Friday, June 8, 2012

I Am So D.O.N.E and Lessons Learned

The past few days, stitching the final bit of the 3 teacher end of year thank you quilts, this is the way I have felt. D.O.N.E.! At this point I just want these projects over with and onto their new owners.

In part, I hate that I feel this way and it bugs me but I think I know why. First I have been working on practically nothing but these quilts for a long time now and I'm more than ready to start something new. The only quilt that I worked on longer was Jammer's 100 Good Wishes Quilt but that was so different; it was the realization of a dream, not only to have it turn out better than I ever thought it could but also the very beginnings of my life of quilting.

The other slight let down aspect of these projects that fact that none of them are what I originally planned to do. Because of the addition of one more student to the class and the need to revise the projects accordingly, what I envisioned in the beginning is not what they turned out to be. The first plan would have been so much cooler I think and I guess I am mourning that loss a tad. I know the teachers will love them all and they will be so appreciated for years to come, but I still can't help but wish for what might have been.

So looking back I've had a number of lessons learned along the way.

First and foremost, I will never do another project like these ever again. While I love the idea of giving a teacher a more meaningful end of year gift and I'm sure that I will be making quilts for them for years to come, I won't do it the way I did it this year. I don't mind the idea of being the "mom that makes quilts for teachers" but from now on I will be choosing a pattern and the fabrics myself. I don't ever want to end up with a 'change in the number of students in the class' problem that throws my project in total haywire again.  And even though I fully expected that some of the parents would buy fabrics from the big chain stores, some of them were absolutely horrible to work with. My seam ripper got more use than normal and the cussing came out of my mouth with frequency. Plus it is obvious that some people don't know their colors. I gave them very specific color guidelines based on each teacher's favorites but some of the fabrics I received were anything but those colors and that made it all the more difficult to blend them into something cohesive. Overall these quilts were a lot more work than they should have been and if I don't want to spend 6 months on these projects each coming year I'm going to have to do it my way.

Secondly I realized that the vast majority of the parents have no clue as to what I am actually doing and therefore while they have an appreciation for the idea of something homemade and more lasting than a gift certificate, until they see the finished quilts next week, they will have been totally in the dark as to all that it took to create them. That did give me leeway to make whatever blocks I wanted to make without any expectations from them but some of the thoughtless comments I received (from one parent in particular) showed me just how clueless they are. From what I learned about her later from the class mom, this is how she typically is to everyone so I'm trying hard not to take it personally but it still stings. Now don't get me wrong, I know the parents are very appreciative and will be flabbergasted when they see them, but it is always that one or two in every group that leaves a bit of sour taste in your mouth.

Third since I didn't have a ton of time to get these quilts actually made, I used block patterns from a variety of sources and guess what I found out? No matter how careful I was and how accurate my seam allowances were, many of the blocks came out slightly different sizes. Different sources definitely has different results. It was a good thing the differences weren't that huge and I was able to ease them all together without a ton of wrestling. One book, instead of having sizes to cut of the pieces in the instructions had paper templates and I found that I don't care for them at all. What a pain in the $%&@ to figure out what sizes to cut instead of actually cutting out each individual template for the one block I was making.  I got pretty good at cutting a square 3 1/4 and a half.

No matter what, these quilts were a learning process for me. They stretched my thinking and gave me more than enough stress in working out the changes to last a while. At least until next school year that is. I'm already on the lookout for just the right plan for the 2013 versions and since both kidlets will be at the same school, I need to make not 2 but 4 of them. I'll probably start them in October so I'm not rushing like a mad women come June to get them finished. Rushed I do not like to be.

6 of you added your own colorful comments:

Diane-crewe said...

it has been a learning experience... but not a NEVER AGAIN experience xx So remember the bits you want to change ... remember the good comments .. and ditch the rest!! looking forwards to seeing the finished quilts xx

Michele said...

Actually Diane from the standpoint of having each family choose fabrics and having a block to represent each student, it is a Never Again. After they all agreed to the project last fall, it was pulling teeth to get about 1/2 of them to actually go to the store and buy the fabrics. I could have gotten the quilts done a whole lot sooner if they had met my 'by Christmas' deadline. I'm sure I will make quilts for teachers again, I'm already coming up with a list of ideas for next year, but in this format, nope not me.

Melinda said...

This is my 3rd time trying to comment so hopefully it works this time (Google Chrome issues today so I switched over to Internet Explorer again!).
Sorry things did not work out like you'd hoped. Maybe next year you can show parents some of your work and ask for donations toward purchasing the needed materials so you don't have to rely on them to get your supplies for you. I would love to do this for the teachers but my kids had 7 teachers between them this year!
Maybe next year I can make a couple to donate toward the themed auction baskets they sell to raise money for PTO.

Orange Crumpled Napkin said...

I ran into a similar situation last year when I volunteered to make a raffle quilt for my department's favorite charity, Alzheimers. One of the developers in my group kept pestering me with design changes and demands that I bring in my work to her each week for "quality control" inspections. The others who volunteered to line up venues to display the quilt and collect raffle tickets tapered off. Another insisted on choosing the fabrics and did not understand why I objected so much, even when I explained to her the rising cost of cotton and that I was paying for the materials. By the time I was done with the quilt, I was offended. I don't ever get offended. Since I don't like blaming others for a failed project, I took some time to process what had happened, Lessons learned, and focused on what I thought was realistic and within my control to change.

It was a valuable lesson. I finally took ownership that I am an artist with a vision. Over time, quilters learn to calculate the time and cost into the size of a project and we adjust our projects accordingly. This is a learned skill that only comes through practice.

It is unrealistic for me to expect others, (especially those linear thinkers in I.T.) to understand an artistic vision. I will never again place the burden to visually understand the intricacies of quilt making on a random group of people whose only connection to one another is we happen to work in the same place . In your case, the only true connection you have to these parents is that your kids share the same classroom.

Personally, unless it is with a group of other skilled quilters, I will not involve others in the process again.

Michele said...

Thanks for your comments. I think I'm going to plan on doing scrappy quilts for next year to help me keep my scrap bin under control and also not have to worry about what each teacher's favorite color is. I'll still bring up the idea, to have it as a class project, but yes I'll probably ask for donations towards the costs.

Michele said...

Thanks so much Ann. It is good to know that I am not the only one that has been through something like this. I'm not going to involve others ever again either, other than helping to pay the costs, if they want to be part of it. Otherwise it will be my choices period. I think in your case I would have had to strangle a couple of your coworkers.