Make #RedCupArt

‘Tis the season!

If you’ve been following any social media at all, you’ll have seen a bunch of news (is it really news?) stories surrounding this season’s holiday Starbucks cup.


The articles are trying to brew controversy about its lack of imagery (religious or otherwise)  and I’m not willing to fan any of that other than to say if you need a cause to be frothy about, there are plenty better ones to choose from.

BUT – I’m an artist. Art is my language, and I look at this lovely, simple ombre of red and I think, woohoo – BLANK CANVAS!

So I propose we take these red cups and art them up. Draw on it what you think might be missing. Draw cats. Draw love. Draw words of encouragement. Draw holiday doodles in what ever flavor you celebrate. And let’s post them to social media till we ring in 2016, and fill up the feeds with art instead.

I propose the hashtag #RedCupArt


Let’s go make some!


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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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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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.

Spring Cleaning Blog Hop begins today!

Today kicks off a fun blog hop! Cheryl Sleboda of, and maven of the fabulous sewing skully merch, asked a group of us to show some before and after shots of doing a little studio cleaning. If you want to join in on social media, please use #springcleanyourstudio


Here’s the line-up:

May 7 Kathy Mathews
May 8 Misty Cole Http://
May 9 Heather Kinion
May 10 Jessica Darling
May 11 Lisa Blevis Filion
May 12 Peta Minerof-Bartos
May 13 Mandy Leins
May 14 Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz
May 15 Sam Hunter
May 16 Debby Ritenbaugh Brown
May 17 Debbie Kleve Berkebile
May 18 Michelle Mattingly
May 19 Cheryl Sleboda

Hopefully I’ll be ready to clean up the market mess by then!


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The Joy of a Slow Project

I’m capable of working quite quickly, fast enough that my friends invented a hashtag for it, #sewingatthespeedofsam. Yes, I get through a lot of projects – remember, I design and sew for a living! – but over the years, I’ve had several slow projects, lasting more than a year, and I find great delight in them. There’s something about NOT being on a deadline that is so relaxing.

My most recent “slow” finish was a huge bed quilt, just for me. I started collecting the fabric a couple of years ago, and then spent a retreat weekend cutting up the strips I needed. It took me the better part of a year to put it together, just sewing a bit at a time over retreats and social sewing days to finish the quilt top.


The quilt is comprised of 36 big log cabin blocks. I had a loose rule for them, making rounds of 2 different sizes of strips for a little randomness, but a rule that made sure they would all hit the same size at the end. Most of the centers have to do with writing, and if not writing, they are personal to me in some way, representing my hobbies, heritage, passions, and travels. The quilt is a celebration of birthing my book, Quilt Talk, and I thought that getting that book finished and launched was something to commemorate with a significant project, not to mention something I will continue to be proud of for years to come.

The blocks are 17” across, and the postage stamp sashing is 1” wide (and yes, there’s a lot of sashing, about 45 yards of it!) so it came in at 110” square – big enough to hit three sides of floor and hide all the things stashed under my raised bed.

I sent the quilt to Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting here in Portland, and she searched for the right text driven design to quilt over it. Nancy is a wonder… not only does she bring her considerable talent to her work, but she spends time getting to know you as an artist before she begins her design process. She knew what I liked before I even talked about it with her (not too dense, and no feathers!). And the design was beyond perfect, full of letters and numbers in different fonts – so right for the quilt, and so very ME at heart:



I finished the quilt right at the end of 2014, and have been sleeping under it since. It sleeps and drapes beautifully, and I utterly adore it.

Later this week I’ll show you blocks for my next slow project… do you have one on the go?


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WASWI: “But I don’t need the money”


It’s exciting to see the topic of selling handcrafted items for decent money rise up in the consciousness of our industry. I believe that the more we talk about it, the better it will be for all.

I was sent a recent post from Kate Chiconi, from which I pulled this quote (emphasis mine) regarding getting paid well for a quilt:

But I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point counting the hours I spend in my enjoyment and expecting a return on investment. All that would achieve is a deep sense of despondency at how poorly I’m rewarded, whereas in fact the reward lies in the process and the pleasure my handwork gives, not the monetary reward. Fortunately, I’m not dependent on my sewing to support myself, unlike some of my forebears!

While I’m glad Kate understands the “despondency” of being low-balled for her work, and I’m thrilled she enjoys her process, I think she is missing the fact that her contemporary peers try to make livings with a needle, too.

