I was so excited when our little Cincinnati got a brand new modern fabric store and sewing lounge earlier this year! Sewn Studio (located in Oakley, for you folks familiar with Cincinnati) is a little piece of wonderfulness. The people who work there could not be sweeter, and the fabrics—oh my. Plus, they have “open sewing” time, where you can just hang out and sew! If you live in the Cincinnati area and haven’t been there yet, you must go! (You can also order fabric through their site.)

So, with all of this love, I’m thrilled to be partnering with them on a Sew Retro giveaway! It's up on their blog now, right here. One winner will get a signed copy of Sew Retro—shipped right to them. They’ve got all of the rules and tricks for upping your chances of winning posted. As an added bonus, I’m also giving away the Hostess Apron (that's it below)! You can download the PDF directly from the blog post.

The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, and it ends on September 26 at 8:00 EST.

So, check out their site, enter the giveaway, and do a little shopping if you feel compelled.
Thanks everyone for entering to win a signed copy of Sew Retro! I loved reading what people are planning to make this summer. I am most impressed that a few people are going to make swimsuits! And as it turns out, some of you are going to be making babies, after all. (I, however, echo the "no more, thank you" sentiments of some commenters.)

So, I grabbed a winner at random, and it is Abbi, who says that she is going to make a new wardrobe that suits who she is. Yay!

Abbi, I'll be in touch shortly about getting the book & bonus vintage handkerchief in the mail to you. Thanks everyone for entering. I'll be giving away more books, so please stay tuned!

Oh goodness, it’s June. I’ve been absent for so long, the only thing I can think to do is to give some stuff away!

So first, I’m giving away one of the patterns from the book. It’s the Tea Party Tablecloth. I confess, I haven’t had an actual tea party since I was about 5 and used to have them for my stuffed animals. However, I have had numerous gatherings where having a very cool tablecloth like this is the hit of the party. It’s the perfect size for a card table.
To get it, you’ll need to download two files. The first is a PDF of the directions (direct from the pages of the book). The second is a PDF of the pattern piece. Happy sewing!

Secondly, I’m giving away a signed copy of Sew Retro. It’s been a while since I’ve done a book giveaway. I will throw in a vintage handkerchief too (I buy them like candy at flea markets).

To enter to win the book, just leave a comment below about what you are going to make this summer (a party dress, hummus, a necklace, a baby . . . whatever)

I’ll choose a winner on Monday, June 11th at 10:00 EST (or thereabouts).

And if you want to hear from me regularly, head over to my business site and sign up for my newsletter. It’s painless and fun, and you get a weekly newsletter from me. I put a lot of time into writing good, inspiring articles. I’d love to have you join, right here

It's going to be a great summer . . .
My sister-in-law, Bobbie Jo, took this picture. Isn't she amazing?
Thanks to everyone who put up with my incessant Twitter posts about my Sew Retro Facebook “like” contest (I was trying to get up 300 people in the last week of August to give away a free book). I made it—340! The last 50 came last night after my writer friend, Kris Bordessa (thanks, Kris!) posted something on Attainable Sustainable’s page (you can also check out their site here—it’s pretty great).

The winner is Rachel Heiser, who I emailed through Facebook to let her know that she won. Congrats, Rachel!

It’s sort of obnoxious to ask people to “like” your page over and over again—I know this. But I set it as a challenge because I’ve been in a mini-funk these last few weeks, as I get ready for the next phase of my copywriting business. My coach, Darla LeDoux, is always taking about the power of setting an intention: specifically, when you state something clearly and boldly (without all of the qualifying language, like “well, maybe I might . . .” or “I mean, I might try . . .”), that energy becomes real and that thing becomes real and you find a way to make it happen.

I believe this, but I often don’t remember it. So, my little Facebook contest (“I WILL get 300 fans by August 31st!”) was one of a series of intention exercises for me.

