Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Greatest Quilt-Related Advertising Campaign Ever.

Warning: this post has f-bombs and other atrocities. 


Apple's 1984 spot. Wendy's "Where's the beef?" The crazy hot Old Spice dude. Advertising has long been a vehicle for artistry in visual media as well as for cutting edge humor. And crazy hot shirtless guys. But even today, advertising for quilt-related products tends to be pretty dull. There seems to be a tradition of not wanting to rile up quilters too much—I mean, I assume this is why most quilt books read like they are written by the teacher in Ferris Beuller. ("Anyone? Anyone? Voodoo economics.") And sure, we deal with beautiful fabrics and patterns and so some visual interest is bound to occur in an ad without anyone really trying. But as far as I can tell, there have been no truly creative ad campaigns in all the time that I've been quilting.

Except one.

Way back in, oh, 2008 or 2009, one longarm company dared to buck the trend of dull, predictable advertising. One rogue business declared that they and they alone would rise above the dreck and create an ad with story, with drama, with—dare I say? yes, I think I dare—heart. I do not know how the masterminds who dreamed up this magnificence referred to their creation, but I have always thought of this ad as: What The Fuck, Martha?

Behold:


Let's examine this brilliance more closely.


In this top panel, we have your average home sewist (Tiffany, perhaps?) happily stitching away on curtains THAT ARE ATTACHED TO THE CURTAIN ROD. She has just grabbed the nearest fabric and started in on it because that's the kind of guerrilla quilter she is. She doesn't have time to shop, or plan, or even cut fabric, dammit, because when the itch to stitch is upon her she will not be stopped. Sure, she looks calm, even serene, but right now she is a sewing beast and if you try to gently point out that she is acting like a total nutburger, she will cut you. You best just back off and thank the gods she didn't get a look at your new pants before she started in on those curtains.

But, then, this happens.


What the fuck, Martha? Martha has just shown up out of nowhere with a giant longarm setup, and has apparently vandalized Tiffany's curtains by cutting out a star shape that is only vaguely reminiscent of the stars she is quilting on. And Tiffany is all, "Explain this, bitch." And Martha is like, "Well I saw you just grabbing the curtains and stitching on them in a completely random spot and so I just assumed it was Do Inexplicable Shit to Curtains Day." And Tiffany's face gets redder as she responds through clenched teeth, "But I can't fix this, Martha. MY SEWING MACHINE WONT REACH THAT HIGH." And we are left to assume that Martha is either now dead or on the run, because nobody fucks with Tiffany's curtains.

Truly, has any other ad campaign in our quilty little world even come close to matching this one for sheer entertainment value? Did they hire an ad agency for this? Because there is so much about this that screams "I have no idea what quilters actually do so Imma take a guess." But then somebody at the longarm company had to look at this campaign proposal and approve it. Someone high up in the ranks kicked his feet up on a desk, tented his fingers under his chin, and considered the tale of Tiffany and Martha until he finally leapt to his feet and shouted, "YES. This accurately represents our product AND our brand! Now, bring me brandy for my snifter and a pretty secretary for my lap" Both of those people, whoever they are, are geniuses in my eyes.

And to this longarm company, I plead: Bring back Tiffany and Martha. The world of quilt product advertising today is a barren wasteland, devoid of the kind of head-scratchingly awesome storytelling you managed in one beautiful print ad so many years ago. Bring them back and continue their utterly nonsensical tale. Do it for the quilters. We need you.

And maybe add in a couple crazy hot shirtless dudes. That often works too.


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Please remember, The Bitchy Stitcher is my personal blog and also the place where I experiment with quilty humor pieces. If you have signed up for getting posts by email, you will get exactly that: posts via email. As of right now, I do not send out newsletters. If you don't like my posts, that's perfectly fine and understandable. But please either stop reading, or unsubscribe from the emails (there's a handy link for that at the bottom of each email). Lecturing me doesn't work, and threatening to unsubscribe just means I will go ahead and do it for you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Antonio

If you have come here for or because of the Back to School Blog Hop, you should entirely skip this post and scroll down to the next one. Seriously, don't even linger on this one. We get up to shenanigans around here and this post is pretty dang shenaniganny. Or just click here and go right to the non-offensive stuff without having to get an accidental glimpse of the shenanigans.




Hello, sewing lovers. I am Antonio, your hot and sexy fusible interfacing sales representative. I am extra hot because I am from a European country where we find older women who are a little chunky around the middle extremely alluring. Which country, you ask? Does it really matter, darling, as long as I have the funky rrrr’s to prove it?

