Quilting Untied

For several days I’ve been working on my Untied project. (Do see the link for a photo of the top, as well as discussion of my process.) Last week I pin basted it, at least as far as I could with so few pins. I intended to try big-stitch quilting with perle cotton. However, local shops don’t seem to carry size 8 perle cotton, only size 5. It is FAT, too fat for big-stitch quilting, though it might work perfectly well for tying a quilt. Since Untied will hang on the wall rather than take heavy use as a cover, I decided that embroidery thread will work fine.

I’m enjoying the process so far. The progress is deceiving, though. I can feel like I’m working quickly, covering a lot of ground, while in truth there is so far to go!

Here are a couple of photos to show my work in process:

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I had to decide pretty quickly not to worry about what the back looks like. After all, it will hang on the wall, and it isn’t a contest quilt.

Do you do big-stitch quilting? What’s your favorite part of that? Least favorite?

This Would Be Great, Except . . .

Do you love all parts of making? Or are there steps you dread? See Kerry’s great post on the conflicting feelings we might have as we quilt or craft. Please leave comments on her post.

Love Those "Hands at Home"

“Being a college professor would be a great job . . . if it weren’t for the students.”

I’ve heard these very words spoken, and have uttered them myself, if only as a joke. After all, if there were no students, there would be no job, no need for college professors, right?

All jobs, no matter how fun and fulfilling, have their downsides, I suppose.

In all my years teaching, it wasn’t the students that were the problem for me—I liked the students. It was the grading I hated.

But teaching, at least in American higher ed, means grading. Without students and without grading, there wouldn’t be a job.

In every craft I’ve done, there are tasks I dislike.

Making yoyos is great, if it weren’t for sewing them together.

Quilting is great, if it weren’t for the basting. Ack—I hate basting.

Making jewelry is great, if it weren’t for…

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How Much Are Those Placemats Worth?

On Facebook today, a friend’s page fielded a question about where to find placemats. The person asking wants a set of placemats and a Christmas tree skirt to go with a quilted table runner she bought in 2003. Several people chimed in with help, some of them suggesting she buy fabric and have someone make placemats for her.

The question and the suggestions made me wonder how much a set of four quilted placemats is worth. I broke it down like this:
Assumptions
Four placemats are ordered
Each placemat measures 12″ x 18″
Placemats are made in a 4 x 6 layout of 3″ finish squares

Overhead, administrative, and marketing expenses are negligible
Total overhead cost = $0

Batting and thread are negligible expenses
Fabric is $12/yard
Backing fabric required is 1 yard
Top fabric required (for variety) is at least 6 fat quarters, or 1.5 yards
Binding required (2.5″ wide cut) is .75 yards (due to shrinkage, straightening, etc.)
Total yardage required is 3.25 yards
Total yardage cost is $39
Total cost of materials = $39

Labor cost is $20/hour
Fabric is purchased and washed, but not otherwise prepped by the buyer
Top fabric is pressed and cut into 96 3.5″ squares
Top fabric is arranged into pleasing layouts
Top fabric is stitched into 4 12″ x 18″ finish tops
(Pressing continues throughout stitching process)
Backing fabric is pressed and trimmed into 33″ x Width of Fabric rectangle
Binding fabric is pressed and cut into 2.5″ wide x Width of Fabric strips
Binding fabric is joined to create 280″ long binding strip
Backing fabric is pinned on longarm quilting frame leaders
Batting is cut to size
Batting is loaded on frame, pinned along top edge
Two placemats tops are pinned on to complete sandwich
Thread is wound
Machine is threaded
Machine is tested
Two placemats are basted in place
Two placemats are quilted partway
Two placemats are advanced on the frame (rolled forward)
Two placemats are finished with basting and quilting
Next two placemats are positioned and basted in place
Next two placemats are quilted partway
Placemats are advanced on the frame
Placemats are finished with basting and quilting
Project is removed from the frame
Project is trimmed into 4 separate placemats
Binding is applied to back of each placemat
Binding is machine-finished for each placemat
Total time for 4 placemats is 5 hours
Total labor cost = $100

Total materials and labor = $139
Total cost per placemat = $34.75

Wow. Would you pay $34.75 for simple pieced-squares placemats? I sure wouldn’t. You could argue the time involved or the appropriate labor charge. Let’s take the labor charge to zero. Will you pay $10 each for your placemats? That’s still a lot. But arguably it’s too low. I didn’t include any of the overhead costs, by assumption; I didn’t include the costs of batting or thread; I didn’t include any profit.

A set of handmade quilted placemats is not trivial in value. The notion of “buy a few yards of fabric and find a seamstress … ” as one person suggested, minimizes the value of a maker’s time. I make placemats occasionally, for myself and my children. It is a good gift. But it’s another example of a quilted item with much more value than most people are willing to pay.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Lessons: Round Robin Books Review

The Quilting Party, Artist Unknown, c. 1840-1850.

I’ve recently provided reviews on almost all the medallion books there are, as well as five books on quilt borders. Before I finish with reviews, I want to include four books I own on collaborative quilting. Two specifically consider round robins, while two are a little different.

