Thursday, April 30, 2015

Send in the Hedgehogs

Ah, April break. A week off of school clearly not planned by a quilt professional due to its proximity to Quilt Market, but whatever. This year I just gave up on trying to get the final design I wanted out to Checker before market done. And by done, I mean, get a frickin frackin decent photo for the cover because everything else is done and has been done for what seems like years but is really only months. It's been a pitifully comical horror show, really.

Even my magical photo woman was unable to make this work.

Thankful for the loan of a clothesline, but just no.

Yeah, no.

Not straight on enough, although I do like the rock itself.
 It's just been so much fun. It also does not help that my camera (nee iphone, upon which I have taken all of my previous cover shots for four years and they all look great) does not love polka dots as I do. Unfortunately this is not destined to be a great cover, but the quilt itself is quite pretty. It's a sad thing.

The trials and tribulations of a designer. So moving on....

Troop 11009 and their cool breast cancer recovery pillows.
Several weeks ago I volunteered to host a cadette Girl Scout troop in my sewing studio (basement) and auxiliary sewing studio (dining room table) so they could make some breast cancer recovery pillows for a local organization. They did a great job, and everyone wanted to come back and sew some more, specifically everyone wanted to make a hedgehog from the pattern featured on the polyfil bag. Those crafty polyfil marketers. But because I have not completely lost my mind, I allowed my daughters to each invite one of them to come hog it up during an otherwise cold and windy and icky April break day. I would have loved to have all of them as I enjoy each of these girls greatly, but I am not insane.

I wish I had gotten a photo of the whirlwind of fabric picking for their hogs; while I don't have the stash of some/most quilters, to a 12 year old girl I guess it's fairly impressive. At least a 12 year old girl or two who aren't my own. In any case, after much fabric auditioning, callbacks, rejection, and casting, the pieces were cut and we were ready to move to the auxiliary studio, all set up with my two sewing machines.

This was the moment I blew their minds. How, you ask? Well, clearly it wasn't my abilities to make sure a picture is hanging straight on the wall. No, the truth is I possess an incredible and amazing skill bordering on the "magical" (their word) I like to call "winding a bobbin." There was ooooo-ing and aaaaah-ing the likes of which I haven't heard since pretty much forever.

Look at the joy I created. I rock.

 For those of us who put pins in things (preferably not our children) on a regular basis, it may come as a bit shocking that the population at large, as represented by preteens, has no idea how to put them in. So that was another lesson. I was very impressed, though, that they totally understood why the pieces had to be sewn right sides together, and also why the hedgehog spikey thing had to be sewn inside the little pillow as part of the seam, probably more so than you do right now because it is very hard to describe what I mean.

The actual sewing portion of our day-o-hedgehog-fun vascillated between forgetting to put the presser foot down, sewing at the speed of light, screaming with joy and/or fear of the needle, and happily lots of working together and laughing at and with each other.

A rare moment of serious sewing. Paige actually looks like she knows what she is doing.
Anneliese's "OMG I might be going too fast but I don't really know OMG OMG OMG" face.

Eva practicing surgery through handsewing.

Julie attaching some ears, because a hedgehog who can't hear you is just sad.

Eva is all excited about eyes she glued on. Anneliese is all "Girl, look at the mess you made on the table."
 Eventually the hogs were done, so we took them outside for a photo session. Like you do.

How many hogs can you fit on a tire swing?

If nothing else, the dying tree in the yard makes for a great photo backdrop.

Joining the hog treefest.

They needed a snack, so we stuck them in the grass to let them dig for bugs.
So did I get much work done over break? Do I ever? But I got to sew with some cool chicks who might actually sew something on their own someday because they will think back on Hogfest and say to themselves "I want to be cool like Paige and Eva's mom" so it's all good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Win 100 Blocks Volume 11 Before You Can Buy It!

