Patchwork City

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This quilt log entry is way overdue. Like six months overdue. But it's worth it, so chill.

At Fall 2014 Quilt Market, I got my hands on a signed copy of Elizabeth Hartman's book Patchwork City as well as fat quarter bundles of the new Cotton + Steel collections. A couple of days later I realized the two were made for each other, and started chipping away at the 75 blocks every evening. From November 7th until Christmas day, I made at least one block every day. Months later, I'm baffled by how I did it all without much of a break.

It took a couple of days to get the top pieced with the Essex yarn-dyed linen background. My quilt tops tend to sit for a few days because I hate basting them. But here's the insane part. I quilted this entire queen size quilt in a single day. It was hella rough and my shoulders were on fire the next day, but it was done...I learned my lesson and I'm never doing that again.

Yep, my backing was totally a bed sheet
It wasn't until the quilt was bound and finished that I realized it didn't match a damn thing in my bedroom. So much for being my new bed quilt. I figure that once we get a house, this will be for the guest bedroom. For now, it's my travel quilt. I used it on Julia futon when we went to Quilt Con as well as at my guild's retreat. 

Name: Patchwork City

Size: 90" x 90"
Fabric: Cotton + Steel Fall 2014 collections (and a few Spring 2014 prints) and Essex yarn-dyed linen in flax
Pattern: Metro Area // Patchwork City
Quilting: Square Meander
Completed: January 10, 2015

Interstellar Storm

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chain piecing the cornerstone blocks with Podrick
In early June, I went to my first quilt retreat with my guild. Since I'm a Type A overplanner, I spent the the week prior prepping my main project: cutting every single piece for my Storm at Sea quilt. I had purchased Creative Grids' Storm at Sea ruler several months earlier, made two blocks, and let them collect dust. I don't think I would have had the discipline to make this quilt if I hadn't been driven out into the middle of nowhere Texas, locked in a building with my sewing machine and perfectly precut pieces, and fed copious amounts of sugary junk food and beer. It basically was the perfect storm of conditions. See what I did there?

Over the course of the next 3 days, the only project I worked on was piecing this queen-sized monster for my bed. There were plenty of breaks to chow down, socialize, a group experiment with a mason jar of 100 proof moonshine, an impromptu excursion to a LQS (where I picked up the fabric for my borders and my backing), and generally shoot the shit. 

Debbie documented my progress
The process was made infinitely easier thanks to the giant design walls the retreat center had. Having 23 other guild mates around also helped keep motivation high. I have a speedy reputation to defend! I was able to get all the blocks assembled before we had to leave Sunday afternoon, so the borders had to wait until I got home.

This is officially  the biggest quilt I've made

The actual fabrics were an assortment of blue and low volume scraps and fussy cuts. A majority of the blue prints are by Lizzy House (Castle Peeps, Constellations, 1001 Peeps, Natural History, Pearl Bracelets, Mini Pearl Bracelets, Butterflies). There were plenty of others though including a few Munki Munki fussy cuts, Japanese prints, Cotton + Steel, and more. I primarily looked for prints featuring moons, stars, bunnies, or cute critters. 

A Munki Munki scrap I've been hoarding fit right in
I used Dream Wool batting from Quilter's Dream for the second time, and I'm very pleased with the finished product. It drapes wonderfully and always seems to be the perfect temperature at night. I would have liked to do custom quilting but I lack the skill and patience for something so big. Finished is better than perfect in my book.

Interstellar Storm
Size: 93" x 93"
Fabric: Assorted blue and low volume prints
Pattern: Storm at Sea
Quilting: Basic stipple
Completed: June 24, 2015

Pattern Review: All in One Box Pouch

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Photo by Aneela Hoey
A couple weeks ago, I made a total impulse pattern purchase: the All In One Box Pouch by Aneela Hoey.  I've been working on a stack of 42 Alturas applique blocks and this pouch seemed like an ideal way to wrangle my blocks, thread assortments, and notions. The project consists of a large zippered boxy pouch with a front-mounted zipper pocket that opens like a book. Inside are two individual clear vinyl zipper pockets. The boxy pouch also has a small slip pocket on the back and the pattern includes directions for a basic rectangular pin cushion.

If you're familiar with Aneela's patterns, you may notice that this project is actually her double pocket pouch pattern attached to the front of a boxy pouch. They sell for the same price, so you might as well buy the All In One Box Pouch and get two projects in one.

The pattern is generally easy to follow and the workflow progresses naturally. Aneela incudes excellent technical diagrams for almost every step, which I really appreciate since I have a bad habit of skimming written directions.

