Social Media Survey – The Results!

Thank you all so much for responding to my social media enquiry last week. The comments were overwhelmingly positive when I asked the question, “What is your favorite channel to interact with me?” I asked across all of my current platforms and wasn’t surprised to discover that the channel you are currently using is you favorite way to connect, of course! So the result is that I’m not going to get rid of any of them, but I’ll be much more intentional about what I share.

So for anyone who’s interested, scroll down for my new and improved social media plan, interspersed with some pics from quilt market that I haven’t shown before:

Christa At Quilt Market

Chatting with Catherine P. in my booth at quilt market.
She’s one of the amazing Benartex sales reps.

My Blog – 2 Posts Per Week, Mondays & Thursdays

Up until now, I’ve never had a good feel for how often I should post. In the days before IG (Instagram) and FB (Facebook) took over, I blogged daily. Then I went silent when I was working on my first book. The last couple of years I’ve aimed for 3 posts per week but I’d often get overwhelmed and just post once. Going forward I should be able to handle two blog posts a week with informative content shared on Mondays and Thursdays.

These will be mostly tutorials or “making of” posts since you all love to see my in-depth process of start to finish quilting. But occasionally I’ll share new products for sale or other important announcements. My blog will longer-form content with lots of pretty pics!

If you’d like to get notified each time there’s a new blog post, enter your email address in the box on the sidebar if you are viewing on a computer. If you are reading this on your phone, you’ll have to scroll way, way down to the bottom to see it.

Christa Schoolhouse

I love chatting, teaching, and interacting, whether it’s live or online. The best part about presenting in person is all the funny faces I get to make while talking, LOL!! This was from “Schoolhouse” presentation the day before quilt market opened.

My Newsletter – Every Wednesday

Click here to subscribe to my email newsletter.

Again, I haven’t really had a good newsletter strategy or a regular day to share until now. But I finally sat down and came up with a plan that focuses on quality over quantity. Each week I’ll share these three topics in my email newsletter:

  1. The latest quilt along post, video tutorial, or important announcement.
  2. My thoughts on a current quilting topic, or bonus tips and tricks.
  3. A special offer or discount on my products, not available anywhere else!

Terrace Tiles Quilts

Showing off my Terrace Tiles quilt patterns to quilt shop owners at quilt market.
They were each made from one colorway of my my new Gridwork fabric.

Instagram – Daily

Click here to follow me on Intagram.

Instagram is mostly for what’s happening now, spur-of-the-moment posts. Whether I’m traveling and teaching, working on a behind the scenes project, or organizing my sewing room, this is the place where I’ll share what’s happening in real time.  There’s no set schedule and it’s the most flexible platform because I can share as little or as much as I want.

Interactive Facebook Group – Daily

Click here to join my ChristaQuilts Facebook group.

I look at Facebook as the place where YOU can share what you are working on with me and other group members. It’s the perfect place to ask general quilting questions and get advice on projects you are working on. Of course I’ll share what’s happening in my world, but I’ve set it up to be like an interactive quilting bee where we can gather for friendship and inspiration!

Quilt Market in Action

Quilt market in action in the Benartex aisle. Can you see my pink shirt on the left?
It said #gridworkfabric on the front and #benartex on the back.
I was a walking social media ad during the show!!

YouTube – My Newest Channel

Click here to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

I’ve just dabbled in YouTube for the last year or so, but have finally started  sharing in-depth video tutorials on a particular quilting topic such as basting, or machine quilting. They say the future of any business lies in the success of online video so I’m excited to dive in and provide content here that I just can’t do anywhere else.

Originally my plan was to just make videos through Craftsy/Bluprint, (check out my 3 online workshops here). But I’m taking what I learned there and applying to to my own videos so that I can offer more relevant content to you all in a timely manner – for free!! The hope is that when you view my videos, you’ll be inspired to work with my patterns, fabric, and other items I create for a fun and thorough quilting experience.

So far I have over 400 subscribers which is a great start. But once I reach the magic number of 1000 subscribers I’ll aim for sharing weekly videos. Ideally, I’d like to create quilt alongs that show ALL steps of how to make the quilt from start to finish, so stay tuned!

Gridwork Fabric Swatches

I had actual Gridwork swatches in my booth so everyone could have fun fondling the fabric!

Final Thoughts

So when I finally sat down to plan out a social media strategy it didn’t feel so overwhelming. While there will be occasional overlap among all the different areas, I’ve realized that each platform has a different audience and that’s ok. My goal is to share the love of quilting with as many people as possible, so I don’t mind meeting you where you are at.

I recently tracked my time spent online and it wasn’t as bad as I thought, as long as I stayed focused. When I spend more time creating, and less time consuming, I somehow have time to manage it all.

And now that I’ve spent my allotted time today creating this post – I’m off to sew! Thanks again for your kind comments and support, no matter where you follow me.

What’s Your Favorite Way to Connect With Me?

 

Christa Watson Contempo booth Quilt Market 2018

Spring Quiltmarket 2018, showing off Fandangle, my 2nd fabric collection.

I’ve been super busy with quilting the last few years and I’m at a point where social media is starting to take over too much of my quilting life. So I’d like to pare it down to only those channels that will be most effective. Currently I share content across these 6 platforms:

  1. My Newsletter
  2. My Blog (You are Here)
  3. My Instagram (@christaquilts)
  4. My YouTube Channel – Christa Watson
  5. My ChristaQuilts Facebook Group
  6. In-Person Events – Worldwide!

Would you take a quick second to let me know your favorite ways to hear from me? Just leave a comment and select your top couple of choices. This will help me plan things out going forward. Thanks!!

Catching up with Christa – A Bit of This and That

How’s everyone’s summer going so far? I thought I’d do a catch-all post today, letting you know what’s been going on around here in real time. I feel like I’ve finally got a good work-life balance going that’s allowing me to keep up with consistent online content, too.

