Thursday, April 28, 2016

First she writes a blog post. What she does next? DESTROYED MY FAITH IN A JUST AND LOVING GOD

I love quilters. I really do. And I especially love hanging out online where they hang out. Go on forums and pages for just about anything else (especially anything that attracts mostly dudes), and you'll just find a bunch of blowhards bloviating into the electronic ether. It could be anything from politics to popcorn (MY GOD, the alliteration today), and they will argue and posture and grandstand until you finally want to see all humanity die in a volcano.

But quilters are so earnest! And nobody is ever sure of themselves, so when they tentatively ask, "Is this good?" eight hundred others practically fall all over each other to say, "Yes, it's good!" People keep talking about the "quilt bullies" like that's a real thing, but honestly, if anyone has ever beaten up another quilter on a regular basis at guild and stolen her raffle ticket money, I've never witnessed it. What I do see is occasionally one quilter will not be as forthcoming with unreserved praise and might instead offer constructive criticism untempered with flowers and unicorn farts, and this is sometimes interpreted as being totally mean.

I keep hearing stories about actual bullying happening in online groups and forums, but I have yet to see it. Or maybe I see it all the time, but because my meanness meter is set to go off only if there's bloodshed, I just don't recognize it. What I do see is people being very helpful and very encouraging, and it's just sweet as hell. A lot of the quilters who participate are new to the craft and really have no idea what they are doing, but everybody is so patient and no one ever gets ridiculed for not knowing as much as others.


I have heard rumors that the more modern-oriented Facebook groups are the ones that are really nasty, but then upon further investigation, "nasty" usually means the admin deleted a photo because the quilt didn't quite fall under the "Denyse Schmidt would have pushed over her own grandmother to make something that freaking modern" criterion. But even if they do, there's still a vocal group of total strangers to buoy the rogue quilter up and make her feel good about herself again.

I think one of my favorite things about quilty Facebook groups are the complaints about the groups themselves, often from people who don't quite understand how Facebook and/or the internet works.


Groups like these get spammed a lot as well, and this really flummoxes people. Some of the spam is ostensibly links to those stupid clickbait sites that say things like, "She opened a regular old tube of extra-strength hemorrhoid cream. What she did with it next TOUCHED MY VERY SOUL." And some is porn, naturally, because this is the internet and nothing online is safe from being porned up on occasion, but many of these people don't seem to be aware of this and don't know the report-it-if-you-can, ignore-it-if-you-can't rule we all live by in the hinterwebz. 

But what I really love about these groups, besides the friendly support and the porn confusion, is that it reminds me I may have something to offer quilters other than my bizarre sense of humor and my stunning good looks. I have a tendency to dismiss my own skills and accomplishments. "I've only been quilting for 8 years," I think to myself. "In the grand scheme, that's nothing." But it's not nothing, and there are plenty of people out there who are in week one, month one, year one, of their quilting journey and they, like Jon freaking Snow, know nothing.


I think I may have something to offer the quilter who is just starting out, who wants to learn on her own as much as she can, but who finds the information out there incomplete, biased by sponsorship deals (okay maybe that's just me), and the people offering it painfully unaware that not everyone who quilts is wealthy and holds advanced degrees. Yes, there's a lot of information out there. I just think it could be better.


BUT NOT YET. Because I have to go back to the freaking hospital next week and have hernia repair surgery to shove my intestines back into my gut where they belong. Seems my big incision from last year's colon surgery didn't hold together real well. I've put it off as long as possible and have lost somewhere in the range of 12-15 pounds (out of a total of 50 I hope to lose in the next year) in the assumption that less poundage equals better surgery outcome. It certainly equals less knee pain and better fitting clothes. I have no idea what recovery from this kind of hernia repair is like, plus there's the whole being allergic to narcotics thing. I have heard estimates that range from one week to a month or more before feeling like myself again.

But until then, I have social media, and The Night Manager, and a large stack of books (okay, a large number of Kindle downloads, but whatevs) to keep me occupied. But if the porn content on Facebook quilting groups takes a sharp downturn over the next month, I assure you it's entirely coincidental. 



