Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The kind of quilter I will never be

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I was recently asked by a friend of mine how I can possibly love what I do so much, when it is so utterly exhausting at times.  Before I could even answer his question, he answered it himself by comparing it to being a parent, which is exactly the answer I would've given.

I've written about this topic in the past, but never on my own blog.  If you're going to continue reading here, I suggest you hop over to this and read it first so that you can sort of get a general idea of what this "business" of quilting means to me.
...........
Done?  Good.  Let's move on.  Sort of.

It's no secret that I get a lot of really challenging tops to quilt.  I make jokes about it, I sometimes complain about it, I post pictures and have been dubbed the "miracle quilter" and the "magician" because of it.  Most that see the before pictures of some of the jobs I take in ask me why I never say no.  Most say they would refuse to quilt such things.  Most say that it can't possibly be done.

I know they have good intentions.  They really do.  But I will never be the kind of quilter that says no.

Some quilters piece tops for the art of it, and everything they do is as perfect as they can possibly make it.  Some do it as a form of therapy to distract them from pain - both physical and mental.  Some do it as an escape from every day responsibilities.  Some do it simply as a hobby, for something to do.  Regardless of why the tops are made, they all need quilted.

If longarmers only quilted perfect quilts tops, there simply would be no quilts.  My quilts aren't perfect either.  There's no such thing.  We can be as careful as we want but nothing is ever perfect.  My quilting is never perfect so I can't possibly expect perfection from my customers.

I enjoy quilting the ones that are rough around the edges.  I enjoy possessing the skill and ability to fix things.  I enjoy making the supposedly impossible, absolutely possible.  I like making a completely out-of-square top into a beautiful, square quilt.  I enjoy bringing smiles to my customers' faces and tears to their eyes.  I enjoy hugs.  I enjoy stories of how the quilts came to be, and where they will eventually go.

So while this is a business and I'm quilting to live (which people often forget), my customers are more like family.  I have quilted a top on short notice (two weeks) for a woman whose daughter in law was going to celebrate her last Christmas before cancer took her out of this world at the age of 44.  I have quilted a top on short notice (two hours) for a woman that wanted to re-gift a top given to her by her aunt, as an actual quilt for her 90th birthday party.  I have quilted a king size double wedding ring to be raffled off for Relay for Life, and waived my fee so all proceeds could go to a better cause.  I have quilted tops that were made for families by their friends when all worldly possessions had been lost in disasters.  I have quilted a top for a grieving mother who miscarried in her second trimester and wanted the baby quilt completed for comfort.  Alternatively, I have quilted a top for a new mom that was excited to finish her first project for her adorable baby girl. I have quilted tops made for teenage runaways living in safe-houses.  I have quilted for flood victims and graduates and people that are days away from taking their last breath.

Even writing that, and remembering all of these people that have asked me to have this small part in their lives brings tears to my eyes.

How could I possibly say no to those things?  Why would I want to say no because points are cut off and seams don't match and blocks are too full?

I will never turn away an eager customer because their quilt is not flat.  I will never tell someone that I will not quilt their deceased loved one's top because there are seams coming apart.  I will never tell a youth quilter that her crooked seams and puffy sashings would be too much work to take on for her budget.  I will never tell a mother that I won't quilt her daughter's graduation gift because her borders are too long.  I will never, EVER speak the words, "I won't quilt that".  I will never only quilt for certain people.  I will never make someone feel bad because they are not perfect, or their quilt isn't perfect, or their pressing wasn't perfect, or their seams aren't perfect.  I will never tell someone that they're not good enough.  Everyone is welcome here.  Everyone. 


I like to promote positive experiences in everything that I do.  Not just quilting, though quilting is basically all that I do.  I love what I do.  And all that matters to me is that my customers love what they do, too. That they have a warm, mushy feeling in the pits of their stomachs when they walk out the door with their quilt to put on their bed, or give to their aunt, or whatever the quilt's fate may be.  If you're quilting for the love of it, then you're doing it right.  Whether the top is "right" or not.  Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise (unless you're in a class because then it's their job!).  =]

We're all in this together. Let's have some fun, shall we?


49 comments:

  1. I love you so freakin' much.

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  2. You do know I love the bejeezus out of you, right??? And feel lucky to know and work with you, right???

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  3. OMG, Lisa. I have never sent a top out to be quilted and I SO want to send one to you.

