Monday, November 25, 2013

Guess the name of the next quilt.

This past Tuesday, I woke up to what is becoming a semi-regular event: another diverticulitis attack. I had an appointment to see my gastro back in October, but then we lost David's dad and had to travel to Indiana that week. I finally got around to re-scheduling it and she can see me on... January 27! My entire abdomen may just shut down by that point, but frankly the thought of pooping in a bag the rest of my life doesn't seem so awful as long as the damn pain is gone. I'll just make a cute cover for my colostomy bag out of octopus fabric and rhinestones, and maybe put a little sign on it that says, "Hot Shit" or something.

I tell you this only because I realized on Thursday that I had better get my tushie in gear and start signing and mailing some books. The thing with diverticulitis attacks is that one of the main ways to get through it is to basically stop eating. You can have Jell-O and broth, but that's about it. So, by Thursday, not yet healed enough to eat for the third day in a row, I was a wee bit shaky. Nevertheless, I decided it was an excellent time to start signing books! If you receive your book and are wondering why it looks like I might have been drunk when I was signing yours, now you know I was actually just running on fumes. There may have also been a Vicodin or two involved - I'm not saying.

I also had to try and organize a blog tour for the book. I sent out a whole bunch of requests thinking maybe 5 or 6 people would say yes, and I got 25! I had to split it between December and January, and then send out a schedule to all the people who said they would do it and hope that, once they read the book, they will still be just as enthusiastic. Naturally, I got names misspelled and blog names wrong, and every time I tried to send out a correction, I would stupidly copy and paste the list from an email that still had all the wrong names, so I ended up sending out like 80 emails over three or four days. I'm too scared to go back and see if any of them are even coherent. Naturally, of those 25 only about, oh 5 or 6 have responded to say they are good with their date and are definitely in, so we may be having the tour I originally envisioned after all! (It's cool - I know people are busy.)

Hopefully, on December 2 I'll be telling you all about the first stop on the tour and directing you her way, along with a schedule for the rest of the days. Each person on the tour will be (I hope) giving away a book, so there will be (I hope) 25 chances to win one. I'll post here every day of the tour (I hope - do you sense a theme emerging here?) to tell you a little something about the person who is on the tour for that day, and, if the cramps have all completely subsided by then, it will probably all be nice!

And just a reminder that the pre-order price of $9.99 for a signed copy of the book is good until November 30. On December 2, when the tour starts the price goes up to the list price of $12.99 but there will also be a PDF available for only $5.99. I'll have all the deets ready for you on December 2. We will be in Tennessee this week for Thanksgiving so, if you are of a mind to order one this week, it won't be mailed out until next week.

Oh, and since we have Thanksgiving coming up, I should tell you what I am thankful for, because apparently that's, like, a thing:

1) Double chocolate Milano cookies.
2) Tom Hiddleston.
3) Yoga pants.
4) Secretly reading dirty books on my Kindle.
5) Nice gastroenterologists, even when they are booked up months at a time, dammit.
6) My smart, sarcastic, awesome children.
7) A husband who thinks the fact that I self-published a book is totally hot.
8) Netflix. See #2.
9) Scorpion traps.
10) Friends - ones nearby and those I've really only known over the internet.
11) Family, both the one I was born into and the one I married into.
12) All my awesome readers.

See you in December!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Someone interviewed me! For realsies!

Recently, I got a comment from the lovely Heather K. Powers and we started an email correspondence. She is a professional organizer and on her blog she occasionally has interviews with artists about their studios and the organization within. I said if she ever wanted to interview a humor writer about her lack of organization, I would be more than happy help out. Turns out, Heather has an awesome sense of humor and said yes.

You know how, whenever you get a peek into someone's studio, you just know they spent two days cleaning and organizing beforehand? NOT THIS GIRL!

Hop on over to Heather's blog to read the interview. Thanks, Heather!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Line dancing: a rant

I don't think I ever showed you my latest fabric purchases. And when I say, "latest" I mean "the ones I bought way back in August because there was a sale and it was the last time I had any extra money."

Upper left you've got your Just My Type by Patty Young. Upper right is Technicolor by Emily Herrick. Bottom right is the Fields of Iris Kona collection. And bottom left is Ashbury Heights by Riley Blake. I may or may not have actually snuggled with one or more of these stacks in my bed; I refuse to say.

I love buying fat quarter bundles, and it is now the way I usually buy fabric. I do love seeing the pretty little stacks, all tied up in a nice ribbon, sitting on my shelf. Who doesn't? Criminals, probably. And sociopaths. But what I no longer love is the idea of making an entire quilt out of each of them. Yeah, that's right. I don't want to make quilts using only one line of fabric. Insanity, you say? Burn the heretic, you cry? Hear me out.

