Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zorgon the Swapper

Those of you who are not on Instagram (and I do not blame you one bit) will have missed this, since I think I only posted about it there. I joined Instagram about 2 years ago and I have found it to be a nice alternative to Facebook. I hate Facebook so very much, yet I have to maintain a personal account in order to have a page for my blog, and my blog page is a huge and important marketing tool for me so I can't give it up. But, oh, if I could I would drop my personal account in a heartbeat. I had thought that FB was going to be a great thing for me since I am so introverted I'm practically inside out, but it turns out that all it has done is completely confirm my general dislike of humanity. I keep trying to look at it as a tool to observe people, to take notes on human nature (particularly quilter human nature - hoo boy!) but apparently human nature just makes me mad.

But Instagram, for me anyway, gives me a little more distance and I guess I also see it as an offshoot of my blog and not so much as a way to socialize. I like just popping up a picture and an innocuous caption, and seeing the same from friends and strangers alike. I've yet to see anyone get overtly political (though I'm sure people do) and the biggest foofaraw I've yet seen there was about people who sell fabric on IG charging outrageous prices for Tula Pink. (Seriously, y'all, if you have any old Tula fabric you don't want, go sell it on IG - you can make serious bank.) And of course, every few months comes the "Why are people so mean?" post and it makes me SO MAD that I don't know what the hell they're talking about. I've never seen anyone say anything mean on IG, and just like with the whole "quilt bullies" thing, I often suspect that "mean" is being equated with "mildly critical or just not dripping with unequivocal praise." 

Swaps are a big thing on Instagram, and I often see posts of people announcing swaps, joining them, and preparing the items they are making for their swaps. IG swaps have a lot of interesting themes, from certain designers to color schemes to fandoms and dirty words. In fact, earlier this year someone started a cussin' swap, called The Bitches Get Stitches Swap,  and I immediately signed up for it. The idea was to celebrate our mutual love of profanity by making something that used it in some way. You get assigned a partner and though your partner doesn't know who you are, you get to find out a little bit about them via a little survey everyone fills out, plus you can follow them on IG and other social media such as Pinterest to get a sense of what they like. All I could really gleam from my partner's stuff was that she liked "the f-word" and the color blue.

When my friend Sam Hunter came out with her book Quilt Talk, I fell in love with the fabric buckets she designed for it:

I decided to make my swap partner a special bucket. In Sam's book, you can use her paper-pieced alphabet to label the bucket, but what I wanted to say wouldn't have fit well that way, so I replaced the pieced panel with one I printed. I chose a blue Amy Butler print for the outside and a Kaufman print for the inside that I thought worked well.  This is what I made:

Why I have not yet made one of these for myself remains a mystery.

My swap partner was from Brazil and she decided to attempt embroidery for the first time. I think she did a fabulous job and also managed to intuit my deep, deep love for The Big Lebowski:

My second swap is a Lizzy House mini quilt swap. I have a ridiculous amount of Lizzy House fabric that I've been sitting on for a long time, and I thought it would be wise to give myself a reason to cut into it. It's so stupid to have all this fabric and never use it (though I could potentially solve our how-the-hell-are-we-going-to-pay-for-college dilemma by selling it). My partner indicated that she loved Lizzy's Constellations line, and that's what I happened to have the most of, so I hemmed and hawed over design until I finally decided on this:

But I couldn't decide if I liked it enough, and thinking about my Tula quilt, I thought I'd whip out a Lizzy rainbow Dresden plate as an alternative.

I love that pearl bracelet center so much.

Swaps are always a gamble because your partner may not be technically skilled or could even turn out to be a flake. Flakes are the people who commit to a swap and then don't put out. This is enough of a problem that some swap organizers have started keeping a list of the worst offenders. Some swappers volunteer to be "angels" who will make an item for someone whose partner has flaked out (or legitimately dropped out for personal reasons). with all of my fussing over getting things right, I will actually end up with two of each of these minis, so I can easily be an angel in this swap if needed. But I kinda hope I get to keep at least one.

If you are interested in joining Instagram, it works best as a phone or tablet app (you can access it via a desktop computer browser, but it doesn't offer the same functionality). If you want to see the kind of stuff I post, just click my big purple Instagram button at the top right of this page (those of you who read my blog posts via email can also click here) or you can search for me on IG by The Bitchy Stitcher or by my IG name: @meganzdougherty. The Z stands for Zorgon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Please (neglect to) Nominate Me For This Prestigious (non-)Award!

