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 appliqué 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 appliqué 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 appliqué.  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?


Fifteen minutes

This week brought a fun surprise on page 19 of the latest issue of Quilty magazine (Jan/Feb issue):

Quilty magazine 1

The second “n” was left out of my last name, but that’s me! (It’s spelled right in the URL at the bottom of the page so that’s what matters, right?!)

I had a few emails asking about the quilt I’m holding in the photo; I did show it once here on the blog, but the photos were not great (taken quickly before the quilt was gifted).  Since I borrowed it back for the photo shoot, I took the opportunity to snap a few better pics…

Chrysanthemum Quilt


Chrysanthemum Quilt 2

Chrysanthemum Quilt Detail 2

It’s a traditional block, Chrysanthemum, in scraps of greens, border is an Erin McMorris print, and Espresso Brown solid on outer borders.  Yes, it is on the list for making into a pattern for Row House Creations.

This weekend, the Des Moines MQG had a sewing day, 12 uninterrupted hours to sew… heavenly!  I worked on quilting a table runner that has been pieced since JULY– it’s still not completely quilted, but I made good progress.  And I made a new ironing board cover, with a simple elastic casing to hold it on:

Ironing Board Cover Elastic Cut & Sew Fabric

And I just happened to find this matching pincushion on a quick run to JoAnns (could not resist!):

Ironing Board and Chair Pincushion Cut & Sew fabric

I’m such a fan of that Cut & Sew fabric line, it’s adorable and the colors are yummy.

One of my sewing goals for 2013 is stash reduction, and this project helped use a little of it up!  So far this year, I have only bought one charm pack (Posy by Aneela Hoey) and I have used 5 yards for a quilt back that went to the longarm quilter last week, and 1.66 yards for this project (to get the length of the ironing board, with some obvious waste that went to the scrap basket).

Stash Stats year-to-date:

Acquired — .75 yards

Used — 6.66 yards

-5.91 yards

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

I managed to get a half hour of sewing in this week to make my May bee block for Mrs. Schmenkman, Amy

Love her fabrics and her choice of block…super easy to assemble!

Then, last night I went to the meeting of the Des Moines Area Quilt Guild, our traditional guild which has a membership of somewhere near 500.  Our speaker was Karen Eckmeier of Quilted Lizard designs.  She talked about freeing yourself to include raw edges, collaged quilting (her term), and letting yourself play for a 15-20 minutes every morning before you start to create–ignore the quilt police!  Her talk was very much in line with many modern quilt bloggers.

Some of the quilts she brought to share…

I love how her quilts incorporate hidden photographs from her family, travels, etc, that essentially go unnoticed until she points them out to you:

And my favorite pieces of her’s are her wavy log cabins, sort of in line with wonky log cabins you see in the blogosphere, but she takes it even further with embellishment:

Her “doodle quilting”, and appliqued triangles and shapes within her logs:

I’m definietly inspired to do some creating this week!!!

One more change this week…I decided to get rid of that extra hair I’ve been dealing with the last several months, and go with a short pixie for summer….ahhhh……  My hair just seems to be happier when it’s short, what can a girl do?

Have fun creating, dear reader!

Back to the sewing table…

Finally!  I truly dislike those “forced” sewing breaks, you know, when life gets too crazy, you can’t even find five minutes to get to your sewing machine?  Much less find time to write a blog post.  Sunday, I rectified the situation by spending a day sewing.  Quilting, actually.

I made this top on a retreat to MN in JUNE… finally quilted it, since I will see the little babe in person next week.  She lives a few states away from me, and I met her in August for the first time, and I thought it was high time she got her quilt.  She is seven months old, and I always allow myself until the first birthday to get a baby quilt finished and gifted. 

I fell in love with this puppy fabric (Riley Blake, I think), and it was kind of boyish, but I decided I could make a girly quilt out of it.  What do you think?  Did I accomplish it?

(FYI, the quilt isn’t that crooked, it’s a weird camera angle, I guess…)  Used a bunch of aquas, pink and white florals, and dotty fabrics to pull out the girly colors in the puppy fabric.  Added the applique flower to make it just a tad more feminine…

Pink variegated thread (Superior Threads) used to quilt it…and this adorable Cosmo Cricket Alphabet fabric used for the back:

I love this quilt.  Hopefully my grand-niece and her Mommy do, too!

Show your stripes

Wow, ya’ll get excited over new hardware…don’t ya? The new Horizon quilts like a dream! Seriously, once I got that baby set to go, not a tension issue or snag through two full bobbins of free-motion quilting!

Making progress on the Chrysanthemum quilt (above)…

On other fronts, it seems like I’ve been sewing a lot of stripes, or strips lately…this month’s Bee Blocks are no exception! This is the first thing I made on my new machine…a strip block for Amy for our first month of Fresh Modern Bee 2:
Love the greens (!!!) and those little flies were fun to get in there…as long you aren’t squeamish about bugs.
And this one is my final block for Sew Connected 2, for Kristen:

She sent us pieces of her husband’s old shirts and asked for free-pieced, Gee’s Bend style blocks. I’m sort of getting hooked on free-piecing with all of these fun Bee Blocks I’ve made…

Packing for the retreat this weekend, and getting ready to send off my packages for One Block Over…

Meadow Sweet

My Blooming Meadow quilt is finished! Quilted it on Saturday and finished the binding last night. This is one of my first freehand free-motioned quilts…it’s a leaf and vine pattern on the rectangular blocks,and a flower blossom on the hexagonal/log-cabiny blocks,
It’s hard to see the quilting (in bone colored thread) on these busy prints, but trust me, it’s pretty neat in person, if I do say so myself!The backing is one of my favorite Sandi Henderson prints, Henna Garden in espresso brown and cream for her Meadowsweet line: