Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Beyond Neutral Blog Tour

You might know John Q. Adams better as Quilt Dad, but I know him as Mr. April in the NGAQB. He was one of the first male quilters I stumbled across at the beginning of my quilt journey, and he quickly became a source of inspiration. It wasn't until we became friends in the NGAQB that I got to see his talent first-hand. So when I heard he had a book coming out I approached him with something like, "Please, please, puh-lease, if you have a book blog tour can I be on it? Who's more beyond neutral than Molli Sparkles?!" Thankfully, he said yes!

Here it is folks: Beyond Neutral, Quilts Inspired by Nature's Elements by John Q. Adams featuring 16 quilt patterns and the inspiration for each. Now I have a small confession to make. This is the first quilt book I've ever looked through. Wha? I know. I've never actually seen a quilt book in the flesh, or even flipped through one at a book store. Thankfully, I was sent a digital copy of this book, or I'd probably never see it at all! I'm not sure how other publishers do it, but I think that is a pretty good service of Martingale to sell a Print Version or an eBook only version. 

As I read John's book one of the things that stood out to me the most was his use of large scale prints.  Looking through my own stash, I notice I usually shy away from those in favour of the medium and small scale. So if you're looking for some ideas on how to use your large scale prints that have been haunting you since 2008, this could be the book for you! He manages to use them in much more interesting ways than layer cake-esque squares too.

Glimmerglass (above) is my favourite because it utilises these large scale prints in multiple ways. There's such movement and variety in the one quilt. You can easily see how there could be a multitude of "make it your own" style design changes to this pattern. That's pretty typical for all of John's patterns too. The foundations for each are easy to complete, and they give you complete flexibility to create outside of your typical constraints. 

One of John's goals for this book was to show how you can go Beyond Neutral in your quilt making. That means, you don't always have to use white or cream as that contrasting, neutral background. I know you see it everywhere, and it has become somewhat of an unspoken rule, but it is time to break free! You know I'm fully on board this colour train, but if you need more choo-choo in your caboose, check out John's book for a full onslaught of colour inspiration. It's time to turn your low volume world up, up, up!

(All photos courtesy of Martingale and photographer Brett Kane.)

I have an eBook copy of Beyond Neutral to giveaway! Let's make it interesting shall we? To win, go outside and find the most interesting natural element that could be a source of quiltspiration. Trees, sunset, rosebush = BORING. Try again, then leave it in the comments. The most interesting and creative response wins, which I will reveal this time next week. Good luck!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Sunday Stash #91 - Surprise Mail

I love surprises. I love mail. So when surprise mail shows up, you can bet your britches it is going to be a good day! Jacqueline from Quilt, Sew Happy blog sent me this package full of goodies! I recently offered her some solicited feedback and design tips on her blog, and for some reason or another she decided to follow my advice. 

So for what I accounted to just being a good blog-samaritan, she returned the favour with all these goodies! Do you see that mini glitter marker? I just found my new autographing pen! Woo! Now, I don't know about all this hexie madness, but at least I'm fully prepared when I jump into it. Oh, and of course there's some fabric there, Kona Snow (the irony) and a sparkly fabric that I already have a bundle designed around! All in all, a wonderful surprise!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


I have about thirty-seven things on the go: patterns, articles, tours, projects, fan mail, commissions, logos, not to mention the quilts! With all this activity happening, I knew it was time to put on my gold chainz and be a BO$$! Dollas? Nah, $parkles! 

Tonight I'm making the backing for what I'm currently calling my Fully Sick Quilt. You know, because I was fully sick when I started making it. I've got the quilt top sewn together (not pictured), and I'm using yardage of Salt Air Blooms in Coral, combined with Art Gallery Pure Elements stripes, for the back. I know it sounds cray-cray, but I'm contemplating some matchstick quilting. Fully sick in the head, I know!

Brianna (you're a no-reply blogger) asked for a tutorial for this block, and I promise it is on the never-ending to-do list. Thank you so much for your patience. There are a few things launching next week, so you'd better watch this space! Hair flip, hair flip, hair flip!

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WiP Wednesday! 

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

"Hanging on your every word..." - Sia

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sunday Stash #89 - Good News Bad News

So the good news is that I received ten yards of Art Gallery Pure Elements in Snow this week that I had ordered from Intrepid Thread during their half price shipping sale. (By the way, they now have permanent super cheap shipping so you should check that out!) I've received a commission to make a queen size AMH feather bed quilt, using the Shimmer by Jennifer Sampou fat quarter bundle I showed off during Sunday Stash #87. I wanted to use Art Gallery Pure Elements for the background to give this quilt that super-luxe quality.