Of course, you should have a purpose behind your intentions. So, for this one, my purpose is to share Sew Retro with readers, because I think it’s a fun book and I love the idea of people having a place to connect and comment on the book, or to comment on their own history of sewing. It goes to my larger mission of helping people connect through stories, which is what my copywriting business is about.

Intentions also help you stay on track. When I was struggling to get to my 300 fans, I clicked around on some other sewing Facebook pages. I saw, for example, Amy Butler’s page  had more than 12,000 “likes!” I mean, she is fabulous. Of course 12,000+ people like her on Facebook. But why don’t they like me? What’s wrong with me? And so begins the spiraling-down/comparison thinking. But, because I had set a specific intention, I could remind myself: I set an intention to get 300 likes, not 12,000. I set an intention to move from A to B, not A to W.

Putting an intention out there in the universe also gets good mojo on your side. People—random people or people you know—help you get there. For example, my friend Kris posting something is what got me those last 10 likes I needed (plus 40 more). I don’t even know Kris that well; we’ve met at writers' conferences. She doesn’t have any ulterior motive, other than just helping another writer because she can relate. It’s just about an energy exchange. That happens all of the time—if you just let it (and aren’t suspicious of it).

I think intention-setting can be a very powerful tool for anyone—whether you’re setting intentions around your parenting skills, your fabric business, your fitness, or just about anything. But—and this is important--your intentions can’t be vague, half-believed, or unstated.

For example, I have an income goal for this year, and I started to freak out that I wouldn’t reach it because I’ve been slow for a few weeks. So instead of being stressed and just saying things like “I need to be busier,” I added everything up that I’ve made (or is contracted) this year, and came up with the specific amount (literally, to the dollar) that I need to make for the remainder of the year. I wrote it down, said it aloud, and shared it with my accountability group. Most importantly, I believe it.

Do you have an intention for yourself or your business? Set one today!
First, don’t forget to tell your friends to head over to the Sew Retro Facebook page and click “Like.” As I posted about earlier this week, if I reach 300 fans by end of August, I’ll pick a fan at random and send them a signed copy of Sew Retro. I have 65 more to go as of this post!

Anyway . . . I don’t know about you, but after a crazy busy summer (and, thankfully, a more relaxing August), I’m ready to start the fall off with a bang. I’m ready to sew and make school clothes for Max (I just ordered the Asher Shirt from Sew Sweet Patterns and it’s moved to the top of my list!), leggings for Georgia’s chubby baby legs, Halloween costumes, and holiday gifts! I’m ready to find the coolest, most interesting new clients who love what they do as much as I love what I do. I’m ready to turn off the air conditioning, fill the containers up with mums, and let the first frost kill all of the mosquitoes. I’m ready for whatever is next!

Part of figuring out what’s next is seeing what everyone else is doing. On that note, have you seen Kickstarter.com?  A friend just told me about it last week and I checked it out. The concept is fantastic: creative-types propose projects in various areas, from fashion to film-making to baking (and a lot else) and people can pledge money to fund their projects.
I could spend all day looking at the projects. But of course, I went to the fashion ones first. One that caught my eye is a proposal for a sewing pattern line by Christine Haynes (she wrote Chic & Simple Sewing, which I don’t have yet, but is on my list for sure!) Very impressed with her designs & passion!

There are a lot more sewing ones, so check it out. (I plan to do some more browsing and make a pledge to some project by the end of the month!). There are so many great ideas! I absolutely love  these Jessica Swift patterned rain boots. 

Oh, and there’s a literary magazine about pies: PIECRUST Magazine. How great is that! It’s successfully funded, but still worth watching the video (check out the Amy Butler fabric apron).

I could list project after project. But here’s the bottom line: People are inspiring. They are so creative and ambitious, and that thread of creativity and ambition is always there, out there, ready for you to grab it. We think it has to "come" to us, to drop in from the sky because the planets are aligned. But in reality, you just have to grab it and go. And then just start.

