Thursday, 27 November 2014

A new design for a sashiko panel

This beautiful mural is going to be the inspiration for my next large sashiko panel.  Isn't it amazing? It has been on the end wall of the chapel at my old school, Ian Ramsey C of E, in Stockton-on-Tees since 1963 when the school was built.  It faces the main road, so everyone who walks along Fairfield Road knows it well, and was one of the first pieces of modern art I remember seeing as a child - the other was a print of a cubist painting of a church that my godmother has over her fireplace, which I think was painted by Lyonel Feininger.  Seeing works like this had a big influence on me and sparked my interest in art as a child.

I love the dynamic design.

The way the letters are set is typical of ecclesiastic artwork from the 1950s and 60s - lively and interesting. 

I am going to make my panel in sashiko, although I had previously considered using applique.  The geometric hitomezashi sashiko patterns will be perfect for representing the mosaic.

I am posting these photos today because this is what is happening right now.

The mural and stained glass on either side is being demolished along with the rest of the school. The black building behind the JCB is the new school. When I started to suspect that the mural wouldn't be incorporated into the new build, despite people living neaby being convinced that it would, I e mailed the school last December to ask about what was happening.  I never got a reply.  When I heard the demolition of the building had started, I sent another e mail to  the school over a month ago and this time I got a reply that the mural would be demolished too, citing cost as the reason why it couldn't be saved.  I feel that, with a year's warning, money could have been raised to move the mural to another location nearby and suspect that my initial e mail was conveniently ignored.  Certainly, up until a few weeks ago, local people were under the impression that it would be kept.  It is yet another piece of architectural vandalism carried out in Stockton-on-Tees, where for the last sixty years the town planners have overseen some beautiful buildings destroyed in the name of redevelopment.  It actually feels like someone is trying to deliberately erase part of my memory.

When I attended the school, it had a very good art department - it set me on course for what I do today.  If my former teachers were still alive, they would be horrified by what is happening today.

I was intereviewed by the local newspaper about this on Friday - here's a link to the article.  I am sure people will regret the loss of this wonderful mosaic.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

PDF patterns and e books - and new VAT legislation

I've often been asked if I will be releasing any of my patterns as downloadable pdfs.  So far, it has really just been a question of time and getting my website sorted that has prevented me doing this.  But from January 2015, the UK chancellor, George Osborne, is set to bring in new VAT regulations that will make it impossible for me to sell pdfs from my website without a lot of problems - read about the new VAT regulations here.

While it seems that these new regulations were designed to hammer the giants like Amazon, an unforseen consequence is what it will do to quilt pattern designers.  Unless there is an exemption made for non-VAT registered businesses, as almost all sole trader quilt designers/teachers are non VAT registered, we will be unable to sell pdf pattern downloads.

I'll explain.  At the moment, businesses in the UK with a low turnover (anything under £70,000 for distance selling at the moment, not £81,000) don't need to register for VAT.  I don't know of a single quilt tutor/pattern designer who is VAT registered, for that reason.  Being VAT registered means having to complete more admin, in the form of quarterly VAT returns, and most likely employ an accountant to do it - so more business costs.

If I were VAT registered, I would be able to reclaim the VAT on things I buy for my business - supplies, sewing machine servicing, that kind of thing. Those outgoings are actually fairly low. However, I would have to charge VAT on all my products and services.  As UK VAT is 20%, that means I would have to charge more like 25% on my talks and workshops to get the same amount of income after VAT is paid as I do at the moment.  It isn't worth my while to register to be able to claim back VAT on my outgoings, as the VAT I would have to charge my customers is so much more.  It would mean my workshop fees going up to £250 per day next year and my talks to £137.  It isn't worth it.

At the moment, I don't sell pattern pdfs or e books, although I would like to sell both in future.  So easy and convenient for people to download them and I can sell internationally without having to post things out - great when postage costs have got so high in recent years.  But if I sell to Europe, I will have to charge VAT at the rate in the buyer's home country and pay that part of my income to their VAT authorities (not the HMRC in the UK).  So if I sell a pattern to someone in Germany, I will have to complete VAT returns for Germany - for one pattern sale.  But if I sell to someone in Hungary, I will have to do it again - another return to the Hungarian VAT man.  If I sell one pattern in Denmark, I'll have to deal with the Danish VAT man... and so on.  Suddenly, I could be having to complete VAT returns for LOTS of European countries.  That's an impossible amount of admin for me!  If I accidentally missed one return, I could be fined.  I can't do that kind of admin!

There is a way out of having to deal with the VAT man in every country independently.  I could sign up for the MOSS scheme with the HMRC and deal with all my EU VAT in one go - although the UK return would still have to be done separately.  So what is the catch? I can't sign up for MOSS without being VAT registered in the UK.  If I become VAT registered, I will have to increase the prices on everything else I do, AND have a whole load more admin to boot.  I know it is a different situation in many EU countries, where all businesses have to be VAT registered, but it is different in the UK and quite frankly the quilting market here could not absorb the extra costs.

This new legislation covers all pdf downloads and e books.  It is designed to tax the giants like Amazon, not people like me.  But there is no loophole to allow small, non VAT registered businesses like me to sell pdfs and e books to Europe without signing up.  Yes, I can still sell to the UK and outside the EU, but if I put pdfs on my website, how can I stop someone in Europe buying one?

