Sunday, September 27, 2015

Social Quilting, Guilds and Being Brave

When I first started quilting, I learnt everything that I know from the wonderful online community.

I was reluctant to join a quilt guild. In my head they were scary places filled with intimidating people who would pick holes in my work and see that I wasn't a proper grown-up quilter. These scary quilters would see that I was self taught and would scorn my sloppy methods.

As time wore on, I spoke to a few online friend about it and many of them encouraged me to reach out and join the local Modern Quilt Guild. It was tempting... but I was still shy...

Then, about a year ago, I met an amazing local quilter through a friend of a friend, she had just been to her first Modern Quilt Guild practical day and reassured me that none of the members had fangs. It still took her a while to persuade me to go along but now I am not only a member of the local Modern Quilt Guild, but I am also a member of a weekly stitch group.

Wow what an amazing group of ladies they are. The ages span from about 30 to 60 and the experience levels and specialisms vary greatly, but every time that I meet these wonderful women I come away inspired, enthusiastic and richer in knowledge. If I am stuck, I know I can turn to them for ideas and if I need a second opinion, I know I can trust them to give me one.

There is no denying the fact that the online quilting community is amazing, but I just wanted to point out that the real life quilting community can be just as good, if not better. Why limit yourself to just the one, if you have been tempted to join a guild or find like-minded local quilters then why not give it a try!

While I am not naive enough to believe that ALL quilting groups are as supportive as the one that I have joined, I bet many are and you won't know until you try! 
Don't hide behind your computer. 
Be Brave!
Go find some real live quilters, they are a pretty awesome bunch don't you know!?!

Week #39- Juliet @ The Tartankiwi

Hi everyone,

Sorry to leave it until so late in the week to write a blog post.

I guess I should start by introducing myself.

My name is Juliet (@tartankiwi). I am a Scot born and bred who moved to New Zealand almost 10 years ago and has lived in Christchurch for  close to 6 years.

In the time that I have lived here the city has changed a lot as a result of the series of devastating earthquakes that hit 5 years ago. The city is still rebuilding and will be for many years to come, but people have learnt to make the best of what they've got and amazing creativity has sprung out of the ruins.

For me, I guess this whole blogging and sewing journey started when we moved to Christchurch.

I had left my job to move to Christchurch and found myself as a stay at home Mum to a 15 month old little girl, living in a new town where I didn't know anyone. I was in a pretty shy and lonely headspace and knew that I was in danger of becoming bored and insular if I didn't find a way to occupy myself. I looked for a way to challenge myself to try new things and ended up starting a blog.
My first full-size quilt of Tartankiwi Designs

In the very early days it was a crafting and Mummy blog, then I got out my sewing machine to sew clothes and bags then eventually I started quilting. I took a fearless approach to quilting. I didn't allow myself to believe that a specific technique would be difficult. I just plunged in with both feet.

I tried out a few different styles of piecing, but something about paper piecing suited me. I loved that I could achieve really precise results without always being super exact in my methods. I also understood the logic of the patterns and after only sewing a few patterns, I began to itch to design my own patterns.

One of the things that I loved the most about blogging was the amazing bloggers that I met as a result. In the post earthquake world, the Christchurch bloggers became a very close group and it was amazing to be inspired and encouraged by this group of amazing women, many who have since become my closest friends.

I started designing using Quilt Assistant. This is a free program which you can download and which allows you to design blocks. While the program definitely has limitations, it was a great way to learn. Initially I shared my patterns for free via my blog, but everyone told me that I was mad and I should be selling them. Finally I opened a shop and the rest is history.

I saved up my pattern money and invested in EQ7. This software was a big step up and I must admit that I was really intimidated by it in the early days, but it allows me to do so much more than I could do with Quilt Assistant. I am teaching myself more about the program all the time and it is really exciting to see my patterns evolve and the presentation of them improve. 

I regard my sewing and designing as a journey and I can definitely see a change in my patterns over the years, that said I think that they retain a style which is distinctly me. I often say that I don't do cute, but you would be forgiven for not believing this if you saw the mini doxie pattern that I released this week!

What I mean is that I try to make my patterns realistic, not cutesy. I love designing animal and bird blocks and where I can, I try to choose poses that give the animal motion.