The bad news is that I was expecting Art Gallery Pure Elements in Snow to be a similar colour to Kona Snow. Um, it's not. Obviously, the persons choosing the fabric names at both companies have a different idea about what colour snow is! How confusing! Art Gallery's version of Snow is pure, glistening white, while Kona's version is snow at dusk, creamy and smooth.

I mean, it's not entirely bad news, right? I get to order more fabric, and now I have ten extra yards of Art Gallery to drape around my naked body!

Friday, 22 August 2014

TGIFF - No Value Does Not Equal Free ... It Equals $2,252.40.

It's taken an entire year--literally, to the day--for my quilt, No Value Does Not Equal Free to come full circle on my blog. It all started with a few innocent sample blocks, that bloomed into what I consider to be one of my greatest works. It took a lot of time ... and as they say, time is money!

I'm not cheap. If anything, I am a high-class, Rodeo Drive, "I would have stayed for two thousand," type of girl. (But if any of you would have paid four, you just give me a holla!) This was evidenced last November when I posted a seemingly innocuous post called TGIFF - No Value Does Not Equal Free. In it, I showcased a finished quilt top, made entirely of white fabrics, using Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Trip Around the World block tutorial. 

My original artist statement from November 2013: "I wanted to do this all white version as a direct response to two things. First, to all of the scrap-vomit, and let's just be perfectly honest, [some] fugly versions of Trip Around the World quilts that hit the Interwebs last year. ... Secondly, I created my version in response to the Low Value / Volume phenomenon that is still omni-present, and in my opinion, an over-used trend."

My hooker boots paraded a bit further down the sidewalk though. I took the opportunity to record the cost of all my materials and track the exact time spent in making the quilt top. I then assembled these details, along with other figures into a costing sheet to tally the cost of the quilt top only. The response was so feverish, I almost Pirates of Penzanced. Once Sew Mama Sew shared it with their readers (thank you!), it snowballed from there. It's still my most viewed blog post, sparking divisive commentary, and leading to other costing articles about cushions and baby quilts. Overall, a tumultuous, yet blog-changing experience. Suddenly, people knew my name, and were Truth Tea-ing me before I had even put the kettle on. There was so much, loudness surrounding that article (ironic really for a quilt with no volume) that the actual quilt got a little lost.

Let me share a few notes on the finished quilt before we jump into the economics of it all! It contains 36 scrappy Trip Around the World blocks. However, they all use Kona White as their centre, diagonal stripe to give a pure white point of reference. You definitely see its brightness in certain lights. The magnificent long-arm quilting was done by Jane 'Quilt Jane' Davidson in Brisbane, Australia. The brief I gave her: masculine, feather-free, architectural, Vogue Living, and include the words No Value Does Not Equal Free. She chimed back: graffiti, over-sized text, circles, and staccato. She really gets me! As one astute viewer remarked at the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair, "This quilt wouldn't be nearly as magnificent without the quilting." Slap: I love a good back-handed compliment!

After all the drama the first, and subsequent, costing posts created, I felt I wanted to reference that in the backing. So I created twenty-six friendship stars (#cantwealljustgetalong), using Kona White as the centre, and other whites for the surrounds of each individual star block. I ran these in a horizontal stripe across the entire back, surrounded on either side by yardage of Mirror Ball Dot. I adore how luxe it looks and feels!

For the binding, I used a white tone-on-tone city map print that Alyce of Blossom Heart Quilts sent me from Japan. A city map print for a Trip Around the World quilt--doesn't get much more perfect than that! Of course I had to include my glitter-flecked binding (GFB); it's subtle, but it's there!

I'm completely confident in my costing model methodologies, but if you don't like my methods, you certainly don't have to use them. That's not to say I'm not happy to discuss them, my reasoning, and why I am fabulously worth it. I'd love to hear your ideas, too! If you're looking for further discussion about the economics of quilting definitely check out Sam Hunter's many musings about the topic at Hunters Design Studio. She founded the We Are $ew Worth It campaign which also influenced this project. A special thanks to Sam for her work in this arena!

