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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Taking a couple of ME days

No finished quilts today. Only one more Christmas quilt to finish. I started writing about realistic scheduling on my other post but ran out of time. I won't be posting for the next 3 or 4 days. I don't want anyone to get worried if I don't post.

Which mechanic do you choose? (Part one)

Let me set up a mental picture for you.....hmm.....let's say you want to get the oil changed on your car.

You take it to a mechanic who has a fairly good reputation. He (or she) is known for giving free safety check inspections while he has your car and the price is reasonable. You pull into the lot and he saunters out kind of casual asking if he can help you. You tell him you want your oil changed. He says, sure I can do that, would you like the simple oil change or would you want the deluxe version with everything? You decide to go with the deluxe. It will cost a little more, but hey, the car is worth it.

He goes to get his waiting list....which is a really long note pad with a list of names about three sheets long. He writes your name at the end of the list and tells you to just park it out back. You pull around back and there are cars lined up everywhere. Probably a hundred or more are parked in back. So you park your car and go back inside to give him the keys.

You ask, how long will it take to get your car back? He replies; oh.... I don't know....I'll give you a call when I get it done. I don't know how long any car will take until its done. I'm only one person.....I can only do so much....I do have a life you know. It may take me 6 to 12 months to get it done. WHAT? You find you have a decision to make. Do you trust the mechanic to keep your car safe for up to a year among all those other cars?

You decide to take your car somewhere else before leaving it there. You check around and find another mechanic only a few miles away. You stop by his shop. This time you are smart and ask about his turn around time first. This time the mechanic tells you he has a very long waiting list but prefers to not have the car until he is actually ready to change the oil.

He goes on to explain he prefers not to overbook his work schedule because he prides himself on being a good family man and a community volunteer as well as a good mechanic. Too much mechanic work means less time for his life. He promises.....when your car is dropped off it will get his full attention and be returned to you within a few days.

He goes on to explain...although this first oil change may take a while to get done; he can schedule you in for the next oil changes right now. The wait won't be so long next time. You can put your name on his list....right now....for when the oil is due to be changed at 3,000 miles and 6,000 miles, etc. But....if you aren't on the schedule, he can't guarantee an appointment. You get to keep the car while you are waiting for your oil changes.

So let me ask you......which mechanic do you prefer? The one who gave you a vague idea of turn around time or the one who explains the long wait and wants to be helpful?

Toppers are the only people I can think of who are willing to leave property in someone else's hands for months at a time? Without any idea when it will be returned. Machine quilters are the only ones I know of who can expect others to trust them that much. Honesty doesn't have anything to do with possible disasters down the road. Fires, floods, thefts, tornadoes....a lot of things can happen down the road. Would it be better to have a hundred quilt tops in your hands or only a few if a disaster happened? How would you justify so many to the insurance company? Would the insurance company pay for all of them?

Ok, now that I've set up a mental picture and I've run out of computer time. I will have to stop here and continue the rest of the story in a couple of days. In the meantime, think about how many quilt tops you actually get finished each week. Just a vague idea is ok. Is it 5, 15,or 30? If you are just starting out as a machine quilter try doing a full week of your practice tops to get a good idea of the number you are comfortable doing in one week. Make a note of what other things happen during the week to take you away from your quilt studio. These are important too.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

His Mommie's quilt

Here is the quilt done for a little boy's Mommie. He did surprisingly well....but of course he did have his Grandma and an uncle who makes quilts to instruct him. He did all the piecing himself.

I did the Baptist fan in the center area which took out any fullness areas. I did a feather in the border because I can work them really fast.

This is a view of the back.

Until tomorrow....

I broke my own rule

This is today's finished quilt. It's the t-shirt quilt I pieced the other day.

In order to give it a masculine look I did all over crosshatching.

I broke my own "no work me in quilts" rule. This one I simply couldn't resist. It is done by a child who really wanted to make his Mommie a quilt for Christmas. The agreement was that if he could get it made, I would make sure it got quilted. His Grandma helped him with the ironing and fabric cutting. He did all the piecing. It's on the machine right now. In order to get it quilted for him, I'll get off the computer and get back into the studio. Grandma will also help get the binding finished too. I really do love my beginning quilters!!

Create a catalog, its easier and faster

I do make custom quilts. The majority of them are made from clothing. Either t-shirt quilts or quilts from the clothing of someone who passed away. When I get a phone call from a potential customer, the first question I get asked is...how much do you charge for a _____ size quilt? Naturally, I can't give a price until I know what it is they want made. What size, what pattern, what clothing they have, etc.

Educating each new customer on the complexities of making a quilt is difficult. Over the phone is nearly impossible. They aren't quilters so they have no concept of the time involved, the cost of fabrics, what the sizes are, or anything. They only know they want a quilt made....within their budget. I refuse to give over the phone estimates.

