Category Archives: Blog

I Love Blogs That

* tell stories
* tell about process, if the blog is about making
* use words thoughtfully
* inspire the reader
* show the writer cares about the reader.

These are blogs I follow, and this is the kind of blog I want to create.

I’ve been blogging at WordPress for more than four years. And I’ve enjoyed reading here for just as long. However, many of the bloggers I used to follow have dropped out of the process. They no longer write, or at least, not using the same url. I’d love to find a few more blogs, thoughtfully written, to follow.

Do you have favorite blogs to recommend? What do you look for in blogs you follow? They can be WordPress blogs or anyone’s!  They can be quilting blogs or any kind! Please tell us in comments. ALSO please stop back through, comment on other comments, add more as you think of them! Let’s have a conversation about great blogs we enjoy. I’ll look forward to your thoughts.

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Twenty and Done

Today is day 20 of my 30-day blogging challenge. If you weren’t in on the beginning of it, I challenged myself to publishing a blog post every day for 30 days. My intention was to recommit to writing, and to interacting here, because my sense of engagement had slipped and my interest was low.

It was a great experiment for me, and I’ve enjoyed it. But I’m done.

Oh, I can find plenty of things to write about. I’ve appreciated your thoughtful comments. And even though I try not to worry about stats, it’s been fun to see the increase in views here over the last weeks.

Mark Lipinski wrote about making for obligation in Quilting Arts Magazine, June/July 2015 issue. While choosing quilts for a trunk show, he realized that the stacks of quilts had been made for “fast magazine turnarounds and book deadlines, hasty class samples, or as fabric company showpieces for trade shows.” He felt they were well designed but devoid of his personality. They didn’t represent what he wanted his quilting legacy to be. In response, he initiated what he calls “The Slow Stitching Movement,” to share a newfound commitment to create wonderful, meaningful quilts.

Quilting for obligations and deadlines was not satisfying enough for him. He needed to change his approach to creating.

I can find plenty of topics to write about, just as I can find plenty of quilts to make. In truth, though, quilting and writing for obligations and deadlines is not satisfying enough for me. Writing every day for a challenge such as this creates an artificial goal. The goal, and of course I defined it for myself, is to write and publish. The goal is not to write and publish something meaningful to both me and those who might read it. In school we called that “busy work.”

Writing for the 30-day challenge has been useful. It does remind me of the pleasures of writing. But that achieved, it’s time to withdraw from the challenge, and to commit instead to creating something wonderful and meaningful. Next time I post, it will be because I have something I’m excited to share. That’s not to say all the things I post will be legacy pieces, but it won’t be busy work.

Thanks as always for reading. Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

 

 

NaNoWriMo and Other 30-Day Challenges

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, that may look like a mess of nonsense. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, held in the month of November. Since 1999, millions have participated, using the month to write a novel of at least 50,000 words.

If you do the math, you can see a writer needs to achieve almost 1,700 words a day, for each of 30 days, to meet this goal. It’s a big challenge, even to create an unedited “shitty first draft.” It requires designating time every day to focus on one task.

Of course, you can challenge yourself to any realm of achievement for 30 days, whether it is a health objective or creative endeavor or to improve a personal relationship. It’s a bit different from a new year’s resolution, often made open-ended and without a clear objective. A 30-day challenge requires a clear objective: every day for 30 days in a row, you will do ______. Easy as pie.

Austin Kleon, artist, author, and creative cheerleader, recommends making that commitment over and over, one day at a time. Even though each day’s progress might not seem like much, over time it adds up. Another benefit is if you have a bad day, you can go to bed knowing you get to try again the next day.

He also provides a calendar of sorts, so you can track your progress for your challenge. It’s a free download at this link.

The other day I wrote about my desire to re-engage with blogging, and the commitment that requires. I’ve decided to go for the 30-day challenge on it. This is day 5, so already I’m a sixth of the way through. 🙂 Some days my posts may be at the blog I share with Jim, Our View From Iowa, though most of them will be here. Some days I may re-post earlier writings. And they surely won’t all be high quality. That’s okay. There is value to me in the effort, regardless.

