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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, August 29, 2008

Today's finished quilt. One of three I spy quilts a customer brought a few days ago.

The customer wanted simple panto work on it. I used the Circle Lord spiral template so my apprentice could learn how to do panto work.

I don't think you can see the quilting on the border because of the matching thread. I did a freehand flower and leaf meander design.

I stitched a swag design on the inside border.

After my apprentice left; I started loading the next quilt on the machine. I got the backing on and reached for the batting..... oops! No batting. My order hasn't come in yet. I checked to see if I had the ones needed for the next in line. Nope, not for those either. So, no quilting for customers can get done until it arrives. Now I'm kicking myself in the behind for not ordering sooner. The batting may arrive today or tomorrow. In the mean time I'm going to be working on the custom order quilts that are for Christmas. If I can get all the pieces cut and put into kits that's a head start on the work.

Hmmm..... I guess today is an in house retreat for me even if I didn't plan it that way.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Crazy quilt

Here is today's finished quilt. Another silk quilt. The fabrics are starting to deteriorate. I had problems with the fabric splitting when I stitched in some areas. I'll have to repair those areas before the customer can pick her quilts up.

Because of the age of the fabric and the problems I might face; I didn't think custom quilting would work. I did a simple Baptist fan design to keep any problems to a minimum.

I was asked what I charged for the heavy quilting on the star quilt. Actually, I'm not getting paid for the heirloom work. The customer had only agreed to pay .025 per square inch for custom quilting. I did the heavy quilting because I wanted to do it. I was frustrated and needed an outlet.

Also, the quilt top seemed to be asking me to do more than just custom. I sometimes do more quilting than I get paid for simply because the top needs more.

I wanted to prove I was capable of producing heirloom quilting. The customer gets a bargain and I got to work out my frustrations by concentrating on tiny stitches. I would love to have more people ask for heirloom work..... and get paid .05 psi or .06 psi for it.... but it's not something I believe will ever happen. I wouldn't want to squint at tiny stitches everyday either. A good balance between pantos, custom, and heirloom would be nice. Pantos for quick income, custom for creativity, and heirloom for occasional artistic freedom.
Why was I frustrated? Because of several comments I heard at the fair. People were commenting on the "quality" of the quilting. I heard that pantographs and simple custom quilting was "not quality" quilting. I kept wondering to myself.... who's idea of quality? The comments were not about consistant stitches or good designs..... only about pantos and custom work on quilts. Naturally; as a machine quilter, I wanted to jump to our defense but I couldn't start preaching to everyone at the fair. So, I worked out my frustrations on the star quilt.

Professional machine quiters are limited to what the customer is willing to pay us for our work. If a customer only wants pantograph because it's the lowest cost then we do our best to make the panto work look really good. Who is the judge of whether lower cost quilting is "quality" or not? If a machine quilter does a good job and the customer is happy; why is it not considered "quality"? I guess you can tell I'm still somewhat frustrated about the comments I heard.

I could sit here type-talking in defense of machine quilters all day but that won't do much good. There are always going to be people who have opinions about what is "quality" and what is not. I have to accept that one person's comment is not what everyone believes. A comment is only an opinion and not a rule.
My appoligies to those who are waiting for an answer to an email. I have several emails to answer but I haven't the time for staying on the computer this morning. As always, work comes before computer time. I'll read and answer as soon as I can.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On Monday I went back to the fairgrounds to pick up my quilts. I left home about 10 am and got back home just after 3 pm. It takes that long for me to travel there and back by city bus. 2 transfers each way. Needless to say I didn't get much done in the studio on Monday.

Yesterday I finally got this quilt finished. I think it turned out pretty nice.

Micro stippling is not something I would want to do everyday. Don't look too closely or you will see my backtracking mistakes around the design.

I think I would hate having to make all those tiny micro stitches all the time. I'm glad I was able to do line dancing on the star part.

The stippling did take up most of the fullness in the top.

There are still areas where there was so much fullness it couldn't be stitched out.

I have another vintage top on the machine and ready to start quilting today. Last evening I made phone calls to the next people on my waiting list. I had to giggle after making those calls and I also felt relieved. It seems I'm not the only one behind schedule. Some of my customers asked to be moved to January's list or February's list because they hadn't finished their tops. Some said they hadn't even started making their top yet. Moving some work to next year has actually taken some pressure off me and put me closer to getting back on schedule.

