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Sketchbook Work For Quilting Ideas

Sketchbook work is great for quilting ideas. You can work out blocks, motifs, collage, save templates and all sorts of things in a sketchbook.

The templates and a leaf from my autumn quilt were sitting on my sewing table. Actually I had removed my tool box from the sewing machine because the extension table is attached. Templates and the leaf were in the toolbox tray so as not to lose them.

Then I thought, I should create a little sketchbook to keep these safe and record the quilt. Now, it is best to do this before you make the quilt, not afterwards! However, I had designed it on odd bits of scrap paper and as I went along. I wanted a record of it.

I looked for a spare sketchbook, but alas no. You’ve already seen what I was doing with junk mail envelopes a little while ago – the C5 long ones. I also had quite a few large envelopes, I think they are D-something, anyway slightly larger than A5 paper size. This size would be perfect.

My main aim was to gather together key elements of the design and to save the templates. The centre of the quilt is log-cabin based, a leaf motif and hand stitched hexagons. So these were the elements I wished to record in my sketchbook.

I glued together envelopes for sturdiness and taped them together with washi tape. That wide one with the foxes kept tearing. Hexagons and log cabin designs were created in pencil crayon. Magazine images were cut up as hexagons – this was great fun and gave me an idea for another quilt. On these pages I also created pockets for the templates. I might add more in future – fabric scraps etc from the quilt. I found some thick card to make a cover and bind it all together.

I am now starting another sketchbook for my next new quilt.

You can see the quilt tutorial here and the quilt is for sale here.

Words, work and images Karen Platt 2018

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Quilt Pattern Making costs

Autumn Leaves quilt pattern

Quilt pattern making takes a lot of time, experimentation and ideas. There’s a lot said about the costs of making a quilt, but what about the costs of being a quilt designer? We all have followers looking for ideas – the ones who copy and purchase elsewhere, hoping no-one spots them as a free rider. Many designers offer some patterns for free to try to encourage buyers. I always think this is false economy and the idea of a non-business person. People who want freebies end there, they do not suddenly dip into their pocket and start paying out.

Please understand that most businesses do not happen overnight. Most have spent years and countless thousands building a website, brand, designing before they even set up shop. Of course, there are those that dip their toes in and maintain a job, part or full-time whilst creating. I am a full-time designer maker, so I have given all to my craft, in the hope of making a small living. If I don’t sell, I don’t eat – it is as simple as that.

The costs involved in running a small business are:

Website domain, design, hosting, email, back up and these costs can vary enormously. Mine are minimal, I have a back-up drive and I am fortunate that my son helps with website design.
How you are going to sell patterns, quilts etc needs to be considered carefully in the light of VAT on automatic downloads and soon to be on physical goods. If we Brexit, the hard-earned limit achieved mostly by the work of one brilliant lady, Clare Josa, will be wiped out. So you might be forced to use Payhip or similar to send out patterns and cost that in too. Then you might have fees such as PayPal or stripe fees, it all adds up.
Software for design if needed, personally I do not use it currently.
Memberships – it’s good to belong to established groups etc to get noticed but also to have a sense of belonging. You might also wish to subscribe to industry standard magazines.

All this adds up to several thousands pounds a year. Divide by the price of a pattern, and you are left with how many patterns you need to sell, just to break even – that’s no profit yet at all.

Imagine your overheads are 1500 a year – that’s quite conservative and assumes you are working from home not a rented studio. If your patterns are 12 pounds each, then you need to sell 125 patterns a year to break even. That sounds like nothing if you are not used to selling. So let’s put it into context – the average paperback book from a good publisher sells only 2000 copies a year and it is in just about every book shop, physical and brick and mortar imaginable. You are one person with a small website lost at sea.

If you need outside help producing patterns such as editor, graphic designer, tester – these are not cheap and have to be costed in too. One thing you will always have to spend on is the fabrics to make a sample quilt and this is expensive (unless you are fortunate enough to have a company provide them for you). I am not. I spend well over 120 pounds on a test quilt. Then there is the wear and tear on tools including your sewing machine, at some point they all need to be repaired/replaced and if you have not factored a small percentage into every pattern, then you have no money to do that with. I still have not added anything for my time. Add these costs to the above and you can see with fabrics etc alone and no outside help, I need to sell another 10 patterns to break even.

