Friday Favorites: QuiltEssential by Erin Harris

I am inspired by so many things, I decided that every Friday, I will highlight a favorite person, thing, or idea. Maybe you will be inspired too! See all past Friday Favorites here.



Erin and I have known each other for a long time in blog world years, and she’s a creative inspiration to me and many others. She seems to have limitless amounts of energy and she’s fun to hang out with in person too! When she asked me to interview me for her first book, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. QuiltEssential, A Visual Directory of Contemporary Patterns, Fabrics, and Color is a quilter’s first stop. Folks who know quilting from the “outside” may confused by the special language quilters have. And there is a special language, believe me. Erin covers lots of ground level techniques and terms in this book, giving the sewer the knowledge to know where and how to start. Beautiful photographs, inspiring images, and practical information sprinkled throughout the book. Everything you need to know to make your quilt your own is here.
And because I’m nosey, I asked Erin some questions about her book. And because she’s nice, she agreed. Grab your coffee and settle in!

Blair: Congratulations on QuiltEssential! I am so glad you agreed to talk about the book with me!
Erin: For you, anything! Seriously, thanks for asking. I am excited to share more about QuiltEssential and how it came about. 
Blair: Could you give us a synopsis of what QuiltEssential is about? Who is this book for?
Erin: QuiltEssential is a quick-reference directory for quilters. There are not any specific quilting projects in the book. Instead, QuiltEssential is divided into four sections (Fabrics, Colors, Designs and Assembling), which cover almost everything that you need to design and make your own quilt. I talk about color palettes, calculating yardage, fabric care, shapes, settings, different piecing methods and more! I also interviewed nine contemporary quilters (including you!) about their quilting stories to give my readers even more inspiration in their own quilting journeys. Because the book is a go-to reference manual on quilting, it is a great addition to almost any quilter’s library. It will be helpful to beginning quilters who need a lot of information at their fingertips as well as more experienced quilters who want to design and sew their own quilts.

(In the book, there is vaulable information on how to calculate the amount of yardage you’ll need for pieced fronts, backs, binding, etc.)

Blair: The subject of quilting is so huge! There are lifetimes of information out there. How did you go about zeroing in on what you wanted to talk about in the book?
Erin: I know what you mean! There is always so much to read and learn when talking about quilts. When I thought about writing QuiltEssential, it was important to make sure that this book was unlike other quilting books out there. I thought about the kind of book that I would want to have on my shelf when working on a quilt design. I knew it needed to cover all areas of quilting, from the initial thoughts about colors and fabrics to the nitty-gritty math need to calculate yardage requirements and the like. I wanted to add some historic information about quilting styles as well as talk about quilting as it is today. Basically, I wanted to give quilters the tools they need to design their own quilts from start to finish in a format that provides easy access to concise information. I sincerely hope readers will find QuiltEssential to be a great addition to their quilting tool box.
Blair: Did you discover anything new about quilting while you were writing this book? Has writing QuiltEssential changed the way you quilt?
 Erin: This is a great question! Writing QuiltEssential gave me good insight on just how varied modern quilting can be. It runs the gamut from collage and art quilts to traditional quilt settings and designs in more contemporary fabrics. I think my biggest take-away is that quilters today aren’t bound by fussy rules. Instead, they have the freedom to use tried and true techniques. And while I had heard this before, writing QuiltEssential made that sink in. It made me realize that I can look at quilting in the way that works for me, even if the methods I am using aren’t conventional or popular. As long as I like it, it’s good. As far as changing the way I quilt, I think breaking down the quilting process has made me more intentional in how I approach things. I’m spending much more time developing color palettes, thinking about shapes and figuring out the best way to make something I am dreaming about become reality. Case in point: the compass/star block I drafted and paper pieced recently. I spent a good deal of time contemplating how to do it and which fabrics to use before I actually sat down and did the sewing. With one block finished, I think I am going to stare at it for some time before taking it farther. I find this intentional design invigorating.


(Great section on color.)

Blair: Writing a book is a fascinating subject all on its own. Can you give us a little insight into your experience writing this book? Was it what you imagined it would be? Completely different?
Erin: I don’t know what I thought it would be! I really just jumped in and got it done. That may sound flip, but I don’t mean it that way. Because QuiltEssential is a reference book, I did not have to manage writing with project making. I think that would be more difficult to juggle – my creative process when I am making is much messier and frantic than my writing process is. I was a History major in college and the hours spent writing long term papers really came in handy. I did find it funny that I still had to write every single thing down on paper with pen before I could begin typing it. I guess old habits die hard! I will say that I had always assumed that a book is written from page 1 until the end. It is such a surprise to me that I could write it in any order I wanted. And I did…the end was written well before the beginning!