Have you ever participated in a 30-day challenge? How did it go? Are you interested in doing one? What is your objective for achievement? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Engagement

Engagement is on my mind. My son recently announced his engagement to his sweetheart. Jim and I are thrilled for them, and excited for their future. (Thank you, thank you. I will pass on your congratulations.)

But engagement is not only the formal agreement to marry. It can refer to any emotional involvement or commitment. It can be a commitment to employment, or to defense, or even to meet someone for dinner.

Emotional involvement can vary over time, whether to our romantic partner or our career or a hobby. When you feel a lull in your quilting, for example, you may not feel very engaged in it. Other things might capture your interest, or you might feel distracted or simply bored. In hobbies that may be okay. In your marriage or career, it may be wise to find ways to re-engage.

For myself, I’ve found that if I want to feel more engaged, I need to be more engaged, make more effort. Maybe it’s a “fake it ’til you make it” strategy.

This is my eleventh year as a member of my guild. In seven of the eleven years, I’ve held one position or another, with varying requirements on my time. Recently I took a couple of years off. It was GREAT. Honestly. I didn’t have to get to meetings early, nor stay late, nor work on committee efforts at home. I didn’t even need to go to meetings if I didn’t want to. And a lot of the time, I didn’t. Did I mention, it was GREAT not being involved?

The problem is, some things are worth doing and having even when we don’t want to do them all the time. For example, there is a small-town festival near here that Jim and I go to occasionally. It’s fun and interesting, but honestly, it’s not a big deal. And there’s an entrance fee. But when we go, we agree it’s good to go even when we’re not excited about it, because it is a thing that should continue to exist. And it will only continue if people go, and if they pay their entrance fee.

Someone has to do it, or it will cease to exist.

Well, guild can sometimes feel like that. (Okay you local guild members, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. And if you really don’t, I’ll look for you on the volunteer list next spring!) I think it is valuable, even when I don’t want to participate in it.

So after the couple of years I realized that there was only one way I could fix my lack of engagement, of personal commitment. And that was to recommit. I volunteered for a committee, one of the most active ones, at that, and held that position for more than a year. And then we had “elections” for officers and no one was running for president. A friend asked me to run as co-president with her. So I did. This year I’m co-president AND on that committee, and pretty soon I’ll run an ad hoc committee to review and revise our bylaws.

Now I am fully engaged, both nominally and emotionally. Guild is important to me. It is a thing that should continue to exist, even when I don’t feel particularly like being the one to participate. Someone has to, and sometimes that has to be me.

Another area for disengagement for me is blogging. Blogging has slipped in importance in my life, partly because I’m busy elsewhere. And partly because I feel like I’ve already told you most of what I know about medallion quilts, one of my main goals when I started this site.

I’m not engaged in writing, and I don’t even read a lot anymore. (Yes, my blog friends. If you’ve sensed my absence, it’s been real.)

But I think my blog has value, at least to me, if not to you. And I want it to continue. As I shared with a friend recently

what I REALLY REALLY want, in my heart of hearts, is for other quilters to feel powerful in how they work. And whether they make medallion quilts or art quilts or old fashioned block quilts or modern quilts or whatever they make, I want them to make them from their souls. I want them to express their real selves in their making, to exercise the little power any of us really have, and make what they WANT to make, not what someone else tells them to make. I want them to make what they WANT to make, without fear or concern about what someone else thinks. And they can do it best when they fill their tool box with useful stuff, like how to think. Technique is hugely important, the HOW to do stuff, but if you don’t know how, it is great to have some mental skills to figure stuff out. Right now Austin Kleon has been doing some art with tape and magazines, and he says NO, I’m not going to demonstrate how to do this. I already told you it’s tape and magazines. Now go play!! He is asking people to grab their OWN power to create art, not make his art. That’s what I want. I want to help people make their own quilts, not my quilt.

