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Comfort & Joy

Comfort & Joy - The 2018 Christmas Lights Collection, with Alana Terry, Toni Shiloh, April Hayman, Cathe Swanson and Chautona HavigThis week, I’m finishing up my Christmas novella, The Christmas Glory Quilt. It will be my contribution to the 2018 Christmas Lights novella collection: Comfort & Joy.  This year’s collection is going to be bigger and better than ever before,  with contemporary Christian Christmas stories from Alana Terry, April Hayman, Toni Shiloh, Chautona Havig and me.  Isn’t it a beautiful cover?

Frost Heaves by Alana Terry
The Trouble with Christmas Cheer by April Hayman
Deck the Shelves by Toni Shiloh
The Christmas Glory Quilt by Cathe Swanson
The Ghosts of New Cheltenham by Chautona Havig

Comfort & Joy will be available exclusively on Amazon on October 15th. We’re looking for a few more launch team members, to help share the news. If you are interested in getting a free advance reader copy of the book and participating in our very fun Facebook group, please click HERE for more information and fill out the form.

 

The Christmas Glory Quilt

The Christmas Glory Quilt by Cathe Swanson - in the 2018 Christmas Lights Collection, Comfort & JoyThe Christmas Glory Quilt will be the first in a series with a seasonal quilt theme – Autumn Glory Quilt, Easter Glory Quilt, etc. (I still need to work on those titles!) Being an overachiever, I designed a quilt to go with the book and plan to offer the pattern as a bonus for early purchasers of the book.  It was a busy summer – and I had to write the book! – so it took a long time just to get it pieced.

Yesterday morning, my good friend and book cover designer, the multi-talented Chautona Havig, said, “I need pictures of the quilt, draped around two people. Now.” So I dropped everything and quilted. For nine hours, I sat at the dining room table and quilted. I finished about six o’clock and my husband helped me take pictures. Triumphantly, I sent them to Chautona.

But they weren’t good enough. An iPhone 5S may take good pictures for posting online, even indoors, but they aren’t good enough to use on the front of a printed book. I thought, “All that work, for nothing. I wasted the whole day, when I should have been working on the book, cleaning house, making dinner, taking a shower…”

Have you even done something difficult and then it fell short? Wasn’t good enough? Did it crush you? Make you feel like a failure? In my head, I know that now I have a finished quilt. I need to figure out how to get a better picture. It will be challenging, but I will make it work out. In my heart, I am disappointed. Deflated. Frustrated. I have to do the pictures all over again and I’m further behind on my book.

Redeeming the Time

But there was a grain of something good in the experience, and it wasn’t the quilt or the pictures. For about half an hour, my husband and I had a wonderful time together.

What we needed was a “green screen” picture of the quilt wrapped around two people. Chautona was going to cut out the quilt part of the picture and superimpose it on the purchased picture of these two attractive models. Kind of like paper dolls, if you remember those.

 

 

 

 

 

So the quilt had to be draped just right, to fit the existing picture. My husband hung a black sheet on the wall, and we set the laptop, open to the picture of the models, on a chair in front of us. To get the right angle, we put the phone/camera on top of a stepladder on top of the piano bench. We practiced standing in the right position first, and then we worked on arranging the quilt.

The thing is, those models are wrapped in a soft, stretchy knit blanket. A brand new quilt is stiff. It doesn’t drape. But we tried. We wrapped up in it, as best we could, then we scooted forward to push the camera button and scooted back, trying to get into position before the ten-second timer went off. It was hilarious. We laughed together, harder than we have in years. We have more ‘blooper’ shots than usable pictures. In most of them, we were rolled up like a burrito or shaped like a Christmas tree. Sometimes, the camera snapped the picture before we were ready.

 

And we laughed and laughed. My husband said, “We know how to do Friday night!” It was a good time, and it will be a sweet memory. Marriage is hard, and sometimes the fun is just drained away. Sometimes we – like many married couples – go along from day to day, doing what has to be done. So I spent a day making that quilt, and even though my original purpose wasn’t achieved, the time was redeemed. God knew we needed that “date night” more quilt pictures. Isn’t He wonderful?

Comfort & Joy

I look forward to sharing more about The Christmas Glory Quilt soon. I’m having so much fun writing it!  All of the books in this year’s collection, Comfort & Joy, are enjoyable, so watch for updates on the Comfort & Joy Facebook page. 
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Do what you love – as long as you love doing it

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I recently published an article – Quitting Quilting – on my GloryQuilts blog, explaining why I was restructuring my business. It explained the quitting part, but it didn’t really address the “art as career” aspect of the change. Through this experience, I am persuaded that if I am ever forced to support myself financially, I must not do it by making a career from the things I love doing. It sounds good, but it can end up sucking the joy from the creative heart and leaving only resentment.

