10 Quilty Little Secrets – A Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WASWI Resources – Snappy Comebacks!

To make hand-crafted things is to be the target of blunt questions and statements that disparage what it takes to make art, and leave you smarting a bit. I’m not always fast on the draw with my snappy comebacks, but over the years I’ve amassed a few good ones.

HDS Sew Worth It RESOURCES

Take note, and rehearse a few with your sewing pals to have them at the ready! I usually deliver the lines with a slightly patient and patronizing air (awww… they don’t get it… bless their hearts!) and always with a sense of humor :-)

And please add yours to the comments so that we are all armed the next time someone says “I could make that.”

“My grandma could make that.”

So could mine, but it wouldn’t have the same unique character to it.

“Art is easy.”

Tell that to Michelangelo!

“Everybody can sew.”

You mean like everybody can cook?

“It’s easy to sew… why should I pay for that?”

It’s easy to cook too, but you still eat at restaurants, yes?

“How long did that take?”

About 20 hours, and about 25 years to get good at making it in 20 hours.

“I could buy one at Walmart.”

You could buy a cheap imitation at Walmart, but the quality would be missing.

“I could buy one at Target.”

But so can everyone else. This is a one of a kind thing… you’ll have the only one.

“My sister/mother/auntie/bestie quilts too.”

How cool! Then you KNOW what kind of time and skill it takes to make a quilt.

“How do you make this?”

I’m happy to give you private lessons. I charge $$ an hour. Let me get you my card…

“No really, just tell me how you do this so I can go make one.”

No really, I’ve invested a lot in my mastery… you should invest in yours.

“My kid could make that.”

Chuckle… we parents always think our kids are prodigies, don’t we?

“Can I get a deal if I buy two?”

No, it doesn’t take any less of my resources to make the second one.

“Can I get a quilt as a donation? It will be great exposure for you.”

Did you know you can die of exposure?

“Can you sew this project for me? It will be great exposure for you.”

If only my landlord accepted exposure in lieu of rent!

“Can I have it for a really super low price because I’m doing it for Amazing Worthy Cause?”

How great that Amazing Worthy Cause has your support! If you like my product that much, I would be honored to have your support too!

“People who sew charge too much.”

It’s a specialized skill, just like carpentry or fixing cars, and you pay way more for those.

“Quilting isn’t a necessity, like plumbing is when you’re toilet isn’t working.”

But you hire a plumber at full price when you’re doing a snazzy remodel, which isn’t a necessity either.

“There’s no way I’d pay that.”

Then you’re not my customer. Have a great day!

 

Go here for more info about We Are $ew Worth It

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WASWI – Molli Breaks it Down

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps the most important sentence in the post is this:

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

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

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

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

Thank you, Molli!

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Aurifil and Using the Bully Pulpit

Like many in the quilt world, I’ve watch the shaming/defending of Alex Veronelli and Aurifil go by this week. Here are three posts that I think sum up the conversation quite well:

  • Abby Glassenberg began with a thoughtful piece about her perceptions of Alex’s jokes in relationship to his position as the face of Aurifil.
  • Florence of Flossie Teacakes followed up with her thoughts on how she likes to be marketed to.
  • Angela Pingel pointed out that in the fuss, we might have missed how supportive Aurifil is of the non-famous artists in our industry.

My turn.

Before I start though, disclosure:

  • I have been using Aurifil threads for several years, and recommended them in my book with no sponsorship at the time.
  • I buy my Aurifil piecing thread by the cone because that’s how much I like it. And yes, I’ve tried all the other threads out there. I used to work for a well stocked shop so I had a lot of opportunity to test things. I always come back to Aurifil.
  • I have reached out to Alex for threads to share with participants in my upcoming threadwork workshop, and was promptly sent a very generous package for the students. Full spools, too, not 10 yard samples.
  • I’ve met Alex on several occasions, and found him to be a professional and respectful man, who is genuinely excited about making a great product and getting it into the hands of people who sew. I actually think he’s as much of an awkward introvert as I am, the sort of introvert that puts on our public faces because we care about the work we’re doing.
  • I’ve never heard any representative of Aurifil disparage the threads of another company. They just sell their selling points. I like positive marketing.
  • I reached out to Alex to partner a collection of threads for my book, not knowing that, like the book, the lead times are looong. It’s not going to happen for Quilt Talk, but he told me to call when I’m cooking up the next one. And I will.

And so onto the task at hand…

The definition of a Bully Pulpit was coined by Teddy Roosevelt: A bully pulpit is a position sufficiently conspicuous to provide an opportunity to speak out and be listened to. We bloggers write because we have something to say and want to be heard saying it, hoping to achieve that sufficiently conspicuous position. Everyone loves to be heard. And with the privilege of free speech and access to any number of free blogging platforms comes, of course.. responsibility.

The current political climate in the US is one of deep polarization. The extremes command the headlines, and the choices offered to us are very clear black vs. white options, with no room for the gray between. Frequently the choices are presented to us with inflammatory language. “Support Hole-less Donuts, or you’re a DONUT MAIMER.” Where in this statement is the option for “I prefer creme filled” or “Croissants forever!”