Until I know how this will be resolved, I can't make plans to sell pdfs or e books myself.  It shouldn't affect me for e book sales via my publishers because I only get royalties from them and I am not the sellers.  I was hoping to add both pattern pdfs and e books to my list of future projects, but I might have to axe that.  It could have significantly increased my business turnover and increase my sales in the USA and Australia, but I will just have to shelve the idea.

This new legislation is going to have unintended consequences in stifling innovation in downloadable content from the UK, where at present both e books and pdfs are zero VAT rated.  Ever read those stories about how some enterprising young teenager makes a small fortune from designing an app and selling it online ? They'll have to forget it now, unless they want to be signing up to pay VAT.  Want to let others buy your local history e book?  You'll have to be VAT registered!

There is an online petition to have non VAT registered UK sellers exempted from this regulation - please sign it here (sorry, I have no idea why is is displaying in German!)  Also, I had the following message from yesterday, so if you have a Twitter account, please take part today.  Thank you!

UPDATE - #VATMOSS trended on Twitter for five hours yesterday, and the issue was covered in The Guardian, among other things. The Guardian article shows that HMRC haven't got a clue about how many sole traders sell pdfs. The very idea that there are people out there scraping a living by selling crochet* pattern pdfs seems to be something they fail to understand. *for 'crochet' just swap 'knitting', 'quilting' etc. They will force micro businesses like me to stop selling or shelve future plans for pdf pattern sales which, let's face it, would mainly be selling to English speaking countries outside of the EU anyway, unless we can find a way to block EU sales outside of the UK.  I really hope this legislation doesn't come into force for non VAT registered UK businesses.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

1718 and thermofax workshops at Quiltfest

I am teaching the '1718 Revisted' workshop again at Quiltfest in Llangollen on Saturday 7th February 2015 and Linda Paris is teaching a thermofax screenprinting workshop on the same day. You can get more info via the Quiltfest website and download a booking form too.  Glyn's planning to do the thermofax workshop while I teach 1718 - it looks great!  So something traditional and something contemporary for the 2015 workshops. 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Kinchaku sashiko bag workshop near Stockton


Pieceful Days quilt group spent a busy but relaxing day on Thursday learning how to mark and stitch several sashiko designs on panels for kinchaku (drawstring) bags - shippo (seven treasures), nowaki ('grasses'), asanoha (hemp leaf) and ganzezashi (sea urchin stitch).   We were at Egglescliffe near Stockton for the workshop and at Worsall village hall for the talk the night before, so I met up with a lot of quilters I know - I'm originally from Stockton.

As well as working hard on their sashiko, especially Brenda Cupryna who turned out to be a super quick stitcher on her nowaki panel, some of the quilters brought projects they had made from my patterns.  Here is a version of my first Sensu quilt, from the pattern that appeared in Popular Patchwork, by Margaret Hughes.  This quilt was the predecessor to the Sensu design from 'Japanese Quilt Inspirations' which had larger blocks and fewer strips.


Margaret chose some fabulous fabrics for this, including a great batik for the strips, with a grape vine design.

Jane Neal has been making bags as a charity fundraiser and adapted this block from the Retro chapter in '130 Little Quilt Blocks'.  Very effective.

Maybe they'll have their kinchaku bags finished soon too?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Fabric print plagiarism - be careful what you buy...

The Eternal Maker blog has got an excellent article today which you must read if you use print fabrics - Spotting the difference - on copying in fabric design. 

I had no idea that fabric designers were being ripped off to this extent by cheap copies.  Make sure you use the best in your quilt and don't be tempted by cheap knock offs! You'll be helping to keep your fabric designer in business as well.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Japanese Circles and Squares at Edinburgh Patchwork

We had an excellent Japanese Circles and Squares workshop at Edinburgh Patchwork yesterday.  This new shop only opened in August, so you may not know about it yet.  Alison has a lovely selection of fabrics and other goodies, and the shop is easy to find if you are driving into Edinburgh - you don't have to go right into the city centre - but is less than a mile from Waverly Station if you are arriving by train. 

Dorothy made this lovely version of the Japanese Circles and Squares, with very subtle repetition of motifs (circles on the darkest print, the mid grey and the green), a wonderful stripe that picks up on all the colours in the patchwork and colourful florals, one with a directional design.  I hope she sends me a photo of her finished patchwork.

The bright and well lit workroom is at the back of the shop, with the benefit of a tall window and good daylight.  There are flannel design walls down each side, so I could display the workshop samples as we worked.

Views of the shop.

We got on a bit of a roll with this and, after the shop closed, Alison pushed on with finishing her blocks for a version of my 'stone' quilt.  The first photo shows the blocks set square....

The second photo shows the blocks moved across by half a block per row, the same as the 'stone' patchwork, but I'm not sure whether with this design it actually works better with the blocks lined up.  Which do you think is better - top or bottom?

I am planning to be back at the shop in the spring with the 'Sakiori' workshop, where we will begin the three blocks used in the quilts below - an easy strip pieced block, a square in a square block and a freezer paper applique circle.  For this workshop, you need to precut 1 1/2in strips for the patchwork and it is suitable for relative beginners as well as more experienced patchworkers.  Alison has the latest Moda range by designer Momo in stock at the moment, so if you want yours to look like the first quilt below, you can get a very similar look - this one was made with Momo's 'Wonderland' range.  The second quilt was made from my scrap bag and it is an ideal scrap project.  Contact Alison if you would like to take part.  We haven't fixed a date yet but the last weekend in March is a possibility for me.