Thunderstorms

Dear Customers,

It’s thunder storming outside.  Not good news when I want to work on my quilting machine.  We all know someone who’s had a TV or computer or other electronic device get fried because of lightening.  Well, I don’t use my quilting machine during thunderstorms for that very reason.  In fact, I don’t even have it plugged in unless I am using it.  Frida (my machine’s name) cost $20,000… as much as a car and as big as a car.  God forbid something happens to her.

I am scheduled out about 8 months now.  I do my best to predict about how long it will be before I can get to a customer’s quilt, but sometimes I’m under the weather (pun intended) and need to take a sick day just like other “humans.”  And, sometimes it’s the weather keeping me from working on a quilt.  In September (mid to late), Frida goes in to the shop for her spa treatment (maintenance), so I will be without her for a couple of weeks… another reason I can’t get to a customer’s quilt.

The reason I am telling you all this is because I hope you will be forgiving if I cannot get your quilt done when I tell you.  So far, I’ve done pretty well with getting quilts done ahead of time, but I’ve never been booked this far out.  I WILL get to it, though, and I will get those quilts that need to be finished for Christmas done if you can get them to me by December 1st at the latest.  November 15th would be even better.  I never know what tomorrow will bring.

Longarm-a-Palooza

If you are in the Kansas City area next weekend and are interested in taking classes to learn Longarm strategies, learn how to maintain a featherweight sewing machine, or how to start a quilting business, check out the Longarm-a-Palooza at Quilted Memeories. I’ll be teaching the business class. Here’s a link for the classes: Longarm-a-Palooza

 

LongArm Perspectives

I thought I’d share a few pictures of my longarm quilting machine and explain a couple of  differences between a longarm and a domestic machine.  This first shot is of part of the machine.  You can see how it sits on rollers and it has a bigger arm/throat space than a domestic machine.  Mine has 19″ to work with.  Domestic machines sit without moving.  You have to move the fabric around on a domestic machine to do the quilting.  You can also drop the feed dogs on your sewing machine to do free-motion quilting.  When you do that, you get the sensation of what it is like for a longarm quilter to quilt.

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Here is a shot of more of the machine’s frame.  You can see the the machine floats around on a frame that has several roller bars for the fabric to roll along.  Longarm quilting machines… as big as a car and costs as much, too!

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If you look closely at the hopping foot (as opposed to the presser foot), you will see that it does not sit down on the base of the machine.  It hovers across the fabric.  That is why it is so difficult to draw a straight line.  We use a straight edge ruler for this, which takes a LOT longer to do, since you are manipulating the machine with one hand while holding the ruler with the other hand.  It takes a lot of patience to get that line even close to straight, which is why custom work like this costs our customers so much more.

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When we use rulers and templates, we need to add an extended base for the templates to rest upon.  Do you notice how much more it sticks out than the attached base?

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I took a ruler to see how much further the extended base sticks out on each side.  As you can see, it adds an extra 5 1/2 – 6 inches on each side.  Beyond that, I add clamps to the backing fabric to make sure it is taught.  They add another 2 inches to each side.  This is the reason why I like to have an extra 8 inches of backing fabric on each side of the quilt top.  Otherwise,  custom quilting is next to impossible to do.

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This last picture will probably end up in another post as it relates to the lighting – see those LED lights reflected on the Plexiglas?  To be continued…

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Christmas in July?

Heads up folks!

Yes… Christmas in July.  I am already booked for quilting until Mid-January, 2016.  If you are wanting a quilt of yours quilted in time for Christmas, you might want to be checking with your quilters soon to find out how far out they are booked.  As it gets closer to Christmas, the more difficult it is to find someone to quilt for you.

