Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tax Tips for Online Sellers

Hey.  I'm Amber.  

I'm a small business owner.  I like to design quilts and work with pretty fabric.  I even like do math and write instructions here and there.  I handle emails, orders and shipping.  I teach classes on quilting techniques and write blog posts about color.  I do presentations and talk about inspiration.  

But, wait.  You want me to do taxes too?  
You want me to be organized and run reports and make spread sheets and file things with the government?!?  You've got to be kidding.  That is definitely not my wheel house.

My husband (who is a contract and license auditor) has always been really supportive of my quilting and business endeavors.  But I was really disappointed and frustrated when he told me in my first year of business that he wasn't going to do my taxes for me.  Say what!?!  For the first couple of years, every time tax season would come around we would end up not talking to each other for several days because we were both so frustrated with each other!  

"Creative people shouldn't be expected to do taxes."

That's what I use to think.

Well, I've come a long ways since 2009 and now we get through tax season just fine.

Today I want to share a few things that I've learned in the last 6 years that have helped make tax time a lot less stressful in our home.

1.  Get a business-only bank account and debit card.  This might seem obvious but I know there are some of you new entrepreneurs out there that haven't thought to do this yet.  Or maybe you think you don't have a lot of transactions right now.  Just do it.  Do it right away.  Do it the minute you file your business name and get a business ID #.  I didn't do it my first year of business and it was really hard to decipher business and personal transactions at the end of the year.  Now, I use my business debit card to track all my expenses (and I'm really strict about not using it for personal things.  It's such a headache to weed out accidental or non-accidental charges on that card down the road).  At the end of the year I download my transaction history from my bank and upload it into my excel spreadsheet!

2. Speaking of Excel, that has been great for the last few years but I was using a very basic spreadsheet and tracking system.  I finally ordered Quick Books Pro to track inventory, expenses and income - all in one place!  I can't wait to get more organized in 2016!  I got a good deal on Amazon and can't wait to get started with it! 

3.  Another thing I did early on was meet with a tax consultant, once - just to make sure my state sales tax account was set up right.  He helped me file my sales tax that first year.   He probably thought our meeting was the biggest waste of time because my income was so minimal but it really gave me peace of mind to know I was doing them right.  And, because I mostly sell wholesale and don't collect a lot of sales tax  -  he set me up for annual filing instead of quarterly.  (Which by the way, since I live in Utah - I only have to collect sales tax on retail sales from Utah residents.  And there aren't a lot of those sales, for me).  I also learned that you can file aannual return if you owe $3,000 or less in sales tax during an annual filing period.

4.  I try to keep things as simple and straight-forward as possible.  I keep all my receipts and compare them to my downloaded list of transactions.  I use Paypal when needed, Direct Deposit through Etsy, my Square Reader  for credit card processing (which also has direct deposit, inventory tracking and allows me to take payments over the phone!)  Keep receipts for everything.  Keep track of deposits (dates of and what exactly they're for - i.e. sales, travel reimbursement, payments for presentations, royalties, etc.)  

5.  Finally, knowing what can be written off and what can't be written off can be confusing and overwhelming sometimes.  I have this infographic I received recently from the US Tax Center that I thought might help when you're ready to file taxes next year.  Feel free to save it, use it and share it with other online sellers!  

For more information on filing taxes, 
click HERE to connect to the US Tax Center.

Now, like I said, I'm more of a creative person than a business person.  I know I have a long ways to go when it comes to being super savvy at taxes.  These are just a few simple tips that work for me, as a small business owner/online seller.  If you're feeling overwhelmed, just remember, there are a lot of resources out there to help you and it does get easier.  

If you have tips that work for you, please share!  
I'd love to hear them in the comment section below and I'm sure others would too!

Happy tax season!
~ Amber

Friday, March 11, 2016

How to Pick Fabrics for a Scrappy Quilt

I recently posted this photo on Instagram of a fabric pull I did for a scrappy, new quilt pattern I'm designing.  As you probably already know, I love scrappy quilts.  I love the vintagy feel they have!  I have so much fun picking out fabrics and trying new color combinations.  But I know for some of you, it can be overwhelming to pick out fabrics starting from scratch.  

