Category Archives: Quilting business

My book is on Amazon!

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ICOVER‘ve been neglecting my blog recently (sorry, ladies!). However, t have a good reason. And I’m announcing it here first — I’VE WRITTEN A BOOK!  Not surprisingly, it’s about my favorite subject — quilting!

The idea for the book began in 2010, just after I’d purchased my longarm. I attended a machine quilting show and was talking to a longarm repair person. This gentleman mentioned that many women regretted buying their longarm machines. I was shocked. It never dawned on me that someone would spend $15,000 on a longarm machine and not use it, since it seemed like everyone in the quilting world dreamed of owning one. I decided to write a guide that would help women understand the reality of owning a longarm machine, and allow them to make an informed decision.

The book is called: “Longing for a Longarm: Should You Buy a Longarm Quilting Machine?” It is available on Amazon.com for $4.99. Below is the description from Amazon.

If you’re a quilter, you’ve probably considered buying a longarm quilting machine – either for business or pleasure. At the very least, you’ve wondered what it would be like to own such a cool machine. Would it be a great decision or an expensive mistake?

This book, written by a former longarm business owner and fifth generation quilter, is the “real scoop” on longarm ownership.

Written in a humorous manner, “Longing for a Longarm” is packed full of information that will help you decide if a longarm machine will enhance your quilting experience. You’ll learn about the reality of owning a longarm quilting machine, including the amount of space required, the best location for your studio, and how to select the right machine for your needs.

After reading “Longing for a Longarm,” you will know why some quilters give up and abandon their longarms. You’ll understand the physical demands of longarm quilting, as well as challenges longarm quilters face when quilting for customers. You’ll also understand some of the stresses and issues that make longarm machine quilting challenging.

By the end of the book, you will know the pros and cons of longarm ownership, as well as the commitment required to be a successful longarm quilter. You will also have a great list of resources to help you become a better quilter.

NYC Garment District Tour with Mark Lipinski

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Last weekend was Quilters Take Manhattan, which started with a tour of three quilt fabric companies in New York City. Our tour guide was the amazing Mark Lipinski, who I have long admired as a quilter, TV host, and editor of the now-defunct Quilter’s Home magazine. I have followed Mark’s work for many years, and he was exactly as I expected — warm, friendly, and opinionated! Mark has amazingly diverse experience as a quilter, fabric designer, media host and publisher, so he had some amazing comments and insights.

Our tour stops were Red Rooster, Quilting Treasures, and Michael Miller. All three companies were impressive with their offerings, enthusiasm, and willingness to answer our questions. We saw their 2014 fabrics, some of which had not yet been seen by their salespeople. Enjoy the tour!

Red Rooster

Red Rooster 1

Boardroom presentation at Red Rooster Fabrics. (Note Mark Lipinski in the yellow sweater)

Red Rooster 2

Red Rooster’s boardroom table runner. Fabric will be released in 2014.

Red Rooster 4

Our gift from Red Rooster! Thank you!

Quilting Treasures

Timeless Treasures 1

Presentation of artist sketches at Quilting Treasures.

Timeless Treasures 2

More artwork! So interesting to see how this was developed into fabric.

Timeless Treasures 3

Office space at Quilting Treasures. Even the professionals don’t have enough storage for fabric.

Timeless Treasures 4

A gift from Quilting Treasures. A beautiful cosmetic bag with my favorite — black and white fabric! Thanks!

Michael Miller

Michael Miller 2

The presentation at Michael Miller. Amazing, contemporary fabrics!

Michael Miller 3

Michael Miller open concept offices.

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Michael Miller’s awards for “Best Booth” at Quilt Market.

Michael Miller 5

We got to choose a fat quarter pack from Michael Miller. Love their fabrics! Thank you Michael Miller!

Buying Fabric Online

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I’m always amazed at the number of women I meet who have never purchased fabric online. Their main reason is that they want to touch the fabric before they buy it. This always makes me smile! If you’re purchasing good quality quilter’s cotton, there is very little chance that you will get a fabric that feels too cheap or too stiff.

With the exception of The City Quilter  in New York City, I buy almost all my fabric online.  I like the selection of an online store. In most cases, the fabric arrives within a few days.  The prices are very often better than available locally. It’s not that I don’t want to support our local quilt shops, but the convenience, selection and cost from an online store usually win my business. Here are a few of my favorite shops, in no particular order, to get you started. (Please note that I have no financial interest in any of these companies.)

