Lindsay

Ruffle-Edge Baby Blanket Tutorial + Giveaway!

Hello, Craft Buds! Lindsay here, and I’m guest posting today on the Shannon Fabrics blog with a tutorial for this super-snuggly baby blanket!

Have you ever sewn with Cuddle Fabrics? Shannon’s Cuddle collection is the softest, silkiest fabric ever… similar to a minky fabric you’d find at many fabrics stores. I’ve really enjoyed sewing with them, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. My husband and I are expecting our first baby this January!

We won’t know for a couple weeks if it’s a boy or a girl. But, I was dying to cut into this chevron print Cuddle fabric in baby pink. So, I just went for it, and opted for a neutral white on the other side! The ruffle binding is a navy blue jersey I had left over from a dress. So I went with a little blue and a little pink. I really love the color combo!

Want to make your own cute ruffle-edge baby blanket? You’ll need 3 yards of Cuddle fabric (1-1/2 yards each for the front and back), plus some jersey fabric for the ruffle. The finished blanket is 45″ x 45″, and I’m sharing the tutorial over on the Shannon Fabrics blog.

Get the Ruffle-Edge Baby Blanket Tutorial

Giveaway!

Shannon Fabrics is giving you the chance to win 3 yards of Cuddle fabric of your choice, which is enough to make your very own Cuddle blanket! To enter to win, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Entries open to U.S. Good luck!

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Sewing Pattern Designs Q&A + Giveaway!

Today, I’m excited to feature my friend Heather of The Sewing Loft and celebrate her patterns being licensed with Simplicity Creative Group. That’s right…the Simplicity patterns you can pick up at Jo-Ann’s or your favorite local craft store!

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!

Heather, congrats on your licensed patterns with Simplicity Creative Group! Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started in pattern design?

Thank you. To say that I am excited to see my designs hit the store would be a complete understatement. I am still in a state of disbelief to know that a brand I grew up sewing has published my designs… Total “pinch me” moment!

Background: Well, I have been sewing forever. I started when I was around seven, just watching my mother and grandmother stitching away at the machine…. waiting for my turn. Later my passion turned into a career as a designer in the apparel industry and it has been non-stop from there.

Where do you get ideas for patterns and how do you record them?
I am a people watcher at heart! I love seeing what people are doing, wearing and interested in. When an idea strikes, I scribble it down in a note pad. I swear, I have too many to count floating around.

What does the process of designing a pattern look like for you?
Pattern making for me is like a complete rush. I sketch my idea on paper and then if I LOVE it, I can not rest until it is complete. Normally, I draft the pattern on paper or direct on my mannequin in muslin. Then, I dive head-first into sewing. Sadly, I am terrible at jotting down notes during the process. Instead, I am so dialed in on what the finished product should look like that I keep testing and tweaking until I get it right. It’s only after I am happy with the outlook that I realize I need to go back, recreate and develop step by step instructions for others to follow. I swear, you would think by now I would be more disciplined but the creative side of me always wins.

Do you have advice for other pattern designers who are looking to branch out into getting their work published?
My best advice to pass on to anyone interested in having their designs published is to reach out, introduce yourselves to brands and see if they are interested. New talent is being discovered everyday! And the biggest surprise to me was just how long the process has taken. This little labor of love started back in September of 2011 with a simple connection and it was not until last summer that things really started to get rolling. Best advice: Be patient.

Giveaway! Monaluna Organic Fabric from Owl & Drum

Today, we are excited to offer a fabric giveaway from one of our new sponsors, Owl & Drum! At their brick-and-mortar store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you’ll find modern fabrics galore, including a great selection of organic quilting cottons. They also offer workshops and there’s an online shop for out-of-towners.

I wanted to find out a little bit more about owner Bianca and her creative business. Read on for a Q&A and giveaway!

Bianca, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in fabric and sewing?

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always had an interest in sewing and crafts. My main focus was fashion and I would “attempt” to make myself clothes. It was fun to think about colors and design. I ended up studying fashion design and then fashion merchandising at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. I then took a bit of a break from creating and was a buyer at a Tulsa department store, before moving to Portland, Oregon, to work at Nordstrom.