I'm can be a bit pedantic when it comes to technical writing (hello, type A personality), so there were a few details that gave me pause. Firstly, when I was cutting my pattern pieces, I had trouble determining how to orient my fabric since I used directional prints. Aneela includes orientation diagrams for two of the pattern pieces, but there were more pieces I would have like clarification for. The measurements she provides for cutting also confused me some. Most patterns consistently give measurements as either width x length or vice versa to help you determine how to orient your fabric. The measurements in this pattern aren't consistent, so sometimes the width listed first, and other times it's the length. I periodically had to flip forward a few pages and read how each piece was going to be put together to clarify how I should orient the fabric.

Another thing I'm not keen on is the tube method of making bias tape. I read those instructions several times, and still was unable to get the achieve a single continuous piece of bias tape. After 15-20 minutes of messing with that, I gave up and followed my usual method.

Aside from those two minor hiccups, the rest was smooth sailing. I substituted By Annie's Soft & Stable for the fusible fleece because I loathe that stuff. If I could make one change next time around, I would probably add a short lunchbox type carrying handle to the top since it's substantial sized bag.

I was apprehensive about the front double pocket pouch, I'd never sewn a zipper all the way around a rectangular shape like that. It turned out to be a surprisingly painless process.

I adore my finished pouch and I think they'd make a great gifts for crafters. Heck, they could even make nice cosmetic pouches. Overall, it's a great pattern and a fun project!

Fabrics: Far Far Away by Heather Ross, Catnap by Lizzy House (binding), and Flutterby by Tula Pink (lining).

A Survey & Giveaway

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lately it seems like I'm designing more bag patterns than I have time time to test and write. Being the curious tinkerer I am, I can't fight the urge to experiment with new shapes and styles. But I want to focus my energy on patterns you would like to make and not just my little Frankenstein experiments. So, I'm conducting a short survey to determine what kind of bag patterns you all would like to see!

I'll select one random response on July 1st at 9 AM central time and the winner will get a free PDF pattern of their choice from my Craftsy pattern shop.

The Biography Bag, pictured below, will be available the first week of July.

How To Turn Your Kona Card Into A Swatch Ring

Monday, June 22, 2015

A few months ago at Quilt Con, I was the lucky winner of a Kona color card thanks to their Color IQ challenge. It's been a great tool to have on hand to pick out the perfect solid I'm looking for. If you don't already have one, you can order one of the lovely cards that features all 303 of their luscious colors for $30 on Robert Kaufman's website.

Recently, I came across a pitfall of the color card when I was trying to build a color palette for a new project. Because the swatches are glued down to super thick paper stock, it's nearly impossible to get a good comparison of colors that aren't side by side. The only solution was to cut the whole thing up!

I ended up using a leather hole punch and an old ball chain to make a swatch ring. If you don't have a ball chain lying around, you can find them in craft stores and hardware stores for pretty cheap. You could also use a regular hole punch, but I wanted smaller holes in my swatches. 

I cut my swatches into rows and hole punched each row before cutting them up. I made sure to do everything one row at a time to keep it all in color order as I strung the swatches onto the chain. Now I can make easy side by side comparisons without making a mess!

Free Pattern: The Owl Carry It Bag

Monday, June 15, 2015

Round handbags will never NOT be cute. But do you know what makes them extra cute? An adorably grumpy owl's face! No matter how hard I try to make a grown-up looking pattern, my inner child always wins out.

Say hello to the Owl Carry It Bag! Aren't I punny? 

While I was working on a plain round crossbody pattern, I started toying with the idea of some kind of applique embellishment, and then my brain farted out this idea. I drafted up some templates for a test and it worked perfectly on the first attempt. Score! 

I love how the owl's face is very modern and minimalist while still being instantly recognizable. 

The Owl Carry It Bag measures 9" in diameter, 3" deep, and has an adjustable crossbody strap. The bag is lined and has bound inner seams, my preferred method. 

Fabrics: Kona Cotton in Ocean, Widescreen by Carolyn Friedlander in Pacific (face) and Gray (lining), Botanics by Carolyn Friedlander (eyes), and a random black solid.

The Owl Carry It Bag is available as a free PDF download on my Craftsy pattern shop! Click *HERE* to download it!

My Shieldmaiden Quilt, Baby Unicorn's Butt

Sunday, June 14, 2015

When I make quilts, they're usually for me, but I don't think I'll ever be as fiercely possessive of any quilt as I am of my latest finish. My Shieldmaiden quilt is done!

I've been doing a abysmal job of keeping my quilt log up to date (I have at least 5 quilts I have yet to properly photograph), but I couldn't wait to share this project. 

I've named this quilt B.U.B., which stands for Baby Unicorn's Butt. Uh...what? 

For starters, I used Dream Wool batting by Quilter's Dream. This is my first time using wool, and I'm a believer now. It's lofty, breathable, cozy, drapes wonderfully, and is oh-so-snuggley. 

Then, I backed it with Cotton + Steel Bespoke double gauze. I bought an entire 15 yard bolt back in February, because I'm slightly obsessed with the stuff. 

