Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Odds and ends and Hipster Ariel

We went to Tennessee last week for the girls' spring break, and we buried my mom's ashes in the same cemetery where my brother is. We had a very small service with just family, where we talked about mom and cried and laughed, and then we went out to visit both grave sites.

My brother's stone.
Mom's in this section. Her stone isn't up yet.

The cemetery is in a beautiful area, surrounded by rolling green hills and lots of trees under a big sky. It was a great comfort to us all that Mom and Jon are there together, since we all seem to imagine them laughing together somewhere like they always used to.

* * *

When my sister and I were going through my mom's things back in January, it was decided that I would take her sewing machine, since Kelly already has a Bernina and I have something probably made by oppressed people in appalling working conditions. I have to admit, it has worked well for 4, maybe 5, years now, but I have been wondering whether many of my accuracy issues would resolve if I had a better, more precisely engineered machine and one that wasn't psychically imbued with the blood of innocents.  But then again, maybe that's how the Swiss do it; I don't know.



I couldn't lug it home with me on the plane, so I brought it back on this trip. It's a Bernina 1230, which is apparently an "old style". I'm pretty sure it's against the modern quilting rules (Section 12, Subsection G) to use anything "old style" but they can kiss my wonky butt.  

The only thing is the poor baby has no feet. Well, a walking foot, but that's it and I hate using those unless I have to. I have no idea what Mom did with them, and why they weren't with the machine or anywhere else in her sewing room. I've been scouring eBay and calling local shops, looking for feet, and drove out to one shop that said they might have some only to discover they only have a ruffler and eight hundred cording feet. Another shop answered an email this evening and claimed to have "lots," both new and used, so I'll head out there tomorrow and see if they're yanking me. Even if they are, I have one on order, so eventually I'll be able to start playing. I've been told by many, many people that this is a wonderful machine, one of the best Bernina ever made, so you can imagine I am anxious to test that out.

(Update: After I wrote this, I drove out to the aforementioned shop and found out that emailing them is a bad idea because it goes to the owner and according to the ladies who work there, the owner doesn't know squat about what they do and do not have. They reluctantly looked through bags (everything these people do is reluctant and that's why I never shop there) and we found a foot that looked like a basic zigzag which I bought. It doesn't fit. It looks exactly like an old style Bernina foot, except the two little prongs that stick up at the top (the "dinglehopper") are too big. But as I was removing the walking foot to try this one out, I discovered that it was not a Bernina walking foot, but a generic with an adapter! Well, now I'm all excited because maybe I can use the adapter to employ the feet I already have! Yes and no. If I use my Brother, the foot sits too high and doesn't touch the fabric. But! I have an old, old Singer foot that looks like it will fit on the adapter—and it does, beautifully, except it's too low and there's about a micron of space between the bottom of the foot and the feed dogs. Sigh. Ebay says the one I ordered might arrive by Friday. Obviously, I am not terribly patient.)

I think I'll call her Hipster Ariel, The Sewing Machine That Longed For Obscure Feet.



* * *

My posting might be sparse over the next few weeks because I took on a ton of extra work for the next issue of GenQ. I will be working right up to Market, then I actually GO to Market (I KNOW), and I'm guessing I'll be frantically working again as soon as I get home. 

I actually designed and ordered my own business cards this weekend, as well as bookmarks to promote my book (the real one) at Market. There has been vague talk of a "book signing" at the GenQ booth, but I have no idea how that works. But if you happen to be at Market, I'd love to see you, whether I sign a book for you or not. If I'm not in the booth, I'll be wandering around with my camera, being GenQ's Jimmy Olsen. I may or may not try sneaking promotional copies of the book into the bags of unsuspecting quilters. On the one hand, it would be good to get it out there, promote, publicize and all that. But you know, I am not everyone's cup of tea:

Granted, this is the only bad review. But still!

You wouldn't think so, but it is actually very hard to tell just by looking which quilters were dropped on their heads as children and now have no sense of humor. It is often only revealed when you attempt to make jokes about quilting that are a tad more interesting than "I'm so addicted to fabric" and it turns out that, for some people, humor like that is akin to juggling kittens. But then, on the other hand, you sometimes find out that people you would never expect—like, oh, editors of major, long-running and highly respected quilt magazines—think your jokes are a hoot. 

That's why promoting myself—beyond the shyness issues—is so hard for me. How do you tell people, "My book is really funny, if you don't mind zombies and Buddha and drinking and mild vibrator jokes. If you do mind those things, you're going to just HATE this." All I can do is put it out there and let the vitriol fall where it may. I have to admit, I re-read one of my pieces from the book last night, and I think it's damn good. Whatever anyone else thinks, I am proud of what I've done. 

