Adjusting My Fabric Arts Business Plan

For some time now I have thought I would monetize my little business by selling downloadable embroidery designs and printable appliques and just toss out a book or a quilt or two for sale every now and then.

I have been working very hard in recent weeks on rebuilding my website, setting up an online shop, and trying to figure out how to place an Amazon associates button on the sidebar in this blog…all designed to bring me a little money so I can keep on making show quilts and  writing blogs.

I have a new plan, which I have just put into action.  I have discovered if I do the downloadable items they will absorb all my time and I don’t enjoy making them like I enjoy making show quilts or writing how-to books and this blog.  Besides, I don’t think ultimately they will bring in enough to pay me for those hours of work I don’t much enjoy.

So if you click to my main website link at the top of this post, you will find several things there:  my gallery of all my main quilts (it runs a little slowly at the moment…I’m working on that), my bio, my current projects list, a list of national/international shows, and a link to my shop.  Take the tour.  I have four quilts currently for sale on my new little shop.  There will be more in the future, along with my books and I may have some other things from time to time.

My new plan is this..1) Make show quilts designed to sell, 2) Show quilts in a couple of shows and get them appraised in their third show 3) By the third show I can generally tell whether it is going to win ribbons or not, so at this point I will start offering it for sale at another couple of shows and on my new little store.   If I somehow miraculously make a big winning quilt, I will probably not sell that one…just keep entering it as long as possible in other shows and use it for trunk shows.

In addition to the quilts, I will continue to write and test the projects in my books and the first of those will be out by the end of October…in time for Christmas…if I possibly can do this.  My son David is going to publish them through his small press “Fennec Fox Press” (the other link at the top of the blog).  In other words…I’m more or less self publishing them, and they will be available on Amazon.

I’m getting help on putting the Amazon associates button on this blog, since I haven’t been able to get that to work yet.  That is where I will recommend the products I have found work best for my techniques and if you click through the button to buy the products I will get a small percentage of the profit.  It may not be much, but every little bit helps and it is a way I can help you to find the products too.

Hopefully, this plan will enable me to bring in a little supplemental income so I can go to shows, buy machines when needed, keep my supplies well stocked, and pay for unexpected items like dentists or home repairs.

It’s a plan.  We’ll see how it works.  Wish me well in this endeavor.

Sew happy everyone!  Cheers.

 

A Fun Quilty Week

This has been a quilt-filled week, starting last Sunday when Beth, my daughter-in-law, and I went to see the Sacred Threads quilt show together. We had a lot of fun. The quilts were interesting and, in many cases, moving. I took a lot of pictures, but I am only including the picture I took of Vikki Pignatelli, the founder of the show, standing in front of one of her quilts, because one of the white-gloved women told me I could only take photos for my personal use. Her story about why and how she started the show was fascinating. You can hear it on The Quilt Show Number 102 even if you are not yet a member. You can sign up for a free membership.

Vikki Pignatelli at Sacred Threads 2015.

Vikki Pignatelli at Sacred Threads 2015.

I have been waking up a little earlier than normal during the week just to squeeze in a little work in my studio before my grandson arrives for the afternoons. This has enabled me to get my Ikebana on a Sashiko background quilt top completed, except for the borders, which I plan on putting on later today. I got my order from Superior Threads just in time for the weekend. Here it is, on the quilt ready to stitch. I went through my stash and discovered one more piece of Peppered Cotton in a nice green, just right for the border and binding. I want to quilt some sort of leafy vine around the quilt in the border.

Blue thread

I hope to get the border marked, the stabilizer pealed off the back, the quilt sandwiched and start the quilting this coming week if things work out well. I have all the quilting worked out in my head, so we’ll see how it goes.

Then I’m looking forward to starting my next quilting adventure…a new version of my quilt “Waiting…”, as the second in that series. I have many changes I want to make to that quilt, which I am planning as a show quilt for next year’s shows. Speaking of shows, I have to send off my two Canterbury quilts this coming week…one to Houston and one to AQS Chattanooga.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun this week!

In My Studio on This Good Friday

On this quiet Holy day, I have been spending time in my studio working on digitizing an embroidery design and also doing some practice on ruler work at my domestic Bernina 830 LE.

The result of today's little digitizing practice in Bernina v7 embroidery software.

My little digitizing practice in Bernina v7 embroidery software.

I bought a ruler foot by an an Australian company Westalee and a #77 Bernina adapter foot so I actually have a ruler foot.

Ruler foot assembly

Ruler foot assembly

I borrowed some longarm rulers from my daughter-in-law, Beth, to see how this works.