Round Robin Quilts by Pat Magaret and Donna Slusser, 1994
It’s surprising how much great information is packed in this older book. It covers round robins as a friendship or small group project. Besides the familiar medallion format, the book suggests a handful of variations. Considerable space is spent discussing options for group rules, including having no rules at all. Photos are abundant of real projects, and while not all the individual projects are inspiring, they give a sense of the possibilities. Besides group dynamics and projects, the authors also cover both design and construction in depth. In fact, the design discussion here includes elements (line, shape, color, value, texture, and space) as well as principles (unity, emphasis, balance, scale, and rhythm.) It is clear, easy to read, and is written with a friendly tone, befitting the projects. I honestly don’t remember where I got this book, but I’m glad to have it. It is one of the best two medallion books I own, along with Sally Collins’ Borders, Bindings & Edges, reviewed here.

Round Robin Renaissance by M’liss Rae Hawley, 2006
As the title says, the focus here is on round robin (group) projects more generally, including medallion quilts, row quilts, samplers, and others. The section on medallions is small and provides two patterns with very specific sizing for elements. The other types of projects seem to be similarly rigid. More disconcerting, though, is the section on behavior by participants. Hawley recommends substantial paperwork be passed with projects, fully-specified fabrics, same-brand rulers to ensure consistency of sizing from all participants… She has a list of rules for how to be a “perfect team member,” and even recommends wording for when you need to tell another member that their work isn’t up to your standards. Honestly, it is just odd. If any group suggested I participate in such a constricted and obsessive way, I would certainly decline. If you want that much control over your quilt, make it yourself! (I just donated this book Monday at my guild meeting.)

Freddy & Gwen Collaborate Again by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran, 2009
Following up on their prior book Collaborative Quilting, Marston and Moran play with bright colors, bold designs, and liberated piecing. The range of formats includes block, strip, and medallion quilts. They show how to create the various parts used in multiple quilts, and then include a gallery referencing which parts were used.

The point of the book isn’t actually to advocate for working in pairs or groups. It doesn’t discuss the logistics of collaboration, or the benefits or pitfalls. However, the influence of both designers is visible in the joyful results. In my opinion, that speaks for itself. This book is just fun to look at, which is why I bought it and why I still own it.

Setting Solutions by Sharyn Craig, 2001
Of all the books in my personal library, this is one I would reach for if I could only keep ten books. It isn’t about medallions, it isn’t about round robins. It’s about solving problems. Problems that are common for group quilts include blocks that are sized differently, unusual numbers of blocks, and oddly colored blocks. Craig addresses all these issues with creativity and practicality.

For a more complete review, see my post on the best book I don’t own. (I own it now!)

Do you have a favorite book (or other resource) on collaborative quilting? Certainly these just touch on the subject. Block swaps, bees, friendship and album quilts, remembrance quilts, political quilts… There are many ways to work together in quilting. Do you have stories to tell about working with others on quilts? I could tell you stories… 

Doin’ Stuff

I’m doin’ stuff. Earlier this week I finished the Leftovers quilt with binding. Pix will come later, but I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

I’ve done a fair amount of stash sorting. My stash isn’t huge, though I could make a (couple) dozen quilts from it if I didn’t care how the fabrics went together! My friend Mary from Zippy Quilts inspired my new look through old things. Recently she sorted and de-stashed. Her philosophy was, “The next step is to handle each piece and decide whether it gives me joy. If it does, it stays. If not, it GOES!” Well, I have things that don’t make me feel joyful, but I can see the use in them. There were plenty of others, though, that I’ve passed over time and again. If I haven’t used them and don’t want to use them, perhaps someone else would.

Because of the size of my stash, I can handle every piece of fabric over a pretty short time, and I did. With that, I removed about 40 yards of quilting cottons, and another pile of decorator fabric. In addition, last week I gave my friend Janet some sweet pinks and purples for her two-year-old granddaughter.

All that is not out of the house yet, but it is gathered in one place, ready to go.

Also this week I built the back for Moonlight Waltz, my big blue medallion quilt. The back took about seven yards of fabric, all in chunks of other stuff I didn’t want a lot. Most of those pieces will be used completely this way, eliminating another large quantity from stash. (Maybe I’ll have to buy a few things…) It is loaded on the frame. Tomorrow I’m going to a quilt show and intend to buy thread to quilt it.

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This top has a couple more borders now and is ready to quilt.

For something completely different, I plan to quilt Untied by hand. Or at least some of it by hand… I haven’t taken on that kind of project before, so we’ll see how far my ambition takes me. Today I pin-basted it on the ping pong table. Unfortunately I only had about a third of the pins needed, so I got the center done well and a couple of the edges. I think I can manage it one way or another, as I also have a hoop, and there is spray basting if worse comes to worst.

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Untied, pin-basted partially, ready for my start at quilting.

You’ve also seen a few posts from me using “Lessons:” in the title. I haven’t talked about that but will in a few days. As always, more to come…

What are you working on?