This post is more for me, but I thought you might be interested in what goes into the making of one of the quilts we give away.
First, there's the fabric. 99% is donated. Most starts with a phone call or through word of mouth from someone who hears about what we do. Either they buy too much fabric (how is that possible?) or the wrong color, or decide that they really don't like sewing. They have leftovers from a project and don't want to deal with the scraps. About once a month I get a call from someone whose mother or grandmother or wife has passed away and they are left with a hobby and don't know what to do with all the 'stuff'. Could I use it? I pick up anywhere from a bag to an entire garage full of goodies. They are happy the items are going to a good cause, I am happy to have new colors, patterns and beautiful fabrics to play with the aged to perfection fabrics that have been waiting for new friends to play with.
Then, there's the sorting of the fabric. You have to listen to the fabric. If you listen, it will talk to you. Some fabric wants to be a quilt top, some wants to be backing fabric and some wants to be binding. Listen closely and you will hear it talk. Some wants to wait a while to be matched to fabric that isn't here yet. You have to be patient. If you must have a clean and neat house, you probably aren't meant to do this. Or, you really need to have a really big house, storage shed, or great organizational skills. I have none of the above. What I do have is a very patient husband and children who could get a gold medal in obstacle avoiding, even in the dark. Every day, I rearrange, trying to pack in more items, moving in and out fabric, quilt kits, finished quilts and things in various stages of being finished. They never know what will be where and they always go with the flow, rarely complaining, except when they step on a pin.
Once the fabric has been sorted, it then gets cut. I have several 'go to' patterns we use often.
Mary's Quick Strippie
Super Size 9 Patch is a super quick quilt for another 3 color quilt
Then there are dealing with scraps.
The Accuquilt Studio fabric cutter is a must have for dealing with the tremendous amount of scraps we get. If you have lots of teenagers and a whole bunch of scraps, you can get a lot of quilt kits cut out. I love the 6 1/2 inch tumbler die. The shape is interesting and the size is perfect, not too big and not too small.
EDIT: I left out a step here! When the tops are returned, backs need to be made. Here's where I get stuck sometimes. If a top is narrow enough that I don't have to piece a backing for it, those quilt tops usually get finished first. What can I say, it's one less step in the quilting process. :)
But, most quilts need a pieced backing. So, there is more sorting and digging for the perfect backing fabric. Then, there is measuring of the quilt top and measuring of the backing fabric and often there isn't enough of one piece of backing fabric so there's digging to find two or more pieces of fabric that actually go together to make a nice looking back for the quilt. That has to be sewn together and loaded on the frame. I'm getting faster at this step, but sometimes I just can't find the energy to do all of these things just so I can quilt something and rather than load a quilt, I will sit and sew. It slows down the quilting process. A couple days ago, I had a power matching session and pulled about 2 dozen quilt tops and matched them with backing fabric. I took a giant decision making step out of the process so when I'm ready to quilt, all I have to do is make the backings and I can then quilt the quilts. Time is saved because some of the backing goes with multiple quilts and can be loaded once and quilted two or three times. That helps a lot too when making so many quilts. I can quilt three quilts before having to unload the quilting machine. It saves about 10 minutes per quilt that way.
Once the quilts are quilted they need to be bound. We have a group of ladies who are our binding buddies. They are my heroes. I can bring them a stack of quilts and pick them up finished in a week. While I don't mind binding, I would rather do other things.
Then, homes need to be found for the quilts. There are so many places for the quilts they rarely sit around for long. More often than not, the quilts have homes before they are finished. I could make them twice as fast and still have homes for all of them. That's one reason we are asking for more helpers and why we are teaching the teenagers how to sew.
Note to self: I need to plan more time sorting and cutting fabric and making more quilt kits. I have lots of people willing to make quilt tops if I could get them quilt kits faster. I have a lady that can sew 20 quilts tops a week. She has an industrial machine that is really fast. But then I have 20 quilt tops a week that I can't quilt fast enough.
I wish I was better organized so that I could work more efficiently. Since I have the robotic machine, I can quilt while I cut fabric, but sometimes I have to sort and move things before I can find what I need and by the time I get everything organized the quilt is finished and I'm tired. I need the energy of the teenagers, but my house is too small to host a quilt day. Maybe I should host a clean my house day :) Think anyone would show up?