Tuesday, March 24, 2015

{Behind the Blog} Allison of Cluck, Cluck Sew

Allison Harris of Cluck, Cluck Sew shares some great insights today, especially about what it's like to have a quilty business.  She's been blogging for quite a long time!  Over the years I've used several of Allison's tutorials, like the sprocket pillow and cuffed stocking.  She really helps equip her readers to try new things and is a down-to-earth, friendly kind of lady.  Enjoy!

::YOUR BLOG:: The purpose behind keeping a blog tends to evolve over time.  As we enter the new year, what does your blog mean to you?

Blogs are a lot of work. Especially when it's a quilting/sewing blog and I actually have to quilt/sew something to share!

The purpose of my blog has always been to be an outlet for me creatively. I love being home with my family all day...but let's face it sometimes I feel like I'm going to lose my mind. Sewing, and sharing my sewing has brought balance and satisfaction to my life when I needed it. I've made wonderful, lifelong friends blogging, and from the quilting community in general. I still blog just for that reason...friendships, community, and so I don't lose my mind. ;) All of the other stuff (patterns/book/fabric) have been an extension of my blog. They wouldn't have happened without the blog first and the support of amazing readers. I owe my readers everything...so I hope that keeping up my blog and sharing ideas is a way I can thank them.

Chippewa Quilt + Tutorial

::BUSINESS + PERSONAL FULFILLMENT:: You are well-established in the quilting industry, having written a book, published pdf and print patterns and grown quite a blog readership. Which of these business ventures has been the most rewarding emotionally?

Definitely the most emotionally rewarding thing I've done is blogging. My blog has been 8 years of hard, creative work...so I'm really proud of it. I go through ups and down where I post a lot and have a lot share, and other times where I'm in a rut and I don't post for a month. Either way, I know the blog is there for me when I'm ready to get back to it, and hopefully my readers will be too. On the flip side blogging is also emotionally taxing...every time I hit the publish button I cringe inside knowing I might get a snarky comment or a rude email. It's easier to let it go now that I'm used to it, but criticism is the one major downside to blogging.

::BUSINESS + FINANCES:: Which of these business ventures has been the most rewarding financially? Which one has demanded the most time, in comparison to its rewards, whether emotionally or financially or otherwise?

Instead of thinking of the things I've done as individual business ventures...I think of it as one collective business venture, trying new things here and there and figuring out what I want to do along the way. Individually....blogging, patterns, writing books, or designing fabric don't make that much financially. Collectively though, they add up to be a worthwhile little business.

Some things do take more time and have less reward financially. Writing a book for example as I'm sure most people know...is not very profitable and takes a lot of time. Not just the work I put into it, but afterwards it takes almost 2 years to get paid for that work! If I really wanted too, I could probably make more at a quilt show in a weekend than my book ever will! Same goes for designing fabric. Both are big time commitments, but it's also a once in a lifetime experience to see your name on a book cover in Barnes and Noble, or your fabric in a quilt shop. That makes it worth it for me.

her book, Growing Up Modern (post 1 and post 2)

::BLOG ADVERTISING:: Your blog advertising is managed by BlogHer. Did you ever manage advertisers directly for your site or have you always worked with BlogHer?  Pros and cons?

I'm a crazy practical person. If I can't justify it...I don't buy it. The same goes for fabric and my quilting hobby. So adding ads to my blog was the way for me to justify buying quilting supplies...and in the beginning it was the only way I could afford to keep quilting.

I've worked with BlogHer ads since my blog was a baby, and there are some really great, and some not so great things about them. I like that I can filter the ads that show up, and I don't really have to worry about them. I dislike their strict placement guidelines, and lately their fill rates of high quality ads are horrible. All in all I've been happy and grateful to be with them, but we'll see what the future holds. I've honestly thought more about it writing this paragraph than I have in a year!

For years I had sponsorship buttons on my blog (ad spaces sold directly to shops). It stressed me out. Every time I bought fabric I felt like I had to scour their shops so I could link to what I bought in case they carried it, I felt like I had to direct traffic to them, and felt guilty when I'd go weeks without blogging. They were all wonderful to work with, but I'm less stressed not having to sell ads to them. That is the positive part about having ad networks...you don't have to fill them, and you don't have to feel guilty if you don't blog for awhile!

::DESIGN:: Thinking about your quilting style, is it important to you to do original, somewhat unique work or are you just as happy working in classic or popular styles of patchwork?  What excites you most in the design process?

