Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Back to School Blog Hop

My good friend Sam Hunter has rounded up a TON of really cool bloggers to participate in a month-(plus a few days) long Back to School Blog Hop for Quilters and Sewists. And she asked me to participate as well, probably to keep me from whining. The full list of bloggers and their dates/topics is below. This hop isn't about plugging somebody's new book or gadget or fabric line—it's just quilters sharing knowledge. Hope to see you back here on the 9th, when I will be discussing The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine. (Hint: there may be cocktails involved.)

Also please note: neither Sam nor I can control when each person on the list posts. Sometimes things come up. People forget. Some posts may not show up until later in the day or even the day after because of Life. So please be patient and forgiving with everyone.

Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuilts – So, Does that Diagonal Method for a Pieced Backing Really Work
Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com – The Quilter’s Knot
Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams – The Importance of Pressing
Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts – Color Coding for Paper-piecing
Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio – How to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt Studio – Credit where Credit is Due
Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique
Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit
Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101
Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips
Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Je’s Bend – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3LittleBrds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reps with a rep

Photo credit: Denise Krebs https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/10108833314/

A friend of mine was shopping at a quilt store recently (one very, very far from me) which she said had a great selection. She happened to ask the proprietress about a certain line and was told they don't carry anything from that particular manufacturer. Being the curious type, my friend asked, "Oh? Is it a problem with the fabric?" To which the shop owner replied, "No, it's a problem with the rep."

I remember sales reps from my days as an optician. Depending on the size of the eyewear company in question, the reps' sales territories might cover a couple states or the entire eastern half of the United States plus Puerto Rico. They traveled around with samples of every pair of eyeglasses the company currently carried and would pull out trays of them from their bags to show us and extol the virtues of each. "Now, this frame is made of a special alloy of titanium and cannotpronouncium, which is mined by specially trained Mongolian yaks.  This puke green color was all the rage at Fashion Week this year, and this clunky square shape is trés moderne." This was how we generally stocked the store with new product, except for occasional re-orders of frames that sold well and ones that we ordered at Vision Expo, the eyewear industry equivalent of Quilt Market.

Because the reps wanted us to wear their product, we often got free frames—one of the few perks in an otherwise sucky job. They were also the gateway to POS, which is how we referred to the decorative stuff that you could use in displays. (It stood for Point Of Sale, not Piece Of Shit.) Generally, the more we bought, the more POS we could have, but some reps would pile it on for us, because they knew we'd be more likely to make a dedicated display if we had the POS to go with it.

It's been over 10 years now since I worked in that industry, and I have deliberately shoved large portions of the experience out of my mind in order to maintain a relatively happy life, but I can't really remember having any major problems with one of our sales reps. I didn't particularly love some of them. One guy was kinda smarmy and fake, and I wouldn't have wanted to catch a drink with him after, but we liked the product and he didn't have cooties or anything. Some reps we hugged when they walked in because we truly liked them. Some we wanted to hug because they were hotties, but we didn't because we were both taken and way too shy. One had been my boss once upon a time, and pretty much taught me everything I knew, so he was a favorite too.

Some sales reps we never saw except at Vision Expo. We carried Oliver Peoples when they first came out, and at the time it was trying to position itself as a high-end boutique brand. You couldn't price the pieces lower than their suggested retail, and they weren't supposed to place it in more than one shop within the same area (though they did.) I don't recall ever getting a visit from an Oliver Peoples rep, but we did have an appointment with them at Vision Expo, the year that I got to go. Most frame companies set up booths in the Jacob Javits convention center in NYC, but certain other companies set up in giant suites in swanky hotels. If I remember correctly, Oliver Peoples set up their operations in the Ritz Carlton at Central Park. We rode the shiny elevators to one of the top floors and walked into a giant suite, staffed by models disguised as frame sales reps. It was hard not to feel like Dumpy McHickerson around them, which did not endear me towards them particularly, but they did their jobs just fine. My point being that even though I didn't love all our reps—okay, I may have irrationally despised the models and wished them dermatological problems—I don't think there were any I actually refused to work with.