I got extremely tired of trying to refigure an estimate on a custom quilt for every new customer at the same time I was convincing them I could make the quilt. Sometimes the initial contact would take three or four hours out of my busy schedule. I knew I couldn't keep doing that. Also, when I finish a quilt it goes home with the customer. I don't have samples to show either.

To end some of my frustration refiguring each new quilt, redrawing new sketches, and to save me time; I created a catalog of quilts that look good made from clothing. Clothing is nothing more than scrappy fabrics. My catalog has pictures of scrappy quilts and t-shirt quilt styles. My catalog has estimated prices to go with the pictures. Everyone knows how to look through a catalog to shop. Catalogs are easy. Just look for a picture of something you like, check the price, and either buy or keep looking.

*note here....I always, always, always estimate high
. It's easy to come down on a price. The customer then feels they have gotten a bargain. It's very difficult to give an estimate then tell the customer it will cost more. The customer will respond by saying....BUT YOU SAID. Then I'm stuck. I wouldn't want that kind of thing to happen to me either. It almost always happens when I get an estimate on electrical or plumbing work. Gee I hate it when they tell me it will cost more.

I also have topper customers who make custom quilts and have me do the quilting. I explain my system to them with a reminder to be sure to figure my cost of machine quilting into their estimate quotes.

So here is my custom quilt catalog....

Yup, it's just a photo album. It's what's inside that's important. Pictures inside a photo album, what a concept. It also has this inside. My prices.... If you click on the picture it should get large enough for you to see. Yes, they are high. That's the point! Please keep in mind I do piece very quickly. I've learned a trick or two over the years that keep me moving very fast.

How does it work? Well, this page is just for me.....not my customers. I use it for making the other pages. Each new pattern picture I add gets put into one of the above categories. See the figures inside the brackets? That's a per square inch price for piecing and quilting. I have set sizes which are on the right.

And here are a couple of the pages.... Yes, of course, t-shirt quilts.

You will see I have arrows pointing to the different pictures. That's to save space and paper. There are written letters beside each one. Those are code marks for me to double check my figures with the beginning page. I do have something in the upper left hand corner of the price sheets I will be taking off of these pages. It's for me only and I should have realized that before printing all those pages. (Actually I'm thinking of remaking the whole catalog but it will work the same way.)

In the upper left corner of the price page is a list of numbered items. Then a set of numbers in the column beside the prices. These are code numbers for me. If a person wanted....say....a t-shirt quilt on a low budget; I look for numbers 4 and 5 in that column. If a customer asks for a quilt made from neckties; I look for the number 3 in the column.

You will see that every price page has very clearly...in red so it stands out....the prices are for labor only. I don't provide anything but the batting, stabilizers, and thread. (I do charge for them though.) The customer shops for any additional fabric required to complete the quilt.

Why do I have the customer shop instead of me? Because very few non-quilters know the high cost of fabrics. They might give me $50 for fabric but expect me to buy $300 worth. Because I can't read minds to know what fabrics appeal to them. Because I don't know the colors of their decor. Because I can't be out shopping when I need to be here running a business. My time is my money. Every fabric store clerk knows how to help a customer pick out fabrics. It's not necessary for me to be there too.

I give the customer a list of yardage, a list of fabric stores in the area, and instructions to tell the fabric store clerk that Anita sent them to pick out fabrics. If the clerk has any questions about the yardage list, I'm just a phone call away. The customer can shop at their own convenience within their own work schedule and their own budget. If the customer gets sticker shock at the cost of fabrics...its better to back out now....before I put my time into a quilt they can't afford.

How did I come up with my price estimates? Good question. I took the easiest piecing design, figured up the cost of machine quilting based on the size. Then figured two and a half times the cost of machine quilting. My custom quilting price is .02 per square inch. Two and a half times this is .05 per square inch for the easiest piecing designs. I can come down in final price and still earn a decent amount. Ok, that's was the easiest. The next was intermediate which went up .02 cents more, advanced went up .02 cents more, and so forth. All of the prices have built in amounts I can reduce the price to give the customer a bargain. But also.....each price is high enough that if a design really does take more time to create I'm still earning what I need to earn.

When a potential customer calls to ask about my price for a custom made quilt; I explain I have a catalog of quilt patterns that is available to look through. Something for every person's budget if they would care to come by and look at it. I explain, even if they decide to shop around, it's OK with me, I can give them a few hints of things to ask when shopping for a quilt maker.

This catalog idea saves time as well as show I'm a professional. I wasn't sure which label to put on it in this blog post. I finally chose to put it under being professional because.....I am after all... telling others how I keep myself professional. I do have another catalog comprised of art quilts with a whole different set of prices. Art quilts are a whole different part of my professional quilting career.

If anyone sees something in this post that isn't quite clear would you please let me know? I can go back and make changes so it reads better. I've been typing really fast so I can get back into the studio.

Monday, November 26, 2007

This is today's finished quilt.

Freehand flowers and leaves all over the top.

A Diana Phillips design in the side triangles and le lace on the border.

