Thursday, January 8, 2015

Extreme Makeover...Quilt Edition...Lessons Learned

Last summer I entrusted my Country Charmer quilt to a quilter who represented herself as an experienced longarm quilter, teacher & as one who had quilted numerous quilts for guild members that had been exhibited in the biggest local quilt show.  We were going to get together so I could see pictures of other quilts she'd done for clients and her own quilts, but I got busy and she wound up moving and changing jobs and it never happened.  I had originally intended to have her do a "less important" quilt for me so that I could see her style, but time flew by and suddenly the quilt that I really wanted to get done that fit the local show theme to a T was screaming at me to be quilted and finished. We emailed back and forth about my vision...about the whimsical feathers that collapse back on themselves that I thought would be such fun on the border.  We talked about thread color briefly, I didn't have the opportunity to audition threads, but figured it would need to be relatively neutral to work on this already very busy quilt. The quilt was promised to me by early July.  Two weeks later I still had no quilt and the clock wasn't slowing down so I messaged her.  Then another delay and another couple of days of valuable finishing time lost...oh well...I could be a really good boy scout and have my binding ready to go, the second I got it in the back door!  Finally, the day arrived and I met her at the quilt shop, full of excitement and ready to run home and trim her up and bind her...I even had the show paperwork filled out and the description ready.  I was all but salivating!  We were in the longarm area and another quilter was there, taking a brief break from working on a little beauty that she had on the sweet and her quilt design was perfection.  Then my quilt was taken out of the bag, opened and laid out before me.  I was speechless, & not in the good way...  I couldn't think of what to say...words were completely lost and I'm not sure what I might have babbled in the awkwardness while the clock and my heart seemed to have come to a dead stop.  How to exit gracefully?  I had a pit in my stomach.  I took notice that the other quilter in the room remained quiet all this time, no admiring comments or glances, she didn't even get up off her stool to take a closer look.  Very unquilterlike.  I stood there looking at my quilt versus the one on the machine asking myself why that one couldn't be my quilt?  I was relieved to fold it up and put it in the bag.  Out of view...out of view was definitely best...incinerator might even be better.  I had a purchase to make before leaving the shop and I sat the bag containing the quilt by my feet as I paid for my purchase, praying that the clerk wouldn't ask to see it.  I got out, sat down in my car and called my husband immediately, completely confused, doubting myself, and heartsick. I would probably have been in tears had I not been in what felt like shock...or an alternate universe.  He tried to reassure me that it would be fine, just go ahead and bind it..."b-b-but, this is the better part of a years work & love and I can hardly stomach looking at it now!"  I hopped on the freeway and then thought, no, I need someone who knows, who understands, to look at this quilt right now, to tell me if I'm wrong, if I'm expecting too much.  I hopped back off the freeway and waggled my way to my friends house where we spread it out on the lawn.  All she could say at first was, it's your quilt and you're not happy.  Pick it out.  Then the real affirmation came.  She verbalized what I had been thinking.  The quilt was weighted down by the dark variegated threads and by the overly done heavy quilting that crossed over so many of the little birds and pumpkins that I had spent so much time meticulously fussy cutting.  Country Charmer was not enhanced, but obliterated.  
My husband was more succinct when he saw it.  "I haven't done any quilting but I've seen a lot of quilts and I'm pretty sure I could do better than that!" and with that he took back everything he had previously said about just going ahead and finishing it.
With a heavy heart I emailed pictures off to Lynn, about a half hour passed and I couldn't stand it...I had to call her.  By then, she had already opened my email and had even shown it to Joe.  I think she was nearly as heartsick as I, this quilt being her design, and she offered several suggestions that were helpful and also allowed me to hear what my heart was telling me. 
In the following days, the consensus by all who viewed this tragic accident of quilting, was that the whole business resembled a picture that a child had carefully colored only to have an angry sibling scribble all over it in a fit of temper. 
The feathers on one hand were very heavily spined, but the gaps along the edge created by the arcs in the feathers concerned me as well.  I was worried about a ripple effect happening if not extremely cautious about attaching binding.
I really needed to think about it, no matter what my heart said, someone else's head was saying something different.  To try to rescue or not.  It would be like making it all over again.  Maybe I should, as suggested, just move on and start over.  Would I be able to find enough of the same prints?  Did I want to try and reproduce it?  Did I want to spend money on the same prints all over again?  After spending all that time picking, would it be salvageable?  Could I entrust it to another quilter? (A lovely, knowledgeable & much appreciated offer of assistance has graciously been extended in that department!)  Being nearly August, it was too hot to sit with it spread out across my lap and spend the hours picking that it would take to make any headway.  I decided to set it aside, allow myself to calm down and revisit it in cooler weather.  Anyone who knows me well, also knows I don't give up easily on the underdog.  I will fight for the life of this quilt, much the same as I have fought for life for countless little four leggeds who have been born in our barn...sometimes with success, sometimes not.
I took a few days & found my words, what I needed to say to this quilter, and carefully constructed a rather lengthy email to her explaining my position and feelings, trying to be fair and take my share of the responsibility for the way things had turned out.  I didn't want to be mean.  A week or so later an envelope with no return address arrived in my mail, no note, no nothing, except my uncashed check.