Just a few of the handful of rulers Beth loaned me.

Just a few of the handful of rulers Beth loaned me.

 

I will be making a second video sometime this week using these rulers and this foot.

I learned a few things about this.

  • I really needed something on the ruler to make it grab and hold the foot.  I put some small squares of that spongy shelf paper backed with double sided basting tape in a couple of places on each ruler, careful not to cover up an important line or intersection.
  • I tried both with and without my supreme slider, and found the slider was a must to make it work well.
queen sized supreme slider taped down at my machine with blue painters tape.

queen sized supreme slider taped down at my machine with blue painters tape.

  • Beth loaned me one ruler that was thicker than than 1/4 inch and I found this would run into the screw on the adapter part of the foot assembly and make the ruler scoot out of alignment, but the normal quarter inch long arm ruler works just fine.
  • I found the smaller, shorter rulers are much easier to use than longer bigger ones, and I only have one of her small-medium ones.  She can use a much bigger ruler on her longarm.
  • I need practice, but I like the way this is heading.  The loan of her rulers has really helped me determine what I need to buy in the future (I have to give them back…LOL).

I have a vast collection of classical music, and some of it I’ve loaded onto my little Nano, which I listen to while I work.  Today I chose some appropriate and beautiful music for Good Friday.  It has so far been a blessed day, except my water heater has stopped heating water and we are waiting for the plumber rather than going to church.  They said he may come as late as midnight!  So be it.  It is still Good Friday and a blessed day.

Sew happy everyone.  Try some new technique for your creativity this week to celebrate Easter and spring.  Cheers!

Fabric Adventures in My Studio

Sometimes I have so much fun in my studio it feels like a great adventure.  This past week has been one of those periods of time.  I don’t have any pictures for you this week. You see, I am working on things I want to share with you later…after they are finished, and maybe even after they have debuted either at a show or in a published book.

I had a wonderfully productive work week last week.  Spring seems to be springing and I finished quilting Canterbury Knight.  I also managed, after about four tries of putting it on and taking it off over and over to get the three rows of Ricky Tim’s Razzle Dazzle around my central block with nice square corners and mostly straight sides.  It looks so good I got excited about it.  Now I have to paint the border designs.  Yes, that is scary.  After working for months and months on this quilt, the last thing I will do before binding, labeling and adding the hanging sleeve to it is the painting, where things can so easily go out of control.  So today, I made a small mug rug sized piece that I quilted and all just to practice my painting before I start the real thing.  “Practice makes perfect”…well, at least for me it makes “better”.  😀

In addition to all that, I took a webinar tutorial on Corel Painter.  That was the best I’ve ever taken.  The artist was painter master Aaron Rutton, and I discovered he has a lot of videos out there on this program under “Draw This”.  I will be watching many more.  I am slowly becoming almost able to really get the best out of that wonderful program, so I really will be watching a bunch more.  It’s like using real paint without all the mess, and with additional cool things, like layers, that let me accomplish things I see in my head even if I am not a great painter…like the horse on the Canterbury Knight.  I painted that in Corel Painter, minus tail and mane.  It was a struggle, though, that took me weeks, so if I can improve my knowledge of this program, just think what I can do with it.  I’m sure Mr. Rutton could have done that in a matter of an hour or two.  One of things I plan to do with it is to put items for sale and for free like tail-less horses and faces and hands, and Vases for flowers for people to download and print on their own Electric Quilt or other printable fabrics for their own quilts.  Let me know if you have suggestions for small, similar things you always wished you could find for your fabric art.

Then finally, I have been making huge progress on my book on using Bernina v7 software.  I got a little bogged down on my applique book, because I need to work out samples and take pictures to move forward.  But when my daughter-in-law came over for a short lesson on the software–she has never even used an older version–I realized that I already had a book in my head on that, because I have been thinking about this for a long time.  So I sat down and sketched out an outline before I lost the idea that just came to me, and got the first two chapters of an eleven chapter book about ten projects that will help you get the most out of Bernina design software written and illustrated.  To top it off, I got a response from Bernina that no permission was required for me to publish such a book.  Hooray!  I think I can finish this one by the end of April, though we will see.

Sew happy everyone!  Even though it’s spring, and you want to go outside, still spend some time in your sewing space and then take lots of breaks running outside to see the next flower open.