I'm not posting much today. Getting an early start on the next one. I did take a look at my posts from about this time last year. I was so enthused about getting organized. I did get all straightened out and cleaned up. Now I find myself ready to do it over again. Hopefully, this time will the the final time. But who knows....

At home retreat

This may not be the same stashbusting as others are doing right now, but for me it is. Just because I don't own the fabric myself doesn't mean its not actual stashbusting, does it?

Getting the custom quilts out of the way means I will have much more time for organizing and stashbusting fabrics of my own. Yes, I know this is Christmas rush season for me. None the less, I did have myself a weekend retreat. I had two custom quilts to finish piecing so they can get their time on the machine before my vacation. I finished piecing the t-shirt quilt. Now it's ready for machine time.

Then I finished piecing this one. The picture is of half the top. I still have to add borders before it can be put onto the machine.

This was a design from Quiltmaker magazine. I don't like making designs from that magazine. I do them only if a customer requests it. The designs have very little in the way of instruction which makes shortcut piecing difficult. I'm glad I can just look at a picture and put together a quilt in a way that makes sense to me.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

One line = one quilt

I've seen some discussion lately about machine quilter's waiting lists. I thought I would show you mine and describe how it works. The pictures first....description below.

A quilt top waiting to be quilted does not care where it waits.

These were the only pages of my waiting list without any names. Each page had at least a couple of names. I want to protect the privacy of my customers so I didn't show any pages with names. I tried importing the actual pages from MS word to here but blogger said no way.

I don't have a lot of room in my studio for storing several customer quilts. Some machine quilters do quilts in the order received. For them a quilt is not scheduled until it is actually in their hands. This means they have many tops stored and is their responsibility to keep the quilts safe until picked up. Some machine quilters will have customer tops in their possession for a few weeks up to many months.

Geeze.....I would get myself into a major panic if I saw bunches of tops in my studio waiting to be quilted. I would absolutely work myself to death trying to finish them all at once! The thought of me being responsible for lots of quilts, all at one time, for such a long time, scares me.

My waiting list is created so a customer can get their name down for any month of the year except December. Most will call the minute they pick out their fabrics. Reserving a spot means the customer's name is working its way to the top of the waiting list at the same time they are creating the top. If a customer plans to bring me more than one top, I write their name down more than once. One line for each quilt top scheduled for machine time. By the time a top is in my hands there is only a two or three week time until it is quilted and ready to be picked up.

I call the customer about 2 weeks before I get to their name. Two weeks gives them time to finish up the quilt if they are still working on it. This also allows the customer to work it into their schedule to bring it to me. Some work, some live a distance away, some send it by UPS, and some may not have a car so it's not always convenient for customers to make a strict appointment time. I want the experience of working with me to be just as much for their convenience as for mine.

I must point out here that I keep regular open and closed hours just like any business has regular hours. Sunday I am closed and sometimes Monday. On occasion I will have to leave due to an emergency of some type. I do have a life other than my studio.

My only requirement for actually bringing a scheduled top is that they call me before leaving home. I don't want a customer to drive for an hour and I'm not even home. The cost of gas is much too high for wasted trips. If I know they are on the way I can wait...or let them know I won't be here until another time.

On the waiting list are several columns of information I like to keep. One is a pre-called date column. I record the date I call to let the customer know their name is coming up. If I call but don't get the quilt within three weeks I give the customer a 'last call' reminder. After that, I can't guarantee a time on the machine. I must move on.

What I tell my customers is.....I can't write a name where one is already written....but to remove a name only takes an eraser. Its better to have their name on the list than to wait until my schedule is already full and I have to say no.

I can skip over a name then come back to it....within reason. I am, after all, trying to earn a living so I have to keep my machine moving. I can't have a name down for.....say March....but not receive it until June. If a customer has their name down but simply can't finish the top and get it to me, I erase the name and have myself a ME DAY. I will reschedule the quilt in another month if the customer requests it and I have an opening.

I really can't afford to have many ME days either. Too many erased names means I am not earning a living. Some bills won't get paid and I may not be able to buy groceries.

When a customer reserves a time spot on my waiting list I don't know what quilt they plan to bring me. If the quilt they originally had in mind gets finished by another quilter that's ok, bring me a different one that is finished. I won't know the difference.

When a customer really can't finish their quilt, they are welcome to give that reserved spot to a friend. It doesn't matter to me if I do Jane's quilt or Joan's quilt so long as the time spot is used. The idea is to keep my machine moving so it is earning me a living.
One line = one quilt.

I don't do work-me-in quilts anymore.

There is a saying among machine quilters, it goes like this...... A customer's inability to plan, is not my crisis. What they are talking about are the last minute "please, please, oh pretty please work-in my quilt" requests.

I used to do work-me-in quilts by staying on my machine lots of overtime. Then I realized some new to me customers were using this as a way around being scheduled onto the waiting list. They would convince me to work-in their quilt.....which I would do...then I wouldn't ever see them again. Some customers simply don't like waiting in line. They will do what they can to cut in front of others.

