block 4 and some amazing work being produced! Well done all those taking part, there’s beginners and not so beginners amongst you and you’re all doing fabulously! I’m loving the fabric variations and everything!!………
I was prodded by the powers that be: ‘Time for another Blog please?’
I asked: ‘obviously Mystery Quilt, but is there any other topic you think might be of interest?’
It was suggested: ‘Prep’……..
Well there’s a subject!! How to tackle it without it sounding like I’m on a whinge or moan though? It’s quite an emotive issue for us designers, there’s actually an awful lot that we have to do, that the general are totally unaware of, it all adds up to our kits and pattern price……..so I thought I’d talk you through a few of the things that I do in order to produce and supply a Mystery Quilt to you. My next Mystery is under way so we’ll use it as an example…….. please do be aware though that I’m a fuss-arse when it comes to my patterns and teaching prep…..and I do this job because I enjoy it………
First thing is obviously the need for and the inspiration for a design. It could be something that I want to do just for the sake of it, that I hope others will enjoy, or it could be a commission or ‘remit’ from a client, maybe an individual or a group……… whichever, it can take hours, days, weeks or sometime if I’m lucky, just a few minutes to have a bit of a vision in my mind. This vision will sit there adjusting according to day, mood, fabrics and colour for quite a while. Ruby’s & Cream has been there for nearly a year now, a request from a group who sadly were unable to go through with their request for a design for their group’s Ruby Anniversary……..
Time to draw. I generally do a quick pencil sketch, not to size and really rough, it could be that there are several if I can’t get what I’m looking for. They could be drawn at any time, be it the middle of the night, in a hotel room, at a show, between classes or possibly in my Cupboard even! It has to be ‘doable’, not just by me, but by those who wish to learn, to create, to therapize, I’m known for classes and designs that ‘stretch’ people, they’re generally full-on. It has to be adaptable to fabric and the producing of patterns with instruction, all of these things need to be considered from the outset or I get hung up with added design developments at a further point, usually in the sample making………
Then it’s onto a full sized drawing. This can have me climbing all over a very big table sticking bits of paper together until I get it the right size (oh be blessed Ikea rolls of sugar paper!) …… then I re-climb with ruler & a marker pen in hand, I block edges, sashings, borders, whatever I have in mind as the ‘construction/bones’ of the quilt. I then change to pencil and draw all over it!!! Sometimes quite badly, loads of lines, scribbles, with lots of bits of rubber everywhere! This part of the process can take a very long time if I’m not feeling it, or literally minutes if I am……..
Next job, choose the fabrics. Now hopefully these will be in the stash, but chances are, they’re not. So, keep an eye out at shows and other purchasing opportunities, might even be lucky enough to get sponsorship from one of the big companies (that comes with another whole set of stuff to do and hoops to jump, but that’s another story,,,,)…… fabric acquired, in fact, loads of fabric acquired, coz I don’t know how much is required until I’ve made it do I?!……. threads to match. If I’m supplying kits with the patterns, then I have to ensure I can get sufficient fabric to hold for everybody, for the full duration of the quilt making process. Let’s just say it can be expensive to host a Mystery Quilt/BOM which includes fabric, it might be you have just enough, joyous!…….or it might be you get left with stock……..
Now to make the sample, easy!!…. yeah right!! anything could happen with one of my designs, I don’t tend to make traditional quilts, or if I do they’ll have a twist, so things aren’t generally straight forward when making for the first time. By the time I get to making I’ve generally got a plan in mind as to how to go about making it into doable sections…..as it happens, on this occasion I haven’t a clue!! The background of Ruby’s & Cream needs to be a completed quilt so that applique can go on the top, the applique at present, (could be a design development on the way here) doesn’t match the ‘blocks’ of the background……it’ll sort! A section at a time its coming together…….
…..I mustn’t forget to take copious amounts of photos as I go, or I’ll need to stage photo’s for instructions at a later point. Usually when I’ve got to writing pattern instructions and need a crucial angle to save a thousand words of explanation! Which reminds me, don’t forget to write notes about do’s and don’ts of making to help with the pattern writing later, lots of notes, all over the place! I try to keep them in one note book, but invariably I think of a good descriptive phrase at the least opportune moment if you follow me!….. don’t forget to trial quicker easier methods of making as you go as well. It could be that I make a block/section 3 or more times before I’m happy that others will be able to make it under written instruction.