 I hope you have been sufficiently inspired. Who’s ready for a great fall?
I'm the first to admit that I don't exactly know what to do with Sew Retro's Facebook page. I have my own Facebook page, where I share pictures and random musings with friends and family. But it's mostly for personal use.

I started the Sew Retro page to connect with readers and sewers and fans of all things retro. I haven't done that great of a job building it out, but I'm trying to add more content now, like more project ideas, polls, videos, and interesting links (suggestions welcome!).

Every week, a few "likes" trickle in. Then today, it reached 200! I mean, it's not Nike or anything, but it's 200 people who like something about Sew Retro. And that's pretty cool.

You know what would be even cooler? 300!

Here is the deal: if I can get another 100 people to "like" Sew Retro's Facebook page by the end of August, I'll do a random drawing from all the page's fans for a signed copy of Sew Retro. If you win and you already have a book, you can give it as a gift! (If this content is successful, then I will start thinking much bigger, but 100 in 9 days seems safer.)

So, if you haven't liked the page yet, head over there and click "Like." And tell all of your friends!
When I think of Bari J. Ackerman,  my brain goes to layers and layers of loveliness. Her work is so intricate and her use of color so joyful that looking at her blog is often my reward after a day of stressful work (her logo alone calms and inspires me).
Her first book, Inspired to Sew, (Stash Books) came out earlier this year (do you have it yet? Why not?! Go order right now!). In addition to her line of patterns, she also designs fabric (her next line, Paris Apartment, will be available in July). What I particularly love about Bari J. is that she has this terrific eye for vintage that just feels right and feels real and usable (she talks about this in her Q&A—I love what she says about vintage purses). When I look at her stuff, I am reminded that color and texture and playfulness and nostalgia aren’t just concepts for Milan runways or boutique windows: they can be tenets of everyday life.

Bari J. is generously offering one of her gorgeous patterns (the winner can choose any one of her patterns, all listed here) and a stack of 8 fat quarters (it will be a random mix), which might look something like this . . .

So, enjoy the Q&A with her (it’s very insightful—especially for people who dream of designing fabric), and enter to win Bari's stuff, as well as a copy of Sew Retro, by leaving a comment between now and Thursday, June 16th, at noon EST. I won’t disqualify you if your comment is just “hey, cool,” but in the spirit of Bari J’s story (see question #1!), I’d love to know what goal (sewing-specific, business, design, personal—whatever) you still have for yourself, whether you’re 23 or 35 or 64 or 82.

Q: I’m always fascinated how people come to fabric and pattern design. What is your background, and what made you switch from just making bags to designing fabric and patterns?

Bari J.: Just out of college I worked as a copywriter and graphic designer in advertising. After I had kids and stopped working I started puttering around making jewelry and collage art from found objects, which I sold to local boutiques. Soon thereafter I found sewing and was immediately hooked. Once I had my website up and going I found I was doing a lot of graphic design again and that’s when the idea for surface design, and in particular fabric design, began. It was also pretty clear to me after I started my blog that although people loved my bags and accessory line, my readers were DIYers. I can’t even tell you how many times I was asked for a pattern. The next logical step really was sewing patterns.

Truth told, making the jump to fabric design was not easy. I’d done graphic design and I knew the computer software, but I had no idea where to start. I didn’t know how to make repeats and I didn’t trust my drawing skills. It’s funny because my mother painted my whole life. But having come from a large family, each sibling sort of takes their role and sticks with it. My brother and sister drew and painted a bit, so I was the actress/singer in the family. It’s interesting how family dynamics work. It never even occurred to me that I could draw until I finally tried at 35 years old. In order to design fabric, I had purchased a graphics tablet for the computer. Once I picked up the pen and got going, the ideas kept coming. I can’t even tell you the number of hours I practiced drawing or the number of designs I erased, but eventually I had a collection ... and I’d figured out the elusive pattern repeat.