But I have heard more than one comment from various parts about quilt shop owners hating certain sales reps and refusing to buy from the company they work for. Apparently (and someone can correct me if I am wrong), even circumventing the rep and making a purchase directly with the manufacturer still puts a commission in the rep's pocket, and so some shop owners will avoid doing even that because they don't want the rep to get any of their money. THIS IS FASCINATING TO ME. I mean, what does it take to piss of your clients so much they refuse to carry your company's product at all, even if they love it and would sell the hell out of it? Showing up drunk? Insulting your mother? Sleeping with your spouse? Are they dismissive, rude, unhelpful? What services, besides showing up and letting you see fabric samples, do sales reps provide that perhaps these evil ones do not? I am being very serious here. If you own a quilt shop or work in one and have some insight into what makes a crappy rep, leave me a comment or (if you want to be sure to preserve anonymity) email me at dontdrinkandquilt (at) gmail (dot) com. And conversely, when you absolutely LOVE a rep, what is it that fuels your ardor?  And if, by some chance of fate, there is a fabric sales rep out there who wants to tell his or her side of the story, by all means contact me. What makes shops wonderful or awful to work with? What do you wish shop owners knew about your business that would help you do yours better? (And let me just say here that I am NOT suggesting that all fabric sales reps are awful. I just want to know what makes a bad one and what makes a good one within the quilt fabric industry, so please sheathe your daggers now. I am also NOT looking to out anyone you dislike, so no names or identifying details please.)

Let's dish!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Change your whole life with this ONE WEIRD TRICK

Our summer began with the opening of my store, Clever Notions, and the release of my first quilt patterns, and I had thought that it would be the beginning of a summer of quilting and writing and steering my quilt life in a direction that would actually have, you know, a direction—instead of just a let's-see-if-I-feel-like-accomplishing-something-today kind of thing. As usual, I also made a half-hearted attempt at something like a diet and exercise program. One thing I did was I managed to give up soda (yes, full sugar soda - shut up) for almost a month early in the summer. I also tracked all of my calories and consistently kept my caloric intake under 1800 calories a day, usually more like 1300-1500.

And I gained 4 fucking pounds.

So I threw my hands up. What's the point? Why suffer only to gain weight when my normal awful diet keeps me at a consistent weight? Clearly, I've just reached that age where the entire universe conspires to keep you fat, and maybe I should just learn to accept it. If it means I don't have to give up Dr. Pepper, great. I love that goddamn stuff.

Then my husband decided to train for a 10K.

David is not an athlete by any stretch, though he used to run years ago, back in college. In the past couple of years, he has started exercising in the mornings, a routine of pushups and planks and burpees and huffnagles and I don't know what all. He still has his Buddha belly, and still could stand to drop at least 20 pounds, but he has managed to build a little muscle. His diet has never been full of junk food. He loves all kinds of vegetables and eats a ton of them, but he's never said no to a second sausage either. And if I make a pan of cinnamon rolls, he's right there with me scraping the last of the icing out of the bottom. So, sure, there was room for improvement, but it wasn't like he spent his days in a flurry of Big Mac wrappers and Twinkie crumbs.

I was pretty proud of him for deciding to do the 10k, but at first he was only running a couple times a week. He told me the running was really hard, harder than it had ever been for him, and I reminded him that he was about to turn 50 and I couldn't remember the last time he actually ran farther than the bathroom. Of course it's hard! In fact, I said, if you are serious about training, you really ought to run more often. Run shorter distances if you need to at first, but once a week ain't gonna cut it. In the face of my staggering wisdom, he agreed and tried to start running more often.

Most of these times, I didn't see him, or saw him after he had already walked home from the trail where he runs. He kept saying it was too hard, harder than it should be. Finally, he told me he wanted to see a cardiologist, just to get everything checked out. The cardiologist scheduled an ultrasound, which looked fine, and then a stress test. As the stress test approached, I asked him more about what he was feeling when he ran. It was a tightness, he said, a tightness in his chest and he couldn't keep going, but it wasn't his lungs. Whatever it was, he knew it wasn't right.

