Let’s cover the easy parts first. Some of this may hurt your head, but bear with me. I am being as honest as I can.
I am not an artist. I am a quilter; at best a skilled crafts person. I occasionally have little moments of inspiration that lead to small design adaptations. I think that comes from experience and from getting tired of doing the same things over and over. I may start out with a design I have done for years and change a little of this over here and tweak that over there and end up with something a little different.
Sometimes the client’s quilt stretches me and leads to recreating a design because of the way the quilting spaces are shaped or the way the top “feels”.
It is critical that you have control of your second most important tool; your machine. (the first is your brain) I need to know that my machine is going to do exactly what I expect it to do. I need to be focused on shaping a line of stitching and filling the intended space. I can’t do that if I am worried about tension, uneven stitches or if I am about to hit that “bad spot” on my track that throws me off.
More than 90% of my quilting is for other people. My clients. I have great clients 🙂
If you are quilting your own quilts these same (well…except for the cost) questions apply.
One of the first things I decided when I began quilting for others is – It is not my job to “put my stamp” on a client’s quilt.
It is my job to suss out what the client wants and make that happen…if possible. This means that if the client insists that she wants me to meander her hand pieced, hand appliqued Dear Jane quilt top that is exactly what I will do.
And I have.
I know…go take a break and a couple of aspirin. I’ll wait.
That is not to say I won’t have tried to suggest other possibilities, but in the end I will do what she/he wants.
It also means if the client is looking for super intense SHOW! quilting meant to be entered in 4 national shows next year I will probably give her/him a couple of names and contact info for quilters who specialize in that kind of work because –
1- The other quilter will do a better job of meeting the clients needs, wants, desires.
2- I cannot afford to spend 100, 200, 400 hours on one quilt.
3- I don’t WANT to spend 100, 200, 400 hours on one quilt. Not even my own.
I am not interested in “slamming them out”, but by day 3 I am ready to be done and move on. (Yes I know…regular readers will remember some quilts being ON my machine longer than that but trust me the actual QUILTING part was no more than 3 days.
When I work on someone else’s quilt top there are boundaries. The client’s likes and dislikes; the end use of the quilt, and budget. This makes it easier for me to make design decisions and suggestions. So I ask some questions and make some observations.
How will the quilt be used? If the quilt will be dragged around by a toddler and washed a lot I might suggest fairly simple (to keep the cost down) but dense quilting (to help it hold up well.)
Sometimes my clients will tell me “What ever you think is best. You’re the expert.” This is flattering, but I still need to ask some questions and make some observations so I can be sure we are on the same page. I may say “With all of the batik prints you already have a lot going on here. I am thinking maybe something that suggests leaves or vines, but simple and textural.” Then I would show her some simple, e2e designs that fit that bill.
Perhaps the quilt piecing and prints are fairly busy, but there are a couple of quiet spaces; I may suggest something simple like CC for the pieced blocks or even an all-over for the body of the quilt with some actual design work in the quiet spaces where you will be able to see it.
Finding out how the quilt will be used (and sometimes by who!) can lead you to different kinds of suggestions. Maybe it is a nicely pieced, block quilt with a couple of pretty borders, but the client mentions that the intended recipient will “probably not take care of it”. I may say “Well, we could do something medium custom for this much $$ or we can put a simple e2e design that will be pretty but less expensive.”
Conversation with the client (or yourself!) will usually lead you down the right design path.