Right about that time, Spoonflower, started its beta program. So I wrote them and asked to be a part of it. They digitally printed the first collection for me, I made a quilt and other items and off I went to quilt market with several appointments ahead of me with fabric companies. At the time it was still unheard of to have actual fabric samples (now it’s old hat, everyone is digitally printing), so it was a blast to show what you could actually do with the designs I’d done. Everyone wanted to know how I got the fabric printed. Things sure change fast, huh? That was October 2008.

Q: Paris Apartment is your next collection, correct? I love the previews I’ve seen! What inspired this collection, and when (and where) will it be available?

Bari J.: Thank you. I’m thrilled with this collection. It really came about just through doodling and daydreaming. I have always wanted to go to Paris, but I’ve never been. As I was drawing bits and pieces out, I realized it all was part of my elaborate fantasy. This collection is how I imagine I might live if I were to have my own Paris Apartment. It is printed by Lecien and will be available in stores in early July all over the world.

Q: I’m also fascinated with how people arrive at writing a craft book, especially since it’s usually a labor of love. Inspired to Sew is so beautiful. What’s the backstory?

Bari J.: Thank you again. When I arrived home from that very first quilt market, having just sold my first line, Full Bloom, for licensing, I received an email. I was riding pretty high on the success, so in all honesty I was waiting for the sky to fall. You know? That feeling of, it’s all so good, something bad is bound to happen any minute. (Is that just me?)

At any rate, I received an email from the acquisitions editor at C&T that she’d been reading my blog and it turns out I live nearby and would I like to meet for lunch and chat. I was so completely convinced that it was a joke, I nearly deleted the email. I went back to read it a couple days later, and responded, “sure, I’d love to meet and talk about it.” And with a laugh, I forgot all about it. In the end, obviously, I did end up taking that meeting. It turned out C&T was about to launch their Stash Books imprint and it was just the absolute perfect opportunity.

It was, in fact, a labor of love for me. I, again, had no idea how I’d proceed, or if I could even do it, but it all turned out just exactly as I’d imagined, and as an added benefit, it is what propelled me into producing my line of sewing patterns.

Q: I love your tagline: Vintage inspired design for your modern life. What does that mean for you—in both your day-to-day life (what I like to call “the slogging through”) and your creative life?

Bari J.: Throughout my life, I’ve had a love of old things. I think I arrived at it through my mother who also has that aesthetic. However, you just sometimes can’t live with old stuff. In fact, old handbags are most seriously one of those things that are hard to live with in. They can be smelly for starters, something that always bothered me. And for another, they just don’t have modern conveniences. So, the tagline came from the desire to make handbags that were vintage modern. Something with an old-world feel, but with modern conveniences such as added pockets, etc. And that of course easily translates across all of my design whether it be fabric or sewing patterns.

Q: I love your post about the Springtime in Paris clutch, and how many tries it took to get it right. Often times, people don’t see all the work that goes into getting something right (and the mistakes made!). What is your process for developing patterns? Do you see it all in your head, or get your best ideas in the shower, or sketch it out, or just start cutting fabrics, etc.?

Bari J.: I’d say all of the above although I have been know to cut straight into fabrics without a plan which is something I have to force myself not to do.

I do see what I want in my head but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense in reality, so for me, I try to always make a muslin version first after I sketch and work out the measurements, etc. A little restraint in diving right into the real fabrics tends to go a long way for me.

Q: Your work is so rich in color and layers. Does it get tempting to keep adding more, especially when you are working with fabric you love? How do you edit yourself?

Bari J.: Oh boy, I have a terrible time editing. I think it’s just an instinct as to when to stop. I hear my mom saying: “Don’t you think that’s a little bit ‘unga-patchkie’?” Which is Yiddish for over the top or over done.

I do think more is more though. I’ll always say that.

