Friday, February 22, 2013

Quilt Kits, Take 'em or Leave 'em?

Over the recent President's Day Weekend, I had the fortunate opportunity to travel to Delaware and spend 4 days with some of my favorite quilting friends.  I hadn't decided or planned ahead on what I was going to take with me to work on, so in my last minute rush to pack on Friday morning and head out, I selected one of the first quilt kits I had ever purchased and took it with me as my main project to work on while I was there.  I made sure I had everything I needed to complete the top (after all its a kit so it should have all of the fabric, instruction and pattern, right?)

Well, much to my disappointment, I didn't have the right color threads with me ( I needed a variety of blues and greys) to complete the top because some of the blocks required top stitching of the curved pieces to form the blocks and rows.  Strike one!  I did manage to get the quilt top completely cut out and I spent an extraordinary amount of time carefully measuring and cutting the pieces according to the instructions.  Once I was ready to sit down and sew, I read the instructions several times to understand what I was about to undertake.  They were written very well and fairly easy to follow.  I realized after the first run through, that I was going to need a design wall to hang the quilt in progress upon in order to prevent piecing mistakes.  Strike two! 

At this point, I put the kit away and pulled out my backup project for which I was grateful to have packed.  These were little heart shaped blocks done via the foundation piecing method.  All the strips were already cut, I only had to sit and sew.  I managed to get 4 of them done over the weekend.  No small feat, as each block contains 22 pieces each. Sew and flip, sew and flip, sew and flip. 

I also made several basket wraps and completed a special new binding technique on a wall hanging that I had quilted the weekend before this one.  I was teaching the rest of the gang how to do the new binding technique and it turned out really well.

So this leads me to my question of the week:  Do you prefer to purchase quilt kits or to make your own fabric choices?  How many of you purchase quilt kits either in a store or online because you fell in love with the sample in the shop on on the website?  I counted mentally in my head how many quilt kits I have purchased in my 35 years of quilt making.  Five!  I think that tells you that I am not one to purchase kits very often because I have made hundreds of quilts.  The last two of those were tumbler kits that I purchased at the same shop.  The first one was an Halloween Themed Pumpkin Quilt kit, which essentially had the pattern and the fabrics for the pumpkins included.  I made it 20 years ago and I still love it and hang it up every October.  The next kit was a foundation pieced pictorial kit of a large magnolia bloom. I finished it up at least 15 years ago and it hangs in my studio to this day.    And then there is this Glacier Quilt that I purchased as a remembrance of our Alaskan Cruise in 2010 and tried to work on last weekend.   I will finish it soon, I hope, at home where I have unlimited thread choices for the top stitching and a large design wall that does not have to shared with 6 other quilters.  And I do recall having seen that quilt several times since I purchased the quilt at shows, and its beautiful when its constructed well and quilted properly!

Several of my friends enjoy buying and making kits. Most of the quilts they finish start as kits.  And I love how proud they are when they finish them.  I think that quilt kits are a great way to purchase what you need to make a quilt and not have to make hard fabric choices.  They are the perfect choice for quilters that struggle with color and composition.  And there are so many quilt kits available today, it amazes me what the shops have to offer every time I visit them.  Another quilting buddy of mine, will make the extra effort to hunt down just the right fabric to produce a quilt they saw somewhere and are inspired to base their next project on.  She doesn't buy kits. She sometimes doesn't buy patterns. She has the unique ability to see something and draw it out and make it from scratch herself. I've been shopping with her when she needed that perfect piece of fabric to complete the quilt. Sometimes we just have to dip into each others stash to get it, especially if the quilt design has a vintage flair to it.  She is very good about ensuring that she credits the original quilt and quilt maker as the source of her design inspiration with a cool label on the back of her quilt.

What I don't like about quilt kits, is that the fabric choices were made by someone else and while one can swap out fabrics in a kit for other to make it unique, chances are that same quilt lives somewhere else and yours is just like it.  I very much enjoy shopping for the fabrics to make a quilt, planning each choice as I go.  I feel that making quilts from scratch, is my preferred way to do this.  That's not saying that baking a cake from a cake mix doesn't produce spectacular results, it often does.  But I like working from scratch and figuring it out as I go.  And I know I don't have to worry that someone will say, "Oh, I saw that quilt at 'sew and sew' recently."  I love finding patterns and then making them in different colors and fabrics than the sample.  Its more challenging to me to do this then to duplicate another person's work.  I'm sure its because I hope I can envision what the end result will be, but I also know that I can be quite surprised with the finished quilt which ends up looking nothing like the inspiration piece.  If I really like a quilt design, I have been known to make more than one (usually two of the same pattern is my limit).  One to keep as my own and one to give away as a gift.
I always take many photos of my finished quilts so there is a record of the ones I have made over the years. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day

It is commonly believed that St. Valentine's Day is celebrated to offset the pagan holiday Lupercalia,  a festival celebrated February 13-15 to ward off evil spirits, purify the city of Rome, releasing health and restoring fertility.  This year, in 2013, we also celebrate Fat Tuesday today, 2/12 and Ash Wednesday tomorrow, signifying the beginning of Lent in the Catholic church.  One St. Valentine was clubbed to death and beheaded by the Emperor Claudius in 269. Hardly a romantic ending even for a Bishop!  

Valentine's Day, the mid-February 'holiday' that really isn't a holiday. The banks and other businesses and the government are open. Most restaurants take reservations and offer couples the opportunity to pay extravagant prices to dine out with special menus on this day. The stores are filled with red, white, pink and heart shaped items that they expect us to buy and exchange with our loved ones. To me, Valentine's Day is a Hallmark holiday, a marketing ploy to get us to spend our money on things we don't need and probably don't want. Yes, a beautiful card is welcomed and enjoyed. But I don't need flowers, candy, balloons or a 6 foot teddy bear to impress me. I'd rather my sweetie Mike just spend the evening with me at home with our cell phones turned off.  Its one of several non federal holidays that I refuse to take evening calls at home with my overseas colleagues. 

So while I tend to shy away from showering him with the commercial offerings for St. Valentine's day, I do have a good, strong, faithful heart and appreciate quilts with hearts, heart patterns and shapes.  I recently made about a half dozen heart shaped baskets to sell to friends that asked me to make them.  I do have heart shaped lights in my front window at home to ward off the winter blues and my office walls are adorned with several Valentine's quilts that I have made.  Judith Ripka, the famous jewelry designed with her store in NYC, uses hearts in many of her stunning pieces of bling.  She loves hearts and freely designs her gorgeous jewelry to include hearts whenever she can.  Both of my dogs have heart shaped dark patches on their little white bodies. 

Getting to the heart of the matter, love is whatever you make of it and we believe that its not up to Hallmark to tell us when we should be demonstrating that to one another.  It would be a sad state of affairs if we only took one day in the year to tell each other how much we really mean to each other.  Make a habit of sharing your love and affection for those closest to you and the world will be a happier place for everyone. 

<3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3 <3  <3  <3