National Quilters Circle Blogger Awards - Nominate Me badge

A few days ago, I was contacted by a marketing person for something called The National Quilters Circle. He informed me that this circle thing is holding blogger awards and that my blog had come up several times in nominations, presumably for Most Humorous Blog. He thought that I might want to encourage my readers to go and nominate me in this category, so that I can win the coveted title and lord it over all the other quilting humor blogs out there. When quilting humorists get together, I can wear my 2015 National Quilters Sphere Most Humorous Blog Award Winner t-shirt that I will totally have to make myself because they don't actually provide such a thing to the winners, and I can puff out my chest, where the logo is located, and be all, "Do YOU have a 2015 National Quilters Rhomboid Quadrilateral Most Humorous Blog Award Winner t-shirt? NO YOU DON'T." And then that one blogger will rip off her jacket, revealing her own self-made t-shirt and then we'll have to take it outside where I will most definitely mess her up because mama don't play.

So you can see why one might think I would be keen to win such a thing. Now, these contests have come up before, and I have on occasion half-heartedly posted a link on Facebook and suggested that maybe if people had nothing better to do they might want to think about going and nominating me. And a small handful of people always responds. But I have never actually gone on my blog and begged for nominations and votes. BUT NO MORE. Today I stand before you, my hat in my hand, my heart on my sleeve, my Cheetos on their way to my mouth because it's totally snack time, and I entreat you: please go to the National Quilting Illuminati Triangle and nominate my humble little blog for Most Humorous Quilting Blog.

I'm totally kidding. Don't bother. Here's why:

The National Quilters Circle is not a circle of any kind unless you are familiar with the Italian poet Dante. It is the brainchild of a company called TN Marketing, and they specialize in something called "affinity content marketing." The basic idea is that they develop and host video content related to something in which a large number of like-minded people might be interested, such as quilting or recreational dishwasher repair. In fact, the National Quilters Circle is a thing this marketing company came up with themselves. They were not hired by quilters to do this. They also came up with "The Woodworkers Guild of America" (which is not a guild of any kind) and "The Personal Defense Network" (which is not a network of any kind). All of these sites are built on the same platform: there are free videos and there are "premium" videos. You become a paid member in order to access the "premium" videos, and this can be paid as a monthly or a yearly fee. There's a blog. And a couple items thrown into a store for sale, mostly DVDs and more portals for the "premium" service. That's it.

In addition, I looked at some of the free videos, and I immediately noticed something. A couple years ago, (itself a part of Fons and Porter and which I don't even think still exists) asked me to review their site, and I got access to a video of my choice. I took screenshots of some of the videos and they were all filmed in this same little studio:

Now check out the background (and the teacher!) of this free video from That National Quilters Circle:

Now, I can't imagine a marketing firm being willing to actually set-up, film, and produce quilting videos themselves; it wouldn't be cost-effective. So, they have to get the content from somewhere—perhaps a place that already produces and markets videos and has extra ones on hand to sell or one that couldn't make their own paid content business model work and can sell it off to another company who wants to try to make a go of it.

None of this is secret and took me literally five minutes of internet clicking to figure out.

Now, before the rabid Randian capitalists among you start calling for my head, let me just say this: I do not care that this company is trying to make money. We're all trying to make money in some fashion. And in an economy that is becoming more and more internet-based, people have to be a bit more creative about how they make that money. I get that. But I also have this old-fashioned streak in me that thinks selling stuff should ideally be a little more straightforward. I have stuff to sell. I hope to have more stuff to sell fairly soon. When I do, I will show you my stuff, and direct you to the place or places where you can purchase it if you wish. If you buy my stuff, it helps my family and keeps me off the streets so I can keep writing goofy shit on the internet for you to enjoy. It's the Circle of Life. But I'm not going to suggest via a cleverly crafted name that buying my stuff makes you a member of some elite club. And I can be totally open about where the stuff I'm selling comes from: me. When The Bitchy Stitcher pops up on your Facebook feed, it's just me. And there's lots of us out there trying to honestly make a buck or two without having to resort to weird branding schemes to do it.

