The Great Signature Pen Debate – the final decision

After many weeks and many washings, I finally chose the pen that I felt would be the best for Kylee’s wedding quilt. Remember this picture from my previous post?

Signatures-parchmentWell, here’s those same signatures, sewn together and washed 15 times.

signatures-on-fabricYes, I said 15 times. In cold water, hot water, with fabric softener and without, on about every setting on my washer and dryer, and in 4 different kinds of detergent. Like I said, you never really know how a quilt will be washed once it’s out of your hands! I was a little annoyed that I didn’t sew the samples together in order and right-side up, but it actually worked better for me. With the signatures all jumbled up I looked at the ink, and not at what was written. As an FYI, I also heat-set all of the signatures with a hot iron for at least 15-30 seconds before I threw them in the washer.

These were the pens I used:

Pens

The Sharpie Fine was the first to go, after the first wash. Why is it that Sharpies never come out of my clothes, but disappear after the first wash on scrap fabric?

The Sharpie Medium and PrismaColor Premiere pens stayed black, but ran. Gone.

The Microns turned a sort of purple-black and faded quite a bit after all the washings.

The clear winner:

Nano-pensThe Nano-Liner by Royal Langnickel was da bomb in my experiment. It stayed black, my testees said it was a smooth pen on the fabric, and did not fade. And, surprisingly, it was the least expensive of all the pens, at $1.98/pen at Hobby Lobby!

I bought 5 pens in nib sizes 5 and 7. I thought the size 4 nib was a bit “thin”, and wouldn’t be seen at a distance as well as thicker nibs. I failed to get a picture of the signing table (hey! I was too busy decorating the reception halls and tables!), but here’s a pic of the sign I made:

SignI had to laugh when I asked Kylee to add their signatures to the sign. I figured more people would be apt to sign them if it had their John Hancock on the sign. I left plenty of room for a large signature, and what does she do? Well, you could probably fit that signature on a check. ROFL!

So, after a wedding in Florida, a reception in Ohio and chasing people down at both to make sure everyone signed a block, I’ve got about 120 blocks ready to go.

Signed-blocksI think I may add a few nice “marriage” sayings to some of the leftover blocks as fillers. The next couple of weeks will be filled with pulling off the blue painter’s tape (which held up very nicely over 3 weeks, a plane ride and tumbling around in a trunk!), trimming up the blocks and deciding how I want to lay them out!

As a disclaimer, these pens worked for me in my experiment. I hope this information helps in YOUR search and experimentation for signature pens!

Cindi 100

The great signature quilt pen debate (Part 1)

As I prepare to make a wedding quilt for my niece, I’ve searched high and low for information as to the best pen to use for the signature blocks, but decided to do my own experiment. What works for someone else may not necessarily work for me! Kylee wants to actually use the quilt, and I WANT her to use the quilt. I don’t make quilts so they can sit in a drawer, dammit. I’m making snowball blocks, and the writing area will be about 2×4.5″. I’m having guests sign the blocks before I sew the quilt together, so I paper-pieced them, allowing for easier signing.

Snowball-BlocksI decided to cut several squares of the white fabric and take them to “Sunday Dinner”, where a gaggle of friends gather at my sister’s house. I thought it would be best to get several different types of signatures with several different pens. Everyone writes differently. Some have a light touch, some press harder. This would result in different results when washed. I wanted to try to get 2 different signatures of each pen. Since I’m a doodler, I have tons of great pens hanging around. Here are the four pens I used for the experiment:

PensSharpie Ultra Fine Point, Sharpie Pen Fine & Medium, Prismacolor Premiere 05 & 08, Micron 03, 05, & 08, Nano-Liner 04 & 06. Yes, I used several sizes of each pen, if possible, to see what wasn’t bold enough and what was too bold for a signature. Kinda like the three bears. One’s gonna be juuuuuust right…..

I am using Kona cotton, Snow White color. I washed it in warm water with Tide (no fabric softener), and pressed it (no starch).