Which brings me on to the main cost – one that is often overlooked, but absolutely necessary. Advertising. Word of mouth is great, but believe me you can be dead before anyone has said Karen who? Advertising costs big bucks and newbies often go wrong placing an ad here and there. Consistency brings results with advertising. So look at places where you can get your name around for free. You should plough some of your profits back into advertising and building awareness of your brand. How long is a piece of string? In my first year, I used my own savings to book a stand at the Festival of Quilts. The total expense including leaflets and accommodation of being there was over a thousand pounds. Whatever your advertising costs are has to be added into the mix and it is probably going to be your single most expensive factor because without it, no-one is going to know about you. That means over a 100 extra patterns before I break even.

I am already wondering why I am doing this!!! Then you have to remember if you are selling wholesale, you will be lucky to get 50% of the pattern price, so you have to double the number of items you sell to break even.

Do you earn enough to be taxed? Do you use an accountant? These costs too need to be factored in.

Then there is what you pay yourself. Forget the average wage, unless you are very lucky it is probably unachievable, at least in the early years. Minimum pay is a possibility, but unlikely that you would achieve it over the course of 37.5 hours a week for a year. The minimum wage in the UK works out at 15,269 per year (according to 2017 statistics). That is a low wage, difficult to live on. Even at this level, I would have to sell 1273 patterns. That is 25 patterns a week direct. Again it does not sound like much, but it is.

At my age and with my experience, it would not be unlikely to expect to earn 30 to 40,000 or more. But this would mean at least 50 pattern sales a week.

To cover my household costs and overheads I would need to sell at least 12 patterns a week before I even start to pay myself. It is an uphill struggle.

But designers sell patterns to magazines and must make thousands you say? Many patterns are obtained by magazines for free in exchange for ‘publicity’.

It’s hard to justify freebies. Please dip into your pockets quilters. It is hard to fathom why people are willing to pay for sewing machines, every tool imaginable and mountains of fabrics they are not even going to use, but that they expect a pattern to be free. So please be kind to pattern makers.

Take a look at my quilt patterns. Any support, no matter how small, not only means I can eat, but that you made my heart sing! Thank you.

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Blog Review of the Week

The blog is a review of my week. Sadly not only did I do something to my back but I am now struggling with energy levels. Despite that I have soldiered on a little and here is the blog with all the latest from your truly.

Where I hoped I would have had another quilt finished entirely – I am still sewing together 4 small strips of tiny half square triangles – not my best news of the week.

I have had better luck with knitting. Not only was I able to finish another hat and get the pattern uploaded to Ravelry but I have also started something that has been high on my list for a long time – a black lace sweater. I found that if I kept my arms as still as possible, I could knit for a while.

Otherwise it has been some writing, with ditto about keeping arms as still as possible! I just find it hard to rest, I have to be doing something. So I launched the fabulous Autumn Inspirations and started work on Winter Inspirations. If you are any kind of artist looking for inspiration or ideas, I am giving you oodles of that in the wonderful ebooks. All my own photos that you can use as you wish. They also contain some of my work.

Elsewhere, the Colour Confidence For Quilters ecourse is almost finished. I really hope quilters will take this to heart because people slavishly follow the colour wheel and I am here to show you that there is a better way to use colour.

One more ecourse almost ready is the Drawing For Textiles one. I am giving you a sneak peek of how you can begin to draw with my exciting new ecourse. So lots more still to come this month.

Meantime, I think I should lay down on a solid board! Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Progress Update – What Is Coming In The Next Month?

This is a progress update of new products and more. Even the smallest progress has to be acknowledged as a step in the right direction. Even though I am not quite where I wanted to be, I am making progress towards that goal.

Last week I added my first in a new series of Learn As You Quilt patterns and tutorials. You can find all the tutorials here. This week I almost completed two new ecourses that will launch this month – the long awaited one on COLOUR, and a new one on DRAWING FOR TEXTILES. These will be launched any time now here.

I made progress with my new quilt – tiny half square triangles have been made. A few problems to solve there. One round of triangles stitched into a row is not as long as the quilt, so I have to make a decision on positioning. Also still do not have the wadding yet.

