Tara J Curtis creates multi-dimensional, functional fabric art for the home using classic and madweave techniques. An enthusiastic teacher, Tara is dedicated to helping other sewists incorporate weaving into their projects while teaching them a new skill. She is the inventor of the WEFTY, the only needle made by a weaver designed specifically for use with fabric strips and bias strips.
These Affirmation Bags are part of my project for the blog tour for Good Vibes Only, a new fabric line by Sassafras Lane. A long time ago, I saw an image of an antique Komebukuro bag made with a hexagon bottom and six sides. I wanted so badly to figure out how to do it! Somehow the prints and overall attitude of this line and the humble sincerity of a Komebukuro blended in my mind and this idea was born.
These bags are fully reversible, and easily customized. I used fussy cut pieces of the Night print from Good Vibes Only for all of the exterior parts, Jam for the lining, and Sky or Mustard as the tabs. Parachute Cord is from JoAnn Fabrics.
At some point I’ll write out a tutorial for this. Basically I cut a hexagon for the exterior and lining, with one angled side of the hexagon measuring 3.25 inches. Each of the six sides of my bag measures 3.25 inches wide by 7 inches long. I used Y seams to attach the sides to the hexagon, then sewed long edges of the sides together. I added tabs to the tops of the sides (each measured 2 inches wide by 2.5 inches long, with the sides folded down .25 inch and pressed/stitched). Then fold in half and baste to the top of the side. There’s more, but that’s the gist. If you’ve made a tote bag you can make this!
Here’s the full lineup of bloggers making amazing makes for the Good Vibes Only blog tour:
I’d say about twice a week someone on Instagram asks me to tell them about how my Glowforge (I named him Dash) is working out, and if it was a good investment for my business. It’s time to put my thoughts about Dash down here so I can start responding with a link to my blog post and save my poor thumbs for hand sewing.
A Glowforge uses a teeny tiny laser beam to cut and/or engrave materials like wood, acrylic, leather, paper, and fabric. You connect the machine to your computer through Wifi, and use the Glowforge software to set up the material specifications, place the designs on the material, and enter commands for each cut. You will do all your designing on your own software (I use Illustrator).
I have engraved and cut keychains with mine and others’ company logos on them, little charms with drawings by my daughter on them, acrylic templates for a friend, wooden embroidery hoops, needle minders, papers for English Paper Piecing, and even acrylics and papers for my own English Paper Pieced design. My first print was the day after I set Dash up, that’s how easy it is to get started. I’m a big fan and I’m excited to play more.
Use my discount code if you’ve already made up your mind and are just here for the dirt (I see you. I feel you. I respect you.)
Wooden Embroidery Hoop and Needle Minder using a design from Steph Skardal.
Answers to Popular Questions
Him’s a Big Boy. The footprint of a Glowforge is 38 inches wide, 20.75 inches deep, and 8.25 inches tall. I have Dash on his own table.
He’s gassy. You will need to attach a hose and aim the hose out a window or door. My husband built a window attachment that makes this almost airtight. If you don’t have great ventilation, you will regret it. There is a filter attachment you can buy, but I didn’t believe it would be better than what we could build (oh the ego, yeah?), plus for just under $1,000 do I even have to finish this sentence? Probably not. You feel me.
Important: You can NOT cut or engrave vinyl or plastic.
Money Money Money: What folks seem to want to know about the most is if it’s lucrative. I assume people are asking me if Dash has paid for himself and made me some profit. Nope. I don’t imagine he will. Dash is a Glowforge Plus, the mid-model. The Glowforge Pro is the model made for all-day use and large prints, so it’s the only machine that would be able to withstand the demands of manufacturing in order to make me some money (assuming anyone wanted to buy what I was cutting, obviously). At just shy of $6000, what I’m cutting would need to be in demand in order for me to start turning a profit. As I was trying to decide between the Plus and the Pro, I just couldn’t guarantee myself that I would be incorporating laser cutting into my business, and I definitely didn’t want to turn cutting and engraving into a tedious job where I babysit the machine all day. I wanted the machine for learning, play, and developing prototypes. Thus, I decided the Plus was for me. No regrets!
Cutting for Others: This is one way to help pay for a laser cutter. However, the files people send you would need to be ready for the cutter - meaning they would need to know how to design for a laser cutter and send you a ready-to-print file. Otherwise, the hours you spend re-designing what they send you will quickly add up. I found that I was spending a lot of time reformatting and designing peoples’ files, then one gal sent me a ready-to-print file and I realized immediately I wouldn’t be messing with the former type of files ever again. Ready-to-print or bust. Sorry, folks!
