Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pikeville Panthers

I have never made a quilt on commission, nor have I ever sold a quilt.  This quilt comes as close to being an exception to that statement as I have come!  It is not that I have an objection to either one, but given my circumstances and the economics of quilting, it has never been in the cards for me to sell my quilts or make quilts for money.

I am incredibly fortunate to be supported by my ever loving and wonderful spouse, who financially underwrites my quilting.  So, I do not have to make money on my quilts in order to continue making them. That's an incredible privilege, which I never forget. Just as importantly, very few people are able or willing to pay what hand made quilts are worth.  By the time I make a full sized quilt, it has cost me on average at least $400 in fabric and professional quilting.  I do not count the hours it takes me to make a quilt, and naturally it varies from one quilt to another.  But in order for me to make money, it would have to be in addition to the $400 and there is no way, I could find people who would pay significantly above $400 for each quilt.  I just cannot imagine selling quilts which would pay me only a couple of dollars an hour to make.  I would much rather give them away than do that.  And that is what I have been doing. 

As far as making quilts on commission, I just generally find it very hard to make quilts that I don't like or when somebody else makes decisions about the designs of the quilt.  That might make me sound like a spoiled prima donna, but I think that is the artist's privilege, and the issues regarding costs discussed above, apply equally to commission quilts.  Lastly, the one type of quilts people most often are looking for somebody to make, are T-shirt memory quilts, and I really, really do not like to make T-shirt quilts!

I love what T-shirt quilts are and what you can do with T-shirts in a quilt, but they are a pain to make!  Each shirt has to be deconstructed - cut up so you preserve just the part of the shirt which has writing or pictures.  Then you have to iron a fusible stabilizer onto the back of the parts of the shirts that you want to preserve and actually use.  That leaves you with a bunch of pieces of "T-shirt fabric" all different sizes and shapes and different colors.  But at least by now they are easier to work with, they are no longer so stretchy.  It is still quite an undertaking, which requires the use of a big floor space, to arrange the many different pieces into a pleasing and coherent quilt.  It is like a jigsaw puzzle where not all the pieces are there, you have to construct the missing pieces from fabric as you go along!

In spite of all the above, when my dear niece, Sarah, asked if she could pay me to make a quilt from her husband, Jeremiah's T-shirts, I didn't say no.  But that was only because she is my niece and I love her - but, by no means am I at all sure I will do it again for other nieces or nephews, no matter how much I love them.  Also, I did let Sarah pay for the fabric and quilting but she did not pay me for my time, so it was still not a commission, more like a favor, I think.

I knew, of course, that Jeremiah had played football in college, so I was expecting T-shirts from Georgetown, as well as whatever other shirts he might have had from his college years.  So I was pretty surprised when Sarah gave me a bag full of shirts - all in maroon and gray - exclusively from his High School and middle school  sports teams in Pikeville, Kentucky.  Initially, I was fairly worried that the quilt would be terribly dull!  But I am really pleased with the way it turned out!  I bought two different batiks for the top, one maroon and one black with silver dots.  I usually try to piece my backs from fabrics left over from making the top or other fabric I happen to have, but this time I bought yardage for the back, a very striking graphic gray and black batik.  I found and picked the fabrics, but got Sarah's approval before purchasing them

Sarah was very flexible with regard to a deadline for the quilt.  Their wedding anniversary is March 1, I didn't make that!  But I did make Father's Day in June.  (If I'd missed that, she could've given it to Jeremiah for his birthday in November or for Christmas!).  The 58" by 87" quilt was quilted by my trusty long-arm quilter, Regina Carter, who used a pattern called Deb's Swirl.

I had thought it was odd that Sarah wanted to focus just on Jeremiah's High School T-shirts, but when several years later, Jeremiah was inducted into the Pikeville High School Hall of Fame, I realized that his High School foot ball career was a much bigger deal than I had realized and it made more sense to me.

This picture of Sarah, Jeremiah and their two children, Grace and Luke, was taken in Pikeville on the day of his induction into the hall of fame.

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