Please allow me to tell you a little bit about our newest fusible interfacing product. We like to call it…Steamy. Steamy is a silky soft interfacing ideal for quilting and appliqué—here, would you like to stroke it? Come on, don’t be shy. Let me just lay it across my thigh and you can feel it’s remarkable patented softness. Incredible, no? And how do you feel about the interfacing? Oh, that is just my little joke. I am European and we are very friendly, you understand. In my country, touching a man’s thigh is a gesture of goodwill and respect. But do not touch my elbow. It doesn’t mean anything; I just don’t like it.

If Steamy does not bring you the ultimate in fusible pleasure, may I recommend one of our other fine products such as Slinky, the featherweight fusible with a lighter hold. Or, perhaps my personal favorite, Stiffy. Stiffy is perfect for more, shall we say, vigorous applications. A firm hand and a hot iron are all you need to keep Stiffy under control. Stiffy was developed with the adventurous sewist in mind. How about you, darling? Are you adventurous? Would you like to hold my Stiffy? Please, watch the elbow.

In fact, the wonderful (and beautiful, of course) ladies in our testing department have come up with a fantastic project that uses all three interfacing products—a trio, a…what is the word I am looking for? Group? No, that is not quite right. No matter. Still, you must imagine a wonderful party of Steamy, Slinky, and Stiffy all coming together in a magnificent crescendo of creativity. No one goes home from this party unsatisfied, that I can assure you. Because we make excellent fusible products.

Now, we have a very exciting opportunity for you! As you can see over here we have a large bed where we have scattered many packages of fusible interfacing. Isn’t that amusing? Many of our customers love to take a picture with me, Antonio, your hot and sexy fusible interfacing representative, so let us make it a photo to treasure forever. Here, I will drape myself artfully across the bed and the fusible interfacing products and you may come lie beside me to gaze into my deep brown eyes as our staff photographer captures the moment on film. Well, on a digital SD card, but it is all the same. There now, are you comfortable? Let me put my arms around you—don’t touch my elbow. Ah, darling, you are so lovely. How many pieces would you like to order? We take all major credit cards. And, of course, cash.

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Please remember, The Bitchy Stitcher is my personal blog and also the place where I experiment with quilty humor pieces. If you have signed up for getting posts by email, you will get exactly that: posts via email. As of right now, I do not send out newsletters. If you don't like my posts, that's perfectly fine and understandable. But please either stop reading, or unsubscribe from the emails (there's a handy link for that at the bottom of each email). Lecturing me doesn't work, and threatening to unsubscribe just means I will go ahead and do it for you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine




Many thanks to Sam Hunter for inviting me to participate in the Back to School Blog Hop! I decided to join in with something from a side project I've been working on. Enjoy!

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It would be ever so lovely if the expensive mechanical equipment in our lives would just perpetually work without any special interference from us, but I’m afraid that’s not the case, and particularly so with sewing machines. The act of sewing produces friction and heat in various parts of the machine, plus wear on the needle and oodles of lint, all eventually requiring some form of attention.

As with anything pertaining to your sewing machine: read your manual to determine exactly what your model requires. There are some machines out there the manufacturers say should not be oiled, or which have parts made inaccessible to anyone but a professional, so before you go attacking your baby with a screwdriver and a bottle of sewing machine oil, READ THE MANUAL. If, after reading the maintenance instructions in your manual, the things outlined below make sense and seem safe, then carry on.

The following is a general list of what should be done (and how often you should do it) to clean and maintain your machine.

DAILY
Unplug it and cover it.

Yes, that’s it. Why? Oh, well, I suppose that would help, wouldn’t it? Unplugging your machine when it’s not in use is a good idea for several reasons. An unplugged machine can’t be turned on, at least not without more manual dexterity and effort than a curious animal or child might expend. And lightning strikes and power surges can fry a computerized machine’s internal circuits. Get a surge protector too, but unplug it anyway.

Your machine may have come with a cover, and often that cover latches on to the machine and has a handle for carrying. But even if it is just a loose plastic sheath, the cover keeps dust, dirt, and hair out of the delicate inner workings. If your machine didn’t come with one, make one! There are lots of fun patterns for sewing machine covers out there, often easily adaptable to different size models. And if yours came with a boring, hard plastic one, well, that’s what stickers and paint and Mod Podge were made for.

AFTER EVERY PROJECT
Change the needle. It may not seem thrifty, but sewing machine needles get a lot of action and can get slightly nicked, bent, or dulled in the process. Quite often, a sudden problem with your stitching can be attributed to a worn needle—and just as easily fixed by replacing it. Some people recommend changing your needle every four hours of sewing (some say eight), but who keeps track? If you load up a nice, new needle every time you start a new project, you’ll do just fine. For those who do a number of small projects in between quilts, you can change your needle every 5 to 10 projects, depending on their size and potentially needle-dulling materials.

