United We Stand

better world, design, quilting, sewing

The past few years have brought tremendous changes to the world of quilting. Shops have closed by scores. Magazines and book publishers have shuttered or merged with other publishers. American Quilter Society has ceased publishing books all together. City Quilter in New York is closing. Tension has arisen at times between genres of quilters who perceive one genre being intolerant to another.

We began teaching modern quilting in 2001. The ages of our students ranged from twenty-somethings to retirees. Even as early as 2001 we noticed that spending patterns were clearly divided by age. Retirees had large stashes and both the time and money to make lots of quilts. Younger quilters had student debt, insecure jobs and looming college and retirement costs that prevented them from spending as much time or money on quilting. If we had a studio sale with fabric deeply discounted, the 50+ crowd would spend hundreds of dollars and the 30-somethings would buy 4 fat quarters. It was a pattern we saw repeatedly. So we never drank the Kool-Aid about modern quilters or young quilters saving our shrinking industry. They can’t afford to.

Hiring designers based on the number of Instagram followers instead of talent will not save our industry. Deciding which books to publish based on the age of the author will not save our industry. Belittling other genres of quilting will definitely not save our industry. If you REALLY want to save our industry, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Buy fabric and supplies from an owner whose name you know. Buying quilting fabric from Massdrop or Fabric.com might not seem like a big deal but for a mom-and-pop retailer every dollar truly matters. If you buy from Massdrop, the designer makes 15-20 cents per yard at best. If you buy directly from the designer, they make $4-6 per yard.
  2. Buy books from authors directly or through local quilt shops. If you buy a book from Amazon to save $4, the author makes $1. If you buy it from the author, the author makes typically half of the cost of the book, usually $10-15. If you buy it from a local quilt shop, the shop owner makes the profit but at least it stays in the industry and they stay in business and buy more books. It’s an enormous difference.
  3. Support ALL types of quilting. If you’re a modern quilter, go to an exhibit of applique quilts at a local guild. Do a shop hop of shops you haven’t been to. Take classes that are outside of your comfort zone. All of this money filters down to support guilds, teachers, shops and designers.
  4. Teach someone to sew or quilt. Help a teenager make a quilt for college or for graduation. Show a boy how to make a messenger bag or a pillow for his room.
  5. Understand the laws of supply and demand. With fewer shops in business and fewer quilters, the cost of fabric has and will increase. No one is taking advantage of you or ripping you off. It’s just the economics of each yard costing more because fewer yards are being produced. Ditto for the cost of magazines, especially with magazines like ours that has no ads.
  6. Don’t expect everything for free. Unless you want quilting to go the way of tatting, with very few people able to make a living teaching or designing, don’t photocopy patterns for your friends and don’t limit what you can learn to YouTube. I understand that each of us only has so much money and it’s tempting to want to give away your favorite patterns with your guild friends, but if you don’t support shops, publishers, designers and the like, those people will have to find other ways to make a living. The closed shops, the shuttered publishers and those who have left the industry for greener pastures or as a result of closures are proof that it has become harder than it was 20 years ago to make a living in the quilting industry.

Most importantly, can we just band together to support all quilters? And when I say support, I mean financially as well as sharing with others the work you find inspiring be it at a guild meeting or through social media. Can we decide that each quilt is made by someone who loves quilting as much as you do? If you don’t like the way quilt competitions are structured, suggest a new category. If you want more books on a certain topic, email the publisher. If you want more magazine coverage of a certain trend, let the editors know. If you want a certain fabric your local shop doesn’t carry, ask if they would be willing to order it. We are fortunate right now to have more work than we can manage. However, watching businesses related to quilting close affects all of us. Please share in the comments section anything you can think of to support the quilting world.

 

Crafting a Better Fire

by Bill, eco-craft, free patterns, general crafts, sewing

After all the activity around the holidays, we’re ushering in the New Year with a day of rest. And that means a family game in front of a cozy fire.