It's all Amy Butler's fault I ever got into quilting in the first place. When I fell in love with Etsy, it was because I had discovered you could buy handmade bags there, bags made from beautiful and interesting fabrics. And this was back when Amy's Midwest Modern was all the rage. It was the first time I had ever really seen that kind of artistry in fabric, and, like many people, it made me want to gather up a bunch of yardage, bury my face in it, and just motorboat the hell out of it. I didn't even have a sewing machine yet.

So when I did get the sewing machine (a thirty dollar Kenmore from Sears) and it was time to start buying fabric, I kind of choked. I wasn't experienced enough to know how people picked fabrics and since I was barely able to sew squares together at that point, much less cut them, I relied on charm packs. I didn't have to do anything! And all the pieces coordinated! And, if I was really lucky, all the little sawtooth marks from the pinking on the edges would line up just right.

As a result of this reliance on precuts, I also began to rely on the fabric lines themselves to do half of my design work for me. I didn't really have a stash, so I couldn't exactly pull coordinating fabrics from it, and the ease of just using one line where you have all the prints and blenders already put together was really seductive for someone just learning how to sew. And someone who tends to be very, very lazy. Not that I know anyone like that. Shut up.

And so seduced was I by the ease of that coordination, that whenever I saw a truly scrappy quilt, I didn't like it. I liked the neat and tidy look of the perfectly coordinated, pre-selected quilt. Because that's what I had been sort of conditioned to like.

But the thing about my laziness is that eventually my—let's not call it arrogance; let's call it pride—takes over. Maybe it's not even pride I'm talking about. It's that thing I've talked about before that I call my Overgrown Toddler Syndrome, the thing that makes me constantly go, "NO! Do it MYSELF!" And also the thing that makes me go, "NO! Don't wanna do it that way. Wanna do it MY way." See, because I'm all smart and shit, I quickly realized everyone was making quilts out of one fabric line. Everyone. And this meant everyone was as lazy as me, so yay, but it also meant something else I didn't recognize at the time because I wasn't as involved in the broader quilt world as I am now (which is still not much). Something I feel a deep-seated need to rebel against.

If you see a quilt in a magazine that uses only one line of fabric, it is quite possible—likely, even— that the fabric company provided the fabric to the designer. In fact, if you're not paying attention, you may not realize the designer of that pattern works for or is contracted by the fabric company in order to make a quilt using the line. The fabric company, based upon their advertising relationship with the magazine, will print the pattern in order to give the line the best exposure based upon when it is released into stores. (Let me say for the record here: one of the things I love about working with GenQ is they prefer quilts that do not use all one line.) This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that everyone should be aware of.

Along the same track, many independent pattern designers develop relationships with fabric companies. This gives them the fabric they need to make the quilts (and again, this is a good thing, because fabric is fucking pricey) and sometimes the patterns can be easily worked up into kits, which helps sell patterns. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of this. But there are also many small pattern designers who just seem to do it because they like it and know that their audience does too. It's what we've grown used to. Creating fabrics in collections has been a great boon to the quilting fabric industry, and designing quilts around those collections helps it all along.

What bothers me about all of this is I see so many people who now seem to think they have to make quilts that way, like there's some kind of law about it. My sister, who works in a quilt shop, also says there are many people out there who not only feel they have to use one line in a quilt, they have to use the exact line used in the picture on the quilt pattern. There are many, many people who will not make a quilt if they can't get that line anymore.

I do understand the way fabrics are made and marketed today makes it easier to just grab a pack of some sort of pre-cut and go with that. I also understand it is my own particular psychosis that makes me not want to do it myself anymore. I also no longer want to use other people's patterns to a large degree. I'm a lunatic. And I certainly don't expect everyone to take on my particular insanity. BUT. I do think that many of us are letting ourselves be hindered by fear and by the expectation of what a quilt is supposed to be.

I have plenty of quilts I consider, not failures, but just not total successes. Not everything can be a George or an Alcide. But all of those quilts? They still keep my babies warm at night. I can still cuddle with my man under them. Or, you know, other stuff. Shut up. I still look at them and remember who I was when I made them, and who I have become since then. They are still a part of the history of me as a quilter, and that may have value to no one else in the world but me, but it's enough.

If I am going to be a quilter for many years, I don't want to look at those quilts and see someone who was afraid—afraid to branch out, afraid to try new things, afraid of making independent decisions and taking chances. I have held myself back from so much in my life because of fear, and while I certainly stayed safe, I didn't get anywhere either.

