Sunday, June 26, 2011

How NOT to make a memory quilt

Here's the story of the other commission I recently had. A woman contacted me and said she had several squares of fabric that people had signed at a family reunion and she wanted them put into a simple quilt to be on display during subsequent family reunions. Sounds simple enough, right? So I said, "Sure!"

When we met, she handed me a plastic bag. All I could see was foil. Strange. It was fairly heavy. I didn't think too much of it until I looked at it much later, when I was ready to make the quilt.

Each of the fabric squares were different sizes, and none were square. They were various shades of yellowish beige. They were all separated by wax paper and foil. They had been "signed" with what appeared to be some sort of puff paint. The paint, or something else, had become very sticky. The wax paper and foil was separating the pieces of fabric. I had to peel them off of each other.

Too make things worse, there were stones, large beads, and plastic jewels plastered all over the blocks. And the writing on many of them went right out to the edge of the fabric. What a mess!

I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to piece these fabric rectangles traditionally. First of all, I'd have to square them up, which would mess up a lot of the wording and designs. Plus, seam allowances would further ruin any legibility. And the glued-on bits were also often right out at the edge. I'd have to remove many of them to maneuver my sewing machine foot. In addition, I was concerned about the paint and stickiness when I went to press it.

So, I decided to raw edge applique. I went ahead and pieced the background fabric the client had given me, as well as the backing and sandwiched everything. I figured I might as well quilt at the same time. This wasn't going to be a functional quilt, after all.

First I tried a zigzag stitch. My foot stuck to the fabric so badly that I couldn't move it! I thought maybe a free motion foot would work better, since it hops up and down. Nope. It also stuck. I couldn't sew a straight line with it. My experiment was on one of the less sticky blocks and my stitches jumped and wobbled. I couldn't charge anyone for the mess that would have been.

In the end, I tied the blocks on. Even that was hard. I could hardly get the needle through the fabric!
I have been struggling lately with not having any sewing desires. This commission added to that greatly. I realized that I haven't sewn anything for myself in years. I think the Birdie Sling was the last thing I did for me. Everything else has been shop samples, class samples, round robins, commissions, baby quilts, gifts, auction quilts, and things for Molly. So, fair warning: if I "owe" you a quilt (or anything else), it might not come soon. I really need to do some fun sewing for a bit or I may never enjoy it again. Link


  1. You have learned a valuable lesson Grasshopper: never take on a commission quilt before you see what you are working with. Agree to see the squares and then decide.
    That said, you did a fabulous job!!

  2. Thanks, Michaele! Basically, anywhere in the photos where it's wrinkly is where it was sticking to itself!