Monthly Archives: June 2013

Own a Fabric Store: Q&A with Pink Castle Fabrics

Today we’re excited to welcome fabric maven Brenda Ratliff, owner of the popular online store Pink Castle Fabrics! If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Brenda at Quilt Market, attending one of her Camp Stitchalot sewing weekends or interacting with her in blogland, you know that she’s pretty fantastic.

If you’ve ever thought about running your own fabric store, you’ll be interested to hear from Brenda how she got started, where she researches fabric trends and some surprises that come along with running a creative business.

Brenda, we’re excited to have you at Craft Buds to chat about owning an online fabric store. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you started Pink Castle Fabrics?

Thanks Lindsay! I’m pretty excited to be here! A long time ago I went to college and studied Sociology and Marketing. During and after college I worked in a lot of fun sales positions including cell phones and mortgages. I did pretty well in sales and I enjoyed it. I took some time off work when I had my son over 3 years ago now and it was my first time not working since I was 16. I decided to learn how to quilt in my new found free time. I kept seeing all the beautiful modern quilts online and I was really inspired. I couldn’t find any of the amazing modern fabrics that the bloggers were using at any local quilt shops. I figured I would just buy a few bolts that I liked and sell the extra fabric online. I had no idea that there were so many other quilters out there that wanted the same fabrics!

Since you’ve been in business, what have you learned about owning an online fabric shop that might surprise people?

In business you think of other shops that do the same thing you do as competitors. In the fabric world I’ve actually found most other shop owners, both online and local shops to be very friendly and open. I appreciate the willingness to help each other out as a community. There’s room in the industry for a lot of fabric shops to be successful. The more we can work together to teach our crafts to new people the more business we will all have.

I’ve been really impressed by your innovative approach to fabric retail, from the Stash Stack Club to all the pretty collections and bundles you’ve curated. How do you ultimately decide what fabrics to stock in your shop and what’s going to sell like hotcakes?

A lot of what I decide to buy for the shop are fabrics that I would like myself. I’ve learned that not everyone has the exact same taste as I do so I read a lot of blogs and tweets and Instagram and Pinterest and try and get a feel for trends and what future lines people are excited about. It’s fun to see what fabric at market gets the most photos and buzz. It’s certainly not always a good indication on what quilters are going to buy (Likes on Instagram are free!) but it at least points me in the right direction.

Stash Stack Club was born when I realized that my personal stash was filled with beautiful focus prints and really cute novelty fabrics but I never bought myself any blenders or stash builders! I usually get project ideas late at night after I start relaxing and now that I have a full color wheel of stash basics I can easily start something without having to wait to shop. I’m really happy that this club is doing so well and that there are others out there like me. We are finishing up our first full year and it’s going to keep on going starting over with the first color again.

Photo: Made by Rae

The retreats you’ve hosted look like they’ve been a lot of fun! What was your favorite part?

Camp Stitchalot has been fun! I really love getting to know the other campers. We have had two so far and it’s so nice that it’s a small intimate retreat (only up to 36 people). It really gives me a chance to sit and talk to everyone during the weekend. Everyone becomes good friends by the end of the weekend. And I love the supportive atmosphere we have had in the past. Campers are helping each other and oohing and aahing over everyone’s projects. We are all lucky to be a part of such an amazing community.

We also get a lot accomplished. Jan who owns the Inn we stay at cooks all the meals so there’s a lot more time to sew. I know in my life it’s hard to find a good stretch of uninterrupted sewing time and it’s so nice to leave with finished projects.

We will be doing two more camps this year and four next year. I’m really looking forward to all of these camps!

How do you find a balance between running a business and your personal/family time?

It’s tough to find time for everything when you are beginning a business. I’ve sacrificed a lot of personal engagements to make time for work and my family. It’s hard to let down my friends when they invite me to do something fun. I have some very supportive friends who understand and have helped me with my business as well.

What is your advice for someone who wants to branch out and start their own business?

Set goals is my big advice to budding entrepreneurs. Knowing where you want to end up is the best way to figure out how to get there. There are a lot of great blog posts online and business books that spell out the best practices of goal setting. I was taught the SMART method in an entrepreneur incubator I was a part of here in the Detroit area. It’s easier said than done. I’ve found myself getting off track and having my goals written down is a great way to allow me to prioritize my To Do list.

It seems some days like all you are doing is putting out small fires and it’s easy to get down on yourself. Then you get a “thank you” email from a customer or you see a project that someone made with fabric you sold them and it makes it all worth while. Stick to it and remember your end goals! If the path you are on isn’t leading you to where you want to be, change it.

