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.


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. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Clever Notions

Cue trumpet fanfare, confetti, release of several white birds, some of which naturally poop on the assembled crowd, chorus line, terrible metal band no one actually invited, streakers, and riot police.

Now that everything is all official-like, I can finally show you what I've been up to. While the first few months of this year were taken up by getting ready for, having, and recovering from colon surgery, since then I've been plotting a new direction for my business life. Sales from my first book, Quilting Isn't Funny, were great, and what I loved most about that experience was that I was able to do it entirely on my own. I work best and am happiest when I work independently, and I am very, very fortunate to be in a position where I can do that.

I've worked with graphic design in some capacity since 2001—I've designed ad campaigns for local businesses, company logos, buttons, and t-shirts. I was even the art director for a quilting magazine. But almost all of those things were done as work-for-hire, or were licensed or manufactured through another party. I've worked as a writer and editor in periodicals since 2004, but almost always as the assistant or associate editor. And the content in my book, even though I produced the book itself on my own, was written under contract to others. Last year, I severed my last ties with a long-time employer in the quilting industry because I knew it was time to strike out on my own.

The almost constant illness of the last half of 2014 slowed me down a lot, but the gears still turned, and I knew I wanted to be able to start selling my own products from my own online storefront, as well as to produce more things and write more books. With the encouragement of my dear friend Sam Hunter, I also started working up some of my own original quilt designs into patterns, and I have been plotting to make my own embroidery designs for quite some time now.

I decided to start an entirely new company and brand, Clever Notions. The name originally came for one of my humor columns and was the name of a fictional quilt store that held an annual quilt design competition. I realized that it was perfect for my business, since it not only has sewing connotations, but really can cover almost anything, and therefore doesn't limit me in case I want to branch out beyond the quilting world in the future.

So, why didn't I stick with the name I've been using since I started this whole blogging and sewing thing back in 2008, The Bitchy Stitcher? I chose that name back then as a joke: when I decided to learn to quilt and to blog about it, I assumed that someone would have taken that name already as it seemed so obvious. But no! Not a soul, and I saw that this was because every blog back then was all cherries and lollipops and sweetness and well-lit photographs. I knew any blog I was gonna write was going to have ample cursing, frequent references to bodily functions, and poorly lit pictures of badly made beginner quilts. The Bitchy Stitcher was perfect, and, I assumed, would pretty much guarantee that no one would ever read me and I could maintain blessed anonymity forever.

And you see how well that worked out. :-)

In truth, the name The Bitchy Stitcher has been as much of an obstacle as it has been a good brand (and, god, I hate that word). Advertisers that you see on every blog everywhere won't advertise here. Facebook limits my reach because the name is "offensive." And despite the fact that I wish the world would pull the big stick out of its collective butt, I do understand that many people find the name objectionable. And while I could market my work to only you guys, in reality I need be able to market the stuff that has the possibility of wider appeal (such as quilt patterns) to a larger audience. It would suck if I started printing quilt patterns, and no one would carry them because of the word "Bitchy" on the cover.

But The Bitchy Stitcher is not dead! Oh, hell no. This blog will continue, and I'd really like to see it go back to what it used to be: a place where I can have fun, and talk about whatever I feel like, whether it's quilting related or not. This is where I can come to just be my normal snarky, sarcastic, pathologically introverted self. The Bitchy Stitcher is just me—not a brand. It doesn't work as a brand, and maybe it shouldn't. I've resisted the entire concept of "branding" throughout my career, but maybe that's because I didn't start out intending to become a brand. Or have one. However you're supposed to say it.

On Thursday, I'm going to show you my first two quilt patterns, which will be ready for sale (as PDFs) in my new Big Cartel store (link to come then as well). I'm working on a third pattern now, and there are other items in the works which will roll out as they become ready. If you'd like, you can subscribe to the new Facebook page which will also have all the announcements that pertain to my new venture.

And, as always, thank you all for joining me on this journey.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

So you want to sell (or buy) fabric on Instagram: a guide for the perplexed

I mentioned on a recent post that I occasionally buy and sell fabric through Instagram, the photo sharing phone app. I also noted that certain fabrics, such as out-of-print Tula Pink, can sell for absurdly high prices. This may have made some of you think to yourselves, "Hey, I have fabric. And I like sweet, sweet cash. Maybe I could sell some of my stash on Instagram." I recently saw someone do her first sale on IG—she posted little text pics letting everyone know it was coming and that it was her first sale and she was a bit nervous. She posted all her stuff—fabric and patterns and a couple sewn items—and...nothing. No sales. Not one bite. And that made me think that perhaps some of the things I've learned from observing, as well as from buying and selling, could be useful to those who want to give it a shot but aren't sure how it works or whether their stuff will sell. If nothing else, you'll learn that people are total nutburgers about certain designers and this may not be particularly healthy.

How It Works

First, you have to have the Instagram app and an account. Yes, it is a phone app, not a computer program or a website (there is a website, but it doesn't have the full functionality of the app). This may not seem fair, but there it is. 

You see other people's photos on IG by following them, or by doing searches for people or for hashtags. Hashtags allow you to see lots of photos of one subject, such as #narwhals or #recreationaldishwasherrepair. Groups who organize activities, such as swaps, through IG can use hashtags to allow group participants to see what others in the group are posting without having to follow every single person in the group. And the hashtag #thegreatfabricdestash is the one that is used for all the people selling fabric, generally quilting fabric. To look at all the pictures of fabric for sale, you do a search for that hashtag. To add your picture to the listings, use that hashtag in your photo caption.