Q: I find that designers are super friendly and the crafting community is a warm one. Still, there is a lot of competition these days as more and more independent designers are producing lines of patterns and fabric. Does it ever feel overwhelming? How do you stay focused?

Bari J.: I’ll tell you what, it IS overwhelming, there IS a lot of competition, but it also is a very warm community and I do think we all try to support one another. There are people who are very giving who have helped me along the way, and I try to give that in return. I do also try to stay out of the blog-o-sphere when I get that overwhelmed “I’m never gonna make it feeling.” And I had a designer say to me once that she just tries to “stay in her lane.” I’ve adopted that attitude.

Q: Lastly, what’s next for you in the short-term and the long-term?

Bari J.: I’ll be working on a new fabric line in the coming weeks for next spring and also a book proposal. And I’ll be teaching at the Sister’s Outdoor Quilt Show’s, Quilter’s Affair next month and then I’ll be in Utah teaching at the Sewing Summit in October.

Long term, I intend to license my designs on other surfaces ... hopefully some home goods and paper. All fun stuff. I really love my job.
Thanks everyone for participating! I hope you enjoyed the Q&A with Jennifer Worick (thanks again, Jen, for doing this with me!). I plugged in the numbers at Random.org, and . . .
The winner is Mary Anne, who said: "Great interview - although I'm not planning on writing a book, it was interesting to read some of what goes into getting one published. Thank you for an opportunity to win what looks to be a great book!"

So, Mary Anne, I'll be emailing you shortly to get your mailing address.

Thanks everyone for playing! Stay tuned for the next Q&A with Bari J. Ackerman--coming shortly!

I’ve have career envy of Jennifer Worick for quite some time! A friend recommended that I get in touch with her five or six years ago because we had similar writing interests. When I clicked over to her site, I was super impressed. She’d written all of these books about interesting topics, and I was a bit in awe. Fast forward to last year, when we got the chance to meet at the CHA Supershow in Chicago. I learned that we had the same publisher (Voyageur) and the same agent. I also realized how smart she was about this whole book business. When I saw that she had started to offer book proposal writing classes, I knew that she would be the perfect Q&A for my blog. She’s written 25 books, including her latest, Simple Gifts: 50 little Luxuries to Craft, Sew, Cook, & Knit (which one lucky reader will win!). Jen is full of great ideas and great advice. Here, she shares some tips for writing your book proposal and marketing yourself.

To enter the giveaway to win a copy of Simple Gifts: 50 Little Luxuries to Craft, Sew, Cook, & Knit leave a comment here by Tuesday, May 31 at noon EST.

Q: First, tell me about the workshops you've been teaching!

Worick: My pal, Kerry Colburn, and I have been asked many, many times for publishing advice. She’s an author who was an executive editor at Chronicle Books and I’m an author who was editorial director at Running Press. So we’ve been on both sides of reviewing and writing book proposals and it seemed like a natural next step to share our insight to groups of aspiring authors. So we give talks and workshops to help folks write salable proposals and learn about the publishing industry. We currently offer events in Seattle but are looking at creating e-courses and electronic multi-media kits, as well as hosting events in different cities, in the next few months.
Worick and Colburn
Q: How do craft book proposals differ from other book proposals?

Worick: Craft books, in some respects, are like cookbooks. Any sort of how-to book proposal needs to take into account that the projects will need tech editing and review for clarity and viability of projects. I think it’s helpful to include a complete list of the projects you’d plan to include, as well as step-out snapshots of a couple of projects (photos that match each step in the project).

There are a lot of craft books on the market so it’s also important to think about how your group of projects thematically hang together and are different from what’s already on the market. Are they all projects made for pets? Do they all have a floral motif? Are they all variations on a technique?

Q: How does an author make their proposal stand out from the field (either craft book proposal, or other non-fiction), and then how do you make your marketing efforts (to sell the published book) stand out from the field--especially in the craft world, which is starting to feel sort of saturated?

