book. I assume (but don’t know) that bigger outfits like Amazon, or chains like Barnes & Noble or Joann’s might get a discount on their wholesale deal. If they do, my royalties for those units go down with that discount, too. If the publisher gives the book out as a complimentary/free copy, I get 8% of free, which is zero. Royalties get paid quarterly, so I’ll see my first check for Quilt Talk probably next January – which will be a full TWO YEARS since I started working on it.

7a. My royalties on an ebook are 15%, with the book priced at $14.99 on C&T’s site. I have no idea what the likes of Amazon or libraries might pay for the right to distribute ebooks. Let’s hope I get $1 apiece for these too.

8. What ever you think about Amazon, they are the juggernaut that drives how the market operates. Their ratings determine my future, as they drive my internet popularity, which is how far up the list I appear when you type my name into a search engine. Few people look beyond the first page of an internet search, so coming up on page one is very important. Your leaving me reviews on Amazon matters mightily to that search rating, not to mention influences other buyers. And I’ll be nudging you about reviews later, because that’s part of my marketing obligation.

9. Obviously, Amazon buys in bulk and spreads profit and loss across millions of products, and so they can afford to discount. I have no idea what they will pay for my book, but I do know that I’ve seen the price of Quilt Talk fluctuate on their site from $18 to $22 (they have algorithms for this based on YOUR buying and browsing history). Add the lure of free shipping (whether you buy more to get to the $35 free ship threshold, or have a Prime account) and it’s easy to see why book sales elsewhere are a struggle.

10.  Stores: I assume the big chains get a break. I know the independent stores don’t. They will pay $12.50 for my book, and hope that you’ll buy it from them (rather than come and look at it and go home and buy it on Amazon). Remember, if you want a quilt store or independent bookseller in your town, you actually have to buy things there. Amazon will survive you not buying the occasional book. The quilt store might not.

11. Book signings: I’m doing several book signings at stores… no one is paying me to get to them. It is not customary for the author to get a cut of the sales action the book signing generates, beyond royalties. Book signings help stores the most, so if you can, it’s good to go to them. Even if you don’t buy my book there, it’s lovely to meet supportive people.

12. Quilt Market: If I want to promote my book at Quilt Market, I have to get myself there, and that costs about $1000-$1200 for plane, hotel, taxis, and food. I’ll be doing a School House Session at Market in October, which is a half-hour event where I pitch the book, tell shop owners how to sell the book, which projects make good workshops and classes (and I’ve already written the class outlines for those), and which products they can tie into  sales (rulers, cutters, mats, papers, etc.). My publisher is picking up the cost of this (they have to buy the School House slot from the Market people), but they don’t foot the travel expenses. While I’m there, I’ll also be signing at distributor booths to generate interest. Again, for no payment… basically, if I show up, these people will use me as best they can. Why do it? I hope to get contacts for teaching and speaking gigs out of this.

13. Pre-sales: Amazon is doing pre-sales, so I decided to as well. I chose $20 as my pre-sale price, but still need to charge shipping. This book is heavy, so my shipping options are $4 for media mail (slow to you, and a trip to the post office for me) or $5.60 for Priority Mail ($5.05 if I print at home). Regular old first class is around $7, so Priority it is, and I rounded it down to $5. I’ll be paying $12.50 plus shipping for my book, so let’s call it $13. So if you buy my pre-sale for $25 (which includes the shipping) I’ll make my $1 royalty, plus around $6 (I lose about $1 to Paypal), out of which comes mailing time, printer ink, mailing labels, order management time. I would love to be competitive with Amazon, and offer you the book for $18 including shipping, but at that point I’m making barely $1 in profit (not including the royalty $1) and frankly, it’s not a cost effective use of my time to do all that mailing stuff for break even numbers.

14. Book Plates: I’ve decided to do signed bookplates for those of you that want a signature scribble from me, but won’t see me, or want to support your local quilt and book stores. I thought I would be able to mail them to you for free, but the cost of printing the bookplate, putting it in an envelope I have to purchase, and then putting a stamp on it comes out to about $1. Which is my royalty on the book you purchased elsewhere. So I’m charging for bookplates or again, it’s not cost effective.

So in short:

  • If you want to help the author the most – buy directly from the author on her/his site, or at an independent function such as a guild lecture.
  • If you want to help your local quilt or book store the most – buy directly from the quilt or book store.
  • If you need to save a few $$ (and really, we’re talking the price of a couple of fat quarters or a frothy coffee drink with a tip) – buy from Amazon under one of their free shipping deals.

I would love it if you add any knowledge you have to the comments!

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My Top Ten Tips for Sewing on the Road

I’m a member of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild, and they have a fabulous arrangement for members to sew together once a month at Fabric Depot, a huge store with a huge classroom. I love sewing with friends… the creative energy and the exchange of help and ideas is so great to be a part of.

Packing for mobile sewing can be daunting (especially when we do it at the last minute), so I’ve assembled another group of tips for you, but this time with an eye to being on the road:

1. Dedicated Crate or Tote

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If you use the same container to travel, you’ll get used to how you pack it, and will be able to see quickly if something is missing from the puzzle. I like to use a crate for my basic supplies because it fits solidly on a hand cart, and then I use totes (and zippy bags) for the projects.

2. List

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Keep a list of your basic mobile items with your container. I once arrived a retreat without the box of feet for my machine, and had to give up a chunk of my shopping budget to buy another walking foot and piecing foot. Refer to the list while you pack or it won’t really work!

3. Name that Ruler

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Put your name on everything. With most of us using similar tools, and frequently borrowing from each other, having your name on things means you’re less likely to go home without them. On rulers, I prefer a quick scrawl of Sharpie to a label, because I can still read the ruler marks through the scrawl.

4. Ribbons

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Not keen on having all your stuff labeled like you are still in grade school? Use ribbons to tie through anything that has a hole or loop. Mine, of course, are ORANGE.

5. Old Mats

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When your studio mat starts getting worn, put it aside for mobile use when you buy a new one. That way you’ll fret less if the old mat gets bent or warped from being transported. You can also cut old mats down to a more packable size.

6. Trash Container

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Let’s face it, to sew is to create trash of threads and shreds. Be kind to your host by capturing as much of it as you can. This one was a gift from a friend, and collapses for easy packing.

7. Machine Cleaning Kit

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Take your machine oil and Q-Tips with you in case your machine needs to get de-fuzzed while you’re out. There is nothing more frustrating than setting up for a sewing day (or weekend) and then having your machine act up. Having oil and cleaning supplies on hand is the first step for a fussy machine.

8. Needles and Blades

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The second step for a fussy machine is a new needle. Bring a packet with you. And if you’re gone for more than a day, or your rotary cutter blade is on the old side, pack a spare blade too. Blades are easy to dent, and when you’re cutting in unfamiliar spaces you’re more likely to drop your tools.

9. Extension Cords

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I usually travel with these two – the big one for getting the wall power to my setup, and the little one to share the power locally. I also carry a “ground cheater” plug in case I’m in an older building that doesn’t have grounded outlets.

10. Let There Be Light!

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The Fabric Depot classroom is well lit, but I’ve sewed in many a hotel conference space that wasn’t. I keep this portable light in my mobile kit just in case. There’s never enough light once you head north of 40!

11. Magnetic Pincushion + Lid

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I prefer magnetic pin cushions to the traditional variety, and this one, made by Clover, has a lid that also clips onto the base when you’re using it. The lid keeps the pins covered while they’re in the kit, so that they don’t stab me when I’m least expecting it.

12. Band-Aids

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Because you never know when you (or a friend) will need one!

Please share your tips in the comments!

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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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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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