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.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zorgon the Swapper

Those of you who are not on Instagram (and I do not blame you one bit) will have missed this, since I think I only posted about it there. I joined Instagram about 2 years ago and I have found it to be a nice alternative to Facebook. I hate Facebook so very much, yet I have to maintain a personal account in order to have a page for my blog, and my blog page is a huge and important marketing tool for me so I can't give it up. But, oh, if I could I would drop my personal account in a heartbeat. I had thought that FB was going to be a great thing for me since I am so introverted I'm practically inside out, but it turns out that all it has done is completely confirm my general dislike of humanity. I keep trying to look at it as a tool to observe people, to take notes on human nature (particularly quilter human nature - hoo boy!) but apparently human nature just makes me mad.

But Instagram, for me anyway, gives me a little more distance and I guess I also see it as an offshoot of my blog and not so much as a way to socialize. I like just popping up a picture and an innocuous caption, and seeing the same from friends and strangers alike. I've yet to see anyone get overtly political (though I'm sure people do) and the biggest foofaraw I've yet seen there was about people who sell fabric on IG charging outrageous prices for Tula Pink. (Seriously, y'all, if you have any old Tula fabric you don't want, go sell it on IG - you can make serious bank.) And of course, every few months comes the "Why are people so mean?" post and it makes me SO MAD that I don't know what the hell they're talking about. I've never seen anyone say anything mean on IG, and just like with the whole "quilt bullies" thing, I often suspect that "mean" is being equated with "mildly critical or just not dripping with unequivocal praise." 

Swaps are a big thing on Instagram, and I often see posts of people announcing swaps, joining them, and preparing the items they are making for their swaps. IG swaps have a lot of interesting themes, from certain designers to color schemes to fandoms and dirty words. In fact, earlier this year someone started a cussin' swap, called The Bitches Get Stitches Swap,  and I immediately signed up for it. The idea was to celebrate our mutual love of profanity by making something that used it in some way. You get assigned a partner and though your partner doesn't know who you are, you get to find out a little bit about them via a little survey everyone fills out, plus you can follow them on IG and other social media such as Pinterest to get a sense of what they like. All I could really gleam from my partner's stuff was that she liked "the f-word" and the color blue.

When my friend Sam Hunter came out with her book Quilt Talk, I fell in love with the fabric buckets she designed for it:

I decided to make my swap partner a special bucket. In Sam's book, you can use her paper-pieced alphabet to label the bucket, but what I wanted to say wouldn't have fit well that way, so I replaced the pieced panel with one I printed. I chose a blue Amy Butler print for the outside and a Kaufman print for the inside that I thought worked well.  This is what I made:

Why I have not yet made one of these for myself remains a mystery.

My swap partner was from Brazil and she decided to attempt embroidery for the first time. I think she did a fabulous job and also managed to intuit my deep, deep love for The Big Lebowski:

My second swap is a Lizzy House mini quilt swap. I have a ridiculous amount of Lizzy House fabric that I've been sitting on for a long time, and I thought it would be wise to give myself a reason to cut into it. It's so stupid to have all this fabric and never use it (though I could potentially solve our how-the-hell-are-we-going-to-pay-for-college dilemma by selling it). My partner indicated that she loved Lizzy's Constellations line, and that's what I happened to have the most of, so I hemmed and hawed over design until I finally decided on this:

But I couldn't decide if I liked it enough, and thinking about my Tula quilt, I thought I'd whip out a Lizzy rainbow Dresden plate as an alternative.

I love that pearl bracelet center so much.

Swaps are always a gamble because your partner may not be technically skilled or could even turn out to be a flake. Flakes are the people who commit to a swap and then don't put out. This is enough of a problem that some swap organizers have started keeping a list of the worst offenders. Some swappers volunteer to be "angels" who will make an item for someone whose partner has flaked out (or legitimately dropped out for personal reasons). with all of my fussing over getting things right, I will actually end up with two of each of these minis, so I can easily be an angel in this swap if needed. But I kinda hope I get to keep at least one.

If you are interested in joining Instagram, it works best as a phone or tablet app (you can access it via a desktop computer browser, but it doesn't offer the same functionality). If you want to see the kind of stuff I post, just click my big purple Instagram button at the top right of this page (those of you who read my blog posts via email can also click here) or you can search for me on IG by The Bitchy Stitcher or by my IG name: @meganzdougherty. The Z stands for Zorgon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Please (neglect to) Nominate Me For This Prestigious (non-)Award!

