Couldn’t Resist Sharing…

As a follow-up to Friday’s post:

Yea, it would be even more hilarious if it weren’t so to the point.  Creatives, Sewists, Quilters, Seamstresses, Designers, Artists (whatever you label yourself):  Value yourself, your time, and your expertise enough to charge appropriately for IT. 

And my sister’s friend sent a photo of her daughter, Amelia, the adorable little recipient of the Lilly Pilly quilt I made:

Amelia and Her Quilt

This was taken after I left their home, when she stopped jumping on the quilt and bed, and was admiring her new treasure.  Makes my heart smile. ūüôā


Lilly Pilly Twin – Making a Quilt for a Commission

There are some lovely quilt pics below, but first a few words on how I handle sewing and quilting on commission:

I’ve made quilts for commission before, as well as clothing, sewing alterations, etc; usually for clients I do not know but who find me through word-of-mouth, or a recommendation from the shop where I used to work. The biggest challenge is always trying to estimate one’s man-hours up front.  My advice for calculating your time; break it down into steps of the project. How long you expect it to take you to cut everything out?  How long will it take to piece, how long will basting AND quilting take you (or if you plan to hire a long-armer, find out their cost up-front), and how long to make binding, attach the binding and label the quilt?  Don’t forget any steps as you want to try to estimate your time as closely as you can.  Once you total up your man-hours, decide on an hourly rate for yourself (I use $15, currently, but I may give myself a raise soon as it’s been at $15 for a while now) and multiply that by the total hours.  Then, add 20%.  YES.  Add 20% to the total estimated cost of your labor.  Why? To cover your butt when you grossly underestimate your time; because you will.  We always do.  Now, this doesn’t mean I take advantage of my customers.  On the contract (ALWAYS have a written agreement before you purchase anything) I include a note that labor is estimated to the best of my ability, but should it take less time to make than estimated, the customer will be discounted accordingly.   The client will appreciate the discount, appreciate the clarity and your professionalism, and it’s is always easier to discount something, than it is to go back and ask for more money.

Now, if I make mistakes while working on the project, that cost me time, such as sewing blocks together wrong; that is my mistake, not my customer’s.  Therefore, I do not include un-sewing and re-sewing time as part of my labor cost.   (If I underestimate my time, my customer gets a break because I don’t charge more than my original estimate).

As for materials, my advice is to calculate your materials, at FULL cost (even if you are using your stash, scraps, or sale items) because you should be charging what it would cost to replace those materials for future projects.

So, on to my most recent commission. A friend of my sister’s asked me last Autumn if I would make a quilt for her daughter’s “big girl bed” (a twin size bed she would be moving into this summer). The little girl’s Daddy is an architect and I knew they wanted something modern and contemporary to fit the decor and style of their (very cool) mid-century modern home.  I told her do an image search with her husband on Flickr and Google to find examples of quilts they liked and we would develop an idea for Amelia’s quilt from there.  They did, and they came back with this:

Lilly Pilly Don't Look Now Pattern

They really wanted THIS quilt.  The problem? The pattern makes a quilt that measures 38″ x 51″.  Hardly twin size.  So, my hubby and I went to Kinko’s on a Sunday evening, played around with enlarging the pattern until we got the size I thought I needed; and made a bunch of copies of the appliqu√© pattern at 183% (or something like that–don’t take my word for it, but if you really want to know the %, email me, I probably have it written down somewhere). And at home, I taped them all together to re-create the appliqu√© pattern. At the bottom of this pic is the original pattern, and the top is the enlarged version of the same area:

Lilly Pilly Pattern

After tracing my pieces and pressing onto fabric (which I did at one of our MQG Sewing Days), I started working in quadrants, like this:

Lilly Pilly Twin Size Tree Applique1

I appliquéd as many pieces as I could while only working with one quarter of the fabric, then I sewed the four pieces together before finishing the appliqué (This made it A LOT easier to maneuver at the sewing machine and minimized my chances of pulling and stretching the design area).

