Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Frustration of Missing Deadline

I've been working on another small piece, and I really wanted to get it finished before vacation. And friends, I nearly did. I'm about 80 minutes from finished with it. But, I didn't quite get there. Which means I can't blog about it before I go, either. I know you'll all be on tenterhooks. I'll tell you this much: it's green.

Fortunately, the deadline was completely arbitrary, and it won't hurt a thing that I missed it. But still, it kind of bums me out.

I guess I'll just somehow have to deal with it over the course of my week and a half vacation. Hey! I feel better already!


p.s. By the way, anybody going to the Sisters show this year?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I'm Just Happy When I Can Help

I've been using Google Analytics to track how many people stumble into my blog empire, and how they get there. Aside from making me feel like a enormous loser on days with no readers, this also lets me see what Google search terms led people to me.

For instance, last week somebody Googled the phrase "four interlocked circles." I don't know what they were looking for really, but since I had used that exact wording in my entry on the quilt for Baby Chuckdaddy, they ended up reading my blog.

This is how I know that sometime yesterday, someone linked to this blog from this Google search:

"how to be more masculine"


All I'm going to say is: Hope you found what you were looking for, bro!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why I Prefer Office Work

When people who don't know much about quilting look at quilts you've made, they will almost always say something along the lines of "Have you ever thought about doing this for a living?"

Now, I used to really lay into people who asked questions like this, which may explain why I have so few friends from my 20s. These days, I can recognize the question for what it is, a very kind way of saying "Gosh, to my untrained eye, your work seems very professional. Or at least I'm willing to pretend it does." And I'll respond, depending on how interested the complimenter really appears, by explaining one or more of the reasons I would never, ever, ever think about doing this for a living:

1. Competence: If you are telling me I should do this for a living, I can assure you I am nowhere as good as you think I am. As I have emphasized before on this blog, in fact, my skills are well below those of the average serious amateur. Just as an exercise, let's compare my most recent full-sized piece (left) with a standard, middle-of-the-pack piece from the 2006 Pacific Northwest Quiltfest (right):

See what I'm saying? So, thanks, but let's just keep our feet on the ground, here.....

2. Quality of Life: Five or ten hours a week, at a leisurely pace, it's a great way to relax. Forty hours a week, with a mortgage hanging over your head, it sounds like an especially lonely and nerve-wracking express route to repetitive stress disabilities.

3. What? And give up my lucrative social work career? You may have seen price tags on sale quilts, and made the superficially logical conclusion that "Quilts are expensive, therefore selling quilts must be a good way to make a lot of money." Or, on the other hand, you might be one of the people who have said something to me like "my cousin is having a baby, and I'd love to give her a quilt. If I gave you the fabric, would you make something for me? I could give you a little money for it."

Well, let's run the numbers. We'll take the little crib quilt I discussed last week as an example:

Materials: Well, I said that this one was basically free, but what I meant is that I didn't have to go out and buy anything specifically for this quilt. Of course, all of the fabric had to be purchased at some point. Conservatively, the material in a quilt like this, some of which is high-quality quilting fabric and some of which is cheapo JoAnnes-quality stuff, would run around $15. Toss in another $3 for thread and batting. And, if we're going to have a proper economic analysis, we should add a materials cost for use of tools, sewing machine, storage cabinets, blades, needles, pins, oil, and all of the other apparatus that keeps the quilting enterprise moving forward. Call it $2 for a nice round $20.

(As for the idea of "I'll give you the fabric" -- well, no you won't. Fabric selection is probably the most important single step of the process, and if you need MY services you aren't to be trusted with it.)

Labor: As close as I remember, I worked on this for 3 hours on Sunday the 3rd, an hour on Monday the 4th, two hours each on Wednesday and Thursday, and another hour on Friday the 8th. That's, let's see, nine hours.

Now, here in the great state of Oregon, minimum wage is $7.80 per hour of labor. So, you would need to pay me at least $70.20. Now honestly, I'm used to making a little more than that per hour, but that's cool. After all, I'm doing what I love, right? I should be paying YOU!