Work-me-in quilts are very stressful for a machine quilter. It throws the whole schedule out of whack. It creates overtime which in turn means more time away from family and friends. No one, in any profession, really likes working tons of overtime.

Work-me-in quilts are just plain unfair to the customers who wait months for me to get to their name. If I want to work overtime it will be for my steady, regular customers...not for someone I've never heard of before.

I like names on my waiting list, even a whole year away. This prevents stress and worry about how I will pay the bills in different months. I can keep my machine moving steady at a comfortable pace. I won't panic at the sight of lots of tops to be finished. And the customers know a quilt won't be sitting in my studio for months at a time.

I'll talk about realistic scheduling in another post.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A time saving gadget

I don't know where I originally saw one of these gadgets. It's been five years or more since I first saw it. Someone was selling them for $10. I made me one from a drink cup which worked ok but kept tipping over on me. When my brother started remodeling his house I asked for a small piece of wood to use and explained why. He surprised me one day by bringing me this.

It has a hole drilled into the center. The seam ripper cap is glued into the hole. So when it's not in use I can cover the dangerous point. I simply pick up the point part and put it down into the cap.

This is how it's used. It sits on the table, I pick up the chain sewn pieces and pull the connecting thread onto the sharp part of the seam ripper. It's a lot quicker than using nippers or scissors.

I did glue a piece of shelf grip onto the bottom to keep it from sliding around the table.

I'm all for anything that saves me a few seconds here and there. Those seconds soon add up to minutes. By making one myself (or rather brother did) I saved a few dollars too.

Christmas count down

Today's finished quilt. An I Spy quilt. I loved looking at all the different fabrics in there. Makes me want to make one for my own bed. But one of the grandkids will probably get one in the future.

This shows the swag I did on the border and some of the center using the CL swirls template.

This is a view of the back and the reason I chose the swirls pattern.

I spent the rest of the day mopping the studio floor and doing a general clean up. While waiting for the floor to dry I worked on some of my own projects. Tomorrow I hope to finish piecing the t-shirt quilt and work on another custom quilt that should be finished before my vacation. I have 4 or 5 more customer tops plus the two custom to finish. Shouldn't be a problem getting them done on time.

I talked with my DIL about my visit next month. Both of us are anxious for the time to get here. She wants to learn how to sew and I want to help her learn. Great for both of us. I'm also anxious to spend time with my sons and the grandkids. This makes me want to buy a car again so I can visit more often. But, there are other priorities right now. As much as I would love to have a car again I will have to wait.

Why don't I have a car now? Because I got tired of fixing things broken by vandals. Windows, mirrors, tires, scratches and stuff like that. Plus I wanted to use the money I was paying for insurance for other things. I gave my car to a man who really needed it to get a job. Since all the bad little rug rats have moved to other neighborhoods I've been looking at possible cars for me. I saw one on a car lot the other day that looked perfect. I thought I could hear it calling my name but I was on a bus and didn't want to get off. It was raining.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Get ready to organize

Before I go on; let me tell you about an email I received from an internet friend who reads my blogs. My internet friend had read the story about why we buy fabrics.

She sent me an email telling about her quilting friend. The friend has so much fabric that several of their friends were thinking maybe they should call Intervention for her. I got a really good chuckle out of that because it sounds so much like me. I have so much fabric that sometimes I feel like I need intervention too.

Honestly, I think the fabric critters are multiplying themselves when I'm not looking. The reason I think this? Because every once in awhile I come across a fabric I don't remember ever seeing before. Just like in dogs or cats. The offspring sometimes look nothing like the mother. When I come across a fabric I don't recognize I look around to see if I can spot the guilty parents. Never can figure out which ones though because they all look so innocent just laying there quietly. I think I need to start a spay and neuter your fabrics campaign.

Anyway, back to the organizing.....

As you can probably tell I'm getting antsy to start reorganizing. I started gathering items I will use when I start. I bought 4 boxes of these when I did my 6 months grocery shopping. I happen to like this large size as well as the gallon size for my organizing. I wish I could have bought more but these were all the store had. I'll ask my daughter to pick some up next time she goes to the store.

Ok, don't you go rushing out to the store to buy any just yet. This is supposed to be about saving money too....right? If you have them already, good, stake a claim and rush them to your fabric stash before someone else in the house decides to claim them. Just don't hide the boxes. Leave them right out in the open and no one will notice they are there. Hidden in plain sight as the saying goes. When you see how these are used you might find something around your house that would work better for you.

These things here are much more important than the bags right now anyway. What is it?

I'm glad you asked. Through out the year....when ever I receive a magazine, or search on the internet, or look through my books for inspiration.....I make copies of the directions of any quilt I think I might like to make someday. It doesn't matter if I never get around to actually making the quilt. I just like to have all the instructions for quilts I want to make in one place instead of having to search through books or the internet to find it again. Out of sight, out of mind means the quilt doesn't have a chance of ever getting created. Unless, of course, you come across it again when you aren't really looking for it. When I'm ready to make another quilt I go to this stack of instruction pages first.