Worick: What Kerry and I advise in our Business of Books talks is that you first start in researching, not just your idea, but the market as well. It’s important to refine your idea based on what you see in the marketplace (both in the bookstore and online). If someone can get hundreds of free shawl patterns online to knit, what is going to make her shell out money for yours? What makes them so special? Do they all have intarsia designs that you’ve spent a long time figuring out? If there is something out there similar to yours, don’t despair. Just spend some time thinking about how to make yours more original and distinctive.

When it comes to marketing, there is a active online community for crafters so I’d recommend contributing to websites, commenting on other blogs, and writing your own blog. You’ll build up a community that can help evangelize your book when it comes out.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about doing a craft book proposal today (versus a few years ago)?

Worick: As you said, there is a lot of saturation in the market and it’s a tricky thing to find a great, specific idea that’s not TOO niche. Crafters are eager for the next thing to expand their skill set and blow their mind creatively, so if you can keep that in mind when developing your idea, you’ll strengthen its chances of being published. I wrote Backcountry Betty: Crafting in Style because I saw a desire to repurpose materials, incorporate natural elements you may have collected in a new way, and create inexpensive but clever projects.

Q: What is the most exciting thing about doing a craft book proposal today?

Worick: Well, for me, it’s two things: refining the overall concept and then brainstorming the individual projects. I don’t usually have all the projects figured out when I first develop a proposal. The creativity starts flowing and my ideas get more and more brilliant as I push myself to come up with fresh projects.

Q: Do you have like a top 3 list of the absolute best tips for pulling together your proposal (any proposal--craft or otherwise)?

Worick: Well, we have eight elements of a proposal that we talk about in our talks. But as far as tips:

1.     Do your homework. Research and refine your idea.

2.     You don’t have to write the book to sell the book.

3.     Have a trusted friend review your proposal, maybe even a non-crafter. It’s important that you don’t assume anything and that your directions make sense. And sometimes as the author, you can’t see what’s missing or unclear.

Q: How important is negotiating with the publisher? This is foreign territory for many craft book authors, who are used to dealing with customers or running a business, but not necessarily negotiating rights and things for a manuscript.

Worick: It’s often hard to advocate for ourselves when we are negotiating a book deal. But that said, there are all sorts of points that have some wiggle room. If they won’t budge on royalty, then ask for a bigger advance or a “production grant” (a fee that you can use for materials or project development that won’t be part of your royalty). You can also ask for an escalator, where your royalty will increase when you hit a certain number of sales (say 15,000 units). And know all your options, what your bottom line is, and explore self-publishing options so you can see what might make sense for you. If you want all the control, have a large online community, and want to get your book to market quickly, self-publishing an e-book might be the way to go.

Q: Finally, can you talk about why it's important to build relationships with people--agents, publishers, press people, other authors/bloggers, etc--in order to really be successful in the bookselling business?

Worick: I think anything you can do to increase your knowledge of the publishing industry will help you in your quest to get published. Reading Shelf Awareness  or subscribing to Publishers Marketplace can also help give you an idea of what deals are being made, what issues are of greatest concern to the industry, that sort of thing. You will become savvier and have a better idea of how to position yourself as the author and market your book effectively. Talk to your local bookstore staff, develop relationships with your crafting community and shops (again, both online and brick-and-mortar stores). As you build relationships and credibility, you increase your ability to market your book. You are probably already doing this naturally, because it’s where your interest lies. Just bring some mindfulness and purpose to your efforts and you’ll quickly become a desirable and marketable author.
Look at this lovely little graphic that Pat Sloan put together for me! Tune in TODAY at 4 pm EST to hear me talk about Sew Retro. Listen to the show live, or if you can't tune in today, you can always use that link to download the show as a podcast. I'm looking forward to it!

Also, I'm doing a giveaway of Sew Retro with Pat. To enter, post a comment on her blog by Friday, April 8, at noon EST. I'll send a signed copy of Sew Retro to the lucky winner!