You have probably heard many people’s stories about how they had to moonlight to start up their own small businesses, working regular jobs by day and developing their new business by night and on weekends. My experience was no different from theirs.
Although the decision was made, getting started in my own quilting business also involved a process of not only months, but actually years until I found my niche.
Following my May 2003 exhibition, I started teaching. First one, then two… but never enough classes each month to be able to live from that income. So even though I had passed on all my written translation work to my brother, I did continue to accept interpreting jobs. And the traveling continued, although I did cut back. After all, I did have to make ends meet.
The highlight of the year was working on My Dream House quilt. I entered it into the Electric Quilt 10th Anniversary contest… and it won first place! This was such an encouragement to me, because although I had started to draw a bit, I hadn’t considered myself a “serious” designer until then.
The other big project during that year was a Spanish day planner for 2004. It included historical tidbits about quilting, plus a pattern for a small sampler quilt, with tutorials for the different techniques used in the quilt. We launched it in December 2003, selling it both locally and online, to Spanish-speaking quilters. And it sold… but not enough. We were barely able to cover our costs.
In early 2004 I started teaching a new group of students. They had come together as a group of friends, and were crazy about sewing. The took all my beginner classes: hand piecing, applique, paper piecing, hand quilting… And they just couldn’t get enough. So we also worked on stained glass quilts, English paper piecing, cathedral windows and variations… and they just couldn’t get enough. I insisted they stop taking classes, because they had all the skills they needed to continue on their own. But they refused to stop coming once a week. So I gave in. They got under my skin, we continued to meet, and they became my sewing circle. My children insisted this was the real reason why I had begun to teach… just so I could have someone to sew with! 🙂
Throughout all of 2004, I continued to work hard at developing my small quilting business. The donation buttons placed on my websites did not generate enough to cover the hosting costs, so I began to offer a few patterns and EQ collections for sale to deal with those expenses. I began to realize there was an interest in my designs. In October of that year we decided to start our subscription sites: one in English and the other in Spanish. The English site is the one you know and which continues to date as Angie’s Bits ‘n Pieces. The Spanish website was an exact replica of the English website, with a few more tutorials and resources for Spanish speakers. The income generated was quite definitely not enough to live on, but interesting enough to encourage us to continue with this line of work.
2005 and 2006 were marked by the health challenges and eventual death of my brother David (2005), and the subsequent health problems my mother was to face after his death (throughout 2006). So much of my own life was put on hold during this time, especially with regard to the quilting business. I continued to teach a little, and did not give up on designing and dedicating the time needed to keep my websites going. But the truth is my whole soul and heart were focused first and foremost on my family at that time.
Probably any quilter can relate to the healing and therapeutic power involved in this activity. During the last months of my brother’s life I, any free time I had was dedicated to designing and starting an ambitious quilt I had always meant to give him. During those difficult months after his death, this was the project that sustained me while my sweet Jamie and I spent long hours in the hospital, waiting outside the ICU for news on my mother’s condition, and later just sitting by her side as she struggled to recover. I started My Brother’s Garden quilt in July 2005, and finished it in May 2006. I decided to enter it into the Do you EQ? contest sponsored by the Electric Quilt Company and Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine, where it won second place in the single-maker category.
At that time we also decided to close down the Spanish quilting website. It was so much work.. and truthfully too much hassle. Now, why it’s important to mention this is because of a certain quality I believe I possess: persistence. For four years I had believed this is where I should be, and it was hard to admit that simply wasn’t panning out…
It was a good decision. Although I continued to teach, I now focused my energy on my English language website. And it started to pay off. By the time 2007 rolled in, I was no longer accepting translation assignments. I was finally making a living from quilting.
As so much in life, it is all a process, isn’t it? 🙂