Sunday, June 10, 2018

What Do I Say? How to Turn Down Commissions

A few months ago, someone I'm close to sent me a text and a photo of a quilt asking if I would make a memory quilt out of her deceased father's shirts. She and her sister had seen the photo on Instagram and thought it would make a great gift for their mother.

It's the kind of request quilters get all the time. People think we can just whip something up and it doesn't cost anything or take any time because it's our hobby and we enjoy it. But how do we respond in a way that doesn't hurt anyone's feelings and yet protects us from taking on every project someone else dreams up? 

I fell back to my standard, "Sorry, no, but I can recommend someone." Usually this line is enough. It tells the person asking that I'm not going to make a quilt for free (or cheap) without coming right out and saying it. There's a woman in our community who makes gorgeous t-shirt and memento quilts for a living. She does amazing work, and I have no qualms about referring people to her, but it's not inexpensive.

But this person pressed me and and wanted to know why. Was it because it took a certain kind of fabric? In this case I was not in the most generous mood and failed to take a few moments to think through my response. I shot off a text saying telling her the truth a little too plainly.
  • It's a huge amount of work to cut away the fabric from the collar and plackets and cuffs, and some of the fabric will have to be stabilized. 
  • It still takes some significant amount of fabric for sashing, borders, backing and binding, and there's a cost to that. There's also batting and thread and stabilizer - not to mention my time. Even if I only asked to be reimbursed for materials, most people would be shocked at how quickly it adds up.
  • I'm not that good at it. Not only will it take me a lot longer because it's unfamiliar and I don't already have the materials I need, but there's absolutely zero chance that it will be better quality or design than one by the professional. If I mess it up, there's no going back to the fabric store; Dad's favorite shirt is ruined and there's not another one.
  • I don't have the bandwidth. I barely have time to work on the projects I want to make, and I have plenty of stress in my day job. The last thing I need is the pressure of your priceless memories in my hands and a looming deadline.
I've been here before. Twice I've taken on projects like this for others, both on commission. Once I made a quilt for a woman out of her children's baby clothes. Once you cut out the seams and snaps, there's very little fabric in those tiny onesies! And since everything is stretchy, you have to stabilize the heck out of it. Nothing matches. Many of the cute motifs that trigger the memory are too close to a seam to preserve.

To add to the pressure, she wanted no extra fabric included. The backing and border had to be out of a lightweight denim maternity jumper. This severely limited the size of the quilt and made stitching it a challenge. When it was complete, I could tell by her reaction that it wasn't what she envisioned, and I felt awful. There was no going back and un-cutting up her kids' clothes. 

The second commission I ever took was to repair an antique quilt. I had even less business accepting this time. The client's mother had made the quilt, and he wanted something he could display in his office and use gently. Perhaps a lap or throw sized quilt to warm his legs while he read. The squares were beautiful embroidery that was completely worn away on some blocks. The sashing and border were rotting satin with nothing but a few threads over batting in many places.

I suggested cutting out the embroidered squares and preserving the six best ones. I put them back together with a soft, black felted cotton that felt like flannel. Quilting it took forever because I was so nervous about ruining it. The client called a few times to see how it was coming, and I felt his impatience. Eventually I did complete the work and gifted him the quilt without payment since it had taken me so long. 

I have no idea what he thought of it since I never heard from him again, but I was happy with how it turned out. What I didn't love was the anxiety I had suffered since the moment that irreplaceable quilt was in my possession!

None of this was the fault of either client. They weren't quilters, so how could they have known any of these things? In both cases, I said yes to a job I should have turned down.

In addition to creating a bad experience for myself and my client, I also denied the opportunity to a quilter who relies on this type of work for her income. I denied my client the chance to have the quilt they really wanted. That's on me.

So coming up with a gentler way to decline is important. I don't want to alienate anyone by telling the truth. I think for now I'll stick with my standard, "I can recommend someone who will do a better job." But if they insist on knowing why, I think I can simply share the link to this post. 

You should feel free to do the same.

How do you handle requests? 


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

WiP Wednesday - Hand Work

It's WiP Wednesday, and there's been some actual work this week. And progress.

