To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
When I first took up quilting, in the back of my mind was this idea of the quilter as a prudent housewife making quilts with clothing scraps to provide warmth for her family because resources were scarce. The truth is that rather than prudent, quilting is profligate, with a $3.58 billion industry supplying all manner of goods that a “true” quilter needs. “But historically, quilt makers were poor, putting together what they had,” innumerable sources claim. This too is a falsehood, as it has almost always been the wealthy who had the money to either buy the yardage of printed goods needed for a wholecloth quilt or the idle time to sew one from small scrap pieces. Thus, quilting is neither quick nor cheap, either historically or in a modern context. There are exceptions; even the poor have produced utility quilts, and some may have made livings making quilts, but they are not so numerous as the popular mind believes.
On the other side of the coin is the idea that every stay-at-home mother or underemployed crafter can somehow make a profitable business out of their sewing or crafting. The idea that even in a marketplace flooded with goods made cheaply in the global sphere, somehow, the small resurgence of the homemade, local market (driven, mind you, by privileged buyers who can afford the premium to feed their eco-minded ideals) is the saving grace of craft, where goods you make in your spare time (at first) can grow into a business that is sustainable and profitable.
The real truth is that quilting is either an expensive hobby or a business at which one can barely break even if you pay yourself a living wage. The same can be said of most other crafts. But to anyone viewing the world of quilting online, this truth is hidden by a horde of blogs that extol the virtues of doing what you love and bringing in extra money for the household through crafting. That somehow, simply identifying quilting or crafting as a hobby means you aren’t fully embracing life; that doing so means you don’t have a place in the online community.
The average crafting/quilting blogger seems to be middle-aged, female, married to a man who works full-time, with children, Christian, and solidly middle-class (if not higher). She has disposable income with which to buy all of the latest and greatest crafting toys (or at least enough to make a good show of it on the blog), and lists some of what she makes for sale online. If one or more of the above aren’t true, she is either actively trying to resolve the disparity, or you don’t hear about his or her blog, because they’re not one of the cool kids.
I’d like to make some grand call to action, a war cry perhaps, for those of us who don’t fit that mold to unite and show the world we exist, but I won’t humor myself to assume I have such reach or influence in the online quilting blog sphere. Instead, I simply hope to inspire a little thought to burrow in your mind about the exclusivity of our world and the factors that lead to it.
Quilting is not full of economical housewives making due with what she has, nor is it a way to do what you love and make a solid living. Rather, it is a world of $3000 sewing machines, $10/yard fabrics, costs to produce a single quilt often over $100, sponsorships, prostituting crafty favors for a chance to either get published or draw more blog followers, making less than minimum wage just to compete with undercutting hobbyists and goods made in southeast Asia, and keeping up with Mrs. Jones.
Is that a bad thing? Who am I to answer, as I sit here on a blog that I have no aspirations to grow into the next best thing and with my disposable income to fund my hobby without needing to pretend it’ll one day to become a business. But, as I see bloggers stressing over the need to increase their readership, produce more, sell more, and get noticed, I do wonder about all the others we’re missing because they don’t think they can compete. There is so much talent out there, but the current culture of quilting on the internet seems content with ignoring it unless it can be monetized.
So, yes, I posit that it’s a bad thing. I just don’t have an answer to how we can solve it any time soon.
The plural of anecdote is not data, and while I admittedly came to quite a few conclusions of my own based on personal anecdotal evidence (particularly the average blogger bit), much of what I said can be found in the Quilting in America™ 2010 study.
2014 is here, and I’ve started taking stock of what sewing projects are coming up next. 2013 was certainly full of change for me, but that translated to what felt like a less productive sewing year.
I didn’t actually fulfill any of my sewing resolutions for 2013, but I wouldn’t call the year a total loss. One major theme: I don’t have a bunch of abandoned WIPs from the year like I have in the past; I either finished everything I started, or am still consistently working on it for the most part.
I say 2013 “felt like a less productive year”, but I actually finished one more quilt than I did in 2012.
2012: The Steampunk Costume—is never going to be finished with the original plan, but I’d like to do something with all of it.
2012-13: Farmer’s wife / EPP Crosses—I did some EPP this year with a group in the spring and on my own as recently as Thanksgiving, but it has a long way to go and I only touch it every couple of months.
