Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mini Quilt Madness

The railing for the upstairs landing of my house has been a quilt display rack and storage spot for some time now, but since my left shoulder froze up it has also become Quilt Top Limbo. My shoulder is starting to improve so I am able to do short periods of rotary cutting now, but I still can't baste or quilt anything much larger than a mini without later wishing for sweet, sweet death to come take me from this living hell.

I've mentioned my sampler about a bajillion times, I know, and I'm not showing it because I keep thinking I'm going to turn it into a pattern or do a quilt-along with it, or a BOM kinda thing, but I feel like I can't do any of that until it's an actual quilt and not just a top - so that's on the pile.

Then there's the quilt I made for a friend so I can't show that either and I can't send that one out to be quilted because I am pathological about needing it to have been done by only MY HANDS.

After I made my Weird and Wonderful Thing,  I decided that I really wanted to make the koi quilt from Casey York's book, Modern Appliqué Illusions.

Then Harper felt a Halloween quilt was in order and she really wanted one she had found on Instagram. Turned out to be a free pattern from Andover. We scoured our already ample Halloween stash and added a few more pieces and made this:

So that's four quilt tops just hanging out on my railing. And yeah, I know most of you are rolling your eyes and going, "FOUR quilt tops? That's nothing. I haven't quilted a top since 1974 and several of them have fused together under the weight of them all. I spit upon your puny, unfused collection." But puny as it may be, I still don't like amassing tops I can't finish. My Weird and Wonderful Thing showed me that there's a lot of creativity and satisfaction to be found in smaller projects, so I decided to focus on mini quilts for a while.

As I have mentioned ad nauseam, Instagram is really becoming my social network of choice. I'm increasingly unhappy with Facebook as both a personal social medium and a business one. Facebook doesn't want to show you my posts unless there's a lot of engagement on them, and they seem to actively suppress posts that they then want me to "boost" by giving them money. I'm not entirely opposed to that, but they keep telling me I have offensive content and though they take my money anyway, my "boost" doesn't reach very far because they're making some sort of super-safe guesses as to who can safely view my extremely incendiary prose. Fucking cockwankers.

Instagram, owned now by the algorithm-happy folks at Facebook, has historically been a little more straightforward (though even that is changing). And I just like the simplicity of it. Just photographs and comments. No links. (I could go into a long treatise here about why the links on Facebook are detrimental to everyone's well-being, but I'll refrain. We've all been through enough this week.) In fact, Instagram is where I discovered swapping and the joys of mini quilts.

But like everything that involves people, we can't have nice things. Not for long anyway. I found that some people were being pushed out of swaps because their skills were not as good as many of the other people swapping, and that's where I had to draw a line. But then I also realized that what I really liked about swapping was not so much getting something but being creative within a set of rules set up by someone else. Like, for instance, a Disney-themed swap and the recipient really likes appliqué, Alison Glass fabrics, and the color teal.  I like having a set of constraints like that and then seeing what I can do within them to make it fun and challenging for me. I just didn't want to do it from swapping anymore.

So I came up with an idea I decided to call Mini Quilt Madness. On Instagram, i posted a series of choices, and went with the majority vote. Rather than work in a color scheme, I decided to use one collection, but gave people a choice to vote from four:

The overwhelming choice was for Sherlock down there on the bottom left (Raindrop by Rashida Coleman-Hale). Then I asked if I should do patchwork, appliqué, or paper piecing and everybody wanted paper piecing, so I gave them several choices and the majority went with Up and Away by Whole Circle Studio.

Now that I had my parameters, I set to work and posted update photos each day.

But I really felt something, or someone, needed to be riding in that balloon. Something that would really make this little quilt feel like mine.

So, naturally I added an octopus.

By the time all was said and done, I had done paper piecing, appliqué, trapunto, embroidery, free motion quilting, and hand quilting. I freaking loved it.

And then I gave it away.

Yep. Every time a person participated in one of the choices I offered, their name went in a hat, and when it was all done I chose one and sent the quilt to her. Now there's a lovely lady in Montana who has this hanging in her office, and I couldn't be happier.

I love making things. I love stretching my creative muscle just a bit farther each time I make something. I don't need to keep everything I make.

But apparently I do need to put an octopus on it.

I'll be doing this again soon, so if you aren't following me on Instagram you can find me as @thebitchystitcher. (And yes, you really need a smartphone or tablet.)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A pep talk, in case you need it

As I have mentioned before, I belong to a couple of the big quilting groups on Facebook, and I love them. People get weird on occasion, but for the most part, they are earnest and kind. And no, most of the quilters on these groups aren't creating masterpieces—and that is precisely why I love them. I love seeing people make things just for the love of making them, and doing so according to their own aesthetic, however that aesthetic was developed and even if I don't necessarily share it.

The other day, I was scrolling along on FB, and I came across this post, which pretty much stopped me in my tracks:

There were so many things I wanted to say to her, but I knew that, for one thing, any comment would be eventually lost in the sea of comments that flood the posts on these groups. And for another, I had a LOT to say. So I'm going to say them here instead, and maybe my thoughts will work themselves around to her someday, or maybe they'll help someone else who is feeling something similar. Or, maybe I just like hearing the sound of my own...keyboard.

So, here goes:

No matter how good a quilter you are, someone will always be better than you. Maybe that person is better than you right now, or maybe they existed 50 years ago, or maybe they haven't been born yet. Maybe they are famous. Maybe no one knows who they are at all. But they're out there somewhere in the space-time continuum, you can be sure of that.

And the converse is true: No matter how bad a quilter you are, someone out there is worse.