So that's the history, but $2,252.40 AUD for a 72" x 72" quilt made from 1,296, 2.5" squares? (You want the back, too!) Surely not? Surely so! I've used my own Costing Template (free download links at the end of this post) to outline the full breakdown of costs for this quilt. I've included everything from artist's fees to thread. If I ever had any doubt about exact timings or costings of a particular item, I rounded down. Do realise that what you are about to see is how much it cost me to make this quilt in Sydney, Australia, where everything is more expensive than say, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Fear not, I've included a US version as well!

So let me explain a few of these things. My panties are already in a wad over in the corner, so don't get any ideas!

  • The Australian dollar is nearly on parity with the US dollar.
  • The Design Concept Fee is a one time fee to cover the cost of the artist's project idea. This also includes time spent on figuring out the project with regards to aesthetics, pre-sketching, fabric choice, calculating fabric quantities, cutting and assembly procedure, layout decisions and general pondering time throughout the project. This charge has nothing to do with the free pattern / tutorial by Bonnie Hunter. If I had created an original pattern / tutorial, the Design Concept Fee would be much higher.

  • Fabric for the front was purchased at all different rates, throughout the world. Fabric in the US is typically around $8-12 per yard, fabric in Australia is typically $18-24 / yard (metre). I settled on an estimated cost of $15.00 / yard. Purchasing fabric and thread solely in Australia would have increased the supplies cost by approximately $100.00. For the US costing model, I used an estimated cost of $10.00 / yard.
  • Fabric for the back was purchased from Craftsy during a flash sale. Michael Miller Mirror Ball Dots in Snow for $6.29 / yard. However, I am of the opinion you should charge full price for supplies, as this is what it would cost to replace them. I have thereby billed it at $15.00 / yard.

  • Shipping charges are estimated for various purchases at $50.00 (this is low). I've included minor, miscellaneous charges here such as fuel while purchasing fabrics, needles, utilities, and sewing machine maintenance.
  • Regarding time spent during production, I timed myself at each step, even pausing the clock if I had to make myself lunch, etc. I felt I was sewing efficiently, chain piecing when I could.

  • Still, the median? Are you sure you deserve that much? ABSOLUTELY! In my day job I work in the facilities and maintenance industry, and pay vendors industry rates of $60.00 / hour during the day, and even $120.00 / hour during evenings and weekends. Considering I'm usually sewing in the evenings and weekends, asking for $30.00 / hour (when the plumber is making $120.00) seems completely acceptable to me! You have to make your own judgements here, but my sassy ass is worth more than $10.00 / hour. To be honest, I think my ass is hot, and it is worth way more than $30.00 / hour!

  • Long-arm services were provided by Jane 'Quilt Jane' Davidson in Australia. Her charges are reflected in the costing sheet. She deserves more. (Edit: Some of you savvy readers pointed out that the original custom quilting charge listed seemed low. I checked my invoice, and you were correct! I was looking at the wrong line item on an invoice of three quilts. The quilting price, and full total has been updated accordingly. Thanks!)
  • I have added a 20% profit margin, because otherwise I'm just breaking even. Your labour wage, is not your profit margin on the item you are selling. If you were solely selling your services, such as hemming pants, you might build that into your wage. In this case, the wage is for creating the product, the profit is the additional monies charged on all particulars (wages included) to create that product. There is a difference.
  • And well, you add it all up, and this quilt is valued at $2,252.40 AUD. No value does not equal free.

For those in the USA, where quilting is nearly a four billion dollar industry, I created a more localised costing sheet for you. As previously mentioned, I altered the fabric cost to $10.00 / yard, and the labour rate to $14.00 / hour based on the most recently documented US median wage. Based on these calculations, your final total comes to $1,546.06 USD. Even if you chose not to charge a Design Concept Fee, and a profit margin, this quilt still cost you $1038.38 USD in materials and labour. Maybe that's why you have a safety pin holding your boot up!

Download Numbers Costing Template

I'd love to hear what you think! Hash it out in the comments, but please remember to be nice to each other. I'm the only one around here allowed to be a bitch! I'll be replying in the comments rather than via email for this post to ensure some great discussion happens. If nothing else, know this: When it comes to a quilt, it must be difficult to let go of something so beautiful, so just make sure you take care of you.

Title: No Value Does Not Equal Free
Size: 72" x 72"
Pattern: Scrappy Trip Around the World, tutorial by Bonnie Hunter
Fabric: miscellaneous whites from around the globe
Quilting: Long arm quilting, by Quilt Jane using Aurifil 50wt, colour 2024 White
Binding: hand stitched with Aurifil 50wt, colour 2024 White
Backing: Pieced backing of Friendship Stars using scraps from the front, and Michael Miller Mirror Ball Dot
Favourite Part: That it's become one of my signature quilts.