At the same time as the brain is doing summersaults (the body can’t that’s for sure!) I obviously have to ensure my points are exact, my colour choice pleasing, my bodged bits camouflaged sufficiently to be described as one of my ‘design developments’, stitching where it should be and looking half decent……..photos can be hideously accurate and revealing on many levels and we’re all good at spotting bits that shouldn’t really be there aren’t we? Even if we only say it in our minds, we’ve all been there and done it, even if we hadn’t meant to, its almost automatic, like looking for mis-sequenced bits in a film……. but, I try my best, if you spot something, good on you!! Enjoy, I’ve probably spotted it too late, had a giggle and shrugged the shoulders at it whilst declaring it a ‘purpose moment’! LOL!!!
Let’s jump to a completed quilt top, that then implies a bit of quilting is needed. Me being me, I prefer the look of hand stitching, so I usually hand quilt although I have recently found a very jolly machine that stitches Sashiko and emulates hand stitching quite nicely, so making has speeded up a bit for me. 🙂
Binding, I LOVE doing bindings, finishing by hand always, tiz just a habit of mine.
So the quilt is finished, now to produce patterns…….. for starters they have to be accurate and error free. This in itself can be a mammoth task. They have to be legible and actually make sense to people other than myself. It never ceases to amaze me when I see students producing fabulous bits of work from one of my efforts. I’m also a bit old fashioned in that I like full sized paper patterns, you know where you are with one….
Many hours later, when I feel they are ready, I then have to find a victim to test them!! I usually find one of my newbie students, deposit patterns and a full set of fabric with them and leave them to it…….when they’ve made and indicated adjustments or need of clarification, I then adjust and clarify. Sometimes this stage takes a while. I’m reliant on peoples good will and time availability.
From the earliest point in the development, that I’m convinced the quilt will be made, I start advertising. Answering questions without giving it all away, planning costs (this doesn’t usually include the development making time, cost of testing and fabric that’s gone by the by and a whole host of other bits). I try to get a feel for how many people will take part so that I can order stock up front, hence the sign-up period.
This is also time for me to get the patterns printed. I then have to fold and cellophane them all, set up a system for those people interested so that I don’t let them get away! (some of you know me for this already!) Then there is the bane of my life…… at this point comes the little strip that covers the sticky on the envelopes…… and static. Static. Horrid stuff. Annoyance beyond belief!!! I land up gesticulating and not always politely, occasionally swearing and always in a bit of a temper!! The first 2 or 3 behave, but then they get momentum, with this the static builds and they adhere themselves to nothing but me!! (….goes and gets more coffee…..)
Monthly or maybe fortnightly, I cut kits ready to post out with the patterns. I address envelopes, this can take a day a block to ensure its all correct. I send out payment reminders, keep a track of payments, keep a track of how much commission is paid to vendors and Paypal (or similar) and the taxman before I even see a penny……. as I hope you now realise, we put these quilts out there mostly for the love of it and the hope that we’ll have steak for tea and not just baked beans on toast again…….there’s numerous bits I haven’t mentioned that need constant attention along the way, including my teaching of other classes and designing enough smaller projects to keep them all going and shows and, and, and….
So please be kind to us individual, self employed designers. We love you all for your creativity and making our visions come to life. We love to see photos of your artwork that we’ve been privileged to inspire. We get the greatest job satisfaction from seeing your skills grow, your confidence shine and your therapy do wonders for your life, happiness and enjoyment. Smiles and everything!
Two quotes: one from a student, no, a friend of mine……. a nurse having received her work schedule for the coming month was busy booking class days with me, ‘I need your classes, they are my therapy and you’re cheaper than a session with a psychiatrist’.
and one from me…….’you really want me to have more fabric and make stuff, because as long as I am happy you are benefiting from my good mood’…….I love him dearly and have no intention of ever changing him. I forgot to mention that without his moral support (and criticism), house work and cooking, gardening and him working 2 jobs with overtime I couldn’t do any of the above. 🙂