There are now two knitting designs finished but not written up and launched. I have started another of my hats. I am thinking I might try payhip for the patterns although Ravelry seems the obvious choice.

The UFOs are mounting, so I must get those tackled this month. It is going to be a busy time. Number one on the list is the hand stitched quilt, it is so near the end and will allow me to launch the Hand Stitched Quilt tutorial.

I am also starting the Winter Quilt, the second in my Learn As You Quilt tutorials. I am very excited about this project. It will, of course, include the things I love about winter, but not be a Christmas quilt. I am not fond of quilts that you can only use for a short space of time.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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New Quilts and Quilting Tutorials From Karen Platt

Autumn is well and truly here and last week I finished the new autumn quilt, so it is already to launch. If you do not have the pennies to buy a finished quilt, I have also created a new quilt tutorial to go with this new design. All the work has been designed by me and I created the quilt myself from scratch. I set myself a few headaches along the way, but solved them so that when you use the tutorial, you will not have any problems. I had so much fun designing and making this quilt and know that you will too. It is my first quilt pattern for sale on the website.

The quilt itself is for sale on the website. It is a one-off unique sample quilt I made, so there is only one – grab it while you can.

I have also designed and made a new landscape quilt. I am loving the colours of this one, called ‘Pebbles On The Beach’ and the original is on sale here. You can find my methods for making this type of quilt in my landscape quilt tutorial. The quilt that I made for that tutorial is also for sale here.

I have still to write my knitting pattern up, and will be uploading several patterns to Ravelry shortly.

Meantime I am also working on a new Inspiration book – Autumn. The Churches Inspiration book is finished but waiting for me to finish off the textiles. Keep checking back and meantime why not check out the existing Inspiration Series? So much to inspire for art, textiles and more. These are all manual downloads as pdfs so that you can enjoy the photos. So much to keep me busy.

Am I doing anything else? Yes, I found an embroidery I started some months ago – that will be finished soon too.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Learn As You Quilt What’s New In Quilting

Learn to quilt with Karen. If you follow me on social media, you cannot have missed the fact that I have been working on an exciting new quilt design. It’s new in more ways than one:
1. It’s the first quilt pattern I have written
2. It’s more than just a pattern – it involves several tutorials
3. You learn as you quilt building your skills

How great is that? This is a new style of quilting skill builder – one where you learn whilst quilting. This new pattern actually involves 12 skills and once you have mastered this one, there will be more patterns to enjoy with different skills. Because you are learning along the way – the pattern can be used in different ways. It also presents many options and variations for the quilter. Patterns can be found on the pattern section of the website.

I have been developing this new style of quilting for a year now. I’m hoping it is going to make a lasting impact on the quilt world. It should make it easier for beginners to achieve good results from the beginning and give them the confidence to build their skills quickly. For intermediate quilters, it offers a challenge to the established method of quilting and even advanced quilters might find a skill they have not yet tried.

This latest design concentrates on autumn (fall) in theme and colour. This will be available as a pattern and tutorials. The next design will be for spring. I shall be offering a special pack, launching exclusively on the website, for everyone who wants to join in and make the quilt.

It’s been a challenge to find a way to describe this new slant on learning to quilt. I have settled on the abbreviation QUILTSKI for Quilt Skills, to describe my methods. I do hope you will join me in this exciting adventure launching this week.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Professional Designer Quilter – A Day In The Life of Being A Quilter

one block wonder quilt Karen Platt

Professional Quilter – A Day In The Life of Being A Quilter

You can be forgiven for thinking ‘I could do that’ or ‘What a wonderful life to quilt all day long’. However, as much as I enjoy it and I really do, there is so much more to being a quilter than sewing.

Whilst it is true that some quilters use other designers’ patterns, I decided at the very start (being a textiles designer anyway) that I would have to design my own quilt patterns.

I do not have a typical day, my days vary so much. My day often starts in the middle of the night when ideas come to me unbeckoned, or perhaps beckoned subconsciously. These days if I do not jot them down, by the morning they are lost. I let ideas ‘brew’, it does not do to jump straight in. See my design ecourse by clicking this link – believe me you too can design.

