The Free Motion Quilting Project: May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Last Vacation Link Up!

Yes, it's the very last vacation link up because next week we're coming back with Quilt Along #17!  I hope everyone has enjoyed this break (or at least not hated my guts for it) and is ready to get back in the swing of quilting through the summer.

So what have I been up to?  It feels like most of this month has been spent working on the new book, and I'm super happy and excited to announce that it's finally ready!

365 free motion quilting designs
365 Free Motion Quilting Designs is now available as a digital ebook!  This 252 page book features all 365 designs in new, awesome photos.  Each design comes with the name and number so you can easily look up the original tutorial here on the project.

Click here to find this ebook in our Quilt Shop!

And YES, just in case you're wondering, all of these designs will stay online, permanently, so you will always be able to look up the videos and watch a design being stitched.  It seems silly to delete this information or try to lock it or restrict it in any way, so you can count on always being able to look up your favorite designs to see how they are quilted!

When I haven't been writing, editing, loading photos, or waiting for PDFs to generate, I've been quilting!  Mostly I've been preping projects for us to work on this summer and fall.  Here's a few teaser shots that will hopefully get you interested in what's to come:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah Day
When I haven't been busy with either of those big tasks, I've been hard at work in the laundry room.  I'm determined to turn this area into a clean, functional space for dyeing fabric.  Right now, it just looks like a big mess:

Outside I've made much more progress.  In one afternoon I leveled and built a 4th little garden and two nights ago Josh, James, and I planted several plants including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, oregano, and sage:

I'm looking forward to a big harvest of vegetables this summer!

Time to shut up and go quilt!


Monday, May 28, 2012

I'll Never Need This Again...

These are pretty dangerous words for any crafter, quilter, or DIYer.  They usually come out of our mouth just as we chuck some unused tool, material, or supply in the trash, only to wish we still had it within a few months!

I'm an avid purger.  No, this doesn't mean I throw up all the time (gross)!  Instead it means I'm constantly looking at all the "stuff" I own and constantly judging whether it really needs to be kept or is in need of a good chucking out the door.  Case in point is when I trashed my closet last year.

This is kind of the opposite of hording, where you save every thing in the world (including your empty fast food bins and candy wrappers) just in case you MIGHT need them one day.

I'm just not that kind of person.  When looking at an item, I think very hard for a second "Do I need this right NOW?"

If I can't come up with a cool project idea, or if the item just feels like junk, that's it.  I don't worry excessively about hurting my old rotary cutter's feelings.  The blade gets changed when it gets dull with no feelings of remorse.  It's just a simple blade!

But I've definitely learned my lesson this weekend.  A few months ago I went through all my tools and decided it was time to chuck all my electrical wiring tools.

Back in 2006, Josh and I renovated a room in our basement to make a den.  Because we planned to move our TV downstairs, and because the room in question had almost no sockets to plug things in, I learned how to wire sockets and switches.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This saved us an enormous amount of money and was actually pretty easy to do, once you master the basics with the respect that, if you screw it up, you could potentially electrocute yourself or burn your house down (yes, usually in that order).

I amassed a lot of electrical / wiring tools that year and pretty much haven't touched them since.  I've fixed the odd switch or bad socket here or there, but not really had to take care of any major projects since.

So it makes sense that when I looked at that box of gear a few months ago and realized I hadn't touched it in 6 years, I easily made the decision to chuck it.

Only to need it less than 3 months later.

Yep, I'm wiring again, this time a few sockets for the laundry room and updating a switch that has long since needed to be changed.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This is my nasty laundry room.  It's always been the dirtiest, dankest place in the house because the washer has a penchant for regurgitating water all over the floor (she likes to purge too) and the place has always been dark, buggy, and full of junk.

This weekend I decided to change this room's dark fate in favor of a new purpose.  Rather than let all this wonderful space go to waste, I'm converting it into a place to dye fabric safely and easily out of everyone's way, but still within the house so I won't freeze to death if I decide to dye during the winter.

What made this job a million times easier is all the leftover wood we have laying around (one of the few things I don't purge because I definitely will use it... one day).  Finally, finishing the wall is making for a much cleaner, more tidy appearance, but when I reached the first electrical socket, I knew I'd hit a speed bump.

The switch for this room was super old, still encased in a super tiny metal box with an awful clacky switch that was seriously loud enough to hear in the office (all the way across the house).  So I decided to update the switch, but then started thinking...

What about electrical sockets around the work table?  What about extra lighting?  What about plugging in my crockpot or a plug-in-light?

It's a dangerous series of thoughts... and it usually leads to the hardware store.

Where of course I forgot that I'd thrown out my wire strippers and testers and all the little tools that made this job easier.  Instead I ended up stripping the plastic casing off the wires with an old pair of scissors.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It certainly worked, but wasn't very elegant.

But I'm happy to say after a long afternoon of fiddling with wires and sockets, this project is done!  No, I still haven't finished the walls, primed, or painted, but the knowledge that I will at least have lighting and electricity in this area is comforting.

And you know, even for having thrown out all those tools, working on this project just proves that you don't need every tool, gizmo, or gadget in order to get the job done.  Yes, it required a bit more time and ingenuity, but the outcome was still the same.

So I guess the moral of this story is to throw out useless junk (if you're not using it, don't keep it), but also don't beat yourself up for the things you throw out and DO actually end up needing again!  Chances are you can find an alternative that will work just fine.

Now I'm up for a much needed break with Downton Abby and a hand binding project!

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quilt Biz #8 - Get Online!

It's Sunday and time for another Quilting Business post!  Today I really want to nail in the fact that being online, no matter what type of business you have, no matter how you make money, is absolutely essential for your success.

Let's first discuss this from an established store front shop perspective.  Let's say you opened a store front quilt shop 3 years ago and have done quite well in your small town.  Why do you need a website or to be online?

#1 - Expanded visibility - Does everyone in town know where you are?  Really?  Unless you're in the center of town and in order to drive anywhere, the entire town has to drive by your door in the morning (highly unlikely) then I'd bet there are a few people in town that don't know you exist.

Having a website, or at least spending some time linking up and posting your business to listing sites will expand the visibility of your site to those that may never drive by your store, may have never come to your town.

What's the first thing I do anytime I'm traveling to a new town, even for an afternoon?  I Google "quilt shops" and the name of the town.  Run a search right now.  Do you come up #1?  In the top 10?  Are you even on the list?!

This is important because dedicated quilters look for shops when vacationing and visiting family.  If you're not visible online, how will anyone know you exist?

#2 - Create buzz - A website, unlike a phone book listing, can share so much more information about you and your shop than just your phone number.  When I went to Texas this last spring, the shop I was most excited to visit advertised an open time on Friday nights to sit and stitch and work on projects.  That sounded like so much fun!

Even if you're not offering an open time like that, consider sharing photos of your stock, the beautiful fabrics you carry, the notions display.  If someone is looking for AccuQuilt dies, won't they feel good seeing the photo of your display and know without a shadow of a doubt that you will carry what they are looking for?

Your website builds buzz and can connect you with people you've never met and wouldn't have been likely to meet if you hadn't taken the time to build it.