I have three quilts in progress that were started in late 2013 which are my main focus for early 2014 (two December babies, one January birthday). There are two more babies due to friends in the spring, so the first half of the year seems pretty full.
Aside from those planned quilts, I’m resolution-less this year. I want to see where the year takes me here in VT. I joined the local guild, but have only attended one meeting so far. I haven’t found a real quilt-shop home yet, nor any monthly groups. It’s an adventure I’m looking forward to.
I wish you the best of luck (or all the motivation) in 2014!
When Carl and I first discussed buying a house two years ago, one of our major needs was a separate sewing space for me. The reason was half because I really wanted it, and half because he really wanted to be able to hide my mess creative endeavors behind a door when company came. Now, the problem with moving from a city where housing is some of the cheapest in the nation to a major college-inflated housing market is that finding (and affording) that extra space was hard—especially when we had to factor in an official office space for Carl, since he’s going to be working from home.
So, in a 900 square foot apartment, with just one official bedroom and one den that now serves as a guest room and office, where does the the sewing space fit?
In the walk-in closet!
Lucky for us, we both have mainly foldable clothes, and the remainder will fit in the hall closet. The closet is decently sized, so I don’t feel too cramped, and there’s enough storage that I only have one storage bin elsewhere.
The only thing missing is my sewing machine. It’s a long story, but in summary, I sent my machine to get cleaned and tuned up, but four weeks later, I’m still waiting for its return (and terribly unamused about the whole thing). I hope it is back by next week, so that Carl can pick it up when he goes back to Utica on business.
When I posted about “Disappearing Seven Wonders”, I mentioned that it had a new label and that I’d say more about them later that week. Three months later, now I am!
All quilters people who make quilts should label their quilts. When I say that, I don’t mean every quilt needs a label added to the quilt. Quilts should have the maker(s) name and date somewhere, even if it is just a signature and date in indelible ink on the fabric itself, tucked in a back corner. Many quilters say that they don’t label certain quilts, because this one is going to stay on their couch, but I think that is a cop out for when they are ready to move on to the next project. Some day, frankly, you die, and someone else will have the quilt. Why not claim your work and let them know you made it?
I like collections, meta data, and history, so labels are my way of attaching that information to my quilts in a way simply writing my name and location can’t do. For a while, I was using print-at-home fabric and making custom labels, but now I’ve had a chance to see how those hold up. The labels on the quilts I gave my mom and sister in 2011 have faded drastically. Carl’s quilt has only been washed once, yet the label looks like this:
The grey didn’t bleed onto any of the other fabrics or even the color catchers, just the label.
So, I’ve decided to start ordering labels from Spoonflower on the Linen/Cotton canvas, a few at a time—however many will fit onto their 8″ swatch. In my obsession with the color scheme from Shakespearian Bars, I also designed a new brand identity. Eventually, I’ll redo the site, too. These labels use that new logo and design scheme. Some are small, for bags and crafts:
Each larger quilt one has a unique QR code. The whole label is about the same size as a business card. I know there are a lot of jokes about their usefulness (see Pictures of People Scanning QR Codes, for example), but they are a quick way to link to more information about something.
The code points to a page on this site showing photos, details, and links to posts about the quilt. They are a little tricky to scan once washed, which I anticipated, so they also include the link in text. The one for my recent Amish Sampler points to raevenfea.com/q013ac. You’ll see that same code listed as a tag for all blog posts about a specific quilt (although sometimes they won’t be coded until the quilt is finished and I know which label it will get).
I was originally planning on ordering a full FQ batch after the initial test order (since it’s cheaper per label), but I’m glad I didn’t. This latest order required a bit of a change from the first few:
Did you spot it? Yes, big news! We’re moving to (South) Burlington, VT! I got the job offer over a month ago, but I’m still in shock. Things have been super busy trying to sell our house, find an apartment, pack, and work out employment for Carl. Sewing has been a great brain vacation (and a way to pare down my sewing room packing), thus the spate of recent posts, but things will probably be quiet around here for the next few weeks until we’re settled in.
I better get back to packing! What is your take on labels for quilts and QR codes?
