Confessions: Stockholm Syndrome

Confessions. My confessions. I think it's about time I start a little series about the truths we long arm quilters face that not-so-many people realize. Some of the topics may be surprising, some may not. Some may be informative, some routine, and others may seem judgmental and I swear that's not the goal with this little series - there's just some things that need to be said and I'm one of those people that I know how to better approach things when I know the mechanics of it. 

What makes it work? Why do you do it that way? What goes on in the "behind the scenes"? 

Well, I'm going to attempt to share that with you. And please, if you have a question about long arming (specifically long arming for this series, but send me other quilting questions if you have them and I will address them in another format) send them my way. Comment here or email me at rubybluequilts (at) gmail (dot) com. I hope to share topics like how the quilts are loaded and why (which is how backings are pieced is so important), what goes into the designing, using multiple threads in a quilt, tools long armers use, etc. 

Honestly I think a series like this will help all quilters whether you send out your quilts to be quilted, whether you quilt your own, or if you haven't had any finished yet and are looking into options. It'll give a different perspective of knowledge that isn't normally shared. And that's just wrong. 

Also if I don't start a blog series or get out of my kitchen I'm going to make so much baby food Maura will never have a chance to eat it all. Seriously I'm addicted to making baby food and Maura is eating like a champ, but I'm running out of freezer space!!!

Okie dokie, so the topic for today - Stockholm Syndrome. What is it?

Well, basically Stockholm Syndrome is where people have been kidnapped and once freed, they sympathize for and actually miss their captors. I have a version of that while quilting and it happens a lot lately. 

When I experience Quilting Stockholm Syndrome, it's usually with the crazy custom quilted show quilts that need a lot of time and attention. Sometimes I start the planning even before I get the quilt (if I get pictures emailed my way). Then once I have the quilt in my hands and see the scale and the colors and the textures I really jump into the design process. 

Designing the quilting once I have the quilt can take minutes, hours, days, or weeks. It all depends on the quilt and how crazy we are going to get with the quilting. Either that or if it's a style that's out of my element (Asian quilts do it for me every time), something unexpected (a Christmas quilt in March - your brain just shuts off certain holidays at points throughout the year), or the client has requests that I just don't know how to accomplish at the time, it may take longer than normal. 

Alas, once we have the design it's time to load up the quilt and get started. Honestly sometimes the design isn't completely finished once the quilt gets loaded onto the machine but you just load it and hope inspiration comes to you as you work on the other areas. 

And that's when it happens. 

The quilt is now loaded. There's no going back. You have to start and you give yourself a mental pep talk of "I can do this". Before quilting you have an idea in your head of how far you want to get the first day and how long the quilt should take...

Then you work for an hour and life is good. The quilting is turning out just how you thought it would or better, you're in the groove and you got this...

And then by hour two you're over it and you can't help but think "when is it ever going to end???"

That's how it goes almost every. single. time. 

It's nothing against you or your quilt or the plan in place. It's the mind of a creative going through the motions of a project. It's like the 5 stages of grief or a 12 step program. You have to go through all the motions and dread and fear is a big one. Sometimes I have this feeling even with a small quilt. I know it'll take me a couple hours to load it, quilt it and unload it, yet 15 minutes in I can't shake the feeling of "when will it be over?". 

And then before you know it your find your groove again and the quilting is magical. Once you see a milestone you get refreshed. 

It could be the halfway point, the quilt isn't touching the floor anymore, time to switch threads, something, but that sense of dread is long gone. 

Now things are flying by, the quilting is happening so much faster than it did in the beginning and now it's time for Stockholm to set in. 

You realize the quilt is almost done. You've spent so much time and energy working on this wonderful project and it's almost over and you don't want it to end. Even worse, you have to give it back to it's owner and that just breaks your heart. Granted it's part of the job. Okay, it IS the job, but you want to hold onto it for just a little more. 

And then it gets packed up and sent on it's way and you are heartbroken like a Mom sending her kid to camp for the first time. You're so proud and so sad all at the same time. 

But then for us quilters it's onto the next project and the cycle starts all over again. 

I can't tell you how many clients I call and say, "Your quilt is done but I don't want to give it back". It's probably the single hardest element of this job. I can always come up with designs - it may take me awhile, but I can always get the job done in that aspect. Getting used to the idea of sending your hard work away and you'll probably never ever see it again - that part is always hard. 

So please understand that we "adopt" your quilts when you send them to us and we treat them just as we would our own (or a quilter should and if they don't, don't go back!). If you don't get the feeling that your quilt is as appreciated and cared for just like you would, that quilter is not the quilter for you. Your quilter should be heartbroken every time they give your quilts back. Like I said, it's part of the process. 

Ask your long armer. I'm sure they'll agree! 

Disclaimer * There are those rare few quilts that are just hard and difficult and you cannot wait to give them back and never see them again. It happens too, but on a much much smaller scale. And usually the quilter knows and warns us when one it to be expected. It could be a badly written pattern or tutorial they followed or a fabric that just gave them fits. Not every quilt is perfect but when it was started and the time and effort went into finishing that beast, you sometimes just want it done and gone and out of your way too and we quilters get that! 

Sssoooo, what do you think? My fellow long armers, do you agree? My quilting friends, does this surprise you? 

I will try to be back next Wednesday with another topic and we shall go from there. There's much to discuss and much to explore! 


  1. I've only machine quilted a few however I've gone through the same thing. I even go through it when I start piecing as I design my own quilts. I sketch this great design and rush out and buy fabric. I'm choosing what fabric goes where to finish a block. Then, I have to sew up many of those blocks and I can't wait for it to be done. Then the process starts all over again when I start on another block within the same quilt. When I finally have the whole thing pieced I wish I could do it all over again. And you know I do because I start a new quilt.

  2. Nailed it!! 100% agree. I've had so many quilts I wanted to keep but stealing is frowned upon so I give them back. Sigh.

  3. Hahaha...........soooo true! A touching truthful post with splashes of humour! So sweet of you to write the truth. Years ago when my kiddies were little I used to clean other homes for a small income, I would arrive and think 'oh yes I can transform this to a sparkling palace!' I would scrub and polish, neatly stack the books and magazines, fold the linen away so that any proud navy person would smile, then it was time to leave and head to the next house.........I would feel sad knowing that in a few days or hours! The house would need my magic wand all over again!
    Yes I have many quilts that I would love to keep and a few others that I am delighted to see the end of! Welcome to the professional quilters world :-)

  4. Thank you, thank you. That's exactly how I fee!

  5. Yes I agree to with everything you have said. Looking forward to your next post.

  6. Yes I agree to with everything you have said. Looking forward to your next post.

  7. I am a new one on the longarm business and have only done a few quilts but have experience the same things.

    warm regards from Holland,


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