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Warm and cuddly quilts: No one sees the blood, sweat, tears, and swearing - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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Warm and cuddly quilts: No one sees the blood, sweat, tears, and swearing [Mar. 5th, 2012|07:23 am]
Zoethe
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I owe quilts to many people. Many, many people. Some of them are partially done, some are still just gleams of ideas in my head. And part of my project to live more graciously is to get back to my fiber arts, my creative and giving side.

On Sunday, I attacked my sewing room, the last room in the house that had not been uncluttered in my "Hubby's out of town, let's spring clean" week. I got my work table and sewing table all cleaned up and found the fabric with which I intended to back a baby quilt that has been in the works since baby arrived.

He's walking now.

Go ahead and laugh, but I know crafters who are working on "baby quilts" that might be high school graduation presents. So I'm not that hopelessly behind.

No, really.

Having all the pieces in one place, and being "on a roll," I decided to sandwich and pin baste the baby quilt. For those who don't know, a quilt consists of a top, generally pieced in a pattern, a fabric backing, and between these some kind of batting that gives it loft and warmth. In order to get these three layers to stay together, they must be stitched through with a topstitch that can either be functionally placed in the seams of the pieced top or decoratively sewn in a pattern on the surface--otherwise known as "quilting."

Like the toilet paper.

In order to accomplish this permanent quilting, the layers must be temporarily basted together so that they don't shift and wrinkle. The easiest way to do this is with safety pins pinned about every six inches all over the surface. Even in a small project, it's a lot of safety pins. Generally this project is undertaken on large enough floorspace for the entire quilt to lie flat, and the quilter crawling about on her knees, trying not to wrinkle the portions she hasn't pinned yet. With a king sized quilt it can take two days and hundreds of pins.

If you want to make a quilter laugh, innocently ask her if she has a safety pin handy.

I was almost 2/3 of the way through the pin basting when I realized that I'd misaligned the quilt and half of the top row was pinned only to batting, with the backing laid out too far down. In other words, the top layer of the sandwich had slid completely out of alignment and was not over the bottom layer at all. A hundred safety pins, and all of it was out of whack and had to be redone.

I'm quite proud of myself that I dismissed my first two reactions:

  • Reaction one was, "I'll just cut off the top half of the blocks! He's a baby; he'll never know!

  • Reaction two was, "Kerosene and a match!"


But no, I took a deep breath, sighed, and unpinned all the work I'd done.

I'd like to say that I didn't even swear, but I can only say that I don't remember swearing, so it must have been minimal.

Once it was unpinned, I even realigned it and repinned it right. Tomorrow I'm hoping to actually get the machine quilting done. When it's finished, it will go to a child who will never know the headaches that it caused me.

And almost every hand-made project has at least one headache/heartache moment. You may never learn the story, but when you are gifted with a piece of craft made by a friend, take a moment to consider the soul of the gift. It's already been the source of joy and frustration to someone who cares enough about you to project their heart through their hands and make something of beauty for you.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/793330.html?mode=reply:
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: naamah_darling
2012-03-05 01:20 pm (UTC)
And almost every hand-made project has at least one headache/heartache moment. You may never learn the story, but when you are gifted with a piece of craft made by a friend, take a moment to consider the soul of the gift. It's already been the source of joy and frustration to someone who cares enough about you to project their heart through their hands and make something of beauty for you.

Gods, GODS yes. I will do things for friends I would never, ever do for a commission. And I've upgraded commissioned gifts for free when I knew the person and occasion it was for and wanted to make the gift just a liiittle bit from me.

And I, too, have undone hours' worth of work to correct a single mistake. Often one I could have left. Gifts get given late because of it, but there's stuff I can't just let stand.
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[User Picture]From: naamah_darling
2012-03-05 01:23 pm (UTC)
Also, all y'all quilters and seamstresses and knitters and spinners and the like, y'all have my utmost respect. So few people really understand how labor-intensive that stuff is. Y'all don't get the respect you should, and I think that's a terrible shame.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 01:26 pm (UTC)
There is really very little profit to be made in fiber arts, except at the very top tier. Not for quality goods.
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[User Picture]From: naamah_darling
2012-03-05 01:34 pm (UTC)
Yes! Huge swathes of art/craft pay very little, and I think fiber arts sits on the bottom of that ladder, which is silly when you consider how important these things are in our everyday lives. We all wear clothes (some of us, admittedly, less than others . . . it's been three days since I wore pants), we all sleep under something. It's a combination of ignorance about the craft itself and obnoxious attitudes and how accustomed we are to paying so little for clothes and bedding. It's possible to push back against it, but it's so often a one come-to-Jesus moment at a time thing.
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[User Picture]From: mplsindygirl
2012-03-05 02:13 pm (UTC)
Amen!
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[User Picture]From: naamah_darling
2012-03-05 02:22 pm (UTC)
POCKET RAT! :D
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[User Picture]From: mplsindygirl
2012-03-06 06:15 am (UTC)
Pocket Rat is sadly long gone but we recently acquired 7 more rattie boys :)
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[User Picture]From: naamah_darling
2012-03-06 01:46 pm (UTC)
Awww! I'm sorry about that. I mean the losing the little buddy bit, not the having 7 more rats! That is kickass.

