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!

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!

 

 

Square Pegs for Hoffman – plus a fabric giveaway!

If you didn’t already know, I frequently sew for Hoffman Fabrics: they send me pix of their new stuff; I choose a couple of colorways and offer pattern choices; we shake hands on an idea; they send fabric; and I start sewing.*

New collections are ready to debut, so they reached out for a quilt. This time, we chose one of my newest patterns, Square Pegs:

SquarePegs - Cover -.72dpi

While the cover quilt leans more “modern” with its clean colors, I’ve been interested in seeing it rendered in batik. There’s been much discussion of late in as to whether batiks can play well in the modern quilt arena (I contributed to an article in the latest Gen Q mag about it). My answer to the question is YES, of course batiks can be “modern.” I think how you categorize a quilt is as just as much a function of the pattern design as it is the fabric choice, and as long as you play by good fabric choice rules (mind your values… watch out for too much medium tone mush), batiks are a fabulous choice.

Hoff + Mod

Batiks are also a fit for our current hand-made vibe – they are still hand printed, even at the volumes the quilt world consumes. And if you need more eco-assurance, Hoffman has some lovely environmentally careful practices around the water used to make their pretty fabrics.

Anyway, back to that quilt. Like last time, I posted Instagram pix (@huntersds) in real time, and shot them out to the HDS FB page (please go like it! thank you!), answering questions along the way. And feel free to ask more questions over there or in the comments below.

So – fabric choices! The pattern needs 12 quarters (fat or long, or a mixture) and a chunk of background. As you know, I usually lean ORANGE, but this time I was intrigued by the elegance of these cooler colors:

Hoffman for Sq Pegs

They are much prettier than they look in the long shots on Instagram! The background is not pure white, it’s a subtle, very light, mottled blue-gray – it’s part of the Watercolor series (Snow 1895-307) which are the solid-reading batiks. The light gray at top right became the binding. And look at the bold graphic designs in the prints!

For the curious, it took approximately 22 hours over the course of 3 days. Yes, I’m pretty speedy (#sewingatthespeedofsam was coined by my friend, Z-Girl) BUT – truly, this is a speedy quilt to make. It’s all straight seams and easy construction, with lots of negative space for you to quilt-doodle through. Yes, I sew fast, but the pattern choice didn’t hurt!

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For an even faster finish, you could skip the pieced border if you like, or sew these parts together as “leaders and enders” as suggested by one of my Stunt Peeps** if you sew that way. I also copied the quilting I had done on the earlier one, which meant I didn’t spend design time testing different quilting ideas. It’s easy straight lines following the lines of the blocks, and simple stippling in alternating spaces for extra texture.

On the first day I made the blocks and the border; on the second I set it into a quilt top, made the back (ran errands, had the car break down, got towed), and basted it; and on the third, I quilted and bound it (catching up on Mad Men) – and in a rare moment of having it all together, got the sleeve and label into the binding process rather than putting them on, cussing, as an afterthought! If making it for a client, I would bid 28 hours of time to allow for more unique designing if needed, and possibly surprise them with a discount if I beat my time.

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And so to giving away fabric! I have 2 bundles…

Bundle 1: A Square Pegs pattern plus 14 almost Fat Quarters – I cut a couple of the fabrics wrong, so they’re a tad short (wasn’t wearing my glasses… sigh) so you get the 12 you need for the pattern and a couple extra because I’m a goof (and the pattern doesn’t use the entire FQ so you’ll have plenty if you want to use them for this).

Bundle 1

Bundle 2: A Square Pegs pattern plus all my big scraps – most of which are 1/4 yard or more. You’ll have enough to do the non-background parts of the top, but might need to be creative with how you cut. And I might put in some ORANGE just because.

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Comment below to win – and tell me what you think of batiks as potential modern fabrics. And yes, you’re welcome to disagree with me – I love the discussion! I’ll choose winners on Friday. And yes, this is open to international folks too.