I can’t help you do that if I’m not here. And the only way I can feel more engaged is to be more engaged. I need to write more. Or at least more often.

Thus begins my journey back, hopefully back to excitement about sharing new ideas, funny thoughts, successes and failures. Hopefully back to helping you make your own quilt, your expression of self from your soul, with power, not fear.

 

The Tutorial

This is the story of how a bad thing happened, and a good thing happened because of it. But a big part of the story is how you can keep that bad thing from happening in the first place. It takes two of us to tell the story, so we agreed to write it together and post it on both of our blogs.

Melanie: I’m Melanie McNeil and I write the blog Catbird Quilt Studio. I design my own quilts, mostly medallion quilts. And I help teach other people to design, too. Part of that is showing and describing my process as I work, and part is figuring out how to do things, and then creating tutorials. I enjoy the geometry of quilts, including the math. If someone knows how to do the math, they don’t need other people’s patterns, and they are more powerful because of it.

Lorna: I’m Lorna McMahon and I blog at Sew Fresh Quilts. I design and make quilts and, after testing, offer the patterns for sale. I offer basic quilt making information as well as a variety of free quilt alongs. And host the Let’s Bee Social Wednesday linky party as a way for other quilt bloggers to meet up each week, to connect and to share what they are working on.

Melanie: So the bad thing that happened — the story starts well before that. It starts in early 2014. I wanted to use a square-in-a-square block in a quilt, the kind of block that is called an “economy block.” I didn’t know how to do the math of creating them, and I wondered if someone else had a tutorial out there that would show me. I looked at lots of quilters’ blogs. Several had tutorials on how to make a specific size of block. Some were by paper piecing and some were by cutting patches for their own size of block. None of them were generic with the math included. So I wrote one.

It explains the math (which is actually very cool) and also gave a cheat sheet for people who want to make one of several sizes of blocks without doing the math. Almost since I posted the tutorial, it’s been my most-viewed piece.

Lorna: I took on a project where a quilt fabric company sent me fabric to make a quilt. I really should know by now that this is not what I want to do. Yet, it is hard to resist the idea of being sent fabric to use. It’s just that you must then use only the fabric they have sent. I have long struggled with using prints. And this project was all prints with no solids or “reads like a solid” in the mix to break things up.

I had committed to making something and knew these prints would not be suitable for my usual style. They would not work for me to design my typically pieced block. So I started looking for an easy way to just get something made and chose a traditional block.

I looked up a tutorial to make those blocks. Made those blocks. Put it together. And my quilt was finished. But I was not proud of the quilt and dreaded posting about it. I wanted to offer something more and decided to add a tutorial to the post. But I was lazy and feeling low about the whole experience.

I found Melanie’s Economy Block tutorial online and then – I stole that tutorial. Now an explanation – not that I am attempting to excuse what I did, but rather to attempt to describe the reasons behind the why I did what I did. No, I did not simply copy and paste the tutorial. I took my own photos. Made my own charts. Omitted the math formula because I wanted the tutorial to be simpler. And did not really change much concerning the written instructions. There really isn’t much you can do to change how you say, “Place fabric A on fabric B and sew a seam”. But even if I had found a completely unique way of writing it…. It was still wrong. It was still stealing. If nothing else, at the very least, I would have stolen the style of how that tutorial was written. At the time, I must have felt that these changes would make it “less wrong”.

And I published it without another thought. That is until I received an email requesting that I remove that tutorial.

Melanie: Um. It wasn’t really a request. Recently I wanted to post about a new cool thing I found out about economy blocks, a math thing. And I googled the term just to see if there was anything new out there. The third item on the list was Lorna’s tutorial. My tutorial. I knew it was mine because I knew there was nothing else out there like it at the time I wrote it.

I was mad. And I sent her an email and commented on the post and put up a blog post of my own, asking my readers to demand she remove it. I didn’t mince words. ugh. Embarrassing. I do not always react well when I am mad, and this was a prime example of it.

