Design Stars – Ebony Love

Design Stars

From left to right: Scott Wernet, Frieda Anderson, Angela Wolf, Reen Wilcoxson, Rita Farro, Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Rhonda Pierce, Rolando Bohlemann, Pete Janss

From left to right: Scott Wernet, Frieda Anderson, Angela Wolf, Reen Wilcoxson, Rita Farro, Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Rhonda Pierce, Rolando Bohlemann, Pete Janss

Early this year, we had visitors from the Industrial Division of SCHMETZ Germany. To help SCHMETZ executives better understand the consumer market, many activities were arranged. Yes, we had traditional meetings and visited retail shops, but we also toured Modern Quilt Studio with Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr and ended the week with a star studded designer showcase with five designers from the Chicago area. Each designer presented their special niche in the marketplace. The result was aptly described by SCHMETZ as “astonishing!” The day was laced with energy, talent, savvy and a passion for creativity. These five business women demonstrated grit, talent, creativity and strategic work. With hard work, that never goes out of style, they make awesome contributions to the sewing industry that we love. Meet, or re-meet, because several ladies have already been featured in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW: Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Reen Wilcoxson, Frieda Anderson and Angela Wolf. Five shining stars that make sewing even more fun!


Ebony Love

Ebony Love was featured in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #27. After earning a degree in engineering, she worked full time for a large corporation. Increasingly, she yearned for a more creative path. Ebony has always been a maker.

To scratch that creative itch, Ebony took commissions for custom quilts. She loved it! That led to her first sewing business, LoveBug Studios. Her career in the sewing industry really took off when she discovered die cutting. Ebony purchased custom “dies” to cut circles for a quilt she was making. At the time, she didn’t even realize she needed a die cutting machine to use the dies. Learning about the various machines and dies that were coming on the market became her mission, and she stopped taking custom quilt commissions. She realized other consumers might also be struggling to figure out this new thing so she wrote a book, The Big Little Book of Fabric Die Cutting Tips.

While working on an updated edition to her best-selling book, Ebony identified another gap in the market relating to the types of available dies and other products for quilters who love making traditional quilts. She partnered with Sizzix to launch a line of dies under her LoveBug Studios brand to introduce new shapes and block possibilities to the quilting public. Ebony rounds out her product offering by producing patterns, templates, books and videos to help people make beautiful quilts.

Die cutting isn’t the only thing for which Ebony is well known. She is hostess of uniquely-themed mystery quilts, which often center around popular books or television series. Her first big hit was based on Downton Abbey, partnering with Andover Fabrics, and has since introduced mysteries for Outlander, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and Jane Austen’s novels.

Ebony recently opened another sewing business — MADE (www.madecreativestudio.com), a Creative Fiber Arts Studio in Mundelein, Illinois. “MADE is a place for people who already love making things, or who want to learn to love making them. It’s a place for creatives to gather, to learn, and to grow. MADE offers classes in sewing, die cutting, patchwork and appliqué, and long arm quilting.” MADE is a by-appointment creative studio, where customers can rent space or equipment. The die cutting stations are equipped with AccuQuilt and Sizzix machines and over 1000 dies. There is also a long arm lab outfitted with Handi Quilter machines.

 

Ebony Love – Die Cutting Fabric Authority

Ebony Love - Die Cutting Fabric AuthorityEbony Love is considered by many in the quilting industry to be the top authority in the field of die cutting fabric. The author of The Die Cutter’s Buying Guide and the Big Little Book of Fabric Die Cutting Tips, 2nd Edition, Ebony describes herself as an Accidental Expert.  

“I had a crazy idea to make round fabric coasters with pinked edges. I cut a few circles using a template and a pair of pinking shears. If you’ve ever wielded a pair of pinking shears, you know the weight and force required to use them makes your hand ache miserably. After cutting the first set, most people would have abandoned the idea entirely; but instead, I went searching for a perfect way to cut pinked circles.

After a bit of digging, some failed purchases, and other experiments, I found a company who could make something called a custom steel rule die. Fantastic! I called them and told them what I wanted, and they got to work on my custom 5” pinked circle die. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask what I needed to actually use the die. Yes, you guessed it… I didn’t even have a die cutter.

Fabric Die Cutting Tips Cover by Ebony LoveSo here I was, with a custom die on order, frantically researching machines to use it. There wasn’t much information provided by the manufacturers so I went online looking for people who had experience with them.  I discovered the world of Yahoo Groups where all these quilters were essentially teaching each other through trial and error. Maybe because I was so enthusiastic, people started to email to ask me for advice, and I’d do more research, make recommendations or help troubleshoot their issues.”

The online groups are an excellent resource for quilters new to fabric die cutting. But, at some point, it became overwhelming to navigate the archives. Although the information is THERE — it’s buried under 20,000 messages. Imagine trying to look up a phone number, but instead of an alphabetized phone book, all the names and addresses are randomly jammed into a dumpster. It became increasingly clear that some sort of reference manual was urgently needed.

Although Ebony didn’t think she knew more than anybody else, she had become very visible in the groups, and she had become active in the various communities that support die-cutting quilters. She’d also started posting how-to videos on YouTube and she knew she had a knack for explaining things to people. She was eager to share everything she’d learned with anybody who was interested, so in 2012, she wrote and published The Big Little Book of Fabric Die Cutting Tips, which earned rave reviews.

