Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Sewing for a Friend

Short version of this story: I’m making more totes!
Long version of this story: I recently ask a friend to choose some fabric for a tote I wanted to make her. It seemed like an innocent enough question, and I thought it would be a luxury to consult with her before embarking on the project. But her response gave me pause.

I had pulled five or six candidates, explaining that I’d be pairing her selection with some Essex Linen. I can’t remember all the fabrics. I know some had a vintage vibe, including the top selection, from Lori Holt; others were more modern, including the quilting-weight paisley and home-dec fabrics, all from Amy Butler. She liked the colors of the paisley but didn’t gravitate toward any particular design.

It was then that I realized my request for input wasn’t particularly fair.

Would an interior designer expect me to sit down and plan an entire room on paper? Would a landscape designer expect me to lay out the perfect flower bed? Sure, I could give either one some solid ideas—what I like, what is not me, and so on. But I don’t see the world through the eyes of an interior designer or landscape designer. And my friend doesn’t see the world through the lens that I do.

I actually think if I had gone ahead and made a tote bag with any of the fabrics I had selected, she would have liked and used the bag. Seeing the raw materials and envisioning the final product, however, was hard for her. (Heck, it’s often hard for me.)

If I had to do things differently, I think I would either have asked her for some general color preferences or have set her loose in my drawers of stash, just to see which fabrics resonated with her. Doing so would have given me some direction without expecting her to commit to anything in particular.

I decided to return all the fabric to my stash and come up with another pick for this project without her input. Here’s the result, completed with the little that remains of my Hope Valley fats and based on a free pattern from Noodlehead. The DS Quilt fabric below it is another tote in process. It’s for another friend, who has no idea that I’m making something for her, and the fabrics were chosen based only on my keen observations about this second friend’s fabric likes (no interrogation!).

A question for you: in the coming months, I plan on making a quilt for my mother-in-law, at her request. I need to take the lessons learned here and apply them to that project. Maybe I’ll present a few different directions the quilt top could go in and several fabric options. I could even show her my Kona Cotton color card and get some feedback about the palette overall. What do you think about that approach? Any other strategies that may help me?

In other news, I recently joined the New Hampshire Modern Quilt Guild (even though I live in Mass), which meets at Twill, a sweet fabric and yarn shop in Nashua, New Hampshire. In the process, I had the pleasure of meeting Chelsea, from Patch the Giraffe. Here’s the two of us. Chelsea is on the left, and I’m on the right. I’m sporting a ridiculously big grin—it was awesome to be in the presence of so many other quilters for an evening. These ladies are going to teach me so much, I just know it!

If you haven’t visited Patch the Giraffe before, can I point you to some favorite quilts of mine? I love, love, love Chelsea’s modern red, white, and blue palette for this quilt and her fresh take on a maple leaf quilt.

Thank you for reading to the end of a long post! ; )

Update: The second tote is done, made with a plaid from DS Quilts, Quilter’s Linen in navy, and Essex Linen in flax. Take that, Q3 Finish-Along list!

Linking up to ... Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts and Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts


  1. I love the bag. I totally understand about not being able to envision the final product, it happens to me all the time. I'm sure your friend will love the bag.

  2. The tote bag turned out beautifully, Michelle! Your friend will be thrilled to receive it. How cool that you joined a guild and got to meet Chelsea!

  3. So I also have a plan in the works for a quilt for my MIL. She's tried to steal a few of my quilts in the past, so I kind of know where to go, but letting her plan the whole thing would remove my joy (also, she would know about it and expect it to be finished on a possibly impractical timeline).

    Yay for meeting Chelsea - and for joining a guild. They're lots of fun. :D I'm a little biased, and a lot addicted (i'm a member of 3!) And I also live in Mass but attend one in NH, just not yours and Chelsea's. Maybe its time to add a 4th....? :D

  4. Love this post :) or maybe I am biased! As for input, I think it all depends on the person, some people like to be surprised while others like to have a huge say in the fabrics. It really depends, although I get where you are coming from on input. It stinks to spend that many hours making someone a gift for them not to use it or like it.

  5. I make quilts for my friends when they get married or have babies and both too much or too little input is hard! I was planning to make one friend a really modern quilt, and then I asked her and she said she loved the Hunter's Star quilt I'd just made, and wanted just black and white (solid, not prints). It threw me for a loop! Usually I try to suss out people's color preferences and then go from there.

  6. It's really hard to chose for another person. Usually, I try to base myself of the color of clothing they wear. Or their home deco. In your case, it's not a surprise. I'll might just ask for one or two favorite color. Or send picture of fabrics you previously selected and ask to chose from them. Too much liberty is not always good.


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