National Quilters Circle Blogger Awards - Nominate Me badge

A few days ago, I was contacted by a marketing person for something called The National Quilters Circle. He informed me that this circle thing is holding blogger awards and that my blog had come up several times in nominations, presumably for Most Humorous Blog. He thought that I might want to encourage my readers to go and nominate me in this category, so that I can win the coveted title and lord it over all the other quilting humor blogs out there. When quilting humorists get together, I can wear my 2015 National Quilters Sphere Most Humorous Blog Award Winner t-shirt that I will totally have to make myself because they don't actually provide such a thing to the winners, and I can puff out my chest, where the logo is located, and be all, "Do YOU have a 2015 National Quilters Rhomboid Quadrilateral Most Humorous Blog Award Winner t-shirt? NO YOU DON'T." And then that one blogger will rip off her jacket, revealing her own self-made t-shirt and then we'll have to take it outside where I will most definitely mess her up because mama don't play.

So you can see why one might think I would be keen to win such a thing. Now, these contests have come up before, and I have on occasion half-heartedly posted a link on Facebook and suggested that maybe if people had nothing better to do they might want to think about going and nominating me. And a small handful of people always responds. But I have never actually gone on my blog and begged for nominations and votes. BUT NO MORE. Today I stand before you, my hat in my hand, my heart on my sleeve, my Cheetos on their way to my mouth because it's totally snack time, and I entreat you: please go to the National Quilting Illuminati Triangle and nominate my humble little blog for Most Humorous Quilting Blog.

I'm totally kidding. Don't bother. Here's why:

The National Quilters Circle is not a circle of any kind unless you are familiar with the Italian poet Dante. It is the brainchild of a company called TN Marketing, and they specialize in something called "affinity content marketing." The basic idea is that they develop and host video content related to something in which a large number of like-minded people might be interested, such as quilting or recreational dishwasher repair. In fact, the National Quilters Circle is a thing this marketing company came up with themselves. They were not hired by quilters to do this. They also came up with "The Woodworkers Guild of America" (which is not a guild of any kind) and "The Personal Defense Network" (which is not a network of any kind). All of these sites are built on the same platform: there are free videos and there are "premium" videos. You become a paid member in order to access the "premium" videos, and this can be paid as a monthly or a yearly fee. There's a blog. And a couple items thrown into a store for sale, mostly DVDs and more portals for the "premium" service. That's it.

In addition, I looked at some of the free videos, and I immediately noticed something. A couple years ago, DailyCraftTV.com (itself a part of Fons and Porter and which I don't even think still exists) asked me to review their site, and I got access to a video of my choice. I took screenshots of some of the videos and they were all filmed in this same little studio:

Now check out the background (and the teacher!) of this free video from That National Quilters Circle:

Now, I can't imagine a marketing firm being willing to actually set-up, film, and produce quilting videos themselves; it wouldn't be cost-effective. So, they have to get the content from somewhere—perhaps a place that already produces and markets videos and has extra ones on hand to sell or one that couldn't make their own paid content business model work and can sell it off to another company who wants to try to make a go of it.

None of this is secret and took me literally five minutes of internet clicking to figure out.

Now, before the rabid Randian capitalists among you start calling for my head, let me just say this: I do not care that this company is trying to make money. We're all trying to make money in some fashion. And in an economy that is becoming more and more internet-based, people have to be a bit more creative about how they make that money. I get that. But I also have this old-fashioned streak in me that thinks selling stuff should ideally be a little more straightforward. I have stuff to sell. I hope to have more stuff to sell fairly soon. When I do, I will show you my stuff, and direct you to the place or places where you can purchase it if you wish. If you buy my stuff, it helps my family and keeps me off the streets so I can keep writing goofy shit on the internet for you to enjoy. It's the Circle of Life. But I'm not going to suggest via a cleverly crafted name that buying my stuff makes you a member of some elite club. And I can be totally open about where the stuff I'm selling comes from: me. When The Bitchy Stitcher pops up on your Facebook feed, it's just me. And there's lots of us out there trying to honestly make a buck or two without having to resort to weird branding schemes to do it.

