Christa’s Soap Box – Thoughts about Doing My Own Sewing (while relaxing at the beach…)

This week I’m having a fun beach vacation with the family and since I’m not sewing, I’ve had a bit of time to think about sewing instead. Recently it occurred to me that whenever I travel and teach, I often say that I do all of my own “stunt sewing” – and I know I’m somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to professional quilters that do this full-time.  There’s nothing wrong with busy designers getting help, but I just love sewing my own stuff and don’t want to give it up!

view from the beach

View from my “office” this week at Hermosa Beach, CA where I’m writing this blog post.

Recently, someone asked me “now that you are successful in your business – when are you going to hire me to sew for you?” I know she meant it as a compliment and really wanted to help me out, but my gut reaction was – if I ever get to the point that I don’t have time to sew or quilt my own quilts, what’s the point of HAVING a quilting business??

For reals, I’d rather hire out my cooking and cleaning than ever give up sewing. In fact, I already have a team in place that helps me with some of the other tasks – a graphic designer helps lay out my patterns, and I just recently started using the services of a virtual assistant to help me with some of my pattern editing.

Family bike ride

We’re starting off each beach day with a family bike ride; we love great views and great exercise!

From time to time, I’ll enlist other designer friends to make quilts to showcase my fabrics using their patterns, and sometimes enthusiastic fans and followers will pitch in and remake some of my older patterns using my fabric. In all of those cases though, they are making THEIR quilts, not MY quilts.

In fact, it was kind of funny that when I was working on creating the projects for my second book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting, the deadlines were VERY tight. I had to make about 10 quilts in 4 months so my publisher offered to pitch in and help. Because the book focused on machine quilting, they offered to help with piecing or binding to help reduce my load. I looked at them like I thought they were crazy pants and politely turned them down. I’m not sure if it’s my control freak tendencies or what, but the fact of the matter is, I simply like to do each step of the process myself, LOL!!

Quilts on the bed at the beach

One of the guest beds at the beach house is our “flat” staging area waiting for photography.
FYI – Dot’n Dash will be the quilt-along I’m doing next month– so stay tuned!!

Now that I’m designing fabric, I have even less time to sew because much of my time is spent with a sketchbook or at the computer. But all that really means is instead of mass producing large quantities of new quilts and patterns, I’ll be very thoughtful about the quilts I choose to make, and I’ll continue to enjoy every step! The other thing it means is that I can take more time to tell you about the quilts I am making, and share more than just one picture or blog post of each.

Surfboards at the Beach

Jason loves scouting out interesting places for photographs. He saw these surfboards and thought they’d make an interesting backdrop. See the photo below…

Speaking about being more thoughtful about how I share my finished quilts, Jason had the brilliant idea of bringing a few of them with us so we could photograph them in cool beachy locations on vacation. I loved that idea, especially since there wasn’t much time for photography before quilt market. 

So be on the lookout my official “Ta-Da” blog posts a little later on. I usually like to have a landing spot for the finished quilts I make which includes all of the pertinent details: size, materials used, quilt designs I chose, etc. I also enjoy writing up a little more about the process of making them so at least I can get a little more mileage out of each quilt, since there are fewer quilts to share. For some people, their quilt isn’t finished until it has a label. For me it’s not done until I’ve blogged about it.

Quilts on the Beach - Dot n Dash made from Fandangle by Christa Watson

This is an “outtake” of our photo session showing my son’s feet, who’s our official quilt holder.
He’s pretty good about hiding all of his body parts while we shoot, LOL!!
Kits for this quilt are available here.

While we are having a great time at the beach, (after a super busy spring and summer of teaching), you can be sure I’m also planning out the next round of quilts and patterns I’ll be working on later this year – and how I’ll be able to finish step of the process in a limited amount of time. After two rounds of fabric design (and working on my third!!), I think I finally have a handle on what a realistic timeline looks like, and feeling happy that I’m not biting off more than I can chew!

Now I’m curious – which parts of the quilting process do you enjoy most? Do you like to just piece, quilt, or do the whole shebang like me? Remember – it’s your quilt so there’s no wrong answer!!

