Saturday, June 7, 2014

pressure and pleasure

I recently finished my first ever commissioned quilt. When I first started making quilts I couldn't imagine wanting to make commissioned pieces. I was too drunk with all the possibilities swirling within my own head. The idea of collaborating with another person felt like an unhappy compromise. Too close to what I did for a living every day, maybe.

Sewing started out in some ways as a reaction to spending 10 hours a day in front of a computer screen. After punching out at work, the last thing I wanted to do at home was to sit back down in front of a Mac. I've never "designed" a quilt on a computer. I've thought about it - done a couple "sketches" in Illustrator, but ultimately, that process (then and now, at least for the time being, never say never) just doesn't appeal. Process is paramount for me. No, actually pleasure is paramount for me. If I were to design a quilt on a computer, I would then feel compelled to execute that design as flawlessly as possible. There would be no room for improvisation or happy accidents or whimsy. It would feel like a lot of pressure. I don't like feeling pressure. It is in no way stimulating to me. It is the opposite of fun, and fun is the only reason for me to make quilts, dig?

Cut to early February, three months into my current sabbatical (layoff), and my friend Charlotte asks: are your quilts available for common folk to purchase or are they strictly museum acquisition pricing levels? Pffft, I replied, they are totally available in whatever budget you got, sister!

I sent her jpgs of all my available finished quilts, but none was really the right size/color. She was looking for a birthday gift for her partner, Roz, something that would work in their bedroom on a Queen-sized bed. I told her the best thing possible would be for me to make something specifically for them. I've known Charlotte and Roz for a few years now, been to their home on several occasions, but never seen their bedroom. Charlotte asked us over for dinner and afterwards we all tromped to the second floor of their beautiful brownstone to survey their bedroom and talk logistics.

I think they were a little nervous. I was a little nervous. But also really excited. I took some phone snaps of their walls and artwork, their rugs, the chair next to the fireplace. I asked them some questions. I tried to weigh how much they were committed to the reds in their bedroom, how much importance to give the William Morris pattern on the armchair. Roz said she like asymmetry. I started thinking about what I could make that night in bed while I fell asleep.

In a few days time, I sent Charlotte a short design rationale to get her feedback:

She gave it the thumbs up so it was all systems go. It didn't take that long, actually, and had I not come down with the worst flu on earth in the middle of it, it would have been done in under 5 weeks as I had proposed. Still, I delivered it to her 2 days before Roz's birthday so it was all good. I even had time to photograph it on our bed before delivery.

I have to say, I was really pleased with how it came out (this is rare for me). Though Roz and Charlotte were possibly ideal clients, I would love to do this again. It was a fun sort of problem-solving - like the best design assignments.


  1. That is fabulous! It is a very modern looking quilt and I love the actual quilting ! !! Did you do the quilting ? I would love to see a tutorial or just pictures of how this is done.

    Lovely job and now you know you can produce quilts someone will buy.

  2. Like Melody, I love this quilt and am curious how you did the quilting, and if you had to mark every hexagon?

    I'm swimming in your blog, I hope you don't mind. Your prose style, design style, and perspective on life are making me happy.

    1. Hi Ruth, how nice of you to comment - and such a nice comment, to boot!

      The quilting was done by Cami Cress at (Berrien Springs, MI) using a pantograph pattern on a long-arm machine. I've never actually seen it done in person, come to think of it, but I believe it is somehow automatic or computer-guided to achieve the precision.