See, some quilters have natural talents for color and design, and some of those quilters have been able to develop those talents through education. Some quilters have had the luxury of time to be able to practice and practice and practice, and the luxury of money to make endless numbers of quilts that weren't quite good enough until they got it right. Some quilters have access to specialized or higher-quality machines that make some of the more difficult techniques a little easier. Some quilters are able to attend classes and workshops to learn new techniques or improve upon the ones they already know.

But the key word there? Some. Some quilters.

Not all.

Not even most.


The internet and social media are distortion fields. They are funhouse mirrors that make some things seem bigger and better than they really are. It can be very easy to scroll through Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest and assume that everybody is creating masterpieces while you are still trying to figure out how to sew in a straight line.

But let's think about numbers.

The 2014 Quilting In America survey estimated that there are about 16 million quilters in the United states alone. Sixteen million. And because of the way that survey is conducted, many people believe that a large number of quilters are left out of it, so the number may be even higher. But we'll work with it for now.

The group on Facebook called "Quilting" has 76,000 members and is, as far as I can tell, the largest such group on FB. Even if ALL the people in that group were expert quilters, they would still only represent .4 percent of the total number of quilters in the US. That's two fifths of one percent (if my math is correct, and I grant you it may not be).

Instagram quilters are harder to quantify, but let's look at the #quilting hashtag there. A search for that tag pulls up 523,256 posts. Undoubtedly, many of those are multiple tags from the same person, but barring any way to actually check that, let's just assume that it represents 523,256 individual quilters. Who are all better than you. (For the sake of argument.) Those half million quilters still comprise only about three percent of the 16 million.

And how many people can you even see on Instagram anyway? Even if you looked at a photograph from a different quilter every second for 24 solid hours, you would have seen the work of only 86,400 quilters—.5 percent of the quilters in the U.S.

In other words, even if you try to start making the assertion that every quilter is better than you, you start to come up against the fact that you cannot actually create a reasonable number of social media users you could potentially be exposed to that even approaches a majority of all the quilters in the country. So, if you are using the images you see on the internet to make yourself believe that a vast majority of quilters are better than you, you are using evidence from a vast minority of all the quilters in the country, not to mention the world.

I'm throwing all this math at you because I really want this point to get across: the internet is not a window into reality. It's more like a petri dish, where the right things in the right environment will grow and spread. But some of those things will be penicillin and some will be E. coli and it's important to know the difference.

So where are all the other millions of quilters? Oh, lots of them are online too; it's just impossible to actually come across 16 million of anything. And lots of them are just making their quilts and giving them to friends or family or charities, or keeping them for themselves, and not bothering to set up a photo with soft, reflected natural light on reclaimed barn lumber—a photo which, because of the angle and the distance of the camera from the subject and the fact that you are viewing it on a phone and you really need to update your reading glasses, may conveniently camouflage the fact that none of the points match up, the quilting is kinda herky jerky, the binding didn't actually get sewn all the way down in several spots, and the back has pleats that could double as pockets.

So many of the quilts we see so artfully photographed online are not as perfect as they seem. How do I know? I've photographed them. As the former art director of a fledgling quilting magazine, I often photographed the quilts for the project pages, and while all the quilts were lovely and perfectly suited for being quilts, none were perfect, and some were very far from it. And those imperfections had to be hidden as much as possible because a magazine is supposed to be aspirational. We don't buy magazines to see images that reflect our reality; we buy them to see images that reflect what we wish our reality could be.

And when it became possible for individuals to display their own images to thousands, maybe even millions, of people on the internet, people began to gravitate towards those bloggers and Flickrers and now Facebookers and IGers whose photographs of their quilts had that aspirational quality we had depended on magazines for before. We are instinctively drawn towards these pretty, well-lit, almost professional-quality photos, and we just as instinctively scroll past the ones that are too dark, taken on the floor instead of a fence on a misty country lane, most definitely not professionally shot and not professionally sewn either.

So while it may certainly seem as though, as seen through the lens of an app or a browser, that the entire world is a better quilter than you, it isn't. It couldn't be. The numbers just don't add up. Some are, yes. Maybe lots. But not all.

I cannot tell you how many times, when I post something about what I have recently made, somebody says, "I could never do that." My own mother once told me she felt bad when she saw what my sister and I have learned to do in quilting because she never advanced that far. And then there's our friend from Facebook up there at the top of this post.

So to her and to all those people who write to me and tell me they'll never be as good as me, and to my dear departed mom, I have one last point. If you make ANYTHING, you are a magician. A quilt, a table runner, a placemat, a block, even just two pieces of fabric sewn together and dropped on the floor—hell, even one piece of fabric cut out of a larger one—none of these things existed in that form until you brought them into being. You are Minerva freaking McGonagall, transmogrifying fabric and thread until it becomes something new, something that, no matter what it looks like or how skillfully it was constructed, is greater than what its parts were before you brought them together. That's magic. That's art.

It's okay to make crappy quilts until you make better ones. It's okay to not want to learn how to do blindfolded origami paper piecing. It's okay to like the fabrics and colors that you like. Just the fact that you are creating something is wonderful and worthy of celebration, no matter how many other people in the world are actually "better" or "worse" than you. Just making something as lovely, as warm, as comforting as a quilt is adding a bit of loveliness, warmth, and comfort to a world that, right now, desperately needs those things.

So, please. Don't give up.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Crafty Bastards

I do love a good craft fair. I don't go to many, unfortunately, but after our sojourn this past Sunday I'm going to make an effort to go to more. Many craft fairs, I find, are rather stodgy affairs with lots of "safe" crafts. Beaded jewelry. Nature photography. Pleasantly scented soaps. A lot of things involving ducks, for some reason. I always scour these fairs hoping to find that one vendor, often tucked into a dark corner because the organizers aren't sure they belong but needed the booth fee, who actually has a sense of humor. I mean, ducks are nice and all, but give me a good platypus any day.