#3 - Additional Sales - If you've got the staff and capability, why not start selling items online?  Quilters are online all the time and looking for cute patterns and fun ideas.  By sharing the items you're already selling in your store, you can essentially extend the hours of your store to 24/7.

Normally, you have to be physically at your store to generate sales (you have to have the doors open and lights on).  Online, you don't have to be physically on your computer.  Customers can order from you while you're eating dinner!

This additional sales revenue can make an enormous difference for quilt shops struggling to make ends meet.  Not only will the internet help you find more customers, it will also allow you to make money even when the store front shop is closed.

Of course, I've heard a million excuses for getting online, even in the most simple way (a blog).

Usually the excuses start with:

But there are big fabric sites like!  How can I compete with them?

Yep, there are big sites, and yep, they do have lots of traffic.  But there is an upside and downside to being huge.  With, it's such a huge collection of so many different kinds of fabric, it's can be a confusing muddle to get to the area you want.  The more clicks it takes to get you where you want, the fewer people willing to hassle with it.

If you're a quilt shop, you're going to carry cotton quilting fabric, not all the jerseys and knits and synthetics quilter's don't want!  By being small, your shop is going to be easier to browse through and find the items customers want.

It might sound crazy, but seriously stop worrying about competition.  It's pointless to fret about all the big guys and how small you feel in the giant sea of the internet.  Get over and start blogging!

The other excuse I hear the most is: I don't have time for that.

Dude, make time for it!  Do you not have time to order fabric this week?  Do you not have time to host that workshop next weekend?

If you can make time for those obvious things, you can make time for this.  These days there is seriously no viable excuse not to be online in some form, even if it's just a single page with your hours, address, and phone number.

And just in case this still sounds extremely intimidating and scary, here's a list of listing sites you can start with to get you feet wet.  It seriously helps to also have a blog or website, but this will at least get you started: - this site links you up with all the listing sites like yellowpages.  You'll need to work through it step by step to create a complete profile, then keep it updated in case your store hours or number changes.

You can also offer coupons through this site which can be fun just to test how many people are finding you through this service.

Google yourself - Yes, this sounds weird, but you should regularly google your business name and see what is being said about it online, if anything.  Also check what comes up for "quilt shop, your city"  If you're not on that list, your #1 goal will be to get on that list within the next month.

Regular searches for business listing sites - my rule of thumb is to never pay for anything.  Don't buy ads or pay for listing services.  They're usually a rip off.  If you find a free service, create a profile for your business and see what comes from it.

Of course, the best possible way to be online is to START your business online.  This way you build not just content and traffic, you have an established business BEFORE you open your physical doors.

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

So that's it for this week!  Enjoy your Memorial Day and when you get back from this holiday, take some time to get online!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

What's coming in the Quilt Along?

The month of May is finishing up next week, which is making me think quite a lot about the Quilt Along and what we'll be working on between now and November.

Here's a few things I plan to teach in the coming months:

- Trapunto in a wholecloth
- More independent designs
- A fun quilt as you go project
- A fun applique project

But this is just what I'm thinking of.  What are you looking for or needing to learn from the Quilt Along this year?  What would be the most helpful things to learn between now and November?

Share your ideas and wishes in the comments below!  No promises that everything will be taught, but there's always next year!

Let's go quilt,


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Vacation Link Up #4

It's Wednesday yet again and time to check in and share what we've been working on this week.

I hate to admit it, but I really haven't had much time for quilting, or even dyeing fabric this week.  Instead I've been stuck to my computer adding the finishing touches to the new book.

I'm in part of this book project where everything left to do seems like it shouldn't take any time at all, when in fact, everything is super time consuming and complicated with lots of important decisions to be hammered out.

Speaking of important decisions, did I mention I'd finally settled on a title?!  365 Free Motion Quilting Designs.  No, it's not going to win me any "best book title" awards, but at least it's clear what you're getting!

In order for Josh and my father-in-law, Chet, to edit this book properly, I had to print out a copy for us to work with.  By punching holes in the sides, I was able to bind the book quite nicely into a 3 ring binder.  Printing it out always makes things feel like they're finally coming together and this was quite a BIG book to come together!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I've also spent a lot of time playing with the front cover using the Create Space cover generator.  This is an awesome asset of using Create Space to print the book because it makes creating a perfectly formatted cover (quite a challenging project) much easier.

After several hours of fiddling, I finally managed to create a cover I'm happy with:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Again, perfection isn't possible with a locked generator like this.  I'd really prefer to have the title formatted slightly differently, but it's just not possible.  The best thing I've learned is to try my best to get what I want, but when it's obvious what I want is impossible, to let go of that detail with as little struggle as possible.

On the whole, I'm feeling great about this book.  I haven't let this project become an overwhelming nightmare, and I have tortured myself with it for months.  Maybe I'm finally learning how to stay sane as a self publisher?!

Time to shut up, get off the computer, and go quilt!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Where did my baby go?

I have heard it a million times "it only seems like yesterday and you were just a little baby..." I've heard it from my parents and many other parents I've met.  Almost everyone I've ever know who's ever had children has said something to that effect.

I never expected to say it myself, but today I definitely am.

It feels like these last 4 years have happened in a blink any my cute, chubby baby boy is now all gone and replaced with a skinny, super fast running, even faster talking little boy ready to take on the world with a light saber in one hand and a cookie in the other.

What exactly is making me so maudlin today?  Today James will graduate from Rainbow Connection preschool, where he first learned the hardest life lesson of all: that mom can't be around all the time. 

Those first few weeks were harrowing as every time I dropped him off, he'd scream and cling and beg me not to go.  These days, four years later, I'm lucky to get a good-bye let alone a hug as he rushes into class ready to play and talk to friends.

Obviously that lesson about mom not always being around has been learned, and now I've got to learn a lesson myself: that my little boy will grow up quicker than I can imagine, and I'd better make the most of it while he still likes me!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I'm so very happy I took this month off because I doubt I'd be able to make a video today or teach anything worth learning about quilting.  It's not that I'm totally overwhelmingly emotional, it's just that I'm extremely preoccupied with memories of my little baby and, yes, some regrets for time I spent working when I could have been playing.

It's a lesson I return to time and time again: that time and attention is IMPORTANT.  More important than it ever gets credit for.  Just the simple response "Yes, I will stop working to play with you.  What would you like to do?" it is simple, the time may only be a few minutes, but it says so much.

That response says: Yes, I will stop for you.

No, I don't need to work all the time.

No, I don't really need to finish this right this second.

Yes, I want to play with you.

Yes, I see you and acknowledge you.

Yes, I love you.

Today is yet another reminder to stop, acknowledge the limited time I have with my son at this age, and make more room for him in my day.

Attention is a small thing, but it is also a huge thing.  In a way, it is the only thing I can give him that he can take with him when, in just 13 more years, he will graduate from high school and leave home.  Memories of time and is really the only thing we have left.

Let's go quilt,


Monday, May 21, 2012

Bloggers' Quilt Festival!

Amy over at Amy's Creative Side is holding another awesome Bloggers Quilt Festival!