Resting, Relaxing, and Getting Healthy!

Last week, my family and I took our annual beach vacation in Hermosa Beach, California. This was the first time in a long time I’ve gone on vacation and not done any work. It was a very nice break and now I’m geared up and ready to for for a busy fall season coming up later this year. I’m currently working on my next fabric and book deadlines, but unlike in previous years, I’m not ignoring the blog or social media.

Hermosa beach vacation

While I was on vacation, I kick-started my determination to get healthy again. I worked out every day and chose healthier food options. Over the past 5 years, I’ve let my healthy habits slip and am excited to get back into shape. I’m not doing anything too crazy – just tracking what I eat and how much I work out. Somehow that magically transforms into small but consistent weekly weight loss! I’ll be posting a few of my adventures on my instagram stories so be sure to follow my @christaquilts instagram account if you’re interested in that.

Gearing up for Travel Season

Although I travel year round about once a month, I’m gearing up for a busy travel season over the next couple of months. In fact, I’m excited to be hanging out with the gang from QUILT of Northwest Arkansas this weekend, and then I’ll be traveling from coast to coast. You can catch me at Dave’s BERNINA in Utah in August, and then a couple of stops in New York in September and October. I’ll also be debuting my next line of fabric at fall quilt market and am excited to be part of the inaugural Threads of Success event at Houston Quilt Market.

Click here to keep up with my current travel schedule and let me know if you’ll be attending one of my events. I look forward to seeing you!

Updated Website Navigation

I have a LOT of content here on my blog, which also functions as my website. I’ve made it easier to find my free patterns, tutorials, quilt alongs, online classes and other content. Simply check out the menus at the top of your screen, and explore all of the content I have to offer. My #1 goal with quilting is to be your cheerleader, so you can have as much fun making quilts as I do!

Upcoming Quilt Along

Here’s a sneak peek of the quilt along my friend Heather Black and I are hosting in September, featuring my Geo Pop fabric line. More details will be coming soon, but save the date. I have a few Infrastructure kits available for a limited time.

Infrastructure QAL

With this upcoming quilt along, I’m hoping to venture more into video. The plan this summer is to film while I’m making the quilt so I can offer a comprehensive tutorial on all aspects of quilt-making from cutting to binding! The quilt along itself is free; all you need to purchase is a copy of the Infrastructure quilt pattern to participate.

Quilting Podcast Series

I was happy to be a returning guest on a relatively new podcast called “Make and Decorate” with Stephanie Socha. She’s currently running a series on how to quilt your quilts and she’s interviewed several well known quilters in the industry. I had a great time sharing some of my favorite tips and tricks. Be sure to check out her website for other inspiring interviews from some of your favorite designers and teachers. I love Stephanie’s voice and her enthusiasm for the craft is very infectious!

Make and Decorate Podcast

Click here to listen to my podcast interview.

Shipping Update – Flat Rate of $5 to the US

Although I love supporting independent quilt shops, I also keep a stock of my fabrics, patterns, books, and threads on hand for those who simply can’t find them at their favorite shop or don’t have a LQS nearby. To make it easier on the wallet for online purchases, I’ve updated my shipping across the board to be a flat $5 per order, no matter how much you buy. Hopefully that gives you incentive to stock up on your favorites without breaking the bank! I ship internationally, too based on the current flat rates for each country.

Geo Pop Fabric

Click here to shop all of my Christa Quilts branded products.

That about wraps it up for this week! I’m trying to consistently post 2-3 times per week and I always appreciate the comments, questions, and feedback I receive. You all make my full-time quilting career so much fun!!!

Christa’s Soapbox: Thoughts About Being a QuiltCon Juror 2019

QuiltCon – the modern quilting show and conference hosted by The Modern Quilt Guild – has recently opened quilt submissions for their 2020 show, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to share about what it was like to be on the jury of the 2019 show.

I’ve attended every event since the first one in 2013, have been lucky enough to have at least one quilt in every show, and have taught there 3 times so far (2016, 2017, 2019). In fact, I credit QuiltCon and The MQG with changing the course of my quilting career – for the better! So it was quite an honor and great responsibility when they invited me to be on the jury for the 2019 show, which took place in Nashville in February.

Cute QuiltCon Ribbons

QuiltCon award ribbons from the very first show in 2013

Now as you can imagine, I’m taking a bit of a risk here in even talking about this publicly since I know what a heartbreak it can be when your quilt doesn’t get in. Trust me, I’ve read enough “what were they thinking??” comments on social media to make my stomach turn. And I really do wish I could reach out and give every single person a huge hug for entering your gorgeous, wonderful, fabulous quilts!! It was truly a pleasure to see all 1800+ of them!!

Therefore, I thought it would be helpful and educational to talk about the experience in an open and honest way, with my hope for you to understand more about the process. I’ll be as transparent about it as I can, and would ask you the courtesy of being polite in your comments about this post.

My Quilt, “Charming Chevrons” hung in the very first QuiltCon in 2013!!

What’s a Juried Quilt Show?

First of all, let’s start with the basics. A “juried” show means that in order to display your quilt in the show, you must fill out an artist statement and include a high quality digital image of your finished quilt. A  panel of “jurors” (usually 4-5 people) look at each and every submitted quilt and then vote on which ones they believe should be a part of the show. The number one reason why a show is “juried” is simply because of supply and demand. There are only so many spots to hang quilts, and the number of entries far out weighs the number of spots available.

For example, each year QuiltCon receives approximately 1500-1800 entries and only has room for about 350 quilts. So that means 3 out of 4 quilts simply will not hang in the show due to space constraints. By comparison, a large national show (such as Road to California, Paducah, AQS, etc.) will likely have space to display 600-700 quilts or more, and my guess is that they don’t get anywhere near as many quilt entires. In fact, a friend recently told me that the upcoming International Quilt festival in Houston was able to accept about 75% of the quilts submitted this year. So please keep that in mind as I share more thoughts below.