MONTHLY OR AFTER EVERY QUILT
And here’s where we get down to the really fun stuff, depending of course on your personal definition of “fun”. To clean and oil your machine you may need:
 • Sewing machine oil (use only sewing machine oil, which can be purchased any place you get sewing notions)
• Small brush (one often comes with your machine, but these can also be purchased)
• Small screwdriver or coin
• Can of compressed air
• Clean piece of muslin
• Needle-nose tweezers
• Cotton swabs
• A stiff drink

Turn off and unplug your machine and raise the presser foot. Fold the muslin in half and gently slide the folded edge in between the tension disks. (You won’t be able to do this if the presser foot is lowered.) Very gently slide the fabric back and forth a couple times, and then remove it.



Then, take your can of compressed air, with its little plastic straw attached and blow air between the disks from the back of the machine out through the front.



Remove the foot and needle from the machine and remove or open the needle plate according to the manual for your machine. (This is where you may need a coin for loosening screws and your machine may require lowering the feed dogs as well.) This area, which contains the feed dogs, can get pretty gobbed up with lint. Use the small brush to loosen it and your compressed air to puff it out. If you are concerned about the compressed air blowing bits further down into the machine, a small pair of needle-nose tweezers can help pull some of it out.





Cotton swabs can also get into some hard-to-reach places.

If your machine has a top-loading bobbin, open the cover for it, and take out the bobbin. Carefully use your brush and tweezers to remove dust, lint, and errant threads. Many people also use the compressed air here, but others feel there is more danger of pushing dirt farther back into the workings of the machine where you can’t get to it. If you can, you can also remove the bobbin case and clean it as well. (Remember, machines are all different as to what you can access and remove yourself, so your experience may vary.) You can fix yourself a cocktail at this point if taking apart your expensive baby is starting to make you nervous.

Front loading bobbins tend to give you a bit more access. Open that cover and remove the bobbin, the bobbin case, and the hook. Use your brush, swabs, and/or tweezers to remove visible lint.




 As for oil, be sure to check your manual. Some manufacturers specifically state in the manual not to use oil inside the machine, while others will give specific instructions for how and where to oil. In general, when you oil, you will only use a drop or two, in specific places, and you will want to run some scrap material through the machine after oiling to pick up any extra oil that may have gotten to parts that touch your fabrics.


Now you get to find out if you can get all those parts you took out back together the right way! Hope you still have some of that margarita mix left!

YEARLY
You should plan to take your machine in to a professional once a year for a thorough cleaning and tune-up. A professional sewing machine technician doesn’t actually need a bracing drink to get him or her through the removal and cleaning of your machine’s sensitive bits, and can take more things apart and get a better, deeper clean than you can. He or she can check all the belts and hoses (there are hoses, right?) and make sure nothing is cracked or scratched, and if it is, can get and replace the necessary part for you. Many quilt and fabric shops, especially those that sell machines, have technicians available, and you don’t have to own a machine from their shop to use them. Also look for vacuum/fan/sewing machine shops (what I like to call Suck, Blow, and Sew) as they usually do repairs and tune-ups as well. Even some of the big box fabric shops will have a technician available on certain days. You should expect to pay somewhere in the range of $50–$150 for a basic cleaning and adjustment, more if your machine actually needs repair or a new part. You may possibly have to leave your machine for a few days, so be prepared to do without for a short time.

Remember: this is a general list, and you should always read your manual to determine exactly what your machine's manufacturer recommends. And if your manufacturer recommends a good margarita recipe, you know you got a good machine.

Please be sure to visit all the other stops on the hop. (And if this is your first time here and you feel inclined to read further back in the archives, please read my About Me page first to get acquainted with what you'll find here.)

Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuilts – So, Does that Diagonal Method for a Pieced Backing Really Work
Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com – The Quilter’s Knot
Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams – The Importance of Pressing
Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts – Color Coding for Paper-piecing
Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio – How to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt Studio – Credit where Credit is Due
Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique
Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit
Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101
Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips
Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Je’s Bend – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3LittleBrds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Back to School Blog Hop


My good friend Sam Hunter has rounded up a TON of really cool bloggers to participate in a month-(plus a few days) long Back to School Blog Hop for Quilters and Sewists. And she asked me to participate as well, probably to keep me from whining. The full list of bloggers and their dates/topics is below. This hop isn't about plugging somebody's new book or gadget or fabric line—it's just quilters sharing knowledge. Hope to see you back here on the 9th, when I will be discussing The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine. (Hint: there may be cocktails involved.)

