business planning

I find it sort of funny, when I deal with people in my business (I mean people in the quilting world, in general) only want to know about your quilting history. I am NEVER asked about my former career. I guess it’s funny to me because my “before” and “after” lives are SO dichotomous. Not sure about that word? Look it up :).

At the end of my corporate reign, I was managing a 1.5 million square foot building. To put this in perspective, imagine your bedroom, which might be 15 foot square. 15×15 = 225 square feet. Or your house size = 3-4000 square feet? It was a REALLY big building; actually it was a warehouse, holding home improvement type goods imported from overseas.

If I remember correctly, my budget for the operation was about $43 million. Yes MILLIONS of DOLLARS. Sounds like I’m loony? I don’t remember all the specifics anymore, but I solidly remember that my transportation budget alone was $17 million. We shipped to over 300 stores in 11 states on at least a weekly basis. So to pay for the use of the trailers, the fuel, etc. that was my budget. Add in rent, labor, supplies, utilities and corporate BS and boom – BIG money!

I’m not bragging. I could probably figure out the words to describe how overjoyed I am to be out of that business, but I’m not going to bother. Suffice it to say, to me, now, that is just background.

It is good background tho. I helped a Canadian lady I met on Etsy to build a business plan so she could get a loan for her natural soap company. And now that I have my feet planted on the ground with my business, and have some history tracked down, I am ready to make myself a firm business plan.

I started by making some goals for this year. They were measurable, but not super specific. It is hard to be specific when your business is driven by clients you don’t even know you have yet, and others that call you when they have something for you. There is no guarantees of business, no steady income. But there are expenses driven by workload, and some not…

Not? How do you have to spend money without having a workload? It’s that pesky fabric hoarding addiction thing. My husband and I had a business dinner (beer, queso, the good kind of dinner) to discuss some plans and actions I could take to increase my net income. The first question out of his mouth: Can you decrease expenses? That is the easiest way to increase income without having to increase gross income. Well, if I stop buying fabric… Then he asks the dreaded… “Well how much fabric do you have in inventory?”

I’m not answering that.

Honestly I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know. I’m kind of scared to do that math. So I won’t. Ahhh, the perks of being the business manager.

What I did take from this conversation is that I have a problem, a wound, if you will. And the best course of action for my business is to stop the bleeding. I have plenty of fabric (no I don’t / YES YOU DO / no I don’t / YES YOU DO – this is going on in my head at the moment). I have plenty of fabric and unless I need to buy it to complete a customer’s project, I need to NOT buy it. This truly stopped me from buying this beautiful panel at the store yesterday. It was really hard – I looked at it, and fondled the soft cotton, and then remembered my promise to myself and put it down and walked away.

Step one, day 20 accomplished. Now to just make it through the next 345 days…

This is a pretty significant decision. But truly, I have decided to work on these projects and make quilts for charity – I have a set of 3 quilts on my table in progress and that didn’t even make a 1″ dent in my stack of fabric!

My current charity project

sigh. stack of fabric? it’s actually not a stack, per se. see below…

those bins are all full of fabric

I had to buy more bins because I had so much fabric

Those bins are all full of fabric.

Oh, and then there’s “the table”. It’s actually bags of fabric I brought to a retreat thinking I would get 100 projects done (well, those are the ones under the table), some fabric from mom, 2 repair jobs (yellow and cream pile to the left) and some fabric for those, and some other ‘stuff’, including more fabric (the yellow and blue with duckies is another charity project in the queue). Oh and that blue tub on the left? Full of quilt tops that need to be quilted, most of them with the backs already prepared. HELLO! I could get those done and up on Etsy or given to charity. oi woman! Oh and the basket? Full of beads. So glad I have time for playing with those…

the dreaded table

This is a good thing. I just have to keep repeating that to myself. I have enough. Ya, enough to make quilts for the next 10 years. So as a prudent business owner, I need to use my planning skills and business smarts to know that I am not allowed to buy fabric just because I want to.

That was the biggest realization. Next I’m going to tackle a specific budget. I.e. at the end of each month, I will put the sales tax $ into another account. I will also figure out what % I think I should pay myself and what % to put into my expense account, for purchase of REQUIRED supplies.

I think this is a pretty strong start. Now – on to some quilting!

