May 27, 2008

The commissioned quilt

Etsy restarted a service called "Alchemy" a few months ago and on it I found someone requesting a 6 foot square wall quilt with a "protective eye". I liked the idea of the quilt and I liked the idea of getting paid for my hobby! So I put a bid in and was accepted. I felt very very special for about five minutes until I figured out that a dozen other bids had also been accepted. Who has enough money to pay for thirteen versions of the same quilt? We'll discuss that later.

I had never made a quilt for money before. I started with a sketch based on what the client's stated vision was. The idea was, a random patchwork background of similar but slightly different blues with the eye suspended roughly in the middle. Quilting in the eye would be spiral, quilting from the eye would radiate out.

The quilt came together really easily. My machine died in the middle of the quilting, as you can see I'm less than halfway through the rays and I still have to finish the spiral quilting on the dark blue.

The person who requested the quilt pretty much ignores my emails. I can only imagine they get lost in a sea of similar emails from 12 other quilters. I guess he's not chomping at the bit and cursing my name.

I have to say I don't think I'll be doing a commissioned quilt again for a long time. It really changed my creative process, having to work within someone else's parameters, and also within the parameters that I set in my own description of my vision for the quilt. It made me feel weird that my quilt would be one of so many others. I ended up feeling like I should be working on the paid quilt instead of other things. So my other quilts and my Etsy shop have stalled while this project has been in my house. I feel stagnant.

Lest I sound like I am only complaining: I was prepaid for the quilt, so at least I have the money to fix the sewing machine! I'm almost done and looking forward to the sense of freedom that will come with shipping this quilt off to it's owner.

May 18, 2008

I'm not dead

But my sewing machine and my camera are. Makes it hard to post to one's sewing blog! I'm so frustrated. Apparently the foot pedal on my Bernina record 830 originally had some overheating problems. My pedal has a "T" sticker on the bottom indicating that it's been fixed but it's a little suspicious that it gave out during our current heat wave! A new pedal costs $140. And I can't be positive that's the source of the problem without a working pedal to test it. What to do...

This is awful timing. I'm supposed to have already completed a commissioned quilt (more on that to come). I tried to take pictures of the stalled project only to find out my computer won't read my camera's memory card! WHAT is going ON?

Happier news to come...

May 09, 2008


My good friend gave birth to her second baby this week. Everything went simply, quickly, at home, as she planned. Everyone is doing great. This baby was two pounds heavier than her first, but she only pushed for 8 minutes, and no tear. The labor went so fast, I'm lucky I got there in time!

The last three years I've only attended hospital births; it was nice to be back in the home setting, stripped of the unneeded technology. It was also a little strange to not be the one catching the baby! Since hubby and I will eventually be in the market for a homebirth, it was the perfect chance to see these particular midwives in action. It made me smile to see all their clogs piled by the door with the oxygen tank. Homebirth is so humble!

Thanks for all the kind comments on my finished quilt. I've been enjoying having this blog. I think it's helped me focus my creative energy. I really appreciate being able to share my work and get feedback from other artists who understand this medium!! So thanks everyone. Hubby's on vacation with the digital camera so I'll give you an update on my projects when he gets back next week.

May 03, 2008

A Big Big Finish!

There has been a lot of excitement this week, and this quilt is no small part! I'm finally finished. The very first quilt I started, over four years ago. At points along the way I thought I would call it "A Holy Mess" or "A Very Bad Idea" but now we're past all that and its title is "Stars and Squares - Grandma's scraps".

When I first discovered quilting did not have to be boring and precise I was visiting my family and my grandma was showing me the vibrant quilts she was working on. We had just moved to Portland, I was finishing my prereqs for nursing school. Money was so tight. She lovingly sent me home with her scraps from recent projects. It included a lot of squares and triangles for a square in a square quilt she had made. I got some more material from cast off cotton clothing at the Goodwill outlet. I organized a fabric trade on (before it died and was later reborn). We each shared 8"x6" scraps. The green fabric with red dots came from someone in Europe. I used every square inch, I loved that fabric so much.

To make the most use of grandma's odd shapes I started sewing things together in a roughly square in a square pattern. I generally used a squareish shape in the middle, a little strip, then the larger square, and more little strips. I used incredibly small pieces in some parts. I got 24 squares that I mostly loved, of all different sizes.

Then I hit a wall. What next? After stewing on it for months I decided I would suspend all these squares on a blue background. I visited quilt shops and bought different blue fabrics, and then went about making the blocks fit together in rows. The scrappiness of the blocks was echoed in the background by much cutting and resewing and interjecting little colorful scraps as well.

I should point out here that the quilts I had seen were pretty much just my grandma's and a couple of quilts by Anna Williams. In retrospect I can really appreciate Anna Williams' influence. Somewhere along the way I realized that this quilt had gotten very long and skinny and possibly not that useful. I tried to use borders to beef the sides up more than the top and bottom, with only minor success. By the time I got to the borders I had checked out Gwen Marston's book from the library. That's the origin of the crazy stars.

I wanted to quilt the quilt myself, by machine. I took a machine quilting class from Kathy Sandbach, and loved it. But I was overwhelmed by the idea of quilting this big piece. So I set it aside, and made 7 or 8 other, smaller and simpler quilts. Now that I'm finished quilting this I have to say I don't know what I was so afraid of. It really wasn't that much harder than any of the baby quilts I've quilted. It's only 60 inches wide, by 86 inches long, so width wise I didn't have so stuff any more quilt under the sewing machine arm than I have before. This size is really not appropriate for any bed. But that's fine because I want it to live on the couch for all to see. Or maybe be our picnic quilt at the park this weekend.

I learned a lot by making this quilt. I keep trying to put it into words, but it's hard. But the lessons are there, in the fabric and the stitches. Resourcefulness, adventure, planning (or the lack of it). I'm a different person than when I started it. Thanks for letting me tell you the story.