This year, I'm sponsoring a Viewers Choice Award and a best-in category (unfortunately I can't remember which!)  If you win, you'll receive a Beginner Combo Kit which is a copy of From Daisy to Paisley and Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers DVD.

Definitely share an awesome, beautiful quilt you've been working on this spring and link up with everyone else in this fun festival of sharing.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Quilt Biz #7 - Self Publishing

With two books in print and a third soon to be published in the next week or so, I think it's high time I covered the giant topic of Self Publishing.

I did cover this a bit in the article about selling quilt patterns as opposed to selling actual quilts, but self publishing a book is a bit different from a pattern.

For one thing, a pattern is short, sweet, and simple.  You can probably cram instructions for even a complexly pieced quilt into 10 pages of text and diagrams.

A book is not so simple, or short, or sweet.  More pages and more content means more time formatting this information so it looks half-way decent on the page and then editing to make sure most grammatical errors and typos are cleaned up before printing.

However when it comes to a book, there's more than just formatting and editing content.  When most people when considering self publishing a pattern, they don't think much about it.  5 pages?  Pfff...I'll print and package that myself...

The product is small, so the cost is small, so printing 200 copies of a 5 page pattern can probably be worked into a weekend along without a massive work-a-ton.

A book is a totally different ball game.  The cost of toner and paper alone makes printing a 100 page book yourself almost impossible.  Can you imagine printing 200 copies of a 100 page book on a Sunday afternoon?  That's 20000 pages that need to spit out of your printer and be organized, hole punched, bound, etc!

So for self publishing, you're going to need to expand your world to include some other companies or businesses that help you in the process of taking your book from a word file to a printed, bound book.  Yes, you could do it all by yourself, but these days there's really no reason to struggle.  As you'll find by the end of this article, self publishing is now super easy, cheap, and awesome.

First, it might be good for me to explain the whole idea behind self publishing.  What does this mean exactly?

To self publish is to write a book and publish it yourself.  

This seems simple, but publishing includes formatting, editing, inserting photos, designing an interior cover, and exterior cover, as well as any drawings or graphics for the book, getting an ISBN and LCCN, and figuring out the best ways to get your book into the standard distribution chain so it will show up in quilt shops across the country.

That's the full gambit of everything a "real" publisher will do for you.  And yes, this list is intimidating.  Horribly intimidating. 

Allow me to share a personal story of the hardest way you can learn how to self publish:

I wrote From Daisy to Paisley back in 2010 as a companion to the DVD Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers.  When I wrote this book, I really had no idea what I was doing self-publishing wise.

I randomly picked the format size of 5.5" x 8.5" because I thought it was "cute."  Really, I was so clueless!  Thankfully this print size is industry standard, so I was lucky in that regard because most printers support this file size.

Note: it's worth researching print sizes AHEAD of time, before you start writing your book so you're sure it's a standard size and won't automatically opt you out of certain benefits - like being carried by major bookstore chains for example.

Once the book was written, I needed to create some small graphics for the front cover and certain pages within the book.  To learn this, I forced myself to learn the basics of graphic design with Serif Draw Plus.

Note: it's far easier to hire a graphic designer, so long as you can sketch the design you need on paper, scan it, and send it to your designer, this will save you loads of time, difficulty, and cussing at your computer screen.

After fiddling with the graphics for several weeks, I was finally ready to upload the book to my printer.  But wait!  What about the cover?!  Back to the drawing board for another day or two to create that file...

And in the middle of creating the cover, I thought about a bar code.  How do you even GET a bar code?!

Well, if you bother to get an ISBN number, you can get a bar code there to paste on the back of the book.

Unfortunately while I was on the ISBN site, I also learned about LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number) which will make it possible for your book to show up in libraries and academic institutions.  Why not?!  Apply for that number as well...

Note: if you don't want your book to show up in bookstores, or if it's just a very unlikely thing to happen, don't bother with either number.  The world will really not end if you don't have a bar code, an ISBN, or LCCN.

Finally, I finished up with the covers, uploaded the files, and waited patiently for the proof of the book to arrive.  This is agonizing.   Will it look good?  Will it look like crap?  What happens if it looks like crap?

The book arrived and it looked good...except for page 3, and page 7, and page....well, you get the idea.

A bit of editing and formatting later, a new book file was uploaded.  By the way, this back and forth takes WEEKS.  It is STRESSFUL.  It is NOT FUN.

In the end, you finally have to let go of the book and let it be printed, let it be born even with a flaw or two you didn't catch: a typo left unfixed, an image with a blurry corner.

The key here is to understand that just as no quilt is perfect, no book will be perfect either.  Do your absolute best, certainly strive for perfection, but when it's time to let go, let it go with the knowledge that you're likely to be the only person to see those imperfections.

Now comes the hard part (like the part before hasn't been hard enough ;-) : getting your book in real stores.

I have to admit utterly failing at this, so I'm probably not the best person to listen to for this section.  All I can really say is what didn't work!

One thing you can do is wholesale books yourself.  This assumes of course, that you have priced your book correctly where if your manufacturing cost is $5, your wholesale cost is $10, and your retail price is $20.  I didn't do this math, so really couldn't make wholesaling work without taking a loss, which isn't sustainable.

If you've really done your maths, you will also add another step for a distributor to carry the book.  In this case if your manufacturing cost is $5, your distributor cost is $7, your wholesale cost is $14, and your retail price is $24.  Again, it really pays to THINK about this before you set the price of your book!

Of course, all this assumes that a distributor will even talk to you.  I tried very hard to get a distributors attention for several months and finally gave up.  More than likely they had done the math and realized my books weren't a good option because the prices weren't high enough for their profit margin.

You have to play a bit of the who-you-know game and know someone on the inside who will get you a word in with the right person.  Or you can go to Quilt Market and if you attract their attention, you might be able to set up a deal in person. 

Most especially understand the true cost of printing your book.  Full color, double sided pages cost serious money, and represents a huge investment which, depending on how many books you purchase at a time, could add up to thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.

Fortunately for all of us, there is an easier way.

No, you no longer have to worry about ISBNs, LCCNs, designing the cover of your book yourself, or figuring out ways of getting it into retail shops and book stores.  You don't even have to worry about being able to buy 1000 copies so the cost of your book will be reasonable.

A little company called has made the act of self publishing not just easy, but totally AWESOME. has created a small off-shoot company called which is a Print-On-Demand publisher.  Basically you can upload your book and have it printed and bound by Create Space for about the same cost as using a traditional printer.

It's the same cost, so how is this a better thing?

The plus side comes in with how Amazon gets involved.  Not only is your book automatically listed on - the biggest retailer in the world, big bookstores and wholesalers (basically anyone with a resale tax ID number) can wholesale from Create Space Direct and sell your book in their shop.

The real benefit comes into the cost of manufacturing.  Amazon covers the cost because they only print a small number of books at a time - like 50 or so.  From a normal printer, this would be outrageously expensive.  If I only printed 50 copies from my printer, I would pay more than $50 a book just to have such a small amount printed!

But Amazon isn't just printing my book, they're printing books for thousands, if not millions of people from all over the globe, so they have the cheapest price on paper and toner and you no longer have to shell out thousands to get your books in print for a reasonable price.