We had a signature party at dinner, and these are the samples I collected:

Signatures-parchmentI pressed the signatures with a hot iron to set the ink (hopefully!), quickly zig-zagged them together and threw them in the wash. Warm water with a load of towels. I figured if anything was going to scrub off the ink, it would be towels! Plus, worried about bleeding with the first wash, I wanted something okay to ruin. The first thing I realized is that I sewed them every which way. I’m a dork! But, as you can see, right off the bat the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point is out. It faded away in the first washing. It may be permanent, but not on fabric!

Pen-sample-wash-1The others held up well, with no bleeding and little to no fading. I’m leaning towards the Prismacolor Premiere pens at first glance. The black is truly black, while the Micron pens are a sort of brown-black.

This sample is going to be thrown in every single load of wash for the next 30 days. Hot water, warm water, cold water. Whatever the temp of the rest of the load, this will be added. Because you never know what temp a quilt will be washed in once it’s out of your hands. I’ll report back on my findings, and hopefully we’ll have a clear winner!

What is YOUR pen of choice?

Cindi 100

Holy Crap! I AM $ew Worth It!!

With great interest, I’ve been following the plethora of posts – and comments (pro and con) – regarding what we quilters are really worth. These are quotes from some of the comments I’ve seen regarding charging for quilts:

–        “It is better to sell the quilt at a lesser price than have it laying around my house”

–        “ It was made from stash scraps, so I don’t charge for those.”

–        “Sometimes it is good to be busy rather than counting the profit.”

–        “Just charge 19 cents per square inch – that will cover everything”

Ugh. We really question ourselves and our abilities, don’t we? Sam Hunter, who got us all thinking with her series “We Are $ew Worth It” has posted a wealth of information on this subject, and you can find a listing of all of the posts here. If you’ve not read them (and I’ll assume your computer has been on the blink for the past couple of years because everyone is talking about this!), I highly recommend you do. It really stimulated my “what did this quilt really cost me?” line of thinking.

On one hand, I can’t help but agree with the posts that we ARE worth it, but how do you get that through to the non-quilters who want us to make something for them for practically nothing? They have absolutely no idea what it takes. I’ve got 50 years of sewing experience, and 18 years of quilting experience. That’s not saying I’m a pro. I’m good – even great at some aspects – but not as adept as some quilters. I have my limitations, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Those limitations lessen with every new quilt technique I learn, so I’m continually improving my skills. Also, like 98% of you, I do it for fun, for the love of quilting. I don’t teach, I’ve never written a book, nor won any major show awards. Although I did win Best of Show ribbon at a small county fair for a t-shirt quilt I made for my niece – does that count?!?!? My SIL entered it and I didn’t even know until after it won. So someone else proclaimed my worth on that one. Many of the posts I’ve read are by well-known quilters, either in the quilt world or blog-wise. Yes, their quilts are going to sell for more. So I certainly can’t put myself in their position. I’m a little quilter with big dreams. Not of winning awards or writing books, but creating things out of my comfort zone. So, on the other hand, I can’t expect to get all that much for my quilts. Which is why I don’t sell them. But what is my quilt really worth? What value do I put on myself? I decided to put this question to the test.

The Challenge

I made this quilt as a housewarming gift for my niece, Britni.

Britni's Quilt2

She’s a beautiful girl who recently moved from Ohio to Indiana, away from every family member and friend she knows. A new adventure! I wanted her to have something “Ohio” to cuddle with, and when I saw this pattern called Twin Sisters from Robinson Pattern Company, I knew it was perfect. Ohio Stars in Scarlet and Gray – Buckeye colors! We quilters all know this is a pretty dang simple pattern, so this was the quilt I decided to test myself with. An easy quilt. It’ll be pretty inexpensive to make, right?

I started by downloading and tailoring Mollie Sparkles cost sheet to my needs. I worked up what I thought my worth would be, estimating my time.

My guess. Wow. I'm worth more than I thought before I've even begun!

My guess. Wow. I’m worth more than I thought before I’ve even begun!

