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Archive for the ‘The Professional Quilter’ Category

Teaching Through Your Website

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Earlier this year in The Professional QuilterGloria Hansen focused on how you can teach online without dealing with the technical aspects of creating a website, marketing to get the word out about your class nor collecting class fees. It works for the person who wants to show up at the virtual classroom, teach, get paid and then move on. For those who want to teach but also run the complete show, another option is to teach through your own website. Here’s an excerpt from her article listing some teachers who take this approach:

Popular mixed media artist/author Judy Coates-Perez ( teaches color theory on a password-protected website that she created. “I prefer having control over how the class is presented and taught without having to format things to someone else’s technology/website,” she says. “I can also control class sizes and when I want to teach them.” Judy’s website is clean and easy-to-navigate with links to each specific lesson. Each lesson includes instructions, color photos and links to further information on the topic. Judy also set up a private Yahoo group for students to post pictures and discuss their work.

Canadian teacher and quilt artist Pamela Allen ( rose to the challenge of online teaching in part because of a change in border regulations that negatively impacts on her ability to teach in the United States. To continue offering her classes to all interested students, she developed five online classes. She offers her students downloadable lessons, “mini-lectures” on the principles of art and art history, and “one-on-one personal critiques.”  “I can teach my class how I want it, and I can immediately troubleshoot any problems,” she says.

Artist/author Sue Bleiweiss has been using the online world for years to share her vast knowledge and offer classes, such as for journal making. Her latest three-week class, Watercolor Exploration for the Fiber Artist, came about after hitting on a process that allowed her to work through ideas for creating new fiber artworks. “My goal is to make it as personal an experience as I can for my students, which is why I make it a point to be online constantly throughout the class checking my email so that no student has to wait too long for an answer to a question or feedback on a photo that they’ve posted,” she says.

Mixed media artist/author Alisa Burke ( began offering online classes about three years ago. To make the experience more personal, Alisa includes video instruction. “Much of the class content is photos and video that I film in my studio of me working and demonstrating techniques,” she says. “I film and edit everything myself (camera on a tripod). I use iMovie and Final Cut Pro to edit my videos and then upload them to Vimeo (a video service), password protecting them, and then embedding each into a private  blog.”

Artist/author Carla Sonheim ( has a series of online classes with all of the right ingredients. Her popular The Art of Silliness class features one downloadable “activity sheet” per day for thirty days. Her goal is getting her students to “play” for ten minutes a day with pen and paper. Carla offers a dedicated blog and a Flickr site for her students to share, and to keep things fun she offers prizes. She also considers the comments and feedback extremely important to the overall success of the class, and she blocks out an hour per day for the month the class is in session to be available to her students.

Artist/author Diana Trout ( teaches an online class called Inner Circle Journal with lessons and videos. “Since the format of online classes is so different from an in-person class, I will be offering different subjects that will allow students to go into more depth than in-studio or retreat classes would,” she says. “There is more time for thinking, playing and allowing time for paint and glue to dry. These are huge benefits! Also, the blog is interactive so that students can post their artwork and get feedback and questions answered.”

Each class is unique to the instructor. While these teachers have successful online classes, others do not. I’ve spoken with several students who were unhappy with the experience. Just as your reputation as a teacher spreads when teaching in-person classes, so does it spread when teaching online classes.

When contemplating whether teaching through your own website is right for you, Sue stresses that you do your homework. Whether you are comfortable with creating the class yourself or if you only want to focus on teaching and leave the technical work of the site to someone else, online teaching can offer the opportunity to reach a broader range of students while earning additional income. Before you have students start their homework, however, be sure to first do your own.

Please share your experiences with online classes, either as the teacher or the student, below.

If you would like to read more of Gloria’s article on teaching online, it’s included in the Fall 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 here.

Pricing Questions You Need to Answer

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

In the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter, Mindy Wylie took a look at the pricing decisions new longarm quilters need to make when starting their businesses. They are also the questions experienced longarmers need to readdress from time to time. If you aren’t a longarmer, these are the same questions you should consider for commission work. And, if you have work completed by someone else, you would want to know the questions to ask. Here’s an excerpt from the issue.

How are you going to price your work? You have three ways to price your work: by the size of the quilt, by the amount of time it takes to quilt it, by the number of bobbins used.

Do you charge differently based on different patterns and techniques? Yes! Take this opportunity to explain the differences to your customer. It is common to have a few different pricing categories, such as edge-to-edge, semi-custom, custom and heirloom. You need to explain what each category is, how each category differs from the others based on time required and skill needed.

