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turn down for what lauren palmer

quiltcon, quilts, studio, travel

“Turn Down For What” – The Making Of

February 20, 2015

turn down for what instagram


“Turn Down For What” was my first venture into post-modernism.  I wanted it to be exaggerated, wild, and a little campy.  You don’t turn this quilt down.  Only up.

I got the idea while finishing up my other entries for QuiltCon 2015, and the entry deadline was approaching fast.  Sacrificing sleep, and my sanity, I was determined to get it finished in time.

I used machine appliqué for the lettering and managed to finish the top in about a day, and when it came time to load it up on my quilting machine, I was convinced that I’d be in fine shape to finish before entries were due. I fired up my machine, an old Singer Industrial that had been modified and stretched into a 16″ longarm.  Tough as nails, easily fixable, and ridiculously durable.

I’ve made hundreds of quilts with it and haven’t had any problems.  That is, until it was time to quilt “Turn Down For What.” The motor sounded fine, the stitches looked fine, but after about 5 minutes of sewing, I noticed that my fingers were tingling.  Convinced that my mind was playing tricks on me, I persisted, until I experienced my first heart palpitation mixed with a buzzy feeling that’s hard to describe.  After that, I realized that the tingling was very much real, and it appeared that my Singer was shorting out and producing a live current that was traveling down the machine body and out through the metal handles.

My machine was shocking the crap out of me while I was trying to sew.  It was no joke either – my husband got out the volt meter and confirmed my suspicions – 110 volts running directly through the metal frame.

My machine was, in fact, trying to kill me.

I was faced with two options: finish the quilt with the machine shorting, (possibly resulting in a fire and/or death), or give up on “Turn Down For What” and wait for parts to replace all of the faulty 1940′s fabric-covered wiring. Determined to get it finished, I knew I wasn’t going to stop.

Luckily my husband (an electrical engineer) had a pair of high voltage gloves for me to wear.  This would protect me from the current, and would allow me to finish.  No guarantees that the machine wouldn’t burst into flames, but I was still willing to chance it.  “Turn Down For What” was meant to be in QuiltCon 2015.

I put on the gloves and kept going.  No more tingling, but the fear of an electrical fire kept me on edge.  I retrieved the fire extinguisher from upstairs as a cautionary measure, and perched it on my frame as a reminder of the risks I was taking to finish.

I kept quilting.  The machine did not burst into flames.  High voltage gloves were a huge success.  “Turn Down For What” got completely quilted, and I’m still alive to tell the tale.  Even better – it made the cut for QuiltCon 2015 and I got to see it hanging in the show earlier today.

The story ends with my husband rebuilding the entire machine so it’s as good as new.  No more shorting and it runs better than ever.  I’ve been considering getting a new machine, but now I’m having a really hard time justifying it because my totally-rebuilt Singer runs perfectly.

I’m here at QuiltCon in Austin, TX right now having a blast, and I couldn’t be happier to see the photos of “Turn Down For What” sprinkling the #quiltcon page on Instagram.  Despite the risks, no regrets.  Everything worked out like it should have.

Turn down for what?