I had a follower on Instagram leave me a comment after I posted the photo, saying, "I wish someone would go through this process with me...I take forever and ever to pick my fabric!  It's just all so pretty I can't decide and it feels like I waste a lot of time."

I don't want it to be a stressful or time-consuming thing for you! 

I love talking about the "whys" behind fabric selection and if you're one of those people that is overwhelmed with the fabric picking process then this post is for you!  Here are some tips that will hopefully help to make it an enjoyable process for you in the future.

Tip #1:  Figure out a basic color scheme.  Sometimes I base mine off a photo I've seen, some artwork, an article of clothing, or another quilt that I like.  Whatever.  Just pick a color scheme and start pulling fabrics (you can always eliminate some later if you want to).
As you can see (above), I wanted to use reds, blues and greens, with a tiny pop of yellow.  Note that there is no rule that says you have to have an equal number of fabrics of each color.  The little bits of yellow will be used as a little surprise here and there...a little something unexpected.

Tip #2: I think it's always nice to have a lot of different "values" of each color.  The term, "Color Value" is also known as "lightness", "tone" or a "color space's brightness".  In the photo above, I've got whites with just a little red on them, light reds and bright reds.  

Tip #3: Choose a variety of different types and sizes of prints.  On the left (above) I have some small to medium sized prints - most of which have lots of movement.  On the right, I have two fabrics that will add a nice "pop". They're also known as "zingers".  They're very graphic and their scale is on the larger side.  Note, that a zinger can also add "pop" through it's color - it doesn't always have to be graphic.  It's nice to have a few zingers in a quilt.

Geometrics, text and dots are some of my favorite "go-to" prints.

 Florals are a must as well (and offer good movement).  Notice the different scales in the four florals above.

A few solids (at least) are always nice to throw in.  They give your eye a place to rest and break up all the busyness.  Can you spy the two different blue solids in the photo above?  

Repeat, choosing different values, prints, and scales in each color. 

Since I only have a few yellows, I tried to get a nice variety of prints, scales and value.  I chose a large-scaled floral, a geometric, and a light-valued yellow that has lots of movement.

And last but not least I have some greys, neutrals and low volume prints.
The term "Low-Volume" refers to fabrics that have a light value and low contrast.  There is a spectrum of what is considered "low-volume" and in my opinion, the one or two fabrics on the right are pushing it.  But all of these neutrals will break up the monotony of my color scheme.

Now, these are just the fabrics I pulled for my quilt.  These are what I like.  I obviously like a lot of text, geometrics, etc.  I also used some of my favorite vintagy prints + some new japanese prints, so I'm excited.  

Tip #4: Repeat fabrics throughout your quilt.  This will help create balance as your eye recognizes specific colors and prints.  Almost every print of mine will be used in the quilt 5-6 times (can't wait to show you a picture of the finished quilt!!!)

Tip #5: Don't stress too much about whether a fabric matches or not!  If you can't tell with in a second or two that a fabric "clashes" then it's fine!!!  You don't need to stew too much about each and every fabric!

My friend (and neighbor!) Calli Taylor from the blog, Make It Do, makes the most beautiful, scrappy quilts. I am seriously in awe of her knack for picking fabrics! Her motto, is that "you always need a few 'ugly or off-colored fabrics' in a quilt to make the pretty fabrics shine.  It adds character and dimension to a quilt!"  Calli says that those "ugly" fabrics are ones that she still likes - but that other people might consider ugly.

And finally, Tip #6: Use what you love!  
As I was considering what I might say in this post, I came across a picture of a quilt my sister-in-law posted on Instagram recently.  Her name is Brittany (IG username is @bmariedavis).  I love her style.  Like, really, really, love her scrappy style.  I always have.  She is another quilter who completely inspires me!  She just finished making a larger version of my Sugar and Spice pattern, with a few tweaks regarding color placement (pattern available in my Etsy shop). 