Also please note: neither Sam nor I can control when each person on the list posts. Sometimes things come up. People forget. Some posts may not show up until later in the day or even the day after because of Life. So please be patient and forgiving with everyone.


Sept 1: Peta Minerof-Bartos of PetaQuilts – So, Does that Diagonal Method for a Pieced Backing Really Work
Sept 2: Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com – The Quilter’s Knot
Sept 3: Teresa Coates of Crinkle Dreams – The Importance of Pressing
Sept 4: Cath Hall of Wombat Quilts – Color Coding for Paper-piecing
Sept 5: Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio – How to Calculate and Cut Bias Binding
Sept 6: Melanie McNeil of Catbird Quilt Studio – Credit where Credit is Due
Sept 7: Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts – How to Keep a Perfect 1/4” Seam Between Different Machines
Sept 8: Rose Hughes of Rose Hughes – Fast Pieced Applique
Sept 9: Megan Dougherty of The Bitchy Stitcher – The Care and Feeding of the Domestic Sewing Machine
Sept 10: Lynn Krawczyk of Smudged Design Studio – Make a Mobile Art Kit
Sept 11: Susan Beal of West Coast Crafty – Log Cabin 101
Sept 12: Sarah Lawson of Sew Sweetness – Zipper Tips
Sept 13: Jane Victoria of Jolly and Delilah – Matching Seams
Sept 14: Jemelia Hilfiger of Je’s Bend – Garment Making Tips and Tricks
Sept 15: Ebony Love of LoveBug Studios – Curved Piecing Without Pins
Sept 16: Misty Cole of Daily Design Wall – Types of Basting
Sept 17: Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams – Setting your Seams
Sept 18: Christina Cameli of A Few Scraps – Joining Quilted Pieces by Machine
Sept 19: Bill Volckening of WonkyWorld – The Importance of Labels
Sept 20: Jessica Darling of Jessica Darling – How to Make a Quilt Back
Sept 21: Debbie Kleve Birkebile of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures – Perfectly Sized No-Wave Quilt Borders
Sept 22: Heather Kinion of Heather K is a Quilter – Baby Quilts for Baby Steps
Sept 23: Michelle Freedman of Design Camp PDX – TNT: Thread, Needle, Tension
Sept 24: Kathy Mathews of Chicago Now Quilting Sewing Creation – Button Holes
Sept 25: Jane Shallala Davidson of Quilt Jane – Corner Triangle Methods
Sept 27: Cristy Fincher of Purple Daisies Quilting – The Power of Glue Basting
Sept 28: Catherine Redford of Catherine Redford – Change the Needle!
Sept 29: Amalia Teresa Parra Morusiewicz of Fun From A to Z – French Knots, – ooh la la!
Sept 30: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts – How to Align Your Fabrics for Dog Ears
October 1: Tracy Mooney of 3LittleBrds – Teaching Kiddos to Sew on a Sewing Machine
October 2: Trish Frankland, guest posting on Persimon Dreams – The Straight Stitch Throat Plate
October 3: Flaun Cline of I Plead Quilty – Lining Strips Up

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reps with a rep


Photo credit: Denise Krebs https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/10108833314/


A friend of mine was shopping at a quilt store recently (one very, very far from me) which she said had a great selection. She happened to ask the proprietress about a certain line and was told they don't carry anything from that particular manufacturer. Being the curious type, my friend asked, "Oh? Is it a problem with the fabric?" To which the shop owner replied, "No, it's a problem with the rep."

I remember sales reps from my days as an optician. Depending on the size of the eyewear company in question, the reps' sales territories might cover a couple states or the entire eastern half of the United States plus Puerto Rico. They traveled around with samples of every pair of eyeglasses the company currently carried and would pull out trays of them from their bags to show us and extol the virtues of each. "Now, this frame is made of a special alloy of titanium and cannotpronouncium, which is mined by specially trained Mongolian yaks.  This puke green color was all the rage at Fashion Week this year, and this clunky square shape is trés moderne." This was how we generally stocked the store with new product, except for occasional re-orders of frames that sold well and ones that we ordered at Vision Expo, the eyewear industry equivalent of Quilt Market.

Because the reps wanted us to wear their product, we often got free frames—one of the few perks in an otherwise sucky job. They were also the gateway to POS, which is how we referred to the decorative stuff that you could use in displays. (It stood for Point Of Sale, not Piece Of Shit.) Generally, the more we bought, the more POS we could have, but some reps would pile it on for us, because they knew we'd be more likely to make a dedicated display if we had the POS to go with it.