32 thoughts on “Christa’s Soap Box – Thoughts about Doing My Own Sewing (while relaxing at the beach…)

  1. Suzanne G says:

    My mother use to tell me, “You were my ‘easy’ child.” She could give me kiddie scissors, paper, crayons, glue, tape, craft sticks – things like that and I’d entertain myself for hours. She switched me to sewing when I was about seven and I got hooked. As long as I was using my hands I was happy. I guess that’s stayed with me my whole life because I still like making things and sewing is my favorite creative form. It puts me in my happy place. I guess that’s why I love quilting so much.
    I enjoy all facets of the process – except when math is needed! I am very sensitive to color combinations and love playing around with my own designs (I studied art for 4 years) even though I rarely use them. I like the cutting – I have an AccuQuilt cutter but don’t always use it unless I have a lot of tiny pieces to cut; I like placing bits and pieces together to see how they’ll look. I love watching a block come together as I sew it. I even like the basting process. I spray baste with June Tailor’s because it doesn’t smell ghastly, make me choke or gum up my needle. After spraying the sandwich I gently press it. Then I baste it with a special belt-type walking foot that came with my machine and because the machine has a basting stitch that can be sized from five to twenty millimeters . After loosening the tension, I carefully stitch from top to bottom then left to right, dividing my quilt into quarters, Then I work in a big, slow, sloppy spiral from the center out. The big stitches are easy to remove either while quilting or when I’m finished. The special foot prevents slipping of the layers and I’m generally very happy with the result so I can go ahead and FMQ – LOVE that part, it’s so creative! I even like the binding process because it means I’m almost finished! And most of the time I machine-bind. I know! We’re supposed to do it by hand, but I’m not making competition quilts; I’m doing it for the joy of it and the pleasure of giving it away to someone who will appreciate and enjoy it. Isn’t that what’s really important?

  2. Susan says:

    I’ve just found your blog and like you I love the whole process from designing to the finish, as well as finding quirky “hero” shots for my quilts. I’m thinking of throwing a few in the caravan to take on holiday for that same reason, as I want to get my quilt gallery pages up to date on my blog. Thanks for sharing & take care.

  3. Sylvia says:

    The other thing about doing your own stunts is that you can control the quality. I had someone put on a binding for me once, and then had to rip it back out because I was unhappy with the quality. So that taught me it’s faster to just do it yourself in the first place!

  4. EllenB says:

    I enjoy selecting fabrics, cutting, piecing, and hand stitching the binding. Basting and domestic machine quilting are drudgery, but too expensive to send out! I really admire you for all you do to provide us with great patterns, books, and fabric beauties!

  5. Liza Alton says:

    I enjoy all the parts of quilting except for pin basting 🙂 I enjoy choosing the fabric, thinking about the quilt in my mind, cutting the pieces and sewing them together. It feels good when the top is done and you see your vision. Currently I have finished a top and now planning the border so it will enhance what is already done. Then the quilting will add the texture to bring the quilt to life.

  6. Deborah Gallett says:

    I love the whole process. I am just learning free motion quilting. I have quite a backlog of unquilted tops. I love the Dot Dash quilt and will be joining the sew along. The thing I like the most about it is that there are no hst. I am ready for some easy sewing.

  7. Marija Vujcic says:

    oh boy, you sound like my (much younger!) twin when it comes to the whole process! And of course I am not as busy in terms of all business aspects of the process, but when I submitted designs for publishing I definitely wanted to make the actual shown quilt myself – all of it! I really enjoy every step! Every step gives me a different kind of satisfaction and joy – even the ones that are mostly just labor (like basting, if I am quilting on regular machine), that is when I do some thinking and such… 🙂

  8. lookoutmountainquilter says:

    I love the whole process! From creating a design right down to sewing on the binding and finishing it by hand. Sewing, quilting, and creating gives me joy! I love how you share what’s on your mind and heart! Thanks!

  9. Cathy Koester says:

    I’m impressed and pleased that you still want to make your own quilts. How often doesn’t making money on what we love to do turn into just making money and the process of what we love to do gets lost. Keep up the good work.
    I love the planning and the piecing of the quilt. I’m loving the machine quilting more and more and I LOVE the finished product. I keep that in mind as I do those parts that aren’t my favorite.

  10. Patricia Evans says:

    I like the whole process of getting a quilt made even hand stitching the binding. It’s nice to know you do the whole shebang yourself. Yes, hire the household stuff out and keep creating.

  11. Hedy says:

    Right now I’m enjoying the whole process of making a quilt . In the past I didn’t like cutting the fabrics because the strips turned out with a V. Then I didn’t like the sandwich part. But now I’m OK with it all. I’m glad you make all of your own quilts, it adds to your integrity.