Brittany said on her post caption, "I gave myself no restrictions.  If I liked the fabric and it made me happy, it went in this quilt.  I really wanted it to look like my grandma made it years ago, so I just had fun with it."

I think she achieved that look.  And that's what I love about vintage and vintage-inspired quilts!  They're just so one-of-a-kind, full of character and depth.  They're unique and interesting and lovely.

After I saw Brittany's post and read her caption, I went back to my stack of fabrics for my upcoming pattern.  I took out one fabric I didn't love and threw in this fun stripe!  I think it will add a lot of interest and whimsy to my quilt!

I hope you all feel inspired now to make a scrappy quilt.  I hope these tips have helped you.  Don't stress about it.  Have fun with it and enjoy the process!

Happy quilting!
~ Amber  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Summer Stars Fabric Kits Now Available!

Remember my Summer Stars quilt?
It's one of my most favorite patterns to date made out of one of my most favorite fabric lines EVER.

I was really sad when the fabric flew off the shelves before I could barely get my pattern published!  So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Riley Blake Designs recently reordered it! 
(That rarely happens.)

So I'm happy to say that I now have a limited supply of fabric kits available in my Etsy shop.  These kits are for the bright fabrics only (so you can use whatever your little heart desires for the background and backing).  They include the binding fabric too and retail for $57.99.

Aren't they just the sweetest fabrics?  Maybe Santa can bring you some this Christmas (wink, wink).

Click HERE for more details.
Happy quilting!

~ Amber

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Updated Patterns

Happy Wednesday everyone!  
I started out my day watching a few old SNL skits with my kids.  
My favorite?  Cheerleaders at a Chess Match.  
Do you know that one?  Will Ferrell.  Google it.  
It's sure to put a smile on your face.

Anyways, I just wanted to let you know about a few updated (and improved!) items in my Etsy Shop.
First, my Pineapple Block Paper Piecing Patterns have beautiful, new packaging and new, improved prices!  (You get 12 additional papers for basically the same price as before).  Plus, they're available at wholesale prices now!  Stop by my shop or unitednotions.com to order.

Speaking of United Notions, did you see the quilt they have put together for Fall Quilt Market using my Pineapple Block patterns and Jen Kingwell's three new fabric lines (Lollies, Just a Speck and Behind the Scenes)?  It is goooorgeous!  Kits are available at United Notions, as well.

 Another thing I wanted to let you know about it my 
updated Cross Stitch pattern.  It has a nice new cover and better diagrams!

While preparing to teach a class for Cross Stitch a little while ago, I made up a few blocks and realized there was one error and a few things that needed clarifying.  Even though I had made the quilt and a quilt tester had also made the entire quilt, a mistake slipped by.  I found that the finished block size was off just a hair.  I was sick when I realized I had put the pattern out there and hope it hasn't caused anyone too many problems!  There is now a "Pattern Updates" tab underneath my blog header listing corrections and clarifications.

Lastly, I have also updated one of my best selling quilt patterns (and one that I have personally made at least 3 times) which is my Square Dance pattern!  It now comes in 4 different size options: Crib, Lap, Twin and Queen as opposed to just the crib size.  

I am really excited about this.  
It's a charm pack friendly pattern, it's great for beginners 
and it's perfect in any fabrics!

Stop by the shop for more details about these items.

Happy quilting!
~ Amber

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Finished Skipper Quilt - Scrappy Version

Hey there!
I hope everyone had a nice Halloween.
Besides this little mama catching a 24-hour flu bug the day before, 
we had a nice one.  Tis' the season right?

We're in full fledged "Fall" mode over here.  
I really do love everything that comes along with fall and winter around here but I think I'm getting old because I'm starting to dread the fact that I'll probably have an internal temperature of FREEZING for exactly four to six months!  But there's nothing like a scrappy, happy quilt to chase the blues away, am I right?!?

I finished this scrappy Skipper quilt months ago but never got a chance to share it here.  If you love low volumes + bright happy fabrics you might enjoy this one.