It's been over 10 years now since I worked in that industry, and I have deliberately shoved large portions of the experience out of my mind in order to maintain a relatively happy life, but I can't really remember having any major problems with one of our sales reps. I didn't particularly love some of them. One guy was kinda smarmy and fake, and I wouldn't have wanted to catch a drink with him after, but we liked the product and he didn't have cooties or anything. Some reps we hugged when they walked in because we truly liked them. Some we wanted to hug because they were hotties, but we didn't because we were both taken and way too shy. One had been my boss once upon a time, and pretty much taught me everything I knew, so he was a favorite too.

Some sales reps we never saw except at Vision Expo. We carried Oliver Peoples when they first came out, and at the time it was trying to position itself as a high-end boutique brand. You couldn't price the pieces lower than their suggested retail, and they weren't supposed to place it in more than one shop within the same area (though they did.) I don't recall ever getting a visit from an Oliver Peoples rep, but we did have an appointment with them at Vision Expo, the year that I got to go. Most frame companies set up booths in the Jacob Javits convention center in NYC, but certain other companies set up in giant suites in swanky hotels. If I remember correctly, Oliver Peoples set up their operations in the Ritz Carlton at Central Park. We rode the shiny elevators to one of the top floors and walked into a giant suite, staffed by models disguised as frame sales reps. It was hard not to feel like Dumpy McHickerson around them, which did not endear me towards them particularly, but they did their jobs just fine. My point being that even though I didn't love all our reps—okay, I may have irrationally despised the models and wished them dermatological problems—I don't think there were any I actually refused to work with.

But I have heard more than one comment from various parts about quilt shop owners hating certain sales reps and refusing to buy from the company they work for. Apparently (and someone can correct me if I am wrong), even circumventing the rep and making a purchase directly with the manufacturer still puts a commission in the rep's pocket, and so some shop owners will avoid doing even that because they don't want the rep to get any of their money. THIS IS FASCINATING TO ME. I mean, what does it take to piss of your clients so much they refuse to carry your company's product at all, even if they love it and would sell the hell out of it? Showing up drunk? Insulting your mother? Sleeping with your spouse? Are they dismissive, rude, unhelpful? What services, besides showing up and letting you see fabric samples, do sales reps provide that perhaps these evil ones do not? I am being very serious here. If you own a quilt shop or work in one and have some insight into what makes a crappy rep, leave me a comment or (if you want to be sure to preserve anonymity) email me at dontdrinkandquilt (at) gmail (dot) com. And conversely, when you absolutely LOVE a rep, what is it that fuels your ardor?  And if, by some chance of fate, there is a fabric sales rep out there who wants to tell his or her side of the story, by all means contact me. What makes shops wonderful or awful to work with? What do you wish shop owners knew about your business that would help you do yours better? (And let me just say here that I am NOT suggesting that all fabric sales reps are awful. I just want to know what makes a bad one and what makes a good one within the quilt fabric industry, so please sheathe your daggers now. I am also NOT looking to out anyone you dislike, so no names or identifying details please.)

Let's dish!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Change your whole life with this ONE WEIRD TRICK



Our summer began with the opening of my store, Clever Notions, and the release of my first quilt patterns, and I had thought that it would be the beginning of a summer of quilting and writing and steering my quilt life in a direction that would actually have, you know, a direction—instead of just a let's-see-if-I-feel-like-accomplishing-something-today kind of thing. As usual, I also made a half-hearted attempt at something like a diet and exercise program. One thing I did was I managed to give up soda (yes, full sugar soda - shut up) for almost a month early in the summer. I also tracked all of my calories and consistently kept my caloric intake under 1800 calories a day, usually more like 1300-1500.

And I gained 4 fucking pounds.

So I threw my hands up. What's the point? Why suffer only to gain weight when my normal awful diet keeps me at a consistent weight? Clearly, I've just reached that age where the entire universe conspires to keep you fat, and maybe I should just learn to accept it. If it means I don't have to give up Dr. Pepper, great. I love that goddamn stuff.

Then my husband decided to train for a 10K.

David is not an athlete by any stretch, though he used to run years ago, back in college. In the past couple of years, he has started exercising in the mornings, a routine of pushups and planks and burpees and huffnagles and I don't know what all. He still has his Buddha belly, and still could stand to drop at least 20 pounds, but he has managed to build a little muscle. His diet has never been full of junk food. He loves all kinds of vegetables and eats a ton of them, but he's never said no to a second sausage either. And if I make a pan of cinnamon rolls, he's right there with me scraping the last of the icing out of the bottom. So, sure, there was room for improvement, but it wasn't like he spent his days in a flurry of Big Mac wrappers and Twinkie crumbs.

