Sunday sketch #107

I think this is the first time that I’ve featured curves in my Sunday sketches. And it only took 107 weeks…!

I mentioned last week that there are a few things that Electric Quilt 8 is particular good at. There’s one more: curves! I can’t do curves with a pen and paper… at least, not very well. But they’re a cinch with EQ8.

Geometriquilt: Sunday sketch #107

This is one of several curvy designs that I’ve created recently. They all tend to use the double drunkard’s path block, which I really like. I want to try making one of them soon, but did I mention that I’ve only sewn one (single) drunkard’s path block in my whole quilting career…? It wasn’t pretty. I’ll need a lot of practice if I want to get better. Luckily I bought a 7″ template from Papper, Sax, Sten, which should help!

Sunday sketch #106

A few months ago, I posted a series of Sunday sketches that I designed using Electric Quilt 8 (#88, 89, 9193). But after that, I made a concerted effort to stop designing in EQ8 for awhile and return to pen and paper. It was actually quite difficult to tear myself away from the computer and get back into a slower – but ultimately more satisfying – way of working.

I’ve struggled to use EQ8, for a few reasons. It doesn’t feel intuitive to me, so I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time searching for functionality that should be more readily accessible. I’ve also found that it’s a time suck; maybe because it’s screen-based, it’s easy to spend a lot of time playing around with it, often without many great results. Sometimes it can feel like it’s a faster way to create, but I’m never as happy with the outcomes. And even if it takes me half as long to get half as many good sketches as pen-and-paper drawing… well, it hasn’t saved me much time at all.

Having said all that, EQ8 is great for two things in particular: colour and repetition. I can tile a block in no time, and then colour it in a million different ways. This week’s sketch is the perfect example.


A 5 × 5 grid of square blocks ends up looking like 5 continuous rows of half-rectangle triangles. Carrying colours beyond the blocks also helps to disguise their edges, so you’re not quite sure where one block ends and the next one begins.

Don’t you just love this colour palette? Black, grey, white, khaki, and a dusky pink. I like how the gentleness of those colours balances out the sharpness of the triangles. I think this design would look great in some really bold colours too though. Or even some prints.

This design could be made into a quilt pattern using 3:1 half-rectangle triangles. Paper-piecing would be a really good way of achieving the precision needed to match all those points.




Transparency in the quilt industry

If you’re interested in the business side of quilting, or just like taking a peek at the workings of the quilt industry, you’ve no doubt seen some depressing news in the past few months. Manufacturers shutting down. Designers walking away from long-term relationships. Creators struggling to make ends meet.

Is this a normal part of any industry, or is the quilt industry in a downturn? It can be hard to find reliable information for the US market, not to mention overseas. The business side of the industry is rarely covered in much detail (or at all) in mainstream press, and is only really hinted at in personal blogs. Abby Glassenberg has done some great reporting in this space, but she can only report what people are willing to tell her.

As a non-crafty business owner (in my day job) and a crafter (the rest of the time), I’m interested in this stuff. I like talking to quilty businesspeople about their work and how they’ve made a living out of their craft. I love hearing from fledgling entrepreneurs about their plans, and how they make decisions about moving their businesses forward. I want to know if it’s feasible for me to find my own niche in this potentially oversaturated market. There’s plenty of encouragement to “follow your passion” and “do what you love, and the money will follow”, but is that realistic?

I’ve been writing quilt patterns for magazine publications for a few years now. If a magazine is interested in a design I’ve submitted for their consideration, they pay me a flat fee to write the pattern and make the quilt. Often they’ll organize fabric straight from the manufacturer, but sometimes I need to buy it myself. I also need to pay for the thread, batting, basting spray, machine needles, rotary blades… and postage for sending the finished quilt to the magazine’s head office. Not only are shipping costs to the US more expensive from Australia, but many of these materials are more expensive here too.

The publication fees cover my direct costs (usually), but not my time. Looking back on the quilt patterns I’ve had published so far, I estimate I’ve spent between 30 to 40 hours on each one: from picking fabrics, cutting, piecing, basting, quilting and binding, to writing the pattern and creating graphics. The payments also aren’t enough to outsource any part of the process (such as quilting).

I love creating quilt patterns for magazines, and I hope to keep doing it, but I treat it as a self-sustaining hobby. It’s not a sustainable business model.

I’ve given a lot of thought to selling my quilt patterns directly under the Geometriquilt brand. But I can only afford to invest more time and effort into this venture if it’s likely to be financially sustainable. Otherwise, I can’t justify the cost (which could include the cost of fabric, graphic design of my pattern template, and a website upgrade to sell them online, among other things). Unfortunately, I have no sense of the size of the potential market; there’s no data out there to help me gauge whether I can sell enough patterns to recoup my initial investment — let alone make a profit.

Steph Skardal and I have been talking about these topics for awhile now. We’re both numbers people; as a former scientist (me) and a current software engineer (Steph), we do our best to make decisions based on evidence, not gut feeling. In a blog post today, Steph has dug into the evidence – what sources of revenue there are in the quilting industry, how much they tend to pay out, and how you might leverage these activities to actually work towards a living wage. She’s not suggesting that everyone can or will make money in this industry, but she’s drawn together useful information for anyone considering it.

I firmly believe that no one will take creatives seriously as businesspeople until we start being more transparent. That doesn’t mean revealing proprietary information or financial information, but it does mean being honest about what it takes to run a successful business – in terms of time, money and resources. More transparency will not only educate consumers on the true value of our products and services, but also benefit any independent creators who are thinking about getting into this industry.

I can’t know for sure if I can create a sustainable business in the quilt industry. Maybe the only way I’ll find out for myself is to make the investment and hope that it pays off. Either way, I hope to share my experiences so that the next person is more informed.