I don't want you to march over to their Facebook page and loudly declare that you will not be taken in by such schemes. I'm not looking for anyone to write nasty emails or blog comments. I just want to help you be a little more aware as a consumer of stuff and content on the web just how often you are being marketed to in this way. If I had just posted a link to The National Quilting Circle blog nominations page, would you have looked a little deeper? Would you have looked up the url for the website (which is different from the blog nominations page) and scrolled down to read all the About Us and Contact Us and Terms of Service info that would, if you paid attention, lead you to the name of the marketing company that runs it and then to their website which declares that they made this up themselves? If you shared a link from someplace called The National Quilting Circle, wouldn't it feel as though you were linking to something produced by a prestigious organization on par with AQS? Of course it would—that's the point.

If the videos obtained by and now sold by this marketing firm are genuinely helpful and good and worth your dollars, then spend and view in good health! There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a commodity to sell and nothing wrong with buying it if you want it. There's nothing wrong with companies using this firm to help them market themselves via video content. I just hope that the next time you see a contest, a Facebook page, an ad for something that calls itself a circle or a club or a network, take the five minutes it took me to do some Googling and read some fine print to see what it's really all about.  That exclusive group you just joined might really be a group of marketing execs hoping you'll hand over your credit card info after giving them some free advertising.

But remember: if it's a Movement, you totally want to join that shit.

Monday, April 13, 2015

New from Effluvia Fabrics

Last week, I was perusing the interwebz for sale fabric and I stumbled across a small, unassuming little notification in an online shop that a collection of scented fabrics would be available soon.

Scented. Fabrics.

For a moment, I hoped I had read this in error and it really said sentient fabrics, because that would be less terrifying. But no. Scented fabric. Fabric imbued with some sort of alien stink technology that you can probably never wash out and which eventually infects every other fabric it touches with its invisible stench rays.

I honestly cannot imagine who thought this was a good idea. Probably somebody who has never been to a guild where half the membership wants the entire group to sign a pledge never to take a shower in the same bathroom where somebody has once stored a sealed container of Bath and Body Works shower gel within 2 weeks of attending a meeting. People are freaky about smells. Some people really do have reactions to perfumes and need to carry an Epi-pen at all times or they get migraines if exposed to certain smells, but lots of people just hate to smell anything they didn't cause.

And you just know the available smells are going to be pretty predictable: strawberry, lemon, grape, some sort of rosy flower, maybe cinnamon. Lavender. In the fabric collection I saw, there was a grey one and the name of it didn't indicate what the smell was supposed to be, so I'm hoping it's something like Storm Runoff  or Dust Bunnies or That Chair That Grandpa Won't let Grandma Throw Out Because It Still Smells Like The Cigars He Used to Smoke Back In The Days When A Man Could Enjoy A Nice Stogie After Work Without Somebody Getting All Up In His Grill About Lung Cancer. Of course if you want that smell, just buy some fabric on eBay.

In fact, here are some of the smells I think they should offer:
• Salted caramel (because let's face it, that's just good business—every quilter on earth is apparently in some sort of intimate relationship with salted caramel. I have no idea if you can even smell the salted part, but I guarantee you no one will care.)
• Tom Hiddleston's neck
•, that's it. That's all I got. Seriously, who thought this was a good idea?

And why stop with smell? Surely even now fabric scientists are hard at work developing a viable formula for flavored fabrics. And again, the offerings would probably be pretty obvious: strawberry, lemon, grape. Chocolate. The tears of one's enemies. I would buy a ton of taco flavored fabric just because I could, but only as long as it didn't smell. Smells are gross.

I bet what those little Howard Starks are actually keeping in the vault is acoustic fabric—fabric you can hear. Using a special type of nano-thread that can record several seconds of sound, the fabric stays perfectly silent until it is touched. Then it sends signals through the nervous system directly into the ear drum, so the fabric communicates directly with the consumer. Naturally, several companies would see this strictly as a marketing opportunity and embed ads in the fibers, but the truly enterprising would realize that this is the best way for quilters to listen to dirty audio books while sewing. Or if you could buy fabric with one word per color or print , you could create a quilt that sends a message as you run your hand over it, such as "Get your dirty, stinking mitts off my quilt, bitch."

Who knows what's next on the horizon, but scented fabrics are really a thing that is coming to invade your nostrils. I only wonder if somebody remembered to send them the deer memo?