I usually start with social media – promotion is key to any business and it is often the hardest part. You have to identify and know your market and how to tap into it. It’s more than just keywords, it’s a slog that could do with an army working on it – but there’s just me. I sometimes spend about an hour a day promoting my business in one way or another. On Sundays I write this blog. Did I mention I am a 24/7 workaholic?

Much of my work involves intense research. I am a born researcher and believe it informs my work, allowing me to reach beyond the obvious.

If I am starting a quilt, I might spend a morning choosing fabrics, longer if I cannot find what I want. More and more, I am leaning towards only using my own fabrics. Any successful business has to have a USP – a unique selling point.

I might draw, doodle, play with Photoshop, paint, sew – to test ideas, strengthen ideas or just play and hope something clicks. This is all part of the process. Then it is all down to sewing. I have one machine, so if I am working on more than one quilted piece, I might do all the straight stitching, then all the free motion.

I must admit, I find most of the sewing quite tedious, but I am much more at ease with it these days. In the evenings, I concentrate on hand sewing for another two hours. This could be a hand stitched quilt, jacket or just hand finishing binding.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Retrospective of Quilting Becoming A Professional Quilter

learn quilting Karen Platt

Retrospective of my quilting life so far. My professional quilt life began just 21 months ago but the retrospective goes back much further to my humble beginnings.

I never thought of being a professional quilter. I don’t have any connections. Heck I could not even follow a quilting pattern, nor sew a straight line. That’s the very reason I know I can teach you how to quilt. I did it the hard way – I taught myself.

I am a professional, fully qualified and experienced teacher. I had always been interested in making things. I still am rarely seen without knitting needles and have designed my own patterns since the early 90s. For the past ten years I have dabbled with hand dyeing yarn, threads and fabric.

At the same time I became a self-published author of gardening books. I was very successful, particularly in the USA and Australia. I became a professional gardening speaker, speaking up and down the west coast of America.

About ten years ago I went back to college to study art and design. Chiefly I wanted to learn to draw. The year before I had studied ceramics and fallen in love with it, but there was no way I could afford nor house a kiln. So I was thinking of doing fine art. Then I became very interested in digital art and I have had some success in that field. I developed unique ways of manipulating photos. My interest in photography extends to decades ago. As does my interesting in painting and art.

After that I took a morning course in Japanese Folded Patchwork and fell in love with this hand sewing method. I was developing textiles at the time but my interests have always been broad.

In late 2011 I went to a stitch show and bought some fabric for quilting. I had no idea what to do with it. I eventually put it together for tiny pram quilts and made lots of mistakes. That was final then. I’d never make it as a quilter. Quilting books completely baffled me. However I had not bought one lot of fabric, I had bought four lots falling in love with the colours. This fabric languished for some years. In 2012 I thought it was a shame not to use the fabric and started a quilt, but got stuck and it became a UFO.

I continued to sell gardening books, paint and create digital art. I did an art residency.

In 2013, I made four quilted place mats. I found them difficult to do and I forget how many hours they took me. I moved house and it became more difficult to dye. I was still living from the sales of my gardening books and had more to write. I lived in Tunisia for much of the time producing art and writing gardening books. I also wrote a book on Tunisian textiles. I was making embroideries and textile art and still do.

My interest in digital art deepened and everyone keep saying the designs would make great quilts. I kept thinking, maybe, but I am no good at quilting. It was not until late 2015 I tried to quilt again, making a knitting needle holder. It was a hobby I was struggling with. I had at least three garden writing projects on the go. I was approached by a publisher to write for them also. I made a couple of bags and a couple of dresses. I would tense up every time I did sewing, waiting for something to go wrong.

Dramatically in late 2016/early 2017 through no fault of my own, I was left without the means to earn a living. I was told my stock of books had been destroyed. I had no money to replace them. I took stock of what I could do, and my immediate thought was stitch. I set out to become a professional quilter.

I learned to do Cathedral Window Quilting and wrote my own tutorials for quilting. I started to design my own stained glass fabrics for it. It was a slow process, being hand quilted but I was still so wary of sewing machines. By March 2017, I taught my first quilting classes. I developed online classes for people to take wherever they live. I moved into landscape quilting on the machine, designing my own quilts and writing up tutorials. I took the advice of friends and turned some of my digital designs into quilts also.