I love love love adding detail to my patterns and to do this detail justice, I often increase the size of the pattern. Why add detail if it is so small that nobody can see it?
Christchurch Street Art leads to some fun Quilt Photos!
I showed a photo of my Zebra quilt on instagram this week, but it was in the process of being quilted so you couldn't really see it. I am loving this quilt which I am making for my daughter and I can't wait to see her face when I hand it over to her!
Thank you so much for having me on 52 quilters. I have really enjoyed sharing a bit about me and my quilting.

If you like what you saw, I hope you will come and visit me on my blog or instagram. If you are interested in buying any of my patterns, you can find them in my Etsy store.

Post by Juliet - Week #39: 

Juliet is a Scot living in New Zealand with her husband and two kids. She designs and sews foundation paper pieced patterns. She loves giving her patterns a sense of movement and loves the constant battle of deciding between too much detail and not enough. Juliet has fun with her fabric choices and her lively patterns really show that off! Follow along on Instagram at @tartainkiwi.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

This post is a doozy.

You guys, this week has been crazy. I know I signed up for this months ago, but I didn't expect it to come at the same week as my Wisconsin Health and Life Insurance Licensing class and testing. I also didn't expect to be downsizing my business, or in the most intense week of my MBA that I've had so far. 

Let me back up. There are so many things I want to tell you. 

Hi! I'm Cindy. I run a fabric and quilting business called Sewing Moxie ( I started this business in my tiny office a little over a year ago. I was working in Property and Casualty Insurance Claims (think buildings, auto, etc.), and I was pretty miserable. I had been searching for something else when, you know, quilting hit me... again. 

I was making a baby blanket for my Godson, Abel. I normally crocheted all of my baby blankets, but after having some wrist pain, I decided to make a quilt instead. It was basic, like the stuff as I made as a kid. Nothing intense. 

Simple patchwork. Simple border. As you can see, still pretty novice looking.

Simple, domestic, low-shank machine quilting. I had a small Brother sewing machine (seriously, look at that, I did QUILTING on that!) that I used to piece, quilt, and bind. But it had me hooked. It was January/February of 2014. I liked it. No, I LOVED it. Why did I ever stop doing this? Right... college. You don't really quilt in college when you live in a dorm. Or, you know, when you party. 

But I loved it. Enough that I made another. 

See my tiny machine in action?

 Then, you know, naturally, I made another.
And then a mini one!

And then one with 625 - 2 1/2" squares! 

(What was I thinking?)
And then another baby blanket.

I started making so many baby quilts that I *almost* considered having my own baby. Almost. I was made fun of by my friends and some of my family for reverting back to being an old person. I'm only 28, and at the time (about a year ago, 27,) I was spending most of my time locked in my little office feverishly plugging away at my tiny machine, ever increasing my skill base. 

I wanted more. I couldn't be the only one doing this? The only "young" person? Seriously? Why weren't there more people like me? Then, something amazing happened. Something so amazing, it changed my life. 
Instagram happened!! I FOUND MY PEOPLE! My community! My quilters! Crafters! Bloggers! Sewers! Pretty fabric enthusiasts! Pin-obsessors! Fabric fiends! Stash hoarders! Like-minded wonderful souls who knew how I felt and brought me into their community with open arms and so much LOVE! I wanted this! I needed this! I FOUND MY PEOPLE! MY PEOPLE! I was instantly so filled with joy and love and tears and wanted to make cupcakes for all of my new friends! Even thinking about the community now, I am welled with tears. Seriously. Thank you, thank you to all of my friends, for all the likes, the comments, the support, for everything. Wow. I needed you. I still need you. And thank you. Did I say thank you yet? Well, thank you again.

Speed forward a few more months. I had a long conversation with my mom about how my mental pain I had been in with my job, how I found this amazing set of people I was absolutely in love with, and how I wanted to be in this industry seriously. As a serious, serious person. I decided to become a business owner. Me. Cindy. An entrepreneur. An Owner. Founder. Me. So I looked it up. I looked up all of the requirements I needed to buy things wholesale and sell them retail. I had a website built. I had my amazing and super talented friend Ari (hi Ari! How's Cali? Can't wait to come visit in December!) make me this gorgeous logo. I obtained all of my licenses. Filed for an EIN. Converted to an LLC. Bugged every fabric company I could to let me get my first wholesale account (thanks Birch Fabrics for taking me in!). I DID TAXES. Set up all the business accounts: checking, savings, taxes, credit card, etc. Fast forward another two months and I was set. 