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  4. Thanks to Megan for bringing me here.

    ttfn :) Yuki

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  5. Oh my stars!! You really need to bottle the skills you used to get that result & maybe do a book & video tutorial. Stat!!!
    Serious kudos Dude!
    Shame you were not credited on the label.
    Loving your stuff, holey face or no.
    Cheers
    Lush
    London, Uk

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  6. Reading this means the world to me! I have made many quilts and only just sent the first one out to be longarmed. I have been too intimidated up until now. I have read many of my local longarmer's comments about "bad" tops that she has received as well as her long long list of requirements that must be met before she will load your quilt on her longarm. I finally decided to pass her by and sent mine to a great gal in Texas who has none of these strict rules. It is worth the price of shipping not to have the Quilting Church Lady look down her nose at me!

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  7. I also came here by way of Megan....and now have another blog to read all the time! Also, I have a new project to do: Frame the line 'If you're quilting for the love of it, then you're doing it right!' - then hang it in my sewing room!!! So inspiring...and I so wish you could quilt all my quilts! thanks for the inspiration!

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  8. Excellent...just amazing to hear from a quilter who isn't perfect, who makes her tops odd sometimes but loves them just the same.

    You are a gem in the quilting world.

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  9. Oh my gosh! I am so happy Thomas mentioned you on facebook. You are an awesome woman to make so many people happy. To make a poorly made quilt top into a work of art.

    Beyond the great quilting, you can turn a person into a better person. I used to be in a quilt group that had a few people pointing out the flaws in a quilt instead of praising the person for making it the best they could make the quilt. Many people can't afford quilt shop material and the tools to make things square. Many do not understand how to correct incorrect patterns. I design patterns and I know I have made mistakes.

    It will be my delight to follow your blog.

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  10. Because you care so very much, you are perfect!

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  11. Just fabulous! Now I know where I want my quilts to go! How does one contact you for quilting? Thanks!

    Linda

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  12. Awesome, you are such a wonderful person and an inspiration to new quilters such as myself.

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  13. Beautiful words, Lisa!! I thought I was reading about myself. I've been called a "Magician" also...and my friends know I'm crazy (in a fun way). I have a sign in my quilting room that says..."I don't explain myself! My friends understand & the rest wouldn't believe me anyway!" Bought this years ago because it explained me in a nutshell!
    I also don't turn jobs down...I've given away a lot of work also. Just the right thing to do at the moment. The only job I did turn down was an old, loosely, handpieced top that I was afraid would just pull apart once I got it on my frame. I was just plain scared I'd tear it all apart with even the loosest of tightening on my frame. The lady totally understood.
    I love seeing the smiles & tears of aprreciation also. Makes me realize I'm finally doing the last job I will ever have.
    You take care of you!! You are such a gifted writer, my friend! :)

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  14. I also have never turned away a quilt. I am not the quilt police nor do I want to be. I'm right there with you, Lisa. I love my clients and all their quilts. It's a privilege to work with them.

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  15. Bless your gawjus heart!!! All quilters should be like you :o).
    Hugs,
    Joy :o)

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  16. Wonderful, wonderful! I'm with Anonymous above - I think I'll get out the fusible & make myself (& maybe some q-bie pals) a little wallhanging with your quote: 'If you're quilting for the love of it, then you're doing it right!'
    You're downright awesome, blossom!

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  17. And you are the best kind of quilter AND person. You are amazing Lisa.

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  18. On a day when I was struggling with a quilt top of my own, this is such a pick-me-up. You said it so well that I can tell you really, really believe it. Bless you.

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  19. I too will never turn away a quilt because of it's construction. It's an opportunity to be creative. Every quilt is created with love and I quilt every quilt as if its' a gift for someone I love. Oh and those rush jobs - they give great hugs!

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  20. You are simply amazing!!! What an inspiration!!! Did I mention you were amazing??? :-)

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  21. Hey girl...I can sooo relate...all of the quilts I have quilted have been customer quilts...all of them have had major piecing issues..yet, the challenge for me, was to make them as beautiful as possible, and to keep the integrity of the quilt...some, I have spent months on, trying to come up with the "right" design for that particular quilt..all for little monetry gain..much to my husbands angst..:)The last quilt I did, she told me it gave her goosebumps every time she thought of it...she has a brain tumour..I cant tell you the grief that quilt gave me with it's issues...but her saying that, made it worthwhile..:) so, you aren't the only one that is crazy...xx

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  22. The first time I read your blog you pointed out that your head is up your skirt in the header photo and I knew you were my kind of girl then! I have laughed with you and cried with you since then but have never commented. Today I had to tell you that I think you are an amazing person. You have given an old(ish) lady hope that the quilt police are on the way out, hopefully! I have never had the confidence to send out my quilts for quilting, but maybe after today I will rethink that and see them for the works of love that they are and hopefully will find a long arm quilter as talented and gracious as you are. Blessings to to you my friend!

