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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Interview with Margaret of Quilts of Love

Hello, and happy 4th of July weekend! It's rainy here, hope it's sunnier where you are!

Let's meet Margaret, an experienced quilter and swapper. (and she's a Project Linus volunteer like me!) She has hosted the Four Seasons Quilt Swap and the Spring Fling Round Robin and is working on another block swap as well as a first ever Holiday mini-quilt swap (stay tuned this fall for more details!).

Here's on of my favorite projects from her blog:
She has more gorgeous pictures to show off so be sure and visit her blog and click on the links throughout the interview to see all the lovely things she makes!

SwapDex: Tell us a bit about you.

Margaret: 43, Maine USA, married, 3 kids (2 boys, 1 girl ages 2.5 to 7), 3 cats too many, Mechanical engineer by trade. Stopped working professionally 5 yrs ago when middle child was born. Began teaching part-time 2 yrs ago for a local university - teach several Sophomore engineering classes. Love to have some time away, and plenty of sewing time too! I don't know what I'm going to do when my youngest no longer naps (and is not in school yet!).

Crafts...I have dabbled in many over the years. Learned to weave on a loom 15 yrs ago. Have done a few pottery-making classes as well as learning to make stained glass. Through it all, however, I have always sewn (My mother taught me when I was 8 or 9) and quilted. I make 3-4 dresses for my daughter each year. I taught myself to smock 7 years ago. I first made the dresses for my neices because I only had boys. When my daughter came along, I made pretty, smocked outfits for her. Here's a look at a couple...one, two

SD: How long have you been swapping? How did you first learn about swapping, and what made you decide to start? Do you remember your first one?

M: I first swapped about 2 years ago. I missed the date to sign up for another swap so I decided to host my own swap. It was the Four Seasons Quilt Swap, which is now in it's 6th session. I wanted to get back into quilting, but didn't want to start a large quilt that might take me years to complete. The mini/wall hanging quilt was a perfect size to display as well as to complete in a reasonable time.

Three years ago, I began making quilts for the children's charity, Project Linus. When I am not making a swap quilt, I am likely working on a linus quilt. In 2007 and 2008, I made a total of 50 quilts that I donated. This year I have made 31 already. This is a satisfying way that I can use my scraps, test designs that I may not want to actually make for myself, and practice my machine quilting. It's a great organization, and I personally love that I am able to give that much of myself to children in need.

I have participated in probably 15 quilt swaps, and am currently involved in 1 quilt swap, 2 round robins, a row robin, and 3 block swaps. Sounds like a lot, but then I manage to find 3-4 hours a day to do some kind of sewing (I'm very much the early bird!). I most definitely stick to the swaps run by people I have swapped with previously. You acquire a rapport with people, and that definitely helps with who you are partnered with. I don't mess with swaps with hundreds of people. I know first hand that there is a limit to how many people a hostess can effectively manage. I also, however, have branched out to a couple swaps organized by people I am unfamiliar with. The common thread though is that I knew some of the people in these swaps. I know that these people have a great work ethic and wonderful quilting ability. It helps to alleviate any uncertainty stress!

SD: What is your range of swapping? Do you stick to swaps hosted by people you know or are you likely to swap with anyone, anytime?

M: Mostly mini quilts, but I have done fabric swaps and block swaps too.

SD: Do you swap with any organized groups like yahoo groups, flickr, groups on swap-bot, other message boards, etc? Why or why not?

M: I have done swaps hosted on About.com, and the yahoo groups. Mostly the ones I do are hosted independently and are found by word of mouth.

SD: What's your favorite swap you've ever been in or hosted?

M: I love to create unique quilts and am always in search of the swap "with a twist" - the swap in which your run of the mill ordinary quilt is not the norm. This may be the swap that swappers are required to represent a season, or only utilize 1 color family. I am presently participating in an Art quilt swap too, where typical traditionally pieced quilts will not be made. This will help me to streach my abilities. I have also found that the round robin swaps help to do this as well. In this swap, we have to add a border to an existing quilt square which may not be in colors or styles that we typically work in. I don't always love then end result, but I appreciate and enjoy the design process because I have to work slightly outside my comfort zone. In the end, I believe that this makes me a more creative and accepting quilter/designer. Plus it is a very fun process!

I am a huge supporter of the Spring Fling Round Robin. I'd be a lousy host if I didn't like this one (since it's one of my swaps), but I consider this my more selective swap, and the caliber of quilter is very good. I have many repeat swappers each session. Currently, the 3rd session is running. This swap has 4 steps: One person makes an 8"x8" center block, two people each add a border, and a last person does the quilting. In previous sessions, full pictures were posted on the blog, so we all knew what was being made. Then the finished quilt was mailed to a swapper. It was supposedly made partially with the end recipient's preferences in mind, but this was not always the case. In the current session, the end recipient made his or her own center square. Photos on the blog are limitted to only sneak peeks so that when finished quilts arrive, there is still some level of surprise. I am always pleased with the level of care & creativity that this swap evokes. The finished quilts are just gorgeous. See one, two, and here's the center blocks for this session.

One of the unique features of the SFRR this session is that each swapper sent me two 12" blocks (as compensation for mailing costs). I made these blocks into quilts that were donated to Project Linus. A handful of great swappers actually sent more that the requested two, enabling me to make 7 quilts! The finished quilts were incredible. They are shown on the sidebar of the SFRR3 blog.

SD: What do you do to make your packages special?

M: Generally, I only send a quilt. It is an effort that has taken between 20 and 40 hours, so I consider this complete.
Here's some of my favorite swap quilts made...one, two, three

SD: Do you have a good story about hosting or participating in a swap?

M: Every swapper has a "swap gone bad" story, but that won't make for a great story here!! I had a wonderful quilt go missing 3 months ago. It was heart breaking. It was one of my swaps, which made it even more frustrating since I was on the hook for making the angel quilt! I occasionally get goodies with swap packages - chocolates or fabric. Of my favorites, one came from someone that sent me a piece of fabric from Australia that had indigenous animals on it, and the other was from a woman in New Zealand that sent fabric squares that were native animals, plants, etc (they were gorgeous!).
I have met some of the nicest and most generous people through hosting and participating in swaps. I cannot say just how many people have volunteered to send me fabrics. Last year when I inquired if anyone had any blue scraps (for a scrappy blue quilt I was starting, I had 4 people mail me boxes of scraps within 2 weeks. I was shocked! I have also received many blocks (4 dozen) from Kate's stash - She knows that I will finish them for Project Linus blankets!

SD: What do you think is the most challenging part of hosting a swap? Any advice for someone who is thinking about hosting a swap?

M: As a seasoned quilter, naturally the hardest thing for me to grasp is poor quality. I would never want to be that person that has to open a package containing a poorly made quilt. It's just sad. I could never fathom making or sending something that was not well made so I hate to think someone else does. There are many challenges with managing 25-75 swappers, where swapper's personalities can clash. There's always someone that will be late, or very late. Time management is a common problem amongst some swappers.

SD: Any exciting plans for the near future? Swaps, projects, new products?

M: I am showing a quilt I made this past year in the Maine Quilt Show this summer. It is actually in the judged division. I ought to be nervous, but I think it's be just fine! This is my first quilt show.

SD: WOW! I am in quilt envy overload! Thank you so much for sharing your swapping experiences and your fantastic projects with us!

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