WASWI – Sticking Together

I spoke at the Westside Quilter’s Guild last week, in Hillsboro, OR – a fantastic group of ladies and gents. I received many lovely hugs from the members, as well as a treat of chocolates! Thank you to all who came out to play!

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We spoke of making quilts, lessons learned, and of course, we spoke of We Are $ew Worth It.

At the end of the evening, one of the members came up to talk. She is a piano teacher. She told me the story of the local piano teachers all getting together, and deciding to charge similar prices so that they would all be decently paid. And she said that, in the instances she felt like backing down on her rates, she remembered that she owed it to all the teachers to stay strong and claim her hourly fee. After all, learning to play piano at the level that one can then teach it is no small feat.

And it gave me hope. Hope that if I can convince enough people that working for free hurts us all, we WILL all benefit from it.

We make beautiful things. We do it with skills that are learned, honed, and practiced. We invest in expensive equipment to do the work we do.

We are worth a living wage. We really are. We just have to claim it.

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An Open Letter to the Decemberists – Quilts and their makers have value

01/23/15 – A Few Updates!

First up – yes, some fans and local artists made a quilt for the band – you can see it here (it’s lovely – how lucky they are to be cared for so much!) And it’s not the one pictured below.

Second – the link to the raffle of the quilts, which stated the value of $388 is no longer alive because the entry date has passed. Once upon a time it could be found at https://pages.umusic-mail.com/decemberists/rules/ but no longer. I doubt my writing anything about this got it taken down :-)

Third - Meg Cox, a respected professional in the quilt industry, has snagged an interview with Carson Ellis that she will publish shortly. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Fourth – this was never about the band. The quilt industry peeps get the conversation. It has always been about educating the public that handmade art and craft has VALUE, and that the people that make these things deserve to be paid in accordance with their skill and talent – accountants love their jobs and don’t do it for free, so why should we? It’s also about teaching people who do make these things to up their game and charge their worth. If just one person sees more value in handcraft because of what I write, then it utterly negates the harsh words of the trolls. I’ve left their comments standing for the sake of balance :-) but will be deleting anything that is just plain hateful that doesn’t add value to the discourse.

Fifth – for those of you who comment that the valuation of $388 might be based on materials alone and needs to be listed that way for tax purposes, I would ask you to look at the valuation of any car given away in a contest. The car is always valued at full retail – not the price of the parts before they got assembled!

Carry on!

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(Originally published on 01.22.15 @ 6:02am)

Hey Decemberists! I see you have a shiny new album, with a really cool cover (that I read was designed by Carson Ellis, your frontman’s talented wife):

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Image credit to The Decemberist’s website at http://www.decemberists.com

And clever you, you’ve decided to raffle off a couple of quilts made to look like the cover:

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Image from The Decemberist’s Blog at http://www.decemberists.com/news/itunes-first-play-a-beginning-song-released/

Who wouldn’t want such a pretty quilt? I wonder who made it? I can’t find that information anywhere. All I could find (before the entries closed) is the estimated value, a ridiculously low $388.

I’m guessing that, perhaps, (hopefully?) none of you have ever made a quilt, because if you had, you’d know better. So, as a member of the quilting community, and one willing to publicly bear the torch for us being treated well, I have a few things to say to you:

The art of a quilt isn’t just in the materials, any more than your music is in the plastic of a CD and its case. The art is in the intellectual property, and the skill to render it into form. The hard work it took to learn how to do it right is a huge factor. Just as you didn’t get good at your art overnight, neither do most quilt artists. It takes practiced skill to know how to build a set of triangles into something pretty, just like the skill it takes to arrange a set of chords to make beautiful music. How would you feel if we raffled off your music for the value of the plastic, without saying who played on the album?

As artists who’ve “made it,” you have a certain amount of power. You’ve done well. You’ve made it through an incredibly tough gauntlet of toiling in dodgy dives for a few bucks and cheap beer. You’ve got fans, enough visibility to get a day named after you in Portland, and a record company to help distribute your music. You’ve got a pulpit. Now use the power of that pulpit to help other artists.