They stopped the stress test half way through because they were "seeing something." He was scheduled for cardiac catheterization a few weeks later. Let me just say, though I'm sure I don't need to say it, those were a looooong few weeks.

He went in on Tuesday for the cath procedure. After he had been in for half an hour or so, they told me they had found "a couple blockages" and were inserting stents. And about 45 minutes after than the cardiologist who did the procedure came out to talk to me.

"Both his right coronary artery and his left anterior descending artery were over 90% blocked, one of them was 99% blocked. the remaining artery is currently 50% blocked. This is a LOT of coronary artery disease for such a young man and he was at a very high risk of a heart attack or a stroke at any time."

I have been keeping a game face on for what feels like months now, not wanting to scare David or scare the kids, but this was what I was afraid we were going to hear. It's one thing to find out you're sick, you have a condition, and this is what we are going to do to treat it—it's another to hear you were walking around with a gun to your chest. Or to hear that about someone you love.

But I kept my game face on, because I was in a waiting room full of people whose mothers and fathers and spouses were there for the same reason, and I wasn't going to lose my shit around them. I kept it on when they took me back to see David, and I had to explain things to him over and over because the drugs were still making him woozy and unable to retain information. I kept it on as I sat with him, as the cardiologist came back to give us the Come to Jesus talk, as they transferred him to a room for overnight observation. I kept it on when I went home to get the kids and feed them and then bring them to the hospital to say hi to daddy and then back home and into bed. And except for few moments of crankiness from the stress of trying to get everyone everything they need, I've kept it on and kept it on, and now I'm starting to wonder if I've lost my ability to really let go and express everything that I really feel.

Because oh sweet merciful fuck am I freaked out. A little over 10 years ago, David's younger brother had a heart attack at age 37, and David immediately high-tailed it to a cardio doc and got himself checked out. "You look great," they said. "Everything looks good. Come back in 10 years and we'll see where you are then."

Only ten years later, and he could have died.

He came home on Wednesday, and we have eaten low-fat, low-cholesterol for every meal. I have replaced the half-and-half he pours in his coffee every morning with fat-free, my 2% milk is now skim. I am collecting vegetarian and heart-healthy magazines and books and combing our shelves to get rid of everything that could kill him. I have given up my sodas again and pushed away the breads and crackers that I snack on. In short, I am changing everything I eat in order to help him change what he eats, and so we will be on this journey together. When he is cleared again to exercise, I will do it as well, every day, because I know how hard it is to keep going and it's just a little bit easier when your spouse participates. I want to give him any edge I can, because there's little else I can do.

And if I don't, I know that in another 10 years, it could be me.

So, our summer didn't turn out quite the way I had planned. But that's okay. Because we have a lot of summers now ahead of us.

And just in case it might help someone, here are some of the signs of a heart attack. It isn't always a huge, crushing pain that makes you clutch your chest and fall down, so it's important to listen to your body and get help if you think something is wrong.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Minimalist Quilt Studio

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
- William Morris

“Where the hell are my scissors?” 
- Me

We live in an age of acquisitiveness. We have closets and dressers full of clothes that are never worn, collections of knick-knacks that gather dust, and many of us frankly have way too many cats. It’s not normal, all those cats. And for those of us who quilt, the desire to obtain, collect, and sometimes lick all the beautiful fabrics that comprise our craft borders on obsession. It certainly doesn’t help when fabric manufacturers routinely discontinue our favorite collections, only to release entirely new collections that subsequently become our favorites, until we are so numbed by novelty we stop noticing every single collection now has a deer print for no good reason.

We stuff our shelves with fat quarters and yardage and pre-cuts, most of which will sit for years, never knowing the joy of transforming into a painstakingly made wedding quilt that will eventually be used to line a dog crate. Collecting soon becomes hoarding, especially after we realize theTula Pink squirrel fabric now sells for $80 a yard on Instagram. Perhaps those ferret fabrics you dug out of the bargain bin at JoAnn’s will be worth just as much someday, who knows?