So if you're going to Market, I'd love to see you, meet you, say hi. I have a vision where all of us highly introverted quilters who end up at Market agree to meet somewhere for a drink and we all sit at separate tables and text each other all night. Hell, we could just do it from our hotel rooms! I plan to be in mine as much as possible.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Quiltpatternspro is a scraper site

Please see this Wikipedia article to understand what a scraper site is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scraper_site

This is not a quilter. This is not the person who pinned your quilt yesterday. This is not the person who emailed you with a nice note asking if she could share your quilt on her blog. This is an automated scam system that is rampant throughout the web.

There is a name at the bottom of the quiltpatternspro website. It says "Pachyderm theme by Caroline Moore." Caroline Moore is NOT the evil genius behind quiltpatternspro. She is a web developer or graphic artist who made the pretty background - one that is probably cheap or free for anyone to use - just as many of you have gotten Cutest Blog on the Block themes for your blogs. Please do not start targeting people named Caroline Moore or Carol Moore and accusing them of stealing.

The best thing we can all do is keep contacting GoDaddy and inform them of the infringement. I do realize this would be a lot more fun if it was some crazy lady who's gleefully reading all our blogs and manually posting them all day long in a frenzy of jealous rage, but I'm afraid it's just not that sexy and we're most likely never going to see or know a face or name behind it. It is something we all need to be aware of and we all need to know what we can do to protect ourselves. Yelling at poor people named Caroline Moore isn't going to help. Sorry.

Let's all take a few deep breaths and look at Tom Hiddleston for a minute to center ourselves, m'kay?




He can steal my content anytime.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Quilt Writing



Some time ago, I revealed all kinds of juicy secrets about getting published in magazines, (quilting magazines in particular, but it applies to many smaller publications as well). Secrets so juicy I may never work in that business again. Since I wrote that for newbie, unpublished writers, I thought it might also be of some help to have some tips about the actual writing of an article. How you turn an idea about trampoline-enthusiast quilters into an actual article may seem like a big mystery, but maybe we can shed a little light on the process and help get you started. If it doesn't go well, we'll just resort to Tom Hiddleston pictures.

Did you ever see the movie, The Big Chill? (If you're as old as I am, you've seen it a hundred times.) Jeff Goldblum's character works for People magazine and when one of the others asks him what it's like to be a big-time journalist, he answers,

"Where I work we have only one editorial rule: you can't write anything longer than the average person can read during the average crap."

I've always wanted to cross-stitch that and hang it on my wall.



Anyhoodle, here are my tips for writing articles in the quilt world:

1. This isn't actually a post about quilt writing. No, the point of all that above (which is taken from an actual post draft) is to tell you about a website that has been posting my blog content without my permission. In fact, I believe they have been doing this to many, many quilt bloggers. It seems that they are taking the content from our RSS feeds and posting it as their own. They are not linking to me. they are copying my words and images and by doing so implying that it is theirs.

This pisses me off.

From now on, all my posts are going to contain this graphic:


The site in question is quiltpatternspro.com. I urge you, if you are a quilt blogger, to be on the lookout for this site, and to take steps, as I have done here, to try and protect your content from this kind of piracy. The idiots have a search box on the page, so you can easily look up your work.

If you do have a blog, or are connected with many quilters on Facebook or other social media, please help spread the word about this site and lets shut them down by showing them that we will not tolerate this shit and that we are damn good at exposing thieving assholes for what they are. Please feel free to link to this post or to share the above graphic as one idea of how we can subvert this kind of piracy. And if you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments.

The site is apparently hosted by GoDaddy and they have procedures for dealing with infringement. Please go here to see what you need to do if your content has been taken. The more people who do this, the more likely it is that the site will be shut down.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shuckydarn, Yeah!

Good grief! Three posts in one week! Where will it end? Well, right here, probably. I've got work to do.

Thanks everybody for having fun with me yesterday and thanks especially to all the traffic I got from QuiltingBoard as someone linked to my design wall project but didn't link to the specific post, just to the blog, and some people decided the apocalypse was nigh.

I was actually more concerned that someone would get all huffy that I was making fun of modern quilting, which I wasn't. I actually consider myself a modern quilter, though not a Modern Quilter, if you get my meaning there. I started quilting just as it was really beginning to boom on the 'Net and I watched as this influx of new fabric designers and brighter, more graphic quilts and a community of quilters centered around online communication turned into Modern Quilting: The Brand. It amuses me to see how companies and people have tried to jump on the bandwagon and soak up some of that sweet, sweet cash even though the makers of The Brand would turn up their noses at many of them. The whole phenomenon amuses me, so I made up a crass book that was attempting to cash in on the trend without a solid understanding of modern quilting—the movement—just a familiarity with Modern Quilting: The Brand.