So the fight, the resuscitation, the revival begins...

January 2, 2015
This post is a journal about the makeover of my Country Charmer Quilt.  This journey to save my much loved quilt began on New Years Day while watching the Rose Bowl.  It all began with using the seam ripper to separate the border from the body of the quilt.  The border is quilted with a very heavy spined feather that would be extremely labor intensive to remove and in the end would likely leave me with little more than swiss cheese.  Better to discard it.
Since it is so heavily quilted and because I am a "waste not, want not" kind of person, when it suits me, perhaps the borders will be cut into sections and sewn into doggie beds or floor pillows.  Can't think of a better use for them than to comfort my loved ones!  Besides that I found a new darker green that  I think will frame it in better than the original and I'm excited about that! 
PS- Maecee loves napping under it while I pick away.  I pop up the footrest on the couch to help support the weight and she curls up by my knees and I pull her out, all sleepy and toasty when I stop for a break.  She wasn't sure about the noise my battery operated mini clipper made while I undid the seams, it made her a bit nervous and probably bothered her ears some, but she became accustomed to it and finally just let the quilt muffle the sporadic bursts of buzzing noise.

January 3, 2015 
Today I scored more of the new fabric that will become the new outer border for Country Charmer.  It was on sale and I bought 8 yards.  It's deeper green, calmer, more structured and I think will corral all the busyness in the blocks better than the original border.  It will also help piece in the parts of the backing that I will have to dissect to keep areas that don't have damaged areas from the picking process.  Like the old homes we see on TV, rescued from the wrecking ball by people who want to preserve their history, the resurrection of Country Charmer has become a labor of love.
As I work away stitch by stitch, I find that using the seam ripper is less about frustration and more about dedication & inspiration.  It is about rescuing one that I love so much from being buried.  I am a woman possessed.  A dog with a bone!  I dove into it, often having difficulty in finding that stopping place, taking off the glasses and turning off the lamp.
Little Birdie is shaking his tail feathers again!

January 4, 2014  I need to temper this seam ripping passion I've discovered in myself with something on the positive side of the constructive scale.  The backing fabric for Country Homecoming has been waiting to be pressed and pieced.  If I do that this morning I might venture out to put it in the mail to my regular quilter tomorrow.  The back and is pressed and I still love it and the unexpected element it will bring to Country Homecoming.  Most of my quilt backs are pieced with leftovers or big novelty prints that have been languishing in storage for years.  My quilt backs are made based on the "Use It Up" theory and I've overheard the comment, that my quilts always have really great backs.  This one fabric, one seam back is definitely a departure for me!
Pressing is a great time for thinking and planning.  First of all, I was grateful for the big pressing area my husband helped me construct last year.  Perhaps I should sew on unfinished projects during the day and save the deconstruction project for evenings in front of the TV, there's no need to rush at this point.  This also reminds me, I need to crawl around and disconnect my Ottlite with the magnifying glass & relocate it where I can make the best use of it..  I'm finally coming up with some New Years Resolutions.  Finish the unfinished.  Only entrust my work to well known and preapproved quilters, DUH! (you just saw me do that head thump thing, right?) and harvest my selvages.  I keep seeing too many cute quilts and quilty things made with where's that tutorial before I start assembling this awesome hunk of fabric into a back?  Hmm...that could be a new Pinterest to save selvages and then utilize them!  Some days I'm just smart like that!  Not many, but some!

