Not every minute or every day we work involves quilting. There I said it!
One of the most common conversations I've had with my own clients recently (many of them long term clients) has been about planning their quilting. That and the fact that many of them are still amazed I do everything free-motion or hand-guided. Here, we will touch on that part first. If I draw out the design in front of you, chances are my same hand will be drawing the design with thread using the machine... The only thing my machine does is control the stitch length - the rest is all me. Sorry, but it shocks me still that even my own clients think sometimes I just push a button and finish a quilt.
Which then leads me into why I worked without quilting yesterday. There are instances and some projects that the planning stages takes much much longer than you would think. Especially custom quilts.
How I like to work is fairly simple. As I'm working on a quilt, I pull out the next quilt in the lineup and lay it out so I can view it while I'm working on another quilt. That way I can get familiar with the next project, remind myself of the scaling and the colors, and if needed, finalize a plan to actually design the quilting. That way once I load it onto the machine I'm ready to go.
Some quilts are easier than others to plan. There are times that the instant I see a quilt I know what I would do and I have a plan. Other times I have to ponder and think and doodle and ponder some more. Sometimes it takes days. Other times it may take weeks. Sometimes even after pondering and doodling I can only come up with plans for part of a quilt - so what do I do? In that particular instance, I start with what I know and usually seeing the quilt coming together in front of my eyes opens avenues I didn't know existed.
So yesterday I spent my day doodling and planning for quite an epic plan. This time around I have five quilts that all use the same fabrics to be used in the same room. Some will be on beds, some on walls and tables, but yet they all need to work together. Between the five quilts, three are the same pattern, but two are colored differently than the third. And then there's two other quilts to design and plan. That's five quilts in total with four different quilting plans that all need to work together but obviously still need their own identity to fit the various quilt patterns used. Confused yet?
I normally don't take this much time to plan and doodle, but as I said, I normally don't have a grouping like this that needs to work so well together. It's been a fun and creative challenge and I think I have plans for most of the parts. The first two quilts are planned out, the last three I'm working on, but I have some time to ponder a bit more and come up with the fine details.
This is where a good quilter should excel at their job (aside form the quality of quilting). With each quilt I get I try to ask:
* Who is it for?
* How will it be used?
* Will it be washed?
* What type of quilting did you have in mind?
If I get the key parts of the information needed above, I know better on how the quilt should be finished. A wall hanging may get quilted differently than a bed quilt just like a quilt for a 5 year old will get quilted differently than a quilt for a married couple.
There's so much more that goes into the quilting process besides picking a thread and batting. As a quilter, I think so much more about the quilt as a whole and I put that time and effort into creating a quilt design to enhance the projects you bring to me. It can be as easy as choosing a design out of a booklet like a catalog, but I like to think that even on the most basic project I can put a personal touch into your quilts.
I know there are simpler and cheaper options out there like pantographs (continuous line designs) or computerized designs, but they lack the personal touch a free-motion or hand-guided quilter can provide. Depending on the project, they may be they right fit, and I've used them on my quilts in the past too.
I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that like any artist - you're not just paying for the quilting you are getting when you hand over the check. You're paying for hours of practicing and doodling. You're paying for past failures that led to great ideas and advancements. You're paying for thoughts and dreams and imaginations that only exist in that one mind that can come out of only that one set of hands.
To wrap up - when you choose to use a free-motion quilter, you're paying for a service because you can't or don't want to do it yourself. If that sounds harsh, I'm sorry, but it's the truth. So please - the next time you get a quilt back from your quilter - think about all that goes on (and has gone on in his or her career) to get to the point their quilting is at today. Appreciate the artist they are and that they can share their talents with you and your quilts.
I would guesstimate that only about 60%-75% of my time is actually spent quilting. The rest of the time is mixed between planning, prepping, ordering supplies and chatting with my clients to make sure they are happy with the quilting plans and the quilts they get in return.
Does any of what I said above surprise you? Do you have any questions about the quilting process I can answer? Comment below and let me know your thoughts. I'd love to hear what you think.
Speaking of which, I need to go meet a client here soon and get started on those quilting plans I worked so hard on yesterday. I'll be back soon to play catch-up with all sorts of quilting photos and more! -Rebecca