For more than 20 years, I have been teaching quiltmaking as well as sewing and quilting professionally as GloryQuilts.  At first, I sold class samples and pattern prototypes as well as some things I made just for fun. I did some juried art shows, and then some that were less selective. I had to make quantities of items for the shows, on a strict deadline, and be ready to set up displays and manage sales. I started selling things on eBay and then Etsy.  Instead of selling unique and creative quilts, I began creating quilts specifically to sell, in trendy fabrics and styles. As my reputation grew, I was offered and accepted a number of commissions and special order projects.

But I had never intended to become a quilt factory.  What had once been a delight to me became stressful drudgery. I loathed the sight of my sewing machine and drove around the block to avoid seeing the fabric store. I didn’t even want to make baby quilts for my grandchildren!

Turning a passion into a paying career is something to be approached with caution. If it’s going to remain a creative pleasure, it must remain creative. If it’s going to be profitable, it must be practical. It will probably involve deadlines. It will involve  sales and marketing, business law, accounting, taxes, various expenses that eat into the fruit of your labors… Labors. Are you still feeling the joy of creativity?

It’s a wonderful thing to have work that makes you happy. We all need money, and it’s nice if we can get that money in a pleasant environment. Do what you love and love what you do, right?  The problem is the second part – to keep loving what you are doing once it’s a job. What happens when you give up the life-sucking day job to make a living from your art and then the art becomes the life-sucking day job?

Be realistic in the shift from hobby to career.  Before you start, assess the possibilities and requirements.  In most cases, this kind of self-employment is sales and independent contracting. Can you set aside the creative part of your skill set to practice on the weekends or does the business consume your enthusiasm and energy? Are you a painter willing to work as a commercial artist? An art photographer willing to do senior portraits?  A poet who will write product descriptions for catalogs? A creative chef will be happier in his own restaurant, with creative freedom, than he would be at McDonald’s, at any wage.

It’s easy to be creative on our own terms, without other people telling us what our art should look like and when it should be completed and how much money it’s worth. There is a niche market for art and original work. A few people and companies will appreciate its value, but it’s still a different scenario than just creating for our own pleasure and being willing to sell our art for a good price. Renaissance artists had patrons, and even that could be difficult.

After yet another stressful autumn and early winter, for those reasons and others, I made the firm decision to stop taking commissions and doing special orders. No more craft sales or any other sales event unless I happen to have stacks of finished items available at the time. (unlikely!)

I don’t like to say “God spoke to me and said…”, but I know that this is the will of God. I learned it through prayer, Scripture, wise counsel, observation and examination of the real situation, the preferences of my husband, the changing desires of my own heart. It all led to the unwavering conviction that I needed to stop that cycle and move into a new stage of my life.

In truth, I knew it a long time ago, as God opened portals in my life. I side-stepped them, closed them, looked through them and decided I wasn’t meant to go through them. I wasn’t good enough, they weren’t familiar to me, I needed money (and there didn’t appear to be any on the other sides of those doors.) I can call it fear, feelings of inadequacy, and the disbelief that my desires could really coincide with God’s will for me, but it all boiled down to disobedience and unbelief.

I was slow to make the changes, but I am committed now. I am writing. I am a writer. I believe it is my vocation, at least for now. I will still quilt. I enjoy teaching – especially the workshops that combine Christian ministry and quilting together. I like designing new patterns and making special items. I will still sell things:  class samples, pattern prototypes, and things I make just for fun, but I am not sewing to sell, like a quilt factory. God has called me to do a new thing. I am free to write without feeling guilty – as if I am wasting time in unprofitable activity.

Since I made that firm decision and announced it, I have made several good sales from the current stock in my Etsy shop and increased my internet following by a significant number. I am receiving this as affirmation of my changes. My husband is happy to see me writing and very supportive. Another affirmation.

It shouldn’t surprise us when God gives us the desires of our hearts and frees us from bondage of various kinds, when He makes everything work together for good, but it does surprise us and makes us wary. Sometimes we wonder if we are just seeing our own wishes and calling it God’s will. But we need to remember that He loves us here-and-now as well as for all eternity. He is indeed gracious and blesses us daily, beyond our comprehension.

Those blessings bring a responsibility, though. It’s the tagline for GloryQuilts:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

My (as yet unpublished!) books are not specifically evangelical. They are for the pleasure and encouragement of my fellow believers and a testimony of grace to whoever might read them. I am very grateful to God for this opportunity, and my goal is to glorify Him in all I do. He is good.

And I will love quiltmaking again, and I will make quilts for my grandchildren.

 

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My Happy Valentine Quilt

valentine quilt1

The observant reader will realize this isn’t actually a quilt; it’s a quilt top. I will not have time for quilting before Valentines Day, but I want to enjoy it, so I pinned it to the front of another quilt and hung it up over my fireplace.  My goal is to get it quilted by next year. In the meantime, it makes me happy to look at it.