Tell us who made the quilts. Link them up so they can maybe get some business out of it. Pay them properly (because I know you know the lie in being asked to do your art for “exposure”). And get those quilts properly appraised so that you don’t perpetuate the idea that we like sewing for cheap. Because we don’t – we are worth SO much more.

I know that most people think quilt makers are a bunch of older ladies with nothing else to do, but I’m here to set that story straight. Many of us make our livings in the $3.7B industry that is quilting. Yes, the B stands for BILLION. It’s a huge deal, even if it isn’t visible to you, so let me run down some sewing economics for you:

First up – there’s the talent. We quilt makers often spend years honing our craft. Sort of like musicians do. It takes a lot of practice to get good at sewing. And lest you think “anyone can sew”, how would you feel if I said anyone can strum a few chords and yell into a microphone?

The equipment is expensive too, not unlike the cost of guitars or drums. Yes, you can get a cheap machine, but they work like a cheap knock-off guitar sounds – like crap. And there are all sorts of things you need to have to keep them running. Like spare parts and good techs to do the tweaking.

Then there’s the cost of materials. I can’t find any details about the size of the quilts you’ve offered, but let’s go with an educated guess of 40” x 60”. I see at least 20 fabrics in there, and assume the minimum purchase for the top alone was about 6 yards. Premium fabric is running around $13 a yard, and you’d need about 3 yards to finish the backing and binding. So 9 yards at $13 is $117. Plus batting (let’s call it $20). And threads ($10 for the good stuff). So we’re at a conservative $147 before we talk about labor.

At $388 less materials, we have $241 with which to pay the artist. I’d bid 6 hours to work out the design, and around 15 for putting the top together, assuming nothing goes horrendously wrong. And for the record, I sew FAST (a skill that has taken 25 years to develop), and on an expensive, fast machine. It would take a couple of hours to put together a back and turn it into a quilt sandwich. It takes 2 hours for a quick and dirty quilting job, 10 for something custom and amazing. Another hour to make a binding, and three more to get it on with a hand finish (which is how many of us do it). At the low end, we’re talking 27 hours. $241 divided by 27 puts the labor at less than $9 an hour.

Do I have to point out that $9 and hour is an insult to ANY skilled artist? That my mechanic charges $99 an hour? That my friend just gave a plumber $13,000 for about 4 days of work? That $9 an hour, if you’re lucky, gets you “do you want fries with that?” and an order that isn’t screwed up?

Those quilts are worth far more than $388. And our industry cares about crediting who makes things (after being invisible behind centuries of anonymously made quilts, we’re kind of rabid about knowing who the makers are). So from one group of artists to another… give us a hand, OK?

Cheers ~ Sam Hunter

 

What’s your word?

Happy new 2015!

Being a word girl, I like the idea of having a word or phrase to play with. Confession though… I don’t do the yearly word thing because my life seems to operate in seasons that don’t necessarily begin and end with a tidy bow at the new year!

I love being inspired by other people’s words too. In fact, I’d like to be inspired by yours! So pop your word or phrase into the comments, and tell me a little bit about them. I’ll choose a winner on Monday (based on what inspires me the most) and send you a copy of Quilt Talk so you have the tools to make your word in fabric!

And if you’ve already made your word in any type of fiber, please post it on Instagram and tag me @huntersds, and use the hashtag #2015word to add it to lots of others.

As for resolutions, I make few. But if there was one that I would encourage all of us to make, it’s this: Please maintain your sewing machine regularly. Respect the Power Tool! De-fuzz it, oil it, and change that needle! I even have a cute and quick free pattern for holding your dead needles! It could be your first finish of 2015!

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Wishing you all the best a new year can bring!

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Happy and Merry!

Tis the season! So of course, for my guild’s holiday celebration, I pulled my favorite Christmas accessory out of the waaaay back of the closet.

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I showed it to a couple of friends before I wore it out of the house. The reactions were mixed… it seems that this gorgeous thing that was THE BOMB when I made it in 1995 is now, quite possibly, the quilter’s version of the ugly sweater.