I had previously purchased my fabrics, so the cost on the guesstimate and actual are both the same for supplies. I found a great deal on the fabrics, but if I were actually in business, the fabric costs I would charge my customer would have been the retail price, not the sale price. But since this was personal, I’m using the sale price. The batting was already in my stash, but I’m including everything – and I paid for that stash, so it’s got to be included!

Let’s Quilt!

I decided to add the free app Hours Keeper to my iPad to track my time. I wanted to be as accurate as possible. It allows you to put in “break” times for lunch, putting the laundry in the dryer, etc. I’m ready to start. These were my considerations:

Time: My time clock started from the moment I turned the lights on in my sewing room. NOT when I started cutting or sewing. Why? Because it’s the same as going to work. When I worked as an office manager, my hours began the moment I stepped in the door, not when I sat down to work. Seriously, was that first cup of coffee you took 3 minutes to prepare after you got to your office on your time or theirs? And that 5 minute conversation on the way to your desk with the co-worker about their kid being sick  – your time or company time? Company time, always company time. So when I turn on my machines, my radio or TV, plug in my iron and pull out the fabrics, it’s on company time in my sewing room. Because if I weren’t making this quilt, I wouldn’t be doing those things.

Rate per hour: It’s $25/hr. Period. I’m worth it. Well, I thought I was worth $20/hr until my blog buddy Peggi put me in my place about that. My experience is worth the price. See? I needed someone else to convince me of my worth! How blasted sad is that?? Shoot, my perfectly square quilt binding corners are worth even more, as far as I’m concerned. I rock at those mitered corners.

Shipping & Misc. charges: This includes pretty much everything you can’t see. Fuel & time at the fabric store, electricity, water for prewashing and pressing (I used 3 gallons of water just for pressing!), and machine wear & tear.

Thread: I used the chart supplied by Superior Threads to estimate my thread usage. You can see that chart here.

Creating label: I create my labels in Photoshop, with a pic of the recipient and a QR code with my email address in case it is lost.

Britni's Label_edited-1

I print it out on June Tailor Iron-On Print & Press, iron that onto white fabric, then make my label. The cost of the Print & Press and fabric is included in the create label cost.

Quilting: I do my own quilting on my midarm machine, no computer is used. Only rulers, my hands and alcohol when I’m frustrated. Although alcohol, sadly, is not included here. Never drink and drive your machine. Alcohol appeared after the light switch was turned off.

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Binding: Two-inch bindings are machine-sewn to the front, hand-sewn to the back in my world. Always. Since I machine stitch everything else, this hand-sewing is my own personal love going into the quilt. The charge for the binding also includes the final trimming of all stray threads throughout the quilt.

So I began. And I kept immaculate time. Every. Single. Moment.

The Eye-Opening Results

Here are my final numbers:

The final numbers. Holy. Cow.

The final numbers. Holy. Cow.

Oh my goodness, I about fainted. This quilt is worth – in time, expense and profit – $2090.55. And this is for a lap sized quilt – 65 x78″! Can you imagine the final cost for a queen-sized quilt? Or a hand-appliqued quilt?

Apparently I quilt much slower than I thought. I guessed a total of 23.75 hours to make this simple quilt. Sounds reasonable. Nope. Nearly 66 hours from start to finish. That’s a 36% time difference. I spend 36% longer to quilt than I imagined. Apparently time really does fly when you’re having fun!

Broken down, here are the guess-and-actual differences:

Screen shot 2015-03-12 at 4.52.37 PMMy piecing time did include 12 minutes of frogging (I told you I timed everything!). Why did I include that? Well, when I made a mistake at the office, did I clock out, correct the mistake, then clock back in? No. The company paid me to correct my work. Frogging is part of the work. So the charge stays. It also included 18 minutes of clean-up time after the quilt was completed. This quilt created that mess, and my room should be back to where it was before I began this quilt.

I also included a half hour of exploring an easier way to create hourglass blocks. The instructions wanted me to cut triangles, and since I’m not fond of those bias edges, I knew there was an easier way. So this cost included searching for instructions I remembered seeing on the internet and printing them out. Obviously, I don’t do many hourglass blocks.