*********************************************


Please remember, The Bitchy Stitcher is my personal blog and also the place where I experiment with quilty humor pieces. If you have signed up for getting posts by email, you will get exactly that: posts via email. As of right now, I do not send out newsletters. If you don't like my posts, that's perfectly fine and understandable. But please either stop reading, or unsubscribe from the emails (there's a handy link for that at the bottom of each email). Lecturing me doesn't work, and threatening to unsubscribe just means I will go ahead and do it for you.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A new direction

I've been spending a lot of time observing my fellow members of the Quilt Industrial Complex, and one thing I've definitely noticed is that branding is totally in right now. You are a big luh-hoo-zer if you are not creating, cultivating, and expanding your own personal brand. Basically, it's a sex tape world and we are all Kardashians now.

When I started out as a quilt blogger in, god help me, 2008, I chose the name The Bitchy Stitcher because, well, I thought it was funny and I never thought anyone would actually read me. As the years have passed, I have become less enamored with that name as well as with quilting in general. I mean, remember the deer craze? Do you know what the new deer is going to be? Bunnies. Fucking bunnies. In a world of axolotls, nudibranchs, and water bears, we get bunnies? Is anyone even trying anymore?

There was a time when quilting meant everything to me, but I've been thinking recently about what truly feeds my soul. What nourishes my psyche, what completes me and makes me feel whole? (I mean besides Tom Hiddleston movies.) There's really only one answer.

Food.

Good god, I love to eat. I mean, have you had really good eggs Benedict? There's not a damn bunny in the world that measures up to that. Given the choice between spending $150 bucks on a fabulous meal at a four-star restaurant or on a fat quarter of Tula Pink fabric from 2013, I'm gonna have to go with the num-nums at this point.

So, I think it's time to shift my focus, clarify my priorities, and rebrand my ass. I'm done with The Bitchy Stitcher. It's been a great ride, but it's time to move forward and follow my bliss. From now on, I will be known as:



I will be offering plenty of recipes that are essentially taken directly from published cookbooks, but which have been re-worded slightly to make them my own. For example, wherever a recipe calls for milk, I will call it "some of that sweet motherfuckin' moo juice." Because this will indicate that I am edgy and transgressive.

I will offer lots of long-winded, stream-of-consciousness meditations on the nature of butter and the essence of smoked paprika, as well as plenty of dubious science with links to "studies" that show the way to eternal youth and vitality is to mainline lacinato kale until you pass out.

Be sure to follow me on social media as well, as I will be Instagramming my dinner every day ay 6:30 pm sharp.







As always, thank you all for your support, and be on the lookout for my first cookbook, Crepes n' Crap, in a bookstore near you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Get the tissues, honey

(Note, this post has copious instances of "the f-word," as well as quilty representations of same.)





As most of you know, my mom died in December of 2013. Her death hit me hard, coming just a little less than a year after the death of my brother. I was fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my mom, and her absence has left me still struggling to figure out what life without her looks like. My mom was one of the funniest people I've ever known, and when I started writing quilting humor professionally, she was always my intended audience. If I thought it would make my mom laugh, I knew it was good.

Earlier that same year, the first Quilt Con happened in Austin, TX and Chawne Kimber's Give A F*ck quilt was on display there. The reaction to this quilt on social media was, shall we say, all kinds of fucked up, as people got offended, expressed their offense, started accusing each other of being terrible people and bad mothers, all while the world kept on turning and no one ever died from a "fuck you" to the head but you wouldn't know that from the way these people reacted.

In response to all this folderol, a group of people got together, inviting other like-minded quilters they knew of, and formed a bee, using a Facebook group as a way to organize. We each made blocks based on our favorite curse word: fuck. It was our way of supporting Chawne's work, stretching the creative muscle a bit, and having fun with new people.


The group held together beyond the making of these blocks. Some members went to the next Quilt Con together. Some came to Maryland last December and had a sew day here in my studio. Our closed (and secret) Facebook group is a place where people can bitch about problems or just celebrate being one of a bunch of fucking weirdos.