I've done it. Somehow, through no skill or action on my own part, I have received the honor of having my block on the cover of the upcoming issue of the 100 Blocks collections put out by Quiltmaker Magazine! As we say in New England, I'm wicked excited.

This is the third 100 Blocks collection I am lucky to be a part of, and I feel like getting a block on the cover deserves a special celebration. I mean really, they had so many gorgeous, fun, adorable, stunning, what-have-you blocks to choose from to stick on the cover, and I get to be one of them. That's pretty cool, I must say, even if I have no idea why. For all I know they chose out of a hat. But I'll take it!

The official on-sale date for this issue is May 5, but I just happen to have several copies so I figure it's a great time to do a giveaway, which is in process over on my EPQD facebook page. These 100 blocks issues are always so much fun to look at and so inspiring with all of their, well, ONE HUNDRED blocks and cool settings shown for some and galleries by testers, etc. If you haven't discovered them yet, I really think you need to enter this contest.

I have told only one person in the world which of these blocks is mine, and she is sworn to secrecy. I've narrowed down the cover to include my block, and all you have to do is guess which one it is. Guess as many different ones as you like, but each guess must be in a different comment so that I don't inadvertently miss it.
I'd claim any of them, but only one of these lovelies is mine.

I'll pick a winner from amongst those who have guessed correctly on Sunday, April 26. And I'm just saying, but NO ONE has guessed correctly yet, so your chances of winning are pretty good.

Feel free to comment here about anything under the sun, including how fun I am, and/or how much you want to win, or what you had for breakfast, but the only entries to the contest which will count are those on the FB page post. It's been pinned to the top for easy reference.

I know someone can get it. Hopefully more than just one, because you know how I love a good drawing. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Let's do a little Scrap Slapping, Shall We?

I have a new favorite lecture, and its name is "Give it a Scrap Slap." Kudos to Kelli Fannin, who helped come up with the name; it's both edgy and fitting for what I would loosely describe as a rollicking romp through my scrap bins over a year. Read on for a tighter description of the fun!

I've been planning this lecture since the moment in December 2013 when I found out I was on the Quiltmaker magazine 2014 Scrap Squad. Scrap Squad, for those who aren't aware and have clearly not been reading this blog over the past year, is a group of Quiltmaker readers selected each year to scrap up one assigned project per QM issue, and the projects are then highlighted on the Quilty Pleasures blog. Since I am not a huge fan of "fabric line" quilts (again, hello to anyone who finds this news!) and when I see a magazine project I immediately think "How can I scrap this thing up?", it was really like Scrap Squad was created just for me and it would have been a crying shame had I not been chosen. Thankfully QM realized this, right?

I spent much of 2014 and early 2015 creating quilts to show off to the hoards and masses that I sincerely hoped would flock to this lecture. I started advertising it on this blog and in my newsletters last fall for bookings May 2015 and beyond. As April 1, my first practice lecture date, approached, I was in a total tizz of planning, excitement, and that fabulous mix of ego trip and self doubt known intimately by artsy people the world over. Could I pull this off? Was it going to be as amazing as it was in my head? Would the actual people in the audience enjoy the talk as much as my dining room chairs seemed to when I practiced? As seen in this photo, we can at least surmise they paid attention as the woman in read is staring transfixed straight ahead.

We can also surmise that my hands never stop moving. Ever.
 "Give it a Scrap Slap" is a delightful (if I do say) presentation of not only why I really love a quilt made from as many fabrics as possible, but how a quilt transforms from a pattern in a magazine to a masterpiece, or at least a quilt with some more vim, vigor, and velocity when a quilter takes the bones of the project, adds their scraps and flair, and runs with it. It also shows how each project inspired me to create other quilt projects or designs of my own, based on either the colors I had chosen for the scrap versions or some element of the design taking on a new life and begging to show off. Observe the premise of the lecture:

Start with this, "Pup Tents" by Janice Averill, one of our assigned projects.

Definitely my most challenging assignment. Find out why by seeing me in person!
 Scrap it up and do a little "block rotation and switcheroo-ing." It's a thing. Haven't you heard of it?