First, I have a confession to make. I've been cheating on quilting. I mean, I've said all along, "It's not just about the quilts," but usually I was referring to random posts about cooking or my kids or what book I just finished. I'm normally pretty faithful, craft wise. 



But lately I've been...knitting! Something I've been tempted by many times and always managed to resist. Scarves and hats didn't mean anything to me, but now I've met my match. I'm knitting socks.




I've been following the video tutorials from Meanwhile at the Castle, and find it very relaxing. The nice thing is being able to sit on the deck in this gorgeous weather, or in front of the TV at night with The Pit Boss and knit. He's also very encouraging - probably because the socks on my needles are for him!



I have been doing a little quilting, though. I'm finally done with the hand quilting project I took on (more about that on Friday) and am down to the binding. It took a lot of looking and a trip to Thread Bear Fabrics to find the right blue print. It looks like I made bias binding, but the design is on the diagonal. I love the effect and can't wait to show you the finished quilt.

What are you working on? Do you knit? Look for me on Ravelry - I'm QuiltinJenny there too!



Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Finish - Happy Elephants


There hasn't been a finish here in a while, so I'm pretty excited!

Confessions Of A Fabric Addict

This quilt broke my rule about not making a quilt for anyone at work. I was afraid if I started it would open a giant can of worms and hurt feelings, but this seemed like the time to make an exception. Actually, I just revised my rule: only baby quilts, and only for people on my team. 


I didn't post any progress photos because it was a super secret surprise for a very special baby who will be here in about seven weeks! My building engineer and his wife are expecting their first baby, a little boy named Brayden, in June. 



As soon as he showed me their inspiration photo (above from Pinterest) and told me he was going to recreate the chevron wall, I knew what I was going to do. 


A quick search of elephant fabrics turned up this perfect Michael Miller line called Happy Elephants. I decided to keep the elephant fabric on just one row so that the rest of the quilt would mimic the painted wall.


On the back I put the matching madras plaid, which also made the cutest binding!


I quilted straight lines in the chevrons, and a continuous curve design (thank you, Angela!) in the background.



Then I added some spiral swirls in the elephant section to give it a little special touch.

The shower was Tuesday, so I can finally share this fun finish. Mom and Dad were so appreciative that I am glad they were deemed "quilt worthy." 


What are you celebrating today?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Get Thee to the Quilt Show! Inspired by the National Parks

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit The Great American Cover-Up Quilt Show, put on by the Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild, featuring the Inspired by the National Parks Quilt Exhibit.

national parks exhibit, bulloch hall quilt guild, the great american cover-up, quilt show

You'll have to visit the website since photographing the quilts was not allowed. Let me just say that each grouping of quilts was amazing and inspiring. If you don't have the chance to see the exhibit, the next best thing is the book with photos and essays about each park and each quilt. 


I had the added benefit of visiting with a dear friend who is not a quilter, but whose family are national parks buffs. She has been to about half of the parks, and seeing these quilts with her was really special. I loved when she would recognize a park from across the room, and would share some memory from her childhood about visiting each one. 

national parks exhibit, hike, jan antranikian, bulloch hall quilt guild, the great american cover-up, quilt show
"Hike" by Jan Antranikian

The guild did a great job of using props and family photos from guild members to set the scene. 

national parks exhibit, foxy, marie wood, bulloch hall quilt guild, the great american cover-up, quilt show
"Foxy" by Marie Monks Wood

They also hosted a challenge among their own members, inspired by nature. I love how these turned out, and am so proud to know many of these quilters.

national parks exhibit, watched eggs never hatch, christie fouts, bulloch hall quilt guild, the great american cover-up, quilt show
"Watched Eggs Never Hatch" by Christie Fouts

The show runs through March 18, so there's still time if you are nearby. It's worth the trip!

national parks exhibit, swamp, wendy blanton, bulloch hall quilt guild, the great american cover-up, quilt show
"Swamp" by Wendy Blanton




Sunday, March 11, 2018

Going to Guild - Charlotte Angotti Returns

Monday was guild night, the first one of the year for me. In January we got snowed out. In February I had planned to attend and then, Tuesday morning, realized I had completely forgotten. Where is my head? 



