Organizing a Group
|Whether you're planning a quilt for a wedding, a bar or bat mitzvah, or other special occasion, you may want to ask friends and family members to contribute signatures, or their own artwork.
You will then assemble their work into a quilt. There are several ways
to go about it.
OPTION ONE: COLLECT BLOCKS IN ADVANCE
One option for a group quilt project is to give or send out pieces of fabric well in advance of the event, for friends and family members to sign and/or decorate.
This kind of project requires considerable planning and lead time. Not to
mention nudging and the kvetching,
which, in Yiddish syntax, must always precede kvelling.
will need to have some kind of quilt design in mind. The most obvious
choice---sending everyone some kind of square or rectangular, which you will
then piece into a quilt---is not always the best choice. Because if you are
counting on contructing your quilt from 30 of those blocks, set in rows of
five, made by 30 contributors, you must think about what
you'll do if three of the planned contributors don't come through. At the
last minute. After she promised repeatedly that she would . Sending people
SHAPES that you will later applique onto the quilt is a more forgiving plan.
(Shapes like leaves, which you can sew onto a tree background; or
clouds, hot air balloons, cats, dog bones, fish, use your
imagination!) That way, you can construct and finish the rest of the
quilt, and attach the appliques as they come in. And it won't be a disaster
if some contributions don't show up, or they show up a year later.
The number one thing you can do to insure a successful project is to create a procrastination-proof, crafts-phobic-proof kit
to send all the participants. At the minimum, the kit should include:
* A letter with clear directions and a DEFINITE DEADLINE IN REALLY BIG
LETTERS. FOLLOWED BY LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS !!!!!!!!
Ideally, the deadline should be close to their receipt of your
package (so they don't hide it under a pile of papers)---like maybe two
weeks---and at least six months in advance of the quilt
presentation, depending on how fast you can assemble a quilt.
There are going to be laggards no matter what, so you can expect to be on
the phone and or email, reminding people one week before they're
due, and I am sorry to say, long after they're due. Many people are
art-phobic. Explain to them that it's okay if they just sign the block and
send it right back---they don't have to be Marc Chagall.
* Fabric cut to the proper shape and size and ironed onto freezer paper
* A permanent ink pen,
* A return envelope, addressed to you, with proper postage.
These are explained below:
Details and Procedure:
Go to the fabric store and buy enough yards of a good-quality, 100% cotton, plain, light-colored fabric for every participant to have a piece.
And while you're at the quilt store, buy a roll of Reynolds freezer paper (if not, try the supermarket). You will use this to back the fabric you're sending out.
At home, wash and dry your fabric
(washing machine and dryer okay), and iron it. Then, cut it into pieces of the desired shape and size.
Iron the fabric pieces to a slightly bigger piece of freezer paper, with the
waxed side against the back of the fabric. The freezer paper makes the
fabric much easier to draw on.. Tell people that if the fabric comes loose
from the freezer paper, they should re-iron it down. Be sure to emphasize to them that
they need to sign the FABRIC side, not the paper side!! You might
want to draw an x through the paper side, just to make sure. You'd be
surprised how many people can't tell the difference between fabric and
If the shape you are sending will have a seam allowance, use a light pencil or wash-out pen (from the fabric store) to
mark scant 1/4" seam allowance lines around all the edges of the fabric piece. Non-quilters have a hard time comprehending that their decoration or signature must stay inside the seam allowance. Make it obvious.
Enclose a fine point permanent pen. Some are quite expensive. Others leak
and spread ink all over the fabric, so you have to test first. Thick tipped
laundry pens look really bad. My current favorite for signature quilts
are Sharpie (r) Ultra Fine Point permanent black pens, sold by the dozen at
reasonable prices in stationary stores. Or you can send out
fancier, and more expensive fine-point fabric pens. You can leave it up to
the recipient whether they want to just sign the block with the given pen,
or use their own supplies and talent to embellish the block. Just make
it clear that their decoration should be washable (unless you are certain
this quilt will never be washed).
Important note: If you are the bride, and considering undertaking this project yourself, for use as a huppa---Don't! Please! With this project, most of the action tends to happen at the last minute. You'll have so many things to be worrying about the month before your wedding ---you don't want to add this to the list. Delegate this job to a crafty, enthusiastic, responsible and diplomatic friend and/or relative, or a professional quilter. (If you use a professional,
keep in mind that a custom project like this can take 100 hours or more. How
much money do you like to make per hour?)
OPTION TWO: GATHER SIGNATURES AT THE EVENT
If there's a party, as for a wedding or bar or bat mitzvah, another approach to a group quilt is to give people the opportunity to sign the quilt at the event.(A signed quilt
on top of the bed sure beats one of those flashy cardboard autograph signs that winds up collecting dust
under the bed).
You would have to set aside a table for the quilt, and also set out permanent fabric marking pens. This approach has advantages, and risks. The main advantage: Not nearly as much advance
lead time required as in Option One, above. The risks:
* Less creative contributions from friends, since everything is done more hastily, with limited supplies.
* If young children are attending the event, and the quilt is not closely supervised, these children are likely to pick up those nice permanent pens and start drawing EVERYWHERE---over other people's signatures, their party clothes,
the Torah, etc. This can quickly move from adorable to catastrophic. (I am speaking from experience here.) You may want to set out a low table
nearby with some coloring books and crayons as a decoy. (This wouldn't fool my
preschooler, but it might work on someone else's!)
exuberant adult friends, perhaps under the influence of Maneschewitz, may
decide to embellish parts of the quilt that you would prefer to leave
unembellished, or compose regrettable messages.
My quilting partner Sue Feinberg and I have used two different approaches to get around the problems for
Bar and Bat Mitzvah quilts we've made.
1. Design a quilt with large
expanses of white border. For one Bar Mitzvah quilt, (Figure 1) I put
a busy design in a colorful center (including the child's own artwork), and
created a wide white border all the way around it. I stamped a few Judaic
images in the border, plus some relevant photo transfers in the lower
left and upper right, but it was still obvious that the white borders needed
signing, and the middle didn't.
||(Left) Bar Mitzvah quilt with central blue area that clearly doesn't need signing,
and wide, sparsely decorated, white borders which do need signing. The
borders were signed by guests at the
|2. Signed appliques. Sue
Feinberg made her daughter a Bat Mitzvah quilt which featured a
gorgeous Tree of Life with branches
that were---intentionally--- bare. Before the party,
she prepared cut-out leaves, ironed them to freezer paper, and put
them in a nice basket on a table, along with permanent fabric pens. The
quilt was hung on the wall, as a backdrop. Guests signed the
leaves at the party, and Sue sewed them on later.
INVOLVE THE CHILD
If your project is a for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, think about ways you can
involve the child. I interview the youngster extensively, persistently, and
nosily about their interest and tastes. A
project like this can be a precious opportunity to get to know the
youngster and the family better, and sometimes even work as a team.. For the quilt in Figure 1, the
drawings were done by the Bar Mitzvah boy. I transferred them to fabric. It
was an extraordinary privilege to work with him on this project.
He lives far away from me---his mom has been a best friend since we were in
high school together. I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about
weird Japanese computer animated adventure games. Not to mention
TinTin. For children who are not artists, quilts can also incorporate other
kinds of contributions---writing, poetry, and photographs can also be
transferred onto fabric.