As a rule the people who read this blog are like minded quilter types, and I realise that most people outside of those of us who quilt really don’t have a clue what we really do. I guess it is kind of like going to a museum and seeing a piece of art and wondering if a child did it and why is it so valuable or important. There are a lot of misconceptions about art and craft (god forbid, I used the two genres in the same sentence) and there are debates that rage on about these very items. The fact of the matter is that both art and craft play huge rolls in the way we conduct every day life but that is a story for another day. Back to the reason I am actually writing this post…
There are a couple of scenarios that play into why I am writing this. If you are a regular reader, you have experienced my frustration with trying to start my own longarm business. I wrote to my local MP and they just sent me on the circle that I have been travelling for the past 4 years. (Seriously, I now understand why people do strange things. It would be far easier to deal drugs or start a meth lab than it is to try and start a legitimate business.)
OK, back on track here… I joined up with SparkLab on Facebook to see if there were any other creative solutions that I might be missing out on and several really kind and helpful people stepped forward with some suggestions. They were great suggestions, but not appropriate for the type of work that I actually currently do or would potentially do in the future. There is a general assumption that the machine (even a domestic) can do all of the quilting without your presence and muscle. Some longarms have computer quilting, but they do not do it unsupervised… There is nothing that I do that is a mass-produced type item. There is no automation available (currently) to me that would make the tasks smoother or quicker.
Another situation that occurred was that a physio came to talk to my local quilt guild about ergonomics and better body dynamics for quilters so that we reduce our repetitive stress injury rate. Now, he offered a really good talk and most of the information we could take and apply, but during his talk, it became clear that he really didn’t have any idea what quilters really do… He had no way of relating to what we actually do with our bodies. (Figure skating has this same issue, it looks pretty but the stress toll on the body is unreal) Knitting/crocheting/cross stitch was his closest point of reference. Now maybe if you are a hand piecer/quilter it may have some relevance. But it doesn’t take into account the weight of the beast that the person is shifting around in the hoop. Even family members really don’t get us quilters as a rule!
So I am going to follow the quilt I am currently working on with the amount of hours, time, and body stressors that occur while creating one single quilt. And this is not considered a large quilt (not double/queen/king sized) by any stretch. Maybe some of the folks who don’t quilt will read and gain a better appreciation for what we do.
My new quilt is much larger than I normally work with. Usually about a metre square is as large as I go, but I really wanted to work larger. It will permit me to add more detail and sew at a more sensible size range. But it is a lot of work to get to the stitching point. (or at least the fun bits) It all starts with several sleepless nights while I figure out what I would like to have happen. Then several days of drawings to see if what I was stressing out over will actually look good, work, or be within my skill set. Going with the underwater theme again… Here is a partial view of the hoped outcome!
That drawing took days of research. I combed my snorkelling picture files, compared them with online photos of the same species, and looked them up in several books to be sure of my vision.
Now that was probably about 85 hours of work on its own.
Then the sourcing of the materials needed to happen. So 2 metres of white cotton, two metres of wool batting, 2 metres of cotton or wool/poly blend batting, and fabric for backing had to be sourced from two local shops (I actually had the backing!). I needed to order thread as well and the closest source for that was in Arrowtown, so I called and ordered the one cone they had in stock. I am extremely fortunate to have fairly well stocked quilting/fabric stores relatively close by. So that probably was about 3 hours of time.
Next part of the project was to seam the large pieces of white fabric together, press, and make sure they were reasonably even. The backing was large enough on its own, yay! Here is another 2 hours or so of time spent between sitting at the machine, ironing, and the floor measuring.
Then there is the transfer of the design (the major outlines) to the top. (Since I don’t piece often and this is a whole cloth.) (You can add all kinds of hours on for those folk who piece their tops. ) This process, with the help of my son took another 25 hours to do. (this is a really large piece for me about 60″ or 153cm square)
Now that the design basics have been transferred, I needed to get the quilt layers set out smoothed and baste the 4 layers together in order to put them through the sewing machine. This entails pressing the top again, and the backing, I had already hung the batting out to relax it. Then in order to start, I needed to move my dining room furniture and the couch to make enough room to lay out the quilt sandwich for basting. Then I needed to vacuum the area as I have an 11 year old boy. I laid down the backing, smoothed it out over the carpet and then fastened it down with duct tape. Then I laid the cotton batting smoothed that and duct taped it down. (about 2.5 hours)
Next I layered the wool batting on then the top and smoothed then duct taped…
Then came the epic 7 hours of sewing through the 4 layers with my ugly yellow thread to hold the layers so they wouldn’t shift around on me… I don’t pin, as I tend to hit the pins and that can really ruin the machine. Ok, I used the straight pins to hold the layers while basting!
I work from the centre to the edge and use an “X” formation for the first pass, then do a plus sign, then secure the edges so I don’t trash them as I move the quilt in and around the machine.
So that is just the beginning and I haven’t even gotten to quilt it yet!
Hours put in thus far: 124.5
Cost of materials thus far: NZ$213.00
Three days of incredibly sore knees and back from squatting for near 8 hours to put the quilt sandwich together.
So that is it for this instalment, and in the next day or so I will pop up the next part of the process.