Monday, February 5, 2018

Quilter #6 2018 - Sarah Humphreys - @edwardandthewhitebear

Hello!  I’m Sarah Humphreys – known on Instagram and other places as @edwardandthewhitebear - and I’m delighted to be Quilter #6 for 2018 on 52 Quilters.  February’s theme is Creative Meditation: finding your voice and discovering who you are as quilter.  I’ll be thinking about that all week on Instagram (and perhaps a later blogpost) but to begin with – a little bit about me.

I live in Yorkshire, in the UK.  I’m 40 years old and have quilted most of my life, having grown up in a crafting family.  For as long as I can remember I was encouraged in embroidery, sewing, knitting – as a child, boredom was not an option!  But by 13 the enthusiasm had waned and I was in the midst of a lengthy period of teenage angst.  My mother had started to attend a local quilt group and she convinced me to accompany her to see a talk about a quilt depicting women’s work in medieval times.  She got me to go because of my interest in feminism and women’s history, but I was captivated by the wonderful quilts I saw and the women who made them were so welcoming and encouraging.  I was given advice, support and bags and bags of fabric to get me going.  I started my first quilt soon afterwards and found that when I was sewing, all the difficult things about being 13 faded away. And I’ve been making quilts ever since!!

My first quilt! - It's all hand pieced over papers (English Patchwork) and (minimally!) hand quilted.

So my start in quilting was certainly apt for this month’s theme of ‘discovering who you are’ – I discovered as a teenager that I was a quilter and a maker - and fabric was destined to be an important part of my life forever.

Over the years I have attended many evening classes, workshops, quilt groups and retreats.  Most of what I have learnt about quilting has come from being around other makers – quilters are amazingly generous when it comes to sharing skills and ideas (and fabric).  So many have inspired and challenged me to develop my creative skills.  Equally, so many have offered the hand of friendship, particularly at points of change in my life.  Which is what has led me to where I am today – I still love making quilts, I sew virtually every day, and I now teach patchwork and quilting to others.

Queens of British Fashion celebrates three amazing British designers - Mary Quant, Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnet.

Although I love to work in many different styles, I consider myself predominantly a modern quilter these days.  I like to make big quilts - and I adore free motion quilting.  More about that later in the week too!

Office Doodle 1 - and me!  Winner of the Festival of Quilts Modern Category 2016.

I hope to get to know lots of new quilters this week - please do say hi on the Instagram account! 

Working from home: what I’ve learned

Someone asked me to talk a little more about working from home and working for myself. I will preface this by saying: I am self-taught in every aspect of this, from sewing to the taxes, etc.  So please don’t take this as an all-encompassing, completely accurate guide. 

Years ago, I had a real job, outside of home, and I hated it. I was miserable, so I quit; Walked out while on a break. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Ever since then, I have been self-employed. It’s varied between full-time and part-time, and I have had a couple jobs outside of the home here and there, but for the most part, I’ve worked as a seamstress for the last 18 years. 

I started making custom prom and wedding dresses, and loved it. I had been making my own clothes for years, so was comfortable with patterns and designing. Eventually we decided to find a sewing genre that would allow us a little more privacy (my sewing studio was a room on the front of our house), and I stumbled onto production sewing. I started out making bags and purses for several local companies (; later I added on wallets (, and eventually fish bags (used in fishing competitions). 

Here’s what I recommend for those of you wanting to pursue sewing from home: 

1. You must be a self-motivated person. I struggle with this at times. I am an all-or-none person: I either spend the whole day scrubbing every inch of my house, or I go weeks without doing any cleaning at all. It’s hard for me to find balance. I’ve really had to learn balance in sewing. I love that I have a flexible schedule, I just have to be careful that I don’t allow it to be too flexible. 

2. You cannot be afraid to fail. I have not always been as busy in work as I am now, and we’ve had to adjust our lives to accommodate. I have a great husband who puts up with me, and we’ve made it through the lean times. 

3. Perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. When you’re sewing for a client, you want to put your best work forward, of course! But you can’t take so long making something for a client that it’s not even worth your time. So either put aside the perfectionist in you, or get faster. Either of those options take time and patience. 

4. Calculate the cost. As makers, we often undervalue our work. It’s hard to put a price on something we’ve poured our heart and soul into, but when it comes time to price it, we don’t usually want to put the real price on it. Don’t cheat yourself! When you calculate how much that quilt should cost, include everything like fabric, batting, even thread, needles, and the upkeep on your machines. And don’t forget to pay yourself! Figure out how much you want/need hourly, then add that cost into the price of whatever you’re selling. 