Amazon even helps you understand the cost of manufacture by setting a minimum to the price of your book.  If you've written a 1000 page tome on quilting with full color photos, they will force you to set a price for that book that at least covers their cost of printing it.

Create Space goes a step further to making self publishing AWESOME by providing free ISBN numbers and if you go with their number, they will also take care of the LCCN too.  That hassle alone was a huge weight off my back because I found that process so confusing and time consuming.

Of course, there are downsides to this service.

The biggest limitation is your choice of binding style.  In short: there is no choice.

Your book will be perfect bound - stitched together like a normal book, which is a bit annoying for quilters.  I have always enjoyed books more if they are spiral bound because they lay flat and can be folded over.

Unfortunately Create Space just doesn't support this yet.  Give it 5 years and maybe they will expand to add spiral binding options.  I have my fingers crossed!

The other downside is the quality.  Yes, it's still a good book, but if you want thick glossy pages, too bad.  That isn't an option either.

The reason behind the lack of options is clear and clever: offer only a select amount of options so the cost of printing and binding stays very low.

Spiral binding is expensive because the holes have to be punched and spirals wound a certain way.  Some printers do this by hand, others have machines, but regardless, it will always take more time and effort than simply stitching the book together like normal.

So here's a short list of pros and cons for the many ideas I've covered so far:

Self Publishing with Create Space and

- Easier printing process
- Don't have to buy 1000 copies to get a low price
- Helpful cover generation program (very easy to use)
- Free ISBN and LCCN
- Hooks you up with distribution

- Only perfect bound
- Only matte pages
- Not the absolute highest quality

Self Publishing and printing yourself:

- Any binding style
- Pick any paper you like
- Super high quality

- Super, super expensive
- Complicated, intimidating process
- No distribution established
- Must do ISBN and LCCN yourself
- Gotta buy 1000 books or more to create a reasonable cost per book.

Looking at these lists, you might be wondering why you're bothering to self publish at all.  Why not go after a big publisher like C&T or AQS?

If you're absolutely, positively, overwhelmingly intimidated by everything I've thrown at you today, yes, this might be a good idea.

If you have no desire to learn graphic design, to format your book, to design even a simple cover in a cover generation program, or to click through the easy interface of, then a big publisher might make this whole process easier for you.

But this assumes one thing: that they will want your book.

This sounds cold-hearted, but just as I was ignored by a distributor, I've also been ignored by big publishers.  No, it certainly wasn't anytime recently, but at the beginning of the project I sent out proposals for a possible book from this project.  Dead silence was the universal response to those queries.

You might have the best idea for the coolest, most awesome quilting book in history, but unless you can sell someone else on that idea, you're not going to be published by these big guys.

I call these people in your way "gate keepers."  They have locked the gate from just any Jane Doe on the street from publishing a quilt book.  They have to "approve" Jane's book idea first and many people have to be in agreement that the book is not only cool, but it also fits in with the "ideas of the company" or whatever nonsense they come up with this year.

On the surface this might seem to be a good thing.  Gate keepers stop bad quilters from publishing bad books filled with inaccurate measurements and bad directions.

But that in itself just sounds wrong.  Why would anyone want to write a book if they didn't KNOW what they were writing about?!  So far, I've never met someone with no talent, no ability, or no creativity chomping at the bit to write a book about quilting.

Personally I feel that all forms of gate keeping is a limitation to content, information, and creativity. 

If you want to write a book, why do you need someone's permission or approval that it's a good idea?  Why do you need that big publisher to sign off on your idea?  Why do you need to play a game or schmooze anyone to do what you want?

Yes, there are some people that may need this kind of positive assurance or affirmation.  You may be looking for someone to say "Yes!  This is a good idea for a book."  Stop for a minute and see if you're waiting for that and decide right now to stop waiting - no one can give you that assurance except YOU.

Because these days, with programs like, you definitely don't need that publisher to say yes or no.  YOU can decide what you want to do, and no one can turn you away at the gate because you don't "fit" with the company program.

Best of all, by publishing yourself, the content remains YOURS.  Had I published a book of 365 designs with a big publisher, more than likely that publisher would have asked that I stopped sharing the designs publicly when the book launched.  Save it for the book!  Save it so people will buy the book! 

They're scared of free information and free content because they can't really understand the idea that something given for free, with no strings attached, could actually create value.

Yes, there are benefits from going with a big publisher, IF they approve your book, but these days the only real benefit they have is their extensive distribution chain.  They are juiced in with the major distributors so you don't have to play that game of getting your book into quilt shops.

But here's another catch: how many people know about you and want your book?

This is getting back to the core principle of traffic and content.  A big publisher can publish your book and can send it to the major distributors, but unless quilt shops know about you and like the look of your book, they're not going to stock it.

In other words: there are no guarantees that a big publisher will pay off.

YOU still need to be doing your part to provide content and drive traffic to yourself, to build an audience that cares about your work and information that will be interested in a potential book, should you come out with one.

Paradoxically, this is the very thing big publishers seek to limit when they set rules on what you can and can't blog about after signing a publishing contract.  How many blogs these days have "secret" projects they can't reveal until the book is out.  Not a lot of fun to read about is it?

So let's close with the reasons my next book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs will be self published in the next week or so:

1. No gate keepers - I didn't have to consult anyone about my "right" to publish this book.  I don't need approval or permission to compile this content.  I don't need to be declared "worthy" or the "right fit."  I know this book will be awesome because I felt awesome writing it!

2. It's easy - For this book, I've opted to only print and publish through  After editing the book this evening, it will be uploaded and a sample copy will be ordered in about 1 hour.  Super simple, super easy.

3. Reasonable Cost - Because I'm working with, I can afford a print version of this book.  At 252 full color 8.5" x 11" pages, this book is expensive to print, even from, but at least this way the cost will be far minimized thanks to the scale of that massive company.  Oh, and hopefully free shipping ;-)

4. Self publishing rocks! - Self publishing rocks because more of the profit from the book actually goes to the person that wrote it.  It's no secret that I support my family with my quilting business.  I'm extremely proud of this fact because without my work, we wouldn't be able to eat.  I'm not selfish or money grubby, but I do need to make a profit because otherwise, I wouldn't be able to quilt, or write, or make videos to share with you all.

5. Long term potential - In 10 years, this new book may not be selling many copies, but it will still be available because it's mine.  Even having it printed through doesn't mean I give up any rights to the book itself.

If this book was published by someone else, they would set a minimum for the number of books that needed to sell in a year.  If the books didn't sell enough volume for too many years in a row, my book would go out of print.  I would have to buy the rights to my own book BACK from the publisher at huge expense to get the book back in print.

Why allow gate keepers to tell me how my book should look, or how long it should be available?  Why let someone else dictate the "worthiness" of this subject matter?  If you want something done, do it yourself!

I really hope you've enjoyed this article as much as I've enjoyed writing it.  I truly love writing, sharing, posting videos, and quilting, and I feel so very fortunate to be able to share this knowledge and experience with you.

