Modern Quilting Modern Woman

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blogger and Sewvivor contestant TwoLittleAussieBirds is doing something really cool right now that I'm very excited about. It's a series called Modern Quilting, Modern Women:
This series on Modern Quilting, Modern Women celebrates what makes us who we are. How our craft defines us and gives us a creative outlet which pays respect to our mothers and their mothers before them. I see many different women coming together as a tribe of quilters. Woven together by their craft. Modern quilters are as diverse as modern women.
I'm normally not big on the whole meme/quiz blog post shtick, but these four simple questions are so 
insightful. They really got me thinking about things that I never considered before, which is surprising because I'm a very introspective person. With that said, here's my story!

My Wing It Quilt for Patty's Quilt Market booth

1. Tell us about how you started quilting and how you found modern quilting.

I've been sewing in some capacity since I was a kid, but I first started getting really into it when I was in college. After I graduated and moved back to Houston, I hadn't touched my machine in months. 

I got a job as an in-house graphic designer and one of my co-workers just happened to be Patty Sloniger, a licensed designer for Michael Miller Fabrics. The more we talked, the more I learned about the world of designer fabric. Up until then, I didn't even know this industry existed. My knowledge of fabric was limited to what I could buy at Jo-Ann's and a few Japanese prints I purchased on Etsy.

I was captivated by all the amazing designs and wanted to buy everything! I wasn't sure what I would do with all the fabric though. All I really had sewed was zippy pouches and fleece hats. I knew Patty made quilts, so I started asking her about it, slowly easing myself into the idea.

I asked my brother to buy me a rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat for Christmas in 2013. I spent the following days eagerly cutting squares. Then, I made my first quilt during a two-day holiday: January 1st & 2nd, 2014 using Amy Smart's tutorial series. It just took off after that and I haven't stopped.

2. What does it mean to you to be a modern quilter and a modern woman?

I think we modern quilters are a product of our era. We're living in a world where information can be shared and discovered via the internet both easily and rapidly. We're more global. As a result, we're more open and accepting of new and different ideas. 

My wall of minis

I think with traditional quilters, there are so many "rules" because that is what those quilters were taught. They learned one way and that was the right way. They couldn't Google "how to make a half-square triangle" and see all the different methods people use. 

Quilting isn't just being handed down through families anymore either. I would guess most older traditional quilters were taught by a family member. Now, we're looking to new sources of learning because so many of us come from non-quilting families. We're looking up tutorials online that were written by complete strangers from who knows where. 

The more concise answer would be that we are not learning from one direct source anymore. It's coming from hundreds, if not thousands of sources. Furthermore, we're not just learning one way to do something. I have probably read at least 20 different HST tutorials and I use lots of them to suit my mood. 

I was never taught the "rules" so I don't even see them. I do the research and cherry-pick the information I like, or just make it up. 

I think that is also indicative of what it means to be a modern woman. We're not interested in the straight, paved path for our life journey. We're kinda bush-whacking our way through the jungle any way we please. We do what works for us and ignore what doesn't.

3. Which quilt that you have made represents you and why?

That's an easy choice. It's not so much one quilt, but my series of Scatterbrain Quilts that represents me best.

Scatterbrain Quilt No. 4

I have ADHD. When I was diagnosed, I finally understood so many aspects of myself that I had wrestled with for years. I've always been artistic but I was constantly jumping from one pursuit the next (like photography, painting, writing, etc). That made me feel like a jack of all trades, master of none. It made me feel like I wasn't good enough at any one thing to be successful, and that gave way to feelings of hopelessness. 

When I started quilting, I was deeply afraid that it would be the same old story. But it wasn't. There are so many different things to do within the realm of quilting that I never get bored. However, I do find that I can't do one-block quilts or anything super repetitive.

I started making Scatterbrain Quilts because I was tired of trying to stick to one idea when I have hundreds of them swirling in my head like cows in a twister. I never before had an outlet where I was free to just unleash my internal chaos in a constructive way.

Scatterbrain Quilts are the perfect representation of what it's like for me living with ADHD. It can be chaotic, but it can also be beautiful.

4. How do you connect with other modern quilters?

Joining the Houston Modern Quilt Guild was of the best things I could have done to connect with other like-minded quilters. I'm a complete internet dork, but even I, Ms. Hermit Crab herself, understand the value of getting together with "my people" in person. There is just no substitute. 

With that being said, I'm hooked on Instagram. I've "met" people on IG that I then got to meet at Quilt Market, which was a blast. I probably would have missed out if I hadn't been a virtual friend/follower first. 