I didn't know it at the time, but shortly after my mother died, the other members of the group started talking about making me a quilt. They knew my favorite colors were purple and orange, so they started there, each person making a block or blocks of her choosing in that color scheme. The resulting blocks were set in a gray background. And then—

AND THEN

A giant, glorious, beautiful OCTOPUS


I can't even imagine what it took to draft that beast, to cut it out, to make sure it fit properly. But look at it. It's perfection.

BUT.

This was, remember, in early 2014. After the top was finished, it was given to a longarmer for quilting.

And then it basically disappeared. I can't give more details than that, but suffice to say it looked as though it would never be returned, and there was even some fear that it had been destroyed. But there was no way to know.

Roughly a year later, the group decided to tell me about the quilt.


It was truly the most overwhelming thing, finding out that these people had done something like this for me, something so personal, so tailored for me, and at a time in my life when I needed comforting DESPERATELY.  And it was lost! All that work they had put into it, all the planning, and all they could do was tell me about it and share what pictures they had. 

I was so angry and hurt for them, that someone could treat something so meaningful so cavalierly. And bless them, they never stopped trying to get it back. I even contacted people I thought might be able to help, all to no avail. Until November of last year, when one of the group was able to make some headway and the quilt top was finally returned. 

That same member of the group did the longarming herself and it was sent off to another member to bind. FedEx delivered it yesterday.

This story, hiding as many details as it does, doesn't really express enough about the two-year+ process of making, "losing," and recovering this quilt. And it doesn't really express much about how awesome and funny and unfuckwithable these women are. And it sure as hell doesn't express how much this quilt means to me. It's not just that I can't find the words for it—I don't think there ARE words for it.

I have withdrawn from social life a lot in the last couple of years, and that includes social media, and, by extension, this group. That sense of not quite knowing what my place is in the world anymore without my mother has turned this already introverted person even farther inward. Health problems this past year haven't made that any easier. Colon surgery. Then a frozen shoulder (still frozen, by the way; still hurts—I'm told it can take a year or more to resolve). Now a hernia. And an ovarian cyst. Oh, and some kidney stones for good measure. It's hard for me to be the person I used to be, because I basically hurt all. The. Time. (And I'm allergic to narcotics.) Every time I think I'm moving forward, I get kicked back a little bit. Thankfully, nothing is life-threatening, but I know it has made me somewhat difficult to be friends with.

So, what I really want to thank them for is that, despite all of that, despite me withdrawing and not communicating much and basically being a big giant bummer and not the funny-ha-ha Bitchy Stitcher, they kept loving me anyway. They kept fighting to get that quilt they made for me back, so they could finish it and send it to me. So I could wrap myself in it whenever I feel lonely or weepy or any of those feelings that make me want my mama so bad.


So thank you, Paula FleischerJanet MeaseSam Hunter, Kimberly Brandon RolzhausenAdva Weinstock PriceLinda PayneMelissa KirkMelissa ZawrotnyCaz NowisMaddie KertayFlaun ClineJean MarieMegan NullKim LapacekTrisha Priewe FranklandAlice RidgeChelley Smith BlackBarbara MontejoDeborah Gipe. And Tama Blough, who passed away last year.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I have something in my eye.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Thought of the Day

So, quilty t-shirts are, like, the shizz now. And everybody's trying to get more and more edgy. "I Quilt Because My Anti-Psychotic Medication Isn't Very Effective." "G's Up, Feed Dogs Down." "My Quilt-Related Tattoos Have More Daggers Than Your Quilt-Related Tattoos." Like that.

And, hey, I get it. I have been marginally involved in the quilty t-shirt biz for several years now, plus I love a well-executed, simple design. Like Cheryl Sleboda's Sewing Skull:


But what gets me are these shirts I keep seeing all over Facebook. I have no idea where these come from or who is creating them. And people must looooove them because they get shared a million times.

Ones like this:



And this:


And this:


And I swear, all I can think when I see shirts like those is:



Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Accuquilt Go! A Thorough (and hopefully unbiased) Review (Part Deux)

(Yes, this is super long, but never fear. There will be a handy summary at the bottom.)