Gah, I really miss having rats! SO SWEET.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 02:58 pm (UTC)
When I see people buying "hand quilted" quilts for $79, and see that the quilting stitches are 3-to-an-inch toenail-catchers, and that the fabric has a threadcount close to burlap, I just want to scream.
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[User Picture]From: daphne24
2012-03-06 07:16 pm (UTC)
Another amen. It's fine to go in a store and buy something mass produced but unfortunately people want the same pricing out of things that are lovingly crafted and often of much higher quality than the local Wal-Mart.

I love supporting my fellow crafters - one of my favorite things about vending at craft fairs is that we often go around and shop with each other because we know how much work went into each other's crafts and how special it is :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 01:24 pm (UTC)
You were one of the people who I knew would understand.
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[User Picture]From: naamah_darling
2012-03-05 01:40 pm (UTC)
Having just busted my ass to complete a commission I should have either charged more for or done less on, oh, hells yeah. I get it. It's one of the reasons I post pictures of damn near everything I do, to kind of get people accustomed to the idea that these things take time and effort and trial and error and really elaborate swearing. It's not like the Art Fairy visits me overnight if I leave the stuff out in the studio. I'm in there listening to the same CD for the fifth time because I can't get to the CD player to switch it, and my ass is stuck to the vinyl chair, and my brain feels three sizes too big . . . I'm happy, granted, but it's still work.
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[User Picture]From: ba1126
2012-03-05 01:34 pm (UTC)
I would love to do quilting, but ordinary sewing gives me headaches and guilt enough. I know "this way lies madness" if I ever took up quilting.

I appreciate and admire those with the tenacity to quilt and to undo mistakes and correct them.

My Dad had a part time job in a warehouse and once or twice a year they would auction off items that had been stored but forgotten (no bill paid for months). My Dad got seven hand-made quilts, none of them "show pieces", but every one of them hand stitched and beautiful. As a kid, I often examined them and thought about the people who had put so much love and work into them.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 03:03 pm (UTC)
The "that way lies madness" realization is why I didn't take up weaving. I already have one room dedicated to my hobby; a loom would require another!

That's great that you got those quilts.
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[User Picture]From: nex0s
2012-03-05 01:42 pm (UTC)
I suddenly don't feel so bad about Jaeger's baby quilt not being done until he was 7 or 8 months old. Granted, I started at the beginning of the pregnancy!

Congratulations!

N.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 03:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, but wait until I actually finish the thing to get too busy with the accolades!
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[User Picture]From: blergeatkitty
2012-03-05 01:59 pm (UTC)
There's another fast way to stick the layers together before you quilt them. You can use that gadget that makes the plastic price-tag-looking thingys.

My grandmother made me a quilt for my high school graduation - one of the last ones she made, I think, before she couldn't really work with her hands anymore. She got most of the plastic tag thingys out before she gave me the quilt, but every so often I still find one. A few weeks after she died, Kip found one and clipped it out without telling me and I think I cried for a full hour.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 03:05 pm (UTC)
Aww.

I have heard of people doing that. It's kind of clever, but my pins are reusable.
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[User Picture]From: irishgalinabq
2012-03-06 03:21 am (UTC)
My quilt teacher encourages taping it all down to the floor or table (baby size) with masking tape. It works! Also, my local friendly quilt shop lets people come over and baste in the back room when it is free. They have a ginormous table there which is much more comfortable. Also, if the shop is quiet they can never resist helping! Maybe there is a shop near you that could also work like this for you.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-06 10:29 am (UTC)
There is a wonderful shop here, but no space in it that is not filled with fabric! And because of a back injury, it's actually much harder for me to bend at the waist across a table than to crouch on the floor.
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[User Picture]From: mplsindygirl
2012-03-05 02:11 pm (UTC)
Oh so very true - the headache/heartache moments.

I've become more confident about charging $25 an hour for my sewing time. If people want cheap stuff, they can go to discount stores. My work has heart.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 03:06 pm (UTC)
Good for you!
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[User Picture]From: mplsindygirl
2012-03-06 06:16 am (UTC)
It IS good for me :) Makes me feel good about my self-worth.
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[User Picture]From: hugh_mannity
2012-03-05 03:42 pm (UTC)
I hear you.

I very rarely make things on commission, though I do make a fair number of gifts. Mostly knitted, some tablet woven.

