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A Peek Inside the Glamorous World of Commission Quilting, Week Eight


I’ll lead off my post this week by saying that this phase of the project didn’t go at all as I expected it to. Which isn’t a bad thing, just different.

At the end of Week Seven (which was actually two weeks ago, considering the break I took for Christmas), I’d finished assembling the flag and auditioned some appliqué pieces. These square and rectangle appliqués were to serve two purposes - the first to function as the quilting on the flag, and the second to move it from traditional into the modern realm.

So far the client has loved the way the patchwork looks, and so do I. The deep range of colors really comes to life when the red, white and blue are placed next to each other. The interplay between the colors is even better than I imagined and it was great to know the client was just as pleased.

When I started laying the appliqué pieces on top, I was slightly disappointed that it seemed to detract from the piecing below it. But on the other hand, I really loved how the flag started to look pixelated, giving it a super modern feel. And the client had said that there was no such thing as too modern for this quilt.

So I took some pictures and sent them over to her. Over where, I’m not sure - she was on vacation for two weeks (all I knew was that she was someplace warm - lucky her!). She’d replied to me once from vacation saying she was reading all her email but replying only sporadically. This was the week before Christmas.

In the email I sent with the pictures of my proposed quilting treatment, I mentioned that I wouldn’t start on the next step until I heard back from her approving my plan. In part I did this because the appliqués really changed the look of the quilt, and I wanted her to be comfortable with that. On the other hand, though, I was trying to buy myself a bit of time - Christmas was coming up quick and I still had several gifts to finish making (not to mention the wrapping, baking, and other general holiday hoopla).

My plan worked - Christmas arrived and I didn’t hear back. It was a relief to work on my own projects for a week without feeling the pressure of what I “should” be doing.  As things wound down the night of the 25th, I planned to get back to the flag the next day. I still hadn’t heard back from the client but I was nervous about losing too much time. In my agreement to complete the quilt on time, I stipulated a 48-hour review period for process decisions, which she’d agreed to. So I was free and clear to move forward.

December 26th came. After a late start to the morning, I mulled over the appliqué patches over breakfast. I thought through my process for preparing them, adhering them, and sewing them. I pictured it all in my head.




And then I made a dress instead.




Because sometimes you just need to make a dress, you know?

We had tickets to the theater that night (We saw Pippin with Lucie Arnaz - she was amazing but the musical itself? Clearly a product of the early 70’s hippie days - a great production, but the story was a bit of a head-scratcher!) and I had the bug to sew with some knits. Nicole at Finch Sewing Studio assured me it was easy so I picked up a pattern and some fabric before Christmas and was waiting for a lull in my schedule to play around.

I can’t say I actually found that lull, but I did get some garment sewing done.

So with the dress done and worn, it was time to get back to the quilt. And I did get back to the quilt.




Just not the flag quilt.

I’d started a patchwork throw for myself several months ago but set it aside to work on various commissioned projects. I told myself the reward for getting them all done would be finishing this lovely Liberty quilt. It only needed binding, which is my favorite part anyway. So I took a few hours to wrap that project up (and wrap myself up in the softest, prettiest quilt imaginable!).

But the flag quilt, ahem.

Then the neighbors invited us over for dinner and a movie. And I had this great vibrant green knit, and some gray knit, and a few hours, and sewing with knits is so much fun so the next thing I knew…




I had a new tunic top to wear that night.




Which meant no progress on the flag quilt.

By then it was Monday, December 29, the day the client was due back in the office from vacation. I was getting a little worried that she’d expect a new progress picture so I woke up that morning feeling panicked. I really HAD to get some quilting underway THAT DAY, no more dragging my feet.

I took care of some other things early in the day with the plan to start quilting after lunch. And that’s when the by-now-10-days-late-reply email from the client came.

“I really like the quilt as it is, without the appliquéd pieces. It may already be too late to change course, but can you leave off the pixelation and just quilt it as is?” (I’m paraphrasing)

And THAT’S why I ended up sleeping and reading and surfing and tidying up my workspace and making a dress and making a top and binding a quilt, instead of finishing up the flag. Because it turned out she liked it just as it was.

Which I admit I was taken aback by. I loved it too, but I also love the edginess of the pixelation. It felt truly modern to me. So although it was with a lot of relief that I replied to her “No, it’s not too late at all to change course” and I was thrilled to be able to accommodate her wishes, I still would love to see this thing in pixels.

But on the other hand, I was never able to bring myself to start on the appliqués - I kept putting it off more and more (while getting some other awesome projects done, yay) because it seemed like such a huge step to take without the client’s approval. It was all subconscious though - consciously I was beating myself up for dragging my feet. But it turns out I was right all along.

Score another one for intuition.

So at that point I had to figure out how to quilt the flag. I told the client I’d play around with it that day and get back to her the next day with some options. I took to paper and pencil and sketched out a few options, and decided on my favorite two.

I tossed around how to represent it on paper - I’d used crayons and pencil and markers in the design phase - but I kept getting stuck on how to show ivory thread on ivory fabric and red thread on red panels. I even called Doug for advice on possibly scanning the fabric and using Photoshop to draw the quilting lines on. But as the words came out of my mouth, I realized the best solution - actual sewn samples.

Luckily I have plenty of leftover pieced panels, so I constructed small pieces of stripes that are the same scale as the big flag. And I spent considerable time quilting up two different samples for the client to choose from.

I settled on one that was a series of random interlocking squares and rectangles that slightly overlapped each stripe edge. This was fun to quilt and I thought it made a nice reference to the piecing technique.




The second option I offered was a series of organic flowing lines, all moving vertically through the stripes (and also overlapping neighboring panels). This treatment referenced the natural movement of a flag and although not as mentally challenging to sew as the boxes, could be tedious and repetitive.




I didn’t prefer one over the other, so I asked the client to choose, and she picked the organic wavy lines.




So that’s where I’m at right now, as I post this I have just two more stripes to finish up. Then I’ll move onto the blue panel, which will be a big surprise! (a surprise to you, not the client - she’s already given me the go-ahead on it)

I’ve committed to delivering this next week, which is super-exciting! I can’t wait to see it hanging up and share the final product with you. See you back here next Friday!

In case you missed the previous installments of this series:

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Week Six

Week Seven


Silent Sunday

Holiday Letters, Fuller Style