Lorna: I emailed back a reply right away. I apologized and complied immediately. I did not go to the links provided in the email which would have enabled me to compare the tutorials. Even if they would not have been considered by some to be without question the same, I knew what I had done was wrong. And I was able to freely admit that. But that was not enough.

Melanie had written a post about it on her blog prior to me reading her email. But I did not get a chance to read her blog post. When I sent my apology, she edited her post. But there were comments on her blog, naming me and the tutorial I had posted. And that bothered me. Why? Why did that bother me? Selfishness again. I wanted the whole thing to simply go away.

I had apologized and deleted the tutorial. Shouldn’t this have been handled just between the two of us? No. She had every right to post about it on her blog. She did nothing wrong. And I deserved to be “named and shamed”.

Melanie: I’m gonna break in here and say “yes,” I should have first just emailed Lorna. Even if that in particular had been ugly because of my ugly mad, it would have been better to do that in private. And I’m incredibly sorry that I made it public before first contacting her. It really wasn’t fair in any way.

Lorna again: At the time, did I not know what I was doing was wrong? I had never done this in school. I knew that it was wrong to take someone else’s work, change it around a little, use a few different words. Why did I do it? That is something that I have been questioning of myself ever since.

I thought about my children. How would I feel if they did something like this in school now? How would I react? What would I do to make it clear they understood that this was wrong? Well, I would talk to them and hope that they learned their lesson of course, but I wouldn’t punish them severely. Lesson learned. And I felt I deserved that understanding too.

Then I read a piece in our newspaper about a police officer that told an inappropriate joke. He offended those in his presence and was reported. Now he is being put through a “process”. In his interview, initially I felt for him. You do one thing wrong and you are judged for that one thing, no matter how many good or positive things you did before. This is the one you are now known for. You have lost people’s trust and respect. And you cannot take it back. You cannot undo it. You cannot make it right. Then he said something about how if he was disciplining his children, if they were in his situation, he would “leave the sledge hammer in the garage”.

And it dawned on me….

I am not a child. I am a grown woman. I know better. I deserve the punishment. Because what I did was wrong. I was not afraid to admit it to the one person that I had hurt directly. I wholeheartedly apologized. I did not try to diminish what I had done. I did not try to deny it. But what I was now afraid to do was to admit it to everyone else. Afraid to lose followers. Afraid to lose sales. Afraid to lose face.

I would never have taken a person’s pattern and copied it in this way. I would not like, and have not liked, the experience of having someone copy one of my patterns in this way. It’s happened to me with blog posts. It’s happened to me when my Elephant Parade had been printed by someone else in a quilt magazine. Why did I not think of this when I took the tutorial? Why did I not simply state “This is where I found a great tutorial for making this block” and provide a link? Selfishness. And a big ego.

It took me a while to go through a range of emotions that started with selfishness, shame and fear of this coming out to everyone else. “Everyone else” includes you, if you are reading this. I wronged you too. I took someone’s work and told you it was mine. I lied to you. And I am apologizing to you now, too.

I am over the fear of losing friends. Losing followers. Losing sales. Losing respect. If all those things happen, they happen. I will go on from here as a better person. I have learned a great lesson. And I could not go on without writing this post.

Melanie: It was a bad thing that happened. She did the wrong thing, and I reacted both wrongly and out of proportion. Bad happened.

But then something amazing and good happened. Lorna and I started to email, and we found that we actually like each other. And we both love to write and analyze what we do and why and how we do it. And I think we both understand how such a thing can happen, even as an exception to our normal behavior.

We both wanted to write this post together, because the main subject of using someone else’s work as your own is important to both of us. As we emailed, we discussed — how many? — lots of situations of our own or that we’d seen where whether and how to give credit isn’t always clear. I know I fail at it on the edges, even though I try to do the right thing. So I know for people who aren’t thinking about it, it’s easy to do someone wrong.

Lorna: It was a bad thing that happened. Bottom line is – I did do the wrong thing. It was helpful for me to do more than simply apologize for what I had done. Through our email thread it became apparent to me that I also owed Melanie an explanation. Not excuses, but a real analyzation of what had caused me to do what I had done and to override what I knew was wrong.