January 5, 2015 
I'm making progress...slow steady progress.  Last evening I draped the quilt across my lap and settled in for the US premiere of Downton Abbey and picked away through it and most of the Manners of Downton Abbey show that followed.  Hubby gave up and went to bed without me.  There's something about getting a wad of strings loosened up and clipping them all off at the same time.  Sort of the same sick pleasure one gets from peeling a sunburn & seeing how much you can remove all at once.  Earlier in the day I finished my Country Homecoming back and played with the scraps from that a little bit.  Has anyone out there done an Aunt Philly's Toothbrush rug before?  The how to start part of the process is tedious, but once you get going it clips along really quick...until you run short on your working strip and have to stop.  Today Country Homecoming will go in the mail to the quilter...we chatted back and forth on FB yesterday and I think I frightened her sufficiently with my unusual custom quilting request...based on what she's done in the past for me...I know she's up for the challenge!  I eventually just told her to have fun with it...and that's all I'm going to tell you for now!

January 6, 2015 
More reverse sewing accomplished last night!  I'm working diagonally and have what is equivalent to 2 blocks with sashing unstitched now.  Only 33 more to go!  This evenings quilt rehab will be severely hampered by cuddling.  Baby Girl is bringing her parents for dinner!

January 8, 2015 
No journaling yesterday...I spent about 11 hours of my day off picking away!  This is worse than eating potato chips!  I guarantee you that there is no way I could spend 11 hours eating potato chips!  I got out of bed yesterday with an entirely different plan.  Work on picking for an hour or so then turn my attention to my daughters of many UFO's I want to complete this year!  I really shouldn't have done the 11 hours, the pinched nerves by my shoulder blade started registering regular complaints up into my scalp by the time I had reached the 7 hour point.  The pain we endure for our art!  This morning I'm listening in on Garth Brooks on his 4 hour Today Show stint and admiring the POTC blocks that Lynn just posted over at Sew'n Wild Oaks!  Once this picking thing is complete, I think I'm going to experiment with some of those wonderful Lucy Boston blocks myself.
Country Charmer...beginning to breathe again.
~Nancie Anne


  1. Oh my goodness, did you pay this quilter? I've tons of things I'd like to say about this situation but none of it's nice so I'll keep it to myself. The quilt is beautiful without the quilting. I can't stop looking at it and wondering "What the !!!!!"

  2. I had to go back a reread and look at this quilt again, In doing so I found the answer to my question of payment. I guess The first time I read your post I was so dumbfounded by the quilting that some of your words were lost in the quilt scribbles.

  3. Oh, my heart hurt when I saw it. I thought (very, very briefly) about quilting for others and decided that I couldn't bear it if someone didn't like what I did or if I made a mistake. Your quilt is gorgeous though. I really love it and love the fussy cutting! XO

  4. Oh Nancie :-( Your beautiful Country Charmer you worked so hard on .
    I just hate that you had to go thru all of this after that lady did such a bad job quilting it . I think I would have done the same thing you are doing . Just to much time and love was put into this beautiful quilt . The green fabric you chose is perfect . OXOXOXO

  5. Wow! I just don't know what I would have done either. I doubt I would have the patience to pick it all out; it probably would have just been a lesson learned for me. I guess everyone has different 'taste' and the quilter thought it looked nice???? That would be a very delicate situation, for sure. I can't wait to see the quilt redone and shining in all its glory! Blessings to you!

  6. Even though I knew all about this unfortunate incident, it hurts even more seeing it again and reading your words. Hang it there, but don't kill yourself ripping all that nasty thread out. I wish you could pass the quilt around so we could all take a turn at it to ease your pain. ~~Lynn

  7. I had a similar thing happen to one of my quilts but not nearly as bad as yours. I understand your heartbreak and disappointment.

  8. Oh I am so sorry. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience, even my hubby looked at it and he just shook his head. I have to give you huge props for not just wadding it up and hiding it in a closet and "forgetting". I will say I love your new border fabric. I will look forward to further posts on reclaiming your country charmer.

