Monday, April 30, 2012

Vacation Projects

Tomorrow is the first day of May and I'm planning to take this vacation seriously!  My number of projects in progress has grown so enormous over the last few months that it's quite overwhelming, so this month I'm going to make a big stab at getting the following projects closer to finished.

No, they may not be completely done by the end, but they will hopefully be a lot more solid than they are now!

One major project I've been wanting to tackle is my KING sized quilt.  Why do I always write KING in caps?  I think it's because that quilt is just so darn BIG!

Of course, it doesn't look that big in this photo because I've split the quilt into 9 pieces and each panel is being quilted separately with 4 different designs.  It's been a fun challenge to stitch on a very large scale, and each panel has finished quite nicely.

As of today I'm down to just 2.5 panels, so if I can just get some time at the sewing machine to finish these up this project will be ready to put together and then finally get on the bed.  It'll be really nice to have it finished because NC is getting hot already and this quilt has the thinnest Quilter's Dream Poly batting (request thickness) so it will hopefully be a lot cooler than the comforter we're using right now.

When I'm not buzzing through those KING sized panels, I plan to relax on the couch with hand work projects.  One massive project is this quilt of all 365 designs from the blog:

Where is the handwork exactly on this quilt?  If you remember back to Quilt Along #7, each piece is connected with strips, but the back has a folded strip that can be hand or machine stitched down.  Being the insane perfection fanatic that I am, I've decided to hand stitch all those strips of binding.

The missing strip from the top of the quilt is already sitting on the couch upstairs halfway finished.  The nice part of this quilt is that each of the strips are quite portable, so I've taken them along with me around town.  The best way to look at a project like this is as a marathon - you don't get it done by sprinting, but by plodding along at a steady pace.

No, this definitely won't be done by the end of May, but it will make for a very nice handwork project to take along with me throughout the summer.

Of course, my goddess quilt series is never far from my mind, despite the fact that I'm so terribly behind on this year's goal of 12 quilts.  I still need to baste and quilt Power of Now:

And I need to paint and hand embellish Power of Birth.  This will be another hand work project to sit on the couch with James and hopefully not lose beads and ribbons and decorative yarn all over the house.

I also have 3 new designs for quilts which are banging around so hard in my head, I seriously need to let them out on paper!

With so many projects in progress, it's hard to pick just one to work on at a time.  I've decided to focus on the KING quilt because it needs to be done before summer.  Then all the other projects can be worked on all at the same time.  It might make me a bit crazy, but at least I will get a little further with each one this month.

Now instead of canceling Wednesday posts entirely for this month, let's use that day to share whatever we're working on during this vacation!  Be ready Wednesday to still link up with whatever you're working on this week!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quilt Biz #4 - Selling Patterns

Last week we learned a bit about selling products you stitch individually yourself - items you cut, sew, quilt, and finish which can be sold 1 time to 1 customer.

By the end of that article, I'd offered the opinion that this might not be the best way to make a living with your quilting business.  Yes, it can certainly work to create tote bags to sell just for extra spending cash, but to try to make a steady living this way could be a dangerous proposition because the second you stop cutting and sewing new bags, is the second you don't have a product to sell, and therefore can't make money.

You need to be able to make your time and effort worth more.

This is the main key that I'd like to teach you with this series of articles.  With quilters, and many crafters I've spoken to from other hobbies: knitting, weaving, spinning, blacksmithing, etc, many of us have a tendency to undervalue our skills.

We know how to do these things, we've been doing them for years, and have built skill and experience to the point that it's easy to dismiss or devalue what we do.

In high school, I knew I was different because I was the only girl that showed up to prom in a handmade dress, but, as I said over and over that evening, anyone could make a prom dress!  They're really not that hard to make so long as you read the directions carefully.

What I was forgetting, even at 17, was that most of the girls I was in school with hadn't grown up sewing and really had no interest in learning.  I was devaluing my skills and interest because sewing had been something I always did and always loved.

So when think of your talent at your craft, try not to devalue it.  Don't dismiss your skills or experience, and always try to look at your creations from the eyes of an outsider - someone that has no ability to quilt at all.

Also try to remember the years it has taken for you to gain these skills - they didn't just pop up overnight like a zit on your forehead, did they?  It took years of working and playing with fabric to know how to cut it up just right to piece those blocks and to quilt over them that way.

This leads to my true point: You can and should be able to make a LIVING with your craft.

Based on my article last week, you might have been left thinking that making a living or supporting your family with a craft is an impossible goal.  It certainly can be impossible if you maintain a limited viewpoint of your skills and devalue your talent.

So the first step to making a living is to understand that your time and effort has value, and that it is worth far more than $10 or even $20 per hour.

The best thing you can do is totally eliminate the whole paid-by-the-hour idea when it comes to making money with your craft. 

For one thing, what you make today is dependent on what you learned last year, and the year before that, and the skills you might have learned years ago.  The idea that you can sum up all this time and knowledge and experience into a single price-per-hour figure is nonsense.  No figure can come close to what you're truly worth.

Yes, I did just say that - your worth, your skill, is incalculable.

Let that one sink in for a minute.

So instead of thinking in the old dollars per hour model, instead let's start thinking another way:

Dollars per Product by how many Years it will sell.   


Let's go back to the tote bag idea: you create a pattern and make 6 tote bags to sell.  Each tote bag takes around 2 hours to create. 

Using the old mentality of dollars per hour, you'd charge $45 for these bags and make somewhere around $20 per hour, but you'd only be able to sell them 1 time, so once the 6 sold, that'd be it.  The maximum amount of cash you could get from this experience is: $270.00.

Now let's explore this new mentality:

Instead of selling the actual tote bags, you will sell the PATTERN.

A typical pattern for a quilted project runs anywhere from $5 - $15 dollars.  Let's say you decided to sell your tote bag pattern for $7.00.

This pattern is quite a different product.  Yes, you took time and energy to create it.  Yes, it took many hours to draft the pattern, come up with logical directions to put the bag together, and wrote it all down in a clear, concise way.  Yes, the pattern has value.

But unlike the bags, you can sell the pattern many times.  It's no longer a one shot deal - you can sell this pattern hundreds, if not thousands, of times and it will never lose it's value.  At $7.00, it's a price low enough to appeal to quilters, but high enough to pay you for the time it took to create it within the first 10 sales.

Even better, you can sell this pattern for years.

There is no law that says a pattern can only be sold in the year it's written!  You could conceivably create a pattern in 2012, and still be being paid for it in 2050!

This is a much better way to make a living because you do not have to continually cut, stitch, and finish a product in order to make a sale. If you put your patterns on a website and set them up as downloads, they can sell anytime, even when you're out in the garden or on vacation, or sick with the flu.

In fact, the only limitation you will ever experience with your pattern is if you personally take it down, lose it, stop selling it, or give the resale rights to someone else.

The latter doesn't seem like a very big deal, but it is.  Allow me a quick tirade about resale rights.

Let's say you wanted to write a book of 12 quilt patterns you personally created.  You drafted these patterns, made multiple quilts with them, and had gained popularity by showing them and teaching the techniques used within them.  You even sold individual patterns for each quilt for around $10 each.

So you write the book and pitch it to a big publisher.  They decide to publish it and give you a giant, nasty contract to sign.  Within that contract, within the depths of the legalize it's written in, you will be effectively giving up your rights to those patterns.