To be clear, the JURY process and the JUDGING process are done by completely different people. The jury decides which quilts will hang in the show for the  judges to see.

Spiraling out of Control

My quilt, “Spiraling out of Control” hung at QuiltCon in 2015. Some day I’ll make a pattern!!

The QuiltCon Jury Process

Most of what I’m sharing here has been shared publicly so I’m not spilling any well-kept secrets. It’s up to an individual juror to decide whether or not they want to let others know they were part of the jury (after the show has ended of course). For obvious reasons, most people tend to stay silent about it.

Click here to read QuiltCon’s published judging and jurying documents.

In a nutshell, each juror takes a look at each and every single quilt that has been entered and gives it a numerical ranking. No juror knows how any other juror is voting and the final number is based on an average of all scores by all jurors. The juror gets to see two images of the quilt – an overall shot and a detail image. They can also read the artists’ statements if they so choose, but the juror does NOT see the names of who submitted each quilt. In this way, jurying is “blind” and fair.

The quilts that get the highest ranking are then accepted into the show, up until the maximum number of entries.  When there is a tie – usually for the mid-range of scores above the cutoff – the jury meets to discuss those quilts in more detail and decide which ones will be accepted until the total has been met. The MAJORITY of quilts fall into this category. So if yours didn’t make it in, I’m sure it barely missed the cutoff! (So try, try again!!)

The only category that was not juried was the youth category (quilts made by members under the age of 18). According to The MQG FAQ, “in order to encourage the next generation of quilters, in this category at least one quilt is accepted per quilter, should space permit it.” So if you know a child that wants to get involved with the show, I highly recommend encouraging them to enter!

My quilt, “Focal Point” from my first book hung at QuiltCon in 2016.

The Jury Takes Their Job Very Seriously

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard false rumors that the jury has an “agenda” on which type of modern quilt will be accepted (or not). That’s simply not true. I can tell you from my experience that the jury is a well-rounded group of folks with diverse backgrounds, quilting experience, and areas of artistic expertise. However, one thing the jury all has in common is that they make modern quilts and understand the modern aesthetic.

I can only speak to my experience doing this one time, but I can assure you that we were not instructed to favor any type of quilt over any other, we were not told to create a certain look for the show (other than modern) and we were expected to look at the quilts objectively without bias or favoritism. If we felt we couldn’t judge a quilt fairly on its own merits, then we could recuse ourselves from judging that quilt. There was no absolutely no drama when it came to any discussions and the whole experience was completely professional.

The jury IS allowed to enter a quilt into the show, (as are the judges) but they are NOT allowed to be judged- AND the jurying is still blind. So none of the jury knew if they were voting on other members quilts! For full disclosure, I did get ONE quilt juried into this year’s show – my Blooming Wallflowers quilt – but I had entered two more that didn’t get accepted. So yes, I got those “reject” letters, too!!

Diamond in the Rough Quiltcon 2017

My quilt “Diamond in the Rough” hung in QuiltCon 2017 and was in QuiltCon magazine that year.
It will be part of the Aurifil exhibit at this year’s International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Why Quilt Photography Can Make or Break Your Quilt

Unfortunately, there were a number of quilts that weren’t accepted simply due to poor photography. If we can’t tell if it’s finished or not, if we can’t see the quilting, if we can’t see the edges or the binding, it most likely won’t get in. If there are people in the quilt photo blocking the quilt, we can’t see what you are trying to show.

Also, some people try to get a “leg up” on the competition by creating a collage of more than one photo in the same image which usually works to their detriment. If we can’t tell what we are looking at, it most likely goes in the “not accepted” pile. We don’t need to see the back of the quilt unless that’s the side you are entering. Just show the front on a clear flat surface, with nothing distracting in the picture. And don’t “style” the shot. We just want to see the quilt, not a beautiful background or distracting props.

Also, it breaks my heart to see a quilt entry with poor lighting or fuzzy focus. There have been times where I’ve seen a gorgeous quilt photo later on social media (after the entries have been finalized) and I thought, why didn’t they use THAT image for their entry instead of the fuzzy one?? So again: good, clear, well-lit, uncluttered photography is a MUST.

Color Weave Quilt

The original version of Color Weave hung at QuiltCon in 2018.
it was in Modern Quilts Unlimited Magazine which is now sadly out of print!! 

My Personal Thoughts

The biggest take away from my experience on the jury is that it was extremely fair. For me, it was a very touching and heart-warming experience to look at each and every one of the quilts and read ALL of the artists’ statements. Some brought me to tears, others made me my heart sing with joy, and many made me think deeply about their work.

With over 1800 quilts to look at, I didn’t keep track of the hours and hours and HOURS I spent viewing all of the amazing, wonderful quilts. But It was the most uplifting quilting experience I’ve ever had – and if there were enough room, I would have accepted them all. I truly felt it an honor to interact with these quilts in such an intimate way.

One of the coolest things I heard this year was that so many quilters who were rejected previously were able to get something in this year. So you never know until you try. And I’ve seen many quilters who didn’t make it into QuiltCon go on to enter (and win) in other shows.

So I welcome your thoughtful questions and kind comments about the process. Of course I can’t speak to any individual quilts in the show as to why they were or were not accepted. And due to the sheer numbers of of quilts involved, there’s no feasible way to share individual juror feedback on any of the quilts. But what I can do is encourage you to enter future quilt shows.

Blooming Wallflowers by Christa Watson QuiltCon 2019

My one and only quilt that was juried into QuiltCon 2019 – Blooming Wallflowers.