(In the book Erin discusses all types of quilts and demystifies the differences between them.)

Blair: What was the most stressful part of the whole bookwriting process? What the your favorite part of the process?
 Erin: Stress? The deadlines! It’s no secret that I am a procrastinator AND that I domy best work under pressure. That said, I was very concerned that writing a book would bring out all of my bad habits and the bad behavior that ensueswhen I leave things until the last minute. It was important to me that when writing QuiltEssential, I gave myself parameters so that it wouldn’t overtake my entire life, and consequently, the lives of my husband and daughters. I made the rules, stuck to them and said no to many requests for my time. And because I prioritized the writing, I was successful in managing my time and making the deadlines. Phew!
As for my favorite part, I guess that it would have to be the sense of purpose that I had when writing the book. I’ve spent the last 14 years as a stay at home mom, and while I feel very blessed to have the luxury and opportunity to be home with Jane and Kate, the book had me using parts of my brain that I missed using daily. I hadn’t even realized that I was missing it – such a good thing to discover. I have a real pride in what I’ve accomplished with this book. Having an end goal and working toward it consistently and purposefully was very rewarding for me.
*Let me just interject that I know exactly what Erin is talking about here. I felt the same way as I’ve watched my own book become reality and watch my little cottage business grow. Raising and parenting kids is certainly a job and a hard one at that. So to be able to try something like this, which stretches us beyond our parenting frame of mind, and allows us to explore a passion like hand making, something we truly love, can create a sense of accomplishment that is unmatched!

(I am so honored to be one of the quilters profiled in QuiltEssential.)

Blair: I know that you, like myself, did the writing of your book from home, fitting it in around kid’s schedules, family, etc. What worked for you on any given day? What didn’t work? Can you tell us any tricks or things you found that kept you organized throughout the writing process?
 Erin: During my first conversations with the publisher, I was very upfront about my need to be a mom and wife first and an author second. The number one rule that I had was that I would not write when my children were out of school. And that is exactly what I did. I started writing the book on the day my girls started the new school year in August 2012 and my final deadline (before editing) was the day they got out of school for Christmas break. I structured my days like I would if I were working for someone else, treating the book writing like any other job. After the kids went to school, I’d exercise and then it would be time to sit and work. I moved my computer from the kitchen to a desk on a second floor so I would have an office space. At lunch time, I’d leave the computer upstairs and go downto the kitchen to eat. I’d even turn on the TV for a half hour to give my brain a rest. Then it was back upstairs until the girls got off the bus or I needed to go getthem. Keeping myself on this schedule worked very well for me. I also learned to say no a lot – less coffee with friends, less volunteering at school. And while Imissed those opportunities, I knew that writing the book needed to be my primary focus when my family wasn’t around.
As far as actual process goes, I set goals and made lists at the beginning of each week and then worked towards completing them. I also found that I am a paper and pen girl at heart. Spreadsheets do not do it for me! Beyond writing in a notebook before typing, I did all of my editing on printouts of my first drafts and then transferred it to the computer. I also kept the writing organized by chapter in a three-ring binder so I could put my hands on a particular subject at a moment’s notice. The visual learner in me loved seeing that binder get fatter as the weeks went on!
Blair: Any advice for folks who may be interested in writing a craft/technique book? Where should they start? How should they approach it?
 Erin: I think my story is a little different from other authors as I was approached to write QuiltEssential instead of seeking out the opportunity on my own. That said, once it was presented to me, I took some time to mull it over and researched whether it was a unique idea. I thought a lot about why I wanted to write this book and how I could make it something unlike other quilting books on the market. Once I felt confident that it was something that I wanted to do, I made the classic pros/cons list to see if it was really feasible for me. And it all added up to a good idea, good timing, and a genuine enthusiasm for the project. I discussed it with my husband and then jumped in.
I think that anyone wanting to write a craft/technique book needs to be passionate about what they are writing and should come at the subject with a unique point of view. That is what will make you and your idea stand out from others.
Erin, thank you for taking the time to talk about your book, QuiltEssential, and the process of writing it. I’m so honored to be a small part of it.

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