My Advice for You
I’m not going to pretend to not want to tell you what to do. Here’s what you should do:
If, like me, you have wanted a home laser cutter for years and this is the first time you’ve had enough money saved up for it, get that sucker. Have fun. Use my discount code for $500 off a Pro, $250 off a Plus, or $100 off a Basic. Make lots of time lapse videos.
If you are wanting some way to make your own templates, rulers, or other products but don’t know if this is the investment you want to make, don’t even worry about it! There are so many ways to get prototypes made for you - and even to get products made for your shop. I have used Ponoko to have acrylic template prototypes made. Their software for designing something yourself is really easy to use and I had fun doing it. Their work is really nice looking. I have also worked with Laser Cut Quilts and they would be my first stop were I looking to have a product made for my shop. They’re amazing to work with and a small business very deserving of lots of support. They can cut any design for applique out of fabric, and it comes already fused to their special fusible interfacing, ready to be placed on a background. They cut paper, cardboard, and acrylics as well.
I think I’ve covered everything I know. To find out lots more, check out the Glowforge site. As an owner, I have a log in, access to the community forums (which have been really helpful and interesting to read), and a design catalogue. It’s a great site with a ton of great information.
I hope this has been helpful. Leave questions for me in the comments and I’ll get to them here or in a follow up post.
Whatever you’re working on, I hope it’s meaningful and rewarding for you!
This post may contain affiliate links for those products I use and believe in.
Sheri of Whole Circle Studio designed a first: a complete English Paper Pieced alphabet! To celebrate and spread the word, she asked as many makers as there are letters in the alphabet to participate and make projects using one letter. I chose “C” because my last name is Curtis.
When I paper piece, I baste using Sew Line glue pens and sew using Superior Threads Bottom Line and Tulip Milliner Needles. The fabric I chose is a really special fat quarter bundle I got from Karen Lewis Textiles’ shop - she periodically screen prints onto Kona Cottons and sells small amounts. The Bobbin print and the peaches and pinks were irresistible to me! I’ve been studying my color wheel and chose a gorgeous blue from the opposite side of all those warm colors and I think the combination is a really happy one.
The finished block is about 9.5 x 6 and looked like it could make a great case. I decided to make the Oh Zipped Case by Oh How Sweet Co. I’ve seen so many of these and the size and shape seemed great for English Paper Piecing on the go.
The tutorial from Oh How Sweet Co is free, easy to follow, and extremely well written. I quilted the sandwich of exterior, Bosal foam interfacing, and lining fabric before sewing the case together. That’s how I would do it again in the future. It looks really cool and the parts come together a bit easier I think when the main panel is quilted. (Also, Bosal foam is great to work with!) After machine sewing the binding around the edges, I trimmed the seam allowance before folding it over and hand stitching as instructed, and that helped a ton! Before I trimmed, I couldn’t wrap the binding all the way around enough to cover the machine stitching on the right side. I would trim again in lieu of making the binding wider.
I’m stoked with how this turned out! It’s a great case with lots of pockets and even little straps for thread spools or a glue basting pen. One thing I’ll be adding is a piece of felt to the outside of one of the pockets to serve as a needle landing, which is a really easy modification to make.
Interested in making your own Typecast letters? Paper pieces, acrylic templates and hardcopies of the pattern guide are available at https://www.paperpieces.com/ , pdf of the pattern guide will be available at: https://shop.wholecirclestudio.com/, and everything is also available wholesale for shops, so ask your local quilt shop to order it for you!
Check out the other letters of the alphabet and the makers who stitched them up here:
I really love Mister Domestic’s new line Aura, available from Art Gallery Fabrics. It’s got all the colors of a tropical garden, mixed with geometric patterns, mandalas, and sea life. It’s tropical but blends well with fall colors and is just all around really pleasing. I’m super into it.
For this quilt, I mixed Aura with AGF Denim in sage and AGF Linen in charcoal.
Pieces of Aura cut and ready to go.
I saw my friend Jeana (@coveredthread on Instagram) making a stunning amazing quilt at a retreat called the Ikat Quilt. I decided it would work perfectly for Aura. The pattern is available from Stitched In Color in PDF form. I’d say this pattern is written for a confident intermediate quilter who is patient and doesn’t avoid math. You have to multiply the cutting instructions for one block to solve for how many pieces you’ll need for the size you want. Keeping the pieces organized and laying out the quilt can be daunting if you’re a newb. One amazing and wonderful thing about this design (besides how cool it looks) is that there aren’t many seams to match up, so it’s easy to sew.
