WASWI – Should you tip in the quilting industry?

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Tipping. The cash kind, not the cow kind!

How do you feel about it? And should it be part of the quilting economy? I would really welcome your thoughts and discussion in the comments.

I ask YOU this question as I was approached at my local guild’s sew-day by another member, who asked me if I thought we should be tipping our long-arm artists.

I had to pause for a moment… my first reactions was one of slight panic. I hoped I hadn’t committed some dreadful faux-pas by not tipping for my most recent long-arm collaboration. But then I thought about it, and my answer is no, I don’t think tipping should be part of this transaction.

My thoughts on tipping, IN GENERAL, are these:

  • I would prefer that businesses price their offerings at the true cost, and that’s the cost I see and pay (I feel the same way about sales tax, too)
  • Yes, I do tip servers and bartenders. I do this because it’s the custom in the United States. I would rather go with the European model, which is pay the workers well, charge the actual, sustainable price for the meal, and tip only for exceptional service (with the understanding that the basic quality of the service is not predicated on a tip.) The wages for such service positions are ridiculously low here, because the businesses count on us tipping their workers up to a decent wage. There is inherent abuse embedded in this model, and I don’t like it at all. Read here for some hard data about how tipping negatively affects workers.
  • Yes, I tip my hairdresser and my pedicurist. Same issue though – I do it because it’s the custom. I would rather have a set price for these services… if I don’t like what they deliver, I just won’t go back (and let’s face it, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you have a good haircut until you wash and dry it yourself!)
  • Yes, I have tipped for all my tattoos. Same issue… it’s the custom. Same issue as above… I would rather pay the actual rate and avoid the tip. Because honestly, once the ink is in your skin, a tip isn’t going to change the quality of the work. And if you don’t like the work, you won’t go back.

And my thoughts on tipping, IN THE QUILTING INDUSTRY, are these:

  • On my last long-arm project, I asked for a bid on the work, received a quote, and was invoiced according to the quote. And during the work, there was no discussion of needing to change the number due to unforeseen issues. So I paid the bill as originally estimated. I see it as a business arrangement, not a service arrangement.
  • Although I suppose you could argue that it’s a service… but then I suppose I could argue that I deliver a service of some sort also. Delivering good patterns is a service, yes? But then should I get tips from my distributors? Should there be a tipping box on Paypal when you buy one of my patterns? Do you tip the quilt-shop worker for cutting your fabric straight? Or should we all agree that you should get a straight cut from a quilt store as a basic tenet of good business? The semantics of this could be argued heavily.
  • We, in this industry, are far more likely to be underpaid than overpaid. Many of us don’t claim our worth, nor bill it. I would hate for this industry to start following food service in a system where the wages are artificially low, and need to be brought up by a tip to be considered decent.
  • Here’s that link about the abuses in tipping again, in case you avoided it above (although you might not want to watch the Reservoir dogs clip at work!)
  • Again, and again, and again, I advocate for pricing the work at its true cost. This is how we educate people as to the value of what we do. And I advocate showing that full cost on an invoice, even when a discount is given.

So in closing… no. I haven’t tipped my long-arm artist, and I doubt I will. But being as she’s a friend, there’s a good chance I’ll take her some chocolate soon :-)

I welcome your thoughts and discussion below!


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Updates to the Free Patterns page!

For the last couple of years, I’ve been designing some fast and easy free patterns for Janome, in a partnership that has allowed me to borrow a wonderful machine from them. Recently, they did some web maintenance, and as these things tend to go, the links from my Freebies page to the projects ended up getting scrambled.

I’m happy to report they’re all re-linked now, and available for you to download and play with – go here to peruse.

There’s a new one, too – a pillow in a simplified take on Turning Points, the prairie point circle pattern I released last week. This one is Prairie Circle Pillow, and you can download the instructions here:




Yes, those are more of the lovely Hoffman Indah batiks from the Me+You line!

I’d also like to point you towards a great pillow tutorial written by my friend Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams, in which she shows you how to taper the corners for a nice finish. I’d heard about this some years ago, but had never found any instructions for it. Be sure to do this if you make the pillow above!


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New Pattern + Tutorial: Turning Points

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a …fabric triangle???

Well, sort of! It’s a flying goose that also happens to be a prairie point!

Yes, I’ve been playing with prairie points again, this time in a pillow/mug rug/pincushion pattern!

HDS.031 - TurningPoints - Cover - 300dpi

If you stopped by the Hoffman Fabrics* booth during Spring Quilt Market, you might have seen a few pillows that my wonderful Stunt Sewists helped make out of Hoffman’s  latest yummy hand-dyed batiks, the Indah solids and prints from the ME+YOU line of fabrics:


Here’s the whole line – it’ll be in stores in August. If you have never handled a Hoffman batik you need to go touch these… they are made on a beautiful high-thread-count stock, and don’t shred like a lot of other solids. And this is just the beginning… more coming later in the year!


