Why I LOVE Custom Quilting!
When I first started quilting, my mentor (Angela Walters - yes that one -I feel so lucky!) told me that all I really needed to do was figure out what I was good at and offer that. Well to be totally honest, I had no idea at first what that was. I could do all over designs fine, and offered that which was great, but soon realized that it wasn’t what I LOVED about machine quilting. Over time I developed my technique and realized what I really LOVED to do with machine quilting was “custom quilting”.
Now, for those that aren’t quite sure what that means - I define it as “the whole process of planning, designing and executing the quilting”. Of course the trouble with offering that type of quilting service is that it is different for every quilt. So, for someone coming to me with no previous experience with my style of quilting, there really isn’t an option to say “see this design, this is what i’ll put on your quilt”, it is more unpredictable and unique. It definitely requires a lot of trust from the client.
This is where every longarm quilters’ journey is different - I have been lucky enough to have clients that were willing to trust me with their masterpiece. I was able to add my interpretation to their quilt with thread, and as a result do some of the most fun and awesome work I’ve ever done!
Many longarm quilters tell me they do edge to edge or pantograph work because it is more profitable. Which is probably true - it is definitely faster! ;P Again, this is where we’re all different; the planning and time I spend putting myself into the quilt(ing) is really what makes it amazing for me! Not to mention, dreaming up the quilting to best compliment the quilt and then getting to show it to the client is THE BEST!
One of the most fun projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on recently is a quilt for a new client of mine, who put an amazing amount of trust in me to bring a city to life in her quilt! Many quilters have heard of the amazing Tula Pink and her 100 modern block book - you can find quilt-a-longs on Instagram and folks all over the world working on this quilt. The version of the quilt I was lucky enough to work on was the “Skyline” layout, which she asked to resemble the New York Skyline, having been inspired to make the quilt on a trip to New York!
I can’t even tell you how excited I was for this project, I started scheming right away and used that quilt to “motivate” me through a few other projects before I could get it loaded on my longarm! ( I know you other longarmers out there know what I’m talking about!)
Often times with projects like this, I will take a photo of the quilt and “sketch” out my ideas on the photo before I even take a single stitch. It often helps me figure out my plan of attack so I’m not just standing staring at a “blank quilt” wondering where I should start! I sketched and researched and looked at about a BILLION photos of the New York skyline over the course of a few weeks. However, this quilt didn’t really come to life until I started stitching - but once it did, I couldn’t get enough of it. For the few weeks I worked on this quilt I felt like everyday I “lived in New York” and bonded with buildings and landmarks! After completing a few buildings, I texted my friend and fellow longarmer, Bridgett and asked her, “What does this look like to you?”, hoping that what I had quilted was identifiable as what it was supposed to be! She replied back, “the Brooklyn Bridge!”. YES! YES! YES! I felt like I was on the right track now and just kept going!
During almost every project, I start to get antsy wanting to see the quilt as a whole and the effect the quilting creates. Boy did I have it bad with this one - I could not wait to see how everything looked together. I pulled it off the frame, laid it out and quickly realized . . . photographing quilts laying flat is a challenge. I couldn't see the dimension, or really get far enough away from it to see the “whole picture”. Lucky for me the client was going to hang it at a local quilt shop as a teaching sample, so I did get that dimension shot!
With custom quilting, I think there is always a period of uncertainty for the quilter because, “what if the client doesn’t like it?”, “what if I didn’t understand their vision?”, what if.. what if.. what if?!! My heart always races a little bit unfolding quilts for clients when they pick up! I’ve been lucky so far that I’ve never been too far out in left field - I’m sure it is a matter of time. With each project I learn something, stretch my skills and understand my art a little bit better.
Custom quilting can be challenging, frustrating and scary, but it is also rewarding, fun and inspiring! I’m heading into 2019 looking forward to many more days spent creating custom work for my amazing and trusting clients!
I hope your 2019 brings you happiness and time spent doing what you LOVE!
P.S: Thank you Sharon for trusting me! (And Janet for encouraging her to trust me!)
Detail shots of the quilting are below…see if you can spot some NY landmarks!