The picture makes me feel a little sentimental for another reason. Most of the items shown are special because of their personal associations – my husband made the fireplace for me, the framed Scripture is a gift from a friend, my granddaughter created a few of the items, my mother decoupaged and painted the birdhouse, and I was shopping with her when I found all those little sisal birds and the hedgehog, too! On top of the piano I have pictures of family members, a cross-stitched sampler from a niece, and a beautiful box I purchased while shopping with an old friend – our one visit in over ten years, and we spent much of it at JoAnn Fabrics! I don’t collect a lot of things that don’t have that kind of significance for me, so if there is clutter, it’s happy clutter and I’m keeping it.  (So there!)

My new serial novel features quilts. These are special quilts, chronicling a family’s history over two hundred years.  It isn’t a saga; the episodes will not move in a chronological order but rather bounce through time to portray a complete portrait of a multigenerational family.

The research is fascinating. My parents are avid genealogists, so I am taking advantage of their knowledge of Swedish customs and history, too! I have created a Pinterest board to share some of my ideas while I write.

The Glory Quilts

I haven’t found the title yet. The name of my quilting business – GloryQuilts – would be a fun choice, but it may not fit. I must decide soon –  the first episode will appear on March 1!

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Don’t Quit Your Day Job

chewelah06That’s usually good advice for an aspiring novelist, but my day job isn’t all that profitable, either. I teach quiltmaking.  I have been teaching for twenty years, and I love it. Teaching is something that blesses me. I also make quilts for sale on etsy or by commission and do some custom dressmaking.

Although I learned to sew clothing over forty years ago, I didn’t take up quiltmaking until I was pregnant with my second child. That first quilt was very sweet, with pink and blue lambs on a muslin background. I appliqued the lambs with a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine and used a puffy batting.

jillshower

I decided I enjoyed quiltmaking and started looking for more information. We were living in a tiny farming town in Germany, and it was hard to find calico fabric in the local stores. The Air Force Base Exchange had some fabric, although none of it matched, and they had something even more interesting: a rotary cutter.

There weren’t many quilting books in the base library, and they were all too old-fashioned (I was 24), so I used graph paper and colored pencils to design a little wall quilt to insulate the bathroom window.

NOTE – Certain people claim that when they had to use the bathroom in our house, they would stick to the seat. That is not true. It never got below freezing in there. Bunch of sissies.

1000pyramids
1000 Pyramids Free Pattern!

That did not satisfy my creative urges, so I found a magazine and persuaded a friend to help me make a “real” quilt. The “Thousand Pyramids” quilt looked good, so we made cardboard templates of those pointy triangles and then cut around them with the amazing little rotary cutter – no rulers or gridded mats – and of course the cutter just chewed up the templates until they were useless. We did get a couple rows of triangles sewn together, but then the rows wouldn’t match up.  I graciously permitted my friend to keep that project, and I believe she unloaded the whole mess on an unsuspecting neighbor years later.

 

jill5I persevered. I made more projects, including another baby quilt two years later. When we returned to the United States, I was able to take classes, meet other quiltmakers, read real quilt books and magazines, visit quilt shows… I even established quilt guilds and organized shows!

 

 

 

bomclass1I started teaching classes in 1992, at a local craft store. They had about twenty bolts of fabric and limited supplies, but the classes were a hit. I loved teaching. I still had to draw patterns with graph paper and colored pencils, and some of my class handouts were photocopies of handwritten instruction when I didn’t have time to type them up at the library. Those first few classes were a learning experience for me, too. My students were very patient and kind, and I didn’t have any dropouts.

 

bee8It’s been a delightful career. I have taught classes, workshops and retreats  across the United States, and I am now developing a new kind of quilting event: The Bridal Quilting Bee.  The problem with teaching quiltmaking is that in order to become rich and famous, you have to become associated with quilt shops, fabric companies and other aspects of the industry. Like writing fiction, it’s all about the marketing. You need to write pattern books and maybe even get a television show. I think all of that is great, but my heart is in teaching quilting and making it accessible to everyone. I don’t want people to be told they have to use certain brands of fabric or certain tools. I don’t want to teach in shops where the students are required to buy all new fabric for the class. Those things are fine, and they maintain the quilting industry, but it’s not for me.

 

bee1I created GloryQuilts as a business, so I can’t claim that it’s entirely a ministry. I would rather it’s not a non-profit ministry, mind you, but I’m not going to make any significant money from it. And that’s okay. If I can cover my expenses and buy myself a little more fabric, I’m happy. I want to teach people to make quilts – not to make only one specific project, but to make quilts. They should leave my classes with knowledge that they can apply to the making of another quilt. I want them to leave my classes happy and confident.

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Most of all, I want to fulfill the “tagline” I have always associate with GloryQuilts:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

My writer friends have suggested that I write books with quilt themes, and even though the market is pretty saturated with those already, I am writing one. This one is historical fiction, starting in the early 1800’s in Sweden, and it’s a serial novel.  The first episode will be available on March 2! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed the research and writing.