You can still teach the techniques within the book, but NOT the patterns you used to sell and make $10.00 on each. Those will have to come off your site in order to not "conflict" with the book.

Yes, this might sound okay because at the end of they day, all those patterns will be published in a gorgeous book, right?  A book published by a big publisher will surely earn you a living, right?

Wrong.  It will be in a book, and yes, it may look pretty, but it probably won't make nearly as much cash for you as it would if you'd published the book yourself.  Depending on the size and scale of your book, your royalty will be somewhere around $1 per book.

You also have no guarantee of the longevity of that book.  Once you give away your resale rights to that publisher, they will sell the book only as long as it's profitable for them.  What do you think "out of print" is?

The ONLY advantage of going with a big publisher is their potential traffic.  Publishers dish out lots of cash to market and sell your book, and they have access to wide distribution chains which allows your book to show up in all major quilt shops. 

Yes, this is certainly nice, but if you're doing your homework with content and traffic, why do you need that big publisher?  If you already have loads of traffic, you don't need what they're offering. 

Keep in mind that resale rights and copyright aren't the same thing.

You create a product (the pattern) and have the right to sell it because it's yours - you did all the work!  If you want to bother with it, you can set up licenses for other people to sell your patterns too, or you can just provide print copies for store owners to sell.  It's really entirely up to you if you want other people to be able to sell your pattern or not.

As the creator of the pattern, you can copyright the words and images used within it.  Remember, you can't copyright the actual techniques (like freezer paper applique), but you can copyright the actual layout of the appliqued shapes for each block.

Copyright is intended to protect your product from theft.  You bothered to take the time to create the quilt pattern, it would really suck if someone immediately ripped it off and began selling it for cheaper than you were.

But here's the thing to keep in mind: no one can steal your traffic.

If you've been blogging and teaching techniques with those pretty patterns, you've built up quite a supply of traffic that likes your work.  They will naturally buy from you when you come out with new, cool, pretty patterns.

A thief won't have access to your traffic.  They might be able to rip off your pattern, but they probably won't have much luck selling it.  If they do sell the pattern on a site like Etsy.com which has lots of traffic for patterns, will this even hurt you?

It sounds weird to say it, but there really is enough traffic to go around.  If at some point one of your loyal customers runs across that con artist, they'll blow the whistle on it and let you know what's going on.  You will not have lost sales because your traffic and the thief's traffic are not the same people.

The point here is to not go overboard about copyright.  Yes, it makes sense to have a copyright notice on your pattern, but try not to use strong language that might be taken out of context.  A simple: "Copyright - Please do not Resell this Pattern." is sufficient to get your message across.

Also, consider making your pattern Open Use.  This means quilters can make your tote bags or quilts for sale.  It would also save you time when quilters contact you for permission to use your pattern to make quilts for show.

Stop and think about it for a minute: how in the world could this hurt you?  A quilter buying your pattern still pays the pattern price just like everyone else.  Yes, they may make 100 tote bags with that pattern, but you better bet they're going to appreciate the fact that it's open use and will purchase more patterns when you come out with more.

So consider these ideas this week.  Rather than sell a product you stitch yourself, instead sell the pattern.  Not only will you be able to sell it an unlimited number of times, you will also be able to sell it for years.  Heck, even your kids could end up selling your patterns one day!

Next week we'll learn about the third way to make money with quilting: to purchase tools, fabric, notions, and, yes, patterns to resell in your shop.  This is a very popular way to start a quilt shop, but the high cost of entry and intimidating steps to get started can often hold you back. We'll learn how to overcome those barriers and get started on a small budget.

Here's the complete list of all 10 Quilting Business Posts:


Let's go make a cool new pattern!

Leah

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Question Thursday #16

It's time for Question Thursday, the day where your questions get answered and hopefully sets you on the right track for free motion quilting.

First off, reading through everyone's posts about Sharp Stippling, it seems my advice to "not hesitate on the points" has caused you all to feel that you must zoom through this design without stopping.

So please go back and ignore my advice!

Instead, stitch a wiggly line, then stop with your needle in the down position.  THINK about where you want to go next.  Then wiggle off in that direction, creating a point in the place you just left.

Many quilters experienced a difficulty visualizing the design, and a definite increase in getting lost within the texture.  Go back to week 1: let's wiggle and take a look at all those simple rows of repeating shapes.

Do the exact same thing with sharp stippling, only this time instead of stitching curves, stitch points at the ends of every wiggly shape like this:

Simply stitch rows of the exact same shapes until you feel comfortable forming the flames.  If you need to, switch back and forth between Stippling and Sharp Stippling until you feel comfortable with both designs.

Only after some practice with rows, try combining the shapes together until you find a complex, interlocking pattern to the design.

Definitely play with Sharp Stippling over the next few weeks and see if that helps to get a feel for the design.  Towards the end of May, we'll link up to share progress through the break and decided whether to spend a bit more time on this design or move on to more Sisters of Stippling.

Now let's move on with questions from you!

The first question comes from Donna Rae via email:

Can you free motion quilt without a foot?
Full question: One day I started practicing free motion quilting and finished a place mat and thought how well I did and how easy it had seemed. Then I noticed that I had forgotten to put my Quilting foot on. So it turned out I was quilting with the needle, no foot, feed dogs down. So I put the foot on and practiced some more and found it harder. It was so much easier without a foot at all. Why do we even have to use a foot! I saw a video with quilting/embroidery (not an embroidery machine) with no foot but using a hoop. I can send you the link if you like. But I would like your thoughts on quilting without a foot at all. Is it rough on the machine or needles?
As you've already found, Donna, yes, you most certainly can free motion quilt without a foot on your machine.

For free motion quilting, we're moving the quilt in all directions and controlling the stitch by the speed of the machine and the movement of our hands.  The foot in this situation is not really a necessary element in the equation, and in some cases, can make quilting much harder.

Most free motion (darning) feet are designed badly.  Even the generic free motion feet I sell in the quilt shop are terribly designed, but I show you how to modify them to make them work better.  The only two feet I've ever purchased and liked straight out of the package is the Bernina Open Toe Darning Foot and the QBH foot that came with my Janome Horizon 7700.

But is it a good idea to take the foot off completely?

Personally I say if it works for your machine and your quilting style, try it, BUT be warned that this is quite dangerous.

Without a foot, you're far more likely to get a finger caught by the needle.  You just won't be able to see the danger area as clearly and this could cause quite a painful puncture.

Also keep in mind that a free motion foot does offer stability and a guide when quilting on a small scale.  Remember how I microstippled the wholecloth quilt with my index finger rubbing up against the foot?  You won't have a guide like this if you take the foot off completely.

Now let's turn to a question about stitch quality from Pat at Color Me Quilty:

 Why did my stitch quality change suddenly with a new design?


Full question: Does the design you are stitching affect the machine's tension or stitch quality? I stitched the sharp stipple first with very little machine problems. I started stitching the square spirals and I kept getting birds nests, skipped stitches, loopy stitches, etc. Same thread, same needle (the needle was new before I started stitching the sharp stipples), same tension setting.

Here's a photo from Pat's blog to illustrate her problem:

 Ah, Pat, you've found something interesting here!  This is not the DESIGN that your machine didn't like, it was the ANGLE you stitched it in.

Allow me to explain: When Pat switched from Sharp Stippling to these spirals, she didn't change any features of her machine, but her machine suddenly started skipping.