I read lots of blogs (thank God for Bloglovin' to keep them all organized) and listen to the Modern Sewciety podcast religiously. Stephanie has exposed me to so many amazing people in this industry that I would have never known about otherwise. 

Patty, Kim Kight, Tammy, and myself at the Cotton + Steel booth at Market
Well, that's that! If these questions got you thinking, be sure to check out the link up over at TwoLittleAussieBirds!

Gift Ideas for Scatterbrained Sewists

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

First of all, what makes someone a Scatterbrained Sewist? A passion for making! I want to MAKE ALL THE THINGS, all the time. I have more ideas (many of them half-baked) than time. Even with a project wish list a mile long, I'm always looking for more ideas. Since I try to crank projects out in rapid fire, finding shortcut techniques and tools is key, but having fun is always #1 on my list!

Here are nine gift ideas that are sure to help your Scatterbrained Sewist get inspired and create!

1. Clover Wonder Clips (Available in 10 pack or 50 pack). These guys are great for a variety of tasks when pinning isn't ideal, like binding a quilt or bag making when lots of layers are involved. I had been using mini clothespins, but they fall apart too easily and are bulkier then I'd like, so I'm hoping for some of these. Wonder clips would make the perfect stocking stuffer.

2. MicroFine Glue Tips. My friend Julia pointed these out to me at Quilt Festival, and I am so grateful that she did. Glue basting is the easiest way I've encountered to get accurate, precise seams...which I'm not naturally good at. I highly suggest them to anyone who hates pinning or wants to get some lovely seams.

3. Cotton + Steel Basics Bundles. I've already purchased the green/yellow, red/purple and blue fat quarter bundles to round out of my rainbow of blenders. There is also a bundle with white, gray, and black prints. You can also get the entire rainbow in a jelly roll! Part of being a Scatterbrained Sewist means it's hard to get excited about non-focal/hero prints, which isn't good for building a well-rounded stash. Seriously, blenders make the best fabric gifts for Scatterbrained people like me because we get easily distracted by all the shiny focal prints.

4. Wonky Tee from Patchwork Threads. Wonky and Scatterbrained-ness go together like PB&J, so this tee would make a fun addition to your closet.

5. Modern quilt magazine subscriptions. Quilt Now subscriptions are available to us Americans through Pink Castle Fabrics as either a 6 issue or 13 issue plan. Love Patchwork and Quilting is available as a print subscription through their website, but if you live outside of the UK, you'll be about an issue behind due to delivery times. It's also available as a digital subscription the Apple Newstand for $5.99 per issue, which is released at the same time as it is in the UK, so no waiting! Any cover-mounted goodies that can be digitized (like patterns or mini booklets) will be included in the digital issue too.

6. Soak Wash, Flatter, and Handmaid. Part of being Scatterbrained means that when I hand wash things, I usually walk away and forget about them. With Soak Wash, a gentle, no-rinse detergent that's not a problem. Flatter is great for getting extra smoothing power when ironing, without the added stiffness of starch. It comes in handy for me because I have a bad habit of leaving fabric lying around in a wrinkled wad. Bonus, it comes in a variety of amazing scents! Handmaid is a hand cream, which I can never get enough of, especially after lots of hand sewing.

7. Craftsy Classes. Normally I'm too impatient for video courses, but I can't deny how helpful it is to get a clear visual when learning new techniques. Craftsy's video courses are easy to reference time and time again with multi-lesson classes that let you take notes and ask the instructor (and fellow students) for help.

8. Patchwork City by Elizabeth HartmanI get bored easily when sewing, which is why I never make the same thing twice. Sampler quilts are another easy remedy to quilt-block boredom, and Elizabeth's new book is super duper exciting. The book contains 75 blocks in three different sizes, and only one is a square! Her freezer-paper template approach is perfect for people who have a phobia of FPP (and glue basting works wonders here). There are five quilt patterns as well, but these blocks have so much potential beyond those patterns. I've already started working through the book, page by page.

9. Shape by Shape by Angela Walters. I got an autographed copy of this book at Quilt Market, and it's already saved my butt on a quilt where I felt stumped. Custom quilting isn't something that comes naturally to everyone, so having a visual guide to get you started on tackling a project is a big relief. I can't wait to put this to work on some QAYG projects.

Quilt Market: How to Survive Sample Spree

Sunday, November 9, 2014

This post is a little overdue, but it's here at last. I had a great time at Sample Spree at Quilt Market last month and I wanted to share some tips for anyone who is considering taking on the madness.