Blessings Come in Strange Packages

I started this post 2 months ago and never got it finished.  It needs to be put out there for those of you with or without disabilities and for those of you who struggle with wanting your life to be better… but it’s not.
For those of you who know me, you also know that I am legally blind in my left eye – I’ve posted about it before here.  I get to go to different eye doctors on a regular basis; my regular eye doctor who prescribes my glasses and watches for more cataracts, my glaucoma doctor, and my retina doctor.  I suspect one reason my business took so long to pick up was because people wondered how or if I could see.  I joke about it and tell them that when my bad eye bothers me, I just close it; something they can relate to, because they know they can see with one eye.  One of the reasons for this post is because I want those of you out there who are going through hard times or have something you think you need in order to survive to know that it really is not the end of the world.  It feels like it is when it first happens.  You hit the panic mode and you are just sure this is the end of the world.
Actually, I have been very busy working on customer quilts lately.  Yes, they continue to watch my other eye along with my “bad” eye.  The bad eye has a section where the retina will never lay flat against the side of the eyeball.  And, I recently had a lot of problems with my eye pressure.  The Glaucoma doctor thought he was going to have to go back in and mess with that tube shunt.  But, they got the pressure under control and it’s all good.  As for my other eye, it plays tricks on me to scare me, I think.  My retina doctor has told me that if I suspect even the tiniest bit that I have a problem to come in and get it checked out – I have learned my lesson.
As for being blind, while I was laying there on my side, I tried to hand sew using just my hands and touch.  Your sense of touch heightens when your eyesight is in jeopardy.  My retina doctor didn’t even want me to do that, and I suspect it is because of trying to thread a needle.  I honestly do not know how I ever get a needle threaded anymore, but I do!  A trick I’ve learned is to put my finger behind the hole of the needle to help me along.  I don’t know how that helps me other than it gives me confidence in being able to thread the needle.  I’ve bought needle threaders, too, but you need to be able to see the hole to get those threaders through.  I think what got me through my ordeal was finding out about Diane Rose, the Amazing Quilter, who is blind in both eyes.  You can see a YouTube video of her here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lfaSmDxVZQ.

As for my quilting machine, I am saving my pennies to buy a computer for it.  They are so expensive and I love, love, love doing freehand quilting.  But, I don’t know what the future will bring, so I am trying to plan for it.  I am also looking at creating different ergonomic (for the eyes, etc) notions for quilters.  Bad things happen, but there was nothing I could do about it in my case, so I (finally) decided to just make the best of it; live with it and not complain.  And, I also want people to believe that they can accomplish things beyond what they believe they are capable.  I hope you know you can!

 I remember trying to figure out why this happened to me; what the purpose was.  One day I was feeling sorry for myself, because my depth perception was messed up due to having such low vision in one eye (it’s 20/400; I can see the big honking E and that’s about it, so that makes me legally blind) and I thought my mom was lucky because she didn’t have to deal with that – she ended up completely blind in one eye.  And, then I laughed at myself, because I’m betting my mom would have traded with me to be able to see anything at all (blurred shadows) out of her blind eye.  So, that is when I started thinking I was the lucky one.  The weird thing about the messed up depth perception is that it makes the texture of my quilting pop out at me while I am quilting.  For whatever reason, I can see well enough to quilt.  And, in some ways, I think it makes it better for me.  Maybe that was the plan God had for me, I don’t know.  I DO hope my blog posts help other people.  That’s the whole idea.  And, I think that may have been a part of the bigger plan all along, too.

As for Diane Rose, she was what got me through the whole ordeal.  The day I watched that video was the day I changed my attitude.  If she could sew and make quilts being blind in both eyes, I needed to suck it up and stop feeling sorry for myself.

Moral of the story… everyone has an issue, whether or not they admit it.  The grass is not always greener on the other side.  We can overcome many things; I think the secret is to maintain a positive attitude.  Hang in there, folks!  One day you will look back and see the lessons in whatever is your current cry-sis.

The cost of hand-made quilts

I found this article on Jennifer Moore’s blog very interesting.  I am in the midst of working up a Business of Quilting 101 class and blog post, so this was helpful.  It is a very long read, but very newsworthy and informative.  You can find it at: http://www.mooreapproved.com/2015/02/quiltonomics-the-real-cost-of-quilts/

Personal Stretching

You may or may not think the title of this post has something to do with personal growth, and you’d be right.  It’s just a different kind of personal growth than what you may be expecting.  I’ve “kind of” taken a month off quilting for others so that I could finish one of my own quilts.  Well… that and deal with the holidays, which can easily eat up a month in itself.  What you may not know is that quilters who do the quilting for others struggle to find time for working on their own quilts.  We are always looking for a way to get our own stuff in, but we also have bills to pay, so we know that working on our own stuff would interfere with paying the bills.  So, guess what gets left out?