But are all those jelly rolls truly making us happy? Are the extra hours our spouses have to work in order to afford the Ikea furniture to store it all really worth it? Does stuffing our underpants to capacity with mini-charm packs really feel as good as we say it does? And just how much yardage can you really lick before you start to cough up fiber-balls? (Hint: It’s less than you think.)

What if I were to tell you that there is joy to be found in owning less fabric, in having fewer gadgets, in saying no to yet another pattern? Would you call me crazy? Try to run me out of town on a rail? Do you even know what a rail is or how to get one? No really, I’m asking, do you? It’s for a friend.

To help you on your journey towards a simpler sewing life, here are seven ways you can start to de-clutter your studio and begin your new stitching life free from the burdens of too many possessions:

1. Keep track.  Take note of every sewing-related purchase you make in a month. How quickly did you run out of paper? How many of those purchases were late-night sales on Instagram for Tula squirrels? Ask yourself this: Are you really in love with pink rodents, or are you just following the latest rodent trend? If naked mole rat fabric starts selling for twenty bucks a fat quarter, are you gonna want that too? Actually, naked mole rat fabric would be pretty cool. But, see, we didn’t know that before and now we do.

2. Get rid of duplicates. Just how many Wonder Clips do you really need? When you stop to think about it, do you even need more than one pin? You can just sew until you reach that one, pull it out, and put it in further down. And let’s talk about sewing machines, shall we? Be honest—how many do you own? Really? That many? Wow. Okay, well, maybe consider paring those down to just six or seven. Wouldn’t want to be hasty.

3. Clear off flat surfaces. Tables, desks, shelves, toilet seats—these are all magnets for clutter. Develop a zero-tolerance policy for storing things on all the flat surfaces in your studio, and you’ll find your creativity soaring as you can now probably walk past your cutting table without causing an avalanche. And where should you now keep all the stuff you took off your tables? I bet you have room where some of those sewing machines used to be.

4. Sell what you don’t need. When you noted all of your sewing-related spending, you were probably shocked to discover just how much capital you have tied up in squirrels. Get a return on your investment by re-selling those rodents for far more than you paid for them on Instagram. I know several people who have paid for college tuition by selling bags of the lint produced from sewing on Heather Ross Mendocino fabrics. And if you don’t have a lot of in-demand and out-of-print fabrics to sell? Just put together a “scrap bundle” full of random pieces with a tiny sliver of some Lizzy House hedgehogs hanging out—people will gladly pay top dollar for just the possibility of some good rodents.

5. Go paperless. Nearly every sewing and quilting book on the market today is also available in an e-book version, so there’s no need to cram your shelves full of tree-killing hard copies. Besides, how many quilts have you actually made from any of those books? If you really feel the need to get the full quilt book experience, just read something that makes your eyelids droop and then go look at a churn dash block and call it modern. I promise you, it’s exactly the same.

6. Practice mindful sewing. In order to truly appreciate the quilt you are making, you must become one with it. As you sew, honor the fabric by petting it gently, telling it how pretty it is, and assuring it that you love it even if it has no rodents on it. Slow down your machine and time your stitches to your breathing. Breathe in as the needle comes up, out as it descends. Keep a paper bag handy. Engage all your senses while sewing: feel the fabric; see it’s beauty; hear the gentle whir of the machine; smell and then taste the weird crusty spot that suddenly appeared in the middle of your block. Maybe it’s peanut butter and you could use the protein. Be grateful for this unexpected snack.

7. If you get discouraged, remember the reasons you are simplifying. When you’re having a hard time letting go of rodents or clearing away nine or ten of your sewing machines, just remember: this isn’t about you. This is all about sticking it to that one person in mini-group who thinks she’s soooo great just because her sewing room looks like magic elves clean it up every night. Yeah, right. Magic elves from the magic maid service company. Paid for by her magic trust fund. 

