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Posts Tagged ‘The Professional Quilter’

Happy Valentine’s to you and your business

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Traditionally Valentine’s Day is about relationship love.

We often think in terms of someone that we love — a partner, a child, a parent — when we think of relationships.

I think our most important love relationship is with ourselves.

When you love and take care of yourselves, it shows up in a positive way in both your lives and your work.

So, why don’t you prioritize your relationship with yourself?

I think it comes down to a belief that if you take time for yourself, you are somehow taking something away from the others in your life or even the growth of your business.

Read more…

Meet Debbie Wendt, Longarm Quilter, Teacher, Pattern Designer and Notion Inventor

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The Winter 2012 issue of The Professional Quilterincludes a profile by Mindy Wylie with Debbie Wendt, a longarm quilter, teacher, author and pattern designer. Debbie is also known for creating Brilliant Bindings, a tool available in sizes for both longarms and domestic machines, her fat-quarter friendly 4-3-2-1-Done patterns, and her method to construct and produce quilts right on the longarm. Here’s an excerpt from the profile:

When did you start quilting and how did you get into it?

My first “official” quilt class was in 1984 when I took a Continuing Ed class in the town where I lived. The class was Amish diamonds in the center, all by hand! I started with templates and even made my own feather stencil for one of my borders. I have always enjoyed sewing, and quilting felt comfortable – much easier than fitting clothing. As a young girl, I listed sewing as my hobby. My grandmothers were both seamstresses, and I admired their work. It feels natural to have sewing and now quilting as my business. I continue to take classes because I want to continue learning about my passion.

How did this lead longarm quilting?

I started longarm quilting in 1998 when I worked in a quilt shop in West Monroe, La. The owner asked if I had interest in learning the longarm so she taught me the basics. I quilted 22 lap quilts that fall as Christmas presents, which gave me a lot of time learning the machine and techniques. I then graduated to pantographs, as that is what was most requested by the customers.

How did you get started teaching quilting?

I started teaching quilting while living in Cairo, Egypt.  When I moved there in 1993 I helped start a quilt group, Quilters in DeNile. Several people in a cross stitch group wanted to learn to quilt, so I taught classes for the quilt group and at CSA (Community Service Association) where expats from many countries gathered. “Good cotton” quilting fabric was hard to come by so my summer visits home were spent buying fabric and filling my suitcases. We could get solid cottons in the souks and small shops along the Street of the Tentmakers, but it was a lesser grade as the high quality Egyptian cotton was exported.

You self-publish your books. Tell us about that process.

Self-publishing was the means needed to a quick end. I wanted to put my techniques into print so I could share my ideas with my students but didn’t have time to go through the proposal process. Thanks to my husband’s editing and computer skills we actually printed the first versions of my longarm books on our home printer. After their debut at my first teaching show I had them printed professionally. With self-publishing, complete instructions are crucial. I always have other quilters walk through the instructions to make sure they are easy to understand. I also have my husband, a non-quilter, read it for logical sequence.

Do you also self-publish your piecing patterns?

Yes, I also self-publish all my patterns. I am basically self-taught when it comes to computers. With some tips from my husband, I do all my own diagrams and layout. I worked with a graphic designer to re-design my logo and help with the Brilliant Bindings cover page. She also runs a printing business in the town where I live, so it fit to have her do all my printing. It made it very convenient to proof layout, photo colors and determine the best paper choices. Getting the perfect lighting and angles for my cover quilts proved difficult so I now trust those photos to a professional.

Speaking of marketing, are you active on the Internet and with social media?

I have a website to support my products and teaching engagements. I recently went with a company to re-design and upgrade my site to offer more to my customers, for example, a free patterns section and newsletter sign-up. I have had a blog address for a couple years, and I’m excited and determined to make it into a “real” blog. I will be working with it more in the coming year to stay connected and show my personal side of traveling and quilting. Facebook has been a wonderful tool personally, reconnecting with high school classmates. I started a business page just last month and look forward to exploring ways I can use it to connect with quilting friends, students and customers. I have not used Twitter.

What new projects are in the works? What can we expect from you this coming year?

I have many new projects in the works. It just so happens that my binding tool is a common shape in many quilt block patterns, so I’ll be releasing several new quilts in the coming year. I’m also in the design phase of a couple new tools. I look forward to releasing one at Spring Quilt Market in my hometown of Kansas City, Mo.

Please share your comments below.