For many of us, it’s REALLY tough to place a price on what we do. It engages all sorts of discomfort in our esteem, and often leaves us open to criticism and ridicule for daring to challenge the notion that it’s OK for artists to starve. Our love for what we do is called into question when we monetize it. And for we ladies, there’s an added layer of judgment about being uppity and “not nice” when you try to be business-like.

So we don’t do it. We shrink back when asking for a fair price. We do funky math and discount the cost of the materials because we already owned them (unwilling to point out that to replace them will cost good money.) We weakly defend the idea that you can love something AND make money at it (and why the hell is this only a conversation in the arts? I don’t see bankers struggling with this at all.) And the most corrosive lie we can tell is “I don’t need the money.”

It’s a great one to hide behind… not only does it make you sound fortunate, it colors you as generous and altruistic. You’re doing the would-be buyers a favor by leaving some cash in their wallets.

But while it might help you, and maybe get you a modest sale, it actually hurts all your sew-sisters and -brothers. YOU might not need the money, but I certainly do, and I’m not the only one. If you don’t educate buyers as to a fair price, then the knowledge of what that is will not permeate our art-buying culture. And we all suffer for it.

Even if you don’t need the money, PLEASE charge it. Donate the cash to children’s arts programs or your favorite charity if you need to get it out of your account. If you still don’t want to do that, please AT LEAST give the buyers a detailed invoice showing the depth of the discount they receive. Education is the easiest thing we can do to change this.

Kate ends with this:

We create because we can and because we must. Monetary reward is just a very pleasant fringe benefit…

Pleasure in my process is certainly important. But no one quilts for cash without enjoying their process – it’s just too damned hard. However, we can’t pay the rent in satisfaction, nor should we be expected to. Money isn’t a fringe benefit in the arts, it’s what feeds the family. Just like in other careers.


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WASWI – Quilting for hire (and following up on the Decemberists’ quilts)

I had to step back from this for a bit, mostly because I was in a car accident in January, and by the time this conversation was getting hot I had been diagnosed with broken ribs and was taking (with much gratitude) the painkillers. I thought it best to avoid writing under the influence of narcotics! And yes, I’m mending, though slowly. This is so not the January/February I had planned :-)

Anyway… I wrote that post about the quilts made for the Decemberists’ record company’s giveaway, and obviously touched a nerve or two.* Meg Cox, one of our respected industry leaders, snagged an interview with the artist, Valerie Bradford, who made the quilts (read it here). And as Meg points out, I while I took the band to task, it was the record company that made the deal and the artist that gave the valuation of the work. Mea culpa.

Obviously, none of the terms of this arrangement can be changed. It’s water under bridge. But what we CAN do is be well armed, and well informed as to our process before we shake hands on any future deals that could come our way. And to that end, let’s have THAT discussion now.

Here are things you can do:

  1. Track your time. Every time you work on a project, document what you do and how long each step takes. Even if you’re not selling your work, it’s good to know these things so that, IF an offer arises, you have some educated basis on which to rest your calculations. I put together a simple sheet for that here.
  2. Figure out the cost of the project FIRST. I have a simple version of an invoice template here, and my friend and fellow WASWI Torch Bearer Molli Sparkles expanded it greatly here – and you can use any of the elements of either document to suit your needs. If you can fill out the forms confidently, then you’re close to knowing what it takes to make the project. And in case you think that doesn’t work, several people have emailed me privately and said that, when they presented a bid that was itemized so comprehensively, they walked away with a deposit with no haggling. It’s all in the education.
  3. Plan for contingencies. Either put the contingency budget into the bid, or over estimate your hours and bring the project in cheaper if all goes well. According to a friend who used to produce movies, even the littlest indie films have a 10% contingency added to the budget. You should do the same.
  4. Don’t get twitterpated! Is it flattering to be approached with a project, a magazine offer, a book deal? SURE THING! But don’t lose your head. By all means call your bestie and dance around the room, but don’t say YES immediately. You can screw yourself royally by acting in giddy, breathless haste. Do your research, ask your industry colleagues for advice (all contracts are not equal), and work out what it’s going to take. Ask your GUT what the right decisions is for YOU (and if you have trouble with that, I really recommend this book). And if all signs point forward, then prepare that bid and move forward.

I know I say it over and over, but I really do believe it: if we all work together to educate our buyers and ourselves, and ask for our worth, then we can change the game for all. We are $ew worth it.

*P.S.  I don’t think touching a nerve or two is a bad thing if it gets the conversation going, gets us considering our worth, or gets us, as an industry, to fight for better. And being as most of the commentary directed at me from our industry was very positive, I think I’ll keep touching the nerves. And for a truly wonderful podcast on internet trolls, check this out.


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