I still owe a good friend a tablet woven belt. I screwed up the first attempt and haven't gotten my courage up to attempt it a second time. There were 2 main reasons it went wrong: too short a time frame and too ambitious a project.

More than the under-valuing of hand work (especially in the fiber and fabric area) the thing that frosts my gourd is when you make something for someone, they tell you how lovely it is, how pleased they are, and then put it away in a closet for ever because it's "too nice to use"!

I knitted a beautiful baby blanket for one friend who never used it because it was "too nice to get baby puke on". She'll never get another knitted item from me! Another friend got a similar blanket, loved it, used it. Last time I saw it, it was about 5 years old and a bit bedraggled looking after being well used. But I'll happily knit for her any day.

My most recent creation -- a fish hat for a toddler -- I fully expect to get worn by both the toddler and her dog, dragged round by its tail, and generally abused. I hope it gets worn out and beaten up. Because that's a good fate for something as funky as a fish that eats your head.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 04:00 pm (UTC)
Agreed! I make things that are intended to be used!!
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[User Picture]From: daphne24
2012-03-06 07:18 pm (UTC)
Not quite the same thing but I often hear something similar when people see my chocolates - "it's too pretty to eat!!"

No, really. It's not. I want people to eat it and enjoy it - it's chocolate for gods sake - but I enjoy making it pretty too.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-06 07:46 pm (UTC)
I admit that I had trepidation about biting into the beauty of your chocolate! But I got over it!!!
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[User Picture]From: nikkif
2012-03-05 08:59 pm (UTC)
I feel you on this. Today I had a friend tell me, with a little embarrassment, that he used the ceramic bowl I made him to brush his teeth because he just moved, and doesn't have cups yet. I just told him that it makes me very happy that he's using it.
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[User Picture]From: fallconsmate
2012-03-05 04:06 pm (UTC)
i have the yarn for crocheted baby blankets for my grandbaby to be. i'm irritable that one of my aunts has already made something and requested the address to send it. bah.

my daughter has the baby quilt my grandmother made her...there's a spot at the bottom where the dog chewed a hole and i cross-sitched a little patch that has her name and birthdate on it, and the fact that her great grandmother made the quilt. and i found my baby quilt (a sunbonnet sue 9-patch) that i'll be taking when the baby is born. (we already know its a girl!)

mama started an irish chain pattern for me 20 years ago. she's finally gotten it to the point where all the strips are ready to join together (squares are already sewn together, now the strips of squares need to go) and then she'll quilt it. one of the aunts has already promised her the quilting frames so she can set that up.

me? i dont sew much. i can, i just dont like it. i like crocheting and i'll do it some more once i find my glasses. they're somewhere. in a box. in the garage. eventually they'll be found (or i'll be taking myself over to get another pair made!).
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 04:10 pm (UTC)
I have gotten to the point of needing reading glasses, and while I did get a prescription pair, I've also purchased several pairs of drugstore ones that live all over the house.

That's great about the quilts in your family.
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[User Picture]From: violet_helix
2012-03-05 04:10 pm (UTC)
My entire personal fiber arts catalogue consists of one, partially finished, lap-sized rail fence quilt. It is held together with large quantities of fray check where my seams wandered and the backing is pieced together because I didn't measure twice before cutting. I was sick and missed the final class, so I didn't learn how to bind it and still haven't gotten around to finishing the Stitch in the Ditch. It sits forlornly in my craft room, pinned but unfinished. I really need to get the motivation to finish it because, even with all that went wrong, I'm terribly proud of it!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 05:40 pm (UTC)
That's awesome.
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[User Picture]From: yshaloo
2012-03-05 05:26 pm (UTC)
This is why I never tell people that I am making them a baby quilt. I have started several for one baby and given it 3 years later to a totally different baby. If I start one and don't get it done in time for the intended baby, I just pick up a gift at the store and try not to sweat it too much - Mama didn't know I was working on a quilt and therefore doesn't expect one.

I think part of why I don't sweat it too much is that so many of my quilt recipients piss me off. They tell me "it's too pretty to use!" and that gets under my skin. I've taken to telling folks "either the kid pukes on it or I do!" I don't put my labor in for someone to shove it into a box in the back of a closet. My baby quilts (I only use cotton or flannel these days, no embroidery or anything too frou-frou) are made to be wallered by l'il poopers and it bugs me if they aren't. One of the best compliments I've ever received was paid silently. I saw a baby mama a few months after the baby had been born and the pooper was wrapped tight in the quilt I'd made. Actually, that baby at 6 years old still loves her quilt. I had to make a new one for little sister because she refuses to pass it down.





