"Communication" is the third in the series of "Getting The Most Out Of Your Longarming". The first was an introduction into the series. The second was on borders.
Good, clear communication is vital to a good outcome in quilting. There are two ways the outcome can come into jeopardy:
- A quilt that doesn't meet the piecer's expectations; and/or
- Hurt feelings that come from the miscommunication.
In "Borders" last time, we discussed the dual-responsibility of the piecer's [A] responsibility and that of the longarmer [B] and how there is an overlap between what one can do [or not do] that affects the other [the overlap of the two]. We represented it with a Set Theory diagram shown to the right.
In reality we act as though the area of overlap happens, or adjusts, automatically, something like eating a taco will result in salsa on the shirt. It is easy to talk about the quilt: how long ago it was started, the situations that caused it to be put aside, the reason it is now being done, how hard it was to find the right color of purple fabric for the binding, and on and on.
It's also delegated to faith - in other words: "Do it the way that seems best to you, you're the professional." However, faith is not sitting in a chair that isn't there.
Like the clip-art of the tin-can telephone conversation, you must follow the rules of tin-can telephony to get that ever-important message across: the line must be taunt for the sound to travel. The little boy might be dying to tell the little girl how much he loves her, but she'll never know because the communication failed because the line was not taut.
Down To Earth Please!
Some examples that I have run into may be of help.
A lady took her very first quilt into a shop to be longarmed. They ended up being too busy so they handed off the quilt to a second longarmer to do. The piecer tried to find out the status of her quilt. After six month she demanded the quilt be returned. When the quilt was returned, completed the piecer was furious with the longarmers even though she won the prize of best overall at the county fair.
A customer came into a shop and asked it to be done the best way and left. She did not choose patterns, colors of thread, or even show a picture. It was a modern quilt and so a modern design was stitched. The piecer thought it looked nice, but she was really looking for feathers as the motif and was unhappy.
Know Who You're Dealing With
I don't mean that they are your friends. But you do need to pay attention to some key areas and compare those items to your expectations. After all, you may well have different expectations for a soldier quilt as compared to a wedding quilt for your best friend. Notice that there is nothing good or bad, just that each fit different situations.
There are basically three areas where you can get information regarding a longarmer;
- Friends' answers. Be specific and ask about the things you are interested in, such as heirloom quilting.
- Observation. There should be items in the shop to observe. Listen to the longarmers explanations to others.
- Asking the longarmer. Again, be specific in your questions.
OK, to what should we pay attention?
Look at their samples. Not at their piecing, pattern choice, or fabric choice, because that has nothing to do with their ability to longarm.
This is your chance to be a judge! In fact, you may want to go to a few county fair quilt judgings to see what judges look at in this regard. Look up your county fair on the web and see when and where the judging will be done.
Look at things like:
- Are there samples that you can look at and inspect?
- The tension on the stitching. Does the knot from the stitching show up on the top or the bottom.
- Are there skipped stitches?
- Look at the backs. Are their crows feet as curves are stitched? Are there bird's nests of thread jumbled up in spots.
- How do they tie-off their ends? Are they buried? Are the knotted on either side? Are the achieved by multiple stitches on top of each other?
- What types of quilting do they do? And, is it done at the level that you are looking for? Examples here are: edge to edge, custom quilting, and heirloom quilting.
- Do quilters just drop off the quilts, give their name and leave, or is there a discussion on designs, complexity, color(s) of thread. We do the latter and spend a lot of time checking in quilts. I have a friend who worked for a company that had many longarms and ran three shifts a day with 10 different pattern choices - period - you bring it they quilt it.
- Do they have insurance for fire and other damage?
- How do they store your quilt.
- Does they keep a record of your transactions for reference?
- Other ancillary things such as:
- Whether they do free-motion quilting; Machine quilting [i.e. a sewing machine and not a longarm]; Automated longarming; or a combination.
- How long they have been longarming.
- Do their customers ever win any awards, and what type of awards [e.g. 4-H, county fair, state fair, national competitions, international competitions, etc.].