But notice that the skips are happening in specific places.  If you look closely at the picture above, the skips happen mostly within the lines running parallel with the gray and pink fabric.

So why did this happen?

Chances are, these stitches were made when Pat stitched AWAY from herself, meaning the quilt was moving toward her, similar to the direction if you hit reverse on the machine when piecing. 

This might sound weird, but machines can be finicky.  Remember that by free motion quilting in all directions, you're using the machine in a way that it's not truly designed for.  It may simply not like to stitch in one particular direction.

I'm kind of surprised that this question hasn't come up before as it's something I struggled with quite a lot back when I owned the Juki TL98QE.  That machine refused to stitch backwards for any length of time.  I could maybe weedle 3-5 stitches in that direction, but any more and the thread would skip, then break.

It was beyond annoying.  In order to avoid that direction, I had to rotate my quilts far more often.  However, this has given me a good attitude about rotating and repositioning quilts.  You simply have to do what you have to do in order to get the darn thing quilted!

Also understand that this is a pretty common problem for most machines.  Because the feed dogs are up and still engaged, the machine still thinks it's feeding fabric forward.

When you stitch backwards, you're making the thread feed weirdly for the direction it thinks it's going in.  Dropping the feed dogs won't help this situation at all, though hitting the "reverse" button on your machine may help.  I've never tried that because my reverse is a button and I don't want to take my hands off the quilt to use it.

And no, sadly, this isn't a situation that simply buying a new machine will fix.  Even my Janome Horizon has some issues with stitching backwards, and this weekend it began showing signs of not liking long stretches of straight lines running from right to left.

The best thing you can do is get to know your machine really well.  Know what angles it stitches in best, and try to accommodate it as much as possible.  Fighting it will just result in thread breaks and frustration.

Next we have a question from Becky at The Thompsons:

Is there something I can do to prevent this thread from coming loose and unraveling all of my top stitching?  Am I overly concerned?


Yes, no matter where your threads break, you really should follow the same prodecure every time:

1. Pick out the threads a bit.  Because this quilt was quilted with sharp stippling, the points provide a perfect place to hide the thread start and stop.  It's also a good idea to pick back so you have thread tails at least 1 inch long to hide.

When being a super perfectionist, I'll pick back to the tiniest stitch because that will be the most secure and the least likely to become unraveled.

To pick, don't use a seam ripper.  Use the end of a cheater needle or something similar to gently pull the stitches loose.  To get the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt, just give the top thread a tug and it should come up as a loop.

2. Tie a knot.  Just a simple overhand knot will do.  This just ties the two loose threads together so they're less likely to come unraveled.

3. Insert a cheater needle into the middle layer of the quilt, run it in for about 1 inch, then come out the top.  Flip the quilt over to the back to make sure the needle is right in the middle, batting layer of the quilt.

4. Pop the threads in the cheater needle, then pull the needle through the quilt.  The threads should slide right into the middle layer of the quilt, then you can clip off the ends.

5. Start stitching again exactly 1 stitch before the place you ended, then take a second stitch right where the threads were hidden. Now start stitching your design like normal.  The threads are now as secure as possible, but you'll need to repeat all those steps again for the 2 new loose threads that just started this new line of stitching.

For a visual guide to this whole thread hiding technique, watch this video:


Now the next question is from June at Quilt Quest:

 How do I control my thread spool?
Full question: My thread keeps jumping up and then I have to stop and pull it out and put it back on the machine.  That seems to solve having extra loops or shredding or breaking.  I'm wondering if there is something I could buy that would hold the thread spool and weight down the top of the spool but some how let the thread feed evenly too?  Or is this a user-error on my part for the way I'm sewing?
No, this isn't an error on your part, but a pretty annoying problem with a fairly easy fix.

First off, a spool stand like this will really help with this type of issue.  It will pull off the thread and feed it evenly into the machine.

If you still have problems, take a look at all the gizmos and tools your machine came with.  Chances are you will find a little disc-like plastic tool with a hole in it.  This is designed to slide over the top of the spool to hold it down so it the spool doesn't jump and spin like you described:

Next we have two questions from Karin at The Quilt Yarn:

How do I get the rhythm of a design?

Really this is just down to practice and patience.  The more time you spend doing anything, the more comfortable you will be with it.

Try the rows of simple Sharp Stippling outlined above.  Print out that image and spend some time tracing it.  Anywhere you want the design to change, play with changing it, but keep the same logical format for the row.

Now switch back to regular stippling.  Does this design feel more natural to you?  Why?  Is it because you know where you're going and how you're moving?

Switch back and forth between stippling and sharp stippling until the new design begins to feel more comfortable.  The more you stitch it and experiment with it, the better this design will feel and flow through your hands and onto the quilt.

Karin's next question:

I am thinking of doing all these practice samples on solid fabric (of which I got stacks) and then later on stitching them together using the Quilt-as-you-go method. Would I just mark myself a square on my fabric and just stitch within that or stitch all over my sample and cut it to size later (wouldn't that become undone then?) when attaching the sashing?

Personally I like to mark a square so I know exactly how much I need to quilt and I don't go overboard filling areas that are just going to get whacked off later.  You don't get extra credit for quilting that ends up in the trash!

But even if you do end up cutting through some quilting lines, this should not come unraveled in the finished quilt.

Remember that when connecting quilted pieces together, you're stitching through the edges of the quilt pieces.  If you're very nervous about it, use a very small stitch length (1.5mm) and this will catch all those quilted threads and lock them in place.

Also remember that the cut stitching will extend 1/4 into the bound area and be fully stabilized there.  Unless you actively take a needle or seam ripper and PICK at the stitches, they will not come unraveled from the finished quilt.

Whew!  Lots of questions this week and I hope these answers help get you back on track.  Spend some more time playing with Sharp Stippling, and maybe Zippling this week, and ask any questions that you have about these designs.

Time to shut up, eat some lunch, then go quilt!

Leah

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Quilt Along #16 - Zippling

It's time to Quilt Along again and today we're set to learn Zippling, a super fun zigzaggy design!

Is it just me, or are we all feeling a little strained by spring?  May is always a super busy month, almost as busy as December, but without the big holiday at the end to build up to.  At the beginning of this project, I planned on taking May and December off from the Quilt Along simply so we could all catch up on projects, spend some time outside, and allow this part of the year its busyness without trying to fight it.

So after much hemming and hawing, I've decided we're going to take a break from the Quilt Along for the month of May. 

I'm needing to spend some time with my family, to see my little guy graduated from preschool (yikes, where did the last 5 years go?!), and finish up several UFOs, including that unfinished book of 365 designs that seriously needs to get DONE!

So even though a break is disappointing, you'll have something great to look forward to: the 365 book is coming by June!

Now with that announcement out of the way, let's learn how to quilt Zippling:


Difficulty Level - Beginner.

Design Family - Independent.

In this video I quilted over this purple and black cheater cloth panel printed by Spoonflower and basted with Pinmoor pin anchors.

Last week we worked on Sharp Stippling, a design with only a subtle rule change from regular Stippling: the addition of sharp points.

Now let's add one more rule change: sharp points and straight lines.  No Curves Allowed!

So to practice the most basic version of this design, you would stitch a row of V shapes like this:

Once you get comfortable with this, simply add extra zigs and zags to create a complex version of the design:

Don't fret if your lines aren't perfectly straight.  Quilting a new design is always a work in progress and doesn't have to be perfect.