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

* I disclose my arrangement with Hoffman Fabrics out of a desire to be transparent in the name of my commitment to the We Are $ew Worth It movement. That said, I love working with Hoffman, and like and respect their people – and wouldn’t play with them if I didn’t! I only do what works for me with people I like :-)

**Square Pegs was test driven by Stunt Sewist Peeps Karyn, Jennifer, Karen and Julie!

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.

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

 

WASWI: Quilters Newsletter Magazine talks about Value

The conversation about what are quilts are worth has reached one of the big guns, Quilters Newsletter Magazine! The Aug/Sept 2014 issue includes a very sharp article titled “What’s Your Quilt Worth?” It begins on page 38.

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Gigi Khalsa interviewed several industry professionals, including yours truly, and put together a well informed article stuffed with facts, opinions, and “behind the green curtain” advice.

  • Nancy Henry talks about the business arc of her Etsy shop, nhquiltarts.
  • Samantha Harvey of Sami’s Quilts and Crafts discusses the formulae she uses rigorously to price quilts. “Quilters who undercharge make it harder for anyone to get a fair price.” Woman after my own heart!
  • Katie Ringo of Katie’s Quilting Corner gives strong commission advice. She also says “Educate your buying public.” Right on.
  • Patricia L. Cummings of Quilter’s Muse Publications reminds us that the price of a quilt should include the wear and tear on our tools and machines, and the power to run them.
  • Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry discusses the price-per-square foot formula she uses (similar to a lot of fine art painters). She also talks about correct pricing when a gallery carries your work. Never undercut your gallery!
  • LUKE Haynes also uses a pricing formula, but he talks about his long toil in the trenches to build a body of work at prices that cover a living wage.
  • Carol Ann Waugh of aBuzz Gallery discusses the difficult job of competing with cheaply made imports.
  • And I talk, as always, about my belief that if we all work on this together, we will all benefit from it.

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That’s me, in the opening paragraph! I’m the closer too!

From the core of my being, I believe that We Are $ew Worth It. And I hope you’ll join me in that.

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

 

New Pattern – Star Stuff!

Another new pattern!

StarStuff - Cover 300dpiAnd so named for Carl Sagan’s statement that “we are star stuff,” made of the hydrogen atoms that are the stuff of life. I like the idea that we all have a bit of sparkle within us.

It’s a paper-piecing pattern – four identical quadrants make up one 15” finished star. I give pre-cutting instructions for paper-piecing, which minimizes fabric waste, and makes construction a little more efficient. If you can paper-piece and sew a decent 1/4” seam, you got this!

The pattern includes instructions for 6 quilt sizes from crib to king. You could bust some stash with it, or play with radiant colors like I did on the cover quilt.* I used leftovers to make the scrappy binding. The pattern also includes a  copy-able sketch sheet that you can fill with color for design purposes.

Color in Star pattern

It’s available in the shop here (will ship by the end of the week) or as PDF here immediately. It’s also carried by major distributors, so ask for it at your local quilt store.

Enjoy!

* Disclosure: this quilt is made with Kaufman Kona Solids, mostly purchased by me, and the rest generously supplied by Robert Kaufman Fabrics. The blocks were constructed by my lovely stunt sewists Abby, Jennifer, Julia, Julie and Julie!

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

New Pattern! It’s blue! It’s bigger on the inside! It’s a TARDIS!

Ever since I made the Dalek pattern (Who’s the Bad Guy?) people have been asking “Where’s the TARDIS?” Well, ask no more!

RelativelyDimensional - Cover - 300dpi

This is one of the new patterns I introduced for Quilt Market last week! (psst… there are others… watch this space)

It’s 50” x 80”, the same size as the Dalek, and big enough to snuggle or top a twin bed. The skill level is easy too – it’s all straight lines, with a few snowballed triangles and no applique unless you feel the need to just do some because you think it’s fun (and I do believe they have meds for that if it’s becoming a problem for you…)

I designed a companion Spoonflower fat quarter for all of the text parts, and I’m tickled with how that came out. If you don’t want to Spoonflower, there are full sized patterns for tracing out the wordy bits and doing them any way that takes your fancy. The pattern also offers color codes for three different colorways of Kaufman fabrics – one done in the Quilter’s Linen, and two in Kona solids – one bright, and one a bit darker and moodier.*

I really had a blast with this one… my son helped with the design, and stunt-sewists (and rabid Who fans) Flaun and Kimberly hammered the pattern into shape for you.