Living in Portland was very inspiring, so I soon started working from home making jewelry, accessories and home goods–all from recycled T-shirts–under the brand Urban Creatures. I also became very intrigued with the modern quilt movement and soon, of course, I became obsessed with all things fabric!

Bianca (right) and her Owl & Drum business partner Dani (left)

How did you decide to start your fabric shop, Owl & Drum? What’s the story behind your name?

One of my lifelong dreams was opening up my own store. Through the years, ideas would come and go. But with sewing and crafting becoming a big part of my daily life, I decided I should focus my business efforts on something that I love: fabric and craft supplies.

I also wanted to provide a place where people–young and old, beginner or experienced–could enjoy classes, workshops and events. It’s been really pleasing that Tulsans, especially kids, have got a kick out of making things at Owl & Drum. Our instructors have been great, too.

I had been wanting to move back to Tulsa, which has seen really cool developments in recent years, and it just felt like the right idea in the right place at the right time. So, my husband and I took the plunge and moved to Oklahoma and opened up Owl & Drum.

My husband and I are big “Owl” lovers. Our last name is Howell and the owl has always been a family symbol. We thought it would make for a fun-looking logo, too! The “Drum” comes from my business partner and friend Dani Weaver. She’s a drummer, so the name Owl & Drum is a little part of me and a little part of her. Basically, we thought the name would be a hoot!

If you were somehow forced to destash all of your fabric except for only three designers, which ones would you keep and why?

Birch Fabrics – Birch Fabrics are so plush and beautiful. First of all, I love that they are 100% organic cotton. Secondly, their prints are fantastic. I’m really excited about their upcoming Charley Harper collection. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time so, when I saw there was going to be fabric with his illustrations, I went nuts. We placed the order at the International Quilt Market last month and I had a hard time deciding which ones to choose.

Heather Ross – Who can resist Heather Ross? I loved her designs when she worked with Kokka. The cotton/linen blends were a perfect match for her vintage-style of drawings. I am, however, thrilled that she is now designing for Windham Fabrics. Her new line, Briar Rose, will be launched next week and we cannot wait to share those fabrics with everybody. People will love them!

Anna Maria Horner – As someone who likes to make clothes, I find Anna Maria Horner‘s prints are perfect for apparel.
Her designs are exactly what I like to see in clothing. Skirts, dresses, handbags – they all look good in Anna Maria’s fabrics.

Okay, because 3 is not enough I have to mention a 4th – Monaluna. Monaluna is a fabric line that is also 100% organic cotton. The owners design all of the prints and they are very clever. We recently had a fabric of theirs called Llama Love. It was wonderful! Who knew that fabric with llamas on it would be so cute. Their recent collection, Raaga, is just beautiful. Its Indian-inspired prints are very sophisticated and would look really good in the home.

Giveaway!

One lucky Craft Buds reader will 1 1/2 yards of Monaluna Raaga organic fabric (1/2 yard each of the three prints pictured) from Owl & Drum. To enter the giveaway, follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

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Fabric Design Q&A with Alison Glass + Giveaway!

Fabric designer Alison Glass Today we’re excited to welcome surface and space designer Alison Glass! Many of you know from her work with Andover Fabrics, and she is here today to chat about her journey in the industry and how she balances her creative work with family time. Read on, and be sure to enter the fabulous giveaway at the end of this post!

Alison, we’re so excited to have you as a guest at Craft Buds. Can you tell us a little bit about your career background how you got started as a licensed designer with Andover?

Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

My background is actually in education. I was an art and classroom teacher before my daughter was born. I have always loved art, fabric, sewing, creating, and especially color. I started my home dec business when my second child was three. I was doing a lot of sewing and reupholstery for clients, using beautiful fabrics from the quilting industry, and at some point in that process realized that people make the designs that get printed on fabric. I became fascinated with the idea of creating those designs, especially the repeat and color part, and just started drawing. Chalk on the dining room walls was my favorite outlet!

It was a bit of a journey designing that first collection and figuring out how to present it to manufactures, and thinking back seems so wild to just show up at Quilt Market not knowing anyone, but that’s how it happened. It’s one of the best things I have ever done, just showing up. I met with a bunch of people and after much consideration ended up with Andover, which I am thrilled about. I adore working with them and appreciate their dedication.