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charity work thursday

i decided that the best way to attack my very important decision to do charity work weekly, was to actually assign a day to do it. i wasn’t sure this week if that would be thursday or friday, but thought the best plan would be thursday in case friday got crazy busy. i was thinking going forward that planning on thursday’s would be my best bet.

last week when i looked at some of my favorite fabric, i decided on the size of the main panel, and cut three, as well as figuring the inner and middle border sizes i wanted to have for the quilts.

today i scouted out the bricks for the middle border, some from my scrap pile and some from my fabric bins, as well as choosing and cutting my inner border. so i cut my border bricks into strips and am now ready to assemble them into the border bricks.

this is what the quilts will look like when finished (for the most part. they will be larger than this, square rather than rectangular).

noahs ark ez breezy

this one above i had quilted with baptist fans, so it looks like rainbows, which i think really is appropriate either way.

i feel so blessed to have the ability to make quilts like this, to do charity work like this. and THAT is why i feel it is SO important to give back to my community.

i didn’t get a charity quilt completed today, but that’s not what i promised myself i would do, so i’m not upset. i’m actually working on 3 at once, so i know it will take some time to get them all done. i did submit significant throught and time to these quilts, so i know i’ve made progress.

and that’s what counts.

week 1 goal met – charity work done!

I love to do charity work, especially when it involves quilting. I get such a warm and fuzzy feeling inside when I do something that I know will help someone in need. I know a LOT of other quilters that are very generous with their charity work as well, so I feel right at home in this profession.

One of my favorite ‘charity’ groups to donate my time to is Quilts Of Valor Foundation (http://www.qovf.org/). As a veteran, I understand how lucky I am to not have trod the sand, slept in desert heat, fired my rifle at anyone or come home missing body parts. So if I can do one thing that I love to do, AND help out someone that gave their time and well-being to protect ME and my fellow citizens, well then, I want to do that!

The process is pretty cool actually. Someone, or a group of people (I’ve had quilts come from a quilting bee) make a quilt top and use the website to have it directed to a longarm quilter, like me. They send the quilt back and top to me, and I add the batting and quilt it, in whatever style and color I want to use.

Many of the quilts are patriotically themed. Lots of red, white and blue quilts, quilts with stars, or military panels. Sometimes the quilts are just completely different, which is nice too. 

The quilt I finished today was one of those – it does have a pattern of opposing light and dark stars, but the darker fabrics are scrappy and very small, which makes for a beautiful, classic look.

QOV scrappy stars

With this pattern, I wanted to use my variegated blue/white thread and quilt swirls over the stars. Doing a rounded quilting pattern on a quilt top pattern that has more angles can create a unique visual effect. Well, I like it anyway. Hopefully the recipient will also.

swirls on stars

From there usually one of two things happens.

Sometimes I trim and bind the quilt, then wash it per the instructions of QOVF and send it on to wherever they tell me to. One I’ve sent off to Germany, one to Los Angeles and I think one to MD.

Most of the time the quilt maker wants me to send it back to them and they take care of that aspect and have it shipped to the final destination. Along with the quilt I send pictures of my studio and a short letter telling them about me and my family and the process that creates their quilt.

The quilts all go to veterans of war. They all go to someone deserving.

The trouble is that there is ALWAYS a greater need than there is supply. I have received quilts from both coasts because there is a shortage of longarm quilters that participate.

quilt on the longarm

Usually I am sent about one per month. Per my 2013 goals, I have completed my charity for the first week! And it felt really good. 🙂

trucking along

Not sure why I haven’t written, since I have been feeling quite creative lately. Seems like I want to put all of my creative energy into making quilt tops, which makes sense I suppose, since I have to quilt out of my normal environment for a bit.

I do have my stash of projects (see previous post on that…), so I’ve felt inclined to work through them, and told myself when I get through those then I can make up some new ones. Well, I did start three new projects, but one I am finished with and a second one I am fervently making progress. It’s a small wall hanging, but here is the finished top:

So let’s see… I don’t think I had this one finished last time I posted, but essentially it’s still not finished. It’s really bright, much more so than I anticipated, but I think once I get more fabric for the border it will be more appealing.

Then I finished up with my Halloween squares. I actually have more of this center panel fabric, but I need a break from it for a bit. So I made these tops in a simple manner, but varying from each other slightly.

Then I had squares left over (before I realized I had more of the center panels…) so I took this magenta bat fabric that I was going to use with the center panels, but decided it didn’t coordinate, and stripped it with the remaining squares I had already sewn together in a long strip. I ended up using almost every square, and each strip I’d cut from the batty fabric. Just need more of the border fabric to complete it (it will be black with stars on it).

I know I had finished this one, a simple but beautiful top.

