I Quilt – my quilt process


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Happy Thursday and welcome to I Quilt!  After getting up at 5am this morning to chat with the adorable Mark Lipinski, I am about to fall flat on my face at 5pm!  You can listen to our discussion here (it’s the 30 April 2014 show if you’re reading this later), please be kind, it was early, I hit three coffees in rapid succession and started out pretty nervous!  One thing that Mark asked me about is the process pledge which has left me thinking about my quilt process in the bigger picture.  If you haven’t noticed, there is a lovely little button over there —>  (unless you’re on a mobile device and then it might be down the bottom)  If you don’t know about the process pledge, go read about it.  It really resonates with me.

I LOVE the process pledge and it is an intrinsic aspect of the I Quilt linky party, but I find that as I get busier and busier with my business I have less time to share my process.  I have no idea what the solution is.  In actual fact I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what it is I want to do – run a business that contributes to our family income and grab any opportunity that comes my way, OR slowly build a business that is true to what I really love and want to do.

That might sound like a pretty easy decision.  Even I know what it is I really want.  I want to be true to my artistic inner soul, stuff the money and maintain complete creative control.  But saying no to opportunities is hard.  Super hard.  I’ve done it twice recently and I couldn’t really believe that I was doing it.  My husband tells me that I need to decide whether Pretty Bobbins is a hobby or a business.  Being creative is such an integral part of who I am (believe me when I say that five years ago I would have claimed that I was not at all creative) that I find it hard to assess opportunities based on potential fiscal gain or business growth.

South Pacific Dreaming trio (wall quilts)

My all-time favourite quilts.  When I think of the quilter I want to be, I think of these.

I think that being passionate, pouring yourself into your passion and being happy are key.  Surely success cannot be had without these aspects.  But I guess I really need to define success.  I think I have been defining the success of Pretty Bobbins by whether or not it contributes to paying for our family needs.  I have not contributed a single cent through Pretty Bobbins, in fact I’ve spent a bunch of our savings investing in the longarm and supplies, let along all the time invested.  My day job is a much greater success at contributing to the mortgage, but it gives me no joy in my soul.  So I think I’m going to redefine success and because I’m a social-media-holic and therefore a chronic over-sharer, I’m going to start by listing my quilting successes here.  I’m not showing off, believe me.  This is making me anxious in the pit of my stomach.  So do me a favour and share your successes related to your passion in the comments or on your blog or even by email if you prefer :)  (be it quilting, family, art, farming, car racing, whatever lights your fire!)

  1. Making beautiful quilts and having the confidence to know that they’re damn good.
  2. Making a heap of wonderful online and real life quilty friends who share and understand my passion.
  3. Having a studio (I’m damn proud of my studio).
  4. Maintaining my blog, even though I don’t blog as often as I would like.
  5. Being contacted by (quilty) industry types to work with them.
  6. Receiving an email from Mark Lipinski to be interviewed – that was totally out of left-field and a HUGE faith builder.
  7. Having quilts accepted into quilt shows.
  8. Seeing how proud my husband and children are of my work (the kids show their friend’s my quilts when they visit!).
  9. Having over 800 Instagram followers.

(the above are in no particular order, rather of equal importance, although seeing my children proud of me is the best achievement ;) )

Me in my studio - not so warm now that we're in Autumn!!

Me in my studio – not so warm now that we’re in Autumn!!

All those things, they are HEAPS more important to me than whether or not I contribute to our mortgage through quilting.  But I guess the thing that I can’t list as a success yet, but I think is possibly the most important aspect of Pretty Bobbins, is maintaining artistic integrity.  At this stage there is no sponsorship on my website.  There is a Craftsy affiliate button in the sidebar and I do work with designers that I respect and admire, and I do promote products that I have purchased and believe in.  This is something I need to think about some more.  Do I want to remain a quilt artist who only promotes things they believe in and only makes the things I’m inspired to create, or do I want to grab every opportunity and turn my passion into a business and find myself making things for other people?  (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing by the way!)

I would LOVE to hear your opinions on these issues!!!  In this online, social media based, constantly shrinking world, how do you decide which path to traverse?  I’m very conscious of my own mortality, there is only so much time and so many quilts to make.  Should every single one count or can we all jump on the sponsorship/money chasing/making bandwagon?  Does it impact our voice, our integrity?  Does it even matter?

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Share your thoughts people and link up your quilty process :)

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20 Comments on I Quilt – my quilt process

  1. Lola
    May 1, 2014 at 8:10 pm (5 days ago)

    I’ve been there and done that. The only thing I regret is wasting 30 years working for public service and others before I found my creative and business talents and went out into a market business. I loved every minute of it, the people I associated with, making designs and products that people gave me money for, working for myself and the challenge of the risks and the adventure. I call those 20 years a real buzz.