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  23. You are the exception to the rule, thank goodness. I know long arm quilters that hand back Quilts of Valor tops because it isn't flat. Sad.

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  24. I don't know you but still love you. :-))
    Seriously, I do love your attitude. You remind me of a dear woman in my life who lives by "if it's not kind, necessary and true", you don't say it. She builds up those around her and is so inspirational.
    It sounds like you are a blessing to those in your life.
    Blessings to you.

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  25. Wow, that was beautiful. And, perfect timing. I started making quilts as a distraction due to an autoimmune disease which at 38 years old took me out of a "normal" life. I struggled daily until I began making quilts. Quilting gives me peace and pleasure and contentment. Up until now I have done it all by hand and due to the steroids that I take daily, I can't focus on one at a time and have several in different stages all the time. This results in usually lap quilts & wall hangings & baby quilts. I was made to feel today that my quilts weren't good enough because they are not bed sized. Does that matter? Working on that quilt gave me peace, purpose, pleasure, gratification and I am supposed to doubt it's authenticity because it is not bed sized? Thank you, thank you, thank you for validating me. :)

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  26. Great post! You are so right, and said it so well! I work with a bunch of ladies who are learning to quilt as part of our church's quilt ministry, and have learned to encourage rather than discourage. Love goes into the quilts we make, even if they're not perfect! And quilting covers a multitude of sins, I've found! Keep up the good work - I'm going to start following your blog to keep up with your work!

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  27. That is the way I feel. I bet you have the same philosophy on life. I too have "friendly" quilts and I love the challenge of making them look as good as they can be. Sometimes while pulling my hair out, but I'm always happy when the customer is happy!

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  28. Miss Lisa YOU ROCK!!! I am proud to say that Lisa quilted my daughter's firt quilt for her now husband when you graduated Marine boot camp. And yes, she did bump us up to the top so it would be finished in time. That's just the way she is. We love you!!!!

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  29. As a male long-arm quilter I get some very interesting comments from people that don't understand what quilting is all about. As part of a charity sewing group, we help young people to know the fun and joy of quilting. Everyone helps each other so every quilt is "A work of Heart". We believe that each quilt has a part of us in it and that sends the love to the recipient. When a quilt with flaws comes to me, I just remember that my life (as Others) has it's flaws too, so it gets extra attention. My biggest challenge was a quilt top made in 1907 and passed around until the granddaughter at 84+ asked to have it quilted so she could look at it. It was thin and worn but beautiful and she was so happy to show it off to her church group. It made my day too. Thanks for such an inspiring blog.

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  30. My gosh - that is a GREAT post. I'm with you on your thoughts.

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  31. Heartfelt. Wow.

    I know just where you come from. I get so many that I'd just love to toss out the window, but something in me won't allow that. Hopefully you are guiding your clients that bring less than desireable tops on one small area that might make it a little easier to quilt. Most clients have no idea when things are hard to work with.

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  32. That my friend is an amazing post. You're an amazing, wonderful, compassionate being - there should be more Lisas in the world :o)

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  33. Freaking fabulous blog post..... probably the best one I've ever read from any machine quilter.

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  34. You took the words right out of my mouth. Love your spirt!

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  35. What a beautiful, honorable post! Your attitude is inspirational! Thank you!

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  36. I had no idea I was going to cry reading a quilt blog. :) What a beautiful outlook you have. very, very sweet. April @ Little Mama Hen

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  37. Beautiful words and beautiful quilts. What a combination!

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  38. This struck my heart! It IS hard to turn down a quilt, as it may mean the world to someone or will touch another life no matter how 'perfect' it is.
    Thank you for your lovely words. I'm printing them out as a reminder to accept all as perfect in its own existance.

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  39. This post touched my heart. This is what the world of quilting is all about, to me. And so much like my guild. Thank you!

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  40. Lisa, you are such a special woman! God is looking down on you and an angel's hands are laying on your shoulders!

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