Prior to attending, I was under the impression that Sample Spree was like Walmart on Black Friday x100. I know I'm not the only one who that that either. While I was there I overhead a security guard say to his coworker, "Man...they sure picked one hell of an event for my first day of work."

I stopped, backtracked to them, and asked if it was seriously his first night on the job. His reply slayed me: "Yeah, the other guys just told me 'When they open the doors, grab a piece of wall and hold on for dear life. The crowd is mostly harmless but you still don't want to get between them and their fabric.'" So yeah. Even the security team has clocked our fabric obsession.

In all honesty though, it was not that bad. Sample Spree vets I talked to said this year was noticeably calmer than in previous years. This is probably a result of the stricter credential requirements to get into Quilt Market. Regardless, Sample Spree is totally doable with a little bit of preparation.

1. Dump any other stuff you have in your car or room first. The less stuff you have to carry, the better. That means limit the contents of your purse to your wallet, phone, vendor list & map, and maybe a bottle of water.

Bring a roomy, durable tote or shopping bag that is easy to toss stuff in and lug around. Wheeled bags are not allowed, so you’re limited to what you can carry. Some vendors may have plastic or paper bags, it isn’t a sure thing.

2. Bring cash in several denominations. My awesome guildie, Tammy, advised me that “cash is king” and she wasn’t lying. Vendors take cards, but that means you may have to wait for a device to free up before they can swipe your card, plus the added waiting time of processing/signing.

I brought $300 in cash (A $100 bill, $100 in $20s, $50 in $10s, and $25 each in $5s and $1s). Being able to have exact cash on hand ready to pay meant that I was able to complete some purchases ahead of people who were waiting to pay with a card. For example, at the Cotton + Steel booth, I got my bundles and paid in less than 5 minutes, while some people waited more than 15 to pay with plastic.

An added bonus is that it was easy to stay within my spending limit. No more cash, no more shopping. I actually didn’t even spend all I brought.

3. Know the terrain! A list of vendors and map of the tables is posted in advance on the Quilts Inc. website. Print out a copy, highlight the booths you want to hit, and map them out. Make a rough plan of the order you want to hit each table so you don’t waste time.

4. Skip the afternoon camp out. People start lining up for sample spree hours in advance. Unless you have your heart set on a single booth that you are quite certain will sell out of your desired products within the first few minutes, there is not much to be gained from camping out. I got in line about 5-10 minutes before the start time. Once the doors open, the line move very quickly. I had no trouble getting what I wanted.

5. Don’t rely on the divide-and-conquer approach with a friend. Booths may limit popular items to one per person, so if you guys are trying to buy the same bundles, you may be out of luck. I didn't actually see this enforced, but I did hear people saying it. One solution to this may be to buy a larger bundle (like a half-yard bundle instead of 2 FQ bundles) and cut the pieces in half later. 

6. Don’t be discouraged by a crowded table. The Cotton + Steel booth was completely surrounded, three people deep when I approached, assuming all the bundles had been claimed. In reality, there were loads of bundles left! The crowds of people were just waiting to pay with their credit cards. Ask someone to hand you what you want, then try to pay. Be sure to shout that you have cash!

7. Grab first, then worry about paying. This isn’t like a cafeteria where you ask for a bundle, then proceed to checkout. You grab what you want, then see if you can get a someone to take your money once you have your goodies in your hands. There isn’t a neat little line for checkout either, so don’t worry about “cutting” the line to pay. It's like going a bar. Pay when you find an opening, and if someone tells you that they were there first, defer to them if you’re not a jerk. However, cash does seem to trump plastic. 

8. Stick around till the end. There were a few products I wanted, but were not at the top of my list. After the crowds cleared a little, I was able to grab those items with less trouble. Some vendors may even get generous with extras towards the end if they’re trying to clear out their table. You might even get to talk to someone special! I had a nice one-on-one chat with Melody Miller, which was not as easy at Market.

Quilt Market Do's and Don'ts: Lessons Learned

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I tend to be an anxious planner when it comes to big events. I try to learn as much as I can about the situation in order to prepare for maximum awesomeness. That's a very technical goal, obviously. I worry a lot about stupid, preventable crap that may go wrong, so I've found that over-planning is the way to go.

Quilt Market was naturally like my Mt. Everest in terms of planning-for-awesomeness. I grilled every Quilt Market veteran I knew beforehand about every little detail. I even asked one person if they remembered the temperature of the convention center so I knew if I should waste space in my purse on a sweater. That's just nutty, but it felt like a very important question at the time!