What’s next for you, Brenda?

The next big thing for Pink Castle Fabrics is our new Brick and Mortar location. I’m a little nervous but like with any new endeavor it will take some time to find my rhythm. We have a nice space here in Ann Arbor with a big classroom. One of the things I love about quilting is the community it can create. I’m hoping to give some of that community a home. We have a lot of talent here in Ann Arbor and a young audience of quilters that are eager to learn. I’m glad to be able to share my store in person now!

I will also be coming out with a line of quilting patterns this year. First in PDF form and then in print. Of all the fun things you can make with fabric, quilts really are my favorite. I’m excited to share quilting with more people and teaching new techniques in patterns is a great way to do that. They teach confidence and skill building and at the same time you get something beautiful at the end!

Sale Alert!

Brenda is clearing the shelves for her summer sale to make room for lots of new fabric coming out this July!

Head on over to check out the deals.

Ways to Follow Craft Buds (Feedly, Bloglovin’, More!)

 

As you’ve probably heard, Google Reader is going away as of July 1. If you’ve been putting off transferring your account, now’s the time to act! We’ve added two new options to follow Craft Buds. You can choose between Bloglovin’ or Feedly, or use your own preferred RSS Feed or an e-mail subscription. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr if you want to follow us there! Details on each option are below.

 

Follow on Bloglovin

Bloglovin: Follow my blog with Bloglovin by clicking the link here or by using the new button in our “Follow” sidebar to the left or the one above. When you sign up you can automatically import all the blogs you are following in Google Reader. Quick and easy as long as you are logged into YOUR google account. I made the mistake of importing while my husband was logged in, but was able to fix the problem without much hassle! Here’s a screen shot of my Bloglovin if you’re curious how it looks. It displays each blog article with a the first few sentences and a photo. To the right is a list of all blogs being followed. Mobile apps are available. If you’re a blogger, Bloglovin’ currently has more ways to track your followers and stats than Feedly does.

 

follow us in feedly

Feedly: After trying both Bloglovin and Feedly, Feedly is my personal preference. Sign up for an account or use your Google account to sign in and import the blogs you are following in Google Reader. Quick and easy, just like Bloglovin (again make sure you are signed into your own Google account and not someone else’s). What I prefer about Feedly is the ability to customize how I view the blog posts. The Bloglovin view for both the computer version and mobile phone version can’t be customized. Feedly gives me 4 different feed options (see the screen shots below). On my phone I can change fonts, the transition between screens, font size and more. Sign up or start following us by using the button above or in our “Follow” sidebar to the left.

 

 

Option 1: RSS Feed

Just click the RSS button to subscribe through your favorite reader.

 

Option 2: Twitter

When we publish a new post on Craft Buds we put a link on our Twitter page. Click the link or Twitter button to go to our Twitter page and click “Follow” in the upper right corner (you must be logged in first).

 

Option 3: Facebook

Just like Twitter, when we publish a new post on Craft Buds we put a link on our Facebook page. We also use Facebook to post links to giveaways or let you know about special events or sales! You can click the link or the Facebook button on our site to subscribe by hitting the “Like” button, or you can hit “Like” in the handy Facebook box on the upper left side of our website.

 

Option 4: E-mail

Subscribe to receive our posts in your e-mail. Just click the link or the E-mail button and enter your e-mail to subscribe.

 

Option 5: Flickr

Although you can’t use Flickr to stay updated with our blog posts, you can view photos of our projects and reader projects, or submit your own. Just click on the “Join This Group” option shown by the orange star below to be a part of the Craft Buds Flickr group.

 

Modern Mini Challenge: Over the Rainbow

 

 

When Jennifer (Ellison Lane Quilts) asked if Craft Buds would like to be part of the Modern Mini Quilt Challenge I figured it would be a great reason to get more experience! I’ve been sewing for years but just took up quilting earlier this year so I’m constantly learning and trying to improve my quilting skills. I’ve been compiling a rainbow of fabrics for a throw sized quilt and had just enough scrap strips left over for a mini quilt. To make this quilt, I cut 21 strips of my rainbow fabrics. Each strip is 9 to 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. I added 8 inch gray and blue strips to either side of the rainbow fabrics, then sewed all the strips together with 1/4″ seams, deciding the placement as I went.

 

After all the strips were together, I trimmed the edges straight and used a grid pattern for the quilting. The finished size is 21 inches wide by 19 inches tall.