I was pretty proud of him for deciding to do the 10k, but at first he was only running a couple times a week. He told me the running was really hard, harder than it had ever been for him, and I reminded him that he was about to turn 50 and I couldn't remember the last time he actually ran farther than the bathroom. Of course it's hard! In fact, I said, if you are serious about training, you really ought to run more often. Run shorter distances if you need to at first, but once a week ain't gonna cut it. In the face of my staggering wisdom, he agreed and tried to start running more often.

Most of these times, I didn't see him, or saw him after he had already walked home from the trail where he runs. He kept saying it was too hard, harder than it should be. Finally, he told me he wanted to see a cardiologist, just to get everything checked out. The cardiologist scheduled an ultrasound, which looked fine, and then a stress test. As the stress test approached, I asked him more about what he was feeling when he ran. It was a tightness, he said, a tightness in his chest and he couldn't keep going, but it wasn't his lungs. Whatever it was, he knew it wasn't right.

They stopped the stress test half way through because they were "seeing something." He was scheduled for cardiac catheterization a few weeks later. Let me just say, though I'm sure I don't need to say it, those were a looooong few weeks.

He went in on Tuesday for the cath procedure. After he had been in for half an hour or so, they told me they had found "a couple blockages" and were inserting stents. And about 45 minutes after than the cardiologist who did the procedure came out to talk to me.

"Both his right coronary artery and his left anterior descending artery were over 90% blocked, one of them was 99% blocked. the remaining artery is currently 50% blocked. This is a LOT of coronary artery disease for such a young man and he was at a very high risk of a heart attack or a stroke at any time."

I have been keeping a game face on for what feels like months now, not wanting to scare David or scare the kids, but this was what I was afraid we were going to hear. It's one thing to find out you're sick, you have a condition, and this is what we are going to do to treat it—it's another to hear you were walking around with a gun to your chest. Or to hear that about someone you love.

But I kept my game face on, because I was in a waiting room full of people whose mothers and fathers and spouses were there for the same reason, and I wasn't going to lose my shit around them. I kept it on when they took me back to see David, and I had to explain things to him over and over because the drugs were still making him woozy and unable to retain information. I kept it on as I sat with him, as the cardiologist came back to give us the Come to Jesus talk, as they transferred him to a room for overnight observation. I kept it on when I went home to get the kids and feed them and then bring them to the hospital to say hi to daddy and then back home and into bed. And except for few moments of crankiness from the stress of trying to get everyone everything they need, I've kept it on and kept it on, and now I'm starting to wonder if I've lost my ability to really let go and express everything that I really feel.

Because oh sweet merciful fuck am I freaked out. A little over 10 years ago, David's younger brother had a heart attack at age 37, and David immediately high-tailed it to a cardio doc and got himself checked out. "You look great," they said. "Everything looks good. Come back in 10 years and we'll see where you are then."

Only ten years later, and he could have died.

He came home on Wednesday, and we have eaten low-fat, low-cholesterol for every meal. I have replaced the half-and-half he pours in his coffee every morning with fat-free, my 2% milk is now skim. I am collecting vegetarian and heart-healthy magazines and books and combing our shelves to get rid of everything that could kill him. I have given up my sodas again and pushed away the breads and crackers that I snack on. In short, I am changing everything I eat in order to help him change what he eats, and so we will be on this journey together. When he is cleared again to exercise, I will do it as well, every day, because I know how hard it is to keep going and it's just a little bit easier when your spouse participates. I want to give him any edge I can, because there's little else I can do.

And if I don't, I know that in another 10 years, it could be me.

So, our summer didn't turn out quite the way I had planned. But that's okay. Because we have a lot of summers now ahead of us.

And just in case it might help someone, here are some of the signs of a heart attack. It isn't always a huge, crushing pain that makes you clutch your chest and fall down, so it's important to listen to your body and get help if you think something is wrong.
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartattack/signs

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Minimalist Quilt Studio





“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
- William Morris

“Where the hell are my scissors?” 
- Me


We live in an age of acquisitiveness. We have closets and dressers full of clothes that are never worn, collections of knick-knacks that gather dust, and many of us frankly have way too many cats. It’s not normal, all those cats. And for those of us who quilt, the desire to obtain, collect, and sometimes lick all the beautiful fabrics that comprise our craft borders on obsession. It certainly doesn’t help when fabric manufacturers routinely discontinue our favorite collections, only to release entirely new collections that subsequently become our favorites, until we are so numbed by novelty we stop noticing every single collection now has a deer print for no good reason.