This is how my brain works. I'm not just throwing out naughty words to shock the straights. Also, there is a thriving 'tradition" of the "Fuck, yeah!" moniker on many, many Tumblrs, which, if you are not a Tumblr denizen, you might not get. See here to see what I'm talking about.  (Of course, I put mine after the noun, which puts it more in the South Park category I guess. See? With me you get humor, commentary, aging cultural references AND the occasional shirtless dude.)

ANYWAY. Humor's no fun if you have to explain it.

I have actually been doing some quilty things, but I'm not ready to show you quite yet. I finished a quilt top and I've been practicing some free-motion feathers which I may or may not use when I finally get around to quilting it. I really like the top, but can't decide if it's just something cool for me to have or if it's a DESIGN. I swear, I struggle with this concept all the time, and while I'm brain wrestling with myself over whether something I've done is original enough to warrant being called "my design" I see yet another quilt on the cover of yet another magazine "designed by" so-and-so and there's nothing different or original about it. Pretty? Sure! So does "design" mean "come up with a fairly unique arrangement" or "use traditional blocks but write a pattern to go with it"? Seriously, this plagues me, especially as these same people try to copyright the design as well as the written pattern. Look, I'm getting all frothy over it already and I haven't even had lunch yet.

Let's get back to happier topics, shall we? Can someone please explain to me why my targeted Etsy ads always contain fake poo?


Just curious.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My New Book!

I am so excited that I can finally announce this after months and months of lies and subterfuge. When Fantastical Books of Berkeley, California contacted me about producing my own quilting book, I was hesitant, because I have always assumed that I would be self-published until the end of time. But the great team at Fantastical convinced me that they could bring my dream to fruition without compromising my unique artistic vision. I warned them that I would be a big, whiny diva baby throughout the entire process, and they assured me that they had plenty of medicinal marijuana and it would not be a problem at all.

Now, I have never liked labeling myself as any particular type of quilter: traditional, contemporary, socialist, etc. But I have been so inspired by modern quilting and the piles of cash it is making for so many people, that I knew exactly the direction I wanted my book to take. And, to be quite honest, I have had this title in mind for several years and I'm so jazzed to finally have the chance to see it in print.


Sadly, the people at Fantastical Books were not willing to go full F-bomb on the cover, so we had to compromise with the little asterisk there. I designed the cover with no quilt photography in order to signal to the reader that this book would not be the typical "quilts draped on couches" thing which is really more catalog than book. I want the reader to be able to envision their own quilts without being hindered by contrived notions of domesticity and unattainable perfection. Also, all that negative space is modern as fuck.

The quilt designs all employ solids in bold motifs that practically scream "I once saw a Josef Albers book at the library but didn't check it out or anything."

For example, here is one design titled Far From the Madding Crowd:


 And this one, called Meadowlarking:


This one, entitled, Dream Your Explosion, Tiffany, is a study in tension and contrast:


And finally, what modern quilting book would be complete without a portrait quilt of New York minimalist composer, Philip Glass?

Please look for Modern Quilting: F*ck Yeah! on sale at Amazon and fine booksellers and quilt shops everywhere this summer.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Design Wall—or The Drywall-Destroying Panels of Doom?

Sometime in February I batted my eyelashes and wore enough low-cut shirts to convince my husband to help me rearrange my sewing room. (I'm totally kidding. David is awesome and is always eager to help me whenever I need it. So I wear the low-cut shirts to show my eternal love and gratitude. I never bat my eyelashes—it just makes me look like I have allergies or some sort of tic.) My sewing room, as I have mentioned, is also my bedroom, since David and I are both loud snorers and tend to keep each other awake all night. Someday I will write a long, passionate essay on how Separate Bedrooms Saved My Marriage and Yes, Made the Sex Better Too So Stop Looking At Me Like That—but I'll save that for another time. Anyhoodle, I wanted the change so that my sofabed, which had been at one end of the room, would be more in the middle, underneath the ceiling fan. I also wanted to convert my desk to a standing desk, which would end up taking up less floor space. The wall that was behind the sofabed, and was also George Jr.'s home, would now be quilt-free and accessible - perfect for a design wall.

I have spent much of my quilting career looking up how people do their design walls. The options seemed to be:

1) Tack a piece of flannel or one of those felt-backed tablecloths to the wall;
2) Use foam insulation and glue or duct tape flannel or batting to each panel;
3) Use the big mongo 8-ft insulation panels from Home Depot and either lean them against the wall or mount them to the wall with hardware and tools and stuff.