No matter! I sweated over it, so I’m wearing it! Seriously, it has more hours in it than many of the quilts I’ve made (the smaller the pieces, the longer it takes). Where on earth did I get the idea? From Judy Murrah, author of Jacket Jazz (and now the head of education for Quilts Inc.) I took a class from her in 1995 – fabulous teacher – and well… went a little overboard with concept.

Many of the techniques are in her book. The twisted texture…

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… the 9 degree wedge elements (one half of the strips is the sleeve, the opposing half is the front).

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I designed the presents for the second front. Notice how I integrated the pocket. Damn proud of that, considering what I didn’t (and still don’t) know about garment construction.

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I shrunk the poinsettia from a wall hanging pattern (my apologies to the designer… I no longer have the pattern to credit you!) and APPLIQUED it. Yep, I actually did the A-Word for this (albeit by machine, but still). I only wish I had known about glue basting back then!

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I finished it off with a run of paper-pieced trees. They needed a bit of a switch up, so I swapped a tree from the back with a Santa from the cuff. Santa does get around, you know.

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So there it is. Shoulder pads and all. I like to think that, due to the wonders of time, it has perhaps transcended from tacky kitsch to retro cool, just the way that ugly sweaters have, no? And when you think about some of the holiday excesses (swants, anyone?) then perhaps not quite so over the top!

I wish you Happy and Merry from my studio to yours – I hope you get to spend time with good people and good food, and that every stitch you made on a gift is well appreciated by the lucky person that received it!

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On Turning 53

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Yesterday, I had the good fortune to celebrate my 53rd birthday. I am grateful for and humbled by the wishes, hugs, emails, FB posts, gifts, chocolates, handmade goodies, gifts, and gift cards that made their way to me from many timezones near and far. I got weepy several times because of it. I am cared for and loved, and it is a wonderful thing.

I was once married to a good chap that just hated his birthday. He approached it with trepidation, running a commentary of the “shoulds” in his head. “By (insert age here) I should have done this by now, should have seen this by now, should have bought this by now.” I’ve never felt this way, but then I prefer looking at the filled part of the glass. I have no idea what I though 53 might look like from my 20’s (other than perhaps hoping I wouldn’t be as unhip as I perceived my parents to be) but I can say without doubt that I’m the best, truest version of me I’ve ever been. And for my next birthday, should I get one, I plan to have refined myself further down this path!

On my 50th birthday, I wrote the following essay, and as I revisited it today, I see that it’s all still true for me. So I’ll share it here, and I’ve added three more to grow on at the end.

50 Thoughts on Turning 50

A time for reflection and introspection. Time for a party filled with embarrassing gifts of prune juice and adult diapers. The big five-oh. Mid-century. Half way done, should I be so lucky. A few thoughts on that…

