Periodic Table Quilt Backlog Cleared!

Just before leaving for London two weeks ago I put up a link for ordering periodic table quilts. The result was an exciting backlog of 16 orders when I got home 10 days ago! It takes about four hours of stitching per quilt, so we can produce at most 2-3 per day and I really had my work cut out for me. There is a certain irony in complaining that you can only produce two quilts a day, given that people routinely spend months making a single one, but such is the power of automation that it allows you to complain about what would previously have been considered an impossibly high rate of production. (I understand that in China there are factories producing over a thousand quilts a day using the same type of machine we have, though obviously with more than one machine, and with far less stitching than ours!)

We've run the quilting machine quite a bit over the last year, but never in a real mass-production mode. That is, of course, what this type of machine is intended for, so I felt good about finally letting it loose to fulfill its destiny of filling the world with quilts. (Needless to say, it spent the first two days behaving very badly until I finally got all the bits adjusted right, after which it has been stitching perfectly.)

With a volume of orders in hand I was able to step up purchasing, including a whale of a lot of batting (incredible amount of volume for the money), and a 100-yard roll of 108" wide unbleached cotton fabric (you have no idea how dense cloth is until you've tried to lift a roll like this!). I made a rolling stand for it because it would be nearly impossible to unroll without something to hold it up:

Working 12-hour shifts (the machine, I mean, not me, I just changed bobbins every few hours), we finished and shipped out the last batch of quilts yesterday:

Left over is a mountain of trimmings! There's always about 4" of excess fabric and batting around the outside where the sandwich is held in the frame clamps. It gets recycled into pillow stuffing and fabric scraps for various purposes. But right now it's still blocking the view out of our inner office window.

It was fun being a textile manufacturer for a week. The challenges are different than being an author or designer, but no less interesting or worthy of attack. If we have continued success with this and other quilt designs, I can see many opportunities for streamlining the process, and no reason why we couldn't operate a profitable textiles business here in the midwest.