Eva does have a head. Really she does.
 Put the whole project away for months because you are so sick to death of flying geese you could swear them off for all time, but eventually become inspired by the basic idea of them, do a little more block rotation and switcheroo-ing (See, told you. A thing.) and voila! A new design entirely.
I call it Harlequin Shake. Again, welcome to the newbies who haven't seen it yet!

April 1 arrived, and with it my Squanicook Colonial Quilt Guild meeting. This group of close to 150 members had graciously agreed to the first humans to hear my thoughts on how I had taken the assigned Scrap Squad projects up a notch. Even though I was brutally honest as I walked to the front of the room, warning them that I had "no idea what is about to happen, so brace yourselves," we could not have had a better time. They were so open and accepting not only of my often brazen disregard for proper staid and upright lecture conduct (actually, I'm kind of known for that disregard and it works, so consider yourselves warned) but they were also seriously fascinated by my thoughts on the whole process of being given a project and told to change it, and how I went about each project and made them my own. Not to brag, but what the heck I'm half way there already, members used words like "hilarious, down to earth, authentic and so creative" (actually one member used all of them, so there you go.), "very talented", and "super entertaining." I was blown away, considering I didn't even have to pay them to say these things.

What I was not expecting, but what I absolutely loved about this dry run and I hope it continues for other groups, was all the give and take from the audience. They were not afraid to ask questions along the way, offer what they might have done differently, or suggest names for some of the projects that are still nameless. In all honesty, if I had to describe them as an audience, I'd call them "delightfully rapt" and I hope all audiences will be so! I'll find out soon enough - this lecture is heading to a couple of local guilds in the next two months, as well as flinging itself off to Wisconsin Quilt Expo and Tucson Quilt Fiesta with me in tow over the next 10 months. I seriously cannot wait to start sharing it with audiences everywhere as one booking in, I can already declare this to be my favorite lecture and finest offering and I'm really proud of it. Can you tell?

So how to do you get me to come share the scrappy fun with your group? The best place to start is HERE, where you can read descriptions of all of my programs and workshops and see my current schedule. I'm hugely in favor of guild sharing, so if you have a guild or two in your area who might be interested in discounts or combining your meetings to host me, let's talk! I'll be the one using my hands while we do!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Repeat after me: "I am a fabulous quilter."

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Machine Quilters Exposition, or MQX as we call it around here. Honestly, since I've always just called it MQX, now that I wrote it out I'm not even sure if it is Exposition or Exhibition, but in any case it's a great show in Manchester NH showcasing the best in machine quilting prowess from the world over. Always a feast for the eyes, always a source of inspiration and awe. And if we are being totally honest, always a bit intimidating.

As I stood outside with the other early birds, waiting for the doors to unlock so we could stream in and start drooling, I was chatting with another lovely quilter; you know, because that's what we do. In the moments of chatting about where we were from (not far away), did we have a quilt in the show (no and no), and sharing photos of our equally adorable twins (mine 12 year old girl girls, hers 3 year old boy cats), she happened to drop her thoughts on why this show was not to be missed, and they included this message of awe:

"These people are quilters. I just play with fabric."

I get where she is coming from. I mean, check out any quilt in MQX so heavily quilted in minute detail so as to render you almost cross eyed from teeny stitches and in intricate detail and designs you know that in a million years you could never come up with, and it is pretty easy to feel inferior and/or like you are wearing size 42 clown shoes in a crowd of come hither high heels, Just no.

You are a quilter.

The entire premise of my Perfection is Overrated lecture is just that - a quilt doesn't have to be perfect, or an award winner, or even one deemed worthy by a panel of judges to be juried into a show to be beautiful, have worth, and be a work of art. There is room in this hobby/art for every quilt, and every type of quilter, from those who make a career of winning awards and inspiring us with their art at every turn to those who make a nine patch quilt with seven unmatched points and use it as a cat bed, and when it comes right down to it, we are all equal in that WE ARE ALL QUILTERS!