Wool batting and double gauze are both perfect materials for hand quilting, which is what I did! I used gray cotton 12 weight Aurifil thread (color 2625) and echoed the low volume sections with big stitch quilting. When that was all done, I used matching thread to tie down the center of each "shield" on the back. I used a mix of Presencia Perle Cotton and DMC embroidery floss, based on what colors I had in my stash.

The combination of wool batting, double gauze backing, and hand quilting means this quilt is softer than a baby unicorn's butt, which is how it got its name. My mom and I have been stroking it while goofily slurring "luxury" and "sumptuousness" like the former porn star skits on SNL. It's just soooo good.

I used a mix of C+S basics and prints from the quilt top to make a scrappy binding. I hand stitched all in one sitting because I was so eager to cuddle it! My fingers are in desperate need of some TLC now, but it was worth it. Even Batman seems to enjoy it.

Name: B.U.B. - Baby Unicorn's Butt.
Size: 60" x 72"
Fabric: Cotton + Steel Spring 2015 collections
Pattern: Shieldmaiden
Quilting: Hand quilted echo quilting & tying
Completed: June 14, 2015

A Disappointing Copycat and a Plea for Change

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

DISCLAIMER: These are my thoughts and opinions only, and do not reflect those of anyone else.

In the past year, I've witnessed a few bouts of online drama regarding sewing patterns. A pattern is released and the whispers start. People remark that it looks awful similar to an existing pattern. Some accuse the designers of copying one another for personal profit, and then it gets messy.

I'm not going to rehash some of the more widely read blog posts on the matter, but among pattern designers, it is fairly common knowledge that designs themselves cannot be copyrighted. It's the written instructions that are protected. (While She Naps has a good post on this).

The issue hit pretty close to home for me this week while I browsed patterns on Checker. I stumbled upon a quilt pattern by Zen Chic called Octo, which I immediately recognized. Why did I recognize it? Because my dear friend, Patty Sloniger designed it, not Zen Chic (Brigitte Heitland).

Patty designed her paper pieced Fractal Block for a swap back in July 2014 back when we still worked in the same office. It was an immediate hit and she made the pattern available for sale on Craftsy for $2.50. Since then, it's sold well and they pop up in my Instagram feed often. So you can imagine my surprise upon seeing the block being sold under Zen Chic's branding.

My surprise turned into confusion when I viewed the back cover of the pattern. The description reads "The pattern is inspired by a block once seen from Patty Sloninger." For starters, Patty's name was misspelled, leading me to believe she did not approve the use of her pattern. Plus, the wording felt dismissive of her role in the quilt design. "a block once seen" seems to suggest a fleeting moment of inspiration (without further research) rather than a collaboration.

Zen Chic's Octo quilt pattern vs Patty's original Fractal Block

I immediately sent an email and text message to Patty alerting her to the issue. Her response confirmed my suspicions. Brigitte never contacted Patty asking for permission to use the block and was now selling Patty's original design without consent. 

I was so upset about what was unfolding. I love this industry and all the creativity it entails. I love the indie maker movement and how designers are able to make a name and business for themselves. And when I see people trying to make a buck off the hard work of these individuals without compensation, it puts me in a tizzy. To see it being done by another indie designer hurts even more. So much for solidarity.

I sent Brigitte a Facebook message voicing my disapproval:
"I saw your Octo Quilt pattern online and immediately recognized it as FPP pattern designed by my friend, Patty Sloniger. She designed this pattern and sells it as a PDF on Craftsy for $2.50. I noticed you "credited" her on the back of the pattern (although you misspelled her name). I brought this to her attention, and she told me she never gave permission for her pattern to be sold or reproduced by anyone else. I believe she will be sending you an email today.

I'm not sure why you decided to copy her pattern and sell it without permission, even with the intent to credit her. The fact is that she designed this pattern and actively sells it, and it would appear you are attempting to pass off her design as your own for profit. I find this really disappointing and I will be letting my friends know about this. I will no longer purchase your patterns or products and I will encourage my friends to do the same."
I received this response from Zen Chic:
"Hello Felice, thank you for the open words. You are right with what you think. I discussed that issue before with my marketing director of Moda. What she brought to my mind was: There is no copyright on inspiration. Who could blame anyone for stealing a windmill block, which is used so often in quilts? Who was the original creator of a double wedding ring block, which we all use? Chevron - popular, everyone uses it, who is the origin to pay credit for? The fractal block of Patty is significant and not often used, so I gave her credits for the one who came up with the idea.
However - I didn't steal her pattern, but rather developed my own. I just had a look on her block on the online picture, a picture available for anybody. Then I draw my block with EQ7 and figured out how to put it together. I don't have a pattern from Patty, nor have I figured out how she did it. And I have not at all copied any written content from her.