Over-planning yielded some good results, but you can't plan for everything. I wanted to share the the positive fruits of my anxiety-fueled madness along with things I learned along the way. That way, you can over-plan using my over-planning experience!

1. DO: Make comfort your number one goal. A lot of my research mentioned wearing comfortable shoes, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. You want to be as comfortable as possible, period.

That means choosing a bag you can carry all day without setting your shoulder on fire. It also means not wearing the super-cute handmade dress if it chafes even the slightest bit. Any tiny annoyance will be magnified x10 over the course of the day.

2. DO: Wear handmade items if they are comfy. I wore handmade outfits all three days I attended market, and they were great conversation starters. A few people even stopped me and asked for photos. If you want to meet new people, network, and get your name out there, this is an easy way to start.

3. DO: Bring lots of business cards. They're like Pokemon cards and you gotta catch 'em all! Trade with everyone you can. If you actively use Instagram, PUT YOUR INSTAGRAM NAME ON THE CARD!! I was surprise more people didn't do this, and so many of them commented that they wish they had.

4. DON'T: Use the free plastic badge holder. Sew up your own! It's another way to set yourself apart, plus you can stash more crap in it with extra pockets (I used mine for business cards and some cash). Patty made a great tutorial on how she made hers.

5. DO: Bring a printed exhibitor list and map. If you're trying to hit up giveaways, demos, or generally want to know your way around, it's worth it to print out the list of booths and a map. I brought mine on Saturday, but forgot it on Sunday. It's loss was felt.

6. DON'T: Expect to get free books without some planning. Publishers will give away a limited number of books (including a book signing) at a set time and place. With C&T, you show up 10-15 minutes early to get a ticket and place in line for the book. At Lucky Spool, you can show up 30 minutes early, grab a ticket, and return at the scheduled time without having to worry about getting a spot in a line.

Sometimes there are a really limited number of books (I recall overhearing there were only 15 copies of one book), so you have to know where to be and when. I wouldn't have gotten a single free book if it wasn't for Stephanie and her amazing scheduling skills.

7. DON'T: Try to take all your booth photos on Saturday. Saturday is the busiest day of market and the first day exhibits are open, making it hard to get good photos of the booths without random people walking in the way. Next time, I'll probably walk through all the booths I like, make notes of what I want to come back and photograph, and do so later on Saturday or on Sunday when there are fewer people around.

8. DON'T: Be afraid to talk to those quilt celebrities. I initially had jitters about speaking to the "stars" of the industry, but after attending Fabric 2.0, it was easy to see how down to earth everyone is. By day two, I was able to chat up Amy Butler, Tula Pink, Carolyn Friedlander, Alison Glass, and the whole AGF crew without any nervousness. They're just people, so talk to them like you would anyone else...and maybe ask to take a selfie with them.

9. DON'T: Drop cuss words in front of the conservative crowd. I did it on accident. It went over like a lead balloon.

10. DO: Ask before taking a large catalog or handout. Getting larger items like these printed are pricier than a simple brochure, and exhibitors may have limited amounts. If you're not placing an order, don't grab the giant 20 page catalog without asking a representative if you may do so. Some will say no, they only give them to retailers. In that case, thank them for letting  you look at there booth, and let them get back to business.

11. DO: Eat at the food court. It's seriously the most convenient option. The food is good, served quickly, and there are lots of options. It's not as cheap as going to a fast food place (expect to pay around $10 for a meal), but it will save you the time and hassle of leaving the show to get food.

12. DO: Periodically drop off purchases and goodies in your car or hotel room. Your shoulder will thank you. After snagging six free books on Sunday, my tote bag was really digging into my shoulder and slowing me down. Next time, I'll probably take a pit stop when it starts getting heavy.

13. DO: Consider a rolling bag. I always thought the rolling backpacks were the ultimate sign of dorkiness, and I am a self-proclaimed dork saying this. However, if there was ever a time to sign away your street cred and getting a rolling bag, Market is one of them. Lugging heavy shoulder bags and backpacks around gets exhausting, so I'm considering getting myself a dorky rolling bag.

14. DO: Add your new friends on Instagram as you meet them. Not everyone puts their IG name on their card, so ask them what their handle is, and add them before you part. That way, you can be sure to find them, and you'll be able to quickly tag them in a photos.

Are there any things you are glad you did or didn't do at quilt market? Would you do anything differently?