  12. Debi Jimenez says:

    First to answer your question, I have to say that my favorite part is the process of putting the fabric and design together. With the exception of your quilt patterns, I seem to always make a change to the original design, either adding something or deleting something. The quilt is truly mime then. So designing a block and picking the fabric is my favorite part, until I shock the daylights out of myself when I can actually sew it togather. Then that is my favorite thing.

    Christa I love it when you get on your soapbox. I understand what you are saying when you say I want to do it myself. By doing it your self, not only do you leave your own critic picking up on the things that might cause others to have issues. By doing it your self you can explain things better in your blog, based on your own experince. My grandfather, a very short Italian, who retired from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer, put it to me this way:

    “Do what you love and you will always have work and never get bored” and ” Don’t EVER forget the main thing that got you were you want to be! That will always be your bread and butter.”
    So Christa, keep doing what you love and please don’t ever stop sharing it with the rest of us. We all love what comes out of that pretty little head of yours.
    Enjoy your vacation …but get us some new patterns …soon!
    Debi from South Florida

    PS: I see a possible quilt design in that stack of surfborads? Do you?

  13. Caroline Callaway says:

    I love the whole process. My favorite is the moment when I finish the binding and see my vision come to fruition. I worked for years on corporate technology projects that went on and on….It is so satisfying to see the finished product of my creative endeavors.

  14. Amber says:

    I enjoy each part of the quilt making process. Lately i have been working on quilting tops for my guiilds community service. It puts me into a zen state when things go well.

  15. Mrs. Plum says:

    My favorite parts of the quilt process are choosing fabrics and designing the quilt. And yes, sometimes that’s the order—fabric inspires me. I do like doing all parts of the process myself, and I do like machine quilting. I did have a queen sized quilt professionally quilted a few years ago, as I did not want to wrestle it through my domestic machine.

    Enjoy your family vacation! Recharging one’s soul is so important.

  16. Janet Deschamps says:

    Love the whole process- in the beginning I quilted my own quilts because I couldn’t afford-didn’t want to pay-someone else to quilt them. Now I still quilt them myself because it’s my quilt! And I love that finishing step of quilting it! Thanks for all your instruction in your blog and books!

  17. Pamela Arbour says:

    I like the whole process too. I only make quilts for friends and family (and myself) but I feel like I haven’t made it unless I have made it from beginning to end. I like the whole process too.

  18. Debra says:

    I enjoy it all. From the design aspect of the quilt pattern itself to the choosing how to quilt it at the end. This is a good thing as I’ve an art show coming up next spring and will need all new original pieces for it!

  19. Joey says:

    Being in my “golden” years, I seem to enjoy more of the process of designing a quilt top than the quilting. But with yours and Jacquie Gering classes and books, you have taught this “old” dog some new tricks making it easier for me to quilt some of my tops! Enjoy the beach. I grew up 5 miles from the beach in So CA!

  20. marilyn mattfeld says:

    I am with you. I love doing my own whole quilt, from start to finish. I like knowing it is mine and I can’t blame anyone else for the mistakes..

  21. Lisa J. says:

    I love doing it all. I used to hate the quilting part but now that I’m making myself do that as well, I’m getting more comfortable with it as well.

  22. Anne-Mette says:

    I enjoy the entire process except the basting ☺️. I have been a handpiecer for mand years, but during the last years I am using my sewing machine a lot more and find inspirations in your book. Looks like a wonderful place for a holiday.

  23. Helen Davalos says:

    I enjoy the entire process from start to finish. I purchased a Simply Sixteen quilt machine with a Little Foot frame 2 years ago. I’ve longed for an APQS machine, but due to space constraints, I could only fit a Little Foot frame into my mom’s condo. I was NOT going to let a little thing like not enough space keep me from quilting my own tops 🙂

  24. Marlyn Anderson says:

    I like picking out the fabric and piecing. I’ve machine quilted all my own quilts except for one. I bought a sit down mid arm last Fall, so I’m still learning how to use that.

  25. Kay S. Carlson says:

    I think you have your priorities in order and I admire the fact that you want to do your own sewing! That’s something that I can finally do by hiring someone to do the deep cleaning monthly. I also cut back on some volunteer work because I was so overloaded that I never seemed to have the time and/or energy to do something for myself. Your blog notice in my email brings a welcome smile from my heart. Planning, drawing, piecing are my favorite parts of quilting until I reach the wonderful time to hand stitch the binding. 😉

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