It was so wonderful for my fellow jurors and I to be entrusted with your quilts. We all volunteered our time because we are just as passionate about quilts as you are. So please, if you entered a quilt and it didn’t get in, don’t think badly of the process, of THE MQG, or of your quilt. I can tell you personally that I saw your quilt and LOVED it – and would encourage you to keep making quilts, and PLEASE keep sharing them with the world!

I’m happy to continue this discussion in the comments as long as everyone plays nice. 🙂

New Home Journey – The Decision to Move

So we just did a crazy thing. We decided to buy a new house!! After 13 years of living in the same home, we started thinking about how we could expand my studio space – because thanks to all of you – I’ve outgrown my current situation. So my husband Jason and I sat down and started planning out whether to renovate our current home, rent out a separate office/studio space, or just buy a bigger home.

Our New Home

This will be our new home very soon, if all goes according to plan.

Being the former CPA that he is, Jason was able to crunch the numbers and realize it made more sense to find a bigger used home in great condition. The perfect place for us would ideally be not too far from our current home, since we love the area and we have established roots here.

So we thought it would take a while to find exactly what we needed, and I was worried about the timing. Next year starts getting really busy for me in the spring and summer, which are usually the most popular times of the year to move. But low and behold, a few days after we started looking, we found the exact floor plan we were looking for at a price we could afford, and it’s ready for immediate move-in.

Kitchen

The sleek modern cabinets, wide open spaces, and gorgeous kitchen really sold us on this house.
Now to start making some cozy quilts to match…..

The best part is that this house is just a few minutes away from our current home, and (super important for our kids) in the same church community where we’ve spent years developing friendships. And to make it even more perfect, it’s on the same street as one of my daughter’s really good friends. So this really seems to be another case of the universe leading me where I need to go. (I love it when that happens!)

So here’s where the timing gets super interesting. Although this particular home had been on the market for several months with no offers, once we quickly decided it was “the one,” it seemed as if everyone else wanted to buy it, too! The day we decided to put an offer on the house, we were notified that there were already two other offers and they weren’t accepting any more after the end of THAT day. Oh no… but this is OUR home we thought!!

Open plan downstairs

I love open floor plans with lots natural light.
Decorating this space is going to be so much fun!

As luck would have it, we were able to get a quick pre-approval from the bank, and thanks to the excellent (and quick) work of our realtor friend, we were able to make a strategic offer that was below the asking price, but still the highest offer on the table. If we had waited one extra day to decide… we would have lost out on it!

Image from Ikea – not my home, though I wish!!
I imagine this cheerful Ikea couch would look so fun in my new home.
Or maybe one in teal, or navy, or seafoam…. it will be fun to decide!

So now, we need to get ready to move! Of course there’s paperwork to finalize and there’s always the chance that something could fall through. But I’m an optimist and prefer to think about what could go right and the steps I need to take to make it happen.

Dining Room

Here’s my friend’s dining room, who recently purchased the exact same home. I love the accent walls and want to achieve the same look, but with more of a modern vibe.

Now the plan is to measure all of the rooms, budget out some improvements, and begin the moving process while still living in our current home.

In order to avoid the horrors of having to temporarily move to a smaller rental, or even worse, trying to move an entire household AND business in one weekend, we are going to move a little bit at a time over a few weeks so as to avoid any major disruptions with our business. After all, if we don’t work, we don’t eat – one of the “joys” of being self-employed! 🙂

Sewing Room

This will be my new sewing studio. The camera angle makes it look long and skinny, but it’s more of a square. I imagine built-in cabinets along the left wall, my sewing table under the window, and a humongous design wall along the right wall (which needs to be repainted first).

And here’s another fortunate miracle of timing: after being busy with deadlines, projects and travel non-stop for the last 4 years, I actually have a bit of a breather over the next few months.

My next book deadline isn’t until later next year, I don’t have any sewing deadlines until fabric samples arrive in the spring, and my next teaching event isn’t until QuiltCon in February. So rather than sewing in December and January, I’ll be “piecing” together my new creative space!

Sewing Studio part 2

This is the view from the opposite end of the sewing room. The corner nook would be perfect for more built in shelving, with a cozy chair for hand-work or reading. The guest room is nearby with a large walk-in closet for extra storage and my husband gets a larger office, too.

I’m excited to document this process in real time, and hope you’ll indulge me as I focus a little bit more on home-making and a little bit less on quilt-making.

But don’t worry, I’m still planning to host our next quilt along in January, but with a slightly later start date. Fortunately the quilt along steps have already been sewn and photographed, so you all can sew-along, while I’m setting up my new workspace. I’ll approach this new venture like any other large project: one step at a time!

Backyard

The backyard isn’t very big since the house footprint takes up most of the land. But I love the low- maintenance landscaping, and there’s still plenty of room to spray baste my quilts.

Stay tuned for the next part of my new-home adventure. I can’t wait for the journey!

Christa’s Soap Box – Thoughts about Doing My Own Sewing (while relaxing at the beach…)

This week I’m having a fun beach vacation with the family and since I’m not sewing, I’ve had a bit of time to think about sewing instead. Recently it occurred to me that whenever I travel and teach, I often say that I do all of my own “stunt sewing” – and I know I’m somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to professional quilters that do this full-time.  There’s nothing wrong with busy designers getting help, but I just love sewing my own stuff and don’t want to give it up!

view from the beach

View from my “office” this week at Hermosa Beach, CA where I’m writing this blog post.

Recently, someone asked me “now that you are successful in your business – when are you going to hire me to sew for you?” I know she meant it as a compliment and really wanted to help me out, but my gut reaction was – if I ever get to the point that I don’t have time to sew or quilt my own quilts, what’s the point of HAVING a quilting business??

For reals, I’d rather hire out my cooking and cleaning than ever give up sewing. In fact, I already have a team in place that helps me with some of the other tasks – a graphic designer helps lay out my patterns, and I just recently started using the services of a virtual assistant to help me with some of my pattern editing.