Spoiler alert: the storms in our county last night didn’t do any major damage to our house, my partner just thinks he’s funny. Yesterday evening was rather fun, in a “I miss midwest thunderstorms and they appeared in NY” sort of way. We stopped to grab dinner last night, mid-errand running, and got stuck at the restaurant while crazy wind, rain, and hail swept through the area. It was beautiful outside until about five minutes after we walked in the building.
Carl hadn’t looked in my sewing room for a while (though knew it was a mess), but I’d left the door open when we left, so when we got home, he saw the mess it was and said “have you seen your sewing room? There’s major wind damage in there!” Ha ha ha. Funny, honey.
It looked like this:
At this point, I think I’ve posted more photos of my room being a total mess than clean. Probably because 70% of the time, it is a mess, although usually not this bad. In my defense, this is during that “it gets worse before it gets better” stage of reorganizing for the umpteenth time. Those piles of fabric in the foreground are organized scraps from my scrap bin, which was overflowing and is now quite well-contained.
Not as non sequitur as it seems, here’s what’s on my wall right now:
This is a hand-pieced block that my grandmother gave me two years ago (along with the fabric she bought for the quilt) in a bag of various sewing things. She had finally, after 20 years, admitted that she was never going to take up quilting and knew I was hooked. After she passed away last summer, one of my sisters and I also inherited some additional craft supplies (mostly she took the yarn and cross-stitch things while I stuck mostly to the remaining quilting stuff).
My grandmother’s house was always clean, and while she loved collecting, she never seemed to hold on to things that she didn’t have space or use for. This block is on my wall right now to remind me of that as I clean out my sewing space, destashing and tossing things that I don’t need. The hardest part was sorting through the two bags of things that came from her supplies… rulers that I never used because I prefer the brand I buy, quintessentially late-80s calico fabric, a printed cross-stitch/embroidery kit for a quilt top, and more.
But she didn’t give them to me for safe-keeping, she gave them to me to use. And in her honor, I sent most of it on to other people who will use them, keeping the things I do want to use like this block (but not the remaining fabric), a pair of minky quilt kits that will be great for her future great-grandchildren (whether mine, my sisters’, or our cousins’), a couple of cross-stitch kits, and crochet hooks—the latter two crafts she taught me growing up which I’m hopelessly inept at now but plan to find time to regain those skills.
And in that spirit, I cleaned out my scrap bin, throwing out unusable ones, organizing the rest. I culled my stash, selling books, patterns, and fabric at a recent guild meeting.
Now I just need to put everything back together again. And then finish up some projects, because half-finished projects aren’t of much use either! I think she’d be happy with that.
Considering that we’re a day away from March, it is probably a bit late for a review of last year. But, since I found this in my drafts and find it helpful to refer back to, I’m publishing it now to motivate me to do even more in 2013.
I had a goal of finishing 10 quilts in 2012. I didn’t make it, but I’m happy with the ones I did finish.
2012: Double Wedding Ring—is not going to be a DWR, but I do want to finish something with the rings that are complete and the remaining fabric.
2012: The Steampunk Costume—is never going to be finished with the original plan, but I’d like to do something with all of it.
I wish I could say I am going to focus on finishing up those fails and boring projects instead of starting new projects in 2013, but that would be a huge lie, knowing myself.
I just shipped off a quilt started and finished this year, and have another brand new top completed. I also started a new sampler, a new SYWTQ group project, and have already failed at completing a Tiramisu during the sew-along.
However, I do resolve to finish at least one quilt top before starting anything new after quilting the aforementioned top. And I resolve to finish Organic Spins before my guild’s show in September.
First, the grand total of my recent completed projects, Valentine Mug Rugs made of mystery-fiber pinkish fabric and a charm pack of Bliss that I honestly don’t remember buying (I have a charm pack purchasing problem):
Actually, there are eight of them in various stages of being bound (I proved with this project that I cannot bind by machine with any proficiency at all. At. All.), all with slightly different blocks on the left.
Have I mentioned Urban Threads yet? I can’t get enough of their embroidery designs. That’s where the “Make Things” crest came from in the above project.
Hint: if you ever want to get me a present, a gift card to there would be splendid.
We solved the electrical woes I mentioned in my last post, but I haven’t managed to put my sewing room back in order after I moved it all around so I could use the other outlet. I did get the giant box of trash out and new shelves built, though: baby steps.