Do you give an estimate? Yes. The estimate I give is very accurate, but occasionally something comes up to change it. You’ll need to immediately notify the customer and discuss this with her.

Are there any additional fees? Most longarm quilters have an additional fee for thread used on the quilt. You may also choose to sell batting to your customers. Some longarm quilters add an additional fee for turning the quilt, squaring the backing, piecing backings, repairing seams on the quilt top, pressing the quilt or the backing (or both) and trimming the quilt after the quilting is done. Some of us even offer additional services such as binding or labels.

Once you’ve evaluated the answers to those questions, you can use them to set a pricing schedule and create an order or take-in form.

If you would like to read more of Mindy’s article on pricing your longarm work, it’s included in the Fall 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 here.

Please post your thoughts on this article below.

Meet Teacher, Designer, Author Margaret Miller

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The Fall issue of The Professional Quilter includes a profile on teacher, designer and author Margaret Miller by Eileen Doughty. The photo on the cover that you see to the right is of Margaret’s quilt “Passion Flower.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:

How would you characterize your designs?

The more you look at my designs, the more you see. Variegated and gradated fabrics add depth; stripes create new areas not bounded by individual blocks. I have always striven to camouflage where blocks adjoin each other and where they adjoin the border. This is done by looking for motifs that naturally extend out of one block into another and letting color accentuate that effect. It bothers me when people say that my quilts are “complicated” when actually they are all based on such simple ideas.

I am known for my use of color – lots of it! I try to use at least three color families in every quilt and go all the way up in the lights and all the way down in the darks.

What is your teaching philosophy?

In all of my workshops, students are encouraged to reach for the unexpected and to make their own design and color choices. I tell the students to have patience with themselves – the first time they try something new in quilting, it often feels awkward or confusing. At the beginning of every workshop, I announce, “This is not a race and not a competition.” It is immensely gratifying to see a student grow in confidence in her quiltmaking skills or make a breakthrough in understanding color.

What are you working on now?

I’m most excited about the next design direction I’m pursuing – combining Easy Pieces and AnglePlay™ into what I’m calling Fusion Quilts. I’ve begun doing five-day retreats at The Quilt Gallery in Kalispell, Mont., for this technique, and the students are producing refreshing results!

Also, I am focusing on training others to teach my revolutionary piecing technique with long triangles (right triangles formed by cutting a rectangle in half diagonally). This long triangle is going to be the next classic shape in pieced quilts, I believe, after the square and the half-square triangle. Four-day-long Teacher Trainings will cover how to work and design with the long triangle. Information on teaching updates, reunions of teachers, new patterns and new workshops will follow. These trainings will help both experienced and aspiring teachers to hone their skills and develop new workshops around the AnglePlay™ templates. They will also develop a network of teachers all around the country.

The heavy question: What would you like your legacy to the quilt world to be?

Actually, that’s easy! I want to be known as the teacher that (1) enabled people to reach for the unexpected in their quilts, (2) enabled quiltmakers of all skill levels to painlessly include more colors and a complete range of values in their quilts, using a simple block and (3) made the use of the long triangle accessible by way of the AnglePlay™ templates. I hope I will leave a design legacy of many new blocks and quilts that feature that long triangle shape, which introduces the possibility of undulating lines and circular and spiral shapes in pieced quilts – for people who want a refreshing new look to the pieced quilts they love to make.

Please share your thoughts below on the blog.

If you would like to read more of Eileen’s article on Margaret Miller, it’s included in the Fall 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 here.

Is Your Data in the “Clouds?”

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

How do you back up your computer data? I’ve always used an external drive.  Luckily, the time I did have problems, the tech guys at my local Apple retailer were able to save my data. In the Winter issue of The Professional Quilter, tech columnist Gloria Hansen wrote about “cloud” backup services. Here’s an excerpt from that column.

In a 2008 column, “Preparing for the Hard Drive Crash,” I wrote how it’s not a question of if a hard drive will cash, but when. Hardware failure continues to be the number one reason that data is lost; human error comes next. Even having an external drive is no longer enough. We have all learned that the worst does happen – fire, flood, hurricane, burglary. In in that situation, your external backups may also be gone. Enter online backup.