Carrying armfuls of weathered firewood from our log pile outside one too many times, I finally made a simple log tote from materials we already had on hand: some scrap canvas and an old dowel. In 30 minutes I’d made this carrier, which I should have sewn years ago. While off-white canvas will certainly get dirty over time, I had pieces left over from a project and always prefer to use up what I have. The dowel was left over from a hanging rod from a trade show (though I also eyed an old broomstick which I could have just as easily cut down.) The image below takes you through the four simple steps. You might be tempted to make the carrier a bit larger, but if you do then it gets heavier when full and more cumbersome to use.

log-carrier-tutorial

 

On a related note, we keep our firewood in metal hoop.

hoop

It came with a poorly made plastic snow and rain cover. The cold weather made the cover brittle and the sharp edges of the logs tore it within a few weeks. I purchased a heavy-duty tarp at Home Depot, took a few measurements and sewed together a far better replacement. The tarp stays fairly rigid and should last years and years. Here’s a photo of Weeks lifting the cover using the handle I sewed on top:

waterproof-cover

 

Not all stores carry the brown tarps, but it sure looks better than the standard bright blue ones, especially against the brick wall. If you want to make one, here are a couple tips:

  • make it at least 4″ wider than you think necessary to prevent it from catching on the logs
  • use polyester, not cotton thread so the stitching won’t rot outdoors
  • sew the handle to the middle section before sewing the sides and middle together (something I didn’t think to do since the handle was an afterthought.)

For those of you in enjoying summer in the Southern Hemisphere right now, you’ve got lots of time to sew your totes and covers for the coming winter…

Happy New Year to all!

 

Dashiki Time

by Bill, fabric, sewing

Two hot summer days ago, UPS delivered bolts of our new Barbados fabrics. Wanting to make something right away, I thought of the cool comfort of dashikis I learned to love when I lived in Kenya years ago.

Weeks and I combed the internet for a good pattern and she found an affordable ($5.99) and downloadable pattern — Burda “Men’s Linen Shirt #138.” Though the pattern calls for a fabric that is the same on both sides (which is to say not a print), with a little adaptation I hoped I could make it work.

photo

This was my first time using a downloadable Burda pattern. Though it has only four pattern pieces, it required 26 sheets of paper and a fair amount of tape.

tape

The material requirements called for 59″-wide linen. I calculated that I’d need 2 1/2 yards of 42″-wide fabric which I prewashed as I taped together the printouts.

pattern

I’m a sucker for blue and thought the scale of our “Breeze” fabric would have the cool summery feel I wanted. Unlike any patterns I’ve purchased in stores, this one did not include seam allowances. I used a flexible drafting curve to extend the pattern and create the seam allowances. I don’t know if this is common in downloadable patterns, but I found it a bit annoying (though easy enough to deal with). In fairness the pattern did say it didn’t include the seam allowances.

seams

Though it adds work, I prefer to sew french seams when I make shirts. If you’ve never sewn french seams, they’re counter intuitive. It’s a two-step process. First you sew your pieces wrong sides together:

french-1

Next you trim close to the seam, press the right sides together and sew another seam to encase the raw edges. It creates a smooth, finished seam with no raw edges to fray and no need to overlock:

french-2

The front comprises two sides which each fold inward to create a front facing. They are joined with a center seam. Given the graphic wave motif, it required careful planning and alignment of the pattern before cutting the fabric to ensure alignment of the repeats. The reason most dashikis have a center seam is that it allows you to have nicely finished neck and hem slits. It also lets you mirror large scale motifs if desired.

slit

Earlier I mentioned having to make a small adaptation since I was using a print and not a solid linen. The change had to do with how the back neck facing and inner front facings were attached at the shoulders. If you decide to make this pattern, it’s not hard to figure out, just know that it’s indeed possible.

After wearing my dashiki all day in the summer heat and being so comfortable, I know I’ll soon make another. So what would I do differently next time? Add an inch to the sleeve length! I’ll probably wear the shirt with the sleeves rolled up most of the time, but when I unroll them they’re just a tad short.

Overall I’m happy with the pattern. The dashiki has room for movement without being boxy. The biggest question is which fabric do I use next? I’m leaning toward the red and gray Lanai print but am fond of the tan and taupe Resort print as well.

Any thoughts?

7853-R

7854-C