If using all of one fabric collection in a quilt is what makes you happy, I am not suggesting it shouldn't. But if thinking you have to do it that way, or that you aren't good enough to do it another way, is keeping you from making quilts you want to make, then that is where I'd like to challenge you.  I'd also like to challenge you to a round of beer pong, but we can talk about that later.

I know people tend to get their backs up when someone suggests maybe they want to think about doing things other than the way they are comfortable doing them. And so, I'll just say here what all the kids say these days: you do you. Do what makes you happy, and if making quilts from one line of fabric makes you happy, I am not saying it shouldn't. What I am saying is that I hope you won't let the way fabric companies have chosen to market their wares be the sole arbiter of the way you make quilts, especially if you want to branch out from that. And don't think that no one will be interested in seeing your quilts or even making a quilt from a pattern you designed if the quilt isn't made from some recent, best-selling collection. A beautiful quilt is a beautiful quilt, but a quilt that doesn't rely on one fabric collection has, to my mind, just a little something more. Daring, perhaps.

It wasn't always this way. There weren't fabric collections as we know them until fairly recently (in geologic time).  My mom didn't have fat quarter bundles, but she also didn't have a rotary cutter. Or the internet. Or Oprah. Progress is good and it has given us all kinds of cool stuff, including fully coordinated lines of fabric. And, hell, I'll probably be making another all-one-line quilt someday because people keep making babies and who doesn't like an easy, quick baby quilt that you don't have to think too hard about? (See the aforementioned criminals and sociopaths.) Whatever you choose to do that makes you happy is a good thing, but if you think you want to break free of the one-line dance, and are worried you can't, I want you to know you can. And I really hope you will. Because trusting in your own creative instincts—and giving them an opportunity to grow—is pretty fucking cool.

So today, I'm going to take all my fat quarter bundles and I'm going to untie the ribbons around them and I'm going to split them up. I'm going to put all the blues in one box and the oranges in another and the greens in another and I'm going to have lots of boxes of color-coordinated fabrics from many different collections.

And then I'm going to stick my face in one of the boxes and motorboat the hell out of it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013—A Review

Every once in a while, I get an email from some entity proposing that I put something on the blog, and usually it has nothing to do with anything remotely related to quilting. And, sadly, it's never anything fun, either. I keep hoping some company will want to do, like, a vibrator giveaway, or a complete set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer character underpants, but all they usually offer is a link to a drug rehab center or a coupon for vitamins.

But then I got a request from Fons and Porter to review their new DailyCraftTV site, one which is clearly trying to compete with Craftsy. And I was interested in this, because I was genuinely curious as to what approach they would take. Would it be pretty much a copy of the Craftsy paradigm, or something different? What sorts of instructors would they have? And, for me, the big question was, would any of the offerings appeal to the "modern" (and I use that term loosely) slash contemporary quilter with which I semi-identify?

I was given one free class of my choice, and I went with one called Fresh Quilting Ideas & Design Techniques. Since I am trying my hand at quilt design, I hoped this might have something worthwhile for me. It was very difficult to tell from the class description whether it would, so I just kind of had to take the leap.

As with many of the classes, but not all, this one was about an hour and a half of small segments, each from a different teacher/presenter. One thing that I was disappointed by right off the bat was that there was no easy way to access the different segments. They are all part of one long video, and the best you can do is kind of scan through and try to guess where one segment might end and another begin. This is made even more frustrating by the way they have the segments listed on the page—each one has a little bullet that looks like a symbol for "play" so you are encouraged to click it in vain.

The videos themselves are well-produced, but start without much introduction. Normally, I'm not a big fan of padding, but in this case, an intro could have tied all these disparate pieces together and given them some coherence. Without it, you come to quickly realize that you've been given a bunch of little lessons that are only vaguely related.

The first lesson is Positive-Negative Applique with Angie Hodapp, who used to be the editor of Quilter's Newsletter. (True story - I might have become a columnist there instead of Quilter's Home if the shakeup at QH hadn't resulted in Jake and Melissa becoming the editors.) She demonstrates a technique where you can applique a motif on one side of a quilt, and then do the same motif in the opposite colors on the other side to make a reversible quilt.

The second lesson is about machine quilting with variegated threads, the basic thrust being that you can match your free motion design to use the different colors in the thread, so maybe you have green "vines" and pink flowers or what have you.