Also don't fret if you absolutely hate this design.  As a beginner, I hated straight lines and sharp angles because they felt very rigid and - hopefully this makes sense - very distracting.

What I'm referring to is the FLOW of a design.  If you've gotten truly comfortable with a design, you'll no longer have to focus and actively think about creating it.  The design will literally flow from your hands onto the quilt.

A flow state is a psychological term for that state your body can get into, almost like meditation, when your mind is so intensely focused on a task that all emotions, judgement, and criticism is wiped from your mind.  Even though you are so intensely focused, you're not actively THINKING, which means your mind is actually empty of thoughts, engaged only in the movement of your hands over the machine.

This is yet another reason why mastering a hobby is so good for your health - working on a project with single minded intensity, with no bothersome emotions to distract you, with no weighty depression to drag you down, your mind will reach a peaceful, resting state.

But designs like Zippling may be hard to find this state, at least at first.  It really depends on how your mind works.  If every morning you tend to doodle zigzaggy shapes as you drink your cup of coffee, chances are Zippling is going to feel very natural and easy for you to form on the quilt.

No matter how it feels initially, whether natural and easy or jarring and difficult, stick with this design, and spend some time stitching rows of Stippling, Sharp Stippling, then Zippling to get a feel for how your body and mind react to each design.

It's extremely interesting to compare stitching a curving line to stitching a zigzaggy line.  It might not seem like a big difference, but you may find on an actual quilt you can definitely tell which your body prefers to form.  A design you don't like will literally feel distracting as you quilt it.  Your mind will not be able to flow because it will be worrying so much about forming the design correctly.

While it may seem silly to focus on this so much, I believe there's a very good reason why Stippling is so extremely popular - the simple curves and wiggly shapes feel more natural to more quilters.

Personally I know when I've stumbled on a design I don't like because I literally avoid, and sometimes even dread, working on that area of the quilt. This might not be very evident on a large scale, but working on a tiny scale, day after day, you'll know very quickly if you intrinsically like the design you're working on or not.

The wonderful thing about exploring and studying these free motion quilting designs for so long is I know how rapidly your skills can change.  And with increased skill, your opinion and feel for a design will change too.

You might hate a design terribly this month, but next month you give it a try again and find that it's much easier, and in fact you can quilt it quite well all of a sudden.

Always remember that your work and practice with free motion quilting is cumulative.  No matter which design you're stitching, you are stitching, and that is the point!


Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (www.freemotionquilting.blogspot.com), but the link to the specific post: http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com/2012/01/quilt-along-2-quilting-in-rows.html

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

Keep in mind that you're posting your progress from LAST week on THIS week's post. This way you have time to watch the lesson, play with the ideas, then post your progress to the next quilt along. I hope that makes sense!

As always, any questions you have, please post them in the comments below or on your blog and I'll answer 5 tomorrow on Question Thursday.


Time for me to shut up and quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 367 - Zippling

Yes, it's been forever since we saw the last new design posted to the project, but now that we're moving through the family of Independent Designs, it's time to start expanding once again to find new, interesting textures for our quilts.

This one in particular, despite it's silly name, will produce a very nice, masculine texture for your quilts:

From here on out, videos for individual designs will be posted on Wednesdays with the Quilt Along post.  Make sure to stop by tomorrow to see how this design works over a real quilt!

Difficulty Level - Beginner.  Zippling is as easy to stitch as Stippling, only this time all the lines are straight and the angles are sharp.  This might actually make the design even easier to stitch because the sharp angles will give you a convenient place to stop with the needle in the down position to reposition your hands.

Filler Design Type - Independent.  By now you're probably getting the general idea for how this family of designs work: wiggling around independently in simple rows across your quilt.  How many other ways can we subtly change this design by changing the texture of the line used to create it?


Directional Texture - No Direction.  Because this design is all straight lines and sharp angles, it's not going to stand out as boldly as softer, curvier designs like Sharp Stippling.

Suggestions for Use - Because Zippling works so much like Stippling, it's going to work great anywhere!  Play with this design on a large and small scale, as well as tucked into tiny, tight spaces around appliques or within the background of wholecloth quilts!

Zippling used in the outer ring of Emergence:
Feel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts
and send in a picture to show it off!

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Quilt Biz #3 - Creating Products

It's Sunday and time for another Quilting Business post!  So far we've gotten a good foundation of deciding whether a business is right for you, and learned a bit last week about traffic and content.

Today let's focus on products.

Products can be anything from a handmade item you create individually (quilt, tote bag, purse, pillowcase, journal cover, etc) to a product you manufacture (tools, notions, books, DVDs), to products you wholesale from other quilters then sell for retail.

Each of these areas are fairly huge topics, so this week let's focus on products you create individually.

These are items you start from scratch: cut out the fabric, sew the item, finish it with high quality workmanship, then price according to you time, material cost, and effort.

This is also the leading way many crafters try to make a living at their craft: by mastering a craft, making stuff, then selling that stuff.

Now because these posts were inspired by the Copyright Terrorism post, we're going to have to make a special note about the jerks that create copyrighted patterns indicating "for home use only" or "for personal use only."

You might have purchased a pattern for a pretty tote bag and want to make 10 bags to sell on Etsy or Ebay.  Unfortunately if the pattern maker has indicated "for home / personal use only" you shouldn't use that pattern for your bags for sale.  

Yes, this stinks, and yes, it makes me want to chuck those patterns in the trash, but rules are rules and it's best to steer clear of a fight with those copyright happy pattern makers.  This is especially important if you plan to sell your handmade products online.

Of course, this could lead us into a happy tirade about pattern makers and why they have such a problem with industrious quilters making their bags and selling them.  What exactly would they be losing from that situation?  They'd still have made the sale on the pattern, and isn't that the point!?

I digress.  Let's not even open up that can of worms today.

So you're going to need to find patterns that indicate Open Use, or more specifically Open for Commercial and Non-Commercial Use.

This would be a great idea for anyone looking to start a business with huge demand - a website dedicated to open use patterns.  Even as I type this, I'm considering making some open use bag patterns just so quilters and sewists have something to use that isn't locked down in copyrighted red tape.

So here's an idea: if you absolutely can't find an open use pattern, why not make your own? 

Creating a pattern isn't as difficult as it seems.  Start with a simple square bag, and focus on learning the construction process so you can eventually streamline it down into a useable pattern.

There will be a lot of trial and error involved here, but it's worth it because this will be YOUR pattern and no one will be able to say boo about it.

But you have to be willing to do the work and construct your pattern several times.  Not only will this make you faster, it will also alert you to any issues within the pattern itself.

Make 4 simple bags and then time yourself making the 5th to see how much time it takes in each stage of the process.  Add up your cost in materials and your time and see if you can come up with a price for your product.

WAIT!

Oh, that sounded so easy.  Such a simple thing - pricing your work - when in fact this is one of the hardest things you'll have to do when selling the things you've created.

How much time you spend making a product is EXTREMELY important.  Whether you spend 1 hour or 10 hours, you need to be paid for your time, your effort, your passion, your material cost, and the physical wear and tear on your body.

Do not discount this.

It is so easy to discount yourself in this equation.  I know this personally because I did it myself from 2005 to 2006 and it was the most soul destroying, terrible experience of my life. 

I worked for an online business sewing garments at home.  I thought this was the most wonderful job at the time: I get to stay home and sew, and get paid for it!