The website went live with my first stack of inventory (Charley Harper Poplins from Birch Fabrics and a selection of Soak Wash products) in mid-August, 2014. I had everything done, I posted on social media, told all my friends and family, and waited. And waited. And went to bed, hoping to get a sale by morning. And then I waited some more. It was over a month before I got an order, and that order was from my mom (Hi Mom! Thank you again!!!!). 

I didn't realize it then but I should have taken a hint. Fabric retail was going to be a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. This was not an overnight thing. This was not an over-the-month-or-two thing. In fact, I didn't get a decent payday until I went to Quiltcon in February and put my entire site up 40% off (honestly, most of it is still very, steeply discounted). 

Throughout that time I purchased a longarm (Juki 2200 QVP - my pride and joy!). 

At first I was terrible. 

Then I got a little better. 

And now I make pretty things. 

Even with the long arm services though, very little sales. 

That's when the disappointment started to set in. I started to get involved in the blog hops, and then I applied for 52 Quilters. It was the beginning of the year and I wanted in. BAD. This could definitely turn things around. I was offered a spot in September and nearly cried with excitement! Showcase! Me! My skills! For all to see! I had been following and was super impressed with what I had seen. I was set. I was ready. 

Around that time my previous job took a turn downhill and it became apparent I couldn't stay anymore. I thought I was doing okay enough to pursue Sewing Moxie full time (spoiler alert, I wasn't). I quit my job in March and proceeded to blow through our savings. Five months later it became apparent I needed a job. 

I was lucky enough to get a position at a highly-regarded Life/Health/Investment carrier, doing the other side of insurance. After going through a series of four intense interviews and additional assessments, I was in. I got the job. And they immediately started scheduling me for licensing classes and securities trainings. So here I am, in my 52 Quilters week I have been waiting all year for, spending most of my time studying life and health insurance and hardly sewing a thing. 

I feel like I have failed you, my audience. I'm trying to keep up, showcasing the stuff I have made and am currently working on, but I feel like I am doing you a disservice but not posting enough. I'm trying. Maybe things will come down when I have my life and health license, my MBA is done (yep, still a full-time MBA student), I quit my part time job, get my Series 6 and 63, and can finally breathe again. 

As for Sewing Moxie, it will still be around but in a different capacity. I'm working on phasing out the selling of the products and trying to focus on quilting (both long arm quilting and making and selling custom quilts). The site has a ton of stuff on it for cheap, so if you're interested, feel free to take a look. No - I did not sign up for this to sell. I'm just saying. 

I'll write to you, my audience, again on Sunday. Until then, think good thoughts of absorbing life and health insurance knowledge. My tests are Tuesday. 

Sew On,

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Week #36 - Gemma @PrettyBobbins

It's Sunday night and I'm exhausted and all I want is a glass of wine and a snooze.  That's the sign of a good week!

My name is Gemma (@prettybobbins) and I live in Canberra, Australia and this week was my week on 52 Quilters.  I jumped on board with this idea as I have lived in a few different countries and I love the idea of people connecting online and sharing parts of their world.

This was a bee quilt that involved quilters from Japan, America,
Australia and New Zealand.

Another bee quilt (coincidentally!) that I made when living
 in the South Pacific as a farewell gift for a friend.

So what did I get up to this week?  I made my husband a quilt for Father's Day from start to finish.  When did I get so super speedy?!

Freshly bound with zigzag stitch - my new favourite technique!
Super speedy!

My family attended our local Guild meeting to collect our awards for the recent quilt exhibition.  Very exciting for the children who were first time entrants at 5 and 7 years of age.

I won the Modern award and 2nd place in Wall Quilts - Professional
 for this quilt, The Eyes Have It

It was the start of Spring here in Australia and the end of the soccer season and I made the most of the sunshine.

Technically not made this week, but gives you a good idea of sunshine!

After such a busy creative week I'm feeling a little lost about the next project but no doubt it will come to me. In the meantime I'm going to be here but that cat on the chair will be on my lap under a quilt :)

Newly rearranged lounge room!

If you enjoyed this week with me please feel free to follow me on Instagram or my blog (which is sadly quiet these days).  Thanks for having me!!