06/11/2013 § Leave a comment
isn’t that a lovely name for a quilt?
Some weeks ago, I received an enquiry for a commission. It sounded like a perfect project for me – a red and white quilt. Commissions are always exciting – and a bit scary! I want to – (must) – create something that I love. I’ll spend hours and hours designing, planning, cutting, stitching, quilting – and the finished article has to be perfect. Here’s a journey through the different stages of creating a bespoke quilt.
When accepting a commission, I need to get inside somebody else’s head to create something that they’ll love too. They’ll have a vision, a colour-scheme, personal likes (and dislikes), a history and traditions that will transform, through my hands, into a very personal heirloom. It’s a lot of responsibility.
I usually start with a colour-scheme and send off a swatch of possible fabrics …
Some will be discarded, new ideas will emerge and then I’ll work with some specific fabrics and cut out some patches …
Quickly, I discarded the pale green, here, it was washing out other more vibrant colours and had to go! After more discussions, I retreated to my studio and began to work – and work I did! This was a mega king-size quilt with 2 matching pillowcases. I don’t share photos from this point on, with my clients. From now until the final binding stitch, the quilt is all mine, the creative process indescribable, but here are some of the stages, in photos (for another quilt, called Summer Days).
3rd draft involves taking photos, a final re-arrangement to balance the colours and focus patches. Then I pile up the patches, in rows, ready for stitching. I work fast and uninterrupted. Daydream Believer was too large for a single session so I divided the quilt up into smaller, more manageable sectors for this stage and pieced them all together once they were completed.
It’s not in draft any more – now it’s a piece of patchwork!
5th stage involves a lot of pressing, with the iron, tweaking and checking. Then, with a plain border added, a sandwich is made – backing fabric (my preferred fabric is fleece), wadding (I like light-weight wadding that’s easy to wash), then much smoothing when the top patchwork layer is added. It’s a bit like icing an enormous cake – smoothing takes ages – but not as long as the pinning!
Stage 7 – it can take me well over an hour to pin a quilt together. I don’t tack with stitches as I find the fabric layers stay together much better with tight pinning. It’s important to allow a good few extra inches of backing and wadding, all around the edge of the quilt as it will move, most probably, when quilted.
Then, the fun begins – what’s this – 8th stage? The quilting will totally transform the 3 layers of pinned materials into one. Quilting patterns are endless sources of creativity but somehow, I love the simplicity of diagonal lines dissecting perfect squares. It really ‘does it’ for me! Quilting also takes hours and hours – sometimes days!
Now we have a patchwork quilt, with messy edges but NO – DON’T take the scissors to those edges yet! A binding must be added first. Bindings are important. They’ll frame the whole quilt. I sometimes have a quilt laid out for days, with different strips of possible bindings draped across it. I nip into my sewing studio to catch it in unexpected moments – surprise the quilt (and myself sometimes) – with what looks best!
9th stage – sew the binding (right side to right side) all around the edge and THEN, and only then, TRIM THE EDGES.
10th stage – if you’re still with me, then you’ll probably be a quilter, or potential quilter. What’s your favourite thing to do whilst hand-stitching the binding? It’s going to take HOURS – me, I like to watch a good film! On rare days in summer, I’ll sit outside in the sunshine, but 90% of my quilts are finished during quiet evenings on my sofa, feet up, watching a film!
11th stage – name the quilt, add a label and get the camera!
I knew I married a tall man for a reason! I had to be quick with the camera, as he stood with arms outstretched to hold up the finished quilt. I was clicking and nagging constantly as it couldn’t possibly touch the autumn leaves – or worse – Flora’s water bowl! Success!!
Daydream Believer was named one afternoon, when I was doing the quilting. The song, suddenly came into my head and the lyrics seemed to fit perfectly …
Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings.
The six o’clock alarm would never ring.
Sometimes, people ask how I can let go of a quilt and to tell the truth, this quilt was a special one. As I rolled it up and tied it with a selvedge-ribbon bow, I did say goodbye and felt a little sad. But it wasn’t mine to keep and here’s what my client wrote:
“It was lovely to see you this morning. I wanted to relay to you a very big thank you for the bespoke quilt you made for me. I am so very happy with the end product and I appreciate it will not have been easy given I was changing my mind on design every so often. You exceeded my expectations and the quality of the materials and your workmanship is to the highest standard.
I look forward to commissioning more work with you!”
“Thank You – I’m so pleased you love your quilt”
So now, it’s on with more commission work. There’s one called Champagne Truffles that’s almost ready to be quilted and another commission about which I’m sworn to secrecy. But it’s for somebody famous!!!! I’ll say no more – I’m off to my studio for some SERIOUS design work this morning.
Thank you to everybody who sent me Happy Birthday wishes for yesterday. I had a marvellous day – flowers, wonderful presents from Himself, nougat from Mallorca, wishes from friends and family all around the world, supper with one of the boys and Himself at my favourite restaurant, sparklers, a birthday cake with candles (just 5, I’m counting intervening years, not the tens), lots of magazines (my treat to me) and a new phone (that’s driving me mad)!
I LOVE the 5th of NOVEMBER!