Do you own at least three of the following: Mat, rotary cutter, a ruler, a spool of thread, scissors, and more than one piece of fabric? You are a quilter.

Do you spend hours on end or just a few minutes a week hanging out with your fabric, cutting it up, sewing it together, creating, rolling around naked in it, whatever? You are a quilter.

Do you make quilts to brighten someone's day? Do you keep them all for yourself? You are a quilter.

Do you buy fabric without a clue what you will do with it and line your walls with all of your stash? Do you only buy what you need and have a teeny stash and almost no scraps? You are a quilter.

Do you belong to a quilt guild? Do you NOT belong to a quilt guild? You are a quilter.

Do you design your own quilts? Do you always use patterns? You are a quilter.

And here's my personal favorite, from the annals of the quilt police themselves: Do you prewash? Do you NOT prewash? You are a quilter.

Matched points, perfect piecing, gorgeous quilting, professional bindings.....those might get you a quilt hanging in a show festooned with ribbons and some fun prize money, absolutely. But does it make you more of a quilter than the newbie who just took her first class and is contemplating her first big girl sewing machine purchase?

Not in my book.

Respect your art. Respect your identity as a fabric hoarding, scrap busting, masterpiece making, cat bed lining, prize winning, just starting out QUILTER.

And a fabulous quilter at that.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pinterest Power - Activate!

So March has been fun. And I say that with minimal sarcasm. Try not to fall off your chairs.

It started out innocently enough with a random and obscure email from a woman in "SA" asking me to send her a pdf of my scrappy block. San Antonio? South America? Santa Anna? Saturn's Axis? But more importantly - HUH? I have lots of scrappy blocks, but none are free patterns nor just block directions. I didn't want to be rude, but really didn't have much info to go on so I asked a few designer friends their opinion and was given the advice to ignore it as a fluke or a phisher. The exact advice I would have given them, by the way. After all, without more info, what was I really to do? More on that in a bit.

Enter two more equally obscure and random emails asking again for scrappy block directions within the next 24 hours. Then four more when I woke up the next morning. I could no longer ignore the truth: I was famous.

Kidding. But something I had made somewhere had become popular and was in high demand, so I found my tweed beanie and my curvy pipe and set out to solve the mystery, which I saw as three fold:

1. What scrappy block?
2. Where did they see it?
3. Why is this block assumed to be a free pdf?

A few emails back to the writers of the random obscure ones and I had the answers to #1 and #2. Are we at all shocked? Our good old friend Kickin' Stash, which they'd found in the form of this pin on Pinterest.

Quilting Hottie Haven: Scrappy New Year! New Group Quilt needs you!
This pin. This pin which is over THREE YEARS OLD and was probably looked at 13 times (max) in three years was suddenly a superstar. Even as I was solving the mystery, more random and obscure emails were flying into my inbox, taunting me over and over with their love and longing but yet disturbingly wanting just the block directions for "the scrappy block," and presumably wanting them for free; if they didn't ask for it for free, and some did, no one actually asked if it was for sale, so that's my presumption, anyway. Where were they getting the information that it was just a block, and also was free? Did I have to sue Pinterest for defamation of block character?

As it turns out, the culprit and answer to #3 was "three years ago me," in a way. The pin, which was thankfully properly credited to me and therefore these people were able to find me, lead to my blog post of January 12, 2012, which we will call "The One In Which I Ask for Testers for My 2012 Group Scrap Quilt." Therefore if they read the blog post without reading the date of it, I can totally see how they may have thought the block was still available as a free pdf/free directions/free what have you. In reality it was really never a free anything - it was a call for testers, and those of you who've hung around here long enough know that these group quilts come with perks rather than a price. But I guess in the heat of passionate love for this block a lot was overlooked. It's all good. We'll take the flurry of fame wherever and however we can get it!