The profit? I applied 15%, but when I think about it, is it really enough? When you buy clothes or electronics, isn’t the profit margin around 50%? Frankly, I probably should have used at least 20%. My actual costs for supplies was $159.12. My profit was $272.68. Which means it will take 58% of my profits to replace the supplies I used in this quilt. Doesn’t leave a whole lot to invest in anything else, does it?

What did I learn?

First and foremost, feel free to call me Cher, as I’ve been totally “Clueless” of the time and energy I spend on a quilt. The time alone is enough to make me realize that I haven’t been giving myself the credit that is due to me. I am blown away at what it really took to make this quilt. When I look at these final numbers, I’m actually embarrassed that I ever said “Pish-posh, it was nothing”! It certainly was something.

It also make me realize that I’m now going to seriously think before I give a quilt away. While others may say “It is better to sell the quilt at a lesser price than have it laying around my house”, I’d rather have it laying around my house than give it to someone who won’t appreciate (or pay a fair amount) for the work that’s gone into my masterpiece – be it a simple or intricate quilt. Not that I’ve got quilts lying around. I make quilts with someone in mind. There’s almost always a reason behind my quilts.

As I’ve said, I don’t sell my quilts. However, now that I’ve completed this eye-opening test, I will have no problem saying “My fees start at $1000” when asked if I will make a quilt for someone (caveat: Family doesn’t count. My family is da’bomb. They pay me with unconditional love.). Because it’s the only way this nincompoop will stop giving her services away. And I’d never offer it on Etsy, Ebay, or anywhere else for less than $2000, either. I promise not to diminish the value of quilters who are trying to sell their quilts for what they’re worth.

I now have the ammunition to educate non-quilters of my worth. My quilts may not have a designer label, but they are beautiful, handcrafted, and worthy of appreciation.

Most importantly, I will take praise for my quilts with immense gratitude and hold my head high because I know exactly what went into making it, and I’m proud of that! I am an artist.

I challenge every quilter (or crafter of any kind!) to take this test and actually time yourself. How long does it actually take you to quilt….really??? Education starts at home. I think you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find out about yourself.

In closing, I’ll say it again: Holy Crap! I AM $ew Worth It! Thank you, Sam Hunter, for starting a conversation that truly opened my eyes.

PS: Peggi found some interesting information on Pricing Strategies for Designers. I’m going to investigate this information and will post a follow-up on what this quilt would be worth if I had my own company, according to those guidelines.

 

It doesn’t matter.

Sewing-room-change

It doesn’t matter. I get to spend time with my family again.

 

 

 

 

Have sewing machine, will quilt.

Ironing-board-change

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t matter. My old friends are nearby. Although I’ll never forget all the friends I’ve made elsewhere!

 

 

 

Looks like I’ve got a reason to make a window quilt now!

fabric-change

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t matter. I now have quilt shops close by. No more driving an hour to find even MORE fabric!

 

 

 

Hmmmm…..however, hubby is going to have a heart attack when he sees how much fabric I actually have. It was all so well hidden before! and lord help me, look at that gawd-awful paneling. Thought that went out in the 60’s!

LA-change

 

It doesn’t matter. I’m grateful, happy and blessed to be home again.

 

 

 

PLUS, my room is bigger, which means I can take my frame from 9′ to 14′ if I so choose. Oh, happy day! And yes, those boxes are full of sewing room stuff. Thirty-one total boxes were packed – more than any other room in the house!

 

I’ll cut fabric on the floor. Don’t care. Doesn’t bother me.

It’ll eventually get cabinets and a cutting table – although they’ll ALL be moveable. But not nearly as fancy or expensive as before. I will never make the mistake of built-ins again. You never know what the future holds….

It doesn’t matter where you quilt or what your sewing room looks like. It’s not fancy that makes a quilt. It’s all heart. And heart doesn’t care about how great your room looks. It cares about how much love you put into your quilting.

Me? I’m just happy to be home again.

Cindi 100

What would YOU want in an app to track expenses for quilts you sell? They need your ideas!

What if you could help design an app that lets you track quilt expenses the way quilters actually want it, and not the way non-quilters would do it? And all you had to do was give your opinion? I say YES, I’ll help! I recently downloaded the app “Project Quilt”.

