The Free Motion Quilting Project: Lessons from 2010

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lessons from 2010

Ah! It's a brand new year full of possibilities and hopefully many new quilts! I already have a quilt design on the brain that is just begging to be designed and then created with bright fabrics.

This is a typical time of year for New Year's resolutions, new ideas, and commitments, but it's also a time for looking back at what was accomplished and at the lessons learned during the previous year.

Thinking back yesterday, I realized that most of the lessons I learned in 2010 were business related. While yes, I did learn a lot about myself and overcame many past issues, I also learned loads about running a successful business online.

One of the biggest questions and lessons of last year was What to Sell? What should I offer in an online quilt shop?

While it may seem silly, I've agonized over this question for a very long time. Running this business out of our basement office puts limits on the number and quantities of products we can carry. Since we don't have a storefront shop, it's hard to carry certain items that take up lots of space or come in a million colors (like Isacord thread!).

So this year I set out to try many new things. Truthfully it's been hard to overcome my mental picture of eventually, one magical day down the road owning a storefront quilt shop. I even toured a building here in town that would have been perfect, but after thinking on it more, I realized that the best thing for our family and the business would be to build it small and slowly so things don't get out of hand too quickly.

One of the most valuable business lessons has been to try a variety of new products in the quilt shop. I'm always willing to try something new, even if Josh warns me that it won't work, I'm a bit stubborn and always want to give it a try at least once.

But it's one thing to try something once, and it's another thing to get stuck in a stubborn, bullheaded mindset even after I've been proven dead wrong.

So I've finally learned my lesson! We counted inventory on Saturday and while I was counting yards of fabric, I couldn't help but notice that we still had huge amounts of each color left over from last year.

So I tried carrying fabric, and it didn't work out. Really this is a good thing because there are so many other awesome online fabric retailers out there like The Fat Quarter Shoppe and Sew Batik and Batiks Etc that have terrific collections.

I also don't really like cutting fabric all day. It's pretty tedious and it takes away a lot of time I could be quilting or writing. I'm still open to the idea of carrying some pre-cut fabrics and might even try some printed batik panels later this year.

I also tried several singles of Shiva Paintstiks and they didn't work out either. There are just too many colors of the singles! How do you pick just 10 to carry?!

And don't get me started on the photograph prints! Another good idea that might work for a really famous, big name artist, but even this was a bust.

While it's frustrating to try something, shell out the money and time to get it all online, it's a necessary lesson to owning a business. Learn what works and stop doing what doesn't!

I certainly have no regrets for investing in or trying any of these items. Lessons are important and as soon as I stop trying new things, I think that will be the first step to ultimate failure.

Really I can compare it the best to the piecing of Sinkhole. For this quilt I decided to use an applique technique I'd used many times before. It worked fine on the smaller rings, but as the rings got larger, the applique method failed to keep the fabrics flat and even.

The result is a quilt that is now full of ripples! Of course, I'm not too upset since it is the ugly side of Sinkhole, but still, I expect a technique to work no matter how big the pieces are!

This taught me another important lesson: I've gotten a bit complacent with my piecing and applique techniques. I've been focusing so much on quilting for the last year, I haven't really expanded my abilities when it comes to putting the quilt top together.

So this year I plan to play with many different ideas for working with large pieces of fabric. I sometimes like to work with pieces that are 25 inches wide and 50 inches long with crazy curves and wiggly edges and I need to create a new technique that will keep up.

Will I have to resort to fusing? I'm not sure. Personally I like the feel and look of fabrics that are turned under, but I also like the very flat, stiffness of fabrics that have been fused. Hmmm...It will certainly be a fun puzzle to sort out this year!

So while I take stock of the many lessons learned, here are a few announcements about some changes that will be coming to the Quilt Shop:
  • All the remaining fabric will be sold in large packs ranging from 3.5 yards to 6 yards, all the remaining paintstiks will be sold in sets of 5 random colors, and all the prints will be sold in sets of 3. Everything MUST go, so there will be some great prices and deals to be had!
  • From here on out, French Fuse will only be available in 1 yard or 3 yard packs. These are the most popular cut lengths so I figured it would make life easier just to precut this material instead of selling it by the yard.
So that's it! A year of trying new ideas has ended with a very positive outcome: I've learned that carrying these items just isn't for me. Maybe one day there will be time and space and extra hands to cut fabric or have every color of Shiva Paintstik ever made, but for now I'm super satisfied with my little quilt shop and that's what really counts!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Since you mention wanting to use large pieces, but turned under, you should consider:"Piecing Workshop" by Ruth McDowell. There's a Simply Quilts video showing her demonstrating her techniques.

  2. Leah, What fabric? I've been to your OLQS and the only fabric I've seen is black and white. Do you sell other colors? or fabrics besides the silk? Maybe I'm missing a link somewhere. If so Please let me know before Thursday. Thanks,

  3. I'm proud of you for trying so many new things. I, myself, find it hard to expand to new endeavors, so pat yourself on the pack and be happy you are so willing to go out on that ledge (so to speak). I think with both feet on the ground, as you clearly have, the ledge really shouldn't be that dangerous.

    As for me, I'm trying to get up the nerve to try isacord rather than my familiar gutermann thread.

  4. Hey Debbie - I've been carrying a small selection of colors of Bella Solids and Kota Batiks. I've already taken them down from the store for Thursday's sale so that's why you they're not up right now.




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