Enter the craft fair of my dreams: Crafty Bastards.

Crafty Bastards happens twice a year in D.C. and is devoted to independent, alternative artists. Many of the vendors were local to D.C, Maryland and Virginia but others came from as far away as the west coast. The October event takes place next to Union Market, near Gallaudet University.

I never made it inside Union Market itself—the fair was under tents in an area to the right of the photo—but all indications are that it is a hipster foodie paradise. David took our daughters in there to eat while I wandered the booths and the girls returned utterly offended that the fries they got were sprinkled in ROSEMARY and fried in DUCK FAT. David said they were the best fries he had ever eaten and did not feel sorry for our children's unsophisticated palates in the slightest. There were also food trucks and we were pleased to see a truck from a Baltimore restaurant we've been dying to try: Dangerous Pies. We got a slice of chicken pot pie and roasted apple cinnamon chess pie to share and while we weren't calling out to God in ecstasy we did enjoy them very much.

I was pretty tickled that the very first vendor I saw was Resident.

Each one of these animal heads is made of folded paper AND they are sold as kits! The pieces are all cut and scored, and they come printed in a way that indicates how to do the folds. The kits come with instructions and a small bottle of glue. They are also expensive—but, c'mon, look at them, totally worth it—and someday, oh yes, one will be mine. But not yet. Because I am a woman who has a deep, abiding love for faux taxidermy of all kinds and I had another maker on my radar:

Zooguu! I've been following Jen Gubicza for a while now on Instagram and when I saw that she was coming to Crafty Bastards, that cemented my plans to come to the show. I even did a quick fabric sale on IG and sold a couple of my beloved Tula pieces so that I would have enough money to get one. I almost brought home a blue narwhal, but then Jen and my husband convinced me to have her make me one in colors of my choosing, so in a couple weeks I will be the proud owner of a lilac narwhal with a silver horn, mounted on wood to be buddies with my beloved Yeti, Grushenka, made by Yetis and Friends. Have I shown you my Yeti? If not, this is her. Isn't she the best thing ever?

And while we're standing there I notice that there are bins of some very interesting prints in front of her counter, and we're all flipping through them, exclaiming about them, and Jen tells us that it's all the work of her husband, Brian Gubicza. And as I'm flipping through, I hit upon this and any resistance I might have had just dwindled and I knew it had to come home with me:

This whole craft fair was murder on my wallet. But so many things were JUST SO ME. Such as these 5x7 certificates made with scout badges by Snarky Scouts:

It was a freaking miracle I stopped at four.

Then I came across Ugly Baby. I knew about Rosalie Gale's work because of a post on Abby Glassenberg's blog from 2015. In it, Rosalie wrote about how she and her husband built a business around waterproof rubber shower art. With glitter and tiny letters and little plastic toys, they created these wonderful and hilarious pieces that are meant to hang by an attached suction cup in your shower. How weird and wonderful is that? But then one day, on the site Instructables, someone who was definitely not Rosalie or her husband posted that they really loved these pieces made by Ugly Baby, so much so that she decided to post detailed instructions on how to make something very similar. At first, Rosalie was horrified to see her work used like this, just out there for anybody to do themselves and not buy from her. But then she thought about it and talked to her husband and realized that this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I urge you to go read the post, because it really made me understand a lot about art and ideas and inspiration and with all the folderol with the MQG and their ill-advised post on derivation, I think Rosalie's conclusions are important.


And put it in my shower.

Also I have a weakness for notebooks and journals, and bookbindery is a craft I've always wanted to learn. So, I stroll over to Moonlight Bindery where I discover a book bound in one of my favorite Kokka prints:


I knew at this point I really had to stop. It was getting absurd. But then my youngest, Devon, and I discovered Cuddles and Rage. Sadly, I did not get any pictures at their booth, but their combo of cute and disturbing was right up Devon's alley, so we got her a tiny magnet shaped like a happy stack of pancakes (which she has spirited away already and I can't find it) and this wee little book:

At this point, I had to declare bankruptcy and stop, plus my kids were tired and getting bored and they had been real troopers, allowing me to see everything at least twice. But there were so many great things and all the makers were such lovely, friendly people it was all I could do not to hug each and every one of them and be all "I ADMIRE YOU SO MUCH." I just love people who throw their creativity out into the world and even dare to try and make a living from it, and I absolutely adore all those who bring a wicked sense of humor to the endeavor. None of the makers I met there really knew it, but they are my people. I'm happy and proud to put some money their way and if I have to have a little less Tula Tree of Life fabric to do so, well then so be it.

Totally worth it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Five out of five stars—would post again!

I am still plugging away at my new humor book, so we're going to revisit another old favorite this week. This was from 2014—TWO YEARS AGO. How in the hell does that happen? Anyway, if you missed it the first time, please enjoy, and if you didn't, I added a whole new bit at the end just for you. 

Sew-Rite 6000 Sewing Machine with Extendo-bed
2 out of 5 Stars
I bought this sewing machine because it was the first item that came up when I did a search for 'bestest sewing machine ever in the history of the universe' so I trusted that I would be getting a good one. It even has a picture of a country music star on the box, so that was another indicator of quality. I was impressed with how lightweight it was—I mean, why do they make stuff so heavy you have to ask a guy to carry it and then you remember you don't have a guy and then you get all depressed and eat donut holes and write One Direction fan fiction until you pass out? That's not really serving the customer. I also appreciated the inclusion of a box of Sharpies for 'personal customization.' I drew Harry Styles giving me a foot rub. All in all, this was a pretty great machine.