Screen shot 2013-07-28 at 9.33.39 AM

It’s a lovely app that allows  you to track your expenses for each quilt you make. You can see it here http://komakode.com/ , just click on “Project Quilt” to see what it can do, or to download it to your iPad.

Screen shot 2013-07-28 at 9.33.02 AM
 

I emailed the developer about adding labor costs to it, as this would make it a perfect sales receipt, or even for those of us who just want to track what we’re “giving away” when we gift a quilt to someone. The developer, Karl, and I have been emailing back and forth with ideas to add to make the app sales-applicable, as he hadn’t considered this aspect. I told him I’d pose the questions here, to get opinions from actual quilters as to what they want. Here are the questions:

If you were looking for the perfect app to track your expenses and time, what would you want to see? What would you want included?

As far as tracking time, would you want just a single spot to put in your total time, or would you want to be able to track the time for each day? I thought adding a spot for what you did during that time (i.e. setup, piecing, quilting) might be nice, as most non-quilters don’t realize the time it actually takes to do these things.

What else would you like to see? A timeclock? The app as-is only allows one picture per quilt. Would you want to be able to add more, i.e. progress pictures?

Karl is VERY interested in updating this app with things that aren’t available in any other app. Your ideas would help him create exactly what WE want, not what non-quilters think we want. I appreciate that he actually wants to listen to us! Be specific. Fire away with your ideas!!

PS: I am in no way connected to this app. I just really like it and would love to see it more “quilter-friendly”!

Cindi 100

reward for missing quilts!

A quick post to ask everyone to keep their eyes open for these missing quilts:

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For more information, including contacts and reward details, go here:  C&T Publishing, Missing Quilts

On a side note – may I just say how much I admire C&T Publishing for not only publicizing this catastrophe and asking for help finding the quilts, but also offering a reward for their return!   It’s mortifying for them (their words, not mine) but they want to do what’s right – get the quilts back to their owners, no matter what.  A few months ago, I was very disappointed to read about a beautiful quilt had been sent to a certain magazine for a photo shoot.  The quilt was lost in transit back to the maker.  The magazine had the PERFECT opportunity to mention at the end of the article that the quilt was missing, but it did not.  So I’d just like to thank C&T for doing the right thing, and I hope the quilts come home soon!

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The Blah’s and a bad, bad teacher

As you can clearly tell, Peggi has been busy – very busy! Me, I’m going through a “Blah” period. I’ve got several irons in the fire as far as quilting goes, but nothing sounds fun to make. However, I do have a very interesting story…..

My daughter, Sunday, wanted to make a quilt while she was here on vacation last week. Sunday is a beginning quilter, but has made two quilts – one for her (her first, which I helped her construct) and one for a friend that she did on her own. She decided to make a Postage Stamp quilt while she was here. I thought it was a great idea. She wouldn’t need me to stand over her, watching, making sure she’s doing it correctly. She’s made two quilts, she knows how to sew a straight line. And a Postage Stamp quilt is nothing but straight lines, right??

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Have you ever really thought about how much you know about quilting? Really know? The little things that seem so insignificant, but are so important? The techniques that are now second nature?

Sunday cut her strips exactly as instructed. I told her to sew them in pairs with a 1/4” seam on my machine. Unfortunately, I failed to tell her that I had my machine set differently. I have a 1/4” seam foot (which she’s never seen), and the needle is set to sew a scant 1/4” seam. Sunday sewed hers from the 1/4” line on the bobbin lid, not from the foot. Which meant all of her seems were a bit smaller than 1/4”, but larger than 1/8”. Well, we could still work with it. I didn’t want her frustrated with having to tear out the stitching of over 160 pairs of strips.

So, I told her to go ahead and press all the strips open with the seams to one side, and keep sewing and pressing strips until she had sets of 8 sewn strips. I instructed her to cut these sets into 1-1/2” strips when she was finished. Then I showed her how they would “butt” together so the seams would all match when she sewed the strips. Straight lines, no curves, no problem. I went upstairs to spend some time with my granddaughter.