That put me in the mood to make more sophisticated and less playful quilts, and to use the colors of fall. The problem is that the two quilts I decided to make I actually have patterns for, and I don’t usually use patterns, so this was sort of hard for me to have directions I was supposed to follow. The result was that I got partway through cutting for one of the quilts and set it aside.

But the Jacob’s Ladder is coming along nicely. I have my 4blocks finished and my border blocks and triangles all cut.

I’m not sure if this one is next (haven’t quite decided which of this pile of fabrics to use yet),

or a simple pattern I got from a sewing group that I will use batiks with. Not sure the colors I want to use so this one is still marinating in my brain.

And then I want to do this one, which is interesting because I’m really not a big triangle girl…

Oh and I got this panel just before it ran out at the quilt shop! So many ideas of what to do with this!

And then… more triangles on the bench… but it looks SOOO cool!!

Now of course the trouble is that those projects from my previous post??? well, most of them are still on my shelf awaiting my attention. I got through the HW quilts, and that moda diamond quilt with the great corners, and cleared out a Quilt of Valor and customer work, so…

I guess all that matters is that I’m productive and making things. That makes me happy, especially knowing that some of these will go to charity. 🙂 And maybe by the time it gets cold again here in Texas, I’ll have some of these quilted so someone can enjoy the warmth and beauty of them!

Happy quilt making my friends! I’m getting back to it!

Man down!!! Man down!!!

Woman, in this case. Actually machine but she’s female so there.

I can attest for all of you that this is the saddest moment of my quilting career. My machine bearings need to be fixed. So I can’t quilt on her until she’s sent out and come back to me. 😦

Technically I can quilt because of a very good friend that has offered use of her machine for me to finish my clients quilts, but this feels like losing a friend. I know that ultimately she’ll be ok, even better than she was. But considering that she is vital to my business and my sanity, I think this is a moment to bow our heads.

So to keep myself entertained whilst she sits quietly aside, I have made the conscious decision to finish some UFO’s (un-finished objects). I finished my rag quilt (yes, the one I started 6 months ago).

I finished the 9 patch variation top I was working on at retreat last summer. I don’t like how the middle border looks, but I’m not so dissatisfied that I’ll take it out.

A few months ago I had some time and inclination, so I cut strips and squares and matched fabrics to patterns or photos I saw in magazines. I had just spent more than a few Franklins at the quilt shop, so I figured I’d better get to using all that beautiful, colorful eye candy. Then I got busy quilting and my piles have been awaiting me since. So I started working on those again yesterday as well. I really like how this one is turning out. The border will make it, with some really cool cornerstones.

Not sure what will be next after that… maybe the cats in boxes…

maybe the Halloween quilts (I cut fabric for probably 3 of these):

or the black and red skulls that seem to be so popular…

Maybe more flowers

or this cat fabric

maybe I’ll get to Amy’s cupcake applique pattern (probably not),

or the Tree pattern I got from my mom (with precut strips, you’d think I’d go for the easy first).

Then there is this thing… I really like it because of what it represents. It’s the earth – water and land in a squarish spiral. It includes oil swirling in the water, flames roaring through the forest, flowers and waves. Still needs to be finished.

I started to cut 1″ squares and strips for this Scraps of Life quilt, from work shirt material..

and these are 1.25″ strips of scraps I was going to just sew together in rainbow fashion to see what I ended up with.

These are spare squares for another random patchwork quilt:

oh and then the quilt I was going to make for Amy from this photo… haven’t gotten very far.

Ooooh forgot about these! Dots and hearts:

and these little turquoise blue birds!

I also picked out these fabrics because they looked so good together. Haven’t decided the patterns yet…

shucks, here’s the fairy frost I cut squares and strips for!

ooh, and the fabric and pattern I set aside to make this bag:

so I guess I should just stop panicking and get to work on these. I feel a little overwhelmed now with so many projects to choose from! I think I’ll start with finishing the diamond quilts borders. Happy quilting (or quilt making!) my friends!

the fun of baby quilts

Let me start by saying that my baby is 10, and my other baby is 14. I’m still working off the baby fat, but I’m ok with that. We all have our own timelines for these things. Regardless of the absolute concrete rock-solid plan to have no more diapers grace this loving household (unless Kaela is babysitting…), baby quilts are one of my FAVORITE projects to complete!

