WASWI – Designing Fabric?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on for some quilt updates!!

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

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

Haven't even started on the clothes yet!

Haven’t even started on the clothes yet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catch you later!

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

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

ORANGE Bucket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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QUILT TALK Blog Hop Day 10 – GRAY – with Maddie Kertay

Day 10 takes us down south to Chattanooga, TN, and into the arms of the inimitable Maddie Kertay of the BadAss Quilters Society, and of the new quilt shop Spool. Gray is the color for the day!

GRAY Bucket

You might not know that I spent my formative years hopping back and forth between England and the US, and because of that, I have some blind spots in my ability to spell. The word GRAY/GREY is one of those spots. I had to research this one before making the pattern… it turns out that A belongs to the US and E belongs to everywhere else. I put both in the pattern so that wherever you are, you’ll be OK!

And now, to Maddie. I adore this woman. She is all-out inspiration, living life large, but the best part about that is she encourages those of us around her to do the same. She started BAQS when one person too many told her to be a bit more seemly, and to make her quilts fit their definition of proper. Not only did Maddie rebel, she made a place for all of us to go be ourselves. Acceptance is the first tenet of BAQS, and being totally, beautifully, uniquely YOU is the next, and “be nice” is the third – no flame wars allowed! AND she dived into making a quilt for the book with wild abandon! (See the pix on her hop)

Beyond that, she is the champion of MANY in the quilt arena. She is a wise business woman who uses her powers for good, the embodiment of one of my favorite quotes from Madeleine Albright:

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She helps those of us around her, coaching us all to shine a bit brighter. She promotes and links and shares and praises the things she believes in with generous abandon, and I’m a very, very grateful recipient of her TLC.

She’s also a dear, dear pal. I ended up in the hospital during last quilt market, and she and Megan Dougherty scrambled their schedules to make sure I had a friend with me pretty much until I got discharged. Lucky me, I get to take another picture like this one next week in Houston! (while avoiding the hospital like the plague!)

Maddie and Sam

Please hop over to Maddie, and if you haven’t joined BAQS yet, please do so… it’s one place you can go to just make the quilts you love to make.

Here’s a reminder of the tour and COLOR bucket schedule:

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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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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.

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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!

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