5. Find your niche. Long arm quilting services? Quilt maker who sells at local fairs? Tailor? Production seamstress? Find out what you enjoy or what you’re good at, then do the research. Talk to people. Ask questions. Make lists, budgets, schedules, business plans. And if you find that one thing isn’t working, don’t be afraid to back away and switch gears. That being said, don’t throw a ton of money into something before you know it’s gonna work for you. Can you rent the machine before you buy it? Can you work at it part time before leaving your current job? Can you afford it if it fails? 

6. Reach out. Use whatever resources you have in your area to find work. Take fliers to local quilt and fabric shops. Go to local dry cleaners (if they don’t have in-house tailors, they are probably happy to find one because their customers are asking). Use online sites such as Craigslist to find people who are looking for seamstresses. Keep on it. 

7. Treat your business as an actual business. Use contracts with your clients; it’s a protection for both you and them. Learn your local tax laws (in the US, self-employment means you pay a much higher tax rate than just what your employer takes out of your check for you) so you can save back and be prepared. 

I feel incredibly fortunate that my mother taught me a skill that I’ve used for so long to help support my family. I love being home with our son, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have never said “I don’t know how to do that”, I’ve just acted like I did and figured it out later!

Find me on Instagram @crankykangaroo and

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Saying “no” brings inner peace.

When I tell people that I work from home, usually they think (or sometimes say!) “oh! What a nice hobby!”  In reality, it’s a full-time job that I am just lucky enough to be able to do from home. But that also comes with some sacrifices. 

I also homeschool our son. Working from home allows me some flexibility in my schedule. If I need to take some time from sewing so I can get something else done, I usually can. But it might mean that I’m up working at two in the morning to make up for lost time. Would I trade it for anything else? Nope. Have I had to learn how to balance my priorities? You bet. 

I think that’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned: how to say “no”. Not just learn HOW to say it, but actually follow through and say “no” to friends and family despite my inner voice trying to convince me that I can squeeze it in. 

On a regular basis, someone asks me if I can hem something for them (my dad last week), or make them a dress (call from old friend yesterday), or mend their jacket (last month). In the past, I would have agreed to help, usually for free, and then regretted it. So I’ve learned to politely decline (except my dad, he’s the only one. And he’s also patient and understands how busy I am). 

I’ve also had to learn to say “no” to myself. I see so many amazing things on Instagram and Pinterest and want to make them ALL. I want to enter every competition, every swap, make every pattern! But I know that’s not possible or practical. This year, I’ve decided not to do any swaps that involve sewing (I am doing a fabric swap). 

Saying “no” does not make you mean or cold. It simply means you’ve learned to put your family or yourself first, and that’s what counts. If you say “yes” to something that you don’t really have the time for, what will you have to sacrifice? Sleep? Time with family? Your sanity?? Is it worth it?  This mantra also works for WIPs (works in progress). Don’t be afraid to give up on a WIP that you’re not enjoying. You won’t hurt that quilt’s feelings! You don’t owe it anything! Have an honest look at your projects and don’t be afraid to say “no”. It’s very freeing. :)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Results vs Process

Do you enjoy the process of quilting more, or the results of what you've made? Here are some things I enjoy about each!

Results: That feeling of accomplishment when something is done. The pride in gifting it to someone. The joy of using something I’ve made with my own hands. I love tucking my family in at night under a pile of quilts made by myself and my mom. It brings me so much joy that my toddler is dearly attached to the quilt I made for him. I wish I could budget enough time and money to gift quilts for every occasion, because I love to share them.

Process: Slow stitching is meditation to me. Nothing beats curling up under a quilt at night and working on some English Paper Piecing or hand quilting. Sketching out a new design is a thrill. Playing with color on a design board, or experimenting with different combinations at the quilt shop, is also very fun. Challenging myself with a new technique, type of project, or color palette are also really enjoyable to me. And I love quilty math, too!