But what I didn't calculate was how stressful and time consuming this job would be.  I'd bring home on average 60 garments a week and all of those garments had to be sewn with the exact same level of care and precision and perfection as any shirt you buy in a store.

I worked harder than I ever had in my life.  I learned every trick in the book to speed up my sewing, to optimize my machine setup so I could sew with the maximum amount of speed and efficiency.  I rarely ate breakfast or lunch because my focus and attention was sharper in the morning so I could sew faster through those hours.

At the end, when I was the fastest I ever got, I could crank out a t-shirt in 45 minutes.

Guess how much I got paid?  $6.50.

In the end, I realized I was chasing an illusion more than anything else.  I was chasing the dream of sewing for a living, but in the end I had to admit that I was losing more and more of myself with every bag of clothes that left my apartment.

I remember very little of the year and a half I sewed, other than actually sewing, because I did so little other than sew, sew, sew constantly.  This is a shame because that was the first year Josh and I were married, and the only year we had before James was born.

But there is one thing I don't regret from that situation: I learned this lesson: TIME HAS VALUE.

This is more than just being paid an hourly rate.  Yes, you could set $10 per hour to your time and bill out your products this way, but isn't your time worth more?

That hour you spent quilting that journal cover could have been spent with your kid.  That weekend you made that tote bag could have been spent making a quilt for your family.

Always remember the true cost, not just in time, but also the trade off of your labor and what else you could be doing.  I'll say it again: Do not undervalue your time.

Yes, there will always be people willing to cut off their nose to spite their face.  You may feel the need to compete with such idiots by pricing your products lower.

But here's another lesson: if you've done your homework and created a business with the right foundation: loads of content, which has in turn attracted lots of people to pay attention to you, you will be able to charge a fair and just price, and still find demand for your products.

The absolute key is traffic, and that comes from content.

Without traffic, you're not going to sell anything.

No matter how many tote bags you create, no matter how fast you get stitching them, no matter how low you set the price, without traffic, no one will know you exist, therefore no one will want to buy your stuff.

So your primary focus, for at least the first several months or years you're in business, is to create the content that will drive the traffic to your business.  Without this foundation, your business won't have the legs to stand on and it may well topple right over.

It's also good to realize that those tote bags, those individually stitched products you created by hand, might not be your best products anyway.

Let's let that idea sink in for a bit.

What you create, what you stitch on by hand, isn't the best product to sell.

Look at it this way: you can spend a weekend making a tote bag, but you can sell that tote bag only 1 time to 1 person. 

That means the amount of money you can make on your time and effort is limited by the transaction itself.  Let's say the max your customer is willing to spend is $45.00.  You will make that amount of money 1 time, for 1 bag.

In order to make more money, you will need to go back into your sewing room, repeat all the steps to making that bag, spend exactly the same amount of time, and again, you will have a product you can sell only 1 time.

How in the world are you going to make a living this way?

What if you get sick and can't stitch?  What if your kids get sick and all your time is spent taking care of them?  Heck, what if you want to go on vacation and don't have time to make new products for a week or two?

As soon as you can't spend that requisite amount of time working on an individual product, your money will dry up.  Your source of revenue is entirely dependent on your ability to create those products, and this is a dangerous position to be in.

It's dangerous because the second you stop working is the second you stop making money.

You never know when a wrench will be thrown into your life, but trust me, it happens only at the worst possible times.  If you get into a position to DEPEND on that extra $300 coming in to pay your light bill, but then don't have time to make the 6 bags that make the money, how will that bill be paid?

No, this isn't a crucial issue if you only make tote bags on the side, as a hobby business, only for a bit of extra spending cash.  In this situation, you're not LIVING on the cash made from your business.  You're not depending on it quite the same way.

But even still, you need to learn how to make your time worth more.

I don't mean by charging more for your products.  Instead, rather than sell that tote bag 1 single time to 1 single customer, you need to figure out a way to make the time you spent working on it pay you for weeks, months, or even years down the road.

You need to be able to sell that single tote bag hundreds of times.

How in the world is that even possible?  It's just a single stupid tote bag!  What are you going to do - sell it then steal it back to sell it again?

No.  You're not going to sell that tote bag at all.  Ever.

And if you'd like an explanation for this cryptic sentence, make sure to check in next week for Quilt Biz #4!

Here's the complete list of all 10 Quilting Business Posts:


Until next time, let's shut up and go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Question Thursday #15

It's Question Thursday and time to catch up with all your questions about free motion quilting.  Last week we finally finished up with Stippling and this week we're finally tackling new designs like Sharp Stippling.

Unfortunately the review week hasn't generated very many questions.  Oh well, that just means more time for us to go quilt, right?!

The first question is from Pat at Color me Quilty:

 How do I stop my foot snagging on the edges of applique?




Full Question: I really like this foot, it gives me lots of visibility. But this week I kept getting snagged on the hand applique, one side of the foot would slip under part of the applique. Would a closed foot help with this type of project? Or is there something I should do that would avoid this issue?
Yes, the particular foot you're using will be a bit tricky to use over applique. The wide mouth, combined with the prongy edges will certainly like to snag on applique edges.

If you only have this one foot, you're going to have to learn how to move the quilt under the foot in a way that will never have the prongs moving towards the edges of the applique.  This simply takes practice and a bit of foresight and planning when you go to quilt an applique quilt.

Personally I prefer to stitch sideways over appliques, so the prongs of the foot are perpendicular with the edges of the applique.  This means you'll be technically quilting sideways - running from right to left or left to right, keeping the edge of the applique perpendicular with the foot:

I like this better because I think you can see where you're going a bit better.  It does require a good deal of rotating of the quilt in order to maintain this angle.

The alternative option is to stitch away from yourself, with the back of the foot running over the applique edges like this:

This is a bit harder to see where you're going because that section of the quilt will be behind your foot and a bit behind your machine.  Again you'll have to continually rotate the quilt in order to maintain this angle and direction of your stitching.

In truth, it might be a good idea to play with both methods and be able to stitch both ways.  Looking back at my videos of the sunflower applique from week #14, that's exactly how I quilt - a bit sideways, then a bit back, then rotate the quilt, and stitch a bit sideways, then a bit back.

The one angle that will get your foot snagged is going to be when you stitch forward, towards yourself, with those prongs running straight into the edges of the applique.  Of course, it's possible to get good enough at quilting along edges and keeping the applique squished down, and your foot angled away from it that you won't catch it. 

And yes, there is another solution and that is to just buy a closed toe darning foot.  Then you can stitch in all directions and there will be no prongy things to get stuck in the applique.

Only one problem though - with a closed toe you might not be able to see where you're going!

Next I received this question from Beth via email:

Should I stay stitch the edge of my large quilt before binding?
Full Question: Currently I am working on a cheater cloth quilt (104 x 97) and I have a question about attaching the binding. I had the quilt machine quilted by someone else and I was wondering if I should straight stitch around the whole quilt before I sew on the binding? I thought it might stabilize the edge since it is so large.
Here's the most simple advice I've ever given: If it sounds good to you, DO IT!

If you feel the edge of your quilt is going to do the macarana without a bit of extra stitching around the edge, take the extra step and add the stitching!

The same goes for steps you don't feel are necessary.  If you don't want to bother blocking your quilt, don't do it.

It's your quilt, and every single one is a learning process.  What you decide to do, or not do, and how you do it is entirely up to you.