As I mentioned in the previous installment, I chose the basic Go! cutter ($249.99) rather than the Baby ($129.99), the BIG Electric ($499.99), or the Studio ($595). And I am going to stop using the stupid exclamation point now. The Go cutter weighs 15 pounds, and when it is open measures approximately 30 inches long by 12 inches wide, not including the protrusion of the crank. The Go Baby weighs 8.5 pounds, according to the website, and looks significantly smaller. I mention this because upon reflection, I am wondering if the Baby would have been a wiser purchase, and I'll be mentioning why as we go along.


The cutter includes a "value die." This is a die that, in one unit, contains blades that cut a 4.5" square, a 2.5" square, and two 2.5" half square triangles.


It also includes a pick (an implement with sharp points on each end for picking out any bits or threads that get caught in the dies), and a 5' x 10" cutting mat.


That's what the mat starts to look like after a bit of use.

I also purchased a triangle-in-square die ($34.99), because this is a block I use a lot in designing, but am not so great at cutting out.


I also purchased the Go Qube 8" which contains 8 dies that can be combined to make 8" quilt blocks (I make 12" blocks out of them, because nobody tells me what to do.) Unfortunately, three of these were redundant as I already had those shapes in that size in the included value die, but I also got a square on point (for making a square-in-a-square, another favorite of mine), rectangles, quarter square triangles, 4.5" half square triangles, a parallelogram, and the ability to cut four 2.5" squares at once rather than just one. The Qube cost $169 and Accuquilt says buying the equivalent dies separately would run about $206.91


Accuquilt makes the Qube in four sizes (6", 8", 9", and 12"), all with the same shapes, just different sizes for each shape. I chose this one not because I necessarily wanted 8" blocks, but because I tend to use these sizes (4.5" and 2.5" squares, 2.5" and 4.5" half square triangles, etc.) quite a lot. Except for the 12" Qube, all the dies from all the other Qubes are compatible with either the Go or the Go Baby. So far, I haven't yet encountered a die I think I would use that wouldn't have been compatible with the Go Baby, so considering its lower price tag, its lighter weight, and its smaller footprint, the Baby might have been a better purchase. But there is always the chance that there could be a die I MUST have which only works in the Go, so I went with my normal philosophy of "better to have too much than not enough." But then again, that is also probably why I'm fat.

It also includes a DVD, but i have not watched it. Life is too short.

As you can see, the dies from the Qube are square and cut one to four shapes, depending. You can put up to 6 layers of quilting fabric on a die, so you don't have to cut just one square at a time.


Why are the shapes all angled relative to the base (housing? chassis?)? Because the cutter works by passing the die between rollers that press the fabric against the blades nestled down in that foam, and you get a much easier motion and a better cut if the blades pass through at an angle rather than straight on.

But what this means is that you need to be very aware of your grainline as you place your fabric on the die. You need to make sure, even if the piece of fabric you are cutting isn't itself cut along the grain, that you orient the grain of the fabric to follow the straight edge of the die blade. Honestly, at first this threw me for a loop and I thought I'd be constantly ruining cuts by aligning the fabric to the die chassis (base? skeleton? carapace?), instead of the blades, but I got on board pretty quickly. Since the whole thing is new, it's pretty easy to develop the right habits from the start.

Despite the fact that I hate videos, I think this part kind of requires it. They are super short, I promise, and there is no doot dee doot, royalty-free music to endure (though I was very tempted to add the Carmina Burana) or even any talking. It was hard enough to hold the phone and film while also cutting fabric; any narration would have mainly consisted of mumbles and grunts. These just show you the basic process of lining up a piece of fabric on a die and running it through the cutter. (I am uploading these through the Blogger interface. If they don't work for you, I will also post them to Facebook. )

video


video

The crank and rollers turn in both directions, so you can use either hand, and you can put the dies in from the left or the right. I think you can see that the crank turns very easily. You do have to give the die a bit of a push to start it through, but nothing major. The cranking does get a bit harder as you add more layers of fabric. I am still able to turn it with the full six layers that they say is the limit even with my bad arm, but it wasn't a tap dance, and my shoulder complained for a bit afterwards. If you have strength or pain issues, fewer layers may be important to how you use it.