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Linking up with TGIFF and Crazy Mom Quilts!

Any interested buyers?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

WIP Wednesday - I Blacked Out

What the hell happened? The last thing I remember is swigging down some cold and flu medication with the last bottle of champagne last Thursday night. Then I woke up Monday morning to find thirty of these blocks sitting on my sewing table. They are impeccably made, but those fabrics! Where ever did they come from? Who created this traditional, razzle-dazzle?

[checks security footage which was installed after the last stalker tried to scale the fence]

Oh dear, it was me! This is what happens when you're sick. You obviously do things that could be a bit out of the ordinary. That flu fog is starting to dissipate, and in the mighty words of Meat Loaf, "It's all coming back to me now." I remember I had quite a few fat eighths and fat quarters of these traditional-esque fabrics sent with Grandma Sparkles's Magic Suitcase that have since been stash-bound. What better way to excavate them out of the stash for good, than put them all together?!

I thought the palette reflected my physical state, as well as taking me back to a warm and cozy place of my youth. (Isn't that where you always want to run when you get sick?) I added some similar prints in a rainbow of muted tones from the likes of American Jane and Denyse Schmidt. I designed this block myself--I'm sure it exists in some form elsewhere--while thinking about diamonds breaking and the exoskeletons we build to protect ourselves. More on that still to come.

I obviously had part of my subconscious peaking through because there's a few tidbits of Mirror Ball Dot and Botanics scattered throughout the floral cream tone on tone breaks. No, it's not my typical style, and that's exactly why these had to be made. Don't ever expect anything typical of me. Swerve left? Swerve right? Nah, I'll throw my drink in your face and back flip all the way down the catwalk!

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WiP Wednesday! 

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Just when you think you know me.

Monday, 18 August 2014

10 Quilty Little Secrets

My friend Amy at 13 Spools went and served up a piping hot dish of her own quilty little secrets yesterday. She sent me her leftovers, and I ate. it. up. It was obvs laced with sodium pentothal though, because here I am about to serve you up the same! Make sure you check out Amy's original slice, and if you're feeling particularly loosened up, grab the button, and share your own dirty little quilty secrets on your blog or in the comments. Check mine out below!

13 Spools

1. I love the entire quilt process, but the sewing part is at the bottom of that love.

2. I don't like animals. On my quilt. Helping with my quilt. In the fabric of my quilt. Unicorns are not an animal, and are therefore exempt.

3. I haven't purchased any Cotton + Steel yet, and I probably won't.

4. I don't wash any of my fabrics until the quilt is finished and then they all get a bath together! Sometimes, not even then.

5. I want to take on a blog sponsor(s), but I'm afraid of what my readers will think.

6. Batiks are always welcome in my house. I think people who write them off completely are close-minded and have bigger quilty issues.

7. I like the idea of quilt police. I bet they'd be smokin' hot and have big ... um ... seam rippers.

8. I'll proudly use my gender to open quilty doors of opportunity. However, I expect my talent alone to keep the doors flung wide open.

9. I really enjoy trimming HSTs. Over, and over, and over again.

10. Mini quilts. Meh.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sunday Stash #89 - Alien Influenza Virus

My disco ball stopped spinning around, 'round about Tuesday. I've been whacked with the alien influenza virus that feels like I've swallowed steel wool and moth balls. It's completely foreign to me because I don't get sick; like, it's been years since I've been knocked down by anything other than a champagne overdose. So, please forgive me for the radio silence. I finally managed to get out of bed last night, and I managed to do a bit of prep work for a quilt. Let me tell you now, it's whack-a-doodle-do! I'm calling it Farmhouse Chic, but I think it's just a direct influence of how I'm feeling on the inside. (muted, congested, brown, etc.) Inspiration comes from all places! Plus, if I get this quilt out of my system now, there will surely be something magically bright ready to spew forth once I'm feeling better.

As for Sunday Stash acquisitions? Understandably, a bit quiet this week, but my new friend Elizabeth New did send me the latest copy of Handmade Magazine. Actually, it was really great timing to be perusing while I've been in bed snuggled under three quilts. I'm hoping to get a project in their next issue, so this made for some good research material. Please show me all of your wonderful stash additions--I need some brightness in my life right now!