In any case, I'm really quite happy that even if I caused my three years hence self a day or so of mystery, I did properly pin the pin in the first place. As soon as I found out where they were heading from that pin to find me, I updated the top of the blog post with a blurb explaining how this was a really old post and the testing period was way over, but feel free to check out the pattern on Craftsy or Patternspot. This really helped stem the tide of emails, and not that I didn't want to hear from people because I absolutely love it, but I was starting to lose hours to this and to need a secretary and I can't afford one. I also created a signature in my Outlook account, appropriately titled "KS Insanity," which explains the whole Pinterest resurgence of this block and pattern, and I have been able to use it to answer every random and obscure email that has come through all month long with a few clicks. Open, okay, another request, find signature, click send, done. I do love efficiency.

I also love that only one person told me I shouldn't be baiting and switching - more on that below - , everyone else either went over to Craftsy or Patternspot and bought the pattern (let's be honest, that was my favorite part) or just faded away, which is fine too. In all, it's been a fun month with an unexpected flurry of income from Craftsy. Imagine what I could have done if I could have sold worldwide. Sigh.

It's a long and convoluted story, but I do have a couple of morals I hope you'll let me share. I hope you won't find them preachy, but helpful:

Moral #1, directed to me: When done with group projects, maybe update the heading of any blog posts announcing them. With Pinterest's new policies, apparently old pins are being renewed on a regular basis and who knows - I could get lucky and have one of mine picked for resurgence again.

Moral #2, directed to me: It's okay to ignore one odd email, but when they start coming in droves, listen - and get back to everyone in a timely manner. I do think I responded to everyone, but if you contacted me about this and never heard from me, I apologize and please let me know. I'll send you my fancy KS Insanity email signature. Won't even take a second.

Moral #3, directed to quilters who contact a designer: Please, we beg you. Information information and more information. What did you see? Did it have a name? Where did you see it? (Believe it or not, not ONE person in the first three weeks mentioned where they had seen this block in their initial emails.) Colors, shapes, fabrics, whatever you can tell us. Most of us have multiple patterns on the market and some of us may even have an affinity for teal and purple, so be as specific as you can. It really helps tremendously. Oh - and SA? That was South Africa. She was really sweet when I finally got back to her after determining no one was messing with me.

Moral #4, directed to everyone in the world: Assume the best of people. I had no way to know Pinterest would grab that pin and throw it at quilters the world over as a "Picked for You" pin three years after it was introduced. A lot happens in three years, and in that time, this block went from an idea to my best selling pattern of all time. I will admit I at first thought maybe someone was messing with me or giving away my block somehow, but that was not the case. It made me sad that anyone would think I would deliberately throw that blog post out there to reel people in and send them to Craftsy. I guess it was inevitable, though.

 So thank you to all who understood that this is my business, and bought the pattern and told me how excited you are to make it. I'm just as excited if not more so to see your finished creations!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

That's My Jam

"Hey Mom, I think we're out of jam."

"Oh, don't worry, I'm doing five lectures over the next three weeks. I'm sure we'll be restocked soon."
 "Yes, I guess we will."

It's definitely crunch time around here as I'm getting prepped to do more lectures in a shorter amount of time than I ever thought possible (five in three weeks, nine in seven weeks, good Lord in heaven I am insane) and at the same time trying to finish several patterns I really had hoped to have done by now. And then Paige hits me with the news that we are about to run out of jam. How much more can a girl take?

In most households, this would mean a quick trip to the store. In ours, it just means waiting to see first if the guilds gift me with jam. Because for whatever reason, about 40% of the time, I'm given jam as a special thank you gift by either the entire guild or an appreciative member of the guild when I show up to do a lecture. Sound weird? Maybe. Sound awesome? Of course it does. Because who doesn't love homemade jam? I've been given blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, various medleys of all four and some with a splash of rhubarb thrown in. I made a particularly amazing appetizer with some hot pepper jelly I was given once, although the girls were less than impressed with that particular offering, but who asked them? Did they give the presentation and deserve the special parting gift? No. Did I want to share the appetizer anyway? Heck no.