You post a picture of the fabric you wish to sell. Either in the pic itself (written on a post-it or card, or added graphically) or in your caption, you say what the fabric is, how much of it there is, and the cost. Most people say "plus shipping" after the price, and so you know shipping charges will be added. Sometimes you'll see something like "$25 shipped" and this means shipping is included in the price.

If you wish to purchase the item, you must be the first person to comment and leave your Paypal email address and sometimes also your zip code. If you just sold the item, you then send your buyer an invoice through Paypal. Once it's paid, you ship the item.

Sometimes, certain things are sold auction-style. This is often done for highly sought-after fabrics, with the pretense of giving more people a chance to get it. There may or may not be a reserve price or a starting bid, but bids are made in the comments and you will often be asked to tag the person you just outbid. Auction ends whenever the seller says it does and the highest bidder gets the item.

Those are the essentials, but there's actually a few more things you should know.

1. Not everything sells. For whatever reason, hardly anyone seems to buy the more traditional style fabrics or batiks. It does happen sometimes, but for the most part, people are looking for more modern lines. 

2. Fabric by these designers sells best:
Tula Pink
Anna Maria Horner
Lizzy House
Bonnie and Camille
Melody Miller (especially the Kokka)

3. Out-of-print fabric from these designers can go for a lot more than the current average retail price of $10 a yard. Last year I bought a little over a yard of Melody Miller typewriters for $60. Yes, $60. I really wanted those typewriters. I recently sold a half yard of Tula Pink squirrels for $35. Which brings me to number 4:

4. Just because a fabric is out of print doesn't mean it isn't readily available for reasonable prices elsewhere. Because older Tula Pinks are so dear, people routinely try to sell Tula fabrics from more recent lines, such as Acacia and Fox Field, for similarly inflated prices, even though these can be found in various online shops for normal or even sometimes sale prices. (Yes, the Acacia raccoons sell for more because that particular print is actually harder to find. Most of the other prints from that collection, however, can still be found.) Before you shell out $15 for a fat quarter, do a quick Google search. Hit up some of the big online retailers such as Hawthorne Threads, and make sure you absolutely can't get that fabric cheaper elsewhere before you fund someone's next Disney vacation.

5. If you are buying fabric, read the sellers instructions completely and do what they ask. Some sellers will only ship flat rate but others will ship smaller items first class so they will ask you to include your zip code when you claim the item. You should probably make a habit of including it anyway. No, you will not get your home invaded because somebody saw your zip code on Instagram. Probably. You can always ask to have it deleted after you've paid.

6. Pay as soon as you can and ship as soon as you can. If you have time to be farting around on IG, you have time to honor your commitments.

7. If you know the designer and manufacturer of the fabric, say so. If you don't, say so. Don't try to hide the fact that it's from the bargain bin at Questionable Fabrics R Us by saying nothing.

8. Upselling is considered rude. Upselling is when you buy a highly sought-after fabric on IG and then turn around and re-sell it for more. My Melody Miller typewriters were sold to me with the condition that I not resell them. And no, there's no way anybody could police that, but it illustrates that people really hate it. And I agree. Because of number 9.

9. The spirit of selling fabric on IG is destashing, not retail sales. We all buy too much fabric and sometimes we realize we have things we're never going to use. Sometimes we just need some extra cash for something that's come up. That's what #thegreatfabricdestash on IG is for, not for retailers to expand their reach. They do it anyway, and there's no way to police it, but they are poopyheads. 

10. Just because you paid full retail for it doesn't mean you should get full retail for it. Unless we are talking about the really coveted stuff, or maybe less coveted but still popular lines that have only recently become hard to find, you should consider pricing it less than full retail. And you should definitely price it less than full retail if you have prewashed it, or you smoke, or you have farm animals that roll around on it.

11. If it doesn't sell, re-list. There are so many listings, things get lost. Re-listing increases the chance that someone who wants what you are selling will see it. (Just be sure to delete your original listing.) And if it still doesn't sell, re-list and lower the price.

12. If you insist on selling something at an insanely inflated price, be prepared for people to get pissy. Seriously, just deal with it. You know $100 for a yard of fabric is ridiculous. Somebody is bound to tell you so. Suck it up. (I know some people will think that I should say just be silent if you don't like the price of something, and I do think that's worthy advice. But I also think that if you're going to try to take advantage of people's mania for certain designers, you kind of deserve a little burn for it and should have a thick enough skin to take it when it comes.)

13. Be aware that there are people who apparently do nothing else besides buy fabric on IG. It can be hard to grab the good stuff because someone always seems to grab it first, and a lot of the same usernames crop up again and again. Just feel sorry for them that they have nothing better to do than refresh their IG feeds while you are out having a life with experiences and relationships. 

14. And if you really can't get even a square of something you are dying to own, try doing an ISO (In Search Of) post. Post a pic of the fabric you are looking for and tag it #isofabric (and even put the letters on the pic if you have the app for that). If it's not one from the list of most popular designers above, try tagging the designer as well. I fell in love with Jessica Levitt's collection Kingdom from 2011 after I discovered her recent line, Cascade. I put out a call and was able to get lots of the line, some from Jessica herself. Sometimes you can even do this with the highly coveted stuff and someone will help you out.

15. The majority of sales on IG are on the up and up. However, there have been occasions where a buyer pays and then never sees the package and can never reach the seller again, but from what I have seen these are rare in comparison with the vast number that go through without a hitch. What can you do if this happens to you? Basically, next to nothing. Call out the seller on IG, and file a dispute with Paypal, after all attempts to reach the seller have failed.

If you've been buying and selling fabric on Instagram, and you have more tips, please share in the comments.