Ever since I closed my sewing studio in 2011, I’ve felt like I was trying to find a niche. Granted, I moved to an entirely different city, started a new job and continued my other job of being mom to my sweet baby boy and a wife, of course. So it was difficult to figure out what I’m meant to do. I don’t think my “day job” is really ever going to be my “passion”. Even though there are times when I do really enjoy it, most of the time it’s a roller coaster of stress and craziness and well, I’m sure eventually that will settle down but for the next year or so, that’s probably not going to change.
WHERE DO I FIT?
Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out where I fit in the quilting world. I’ve thought about starting up my fabric store and just honestly don’t have any time to spend marketing, listing, promoting, cutting and packing and shipping orders. The time I have away from my 40 hour a week job is precious. Not only to spend with my family, but to spend making stuff, mostly paper pieced quilt blocks or just playing with improv patchwork.
I thought about some areas that seem to be in need of a “solution” in the quilting industry (can you tell I watch Shark Tank?), but most of that goes back to retail, and I don’t want to be in that arena. I think there are plenty of online fabric shops selling awesome modern fabric that I don’t want to try to compete with. Same goes for selling other quilting related products.
So the next thought was, what is my real passion? I love to quilt, or make quilts. But will anyone ever really pay me to make quilts? I mean, pay me enough to provide for my family the same way I do now? The answer is most likely no. Also, I’ve known so many quilters who quilt for others and they get burned out so quickly. Whether it’s long arm quilting or making commissioned quilts. Then it’s not fun anymore.
While I was hanging out sort of in limbo, not content to just be a quilter in a big world of quilters, something interesting happened. A few friends/connections that I have through the Houston MQG, Instagram and Facebook posted about needing pattern testers. I thought, hmm, pattern tester? That could be fun. I am always saying (to myself or anyone else who will listen) that I dislike how patterns are written. Even the boutique and small designer ones. I feel like those who write the patterns sometimes don’t realize that the person who chooses to make that pattern might not be on the same level as the designer. Of course, that’s the purpose of a tester, right?
So I quickly replied to those requests and got the chance to test patterns for a few folks! The bonus for me at this point is a) free pattern and b) my day job (the one that pays for my crazy fabric habit) happens to be one where I develop training materials for adults so testing a pattern and offering suggestions for improvement is just a natural extension of what I do anyway.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…
Then, and yes, it gets better, a friend from the San Antonio MQG re-posted a request from Melissa Ybarra from Iza Pearl Designs asking for help making items for Quilt Market booth/publication for her new fabric. She offered to SEND the volunteer makers fabric as a thank you and of course we get a shout out on her blog and Windham’s blog and such. Well, I was fortunate that when I replied to her request (Melissa and I had never spoken before and we’ve only communicated through e-mail so far) she agreed! And she put up with my multiple e-mails after that. Then, yes, it gets even better: I happened to be scrolling through Flickr, which I don’t really visit anymore and I saw another request for a pattern tester. This was for a quilt pattern written by someone who is an experienced knitting and crochet pattern writer (kudos to her!) When I replied to her request and gave her a list of my “qualifications” for testing her pattern she said it sounded like I could go even a step further than just pattern testing for her. She was actually looking for someone to be a technical editor for her patterns! And she was willing to pay for this service!
The end result was pretty awesome. I gained FREE fabric from a designer and used it to test and tech edit a pattern for another designer who paid me for my time! My pillow covers ended up in a booth at Fall Quilt Market and my picture and bio were even included in the Windham catalog for the fabric, Sunshine Serenade. (You can see the pillow covers and a ton of other awesome pictures on Instagram under the hash tag #sunshineserenade and the pattern I used was called Cross Stitch Sparkle #xstitchsparkle by @knottygnome) I also learned that I have a lot to learn about the time I have available for this sort of side venture.
It was incredibly fun to feel valued and as if I had an ability that could be used in the quilting world to actually generate an income. I need to figure out how I can repeat that process again in the future.