Hmm.... maybe I'll have some time for making my window quilts before winter after all? I can't see that I'll have time for making all of them but one or two is now a possibility if I quilt pantos on whole cloth. Window quilts don't have to be pieced.... just made for warmth.

A big day ahead of me so I best get started.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I went back to the fair yesterday. I had had several people tell me there were ribbons on my quilts. My daughter took me there so I could take another look. I swear.... when I was there on opening day there was not any ribbons on my quilts! Or at least I didn't see them. These quilts were hanging in different places on opening day too. Originally this quilt was next to my friend Yvonne's quilt... not next to a round rug.

This quilt didn't have a ribbon either on opening day. Or at least I don't think it did. I'm beginning to doubt my own eyesight now.

This next picture is of the winner of best of show in the textile department and also received the LAFTA award for ? I'm not sure what the award is for. Somebody's idea of "quality" art. The award was supposed to be given in the art department and wound up being given in the textile department instead.

I entered a quilt wall hanging in the art department for the first time because I was asked to enter a piece as support for the LAFTA efforts to improve that department. (Louisville Area Fiber and Textile Artists) I'm also a member of this group. Right this moment I'm almost afraid or ashamed to admit I'm a member. I believe in the concept of the group but I also find the internal politics of the group very troublesome for me. Thank goodness there are other members who feel the same as me about the internal politics.

LAFTA offered a special award of $100 to entice entries in the art department. Believe me.... I've tried getting into some of the LAFTA sponsored art shows. My quilts are not the "quality" of art work the powers that be want in the shows so I stopped trying. They always keep the entry fees even if the entry doesn't get accepted into the shows. I can't afford to keep trying when I know it's going to cost so much to be turned down.

I see no reason to enter a piece in the art department next year either. If the LAFTA award is going to be given anywhere in the fair; why would anyone be enticed to enter the art division? I'd rather take my art work to the textile department where it feels most comfortable. My art quilts feel best when they get entered into either the original design or the open technique classes. At least in the textile department my art quilts will have a chance of winning a ribbon. And..... my quilts are appreciated for what they are..... my art and my techniques.... not somebody's idea of "less than quality" art.

Hmm... as I sat here type-talking; I remembered something I had come to realize many years ago. It goes back to the history of quilts and textile art. The art community doesn't consider quilts as anything but something to cover a bed. One day someone in the art community decided that a textile art piece could be considered a quilt if it contained three layers stitched together. But not the other way around. Quilts cannot be textile art because quilts are not artsy enough.

So the art community started entering art pieces into the quilt shows for the prize money offered. Over the years the quilt shows have accepted these and created separate catagories just for textile art type quilts. At the Nashville show I even saw one piece of painted artist's canvas that was quilted. But; to my knowledge and years of visiting art shows.... no actual quilt has ever been accepted into a textile art show. The art community still does not consider a bed quilt as a piece of art. No matter how skillful the technique and no matter how beautiful the maker does a design.... a quilt will remain just a quilt in the art community.

Ok, I think I've type-talked enough this morning. Once again I'm going to work hard at getting back on schedule. Before I start in the studio though, I'm going to put pictures in webshots of the fair quilts. I didn't get pictures of them all. Only as many as I could before my daughter got "bored" and wanted to leave.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lone star quilt

Anybody want to see what I've been doing the last couple of days? I was bent over the machine table squinting at these stitches. I had to keep reminding myself to stop tensing up and relax.

A bit of micro stippling and a bit of small stippling to make the design pop out.

The design started out looking like this. Lots of bias fullness in the fabric.

In a post a couple of days ago; I showed this top on the machine. I wanted to practice some "quality" quilting on it even though I couldn't figure out what "quality" meant. Something in the back of my mind kept telling me to mark a design before quilting. I decided to listen to my subconsious and take it back off to mark a design. It took me almost a full day to draw the design on the fabric then get it back on the machine and basted together.

I very rarely mark a quilt before quilting and it's usually my own. I prefer freehand work on customer quilts. The second day I got the star part quilted and the design stitched in the white areas. I'm hoping to have it completely quilted in about 4 or 5 more days.