Big. Mistake. BIG mistake.

Sunday worked diligently for two days on these strips. Cut them as instructed, and began sewing them together. Then brought them up and showed a couple to me. They weren’t going together correctly. I took one look at them and knew immediately what the problem was.

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The seams had been pressed incorrectly. There were sections where 1/8-1/4” were not pressed out. Instead of laying the strips face-up, she opened them face-down and pressed. And when they were sewn together:

wpid-error-sewn-2011-07-3-06-23.jpg

Disaster. And it’s my fault. Sunday had spent two days making something that wasn’t going to work at all. I can’t – and won’t – blame her. She didn’t know she was doing anything wrong when she was sewing or pressing them. She was smart, and came to me as soon as she noticed they weren’t going together right. Once I started looking at the strips, there really was no saving them. The seams were inconsistent, re-pressing wasn’t going to work.

I failed to take into consideration that Sunday doesn’t quilt on a consistent basis as I do. She’s only made two quilts in the past two years. But I thought that since she HAD made two quilts, she had the knowledge necessary to continue without supervision. I now see this as a learning experience for both of us. I know she won’t make these mistakes again. Screw something up this badly and you don’t forget it. I spent a while going over sewing and pressing techniques with her – something I should have done in the beginning. Had I done this, she would have gone home with a completed quilt. And the satisfaction of learning a new pattern. Instead, I sent her home with nothing but, most likely, a bad taste in her mouth for quilting. And when she said “so that’s why my last quilt went together so badly”, I knew I had really failed as her teacher.

Luckily, Sunday isn’t the type to give up easily. She IS going to try the Postage Stamp quilt at home and has already designed a new quilt to make. Of course, she’s picked one that uses triangles – and has already cut the fabric. A whole NEW set of techniques and problems. Problems that I will deal with – long distance (she lives in Ohio) – step-by-step, stitch-by-stitch.

Sunday, you’ve taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.

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Today in Quilting News…

In my email this morning was a “Tip of the Week” from The Quilt Show, the online quilting show hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.  TQS member Marlette mailed in an awesome tip –  a “Repair Pouch” for quilts!

The idea is to put leftover scraps and yardage in a fabric pouch, and sew the pouch on the back of the quilt.  That way if the quilt ever needs repairs, extra fabrics are easily available.  Is that not a super idea or what???  Click HERE to go to The Quilt Show’s blog for details.

In other news,  iPod and iPad apps were released today that showcase the gorgeous and drool-worthy Red And White Quilt Show currently going on at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.   You can download the app and view the quilts FOR FREE!

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I thought an app showcasing the quilts was a fabulous idea for those of us who can’t possibly get to NYC!  However, I’m unable to get the app to work.  It gets stuck in thinking mode.  Has anyone else downloaded the app, and were you able to get it to work?
wpid-large-sig-2011-03-29-19-09.pngI contacted the appmaker and he gave me these instructions to make the Red Quilt app work:

Open the Red Quilt app
Close the app
Go into any other app
Double-click the “Home” button
You’ll see the app in the bottom row of buttons
Click and hold the Red Quilt app until it wiggles
Click the minus (-) button. This will close the app, but not delete it
Click the home button twice. This will close the bottom row

Go back into the app and open it. It should work now.
It worked for me. Did it work for you??

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AQS Show coming to Grand Rapids, MI in 2012!!!

I am SOOOO excited! Grand Rapids is only an hour from my house!!!!! I’ve been to two Paducah shows (the grandmommy of them all) and I can’t believe it’s coming here. Send me the brochure, AQS – I’ll be the first to sign up. The show will also be here in 2013. Sigh. I’m in hog heaven right now. Doing the happy dance at 5 am!!

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You can read more about it here:

http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2011/02/grand_rapids_lands_convention.html

Congratulations West Michigan Quilter’s Guild for snagging the big one. Thank you!

Peggi, you ARE coming over for the show, right?????? Free room and board!! The Padcuah show we went to together was one of the best times ever. C’mon! You’ve GOTTA be there!!!

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