Family bike ride

We’re starting off each beach day with a family bike ride; we love great views and great exercise!

From time to time, I’ll enlist other designer friends to make quilts to showcase my fabrics using their patterns, and sometimes enthusiastic fans and followers will pitch in and remake some of my older patterns using my fabric. In all of those cases though, they are making THEIR quilts, not MY quilts.

In fact, it was kind of funny that when I was working on creating the projects for my second book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting, the deadlines were VERY tight. I had to make about 10 quilts in 4 months so my publisher offered to pitch in and help. Because the book focused on machine quilting, they offered to help with piecing or binding to help reduce my load. I looked at them like I thought they were crazy pants and politely turned them down. I’m not sure if it’s my control freak tendencies or what, but the fact of the matter is, I simply like to do each step of the process myself, LOL!!

Quilts on the bed at the beach

One of the guest beds at the beach house is our “flat” staging area waiting for photography.
FYI – Dot’n Dash will be the quilt-along I’m doing next month– so stay tuned!!

Now that I’m designing fabric, I have even less time to sew because much of my time is spent with a sketchbook or at the computer. But all that really means is instead of mass producing large quantities of new quilts and patterns, I’ll be very thoughtful about the quilts I choose to make, and I’ll continue to enjoy every step! The other thing it means is that I can take more time to tell you about the quilts I am making, and share more than just one picture or blog post of each.

Surfboards at the Beach

Jason loves scouting out interesting places for photographs. He saw these surfboards and thought they’d make an interesting backdrop. See the photo below…

Speaking about being more thoughtful about how I share my finished quilts, Jason had the brilliant idea of bringing a few of them with us so we could photograph them in cool beachy locations on vacation. I loved that idea, especially since there wasn’t much time for photography before quilt market. 

So be on the lookout my official “Ta-Da” blog posts a little later on. I usually like to have a landing spot for the finished quilts I make which includes all of the pertinent details: size, materials used, quilt designs I chose, etc. I also enjoy writing up a little more about the process of making them so at least I can get a little more mileage out of each quilt, since there are fewer quilts to share. For some people, their quilt isn’t finished until it has a label. For me it’s not done until I’ve blogged about it.

Quilts on the Beach - Dot n Dash made from Fandangle by Christa Watson

This is an “outtake” of our photo session showing my son’s feet, who’s our official quilt holder.
He’s pretty good about hiding all of his body parts while we shoot, LOL!!
Kits for this quilt are available here.

While we are having a great time at the beach, (after a super busy spring and summer of teaching), you can be sure I’m also planning out the next round of quilts and patterns I’ll be working on later this year – and how I’ll be able to finish step of the process in a limited amount of time. After two rounds of fabric design (and working on my third!!), I think I finally have a handle on what a realistic timeline looks like, and feeling happy that I’m not biting off more than I can chew!

Now I’m curious – which parts of the quilting process do you enjoy most? Do you like to just piece, quilt, or do the whole shebang like me? Remember – it’s your quilt so there’s no wrong answer!!

Christa’s Soap Box – I love Blogging! (with Highlights from our Vacation in Mexico)

I just returned from a fun, but busy two weeks away from home – one week teaching in North Carolina, and the following week on a family vacation to the Riveria Maya in Mexico (near Cancun). I’m interspersing some pictures of our family vacation with my thoughts about blogging so you have something interesting to look at while you read.

Family Vacation in Mexico

Snorkeling at Xcaret, a natural theme park in the jungle of Mexico
We also visited two other eco-parks: Xplore and Xel-ha and they were all amazing!

While I was away on vacation, I had one of those moments of clarity that only happens when I’m away from my machine or relaxing and doing something else. Last year I wrote a post about my need to simplify social media. I followed it up a few weeks later with another post about what it was like a few weeks in. Now that a significant time has passed I realized what channel I enjoy the most – blogging!!

I enjoy being able to go in depth about thoughts I have, and being able to share multiple pictures to tell a more complete story.  I still share in-the-moment experiences and projects on Instagram and Facebook (find me on IG @christaquilts and my FB group ChristaQuilts) but I love being able to think about and express longer-form thoughts here on the blog. In fact what I usually like to do is gather the pictures and snippets I’ve shared on IG or FB over a period of days or weeks, and then turn that into a more complete story here on the blog.

Snorkeling in Mexico

Our family motto is work hard – play hard! We work a LOT so we can enjoy fun family vacations on a flexible schedule. Near the end of our trip it got very rainy and windy but that didn’t stop us from having a great time! The waters are warm and the views are spectacular!

When it comes to my thoughts on blogging, I’ve resisted the urge to follow the standard monetization model: churning out daily content to increase page views and qualify for google add revenue. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that model and plenty of bloggers earn a successful income doing that. (It’s also one of the reasons there’s so much free content out there – to attract more viewers and clicks.)

For me, the blog is more of a way for to document my quilting life (and occasional personal life) in real time. Of course I’ll still blog about new product announcements, workshops I’m teaching and quilting events I’m attending because after all, quilting is my full-time job and marketing is a huge part of that. But my favorite posts to write are process posts, sharing tips and techniques along the way while I’m creating. I also enjoy penning the occasional thought-provoking soapbox post, too!

Jason hamming it up in the Sea Turtle exhibit

My husband Jason, hamming it up at the Sea Turtle Exhibit

You’ll also notice I don’t do as many giveaways either. Although they are always fun and generate lots of traffic, it’s really too much to keep up with the flood of comments. I much prefer the thoughtful interactions we can have when you all leave comments or email me directly on a post of substance. I do try to respond to each comment personally (which you won’t always see in the comments section unless it’s something that everyone else needs to read, too).