Heather of Blue Turtle Quilting worked her longarm magic on this quilt for me and did a great job! Many thanks to my husband Donald for being my quilt handler at Olbrich’s Indoor Tropical Gardens, and also many thanks to Mathew of Mister Domestic for the beautiful fabrics.
You can check out the absolutely overflowing virtual village of folks participating in the blog tour to end all blog tours here:
Take a look at my project for the AGF Loved to Pieces blog tour! Loved to Pieces is the debut fabric line by my friend Mathew Boudreaux of Mister Domestic for Art Gallery Fabrics. This line has edgy florals with lots of surprises, and includes quilting cottons, rayon, and knit substrates.
I decided I wanted to weave the back panel of the Linden Sweatshirt. The Linden is a pattern from Grainline Studios. I've made more Lindens than I can count - it's a GREAT pattern. Actually everyone I know who has made one Linden has gone on to make ten more. They are easy and look great. It's also the perfect gateway pattern for those scared of knits. Don't be afraid of knit. Knit is so forgiving to work with. But how is it to weave?
I knew folding each strip before weaving would add too much bulk, so I decided to leave the strips raw edged. I tried starching, but ended up stiffening the knit beforehand using Terial Magic. Terial Magic is far beyond even heavy starch. Treating the knit with it kept the strips from rolling, both during cutting and while I wove.
I just cut my fabric into one inch strips and got to weaving, so this project took less time than I thought it might! I used my 1 inch WEFTY Needle to weave this, and another 1 inch WEFTY Needle as a guide needle.
After weaving, I secured the panel using freezer paper. Freezer paper is the perfect temporary stabilizer! First I traced the pattern piece onto the paper side of the freezer paper and cut it out. After weaving, I put it shiny side down on top of the weave, pressed on the top (paper side) with an iron and the heat adhered the freezer paper to the fabric. It holds really well! After removing all the pins from the weave, I sewed around the edges of the freezer paper pattern piece with a stay stitch, or basting stitch. This weave once completed felt really soft and light, and had a texture similar to knitting or crochet.
After soliciting my social networks for advice on how to sew the weave together for a garment, I got some great feedback from Mallory Donahue of The Selfsewn Wardrobe who said that continuous lines of sewing wouldn't stretch with the knit. She suggested I focus on the intersections only. So I "quilted" around some random tumbling blocks in the weave designs (essentially stitching in the ditch around some hexagons). Just enough to keep the design together and ensure the strips didn't twist or curl too much.
From there constructing the top was easy peasy. My biggest challenge was figuring out how to photograph the darn thing. I used remote control with my digital camera, the timer on my phone, and even my six year old who I paid in doughnuts. I showed my photos to Mathew and he suggested a flat lay. If only I had asked him several hours prior. Ah well! The flat lay photos are much better at showing off the garment, but I can't help but show some of it here being used!
Just a quick add: the back is not at all heavy!!! And it's easy to get on and off. I'll be adding a little bit more "quilting" in the near future as I can see some strips twisting a bit. Next time I'll be weaving both the front and the back, and with 1/2 inch strips. This looks and feels awesome. I'm really proud of it!
There have been many gorgeous makes with Loved to Pieces already. Basically just search the hashtag #agflovedtopieces on social - but you can also check out the links below for the folks in the blog tour!
A while back I wrote a small article for Amy Butler to include in her Blossom Magazine Issue #5. Read it here. I've written and talked a whole lot about inventing the WEFTY and starting my business, but not about my creative journey to begin with. This was a powerful experience for me. I'm grateful for the opportunity to relive a pivotal moment, take stock of where I am, and optimistically look ahead.
As SHIRT says in his song We Back, "Respect the past, remember it, then forget that s**t, and do better than it!"
Photo by Amy Butler Designs
You can also find my Clare Anna Purse I made in Amy Butler's Night Music fabric for Free Spirit Fabrics in the magazine.
Blossom Magazine is filled with inspirational stories that dig deep into creatives' stories. The articles explore what drives artists, how makers interact with their worlds in a meaningful way, and the creative process. I always get a lot out of reading it (plus the photos are GORGEOUS).
I hope whatever you are working on, you are enjoying the process!
WEFTY at International Quilt Market, Spring 2018, Portland Oregon.
International Quilt Market is a trade show held two times a year. It is the only wholesale trade show for the quilt industry, and exhibitors must be wholesale suppliers of needlework, quilting, or soft work products. Learn more here.