The vast majority of today’s computer users use the Internet on a regular basis. Higher speed connections and the regularity of web use make online storage an excellent way to supplement your external backup, and in some cases replace it entirely. You may have heard “backing up to your cloud” or “accessing your cloud” or similar. This simply means putting information on a remote server via the Internet. Using online storage offers advantages. The facilities are secure, the data is encrypted and password protected, and many services continually monitor data to ensure that there is no corruption or loss. Many services are cross-platform, meaning you can transfer data from a Windows OS to another, such as a Mac OS. Some also offer mobile access such as apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android.

All online backup services generally work in the same way. You sign up for a service, pay for rental space on the company’s server, select a password,  download the needed software from the service, select what you want to back up, and run the program. After the initial upload, incremental backups of new and changed data are automatically done on a regular basis. This eliminates the fear that you forgot to backup.

Services to consider include Carbonite, SugarSync and Mozy. You might also consider a bootable external backup of your data using SuperDuper on a Mac or Acronis True Image Home on a PC.

While many people will be happy with only using an online backup service, keep in mind that it is possible that you will not have an Internet connection when you need your data. Another drawback is that most services only backup data, so be sure to have a backup of your operating system and program, including serial numbers.

Using an online backup service will give you some peace of mind. Keeping your data both in the clouds and on the ground in some kind of external drive will add another layer of security and convenience. Either way, if the worst happens, you’ll be ready and running.

Please share your experiences with cloud storage on our blog.

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.

Why Watching Basketball Made Me Think of Quilting

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

As I watched the Final Four Tournament on Saturday, I was thinking about what basketball and the professional creative arts, specifically quilting, have something in common. Is it any surprise my mind would go to quilting?

1. Passion. This is the first obvious. These kids love basketball, and for them it is their art. What we pay attention to grows. Just as the college athletes pay attention to basketball and their skills and love of the game increase, our skill level in our art increases with increased attention. Our knowledge and love of the art grows as we look at more quilts, go to more galleries, take more classes. And, our skill level at marketing, and our passion at marketing, also increases proportionately to the effort we put into it. How much effort are you putting into growing your business?

2. Practice. For these teams to have made it this far, they had to practice quite a lot. It takes discipline to get to this level, and I know of players who spend extra hours in the gym to practice their free-throw or three-point shots. I often hear longarm quilters talk about the three Ps: practice, practice, practice. We can’t expect to get good at anything without putting in the work. Do you schedule time on a regular basis to develop your skills?

3. “French pastry” isn’t necessary. I can remember the late Al Maguire, college basketball coach and TV commentator, call the fancy moves kids made up and down the court “French pastry.” Sometimes it’s fun to watch all the fancy stuff; sometimes it pays off with a score; sometimes it doesn’t. At a quilt show, we all ooh and aah at the quilt with all the complicated piecing and appliqué or the quilt with the elaborate feather stitching. It’s a real treat, though, to see that quilt with the simple design that is just exquisitely executed. Fancy isn’t always the answer.

4. The small guys can become the big guys. By the time the teams in the basketball tournament made it to the finals, none of the top seeds were left. One of those teams (VCU) was seeded number 11, meaning that at least 40 teams out of 68 in the tournament were ranked higher. We can see this in the quilt world. All the “big names” started out as “small names.” I think what makes the difference in moving from small to big is a vision, practice and determination. It’s a cliché to say, “it’s anybody’s game,” but it’s true. You just have to decide to get in the game.

5. It’s a team effort. It’s not one person on the college basketball team who wins or loses the game. Basketball great Michael Jordan is quoted as saying “There’s no ‘i’ in team, but there is in ‘win.'” Most of us in quilt or creative arts businesses need others on our team to make us successful. It could be the longarm quilter who turns our outstanding quilt top into a masterpiece, the group that tests our patterns before they get to market, even the babysitter who watches your kids so you have time to design.

6.Successful teams and athletes have winning coaches. I thinks it’s important at almost any stage of our business to have someone to provide feedback, help you fulfill your vision, keep you accountable, and provide support. Successful sports teams or athletes have coaches that do this. Successful creative arts professionals also seek help, whether that’s a formal arrangement with a business coach or a local support group with like-minded artists.

I can think of other comparisons between basketball and our business. I’m sure you can, too. Please share them here.

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.

Want to Host Your Own Quilt or Art Seminar?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Have you ever gone to a terrific seminar and left wondering if you could take that experience and improve on it, running your own seminar? That’s what happened to Alice Kolb and partner Barbara Quinby when they decided to join forces to host the annual Texas-style quilter’s seminar, now known as Quilting Adventures. The annual seminar started in the early 2000s when Barbara built on her experience from her business career to invite four to six national quilting teachers per week to a classy, yet casual resort to offer students a week of learning from one teacher, good food and lodging. Today the seminar receives rave reviews for its attention to detail and the enriching experiences of its participants. If you, too, think putting on a seminar can be rewarding, here are some tips from Alice’s article in the Winter issue of The Professional Quilter.