Fat Quarter Shop — This is one of my favorites.  They have a great selection and a good variety of fabrics. They also send out a nice newsletter on Fridays with a fabric special. Their shipping is extremely fast and they package the fabrics in cool clear cellophane.

Pink Chalk Fabrics — Pink Chalk Fabrics is new on my favorite list. They are a modern quilt shop with a really nice selection. They offer a lot of bundles, especially of modern fabrics and solids, and many of the collections come from bloggers. They have an excellent blog! The few times I’ve purchased from them, their shipping has been very quick.

eQuilter.com — eQuilter has an amazing selection and also sends out a great newsletter with their new arrivals. My favorite part about eQuilter is that they have a color matching tool. I use this a lot, especially to match solids for modern quilts. The major downside to eQuilter is that their shipping is very slow (often more than a week). I’ve contacted them about their slow shipping a couple of times … they usually send me back an excuse about it being a busy time. I’ve purchased from them for several years and the shipping speed has not improved. I stay with them for their selection.

Fabric.com — This store has the best prices and free shipping if you purchase more than $35 in fabric. They also have frequent sales on top of their already awesome discount prices. My favorite part of fabric.com is that they show a ruler with each fabric, so you know its scale. (I wish all companies did this, but they don’t.)  Shipping is usually fairly quick, although my daughter and I have both run into speed problems recently. They are a great choice for novelty fabrics and also sell upholstery and fashion fabrics.

Web Fabrics — Web Fabrics carries full lines of all their fabrics, which is great because most places (especially locally) do not do this. It is a particularly great source for blenders. Shipping is fast and they seem to almost always have everything in stock. They send a short weekly newsletter describing their newest fabrics.  They also sell sample packs of their blenders, so that you can easily match blenders to your own fabrics.

If you haven’t given online fabric shopping a chance, give it a try!  Subscribe to some of the above stores’ blogs and/or newsletters, and enjoy some browsing without getting off the couch. Happy shopping!

My First Quilt Market: Part 3 — Buying Fabric

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Quilt Market, the big quilting trade show held in Houston last month, is where many quilt shop owners buy their fabrics. Because (I believe) all of the major  fabric companies were vendors at Quilt Market, it is one-stop shopping for seeing new fabric lines and making purchases.  Throughout the show floor, I saw innovative booths with long rows of tables, where buyers intently looked at the new fabric. Quite honestly, the whole scenario was very overwhelming and I was glad not to be charged with buying any fabric for anybody.

The experience did, however, make me curious as to how fabric is selected. Regina Storms, a salesperson with Marcus Fabrics, was kind enough to explain the process to me: A few weeks before Quilt Market, Marcus Fabrics sends an email blast to their customers. This email describes the new collections that will be available at Quilt Market, and invites them to make an appointment.  Once a customer arrives at the booth, they sit down in front of a sales associate and look at large fabric swatches that are glued onto sheets of cardboard. Each sheet of cardboard shows all (or part) of a coordinating line.  It is interesting that these “swatches” may fabric, if the sample fabric has arrived in time. Otherwise they are printed images of the fabric (ie paper). The customer then chooses the fabrics that are appropriate for their store.

I did talk to several quilt shop owners. Some of them purchased all of their fabric at Quilt Market. Others purchased none, but viewed it as a time to see the new collections and gather information. They then purchased fabric at a later date, from their sales rep, at their store.

Regina Storms, a sales associate with Marcus Fabrics, describes how to purchase fabric.

View of the Moda Booth

View of Michael Miller Booth

Buyer looks at new fabric lines.

Copyright Connundrums

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Over the last couple weeks, there has been a great deal of buzz on the Internet about quilting and copyright issues. The basic problem is that Kate Spain designed a line of fabrics that were used in a book by Emily Cier. The book is called “Scrap Republic.” C&T Publishing, the publisher of this book, also makes tote bags. They chose to use a photograph of a quilt, made with Kate Spain’s fabric, on a tote bag. They did not receive permission from Kate Spain, the fabric designer, prior to printing the tote bags.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. Rumors on the blogosphere say that Kate Spain contacted her lawyer and was suing both Emily Cier and C&T Publishing for copyright infringement. Kate Spain, however, says that no lawsuits were filed. C&T claims that, once they realized they’d made an error with the tote bag, they tried to contact Kate Spain to resolve the situation. They also stopped distributing the tote bag.

I’ve been following the blog posts and, as you know, there are two sides to every story. C&T seems to admit screwing up by not giving Ms. Spain credit for the tote bags. And Kate Spain seems to be delighted to have people using her fabrics in their quilts. So, honestly, I’m not sure where the truth lies in this controversy. I’ve enclosed links to both blogs if you’d like to make your own decision.