Ever since WEFTY opened its doors almost three years ago, people have asked, "Will you be at Market?" I thought Market was for the big dogs, not a one-woman show like mine. It seemed like a whole lot of work, a whole lot of cost, and a whole lot of leaving the house and being on display. In a word: Scary. I was way too scared to want to take that on. I had also been reading some interesting perspectives on the relevance of International Quilt Market in an increasingly online industry. I wasn't sure it would be worth it for me.
When I learned that Mathew AKA Mister Domestic (who is one of my best friends and also a member of my chosen family) would be at Spring Market in Portland introducing his debut fabric line Loved to Pieces for Art Gallery Fabrics, I told my husband Donald I needed to go for at least one day and see him at his booth. Donald told me I wasn't going unless I had a booth for WEFTY. He shared some important feedback about my resistance to Market equating to resistance to growth. My choices: bite the bullet and work really hard and invest in a booth OR not share in a huge moment with someone I value.
Long story short, I went to Market. I had a booth. I saw Mathew introduce his debut fabric line and all the things you can sew with it. I got to give big hugs to him and other loved ones who have supported me over the last few years, and that felt really good. I was able to weave for people and talk with them about the tool my husband and I developed together. Donald and I bonded and discovered strengths in one another we hadn't seen before. I got over my fear of Market and had a great time.
What I'd like to talk with you all about is whether or not it was "worth it" and what, if any, relevance International Quilt Market has in our increasingly online industry. And this comes from the perspective of a tiny one-woman show who is entirely web-native. If you, like me, love spoiler alerts here is one: It's worth it.
Donald holding it down.
World famous woven trench coat by Mister Domestic!
How Quilt Market Works
I want to share with you some of the things people said to me that let me know being there in person was important for the trajectory of my business.
"I just needed to SEE it..."
Donald and I stood in the booth doing WEFTY weaving demos for three days. People may have seen weaving online, but this was their first opportunity to see the WEFTY Needle in action, and to see how easy weaving is. My husband let people weave with him. I rented a booth in "Demo Alley," which was a designated area of the floor where a row of us did demos as shop owners walked through. If you look at my Square reports, there is a spike in sales each day during and right after Demo Alley. Nothing convinced me more than my demo of the EZ Miter, as before that demo no one gave a hoot about it. After that one hour of demos, and for the rest of the show, we sold EZ Miters and had lots of questions about it.
"You have a good nature about you ... let's make this work."
I've been trying to work with business owners on projects over email and phone, and we have struggled to make it past the talking stage. Two owners in particular were able to meet me and know I'm for real and can back up the numbers I quote. They got a look at the products I wanted their help on. This in-person interaction cannot be underestimated.
"Thanks for explaining that! I didn't understand it when I read it."
Shop owners were able to buy-in to weaving and the EZMiter. They could envision demos happening in their shop, how they would display samples, what language they would use to explain the product, and what products they would sell alongside of the WEFTY products.
"Here's what other people do..."
I got so much invaluable feedback on how I can work with shop owners and buyers! Constructive criticism, ideas, inspiration, advice ... I'm ready to implement several great changes that will make me more marketable and successful. There are those in this world who can't accept feedback without being defensive. If you're like that, bless you, but don't go to Market. Shop owners are WISE. They are EXPERIENCED. They are INTELLIGENT. And by gum, they are OPINIONATED. If you don't want to absorb as much as they'll give you, first of all you're nuts, but second, don't put yourself in a booth at Market because you're going to get this feedback whether you want it or not. And if you act hurt or annoyed you'll look bad and ruin a shot at potential business.
Not to beat a dead horse, but I want to this to possibly help someone. I see people flounder in their creative businesses and I know resistance to advice can be a big reason for that. If you have feedback for me, here's how I look at it ... you've wrapped up a piece of gold and gifted it to me. All you ask in return is that I turn that gold into something. My job is to thank you and find a use for it.
"You weren't in your booth..."
I'm introverted and easily distracted. I disappeared from my booth a lot I guess, though I felt like I was there the entire time. People approached me to let me know that they wanted to learn from me, buy from me, talk with me, etc. and needed me in the booth to do that. What I learned from this was the importance of having someone in the booth at all times. Have an extroverted person on board who gets off on interaction. But also know that people may need to talk with you before buying, so be around. I learned that if I do another Market, I will reserve the last 15 minutes of each day to explore and have specific areas mapped out to tackle, and spend the rest of the time planted firmly in my booth.
Sherry Shish, AKA Powered by Quilting, is a blogger and pattern designer.