Total: But I'm not. So, for this absolutely minimal quilt, the lowest price I could POSSIBLY ask would be $90.20.

So, My Point Is....

If you've ever suggested I quilt for a living: Even if it sounded like a pleasant way to make a living, the business plan would never fly. I couldn't price the quilts high enough to pay for their own construction.

If you've ever casually asked me to throw together a quilt for you: If you've got the wherewithal to cover materials plus $20/hour -- the minimum I would ask for working on your project instead of mine -- let's talk! Otherwise, this perfectly serviceable set of baby blankets I found on the Wal-Mart website might be a good choice. Four for $8.88!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Anatomy of a Crib Quilt

I do get jazzed about making quilts for babies. They don't have to be very big, very elaborate, or very precise, so you can whup 'em together really fast. They are easy to sew, because you don't have to reef a lot of bulk around on your machine. Plus, they are really high-megaton gifts. If you made a quilt, you are going to OWN the baby shower, making the Made-in-Indonesia set of three pastel color bibs given by that other schmuck look like the shabby gesture it is. Often, giving a baby quilt makes parents cry, which is awesome. They will remember this next time you ask them to loan you money.

(Some of you are thinking about those wussy baby showers to which only women are invited. Apalling sexism, is all I have to say about that. No quilt for you!)

(I don't really think bibs are a bad baby shower gift. But they ain't a handmade quilt, know what I'm sayin'?)

So, among the many recent babies and babies-in-progress in my life is the soon-to-be-baby of Chuckdaddy and Mrs. Chuckdaddy. Since I happened to introduce the parents I feel a certain karmic debt to this creature for arranging for him or her to be yanked from whatever crazy party souls-in-waiting hang out at into this vale of tears. Or whatever. So here you go, ya little punk -- Uncle 5000 made you a crib quilt.

Chuck, if you see this before you see the actual quilt, you should still act surprised.

Formal Aspects

Now, pursuant to the educational mission of this blog, I thought I'd take a look at what is good about this quilt, and also what is not-so-good. Although some of the things that are not-so-good are really JUST FINE in a baby blanket, which is after all something that is made to be barfed on. So I guess I'm really talking about the formal kinds of qualities prized by the quilting establishment, versus the scrappy, casual utilitarian aspects.

  • For instance, one thing that is technically GOOD in this quilt is actually kind of bad in a baby blanket: the color scheme. It's a nice value spectrum of purples, with sky blue, pink, and orange highlights. Reasonably attractive if you like purple, and a nice gender-neutral combination of pink and blue, yeah? But the overall effect is kind of, I don't know, grown-up. Maybe even grandparentish. It certainly doesn't have the bright primary colors that a classic child's blanket maybe ought to have.
  • It is (I think) the first piece I have ever done with squares "on point," or in other words at 45 degrees to the rectangle of the quilt. It makes them diamonds instead of squares. That went pretty well.
  • The quilting looks sharp! I just followed the seams for the most part, but for the two big panels in the center I made a star of four interlocked triangles and a pattern of four interlocked circles.

Scrappy Aspects

  • Since I made it from materials on hand, not everything matches. In the outermost ring, there are three triangles cut from a different fabric when I ran out of the main one. The first ring in of full diamonds are cut about 50/50 from two very different fabrics of the same color, because I didn't have nearly enough of my first choice. Neither of these were design decisions, by the way -- I just screwed up and adapted.
  • The binding on the sides is a different fabric from the binding on the top and bottom. I did do that on purpose. I also whip-stitched the batting together from two scrap pieces. Since I used surplus thread, too, this was essentially a free quilt, made entirely from stuff I had laying around. (The dude with the bib three-pack actually opened his wallet, unlike me, but I'll get to be the hero. Just watch.)
  • Some of the corners don't meet exactly. That will have to be all right.
  • Some of the quilting stitches get a little wobbly -- I don't care, and I don't think Baby ChuckDaddy will either.