This is why it's a great idea to keep a quilt journal, or a record of your quilts and how things went.  Make sure to make note what batting and thread you used, as well as any extra materials (starch, needles, special threads, etc) that you might want to duplicate later.

You never know when, 5 years down the road, you'll want to duplicate that exact same color of dark red thread, and your quilt journal will definitely come in handy!

Finally one last question from Jackie in the comments of yesterday's post:

I would like to have the pattern for "Batik Beauty" but I am already signed up for the newsletter so how do I go about getting it?

If you're already subscribed to the newsletter, simply shoot us an email (support @ daystyledesigns.com - delete the spaces) and mention "batik beauty" and Josh will send you the link!

That's it for this week.  I'm heading into the studio to spend some much needed time cleaning up, then tackling several UFOs all at once.  Lol.  That kind of makes me sound like a futuristic alien freedom fighter!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Quilt Along #15: Sharp Stippling

It's Wednesday, which means it's Quilt Along Time!  Last week we finished up with Stippling, the Mother of all Independent Designs.

So now it's time to meet the whole family!  For the next few weeks we're going to learn and experiment with designs I call the Sisters of Stippling.

These designs work ALMOST the same way, but with some small difference that make them an entirely different design, with a different texture, and a different effect on the surface of your quilt.

So the very first Sister of Stippling we're going to meet is called Sharp Stippling.

This design was originally published to the project back on Day 215.  Click here to find the original post and video for this design.

Some of the Independent Designs we'll work on this year will be reviews of older designs, like Sharp Stippling.  The nice thing about reviewing these design is we'll finally get the chance to see them in real quilts!

Try to think of a project you'd like to see Sharp Stippling in, and make sure to share your opinion in the comments below.

Now let's learn how to quilt Sharp Stippling on a large scale and medium scale in a real quilt:

Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

Just like with Stippling, start Sharp Stippling by quilting a row of very simple wiggly V shapes:

Gradually add bends and extra wiggles to add more complexity with the next row:

Now work on blending several rows together to create a random, sharp stippling texture:

Notice that this works exactly the same as Stippling!  Work a row from left to right, then from right to left, and see how easy it can be to bend and wiggle this design over your quilt.

The very nice thing about the sharp points of Sharp Stippling is they give you a great place to stop and reposition your hands and your quilt.  Just stop in a point, make sure the needle is in the down position, move your hands or reposition your quilt as needed, then begin quilting again, smoothly transitioning from a slow speed to higher speed as your hands return to their normal movement.

But also be mindful as you stitch these points that it's very easy to create little knots in these area.

This happens when you stop moving your hands, but continue to run the machine, stitching 2-3 times in the exact same place.

This is actually surprisingly easy to do, so much so that it can be habit forming.  If you have to, come to a point, then stop - take your foot off the pedal, then start stitching again to avoid resting for too long in one point.

Now a bit about the quilt I was working on in this video.  This is Batik Beauty:

You can get this quilt pattern for free by signing up for our Weekly Newsletter right here.

If you want to create this quilt top to follow along with me the next few weeks, you can, or you can work on any UFO quilt you have laying around the house.

For me, Batik Beauty is such a UFO!  It's been laying around pieced and basted for so long I had to question whether James had been born when I pieced it.  Luckily, I remembered him drooling on the ground when I organized the blocks, so at least it's not been floating around the sewing room for more than 5 years unfinished.

I realized last week that creating brand new projects for this quilt along, on top of projects for myself and family was just plain silly.  From here on out, you're going to get videos of what I'm actually working on - real projects that are being quilted, or having more quilting added to them.

So this week I quilted that center green block and hopefully demonstrated that it's really not that hard to squish a full sized quilt into your machine.  The block had already been stitched in the ditch, which meant the pins could be taken out, and the only thing left to do was fill it with 3 rows of Sharp Stippling.

If you happen to have a quilt like this ready, this would be a great project to work on simply because each block can be filled with a different design, on a large scale, so they quilt up quite easily and quickly.

Please don't feel pressure to create this exact quilt if you don't want to.  Practice on a small quilt sandwich of plain fabric, a charity quilt, or any project you have in progress!

Now it's time to link up and share any last questions or issues with Stippling!


Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (www.freemotionquilting.blogspot.com), but the link to the specific post: http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com/2012/01/quilt-along-2-quilting-in-rows.html

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

Keep in mind that you're posting your progress from LAST week on THIS week's post. This way you have time to watch the lesson, play with the ideas, then post your progress to the next quilt along. I hope that makes sense!

As always, any questions you have, please post them in the comments below or on your blog and I'll answer 5 tomorrow on Question Thursday.

Time for me to shut up and quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, April 16, 2012

Get a Grip!

Recently I've noticed a lot of questions about stitch length and stitch quality - how do you maintain even stitches and how to get them looking good all the time?

Part of this is simply down to practice.  The more you quilt, the better "feel" you will have for free motion quilting and the more consistent and even your stitches will become.

But there is a tool that can help you gain better control over the quilt which will instantly improve how your stitches look and how you feel moving the quilt over your machine.

The tool is Machingers Quilting Gloves.

Machingers are lightweight nylon gloves with rubber tips designed to lock onto your quilt top and help move it smoothly and evenly over your machine.

A super nice feature about these gloves is that they're double sided - you can wear out one side, then switch hands and wear out the other side!

Without gloves, your finger tips will be unable to gain purchase on the quilt surface.  Fine movements and delicate control will be quite difficult to achieve when you can't get a grip on the quilt..

Worse still, you might get into the habit of clenching the quilt with your hand closed in a fist.  This is not a good way to quilt as you still won't be able to achieve good control over the quilt, and you'll probably end up with aching hands and wrists in a very short time.

Unlike gardening gloves, Machingers are designed to fit snugly against your skin, but are made of a thin, breathable nylon, so your hands won't sweat when you wear them.

The closer fit will help you grip the quilt with the palm of your hands, which can be very helpful for large scale quilting.

Personally I've used Machingers since my very first quilting class back in 2006.  I tried to stipple on a 12 inch practice sandwich and felt very frustrated by how little the quilt moved when I pushed and pulled on it with bare hands.  My hands just seemed to slide right over the surface and the quilt sat still!

The teacher offered many tools for us to try, including hoops and rings designed to aid with moving the quilt.  These tools just seemed to get into my way and obscured my vision from what I was stitching.

Finally I slipped on a pair of Machingers and felt like I had control at last!  Now when I pushed on the quilt, it went somewhere!  It felt much less difficult to get it where I wanted it to go, and I no longer felt like the my hands were sliding uncontrollably over the surface. Even now, 6 years later, I still wear these gloves for free motion quilting every day.

The level of control, grip, and movement they will give you will dramatically improve your free motion quilting ability. 

If you're interested in trying a pair of Machingers, click here to find them in the Day Style Designs Quilt Shop.

You can also save $5.00 by bundling Machingers with the Supreme Slider and Magic Bobbin Washers in the Ultimate Quilting Kit.

Let's get a grip and go quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Quilt Biz #2 - Traffic and Content

It's time for another Quilting Business post!  I was thrilled with the response to last weeks post and am excited to share more experience, stories, and ideas with you, whether you're just starting out or already running an established business.

As with all things, it's always best to start with the basics so this week I'd like to explain some terminology and ideas for business that we will return to time and time again. 

In it's simplest form, a business owner is a middle man between a customer and a particular product. 