I'm so far behind on my waiting list that tackling a design like this is sort of crazy. I could have used a faster design to get it "done" and out the door; but, that wouldn't be the type quilter I am. I prefer to give the quilt what it tells me it needs regardless of the time table. Do you know what I mean? It's very hard to explain but I'll try.

When someone brings me a quilt top that they inherited; it's my job to look at it and figure out what the maker might have had in mind when she created it. Using my imagination; I can almost see an angel standing at my side with a big smile on her face knowing her UFO is about to get completed. If I choose a design that's not quite right; it's almost as if the angel is telling me she wants more choices. My desire to make the top look really good becomes stronger than my desire to do a fast design to get it done. When I finish putting the last stitch in the binding; my imagination sees an angel saying thank you.

Imagination is a good thing.... it's what really good writers use to write best sellers. It's also what gives quilt pattern designers the ideas for the new designs we all love to buy. For me; imagination is what makes me a good professional quilter. I will probably have several other toppers wondering why their top is not quilted yet; but, the angel will smile knowing her family will get to enjoy her quilt after all. I'm smiling too.

I need to get off the computer and back to work this morning. Hmm..... now where did I put the ben-gay?

Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm back from my trip to Nashville. We got back on time the same night. We didn't get a ribbon on our guild challenge quilts but we are all determined to do better next time. A one day trip from here to Nashville and back is exhausing for me.

I saw lots of things I wanted to buy but stayed within my budget of $100. Going to quilt shows is very hard on will power. Sooo many new things to see and drool over. I was very tempted to buy some other items! I came home with only these things though. These cost me $95 and were things I planned to buy already.

I met up with my friend Sherry from SC and her new quilting friends. It was so good to see her again! I wish I had time to visit with her longer. I'm always sad when friends move away.

Yesterday I decided it was best I get back to work. I have this one on the machine. It's another inherited vintage top. I put my absolute favorite vcr tape on machine quilting in the recorder for inspiration.....

and this happened. Now I'm really moaning the blues. This is the tape I watch more often than any other. I learned all the techniques on the tape long ago. It's the things said on the tape that give me inspiration. It's a Marcia Stevens tape and cannot be replaced because it was out of print long ago. Is that what one says about a vcr tape.... out of print?

If I knew of some place that repairs these and puts them onto disk I would pay to have it done. Boo hoo.... I'm gonna miss that tape!

When I started to work on the current quilt top; I set my mind to practice "quality" quilting for next year's fair. I figured if I start practicing now; maybe by next year's fair I'll have quality practiced enough to win a ribbon. Then I wondered..... just what is "quality" quilting? Is it pantos? Is it freehand? Is it heirloom? Does quality mean expensive or can it be lower cost? Is quality quilting simply well done? Who's idea of well done.... mine, the customer's, or a fair judge's?

Well dang! If I can't define "quality quilting" how am I going to know if I've practiced enough and achieved it?


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm going to be leaving very early in the morning. My ride is picking me up about 5:30. I thought I would go ahead and make a post this evening so I don't loose track of time in the morning.

As promised here is a picture of the quilt with issues that I finished. See... it came out pretty flat didn't it? Not all that straight but better than it was.

The owner wanted tulips in the solid blocks.

She wanted something swirly on the pinwheel blocks.

Then she wanted her name on the border.

She wanted leaves on the rest of the border.

Here is a view from the back.

Then I finished this one. There wasn't much I could do with it except a serpentine line along the seams. This one was very "delicate" from age. The silks are already showing signs of deterioration. I had to be extra careful not to let the machine pull at any of the seams which is why I used a serpentine line. I could go around all the hard fabric intersections.

Here is a closeup of the seams

and a view of the back.

I have the next one loaded on the machine ready for when I get back from Nashville. These two quilts and three (or 4) more will need binding done. I'm going to finish quilting the others then take a whole day for doing the bindings.

Well I've got a dozen batteries ready for the camera, the cell phone is all charged up, I packed a few snacks, I have my hand work in a bag, I have a few books to read, and the coffee mug is ready to be filled. Nothing left to do now but get some sleep.

Type-talk to you when I get back. Hopefully with lots of pictures to show.