  9. Nancie Anne, you are a wonderful inspiration. I am so pleased you are tackling the extreme makeover. Your Country Charmer was beautifully pieced. I fell in love with the magical fussy-cut birds during the quilt along. I am looking forward to seeing your masterpiece finished. The new border fabric is lovely.

  10. Oh Nancy, I am so sad for you. Whatever was the LA quilter thinking? I know it'd be a bit costly to do it, but if you want to send it to me I'd be happy to sit and unsew it for you.

  11. Oh No! I'm so sorry this happened to you and I truly understand how you feel. Country Charmer is such a beautiful pattern and your quilt top is so lovely - I would be heartbroken too! I am NOT a fan of variegated thread either and in fact, I switched LAQs a couple of years ago when my quilter at the time used variegated thread on two quilt tops after I specifically asked her, up front, to never use variegated thread on my tops. After the two variegated thread disasters, she said she really liked the look of variegated thread on quilt tops and figured that I didn't really mean that she was to never use it on my quilt tops! Go figure. Anyway, needless to say, I now have a different, wonderful LAQer that I just love and she doesn't use variegated thread on my tops!! I know your Country Charmer is going to look just fantastic with the new border and quilting and I can't wait to see her when she is finished!!! Hang in there!!!

    1. Hangin' In! Lots still left to do to get rid of the rest of those oooglie scribbles! Thanks everyone for you support! Hugs to you all!

  12. Quite a story. The variegated thread is distracting to my eye. I would hate the unpicking and probably would have just given up. You are determined!

  13. I am a longarm quilter, Mary at Quilt Hollow. One of the things I ALWAYS try and ask my client's when they choose design is if they are ok with designs that stitch over themselves. I don't like it on my own quilts but found some don't mind if they want a particular design. Also, because I don't really care for variegated thread on my own quilt tops I don't offer it to others. I just hate the look...period. I find it distracting on most quilt tops. Once, I had a client that insisted on a design....I questioned it as I knew it stitched over itself and it is not the design I would have chosen for her quilt top. She was insistent even though I questioned the choice. I quilted it, hating every stitch. I sent a photo to the client once it was finished (before mailing back to her)...I'm guessing she felt much like you did with this quilt top! She was upset and didn't like the design, even crying to her hubby. She asked me to rip it all out and to try another design. I did not because I questioned her and told her of the issues I saw ahead of time. I sent the quilt back to her, with her other quilt top, her check and no charge for the batting, thread, my time or return postage. She was a blogger. A few weeks later I saw that her mom loved the quilt as she gifted the quilt to her mom.

    It is always a challenge quilting for others but I try to go with my own gut instinct of what I like and would want should the quilt be my own. Yours....certainly not something I would have quilted. I'm so sorry to read this. But I love your write up and the journey you are taking in its recovery.

  14. So, so sorry about the journey you are having to take! I also agree with you about hte quilting: not what a quilt such as yours deserves!! I ish we could all do as Lynn suggested: pass it around to help you take out the stitching. Your quilt is very lovely: I love the extra touch of the fussy cut centers that are so cute. Kind of like a hidden surprise as you look at the quilt! And the new green for the border does look even better than the original green. Good luck! I can't wait to see it with the new quilting!! Hugs, H in Healdsburg

  15. Oh Nancie Anne, I am just now reading about your CC quilt. I missed your last couple of posts and and am just heart broken for you. I know how much CC means to all of us who have made it, and when I saw your beautiful fussy cut centres in a fog of thread, I was devastated for you. I understand how you must have been speechless when you saw the quilting, and I am so proud of you for taking the time to uncover the beauty of these blocks once again. Your choice for the border is perfect, and it is wonderful to see the revisited blocks in all their glory. Your post is so inspirational...we do put our hearts and souls into our works, and I really admire what you are doing to recapture the magnificence of this quilt. Rip on!

  16. I have just found your blog and read this sad story. I had a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes as I read your diary and blog entry. I too have had to unpick a quilt I got back from a longarm quilter. My quilt wasn't as intricate as yours, but my quilt was my work, and it had been stretched, distorted and badly quilted. I cried a lot and then picked up the seam ripper. It's hard to do, but when you are finished and have it quilted again, you are going to love this quilt like no other. Bless you!