I really think, if quilting is about wellbeing to you, and something you don’t want to get burnt out in, that it’s important maintain a balance between focus on process and results. That balance will look different for everyone, and change in different seasons of life. But have you ever found yourself racing through a pile of projects, watching the clock, just willing them to be done? That’s one thing when it’s for a deadline, but another altogether when it’s because you’re bored with what you're doing! On the other hand, I know people for whom quilting is a race, and they love the challenging of whipping projects out as fast as they can. And sometimes I sit and face my pile of hand projects that I am normally quite happy to spend years on, and I realize that I need to get the machine out and make something, finish something, achieve something. All of this is ok! I just really encourage everyone to spend some time thinking about what parts of the process you enjoy, what types of projects are most fun, and in what ways you are challenged and/or brought joy by quilting.

I’m challenging myself to learn several new techniques this year, and am implementing those techniques onto projects that I’d normally be rushed to get through. This is helping me focus on and enjoy the process a lot more! I’m balancing that out by doing a lot of EPP, since that is second nature and a process I really naturally love.

I think it’s great to have a variety of things going at once so you can work on whatever feels best at the time, but for some people that would feel chaotic and messy. Know yourself, dear friends! Please take the time to think it through a bit, and share, if you would, your own thoughts!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Quilter #4 2018 Nicole Weldon

Hello! I'm Nicole Weldon, aka pinwheelsandpancakes, aka Quilter #4 this year on 52 Quilters. I'm very excited to share a bit on January's theme of "Quilting for Wellbeing" and can't wait to hear your thoughts. It's the last week of this theme, so if you've had some thoughts to share, please do jump in!

I live outside Seattle, WA (USA), and work part time at Gossypium Quilt in Issaquah, WA. Though, most often, you can find me in my living room, pretending to be a crane, and building endless skyscrapers and houses and other structures for my toddler to knock down.

How did I get here? I’ve been quilting many years, but it turned into a passion and a deliberate act of self-care about 8 or so years ago. I was in grad school, contemplating what to do for my Master's Thesis project. I was studying Theology and the Arts, had chosen to write my paper on self-care, and had decided I definitely did not want my final art project to be a video (even though I have a BA in video production...).
I kept coming back to this idea of slowing life down, taking the time to take care of myself, cooking from scratch, walking to the market, mending my favorite clothes. I realized three things. 1. I deeply missed sewing, or doing anything simply for myself. 2. The vast majority of my peers also wanted to do these small acts of self care but did not take the time. And 3. We, humans, tend to prioritize every single other thing in our lives before we prioritize self-care.
My research came down to something surprising. Self perception. When I see myself in a positive light, as a person worthy of care, I take the time to care for myself. When I don't, I put others first to a fault.
I decided to make a quilt. It was a conscious decision to return to something I had once found enjoyable but set aside for more “practical” concerns. I played for a long time with the idea of self-perception and the bearing that has on self-care and designed my own original piece.

"Worthy," my first quilt in many years, became my Master's Thesis project. And when I shared it at our show, and later at my church, and later at other art shows and events, I heard the same things over, and over again. "You're right!" people would say "I don't take care of myself, I don't really value myself in that way. I can't take the time for me, other people need me. We're supposed to give to others, but I'm running on empty."

I had many opportunities to share, and had probably hundreds of these conversations. I was a self-care champion for years. And then I had a baby. And, to be honest, I really failed at self-care for the first 18 months of his life. I've done a lot better this last year, thanks to quilting, though I have a very long way to go.

Chris, Jessica, and Jessie shared so much great stuff this month on how quilting aids their wellbeing. I’m going to share a few of my own thoughts on this, but I’m also going to share how I KEEP the fun and joy in quilting. I have lots to share on how I avoid letting bad habits, perceived expectations, jealousy, and negative self-talk suck the fun out of it.
I hope you will join me this week as we explore what it means to "Quilt for Wellbeing." I can't wait to share with you, and even more, learn from our conversations! -Nicole
ps You can find my daily shenanigans on Instagram @pinwheelsandpancakes and if you care to find my website when I get it up later this year, bookmark and I'll get it linked up there when it exists. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Quilter #2 2018 - Well-Being

It’s an honor to be here with all of the 52 Quilters fans! I’m Jessica and I am Quilter #2 in 2018. This year each month has a theme, to help guide conversations about quilting. January’s theme is well-being. It’s a perfect fit for me as I often tell quilty friends, non-quilty friends and family about how great quilting is for me. It provides stress relief, a creative outlet and camaraderie with quilters worldwide. 