How to Work Quilt Market
Here's how to capitalize on what Quilt Market has to offer, whether you are a big dog or a one-woman show:
Schoolhouse: Do a schoolhouse talk. Those in attendance will share with others what they learned from your talk. The people who attended and those they talked to will come find you at your booth.
Grow Your List: Collect business cards at Schoolhouse and at your booth by offering a giveaway if they leave their card and agree to be added to your newsletter.
Demo Alley: This really only applies to those of you who have a product or technique you're selling. But if you do, Demo Alley is all there is and then some. Do it.
Sample Spree: I did not do Sample Spree because I wasn't ready. Next time I will. It's a great way to get a sample pack in front of people and they want that. Something to play with, think about, take back home to their customers, etc. I know from the feedback I got that this would've been good for me to do.
Companion Products: reach out to companies whose products work well with what you're doing and ask if you can share their stuff in your booth. Will they have a booth there? Ask if you can have your stuff for them to share in their booth. Just one eye-catching sample or product can make a difference.
Sherry Shish: Do you have a Sherry Shish? You need a Sherry Shish. Mrs. Shish, or Powered By Quilting as she's known, was visiting Market as a blogger and carried with her this woven bag she made in one of my classes. This led to SO MANY VISITORS TO MY BOOTH. And so much business! I don't know if something like that can be staged or reproduced. All I know is she had an enormous impact on my weekend, and has earned free WEFTYs for life.
The Kardashians: Don't worry so much about keeping up with the Kardashians. Maybe you are one, or maybe you're like me and are trying to save your dollars. It ends up not mattering if you have hard walls, so long as your items are clearly displayed. Modern, edgy furniture isn't as important as a clean environment. And if the furniture is too inviting, people can park it and deter business. Can people walk in and out of your booth without feeling trapped? That ends up being more important than decor.
I am glad I took this opportunity to attend Market. This was a good for WEFTY in terms of sales, gaining new retailers, being picked up by new distributors, networking with publishers and other business owners, and marketing.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions or feedback, please comment. I hope whatever you're working on creatively or in your business, you are enjoying the process.
My second printed fabric weaving pattern, Woven Diamonds, is available now! Ten full color pages of illustrations, instructions, and tips lead you through every step of the weaving process. You end up with a gorgeous 16 x 19 woven panel featuring either solid, ombre, or rainbow diamonds.
The pattern also includes instructions for using that panel to make a mini quilt or messenger bag. I made a stunning Rainbow Diamonds mini quilt, which ran away to Portland before I could snap a photo. But my friend Jeana Schaaf and I took the Woven Diamonds Messenger out for a photo shoot. I'm in love with this bag (also Jeana is really wonderful as well)!
The Woven Diamonds Messenger bag is simple and straightforward to construct (no turning!) and has room for a 15 inch laptop, notebooks, and file folders. There's an interior divided slip pocket for phone, pen, and keys with plenty of room for customization. I used velcro as the closure option because I wanted the flap to be adjustable depending on how much I'm carrying! The adjustable strap is long enough to be a cross body if needed. Something else I love about this bag is that its gender neutral!
Over the next few weeks I'll be showing off my testers' makes on Instagram, as well as my Rainbow Diamonds mini quilt! Grab the pattern here.
Whatever you're working on, I hope you're enjoying the process!
Hey it's the one-woman show at WEFTY here to tell you about using pre cut rolls of fabric to weave!
You can watch the full YouTube video on using pre cut rolls here!
Weaving with Precut Rolls - YouTube
I get asked a lot if its possible to weave pre cut rolls of fabric. The short answer is absolutely! I have two ways I prep pre cut strips for weaving. Today I'm going to talk about the second way, which I call Sew and Turn. With this method you can make two-sided weaves. WHAT?! Yep! Two-sided.
I've made a two-sided panel this way for a clutch, a two-sided woven mini quilt, and this project, which is a mug rug for my desk!
A pre cut roll of fabric typically consists of 40 strips of fabric cut width of fabric by the manufacturer. They are 2.5 inches wide by about 44 inches long. This Roll-Up is Blueberry Park by Karen Lewis for Robert Kaufman.
I used about three strips for the weave and one for the binding.
The supplies you'll need for the Sew and Turn method are:
I fold a strip wrong sides together, then carefully sew (making sure to backstitch!) a 1/4 inch seam down the raw edge side lengthwise. Now your strip measures 1.25 inches wide and is wrong side out. Sew along one edge to close, then use the quick turn tool to turn it right side out.
Press and you're ready to weave!
Thank you for reading. I hope whatever you're working on, you're enjoying the process!
This post contains affiliate links for those products I use and believe in.