PDF copies are available now here, and hard copies here (but FYI those aren’t shipping until June 4th).

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

* Disclosure: The kind people at Robert Kaufman Fabrics supplied the fabric for the cover quilt.

 

New Sassy Buttons!

The last minute prep for Spring Quilt Market is under way… the suitcases are out, the new pattern samples are with the distributors (I’ll give you a peek next week), and I have one load of laundry left to go.

One of the things I always take to market are Sassy Buttons… usually a bag of the latest and favorites, along with a bag of brand new ones, hot off the presses, to share and test. But it hardly seems fair to exclude you, dear readers, from the newest sass! So here they are:

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If you’re interested in winning a set, leave a comment telling me which one you would give to a specific friend and why – I’ll draw after I get back from Market next week. YES, if you’re outside of the USA, you can play too :-)

As for Market – keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram ( @ huntersds ) – I’ll be posting pix there for you too. If there’s something specific you want me to look for, please mention it on FB and I’ll do what I can to track down a picture for you.

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

 

 

Finishing Birch Bark

The games continued yesterday, and as promised, here are more detailed shots and more process information as I finished the Birch Bark quilt for Hoffman Fabrics. As always – if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer as best I can!

The first job of the day was to make the backing. I had yardage for this, so no pieced backing needed. One seam did the trick. BTW, if you don’t have the Creative Grids yardstick ruler, you NEED one. I can’t believe how much I use it.

IMG_4967It’s still important to take off the selvedges on the seams for a back. You’ll notice that they are often tighter than the rest of the fabric, so if still in the seam they can lead to puckers on the back. Also, and again especially with batiks with their denser weave, the thicker edge can make you break a needle. I used a 1/4 inch seam and pressed it to one side. Had I been sending it to a long arm artist, I would have used a 1/2 inch seam for extra insurance, and pressed it open to reduce density (or asked for the artist’s preferences).

I use spray baste, specifically 505. I think it is the least smelly of the bunch, and holds well for a long time (seriously, I’ve had stuff spray basted in the bottom of the closet for a couple of years and didn’t need to re-do it when the time came to quilt it). When I started using spray, I didn’t get shown how by the people that “knew” so I daresay my method could be considered wrong. But it works well for me with the studio tools I have available so let me see if I can explain it well in pix (one of these days I swear I will attempt video).

First I clip the back down to my table. It’s one of those old, heavy, particle board affairs and it’s perfect for the job. Just like when you pin baste, it’s important to have a smooth tension on it, but don’t stretch the back or you WILL get wrinkles. I work from top to bottom on the quilt, not from the center. The TOP is on the left for reference.

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Then I lay the batting and top onto it. BTW – see the fan in the background – you need to have some type of fan pulling the air out of your space when you do this… I also cover all the important stuff with old sheets because it will all get sticky otherwise!

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I fold them both back, and spray the backing fabric (imagine video of me spraying here)

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Then I smooth the batting down, and spray the batting. I start at the center and move towards the edges. But don’t stretch!

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Then smooth the top down the same way.

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At this point, it’s glued from the top to the edge of the table. I unclip everything, move it towards the top so that all but about 4 inches of the the glued stuff is hanging off the top edge of the table.

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Then I re-clip the top edge (that’s glued) on the outside of the sandwich, and re-clip the backing only at the bottom edge.

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Now, we’re doing the same thing, but working from the other side of the table. Spray the backing and smooth down the batting.

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Then spray the batting, and smooth down the top. And move it again. Once you get to the bottom of the quilt, only move it as much as needed to get the bottom of the quilt onto the table. This stops you from overspraying batting and backing that might go back into your stash.

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Once all the spraying is done, unclip everything and give it a trim. I trim about an inch away.