You will notice I have some quilt names written on sheets of paper. These are reminder pages for me. These are quilts that I plan to make for my kids, grandkids, or friends. I also make reminder pages for charity quilts. For those with just written names, I either don't need the instruction sheets or they are stored with a template set. For example the Dresden plate made from neckties is one I have created several times already so I don't need the directions. I can figure out the number of pieces to cut when I'm ready to make one. Hmm, I wonder why I spelled Dresden with an a instead of an e? One of those senior moments again.....I guess.

Slow day

Another of those cloudy rainy days. It was too dark in the studio for working on the machine so I started working on the t-shirt quilt. I realized I didn't have any leaders and enders so I stopped working on that.

To pin some fabrics to my string spider web blocks. These will be my leaders and enders for awhile.

Then I decided to do a bit of organizing by refolding my interfacing fabrics. I folded them to fit into a smaller space.

I won't be doing any work in the studio today at all. It's turkey day so I'll be in the kitchen and talking on the phone.

Stabilizers by the bolt

I buy interfacing by the bolt. I buy it this way because it's a time saver for me. I make custom made t-shirt quilts a lot. It was a hassle for me to catch a bus to buy a few yards at a time each time I had a t-shirt quilt to start. Bus rides are very time consuming. It's also hard to carry heavy bags of fabrics a couple of blocks to the bus stop.

I always remove the interfacing from the store cardboard and refold it my way. The refolding takes a little time now but saves time later. It's folded ready to cut into strips whenever I need it. The new folded size will also saves space in my storage room.

I sometimes get sheets from customers to use as the back of their quilts. I save the plastic sleeve and the inner cardboard but I throw away the advertisement part.

I roll my refolded stabilizer onto the cardboard like this. Then I remove the information from the bolt end and tape it to a bit of string then to this cardboard. This helps me to know exactly what I need to know about this particular brand and weight. It also gives me the information about which one may be running out. If I am down to a yard or two, its time to buy more.

I then place the stabilizer into the plastic sleeve to keep it dust free until I'm ready to use it. Here are the ones I have right now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Machine quilting competition?

I once heard a new quilting machine owner remark that she wanted to be the only machine quilter in this area. All I could ask was “why on earth would you want that”? Her reply was “so I wouldn’t have to worry about any competition”. I understand her thinking but I don't agree with it.

I never have nor will I ever worry about competition. Every time I approach a new machine quilter in this area they seem reluctant to talk with me. Almost as if they fear I may resent a new machine quilter. Heaven forbid I should ever feel that way! I always tell them.....we are not in competition unless we enter the same contest in the same category.

You want to know why I feel this way? Ok, I’ll explain. Think about the life of a topper. In case you don’t know what a topper is…It’s a person who only creates the top of a quilt then hands it off to another person to quilt it. Would you ever hear a topper say they wanted to be the only one? Possibly, but highly unlikely. Toppers do all they can to be together and help each other. They form guilds, they go on shop hops together, they visit quilt shows together, they have retreats together, they share patterns, they share techniques, they encourage each other....the list goes on and on.

The life of a machine quilter is a lonely one. Not always; but, for the most part. It's not like we can pick up our quilting machine and take it on retreat. Its not like there is a shop hop of stores selling patterns and tools for our machines. Our guilds are mostly online as we join web rings.

So let's think about how toppers do things so we can understand their point of view first. Toppers are always on the lookout for new tips and techniques that will help them create tops faster than ever before. There are newer and better ways to create tops put on the market every single day. The magazines are full of fast designing, fast cutting, fast piecing, ideas with every new issue.

The internet is loaded with places where toppers can find new fast ways to create. New tools, new patterns, new techniques are found absolutely everywhere on the internet. Toppers buy yards and yards of fabric for their stash which suddenly overwhelms them. That's when they join groups like stash busters to learn how to create tops in lighting speed to bring down the stash.

Then there are the quilt shop classes. Obviously there are new people learning to make quilts all the time...right? If not why are the beginner classes filled enough to keep having them? The new toppers then become the newest ones to start searching for easy fast patterns to create tops. Somebody has to quilt all those tops.

Now think about all those toppers from the point of view of the machine quilter. Let's say you bought your machine, practiced, and opened for business. You got...oh say...20 toppers as your first customers. They each brought you one top a month. Very do able right?

Ok, say those 20 toppers found easier and faster ways to create tops. They are piecing one top a week instead of one a month to bring to you. Suddenly you have 80 tops being brought to you each month. If you normally quilt one full top per day, every day, that's 2 1/2 months of work brought in one single month. But this multiplies each month. So your waiting list is really, really full.

But wait...suppose those 20 each told one friend how great your quilting was so that those friends decided to also bring you their 4 quilts created per month. Do the math....40 toppers creating 160 tops multiplied by the months that go by....gee that's a lot of tops! Now your waiting list is several months long without a day off.