Ebony’s life has always been a blend of art and other pursuits. She is a degreed engineer who works full time for a large consumer packaged foods company in information technology, but she has always been a “maker.” When she was in elementary school, she made satin and lace heart shaped pillows and sold them to teachers and other students. During high school, she made costumes for the drama department, and in college she supplemented her income making evening gowns and accessories.

She came to the “quilting thing” pretty late. After college, she stopped sewing for a while. She got back into sewing and quilting because her friends were getting married and having babies and she started making quilts for them. At one particular baby shower, when her pregnant friend opened Ebony’s quilt, everybody wanted one, and she soon found herself making custom quilts in her spare time.

Magic happens in the LoveBug Studios.

Magic happens in the LoveBug Studios.

Ebony started LoveBug Studios as a custom quilt business. Although making quilts sparked her creative fire once again, it was hard to keep up with the demand. It was draining from an artistic perspective. Customers were way more concerned with getting what they wanted or envisioned than feeding Ebony’s creative spirit. She realized two things: she really didn’t like doing commissioned work and supplanting her own ideas with someone elses, and there’s no way to make money customizing quilts unless you quilt for Oprah.

She needed to find a way to create something once and reach many more people with that effort. Instead of making one quilt for one person, she needed to figure out how to make one quilt for many people. LoveBug Studios changed focus from people who want quilts to people who want to MAKE quilts. As a degreed engineer, Ebony has a passion for finding efficiencies, and her love of the precision of die cut quilts seemed like a good direction for LoveBug Studios. 

It’s no mystery! Ebony’s die cut kits save you time.

It’s no mystery!
Ebony’s die cut kits save you time.

Ebony says, “I love die cutting because it really helps me to get past the points that I don’t love so much and get to the part that I do. If I can crank out all the pieces I need for a queen sized quilt in a few hours and just get to sewing as soon as possible, I can see my efforts more quickly.”

The efficiency of die cutting quilt pieces led to other problems though:  because she was churning out so many quilt tops she couldn’t get them quilted fast enough, so she had to buy a long arm.

Ebony thinks of herself as a cruise director or a concierge, and she wanted to create meaningful experiences for people and help them grow in their craft. That desire manifested itself into her popular mystery quilt alongs.

Ebony Love Mystery Quilt Alongs

Find Mystery Quilt Alongs throughout the year.

  • Ebony’s mystery quilts are based around a theme. She’s done three so far focused around Downton Abbey. The current one is “Dear Laura,” based on the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 
  • Three to four months before the event actually begins, people go to the LoveBug Studios website to register. The cost typically ranges from $10-$30, depending on the quilt.
  • When the quilt along starts, Ebony releases a new block once per week, and people can download the pattern, watch videos to show how the block goes together, or read through a photo tutorial. Quilt alongs last anywhere from 3–12 weeks depending on the project.
Ebony with Little House on the Prairie stars Alison Arngrim  (Nellie Oleson ) and  Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle) 2015 International Quilt Market – Houston TX

Ebony with Little House on the Prairie stars
Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson ) and Charlotte Stewart (Miss Beadle)
2015 International Quilt Market – Houston TX

She also has weekly webinars (fans call them W-Ebony-ars) where participants chat and sew together and ask questions. People can get kits of fabric from the website or from participating quilt shops. She also provides a forum where they can get help, and there’s a Facebook group where they gather to chat and share and post photos.  

In the spring she’ll be doing another Downton Abbey quilt, and the summer will be a Quilt Around the World Mystery. In 2017 she’ll be doing an Anne of Green Gables Mystery. Ebony says, “They are great fun, and it’s pretty neat to be able to connect quilters from around the world.”

Even though LoveBug Studios is Ebony’s “side business” — it has taken over her life and home. She moved the long arm out of the basement and into the living room so she could use the basement as a warehouse and shipping center.

Lights. Camera. Action! in Ebony Love’s video studio.

Lights. Camera. Action! in Ebony’s video studio.

About inspiration, Ebony says, “for me, inspiration always starts with an idea.  Not an idea for a quilt, but an idea for an experience.  I envision how I want people to interact and what I want them to take away.  For example, when it comes to my Downton mysteries, I think about the show and the characters and the plot points, and how I can tie the story line into the quilt, what things might evoke a certain memory for someone or get them to really make a connection to the quilt or the process of making it.  When someone looks at a quilt they’ve made from one of my patterns, I want them to remember the fun they had making it, or what they learned, or the perseverance it took to finish.

My full time job is about sitting in front of a computer or in meetings all day.  It’s hard sometimes to make the connection between what I do and some family out there grocery shopping and buying the food we make and feeling like I was part of that experience.  But the work I do with LoveBug Studios is very connected.  I can see the results of my efforts, and the impact it makes.  People give me feedback and I can take that and incorporate it into the next project.  I love being part of a community that is happy and joyful and sharing in their love of quilting. No matter what our differences may be outside of quilting — we have at least that one thing in common and that’s what matters.”

Ebony’s Big Little Book is going into a second edition.

She is also working on a new book, The Die Cutter’s Buying Guide. If anyone is interested in getting notified when the book is released, please sign up for a notification here:
http://eepurl.com/bDHCOT

To learn more about fabric die cutting, check out Ebony’s blog post:
https://www.lovebugstudios.com/blog/2015/04/20/cutting-up-monday-what-is-fabric-die-cutting/

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