If you found these tips helpful, be sure to visit our store, quiltmorewithlesscrap.com, to pick up inspirational key chains, ash trays, t-shirts, throat lozenges, office supplies, toothpicks, feminine hygiene products, Lego sets, and novelty ice cube trays.

*Hey, if you liked this, and you'd like to read more, I have a whole book of this stuff! It's called Quilting Isn't Funny and you can get a paperback copy or a PDF right here! (If you prefer Kindle or Amazon Prime, you can also get them on Amazon.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Introducing Daryl and Wildflower Park and Runway

I'm so excited I could bust a gusset! Okay, I've actually just really been wanting to say "bust a gusset" for a while now and this was a good excuse, but OMG YOU GUYZ I MADE QUILT PATTERNS! that's a pretty gusset-busting thing if you ask me.


Daryl was made during a major binge of The Walking Dead, and so I named it after my favorite character, the leather-clad, cross-bow wielding Daryl Dixon. I used Kona Silver for the background and the squares are made from a custom jelly roll I got from the wonderful Quilter's Square in Lexington, Kentucky.  (They will custom cut a 40-piece jelly roll in whatever color scheme you specify out of Bella and Kona solids. I asked for blue, purple, and teal, and I may have snuggled the resulting roll just a bit once I received it.)

My husband liked Daryl so much, he asked if we could hang it in the bedroom. 

This is the small size, but the pattern comes in small, medium and large. My intrepid pattern testers made different sizes and all came up with great color combos. 

Rebecca (of Becca's Crazy Projects) chose a really lovely yellow background and very pretty pink and orange and violet prints for her squares. I love how it softens the look of the whole quilt.

Up in Quebec, Manon (whose first language is not English, so I thought she'd be s great help to see if the writing was clear) chose a lovely jelly roll in shades of red for her squares. She even made a matching pillow out of the leftovers!

And Joanne also chose some pretty pinks and black for her color scheme, and experimented with the block settings to create a different look:

My friend Janet, who runs SLO Creative Studio in San Luis Obispo, California, chose a funky print for her background, which really looks cool:

And in living embodiment of the notion that "it's not a mistake, it's a design element," Terry overlooked the part of the pattern which tells you to keep your colors organized and her blocks all ended up scrappy AND IT'S FANTASTIC.

This pattern is available NOW as a PDF in my new shop.

And let's not forget WILDFLOWER PARK.

This scrappy field of flowers is a lot of fun to put together and the big centers on those flowers are just begging for some fussy cutting. (THIS IS WHAT CORGI BUTT FABRIC WAS MADE FOR.)  I end up with a lot of scraps in my stash, and this is a great pattern for using some of them up while still keeping a very cohesive look to the quilt.

The day I finished the binding on this one, it started snowing big, fluffy flakes, so I made my husband hold it up outside so I could get a shot of flowers in the snow. Cuz I'm arty like that.

Pattern tester Annette made it in the medium size and decided to gift it to a dear friend. I love her fabrics!

And Heidi of Happily Stitched made the large and chose a soft green for her background and gave me a lovely review of the pattern:

"Wildflower Park is a sweet pattern with a lot of flexibility. The instructions were clear and straightforward. A beginner quilter could accomplish this pattern with basic skills. It could also be used to teach techniques as it has just enough cutting, point matching and trimming to solidify skills. I had no problems understanding or following any of the instructions. Honestly, I did not work to match points. I mainly pinned seams and winged it. I cut off a few points but by golly you can't see them unless you get close and look. Not to mention in Oklahoma we never, ever have perfect flowers. The wind, rain and hail beat them to death on a regular basis. Wildflower Park is written to be simple and forgiving even to lackadaisical quilters like me. "

This pattern also comes in small (shown), medium, and large and is available now as a PDF in my shop. 

A million, bajillion thanks to Rebecca, Manon, Joanne, Janet, Terry, Annette, Heidi, and Joanie for all their help and feedback. 