This latest quilt of mine is hand applique.  When we travel, I need something to do and to keep my hands busy so that I don’t go stir crazy.  I worked on the applique on this for a couple of years.  I mixed a couple of patterns, using Piece ‘o Cake Designs’ “My Whimsical Quilt Garden” (you can find this pattern here) and some patterns from Kay Mackenzie’s book Inspired by Tradition.  And, if you want to see more of these patterns, you can find her book here.  I like the simplicity of Kay’s patterns – her patterns make it easy to do needle-turn (hand) applique.

Anyhow, here is a sneak peak of the top.  I chose bright colors for a cheerful quilt.  A lot of the fabric is “In the Beginning” fabric; most of it is Jennifer Heynan’s designs.  She has a blog that I follow and is listed in the sidebar on the right.  Bright and cheerful… The name of it is “Dawn of a New Day” so named because it has dark borders with bright colors all over the quilt as well as white backgrounds for the blocks.  It makes me think of new beginnings (wonder if that’s because a lot of it is “In the Beginning” fabric) and a hopeful future.

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I am planning/hoping to put this in some quilt shows, so I quilted it to death (a personal stretch for me).  Here is a picture of the back.

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This took me FOR. EVER. to finish.  Well, I’m not exactly finished yet.  I still need to put on the binding.  I thought I was never going to get this done!  All I can say is that the cost of quilting this for someone else can easily cost over $500.  Divide that by a month, and that’s a salary of $125 week of back-wrenching work.  And, that’s not including overhead costs, taxes, and other IRS requirements taken from it.  Anyhow, I apologize if it seems like I am complaining.  I just couldn’t believe how long it was taking me to finish this quilt.  I’m glad it’s done.  I’m not completely satisfied with the results, but this is the best I can do with where I’m at as far as being a professional quilter.  At some point you’ve just gotta stop and say, “This will do.”

Speaking of back-wrenching work, 2014, for me, was a year full of back pain and migraines.  For awhile I was getting massages to help with the pain.  It did help, but only temporarily.  I got to the point where I just couldn’t afford it anymore and stopped.

I asked my doctor about it and she sent me to Physical Therapy.  I thought, “Sure!  Whatever!  It’s not going to do anything.” But, you know what?  I was wrong.  My doctor and my physical therapist pointed out that I am probably hunched over a machine all day.  How did they know?  This is not good for your back.   My physical therapist explained that our body is made to stand tall, with your head up and your chest expanded/not drawn in.  When you are hunched over all day, you stretch out those back muscles, but that leaves the muscles in your chest contracted.  Eventually, if you don’t do something to counter-act this posture, as you age, you will “sink in” to this hunched over posture.  I can see some of you who sew on your domestic sewing machine thinking about this right now.  Yesterday I spent the day sewing on my domestic machine, and my back is madder today than it’s been in a long time.  So, yes, all of you who work hunched over, the following stretches will help you.

I graduated from Physical Therapy, but I still need to do my stretches EVERY day.  When I don’t do them, I can feel it.  Is it going to take away my pain completely?  No.  But, it makes the pain more manageable, and I feel so much better now.  So, here is the top page (of 4) that my physical therapist gave me to do.  I am to do these stretches every day and the following 3 pages 2-3 times a week.  True confession… I am not good at that 2-3 per week thing.  I try to keep up with it, but…  However, I do these every day and when something else is hurting, I’ll do an exercise on the last 3 pages.  You might try some of these yourself and see if they work for you.  If not, you can also “Google” exercises for your neck, upper trunk, shoulders, spine and back.

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I do hope that if you are in pain when you work, that you will find a solution.  There’s no reason to continue with pain in your life.