 

Modern Mini Quilt Challenge

Have you made a mini quilt in the last 6 months, or are you thinking about making one soon? Here’s more information from Jennifer of Ellison Lane Quilts about entering the contest and winning prizes!

Are you ready for the Modern Mini Challenge? Here’s the deal. The Modern Mini Challenge is a call to challenge yourself. Try something new: a new technique, a new pattern, a new thread, etc and make a mini quilt. A mini quilt makes it possible and oh-so-doable! What’s a mini quilt? It’s a mug rug, a pillow, a wall hanging, a table topper… you get the idea! Check out the AMAZING minis in last year’s contest! There were over 200 awesome entries! You don’t have to be an experienced sewist to enter! Don’t let your lack of experience keep you from joining in! I want this event to be fun, encouraging and inspiring- just go for it! Believe in your ability and go CREATE!! Go be AWESOME!!

Speaking of awesome, there will be fabulous prizes available just for entering! So try your best, pick something fun to create that speaks to you and get sewing.

The details: You can enter any mini quilt that you’ve made within the past 6 months. Remember, a mini quilt can be a mug rug, a mini quilt, a pillow, a table topper, etc. Only one entry per person. Size requirements: must be at least 6″ x 6″ and no bigger than 24″ x 24″. You can enter a mini quilt made from your own design or from a pattern. Please give credit to the pattern designer in your description. Starting June 12, you’ll be able to link up your entry at Ellison Lane. You’ll have until 5:00 PM EST on June 16 to add your mini quilt. Link from your blog (a NEW post please), your Flickr account or your Threadbias account. Remember, you don’t have to have a blog to enter! PRIZES! Did she say prizes? For sure! Check out these amazing goodies up for grabs:

$125 Gift Certificate to the Fat Quarter Shop
$75 Gift Certificate to the Intrepid Thread
$50 Gift Pack of Pellon Products
$50 Box of Coats and Clark Threads
(2) $50 prize packs of Dritz sewing products
$25 Gift Certificate to Christa Quilts
A Bundle of Marblehead fabrics from Fabri-Quilt

Need some inspiration? Never fear! There’s a snazzy group of quilters ready to share some of their creations to show just how fun a mini can be.

June 5: Ellison Lane
June 8: Craft Buds

Summer Skirts with Simplicity 2606

 

Over a year ago, a friend proposed a trade. Jayne would take photos of our family and newborn son and I’d make her a couple skirts. Over a year later the trade is complete! If you’re in the central Indiana/Muncie area, you need to check Jayne out! She is equally skilled at newborn, maternity, family, engagement or kid photos! You can find her website at jrophotos.com. Here are a few of my favorite shots of our newborn son at just a few days old, and at 8 months old, and then I’ll get to the skirts. Jayne does a great job with both candid and posed shots that don’t look posed.

 

 

For the skirts, Jayne was inspired by this post at A Couple More Hours and this post at Everyday Chaos. I used Simplicity 2606 view A as the basis for both skirts. This first skirt is mostly unmodified from the pattern other than I used a wider elastic for the waistband, left out the seam at the top of the waistband (it created a little ruffle that showed under shirts) and shortened it a bit. The contrasting hem band is just as wide on the inside of the skirt for a nice weight and finished look. The instructions have you fold the band in half, baste it together then stitch it to the skirt with the raw edges on the inside. Instead, I folded the top edges in by 1/2″ and encased the upper part of the skirt, then stitched it all together so there are no raw edges around the hem. This version of the skirt has discreet pockets! The fabric is Summerlove by Pat Bravo (Tokens of Love in Aqua and Retro Harmony in Sugar). This print came out awhile ago but it’s currently still available at Hawthorne Threads.

 

 

For the double layer skirt, I cut off the top 4 inches of the skirt pattern (not including the waistband) and used that for the dark gray. For the under layer, I used the remaining bottom of the skirt pattern but cut off 1 1/2″ off of the width (measured at the bottom of the skirt then matched up with the top of the skirt) so there would be less of a flare.

 

 

Then I cut the bottom 7 inches off of the pattern and used the remaining pattern piece for the upper layer. I removed a 3″ section from the front piece, to the right where one of the pleats from the top would line up, then trimmed the bottom and sides with bias tape.

