Thread testing – need your input!

A few blog posts back, I wrote something to the effect of “I used to work in a quilt store, and have tried a lot of different threads, and I always return to Aurifil.”

Well, a new thread manufacturer contacted me and said “You haven’t tried ours!” And so they sent me a few spools to play with – some 50 wt cotton in a couple of colors and a variegated, and a polyester embroidery thread in ORANGE.

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Thus – my questions:

  • What do YOU want to know about these threads?
  • What matters to you when purchasing them?
  • What types of things do you want me to try and report back on?

Note that I’m not going to track down every thread known to man and do a double blind study here, I’m just going to run these threads through some paces and tell you what I found out. And then give them away to you, dear readers, when I’m done because, hey, you should get to play too! And I should probably just say up front, I might not let go of the ORANGE!

So leave me your thoughts for a thread test! Thank you!

 

Quilt Talking the Details

It occurs to me that, because I’ve had my nose on the bark of this book for almost two years, I might not have explained the view from the edge of the trees very well! So here are a few points about the book that I’d like to share so that, if you decide to take the plunge and own one of these happy things, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into!

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1. What it is!

  • The book is designed around a paper-pieced font.
  • There are upper and lower case letters, numerals, punctuation, and all the special characters above the numbers on your keyboard.
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  • There are also some accents that allow the letters to speak languages other than English: umlaut, tilda, cedilla, circumflex, accute, and grave. I’m quite proud of these!
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  • Why paper-pieced? Paper piecing is the easiest way to get pinpoint accuracy in odd shapes or angles.
  • Along with the characters, there’s a great chapter on how to set them into custom text, much like setting old-school typography.
  • There are easy instructions for resizing the characters to fit any words you can dream up.

2. Projects

  • I designed 12 projects for you, from small things like placemats and the scrap buckets on the cover, up to wall, snuggle, and bed-sized quilts.
  • Most of the phrases are sassy, encouraging, inspiring, or nerdy: both Star Wars and Star Trek are covered!
  • Each project has additional notes on how to fit your own ideas into the word spaces.
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  • All of the projects are designed for easy straight seam construction (no set in pieces, no curves, no y-seams). Once you make the letters, they are essentially blocks that then get set in rows. There is nothing in here that a confident beginner can’t manage!
  • For additional inspiration, there’s a gallery section of wordy projects made by some dear friends, including Megan Dougherty, The Bitchy Stitcher, and Maddie Kertay and Flaun Kline of the BadAss Quilter’s Society.

3. Things that matter about the book design

  • I skipped writing a basics chapter on how to use your rotary cutter, etc., as I thought you’d rather have more projects!
  • There’s a brief chapter on how I do paper piecing, and it’s illustrated with step-by-step photos. You can see a few pages of this in Amazon’s “Look Inside” preview.
  • I go over how I do pre-cutting for paper-piecing – it makes the paper-piecing easier to manage, and it saves on fabric.
  • I also added a chapter on how to choose fabrics for letters to make them shine.
  • The majority of the patterns are on a jumbo pull-out in the back of the book. You tear this out and cut it up, which makes for easier and flatter copying.
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  • I made sure the upper and lower case pattern of each letter are back to back – if you find the “A” in your pile of letters, turn it over to find the “a”.
  • The numbers are also paired back to back.
  • There were a few too many characters for the pull-out, so the extras (and the ones I thought might be the least used) are at the end of the book.

4. Things that matter about the Paper-Piecing design

  • The seam allowance isn’t drawn around the blocks because most of the time you’ll be scaling them, which would give you inaccurate cutting lines. However, because I’ve sliced the seam allowance off plenty of paper-pieced blocks, I put the words “add 1/4” seam allowance” around the edges of all the blocks so that you (and I) have a reminder.
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  • Some of the sewing lines on the characters start at odd angles, so I extended the lines into the seam allowance to lead you in to starting your seam at the right place.
  • Some of the blocks are constructed in multiple sections, so I added alignment lines so you can get them joined up without too many seam ripper moments.
  • In each block pattern the letter is shaded but the background isn’t, so it’s easy to see what you’re working on. And I shaded with a light dot pattern rather than a gray fill to save you some printer ink.

5. Blog Tour

  • The blog tour kicks off at the beginning of October and it will include some of my favorite people in the quilt world.
  • There will be a dozen stops, so a dozen chances to win a copy of the book.
  • There will also be a little something extra for you to download at each stop :-)
  • The final stop will be with me, and I’ll have some extra goodies for you to win.

And if you can’t wait until October, you can order Quilt Talk here. I have books on hand to ship!

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

 

Dr. Who Winners!

OOPS! I forgot to choose winners on Monday, and yesterday I had to go to the dentist, which absolutely knocks me off my game. So here we are on Wednesday!

Random.org chose 8 and 23, which are Stacy and Melissa. Ladies, I’ve sent you an email!

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And if you missed winning these and would still like to have them, they are both available digitally and hard copy here.

Thank you for playing along!

 

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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Odds and Ends and Bits and Bob(bin)s

A few quick updates about stuff!

1. My book, Quilt Talk, is now in my store for pre-order, and at a special price too for a bit. I stocked up on ORANGE Sharpies just so that I can autograph one for you or for whomever you might buy one for. I also have an option for the book bundled with my favorite paper-picing paper (seriously… the stuff is like crack – you’ll never use copier paper again unless you’re desperate). AND I made autographed bookplates for those of you who are buying Quilt Talk from your local book or quilt store!

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2. Quilt! Knit! Stitch! is this weekend! Come out and say hi! Here’s where/when to find me:

  • Thursday 4-6pm: Open Studios, main floor – paper piecing demo
  • Friday 3pm: Lecture – We Are $ew Worth It
  • Saturday 9am-12noon: Learn to Paper-Piece (class still has seats!)
  • Saturday 2-5pm: No Fear Thread Painting (class is full)

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3. Megan Dougherty, The Bitchy Stitcher, is visiting me for Quilt! Knit! Stitch! and will be helping in the classroom. Come meet her! AND… it’s her BIRTHDAY today. You can leave her a happy message here.

4. I’ve been working on making special buckets from the Oh Scrap! Buckets pattern in Quilt Talk. I’m getting down to the final steps. These guys will be helping out on the blog tour for the book, so keep your eyes peeled for that. We have some fun stuff in store for you!

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That’s all for now… must get back to prepping stuff for this weekend!

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

 

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!

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

Olfa’s Rotary Cutter is Having a Birthday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A few quick seams later and the block was done!

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Thank you to Olfa for including me in the party!

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

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