We stuff our shelves with fat quarters and yardage and pre-cuts, most of which will sit for years, never knowing the joy of transforming into a painstakingly made wedding quilt that will eventually be used to line a dog crate. Collecting soon becomes hoarding, especially after we realize theTula Pink squirrel fabric now sells for $80 a yard on Instagram. Perhaps those ferret fabrics you dug out of the bargain bin at JoAnn’s will be worth just as much someday, who knows?

But are all those jelly rolls truly making us happy? Are the extra hours our spouses have to work in order to afford the Ikea furniture to store it all really worth it? Does stuffing our underpants to capacity with mini-charm packs really feel as good as we say it does? And just how much yardage can you really lick before you start to cough up fiber-balls? (Hint: It’s less than you think.)

What if I were to tell you that there is joy to be found in owning less fabric, in having fewer gadgets, in saying no to yet another pattern? Would you call me crazy? Try to run me out of town on a rail? Do you even know what a rail is or how to get one? No really, I’m asking, do you? It’s for a friend.

To help you on your journey towards a simpler sewing life, here are seven ways you can start to de-clutter your studio and begin your new stitching life free from the burdens of too many possessions:

1. Keep track.  Take note of every sewing-related purchase you make in a month. How quickly did you run out of paper? How many of those purchases were late-night sales on Instagram for Tula squirrels? Ask yourself this: Are you really in love with pink rodents, or are you just following the latest rodent trend? If naked mole rat fabric starts selling for twenty bucks a fat quarter, are you gonna want that too? Actually, naked mole rat fabric would be pretty cool. But, see, we didn’t know that before and now we do.

2. Get rid of duplicates. Just how many Wonder Clips do you really need? When you stop to think about it, do you even need more than one pin? You can just sew until you reach that one, pull it out, and put it in further down. And let’s talk about sewing machines, shall we? Be honest—how many do you own? Really? That many? Wow. Okay, well, maybe consider paring those down to just six or seven. Wouldn’t want to be hasty.

3. Clear off flat surfaces. Tables, desks, shelves, toilet seats—these are all magnets for clutter. Develop a zero-tolerance policy for storing things on all the flat surfaces in your studio, and you’ll find your creativity soaring as you can now probably walk past your cutting table without causing an avalanche. And where should you now keep all the stuff you took off your tables? I bet you have room where some of those sewing machines used to be.

4. Sell what you don’t need. When you noted all of your sewing-related spending, you were probably shocked to discover just how much capital you have tied up in squirrels. Get a return on your investment by re-selling those rodents for far more than you paid for them on Instagram. I know several people who have paid for college tuition by selling bags of the lint produced from sewing on Heather Ross Mendocino fabrics. And if you don’t have a lot of in-demand and out-of-print fabrics to sell? Just put together a “scrap bundle” full of random pieces with a tiny sliver of some Lizzy House hedgehogs hanging out—people will gladly pay top dollar for just the possibility of some good rodents.

5. Go paperless. Nearly every sewing and quilting book on the market today is also available in an e-book version, so there’s no need to cram your shelves full of tree-killing hard copies. Besides, how many quilts have you actually made from any of those books? If you really feel the need to get the full quilt book experience, just read something that makes your eyelids droop and then go look at a churn dash block and call it modern. I promise you, it’s exactly the same.

6. Practice mindful sewing. In order to truly appreciate the quilt you are making, you must become one with it. As you sew, honor the fabric by petting it gently, telling it how pretty it is, and assuring it that you love it even if it has no rodents on it. Slow down your machine and time your stitches to your breathing. Breathe in as the needle comes up, out as it descends. Keep a paper bag handy. Engage all your senses while sewing: feel the fabric; see it’s beauty; hear the gentle whir of the machine; smell and then taste the weird crusty spot that suddenly appeared in the middle of your block. Maybe it’s peanut butter and you could use the protein. Be grateful for this unexpected snack.

7. If you get discouraged, remember the reasons you are simplifying. When you’re having a hard time letting go of rodents or clearing away nine or ten of your sewing machines, just remember: this isn’t about you. This is all about sticking it to that one person in mini-group who thinks she’s soooo great just because her sewing room looks like magic elves clean it up every night. Yeah, right. Magic elves from the magic maid service company. Paid for by her magic trust fund. 