Busy couple of days

It's been a very busy last couple of days for me. I got stuff out of the house and into the alley for junk pickup. I carried things out then rested. Carried more out then rested. Dang lazy men! Not one offered to help carry anything out.... they just watched as I struggled. I'll remember that the next time they claim to be hungry and I've cooked a really nice meal. (grrrrrrr)

I cut some fabric strips to crochet into a rug while traveling on the bus to Nashville. It was hard cutting up scraps into tiny strips for rugs. I kept thinking about how they could be used in a quilt someday. Then I thought about how much fabric stash is waiting to be made into quilts. This helped and away I went cutting lots of strips. I enjoy making rugs so this will keep me happy for awhile. Besides, I really need some new one. The ones I have are getting pretty old and dingy. Some of these strips can be used to make braided rugs too. Hmm.... maybe I can take some braiding to do on the trip.

I can't remember if I posted pictures of our guild quilts in the Nashville show or not so I'm putting them in this post. If you think it's easy to get 8 people to finish a guild challenge on time... it's not. The challenge theme was "friendship".

These are soccer friends.

This is doll friends.

This is quilting friends.

This is childhood friends.

This is adopted animal friends.

This is also childhood friends.

And so is this one.

And this one.

Of course, we are all hopeful of winning a blue ribbon this year.
I finished the binding on this one. The backing is wrapped over the front and sewn by machine.

Finished quilting this one. Now it's waiting for me to do the binding. I forgot to take a picture before starting this post. I'll take another one later.

I started the quilting on this one. A vintage quilt made from silks.

I hope you can see in the pictures that it's not supposed to be flat. It's folded and sewn to a foundation piece. The fabrics are petty delicate so I have to be careful while quilting it.

This is how the border is done.

The foundation pieces are what look like tobacco sacks. Tobacco used to come in small cloth bags and smokers rolled their own cigarettes by hand. The tobacco sacks were more commonly used in quilts during the depression and after WWII. I'm not sure this top is quite that old though. I'm thinking early 60's maybe? Possibly pulled from someone's ufo stash and finished.

I'm getting a lot of things done... just not as many quilts as usual. The thing is; if I don't do the other things; they will effect my quilting. Like carrying out junk... if it's in my way all the time I spend too much time looking for something.

There are other things that MUST get done before cold weather arrives. Caulking of holes outside. Can't caulk in cold weather. I need new plastic and quilts on all the windows. I would love to buy new energy saver window screening but it's out of my price range right now. I can do the plastic covers on the windows for a lot less; but, when will I find time for making window quilts?

Insulation must be put into the attic, walls, and under the floor. I need to keep my utility bills low enough to keep the electric bill paid. Our utility bills are expected to double before winter. In order for workmen to get to those spaces; stuff had to be moved out of the way. They need to drill holes in the walls so they have to be able to reach the walls. The attic and basement access holes inside closets must be cleared of stuff too.
I should think about calling for some electrical estimates too. I have several outlets that don't work anymore. My overhead lights in two rooms have quit working. My stove hood has long ago stopped working. I'll save the electrical work for after the insulation is finished.

I need to go get a new bathroom sink and a new water heater pretty soon. I want those installed before winter too. This means a day of hardware shopping. Probably this weekend. The hardware is my favorite place to shop. I can never just run in and out. I want to look at all the pretty stuff and dream of possibilities. Almost like looking at fabrics in a quilt shop.... the possibilities are everywhere!

All the extra things that have to be done are getting me farther behind schedule on the quilting. Which is making me feel guilty. It's also causing my bank account to grow smaller and smaller. I'm paying for things to be done on the house at the same time not getting work finished to put money back into the bank. It's a delicate financial dance that I face daily. I'm thrifty but even a thrifty person can only do so much.
So now that I'm thinking about the finances.... I'll go get a day's work finished.... I hope.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

About Fairs

I've been hearing different people talk about the "quality" of the craft items entered into the state fair. I kept hearing how disappointed people were that some things looked like amature work and shouldn't be allowed to enter. From art to flowers to quilts to weaving... all through the craft departments at the fair... the comments were all about the "lower quality" of entered items.

One local textile artist group offering a cash prize refused to give the prize in the department they intended because they were "disappointed in the quality" of the items entered. Even going so far as to be disappointed in how the items were "hanging" or "displayed." Get real! The items are hung and displayed at the fair by someone other than the crafter who enters it.

