There are two attitudes to machine quilting your own quilts – one is “Oh dear… now I have to quilt it”; the other is “Oh boy… now I get to quilt it”. Which camp are you in? Many quilters throw up their hands in despair and simply hand their quilt tops over to a long-arm quilter to do for them. I am not disparaging having a professional quilt your quilt there are plenty of skilled and talented long-arm quilters out there who can do beautiful quilting jobs but if you are a prolific top maker, the dollars start adding up.
It can cost a pretty penny to have your quilt top quilted and a good long-arm quilter deserves every penny, the question becomes ‘what can your pocketbook bear’? A simple allover design or pantagraph is the best bargain for a utilitarian quilt but a gorgeous quilt deserves gorgeous quilting. This is usually referred to as a ‘custom’ quilting job in the industry and now the dollar signs start to add up. Among my long-arm friends and acquaintances, a custom quilting job for a bed sized quilt starts at about $400 and goes up from there. By the time you get to the quilting stage, you have probably already invested anywhere from $250 – $400 in the materials if you are buying good quality fabric and adding a long-arm quilter’s fees can escalate the out-of-pocket cost of making a large quilt to $650 – $1000 and up; this does not include the hours and hours you put into making the quilt top (and non-quilters wonder why getting a custom made quilt so expensive, can you imagine going to a lawyer and paying only for the printing fees and paper to get you case handled?).
My preference is to quilt my projects myself whenever possible and there are a few good reasons to do this. My main reason is that I believe the quilting plays a crucial role in the artistry of the whole quilt and this is something I want to control myself (yeah – I know – so I’m a control freak). When you hire a long-arm quilter you can discuss your ideas and preferences with them and a talented long-arm quilter will usually have very good judgment about which stitching designs will enhance a quilt but it comes down to relinquishing that final decision to someone else. I try to consider my quilting designs carefully before stitching; better to approach this with caution than have to rip out stitches after the fact; but even with years of experience, I’ve had times when a little ways into the quilting I realized my best idea simply isn’t working as well as I envisioned and I have to stop, rip it out and reconsider my choice. This is not a decision I want to surrender to someone else who may have a different vision than I do.
Now – I will admit, there is a size threshold to consider. I can quilt anything up to a throw-sized quilt with relative ease; on a twin sized or larger quilt I might have to compromise what I want as a design with what I realistically think I could do on a domestic machine given space and maneuverability limitations. For a queen or king sized quilt, I would definitely consider having it done by a long-arm quilter. But, I love the quilting process; seeing to colors and textures of thread and design unfold and develop as I stitch; the quilting is the icing on the cake.
So – which camp do you want to be in? Afraid to quilt your own quilt, or excited at the opportunity to do so? If you are the former, I teach a comprehensive class on Machine Quilting at various locations in Portland; here are some dates for up coming classes: Jan. 25 & Feb. 1 at Sharon’s Attic in Aloha, Jan. 31 at Montavilla Sewing Center in Gresham, Feb 17 & 24 at Ace Sew & Vac in Tigard, Feb. 29 & March 7 (and again on July 11 & 18 ) at Cedar Ridge Quilts in Oregon City, April 6 & 13 at Ace Sew & Vac in Newberg. These are all my full 2-session classes (see the class project below)
I also have some 1-session and focus classes coming up: my ‘Free Motion Magic’ class on Jan. 31 (and then again on April 25) at Montavilla Sewing Center in Gresham; and a couple of ‘master’ classes at the Lake Oswego Montavilla Sewing Center . The master classes focus on specific quilting situations; ‘Pushing Borders’ (on February 25) and ‘Machine Quilting Textures’ (on April 15). See the various class samples below.
Between the various dates and venues, I hope you can find a class that will accommodate your schedule and location.
And finally, I will be giving a program on the ‘Art & Craft of Quilting Your Quilt’ for the Metropolitan Patchwork Society in Beaverton on March 24 at 6:30 pm to be followed with a workshop – ‘Freestyle Quilted Medallions’ in which you will learn a variety of methods to create inspirational quilted medallion motifs (see examples below) on Saturday March 28. Contact the guild for more information.