No you can't work that way. You need to buy groceries. You need to make quilts for your family. Your kids and spouse need some of your time too. You want to go to a quilt show. You want to visit a quilt shop or teach a class. Ok, put some days on your calendar for these things. Well now, your waiting list has grown really long hasn't it?

Hmm...with all those tops being created your waiting list is probably booked up through the Christmas rush season. The time when toppers rush to finish up a quick last minute quilt to give as a present. They call to get onto your waiting list. But wait....you have been getting calls through the year from new customers. Friends of the friends who originally booked quilts with you. Your waiting list has become full right up to a week before Christmas. You want that week for being with family.

Now imagine you are booked solid until Christmas and a customer calls with a last minute quilt for someone just diagnosed with a major illness. Maybe its a special customer of yours that you really don't want to disappoint. Ok, you could possibly work an extra one in by working extra hours or delaying your time off by one day. Still do able.

What if you got 10 or 15 of those last minute calls? Trust me....the person calling only knows about their own quilt request. They can't read your mind to know you have already gotten several calls from other people. You must explain the situation. You must say no you can't take another one. You hear the disappointment in their voice. The one I remember most is....But I don't want anyone to quilt it but you. That really tugged at my heart. I still had to say no because I simply couldn't take another one. I was even booked for Thanksgiving and Christmas days that year. She has never been back either.

What is a machine quilter to do? Especially if she were the ONLY machine quilter? There are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a year. Just because there are 24 hours in a day doesn't mean you can work 24/7. You have to have some time off for sleeping and eating and bathing and such.

Wouldn't it be nicer if you could refer the special request customers to some other machine quilter who may possibly work another into the waiting list? Maybe its a new machine quilter who really could use some customers. Sure, you may loose that customer to the other machine quilter....BUT...you will have kept your goodwill. You may possibly have helped both the customer and another machine quilter. There will be other customers to take their place on your waiting list.

No, you will never ever hear me say I want to be the only machine quilter in this area....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why do we buy fabric

Ok, you already know that the opinions expressed in my blog are my own. Blogger takes no responsibility for my off beat thoughts. Right now I want to talk about one possible reason many quilters have such a large stash and how you may change your thinking to control your buying habits.

First let me set up a mental picture in your mind. You are in the market for a new pet. For illustration purposes let's say you are looking for a dog or a cat. You either go to a pet store or to an animal shelter to find one. When you are outside all is quiet. The minute you walk in the door you immediately hear the barking and meowing of all the dogs and cats. Its a really big racket as each one mentally tries to get you to hear them say "Pick me! Pick me! Oh, please pick me!"

They all tug at your heart strings to the point you wish you could take them all home with you. Each one has a personality or trait that urges you to pick them. Some are pure bred, some are sooners. Some are bright and alert, while others are laid back and easy going. And some are off in the corner with a forlorn look of despair. They realize they may never get picked to be adopted so they go off by them self to await their fate in life. A word of caution here....never look into the eyes of a dog or cat...the minute you do, you are lost. They have grabbed and latched onto your heart.

Uh, where was I? Oh yes, if you have any heart at all you are surely tempted to take them all home with you. But....could you? Could you handle 30 or 40 cats and dogs at one adoption? Could you give them all the love and attention they individually need? Could you train and feed that many all at once? Most people who own that many pets wind up with animal cops at their door taking away the hoarder's over abundance of pets. It's a sad scene to watch.

Oakie doakie, I've set up the mental picture so now let me tell you about the fabrics. Fabrics have a heart. Most are made from living plants or a combination of plant and man made fibers. Fabrics crave human contact. They send out a strong mental signal that reaches out to human beings. That's why we wear fabric clothing instead of walking around in fur. If you don't believe me, try walking through a department store where all the clothing is hanging....without touching anything at all. Walk straight past the luxurious velvet jackets and the nice new denim jeans without stopping to look and without touching anything. Its not so easy to do is it?

Now picture yourself going into a fabric store. You walk in to see all the nice pure bred cottons and the mixed cotton/poly. There are the brand new brights and the more muted reproductions. Then there are the fabrics that have resigned them self to their fate and are back in the corner on the discount table. Every one of those fabrics are mentally tugging at your heart strings. You may not hear it but the sound of "Pick me! Pick me! Oh please pick me!" is overwhelming.

Pulling a bolt of fabric off the shelf to examine it closely is the equivalent of looking into the eyes of a dog or cat. The minute you touch it, you are lost. The more fabrics you touch and feel, the more you are going to be taking home with you.

So lets go back to the mental picture. Suppose you did decide to adopt a couple of dogs and a couple of cats. Could you take them home, put them in the back room and never see them again? Never play with them. Never feed them? I don't think so...that would be cruelty.

So why would you do this to your fabrics? If you habitually go buy yards and yards of fabrics only to store them away in some box or closet or back room. Only visiting them when the mood strikes you to reorganize or to find some for a once in a while quilt....you are being very cruel to your fabrics. If you have a really large stash it's the equivalent of being a pet hoarder.