I've heard comments about how some items looked unfinished or how the items were made crooked or how the items didn't meet the viewer's idea of a craft.

Oh for heaven's sake.... What's next? A juried fair?

The fair is not a juried competition show for world renowned craftsmen..... it's supposed to have the work of amatures and handicapped persons as well as skilled paid craftsmen. The state fair is for everyone! Including those who make crooked, unfinished, and off color items. The fair is supposed to be the place where those who can't possibly be juried into a high end art contest can still display their crafts.

The fair is a place where absolutely everyone can put their "hobbies" out there for the world to see. The fair is a chance to express personal artistic expression and growth. It's the place where anyone can see their hobby item displayed in the public; puff out their chest; and say "Look what I did." A way to feel proud of an accomplishment whether its the very first one made or the 10,000th one made. Whether it meets the viewer's idea of perfectly made or not.

Seeing a ribbon on your craft is a great thrill but people shouldn't be entering the fair for that reason exclusively. The fair is the place where crafters can showcase their own personal artistic expression and see how it measures up against others doing the same craft. After all... there can be only one "best of show" in any department. The opinion of the judges at the Kentucky state fair may not be the same as the opinion of the judges at a different fair.

I also heard comments like..... "If so and so keeps entering then I won't enter anymore because I can't compete with her or him. She or he is a professional and should be required to enter a professional class." I also heard a comment.... "So and so has bought much better and newer craft equipment... they shouldn't be allowed to enter." In my opinion everyone entering a craft at the fair has an equal chance at winning a ribbon. One item.... one chance.

I mean really.... think about it.... saying you will not enter the fair because someone else is really good at their craft is almost like hearing all the olympic swimmers were refusing to enter the olympics because Phelps was going to be competing and is the record holder. Who would there be to strive and work hard to "be better than" if a really good crafter doesn't enter the fair?

Each craft department has set up certain criteria guidelines for their craft. By entering a craft item into the fair; the entrant has agreed to abide by the criteria and guidelines set up by that department. The one who comes closest to meeting all the criteria and guidelines is the one who should win. An unpaid crafter can meet the qualifications just as well as a crafter who gets paid for their work. In fact, the unpaid crafter may have a better chance at winning because the paid crafter is often so busy earning a living that they don't have the available time needed for making something to enter in the fair.

By the same reasoning, no judge should be allowed to not give a ribbon or prize simply because they feel the crafts entered are of lesser quality than they are normally used to judging. Ribbons and prizes ought be given to the actual crafts entered.... not given based on what someone believes should be entered. All ribbons and prizes should be awarded... and find a home with a crafter.... not tossed away after the fair because of an opinion.

If someone decides to enter a craft in the fair in a particular department they are agreeing to "play by the rules" of that department. The crafter who does the best job at following those rules is the one who should get the ribbons and the prizes. By the same token; entrants are also expecting the judges and prize givers to abide by their own "rules". The rules and prizes shouldn't be changed in the middle of the game based on one or two people's idea of what should be entered.

Even with rules and guidelines for a particular craft the judging is still subjective. The judges will recognize and reward technical skills for a craft but design and artistry are influenced by the preference of the judge. What one judge believes to be "best of show" may be totally different than what you believe or your neighbor or the judge from last year or the judge to be hired for next year. Don't take not getting a ribbon or a prize to heart. It isn't a reflection of your skills.... its an opinion of the judge.

So if you have entered an item in the fair and didn't win a ribbon or prize.... go ahead and strut you stuff... stand proud and have your picture taken next to your craft item... recognize your entry for what it really is.... an item you have made with your own hands and are very proud to display it for others to see. Study the winners. See what it was that got them a ribbon. Then work extra hard for an entry next year that may win you that ribbon or prize you want so much to win.

If you casually stand next to the item you made and listen to the comments made by viewers; be prepared to hear the bad comments as well as the good. Just remember that each viewer will have their own opinion on the craft. Each viewer has made themself a judge... for the moment... while looking at your craft. Some viewers will know the difficulty of the technical skills required to make your craft while others won't have a clue and will simply see it as a craft that doesn't interest them.

That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

State fair complaints


How would you interpret the following statement? I should explain that this description is written as a class description..... not listed in the textile department rules.