I don't want you to march over to their Facebook page and loudly declare that you will not be taken in by such schemes. I'm not looking for anyone to write nasty emails or blog comments. I just want to help you be a little more aware as a consumer of stuff and content on the web just how often you are being marketed to in this way. If I had just posted a link to The National Quilting Circle blog nominations page, would you have looked a little deeper? Would you have looked up the url for the website (which is different from the blog nominations page) and scrolled down to read all the About Us and Contact Us and Terms of Service info that would, if you paid attention, lead you to the name of the marketing company that runs it and then to their website which declares that they made this up themselves? If you shared a link from someplace called The National Quilting Circle, wouldn't it feel as though you were linking to something produced by a prestigious organization on par with AQS? Of course it would—that's the point.

If the videos obtained by and now sold by this marketing firm are genuinely helpful and good and worth your dollars, then spend and view in good health! There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a commodity to sell and nothing wrong with buying it if you want it. There's nothing wrong with companies using this firm to help them market themselves via video content. I just hope that the next time you see a contest, a Facebook page, an ad for something that calls itself a circle or a club or a network, take the five minutes it took me to do some Googling and read some fine print to see what it's really all about.  That exclusive group you just joined might really be a group of marketing execs hoping you'll hand over your credit card info after giving them some free advertising.

But remember: if it's a Movement, you totally want to join that shit.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New from Effluvia Fabrics

Last week, I was perusing the interwebz for sale fabric and I stumbled across a small, unassuming little notification in an online shop that a collection of scented fabrics would be available soon.

Scented. Fabrics.

For a moment, I hoped I had read this in error and it really said sentient fabrics, because that would be less terrifying. But no. Scented fabric. Fabric imbued with some sort of alien stink technology that you can probably never wash out and which eventually infects every other fabric it touches with its invisible stench rays.

I honestly cannot imagine who thought this was a good idea. Probably somebody who has never been to a guild where half the membership wants the entire group to sign a pledge never to take a shower in the same bathroom where somebody has once stored a sealed container of Bath and Body Works shower gel within 2 weeks of attending a meeting. People are freaky about smells. Some people really do have reactions to perfumes and need to carry an Epi-pen at all times or they get migraines if exposed to certain smells, but lots of people just hate to smell anything they didn't cause.

And you just know the available smells are going to be pretty predictable: strawberry, lemon, grape, some sort of rosy flower, maybe cinnamon. Lavender. In the fabric collection I saw, there was a grey one and the name of it didn't indicate what the smell was supposed to be, so I'm hoping it's something like Storm Runoff  or Dust Bunnies or That Chair That Grandpa Won't let Grandma Throw Out Because It Still Smells Like The Cigars He Used to Smoke Back In The Days When A Man Could Enjoy A Nice Stogie After Work Without Somebody Getting All Up In His Grill About Lung Cancer. Of course if you want that smell, just buy some fabric on eBay.

In fact, here are some of the smells I think they should offer:
• Salted caramel (because let's face it, that's just good business—every quilter on earth is apparently in some sort of intimate relationship with salted caramel. I have no idea if you can even smell the salted part, but I guarantee you no one will care.)
• Tom Hiddleston's neck
• And...no, that's it. That's all I got. Seriously, who thought this was a good idea?

And why stop with smell? Surely even now fabric scientists are hard at work developing a viable formula for flavored fabrics. And again, the offerings would probably be pretty obvious: strawberry, lemon, grape. Chocolate. The tears of one's enemies. I would buy a ton of taco flavored fabric just because I could, but only as long as it didn't smell. Smells are gross.

I bet what those little Howard Starks are actually keeping in the vault is acoustic fabric—fabric you can hear. Using a special type of nano-thread that can record several seconds of sound, the fabric stays perfectly silent until it is touched. Then it sends signals through the nervous system directly into the ear drum, so the fabric communicates directly with the consumer. Naturally, several companies would see this strictly as a marketing opportunity and embed ads in the fibers, but the truly enterprising would realize that this is the best way for quilters to listen to dirty audio books while sewing. Or if you could buy fabric with one word per color or print , you could create a quilt that sends a message as you run your hand over it, such as "Get your dirty, stinking mitts off my quilt, bitch."

Who knows what's next on the horizon, but scented fabrics are really a thing that is coming to invade your nostrils. I only wonder if somebody remembered to send them the deer memo?