Third lesson: this was something about chopping up vintage hankies and then overlapping them and then.... Oh, okay; I didn't make it all the way through that one. This was part of my concern about the appeal—had I fully understood the vintage hankie thing, I might have chosen something else. I do believe that there are lessons that can be learned in many things, even if the style isn't exactly to your taste. But I just couldn't get past the cutesy pepto pink on this one.

I won't go into every lesson, but suffice to say, I wasn't crawling towards my wallet to try another one. I was kind of entertained by these two:

This was the segment called Every Quilt Has Two Sides, and is basically about irons and ironing and the gimmick is that they don't agree on everything! (cue the screeching Psycho violins) Oh, the lost opportunities here! Naturally, I think there should have been bitch slapping and , "Jane, you ignorant slut"-type insults, but all I got was a wee bit of very subtle eye rolling.

The segment did have some good information, if you have never purchased an iron or pressed anything in your quilting ever, but it didn't seem like a good fit for the other segments, since it had nothing to do with design.

I think the best segment was the very last one, which had to do with a specific tool. The Add-Enough ruler is for paper piecers who have a hard time with cutting fabric to the right size. I'm always trying to streamline my cutting, but I usually just end up cutting off a huge chunk and wasting a bunch of fabric. The ruler shown here doesn't get you down to the point of cutting every piece the precise shape needed with exact seam allowances, but it does give you a way to cut that hunk in just the right dimension so it's not too big and not too small. So, that was cool, but it does mean I have to go out and buy something, which is not that cool. But again - design technique? Fresh quilting idea? Not exactly.

I wanted to like DailyCraftTV, because their price points are WAY lower than Craftsy's but I just wasn't thrilled. Now, granted, I only got access to one class and there are a lot of others, and not all of them are multi-topic like this one. Also, the instruction quality in each class was good. I did learn a lot about sewing with metals, plus the teacher for that segment, Heather Thomas, has AWESOME hair:

I'm a sucker for a short-n-spiky 'do. But I think the problem was mainly that I'm just the wrong quilter for this venue. The style of a lot of the quilts shown simply weren't the kind that get my blood pumping, and that, combined with a mish-mash of topics, none of them covered in depth, sadly means that I probably won't be back. I may, however, take a closer look at the knitting classes, since I am only a dabbler in that particular craft and small-topic videos might be just the thing for me.

I do think, however, that there are a LOT of quilters out there who would love these. Many people don't want to make a major investment in a long class, and the style of these quilts appeals to the majority of quilters out there. And that's a perfectly valid lifestyle choice. And you just can't beat the prices, so it's worth it to at least give one or two a try and see if they work for you. And if anybody wants to film a class with me where we throw things and call each other douchenozzles, step right up.

If you've done DailyCraftTV and loved it (or hated it or just felt meh about it), let me know. You ignorant douchenozzle.

(And don't forget - signed copies of my book are available for pre-order!!)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Now taking pre-orders for SIGNED copies! You know, if you're into that.

HA! You thought that OTHER cover was the real cover? Why, of course I felt the need to COMPLETELY redesign it at the last minute—isn't that what you're supposed to do? Seriously though, I'm very happy with this cover and the book is looking GREAT. I've had a brief hiccup with the printer which is delaying me by a few days, but this bad boy is going to roll out by the end of November as planned. I expect only a small amount of bloodshed.

Just to remind you what the hell this is, I have collected all my humor columns from Quilter's Home magazine as well as some early GenQ pieces plus TWO COMPLETELY NEW PIECES into one handy paperback volume.

I will also be offering signed copies for $9.99 plus $3.00 shipping/handling for U.S. delivery—$10.00 for international. And you can PRE-ORDER those right now! Pre-orders for signed copies will ship on December 1 OR shortly before the official release, whichever comes first. Remember the pre-orders are for SIGNED copies—PDFs will be available the day of release, no later than December 1. Sorry! No signed PDFs. Yes, I'm serious - you know someone is going to ask.

If you'd like to pre-order a signed copy, just click the Paypal button below. If you'd like your book inscribed to a particular person besides the name on your Paypal account, just let me know in the Notes To Seller section. I promise not to inscribe it to "Douchy McAsshat" unless you specifically ASK me to. (Please ask me to!)

After December 1, I will no longer be taking pre-orders as the book will be considered "released" and the price will go up to $12.99 per copy.

NOTE: Paypal is not letting me deal with shipping options very well. Shipping is INCLUDED in the price of each copy. I will refund any extra shipping when I determine what multiple copies cost to ship after receiving your order. 

Thank you all for your support! And the penis emails!

Pre-orders are now closed. Thank you so much to everyone who bought a copy! Copies are now available here at the regular price as well as PDF downloads.