But this month our speaker was the quiltalicious Charlotte Angotti with her bajillion gorgeous quilts and at least one story for each one that will have you wiping away tears of laughter.  



Charlotte has a gift for using color with simple blocks to bring light and movement to quilt designs. 


She is great at breaking down complicated looking designs and making them achievable even for newer quilters. She encourages you to use fabric from your stash, and teaches you new ways to look at old fabric.


In addition to the loads of quilts she brings - she couldn't even show them all - Charlotte is so danged funny! She sprinkles stories about how she came up with a quilt design with anecdotes from her retreats, lectures, and classes. 


My iPhone-tography doesn't do these justice, but friend her on Facebook to get a dose of color inspiration that will get your creative juices flowing.


Monday, February 26, 2018

Machine Quilting Monday - Free-Motion Meandering Blog Hop Week 4



It's the last week of the Free-Motion Meandering Blog Hop. Today, in addition to practicing the remaining designs, there's also a giveaway to win your own copy of Angela Walters's newest book. Be sure to visit Kristin and Vicki to enter their giveaways as well and improve your chances of winning.


free-motion meandering, angela walters, feather meander, giveaway

The first design is the feather meander. I thought I had taken better pictures of this one, but I guess I didn't since it's the one that definitely needs more practice! I attempted this design in the upper left and lower right blocks in the photo above, and you can see that I didn't quite get the hang of it. Time to go back and review the troubleshooting section of this chapter.


free-motion meandering, angela walters, improv quilting, giveaway

The final chapter of this book is all about improv quilting. I had a lot of fun with this concept in the blocks where the other designs didn't feel right.


free-motion meandering, angela walters, improv quilting, giveaway

I love using the blocks to help guide my quilting. 

free-motion meandering, angela walters, improv quilting, giveaway


Sometimes I combined designs to focus on certain features of the blocks. Angela does a great job of inspiring and guiding the development of your personal style, while helping you improve your technique. 

I hope you've enjoyed this preview of Free-Motion Meandering, and wish you luck in the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, February 19, 2018

Machine Quilting Monday - Free-Motion Meandering Blog Hop Week 3



Welcome to Week 3 of the Free-Motion Meandering Blog Hop! Kristin, Vicki and I are spending February with Angela Walters's newest book. The blocks I'm showing are all from the Michael Miller quilt that will be on display at QuiltCon with six other Quilts for Cure.


free-motion meandering, angela walters, paisley, freemotion quilting

This week we're practicing the paisley meander and the leafy meander. I love the loopy design of the paisley meander. It's easy to get into a groove and quickly fill a space. 

free-motion meandering, angela walters, paisley, freemotion quilting

You can make them all different sizes and add an extra echo to travel to where you need to be. Angela has some great troubleshooting tips for those times when your paisleys seem to line up instead of making a true meandering pattern.


free-motion meandering, angela walters, leafy meander, freemotion quilting

There are times when the leafy meander seems to suit the fabric better. I like how it gives the quilting such an organic texture. 

free-motion meandering, angela walters, leafy meander, freemotion quilting

Angela explains why sometimes your leaves aren't symetrical and how to avoid tension problems that can sometimes arise with this design.

Regardless of which one you choose, these are quick filler designs that will add interest to your quilt. 

Check back next week for our final two chapters and a chance to win your own copy of Free-Motion Meandering.

Even better, be sure to visit the Michael Miller Fabrics blog to find out how to win fabulous prizes while fighting childhood cancer. WIN WIN!!


Monday, February 12, 2018

Machine Quilting Monday - Free-Motion Meandering Blog Hop Week 2



Welcome to Week 2 of the Free-Motion Meandering Blog Hop! Kristin, Vicki and I are spending February with Angela Walters's newest book. The blocks I'm showing are all from the Michael Miller quilt that will be on display at QuiltCon with six other Quilts for Cure.


angela walters, quilts for cure, swirl hook, swirl meander, michael miller, aurifil, hobbs batting, free motion meandering, free-motion

This week we're practicing the swirl meander and the swirl hook meander. They aren't that different, but I love the way that little hook helps fill the square spaces. 