Alison Glass quilt with fence

What is your design process like and where do you most often find inspiration?

As I reflect about what I’ve designed up to this point, I would say that I find a ton of inspiration in the details that surround me. There is so much beauty and interest in the world, making a conscious decision to see it creates a nearly endless stream of ideas and thoughts. I love the process of taking these glimpses of detail and translating them into my own ideas, colors, and patterns.

With each design I almost always start out with a sketch on paper, finalize the lines and repeat using tracing paper, then hand trace and color digitally. I like this process, and though it takes a bit longer, I feel that I have complete control over the art work and where each line is placed and how it moves. This is my favorite part of the work, the art.

There is a lot of new fabric on it’s way at this point: Sun Print, Clover Sunshine, Field Day, and some unnamed work that I hope will be super for garment sewing! I am really excited to get to see what people will make with these new designs.

Turtle Embroidery by Alison Glass

I know many fabric designers do other types of creative work as well. Do you have other crafts, hobbies or business ventures that help supplement your work?

Up until the last year I ran a small, local design business designing spaces and custom home dec pieces for clients. There was about a year or more overlap when I was doing both. Then last summer we moved to a new state, so I wrapped up that local business to concentrate on surface design and the quilting industry. I am definitely still in the process of figuring this out as a business, but I feel like things are moving forward pretty well. I am very lucky in that my true interests are very tied to this work, so what I am making for work and for fun are the same.

I have recently started selling super high-quality art prints, kits, and patterns through my online shop, which is something that has been in the works for a while. I plan to expand the shop, and am so happy to have it up and running. I am especially excited about the art prints, which I’ve wanted to do for a number of years, and a number of new patterns will release in July, including embroidery! As for freelance graphic design, although it’s not official, when people ask I am happy to help! I do love the artwork part the most!

Fabric designer Alison Glass

Is it hard to find a balance between your creative work and your personal or family time?

Well, the kids are just now out of school for the summer, so maybe check back with how I’m feeling about this next month! The noise-canceling headphones are helping at this particular moment! Seriously though, it’s a tricky thing, balancing work and home life.

I think good communication with the family is really important and necessary to make this sort of job work, and an honest assessment about the reality of one’s situation. If something isn’t working, you talk about it and make adjustments. Chris and I are both incredibly supportive of each other’s work and life goals, and we are also very lucky to have two fairly independent, responsible, and quiet/introverted kids. Anna is 11 and Jack is 9, so they are not so little anymore, which to me makes it easier. They have grown up watching both of us working very hard to create the life we want for us and for them. We have been very open and honest about that, and they seem to have a pretty deep understanding that to create the life you want takes a huge commitment paired with continual decisions to keep moving forward and live in the new/present with as much personal integrity as possible. “Live in the New” is a favorite phrase of mine. It’s about letting go of things that are holding you back and a deep focus on the current reality and what can be done with it.

These three that surround me are amazing individuals and truly make me want to work in a way that they will be proud of. This also means I can’t just ignore them and work all the time, which is my bent. I adore working, however even more than that my greatest desire is deep and good relationships with people, especially the ones I am with most of the time. For me, managing this is just taking things day by day and knowing that if something takes longer than I’d like, it’s probably for a good-and-larger-picture reason. I do get wound about stuff, and I’m working on getting better at letting things go.

Based on lessons you’ve learned in the industry, what is your best advice for an aspiring fabric designer?

Gosh, that’s hard, it depends so much on what someone is wondering. Generally, though I would have a two-part thought, which is a combination of diligently pursuing one’s interest in fabric design and also knowing that it’s not for the faint of heart. No one will ever know if it’s going to work or not if they don’t try, and though that sounds so obvious, it’s true. I spent longer than I should have wondering if a company would pick up my work. If anyone is serious about fabric design and wants to do it for the right kind of reasons, then it is worth trying.