 

 

Next I basted the two layers together, then used an overcast stitch to attach them to the top dark gray piece of the skirt. I then added the pleats and finished the waistband as directed in the pattern instructions. The fabric is Notting Hill by Joel Dewberry (Pristine Poppy in Poppy and Frames in Fern). Both are currently available at fabric.com (affiliate link). Below you can see the skirt after the layers have been stitched together and the pleats were added, but before the waistband. For the hem I folded under the bottom skirt layer by 1/2″ then 3″ and sewed it using a blind hem stitch. The wide hem give the skirt a nice weight and looks more finished.

 

 

And here’s the final skirt (with a few of Jayne’s chickens checking it out)!

 

 

What about you guys? Feel free to link up any summer clothing you’ve been making in the comments below!

Craft Book Proposals: Q&A with Casey York

Today, we’re excited to introduce Casey York, a Craft Buds reader and an up-and-coming craft book author! If you have an interest in seeing your creative work published, you’ll love the blog series Casey has created along with Stash Books to demystify the process of getting published.

Read on to get to know Casey and to learn more about crafting your own book proposal.

Casey, congratulations on your book proposal being accepted! How did you first get interested in writing a craft book, and what did that proposal process look like for you?

Thank you—I am over the moon excited! As cliché as it sounds, I think I’ve always wanted to write books. I come from an academic background so publishing has been part of my job description for a while now, and when I decided to pursue a career in the quilting and textile industry it was a natural transition to thinking about writing craft books. Also, I am an inveterate book reader and collector, and I found the quilting books on the market so inspiring that I soon found myself wanting to create one of my own.

I started developing a proposal early this year and I went to QuiltCon right in the middle of the process, which turned out to be a lucky move. I was able to meet Amy Marson and Roxane Cerda, the publisher and acquisitions editor of Stash Books, as well as Allison Rosen, who is in charge of their online presence. After QuiltCon, I followed up with a query letter to Roxane (which is a step I recommend for any readers considering proposing a book). That query led to a proposal, which led to another proposal, which was accepted!

Do you have any tips for someone else who is wanting to submit a craft book proposal?

First, do your research on the publisher(s) you plan to submit to. I approached the proposal writing process as if I were applying for a job—you want to demonstrate that your idea is a good fit for a particular publisher, and in order to do that you have to do your homework.

You also will want to explain how your proposed book will stand out in the marketplace. How is your idea unique and what will make consumers want to buy your book? I think the process of answering this question can actually help you to develop your ideas, and I kept it in mind from the very beginning of compiling my proposal and designing my projects. Also, be flexible. Publishers know their industry well, so if they give you advice on how to tweak your idea, take it.

Finally, polish your writing. Your proposal or query letter will be the first impression you make and you want it to be a good one. Publishers are looking at your writing skills in addition to your designs, and your proposal will serve as one sample of your writing, so revise your work a few times to make sure it represents you the way you want it to.

I saw on the Stash Books blog that you’ll be sharing more about the process of writing your book in a blog series. Can you tell us more about that and what we can look forward to?

Yes! I feel like there is a great deal of interest in craft publishing right now; when I attended the panel on book publishing at QuiltCon, the room was full and there were lots of questions from the audience. Yet, at least for me, the publishing process remains a bit mysterious. I thought a blog series might be a good way to shed some light on the entire process of craft book publishing for readers who might be interested in writing their own books one day.

One of the aspects of the Crafting a Book series that I am most excited about is that the Stash Books blog will be featuring posts written by my editors and others who are involved in producing the book on their end, so I think between our two blogs readers will get a well-rounded idea of what goes on behind the scenes. I know I’m excited to read about the process from the editors’ points of view.

Together, our two blogs will feature monthly posts about particular aspects of the publishing process, starting with the proposal. Some of the topics I’m going to address are the first steps after a proposal is accepted, the process of creating the projects and writing the instructions, and the process of designing the book.

Read the about Casey’s book proposal from the perspective of an author and an editor.

Casey, what’s next for you?

Right now I’m in the thick of making the projects for the book—my deadline for having them done is early this October! I’ve also been working on publishing and printing my latest stand-alone pattern, Punctual, and promoting my line with individual stores and distributors. A big personal goal is to make it to Quilt Market in Houston this fall. I went to Market in the spring of 2012 and it was a fantastic experience. There are so many areas of this industry that I would like to be a part of, and Market is a great opportunity to learn more about them and get inspired!

You can follow Casey: Casey’s blog | Casey’s portfolio | Twitter

For more advice on writing a craft book proposal:

Does Your Craft Book Proposal Stand Out?
How to Write a Craft Book Proposal

Craft Book Proposal: How to Get an Editor’s Attention

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