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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 05:45 pm (UTC)
When I made a quilt for a friend's baby, I then had to make one for her big sister because she was so jealous.
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[User Picture]From: parachles
2012-03-05 07:06 pm (UTC)
I'm in the habit of making baby shower gifts. I'm nowhere near patient enough for quilting, I tend toward little usefuls like changing clutches and mini diaper kits. I also make aprons, sew/alter many of my own clothes and knit/crochet a little.

Thankfully I've never gotten the "It's too pretty to use!" line from anyone I've gifted my wares to. Everyone has loved my aprons and bags as gifts and I see them in use all the time. :)

Where I get a little steamed is when I'm asked to donate my crafting skills and time.
I'm the "crafty" employee where I work. It's pretty common for my boss to ask me to sew new linens for our clinic. At first I felt pressured into doing it... and got little other than "Thanks!" when I produced beautiful new laundry bags two days later. After that experience I decided to set some boundaries and adopt a "If you'll pay me to bring in my sewing machine and do nothing but sew clinic linens all day I'll do it." stance.

I'm happier with the boundary being in place. It's just tiresome to see the same "But why won't you do it? It won't take you very long!!!" response when I tell them no. :P I mean, they already have a vast volunteer pool (I work for a non-profit agency) ready to contribute to the cause. Why not ask one of them? I don't live to work at my clinic... so why should I spend my free time on clinic projects? >:P
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-05 07:50 pm (UTC)
That is a lot to ask of anyone. I'm kind of shocked that they continue to ask such things.
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[User Picture]From: parachles
2012-03-05 08:15 pm (UTC)
I agree. But such is the culture of this particular non-profit. If they can get it for cheap or free they can... after all, their non-profit status means they have a tight budget right? On the flip side of that, they're always looking to increase the profit line. It's the most for-profit non-profit I've worked for. >:P

It's one of the many reasons I've decided to give my notice.
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[User Picture]From: finding_helena
2012-03-06 01:39 am (UTC)
I've made a couple of baby blankets and I'm pretty sure that the family does use them (two babies, same family). And I definitely use the handmade items I receive.

Quilting doesn't appeal to me like knitting does--too large-scale and at the same time too small-scale for my tastes (I have a hard time sewing tiny stitches in a straight line, even on a machine).

I have, lately, been redoing sweaters I knit before because I didn't like design elements. I finished (that is, re-finished) one and now I wear it all the time.

This comment is all over the map. Oh, dear. I started this to say that my mom never finished my baby quilt, and I'm nearly 30. She discovered that one of the fabrics she chose didn't hold up well. But she did make me another quilt later on when I was in college.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-06 10:24 am (UTC)
I have attempted to learn to knit, and my fingers and yarn just don't seem to go together. But I've made more than 100 quilts.

I think it's excellent that different things appeal to different people, because the world would be a dull place otherwise!
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[User Picture]From: gardenwaltz
2012-03-06 02:03 am (UTC)
I've only made one quilt - and a rather poor example at that, but we used basting stitches instead of safety pins. They were humongous stitches, maybe 4 inches long, but they did the job.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-06 10:26 am (UTC)
I have basted that way as well. I find the pins easier and quicker.
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[User Picture]From: evaleastaristev
2012-03-06 08:21 am (UTC)
knitter here. It's incredibly aggravating to get halfway through a project, realize you messed up somewhere back at the beginning in a way that will bug you forever. Thankfully, it's easy to just pull it out.

But I know exactly how you feel.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-06 10:32 am (UTC)
As I said, every project has its own story!
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[User Picture]From: daphne24
2012-03-06 07:13 pm (UTC)
I won't pretend that what I do is anywhere near as time-consuming or tedious as quilting or other sewing. I have neither the time nor skills for that and I admire those who do.

But I hear you on this - and several of the other commenters. The chocolate I make takes time and effort. I cannot simply pull 150 suckers out of my butt in a single night. Some of it *is* tedious and I have put time in making sure that every piece is made as well as it can be.

But I have people at shows saying things like, "you should have princes stuff - that's all my daughter and her friends like." And then stare at me as if I can magically produce chocolate castles and princess crowns by wiggling my nose. I can't.

And I still have trouble charging what my time is actually worth because, when I look at it, it doesn't look like it should cost that much. It's a 20-30 suckers in a basket. Should that really cost $50 or more? Very likely, yes.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-06 07:44 pm (UTC)
It's hard to get people to pay more than slave wage for crafts. It's hard.
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[User Picture]From: pjhandley
2012-03-07 02:49 am (UTC)
I completely understand this, as I have finished crocheting a baby blanket for a friend. It was a "labor of love", because I had to pull out several rows of crochet at one point due to mis-counting my stitches...AND because the yarn used for the blanket had been originally intended for a personal project. But when K told me the color scheme for the baby's room, I realized that I already had the perfect yarn so I "bit the bullet" and used it for the blanket.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-03-07 12:03 pm (UTC)
That definitely qualifies as a labor of love!
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