Lucky us, the Stunt Sewists and I got to play with them in a hurry for Quilt Market samples. I had worked out the prairie point fish for Fin and Dandy, and had the idea to make a circle of geese from prairie points too. So Cath of Wombat Quilts, Brittany, Wendy and Monica came to help, and we cranked out a bunch of pillows that showed off the new fabrics. Brittany spent an entire evening ironing dozens of prairie points!


Once market was over, the kind folks at Hoffman called and asked where the pattern was… um… it was still in my head! So I went back to the drawing board, and added the mug-rug and pincushion sizes to the pattern to make it more fun (that pincushion is seriously CUTE!) and promptly sent it off to the testers. I <3 my test crew!**


It’s ready to go now, and due back from the printer by Friday, so you can order the hard copy here, or grab a PDF right now from here.

Like most of my paper-pieced patterns, this one has easy pre-cutting instructions for the backgrounds to save you time and fabric, along with a bunch of drawings to help you through a nifty way of aligning the points without using too many pins. I also shot a photo tutorial for those of you who find pictures more helpful than mere words!

AND – before you leave… yes… a giveaway! I’ll give away a jar of mini-charms from Hoffman, plus a hard copy of the pattern to a randomly drawn winner drawn on Saturday, June 27th. Hmmm… let’s have you tell me about what you might make out of these mini-charms, should they come to your house!


* I have a great professional relationship with Hoffman Fabrics!

** This pattern was tested by Janet, Lisa, Melissa, Kimberly, Paula, Kim, Monica, and Adva.


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Quilt Talk Goes Tiny

How small can you go? As it happens… pretty dang small!

I belong to the Portland Modern Quilt Guild, and we get extra door prize tickets if we have a hand-made name badge. So my friend Monica said she was going to Quilt Talk hers.

Now I’ve seen some small Quilt Talk letters (check out Paula Fleischer’s “Crazy” in the gallery section of the book). I’ve MADE small Quilt Talk letters. I was skeptical about seeing them come out at any size that wouldn’t look a bit like a billboard hanging around someone’s neck. Or worse, a bib!

This was her first snap-shot to me:


And all I can say is WOW. They be tiny, but they be elegant! And legible! And she wasn’t cussing at me when she was done!

And then she surprised me with an offer to make me one! I’m no fool, and immediately proffered fabric – and bound it in Sam I Am fabric when it arrived:


And then she started copying tiny letters and sharing them with our mini-group pals:


I’m utterly tickled by all the tiny wordplay!

So if you want to make one for yourself (or any other tiny worded thing), here’s the recipe, from Monica:

“On a copier, first reduce the letters to 25%, and then reduce that size to 75%.  If you have a shorter name, the first round of shrinking might be plenty.”

And just to give you a sense of scale:



Thank you, Monica!


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Sew Together Bag – Elastic Modifications

Back in February, I wrote about having a bit of an obsession for making Sew Together bags. I was working through a list of friends to gift them to, but had not yet settled on the one that would become mine.

Well, last week, I finally finished the one I had been working on just for me!


I used an embroidery pattern by Shiny Happy World, and made a row of cute robots for each side of the bag:


For those who like to keep score on crazy, this is my 18th one :-)

One thing about making so many of them is that I had time to ponder exactly how I wanted mine to function. So I decided to add a couple of modifications, using some pretty fold-over elastic, like this one from Babyville.


These get sewn in between steps 3 and 4 of the original Sew Together Bag pattern, after you make the markings for step 4, but before you sew those marks. No I’m not sharing the pattern because you should buy your own copy!

On the far outer side of one pocket, I positioned the elastic about a 1/4” up from the markings for step 4, and sewed horizontally down the center line of the fold-over elastic. I then played with some groupings of Clover Wonder Clips to map out where I could sew a few vertical lines for stability. Yes, I have a lot of ORANGE clips because kind friends have traded me for their favorite colors!


On the far opposite side, I ran the elastic along the middle of the pocket horizontally, and sewed it vertically at intervals intended to hold small threads and tubes of Tulip Needles (love these needles!)


Both of these modifications have allowed me to keep more pockets free for other things, and it made the clips easier to grasp, as opposed to digging them out of a pocket.

And a last tip, designed by my friend Monica… always designate one pocket for all the metal items you carry, and color code the zipper to help you remember. In her bags, metal things go in the gray pocket. I have enjoyed making all the zippers different to help with sorting, but gray=metal is genius!


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Aurifil + Chains + Hoffman = Winner!

Random.org chose post 118:



I deleted a few duplicate comments from the line-up to get to 165 – it seems spellcheck thinks TEAL is REAL! Ha!

Anyway – 118 is Donna Wall, whose color choice is RED is commenter 118! Donna, You have until tomorrow, Monday at 6am to get back to me and if you don’t, I’ll choose again. (And yes, I will email privately!)

Thank you all for playing along!