And last but not least, RUNWAY

Testers for this pattern were not able to get me photos in time, nevertheless I can say with confidence that this one is fast and easy, and I love it because it uses all 2.5-inch strips, even the background. And there's even an alternate way to set the blocks so you get a different look:

I love this one so much, it's still hanging out on my design wall. This one also comes in three sizes and is—wait for it—available now as a PDF in my shop.

In addition to quilt pattern PDFs, my shop currently has my book (both the paperback and the PDF version), and my Quilt Dots! Quantities of Quilt Dots are currently limited, but they will be restocked when they sell out.

And don't worry - I'm not gonna be constantly bombarding you with pleas to buy my stuff, though I will give you a brief heads-up whenever anything new is stocked or anything sold out is re-stocked. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Clever Notions

Cue trumpet fanfare, confetti, release of several white birds, some of which naturally poop on the assembled crowd, chorus line, terrible metal band no one actually invited, streakers, and riot police.

Now that everything is all official-like, I can finally show you what I've been up to. While the first few months of this year were taken up by getting ready for, having, and recovering from colon surgery, since then I've been plotting a new direction for my business life. Sales from my first book, Quilting Isn't Funny, were great, and what I loved most about that experience was that I was able to do it entirely on my own. I work best and am happiest when I work independently, and I am very, very fortunate to be in a position where I can do that.

I've worked with graphic design in some capacity since 2001—I've designed ad campaigns for local businesses, company logos, buttons, and t-shirts. I was even the art director for a quilting magazine. But almost all of those things were done as work-for-hire, or were licensed or manufactured through another party. I've worked as a writer and editor in periodicals since 2004, but almost always as the assistant or associate editor. And the content in my book, even though I produced the book itself on my own, was written under contract to others. Last year, I severed my last ties with a long-time employer in the quilting industry because I knew it was time to strike out on my own.

The almost constant illness of the last half of 2014 slowed me down a lot, but the gears still turned, and I knew I wanted to be able to start selling my own products from my own online storefront, as well as to produce more things and write more books. With the encouragement of my dear friend Sam Hunter, I also started working up some of my own original quilt designs into patterns, and I have been plotting to make my own embroidery designs for quite some time now.

I decided to start an entirely new company and brand, Clever Notions. The name originally came for one of my humor columns and was the name of a fictional quilt store that held an annual quilt design competition. I realized that it was perfect for my business, since it not only has sewing connotations, but really can cover almost anything, and therefore doesn't limit me in case I want to branch out beyond the quilting world in the future.

So, why didn't I stick with the name I've been using since I started this whole blogging and sewing thing back in 2008, The Bitchy Stitcher? I chose that name back then as a joke: when I decided to learn to quilt and to blog about it, I assumed that someone would have taken that name already as it seemed so obvious. But no! Not a soul, and I saw that this was because every blog back then was all cherries and lollipops and sweetness and well-lit photographs. I knew any blog I was gonna write was going to have ample cursing, frequent references to bodily functions, and poorly lit pictures of badly made beginner quilts. The Bitchy Stitcher was perfect, and, I assumed, would pretty much guarantee that no one would ever read me and I could maintain blessed anonymity forever.

And you see how well that worked out. :-)

In truth, the name The Bitchy Stitcher has been as much of an obstacle as it has been a good brand (and, god, I hate that word). Advertisers that you see on every blog everywhere won't advertise here. Facebook limits my reach because the name is "offensive." And despite the fact that I wish the world would pull the big stick out of its collective butt, I do understand that many people find the name objectionable. And while I could market my work to only you guys, in reality I need be able to market the stuff that has the possibility of wider appeal (such as quilt patterns) to a larger audience. It would suck if I started printing quilt patterns, and no one would carry them because of the word "Bitchy" on the cover.