This product could be anything from a new seam ripper, to a DVD, to a quilt you've created.  A product could also be a service you render for the customer, such as quilting a quilt top. 

Your job is therefore two fold:

#1. Attract potential customers 

#2. Provide products they are most likely to want.

Today we're going to focus solely on #1 - how do you attract potential customers to your quilt shop?

Whether you're running an online business or a storefront, there's only one thing that matters: traffic.

Traffic is the word used to describe all the potential customers that come through your store every day. 

In a physical store, this is the number of people that walk in and browse.  You know how many people come into the store because it's very obvious.  You know when you've had a "dead" day when not many people have walked in and the store has remained empty for most of the day.

Online, you don't "see" people in that same sense, but you can look at your statistics and see how many people are coming onto your site, what they are clicking on, and how they are leaving.

Quite simply, you want as much traffic as your shop can handle every single day.

Dead days - days with low traffic - will almost always result in low or zero sales, and it's pretty obvious, zero sales is bad for business!

Back in college I used to work in a garden boutique store in downtown Asheville.  This shop had fairly steady traffic through the summer and fall, but as soon as winter hit, a super strong, icy wind would blow down the side of the building, making most customers avoid that area. For more than 3 months we'd rarely see even 1 customer walk through the doors. 

Not only was this shop depressing to work at, it was literally impossible to sustain so many days with zero traffic and zero sales.  Eventually the business moved, but then folded because the low level of traffic it generated could never create enough sales to sustain the business.

To say it straight: no business can survive without traffic.

Your primary focus as a business owner will be on building the traffic of your shop, increasing awareness of it's location, promotions, classes, and products so the largest number of people will walk through your door every day.

There isn't a single way of building and growing traffic.  Some methods are free, some are expensive, some require lots of time, some require no time at all.  Some methods work online, and some only apply to storefront businesses.

But there is one definite, absolutely guaranteed way to increase your traffic:

Offer a truckload of content.

Traditionally content refers to the sum total of all the articles, videos, podcasts, facebook posts, tweets and tumbles you post online every single day.

Typically this is only an online measure of how active your blog or website is.
  The more content you post, the more you share, the more you facebook, the more people will have a chance to find you, like you, and eventually decide to buy from you.

But I also use Content to mean the amount of knowledge you're sharing in your physical quilt shop as well.  How much advice do you give every day?  How knowledgeable are your employees?  What classes do you offer? 

Ask yourself this question: How much could someone learn about quilting in my shop without paying $1?

This is super important factor for any business, online or offline, and will ultimately determine how much traffic you receive and whether you survive in business.

To say it straight: the more free content you can provide, the more traffic you will attract, and the bigger and more successful your shop will be.

Oooo, I can hear some of you squirming at that one.  Bear with me!

Many physical quilt store owners really don't like giving everything away for free.  Long hours, multiple employees, combined with managing hundreds of products, on top of providing a wealth of advice to each customer that walks in the door can create an attitude of anti-gratitude, or at least an unwillingness to add an extra free workshop on top of it all.

It can be very hard to understand why a free workshop or free block of the month program could be a good idea. 

Why can't you charge as little as $10 per person to pay for your time?  Here's why: because asking for just $1 will automatically divide the number of participants in half, if not more.  Would you like 10 people in your shop or 5?

You want traffic, right?!  You want people in your store, right?!

Give em' something fun to come to, for free, and you'll have the maximum number of people coming to the event.  While not every single person will buy something, what are the chances that all 20 or 30 people would have showed up had the class or program not been offered?

And I can't think of a single time I've gone to a quilt shop for a free program and not purchased something.  Usually during the middle of the program I'd remember needing a new rotary blade, pack of needles, or thread for a quilt project.

Here's a story from my recent trip to Texas:

The first quilt shop I visited was Country Stitches Quilt Shop in Burleson, and just so happened the morning I walked in, the shop was in the middle of a huge block of the month program.

I can't describe the wonderful atmosphere of excitement all those quilters radiated in that shop.  They were patiently waiting for the lesson to start, and since the demo was taking place right in the middle of the shop, they were also checking out merchandise, discussing purchases, and comparing items with their friends.

As a visitor to the area, that quilt shop just felt like fun!  Country and reproduction style fabric isn't even my style, but if I lived in the area, that would definitely be a shop I'd visit often, just for the good vibes it let off.

Now before the trip, I'd researched the area and found another quilt shop that also seemed to understand this idea of creating an open, fun atmosphere for quilting.  They had a Friday night Sewing Lounge where quilters could come with a project to work on and stitch from 5 pm until midnight.

According to the website, there was no charge for this open time, but they did like you to call to say you were planning to attend.  Unfortunately after many attempts to call, and finding all numbers disconnected, plus noticing the website was more than a year out of date, I had to conclude that this shop wasn't in business any longer.

What went wrong?  I have absolutely no idea, but I imagine having a totally open "do whatever you want" time wasn't specific enough to bring people in on a Friday night.  As an out-of-towner that sounded great to me, but I had to ask myself if I'd attend if something like that opened in Gastonia, NC.  Probably not. 

More than likely it was difficult to get a good group and a good vibe going when no structured class or tutorial was being shared (i.e: block of the month, short tutorial, skill building class).

So free time can be good, but free CONTENT is better.  Open time for quilting is certainly a good idea, but sharing knowledge, a good tutorial, a fun block or technique will be far more likely to bring quilters into your shop.

We've talked a lot about physical quilt shops in this article, so what about online quilt shops?

Online is much simpler: without a giant load of content, you don't exist.

When you open a shop online, it's like adding a single drop of water to the ocean.  No one will notice it.  No one will care.  No one will even know it has happened.

The internet is huge, constantly growing, and full of information, distractions, products, advertisements, and entertainment.  A single new quilt shop with a handful of products will not instantly be ranked #1 in search engine results.  You will have to work for that kind of ranking, and that means lots and lots of content.

The best rule of thumb is to start posting every single day.  That's a minimum of 7 posts a week.  If you can, post more often than that. 

What should you post about?  Whatever is important to you, whatever knowledge would have been helpful to you as a beginning quilter, whatever interests you, whatever relates to your products, whatever you love or hate about quilting.  Essential post about whatever you want!

Yes, there are ways of running an online business without excessive content, but these methods are both extremely expensive (advertising based) and unreliable for building a solid foundation for your business.  The absolute best method for attracting quilters to your shop is to provide information that those quilters are looking for.

But here's one other lesson about content: you have to WANT to share it.

You can't fake content.  It simply doesn't work. 

In a physical store this would be like offering a block of the month program, but not bothering to have the blocks pieced on the day of the lesson.  Quilters are coming for that tutorial and expect to see the block laid out step by step.  If you don't provide that promised content, those quilters aren't going to be happy.

This happened once in a BOM program I attended as a beginning quilter.  Not only was the quilt shop so disorganized as to not have the tutorial ready, they'd cut the fabric for the block incorrectly!  It was not fun and not amusing to show up for class, only to realize the lesson was a total joke.  I didn't go back again.

You have to make an effort with your content.  It's very clear when you don't care, don't want to do it, and don't have passion for it.

This is especially true online.  If you post an article about paper piecing, for example, but don't provide photos to demonstrate the technique, how likely is that article going to help anyone with paper piecing?  If it doesn't properly teach the lesson, how will it help quilters learn to paper piece?

And if it doesn't help anyone, it won't be shared. 