Creating Systems For Success

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Have you given any thought to systems in your business? I know many solo creative entrepreneurs who have no systems for processes. They, in essence, reinvent the wheel every time they do the same task again. I’ve heard that any task that is done more than once or twice can be systematized, and this lets you work smarter not harder.

My favorite resources for understanding systems are any of the E-Myth books by Michael E. Gerber. Gerber often talks about working on your business rather than in your business. His solution is to consider your business as the prototype for a franchise operation and create systems so processes can be done at the lowest level possible. He doesn’t expect you to create a franchise; he wants you to understand how systems help you create and build a successful business.

When you have systems in place, you are better able to use your time for what we could call your brilliance. For creative people this results in spending more time creating your product or generating new ideas.

First, look at the activities you do that are repeated. This can be something done daily or weekly or quarterly. Take the time to write down the actions step by step. The second time you need to do the activity, use your written system and refine it. I have spent time creating an operations manual outlining steps for a variety of our activities. It did take me time to put together the systems, and in the end it was definitely worth it. I’m able to have others complete many of the tasks now, and in a pinch, I can pitch in and find following the system takes less time.

Here are some ways that quilters, fiber artists and other creative entrepreneurs can use systems:

  1.  Are you an artist who shows your work? Create a written system to contact and follow-up with gallery representatives, a system to ship your work or hang your work in a local gallery, a system for following up with potential buyers. If these are written down, you’ll have an easier time each time you or someone else completes the task.
  2. Do you have templates for forms or letters that can be used again and again? This could be the press release for your new pattern release or the gallery show that you customize.
  3. Do you have a system to gather the names of visitors to your website, possibly offering them an incentive? If not, you are losing the opportunity to contact potential customers.
  4. Are you a pattern designer? If you look at the processes involved in creating a pattern, you’ll find areas to systematize. One would be to create a style sheet listing the fonts, spacing, formatting, etc., of your pattern. Another would be your system for order fulfillment.
  5. Are you a longarm quilter? Do you have an order form with questions you need to ask each new client? Do you have a system for loading the quilts? This could actually be a task that you could teach someone else to do, freeing up time for you.
  6. Do you spend time online marketing your business with a newsletter, blog, Facebook and Twitter? When I taught a class on Social Media Marketing this summer, I suggested that people set aside 15-20 minutes each day to focus on listening to what’s on social media, responding to it and participating in conversations. I also suggested setting aside an hour or so one day a week to create articles for your newsletter or blog posts.

What kinds of systems have you created? Take some time this week to look at where you can create a system, select one and document each step, and share your results on our blog. Once you’ve created systems, not only do you have the exact steps to follow, the chance of forgetting steps is virtually eliminated.


Judging Garments

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

In the Summer issue of The Professional Quilter, NQA certified judge Scott Murkin shared his thoughts on judging garments. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

Many quilters either started out as garment sewers who later developed an interest in quiltmaking or conversely, after mastering many quilting techniques, decided to apply them to garment making. Whichever came first, a significant number of quilters participate in garment making to various degrees.

In response to this trend and to showcase the creativity and talent of these skilled sewists, a significant majority of quilt shows have either an associated garment show or categories for garments within the judged show. This means that the active quilt show judge is going to be called upon at some point to judge garments. For the judge who has experience in garment making, this may pose no great challenge, but the judge who does not have this experience will need to seek out continuing education experiences to prepare for this eventuality.

A good starting place for assessing the completed garment is to consider the quiltmaking techniques that were used in the construction. Techniques such as piecing, appliqué and quilting are judged by the same criteria of design and workmanship as they are in quilts. Surface design techniques are also held to the same standards as they are in quilting. Embellishments are seen quite commonly in garment making, and they should be well secured and integrated into the overall design and construction of the garment.

In addition to the traditional quiltmaking skills, a number of specialized skills are required to turn this constructed fabric into a three-dimensional object that can be worn on the body. The garment field has its own specialized terminology, such as French seams, a Hong Kong finish and frog closures. Specific resources will allow the judge to become fluent in the language of garment making. Being able to use these terms properly when providing feedback to entrants will enhance the judge’s credibility inestimably.

The final, and arguably most important, element of judging garments is the aspect that makes them most unique from quilts. Because garments are designed and constructed to be worn, the drape, wearability and appearance on the human form become paramount in the evaluation. The fact that quilted clothing is meant to be presented in three dimensions affects both construction and design decisions.