However, I am only giving it two stars because the country music singer on the box is sleeping with my Harry and I hate her and I hope she dies in a freak sewing machine accident.

Stitch Master plastic bobbins, pack of 100
1 out of 5 stars



Making Old Quilt Patterns Look Original, by Trudy McQuilterpants
5 out of 5 stars
I was SO excited when my dear, dear friend Trudy sent me a copy of her new book. Since we are such dear, dear friends, I knew this book would be something special. And boy was I right! This book has it all: lots of pictures of quilts draped across sofas, quilt patterns that have been around since time began but are now totally different because they're, like, way bigger and not brown, and writing that doesn't dare to get too interesting. I hope to be famous someday just like Trudy and I totally don't mind that she stole my idea for this book because now I'm sure she'll let me sit by her in our next guild meeting! Call me, Trudy! Love ya!

6.5-inch square acrylic ruler
4 out of 5 stars
This is a great ruler, but I just got a new pattern and I need 4-inch squares. So now I have to buy a new ruler. They should come in a set of ALL the sizes, not just one. Also, does anybody know where to get purse-shaped rulers?

Blankets-n-Bulges 2015 Calendar
1 out of 5 stars

A Quilt to Remember, by Lavinia Havisham-Toshington
2 out of 5 stars
Perhaps Miss Havisham-Toshington is unaware of the long, long tradition of quilt-related fiction into which her novel falls, but someone needs to inform her that in this tradition, people simply do NOT do naked, dirty things with each other. I purchased this novel assuming, as anyone would, that I would be reading yet another wholesome account of how a quilt brought together a community or a family and that my heart would be warmed by a tender account of friendship and potluck suppers. Instead, the only thing warmed was an unmentionable place and I feel violated. I did not appreciate being subjected to several long chapters devoted to extremely energetic couplings between Lance, the gorgeous ne'er-do-well farm hand with a shady past, and Sasha, the beautiful eldest daughter of a cruel man who inherits the family farm and vows to show her father that she can grow corn and milk cows and save the land from foreclosure while lusting after a man she knows she shouldn't want but does anyway. The only reason there's a quilt in the title is because there's an old one in the barn and they keep explicitly fornicating on it instead of quietly going into a bedroom after getting married and then not talking about it like normal people. I had to buy the entire series just to see if they were all as bad and they certainly are. In fact, I have to keep reading them over and over because I honestly can't believe people like this stuff and maybe I'm missing some redeeming aspect of the story, but it's all just bosoms and buns and hay bales. I would have given this zero stars, but I imagine some of those "modern" quilters might like this.

Grip-Tite Finger Covers for Free Motion Quilting
3 out of 5 stars
To be honest, I bought these without really looking at the picture because they were recommended by someone at my guild, who shall remain nameless. (DONNA.) All she said was they were grippy things that go on your fingers to help you hold on to the quilt, but she failed to mention that they are actually super-short condoms. I mean, they don't have a reservoir tip or anything, but they are basically rainjackets for cocktail weenies. I have no idea whether they grip as advertised, because frankly I can't get past my hands looking like some sort of phallic bouquet. And I probably shouldn't mention this, but I threw them in the garbage can and my husband, Chet, found them and accused me of having an affair with our neighbor, Tom, and I can't quite figure out why he singled out Tom but I'm guessing it might have something to do with the size of Tom's, um, tool—and now that I possibly know this I can't face him but he's always out watering his tomatoes and so I can never leave the house again. Plus, HOW WOULD CHET KNOW? So, I'm sure this is a fine product, but I'm docking two stars because I'm pretty sure a quilting notion shouldn't make you question your life choices.


You can read a whole book of my humor columns from my years at Quilter's Home and Generation Q magazines, Quilting Isn't Funny. Get a signed copy or a PDF here or order from Amazon (paperback and Kindle editions available.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Make The Thing


Kind of a weird thing.


I think.

See, last week, I picked up this book:

I bought it because I really wanted the squirrel pattern you can see in the top left corner of the cover, designed by Jennifer Dick, one of my favorite pattern designers. I already have a pretty comprehensive book on appliqué, and I've done just about every method there is, with varying degrees of success.  I have always preferred hand appliqué, whether needle-turn or edges turned over a template. I liked the way, with thin thread and tiny stitches, you can make the shapes and designs almost invisibly attached to the fabric. Fusible appliqué always felt like cheating, yet I would occasionally see pieces that use it to pretty great effect. Then I'd try it again, and I'd hate it.

But for some reason, the projects in this book that used fusible just...spoke to me. In particular, Casey York has a broderie perse quilt with a wreath of flowers that is pretty stunning. (Broderie perse is a form of appliqué where you cut out the printed motifs from a piece of fabric and then stitch them to another piece. If there is enough background fabric around the motif, you can cut a seam allowace around it and then turn the edges under and hand sew. Or, you can cut right along the edge of the motif and use fusible.) There was also a spotlight on Bari J. Ackerman, and it showed a gorgeous broderie perse pillow she made, where the motifs were all layered on top of one another like a collage, with free motion quilting highlighting the shapes. I don't know why, but something went off in my head when I saw these. (SOMETHING'S BEEN OFF IN YOUR HEAD A LONG TIME, HONEY) I had an idea, and more than enough fabric to try it, and I also had drugs.

Pretty much the same day I got the book, I threw my back out. As far as I know, the two events were not related, but who can say? So my doc loaded me up on painkillers and muscle relaxers for a few days, and I really had nothing to do and yet a bizarre ability to focus on something exacting. That part may have been from the steroid. In any case, despite the fact that I once ruminated (HA) on the proliferation of deer fabrics in Quiltland, one particular deer fabric was special to me and I happened to have a LOT of it:

In all three colorways, natch.