Professional Quilter classes

Professional - For the purposes of the state fair is defined as one who engages in an activity for monitary profit such as hand or machine quilting, teaching or instruction, or engages in retail or wholesale of products pertaining to the art of quilting.

Entry into this department will be an acknowledgement of professional status and will prohibit entry in other classes. Entries in these classes will not win points toward sweepstakes.

Did you read it as anyone who quilts professionally MUST enter that catagory? Or did you read it as anyone who WANTS to enter that catagory should declare themself a professional?

My own personal interpretation of the statement was that if a person WANTED to enter that catagory they had to declare themself a professional and prove it by indicating they earned money from quilting.

The textile people read it differently. They read it as anyone who earns money even remotely from quilting MUST enter that catagory only.

So it boils down to a WANT or MUST interpretation.

It hurt my feelings because I was stripped of all my ribbons this year. All because of how it could be interpreted. I think I'm all over the hurt now and I want to do something to improve the fair for next year.

The catagories I entered.... original design and art/pictorial were not a part of the professional division. I entered the way I thought I should for the catagories. So now that I'm being forced to enter the professional class I can't enter those type quilts anymore. I must either start making quilts to fit that catagory or stop entering.

If I don't enter anymore what will I be saying to the quilters who like the fair? Did I stop entering because I was hurt and upset? Will anyone realize I stopped entering because the quilts I create can't be entered anymore? I love the fair!! I've always encouraged others to get their entries in so we could have a mini quilt show right here in this area. I would love to see more participation.... not less.

There is another problem with the professional catagory.... one that will eventually cause even more problems if it hasn't already. They lumped the professional hand quilters in the same class as professional machine quilters. They also require a person who runs a quilt shop to be professional too. Even if the shop owner does not make quilts for a living. I see a dozen different problems that are about to arise from this professional status catagory.

I was also given a challenge...... "If you think you can rewrite the rules and catagories to make everyone happy..... without increasing the number of classes.... and without increasing the number of problems.... we will consider using it next year." It was not an official challenge. Just one given to me by someone involved with the fair.

Now THAT'S a real challenge!

I'm very much willing to take that challenge and give it a try even if it wasn't official. Hmmm.... just how would I go about making the fair a really nice event to enter? I haven't a clue at this point. I've never been involved with writing catagory or class descriptions. In fact I've never done anything for the fair textile department other than enter quilts myself and encourage others to enter too.

I've thought about this challenge and I realize I can't fix it.... if I don't know what's broken. No problem can be resolved until someone knows what the problem is in the first place.

I'm asking for your help. Send me your fair complaints!

Here's your chance to grouch and complain to your heart's content about the fair textile department! Let it loose! Tell me absolutely everything that causes a problem for you at your own fair and how you would change it if you could.

You can send me emails either publicly or privately... with or without your name. A name and contact information would be nice.... just in case I don't understand what you tell me. You can send your complaints to me through snail mail too if you want. Email me and I will give you my snail mail address. I simply want to know what every complaint or problem is from as many people as I can possibly contact.

Once I get those complaints and problems in my hands I can begin to condense everything into one useable guideline. Am I making my idea understandable? I'm never sure how what I write comes across to others.

What I am doing is simply accepting the responsibility of gathering information and putting it into a useable and easily readable format to present to the fair board. So instead of the board members having to read 1000 complaints about one single topic.... I will have the topic written once and tell them there were 1000 people who said the same thing. Maybe if the fair board is not overwhelmed with soooo many things to read or screening sooo many phone calls they will be more open to changes. Get the idea?

How will I use the complaints about other fairs? Well, the idea is to put those into a condensed version of potential problems. Things that might happen because they have happend in other places.

Ok, I think I've stated my project and how you can help me. I'll end this post and hopefully get lots of replies over the next few weeks. I think the deadline for sending me your thoughts should be October 5th. This will give me plenty of time to get it all read and condensed before the deadline to present it to the fair board.

Thank you to all who are willing to help me with my project. I look forward to reading what you write.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm making another post this evening because I may not get the chance to get on the computer tomorrow. I'm going to the fair. I'm not sure when I will get back home or how tired I will be.

Today, I got down to the last rows on the current quilt when I decided to call it a day. It's late, after 8:00 and I've worked on it continuously since this morning about 6 I think.

While quilting I had to watch for straight pins left in the seam lines of the top so I wouldn't break a needle.