And that is where the healing began. I was introduced to the kind and generous person that Melanie is. Through our shared emails, and as I explored her blog, I could see that she deserved the respect I had not provided her with. And I am so grateful that she was willing to make this turn into something good. At the very least, we have become friends. But we also have a desire to help others avoid the pain and hurt that was caused.

Melanie and Lorna: In a way, the first part of this post is selfish on both of our parts, confessing our sins, so to speak. If you’ve gotten this far, we’d like to  wrap up this post with a positive ending and give you some helpful information.

What are some ways to respect ownership of other people’s work? They include both giving credit appropriately and not using someone else’s work without permission.

  • Instead of writing a new post to explain something, if you have already found a well written tutorial, simply provide a link to that tutorial. And you may even want to go the extra mile – contact the author and let them know how much you enjoyed their post and tell them you would like to provide a link to it.
  • Have you seen a quilt that you liked while searching online? Don’t share that photo on your blog without first asking the person who has posted it online. If they are willing to allow you to share the photo on your blog, always provide a link to the maker.
  • Even if a quilt is antique and the maker is long gone, photos of the quilt may be copyright-protected and not in the public domain. Someone owns the quilt, and someone owns the photo. Museums often provide photos freely, but some do not. Check their policy before sharing photos.
  • Some quilt shows and exhibitions invite you to photograph. Others request you don’t. Please honor that request. For those that allow it, take a picture of both the quilt and the maker’s name card so you can give credit correctly. If you want to share the photos, get permission from the maker first.
  • Sometimes our inspirations are diffused — we like a set of colors or the idea of something, or several things. But sometimes our inspirations are specific and unique. Again, check with the source if possible, and regardless, give credit for it.
  • Copying a pattern someone else bought is stealing from the pattern designer. If you like the pattern enough to make it, and to pay for the fabrics that go into it, do the right thing and pay for the pattern, too.
  • Just as copying a pattern someone else bought is stealing from the pattern designer, if you see an example of a quilt that you like, and you don’t need the pattern to reproduce it because you can figure out the math on your own, you should still credit the pattern designer when you share about your quilt on your blog or enter it in a show.
  • And if something is free to you, it doesn’t mean it is free for you to share. Online sources, in particular, provide freebies to draw you to their site. If your friend or your blog reader wants to use the free pattern you used, give them a link to the site where you got it.
  • Don’t pass off someone else’s work as your own. Taking credit for something someone else did, even by omission, is wrong.
  • If someone else quilts for you, and you label your quilts, include the quilter’s name on the label, too. It shows respect for the quilter’s expertise.

Laws are different in different countries, so we can’t give you specific laws to go by. (Always consult legal experts in your own country if you have concerns about this!) Instead, we’d like you to consider what is fair to the originator of creative work, whether it is words, photos or drawings, quilts, patterns, or tutorials. They have put time and effort and expertise into their creation. Regardless of their intention to make money off of it or not, they deserve acknowledgement and respect for their work.

Here are a few links if you want more information and perspectives on this difficult issue.

How Copyright Affects the Quilter by Kathleen Bissett. Discusses Canadian law but also general principles.

Can You Copyright A Sewing Pattern? by Abby Glassenberg at While She Naps. Primarily discusses US law.

A Word About Ethics: Photographing Quilt Shows and Judging by Anna Hergert at Anna Hergert, Art & Design. On taking photos at quilt shows.

Why Stealing Patterns is Like Killing the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg by Sam Hunter at Hunter’s Design Studio. In particular about using patterns you haven’t paid for, but also the broader topic.

Giving Credit and Avoiding Copyright Violations by Melanie McNeil at Catbird Quilt Studio. A general discussion on playing fair, with links to other sources.

Did you Plagiarize that Quilt? by Joanne Cleaver at Chicago Tribune. A story of taking a quilt design you have found on Pinterest and making your own instructions. Is this wrong?