1. Analyze yourself. Critique your strengths and energy – both financially and physically – and check your enthusiasm record for a long-term project.

2. Determine your level of commitment. Do you want to own a seminar company, either by yourself or with a partner? It’s a job with responsibilities that last all year from hiring teachers to handling student queries.

3.  Put together a business plan. You need to determine how much time and money are needed to bring your seminar idea to fruition. You will need to make payments well before you ever bring in any funds and you need to be sure you can handle this financial responsibility. You also need to clearly identify the market you want to reach.

4. Research potential site locations. Do they match the style of your event? Will they meet the needs of potential students identified in the business plan? Can the faculty and students easily get to the locations?

5. Personalize your event. Consider the student you identified in your business plan and how you can make the event unique for them.

6. Consider how you will attract students. This could include advertising, personal trips to shops or shows for promotion, printed material and a website. Most important, determine how much time and money you can invest to do this.

To read the article in its entirety, you can join the International Association of Professional Quilters. This issue will be the first one that you receive as one of your member benefits.

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.

Quilters Making a Difference

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

In the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter, Eileen Doughty took a look at four well-known quilters who used their position in the quilt world to create a fund-raising project near to their hearts. Here’s an excerpt from the article.

Virginia Spiegel was inspired to take action because her father is a colon cancer survivor and her sister is chair of the Forest Lake, Minn., Relay For Life. Susan Shie was drawn to act after learning of the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Kathleen Thompson’s son, Josh Thompson, was diagnosed with the always-fatal disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at the age of 32, two weeks before the birth of his first baby. Ami Simms and her family cared for her mother for more than four years, as she succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Ami sums it up well, “I realized right off that my degree in anthropology probably wasn’t going to help cure Alzheimer’s, but I do know how to quilt, and I have a voice in the quilting community. I took advantage of those two things.”

Virginia Spiegel proved that all forms of fiber art have the power to raise serious funds. She founded Fiberart For A Cause (FFAC) to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, while simultaneously promoting the fiber arts. FFAC offered several ways to participate: by making art (often quite small), buying art, donating skills (such as graphic design) and spreading the word about the project.

Susan Shie felt compelled to act by auctioning artwork after learning of the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. First, she and other artists auctioned their paintings at their local arts center. Later, she used posted two paintings on Facebook, and after finding that successful created a quilt about the earthquake that she posted on her Facebook page

Kathy Thompson, assisted by the staff at Quilters Dream Batting, started the Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS to help raise awareness, provide the gift of a quilt to ALS patients and raise research money by displaying, auctioning or raffling donated quilts.

The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) began as an individual effort by Ami Simms in January 2006. Within two years it became a national charity that raises awareness and funds for research through two concurrent art projects. One is a nationally touring quilt exhibit about Alzheimer’s. “Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece” has been seen by more than 223,000 people at 49 venues in 31 states since 2006. It will be retiring in October 2010 and replaced by “Alzheimer’s Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope,” which will begin touring in January 2011. The second project is “Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilts,” in which small quilts are auctioned or sold. More than 5,300 quilts have been donated to date. Ami says, “When I first pitched the idea, I thought we’d raise $25,000 over three years. Then I thought it would be $50,000. Then it felt like $75,000 was doable. I was wrong on all counts. As of this moment we have raised more than $410,000 for research.”

All the women faced the challenge of starting up with limited funds, getting the word out and managing the ongoing fundraiser – all while still managing their own businesses and lives. And all have been emotionally overwhelmed by the response to these projects. Although they asked the quilting community to individually contribute a small donation of funds, quilts, and/or time, the cumulative response brought significant results.

Ami says, “What we didn’t realize was the tremendous impact that making a quilt can have on family members caring for people with Alzheimer’s and those grieving the loss of a loved one who had this disease. We are a grassroots organization, driven by the Internet and fueled by the passion of quilters. When faced with overwhelming sadness and loss, it feels like there is nothing one person can do. But one person can make a little quilt, and a quilt can help. It can be cathartic to create and a blessing to give that creation. And let’s not forget the person who purchases the quilt to complete the circle.”

Think one person can’t make a difference? Think again.

You can read more of EIleen’s article in the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter. This issue is available to members of the International Association of Professional Quilters.