The pattern is from my book, Vintage Vibe: Traditional Quilts, Fresh Fabrics
(which you can purchase HERE).

I used some of my favorite sweet, vintagy fabrics from my stash and backed it in this little apple print by my friend Pam Vieira-McGinnis for the line Pam Kitty Garden by LakeHouse Fabrics.

It's very, very scrappy (like even each side of the border is a different fabric). And polka dots are always a good idea for a binding, don't you think?

The beautiful machine quilting design is one of my new go-to favorites.  I have used it on at least 3-4 quilts so far.  It's called Interlocking Orange Peel from karleeporter.com.  Cathy Barney did it and did a fabulous job!

 This is such a fun, fast quilt to make whether it's for a boy, girl, super scrappy or not.  
(You can see the original boy version HERE.)
Finished quilt size = 55.5" x 61.5"

 I hope that inspired all of you to make some thing scrap happy today!  
Have a great day!
~ Amber

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Plus Quilt

After 17 years of marriage you'd think my husband would have a million quilts to call his very own.  But sadly, that wasn't the case (unless one super soft, flannel, tied blanket that I made him for one of our very first Valentine's Days) counts?  No?  I didn't think so. 

Well, approximately 47 weeks ago I got the hair-brained idea that 
I would make my husband a Plus Quilt.  He was on board with the design and this selection of fabrics I pulled from my stash.  
I was thinking Navy with a little bit of grey for the color scheme 
(inspired by his alma mater, Brigham Young University).
I threw in a few more shades of blue and some whites/creams to help give it some contrast.  And then I got to work!

Oh, did I mention that my husband has told me several times over the years that he likes quilts with tiny pieces in them?  Fun, huh?  So I went as small as I could bring myself to go and cut my squares 2" and my rectangles 2" x 5". 

If you've never made a Plus Quilt before let me warn you that it's a very slow and tedious process because you have to lay each piece in each row out and then you have to keep it all in order as you move it over to your sewing machine and then repeat it by 100 rows (just kidding it was only 54 in this case).

But I stuck to it and one day I finally finished. 

It's a big quilt, big enough for my 6'2" husband to wrap up in comfortably.

It's backed in navy blue minky so it's super soft (and heavy!)

Cathy Barney in Alpine, UT quilted it for me with one of my new favorite edge-to-edge quilting designs called Marbled Cake by Karlee Porter.

I love it.  And I think he loves it.  And it's done.
Now he has a quilt to call his very own

~ Amber

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scrap Quilt Challenge + My Scrappy Log Cabin Quilt + A Free Log Cabin Block Pattern

Have you heard about Fabrics N Quilts annual 
Scrap Quilt Challenge?

It's a great opportunity to bust through some of those scraps that I know you all have lying around (wink, wink).  PLUS, you get the chance to win some fabulous prizes!!!  Simply upload a photo of a scrappy quilt (that you finished this year) to the Scrap Quilt Challenge 5 Flickr Page by midnight on October 15th (that's just two more weeks, friends!) and you could win BIG!!! Click HERE for more details!

As one of the featured designers for this challenge,
I wanted to share with you my recently finished Scrappy Log Cabin Quilt!

I started this fun paper piecing project about 7 months ago 
and loved every minute of it!
♥ ♥ ♥
Now, there are lots of ways to make a Log Cabin block but I decided to go the paper piecing route because... 

#1 I love to paper piece
#2 I didn't have to pre-cut or press my strips
#3 Paper piecing ensures perfectly straight, square blocks!

Here are some details about my quilt:

Finished block size = 7"
Finished quilt size = 70" x 84"
Total number of blocks = 120
Total number of pieces = 1,560
Machine quilted by Cathy Barney in Alpine, UT.
Quilting design = Modern Loops

 Would you like this block pattern?
Click HERE for a free download.

+ check out my tutorial for a paper pieced Pineapple Block 
to help you get started!  Click HERE.


Now go on and get scrap busting!

~ Amber