I hope this helps save you time, effort, and energy in your path to self publishing.  The world is changing and you definitely don't need a big publisher to get your awesome information out to the world, and to support you family with the fruit of your knowledge.

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

Let's go quilt (or publish a book!)

Leah Day

Friday, May 18, 2012

Playing with Designs

One of my favorite things to do is graphic design.  Unfortunately I rarely have the time or excuse to play with designing on the computer because this tends to get out of hand and I end up spending solid days glued to the computer, obsessively clicking lines and drawing shapes.

But the last few days I've had a wonderful excuse to play with a sun design I've been wanting to draw for the inside cover of the new book of 365 designs.  I always try to include a special image in the front cover which captures the idea of the book, or at least showcases some of the designs.

Here's the inside covers for From Daisy to Paisley and From Feathers to Flames:

With each new design, I get a bit better at it.  Learning how the program works, its quirks and malfunctions, and how to draw with a pen tablet was really the hardest part.  Now it's just a matter of taking what is in my head and getting it into the computer in a useable form.

As for programs, I know the industry standard is Adobe Illustrator for graphic illustrations like this.  Unfortunately I just don't have the patience, time, or cash to spend on such a complicated and expensive program.

Instead I use Serif Draw Plus, which is similar in nature, but stripped down and much more simple to use.  It also helps that it's much cheaper than Adobe software, but still produces nice images that can be exported to any dpi (dots per inch) so the resulting image looks good whether it's printed online or in a book. 

So this week I've been fiddling around with a sun design for the inside cover of the 365 book.  I wanted an image that would capture several designs from the book, but also be slightly reminiscent of Release Your Light, a quilt image I used at the heading of many early videos for the project.

After a bit of fiddling, I came up with this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It looked great on the screen, but once printed, I realized several rays of the sun would be cut off.  Hmm...not my cup of tea.

Back to the drawing board!  A bit of fiddling, grouping, copying and pasting later and here's the final sun:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I'm extremely pleased with this version, especially because it fits perfectly on the page and none of the rays are getting their arms cut off.

Looking at this image, I couldn't help but feel like it's a bit of a waste to only use it on the inside cover to this book.  It would look so good on a quilt, especially with the feathers running along each ray.

It just so happened that I've been re-thinking the design for Power of Life, a goddess quilt I started working on this spring around James's birthday.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The top part around the goddess just seemed too empty - too blank and open and not at all the huge visual impact that I wanted to happen for that area of the quilt.

The addition of this sun, a bit of tweaking for everything to layer properly and not make a mess and viola!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I'm MUCH more happy with this version and very excited to give it a go.  I may still fiddle with the background as it still feels a little boring, but overall this design is in much better shape now.

Now you might be wondering how to get started with graphic design, so here's some basic tips:

1. Start on paper.  I start all of my drawings in some form on a regular piece of drawing paper and fiddle with them there first, then scan them into the computer, then use that image as a base for the graphic design.

Why?  Personally I find it easier to work with something to start because otherwise I have trouble getting the scale and sizes of shapes right without some frame of reference.

2. Invest in the right tools.  Just like with free motion quilting, piecing, or applique, you're going to need some specific tools for graphic designing including software and a drawing tablet.  I use a Bamboo tablet which works quite well, though it does have a learning curve because you have to draw on the tablet, but look at the computer screen to see what you're drawing.

3. Use predrawn shapes.  Most of these illustration type programs have sets of predrawn shapes.  For example, my sun is actually a variation of a cog shape.  I didn't have to work out all those vectors and angles myself - the program did it for me.  I was able to fiddle with the number of rays, how big the center circle was, how wide the total shape ended up, etc.  This is SO much faster than trying to sort these angles out by hand, though it is possible if you have no other alternative.

4. Play, play, play.  Don't ask your kid to come learn the program for you.  YOU must learn it and the only way to do that is by playing with it a bit every day until it starts to make sense.

Two years ago, I would not have been able to create this sun image.  I wouldn't have had a clue how to get started.  Last year, I know I could have created it, but it would have taken 3 days to make because I didn't know the shortcuts of the program.  Give yourself time and be patient as you learn this new skill.

Now that Power of Life is designed, I'd really like to go pull fabric and get started constructing this quilt top.  But wait!  What if I hand dyed all the fabric first?!  LOL!

Time to shut up and go quilt,


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Vacation Link Up #3

Wow!  It's been a super busy week already and it's only Wednesday! I'm very glad we've taken this break from the quilt along because looking at how packed every single day has been, I know I wouldn't have had time to make a decent video on top of everything else.

So what have I been so crazy busy with?  Well, all weekend was consumed with the dyeing experiment which started big and ended up growing to gigantic proportions.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I do plan to share a tutorial on fabric dyeing soon.  I'm still just getting the hang of this and haven't yet tested my ability to reproduce a color exactly.  I don't like to teach something until I'm sure I know what I'm doing!

And for anyone concerned by the photo above - I'm not dyeing in my main kitchen.  This is the small kitchen area in my basement studio.  When Josh and I started looking for our house 6 years ago, I specifically looked for a place with a finished basement and extra kitchen, just in case I got into dyeing fabric.  It's a good thing I planned ahead as it's coming in very useful now.

Looking through all the colors of red, orange, and yellow I played with this weekend, I believe this is the perfect color of red:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The dyed fabric is on the right and the color I've been trying to achieve is on the left.  No, it's not a perfect match, but it's close enough and I really love this rich red color.

When I haven't been dyeing fabric, I've been working outside, trying to get my yard under control.  Yesterday evening with a level, string, and bit of elbow grease, I set the stone for this third garden:

Unfortunately we've been having HUGE rains several days in a row and for the first time, we started getting water seeping into the basement.  This is the downside of having part of the house underground.  It's very scary to walk into a puddle in your laundry room!

Fortunately I already knew what needed to be done to fix this problem.  I'd always planned on installing a tile or french drain to catch rainwater and drain it to either side of the house and now it must be done to deal with this weird weather.

So that's what we've been busy with.  I'm really hoping the weather will clear up, but even if it doesn't at least the new drains will stop the basement from flooding.  As they say "when it rains, it pours!"

Time to shut up and go quilt,


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quilt Biz #6 - Adjusting to a Business Lifestyle

We're moving right along with this series of business posts!  So far we've learned a lot about getting started, traffic and content, and three different types of products you can sell: products you stitch yourself, patterns you make from those items, or products created by other quilters.

But there is a far more important part of owning a business that we need to discuss today: how to adjust to a business lifestyle.

You can have all the products in the world, the most fancy shop to sell them in, but if you haven't adjusted your life to fit around your business, chances are there will be problems as soon as things get going.

So this week I'm going to share with you how I adjusted to working from home and how this changed almost every aspect of my life, including my quilting hobby.  Not everyone will have this big of a lifestyle change, but it's definitely worth sharing so you know what you're getting into!

I've been working out of my home in some way since 2005.  At first, it was a big transition from getting up at 8 am every morning to drive across town to work in a retail shop for 5 hours.  I was used to leaving our apartment, working for a set amount of time, then driving back home with a guaranteed paycheck.