To learn more about the projects:

– Fiberart For A Cause:

– Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative:  http:// (website) (facebook)

– “Alzheimer’s Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope”:

– Hopes & Dreams Quilt Challenge for ALS:

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.

Have You Considered Bartering?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Bartering, the age-old method of “money” exchange, has seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, and financial writer David Nagle took a look at the topic in the current issue of The Professional Quilter. Here are some of the advantages and concerns about bartering expressed by the quilters and fiber artists that he interviewed for his article:

Advantages of bartering include:

  1. It can help quilters to exchange their business goods and services with less need for cash;
  2. It allows you to acquire items you need but might not otherwise be able to afford;
  3. It makes beneficial use of idle quiltwork inventory by getting it into an admirer’s hands;
  4. It may help to promote the advertising of your artwork and business;
  5. It may open new networking opportunities for you.

Expressed areas of concern when bartering include:

  1. You need to adhere to country, state and local tax rules;
  2. You need to make sure both parties understand the value of the products or services exchanged.

As David notes in his article, it’s important to adhere to tax requirements regardless of where you live. In the United States, most barters are taxable events, so be sure to review and comply with the IRS guidelines. If you live outside the United States, be sure to consult your tax accountant.

You can read more of David’s article as well as experiences of several quilters who have bartered in the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter.  This issue is available to members of the International Association of Professional Quilters.

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.

Meet Mary Kerr, Appraiser, Teacher, Author

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

The current issue of The Professional Quilter features a profile of IAPQ member Mary Kerr. Mary has fashioned a career in our industry from her love of vintage textiles. Here’s an excerpt of the article by Eileen Doughty.

Why do vintage textiles (textiles from a previous era) hold such a strong appeal to you?

I have always loved vintage fabrics – their stories, patterns, colors. What I enjoy most about using them is the challenge of working with the materials on hand – what can I create to honor this piece?

I grew up with quilts but did not start making them myself until 1986, when my daughter was born. I spent a lot of time with my grandmothers, asking questions and making every mistake in the book. In 1997, I started teaching; my first class was a pieced shirt!

You use the term “compilation quilt” to describe your work.

A “compilation quilt” is anything that has been created using fabrics, blocks or textiles from different time periods. I marry several eras of materials and love seeing the mix of styles and color that span several generations.

How did you grow your business?

My business focus evolved along with my family circumstances. I have been an active military wife and a stay-at-home mom. When my children were small, I taught classes locally and provided restoration and repair services. As my children grew up and needed less care (more worry, but less hand-holding), I expanded into the regional teaching and lecture market and studied to become a certified American Quilt Society appraiser. My serious traveling did not start until my husband was no longer on active duty (read: gone most of the time) and my children were leaving home.

Although I did not have a specific mentor, I did (and still do) surround myself with strong, active women. We can learn a tremendous amount from each other and find a constant source of support. Today, we call this networking.

How have you come to be seen as a professional in a field that the general public might view more as a hobby?

If I want to be viewed as a professional (in both the quilt and business world) then I have a responsibility to behave in a professional manner, approach my dealings as a professional and learn what is expected in order to be taken seriously in either world. I have found that people respond to me in the manner that I present myself. If I do not take myself seriously as a businesswoman, how can I expect the rest of the world to do so?

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: Rose of Sharon Block Book

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Rose of Sharon Block Book

The Rose of Sharon Block Book

Sharon Pederson
Martingale & Co.; $24.99

Since I wrote about charitable donations earlier, a review of this book seemed perfect. In the Spring of 2008, Sharon Pederson’s business partner, Elizabeth Phillips, suggested a number of ways that Sharon could promote her newest book, Machine Applique for the Terrified Quilter. Before Sharon knew what hit her, she had a bright orange template for her Rose of Sharon quilt that led to the block challenge. Along the way she and Elizabeth worked with Electric Quilt to make the block shapes available on its website, designed a die for the AccuQuilt machine, worked with Island Batik to provide fabric for the blocks and worked with Oklahoma Embroidery Supply and Design (OESD) to have the blocks digitized. The bonus was supporting a charity in the process, and they choose Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. Sharon’s challenge drew 850-plus blocks which were narrowed down to 12. The final 12, plus a block from Sharon and Elizabeth, were made into a finished quilt. This book includes not only this quilt and its 13 blocks with instructions, it also showcases an additional 70 blocks. If you don’t want to make a large quilt, you can use any of the blocks to make the three-block wallhanging or pillow patterned in the book.

Here’s a link, if you’d like to add it to your library.

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