And maybe my 2012 Saturday Sampler blocks (December’s still isn’t complete, but I also have all the other fabric for the top now). Is it gauche to take a sampler from another LQS to the retreat?
Then there is the EPP-project carrying bag that I started in November, but stopped once I got to the lining part and never went back to.
I have a star block that needs finishing by Monday—maybe I’ll take it, or finish it up before I leave. I have some swap blocks that need making before the beginning of March, so perhaps those.
In short, I really need to Make Things, and I have a lot of things partially made. And then I need to Blog Things, but that will hopefully come after said making.
Here’s a shot of all eight mug rugs before I packed them up. I did end up figuring out how to sew binding via machine on four of them, with the help of Steam-a-Seam basting. Not perfect, but I was out of time! The blocks all finished at 4″ (the rugs themselves were 5″×9.5″).
Including the binding and a charm on the back of each, I used all but four of the charms in the pack (with very nominal cutting waste of some).
Whew. The holidays are over. We’re back in NY and back to work. I have all sorts of plans for posts to catch up on what I made for the holidays, but can’t convince myself to work on them—my mind is all a-clutter with things I need to do both online and offline and seems unwilling to dedicate the brainwaves for writing.
In fact, I think this blog is going to be pretty quiet for the month of January. I have a lot I want to accomplish (and in some cases need to), but I don’t think it leaves any time for blogging about it all.
Also on Monday is the start of a new Sew You Want to Quilt session. We’re focusing on Amish Quilting styles this go-around. I have a color scheme I’m excited about, but I don’t know anything more about what we’re making. If you’re in the Utica area and are interested in joining a group of quilters of all abilities (it’s how I got started!), it’s a class offered by the Viking Gallery inside of the JoAnn in New Hartford Shopping Center. We meet bi-weekly (more or less) on Mondays at 5.
With the exception of these two projects and one more (a baby quilt done by March), I want to focus on finishing up existing projects in the early part of the year. I have a few different quilt projects in various states of completion—at least two of which I haven’t touched in over a year. Add in a couple of smaller projects that are half-completed, and my project zen is totally out-of-whack. I need to do some new year cleaning.
Finally, once I get back on track with some of my sewing, I want to do some housekeeping on the blog—decisions about how often to post, whether to have a schedule, etc. But, I probably won’t get to that until February.
So, the too-long; didn’t-read bit of it is: this month is about working, not blogging, although I’ll try to keep you updated on my two new projects. Stay tuned for February when I get back into the swing of things.
Last year, I kept posting right through vacation, detailing all of the homemade Christmas presents I made. This year, I’m giving myself a present: a break! We’re leaving on Saturday to go to Missouri for a week to visit family and friends, and will be back in NY for New Year’s. Once we roll into 2013, I hope to have some tutorials and posts about presents and projects for you.
Until then, best wishes for wonderful holidays, whichever ones you may celebrate (I’m a bit late for Hanukkah, so belated wishes there), and may 2013 bring you joy and happiness.
At least from this angle (although I still need to build my new sewing machine desk, but don’t know what to do with the old one until I can get rid of it)…
One of the major problems with the old setup was that I didn’t have any good organization for my works in progress—they’d get tucked away into boxes and what was out of sight was out of mind. Also, while I liked the idea of beautifully organized fabric in little cubbies, in practice, the shape of those cubbies just doesn’t work for me. So now, the old fabric shelves are going to be used for WIPs so they are in sight and easy to access (you can see my sticky note labels on them in the foreground). Meanwhile the old bookcase that had bins for some WIPs, supplies, books, and some fabric is now going to be all fabric, books, and supplies, as will the second one once I build it.
Just don’t look at the other half of the room…
All of that needs to be sorted, filtered, and put in a new home on the bookshelves (or in the trash, as is the case of the giant box on the right). I plan on tackling all that organization after I finish up this time-sensitive project this week (since at least I have a nice workspace again):
Also, is this a good time to mention that since I’ve only gotten as far as partially finishing the divided skirt and that half of a corset pinned to the dress form that I may not complete the Steampunk costume in time for my sister to model it at Christmas? Well, that’s what it looks like. But, maybe some organization will get me interested in working on it again.