New Pattern – Chain, Chain, Chain + Aurifil

UPDATED 06.03.15 11am: Hoffman Fabrics has added a bundle to the giveaway!

This is fifth and last of the spring Quilt Market releases – Chain, Chain, Chain (go on, sing it with me, that’s right!)

HDS.028 - ChainChainChain - Cover - 300dpi

I designed this quilt in partnership with Aurifil Threads and Hoffman Fabrics*. I used Hoffman’s Bali Watercolors (the “solids” in the batik family) and paired them with cheery bright colors from Aurifil. Grab your hard copy pattern here or a PDF here.

The pattern includes some stuff I’m pretty proud of, too. When it came to giving you a chart for working out colors, one of my Stunt Sewists suggested I work it like a cross-stitch pattern using symbols – brilliant idea! So you have coloring sheets and swatch cards to work with while choosing your fabrics.


Here’s what mine looked like while I was working:


As I know I’ve stated before, I don’t consider myself sophisticated when it comes to doing machine quilting, but armed with the most recent books from Angela Walters and Christina Cameli, I was inspired to try some new things. I’m pretty thrilled with the result!

IMG_6802 IMG_6799

Aurifil gave me a box of my lovely threads to give away! Please leave a comment below to win, and tell me what your favorite color is (and it’s OK if it’s not ORANGE – all the more for me!) I’ll choose a random winner on June 6th, and I’ll throw in a pattern of Chain, Chain, Chain too! (US residents only, sorry international peeps!)


This pattern was tested by my groovy Stunt Sewists Janet, Kimberly, Monica, and Brittany.

* I have great professional relationships with Hoffman and Aurifil!


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New Pattern – Fin and Dandy

This is the fourth pattern for this season, Fin and Dandy – with kudos to Megan, The Bitchy Stitcher, for her help with finding the perfect name for it!

HDS.029 - BigFinAndDandy - Cover - 300dpiTwo quilt sizes are included – a twin at 60” x 80” and a baby quilt at 36” x 48” – and of course, you can customize to fit. Grab a hard copy here or a PDF here.

I designed a more complicated version of this block almost 20 years ago in a paper-pieced layout for a guild’s block-of-the-month challenge. When it surfaced out of my archives recently, I decided to dust it off and make it easy to do without paper. I had a LOT of fun playing with prairie points as fins. It can be made from yardage, or a package of 10” squares plus background.

Several Stunt Sewists dipped their toes into the water on this one (thank you, ladies!): Terry, Janet, Adva, Caz – and Monica and Brittany, who bravely joined me in the pre-market insanity of cranking one out quickly for Hoffman Fabrics*. We used some of the newest tone-on-tone batiks, and their newest hand-dyed Indah line (Indah means “beauty” in Bali) – they’ll be out in August, and trust me, you want some!

Chains 4 - Bright texture on warm grayWho says batiks can’t be modern? Not me!!

* I have a great professional relationship with Hoffman!


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New Pattern – Fourteen SQUARED

This is third new pattern for the spring season, Fourteen Squared – another Fast Fat Quarter Friendly Pattern (say that three times, fast… I dare you!)

HDS.027 - FourteenSquared - Cover - 300dpi

This is the third outing of the 14 Fat Quarter concept I’ve been playing with for a while, and it joins its earlier sisters in being a very fast and easy sew when you need to crank out a useful quilt in a hurry. I busted stash for the cover quilt, pulling together a selection of fall-flavored batiks.

You can grab a hard copy here or a PDF here.

The structure is similar to the other “fourteen” patterns, but the main units have different core shapes. If you want to skip the border you don’t need more than 14 FQs for the tops of any of these.

HDS.025.v1 - Faster Fourteen - COVER 300dpi FastFourteen - Orange - Cover - 72dpi

Stunt Sewists Kimberly, Jean, Adva, Janet, Sue, Dana, and Brittany put this one through it’s paces – thank you, ladies!


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New Pattern – Give It A Whirl!

Here’s my second pattern for spring, Give It A Whirl!

HDS.026 - Give It A Whirl - Light Cover 300dpiIt’s block based (the blocks are 16” finished), with 2 sizes listed, but also easy to make any size you want. It’s for sale hard copy here and PDF here.

One strip pack, some background, and a pop of accent are all it needs. My Stunt Sewists did some nice work on their suggestions to make the pattern easier for you, especially in terms of the drawings! There are NO half-square triangles – they’re all done with simple snowballs.

The above cover is in the Lorikeet Bali Pop pack from Hoffman Fabrics*. I did a second one for them from a new line called Alchemy, made of gold print over rich jewel tones. I happen to know that they’re not making more of that in strip packs, so if you see one, snap it up!

WhirlDarkIt looks good on dark for a change, doesn’t it?

This pattern was given a whirl by Stunt Sewists Kim, Kimberly, Jean, Caz, Janet, Sue and Lisa – thank you, ladies!

* I have a great professional relationship with Hoffman!


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