That being said, it is a ton of work and time, and even more once fabric is in production. The commitment is huge, and knowing why you want to design fabric and where you want to go with it is key. If it is just kind of a fun goal for someone, that is one thing. If a person sees it as a career they are professionally pursuing, it is an entirely different commitment. I feel that overall fabric design needs to start with great artwork, repeat, and colors, and putting one’s best work forward it always key.

Text fabric by Alison Glass

Giveaway!

Alison is generously giving away a prize pack of goodies that are not yet available in stores! One lucky winner will receive:

– Fat quarter bundle of the new Feathers print from the Sun Print line
– Feathers Quilt Pattern
– Embroidery Pattern – Winner’s Choice
– Alison Glass Art Print – Winner’s Choice

Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Alison glass fabric and prints

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Giveaway! Bag Patterns from ChrisW Designs

Today, we’re excited to offer one Craft Buds reader the chance to win 3 PDF patterns of their choice from ChrisW Designs!

Australia-based designer Christine makes some of the cutest handbags, clutches and backpacks around. Here are the three PDF patterns I would choose if I could pick just three!

The Amy Backpack would be great for a boy or a girl…just change up the fabrics! Includes a large zippered pocket, elastic front pocket and two side pockets for loads of storage.

The Olivia Handbag makes a great everyday purse with metal rings hardware, two front-flap pockets and a recessed zipper in the top to keep all of your belongings safe and sound.

For a simple “grab and go” bag, The Emma makes perfect sense. This cute shoulder bag has a magnetic snap closure and would be great for little girls as well as adults.

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One lucky winner will receive their 3 favorite patterns from ChrisW Designs. Good luck, and be sure to check out Christine’s blog to stay in touch!

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.

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

Thomas Knauer Q&A: Fabric Design and Modern Quilting

Today, we are excited to have Thomas Knauer, a great creative mind, fabric designer and writer! If you follow Thomas’s blog, you know that he openly shares insight into the industry, the sacrifices involved in running a creative business and the importance of creating art. Read on to hear more about how he balances his creative endeavors with family time, his upcoming book and more!

Thomas, thanks for visiting Craft Buds to share more about your work as a writer, fabrics designer and creator! Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how your work shifted to the textiles industry?

Until about five years ago I had spent my entire life in academia; I got graduate degrees from Ohio University and the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and taught art and design at Drake University and the State University of New York. In 2008, I developed a rare neuromuscular disorder and had to leave both academia and the traditional work world.

Once we got my illness managed, I decided to make a dress for my then almost 2-year-old daughter. At about that age everything for kids starts to have corporate tie-ins and I though I could certainly figure out a dress for her. So, I made one, and then another, and another and another and another. She loved them, and I loved that she loved them, so I was hooked.

From there I decided to give fabric design a try and just dove in. There was so much I didn’t have a clue about, especially the industry itself, but by then it was about 20 years since I started my career as an artist, and all of those years did a lot to really help me jump-start things here.

Market quilt by Thomas Knauer in “Thesaurus” fabric

What would people be most surprised to know about being a fabric designer?

There are probably so many things that would surprise people, to be honest. The most likely is how much fabric designers make: generally 1-2% of the retail cost of the finished fabric. Certainly fabric design opens up some doors—it certainly has for me—but it also involves a remarkable amount of work to do really well.

Like any business there are always trade-offs, and in the end I am glad to be doing it. Certainly, there are a lot of personal rewards; I truly love figuring out how to tell a story or approach a conceptual problem through fabric design. At the same time there are only so many hours in the day. If you want to make a living doing this, you are going to need to do a whole lot of different things, and expect to devote and insane amount of time to doing it. Heck, I wouldn’t be able to do this if my wife weren’t a professor.

Actually, my advice to anyone trying to break into this world would be to do it part time for years while still working a straight job, or have a partner who can supply that steady income; it is a long, long road.

Doppelgänger quilt by Thomas Knauer and quilted by Lisa Sipes

I’m excited to hear more about your book with F+W Media, due out next spring. Can you tell us a little more about the book conception and writing process and what that looked like for you?