  2. abby @ thingsforboys
    May 1, 2014 at 8:28 pm (5 days ago)

    I’ve been feeling like this lately too. Trying to figure out what I’m doing with the blog and where I want it to go. How many hours should I devote to it instead of my kids. I think there is a middle ground though. You don’t have to have no advertising or all the advertising…there is a lot in the middle. You can choose sponsorship/ads/ad networks from companies you like. Remember that money is not the only currency too. I have a sponsorship from a fabric company who provide me fabric and supplies to make projects I want to make. I would have bought the supplies anyway, so it’s just like money.

  3. Adrianne
    May 1, 2014 at 8:50 pm (5 days ago)

    I think you’ve brought up a really interesting topic and it’s something I’ve thought a bit about. Good on you for being brave and putting it all out there.

    I think it’s possible to build a profitable business AND maintain your artistic integrity. It may be a slightly harder way of doing things, but I’m sure that ensuring you keep your passion and your standards high actually pays off in the long run. I do think your husband is right, and that you need to decide whether Pretty Bobbins is going to be a hobby or a real money making business. If you want to make it a business, take it seriously and make a plan, maybe even get some financial advice. If it’s a hobby, you don’t have to do that hard work but you also won’t make much money from it. That might sound slightly harsh but my experience is that if you want to make money, you’ve got to work hard for it!

    Personally I view my blog and quilting as a hobby and don’t focus particularly on making money off it. I do have some sponsors but they are businesses that I totally believe in and don’t feel overly compromised in promoting them. The money from sponsorships and teaching goes some of the way towards supporting my fabric habit but my job pays my mortgage.

  4. Rita
    May 1, 2014 at 10:14 pm (5 days ago)

    Oh, Gemma! Did you find a magic looking glass and spy inside my soul? Two days ago! I launched a website to turn my ‘hobby’ into a ‘business’. I’m giving myself 6 months. If I haven’t sold anything or taken a custom order for anything in 6 months, I guess it will truly be just a hobby. I do have a ‘day job’ but I’ve been doing it for 25 years and it’s taxing my body. Either I make a change or live a pain-filled life. I’m voting for change. Follow your heart sister! Life’s too short and there are too many quilts to make! Side note: I doubt your kids would be as proud of your work if you were a shop clerk (no offence to shop clerks!!) just sayin’.

  5. Nurdan
    May 1, 2014 at 10:49 pm (5 days ago)

    Oh Gemma! When I was reading your post, I felt like it was me talking! I am truly in live with quilting, I have little blog which I don’t have much chance to update. I know what I want to be doing- I want to make quilts , design quilts and maybe turn my designs into patterns to sell. I have a day time job too which pays the mortgage. But it doesn’t make my heart sing at all. Many times at my desk I find myself asking this question “what am I doing here? Why am I here?” Because I am thinking about that last block I didn’t have a chance to finish, or I have a new design idea which can’t just sit there and wait for the clock to hit five to be drawn onto a piece of paper…I talk to my husband too, about my passion, my lonely blog, etc and he thinks that it is only a hobby and will probably remain as a hobby unless I sit down seriously, make a business plan, etc but even then it doesn’t make enough money to pay the bills…Then I ask the main question which keeps your mind and heart busy too: is it all about money or my dream and the satisfaction it brings?…

    • Nurdan
      May 1, 2014 at 10:51 pm (5 days ago)

      Sorry for the grammar mistakes- typed in a hurry…

  6. Jess
    May 1, 2014 at 10:56 pm (5 days ago)

    Okay, this just inspired me to write an extremely honest post about what quilting means to me, and where I want to take it. Thanks so much for making me think about this!

  7. France
    May 2, 2014 at 12:24 am (5 days ago)

    What an interesting post! There’s a lot of food for thoughts.
    Personally, I don’t think that trying to make money with one’s own creations diminishes the creativity of the person. For my part, my imagination is always working, whether I creates from scratch or for a specific command. There is always space for creativity, be it for a whole pattern or a tiny detail. I always learn something while creating, even when I’m making the same piece again and again. It may be a repeat, but I’m still creating it with my hands. While doing it, my mind is at work. I think about improvements, about how I can change one part to change the feeling of it. Or it inspires me for something completely different. And simply the action of doing something with my hands brings be great joy and peace.
    Thank you for this post!

  8. Leanne Parsons
    May 2, 2014 at 1:01 am (4 days ago)

    Great post! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. I’d love to turn quilting into my business, but I’m not sure I could make enough money at it, or if having to make enough money would take away some of the joy. So much to consider. For now I’m starting to write patterns and share them on Craftsy in hopes that I can build a business slowly and find my way as I go. Not giving up the day job yet, but hoping it will come to that eventually.

