Custom Quilting

IMG_3054It’s been 2 years since I posted on this blog.  All this time, I’ve been busily quilting, nearly 900 quilts by now, and nearly all overall designs (Edge-2-Edge in long arming lingo).  Way back before I began this business venture, I travelled across the country to take a workshop from a talented lady who had started humbly with a single long arm machine in her basement and turned it into a warehouse full of them, cranking out 3000 quilts a year (Birds of a Feather, 2013).  I was shocked and dismayed to learn that two workshop presenters, both national award winning quilters, were no longer doing custom quilting for customers.  They were only doing Edge-2-Edge for hire.  I thought, “Where is the joy, the creativity, the art, in that?”  There is great practicality in that, I quickly learned.  While I might be able to finish two-three medium size Edge-2-Edge quilt projects in one day, I could spend 2 days on one small custom quilt.  Plus, during a custom quilting project, the machine generally is not stitching unless I am hands-on guiding it.  The computer does most of the guiding during an Edge-2-Edge project.

So why am I blogging about custom quilting?  After swearing off that kind of business, I’ve found myself more and more drawn to it.  Sometimes a valued friend or customer has a special quilt that requires special quilting.  Am I willing to send them to someone else to do that special quilting?  Of course not.  On occasion my husband comes into my quilting room and if he sees me working on a custom quilt (which he recognizes right off) he will ask me why I’m doing it.  Once I remember saying, “This if for Jan, I would do anything for Jan!”

IMG_2982Last fall, I quilted a single Compass Rose wall hanging for a wonderful woman who said the last time she had one of her Compass Rose quilts quilted, the long armer ruined it.  When I returned her quilt to her, she loved it enough to hand me six more!  She said no rush.  Then eight months later, she said she would like to have some of them finished in the near future!  Six weeks later, I returned five to her, with the last one promised within 4 more weeks.  Obviously I do not do well with open deadlines!  The point is, I learned that custom quilting might not be so hard if I did more of it.  Doing the same quilt, multiple times, taught me that.

IMG_2984So, a bit later when a local quilt artist and teacher,  Dawn White, asked me to custom quilt a table runner for her, I said yes with some level of confidence.  On Dawn’s quilt I actually free hand quilted the dark background and I’m reasonable pleased with it – enough so, at any rate, that I’m committed to doing more.

That brings me to the picture at the top of this post.  This little quilt (you see exactly half of it in the picture) took me two days to complete.  The borders and sashing are all delightful, but you can’t see them in the picture very well.  Actually, they pretty much disappear when you look at it in real life as well – they took me most of the time I had to quilt in one day.  The appliqué blocks took me another day.  As I laid down each line of stitching, I was generally not happy with the way it was going.  But when I stood back and looked from a few feet away, I was delighted with the texture in the background that supports the artwork in the appliqué.  This quilt came off my machine on a Saturday afternoon, and I quickly loaded the last Edge-2-Edge project of the week.  That one finished up while I ate dinner and watched the Olympics.

That’s the difference between Edge-2-Edge  and custom projects.  And that is why you can expect to pay perhaps three times as much for custom work.  Is it worth it?  Sometimes, for that special project, it is – for both the quilt maker and the long armer!

 

Around The World Blog Hop

Tam of Quiltcharett recently tagged me in the “Around the World Blog Hop.” Tam is a quilt designer that I greatly admire – I especially love her quilts that are of the illusionist variety. I also had the pleasure of long-arm quilting her “Zen Umbrellas.” Tam and I first met in local quilt guilds and we had a bite together at Quilt Market when it was in Portland about 18 months ago. Thank you, Tam for thinking of me. What is more fun than writing about our current works in progress? I am passing the baton to Dawn of First Light Designs. Dawn does stunning work – just take a look at her blog and you will see! I had the pleasure of quilting Dawn’s “Banana Split” and “Honeymoon in Paris” quilts. Dawn is a prolific quilter and a prolific blogger and she teaches classes at The Pine Needle in Lake Oswego, Oregon. I look forward to learning about Dawn’s creative process in her post coming next week in the “Around the World Blog Hop!”

I am a traditionally trained quilter, turned professional long-arm quilter. When I started my long-arm business a year and a half ago, I envisioned lots of piecing as I listened to my machine hum along. Somehow that hasn’t exactly turned out to be true. But, I have found as I have become more proficient that I do get a little piecing accomplished. Recently, inspired by modern quilters, I have been veering away from following patterns. I greatly enjoy starting with a concept and making it into something all my own.

Bunt's Quilt - Sept 2014My most recent completed project is a baby quilt that I gifted last weekend, after having purchased the fabric three weeks prior. I chose fabrics based on the Mom-to-be’s color scheme: navy, light green and yellow. I found fabrics that I loved and initially thought I would do a crazy quilt background with large rings appliqued across some intersections. But when it came right down to it, I couldn’t face the notion of piecing 50+ crazy quilt blocks, and the truth was I simply didn’t have the time. Inspired by the book Intuitive Color & Design by Jean Wells, I started cutting and sewing the fabrics together – sometimes with straight seams, sometimes with curved seams and generally following the “rule of thirds” which I discovered in Gwen Marston’s book, Minimal Quiltmaking, I fashioned the center of a baby quilt. I felt that a narrow inner border and an outer border made the whole thing seem like it was meant to be – perhaps my traditional side manifesting itself. There ended up being a larger solid navy section than I liked, so I decided to raw edge applique the baby’s in-utero nickname, “Bunt.” The overall effect is entirely pleasing to me – and I think Bunt’s Mom likes it too! It elicited lots of “Oooo’s” and “Awww’s” at the baby shower, anyhow!