You know how dogs love to be trained so they are more acceptable company when people are around? Cats are more pristine but still want to behave around humans. Fabric feels the same way. It really wants you to cut it and manipulate it so it can stay in closer contact with humans. Fabric needs to be made into clothing, quilts, curtains, pillows, purses or anything that gets them closer to humans.

Next time you are in a fabric store and tempted to bring home 30 or 40 yards of fabric, think again about what you are getting ready to do. It is much better to only adopt a yard or two knowing you will actually make it happy by creating something from it than to store it with your already full stash. Fabric is really unhappy if it is stashed away all the time...only to eventually be pulled out of storage and tossed away. That is really a sad sight to see.......

Winter is not far away

This is today's finished quilt. She wanted simple quilting but I kept hearing it tell me to put something here or there. I finally had to say, ok it's done no matter what it kept saying.

This is the friendly borders.

A view of the back.

And a close up of the sashing.

Twice today I went outside to see this in the sky. Geese flying south for winter. I say, so long, see you in the spring, as they fly by.

I spent a little time rewriting the opening entry on my other blog. I wasn't happy with the way it read before. I figured I should change it before I forgot about it. As if that would really happen. (smile) I can't seem to stop thinking about it these days. I also wrote a couple more entries.

I'm still trying to figure out how to make it a list of links you can click on instead of just a long group of journal entries. I guess I will have to find a copy of blogging for dummies or find some kind soul to help me create a really nice blog site. I would really like to add a hit counter to it too. I'm not sure how that is done though. Maybe I will figure that out over time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Creative Sunday

No finished quilt today. It's turning out to be a more than one day quilt. It has very friendly borders (wave a lot) and the batting is Sew Perfect brand which does not want to behave for machine quilting. I did get the outside borders done and its all stabilized. I should be able to finish it today.

I seem to have had lady luck on my side yesterday. I was quilting along all day without a single thread break until near the end of the day. The thread broke.....so naturally.....I first check to see what may have caused the break. Sometimes the thread will come off the cone and somehow get caught on the back side handle. I always look there first before pulling extra thread to re thread the needle. Look what I saw....

The thread break had occurred just as the cone ran out of thread. This is the very tail end of an empty cone. I didn't have to go through the whole process of re threading along the thread path and re checking tension. All I had to do was put on a fresh cone, tie on, and pull through the guides to the needle. I sure wish lady luck would be with me when I pick my next lottery numbers!

Sunday is usually a day of rest for me and for spending time with my daughter. She and I went out for some baby stuff shopping. We kept having to find a place for a bathroom break. My daughter said it felt like every five minutes the baby was taking it's little hands (or feet) and beating on her bladder like it was a drum or something. Thunk.......thunk........thunk, thunk, .........thunk.....thunk.....(more urgent) thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, its time to go NOW! All I could do was giggle and say.....I remember baby girl, you did the same thing. Now its payback time.

We finally got through some shopping then stopped for Chinese food. She is craving crab legs. Then, naturally, eating makes her sleepy so she brought me home early.

I had some extra time so I decided to work on a new design wall idea I've had for a few days. I wrote all about it on my other blog. I think it is soooo neat and time saving. I wonder why I didn't think of it before?

Hastle free design wall

For a long time it has bothered me that I didn't have enough wall space for several design walls. I was constantly putting a quilt on the design wall to work for awhile, remove it to work on the table awhile, put it back onto the design wall to view at a distance, and repeat the process.

Then there would be the times when I would be working on a secret quilt gift. The person who shouldn't see it would call to say they were on the way over. I would have to scramble to remove the pieces from the wall and put it away in a drawer. Sometimes loosing small pieces in the process.

Or I would be working on one quilt design when for whatever reason my creative thoughts would hit a snag. I would take the quilt off the wall, put it away in a drawer, pull out another from a different drawer to put up and work on a while.

I've finally hit upon a much better solution. I'm so excited!! Here is what I did. I knew my brother owed me a small sum of money. So I asked him.... instead of paying me back would he give me some of the insulation boards he had? I asked for 3 boards cut in half to make them 4 x 4 foot pieces. So here they are.

I could have used them this way but I decided to do something a little nicer. I wanted them to have 'grip' to them when I put pieces on there and to look pretty. I could have spent money on flannel but that isn't in my budget. So...I pulled out some of my recycled batting to use. (Sorry about the dark picture, I don't know what happened.)

Since I was here by myself I had to rely on pins for extra hands. I pinned all around the outside of the board. Yes, I could have used some spray baste but I find it hard to breath around that stuff.

I really gave the batting a good tug to make it snug; just not so much that it made the insulation board buckle. Yup, Quilter's Dream is strong enough for tugging. I also removed the thin plastic sheeting that had the blue writing. I didn't want my design wall to be an advertisement for that company. I would if they paid me for advertising space.

When I had the front all snug and pinned, I could turn it over without loosing the tension on it. Then I cut out the corners and wrapped the edges around. Also pulling it snug and pinning.