So, I had a vision of these deer heads, but I didn't realize until I started cutting just how complex their design is. So, I simplified it and removed the parts that were simply too small to cut:

Once I had several of these, I started arranging them in a circle. It took a lot of trial and error to find the right number and size.

Then I wanted to see if I could add more. I chose the red/pink colorway and added those. Then there was the fun process of transferring what I had done by pinning on foamcore board to fabric, but with drawign lots of lines and guides with a handy blue pen, I got it perfect and ironed it all down.:

(And I'm going to pause here and say that Pelon 805/Wonder Under is the shit. It's really nice and flexible and easy to use.)

Once I had it on the background fabric, I had to quilt it. I pretty much punted on the background and just did a small stipple. I was afraid with my back and shoulder problems, I wouldn't be able to do even that, but it turns out I can handle small pieces fine, just not full quilts. Then I went over each dear head with free motion as well, but just along the edges to keep everything secure and to give the heads a little pop:

The binding is another Tula print from the same collection, though it may just look black here.

It was so incredibly satisfying to work on this, to see what was in my head coming into being. It's far from perfect of course, and definitely strange. But it's mine and I love it.

I think.

Now I have a whole bolt of Wonder Under and a pair of easy-on-the-hands spring-loaded scissors, and I'm ready to try more things. Sometimes, when you get a thing in your head, you just have to make the thing. Even if you're not quite sure of the thing when you're done. But if you have a thought, and you have the tools, the answer is always: Make The Thing. It may not be a masterpiece, but it just may be the first step towards one.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Happy Frothy-Blevinth to Me!

Tomorrow (Friday) is my 47th birthday, and it feels a little weird because I somehow thought I had turned 47 last year and would now be 48, but in reality I am turning the age I thought I was for an entire year and that seems anticlimactic. But whatevs—happy forty-somethingth birthday to me!

The other major milestone I have reached recently is 1000 followers on Instagram. I KNOW, RIGHT? I can tell by your eye rolls you are totally impressed. And why wouldn't you be? One thousand IG followers is...well...OK, it's pathetic, frankly. There are quilters who mainly post pics of their cats shedding all over something vaguely quilty and they have a billion and six followers, so I'm clearly not trying very hard, or I am trying really hard and totally sucking at it. One of those.

But I don't care! I want to celebrate it anyway, because 1000 is such a nice round number, and because I like to exaggerate my accomplishments whenever possible to shore up my self-esteem. If you are on Instagram, and want to follow along with the incredible festivities, you can find me by searching for @thebitchystitcher or go here: or click on the INSTAGRAM rectangle over on the upper right of the sidebar here on the blog. (You still have to follow me once you get there; just clicking the link doesn't do it.) Starting on Friday, August 12—the day I turn frothy-blevin and a half, or something—I will start 5 days of photo challenges. It will start on Friday, take the weekend off—because I will undoubtedly be too busy being smothered with cake and presents to bother with social media—and resume Monday through Thursday.

Each day will have a new photo challenge. If you post a picture based on the challenge, hashtag it with the tag provided for that day. You will need to check my IG feed each morning to get the new challenge and the new tag. Each time you post a new picture, you get an entry to win a prize at the end of the contest. People who participate in ALL FIVE challenges get 5 extra entries on top of however many they already have. The challenges are fairly simple and straightforward, but if you also make me laugh with your entry or your caption, you get an extra entry as well.

So, what am I making you do all this super hard work to potentially win?

Fabric, natch. You will get a giant fat quarter tower of Sunnyside by Kate Spain:

AND—because I love you all so much—you will get a genuine Mark B. heat-activated, ironing board cover:

I KNOW, RIGHT? I can tell by your eye rolls you are totally impressed. Mark B's little pelvic drape there magically disappears when you iron over it. If you really need to see what's under it, you can go here for a nice close-up. (I have no idea if any of the links on that page still work - that post is from 2011!!).

In addition to the fabric and the magic ironing board cover, I will include anything else I come across here in my sewing room that will fit in the box. Might be more fabric, chocolate, some Post-Its - who knows!

Now, I have to limit this to U.S. only. I'M SORRY, YOU GUYS. Postage for a package like this to the great beyond is just more than I can afford, and it's not because I don't love you or that I am just cheap. I'm guessing this will require a medium flat rate box at best and that is $75 to ship to Australia. SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS. I might as well just fly it over in a private jet. Sheesh.

So, to recap, here is the contest:
1. Follow me on IG: @thebitchystitcher  You must be a follower to enter.
2. Check my IG feed on these days:

  • Friday, August 12
  • Monday, August, 15
  • Tuesday, August 16
  • Wednesday, August 17
  • Thursday, August 18

On those days, I will post (on Instagram) the new challenge and the hashtag. Post a picture (ON INSTAGRAM) according to the challenge and use the hashtag. Each picture is one entry. Post as many as you wish, as long as they meet the challenge and include the hashtag.
3. Anyone who posts for all five challenges gets five extra entries.
4. Anyone who makes me laugh gets an extra entry.
5. Reposting is fine to let people know, but does not get you anything.
6. Open to U.S. residents only or to anyone who happens to have some kind of U.S. mail drop.
7. Winner will be announced as soon as possible after Thursday. It may take some time to properly tally the entries but I'll announce as soon as I can.

And don't worry, non-Instagram-using people. I will have more fun for you here on the blog and on Facebook this fall.