But The Bitchy Stitcher is not dead! Oh, hell no. This blog will continue, and I'd really like to see it go back to what it used to be: a place where I can have fun, and talk about whatever I feel like, whether it's quilting related or not. This is where I can come to just be my normal snarky, sarcastic, pathologically introverted self. The Bitchy Stitcher is just me—not a brand. It doesn't work as a brand, and maybe it shouldn't. I've resisted the entire concept of "branding" throughout my career, but maybe that's because I didn't start out intending to become a brand. Or have one. However you're supposed to say it.

On Thursday, I'm going to show you my first two quilt patterns, which will be ready for sale (as PDFs) in my new Big Cartel store (link to come then as well). I'm working on a third pattern now, and there are other items in the works which will roll out as they become ready. If you'd like, you can subscribe to the new Facebook page which will also have all the announcements that pertain to my new venture.

And, as always, thank you all for joining me on this journey.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

So you want to sell (or buy) fabric on Instagram: a guide for the perplexed

I mentioned on a recent post that I occasionally buy and sell fabric through Instagram, the photo sharing phone app. I also noted that certain fabrics, such as out-of-print Tula Pink, can sell for absurdly high prices. This may have made some of you think to yourselves, "Hey, I have fabric. And I like sweet, sweet cash. Maybe I could sell some of my stash on Instagram." I recently saw someone do her first sale on IG—she posted little text pics letting everyone know it was coming and that it was her first sale and she was a bit nervous. She posted all her stuff—fabric and patterns and a couple sewn items—and...nothing. No sales. Not one bite. And that made me think that perhaps some of the things I've learned from observing, as well as from buying and selling, could be useful to those who want to give it a shot but aren't sure how it works or whether their stuff will sell. If nothing else, you'll learn that people are total nutburgers about certain designers and this may not be particularly healthy.

How It Works

First, you have to have the Instagram app and an account. Yes, it is a phone app, not a computer program or a website (there is a website, but it doesn't have the full functionality of the app). This may not seem fair, but there it is. 

You see other people's photos on IG by following them, or by doing searches for people or for hashtags. Hashtags allow you to see lots of photos of one subject, such as #narwhals or #recreationaldishwasherrepair. Groups who organize activities, such as swaps, through IG can use hashtags to allow group participants to see what others in the group are posting without having to follow every single person in the group. And the hashtag #thegreatfabricdestash is the one that is used for all the people selling fabric, generally quilting fabric. To look at all the pictures of fabric for sale, you do a search for that hashtag. To add your picture to the listings, use that hashtag in your photo caption.

You post a picture of the fabric you wish to sell. Either in the pic itself (written on a post-it or card, or added graphically) or in your caption, you say what the fabric is, how much of it there is, and the cost. Most people say "plus shipping" after the price, and so you know shipping charges will be added. Sometimes you'll see something like "$25 shipped" and this means shipping is included in the price.

If you wish to purchase the item, you must be the first person to comment and leave your Paypal email address and sometimes also your zip code. If you just sold the item, you then send your buyer an invoice through Paypal. Once it's paid, you ship the item.

Sometimes, certain things are sold auction-style. This is often done for highly sought-after fabrics, with the pretense of giving more people a chance to get it. There may or may not be a reserve price or a starting bid, but bids are made in the comments and you will often be asked to tag the person you just outbid. Auction ends whenever the seller says it does and the highest bidder gets the item.

Those are the essentials, but there's actually a few more things you should know.

1. Not everything sells. For whatever reason, hardly anyone seems to buy the more traditional style fabrics or batiks. It does happen sometimes, but for the most part, people are looking for more modern lines. 

2. Fabric by these designers sells best:
Tula Pink
Anna Maria Horner
Lizzy House
Bonnie and Camille
Melody Miller (especially the Kokka)

3. Out-of-print fabric from these designers can go for a lot more than the current average retail price of $10 a yard. Last year I bought a little over a yard of Melody Miller typewriters for $60. Yes, $60. I really wanted those typewriters. I recently sold a half yard of Tula Pink squirrels for $35. Which brings me to number 4:

4. Just because a fabric is out of print doesn't mean it isn't readily available for reasonable prices elsewhere. Because older Tula Pinks are so dear, people routinely try to sell Tula fabrics from more recent lines, such as Acacia and Fox Field, for similarly inflated prices, even though these can be found in various online shops for normal or even sometimes sale prices. (Yes, the Acacia raccoons sell for more because that particular print is actually harder to find. Most of the other prints from that collection, however, can still be found.) Before you shell out $15 for a fat quarter, do a quick Google search. Hit up some of the big online retailers such as Hawthorne Threads, and make sure you absolutely can't get that fabric cheaper elsewhere before you fund someone's next Disney vacation.

