Thursday, June 30, 2016

Custom quilting, oh how I love thee

I have been a long arm quilter for 15 plus years.  Originally I started out with a Gammill Optimum Plus machine on a 12 foot table.  At the time I purchased my machine, Statler Stitcher was still under development and was not yet available as an option for any machine.  The first time I saw the Statler in action, it was on a trip to the AQS Paducah quilt show.  The product was entering its infancy and didn't seem like something I needed.  I was happy to do pantographs and the occasional custom quilt with my hand guided machine.

Fast forward 15 1/2  years and here I am, with two long arms, both Gammills.  One machine has the Statler and Creative Studio 6.0.  I love both machines for different reasons.  I love how my well used Gammill glides with its upgraded tracks and wheels.  It's a big heavy machine, but it stitches beautifully and holds quilts up to 127" in width.  It's familiar and I prefer to use it for custom hand guided quilting and for quilting simply pantographs when the Statler is going full tilt on another quilt.

On the other hand, I use the Statler more these days because I can program it and let her run after the quilt is loaded and project created.  The table on this machine is only 10 feet so it can handle quilts up to about 105" in width, most of the quilts I take in.  It's fast, sews beautifully and it allows me to do many patterns that would be next to impossible to sew as well manually.  I am still learning the features of this machine.  I really love it when I learn something new.

I guess I feel lucky that I started out with a hand guided machine.  Many quilters these days only do pantograph and do not offer custom quilting services.  Pantographs  are great for many quilts, but I also get a lot of quilts that demand more than just edge to edge all over patterns.  I especially love using the Statler to really quilt details in blocks, sashings, and borders that enhance the quilt.  I am of the believe that in most cases, the quilting makes the quilt.  There are exceptions to this, but I always try my best to ensure the quilting enhances the quilt and does not detract from the quilt top design.

I can do custom work on both machines, using both digital patterns sized to exactly fit the blocks of a quilt, or on the old machine by working from the front hand guiding the machine.

Here are two recent examples of custom quilts.   The first one was sewn by Sandee Gold.  It's a bright a cheerful oversized queen quilt.  I quilted each of the 100 block individually using a digital pattern called "Feather your Cabin".  The outer borders were done with a large border and corner pattern that at also had the hearts and feathers in the blocks patterns.  I also filled in swirls on the inner and outermost edges of the quilts to ensure even quilting density across the quilt.

The other quilt was too large for my 10 foot table and needed to be quilted on the older, larger,  hand guided machine.  Using a ruler to help guide me, I quilted around each of the thousands of orange peel petals the quilter had carefully appliquéd down to the quilt top. This quilt was made by Marie Cummings as a wedding quilt for one of her children.   It has a white background and backing and various shades of purple.  I started out doing a background fill called ground cover, but quickly realized that the wedding quilt needed more dense quilting in the background and that it would be faster to quilt it from the front of the machine freehand myself.

 I added in some little critters amongst the leaves, butterflies, hummingbirds, dragonflies and ladybugs.  Because it's quilted with matching white thread, you really have to look to find those personal little touches.  I know the quilter and the recipient appreciate the time and effort that went into finishing this masterpiece.  Marie has brought me several more to quilt since I finished this one for her.  Here is a photograph that she took with it finished on the bed.

I have found that I am able to get into the quilting groove easier with customer quilting like the one above.  To me, there is a rhythm one gets into when stitching freehand that is very calming and enjoyable.  Because I am not following a specific pattern, but rather filling in negative spaces with stitching, it's challenging but in a very good way.  Part of the challenge is to see how long I can stitch before needing to stop unless my bobbin rules out.  I find that there are many ways to thread paint a quilt and it's almost like the quilt quilts itself.  I am just the person driving the machine.

Many of you may not realize that even after the quilting is done, there is always some clean up to do after taking the quilt off the machine.  Threads to clip, edges to trim and I find running my hands and eyes over both the entire front and back sides of the quilt is a must.  Then there is the matter of calculating the invoice, sending that out to the customer and making the appointment to return their completed masterpiece to them.

I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love most every day.  Most of all I am thankful for my wonderful customers, all of the referrals they and the local quilt shops give to me and for my friends and family for the support they provide as my little business grows.  I strive to exceed their expectations and nothing is better than the reaction someone has when they pick up their quilt and see our collaborative efforts combined into such beautiful textile art.

#love2quilt  #love2longarm  #customquilting #dianefamaquiltdesigns #orangepeelquilt #logcabinquilt #extremequilting

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