Friday, August 5, 2016


A few days ago, the powers that be at The Modern Quilt Guild decided to school the troops about copyright and derivation and inspiration, and it's becoming a big mess as people are trying to decide whether to be insulted or pleased. I have many thoughts about the post, which are complicated and not amusing in the slightest, and which, frankly, bore me to tears just thinking about. So, I'm gonna just stay over here in my pillow bunker and do my thing and ignore the drama. But in case you missed it the first time, here is my ode to clubs, groups, cliques and movements:

I believe that we are on the verge of a new movement in quilting, a revolution in the way we think about and construct quilts, and this movement is growing, ready to burst forth and take over the quilting world. As a pioneer of this movement, I feel it is necessary to define what this movement is and place all kinds of legal restraints on the name of it so I can start suing anybody who tries to horn in on my completely new and original movement. I also plan to say ”movement” a lot.

I’m talking about, of course, Traditional neo retro post-industrialist modern punk quilting, or TNRPIMPQ for short.

TNRPIMPQ began in the streets of Hoboken and the backyard of a modest rancher in Tuscon. It was essentially a reaction to the reactions to modern quilting which all went, “So what? I’ve been making ‘wonky’ blocks ever since I had that unfortunate power drill injury back in ’92 but no one ever called my quilts a movement.” This made many quilters roll their eyes and reach for the tequila, but others responded by trying to get all academic and shit and this made the tequila drinking eye rollers huddle up in dark corners muttering about wanting to be left alone to quilt in peace.

These eye-rolling, tequila-drinking, huddle-muttering quilters began to slowly organize, though they were still considered an underground movement since none of them got quilts accepted into QuiltCon. And when I say, “organize,” what I mean is, “not give a good goddamn.” Several leaders in the movement briefly considered starting up, at the very least, a Facebook page where quilters could frankly not give a shit together, but then realized that someone would have to make up a rule or two and that this would quickly turn into fascism. The Facebook idea was scrapped, and while some members went back to bitching in private, others kept up a campaign of loud, vocal apathy.

Splinter groups quickly formed as some quilters professed a firm belief in “doing it right” and others espoused a more relaxed philosophy of “if it doesn’t fall apart when you breathe on it, it’s good.” This led to the Great Hissy Fit of 2013, but the many ruffled feathers were smoothed over when it became clear that even American Quilter magazine was being taken over by Kona solids.

Then, in 2014, as more people started to realize that arbitrary rules made up by a very small number of self-appointed people were extremely restrictive and that bitch-slapping each other over the internet about whose quilts followed those rules was rather childish, membership of TNRPIMPQ began to surge, except nobody actually knew they were a member because I hadn’t told them so yet. As of right now I am guessing there are at least 10 or 12 of us, and if that isn’t a movement, I don’t know what is.

In order for a quilt to fall under the aegis of the TNRPIMPQ movement, it must:

-       be made of fabric
-       and thread
-       batting should maybe be in there somewhere too
-       be your own design
-       or someone else’s
-       have a coherent composition
-       or look like it came out of a meat grinder
-       use lots of negative space
-       or lots of positive space
-       or no space whatsoever, if you can wrap your head around that
-       be used on a bed
-       or a couch
-       or a dog crate liner
-       or as a wall hanging
-       or whatever the hell you goddamn want
-       seriously, mop the floor with it if you want, it’s still a quilt
-       be utterly free from any expectation or limitation except what you put on it yourself

And it must, without question, make YOU happy.

But if it also has an octopus on it, then it’s extra-TNRPIMPQ-y. Because I said so.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Vision

While I work on my next humor book and continue recovering from surgery, I thought I'd re-post some old favorites of mine that you may have missed. Enjoy!

Last night I went to my kids' school for the annual Back to School Night. I'm sure everybody has this at their school in one form or another. The beginning of the evening was all the perky little PTA moms and one upsettingly perky PTA dad (I'm sorry, but PTA dads should not be perky. Men who are younger than me but are wearing sportcoats and have that old man, parted on the side haircut and talk about PTA budgets like they're selling me vinyl flooring cannot keep my attention for longer than two minutes, tops.) shaming us into taking out a second mortgage to donate to the annual giving program. They have changed the name of this program, by the way. It used to be called the Direct Donation Campaign, but now it's called Invest In Your Child, and the vinyl flooring salesman was SO PROUD of this. You could tell he thought this was the key that would open the wallets of every person in the room. Because we are all too dumb to understand that you are still asking for the same $100 bucks you ask for every year. Oh, so now you are asking me to INVEST my money? IN MY CHILD? Well, let me go sell some plasma, because that's TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

Next we heard from the project manager who is overseeing the building of the new kindergarten wing, and that would have been great because, hey, actual information, but he was one of those people not used to speaking with a microphone and he kept gesturing with his microphone hand. So his whole presentation was "mumblemumblemumblemumblemumblemumblemumble THE RETAINING WALL HAS BEEN COMPLETED mumblemumblemumblemumblemumble SEPARATED BY A FENCE mumblemumblemumblemumblemumblemumble HEY AT LEAST I'M NOT WEARING A SPORTCOATmumblemumblemumble..."

The best part of the evening was, and is always, the presentation by the principal herself. I have no doubt that this woman is a sterling educator, with years of experience and a proven track record, but she has clearly been to way too many business motivation seminars. Her presentation this year was all about the Vision Statement for our school. For our public elementary school. It's not a special school with a unique focus that might need to be clarified for the benefit of parents and other educators. It's a basic K-5 elementary school. It has, despite the complexities inherent in the task, a pretty clear job. I seriously doubt that there are any teachers aimlessly roaming the halls going, "But what's our vision? I cannot competently educate without a clear vision."

The Vision Statement she finally revealed was, as you can imagine, a masterpiece.

It is the mission of our Elementary School to provide a positive and challenging environment where all students will achieve academic, social, emotional and physical success. School staff, students, parents, and community working together will achieve and maintain an atmosphere of respect, support, and high expectations.

