Early in 2013 I got a call from a woman who was interested in having her daughter’s horse show ribbons made into a large wall hanging for Christmas. I’d never heard of this before, but after some Googling, I found several examples. Because there was very little fabric involved, and it was only going to be 60″ by 60″, I didn’t charge very much. I thought it would take me around 30 hours max. I need to figure out a better way to determine pricing on a project I’ve never done before. I’m not sure that I’ve ever spent so much time on a quilt. The result was incredible, which is good because I put so much effort into it, but I’ll never do another. Of course now that I’ve done one, I know what I would be up against or what I would do differently.
The customer came to my shop with a box full of horse show ribbons. She wanted some of the rosettes attached to the outer edges of the quilt, so those ribbons were in separate bags. The ribbons were sorted by color. It’s hard to believe that one person could have accumulated that many ribbons. She also provided a picture of an award ribbon quilt that she liked. It was similar to a Lone Star Quilt pattern.
I started by disassembling all of the ribbons. That was easy enough. When that was done, I realized it was going to be hard to figure out how to cut the pieces without having a pattern with specific colors. I wanted to make sure the customer was happy with my interpretation, so I whipped something up on Electric Quilt software and sent a picture off. She liked it, but she wanted more of the blues, reds and purples. That makes sense, since those were the more successful shows.
The design was helpful, but then came the problem of figuring out which ribbons would fit without cutting through the printing on the ribbons. I got stuck, afraid to cut ribbons as needed, and not sure how they would all go together. It was at this point I decided to not sew the ribbons together directly, but to do more of a giant applique. I purchased a large piece of white percale, cut it into a square a little larger than the intended finished size, and proceeded to apply a massive amount of Heat and Bond to the entire piece. Heat and Bond
is a product that is sticky on both sides when heated with an iron. So I ironed pieces onto the big square piece of fabric with the intention of ironing all the ribbons in place before stitching. And that’s what I did.
Each ribbon had to be measured individually. It was cut, measured again, cut again, and finally ironed into place. Because ironing a ribbon directly will cause it to melt, I had to use a pressing cloth. Because my normal iron was too big, I dropped $25 on the tiny Clover iron. With the previously mentioned purchases and this one, I’ve now spent about $75 on a quilt I priced for labor only.
The measuring, cutting, measuring, cutting, and ironing of each ribbon took weeks, no months, to complete. It was the only project I worked on for the first 8 months of 2013. I was moving my shop to Greeley at the end of August, so I kept plugging along to get it done before I moved.
Once I had all the ribbons in place, I did a zig-zag stitch around every ribbon with clear thread. Then I added solid black squares to the corners and solid black borders. This was where the rosettes were going to be placed. As these steps were taken, I noticed that where ribbons were cut, they were
starting to fray. Three bottles of Fray Check, at $5 each, covered all of the ends, but wasn’t particularly pretty. I knew I’d have to do more stitching on the top to manage the fraying ends, but I chose to quilt the piece at this point. I stitched in the ditch along lines that were good separations based on the design.
My attempts to stop the fraying were getting me nowhere. The more I tried to satin stitch the ends, the more they frayed. This was when I decided that quarter inch bias tape would have to cover these ends. Lo and behold! They make iron-on 1/4 inch black bias tape. And it isn’t cheap. $35 on black bias tape, which, after being ironed on, did not stay on. Can you imagine my frustration at this point? But I could not hand the quilt over in this condition. I put a twin needle in the machine and once again stitched over almost every ribbon edge on the quilt.
I finished up by attaching velcro along the black corners and borders and gluing the other half of the velcro to the back of the rosettes. That way the customer could attach the ribbons however she wanted. I don’t have pictures of it with the rosettes attached, quite possibly because I didn’t care by then.
The quilt is beautiful. It ended up being handed off between my boyfriend and her husband. Willie tells me that her husband thought it was gorgeous. I haven’t heard a word from the customer. No news is good news?
Lesson learned: People want to know what a project is going to cost before they commit to it. Perhaps leaving it open that I would charge for any extra materials needed would have softened the blow a little.