 

 

Inch by Inch: Updated Tools and Canterbury Knight

Inch by inch I am getting closer to my goals for “Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts”, which is my new name for my coming micro-business.  Up until now, it has been a hobby, but I need to make enough money to keep on, and I want to be able to share things I have learned and my journey with my friends.  It will just be a micro business.  I am not going to take in quilting, for instance.  I may do more workshops and lectures, but I’m not going to get into the big circuit that requires a lot of travel.  I want to work here in my studio for the most part with an occasional visit elsewhere.  I plan on selling the how-to books I’m currently writing, a few quilts, some downloadable videos, in-the-hoop embroidery (software), and some print-on-your-own fabric digitally painted appliques…just enough to keep on buying supplies and equipment with maybe a little on the side for fun.

I updated my Bernina embroidery software to v7 this week.  It’s pretty fancy, and it does seem to have a lot of new tools.  It also has a completely different interface and it will take a while to find all the old tools and figure out how to use the new ones, but I think it is going to be a big improvement overall.  I’m going to take advantage of my dealer’s class on the software on the 31st.

Digitizing has become an important part of my quilting artwork.  Nearly every quilt now has at least one thing on it that I drew myself and then digitized myself and embroidered in my Bernina Embroidery module.   I have also been developing a flower quilt using my daughter in law’s wonderful photographs for in-the-hoop applique.  I felt I needed to update from v6.  V6 is a powerful program, but there are some things I believe v7 has that will help me a lot.

For a long time I have recorded my quilting progress with a little Nikon Coolpix pocket camera that I bought about ten years ago.  Most of the photos I share here were taken with that.  Last week, the motor that drives the lens died.  I bought a Nikon Coolpix s9700 to replace it.  It’s very like the old dead camera except that it’s a little bigger (but still fits in a pocket), the zoom is much more extensive in both directions, the macro can be much closer so I can really show stitches, the controls are much more extensive, so I can use manual aperture and other manual or auto settings.  It has several scene settings, like my old one did, so I can get a quick picture, but they are more extensive.  And it has the cutest little pop up flash.  My old camera could do a little video, but this one can do a really nice video…up to 29 minutes long.  I tried it out successfully, setting it up on a tripod and demonstrating how to cut out a fabric square just for practice.  I will be doing a lot more practice over the next few weeks.  Once I get handy at this, and figure out how, I will share some videos with you, and eventually, will make some downloadable videos for sale from my website.

Between all the nice technology, machines, cameras, and computer software I have assembled over the past three years since I retired, and the additional video and audio equipment my son Ken gave me, I should be able to realize my plan of  writing books and making videos to share my techniques and some patterns, embroidery software, and downloadable printable fabric designs from my website by the middle of the year.  Inch by inch I’m getting there.

Canterbury Knight Rides Forward:  I have just completed getting the big central block properly set into the seamless border.  Let me tell you, this was a HUGE struggle.  The fabric of the central block is 100% silk charmeuse…hand dyed…and the appliques are silk/cotton Radiance.  It is slippery, drapey, soft, and decidedly hard to control.  The challenge was to get the central block into the seamless black piece of black radiance in a perfect rectangle and perfectly aligned with the straight of grain of the black radiance.  It has taken me a full week, but I just accomplished this.  It probably would not have been so long if I had done two things…not gotten it in upside down in the first place, 🙂  and used more stabilizer from the beginning.  I ended up stabilizing BOTH the border AND the block.  I used Madeira Cotton Soft tearaway, which I love.  Contrary to its name, it is stiff.  It tears away easily, but stays together until you are ready for it to come away.  I have also found that the little bits that get left in soften when washed.  Perhaps that’s why they call it “Soft”.

I also used my fairly new laser square, designed for builders and carpenters, to make the rectangle as perfect as soft drapy, slippery silk can be.  I marked my central block cutting line with it with a thin chalk line and then cut it out with my rotary cutter.  I then marked the stabilizer along both the cutting and the seam lines for the border.  Here’s a picture of that (ignore the stuff in the background.).  See the red laser line and the level on the laser?  When it is level, it makes a perfect 90 degree angle and marks it for as far out as the table goes.

Using my laser square

Using my laser square

Sew happy everyone!  Learn how to do a new technique or practice one you know!  Inch by inch we can learn the techniques and gather the tools to realize our dreams.  It does not have to be done all at once.

Time for Christmas Sewing

Christmas Sewing

I realize that some of you are way ahead of me on this.  I see it on Facebook…my friends with their houses already decorated, Christmas baking is started, and Christmas sewing is finished.  I am, nevertheless, way ahead of my usual pace for December this year though.

I already have the house sort of clean and ready to decorate for Christmas, which I hope my youngest son and I will get done this weekend.  I even got my studio clean and ready for the next project.  That will be a few Christmas sewing projects I have planned.  I’m not saying what they are here, because the recipients may read this, but I am looking forward to it,

I still have not come up with the designs for my next couple of show quilts, so I’ll be working on that a little next week also.