Then I also had to watch for unsewn seams to prevent sewing the hopping foot into them.

So far it's looking like it will be fairly flat when finished. It probably won't be square.... but I'm doing my best.

I'll take some pictures at the fair and share them with you in my next post.

Fear of saying no?

This is the current quilt on my machine.

Yes, it does have issues....

95 percent of the tops I receive to quilt will have an issue or two. Some just happen to have more issues than others.

Last evening as I was putting this top on my machine to start the quilting; I began thinking about what it really means to be a professional machine quilter. Not many of the toppers see our side of the quilt world. All a topper sees is the long, long waiting lists and the dollar amount it costs. Most know only about their own tops and their own request.... not about the many requests we get almost daily.

So today I thought I would type-talk about these requests.... for any topper who happens to wander by my site. Maybe it will give the topper a little insight into the daily lives of a professional machine quilter. It might also help educate the person thinking about starting a machine quilting business.

Here are some requests from toppers I've experienced over my long career:

Request #1  If I'm willing to pay a little more.... the quilter will put my quilt ahead of everyone else as a "rush job". It doesn't matter if those on the waiting list have been waiting for several months. I can afford a few extra dollars to pay for the rush. By paying a rush fee, I never have to wait for my turn. No, I wouldn't consider paying the quilter more if I'm just on the waiting list. Her fees are too high already.

Request #2  Since the machine quilter is a good friend of mine she will surely let a friend get their top done before those on the waiting list. Who can resist a really good friend or relative? After all, the quilter sees me everyday or two and I know it's hard to say no to a friend or relative. Of course, she won't charge me much.... I'm a good friend or relative.

Request #3  If I tell the quilter a really sad story it will get mine done quicker. Hmmm... what about telling her that it's for a person who is terminally ill and is not expected to live much longer? We need the quilt finished so we can present it before the person passes on. The person passing on used to be a good customer so I'm sure the quilter will want to do a part of the quilt.... and at a discount or for free.

Request #4  You're booked up for the next 6 months? (Whine) But I don't want anyone else to quilt it but you. You're the only one I trust with my quilts. You'll do it? Great! Oh, by the way, it must be done by next guild meeting.... on Friday. (Today is Monday) Oh and I need a couple of days to bind it. Extra rush charge? I can't afford to pay more. Since I can't afford the rush fee, I promise to bring you more tops to do for me later.

Request #5  I know you are booked.... and I'm not really trying to rush you... BUT... can you finish my top by next week? Yes, I do know it's not scheduled for a couple of months. Well, you do know I'm the guild president? You do know that what I tell the members about my experience can either get you more customers or convince them to take their tops to other quilters? Great! I'll see you next week then.

Request #6  I brought you five tops to get quilted... can you finish one for me right away? Yes, I know they are not scheduled for right away but I want to take one with me to do the binding while riding in the car to the quilt show. We are going to be there all week. I'm so sorry you couldn't go with us because you have to work. You would love the quilt show.... it's going to be great! BUT.... just think about all that big money you are earning. Rush fee? But, I have other tops there.... don't I get a discount for multiples?

Request #7  My publisher has a deadline of a week from Monday for this quilt, can you get it done right away? He needs it there so it can be photographed before the book goes to print. I'm sorry I didn't get on your list sooner. You're booked for months? BUT.... you do know you will be mentioned in the book as the quilter? Mentioned where in the book? I think..... somewhere in the back among the credits. Oh, by the way, since I want to put it into a show in the spring would you do show quality quilting on it? Can I have a discount because you will be in the book too?

Request #8  Would you let me use your machine to quilt one of my own? Yes, I do know you earn a living by using your machine everyday. Yes, I do know that you are booked for several months. BUT.... you could have a day off while you show me how to load the quilt and learn to quilt it myself. All I really need to do is some meander quilting. It's just too large for me to do with my domestic machine like I do all my other quilts. I'll be doing the work myself so I shouldn't have to pay for that but I can give you a few dollars for the electric bill.

And then there are the times when toppers gang up on us: rarely do topper groups actually consider how what they do affects their machine quilters schedules.