Then I went looking for a way to hold it to the backside. I decided I would use what I had. This turned out to be clear sealing tape. I had a couple of rolls of it for sealing boxes ready for ups. I taped the batting along the edge on the back side.

OK, that done, I needed a way to hang them. I went looking for something I possibly already had around the house. I first came across some old grommets. These were from when I had planned to make my own shower curtains. I thought.....how neat, I can use them to make the boards really fancy. But then....I found some binder clips and a couple of long nails. Well, not quite as fancy but still workable.

I knew I needed the binder clips to be in the same position on all of the boards so I marked a guide line.

Then I put the binder clips on in the same position for all of the boards.

Now it was time to take down the old design wall. This is the before. As you can see, I'm using a lamp for light. My overhead lights are not working anymore and the electrician hasn't gotten to me yet.

Golly, I really had that design wall stuck up there to stay. It had nails all around the outside plus this tape underneath. I can't imagine why I thought a lightweight piece of foam needed so much strength to hold it up.

Oakie doakie, the old wall down, a new wall goes up.

YEA!! Now I can work on any quilt, at any time. There will be no need to worry about taking it off the wall when I want to work on the table. No worries about last minute phone calls from someone who is supposed to be surprised. In a matter of seconds; I can take one wall down and put another one up. Multiple design walls without having the actual wall space. Storing the walls in another room is do able too. Easy to take one out, easy to put one away.

The really neat thing is that I didn't have to pay for any of it. I traded or looked around the house for what I had that I could use. If I hadn't been able to get the foam board I probably could have used plain cardboard boxes cut open and taped together. I get plenty of cardboard boxes. At least two each time I place an order for batting.

Not only will this idea save space, it will also save time. What would have in the past taken several minutes to change can now be done in only seconds.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Seven steps of fate???

Here is today's finished quilt.

It has a pieced back too.

This is a close up of the quilting. The fabric is all about cats but I didn't have a cat design that would work really well and the customer didn't want paw print meandering.

The rest of this post may get a little lengthy as I explain the seven steps of fate.

A couple of days ago I had made up my mind to not enter any juried contests anymore. I was content with the decision. I know I can still create quilts and art without entering contests. One of the contests I had decided not to enter was MQX because it had gone to being a juried show.

I wasn't discouraged about my work. I was simply understanding that taking full shot photos of a finished quilt is impossible for me. I don't have the space or the set up for taking photos. I don't know enough about using my camera or about the best way to take pictures. I don't know how to make my old computer transfer images to disk either.... even with a new cd burner installed on it.

Yes, I do a fair job of putting photos on webshots or in my journals but its not the same as what is required for entering juried contests. I don't have the money in my budget either for paying a professional photographer like some are doing.

I think fate is telling me to think again about my decision. A series of events have taken place the last couple of days which cause me to believe I should give it one more try with MQX.

First - I get an email from LAFTA (the local textile artists group I belong to). They have a class next month on taking digital photos for entering contests and transferring them to disk. It's at a college campus close to my house instead of way out at the edge of the county somewhere. I can get there by bus in a few minutes instead of a couple of hours. The class also fits into my budget nicely because its free. I thought to myself....what the heck...I can always use more knowledge....so I signed up.

Second - this arrived in the mail. I had completely forgotten about it. What is it?

Its the challenge fabric for the MQX Petpouri this year. Most of my customers already know that my favorite charities are ones that help animals. I've been donating quilts (in this area) for a few years. Receiving this fabric really tugged at my heart.

Third - This also arrived in the mail. Its the new issue of American Quilter. The magazine you get by being a member of AQS. In it were our guild challenge photos for getting second place this past August at the Nashville Show. Now really! You think I care about getting into a small local art contest when I can see my quilt in this?

Fourth - as I sat to take a closer look at the challenge fabric a design popped right into my head. Usually I have to think and contemplate a few days before a design takes form. Not this time. It was all right there in my mind.

Fifth - as I was cleaning up the catch all corner of my studio, the tripod for my camera kind of lept out at me. It had been buried beneath some stash fabrics and books for a couple of months.

Sixth - I started doubting myself. I thought...Gee, I don't have enough time for starting another quilt right now. There are the Christmas quilts to finish. The organizing to do. The vacation. The other quilts I'm already committed to doing. I simply don't have the time. I take a look at the MQX booklet, the deadline for entering isn't until March 1st. In the life of a professional quilter that's plenty of time. Then I get a phone call from a customer. She has not been able to finish her 4 quilts. Can I please move her name to the end of the waiting list? Gee, that's 4 to 6 extra days of time.

So I go back to cleaning the catch all corner.

Seventh - And what happened? In my effort to clean up the corner, out popped the perfect fabrics to put with the challenge quilt fabrics.

Ok, is there any doubt now? I've had every obstacle to creating one more contest quilt taken away. I simply must at least try. Now if only I can keep my design a secret until after the deadline for entering....hmm....