1.  In the inimitable words of the Monty Python gang – I’m not dead yet!
2.  Turning 30 was a relief. Turning 40 made me feel powerful. Turning 50 makes me feel grateful.
3.  Questioning authority is still fashionable.
4.  Knowing that your girlfriends get you (and like you anyway) is incredibly comforting.
5.  Eating chocolate every day is sacrosanct. Wasting calories by eating bad chocolate is just wrong.
6.  Having a season pass to Disneyland allows you to see all the small things in the design and artistry – and to marvel at the absolute commitment to the concept such details illustrate.
7.  Board games are even more fun as a grown-up.
8.  Fake butter is just that. Fake.
9.  The shift of a smooth gearbox on an open road is still a thrill.
10.  However, next time I’m buying an automatic car. I’m done with clutching my way through traffic.
11.  I got too good at not wanting to be a bother in the doctor’s office, and it almost killed me. Being firm about what I instinctually know about my body is the right kind of bothersome to be.
12.  Spending time outside of your home country is important.
13.  Facebook birthdays rock.
14.  Uncomfortable shoes are just not worth the agony.
15.  Uncomfortable undies aren’t either.
16.  Although I would have chewed my tongue off before admitting this to her as a teenager, I’m grateful that my step-mother spent the time to teach me which fork is the right one.
17.  While I think I could have been just fine without children in my life, I’m so glad I have my son, Steve. He somehow makes me more complete.
18.  Art really is everywhere. And that is a very good thing.
19.  That multitasking thing that we’ve all tried so hard to be good at is a load of bull. Being fully present to one thing at a time is so much more satisfying.
20.  Having good manners never goes out of style.
21.  It is wonderful to find a lost friend from your youth, and to find out that that you still like who they are.
22.  It doesn’t matter that my shoes never match my handbag.
23.  Having an opinion is a good thing. Respecting that other opinions may differ is a better thing.
24.  In my head I’m still in my thirties. But 50 is the new 30, right?
25.  Smart phones are incredible tools of efficiency and convenience. And distraction.
26.  I’m no longer willing to play dumb, or hide my light, or stay silent when I should speak up, just for the comfort of others.
27.  Climbing to the top of a dome or church is a spiritual journey. Coming out into the light and 360 view after the fight of the climb, through the dark and narrow passages, is a re-birth of sorts and worth every ache, gasp, and bead of sweat.
28.  I prefer clocks with hands.
29.  Wearing the right earrings can make your day.
30.  I’m ok with not being liked by everyone anymore. I’m ok with not liking everyone anymore. We are not ALL made for each other.
31.  Keeping the back of your neck warm from draughts wards off colds.
32.  When all else fails, bake shortbread.
33.  Having my face cut and filled to look like a version of 30 will never happen. I’ve earned and lived all my lines.
34.  Saying “thank you” is SO important.
35.  Saying “sorry” is perhaps even more important.
36.  I’m grateful to have been born in times that allow me to exercise choices. And I’m aware that with such privilege comes the responsibility to make sure that these choices are available to future generations.
37.  Those SMTWTFS pill boxes really do make your life easier.
38.  Sleeping under a handmade quilt is a special joy.
39.  Not being obsessively clean is good for your immune system.
40.  I hope evolution takes care of chin hairs and the hairs on the top of big toes in future generations because I can vouch for them having no use whatsoever.
41.  I’m thrilled to see my young friends making babies, and even more thrilled that I’m no longer in the business of teething, tantrums, and teenagers.
42.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
43.  I love the summer movie formula: the good guys win, the bad guys lose, the guy gets the girl, and stuff blows up during a really good car chase.
44.  Slumming with the occasional book of trash pulp will not rot my intellect.
45.  Learning to say “no” is a good thing. Wish I’d got better at it sooner.
46.  Beautifully written words are as satisfying as perfect crème brulée.
47.  This teach-to-the-test crap is ruining our children.
48.  Seeing it in person is so much better than reading about it on the internet. Just say no to the mediated experience.
49.  The color orange makes me happy.
50.  You dishonor the people who love you when you don’t allow them to actually do loving things for you. Accepting love is both humbling and powerful.

51. Making stuff makes my world right. Make, make, make.

52. Minding your values matters. Both personal values, and the color values in art.

53. In the words of Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

The Little Spark

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It happens. The well dries up. Your creative mojo chases the sunset out of town and you feel like you’ve lost a dear friend. How to get it back becomes your next big priority. And lucky us, my friend Carrie Bloomston has just written a delightful book chock full of prompts and exercises to get your creativity back into gear!

This is what Carrie has to say about her book:

You were born with a creative spark inside. Do you look at yourself now and wonder if the spark has gone out? Ignite that inner fire with the 30 engaging exercises, fun activities, inspirational images, and motivating ideas in this book. Learn what your Little Spark of creative passion looks like, how to capture it, and how to make room for it in your life. Read the book cover-to-cover and use it as a month-long creative roadmap, or just dip into the exercises as your time and inclination allow. Either way, you will change your life.

She also made a sweet video trailer!

The book is full of space for you to write in and make yours. It’s full of ideas and questions, and peppered with quotes from some really inspiring people. And of, course, lusciously stuffed with beautiful imagery. This image tells me I need to buy more ORANGE pens!

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My favorite chapters in the book so far are Chapter 2, about making your creative space calm; Chapter 23, about the rhythm and mastery in repetition; and Chapter 26, about taking a day off (this post is coming to you while I’m on vacation, through the wonders of auto scheduling!)