5. If you are buying fabric, read the sellers instructions completely and do what they ask. Some sellers will only ship flat rate but others will ship smaller items first class so they will ask you to include your zip code when you claim the item. You should probably make a habit of including it anyway. No, you will not get your home invaded because somebody saw your zip code on Instagram. Probably. You can always ask to have it deleted after you've paid.

6. Pay as soon as you can and ship as soon as you can. If you have time to be farting around on IG, you have time to honor your commitments.

7. If you know the designer and manufacturer of the fabric, say so. If you don't, say so. Don't try to hide the fact that it's from the bargain bin at Questionable Fabrics R Us by saying nothing.

8. Upselling is considered rude. Upselling is when you buy a highly sought-after fabric on IG and then turn around and re-sell it for more. My Melody Miller typewriters were sold to me with the condition that I not resell them. And no, there's no way anybody could police that, but it illustrates that people really hate it. And I agree. Because of number 9.

9. The spirit of selling fabric on IG is destashing, not retail sales. We all buy too much fabric and sometimes we realize we have things we're never going to use. Sometimes we just need some extra cash for something that's come up. That's what #thegreatfabricdestash on IG is for, not for retailers to expand their reach. They do it anyway, and there's no way to police it, but they are poopyheads. 

10. Just because you paid full retail for it doesn't mean you should get full retail for it. Unless we are talking about the really coveted stuff, or maybe less coveted but still popular lines that have only recently become hard to find, you should consider pricing it less than full retail. And you should definitely price it less than full retail if you have prewashed it, or you smoke, or you have farm animals that roll around on it.

11. If it doesn't sell, re-list. There are so many listings, things get lost. Re-listing increases the chance that someone who wants what you are selling will see it. (Just be sure to delete your original listing.) And if it still doesn't sell, re-list and lower the price.

12. If you insist on selling something at an insanely inflated price, be prepared for people to get pissy. Seriously, just deal with it. You know $100 for a yard of fabric is ridiculous. Somebody is bound to tell you so. Suck it up. (I know some people will think that I should say just be silent if you don't like the price of something, and I do think that's worthy advice. But I also think that if you're going to try to take advantage of people's mania for certain designers, you kind of deserve a little burn for it and should have a thick enough skin to take it when it comes.)

13. Be aware that there are people who apparently do nothing else besides buy fabric on IG. It can be hard to grab the good stuff because someone always seems to grab it first, and a lot of the same usernames crop up again and again. Just feel sorry for them that they have nothing better to do than refresh their IG feeds while you are out having a life with experiences and relationships. 

14. And if you really can't get even a square of something you are dying to own, try doing an ISO (In Search Of) post. Post a pic of the fabric you are looking for and tag it #isofabric (and even put the letters on the pic if you have the app for that). If it's not one from the list of most popular designers above, try tagging the designer as well. I fell in love with Jessica Levitt's collection Kingdom from 2011 after I discovered her recent line, Cascade. I put out a call and was able to get lots of the line, some from Jessica herself. Sometimes you can even do this with the highly coveted stuff and someone will help you out.

15. The majority of sales on IG are on the up and up. However, there have been occasions where a buyer pays and then never sees the package and can never reach the seller again, but from what I have seen these are rare in comparison with the vast number that go through without a hitch. What can you do if this happens to you? Basically, next to nothing. Call out the seller on IG, and file a dispute with Paypal, after all attempts to reach the seller have failed.

If you've been buying and selling fabric on Instagram, and you have more tips, please share in the comments.