Artist Trading Cards for the Sewing Buddies!

So, at this point, the vast majority of Sewing Buddies have been matched. I’ve sent out one. last. invite. to those aspiring Buddies to make sure they’re not missing something in the junk folder, but with over 200 folks joining the Sewing Buddies this year, I’ve officially CLOSED Sewing Buddy sign-ups until 2014. Whew!

sewing buddy icon

In years past, the Sewing Buddy Project was really just a matching system: I volunteered my time to match names to one another, and once the introductions were made, the Buddies were more or less on their own, like pen pals. When I had pen pals when I was younger (back when parents thought it was safe to assign a child’s name and mailing address to a total stranger, which lets you know just how I old I really am), I don’t recall there being any guidelines or suggested activities–and if there had been, I feel pretty confident saying I wouldn’t have followed them, anyway. But over the first couple of years of this Sewing Buddy experiment, I heard back from folks that they wanted a little more guidance and structure to their Buddy-ness, some activities that joined them and their one Buddy to the whole of the rest of Buddy-dom, in one large Buddy mass. I love that idea, and so last year we did a series of Buddy challenges. This year, we’re taking it up another notch.

When they were matched, Buddies made suggestions of projects that might be fun to do with one another, things that would bond them to each other on the small scale, giving them shared experiences to discuss via email, and also that would bond them to the larger group, with chances to be inspired and to learn from a greater canvas. I’ve selected about four of the suggestions–and trust me, there were some really, really good ones, but there were some that came up over and over and made themselves pretty obviously the best choices for the group–for us to all participate in as the year goes along. They’ll be visible and open to the public on the blog, but also shared privately within the Sewing Buddy community via our monthly newsletter. Makes me think of the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring from A Christmas Story, where he hears the code over the radio but only folks with the ring can learn the secret message. Except I can solemnly vow I won’t attempt to make you drink your Ovaltine.

Screen shot 2013-02-11 at 2.40.11 PM

image via Quilting Arts

To begin with, an idea that I’ve been captivated with for some time, but wasn’t quite sure how to inject into my daily life (or even the life of the blog): Artist Trading Cards. These are tiny works of art, about the size of a business card, that give you a chance to play around with color and fabric and fiber and texture. They have a cool history, and are simple to make for anyone who has a machine and some scraps of fabric lying around–including notions, ribbons, trims, buttons, and whathaveyous.

Screen shot 2013-02-11 at 2.40.37 PM

image via Quilting Arts

They don’t all have to be fancy–some can be incredibly simple, like this one that I made from a scrap of fabric I ran through my ink jet printer to add my logo:

artist trading card

(Don’t you love printing on fabric? If you haven’t done it before, it’s easy! Plenty of online tutorials, or you can find a project using this technique in my new book, Stitch Savvy. Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!)

ATC landscape

image via JennyPennyPoppy on Pinterest

The great thing about Artist Trading Cards is they’re the teensiest of quilts to take along with you and exchange with friends. They can double as business cards. You can make one for yourself to wear at conventions and guild meetings. And they’re so small you can tackle one in just a few minutes.


Screen shot 2013-02-11 at 3.13.49 PM

via NewLeaf on Flickr

So the first activity for the Sewing Buddies in 2013 is just that: make an Artist Trading Card and exchange it by mail with your Sewing Buddy! It’ll be a small, do-able project that you can share with one another. Use this free e-book from Quilting Arts magazine for guidance, or check out the quilted artist trading cards on Flickr and Pinterest for inspiration. I can’t wait to see what all of you will make!

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  • greendoodle
    February 11, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Cool idea. I’ve never heard of this. thanks!

    • Deborah
      February 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Aren’t they fun?? I’ve seen them done for years by fine artists, but it wasn’t until I started visiting a bunch of local quilt guilds that I really thought about them for folks who sew–such a simple idea, but they can have real impact at that scale! I hope you make one!

  • Becky
    February 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Love it!! Have wanted to give this a try too, so much easier with a reason to make the time.

  • K-Sue
    February 13, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Great idea! These examples are so pretty. Now to design one of my own…

  • Carrie Lee
    February 16, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Have no idea what I will make! Is there a deadline for them?

    • Deborah
      February 17, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      See the comment I left for Heidi–I didn’t think to set one, but March 31 sounds totally reasonable to get them designed and made and sent off, and for me to have the next project ready to go! What do you think?

  • Heidi M
    February 16, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Question — what sort of timeline are we working with. Just wondering how soon I need to send mine off and when we can start emailing samples of our cards. Mine isn’t done yet, but I’m excited to share!

    • Deborah
      February 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      Actually, that’s a great question! I hadn’t really set a deadline–I think I figured you and your Buddy could do that internally? But I suspect it’s helpful to have an external time frame, so how about March 31 as the deadline? That’s another 6 weeks. And by then, I’m sure I can have the next Sewing Buddy group project ready!

  • Lynn
    February 17, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I’ve never seen one these before! After reading this, I woke up the next morning to ideas brewing! OH NO, yet another addiction in the making!

    • Deborah
      February 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Aren’t they such a fun idea?? I love that you can trade them for real, like trading cards, so it’s sort of six degrees of sewing. 🙂

  • Rena Gleason
    February 19, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Was wondering when we would hear who we were matched w/? I’m gonna get started in the meantime!

  • Robin
    February 23, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I have finished my ATC, and am getting ready to send it off to my Buddy. Do we post our project to a flickr page? Pinterest? Anything? I would like to see what the other partners came up with.

    I really enjoyed this project after the initial reaction of “how in the world am I going to pull this off?”

    thank you for pushing me outside my comfort zone.

    • Kristen
      March 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      There is a sewing buddy Flickr group ( The only stuff in there now is from last year’s sewing buddies, but I’d imagine you could go ahead and upload there. 🙂