However the question of copyright leaves many of us confused. As a quilter, here are some of my questions:

1. Who owns the copyright to my quilts? I’ve been looking at fabric as a creativity tool (much like modeling clay or colored pencils). My first quilt was made entirely with fabric designed by Mark Lipinski. Do I have to give him partial credit for that quilt?

2. How do you keep track of the fabric designer? I often buy fat quarters with no selvedge edge. I have no idea who designed the fabric and it would be impossible to give them credit.

3. What happens if you mix fabrics? I just made a quilt that had more than 100 different fabrics that were black and white. Do I need to credit all the designers? Some of them? Just the designer of the border fabric?

4. Why doesn’t this issue come up in garment making? When you see someone interviewed on the red carpet, they are asked: “WHO are you wearing?” The dress designer is given credit, but you never hear them saying who manufactured the silk in the garment.

5. This can get really silly. Do we need to credit the thread company as well? Sometimes the thread makes a huge difference in the success of a quilt. Or how about the cotton manufacturer that provides the raw fabric to the mills?

To me, it seems only logical that the fabric design is copyrighted. Of course I should not scan my favorite quilt fabric in order to make mugs and mailbox covers. However, once I’ve paid for the fabric, I feel that the artist has been compensated and I can freely use that fabric in my creations. In my mind, it is the same situation as a designer making dresses — s/he has purchased the fabric for their design and is not crediting the fabric’s  manufacturer or designer.

Here are two views of the controversy between Kate Spain and C&T Publishing.

http://www.ctpubblog.com/2012/03/26/a-few-thoughts-about-copyright-and-quilts/

http://katespaindesigns.blogspot.ca/2012/03/on-copyright-and-tote-bags.html

Check out this link for more information on fabric copyrights.

http://www.quiltingbusiness.com/quilting-and-copyrights/

It’s Tax Time!

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I’m happy to report that my taxes are done, but I spent most of 2 months working on them. Why? Because my accountant had given me incorrect advice when I started my business in 2010 and told me I didn’t have to file until I had income. Nope. When I called the IRS, the nice lady explained that I had to “claim expenses in the year they were incurred.” My CPA was wrong.

Somewhere during my online travels, I read that many CPA’s know very little about small business. I now think that might be true. Regardless, we artistic-types tend to surrender all of our book-keeping and tax decisions to our accountants. We don’t understand what’s going on. We’re scared of taxes. And that makes us bad business people.

As I was looking online for tax advice, I came upon http://junewalkeronline.com/. June Walker works with “indie’s” (ie: independent contractors). She has a very informative website. And she has a great book called “Self-Employed Tax Solutions: Quick, Simple, Money-Saving, Audit-Proof Tax and Record-keeping Basics for the Independent Professional.”

After reading this book — and I did read it from cover to cover — I felt like I had a much better understanding of record-keeping and taxes. It made me feel informed. Ultimately I prepared my own tax return, for the first time in 20 years, and felt empowered to manage my own business for the first time.

I have no relationship with June Walker, other than buying her book. And I’m not suggesting that your business doesn’t need accounting and/or tax advice. I’m saying that small business owners need an elemental understanding of the accounting/tax side of our business. And you don’t have to go any farther than this book.

Self-Employed Tax Solutions, by June Walker
Available at http://junewalkeronline.com/

Bookkeeping … A Path to Empowerment (Part 3)

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I have been working on my book-keeping challenges for weeks now. Although part of me has resented the time I’ve spent sorting, organizing, posting and checking … a huge burden has been lifted. Everything is posted and I’m two-thirds of the way through checking my work. Yes, I still have bank accounts to reconcile and reports to run. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This has been a huge weight off my shoulders. Avoiding necessary labors creates stress. And facing challenges takes courage. This may seem minor when we’re talking about accounting and not climbing Mt. Fuji or curing cancer, but I have learned a lot along the way and I am proud of myself.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about running a business. Our local library has an entire section — including several books on running crafts businesses that contain some great info.  The “Crafts Business Answer Book” was excellent.

http://www.amazon.com/Crafts-Business-Answer-Book-Marketing/dp/1590771087/ref=pd_vtp_b_8

A quick search of amazon.com gives me at least a dozen books on selling your crafts. I couldn’t resist adding a couple to my cart! Most everything in these books is applicable to quilting.