A word about the cutting mats. The mats are necessary to give the blades something to push against as they go through the rollers. You wouldn't want them to press against the rollers themselves, because then you'd either be replacing the rollers or replacing dies if the rollers were so hard they dulled or bent the blades. Part of the ongoing expense of having a die cutter is replacing the mats. I have not felt the need to replace either of my mats yet, but I will get some extras when I can just to have them. People complain about this a lot, that the mats get worn and need to be replaced, and often feel that this is either laziness or greed on the part of the cutter manufacturers. Personally, I think this is just the reality of how these machines work. The blades need to be able to cut into the mat a little bit in order to, for lack of a better phrase, get a bite on them. It keeps everything stable while also maintaining the integrity of the blades. Just flip or turn your mat each time you use it, and it will help the blades to cut just a slightly different part each time, prolonging the mat's life. A 6"x6" mat runs about $7 and a 5"x10" mat is about $8. (There are larger mats for larger dies as well, with corresponding prices.)

In every case except one, my dies all give beautiful, clean cuts. For some reason, my triangle-in-a-square die has a spot on one of the right triangles that just misses and leaves one thread attached, so I have to go in and carefully snip it before I remove it. This is not a big deal to me, so I haven't looked into returning it or replacing it. But out of all the dies I have, that's the only one with any issues, and it's a fairly small issue. The dies and the cutter itself are all solid and well-made. The only thing I am keeping my eye on is the crank handle. Initially, I purchased a used Go cutter on eBay, and the crank handle broke off during shipping. I close up my cutter and put it aside when I'm not using it, and I watch the crank carefully as I move it around because it could easily get whacked against a wall or a piece of furniture, and I don't think it would survive.

The main drawback that most people see to the cutter is the potential for fabric waste and the need to plan and prepare fabric ahead of time in order to minimize this waste. When you cut yardage the old fashioned way, with a rotary cutter, you can cut strips to the exact width and then sub-cut your pieces from there, and so the measurements of what you are cutting and what you are cutting from might leave you with leftover chunks.  Those chunks are the pieces that often get put in the scrap bin—too small for the project at hand or to fold up and put in with your yardage, but big enough for something else later. You end up with useable chunks leftover because all your cuts abut one another.

But with a die cutter, as you can see from some of the pictures above, you often have one or just a few shapes on a die, so after you make one cut, you have to move the fabric to place it in position for the next cut. If you are very careful, you can get your next cut quite close to the first one, but there will always need to be a bit of fabric in between, otherwise you run the risk of not getting a clean cut. So you end up with stuff like this leftover:


Now, maybe if I had cut the same pieces from this bit of fabric with a rotary cutter, I would have had a larger chunk leftover. Then again, I might have had a thin strip that I wouldn't have used anyway. It's hard to say.

But as you can see, you can keep a pretty small space in between your cuts and along your edges as long as you are careful when you place your fabric. You can't really use large pieces of fabric, like full yards (well, you can, but the excess fabric gets bunched up and you end up ironing it over and over). So, you will need to cut down your fabric anyway, unless you are using small precuts or scraps, and you can keep these cut pieces only slightly wider than the shape you are cutting. If you are springing for the gigando Studio cutter, which is 30-some-odd pounds and designed to live on its own table and not be moved around, you can get some bigger dies (also more expensive) that will cut many more pieces at one time, all abutted nicely, but then you have a big honkin' machine and no more place to display your collection of ceramic Rick Springfield figurines. The Go cutter does have a few larger dies that cut multiples of the same shape, such as this one that cuts 12 HSTs at a time (more if you use multiple layers), so these could be useful if you determine that the sizes and shapes available fit your needs well.