I've never really aimed at being unique and different, or trying things that are really original. Very few of my ideas are completely original...most come from outside inspiration whether it be from art or an antique quilt. I do however, infuse my style into everything I make. I make sure it's "me". I love a little bit of everything, but my taste has evolved greatly over the years. I used to love really improvisational, wonky quilts with lots of negative space...and now I find myself gravitating towards symmetry and updated classic block designs. I've never felt "modern"...and I don't feel "traditional"...but I'm definitely myself and I like what I make.

::YOUR STYLE:: Please share a quilt that is a favorite, as far as expressing your quilt style.  What about it represents you or excites you most?

One of the best compliments I ever received was at a quilt show. This sweet lady said she could "pick my quilts out of a thousand quilts". How amazing that she can recognize my personal style in my quilts!? My Spin Cycle quilt is still my favorite I've ever made and represents my style the best. I still remember drawing it on graph paper and thinking "this could work!". Seeing it go from graph paper to a finished quilt and pattern is the best feeling.

::AMBITIONS::  As we enter the new year, do you have any new quilty ambitions?  For example:  book-writing, pattern-making, teaching, quilt shows, etc.  If so, what draws you to this new interest?  If not, do you ever feel pressure to "do more" as a quilter in the blogosphere?

I'm just thankful I get to do what I do...so I really don't have any great ambitions. I have 3rd fabric line showing at Quilt Market in May, and a few new patterns, but other than that I'm happy where I'm at and that's good enough for now. I don't have anymore time in my days to fit in anymore ambitions!!!

I used to feel more pressure to "do more". Luckily I've lost that, and maybe it's me getting older and wiser or maybe it's me seeing the other side of the business and I've actually "done" more. I still get on Instagram and see what so and so is making and so and so's new book and get a tinge of "I have to go make something! I have to go write a book! I have to stay relevant!" but then I snap back to reality. I know I can't do it all, but it's an ongoing battle to remind myself that.

Choosing + Using Solids

::TOOLS::  What sewing machine do you use for piecing and for quilting?  Are you happy with it?  Do you do most of your own quilting?   What thread do you use most often and why?

I use a Bernina 440QE for my piecing and quilting. I bought it 3 years ago, and I was so happy and grateful that I cried when I pulled it out of the box. I still love it, but the light recently went out which led to a motherboard issue which = a lot of money to fix. So I'm a little mad at my Bernina right now....but I would still buy it again in a heartbeat.

 I also have a Juki 2010Q that is new-ish. I love the harp space of this machine, and the speed, and the automatic thread cutter...but the jury's still out whether I love it for quilting or not.

I usually do my own quilting on quilts that are for myself, but if they are for show, I have a great quilter I send them too. I love quiting them myself...but sending out my "nice" quilts has saved me a lot of stress.

As for thread, I currently have Aurifil on my machine...but I also love Superior thread. Aurifil gets all the hype...but I think Superior creates less lint in my machine.

Thanks so much, Allison, for letting inside your world!  I know so many aspire to create a crafty business.  Hearing from someone who's been there, done that is super helpful, I think!  Keep up the amazing work at Cluck, Cluck Sew.

Today we conclude our series, Behind the Blog, in which I've asking some of my favorite quilt bloggers to fill in the gaps on what happens behind the scenes in their creative lives.  If you missed them, check out interviews with Jolene/Blue Elephant Stitches, Ashley/Film in the Fridge and Chawne/Completely Cauchy.  Thanks again to all these ladies for being a part of my postpartum blog break.  It's been a wonderful gift!




  1. This was nice to read! Cluck cluck sew was the first sewing blog I ever read and somehow I just stumbled on her zig zag table runner even though I didn't own a sewing machine and that set a huge hobby in motion.

  2. Excellent interview..perhaps one of the best! xo

  3. Great interview. Allison is one of my favorite bloggers so I was happy to see this. Thanks, Rachel.

  4. What an interesting and insightful interview. Great questions and honest answers. Thank you Rachel and Alison. xo

  5. Rosemary B here:
    One of the first blogs I ever found was Allison's. Cute name.
    This was a great interview, Rachel.

    I hope all is going smoothly on the home front.
    My prayers continue. Love always

  6. I've loved this little series, Rachel! I've been encouraged by each interview, loved the real questions you asked, glad to see the differences in each. I think you've highlighted the importance of making for love and doing what works, embracing your personality and circumstances. And I just love hearing people's stories! Thank you!


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