I also encourage you to check out SCORE. I have attended their seminars with mixed success. They now have a lot of information online. Pick and choose what works for you.

www.score.org

I have also come across June Walker’s website and highly recommend it. I have been very impressed with her no-nonsense approach and answers to questions. To be honest, I found this website during an online search which gave her some crappy reviews. So, as with any resource, keep an open mind and make your own decisions.

http://junewalkeronline.com/

So that’s it with my bookkeeping adventures. Tomorrow, we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming. No mountain climbing or medical research at this blog, but I’ll be back on topic with quilting! Yippee!

Bookkeeping … a Path to Empowerment? (Part 2)

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As we left yesterday, I was describing my banker’s box full of unsorted receipts and bank statements. It was closer to a fire hazard than an accounting system!

My first problem was that I didn’t have any kind of accounting program. Years ago, I’d used “Mind Your Own Business” accounting software and loved it. Unfortunately, it was no longer available and I was stuck selecting something else. I spent two weeks reading the pro’s and cons of several software packages. Here’s my recommendation: skip the customer reviews and just buy Quickbooks. It seems to be somewhat of a standard and I’ve been happy with it. Spend your accounting-software-investigation time quilting!

There also seems to be a lot of resources for learning Quickbooks. Our local community college offers several courses, as do many local training businesses. There are also national companies — such as Fred Pryor — that offer seminars.

http://www.pryor.com/mkt_info/seminars/desc/QB.asp?zip=11949

Once you have a software package, you can start thinking about how you’re going to categorize your expenses. For this, you need to know something about taxes. This is a biggie! General wisdom says we all need a CPA at our disposal, and I’m certain that’s good advice. However — as I mentioned earlier — I am all about becoming empowered. So wander over the the IRS website and you’ll find some pretty useful information. There are even local seminars for businesses that looked worthwhile.

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/index.html?navmenu=menu1

If you have questions and don’t want to hire a CPA (seriously, I have nothing against CPA’s!), I have another source for tax answers. “Enrolled Agents” pass a difficult exam and are experts on the tax code. Many are former IRS agents. They are generally less expensive that CPAs. An hour of time with an EA may put you on the path to self-sufficiency. There’s probably one in your town.

http://www.naea.org/memberportal/Resources/ForTaxpayers/whatis_EA.htm

In summary, today’s empowerment has had three steps:

1. Choose an accounting software package.

2. See if you can find answers at the IRS website.

3. Consider hiring an Enrolled Agent if you have additional questions.

Bookkeeping … A Path to Empowerment? (Part 1)

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Over the last month, while my fellow bloggers are creating masterpieces and snuggling up with their new quilts, I have been spending time with Quickbooks and my accounting system. This is what my desk looks like. Note the lack of a sewing machine, fabric, or a happy atmosphere in the room.

Two books of purchase receipts, organized by month

I’ve spent days trying to get my accounting in order. I’m not proud of it, especially given the fact I have a business degree with an accounting major.  Yes, I knew better. No, I don’t have any excuses except that building my business was more fun than book-keeping. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

I’m going to spend a few days this week talking about the financial side of the business and the importance of record-keeping. Not because the IRS demands it, but because it makes us feel empowered. And because good information leads to better business practices.

I read a book this summer that deeply affected me. It’s by Geneen Roth and you’ll find the link below. This woman is a very successful author and workshop leader. However, she has lost her life savings three times. Once because her father “incorrectly” set up his will, despite advice from some of the best estate lawyers available, leaving her without an inheritance. The second time, her accountant took all her money. The final time, she invested in the Bernie Madoff scheme and again lost everything. In her book, she admits that she relied on other people to take care of her finances without trying to understand them herself. She didn’t ask questions and she didn’t want to appear stupid.

http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Found-Unexpected-Revelations-About/dp/0670022713/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327321401&sr=8-1

Although I’ve always done my own book-keeping (at least, in a previous business), this year I decided to also prepare our tax returns. Maybe it is foolish, as I’m not a CPA, but I want to truly understand where our money goes. No longer do I want to passively hand over a package of receipts to our accountant, despite how much I like her. I want to feel empowered. (Caveat: I haven’t actually tried to prepare our taxes yet, so I may change my mind. But at least I will have tried.)

So I encourage you brilliant quilters and artists to look at the other side of your business — the financial end — with new eyes. We need to understand the how’s and why’s of what we’re doing. We are small business owners. We need to be in control of our finances, just as we are in control of our customers and our quilting skills.

In the next couple days, I’ll share some resources that have helped me. Hopefully they will help you, as well, get organized and feel empowered.