I find the variety of dies suits me fine. I was pouting earlier in the day because they didn't make a half rectangle triangle that finishes at 4 inches, until I realized that the right triangles from my triangle-in-a-square die would accomplish that very thing. Currently, the Accuquilt website lists 99 appliqué dies, only one of which wouldn't work in a Go or Go Baby. Appliqué dies aren't really my thing. I love appliqué, but I prefer hand appliqué, and these dies do not allow for that; they assume you are going to do fusible, which is a perfectly valid lifestyle choice. 214 dies altogether are available for the Go and 137 for the Go Baby.  (The Studio has 441!)

Besides how easy it seems to be on my shoulder, my favorite aspect of the cutter is that I am now making excellent use of my scraps. These are my scrap bins:


I have always wanted to make better use of them, and while there are certainly myriad ways to use up scraps, the cutter seems to be working the best for me. In fact, I've been working on a Block of the Month-type project using my Accuquilt and these scraps that I want to share with you soon. You won't need an Accuquilt to do it, but I'll have instructions for cutting with and without it, so everyone can play. I promise it'll be super-shenaniganny.




Summary:

PROS:

  • Solid construction
  • Good website and usage info
  • Easy to turn, even for stupid, traitorous shoulder
  • Lots of dies
  • With practice, can produce lots of pieces fast, even with single-shape dies


CONS

  • Expensive
  • Mats need replacing (true of all systems)
  • Potential for fabric waste (true of all systems, and can be minimized)
  • Can't use dies from other systems
  • Doesn't have a setting to play the Carmina Burana when you're feeling dramatic.




As with anything, your mileage may vary; your needs and the way you prefer to sew may be entirely different. I certainly wouldn't push an expense like this on anyone who wasn't already wanting one or who didn't already think it might fill a need. It helps to analyze the sizes and shapes you use the most, and see if the cutter system you are interested in has dies for those. All in all, I am loving mine right now, and I feel like its definitely going to help see me through until I can comfortably use a rotary cutter again.

Which I will probably use to saw off my left arm so I can hurl it off a cliff and watch as is bounces off the craggy rocks on its way to drown in the cold, grey sea.

Stupid shoulder.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Accuquilt Go! A Thorough (and hopefully unbiased) Review (Part One)

Well, it finally happened. No, not that. Not that, either—what are you thinking? No, I mean that after a few years working within the Quilt Industrial Complex (and then basically showing it my middle finger and walking away from it), I have finally been Offered Stuff. For free. In exchange for...something undefined. We never got that far.

I'm not going to say what the product was, and I hope the marketing person who offered it to me understands that I am not shaming her or her company. Companies do have to market themselves, and one way to do that is to get the product out there where it can be used and mentioned by people with an audience. I totally get that. And I also get that quilting is an expensive hobby and it's nice to get free stuff. For many people in this industry, who make an actual living at quilting and pattern writing and such, those inherent expenses can be career-breaking unless they develop a relationship with certain companies who can supply them with fabric and other necessities and offset some of that cost.

And while I do occasionally write and sell my own patterns, it is not a big enough enterprise for me to really justify free stuff for it. I mean, I can barely be bothered to blog about my actual sewing, since most of it is experiments that end up in the reject pile. I can see why a company would want me to use and promote their stuff. I do have an audience, and it's a pretty engaged audience as well, and that's what marketers generally look for. I'm frankly surprised that after all this time someone out there only just now picked up on that.

I won't go into all my reasoning, because I tend to get long-winded about this stuff, but I just don't want to be a representative of anybody but me. When I tell you "this is what I think," I want you to know that it is actually what I think and not what I've been paid or otherwise influenced to say.

I do realize that I probably overthink this stuff, but I have a hard enough time getting a good night's sleep as it is—I don't need questions of minor ethics plaguing me at night. So I chose to decline their kind offer. Because the review I'm going to do today (about a totally unrelated product) is the only kind I really want to do. I bought something with my own money because I wanted to see if it would fill a need. And now, I can tell you all kinds of things about it without consciously or unconsciously censoring myself, because mama don't owe nobody nothing. (That's three negatives; I think that works.)