Lilly Pilly Tree applique2

Lilly Pilly Tree Applique

Because this quilt was going to a three-year-old, I didn’t want to have the white fabric along the edge where it will be handled the most; exposed to oils in the skin, etc., so I added a double 4.5″ block patchwork border to finish it:

Lilly PIlly Patchwork Border Detail

At this point, I sent it off to my business partner, Trina, to quilt on her long-arm.  She did a spectacular job, as always…

Lilly Pilly Twin Size Quilt

Love how she finished the tree trunk:

Lilly Pilly Tree Trunk Quilting Detail

Lilly Pilly Twin Size Quilt Back


The backing is a Moda Bella solid but I do not know which color it is.

Lilly PIlly Quilting Detail

Lilly Pilly Quilting Detail

Lilly Pilly Quilting Detail

Each leaf, branch and bird was stitched around a second time with the long-arm to reinforce the appliqu√©.  I did a little hand embroidery, to give the six little birdies legs and eyes, and I used a pink variegated DMC floss to embroider her name on the label of the quilt:

Quilt Label Embroidered Lilly Pilly Quilt Twin Size

I made two mistakes at the end of this project.  First, I should have added Trina’s name to the label, and secondly, I didn’t pull my phone out to capture the joy Amelia expressed when I delivered this quilt–pure, un-adulterated, three-year-old, jump-on-the-bed, joy.  EVERY handmade gift should be so well received!

Lilly Pilly Quilt On Bed

The bottom line is, if you decide to sell your handmade goods, don’t undervalue your time and your skill.  Contractors are paid well for their skills; as are Electricians, Musicians, Graphic Designers, Woodworkers, Painters… why should handcraft skills be worth less?

Have you ever made a project for hire?

Did you feel you were fairly compensated?

Blogtoberfest Day XIX–The Guest Book Quilt

I finished up a commission quilt this week, and I’m delivering it to my client this evening.¬† I first talked about it here, and showed you our inspiration piece.¬† It’s a signature quilt, that served as the “guest book” for the client’s July wedding.¬† Her wedding colors were Truffle Brown and Daisy Yellow, and she had yellow Gerber daisies as her primary flower.¬† I drew up a sketch for her, she loved it, and I prepared the blocks for her prior to the wedding (freezer paper stabilizer on the back of them, pinked edges to prevent raveling while being handled, and provided her with a supply of permanent pens for signatures).¬† I got the signed blocks back from her in late August, and went to work piecing the quilt and creating the applique design.

I’ve never had this issue before, but I had to baste this quilt THREE times, and tear out far too much quilting, because of bunching up fabric on the back.¬† Grrrr…¬† I finally walked away from it Saturday evening, went on a date night with my sweetie, and after Church Sunday morning, went back to basting it fresh for the third time.¬† Third time was a charm.

Here it is in all its (finally) finished glory:

Yellow is not really my color, but this quilt may change my mind about it.¬† It’s so bright and cheerful, I’m going to have a hard time parting with it!

The couple’s names and wedding date are hand embroidered at the center of the daisy (used my Aurifil wool thread to embroider–worked wonderfully!!)¬† The photograph does not show it, but the wool thread provided a wonderful visual texture on this embroidery…

This design may be making a repeat appearance here one day:

Happy October!
Don’t forget to leave your comments before 8 PM (CST) time this evening to qualify for this week’s giveaway:

And come back tomorrow for another installment of our Halloween Party and NEW GIVEAWAYS!!!!

p.p.s If you are in Central Iowa, join us tomorrow night for the Des Moines Modern Quilt Guild Meeting, at 6:30 pm, West Des Moines Public Library.  More details here.

That Suits Me Just Fine

I set a goal of Father’s Day to finish this commission project, made from the suit jackets and pants of my customer’s father-in-law.¬† I finished it Saturday, the day before Father’s Day and delivered it to the happy customer the following day.