Sew good wishes for a wonderful week to you all!  God’s blessings be upon you.

Sew happy!  Take time to learn a new technique or practice to polish an old one.  Christmas presents are a good place to do that with.  🙂  Teach someone to sew…your brother, your sister, your impossible relative, your cat, your dog….Merry Christmas!

Thinking About 2015 Quilt Activities

studio1

Now that I’m back from the trip to Houston and San Diego, and am almost finished with my little special exhibit quilt, it is time to decide what is going to happen next in my studio.  This is an exciting time for me.  I love Thanksgiving and Christmas season, and I also love planning for the new quilting year.  Several new things will be happening.

First of all, I have finally gotten really going on writing a new book.  From the several subjects I have in mind I chose to write about machine applique first.   I chose this because I frequently hear that applique is something a lot of quilters and fashion sewists find difficult or dread.  Applique is fun and not difficult, so this book will include multiple techniques for machine applique and discuss when to use which type.  I plan on having several projects in the book for you to play with.  It is my intention to record a video to accompany this book.  So it will have the book, the dvd, and the projects.  This will take me a lot of time, and unfortunately, I will probably not be able to share specific progress with you along the way, but I hope it will be a good addition to the information already out there and be clear and easy to use.

Next, my plans require that I finally set up as a small business in order to sell the resulting project above from my web site along with some other smaller projects I am thinking of having available.  It will be a very low key business, designed primarily to finance my quilting activities, going to shows, and pay for this blog and my website.  If I make some real profit, that will be icing on the cake.

And finally, I am planning to make three or four new show quilts for 2015 shows.  I haven’t gotten the specific concepts together yet, but in general they will include one new illuminated manuscript quilt on silk (or silk/cotton blend) (to continue my series begun with Canterbury Silk), one new story landscape (this would be my fourth such quilt), one new line drawing quilt (third in my architectural/design lines series), and one new deep space quilt (third in the series).   If these go well and faster than anticipated, I could make another quilt or two, but I also have to allow space for a few articles of clothing and a couple of utility/charity quilts.  Seems like a fun but busy year ahead, starting now!

The other day I realized how important my Bernina 830 LE machine has become to my overall quilting activities.  I have now put nearly 8 million stitches on this machine that I bought at the end of 2011.  It is still going strong, but I think I need to start saving for a new machine in a couple of years.

Sew here is what I want to know from you…Do you like the idea of an applique book with DVD?  What are you working on now or plan to work on for 2015?  I’d love to hear from you.  I really like comments on my blog.

Sew happy everyone!

 

 

A Shift in the Studio

 

 

 

Kevin

Kevin

My handsome, brilliant, impish grandson Kevin enters middle school on 2 September and we decided as a family that his after school and summer day-care will be shifted to Grammy (that’s me) instead of his former care giver who has several new younger kids this year plus her own bunch to care for.  I live only a couple of miles from his school and his home.  I am truly happy to have him come here for the out-of-school work hour time.  It does impact my time for fabric art substantially, however, so I will have to scale back some of my plans in that direction for a few years.  I hope to share some wonderful time and create some great memories, as well as teach him some art among other things.  It will not stop me from moving forward in my own art, though.

Part of the time, Kevin and I are taking the opportunity for him to learn more about quilting, and possibly bag making.  He made a quilt top with me when he was 9, but sort of stopped working on quilting for the past couple of years.  But he’s interested again.  Last week he drafted a lemoyne star using Alex Anderson’s methods presented in a TQS show, and then decided to put together a small quilt and use the lemoyne star as a quilting design.  It would be a straight stitch quilting design and so he can use my big Bernina with the dual feed to quilt it.

Technology can really help in teaching kids to sew.  It is my personal belief that frustration and boredom are the chief barriers to kids learning to do high-level creative things like this. He worked out how he wanted it on my Electric Quilt 7 program, picked out the fabrics from my stash, and cut it out on my Go! cutter, and started sewing it on Friday.  If you have kids you want to teach to quilt, I really recommend a die cutter, because it is safe, accurate, and fast.  Fast means less boredom, accuracy makes for good results and less frustration, and a machine that works well means less boredom and less frustration.   So here he is sewing together the 10 inch squares on my little B350 machine.  I put a 57 foot, which is a 1/4 inch piecing foot with a seam guide, on the machine and slid the machine speed down to the middle so he doesn’t sew too fast.  His seems so far are perfection.

Kevin sewing in 2014

We’ll see where this goes from here.  It is my hope he will really enjoy it enough to want to do another one when this is finished, but if he only finishes this one, it will be a nice accomplishment for him.

Meanwhile, I still managed to get my black blouse and slacks cut out for my dressy outfit.  Hopefully, I can complete this project this coming week.  Kevin will be spending some of the week with his other grandparents next week, so I have several clear days next week before the after-school thing starts.

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew–your grandkids, your BFF, yourself, your annoying neighbor, your cats, your dogs.  LOL

 

 

On Managing Stashes for Busy Sewists

stash-building-web

I hear a lot of embarrassment out there from my sewing friends about the size of their stashes, but I say don’t be embarrassed, but be grateful and manage those stashed right into productivity.  It just needs a realization that there is a huge value to having well-stocked stashes  collected over time and properly managed.  I began this practice decades ago when I first used sewing as a supplemental income when my children were very small and improved it substantially since retiring a couple of years ago.

Since retiring and reorganizing my stashes I have found the value of spending just a little time each week making sure things are put where they belong and taking note of what needs replacing.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not very good at this.  Instead of carefully ironing and folding my fabrics and organizing them carefully on shelves, as some of you do, I sort of fold them straight from the dryer, and then stuff them into my generically labeled drawers.  I just dump my threads in similar plastic bins according to type.  Libby Lehman, bless her dear heart, had a magnificently organized studio, properly labeled (I would guess it sits there waiting for her full recovery still in its organized splendor).  She was my inspiration, but I will never reach her level of organization.   Still, she helped me see that at least SOME organization is needed.  I’m sure some of you would be horrified if you saw what I considered “organized”…LOL

studio3

Imagine that you have a great idea, found that perfect pattern, or have designed a special project in Electric Quilt whatever version and want to get going on it.  In your dreamworld, you go into your studio, select your fabrics from your impeccably organized stash, and get started.  Then you pull the perfect threads out of your thread stash just right for your project.  Your small amount of time is well spent and you make significant progress on your project in that little bit of time.  Now I know it is fun to go shopping in your local quilt shop, but my time and budget is limited even since I retired, so I needed to develop a list of what I needed for several projects ahead.   Since retiring to full-time fabric artist, I have had to organize my projects, deadlines, show quilt schedules.  It saves me far more time than it cost to set this up initially and keep it going.  I use simple computerized spreadsheets and it seems to work.  I also put deadlines on my computer calendar so it reminds me when I need to do something to help counter that vanishing-time problem.  🙂

What kinds of stashes do you have?  I have several types of stashes–quilting cottons, various types of silks, light woolens, denims, etc. in the fabrics sections.  But my thread stashes have significantly grown since I retired.  My favorite threads are #30 and #40 polyester solids and variegated embroidery threads,  #100 silk threads, #12 and #16 perle cotton threads, and #8 perle cottons and Razzle Dazzle and other decorative bobbin and hand embroidery threads, and hand quilting threads that I use for hand sewing beads onto my creations.  I also have a collection of buttons, beads, sequins, fabric paints and markers, brushes, stabilizers, interfacing, bag making specialty parts, and needles of all descriptions.  I also have a very nice collection of tools.  I did not collect these all at once, but over the course of many decades and some of these items are inherited and older than me.

In the past few years I have given away a large amount of fabrics for clothing that I know I will never make.  I had decided I need to give away a lot out of my quilting fabrics stash because they no longer appeal to my tastes (funny how that happens), but instead I decided to design several very quick to make quilts that are still pretty, and take those fabrics and make them into pre-cut kits, using my die cutter, that I will either sew up myself or convince some of my friends to sew for people in need.  We’ll see if this works  or not.  I’ve only just started this. 

My ultimate goal is to reach a point where the fabrics in my stash are the ones I will use so my stuffed full drawers will once again resemble a nicely organized stash, that I have the stabilizers, battings, beads, buttons, and threads I need most of the time and don’t have to delay a project to order them (my “local” quilt shop is 45 minutes away, and the brands I like are not often available, so I buy my threads online).

Sew I have learned that a small part of my in-the-studio time has to go to managing my projects and stashes in order to keep more productive  and the costs spread out across time (as you know threads and fabrics are so expensive…it just helps to have built a stash and keep it stocked so I don’t have to spend a big amount at the beginning of each project), and my fabric art humming along.  I realize a lot of you are far better organized than me, but I encourage you if you haven’t done so to take a look at your own stashes and projects and do a little managing and organizing and your productivity and imagination may just take off and soar in ways you don’t expect.  And you’ll probably save a little money too.

Sew happy everyone!