Welcome to Fuller by Design, where we explore what it means to lead a creative life. Because the truth is this - life is what you make of it. So let's make, every day. For life.

A Peek Inside the Glamorous Word of Commission Quilting: Week Whoops

Founding Farmers Flag  

Despite my very rational side, I can be rather superstitious. I don’t like to talk about things before they’re settled, and I don’t like to put my seam ripper away until the next seam is already in place.

But we’ll get to that story in a moment.

This week I’m really having fun with a different kind of commission job - it’s finishing two different quilts.  A friend assembled the tops herself, but was nervous about not having enough experience to finish them. So she asked me to sandwich, quilt and bind them for her.

When I sent her an estimate on the time and cost to finish the quilts, I figured I’d do a standard meandering squiggle all over the quilt top. But since then, I’ve spent a lot of time practicing drawing out various quilt designs and gradually got comfortable enough to try something a little different.


Purple Practice


First I practiced stitching a flower and leafy vine design on scrap fabric, then I moved to a scrap of her backing fabric and a variegated purple thread. Once I was confident I could complete the whole quilt this way, I sent her photos for approval. She agreed that the quilting design suited the quilt top and I was off and running.


Pansy Quilt

I’m about half way done with the quilting now. I fully expected to get it done this week, but apparently I put my flag quilt scraps away too soon when I cleaned up last week.

That’s where the superstition part comes in.

When I attempted last week to clear out some lingering scraps and projects, things I was either finished with or wasn’t actively working on, I came across my bags of red, white and blue scraps from the flag quilt. I’d delivered the quilt weeks ago, it was hanging in the restaurant, and the grand opening was scheduled for this week. No need to keep the scrap bags hanging around my table anymore, right? So I reshelved the bigger pieces of leftover fabric and I combined all my scraps into one bag and packed it away.

Then on Monday I got an email from the client with this picture.


Bent Flag


She was very polite and mentioned that the wiring I’d used in the rotating circle portions needed “a little boost. Would it be something I could easily address?” She was right about that “boost.” Man, she gets points for diplomacy on that one.

I told her of course I would fix it, could I come by the next day to pick it up to fix it at home? She asked if I could wait an extra day to get it, as the restaurant was hosting a friends and family night on Tuesday and really wanted the quilt on display. Of course I agreed - I was proud they still wanted it up there despite the shortcoming in its construction.

But I was also mortified.

And annoyed that I’d put those flag scraps away before the restaurant opened. I’d finally learned not to turn my machine off until thoroughly inspecting the last seam I’d sewn, because turning it off prematurely pretty much guarantees I’d have to resew something. Totally the same with putting away my seam ripper. Or my rotary cutter.  Damn my superstition and double damn for putting away those scraps too soon!

I’d say I was surprised by the limp wire, but I wasn’t entirely surprised. I was concerned about it when I delivered the quilt, and I mentioned it briefly to them and asked them to contact me if there was a problem. I just wasn’t sure how the wire would hold up with the weight of the fabric, given its size. I was optimistic that the hanging hardware would disperse the pressure on the wires, but apparently it wasn’t enough.

All afternoon Monday I racked my brain trying to come up with the right kind of wire frame replacement. It needed to be something that was strong enough not to flex under the weight of the fabric, but flexible for me to bend into two perfect circles. And of course thin enough to encase inside the binding that runs around each circle.

I was out of ideas, so I turned to my best source of guidance - my family.

After dinner I called everyone back to the kitchen and explained the problem. They tossed out a few ideas and then Doug said “how about a plumbing snake?”

Hmmm, I thought, that has possibility.

So Caty went to the basement and brought ours up and we played with bending it to the right size. It could easily flex to the sizes of the circles but would not bend once in place. This might just work, I thought.

On Tuesday Caty and I made a trip to Home Depot and bought a brand new snake (because cutting up ours? ewwwwwww).


Plumbing Snake


I picked up the quilt on Wednesday at 11am and had until Thursday at 11am, the day of their grand opening, to get it back there and re-hung. The repair race was on.


Bent In Box


I carefully unpicked all my invisible stitches that held the binding shut and snipped out the original wiring. We sized up the circles (this took three people and six hands), estimated the lengths of snake I’d need, and Caty did the metal cutting. Then Caty and I worked on cleaning the metal lengths (they came with some kind of factory grime that I’m sure is of no consequence to your pipes but no way I was letting that black stuff near my quilt).

Then I set about restitching the metal onto the circle, and reclosing the bindings. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but even still the whole process took about five hours.

But the results, OH!  It was so, so, SO worth it!  Those blue field circles are just as tight as could be and there’s no way they’re going anywhere. In the spirit of full disclosure, the back portions are definitely not as neat as they were before, but several times I’d cleared with the client that the back would never be visible. So although I hated for the back to be the least bit messy, it was worth it for the great result it gave me on the front.

On Thursday I made it back to the restaurant at 11am and their facilities person rehung the quilt, just as their grand opening for lunch was getting underway.  Whew.


Founding Farmers Quilt


And there it hangs, in all its glory (pun definitely intended), at Founding Farmers in Tysons Corner, VA.


Founding Farmers Flag


Founding Farmers Flag By WIndow


It’s one of many, many amazing works of art in the restaurant. I’d tell you to go check it out yourself but I’m pretty sure reservations are nearly all booked up for the next couple of months. So instead, next week I’ll give you a visual tour of this gorgeous place and the various art they’ve commissioned from local artists. You will be delighted, I’m sure!

In case you missed the previous installments of this series:

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Week Six

Week Seven

Week Eight

Week Nine


Silent Sunday

Motherhood by Design: Rachel Hauser