In my head, this book is something of a sampler, not a set of blocks to make a sampler quilt, but a sampling of quilts that illustrate a methodology, a conceptual approach to modern quilting. The quilts don’t all look modern, so I’m not really talking about modern in strictly aesthetic terms; each of the quilts in this book is a response to a specifically modern (or even post-modern problem). Each quilt starts out with a problem, a concern, and issue and I figure out how to translate a response into a quilt. In all but one case, the quilts are practical, usable quilts; the book is about integrating our values, our concerns, and our worldviews into the things we make and our lives, wrapping ourselves up in objects that speak to others and ourselves. One of my QuiltCon quilts—In Defense of Handmade—was made for the book. I wish I could go into greater detail, but that’s going to have to wait until we get closer to the release date.

As far as writing this book, it was a total dream. I waited until I found a publisher who I though was a really good fit, and F+W has been fantastic; they have really supported the project all the way through and allowed me to make the decisions that I felt I needed to make. I was lucky enough to have Lisa Sipes quilt all of the quilts for the book, which has been incredible, and have had the support of some fabulous piecers to help me get all of the tops done in time (you’ll hear about them in the book).

The actual writing really was the best part for me; I am a writer by nature as anyone who visits my blog can attest to. I actually wrote almost the entirety of the book in two four-days bursts. For one of them I took off to Philadelphia to see my neurologist and then locked myself in a hotel until I had finished the first half of the book. I can’t actually remember where I went the second time, but I wrote the second half in much the same way. The really great thing about this book is that F+W gave me a word count that could never really ever fit in the book length we had planned on, and I have to believe they knew that. It meant that they just wanted me go ahead and write, which is what I love to do.

Of course there was a lot of editing and revising; there always is. That added about two more weeks to the writing. The thing about a quilt book is that the making takes up almost all of the time, at least for me; luckily that is kinda awesome too. But the writing, that is definitely a bit like heroin for me; I am addicted and already looking forward to starting the second, third, and fourth books.

Blast quilt by Rachael Gander in Thomas Knauer’s “Asbury” fabric

How do you find a balance between your creative work and your personal/family time? Do you have any tips for creative entrepreneurs in this arena?

Honestly, sometimes better than others. That is just the nature of things here in the fabric/quilt world. Things happen in spurts and you just have to put in the time when you have to put in the time. For a while at the start I think I did a pretty mediocre job of balancing things, but now I am starting to say no to more things. I’m in a process of cutting down to the core of things that truly matter to me in terms of what I do in this industry, especially now that we have a new baby, and K is getting to work on her second book.

As far as tips, oi… So much of that depends on your financial circumstances. If you can afford to take things slowly then do it, but not everyone has that luxury; when it is sink or swim, you gotta do what you gotta do. My biggest advice for being a creative entrepreneur is to have a safety net, to have it be part time until the very last minute, and to have several back-up plans. Passion is a prerequisite, but it just isn’t enough. I don’t mean to be all negative, but I think it is important to hear. If you really want to succeed, don’t jump in too early; that is the best way to keep enjoying what you do and to have the space you need to prepare for a successful entry into doing this full-time.

What’s next for you?

That is always a hard question because I rarely know for sure. We are going to be living in England next year (K has a fellowship at Cambridge) and I hope to spend much of my work time writing another book. And of course I hope there will be a lot more fabric. I have just started a partnership with Janome and am diving in headfirst into machine embroidery, which I have wanted to do for a while. More than just cure stuff, machine embroidery can do some things that would be otherwise impossible, and that is what I want to do, some utterly insane designs that no hand could really do, or at least not in less that a couple of years…

I’m thinking I am going to start moving back toward the gallery a bit more after a long hiatus. While I am still in love with practical and usable quilts (and won’t stop making those), I am finding that I have a backlog of textile and stitchery ideas that are truly best suited for the galleries I used to haunt.

Beyond that, who knows? I have a feeling this is going to be a year of change…

Thanks for the thoughtful interview, Thomas! You can stay in touch by following his blog.

What did you find most interesting from this post? If you have questions or comments for Thomas, feel free to leave them here!

Q&A with Modern Yardage + Giveaway!

Have you heard about Modern Yardage, a new fabric design, manufacturing and retail company? Owner April Cobb and her team have just launched the business in March, printing fabric on-demand from their offices in Utah.

Modern Yardage offers designs from new and untapped talents who are professional designers. What is also fun about this new company is that the fabrics are based on 44″ designs, but they are printed on 58″ wide fabric, so the additional space in the margin is filled with fun extras!

I was excited to chat more with April about her launch of this creative business including the biggest challenges and what she hopes for the future. Read on, and be sure to enter the giveaway if you’d like to try out Modern Yardage fabric for yourself!

April, what is your background in, career-wise, and how did you become interested in modern fabric and sewing?

I have an advertising/marketing background. I worked in large ad agencies in New York City and Washington DC then after receiving my MBA, I worked in marketing and communications for the Intel Corporation. But I have been sewing seriously since High School (sort of freakishly, actually) and have always loved it. I spent hours as a teenager making my own prom dresses, bathrobes, and costumes. When I started staying home with my kids, I started a little business where I made tote bags and sold them at craft fairs and farmers markets. One day I walked into Pine Needles, a little modern quilting shop in the Salt Lake City area, and my life changed. I fell in love with modern quilting fabric. I hadn’t seen it before that moment. My bags became more beautiful because of this great find. This led to my designing a perfect, comfortable headband called the Macy Jayne Reversible Headband. From the beginning I used beautiful modern quilting fabrics as part of the design and people just wouldn’t stop asking where I got my fabric. The headbands became so popular and sold so well that I was going through fabric like crazy. I started looking into getting fabric wholesale, which got me more involved in the industry. Before long I was designing sewing patterns with Joel Dewberry and then started licensing my sewing patterns to Riley Blake.

Can you tell me about when the idea for Modern Yardage first started simmering? How did you create your plan of attack?

Through being a part of the industry and learning a lot from our friends and experiences in the industry, my husband and I became aware of the shortcomings of the fabric world. We recognized that there is an enormous lag time of 6 months to 1 year before fabric gets from the designer’s completed product to the arrival of the actual printed bolts of fabric into fabric stores in the US. This makes for a lot of speculation on trends. We recognized how from a fabric line, there are winner prints and there are loser prints. No one knows for certain which will sell and which won’t. So there are often too many bolts that get discounted and the designers, design companies, and the retailers lose money. Then the designs that do very well are in short supply and sewists and crafters can’t get them when they need them. Retailers miss out on the opportunity to sell those designs when they can’t get enough of them in time. Additionally, there are so many talented designers who don’t get the opportunity to get their designs on fabric. Traditional design companies cannot afford to give as many talented designers as they would like, the opportunity to work with them because their financial risk is too high and they often don’t even have warehouse space to house anymore lines of fabric.

My husband, Jay, and I were aware of the capabilities of digital textile printing and had learned a few things about it. I am not exactly sure how all of this came together into one brilliant thought. I only know that one morning, less than a year ago, Jay walked down the stairs and said, “I know what we need to do.” This is when he told me about his inspiration and his plan. I knew immediately that his idea of printing modern designs onto fabric, on-demand, had to be the way of the future. We leaped into bringing our vision into reality immediately and just 5 months later, modernyardage.com was live on the web. We have added to his original vision and have innovated to showcase our technology and unique use of our tools. It has all come together extraordinarily well.

We scouted out talented designers, created a vision for the branding of our company, built a website, ordered and built equipment, then rented a space for Modern Yardage to call home.

What were the practical barriers that you had to overcome in order to start your business?

We were fortunate enough to have enough money to start our business so that we didn’t have to share equity and could keep full control of our company. We have had some challenges in staffing. The roles we needed filled from the beginning were few, but it was critical that we found people who could contribute to our vision and carry it out effectively. In the end, we have taken on more ourselves than we should because it is too early and formative of a time to put others in the position to create the path to fulfilling our vision.

When we approached our first 5 designers, we had a resounding YES! from each of them. We felt very blessed to happen upon such a great group of people who believed in our vision, supported our efforts, and had patience with us. Cindy Lindgren, Heather Dutton, Emilie Daly, Dana Morgan, and Katie Schrader all had enough faith in our big idea to sign an exclusive fabric contract with us before we even had a logo or equipment. None of them had ever even met us in person. They just recognized early on that what we were doing had to be the way of the future and provided a great opportunity for them to be pioneers with us. As far as legal issues go, we approach legalities very seriously because Jay is an attorney as well as an MBA. He is able to work brilliantly with licensees to make agreements that are beneficial to them as well as to Modern Yardage.