  9. Hilary Florence
    May 2, 2014 at 1:29 am (4 days ago)

    Hi Gemma
    There is so much to be said in reply to your post, which the already lively response shows. For me the answer is balance. Balance between the nourishment that your creative soul needs, and fulfilling the practical needs of everyday living. Nothing is black and white. It is about finding your shade of grey – the shade you wish for, the shade financial constraints dictate and the play between them. If you can survive without making it into a business financially, you have a great deal of freedom. All you need to do is decide whether you want the challenge (which can be creative) of making it into a business. If you do need to turn it into a business, then the creative challenge is to integrate money making with integrity and your art – a challenge I am currently facing.
    A year ago I had an accident from which I don’t seem to be recovering. I have just been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome otherwise known as ME. I have lost my job, my career and my income – and I live alone. My quilting is something I can pick up and put down as my pain and fatigue levels allow and I hope now, that this will be how I make my income in the not too distant future. I am only at the beginning of this journey, but my blog is growing – and one of my successes would be that you have featured me in your blog. Although the accident forced me into this step, it has also feed my creativity and opened up a new internet world to me. As I said, nothing is all black and white!

  10. Nancy
    May 2, 2014 at 4:08 am (4 days ago)

    Your red and yellow quilt on the frame is stunning — just gorgeous! I can’t wait to see it finished.

    Thanks for hosting the linky party.

    About choosing a path: I once took a drawing class in which the professor had make a line drawing with plenty of contrast. That ended up with lots of varying kinds of fill-in marks to get the shading. I remember her teaching us that if we’re bored making those marks, the viewer will know we were bored and the finished piece will be boring. I think it’s the same with quilting. Being able to choose what we want to make preserves our artistic energy and integrity. If it’s possible to create with love AND sell/make money at it, all the better. But I think we somehow have to keep the artistic energy for our creations to be successful. Just my several cents….

  11. Jess @ Quilty Habit
    May 2, 2014 at 4:57 am (4 days ago)

    Good for you for writing this post, Gemma. You are one of the most genuine quilters I know (your blog has that feel) and you should keep doing what your heart tells you (the most corny advice, but hey). I would say making that decision (business or hobby?) is the first step! I might be writing a post similar to this because you’ve got me thinking. Thanks for the food-for-thought and for your wonderful posts!

  12. Sue
    May 2, 2014 at 2:06 pm (4 days ago)

    I think you have to do what feels right for you. I don’t have my own business (I’m a bit reluctant to get into that side of things as I worry it might turn my love of quilting into ‘I’m over it’- well that and I just don’t have the space) but I only recently had to sew two blocks for someone in a swap and I hated them. They were exactly what she asked for and she loved them but I thought they were hideous and was reluctant to put them in an envelope. I didn’t enjoy making them one bit and I’d hate to do that with a larger project than just two blocks. I would probably have to turn down projects I wouldn’t like to do so I can understand that part of it. If you have an income other than your quilty business I guess its not so much of an issue but if you rely solely on the quilting side then you would probably feel you’d have to take on jobs you weren’t happy with. I guess life is about compromise and its finding the level of compromise you’re happy with. Loving your work though!

  13. ChristaQuilts
    May 3, 2014 at 12:18 am (4 days ago)

    What wonderful food for thought! I’m so happy that you are being so successful! Your work is amazing and it will be fun to listen to you on Mark’s show when I get a chance.

    As someone who is constantly thinking about the same things – how do I measure success, what to share, what to take on etc – this is my piece of advice:

    Say yes to the things that you really want to do and that excite you. Say no to things that sound like too much work for little payout, or too much of a sellout. I agree with you – it’s exciting when industry people contact you and I see nothing wrong with saying yes to most of it, as long as it makes sense and sounds fun!

  14. Katelyn
    May 3, 2014 at 3:27 am (3 days ago)

    I never talk about my process. I always feel like no one would like to read about it. My blog is relatively new (READ: very small) and I am always afraid that people would prefer less talking and more pictures from me. That being said I am all for sharing my process, I will have to start now. Sometimes, though, I just want to make and there isn’t much of a process to discuss. But I will give it a try.

    I think you have super great things that you are proud of. I’ll have to sit down and write out my joys too!

  15. Karen Miller
    May 3, 2014 at 7:53 am (3 days ago)

    Gemma – 1st – Congratulations on being interviewed on Mark’s Creative Mojo Radio Show — I listened to the entire interview while I was sewing last night and it was fantastic — I had no idea that it was 5am your time or that you were tired. I was so very proud of you and how Mark came to know and love what you do. I’ve been a follower for some time and damn happy that I am. So again — good for you Girl!!