I wasn't crazy about any of these options. Options 1 and 2 I had already tried without success. The flannel was ok, but I hated how it looked and stuff didn't stick to it as well as it does to batting. I have seen countless tutorials where people have used that foam insulation that basically looks like the stuff they make those coolers you buy at 7-11 out of, and even though they apparently had great success with duct tape, MY duct tape refused to stick to anything except itself, me, and the carpet. The big-ass insulation sheets were my option of last resort. I have zero skills with tools and have no clue how to mount something like that to a wall safely and effectively. And we rent our house. If we owned it, I might be willing to at least give it a shot and try to learn, but I ain't messing with power tools and stud joists and wing flanges in what is essentially someone else's property. I also didn't like the idea of just leaning them against the wall because I have children who frequently take advantage of the space in my room that runs from wall to wall to have super speed races. Leaning the panels would have deprived them of precious inches of floor space and probably ended up broken in half after the first crash.

I wanted something more modular, that was still lightweight, and that could take staples. Instead of driving holes in the wall and trying to figure out where the stud thingies are, I wanted to use these to mount the panels:


I used these when I mounted foamcore board on the same wall for pinning quilts for GenQ photography, and they worked a treat. A set of 4 large strips can hold up to 16 pounds, so I figured that would give me a lot to work with. 

On a trip to the craft store, I found my inspiration: stretched canvases!!


That gave me a lightweight wooden frame and with the canvas already attached, if for some reason stapling the batting to the frame didn't work, I was pretty sure I could glue it. As it turned out, stapling worked fine, except for the part where my little hands are entirely too weak to actually squeeze the trigger on the staple gun hard enough to make a staple come out, so there was more of the metaphorical eyelash batting.

I wanted the batting stapled on the edges and not around on the back, because I knew I'd need to mount the 3M strips on the back and batting back there could have impeded that, plus also the potential for lumps that would keep things from hanging flush. Any places where batting started to lift up between staples, I just added a little tacky glue. I mounted the 3M strips on the back at the top and just below the middle. (My canvases were 24" x 36".) In hindsight, I would have trimmed the excess canvas from the back just in the places where I wanted to put my mountings, but I didn't do that and so it remains to be seen if that will end up being my downfall.

3M Command Strips require a bit of prep and I have learned the hard way that this prep is VITAL. They don't tell you to clean the wall with alcohol just to see if you'll actually do it. You really need to do it to get it to adhere well, and you do need to let it sit without anything hanging from it for an hour before you use it, but not absolutely all of that happened exactly as it should have because of reasons, so I have been eyeing the whole thing suspiciously for the last 18 hours, listening for the creaks and groans that might indicate catastrophe is imminent.

So far, so good.



The top is higher than I can actually reach, but I don't mind whipping out a footstool on occasion if I need to. I wanted to keep the plugs underneath clear, so I mounted them a bit higher than I would have otherwise. I also left enough room to the right to mount two more, if I feel it would be worthwhile. If we ever move, I'll be able to easily take this set-up apart and transfer it to a new place, and a single panel could be removed to accompany me on a retreat or if I ever end up teaching someday.

Stop laughing. It could happen.

(And for those who will ask, the blocks I put up for the purpose of the photograph are ones that I made a couple years ago and then abandoned. I just finished one quilt top that was also abandoned a couple years ago, and so now I'm going to stare at these a while and try to decide if I want to keep going on them as well. This is what happens when I sew using my patented Just Making Shit Up method. I get part way through and have a crisis of confidence and shove the whole thing in a box and wonder why I ever thought I could design my own quilts. Then a couple years later I drag it out and wonder if I was too hasty in my abandonment. I'm like a shitty boyfriend with my quilt designs. "I love you! No, I don't! Come back! I NEED SPACE!")

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Missing her today

I am missing my mom today.

My mom wasn't always easy to understand and she wasn't perfect. But she loved us unconditionally and we always felt it. I joked yesterday about the pressure I felt to succeed, but, honestly, every kid should be so lucky to be so encouraged. I know she probably wasn't encouraged like that as a kid and my dad wasn't, so the fact that they were able to cheer everything we did—even if, as children tend to do, I interpreted it as pressure—is a testament to how hard they worked to rise above the way they were raised. As I raise my own children, it occurs to me frequently that I don't have to rise above the way I was raised. I have to try and match it.

When I became an adult, and strode out in to the world on my own, my mom became my friend, and it was the most wonderful friendship I have ever had. No one could make me laugh like my mom. No one found me quite as funny as my mom. And our phone calls were always raucous giggle-fests, and whatever worry I had called her about would disappear in our laughter. She refused to ever pass judgement on anything we chose to do, and if she disagreed, we never knew it. She became, in many ways, an embodiment of pure love and acceptance.

The last couple years of her life were difficult, as she began to lose her sight, her hearing, and her mobility. Phone calls—which had been our lifeline to each other for so many years—became increasingly difficult as she could not hear well, even with her hearing aid. During our last phone call, just a few days before she passed away, I couldn't understand half of what she said and she couldn't hear much of what I said, but we still managed to joke and laugh and I still felt the warmth of her love.

I still do, even now.