The borders and the binding are a batik, in steel grey, slate and rust colors… very masculine, and it set the suitings off just perfectly.¬† The center squares are two different alternating fabrics, one is a blue linen/poly blend and the other a synthetic blue suede.¬† On the reverse is a tweedy flannel, rust colored to pull out the browns in the quilt…

I considered many different options for quilting, but decided on a straight line grid, echoing the lines of the blocks themselves.  I used a grey/slate variegated Aurifil thread on top, that seems to compliment the colors of the quilt just enough.

When I delivered the quilt, the new owner immediately carried it into the formal dining room (that had served as her FIL’s bedroom before he passed away) and threw it over the back of a large, stuffed, rust leather chair–where it will live.¬† It looked like it had been made for that spot, and I’d never even laid eyes on the room before that moment.

Polyester Parade

¬†Well, not just polyester, but wool, rayon, suede…¬† It’s a quilt for a customer of mine, made from her father-in-law’s old pant suits.¬† He passed away two years ago and she saved his suits and ties to make quilts with.¬† This is the first one, now basted and ready to be quilted:

I mentioned the heat yesterday, there was no way I was going to have this baby laying across my lap when the outside temps were pushing 100 degrees.¬† Did I mention the backing is flannel?¬† Needless to say, it didn’t get finished last week as planned.¬† But I’m quilting it now, and hope to deliver it to my customer by Fathers Day, this weekend!

When I started sewing these blocks at a retreat this Spring, I kept referring to this as my “ugly quilt”.¬† But now that it is coming together, it’s really starting to grow on me…¬† I think it’s those flashbacks of the fabrics of my 1970s childhood that bothered me at first!

On a Mission

Well, a commission, really, two of them actually. I’ve been working part-time at a local quilt shop for nearly three years now. I work full-time in grants work for a private University, and I’ve always said my part-time gig was to “feed my fabric habit”. But with wedding planning, family activities, and life in general, it has become increasingly more difficult to be tied down to a set schedule of Thursday evening and Saturday shifts at the LQS. So this Saturday is my last day of work there. To keep the extra income flowing, I’ve decided to take on some commission work instead.
I’m making a throw quilt from the clothing of my first client’s late father-in-law, mostly suit pants and jackets, and two heavy wool winter coats. I spent most of a retreat two weeks ago chain-piecing the blocks together…
The amount of lint this left on the Bernina was unbelievable!! Because the fabric I’m using is not 100% cotton, but much heavier weight polyesters, wools, rayons, suedes and blends (some of them with stretch!), I first interfaced everything with a woven, mid-weight fusible stabilizer:That and cutting was the most time consuming part of the quilt. I did get all of the blocks made, and will be adding sashing and borders next week, before basting, quilting and binding it for her. (I took this shot at retreat, and the blocks hadn’t been trimmed down, so please don’t judge me on the sad looking shapes–now they are nice and square and straight!)My goal is to deliver her a finished quilt by Father’s Day at the latest. The other thing I worked on at retreat was piecing this top together with my friend, Trina, who gathered blocks from over 25 quilters to make this batik quilt as a gift for a fellow quilter. The pattern is Terry Atkinson’s Foursquare Farmhouse. Pretty, no?My second commission quilt has not been started yet, but I’m very excited about it. It is for a fellow bride, who does not sew or quilt, and whom I have not met before, but wants me to provide her with blocks for her July wedding, for guests to sign, that will later be sewn into a quilt by me, and serve as the “guest book” for their wedding. Awesome, huh? Her colors are Truffle brown and Daisy yellow, and this is our inspiration piece:
Quilt photo is from here. Can you believe she gave that quilt away?!? Sadly, I was not the winner.

I just realized I missed my 3-year Blog-i-versary, it was March 4, 2008 when I first started this journal. And incidentally, it’s the first journal, in any form, that I’ve maintained beyond the third entry…

Leave me a comment, it’s been quiet around here, and I just want to know you are still out there.