But - I don't sell a single block, I sell a quilt pattern: I sell the materials list for a complete quilt, and explain step by step how to put a quilt together, including how to make a quilt sandwich, a binding and so on - using a block inspired by Patty. Every clever person who can do a quilt by herself, can check out the credited source and buy the FPP from Patty for much less than my complete quilt pattern would cost.
Believe me, I considered it for a while how this could hurt Pattys income streams. And I decided it won't - the one who needs just the FPP pattern for a template can easily download the cheaper version of Patty and put her own quilt together. But the one who needs detailed materials lists, how much fabric to buy, border sizes, and so on, needs definitely a complete quilt pattern, which I created.
I really respect your loyalty for a friend and I would do the same for my friends. So I don't expect you to understand my point of view.
Kind regards, Brigitte"

There are many posts online about copyright law and quilts floating around the internet, but I'm not interested in talking about was is legal and illegal for a simple reason: I believe that what is legal is a poor barometer of what is ethical. It's also an argument about what should be rather than what is. A designer's work can be blatantly stolen and reproduced for a profit, but taking the issue through the legal system in the US is often far more costly than it is worth. For example, a designer that pursues a case of copyright infringement on a sewing pattern which normally earns them $5 profit. I'm not sure what the average distribution for indie designers is, but let's just say Indie Designer B copies Indie Designer A's design to a T (but rewrites the instructions), and sells 1000 copies, essentially cheating Designer A out of $5000 profit. Legal fees are quickly going to exceed $5000, so Designer A is unlikely to pursue the issue in court. We all know that Designer B is wrong and Designer A should receive restitution. But that's not what happens, and that's why I'm not going to bother with the legal implications in this post.

To me, the writing is on the wall. Brigitte was aware of Patty's design, copied it, and made a weak attempt to credit her, but not compensate her. She defends her position my saying she drafted the pattern herself after seeing photos of Patty's block. For me, this doesn't cut it. Redrafting a pattern instead of buying it does not make it yours.

Brigitte compares Patty's Fractal Block to basic traditional blocks which have long been part of creative commons. She seems to think the fact that Patty's block is a wholly original design merits only a misspelled credit. She claims to have "developed [her] own" block that was inspired by Patty's, but look at them side by side. If the Fractal Block was the inspiration, where Brigitte's original contribution? Sewing the blocks together? Hardly an original idea. Patty's pattern even has digital mock ups of her design in a one-block quilt on her Craftsy listing.

At first I was perplexed why Zen Chic essentially called herself out on the design ripoff by "crediting" Patty, but I now feel it was an attempt to ward off accusations. If she "credits" Patty on her pattern, people who recognize it as Patty's Fractal Block may assume she gave consent for Brigitte to reproduce it. Had there been no credit at all, she would find herself in a sticky spot with anyone who recognized the design. By adding a credit, she places herself in a convenient gray area.

I have no stake in this incident, and what I've written here entails my total involvement in it. However, I think the larger issue needs to be discussed, which is why I am writing this post.

Designers, manufacturers, and publishers, please stop basing your actions on what is legally acceptable and start doing what is ethically acceptable. Our legal system makes this kind of behavior possible, but it does not make it a good business decision. Brigitte may generate a decent revenue sale from sales of this pattern, but I will never buy her fabric or patterns again. I have lost any respect I had for her. I hope others will feel the same way after reading this post, because this message is best sent with our dollars or lack thereof.

Our designs are not yours to cherry pick for profit. Making something a few inches bigger or making a tiny tweak doesn't make your design original. I redrafted the Pack N Go tote for myself, but I never even considered selling the pattern. I never even considered posting it for free. Kimberly Walus designed the bag, and she deserves the financial benefit of her work. I have no right to gain profit from it or sell a knock-off of her bag, even with the revisions I made.

I made significant changes to Noodlehead's Super Tote when I made it into a convertible backpack. I wrote the post in such a way that readers will still need to purchase the Super Tote pattern. I could have sold my own "expansion pack" of sorts, but I felt it would be poor taste to sell a pattern that capitalizes on the hard work of another designer. I wanted to share the design with others, and the only obvious solution was to give away my contributions for free. It generated blog traffic and that seemed fair.

Brigitte's desire to provide more resources for quilters has merit, but I believe should have taken an approach similar to my Super Tote backpack. Offer yardage requirements for the finished quilt, direct readers to Patty's listing for the block construction, and provide instructions on how to turn the finished blocks into a quilt top. And do this for free. If the intent was to help quilters, that's the obvious road. But the real goal was to make a profit without an original idea, and that's just plain crappy.

Make your pattern products original or don't sell them at all. It's not complicated. It's just honest business.

If you would like to support Patty, you can purchase her original Fractal Block on her Craftsy page for $2.50.