It was not until August 2017 that I finished my first bed-sized quilt, that UFO started five years earlier. I used my talents in design and colour to get me through. My challenge was mastering my sewing machine. I did and my latest design features free-motion sewing. Perseverance got me there in the end.

I developed more tutorials and ecourses including design. I challenged myself to make three kaleidoscope quilts this year, to prove that my skills are there.

My next stage is to use my own fabric designs to continue my quilting journey with my own quilting designs. So there you have it a retrospective of my bumpy quilting journey that might never have happened if circumstances had not forced it. Design is still my driving factor but I don’t hate sewing any more, I have embraced it. I don;t get stuck any more, I have perfected my sewing skills. I am making quilts for sale. I did FOQ 2018 to dip my toes into the quilting market.

Click the link for ecourses

Click the link for fabrics

Click the link for quilts

My ravelry store

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018
quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting dyeing retrospective Karen Platt

knitting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting textiles retrospective Karen Platt

quilting textiles retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting textiles retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

quilting retrospective Karen Platt

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Colouring Fabric for Quilt Design How-To Colour With Markal Sticks

Colouring fabric is one way to be original in your designs and to create original motifs. It is a way of making marks. When it comes to colouring fabric, it seems to baffle people, as there are so many products to choose from.

Choose a marker or colouring medium designed for fabric.
Test it on your fabric following instructions and wash it. Dry and see what happens. Does it fade? does it run?
What do you have to do to make the medium permanent?

Markal painsticks are a favourite of mine:
1. Great artistic colour range
2. Inexpensive compared to other mediums
3. Nothing is needed to work with them, no gel, textile medium, not even water
4. Easy to use
5. Easy blending, there is also a blender marker
6. Minimum wastage – some of these sticks had been used before, and I made approx 50 oak leaves and you can see how little I used
7. Cure for at least 3-5 days then heat set
8. Pigment based and permanent

All you need is a stiff brush (the kind you would use with stencils). Draw your motif onto your fabric (I usually use a chalk pen). Wearing protective gloves, peel back the hardened layer on the painstick. Collect the peelings carefully, onto a paper towel – they will mark anything they fall onto if trodden in. Brush a little colour onto your brush and apply to the fabric. You can also use stencils. When not in use the painsticks harden over again. They go a long long way.

The simplest and best way to colour fabric. This is how I created the oak leaves on my quilt. Make sure you do not move your fabric with your messy hand! Brushes wash out with hot water and soap.

For more on colouring fabric, join the design ecourse by clicking this link

Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Quilt Design And Problem Solving

Quilt Design is often about problem solving. It’s about making things fit into the mold or breaking that mold as the case may be.

When designing a quilt there are so many decisions you have to make before you begin. It is an ordered process and a process which can be learned. First decisions boil down to materials:

1. Which fabrics?
2. Which colours?
3. Which sewing thread?
4. Which batting?

I see so many questions on social media – do these fabrics go together? Does this look better than that? Yet there are formulas and guidance for which fabrics to choose and how to put fabrics together. Then you see really beautifully made quilts, but with the wrong colours, or poor fabrics, and even badly stretched ones.

Quilting takes time, so it is best practice to get to grips with the essentials. That does not mean following a colour wheel slavishly. You need to understand colour, in the same way you need to understand fabrics.

Once you have made these basic decisions and applied the rules, you open the door to fabulous design and all its glorious permutations and possibilities. That’s what I love about quilting. If you are just beginning, click this link to join my beginners’ quilting ecourse.

My latest quilt was a not-so-scrappy-scrappy-quilt. I wanted to use leftover scraps from two OBW quilts. I was faced with design choices and decisions at every stage. So I pause now and then and consider design principles and my options and work out the best way forward. That’s what design is all about. Scraps rarely come in uniform sizes and that has to be accommodated. I had some hexagons, rectangles and squares and I had to figure a way to use them all. I did, eventually. I am pleased with the result. Of course, I made more scraps along the way!

Why not learn to design now, the ecourse is available wherever you are, by clicking this link

If you need to see quilting in action, join me on a quilt retreat, workshop or holiday in the U.K., France or India, by clicking this link and scrolling through the pages.

Happy quilting
Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018