If you found these tips helpful, be sure to visit our store, quiltmorewithlesscrap.com, to pick up inspirational key chains, ash trays, t-shirts, throat lozenges, office supplies, toothpicks, feminine hygiene products, Lego sets, and novelty ice cube trays.



*Hey, if you liked this, and you'd like to read more, I have a whole book of this stuff! It's called Quilting Isn't Funny and you can get a paperback copy or a PDF right here! (If you prefer Kindle or Amazon Prime, you can also get them on Amazon.)


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Introducing Daryl and Wildflower Park and Runway

I'm so excited I could bust a gusset! Okay, I've actually just really been wanting to say "bust a gusset" for a while now and this was a good excuse, but OMG YOU GUYZ I MADE QUILT PATTERNS! that's a pretty gusset-busting thing if you ask me.

Introducing...DARYL.


Daryl was made during a major binge of The Walking Dead, and so I named it after my favorite character, the leather-clad, cross-bow wielding Daryl Dixon. I used Kona Silver for the background and the squares are made from a custom jelly roll I got from the wonderful Quilter's Square in Lexington, Kentucky.  (They will custom cut a 40-piece jelly roll in whatever color scheme you specify out of Bella and Kona solids. I asked for blue, purple, and teal, and I may have snuggled the resulting roll just a bit once I received it.)

My husband liked Daryl so much, he asked if we could hang it in the bedroom. 


This is the small size, but the pattern comes in small, medium and large. My intrepid pattern testers made different sizes and all came up with great color combos. 

Rebecca (of Becca's Crazy Projects) chose a really lovely yellow background and very pretty pink and orange and violet prints for her squares. I love how it softens the look of the whole quilt.



Up in Quebec, Manon (whose first language is not English, so I thought she'd be s great help to see if the writing was clear) chose a lovely jelly roll in shades of red for her squares. She even made a matching pillow out of the leftovers!



And Joanne also chose some pretty pinks and black for her color scheme, and experimented with the block settings to create a different look:



My friend Janet, who runs SLO Creative Studio in San Luis Obispo, California, chose a funky print for her background, which really looks cool:



And in living embodiment of the notion that "it's not a mistake, it's a design element," Terry overlooked the part of the pattern which tells you to keep your colors organized and her blocks all ended up scrappy AND IT'S FANTASTIC.


This pattern is available NOW as a PDF in my new shop.


And let's not forget WILDFLOWER PARK.

This scrappy field of flowers is a lot of fun to put together and the big centers on those flowers are just begging for some fussy cutting. (THIS IS WHAT CORGI BUTT FABRIC WAS MADE FOR.)  I end up with a lot of scraps in my stash, and this is a great pattern for using some of them up while still keeping a very cohesive look to the quilt.

The day I finished the binding on this one, it started snowing big, fluffy flakes, so I made my husband hold it up outside so I could get a shot of flowers in the snow. Cuz I'm arty like that.


Pattern tester Annette made it in the medium size and decided to gift it to a dear friend. I love her fabrics!


And Heidi of Happily Stitched made the large and chose a soft green for her background and gave me a lovely review of the pattern:


"Wildflower Park is a sweet pattern with a lot of flexibility. The instructions were clear and straightforward. A beginner quilter could accomplish this pattern with basic skills. It could also be used to teach techniques as it has just enough cutting, point matching and trimming to solidify skills. I had no problems understanding or following any of the instructions. Honestly, I did not work to match points. I mainly pinned seams and winged it. I cut off a few points but by golly you can't see them unless you get close and look. Not to mention in Oklahoma we never, ever have perfect flowers. The wind, rain and hail beat them to death on a regular basis. Wildflower Park is written to be simple and forgiving even to lackadaisical quilters like me. "

This pattern also comes in small (shown), medium, and large and is available now as a PDF in my shop. 

A million, bajillion thanks to Rebecca, Manon, Joanne, Janet, Terry, Annette, Heidi, and Joanie for all their help and feedback. 

And last but not least, RUNWAY

Testers for this pattern were not able to get me photos in time, nevertheless I can say with confidence that this one is fast and easy, and I love it because it uses all 2.5-inch strips, even the background. And there's even an alternate way to set the blocks so you get a different look:

I love this one so much, it's still hanging out on my design wall. This one also comes in three sizes and is—wait for it—available now as a PDF in my shop.

In addition to quilt pattern PDFs, my shop currently has my book (both the paperback and the PDF version), and my Quilt Dots! Quantities of Quilt Dots are currently limited, but they will be restocked when they sell out.

And don't worry - I'm not gonna be constantly bombarding you with pleas to buy my stuff, though I will give you a brief heads-up whenever anything new is stocked or anything sold out is re-stocked.