And that's fine. There's nothing at all wrong with this and I'm sure it does no harm, but I can't help but wonder if the effort that goes into writing and refining and then presenting these kinds of mission statements and vision statements makes any bit of discernible difference in how teachers do their jobs or kids do theirs. At one point she emphasized that she would be working very hard this year to make sure that everyone understands the Vision Statement. So, is somebody gonna go, "Um, I'm okay with most of it, I think, but I'm a little unclear on the concept of physical success. That means I get to beat them into submission, right? With big sticks?"

I think I just have a general problem with having the obvious spelled out for me as though there was no way I could have come to that extremely self-evident conclusion on my own, or that I will somehow be subconsciously compelled to do something more or better because I read some touchy feely words. Now, the magazine I used to work for had a need for a statement of purpose, because we were hoping to reach a certain type of quilter. Being able to clarify that made it easier for us to communicate with potential buyers, advertisers, and contributors and to keep our own focus when we considered projects and articles for inclusion. Because it wasn't immediately obvious what part of the niche we were trying to reach. But, if that statement were somehow just all about how excellently we are going to excellent our excellence, I would have a hard time reading it what with all the eye rolling. OF COURSE we want to do our work well. Success—yes. Excellence—yepperoonie. THAT GOES WITHOUT SAYING. Or at least it should. If you're doing a job and not intending to kick ass at it, ain't no vision statement in the world gonna make you start putting in an effort.

But, you know, maybe I'm just naive and that's how the world works. Maybe people really do give more money to the exact same program if it's called Invest In Your Child instead of The Direct Donation Program. Maybe people really do need to be told what their job is and that they're supposed to try to succeed at it in order to, you know, succeed at it. Otherwise, why would seemingly reasonable people spend so much energy creating Vision Statements?

So, I figure maybe I need some more Vision Statements in my life. I'm probably not being excellent enough because my vision is unclear and ill-defined. I decided to start with my family:

The mission of the Dougherty Family is to provide the matriarch, Megan Dougherty, with enough snacks, fabric, and solitude to enable her to make a damn quilt once in a while. In return, she will clean some things occasionally, and cook some stuff, and will provide hugs on demand for all the shorties in the house. She will, if asked in JUST THE RIGHT WAY, also provide more adult-type hugs to the family patriarch as long as he is not in the doghouse for a birthday infraction or because he didn't take any Beano with that big bowl of chili and is now crop dusting every room he occupies. Everyone will do all of this excellently, with success and dynamic thriving growth and stuff.

And so, naturally, I figure this blog needs one too:

The mission of The Bitchy Stitcher blog is to enlighten, entertain, and inspire my readers through blog posts and Facebook status updates, which will only occasionally be about quilting. Oh, and there will be penis jokes. Excellent, excellent penis jokes. With success and dynamic thriving growth and stuff.

That's pretty fucking excellent.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's not easy being the color of corruption and blight

I used to be amused when I heard people talking about colors they dislike and won't use in their quilts. Some people get all skeeved out by pink, possibly due to its unfortunate social designation as a "girly" color or perhaps as the result of some sort of Pepto-induced trauma. Some people hate purple because, well, some people are just damaged and cannot be saved from themselves. I used to hate yellow because my childhood bedroom furniture was yellow and the walls were yellow and my sheets were yellow and that's just too much yellow in one room. It was like my mom had been specifically deprived of that color as a child and had decided that her offspring would be bathed in its golden glow forever and ever to balance the scales.

But as I got more and more into quilting and into appreciating colors and how they relate to each other, I realized that yellows are perfectly lovely and useful, that any color can be beautiful depending on how it is used and there really is no need to throw any one color out of bed just because it once farted near you. This of course gave me ample opportunities to feel smug whenever anyone else would express their disdain for whatever color currently offended them. At the announcement of the Pantone color of the year I would watch as people gasped in horror and dismay, as though the Pantonians had, with malice aforethought, chosen the one color that makes people spontaneously combust upon seeing it. And so I would sit back and smugly smug to myself, "It's just a color. It's like one of the lesser Kardashians—it only has meaning in relation to other Kardashians."

However, as usually happens whenever I get smug about anything, the universe finds a way to take me down a peg. I started going through my scraps and organizing my stash in preparation for some projects I had planned, and during the process I kept coming across a particular color and thinking, "Ew." Or sometimes, "Gak!" And also, "Why the fuck is this here?" It is a color so heinous, so vile, you would think it ought to be outlawed for the sake of common decency, but no. It's real, and it's everywhere. I'm talking about, of course:

This color has managed to sneak into my stash and even into projects I have made. Years ago, I made a quilt out of a layer cake I had and thought I loved. I had believed the colors were predominantly blues and bright plums, oranges and yellows. But once it got it all put together, I couldn't quite figure out why it all just looked like mud.

At first, I thought it was all the yellow, but then I decided that the yellows, like all the other colors in the quilt, are bright and clear and happy. It's the greens that all look like overcooked asparagus.

There's nothing clear, bright and happy about those greens. Those are greens of despair. Those greens have lost hope. Those greens said, "Yeah, we could have evoked spring and leafy trees and the soft grass of a rolling meadow, but we'd rather evoke baby poop BECAUSE LIFE IS SHIT AND NOTHING MATTERS."

Green is a combo of blue and yellow, right? A little more blue and you lean towards teal. A little more yellow and you get your spring-y yellow-green. But then you add a wee bit of red to the mix? Then you get Nausea Green. It's not quite brown, not quite green. You can actually feel the orange in it, trying to claw its way out. It does no color that has to sit next to it any favors. And yet designers keep throwing it in with perfectly good colors, either as an accent:

Or as the background:

In fact, some designers will use it as one of the colorways in an entire line. So, who sits down with their fabric company execs and says, "For this lovely and delicate floral collection, I've created three palettes: Clementine, Berry Mist, and Sinus Infection"?