Brighter Days 2014 for expoMy next most recent completed project is a quilt that I began in Jan Peterson’s Modern Logs class at The Pine Needle in February. At the time, my 17-year-old son was suffering from a terrible depression that could well have taken his life. I madly sewed this quilt – I nearly felt possessed – while he was receiving treatment away from home. It is called “Brighter Days” and it reflects a mother’s love and prayer for her suffering child. My heart and soul is in this quilt. My son says, “Aw, it’s nice Mom.” He doesn’t really get it, but he might one day. Happily, he is doing much better now. I’m not sure how we lived through those scary days, just a minute at a time, I suppose.

Tula BlockA current “work-in-progress” quilt – I’m taking Pam Raby’s Tula Pink class at The Pine Needle. Tula says in her book, Tula Pink’s City Sampler: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks, “I am the platform and you are the speaker, so stand on my shoulders and tell the future who you are and why you make.” I took that suggestion to heart when I quickly fell behind after the first class’s homework of 10 or 15 blocks – the details escape me. I love taking classes and workshops – dearly love it! However, I tend to forget that carving out time to take the class/workshop is not the end of the story; never, never do I finish the project in class. So, I have yet another UFO and that is not a good feeling. That could be a reason to stop taking classes/workshops. Can’t have that, so I had to get creative with Tula, just as she suggested. I decided to blow up the blocks from 6 inches finished to 14 inches, to use my background within the block so the design is not a square and not consistent from block to block, and to add shadowing to create the illusion that the block element is floating above the surface. I am finishing up my last blocks and will end up with 12, while my classmates end up with as many as 100. The next step is to decide how to layout my quilt and I am looking forward to collaborating with Pam to accomplish that task. I’m kicking around a sashing idea that I gleaned from Kaffe Fassett’s book, Quilts in Morocco. It might be just the perfect element to bring the whole thing together in a very satisfying way. I will post later on this completed project.

My Bunny Oct 2014Another work-in-progress, also based on a Pine Needle class: Violet Craft’s Forest Abstractions Quilt taught by Violet herself. This is a paper-pieced project that creates six incredible forest creatures. I love paper piecing, but hate tearing out the papers and recently discovered a paper that can be left in the project because it dissolves down to soft fibers with washing (Sharon Schamber’s Foundation Paper). I’m giving it a try. Since I don’t really enjoy following patterns, I was wondering why in the world I registered for this class as it approached. However, I had a blast picking fabric and it was pure delight watching the bunny come to life; there are about 70 pieces in this adorable little guy. He is supposed to be 12.5 inches square, but mine is a tad skinny. I might finish each animal as a separate quilt rather than putting them together in one quilt. That will probably depend on whether or not I can finish all six of them. Either the individual blocks (as little quilts) or the entire quilt are destined for the May 2015 Northwest Quilter’s Inc. quilt show at the Portland EXPO center.

Before the end of November, I must complete two t-shirt quilts. One is for my brother-in-law and I’ve created an awesome layout – just wait until you see it! The second is for a fund-raising project that I auctioned at Jesuit High School that has come due – I will do my shadow box design on this one. These are simply “must get dones.”

I have also designed, and largely cut out, a quilt for our bed using Kaffe Fassett’s fabulous floral fabrics and shot cottons. Oh, it is going to be stunning. I can’t wait to get to it. After the t-shirt quilts, and keeping caught up on my classes, I’m right on it.

The “Around the World Blog Hop” has some structure in that we are to answer the questions: what am I working on, how does my work differ from others of its genre, why do I create what I do, and how does my creative process work? Other than all I’ve already written, I just will add one thing about the “why.” All my life I have heard that we should “do” what we love. Finally after a corporate life and working as a CPA and after homeschooling five kids, I have begun a business where I can do just that. I have a business that is all about quilting. My clients are quilters. As I do my business, I am constantly inspired to create my own quilts, and I can and I do. Bliss.

Wonky Logs Quilted with “Modern Curves”

Miriam's Wonky Log Cabin

Sometimes the perfect quilting design and a beautiful quilt top come together in a magical way – bliss to a Longarmer’s heart.

You can see this quilt highlighted on The Pine Needle’s Facebook page (March 20, 2014) at https://www.facebook.com/ThePineNeedleQuiltShop

While this quilt hung on the wall at The Pine Needle, when I presented it to Miriam, everyone in the shop came to admire it. It occurred to me that I was probably the only person in the group drooling over the quilt design – everyone else was drooling over the lovely fabrics and the great piecing that Miriam had accomplished!

It was my joy to quilt this top for Miriam.

I always love adding quilting to a quilt top – always. Sometimes, though, it is especially satisfying when the quilt design and the quilt top complement each other perfectly. “Zen Umbrellas” and the quilting design “rain drops” from Intelligentquilting.com is one such pairing that I am just loving! I hope my customer, Tam, loves it as much as I do! See Tam’s blog at http://quiltcharette.wordpress.com/

Banana Split – Custom Quilted

Dawn's Banana Split

I love the effect of overall quilting, but sometimes a quilt calls for custom work. The solid borders and the black frame in “Banana Split” yell custom! I love simple repeated lines like the ones in this border. Happily, Dawn likes it too! See her blog at
http://www.firstlightdesigns.com

I also quilted Dawn’s “Honeymoon in Paris” – so delicious… See pics of it on her blog at
http://www.firstlightdesigns.com/?p=4738