So, without further blather:

The Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter: A Review



I have had my eye on one of these things for years, but couldn't commit to laying out the scratch. The main reason I was interested in it was accuracy. I am kind of a freak about having my pieces line up properly. See this magnificent beauty?


That's several years of practice right there. So, the accuracy I have been trying to accomplish has actually become attainable, and I thought perhaps a die cutter was no longer necessary or desirable.

Then my shoulder decided to be a total bitch.

About two months ago, I started having problems with my left shoulder, and, being the sort of person I am, decided what that shoulder obviously needed was yoga. Helps with all kinds of other things, so why not this? Instead, it got worse. I lost a lot of range of motion and many normal tasks just hurt like hell. I saw an orthopedist who injected my shoulder with steroids and sent me home with a stretchy yellow band and a sheet of exercises to do for six weeks. If it wasn't better in six weeks, the next step, they said, would be an MRI and then physical therapy.

MRI on Friday!

So, in the meantime, I cannot do any rotary cutting. (Well, I can, but I regret it later.) I happened to have a bit of money put away from a side job, so I decided to take the plunge and buy a cutter and some dies and see if I could use it with only one fully functional appendage. Why did I choose an Accuquilt? The other most popular cutter seems to be made by Sizzix, and it looks like the Sizzix cutters are generally cheaper. In addition, I have heard that Accuquilt dies can be used in Sizzix machines, but no dies other than Accuquilt's can be used in any of the Accuquilt cutters. So why did I pick something more expensive and possibly less versatile? 

Because the Sizzix website made me mad. They have a million different cutters, and I could not find a simple chart to tell me the differences between them. One, called the Fabi, seems to be marketed to quilters, but there's no clear indication as to why it would be more desirable for that purpose than one of the others. And do you want to find the quilting dies? Good luck. There is a drop down menu under "Products" at the top of every page, and the "Quilting" choice in bold letters in that menu only takes you to a page that shows you pictures of four different cutting machines. WITH NO LINKS TO ANY OF THEM. And dies? What dies? So, you go back and look at that menu again, and finally, you find another listing for quilting, under "Themes." Themes. Birthday, Halloween, Seasons, Pastafarianism, Porn, and Quilting. (Just kidding. there's no Pastafarianism dies.) I am a woman with a searing, white hot pain in her shoulder—I do not have time to dick around on your website looking for what I want. Themes, indeed.

But honestly, quilting for Sizzix seems almost to be an afterthought, though I know lots of quilters use it and even people like Victoria Findlay Wolfe design dies for them. But it still feel like their main focus is paper and scrapbooking (at least that's the impression I get from all the emails I now receive from them), and while that doesn't mean their cutters and dies aren't perfectly serviceable, even wonderful, for quilting, it's something that could sway an individual on the fence about what system to purchase towards the competitor. Like, oh say, me.

Accuquilt's website is very clear, because they are only marketing to quilters. They also have four basic models: small, medium, large, and electric (Go! Baby, Go!, Studio 2, and Go! BIG Electric). This simplifies things, despite all the stupid exclamation points, and clearly is meant to soften up cranky women who are pissed off about being in pain for two solid months. We could call this predatory, but we'll let it slide for now.  They have a lot of helpful videos, if you are into that sort of thing. I admit, I hate taking the time to watch a video, but that's because I am a very fast reader and would rather glean the specific information I want from text than sit through 20 minutes of perky people chirping about their product over some doot dee doot dee doot music. But that's just me. I will also admit that I ended up ordering from Amazon and not from the Accuquilt website, because I also decided on some dies that were not in stock there. I'm an instant (or at least next day air) gratification kind of girl.

Large, heavy packages arrived the next day, and I immediately started playing with my new toy, even though it was dinnertime and people were hungry and whiny about it.  Did I love it? Do I now want to marry it and have a million little Bitchuquilt (Accubitch?) babies? Or do I curse the name of Accuquilt forever and wish its inventor a lifetime of butt boils?

That's Part Two (coming soon). Also in Part Two, I'll talk about specifics of the machine, how it works, how well it works, as well as what pitfalls you may encounter when using one. I hope to post this on Thursday, January 7, but if my left arm actually falls off my body, it may take a bit longer. 