When I began working from home, almost every bit of my day changed.  Rather than waking up at 8 am, I could now get up whenever I wanted to.  Many people assume this means you can sleep late every day, but that isn't reality.

In truth, instead of waking up at 8, I began waking up earlier and earlier, sometimes as early as 6 am in order to get a head start on the garments I needed to sew that day.  I always work better in the morning with more focus and attention, so waking up earlier always resulted in faster, more efficient work.

Even now, when I'm not operating a production-style business, I still roll out of bed around 8 - 9 am, even in the summer, even on the weekends, even on holidays.

That's another thing - when you work for yourself, there is no such thing as a day "off."

I joke to friends that the only day of the week I'm sure of is Monday because I need to be up to take James to school.  Every day has pretty much the same schedule: get up, get online, check email, check the blog, write something, get off the computer and work on something in the studio, get back online, etc.

It doesn't matter whether it's Monday or Saturday, or Christmas Eve. The internet doesn't stop for weekends or holidays, and even storefront businesses need to be open on weekends and most holidays. 

Adjusting to working every day can feel a bit weird.  Instead of work 5 days straight with 2 days off for the weekend, you might feel like it's all work, work, work.

So you'll need to adjust to working a smaller amount, 4-5 hours or so, and breaking it up through the day.  For example: you might wake up at 8 am and work until 12 pm, then break for a few hours to eat lunch and run errands, then get back to work after dinner around 7 pm and work until 10 pm.

You simply can't work the same 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week schedule you're used to, and it may take many months to adjust to this change until it feels natural.

Occasionally I'll stop to think about it and realize it's Monday and I literally haven't left the house since Wednesday morning.  More to the point, I rarely notice this anymore!

Do you regularly stay at home 4 solid days in a row?  This is not just normal, it's a bit of a requirement if you're going to get content created efficiently for your business.

You need to understand, realistically, what this can do to your current lifestyle, and how your family will need to adjust around you.  If your husband or wife works a traditional job with regular hours, they're going to need to adjust to you working more hours, and for more days of the week.

Fortunately you can choose the hours you work, so you might find more flexibility in your new schedule to take your kids to school, baby sit grandkids, or take off for a date night with your spouse. 

Another major adjustment you'll need to make is in your sewing room.  No, not everything you do has to have some money-making end result, but ALMOST everything you spend time stitching will need to be used to create content for your business.

For example: if you're wanting to start a business with a specific focus on applique, you will obviously need to spend the bulk of your time playing with applique techniques and figuring out what fabrics look the best for this construction method.

You'll need to keep this applique content coming in a steady stream, which means at all times you'll need to have at least one applique project in the works to shoot photos and write about.  This brings up another obvious point: if you don't absolutely LOVE applique, focusing on it exclusively might be difficult.

You'll need to get used to carrying a camera with you ALL the time and shooting your work at every specific stage.  You never know what stage of construction will be the most interesting to write about, or will have the most questions generated, so the best thing to do is shoot photos of EVERYTHING, all the time.

Yes, this can sometimes feel frustrating and limiting.  There will be times you want to focus on other things, to make certain quilts, but you simply won't be able to because of the requirements of your business. 

This gets back to the Getting Started post: owning a business isn't the same thing as dabbling at your favorite hobby every day.  You have to be willing to make adjustments and sacrifices, which includes being able to make what you want, when you want to make it.

In the end it really helps to just take everything day by day.  Don't overreact to bad days - they happen no matter whether you work a traditional job or you work for yourself.  Learn how much silence and alone-ness you can deal with and start taking yourself out for lunch when you feel stir-crazy.

Most especially: give yourself time to adjust and don't make wild assumptions about how "easy" it will be to work from home.  If it was that easy, everyone would do it!

Now I'm off to work a bit more on various projects, then take off a few hours to celebrate Mother's Day, then get back to work this afternoon.  Yep, no holiday is safe when you work for yourself!

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dyeing Experiment Gone Overboard

I really wish I could try a new technique: quilting new designs, making a goddess quilt, or dyeing fabric, and NOT turn it into an overwhelming mess, but it seems this is just what I'm good at doing:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This is just 1/3 of the dyeing experiment I've been working on since Thursday.  I started with a set of 14 colors of red, then decided that was simply not enough and added all the colors of orange and yellow I've collected to make 20 colors to start with.

Each color was mixed and dyed a single fat quarter, leaving a good amount of dye left over.  Sooo...

I had to try another experiment!  This time I added 15 ml of black dye to each color and dyed 20 fat eights.  Both fabrics together create quite a range of colors:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Admittedly, not all the colors came out as either red or beautiful.  Orange and black created a nice brown and yellow and black tended to turn dark green. 

And what you see about piled around the sink?  That's yet another experiment!  This time I started with the dye color, plus 15 ml of black, plus 40 ml of water, hopefully creating a diluted version of the last experiment.  All of those colors have now been rinsed and are drying.

Unfortunately, didn't quite calculate how much space was needed for drying this much fabric:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Still, once this set is dry, I will hopefully have found the Perfect Red I've been searching for.  I'm looking for a color that is very dark, but not tending towards either orange or purple / pink, as many reds tend to go.

I figure once I find this red in cotton fabric, then it will be time to duplicate it in wool roving.  Dyeing wool is a slightly different experience, as it requires a crock pot and citric acid and a lot more time.

So here's a sum up of what I've learned from this weekend's excessive dyeing experiment:

1. Start with 5 colors to play with.  At max, play with 10.
2. Plan ahead on how many experiments will be done and how much dye will need to be mixed so none is wasted.
3. Take time to label the fabric ahead of time.  Had the fabrics been labeled properly, I wouldn't have to bother with drying on the tables, I could just throw it all into the washer and dryer which would have been much more efficient.
4. Keep the scale of the experiments limited to two days.  Any more, and you risk irritating everyone in the house.
5. Be aware that dyeing fabric is extremely addictive!

Whew!  I certainly didn't expect dyeing to be so labor-intensive.  I'm off to veg on the couch to hand stitch binding and figure out what I'm going to do with all this dyed fabric.

Let's go quilt,


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Vacation Link Up #2

Well if last week was any guide, it looks like we're all making good use of the break from the quilt along to finish up many projects this month.

I checked off a huge box on my to-do list by finishing up the monstrous KING quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
But then...maybe I was just needing a break from the sewing room, but I just haven't managed to get back on my machine.

Or, to be totally honest, I did do some quilting, but ended up hating every single bit of what I stitched.  So when I'm not spending the next two days ripping out what was stitched in 30 minutes, I've decided to tackle some projects outside of the sewing room.  Sometimes you just need a break in order to come back to the machine with a fresh attitude!

A major project was this outside patio in front of my wood shop:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Josh's brother was in town this past weekend so we all got outside and set this patio together.  It was really nice to have an extra set of hands and a balancing opinion.  Josh tends towards the attitude of "that's good enough" and I tend toward the attitude of "it must be perfect!" so having a third vote made the work go much faster.

No, the patio isn't as perfect as it would be if I'd set all the stones myself, squaring and leveling each one, but it's also DONE, which it certainly wouldn't have been had I taken the next three years to be a perfectionist about it.

