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Friday, April 17, 2009


Goddess of the Last Minute

Goddess of the Last Minute: Laughter and Lessons from an Uncommon Quilter
By Robbi Joy Eklow
Voyageur Press, 2009
Hardbound, 224 pages
Retail: $18.00

Reviewed by Lynn Holland

First, let me say that I have been reading things written by Robbi Joy Eklow for probably fifteen years now. She used to amuse those of us on the Quiltnet maillist back in the mid-90s, in the day when the internet was not yet in every household and iPhones were only seen in sci-fi movies. I can still recall her tales of her husband’s Toronado and her adventures with art quilting. I remember my delight seeing her name on her nametag (along with Robbi herself) one of the years we both attended Paducah. Certainly I have been a fan of hers for quite some time, and although I haven’t read any of her columns for Quilting Arts, I know she has quite a following.

However, I have to admit: I was prepared not to be thrilled with Robbi Joy’s new book “Goddess of the Last Minute.” Not for any substantive reasons, of course. My negativity was provoked more by the title, since I have instant doubts about anyone who self-proclaims as a goddess. Yes, I realize many women do this. No, I am not required to refrain from gagging when they do it.

So, with this unfortunate mindset, I began reading her latest book. I whipped through two or three essays, then tossed the book into my car when I needed to clean up the bedroom for my cleaning lady. About a week later, (since I had not yet needed to clean up the car for the car wash), I found myself getting out of the same car to go to a doctor’s appointment. In the past, I have taken knitting or handquilting with me into the waiting room, but since my physician’s office has become increasingly efficient, it has hardly been worth getting out my equipment, finding my place in the pattern, and then having to stuff it all back in my bag when my name gets called. Furthermore, more than a few stitches have been dropped when, in my hurry, point protectors did not get put on firmly enough. As a hedge against boredom if I had to wait more than two minutes, I grabbed up Robbi’s book and took it with.

Thank goodness.

That day, the doctor’s was not doing its usual clockwork routine. An hour past my appointment time, someone came “just to let you know we are running behind.” Really. Since I do not wait well, things could have been beyond tense. Thankfully, I had brought someone with me to pass the time: Robbi. Her two hundred entertaining pages were almost as good as having an old friend with me. She is a very entertaining author who is as honest about her shortcomings as she is about her talents. Her detailed though not laborious descriptions of everyday things provide visuals that are almost as good as YouTube productions. You may experience self-recognition in her essays, too. Multiple drawers of rotary cutters? Yup. Manic single color-obsessions? Uh-huh. Collections of things that don’t have major purpose? Well… Buying strange stuff on sale because it’s such a great deal? Surely I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Many of her essays are about topics other than quilting. She covers diverse issues such as working at home, the writing process, airplane etiquette, technology competencies (and lack thereof), fashion attire, waffle making and care and feeding of spouses.

Of course, this is not meant to be serious literature. It is meant to give the readers a break, maybe a sense of belonging to a group of people like you, people who have finally figured out that being perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and really isn’t much fun. This book is a wonderful present for a friend, a relative or even for someone who’s hard to buy for but needs to lighten up.

And I owe Robbi some serious thanks. Normally, if I had to spend multiple hours in the doctor’s waiting room, building security would be called. However, I was able to stay controlled and keep my problematic blood pressure in check thanks to her amusing prose. Serious unbroken time gave me a chance to really spend time with her book and indirectly with Robbi herself. Next time I see her in Paducah, I will ask her to autograph my book. Although I have to admit it’s hard to think of someone who spends all day in her pajamas as a goddess, to me, Robbi Joy is the Goddess of the Long Wait.

Friday, April 03, 2009


Insider’s Guide to Quilting Careers

Insider’s Guide to Quilting Careers
By Merry May and Linda J. Hahn, 2009
Paperbound, 168 pages
Retail price: $19.95

Merry May and Linda Hahn have worked in a large number of different areas of the quilting industry: together (and separately) they have been teachers, inventors, long-arm quilters, pattern designers, cruise and retreat organizers, retailers, commission quilters, consultants, and now, authors! Collaborating on their first book together, they have brought all their varied experiences to bear on the subject of making a career in quilting.

This practical and down-to-earth guide fills a serious void in the universe of quilting how-to books. Most of us have heard quilters express the fervent wish that they could “quilt for a living,” or open a quilt store and “do what I love.” Without throwing too much cold water, Merry and Linda provide a needed antidote to unrealistic expectations. Truth is, the quilting “industry” is not a place one is likely to get rich, and even if successful, those in the business put in long hours and do a great many things that they may or may not “love.”

A quick glance at the table of contents reveals a wide range of quilting activities covered in the book, including shop owner, teacher, retreat/cruise organizer, longarm quilter, author/publisher, appraiser, quilt restorer, professional exhibitor, fabric designer, quilt show judge, quilt show manager, and vendor. In fact, many serious quilting professionals do more than one of these things to, among other things, realize several different streams of income. And each of these activities comes with its own set of beginner questions that the authors set out to answer: how do I price my work? How do I become known as a teacher? How much money will I need to open a quilt store?

All of these issues are discussed plainly and in detail, with plentiful examples and concrete advice. In addition, Merry and Linda share their insights into the things that can commonly go wrong and how to prevent them, or recover from them after they have happened. They address such issues as whether a traveling teacher is obligated to stay at a guild member’s house to save the guild money, and the pros and cons of making “charitable” contributions of door prizes to guilds.

Supplementing all of their great common-sense advice are generous samples of resumes, class descriptions, order forms, program flyers, expense statements and various other useful documents. There is also a directory of supplemental resources, such as lists of insurance companies and quilting supply distributors, complete with web addresses. The book also emphasizes the importance of having a website, no matter what kind of business you are in, with instructions on setting up a simple site for yourself.

While the Insider’s Guide to Quilting Careers doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of the quilting business (and it is a business if you’re going to do it right), the overall tone and approach of this book is one of encouragement and support. It has long been a tradition among quilters to support one another in their endeavors, and that spirit also informs much of what goes on in the business of quilting. If you’re contemplating moving to the next level with your quilting by turning it or some aspect of it into a livelihood, or looking for a way to increase your success with a business you already run, reading this book can save you not only money but also a lot of potential heartache. Take the plunge, but do it with your eyes open!

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