Because I’m one of those people who tends to think out loud, blogging also helps me process things and get them out of my system. So it really IS true that quilting, or even writing about quilting is great therapy!! Since I recommitted to the blog at the end of last year, I’ve found that it’s easier to do consistently the more often I try.

Baby Sea Turtle

I fell in love with Sea Turtles on our vacation – the babies (above) have the most beautiful patterns on their shell! I’d never seen a full grown one (below) in real life until now – they get huge!!

Big Sea Turtle

It’s hard to tell the scale of this turtle but this one is at least 10x bigger than the baby. There was an even larger one but I missed getting a pic – trust me – they are huge!!!

When writing my blog, it takes me a long time to finalize each post, adding links and images where necessary and double, triple, quadruple checking for typos each time! But I heard once that if you “create before you consume” you feel a whole lot more productive. That seems to work for me as I usually try to start a blog post in the morning as part of my routine before I get into the flow of my workday.

It usually takes me a couple of days to knock out a blog post – so once I quit worrying about trying to blog daily and settled on 2-3 posts per week, I felt that’s something I can easily manage. That means if you see a week where I’ve only managed to write once, you’ll know there’s something big happening behind the scenes, or I’m just way behind on my work, LOL!!

Running in the Jungle

I did manage to get in a bit of exercise while on vacation. Our resort had lots of winding pathways that were perfect for jogging through the lush jungle. We saw all kinds of critters, too: iguanas, monkeys, coati and even racoons!! But alas, they were all too fast for my camara!

I try to keep a running list of topics I want to write about and will keep an editorial calendar so that I can be thinking about what I want to convey before I sit down to write. By keeping a running list, I can also pick and choose what I feel like writing at any given time. For example, I’m writing this one just as I returned from vacation, but wrote two more “evergreen” posts ahead of time while I was on vacation. They were faster and easier to crank out in in small snippets of time. Because I’ll have lots of catch up sewing to do when I get back, knowing I have a couple of posts in the queue waiting to go lets me relax and start writing more without feeling like it has to be done RIGHT NOW!!

Blogging is actually very similar to how I design and quit: I’ll think about something for awhile, block out time to work on a project, and then settle in for the actual work time without distractions. Also, when I’m not trying to cram something in last minute – either blogging or quilting – I can be more relaxed about it and enjoy the process more.

ziplining

Another thrilling part of our adventure was zip-lining through the jungle – most times it ended in water which was refreshing after a fun, heart-thumping ride!

Every now and then I hear about people lamenting the downfall of blogging and others questioning whether or not blogging is still relevant when there are so many other choices. Just like with anything else in life, writing a blog or even reading a blog isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok, too!

Ironically what I’ve found is that be because fewer people are blogging these days it actually allows my blog to be seen more, unlike the “blogging boom” of a few years ago when everyone was doing it. Because there’s not such a drive for me to monetize the blog – or stress about whether my “SEO” is “MIA” –  I can can focus more on being a quilter who blogs, not a blogger who quilts.

Hammock Time!

Proof that we’re not working ALL THE TIME though sometimes it might seem like it!

And with that said, now it’s time for me to unpack, do some laundry, and start thinking about the next quilt. It was a fabulous vacation, but now I’m excited to be home and I’m ready to get back to my sewing machine!!

Christa’s Soap Box – On Sharing (and a Sneak Peek of Craftsy Filming)

So it dawned on me the other day that sharing is an integral part of my process. I’ve been feeling a bit lost over the last year because although it’s been a whirlwind of activity – pattern writing, fabric designing, traveling  & teaching, workshop filming –  I haven’t taken as much time to properly document and share what I was doing.

So I hope you’ll indulge me while I write a bit of an essay on this subject. I’m weaving in some “behind the scenes” photos of my latest Craftsy shoot so this isn’t just a wall of text!!

Filming at Craftsy

My latest adventure – filming my upcoming Craftsy class, “Startup Project: Starry Path”

I’m pretty good at sharing real-time snippets on facebook and instagram, but I really, really, miss writing actual long-form paragraphs about what I’m doing. I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy that part of things!! Throw in a whole bunch of “secret” sewing and I’ve felt like I’m doing a whole lot but not actually getting anywhere with it, LOL!!

You know the old saying – if you make a quilt but there’s no one around to see it, have you really accomplished anything?? (Just kidding – I made that up but sometimes that’s how I feel.)

So I hope to change that up for the rest of this year.

I’ll still be as busy as ever – I like it that way and it keeps me out of trouble. But as much as I can, I want to share more of the process with you. I was actually looking through my contracts for a bunch of stuff I’m currently working on and you know what? They don’t actually say I can’t share!!

Stepouts off camera

What you don’t see off camera – stepouts for the class, organized in sequence of filming

Going forward, I’d like to combat one of those “quilting myths” – that as a designer, you have to keep everything secret until it’s ready for the marketplace, or else everyone will get tired of seeing it and won’t want to buy it when it’s time to sell. Just remember – the reality is that full-time designers like me have to sell what we produce, or we are out of a job, LOL!!

Well you know what? I’m willing to take that risk!! I hope you won’t get bored for example, if I actually document and share the process of making my next round of quilts for my next fabric line. Or share some behind the scenes pics of my latest Craftsy filming, even though the class won’t be available for a couple more months.

Filming in process

Checking out what it looks like from my producer, Evan’s point of view. Notice the clock on the wall says 6:35 PM. We started each day at 8:30 am. It take 3 full days to produce about 1 1/2 to 2 hours of content. Those were some long – but fun – hours!!

Although my latest projects won’t be available for mass consumption until at least this summer, how can I enjoy the next few months of sewing if I can’t even show you what I’m making?? Trust me, after writing 3 books, filming multiple Craftsy classes and now finalizing my latest fabric line, it’s killed me that I haven’t shared these things in “real” time. Not to mention all of the fantastic teaching trips I’ve been going on and fabulous people I’ve been meeting when I travel. I’m really feeling compelled to share more as a way to process my experiences.