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And done. A quick flip to the back to see if there are any wrinkles that need attending to…

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Looks good. And now onto quilting! I put this one back on the design wall to contemplate it. My first thought was to do a spiral, but that involves a lot of turning on the quilt, and remember, this one needed to get finished quickly. So I decided to go with a straight line pattern – fast and easy to do with a walking foot. This design was inspired by something my friend Flaun did recently on a commission. I set the lines on diagonal so as not to run into issues keeping them parallel to the seams in the top.

Another reason for choosing this design is that every line starts and stops OFF the edges. This also reduces the time spent pulling up threads or burying them later.

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I needed to find the right starting point for the center, and the “rule of thirds” worked well here… things that are off center in such a way that they align with thirds are usually pleasing to the eye. Here’s the third in both directions marked with a square of batting so you can see it:

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I chalked out the initial X of the design while it was on the wall so that I could see the angles.

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BTW – I used a Chaco Liner in white for this. I find the white comes off dark fabric easily, although sometimes it can be faint. I wanted a fine line to follow, and this does fine lines beautifully. I will also say that I use their other colors with reservation… sometimes they don’t come out too well. In their defense, Clover states in a blog post I dug up that they were designed for marking dress seams and darts that would be hidden, so it coming out quilts wasn’t part of the product design.

I chalked out one quadrant – one of the smaller ones to start with.

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And now to thread choices! I have a lot of Robison Anton rayon threads in my studio. I bought them before I discovered the likes of Aurifil (my #1 piecing thread) and Isacord (which I like to quilt with too), so I still use them. No sense in waste! I have quilting friends that don’t like to use rayon for “utility” quilts – those that will get used and washed a lot – as they might be too delicate and break under wear and tension. Most of my quilts are designed for photographing on pattern covers, and then carted around for trunk shows. So while I would never use nasty cheap thread, the RA is fine for how I use my quilts. I do have some utility quilts that have RA quilting that is holding up just fine – so as always – your mileage may vary!

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I ended up choosing an ORANGE. Surprise! I also want to show you these – they are Steady Betty Bands. They wrap around the palm of your hand to give you traction while quilting. I quilt with my palms, not my finger tips, so most of the gloves don’t work well for me. I also like that I can re-thread the machine or handle scissors with them on. They could be a prettier color though!

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And on to quilting! I marked one quadrant and quilted it before marking the next so as not to rub off all my chalk lines. For reference, it took 2 bobbins worth of thread to complete. The quilting unfortunately doesn’t show up well on this picture – often times the quilting on batiks gets lost in the fabric patterns.

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And onto the binding. Again, I put the quilt back on the wall while I worked out the binding choices. I had two ORANGE fabrics to work with, and liked the darker one better.

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I like to make bias binding when I can. I don’t find it any harder to cut and sew, and I like how it settles in on the edge.

How to calculate? Perimeter +20 (for goof-ups) times 2 1/2′ (width of binding), then divided by 40 (the width of the fabric), then rounded up to the next whole number, plus one (for goof-ups). In this case that was 18” x WOF. And I had about 30” left over so pretty dang perfect!

I lay it out on the mat, and make the first 45 degree cut at one corner.

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Then cut the rest of the fabric in 2 1/2” strips.

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And finally, take that first triangle that was left behind and cut it too. I leave behind the last corner triangles – usually anything under 8” (that’s why the +20 and round-up in my calculations)

Sew them end to end. Mind your right sides and wrong sides with batiks!

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Press those seams open, and the press the whole thing wrong sides together.

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And here’s the last edge getting sewn down. I join my edges with a bias seam, but that’s a game for a different post!

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Last step – I press the binding out so that when I do the hand work it folds over better.

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And DONE. This step, from making the back to ironing the binding was about 5 hours, sewing at the Speed of Sam!

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I sew the back of the binding down by hand because I like how it looks. This one took me the length of the Avengers movie on Netflix and a healthy dose of chocolate!

Total time for the entire project is right around 12 hours – but I was seriously hustling. If I was bidding it as a custom job for someone I would estimate 15 hours for safety, and surprise them with a little discount if I finished faster.

Questions? Do ask! I’m happy to help you make more quilts!

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