Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Solstice, Delayed

Is it possible to have the summer doldrums at a frantic pace? If so, that's where I've been the last couple of weeks. We have a fun family summer, with lots of visitors and vacationing. I've still finished a few special quilts for customers, but much of August has been an intake process for the September and October calendars, while I finish up my own projects and soak in the last bit of summer I can find. Here at Island Time Quilting, I'm always going to be a quilter myself, so I'll have time in my schedule for my own pieces of art. If I can meet your timeline and needs, I will happily serve you...but I don't schedule myself so heavily that I cannot make my own art. You wouldn't want the unhappy person I would be in that situation to touch your beautiful masterpieces. Thank you for allowing me to share my own work with you, as well as the quilts I finish for clients.

In fact, I want to say this right now...if you have any Christmas gifts you want me to quilt, they need to be ready to go no later than October 15! I'm booked up right now until November 15, and will only take a small handful of gifts/deadline quilts to finish before the end of the year. I'm booking now for my 2016 calendar! Let me know at my email or give me a call if you want to reserve a time slot for January or February 2016.

So, while I could only squeeze a few hours here and there, I set myself a goal to finish my Celtic Solstice quilt (a Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville mystery from 2013) in August. At the beginning of the month, I only had a few blocks pieced, and had not yet pieced the remaining units. With a couple of aggressive piecing days on the 3rd, 10th and 17th at my weekly Sugar Creek Quilters gathering, and a last minute trip to Thistle Bee Quilt Shoppe in Goldsboro for borders and backing, I managed to get it in the frame on Friday, August 21. I quilted the top borders that evening, and row one and part of row two on Saturday, August 22. That's when it occurred to me that this wasn't going to go as fast as I'd hoped.

Even with several more dedicated hours this week, I've just rolled over to row it's at least three or four more days. Perhaps I'll surprise myself and get it out of the frame on Monday!

Quilting is laborious at times, but oh, so worth it.

September is just around the corner, y'all, and I have a closet full of beautiful quilts to tackle in the next couple of months. Make sure you like my Facebook page to see what's happening as I go. You can follow my Instagram, but it's very likely to also have grandchildren photos.

Back to the quilt in my frame...


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Brief History of Island TIme

While quilting for twenty years as a hobbyist whose time was so precious around work and school and family obligations, I often exclaimed loudly, "No one can pay me enough to quilt for money!" Quilting is a very expensive hobby, despite its reputation as a way to recycle or reuse old garments. Very few modern quilters recycle old clothing, or use "scraps" from garment-making to make quilts. Instead, we buy new cotton fabrics at a premium price, often accumulating a stash for months or years before we have the perfect colors and prints for the designs we envision. One of my quilts from this year, Cross & Crown, was pieced in Lakeside Gatherings by Primitive Gatherings for Moda Fabrics. It took me over 100 hours to piece and quilt, and had $500 in materials alone. With my billing rate and materials, it's a $2,500 quilt. (I'm tossing that out there for the nonquilters. You quilters know how much you spend. If you don't want your spouse to know, don't let them read this. But I don't think you are fooling them.)

It was inconceivable to me that I'd have enough leisure to quilt all the quilts that I have in my own mind in my lifetime (and that's still probably not an option!). So, I guarded my time with Grinch-like stinginess, and doled out my quilts as gifts to special family members or friends, and gradually built up a few for our own use in my home. If you ever received a quilt from me, you need to understand that I spent no less than $300 on materials for that gift, plus spent anywhere from 40-100 hours of my time. Even baby quilts are typically a $150-200 investment. Yes, there are "leftover" fabrics that I can use again, but most of the time I've bought 6-8 yards of fabrics for the top, and another 4-5 for the back, and then there's batting and thread. I'm still waiting for all the "free" quilts I should be able to make from the scraps I have upstairs. (The scraps that FILL TWO ROOMS OF MY HOUSE, and must be handled soon.)

Trust me, as much as I quilted, we still don't have "a lot" of quilts in my house. Okay, we have quite a few. More than we have beds or people. Or beds and people. Or wall space...NO, there's room for a few more on the walls. Plus--aren't you supposed to rotate art so it doesn't sun damage?

I digress.

Three years ago, my sweet husband sold his super-de-duper airplane, and bought me the first new sewing machine I'd ever owned. I invested in a Pfaff p3 Powerquilter with Quilt Artist II. It was a beautiful machine that still felt like it was appropriate for a hobbyist. Maybe an expert hobbyist, which I certainly was after twenty years. All my friends oohed and aahed and said, "Will you be able to quilt OUR quilts for us? We'll gladly pay you!" So, I thought, "Sure, I'll start a business. But it won't be a busy business. I can still teach fulltime and occasionally quilt for friends." I quilted ZERO quilts that first year. For me or for anyone else. (A teacher's job is hard, y'all. Love your kids' teachers.) But Island Time Quilting was conceived, and I became optimistic with future hope...

Then two years ago, my sweet husband convinced me that we would get along just fine without my school salary, and that he'd love to spend more time able to travel or camp together, now that we were an empty nest. And, then I could spend more time with my "business." DONE!

AND Providence intervened, my dearest boss of all time, Barb, sent me an email that said, "Hey, I've found five quilts in the attic that my mom pieced. They've been in storage for twenty-seven years. Do you know someone who could finish them for me?" And my first client project was shipped to me from Dayton, OH, stored longer than I've even quilted myself.

I'm glad I didn't know any better two years ago when Barb bamboozled me into quilting her project. Now I have hundreds of quilts under my belt in that marvelous machine, and I learn something new on each and every one about handling the complexity of fabrics and design and texture and thread color.

I've been so blessed by the growth of my client base over two years in business. It quickly became a real, full time job, with a work load that kept me up late some nights and a schedule I have to guard so that I can meet my obligations. I'm not so busy that I cannot have a "retired" lifestyle, which includes loving my two little granddaughters and supporting my daughters' family needs, and yes, even traveling with that sweet hubby.

So, here I am, two years later, reflecting on how great it is to wake up early obsessed with what I am going to do in the studio today, and rejoicing on how many vintage quilts I've finished, and first quilts for new quilters (many of whom have gone on to become prolific quilters!), and baby gifts for new grandchildren, and wedding quilts, and charity quilts for tornado victims, and quilts of valor for servicemen and women.

Island Time Quilting is less about "not busy" and more about a wonderful breeze blowing off that needle.

Thank you. Thank you for filling my days with color and art and laughter and hope and comfort and warmth and friendship. I've got a business plan that includes upgrading my machine in three years (although, it's a great machine, and I've really learned a lot of tricks in handling it). I've got a list as long as my arm of new projects I want to sew for myself and others. I'm encouraged that I have a stack of client quilts at all times with two or three new ones showing up each week for me to provide the quilting services, and often even the binding services. I'm attempting to stop converting all my profits into fabric for new projects...but that may be futile. I purchased and so that I can build those sites over the winter and make it easier for you to see my work and read my blog and maybe start a teaching schedule.

So, again, thank you. I can't wait to see what the future holds.