The Camera Crew at Craftsy

Although I’m the only one you’ll see on camera, it takes a dedicated team to produce such high-quality Craftsy videos. Jim (left) and Tommy (right) were top-notch camera guys!!

Sure, writing up a post about  the finished quilt/class project months later is still fun, but I’ve somehow missed the magic that I like to capture in the moment when I document things in real time. I know part of the problem is that I got caught up in the social media rat race that I wrote about at the end of last year. My reduced social media presence since then has been great (see my follow-up post here).

But I think I’m ready to now strike the balance of doing a tad bit less production work, and in the process sharing more of what I do in-depth and in real-time here on the blog. I guess you could say I’m aiming for less quantity, and more quality both in my making and my writing.

Linda on set at Craftsy

My Craftsy editor, Linda has worked with me on all of my Craftsy classes. She’s become more than I colleague. I now count her as a dear friend, always willing to help me do my best!!

So be on the lookout for more process and adventure posts from me. Darn it, I haven’t even had time to write about my trip to QuiltCon yet this year, and just like the first time I went in 2013, it inspired me in ways that will impact my making for years to come. So – more on that soon – I promise!!

Until then, happy quilting, making, sharing, and processing!!!

Christa’s Soap Box – Life After Social Media

A couple of months ago, I decided to decrease the amount of time I spent on social media. You can read that post here. This ties into my words for the year which are “simply and focus.”

I’m back with a quick update to let you know how it’s going. Now, just to reiterate, I’m not giving it all up, obviously since I’m still writing on my blog. But I did give up a lot. I paired my social media presence down to 3 places: the blog, instagram, and my facebook group. That’s still a lot for some, but it’s less than half the social media venues I used to keep up with.

In a word – it’s fabulous!

Boundless Bundle

Here are pretty pictures of fabric I’m currently working with so it’s not all just words!

At first I was having withdrawals, which quickly subsided after I finally allowed myself more time to contemplate and think. I was in several business Facebook groups that I had joined for networking purposes. It was a little hard to give them up in the beginning because I missed the daily interactions.

However, by getting in to the habit of checking them every day, multiple times a day, it pulled me into a constant timesuck because I didn’t have the fortitude to get in and get out. Now that I only have one place to go on Facebook, it’s a quick check in the morning, a couple pop-ins throughout the day to reply to comments, and I can focus on GETTING THINGS DONE!

Fat Quarters in Blues and Greens

I love organizing these fat quarters from light to dark  to see how they sparkle.

I also have so much less FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)!! When I don’t know what I don’t know, it’s so liberating to not constantly be comparing myself to what others are doing. I was worried that I’d miss out on opportunities to do great things, by not being “out there” as much, but let me tell you – the work has NOT slowed down. I’m currently working on my 4th book proposal, my 3rd Craftsy class and my 2nd fabric line, not to mention preparing for a slew of in-person workshops.

Now it’s kinda nice when I get an email from someone wanting to collaborate on something. Yes, email is still a great way to communicate! For me, it’s so much more effective than trying to keep up with direct messages on Instagram or Facebook that I sometimes don’t even know are there!  I’m also not on a strict time schedule on my blog. Sometimes I’ll blog three times a week, sometimes just once and it feels great to have that flexibility.

Cut and labeled fabric pieces

Here’s a tip – label the pieces of fabric you are working with to stay organized. I use a “big board” to iron my fabrics and stay organized when piecing. It gives me a huge surface on top of my ironing board. Now I need to work on getting prettier furniture that matches in my sewing room…

By not being constantly sucked into social media, I have a more realistic time frame for how long it takes me to actually make a quilt. I think the constant barrage of New!New!New! on social media can give us unrealistic expectations of how much we need to accomplish or how fast we need to get it done. I prefer a slow and steady pace so that I can enjoy each step of the process, and by stepping back I’ve been able to enjoy more making without feeling like I have to crank out  a new project or tutorial each week. I’m definitely a person who prefers quality over quantity.

And now, so as not to spend all day writing this post, I’ll sign off with huge hugs to you, my readers who make this all possible. By continuing to support me,  you allow me to pursue my passion full time and I can’t thank you enough!! Now I’m off to continue working on the project I shared a few sneak peeks of above. More about that in a couple of months….

Christa’s Soap Box – A Look Back at 2017

I debated on whether or not to do a “year end” blog post like so many do. But then I realized, it’s been a very busy year! Can I distill it down to just a few snippets? So I decided to focus on one memorable event for each month of 2017. Here’s a snapshot of what happened this year:

January – An Injury & A Visit

Angela Walters and Christa Watson

My buddy and co-author Angela Walters came to visit my local guild in January, so she got to see me sporting my fashionable elbow sling! Thank goodness I love to wear black and white, LOL!!
Click here to see the book we wrote together in 2016.

The year didn’t start off so great. After trying to get healthy and fit, I dislocated my left elbow when I fell from a climbing wall at the gym. This is an activity where you free-climb indoors without ropes and there’s padding on the floors to catch your fall. I was great at climbing, but not so great at falling. I’ve now learned that when you fall, it’s best to tuck and roll and NOT reach your arm out to break the fall!!

It’s taken the majority of the year for me recover and heal completely, but I’ve been working on a safer workout routine, and next year is shaping up to be the year I finally recover my fitness. Here’s to a healthy 2018!

February – Lots of Teaching!

Machine Quilting Student Work at QuiltCon 2017Student work from one of my classes at QuiltCon.
Click here to read my blog post about QuiltCon 2017.

I taught at QuiltCon for the second time in a row and loved it! The only downside is that I was so busy teaching, I barely had time to enjoy the show! I look forward to attending QuiltCon 2018 and NOT having to teach so I’ll have plenty of time to view each and every quilt! (They prefer to not book the same instructors more than a couple of years in a row, to give others a chance to teach.)

March – Lots of Ribbons!

Churn Dash Slide

Churn Dash Slide – 1st place single entrant category at DQN Quilt Las Vegas 2017.
Click here to read more about my local guild’s quilt show in 2017 and a new milestone.

I attended my local guild’s show and entered quilts as I do every year. It’s a fabulous show for a local event and I usually pull a ribbon each time I enter. This year was a new milestone for me as every quilt I entered (there’s a limit of 4) earned a ribbon. I consider this a win for domestic machine quilting since many of the quilts are judged against professional long arm quilting. It just goes to show that the machine you use doesn’t matter as much as your willingness to do good work, no matter the tools. 🙂

April – Lots of Patterns!

Christa Quilts Patterns

Click here to see my full collection of printed quilt patterns.
Click here to see my full collection of PDF quilt patterns.

After a few fits and starts, I released several new quilt patterns. Originally the goal was to release them on a regular schedule, but other, more exciting projects kept getting in the way. This was also the point at which I realized I do much better working with other companies to create new and exciting content rather than trying to do things entirely on my own. (Look for more patterns next year as I plan the releases to coincide with new fabric lines.)

May – An Anniversary Celebration

Christa & Jason at the Beach

Here’s to another 24 years of love and marriage!
This was us at the beach a couple of anniversaries ago and it’s still my favorite place to hang out!!

I celebrated 24 years of marriage with the love of my life, Jason. We’ve had our share of ups and downs over the last two decades and we feel like we are finally figuring out this marriage and work-at-home thing!! (Yes, we got married young – I hadn’t even turned 20 yet and he was almost 23. Now that we have children approaching that age, I realize how young that truly is!!)

June – Judging Beautiful Quilts

Best Modern Quilt Vermont Quilt Festival 2017

Best Modern Quilt at Vermont Quilt Festival by Anya Byam of Burlington, VT
Click here to read more about my judging experience at the show.

I judged my very first quilt show! I was brought into the Vermont Quilt Festival to add my modern voice to the talented pool of judges they solicit each year. It was amazing to get up close and personal with each and every quilt and see the detail and love stitched into each one. I was on my feet for 6 days straight – 2 days of judging and then another 4 days teaching, so I don’t know that I would be keen to combine both types of work in the future, but It was a fabulous experience nonetheless.

July – 2nd Craftsy Class Release

Startup Library Craftsy Class by Christa Watson

Click here to get 50% off my 2nd Craftsy class Startup Library: Quilting
Click here to get 50% off my 1st Craftsy class: The Quilter’s Path

I launched my second online Craftsy class, Startup Library – Quilting. This workshop is 3 times longer than my first class and was created as a basic introductory course for brand new quilters, or those who’d like to freshen up their quilting education. Working with the folks at Craftsy is such a treat, and they are so professional! They produce top notch videos and I plan to continue to work with them to launch additional classes in the future.

August – 3rd Book Release

Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

Click here to get your signed copy of Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

I released my third book, Piece and Quilt with Precuts. Just like my previous two books, it includes start to finish instruction for making the quilt top, plus strategies and step by step diagrams on how to quilt them. After writing 3 books in a row non-stop, I’m taking a little breather to catch my breath before starting on the next one!

September – More Teaching!

Teaching at MQX quilt show

Setting up for my class at the fall MQX quilt show.
Click here for info about next year’s shows – spring and fall.

I taught at MQX quilt show for the first time (and will be returning again in the spring of 2019). This show is special to me because it’s the first national quilt show where I received a ribbon. Back in 2013 I entered my String of Pearls quilt in their newly created “Quilting the Modern Way” category. I received an honorable mention but to me it felt like best in show!

October – First Fabric Release

Modern Marks by Christa Watson for Benartex

Click here to get a fat quarter bundle of Modern Marks, while supplies last.

I launched my first line of fabric, Modern Marks at international quilt market in Houston Texas. Fabric design has long been a dream of mine and it was so gratifying to achieve this goal. So far it has been well received and my hope is to continue designing 1-2 fabric collections a year for as long as it is sustainable.

November – Family Fun!

Watson Family Dia De Los Muertos

We get silly with the extended family at holiday time each year. My MIL creates an elaborate scavenger hunt and we all dress up based on a movie theme for the year. This year’s theme was “Day of the Dead” from the Disney movie Coco. We’re celebrating the fact that we’ll be headed to a fun family reunion in the Mexican Riviera next year and we can’t wait!

I spent a lot of time enjoying time with my family. 2018 will be a big transition year for us – the oldest heads off to college and the next oldest graduates from high school. The youngest who has been home-schooled the past 6 years wants to go to regular high school (for her sophomore year) to see what that is all about. We may actually have some time in 2018 where it’s just the two of us at home during the day – I can’t even imagine what that will look like, or how quiet it will be, LOL!!

December – More In-Person Quality, Less Online Quantity

Teaching at Quilt Addicts Anonymous

I love connecting with others face to face in class and at fun events.
Click here to read my post on simplifying social media.

I traveled to my last teaching event of the year at my friend Stephanie’s shop, Quilt Addicts Anonymous. It was a crazy busy, but fun year of teaching! I did a total of 17 multi-day teaching events in 2017 and realized that as much as I love it, that’s a bit too much. I’ve decided to slightly scale back and limit my travels to no more than 1 event per month, and I’m still booked solid for the next two years.

I also decided to simplify my social media to focus on more quality and less quantity. Although it’s only been a few weeks since I made the switch, I’m already enjoying more time and head space for me to truly do what I love – create!

I hope you had a fabulous 2017 and are looking forward to more quilty fun in 2018!!