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!