Carrie is consolidating all the giveaways from her blog, so head over there to comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

If you can’t wait, or want to gift it for the holidays, it’s available on Amazon or from your favorite indie bookseller (mine is Powell’s!)

Now go to your studio and play!

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Lost in Translation

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been on an adventure, though not of the kind that involves plane tickets, dagnabit! I’ve been relocating my website to a different host, and moving it to a version that has more customizable power. Of course, there have been hitches! But this morning, I actually had access to being able to write a post for the first time in a few weeks. Huzzah!

So hi there! How are you? I hope you’re getting ready for some great food, love, and friendship this weekend.

Thanks for hanging in with the radio silence – and I’ll be back soon with some real posts. But for now, to the sewing machine!

 

WASWI – Designing Fabric?

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Yesterday, Abby Glassenberg of WhileSheNaps delivered an eye-opening post of behind-the-scenes information about the money in fabric design in our industry. Please go read it… I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done. And a continued thank you to Abby for researching and writing such important posts.

I woke up in the wee hours this morning fretting about this, and here’s what I was fretting about: WE must stop agreeing to work for negative income. 

At Quilt Market, just two weeks ago, the result of the Quilting in America 2014 Survey was presented by F+W, A Content + eCommerce Company. The major data point is that Quilting is a $3.76 BILLION industry. Yes, BILLION. To be told that there’s almost $4B of cash floating around in Quiltdom, and then to read that there are fabric companies that effectively force their designers into penury via footing the entire bill of Quilt Market marketing obligations is… just… appalling. Abusive. Manipulative. Just plain WRONG.

And I lost count of how many times I heard during market “I don’t know who’s getting the $4B but it sure isn’t me.”

Look – this isn’t about the companies (fabric or otherwise) that take care of their people. This is about those that don’t. If you are so desperate to see your name on the selvedge that you will sign a questionable dotted line, then you will live by that questionable contract (and really, is the “fame” worth it?) But here’s the thing: because you are willing to sign, it tells the company that what they are offering is good enough. So the bar stays low for anyone coming behind you. It’s the same thing I argue about pricing handmade goods – if you are willing to give it up for the “work for free” price, then you are educating the customer that “work for free” is the going rate. Which screws us all, you included.

These companies are not going to offer you a better deal out of the goodness of their hearts, any more than a craft fair customer will double your asking price for the sake of good karma. We are not going to get better contracts unless we refuse to sign the bad ones. And my guess is that if enough of us pass on the bad contracts, and the company faces Quilt Market with little new stuff to show, then they’ll get motivated to up their game.

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The quilting industry started its growth back when we began the fight for Equal Rights. Its initial population was founded on women who were brought up to be nice, and that pressure to be nice above all else, and especially above being business-savvy people, is still extreme. I know it can feel “not nice” to push back on a contract, especially when you’ve worked hard to achieve the offer of one. But a contract that screws you over isn’t one you (or our industry) deserves.

And in case you are reading this and thinking “I don’t design fabric so it doesn’t apply to me,” well, think again. If you knew which company treated their artists like this, would you buy from them? Would you encourage them to mistreat their people with your hard-earned money? I hope not…. many of us boycott several brands and chains for less.

We are, as always, in this together. If we demand better, we can achieve it for us all. If we take care of others as we rise, then we all rise. I believe we really can change our industry, but we really have to do it together. As Abby says at the end of her post “This kind of alliance can only happen when we speak up.”

So I’m speaking up. We truly Are $ew Worth It.

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Where is Sam? Quilt Market edition! With a slightly Fractured Fairy Tale, and CAH!

Read on for some quilt updates!!

I’m off to Quilt Market tomorrow! Here’s where to find me: (or follow on IG @huntersds and #quiltmarket)

TODAY: In the kitchen, making shortbread; finishing laundry; last minute errands; cramming it all into suitcases; hopefully not forgetting anything.

Haven't even started on the clothes yet!

Haven’t even started on the clothes yet!