The amazing inventiveness and creativity in today’s quilted clothing world, along with expert sewing skills and cross-fertilization between garment and quiltmaking, provide an exciting opportunity for quilt show judges to be involved in assessing this art form. If this is not your area of expertise, find a mentor from the garment field (in addition to one or more of the listed resources) so that you can carry out your responsibilities with aplomb. A working knowledge of the language and skills of garment making will serve you well throughout your career.

Please share your thoughts on judging garments as a judge or garment maker in the comments below.

If you would like to read more of Scott’s article, including details on the terminology of garment making and resources to build your knowledge, it’s included in our Summer 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.


Book Review: Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts
Nancy Mahoney
Martingale & Co., $24.99

Well-known author, teacher, fabric designer and award-winning quilter, Nancy Mahoney, has released her 11th book with Martingale. Inspired by memories of her own gardening and the vast selection of floral fabrics on the market, Nancy has created 11 easy-to-make, full-size block quilts, which can easily be adapted to a size of your choosing. To simplify the appliqué, all but one quilt features fused floral segments, with fusible and quiltmaking instructions. The last includes folded flowers with patchwork blocks. I liked that the samples were both in bolds and 30’s fabrics offering a wider appeal. And, I particularly liked the bolder quilts, including Orange Marmalade, which included a secondary pattern, as well as the clear-toned Precious Peonies, a favorite flower.


Look for the book at your favorite quilt shop or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

Take Time to Sharpen Your Saw!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Stephen A. Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says “Sharpen the Saw” is Habit 7 and shares the story of a man who has worked for more than five hours to saw down a tree. When asked why he doesn’t take a break and sharpen the saw, sure to speed his work along, the man replies, “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw. I’m too busy sawing!”

Covey goes on to define sharpen the saw as “preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you.” It’s about renewing yourself, physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially/emotionally. This requires a proactive investment in ourselves. And it takes time, something we all seem to find in short supply. I’ll be the first in line to say it’s easy to get caught up in my daily activities and neglect sharpening my saw. With so much going on with the day-to-day activities of my business and other commitments beyond work, where am I going to find time to “sharpen the saw”? For me, it’s about making it a priority – and honoring that priority. I’m big on time blocking, and this is one way you can put that to use. Currently I have time blocked for a variety of “sharpening” activities.

Here are some ideas for sharpening your saw:

  1. Visit a museum
  2. Try a new technique or class
  3. Educate yourself (read something new, go to a seminar, listen to one of our teleclasses)
  4. Journal
  5. Organize your studio
  6. Review and update your goals
  7. Take time to exercise or try yoga
  8. Enjoy natural surroundings

Covey also explains his “Upward Spiral” concept of renewal that allows us to grow and change. To do this, we must consciously learn, commit and do; learn, commit and do; continuously. This will keep your blade sharp. Where are your blades dull and what are you doing to sharpen them?

Please share your thoughts on “sharpening your saw” and how you do this below.

Looking for places to donate your stash?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

How much fabric do you have in your stash? According to the 2010 Quilting in America™ survey, the average quilter has a stash of $3,677 worth of fabric and spent on average close to $1,000 the previous 12 months on fabric. In 2007, our stash averaged $3,195 and we spent $2,304. So we’re spending less on fabric and our stash is slightly increasing. But who among us is average?! I probably have in excess of that average amount, and I’m sure many of you do, too.

Are we hoarding our fabrics? In actuality, quilters are among the most generous people I know. Every time the word goes out about a need, quilters are the first to respond. This summer I’ve been cleaning out my stash and donating to worthwhile causes. If you’re in the same cleaning mode that I’m in, here are six places that can use your unwanted stash.

1. Project Linus. Project Linus is dedicated to making security blankets for babies, children and teens in need. Volunteers will turn your stash into quilts. More info: Look for the link for Chapter Listings to find one in your area.

2. Local quilt guilds. You may not belong to your local guild – not everyone is a guild joiner – but most of them have charity projects. In my guild we call it “Quilting for Others,” and our chair packages fabrics into kits for quilts. In addition to collecting quilts throughout the year, we have a quilt-in at our November meeting. Quilts have been made for Habitat for Humanity and children who ride in the back of police cars, for example.

3. Haiti Peace Quilts. This organization establishes and supports independent women’s quilting cooperatives. In addition to helping the women build a business, Haiti Peace Quilts markets one-of-kind art quilts in the United States. The cooperatives need donations of fabric and other quilting supplies. More info: Look for the How You Can Help link.