angela walters, quilts for cure, swirl hook, swirl meander, michael miller, aurifil, hobbs batting, free motion meandering, free-motion

This design is a challenge for me, but Angela includes much more detailed diagrams and troubleshooting tips in this book, so it's gotten a lot better since I tried the similar one in the last hop. Practice, practice, practice! 


angela walters, quilts for cure, swirl hook, swirl meander, michael miller, aurifil, hobbs batting, free motion meandering, free-motion

I put a lot of swirls on this quilt, and they didn't all meander. The border is all swirls. I love them! Sometimes I feel like they are a little rounder and smoother if I have a little wine, but that might be justification.

Quilt along with us and be sure to share pictures of your progress using the hashtag #freemotionmeandering! 


Monday, February 5, 2018

Machine Quilting Monday - Free-Motion Meandering Blog Hop Week 1



Welcome to Week 1 of the Free-Motion Meandering Blog Hop! Kristin, Vicki and I are spending February with Angela Walters's newest book.

Let me start off by saying that, if you have always wanted to try free motion quilting (FMQ), or if you are just beginning, this is the book to get first. Angela's other books are wonderful, but this one really starts from scratch with details like how to set up your machine and which thread to use.

This week we're practicing the meander and the loopy meander. I love how Angela's illustrations show you every step of the stitch. She also walks you through some troubleshooting, explaining common problems and how to avoid or fix them. 


free-motion meandering angela walters

I practiced all the designs in this book on the Michael Miller quilt that's flying to QuiltCon right now. In this block, I did a basic meander. Meandering is great for getting the hang of FMQ, for letting yourself relax and play with the fabric and thread. Angela has helpful diagrams, photos, and instructions for when you catch yourself traveling in only one direction or repeating the same design over and over again.


free-motion meandering loop angela walters
I have no idea why the color is so off in this picture.
The pink sashing is the same on all the blocks.

Once you get the hang of meandering, you can add loops. You can see from these two blocks that changing the size gives it a different feel. You can also see from the block above that smaller loops are harder to keep smooth than larger loops. But that's why we practice!

free-motion meandering loop angela walters

Angela shows some fun ways to adapt this meander to the space you're filling, including borders.

Quilt along with us and be sure to share pictures of your progress using the hashtag #freemotionmeandering!


Friday, February 2, 2018

Mail Time - Vintage Pit Boss Postcard


There is something so fun about getting a postcard, and this one from Frances just made me happy! Apparently this is a real vintage cookbook about barbecue from the fifties - out of print but still available. Of course, The Pit Boss and I loved it. I think it will go in a little frame next to the door to the deck where the magic happens. 



Frances is sending a postcard a day for 2018. What a great idea to get you writing and reaching out to friends! 

Confidential to Frances: QuiltCon 2019 in Nashville is TOTALLY happening!



Speaking of Frances and writing, have you seen her latest book, Margaret Goes Modern? It's a book of short stories about quilters and quilting. Some of them you may have seen on her Quilt Fiction page, but several are new. It's a charming read, just perfect for a quick story before bed that will leave you with happy, quilty dreams. Right now it's a bargain on Amazon Kindle for just $1.99.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

WIP Wednesday - Michael Miller and Quilts for Cure

Remember when I went to QuiltCon and one of the booths was Michael Miller Fabric and they gave out fabric to make blocks for charity quilts?  



Right. So, the way I understand it, Michael Miller collected the blocks and chose Quilts for Cure as the charity to receive the blocks. HollyAnne (of String and Story and QFC) reached out to #machinequiltingbloghop alum Kristin, Vicki, and me for help piecing the quilts in time to be displayed at QuiltCon 2018 in Pasadena.



The blocks are so cute! 



I am in awe of how creative some people are. 


Michael Miller generously added fabric for sashing, backing and binding along with the blocks, Aurifil sent thread, and Hobbs donated the batting. All I needed to do was get it together. 


Daisy critiques my sashing technique and tries to point out my mistake.
Unfortunately I ignored her.
That's what I've been working on. The top is finished and the quilt is basted. I've stitched in the ditch and am working on quilting the individual blocks. But more on that later!

What are you working on?

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