Thursday: O-Dark-Hundred, PDX to IAH, landing early afternoon. With, methinks, the new X-Men movie on the iPad because, well, Hugh Jackman.

Thursday afternoon: Delivering a bunch of the pile above to the booths they belong in! (Aurifil, Brewer, Checker, EE Schenck, Hoffman Fabrics, Janome, Warm Co.)

Friday: Schoolhouse! 3:45pm in Room 362D! Showing some of the quilts from Quilt Talk and teaching retailers how to market the book. And I have great giveaway swag. And Sew Sassy Buttons. And SHORTBREAD. You want to be there!

Saturday: Book signing! 4pm at Booth 2336 with C&T Publishing – I’ll be signing free copies of Quilt Talk! With more Sew Sassy Buttons!

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The rest of the time: I’ll be on a scooter, protecting my goofy heart, with fingers crossed to stay the heck out of the hospital this time. For those of you who worry about me when I travel, please know that the Queens of BadAssery, Maddie and Flaun, are my guardian angels this trip, and are not afraid to kick my patootie and send me to my room if I get over-tired.

BUTTONS! I have new Sassy buttons to share – track me down and ask to dig through the swag bag. Really, just ask – I love to share them. If you are a Quilt Industry Professional, I have a special button for you, because you are now officially Quilt Famous!*

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*The Fractured Fairy Tale behind Quilt Famous goes like this: Once upon a time, the daughters of a certain Quilt Humor Writer came to their mother with questions, as children are wont to do. Being as whip smart and sassy as their mama, the young ladies demanded to know, now that said mama had written a whole book, just EXACTLY how famous she was. It was determined that, by tabloid standards, their mother wasn’t very famous at all. But it was pointed out that, in the small realm of Quiltdom, their mother actually has cred, and oodles of fans who adore her, both qualifying attributes for the achievement of fame. Thus the term Quilt Famous was coined, and all of Quiltdom may live on, happily ever after, secure in their quilt fame, too.

In other news… the qiveaway for Quilt Talk and a bunch of other goodies is still open for comments until Monday, after I return.

AND lastly… I’ll be playing Cards Against Humanity (CAH) with my fellow quilters on Saturday night. I have blank cards that need some diabolical quilt related stuff written on them. Ideas? Leave them in the comments, or email them to me at sewsamsew (AT) gmail (DOT) com if you want to preserve your “butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth” rep. Your secrets are safe with me! I will send Sassy Buttons to the author of a randomly chosen phrase or question offered!!

Catch you later!

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Final QUILT TALK Blog Hop Day 13 – ORANGE – with me!

You made it! Lucky 13 ends here with me, and of course, with the ORANGE bucket!

ORANGE Bucket

Here’s a link to the ORANGE pattern, and here’s a link to the instructions on how to construct all the color buckets (you only need to download this once).

It was pointed out to me that the ORANGE bucket seems to have a bit more work in the fabrics – to which I can only say “guilty as charged!” ORANGE is definitely my favorite color, and I had strips left over from making another project, so it was perfect.

Thank you for hopping along, and I hope you’re inspired to make a project talk with some words! If you didn’t yet purchase your copy of Quilt Talk, you can get a signed copy here. You can also hit up your local quilt shop or indie bookstore – remember, the price difference between the local store and Amazon is only about the cost of a frothy coffee or a half yard of fabric – so please give your local stores some love or they won’t be there when you need them!

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And finally – I have goodies for you! In addition to an autographed book, I have a package of my favorite newsprint paper-piecing paper, a hunk of Timtex and fusible fleece to get you started on a bucket, printouts of all the color words on the newsprint, and some Sassy Buttons. And if there’s room in the envelope, maybe other things!

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In your comments, please talk quilty to me! Tell me which words you’d use on your wordy quilt. Random.org will help me choose a winner on Monday Oct 27, after I get back from Houston Quilt Market (where I plan to take a lot of pix, so follow @huntersds on Instagram, or here on Facebook.

ALSO – when I get back from Quilt Market, look for a photo tutorial on how to make the buckets!

A LAST REMINDER: Hop back to these great people to grab any missing color patterns!

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