4. Prayers and Squares. This interfaith outreach organization combines the gift of prayer with the gift of a hand-tied quilt. Individual chapters around the world need fabric, batting and other supplies. More info: Go to the Before You Join link and look for the Chapter List.

5. Denver Fabrics Fabric Stash Program. Operated by Denver Fabrics in St. Louis, this store sells donated fabric in in its Annex stores on its fabric-by-the-pound tables. The money generated goes to the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) a microfinance organization. More info:

6. Clara’s Calling. This is a new initiative started by Lisa Steele, owner of Bella Fabrics in Carrollton, Va.; Rob Krieger, president of Checker Distributors; and Laurie Harsh with Fab Shop Network. The impetus for the project is to support the task of quilter and Master Sgt. Clara Vargas in Afghanistan to teach more than 4,000 widowed Afghan women how to sew so they can provide for themselves and their children. Donations needed include fabric and sewing supplies. Donations must be made through participating shops. We have an article on this in the Summer issue of The Professional Quilter and will share more on the project in an upcoming e-zine. More info: Look for the link to participating shops.

Please share some of your favorite places to donate your fabrics and sewing supplies!

Book Review: Quilt National 2011

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Quilt National 2011

Lark Crafts & The Dairy Barn Arts Center

Lark Crafts; $27.95

Subtitled The Best in Contemporary Quilts, this catalog from Quilt National, which is held every two years, celebrates the best in contemporary quilts from around the world. From more than 1,000 entries, the three jurors were able to winnow the submissions to 85 quilts that comprise the show running May 23-Sept. 5 at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio. Each quilt is shown on a full page, and some have detail shots. The photos are accompanied by an artist’s statement about the work.

I love the diversity of style and technique, from those pieces that clearly have a connection to our patchwork roots to those that don’t. I also enjoyed reading the statements of the three jurors, Nelda Warkentin, Eleanor McCain and Pauline Verbeek-Cowart, about how they approached their task.

Look for the book at your favorite quilt retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

Tweet This: 6 Tips to Using Twitter

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011


With more than 6 million members on Twitter, you’re sure to find more than one of your customers tweeting. While Facebook seems to be growing fastest among baby boomers, Twitter has captured Generation X. Since many of us find some customers in this group and we’re looking to add younger quilters to our industry, this micro-blogging tool is a great addition to your marketing tool box. Here are five tips for using Twitter in your business.

1. Share stories about your business, service or product. If you have announced a new book or pattern, share a link to the press release on your site. If you’re a shop owner and you added new classes, tweet that. If you’re a longarm quilter and added new photos of your customer’s quilts to your site, tweet that. Since Twitter limits you to 140 characters, shorten your web links with a service such as

2. Share stories that you find about our industry or the art world in general. It could even be something new and good about one of your customers, such as winning a prize at a quilt show or releasing a new book.

3. Retweet useful information from your followers or those you follow. I’ll often find something that one of the people I follow tweeted that is worth passing along. Be sure to credit the person you are retreating. On Sunday I retweeted an offer for free e-cards with a work of art from the Guggenheim collection.

4. Ask questions to engage your customers. It could be something like, who is your favorite designer? Or, do you wash your fabrics before cutting? The goal is to create a conversation.

5. Share something inspirational. This could be a favorite quote or a link to a YouTube video. Sharing something humorous is a good idea, too. This can sometimes make someone’s day.

6. Handle customer inquiries. This could be pre-emptive, as in tweeting if you find a problem in one of your patterns or books. Or if one of your customers found a great solution or work-around to something, tweet that. You may get direct messages on a problem. It’s fine to answer the specific person, just be sure you address it also through Twitter. Larger companies to check out who are cited as good examples on customer service on Twitter include Comcast and Zappos.

If you are interested in learning how to use Facebook to grow your business, join us in our upcoming Social Media Marketing course.

Book Review: Little Quilts for Big Occastions

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Little Quilts for Big Occasions
Sandi Colwell
Leisure Arts, $9.95

With Memorial Day just passed and Independence Day around the corner, I enjoy using my red, white and blue wall hanging to add the right touch to the holidays. I also have a Christmas quilt and a Thanksgiving table runner. If you are looking for a cute wall hanging to celebrate holidays in your home, this collection of seven small wall hangings from Sandi Cowell will fit the bill. Sandi offers patterns with valentine’s, Easter, patriotic, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthday themes. Since I have a big birthday coming up next month, I have my eye on the sampler of six cupcakes.

Look for the book at your favorite quilt retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

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