Inside the wood shop, I'm really needing to hang shelves, clean up and organize all the tools, and install a dust collection system.

Yes, I did say WOOD shop. I grew up hanging out in my dad's wood shop and watching my grandfather turn bowls.  Last winter when I picked up a scroll saw magazine, I remembered how much fun it was to play with a scroll saw and decided to make a big move to bring wood craft back into my life.

I still need to dig out the 9 stepping stones between the shop and the house, and have more stone to set for these side gardens:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Josh and I started putting these in when we bought this house 6 years ago.  The goal was to put a garden in each year we live in the house.  Obviously we've fallen several years behind!

When I'm not outside laying stone, moving dirt, swatting mosquitoes, and planting tomatoes, I'm going to play with a series of dyeing experiments.

I finally found an awesome Quilting Arts video with Candy Glendening - Dyeing to Stitch - that shared a simple step-by-step walkthrough of fabric dyeing from a scientific standpoint.

I've been playing with dyeing fabric for a few months, and really enjoy the process, but I've been feeling very frustrated by my inability to produce an exact color, or to reproduce a color after I've created it once.

Candy's instructions come straight out of her experience as a biology professor and she explains simple measuring and mixing steps that can be reproduced to create a gorgeous pallet of colors.  Here's a little sample video that teaches you how to dye fabric with several colors at once:

Today it's rainy and gloomy, which makes for a bad day to work outside, but a great day to play with fabric.  I'm off to find the perfect shade of red!

Time to shut up and go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NC Voting Day

This is just a quick, very important reminder.  If you live in North Carolina, please go vote today.

It is my strong hope that you will vote AGAINST an amendment to our state's constitution that will not only ban gay marriage, but also ban civil unions, potentially strip families of health coverage, and eliminate child custody and visitation rights and domestic violence protection laws.

The full implications of this terribly written legislation might not be felt by everyone, but the signal this sends about our state is awful - that we are still so mired in discrimination and bigotry we will not allow people who love one another the same rights simply because they are different.

Do remember that in our country it was once illegal for a white person to marry someone of another race.

How is this ban on gay marriage any different?

It's just as discriminatory and just as hurtful as those old segregation laws.  What's next?  Separate bathrooms for homosexual couples?

And aside from these points, people are doing it anyway!  A single, stupid law will not stop women from falling in love with women, or men with men, choosing to share a life together, live together, and raise children together.  They will do it anyway!

The best analogy is a ban on stitching sawtooth stars with pink and orange fabric. It may clash, but if you are bound and determined to piece those stars with that fabric, is a law really going to stop you?  No one wins with this law, and lots of people will be hurt by it.

I sincerely hope you will look at this issue with an open, logical mind and will cast your vote today.


It seems, very unfortunately, the majority of people in NC do not share my sentiments. This discriminatory legislation passed. 

North Carolina can count on moving backward, not forward, into the 21st century.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Monster is Done!

I'm definitely on a roll with big projects this month!  After more than 2 years needing to be made, and 1 year floating around unfinished in the sewing room, the KING quilt is finally finished!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This quilt was constructed very simply using the Quilt As You Go technique we learned back on week #7.  9 panels were each quilted separately, then connected using binding strips to create this monstrous 117 x 117 inch quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I learned loads about quilting on a large scale while making this quilt.  Circles especially are far easier to stitch if you mark the outline first.  It's very difficult to see your way around a 7 inch circle and be able to freehand stitch it, so for the largest circles I'd stop and quickly draw the outline before stitching it.

I choose a wide variety of designs just to see how they would stitch out on such a large scale.  Overall the circular, stacking designs were the most time consuming and the Independent, Stippling based designs were the fastest.

Rather than sit with this monster on my lap for the next week to hand bind the folded binding strips, I instead choose to secure all the binding by machine.  I simply folded over the binding strip and stitched very carefully about 1/16th from the edge, then repeated that stitching again on the opposite side so the binding looked uniform.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Overall it was the perfect finish because I was able to get it together quickly and efficiently.  I sort of wish I'd used this same technique for the 365 quilt, but it's a bit late now.

One thing I can definitely say about this project is how surprisingly huge it finished.  It turns out the quilt didn't need to be this big.  As you can see from the photo of it on the bed, even tucked over the pillows, at least 20 inches hangs off both sides and the end!

Dealing with a big quilt also has a learning curve.  To remove the starch from the fabric, I soaked it in the bathtub, squeezed as much water out as possible, then threw it in the dryer.  It proceeded to roll itself into a tight ball, refused to get dry, and instead sprayed half a gallon of water on the basement floor.

It was kind of surprising it didn't destroy my dryer completely!  I finally realized it just had way too much water still in it and threw it in the washer.  After 3 spin cycles, I threw it back in the dryer and after 2 60 minute sessions, it was finally dry.  With all this difficulty, I definitely don't plan to wash this quilt a home ever again!

So that's one massive check on my vacation To-Do list!  The KING quilt is finished, so it's time to get cracking on some of these other projects floating around the sewing room.  The next focus is to get my two UFO goddesses finished and another 2 designed on paper.

If I want to get all this done by June, I'd better shut up and go quilt!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Quilt Biz #5 - Retail Products

It's Sunday and time for another Quilting Business post!  Looking at the comments of last week's post on selling patterns, it seems many of you are feeling a bit unsatisfied with the advice to write your own patterns and sell them to make money.

In truth, the example of patterns was simply a way to introduce the idea of creating products which can pay you multiple times, for multiple years.  In a craft world, it's very easy to get stuck in the mindset of stitching individual products, which as we learned in Quilt Biz #3, might not be the best way to make a living with your craft.

So to directly answer those in the comments of last week's post, yes, it's definitely a learning process to dissect a pattern down into simple steps, to write and organize it into logical progression, and ensure that no matter whether you're teaching a simple log cabin or a complex applique, any quilter could take that pattern and make a quilt with it.

This is a learning process very similar to learning how to quilt in general.  Just as it took a few months to learn how to prepare, cut, and piece blocks accurately, it's probably going to take a few months to design, organize, write, and test a pattern before trying to sell it. 

But there are many quilting business owners that don't know how to write patterns.  It sounds extremely odd, but I've met owners of quilt shops that literally have no clue how to quilt!  While this lack of knowledge might seem limiting, sometimes it's better to have a solid foundation in business, rather than in skill.

So today let's learn about another way you can make a living with quilting: By wholesaling products and retailing them to customers.

This is the most common way to run a business if you don't have a lot of skill at writing your own patterns, if you know you don't want to individually stitch items, and if you have a set of favorite products you'd like to share with customers.

Now it sounds silly, but I feel the need to add a small warning here as I explain how the typical distribution chain works.  The simple fact is, this is how almost ALL products (at least 99%) are sold to consumers every day.  Whether you're buying socks from Walmart, or a new rotary cutter from JoAnn Fabrics, all of those items come from a distribution chain that brings products from the manufacturer to the customer.