    On the next topic – I guess I need to put some of my own thought into that. You see I just started a pattern business and Website and have sold a few patterns and have a few classes coming up in the near term — and I”m going through the same “balance” issue as you and your readers seem to express — but I can sure relate to the “Where am I going”, “Where is the balance” “How do I find time to be creative” “What is success?” questions. As some other individuals pointed out – its’ not about taking on sponsors just for the money or about selling your soul, I do believe there is a happy medium as far as sponsorship goes. GO with what you believe in and if they’re willing to pay you for some space on your blog, nothing lost. Then comes deciding on your creative time vs long arming time, vs time with your family. If you don’t have to contribute to the family income then do what makes you most happy. If you do have to contribute, then schedule a few classes and a few quilts but give yourself a limit (easier said than done)…. I’m mostly thinking out loud for myself right now… I’m in the same boat and not sure which way to turn the rudder. I do appreciate you bringing the topic up – and I need to find the time to think about it. I think I ‘ll start by writing down my goals — what I think will make Me successful and go from there. Take care now and keep on inspiring! Hugs, Karen

  16. Esther
    May 3, 2014 at 4:45 pm (3 days ago)

    Okay, we are all in the same boat here: hobby or business! I have a fulltime dayjob that I love, a craftsy pattern site that is up and running ( but not making me rich. Think one trip to a quilt store that has a blow out sale, and the money is gone! ) and I have small commissions by familymembers. Recently I was asked to do some FMQ work for a quilt shop owner. I do not know where that will lead me, but I would not say no to quilting for others maybe once a month or so. My quilting time is limited and it is precious to me. Quilting is my creative outlet and I want it to stay that way, but….. Making some money to replenish my stash would be lovely!!!

    So for me quilting is a hobby that is funds itself by a fraction, ha ha! I do not have sponsors or anything like that yet, but I may offer some advertisement space on my blog to two or three shop that are local to me if they are interested.

    I would love it if I could create some baby quilt or lapquilts for sale, but so far I have not been able to sell any. Quilts are not very desired objects here in the Netherlands ( Europe ) and people have no idea how much money and time goes into creating quilts. I often hear “Wow, that is expensive for a blanket. I do that myself with some fabric from the market”. For me, I am not selling blankets but heirlooms. So far, I am only creating heirlooms, ha ha!

    I wish you all lots of luck with your quilting ventures!

  17. Karin
    May 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm (2 days ago)

    Hi…what an interesting discussion…yes, also been thinking and talking about this lately. My blog is small in comparison to other people. I have a modest Craftsy pattern store that does make a little money. At the moment, I am using this as a way to contribute to my hobby, I.e. Buying some expensive thread or some new gadgets etc. I can see the potential, however also feel that this could easily become a drag…I work almost full time and the little time that I have I like to leave for working on projects that really create some excitement and are not a drag. I think the general consensus is that one can strike a balance which is reassuring. Wishing you well in thinking this through.

  18. Laurelle C
    May 5, 2014 at 10:14 am (1 day ago)

    I am a recent quilt-aholic. I have been busy raising five children, (very lucky my Husband’s job allows me to be a stay at home Mum). They range now in age from 21 down to 12 and all still live at home. Making quilts has saved my sanity! I have always been creative over the years cake decorating, painting, but quilts have me totally obsessed! I make what I like otherwise it’s not fun. The quilts people have asked me to make can turn into a bit of a chore. As a result of this obsession I have accumulated a nice little pile of quilts so took the plunge and opened an etsy store 2 months ago and have sold three :) The price doesn’t cover all my time but allows me to make some money back to purchase new fabric to keep my hobby going. I think my Husband was impressed that I actually can sell some and as he says “At least they are not going up on the walls” his biggest fear lol. I still have a lot to learn and I am still trying to find my style but I am a much happier human and Mum for having a passion. I think you should be true to yourself and your creativity. I love reading your blog. It doesn’t matter how often you post as I find the blogs that are just promoting or selling things all the time I skip! I love reading about the process and seeing beautiful finished products. The quilting community are so fantastic and I have learned everything on line thanks to the generosity of people like yourself. I think go with your gut and the success will still come because of your talent :)

  19. charlotte m.
    May 5, 2014 at 9:37 pm (15 hours ago)

    What a though provoking post. Thank you for a great discussion starter. I think we all dream of quilting as being a business at some point. For me, the realization that I couldn’t actually make myself seriously consider it a business, was when I realized that doing that would take the joy out of it for me. I need to be able to quilt what I want, when I want. I love to show off what I make, but I don’t want to have to critique what I make in terms of what others would like me to sew. Search your heart and then follow it. You will know what’s right for you.


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