Want some jam making tips? - visit Nana Clare's Kitchen blog
I love my job. I love that it comes with more benefits than I ever imagined, and some, like jam, that I never would have guessed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

DAGMT 2015 wrap up and prize patrol

Did you DAGMT? If so, you know this was a year in which adding the facebook page element for sharing made the event cohesive and crazy and insanely productive and put the social in social media. I am just beside myself over how adding that element literally made it run itself, and in a year in which I wasn't sure which end was up, that was definitely a welcome surprise. It also allowed for more participants, since not every quilter has a blog. I love that several bloggers still used that format and I only wish February in New England had not been out to kill me and everyone else or I would have used it more myself.

What I'm most proud of for my own personal DAGMT experience is that despite 6 feet of snow falling in the first two weeks of February, my children having exactly 5.5 days of school from February 1 to February 23, and my new job as Chief Snow Removal Technician and Ice Dam Watchperson (Hours: round the clock. Salary: 0 dollars ever. Benefits: Joy of running a snowblower in driving snow.), I was still able to fulfill this portion of my pledge:

"I pledge to quilt for at least 90 minutes while the children are at school, and if they are home for vacation, snowday, or weekend because really, let's be honest, they are never in school, to quilt for 95 minutes just to prove I can."

And I did. So there, February. Suck it.

A selection of the projects I worked on, just because everyone loves a show off:

Zippy pouch from scraps on the floor. It was a whole blog post of its own.

Got these babies made up into "Harlequin Shake"

The project I started at age 12 got some new color

Kickin' Stash sample from a jelly roll for my "Give it a Scrap Slap" lecture. It may be no surprise I don't love this quilt, but that's the whole point of my lecture.

 And in my favorite finish of the month, which didn't actually happen until March 2 but I do not care, I pulled out this top, which had been languishing due to me not thinking it was all that great, and decided to finish it. To my surprise, I absolutely love it. Really, truly, and forever and ever love it. Enough to tromp through the snow to get this cool photo.

Snow only about 30" deep here. I only had to sink in up to my nether regions rather than to my neck. Yay February!
I know there is a huge debate/disparity/discontent/probably other words that start with d in the quilt world about photos like this being used as pattern cover shots. There are those who feel a flat photo is the only way to go, ever, as it is the only way to see the whole pattern and know exactly what you are getting into. I tend to agree with that. But there are also those who feel a photo like this, one showing the definite feel of the pattern in a more artsy form, draws the eye more when it is on the pattern wall at the quilt store, and calls "Look at me! Grab me! Check me out!" a little bit more. I tend to agree with that as well. I'm considering giving this photo a go as a pattern cover (after editing out some of the snow) because I really really love it. I really love the snow, the sky, and that tree.  I feel like the pattern is pretty obvious in this photo; it isn't a complex quilt, and what you see here is what you get, and it is draping in a way that shows the pattern, not hides it. 

But what do you think? I'd really love to know your overall opinion. 

Whatever is decided, a photo of the baby size, in flat form, will be on the back cover. 

Oh, and I'm calling the pattern "Crystallize," mainly because "Suck it, February" might be considered offensive or inflammatory if you aren't a New Englander this year.
So overall, did I accomplish everything I wanted to? No. Do I ever? No. So we sigh and move on. But I did get more done on some things than I expected to, AND I got my business taxes ready for the accountant, AND I did not sell the children, so overall it was a successful month.

On to everyone's favorite part of the DAGMT wrap up - the Prize Patrol!

Thank you again to all of my amazing sponsors. You've all made my life so happy with your prize donations and you are about to make our winners even more happy.

And my PR angel, who wins a table runner kit donated by Quiltmaker magazine: Marlene Collella!

Congratulations all!

It's in the bag for this year. May next year be even more exciting. You know it will be.

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