In fact, I've seen so many greens in so many lines heading over to this direction, I started wondering if maybe true green dyes have just gotten too dear, and whenever a designer turns in a collection that uses too much of it, the fabric company comes back and goes, "What, you think we're made of money? Go back and stank up these greens to a hue we don't have to buy on the black market." But I suspect that's not how fabric colors actually work.

And lovely, happy, non-bilious greens are possible to produce.

So it's not like it can't be done. Some people just choose not to, I guess. Just like some people choose not to bathe or perform routine dental hygiene.

Now, here comes the obligatory part where I say if you love dyspepsia green and you have decorated your whole house in it and you'd dye your own hair that color if you could I'M NOT SAYING YOU SHOULDN'T. If one of the fabrics I've shown above was created by a designer that you would sell your own children to sit next to on a crosstown bus, I'm totally not judging you. Everybody gets to have preferences and make choices, even if those choices indicate perhaps a mild brain-eating parasite infestation. Just because you clearly bathe in slime mold, that doesn't make you a bad person. Just like my deep and abiding love of purple doesn't necessarily make me supremely intelligent and worthy of adulation and emulation. You do you, as the whippersnappers say.

My actual point here is that while I was feeling all superior about how some people hate perfectly good colors for what I considered to be no good reason, and was routinely climbing on my "all colors matter" high horse, one color came along, barfed on my shoes, and taught me a very valuable lesson. A lesson that has given me pause, caused me to do some hard thinking, and has truly humbled me.

HAHA I'm kidding; this color fucking sucks.


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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

First she writes a blog post. What she does next? DESTROYED MY FAITH IN A JUST AND LOVING GOD

I love quilters. I really do. And I especially love hanging out online where they hang out. Go on forums and pages for just about anything else (especially anything that attracts mostly dudes), and you'll just find a bunch of blowhards bloviating into the electronic ether. It could be anything from politics to popcorn (MY GOD, the alliteration today), and they will argue and posture and grandstand until you finally want to see all humanity die in a volcano.

But quilters are so earnest! And nobody is ever sure of themselves, so when they tentatively ask, "Is this good?" eight hundred others practically fall all over each other to say, "Yes, it's good!" People keep talking about the "quilt bullies" like that's a real thing, but honestly, if anyone has ever beaten up another quilter on a regular basis at guild and stolen her raffle ticket money, I've never witnessed it. What I do see is occasionally one quilter will not be as forthcoming with unreserved praise and might instead offer constructive criticism untempered with flowers and unicorn farts, and this is sometimes interpreted as being totally mean.

I keep hearing stories about actual bullying happening in online groups and forums, but I have yet to see it. Or maybe I see it all the time, but because my meanness meter is set to go off only if there's bloodshed, I just don't recognize it. What I do see is people being very helpful and very encouraging, and it's just sweet as hell. A lot of the quilters who participate are new to the craft and really have no idea what they are doing, but everybody is so patient and no one ever gets ridiculed for not knowing as much as others.

I have heard rumors that the more modern-oriented Facebook groups are the ones that are really nasty, but then upon further investigation, "nasty" usually means the admin deleted a photo because the quilt didn't quite fall under the "Denyse Schmidt would have pushed over her own grandmother to make something that freaking modern" criterion. But even if they do, there's still a vocal group of total strangers to buoy the rogue quilter up and make her feel good about herself again.

I think one of my favorite things about quilty Facebook groups are the complaints about the groups themselves, often from people who don't quite understand how Facebook and/or the internet works.

Groups like these get spammed a lot as well, and this really flummoxes people. Some of the spam is ostensibly links to those stupid clickbait sites that say things like, "She opened a regular old tube of extra-strength hemorrhoid cream. What she did with it next TOUCHED MY VERY SOUL." And some is porn, naturally, because this is the internet and nothing online is safe from being porned up on occasion, but many of these people don't seem to be aware of this and don't know the report-it-if-you-can, ignore-it-if-you-can't rule we all live by in the hinterwebz. 

But what I really love about these groups, besides the friendly support and the porn confusion, is that it reminds me I may have something to offer quilters other than my bizarre sense of humor and my stunning good looks. I have a tendency to dismiss my own skills and accomplishments. "I've only been quilting for 8 years," I think to myself. "In the grand scheme, that's nothing." But it's not nothing, and there are plenty of people out there who are in week one, month one, year one, of their quilting journey and they, like Jon freaking Snow, know nothing.

I think I may have something to offer the quilter who is just starting out, who wants to learn on her own as much as she can, but who finds the information out there incomplete, biased by sponsorship deals (okay maybe that's just me), and the people offering it painfully unaware that not everyone who quilts is wealthy and holds advanced degrees. Yes, there's a lot of information out there. I just think it could be better.

BUT NOT YET. Because I have to go back to the freaking hospital next week and have hernia repair surgery to shove my intestines back into my gut where they belong. Seems my big incision from last year's colon surgery didn't hold together real well. I've put it off as long as possible and have lost somewhere in the range of 12-15 pounds (out of a total of 50 I hope to lose in the next year) in the assumption that less poundage equals better surgery outcome. It certainly equals less knee pain and better fitting clothes. I have no idea what recovery from this kind of hernia repair is like, plus there's the whole being allergic to narcotics thing. I have heard estimates that range from one week to a month or more before feeling like myself again.

But until then, I have social media, and The Night Manager, and a large stack of books (okay, a large number of Kindle downloads, but whatevs) to keep me occupied. But if the porn content on Facebook quilting groups takes a sharp downturn over the next month, I assure you it's entirely coincidental. 


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.