Around 10 years ago, I was presented with a health issue that gave me two options. Ignore it and live in poor health or acknowledge it, change and live with better health and well-being. I chose the latter. Today, I’m an avid runner and crazy quilter. To say I LOVE quilting is an understatement. It is such a wonderful way for me to explore and present my creative side. I can’t draw, paint or sculpt, but I can design and piece a pretty awesome quilt.

I love being able to work so intricately with my hands. There’s something therapeutic about all the work that goes into quilting. One of my favorite parts is binding! I love getting the first snuggle under a quilt as I hand sew the last piece of the quilt.

I am drawn to modern quilting, although I’ve made quilts in many styles. I love bold colors and large swaths of negative space. You’ll usually find pink or purple in quilts I’m making for myself or as pattern tests. I also tend to use gray as the background color.

I am a pattern designer and plan to publish my first patterns this year! I’ve been working diligently, focusing on each aspect so that I can learn as much as possible along the way. I’ve been designing quilts for years but more recently got serious about it as more people expressed interest in my designs. I can’t wait to share them!

Quilting has provided me much more than I ever imagined. It’s given me a valid reason to be a fabric hoarder (I have always loved fabric!). It’s provided me the opportunity to meet and become friends with amazing quilters. It allows me to express my creativity. It calms me, it excites me, it challenges me and it fulfills me. I know that quilting has played an important role in my well-being. It’s my go-to when things just haven’t gone right. It’s my go-to when I’m excited and feeling inspired. Thus, quilting is something I think about all the time and I’m so excited to have earned this title! I’ll leave you with just a few pictures of quilts I’ve worked on. Feel free to connect with me on Instagram! Happy Quilting!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Welcome 2018 - wellbeing

Another year comes to a close and this quilty  social experiment is going better than ever. At the end of 2017 52Quilters reached 10k followers on Instagram and has had over 156 quilters take over the accounts.

For 2018 I am doing something a bit different. The accounts will have the same fresh feel of a different quilter taking over each week, but each month will be organised into a theme which will be hosted by a different quilter.  This will help structure the accounts better, but it also means that I'll get a by of behind the scenes help, as 52Q is a big job for one volunteer to organise!

As the founder of 52Q I'm hosting the first experiment of this 52Q 2.0 experiment...  by introducing the theme of wellbeing.

Now when I talk about wellbeing, I'm not talking about something new or revolutionary, or proposing that all quilting is a self prescribed art-therapy... but I do think that there is something important to my creative time, and over the past few years I have become more and more conscious about sewing being  more than a hobby for me.

This month I'd like to introduce the theme and have a conversation about how quilting can be 'good' for us in different ways.

For me it all started with this blanket (not a quilt - shock! Horror!):

I'll make a long story short, but if you want the long story you can read about it on my blog here.

The short story is that I started knitting a blanket at a time when My dad was in hospital and felt the urge to do something with my hands. When my dad passed away, I put down the knitting for many months, but then slowly ceased all creative activity... more and more that turned into avoiding all possible distraction free, quiet moments, which I'm sure you can guess we're choices that didn't lead me to a very positive place.

It took me a really long time to recognise this and pick up my knitting, but when I did I started to recognise the value in having time to make, clear my head and reflect. I realised that making is not just a hobby, but it's a practice that helps me find balance among the other stressful things in my life... and since that realisation I've developed a bit of an equation for helping me keep that balance.

Depending on my creative mood, I find it is always important that I have three projects on the go. This is so whatever my mood I have something at hand that fulfills my creative needs in three different ways:


Me projects: these are projects that slow me down, can be done at my own pace and give me time to clear my head. They are just for me and tend to be slow or enjoyable so that I can enjoy doing it and clear my head.

Challenge projects: these are projects that push me creatively and practically, sometimes they have deadlines - these often have a goal or aim in mind, these tend to be stressful in a good way, and challenge me to work out problems and create new ideas

Share projects: projects that are collaborative or conversational - where I can share and learn from others at the same time. Sometimes these are projects I share with friends, or sometimes I get this through freelance workshops or teaching I do - it forces me to see creativity through other people's eyes and gives me time to reflect and refresh on my own work.


I'll be sharing a bit more about my approach on instagram, this week and asking to hear about what you make and why, but I'll save that conversation for IG!

Post by Chris: Chris is the founder and organiser of 52Quilters. He is a crafty guy who has been making his whole life. Although his crafty roots are in Canada, he has been working and crafting in the UK for 11 years. For more of Chris' work visit