Essentially the product distribution chain looks like this:

Manufacturers ---> Distributor ---> Wholesaler (business owner) ---> Customer

With each layer of the chain, the price of the product doubles.  So let's say a manufacturer creates a product for $3.00.  They are going increase the price to $5.00 when they sell it to a distributor so they make money above the manufacturing cost.

So the distributor works as a giant Walmart for all the products in that particular category.  For quilting, the biggest distributors are Checker, Brewer, and Moda / United Notions.  They try to buy the widest variety of quilting products from manufacturers and stock them in warehouses across the country.

In order for them to make a profit on the sale of the products, distributors add a percentage to the price as well.  Let's say for this example, they add $5.00 to our product, so it's now $10.00.

If you are a business owner, whether you own a store front shop or online business, you can open an account with any of these distributors and purchase that item for $10.00.

From wholesale to retail, the price typically doubles, so you will sell that item in you shop for $20.00.

It's very easy to see how you can make a living with quilting once you take advantage of this distribution system.  You will need to first invest in products, but for every product sold, you will make 50% of the purchase price. 

It might be easy to run away thinking that this system takes advantage of the customer.  It actually doesn't.

Even at 50% profit, many storefront quilt shops barely make a profit because they are paying an enormous amount of overhead expenses.  This includes rent, utilities, employees, insurance, and investing in more stock.

Also keep in mind the enormous amount of money it must require in order to stock a shop in the first place, before any customers walk in the door.  I would guesstimate that the typical storefront quilt shop is carrying around $20,000 - $50,000 worth of stock at any given time, and far more if they sell machines.

Regardless, the system was set up this way because it works.  Everyone in the distribution line makes a profit, and so long as the manufacturers keep the products coming, the distributors never run out, and the wholesalers always have the ability to stock their shops with the necessary items to bring in customers.

But looking at the typical storefront, I'm sure you're already blanching at the numbers I've mentioned so far.  How in the world could a brand new, starting out business owner be able to spend even $20,000 to stock the shop with products?

There seems to be three answers for this problem:

1. Loans and deep, soul crushing debt.
2. A lifetime of saving for the start up capital.
3. Don't start so big.

Let's explain each one in depth:

1. Loans are a pretty common way to get a storefront off the ground.  If you're not up to your eyeballs in debt already, and you're a good prospect for a business owner, and you have some ability to explain what you want to do, how you want to do it, and how much time it will take to pay the loans back, then chances are a bank will give you the start up capital you need.

However, nothing in this world is guaranteed.  You may live in a great town with loads of quilters and no dedicated quilt shop, but that does not guarantee you will be successful.  Even a $50,000 loan does not guarantee you will be an instant success.

A storefront business is really dependent on excessive amounts of foot traffic.  A brand new shop has essentially no content (no ads, no word of mouth, no experience) in that area, and therefore, no traffic.  You will need to be very careful about where you locate the business, how visible it is to the public, how accessible it is to major highways, and how easy it is to get into and out of.

Whatever you do, be very, very careful about taking out a huge loan when you have no capability of paying it back without the business being a success.  Make sure that whatever amount you borrow, you will have some plan for paying it back if everything goes south.

2. With all the doom and gloom of taking out a loan, it seems to make far more sense to spend time saving for the day you open your business.

However, as much as it would suck to get buried in a sea of debt, it would equally stink to wait you whole life saving scrupulously to open your business, only to lose it if the business fails.

As before, you have to have a plan, have seriously and HONESTLY considered the pros and cons before jumping in.  It's very hard to be honest with yourself when you're so excited about opening the shop and selling fabric, but cold hard truth is far better than giddy, blinded excitement.

Why am I being so down and depressing?

Because the fact is, both of these options stink.  Waiting your whole life to save up $50,000 in capital, or getting a loan for the same amount, is just such a monumental goal, it's almost in the nature of unattainable.

Which is why I strongly advise you to consider #3:

#3. Don't start so big.  What the heck do I mean by this?

Walk into any storefront shop and you'll find a little bit of everything: fabric, tools, thread, specialty art stuff, precuts, machines, embroidery software, etc.  Thousands of dollars go into stocking every square foot of that shop with as much stuff as they can so hopefully customers that come in will find what they are looking for, and a few other things as well.

This is what I call a Full Service Quilt Shop.  In order to cater to the largest number of potential customers, a physical shop will try to carry a bit of everything to try to make everyone happy.

Unfortunately this is such a common model, many people think it's the ONLY way to run a shop.

But it's absolutely not.

You don't have to run a full service quilt shop.  You can instead open a Specialty Shop.

A specialty shop is a store that specializes in one thing: one technique, one idea, one focus.  Rather than trying to carry a little bit of everything, you instead will carry all the products focused in one small niche.

A great example would be a shop dedicated to only precut fabric.  All you carry is layer cakes, jelly rolls, charm packs, and turnovers.  That's it.  Nothing else.

Another example would be my online quilt shop, which only carries items focused on free motion quilting.  You won't find rotary cutters or rulers in my shop because it doesn't fit with the focus on quilting.

To be straight up truthful, this probably won't work as easily in a storefront business.  Too many quilters are used to walking into full service quilt shops that it might throw them off to walk into a shop carrying only precuts.

However, with the right amount of content, traffic will come, no matter how niche your focus.

You may have to work harder to bring in traffic to your specialty business, but once people in your area know that's the place to go for THAT particular thing, they won't even consider going somewhere else.

So rather than thinking you must start with $50,000 worth of physical products to sell in you shop, why not instead start with $300?

Select 5-10 products you love and want to share with your customers.  Only order 5 of each, or whatever the minimum is required.

This way, your risk is minimized because your investment is not so high.  

If you have traffic, created by the content you've been sharing, it should be no problem to sell the items you've selected.  Once you sell out, order more.  Keep your orders small initially until you're sure your traffic is steady to be able to stock larger quantities of products.

Keep in mind that signing up with a distributor isn't a simple or overnight process.  You will need to have some proof that you are a real business owner and have a resale tax identification number. 

This number proves you're a real business that is paying sales tax in your state.  Most states now have the ability to apply for this number online, but different states have different rules so you should spend some time looking into the steps to starting your business in your state.

Don't be intimidated by this process.  It's easy to get intimidated and scared off by the idea.  Going back to post #1 - if you're serious about owning and running a successful business, you shouldn't let applying for a simple sales tax ID number scare you off from starting your business.

Also the distributors themselves can be scary to deal with.  I've personally dealt with a lot of run around to get my accounts set up, mostly because they don't make it instantaneous or easy.  They want to make sure you're an actual business, and will need to do checks to ensure you're legitimate.

Count for at least 1 month to get your account created, and you will have to purchase a set amount for your first order, usually around $300 - $500 in products, and also order a minimum amount every year.

Again, it's nothing to be afraid of.  These distribution companies and your state's Department of Revenue are both designed to help you start your business successfully and legitimately because they both make a cut on your success.   That might sound a bit cold hearted, but that's capitalism!

So now that you understand three ways to make money with quilting, what will you do?  Continue to stitch out individual handbags, or make a pattern to sell?  Or will you find a handbag pattern created by another quilter and become a retailer of that product?

There's definitely a lot of ways to run a business and I hope I've opened your eyes to many new ideas.

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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