Request #9  Our guild went on retreat last weekend. We would have loved it if you had gone with us. There were 20 of us at the retreat. We had such a great time! We helped each other finish UFOs. We each rushed through and finished two large UFO quilts each. Wasn't that great! We all want you to do the quilting on them. You will have plenty of tops to quilt because we know you need the money. Oh by the way, we all plan to go on the next retreat in a couple of months. Can you go with us? We plan to finish two more UFO quilts each... again ... and have you quilt them. Oh, I'm sorry you can't go because you'll be working. Girl, you gotta get away from home sometime. Surely you can take a day or two off for a retreat? (Do the math.... 20 quilters completing 40 UFOs to be put on a waiting list. Then multiply times two or more retreats..... gang up on the quilter)

Request #10  Two of the local quilt shops have scheduled beginner quilt classes. Each schedule a class a month for 3 months. That's 6 classes. Each class will have about 10 students. Supposing the classes are all full..... that's 60 beginners doing one quilt top each. Now.... in order to move on to the next top and not spend time doing the quilting themselves.... the beginners decide to have their tops machine quilted by you. (Again... gang up on the quilter.)

Request #11  Our local quilt guild has gotten several charity tops completed. We know we didn't ask you BUT we knew you would want to be a part of our charity efforts anyway. We have several tops to bring to you this week, can we pick them up next month? Waiting list? BUT these are for charity. Yes, of course... we know you already quilt for your favorite charity.... that's why we knew you would want to do these. You do know we all are an occasional customer of yours. We can go to other quilters you know. Cost? BUT you do understand these are for charity? The fabric was donated and the piecing was donated.... don't you want to donate too? Well, yes, I know you are earning a living... but this is for charity. Well, how about at a discount because we are bringing several and it's for charity?

A couple more special requests:

Request #12  I heard you were sick for a month back in the spring and had to push all your waiting list back a month.... now that it's fall are you caught up yet? Well, yes, I do understand that you were scheduled very tightly for several months back then.... BUT didn't you do double time (or over time) to catch up? You had me down for September does that mean you can't actually do mine until October because you are still running behind schedule? Maybe I should have gotten on the other quilter's list instead. I'll call her to see if she can work my top in... if she can't work it in then just keep me on your schedule for October anyway. By the way, I plan to bring 3 tops instead of the one I had scheduled.

Request #13  Remember you had me on your schedule for March? Well I finally finished making the top. In fact I managed to finish two. Can I bring them to you today? Yes, I do know it's June.... BUT you promised you could quilt one for me before July so I can give it to my niece at her baby shower. You already have several rush quilts and you are behind schedule? Well, both of these are really small and shouldn't take you long to quilt. Ok, I'll be there sometime this afternoon after I stop at the fabric store to see the guest speaker that's here for today only. I'm sorry you won't be there too.

Do you see how what the topper does affects the machine quilter? What I have type-talked about today could be read as negative thoughts. It's not meant to be negative at all! I'm simply explaining what life is like for us from a personal point of view. I'm explaining why a machine quilter might say NO to your special request.

Machine quilters are willing to stay away from picnics, family gatherings, parties, movies, guild meetings, lunches, retreats, quilt shows, our own UFO tops, and even dates.... to keep a topper happy. Each time we accept a rush job top, or a charity top, or late tops, or multiple tops; we must give up something of our own. How many other professions do you know that would give up a social life, like we do, just to accommodate a special request customer?

Heavens, if I stopped using a waiting list and simply did nothing but special requests and rush work, I'd still be booked for months! (LOL)

It took me many months of practicing to say the word no (nicely) before I had the courage to actually say it to a customer. BUT... I say it to family and friends really often these days too. I rarely take classes, have never been to an away retreat, often turn down friends who want me to join them for lunch, very seldom attend family gatherings anymore, and my kids believe my customers are more important than they are.

Why is it we machine quilters have such a hard time saying no? Well probably because we have a fear of being replaceable. It's only after we can conquer this fear of being replaced that we start believing we can have a personal life again. Just because a machine quilter says no to your request doesn't mean she is being rude.... she's probably already over whelmed with special requests and simply can't work in another one. Just because there are 24 hours in a day.... doesn't mean the quilter can actually work all of them all of the time.

Ok, enough type-talking for now. I have the top to get finished today if I can. I hope I haven't offended anyone by being honest. If you are considering buying a machine to go into the business.... think about these things as part of your "plan" to be successful.