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Greatest Quilt-Related Advertising Campaign Ever.

Warning: this post has f-bombs and other atrocities. 


Apple's 1984 spot. Wendy's "Where's the beef?" The crazy hot Old Spice dude. Advertising has long been a vehicle for artistry in visual media as well as for cutting edge humor. And crazy hot shirtless guys. But even today, advertising for quilt-related products tends to be pretty dull. There seems to be a tradition of not wanting to rile up quilters too much—I mean, I assume this is why most quilt books read like they are written by the teacher in Ferris Beuller. ("Anyone? Anyone? Voodoo economics.") And sure, we deal with beautiful fabrics and patterns and so some visual interest is bound to occur in an ad without anyone really trying. But as far as I can tell, there have been no truly creative ad campaigns in all the time that I've been quilting.

Except one.

Way back in, oh, 2008 or 2009, one longarm company dared to buck the trend of dull, predictable advertising. One rogue business declared that they and they alone would rise above the dreck and create an ad with story, with drama, with—dare I say? yes, I think I dare—heart. I do not know how the masterminds who dreamed up this magnificence referred to their creation, but I have always thought of this ad as: What The Fuck, Martha?

Behold:


Let's examine this brilliance more closely.


In this top panel, we have your average home sewist (Tiffany, perhaps?) happily stitching away on curtains THAT ARE ATTACHED TO THE CURTAIN ROD. She has just grabbed the nearest fabric and started in on it because that's the kind of guerrilla quilter she is. She doesn't have time to shop, or plan, or even cut fabric, dammit, because when the itch to stitch is upon her she will not be stopped. Sure, she looks calm, even serene, but right now she is a sewing beast and if you try to gently point out that she is acting like a total nutburger, she will cut you. You best just back off and thank the gods she didn't get a look at your new pants before she started in on those curtains.

But, then, this happens.


What the fuck, Martha? Martha has just shown up out of nowhere with a giant longarm setup, and has apparently vandalized Tiffany's curtains by cutting out a star shape that is only vaguely reminiscent of the stars she is quilting on. And Tiffany is all, "Explain this, bitch." And Martha is like, "Well I saw you just grabbing the curtains and stitching on them in a completely random spot and so I just assumed it was Do Inexplicable Shit to Curtains Day." And Tiffany's face gets redder as she responds through clenched teeth, "But I can't fix this, Martha. MY SEWING MACHINE WONT REACH THAT HIGH." And we are left to assume that Martha is either now dead or on the run, because nobody fucks with Tiffany's curtains.

Truly, has any other ad campaign in our quilty little world even come close to matching this one for sheer entertainment value? Did they hire an ad agency for this? Because there is so much about this that screams "I have no idea what quilters actually do so Imma take a guess." But then somebody at the longarm company had to look at this campaign proposal and approve it. Someone high up in the ranks kicked his feet up on a desk, tented his fingers under his chin, and considered the tale of Tiffany and Martha until he finally leapt to his feet and shouted, "YES. This accurately represents our product AND our brand! Now, bring me brandy for my snifter and a pretty secretary for my lap" Both of those people, whoever they are, are geniuses in my eyes.

And to this longarm company, I plead: Bring back Tiffany and Martha. The world of quilt product advertising today is a barren wasteland, devoid of the kind of head-scratchingly awesome storytelling you managed in one beautiful print ad so many years ago. Bring them back and continue their utterly nonsensical tale. Do it for the quilters. We need you.

And maybe add in a couple crazy hot shirtless dudes. That often works too.


*********************************************


Please remember, The Bitchy Stitcher is my personal blog and also the place where I experiment with quilty humor pieces. If you have signed up for getting posts by email, you will get exactly that: posts via email. As of right now, I do not send out newsletters. If you don't like my posts, that's perfectly fine and understandable. But please either stop reading, or unsubscribe from the emails (there's a handy link for that at the bottom of each email). Lecturing me doesn't work, and threatening to unsubscribe just means I will go ahead and do it for you.