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.

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