I think this polarizing thinking has been applied to Alex. If you like him, you’re not a Feminist – gasp! If you don’t like him, you MUST publicly declare it, and burn your thread stock, and picket your local store that STILL carries it, and whip up all your friends into an equal frenzy, and possibly even split your guild into two over it.

Where’s the gray area? Where is there the space for “I like Aurifil, and Alex, but perhaps not that last joke on Alex’s personal feed”? I mean, really… isn’t there a person in your life that you like a lot, but whose political, religious, cat, and endless cute grandkid posts on FB exasperate you? And I need to point out that, yes, the internet blurs the lines between the professional and personal, but if you follow Alex’s personal feed you are effectively in his house. (For more on this, look up Erika Napolitano – and full disclosure, she cusses.)

I understand Abby’s discomfort, although having been raised in Europe, my worldview has less puritan and more Monty Python-esque humor embedded in it – and yes, yes, YES, I’m a feminist*. One who enjoys the occasional dirty joke and hot beefcake pix of fellas in kilts. Sheesh. I think Florence brings a better perspective to it… “Hey Aurifil… market to me like I’m smarter.” Angela rightly exhorts us to see the bigger picture before we vilify a single facet.

My advice? If you don’t like something, look away. Don’t keep looking at it. Just. Walk. Away. Don’t buy the product if you don’t support the company’s mission. Extreme example: don’t keep watching porn so you can complain about how awful porn is. If you have excess energy to burn, get frothy about other, bigger issues like music and arts education for kids.

BUT – if you’re going to go further, then get involved constructively. Don’t just say “I don’t want to see that and if you don’t take it down I’m going to flay you in a blog.” Reach out in private for a meeting FIRST, and bring some possible solutions to the table. Don’t just wave an inflammatory banner. And don’t be a bully. Contrary to the current climate, no legislation needs to be enacted every time someone disagrees with something. We are a diverse crowd – let us support each other’s differences.

Look. I will ALWAYS defend your right to think what you want to think, and act the way you see fit. You get to publicly or secretly enjoy a joke or two – or not. You get to boycott what you don’t like, and speak for what you love. YOU GET TO DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU. But when you have a Bully Pulpit, please use it carefully.

* My feminist activism is here.

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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.

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When are you “an artist”?

Can I just say it thrills me to no end to see that the We Are $ew Worth It posts continue to be sent all around the world? Thank you! I really think we can change this game….

Fireworks, by my sweet son, from a long time ago.

Fireworks, by my sweet son, from a long time ago.

Yesterday, Kay B left a comment on a WASWI post, and asked this: “My question is when do you consider yourself an “artist”? If you develop your own pattern? When you properly following someone else’s pattern? How about hand quilted vs. long arm quilted? I have seen many things listed for sale online that are lower quality that are charging more than for more quality crafted items that it is no wonder the general public is afraid to pay the asking price for hand crafted items. How does an appraiser determine a value?”

Before I tackle the big one about considering one’s self an artist, I’ll answer the easier one about appraisals.

Certified Quilt Appraisers have been rigorously trained through programs such as this one in the US run by AQS, the American Quilter’s Society. (Note that this is good place to look if you need to hire an appraiser, too.) Armed with that training, an appraiser can determine where a quilt fits in the current canon of knowledge, and value them accordingly. What factors matter? Many factors, including craftsmanship, ubiquity/rarity, geography/history, and the renown of the maker. For instance, I had a few quilts appraised some years ago, then shortly after, was published in some magazines and earned a ribbon at a national show. My appraiser informed me that the publishings and the ribbon both added to my value, and that my appraisals would now be higher because of them. Thus it follows that the quilts made by the acknowledged masters and superstars of our industry will appraise higher than the version of them that less famous people might make. Sort of like a doodle by Picasso is worth more than the one done by the sweetest toddler in your family (even if you can’t really tell the difference). And yes – it doesn’t really account for the emotional attachment you have for the toddler’s work!

So with this in mind, when do you get to say you’re an artist? My opinion is this:

You get to say you’re an artist the first time you pick up a pencil, or crayon, or needle, or hammer, or lump of dirt and try to make something out of it. WAIT, I hear you say…. that misshapen lump of clay that came home from 2nd grade that was supposed to be a pumpkin is not ART. No, it might not be. There is a rather extensive establishment that loves to wrangle with the question of “Is it ART?” and they like to be the keepers of that conversation, so I’m going to just let them wrangle it. And I’m guessing they will say no, the “pumpkin” is not art, unless of course Picasso made it… and… and… you get my drift.

Wile E Coyote and Road Runner. Lines by Chuck Jones, colors by my sweet son.

Wile E Coyote and Road Runner. Lines by Chuck Jones, colors by my sweet son.

I’m talking about YOU. In my mind, if you are a MAKER, you are an ARTIST. The intention to make with your hands is an ARTISTIC intention, regardless of what you then make. I know that for some it’s a huge struggle to claim the title because I struggled too. I’ve never been that great at drawing, and so when I drew misshapen things as a child I was told I was no good at art. But I’ve since decided that my elementary school teacher didn’t really have the authority to tell me what I am. I successfully earned an AA in art by working hard at learning to draw (I had an excellent teacher, but I’m still middling at it). I got my BA in Sculpture because constructing stuff makes more sense to me. I got my MFA in Fiber because by then I had figured out that playing with fiber is my superpower. And I still hate to draw. And that just no longer matters.

I don’t think you need to be making original patterns to call yourself an artist. I don’t think it matters if you quilt by hand, machine or check (but I do think you have to acknowledge the long arm artist when you hire one). I think you just need to MAKE. Make what interests you, make for profit, make for love, but just MAKE.

As for the pricing differences one sees online? Those appraisal factors are in play, but so are the factors of what the market will bear and the self confidence of the maker. An honest pricing calculates the time and materials and takes into account the artist’s skill. Some people don’t charge enough to cover that. Others do. The wide range in price vs. quality in the handcrafted world is no different than in other industries… for instance there are well made good-value cars and expensive rattletraps out there. That’s the joy of a free market. As a buyer, you get to decide what to exchange your moola for.

But back to the ARTIST conversation before I leave you. You’ll see me talking about “your studio” and some of you might think “right… that would be my dining room table.” I refer to you and your making this way because, to me, you ARE an artist. The space doesn’t matter. The size of the machine doesn’t matter. The fact that you might do it with kiddos underfoot or cats in your lap doesn’t matter. There isn’t a magic door you have to go through to be an artist. You just have to MAKE.

So let’s go do some of that! MAKE, MAKE, MAKE…

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We Are $ew Worth It Resources: Press Kits

One of my goals with the We Are $ew Worth It (#WASWI) movement is to create a useful catalog of resources and templates that help us navigate our industry.

HDS Sew Worth It RESOURCES

For me, one of the best things about quilting has always been the tradition of women helping women. And this isn’t a more recent feminist idea (although who doesn’t love feminism?), it has always been there in the fabric arts. One might think the neighborhood ladies gathered around the frame to get the bride’s quilt stitched, but you just know that they were also sharing the wisdom necessary to conduct life… how to make a great pie crust, how to get a stain out of something, how to navigate a grumpy hubby or calm a colicky baby. We still do this today in mini-groups and online communities – the frame might be different but the need to share wisdom hasn’t changed.

So to the tribe of quilters, sewists and fiber artists – please join me here around this virtual quilt frame to both offer your wisdom, and to benefit from the knowledge sharing here! I know I don’t have all the answers, but with your help I know I can build a useful cache of important docs for us all.

Thus today I’d like to tackle Press Kits. I was asked for a press kit yesterday for the first time so I’m hustling. So far, this is the best link I’ve found, but obviously what I need to do here is build the one that matters to both the industry I work in, AND the industry I’m offering it to.

Based on that article this is what I think it needs to have:

  • Information about my company
  • Information about the products I offer
  • Information about the specific product I’m pitching to the people that asked for it (in this case the new book, as it was a book store asking as part of a book signing gig*)
  • Information about me – a little bio, and info on where I do my thing (teaching and speaking stuff)
  • Recent publications and articles
  • Links on where to find me: email, website, Facebook, Instagram, etc
  • Images of me, my logo, my book (or products)
  • A review of the book or product

Some of the things I’m not including right now, but might consider in the future:

  • Financial information – I’m not asking for investments so no need to divulge it
  • Video or audio links – mostly because I don’t have them yet. If I had something that shows me speaking well I would include it so the book store could see that I won’t be an awkward mess. If I was pitching this at a distributor I might not show me speaking, but show me teaching the product I’m pitching to them so they know I’m doing my part to sell it, too.
  • Press releases – I don’t have any, and for this particular gig the arrangements have already been made. If it was a cold send, I imagine this would be the leading document. I’m thinking I might need to write one though.
  • Social media stats. I used to look longingly at the “Likes” on other people’s pages, but with Facebook’s recent underhanded throttling of anyone’s reach, I’m not so sure this is the best basket to collect eggs in. Don’t get me wrong… I’d love to have more “Likes” just so that I can potentially talk to more people (and if you’re reading this because you picked it up on someone’s feed, then PLEASE LIKE ME!) BUT… Seth Godin, the smartest guy in the online media business, recently wrote this, and it has me thinking that the race for numbers isn’t really the best metric by which to measure success (and this is probably a discussion for another time!)

YOUR TURN

  • What do you think a press kit should have?
  • What do you think doesn’t matter?
  • Do you have links to good ones to share?
  • Industry Peeps who have already figured this out – do you mind sharing?
  • Industry Suppliers – what info do you want us to present to you?
  • What more could this WASWI Resource include to be of use to you?

* I’m signing Quilt Talk at the holy grail of independent booksellers, Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland. Come see me on Saturday, October 11th at 4pm!

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