The technology has been challenging. It took us and our operations manager a while to get the hang of it all. We are still learning all of the time and have certainly had moments of frustration and have even shed a few tears. At this point we have the operations well under control and we are now focusing on leveraging our technology to bring some new, never-before-seen innovations to the fabric world.

What does your typical day or week look like? How do you find a balance?

Oh dear! I don’t know how I pull it off sometimes. I get up early and get my kids off to school then go to work. I answer countless emails from hopeful designers, fulfill requests from our current designers, and I answer questions from customers. I work on strategy with staff concerning marketing and operations and manage priorities and schedules. There is always work to do on our website and products to add. Fortunately we now have a great team at Modern Yardage that works well together. The commitment of everyone and support that I get from operations and marketing keeps me going. I leave to pick up my kids from school in the afternoon and then take time off until they are all in bed. Then I stay up too late tying up details and writing more emails.

I still have piles of laundry to fold each week that often don’t get folded and soccer practices and swimming lessons to go to with my kids. I have to figure out what to make for dinner each night and try to get my kids to where they need to be on time. I am like all working moms, but since I am in charge, I can create my own flexibility. I never want my children to feel like I am not paying attention or that they aren’t important to me so I have to keep things as separate as possible. Jay and I really enjoy working together and talking about Modern Yardage and our goals for the business. Like our children, our business also brings us closer because it is also our baby. I don’t have great balance in my life, but I am not sure I ever will. I just make the best of things, set my priorities and keep a positive attitude. Somehow things usually work out.

What is your vision for Modern Yardage, and how does this tie in with what you believe is the future of the textiles business?

Our vision for Modern Yardage extends far beyond where it is now. We think that what we offer now is great, but we do have some tricks up our sleeve. Over the next year, new features will be added to our site that will allow more customization. These options will blow the minds of our customers. In a few years, we plan to expand in a way that will entirely change the way that people buy fabric. We are building strategic alliances so that our fabric becomes more readily available. Jay’s main responsibility is implementing our strategic plan, which includes building key alliances and managing critical research and development both with our equipment and our user interface. We think that before long, as technology improves and becomes more affordable, digital textile printing will take over. The old fashion way of screen printing fabric and importing it from overseas will be obsolete and the possibilities will be endless in textile design. Imaginations will soar and the industry will never look back.

Giveaway!

Modern Yardage is giving you the chance to win 2 yards of fabric of your choice! To enter to win, fill out the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners! Spring Into May Giveaway

It’s time to announce the winners of the Spring Into May Giveaway. We hope you had fun discovering some new crafty sites to follow, as well as get some inspiration for your sewing stash!

And the Winner is . . .

Debra L.
(5/3/2013 15:25:11)

 

And the Winner is . . .

Abbe C. (5/4/2013 9:07:06)


And the Winner is . . .

Deborah H. (5/8/2013 7:50:04)

 

And the Winner is . . .

Linda M. (5/3/2013 14:28:1)

 

And the Winner is . . .

Mary S. (5/4/2013 23:38:27)

 

And the Winners are . . .

DeAnna C. (5/3/2013 12:17:55)
(Deanna, the e-mail address you listed isn’t working, please contact me at marij4 (at) gmail (dot) com by Monday afternoon to claim your prize!)

DeAnna C. was replaced with Diane H.
Jeanne B. (5/3/2013 10:27:20)
Moe W. (5/10/2013 17:01:18)
Cheryl G. (5/6/2013 22:29:55)
Diane H. (5/6/2013 11:07:58)
Rebekah B. (5/7/2013 18:41:08)
Debra A. (5/9/2013 15:27:08)
Sarah H. (5/3/2013 13:46:19)
Judy H. (5/6/2013 21:12:25)
Edith H. (5/3/2013 18:52:10)

 

The winners have all been contacted and all prizes have been claimed! A huge thanks to all of the great companies and bloggers that made this possible! Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

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