First of all, the fabrics are always adorable! Tougher to find boy-oriented cutesy tootsie fabrics, but oh well. 🙂

Secondly, THEY ARE SMALL. This means the amount of work to complete one is exponentially less than completing a large bed quilt. Trust me on this one.

Third, they usually come as a result of celebrating a special event = an addition to the clan.

Now there are drawbacks. Minky, ultra-soft, fleece, whatever soft cuddly fabric you choose, it is A ROYAL pain to work with. That stuff shifts, stretches, waffles… I swear I could do without the fallout from cutting minky for eternity. And trying to get it out of your cutting mat is like trying to get the spaghetti sauce stain out of a tupperware dish after it’s microwaved to the boiling point. I call it: permaminky.

Despite the nasty nuances that tag along with working these fabrics, they really are soft and cuddly. In fact, the quilt below was made with all fleecy softy fabric for a friend of mine that just graced the family with a boy:

I quilted it with a triangular meander, which is pretty boyish and went along with the angles in some of the fabric. I found this fabric as a sample pack from a vendor and matched the back, which all worked out to be in his room colors! No pattern used, which made it pretty exciting; I just figured I would use the panels as a start and make squares and rectangles to fit around them. I added borders to enlarge it a bit and voila!

Unfortunately not all quilts are destined to grace a new baby’s crib. The one below was made in memorial to the mother, for this Mother’s Day. It is a gift from her wonderful circle of family and friends, as are the materials included in the quilt. A special onesie is embroidered on the front with her name and birthdate and a label on the back in homage to her support group. It is sad to share, but it will always serve as a beautiful reminder to her of a member of her family awaiting her in heaven.

I felt very special to be included in this project. I quilted it with all over hearts, and I think it couldn’t have turned out better.

Felt like quite an honor. OK I have to move on to something a little lighter…

This one was more fun – I found out my cousin brought home a new girl so I matched fabrics to the ladybugs and copied a pattern from a magazine. I put it together at a retreat one weekend. The loopy quilting matches the round shape of the ladybugs and the white on white fabric. So cute:

I made this cutie just cuz… the center fabric was on clearance at the shop, so I used it as the main focus and matched all those border blocks to make a simple but sweet little quilt! I quilted it in rainbow fans because they are in the fabric and, it just looks cute.

These two I made at the same retreat mentioned above. I had left over Peter Rabbit fabric, so tried two different patterns to use it up. I like the 9 patch best, but they both went to good homes. The blue bordered quilt was quilted in feathers and curls, and the nine patch (yellow border) has hearts all over it (which is the pattern of the yellow fabric).

I have actually made MANY quilts like these, but the ones below are made from CHILDREN’S CLOTHING. They have more of a purpose, because the child has outgrown these clothes, sometimes 16 years ago (seriously). But I like to be involved in preserving someone’s memories in such a special fashion.



Each quilt has it’s own unique purpose, for a different person, for a special reason. Each quilt is one of a kind, beautiful in it’s own right, no matter to whom it belongs. 🙂

Happy quilting my friends!

Latest Quilt Of Valor

I love working on Quilt of Valor projects. They are randomly assigned, and when they are, I get an email and communication begins with the quilt maker. It has always been positive, and simple, and lately it seems like the quilt maker just wants me to provide batting and quilt it, then send it back to them for the finish. That’s fine by me :).

When the quilt arrives, I am eager to see what the quilt maker has chosen as far as pattern and color. It is often red, white and blue, but not always! There are a variety of patterns and degrees of difficulty to these quilts, which means I need to carefully choose the quilting stitching I want to use. One style will not work for all.

But I also know that this quilt was made with a veteran in mind. And I quilt it with that reverence. I am so proud to be able to give back in this manner.

I was super excited this time, despite being completely unsure of how it was going to turn out when I first opened the box. Once I took the quilt out I noticed that near every square had more than one fabric with stars in it. But I think stars need to be WITH something to look good. I’ve done a meander with stars, loops with stars, but those didn’t seem just right for this quilt.

And then it came to me. The blue fabric has shooting stars. I have quilted a flame-like meander. I thought, I should combine those because the streaks would make this look like shooting stars!

OK, now to select the thread. Well, when I have QOV’s that are red, white and blue, I like to use my variegated thread in those colors. Sometimes that can prove difficult. This quilt had more of a cream color to the top, and a plain white muslin back. Hmmm. Wait! Variegated thread in the bobbin is easy, so if I use that for the back, and then a cream on top, I will satisfy my color requirements and not have to deal with thread breakage issues!

So I got to work, and quickly finished. I am very pleased with the result!