Welcome back to the Crafting a Book series, and thank you so much for following along with me as I chronicle my experiences writing and publishing a book with Stash Books. If you’re new to the series, check out these earlier posts, as well as my interviews with other C&T authors.
Last month I covered the writing portion of writing the manuscript, and today I’m going to delve further into the creation of the actual projects. Summer is coming to an end and fall’s crispness is (supposed to be) seeping into the air here in St. Louis, so it’s the perfect time to think and talk about making quilts. (Although, ironically enough, I finished most of these projects during the sweltering summer months, they seem so much cozier thought of in the context of fall.) Even though I have to keep the actual quilt designs under wraps until closer to the book’s release, the folks at Stash have graciously given me permission to show you the backs, since these won’t be part of the book. So I actually have pictures to share in this post!
When Roxane and I first talked about deadlines, I was confident but a little nervous about the prospect of creating thirteen quilts in just under four months. I knew I could do it, but I knew it may not be comfortable. Luckily, I learned from Roxane that my actual projects wouldn’t need to be in Stash’s hands until a month after my manuscript draft was turned in. I still needed to turn in snapshots of all of the projects with the draft, so the tops all had to be finished. Still, that extra four weeks is proving very useful for finishing up details like last-minute quilting and binding. (Oh my gosh, the binding–September will forever be the month of binding for me. Note to my savvy readers–don’t decide to bind thirteen quilts all at once. Just don’t.)
Because I knew I’d be working on a tight deadline, I started making projects as soon as I knew the book proposal had been accepted. (To be honest, I had bought materials for a few of the projects even before I heard the happy news, because I wanted to make those particular projects regardless of whether the proposal went forward.) Even though I have until the first week of October to send in the finished quilts, I tried as much as possible to think of September as my real deadline, figuring that would help me get as much done as I could and leave the extra month as contingency. That worked well, and even though the work load was intense, there were no real moments where I freaked out because I realized I was behind. I am a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator, so being “comfortably on-schedule” is a miraculous first for me; another sign of how much I’m enjoying this line of work, perhaps.
Although I can’t give many details about the quilts in the book, they are all quilts so they obviously require several steps. I found it useful to have several projects at different stages of completion at any one time. This allowed me to work on whatever stage was best suited to the time I had available. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of hours to devote solely to working on this book, but I’ve also been pleased that the nature of the projects has allowed me to work on my prototypes while engaging in family activities, too. Computer-related design tasks could be done at the coffee-shop while waiting to pick up my kids, and I could sneak in tasks that required me to be in my basement workspace while keeping my son company when he was on the basement computer. During a week-long visit to my hometown, Duluth, I was able to complete a lot of embroidery on my dad’s couch while spending time with my family, and smaller projects requiring handwork were nice to work on in the car during road trips. I think being able to squeeze work time out of most available moments has been instrumental in keeping on schedule. Of course, there have also been late nights and moments when the particular step I was working on seemed like it would never end, but having my choice of projects in progress to work on helped mitigate the times when I was sick of one particular part of the process. I could always move on to a different step, while remaining productive on the book as a whole.
As I mentioned last month, I’ve been working on the projects and the project instructions in tandem, writing the instructions and then tweaking them as I make the projects themselves. This has been especially true of writing Tips, as tricks for facilitating construction have presented themselves in the process of actually making the projects. I’ve been trying to put myself in the shoes of future book readers, and I see the Tip writing in particular as a great chance to pass along helpful tidbits about doing things the same way that I would suggest them to friends in person.
The biggest issue that I’ve faced is keeping the materials for this many projects organized. One wonderful aspect of working with an established publisher is that they have relationships with various manufacturers, who are willing to provide materials to their authors. Although I’ve purchased many of the materials for the book using personal funds, I’ve also benefited from the extraordinary generosity of several manufacturers, and I never could have afforded to make all of these projects without their assistance. I have to admit that one of the most fun parts of the process was the month when packages would arrive every day containing new materials to work with. Finding the space to store all of those materials was another question, however. I work in a restaurant-booth-sized alcove in my basement, which suits my needs surprisingly well most of the time. I did have to devise some new storage solutions when it came to the book projects though, since I have never had to cope with having this many projects going at once. (I found that scrap-booking drawers were particularly well-suited to keeping multiple different quilt projects organized.) After each project is finished, I try to keep all of the materials used together, since I’ll still need them for creating models for step-outs; in addition, I’ll send some of the extra fabric to Stash for use as decorative elements in the final book. So the organization doesn’t stop when a certain project is finished.
My project deadline is rapidly approaching, and I have to say that I’m a little sad to be wrapping up this part of the process. It was thrilling to see my original sketches come to life as full-sized quilts. Each part of the process added another layer of complexity and depth to the final product, which was incredibly satisfying to witness. I am looking forward to working at a more relaxed pace for a while, but I was surprised that I never really got burnt out during the project-making phase. I hope this indicates that the projects are all fun to make and that my enjoyment will be shared by people reading the book!
Thanks again for reading! After I send in my projects, you’ll have a chance to read about them from the perspective of the editors who will be staging them for photography and working those images into the final book layout, so make sure to check the Stash Books blog in the coming months. Next month, I’ll be facing my “package date”–the deadline where I send in all of the book components, including step-outs, additional materials for photography, and a hard copy of the final draft. This is the big deadline, and I’m sure I’ll have lots to say about the month of work ahead of me, so please join me again to read more about Crafting a Book!