"The Talk" (Quilt Style)

Come on in and sit on down... We have to have a talk...

I want to discuss something with you today that has been troubling me.
 There is a problem in the quilting community - I see it all too often. Maybe I see it more because of the work I do, but I want to reach out and talk to you all about finding balance in the quilting process.

Think of this as an opportunity to learn and grow and not a public rant by a crazed quilter. Keep that in mind as you read. Please.
 Ideally, when you're working on a quilt, there should be a balance throughout the process. It's really easy to break this into two different categories.

The first being the supplies needed to create your quilt. This includes the pattern, the fabrics, any special notions or papers you may need... All of that stuff. The "weight" of these items (if you think about the graphic above as a scale) could also be reflective of the cost associated as well as the time and energy needed to complete the quilt top.

Typically the more intensive the pattern, the higher the pattern cost. Then you'll need more fabric and more time and more energy and and and... If you're following me on this you can see how it all adds up.

The second category would then be the finishing process of the quilt. This would be the items and/or services needed to take your quilt top to a completed quilt including batting, quilting and binding. As with before, the "weight" of these items and services are reflected in the costs, time and energy.
 Too often, this is the skewed scale I tend to see in the quilting process... I see quilters spend major money on a pattern or book and then spend a small fortune on the fabrics needed. Once in this mindset, they frantically rush home to start on their latest endeavor. It may take hours or days to cut all of those fabrics and then weeks or months to construct the quilt top. No cost or ounce of energy was wasted during this time (at least in the quilting process - laundry, cleaning and cooking I can't vouch for).

Then after such an investment in cost, time and energy... That's when it happens. This exquisite work gets turned over to get finished but instead of investing the same care and attention - all costs are cut to the extreme. And I mean EXTREME.

As a quilter sometimes I get told to use whatever batting, I don't care. Or the alternative is I'm given a large scrap of batting they pulled out of the corner of their closet they think might be big enough... Meanwhile it's covered in threads from 1,000 fabrics and there's a weird part cut out of the one side.

Then if that's not good enough, I get told to do just a simple design, just something quick and cheap. Whatever is cheapest...

Now, I've seen my fair share of quilt patterns. I've bought my fair share of fabrics (just ask my Hubby), but PLEASE don't think your quilter doesn't know what you've invested into you quilt project before it's been brought to them... We have a pretty good idea.
Now, on the flip side, us quilters also know when the scale goes the other way. A big offender of this scale would be cheater prints and panel quilts...

I'm not saying that you shouldn't take an easy option if it's available and makes life easier for you, but you should attempt to match the investment made into the quilt with how it's intended to be used later on. You can read more about my theory on the types of quilts and how I think about quilting them here. 

Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: Don't make part of your quilting process an afterthought and don't overspend in one part either. Try to find that balance.

I understand if you're on a budget... It's so easy to get caught up in the rush of a new idea and all new fabrics and blow through your budget before you know it's gone. I also understand if you've been working on a quilt for FOREVER and you're sick to death of looking at it. You just want it done and you can't bear to look at it for a moment more. Trust me I get it. I see this all the time. But that is no excuse to throw caution to the wind and do whatever because it's fast, cheap and easy...

Then again, on a rare occasion I see those baby quilts that I know are going to get spilled on, pooed on, dragged around on who knows what surface and because it's for someone special, ladies like to request super custom quilting. They usually understand the cost and they're willing to pay for it because it's for so-and-so. I like to remind these people of what future this quilt might have and honestly ask them - if it's going to be used and washed and stained and whatever - will it make you want to cry seeing that happen?

I know there are probably a few readers out there that may be thinking I'm only talking about this to get people to spend more on their quilting. I mean I am a long arm quilter and it's my job, but that's not it at all.

What I'd like to see and I think it's a long slow process that has been steadily rising up in corners of this community is this - I'D LIKE FOR QUILTERS TO VALUE THEIR WORTH. Follow through with what you've started and celebrate the effort you've put into making a quilt. Especially quilts you've made a large investment in at the beginning... Follow through, you're worth it!

There will always be those fun quilts that you make just because and you don't know why and you don't know how it'll be used. That's fine. Every choice you make is fine, I'm just trying to voice my little opinion over here.
If you look back at the balanced scale above, think about a simple math equation for your quilt projects.

Let's say we spent $100 on a quilt kit including the pattern, try to have your finishing costs in the same ball park.

Now, if you went all out on a very intricate paper-pieced pattern and got all the fabrics to make a king size quilt - you're looking at a cost of $500 easily for your supplies. For a quilt like this that will take you a long time to cut and piece, try to match the same investment into the finishing stages. Go for custom quilting, add in the special touches because it reflects the same momentum. Don't forfeit your investment and go for the $75 plain quilting here. It would be like buying a brand new Mercedes with all the bells and whistles and then taking it to your neighbor's kid for work because he's taken a couple classes on fixing cars...

Please think about this as you're working on quilts in the future. Yes, I know it can be expensive to continue on the same momentum if you work through your budget too early, but like any good hobby worth having, they're all expensive in their own right! Finish what you start and be true to your work. You're worth it!


  1. I agree. I tell my students this. I tell my customers this. I'm happy to do what you want, but...

  2. AMEN!!!!! I've seen beautifully done needle-turn applique with an all-over quilting pattern done on it...made me so sad to see the quilting just go across the applique with no regard for it at all. I've also seen quilts done with photographs and the quilting goes right over the face of someone because they did a panto on it. I won't do that kind of quilting just because it looks so awful that I don't want my name associated with it!! I'm guilty of doing super custom quilting on a baby quilt for my granddaughter, but I had fun with that little log cabin quilt!


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