Links are one of the biggest ways you'll gain traffic as an online business.
People only share, link, or tweet if they find something cool and fun and helpful.

This is a VISUAL craft.  We need to SEE it, step by step.  You need to share lots of photos, or videos if you can.

These photos and videos don't have to be perfect.


Many times I'll mention the idea of videos to another quilter and they literally curl up with fright at the idea.  Yes, it takes practice, but the more videos you make, the more you'll get comfortable with the process.

It's taken me a long time to realize that most quilters are not looking for perfection - you're looking for honesty, for experience, and for real examples of what to expect.  You want to SEE the real thing being stitched as it's REALLY stitched.

I've learned this just recently when teaching the Heart and Feather Wholecloth Quilt.  Most of the questions and confusion generated about this project were caused when I decided to split the outline quilting and microstippling into two separate videos.

This just wasn't the way I would have quilted the real quilt, and you all knew it!  I couldn't fool you for a second, and this created more confusion for you, and more work for me.  From this experience, I learned to show you exactly what I'm doing, exactly the way I'd really do it in a real quilt.

That's sharing experience - that is REAL CONTENT.

It takes passion to do this kind of thing.  You can't half-a$$ it. 

That takes us again back to the first post - if you want to be in business, you've got to really WANT it!

You've got to be not just willing, but excited about creating content: quilts, designs, patterns to give away for free, to teach, to share.  This is exciting because it's going to help quilters learn, and by helping quilters learn, you're providing a valuable service.

In exchange for your content, your time, your passion, you will receive traffic, and you will build a solid foundation for a business to grow year after year.

So this week take some time to think about traffic and content.  If you don't have a blog right now, consider starting one. 

Blogs are basically free websites with a simple interface which allows you to post easily and quickly.  Yes, you could also start a traditional website, but it's much more time consuming, costs money, and can be confusing to get started.

A blog is much easier to work with, and especially if you've never, ever done anything like this before, it's the best place for you to get started.

I don't want to hear that you "don't know how to blog."  Figure it out.  Find tutorials.  GOOGLE IT!  Click on buttons just to see what they do.  Don't ask your kid or grandkid to do it for you.  YOU need to know how to do this.

And this advice also goes for physical quilt shop owners too.  More than anything else, you need to start building an online presence.  There might be 200 quilters in your town, but guess how many quilters are online?  A lot more than 200 baby!

Remember my story about that garden shop I worked in?  Had the owner developed a blog, shared pretty pics from the shop and fun tutorials on gardening, that shop might have had a different fate.  As it was, almost no one knew it existed, so no one missed it when it was gone.

To say it as simply as possible:  

Traffic is everything, and providing good content will bring that traffic to your shop.

But what about products?  Next week we'll discuss products and how you really shouldn't worry about them until you actually have traffic.

Here's the complete list of all 10 Quilting Business Posts:


Go quilt and share something awesome today!

Leah Day

Friday, April 13, 2012

What We Leave Behind

This past weekend I went to Mansfield, Texas to see my grandmother one last time.  This post will be a record of my thoughts and reactions to that trip, to seeing a woman I loved so close to the end of her life, so be warned that it might be sad so you might want to check out quilt along posts instead.

It's simple to say that when you take a trip like this you go with expectations, however illogical, of the person you love still being the person you loved so many years ago.

My best memories of my grandmother were when I was in elementary and middle school.  Neither her house, nor the house I grew up in were air conditioned, but Grandma's old farmhouse was built into the side of a hill and her little den room was always cool and comfortable, no matter what the temperature outside.

I'd go over to her house many days on the weekend, and many of my earliest craft projects: crochet, knitting, and beadwork, were stitched out on her couch.  She was always excited to see what I was working on, always interested, and always asking questions.

I especially remember the long days I'd spend with Grandma in the summer.  By the time I was 11 or 12, I was visiting all by myself as my sisters had long since decided hanging out with grandma was "not cool."  Her house was a peaceful place and we'd watch TV together (I didn't have one at home) and within a few minutes Grandma would nod off.

She'd wake up about every 2 hours to ply me with food: ABC soup with Ritz crackers, sliced green apples, Pepsi, and peanut butter cookies.  She just wanted to take care of you if you were visiting, and the best way she could do that is with food.

I remember the way she'd say my name when I walked in "HEY! It's LeeeAHH!"  She had a high pitched voice that went higher when she said my name.  It was a funny thing I never thought about before, but I realized on my trip to Texas that I wish I could hear her say it that way again.

Unfortunately by the time my dad and I arrived, Grandma could barely hold her head up, let alone speak.  She's 88 years old, frail, and tiny.  She's had a series of small strokes that have left her unable to walk, talk, feed herself, or move unaided.

Seeing her in that state was hard, but I wanted to see her one last time.  I needed to say something important to my grandmother that was far overdue and should have been said years before.

I wanted to say "thank you."

A simple gracious thank you to a woman who was kind and gave me a peaceful place to hang out.  A thank you for the support and interest she showed in my crafty projects, which made me feel like I was doing something interesting with my time.

Because without her, without those peaceful days and her time and attention, I wouldn't be the person I am now.  I probably wouldn't have valued those crafts or abilities the same way, and wouldn't have continued to pursue them the way I have.

Of course, when you start looking back it's easy to fall in a pit of recrimination.  I should have visited her more in high school.  I should have stayed with her when I came home from college.  I should have continued to visit and spend long hours in her house even when I no longer needed that peaceful place anymore.

I fell into that mode for a few days, but then I remembered - all that is in the past, and I can't go back and fix it.

I can't change how I acted or what I did.  I could only go now and see her one last time and thank her for what time she gave me, and what time I gave her.

Seeing her tiny form I was struck again by the simple truth of life and death: we come with nothing, and we leave with nothing.

Grandma may be surrounded by family members, being cared for by her daughter, being talked to by various grandchildren and great grandchildren, but in her current state we could be anyone.  She can't see us or recognize us to know we're there.

So whatever sense of accomplishment she might have felt at raising 5 children, does she even remember that now?

And this has led me to question: do we truly leave anything behind?

I've stumbled across this question for days.  As a quilter, I'd love to think that my quilts will outlive me, that they will rest on the walls and beds of my grandchildren and great grandchildren.  I'd love to think that the love and care I've stitched into each quilt will last to touch and comfort more of my family, even after I am gone.

But is this a guarantee?  No.  There are no guarantees, none at all.  I'm no more guaranteed grandchildren, any more than I can guarantee my quilts won't be donated to Goodwill when I die.

So what is guaranteed?  What do we leave behind?  I've thought about this a lot over the last several days, and finally I found the answer.

We leave our memories.

I've shared my best memories of my grandmother.  She might pass away this weekend or next, but I have this memory to look back on and can remember her sweet, caring nature.

And that is the lesson I've taken from seeing her last weekend, so close to the end of her life.  That in this world, the only thing we can guarantee is how people remember us.

It is a simple reminder to be kind.

Kindness may seem such a simple thing, a thing to be taken for granted.

But by building a house on kindness, good memories will be quick to follow.  Memories of laughter, fun activities, or maybe just simple peace and contentment with a warm summer breeze blowing through the window.

This made me think of the old saying "You reap what you sow."

Whatever you plant in the ground will grow up to become your life later.  I plan to make a quilt based on this saying, a quilt that illustrates this choice because it is a choice we make every single day: kindness or anger, peace or discord. 

What are you planting?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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