Saturday, 25 May 2013

Put on your Learning Hat.

It was while basting this quilt, hunched over the floor in my tiny living room, wondering whether it even enough, smooth enough, pinned enough, that I  made the decision to approach it as a learner, not a maker/seller. It was my first time making a single bed size quilt, and I wanted to free-motion quilt it, another first for me. So I set up some rules: No unpicking, no saying, "I should have known", ask the question, "what have I learned?"
I can tell you, it made for a very fun making experience! I felt like a child, making without knowing about 'shoulds' or techniques. I know it can be fun to perfect techniques and skill, but for a quilt of firsts, I just wanted to play. And because we were keeping this one for us, I felt like I could make mistakes and learn from them, rather than try to avoid them.
So on went my Learning Hat and out came the free motion quilting foot! 

Here's what I learned:
  • Free motion quilting is FUN and very forgiving! I made lines upon lines of little daisies, going back and forth (which I thought would be easier this time round than a random track). It took me about three or four lines to get flowers I was really happy with. But interestingly, this had more to do with foot control and having a heavy quilt get caught on the sides of the table, than making the actual flowers themselves. When all those factors were easy, the 'drawing' itself came quite naturally. 

  • It was much easier to pull the quilt towards me, than push it away (I'm guessing because the weight was on the table, rather than on my lap) so every second line of daisies is MUCH neater! I didn't buy any extras for this quilting experience, because I wanted to see what my style was like first. I think I'll be getting some grippy gloves because I was much more comfortable with flat hands than holding the quilt. And I'd be interested to see if one of those stickers that cover the feed dogs makes a difference too.

  • I LOVE my throat space and auto-thread tension! And I used Leah Day's recommendations for set up rather than my manual (feed dogs up, stitch length on zero) and that worked well too.
  • It's much more important to let Evie have a turn (sock hands and all!) than get it done right or quickly, at least for her own quilt. :) She never once seemed interested in the colours or design of this quilt (not enough tutus or pink!) but did want to help me baste it (so I used pins instead of spray), and quilt it. Trying to make flowers while she leant on the quilt was pretty hilarious, and at times, frustrating, but I'm hoping, over time, it will lead naturally to her making things herself (and feeling like she can just play also!). 

  • I am not a 'measure twice, cut once' type of gal. More like a measure nonce, cut 3 or 4 times. And look how it paid off with my binding. Score! I'm learning to embrace the way I work creatively, and be ok when I have to cut extra, or have made too much, rather than chastise myself for jumping in. Because I do measure when precision important to me. But when motivation is dependant on starting now, I enjoy starting at the machine early. And that's ok.

  • Machine binding is FAST but mine needs a little practice. And more precision is needed in first sewing the binding on, rather than the final finish, to ultimately make it neater. I think next time I'll try Rachel's zig-zag binding finish. I've thought in the past that it wouldn't fit my hand-quilting style, but I think it would totally suit the crinkly nature of free motion quilting. 
  • I was a little worried about all the fabric needed for the back, until my friend gave me a whole lot of second hand girls' double bed sheet sets! And the one I used for the back just happened to have the lovely 'orange peel' or cathedral print on it. A perfect match, I thought, for a quilt with a Stitchy theme. And I have matching pillow cases! It was just the kind of provision I was hoping for when I embarked on my fabric fast.

  • And finally, even though toys and outings seem more desireable to my kids, I'm always amazed at how much something handmade means to them. Evie played with, and in, this quilt for over an hour after I finished it! And it's since been used for forts, hide and seek, and extra long and dangerous super hero capes! Oh, and for now, bed time is very easy!

(and how cute is this pillow Tim's mum bought to match!)


  1. Love. So beautiful and also love your story that goes along with its making. It is so true - I totally chastise myself for my creative process at times too - as if there is a wrong way to be creative??!!! You make such good sense. Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. There's no better teacher than experience, particularly with FMQ-ing! And I've found its always better to practice on an actual project rather than just swatches. I find practicing drawing a new design on paper first, over and over on a page seems enough to get the design into my head. That daisy design is just right for your quilt, no wonder your daughter loves it!

  3. I try to learn something from everything I make and attempt to apply it in the next project. I think you've hit the nail on the head with this discussion. The finished quilt is fantabulous! I'm so glad you included those pops of olive pins as they give the quilt some breathing space! Oh, and your daughter's sock hands are the cutest.

  4. I love everything about this and the story too! Your quilting looks great! I have a learning quilt going now too and it is so fun!

  5. This is just perfect! I love your quilting, it's gorgeous! I need to take that approach to my projects. I've been putting off FMQ for ages for fear of ruining a quilt, time to just let it go and try :) I don't own the fancy gloves for FMQ yet, but i did pick up a pair of gloves at a dollar store that are the same idea as the fancy ones, just priced a lot lower! They seem to be the same, (minus the great big Mr.Clean logo on the top, lol!) but i've never actually used proper quilting gloves, so i'm not sure how much of a difference there actually is :)

  6. Oh my gosh, it is so, so beautiful! Wow!! I really enjoyed your format with this post on "what you learned". Such a great way of looking at it!

  7. I love the simple sweet flowers you used, must copy them!

  8. Thank you for being an "imperfect" quilter... It's always seemed so intimidating to me. Then I decided to just jump in and run with it, no matter how imperfect it might be. (That's why there are seam rippers, right?) Reading blogs has helped me to realize that there are MANY ways to quilt and I don't have to copy any of them. I can have my own way entirely. I do love the quilt you made and the flower quilting. I haven't seen much of that before and MIGHT attempt to do it on my daughter's full-size quilt. It'll be my third and I haven't gotten to the quilting part of my first two, so we'll see! lol I do love Leah Day's tutorials. I've watched a few of them already. (LOTS to go though!) Again, thanks for sharing your process!

  9. This is such a great post, Jodi. I think your approach to trying FMQ is right on, and I really need to get back to practicing mine. I'm always so afraid of ruining something I've spent a lot of time on, but really, what does it matter anyway? Your quilting is gorgeous! (And I love that snail pillow too!) :)

  10. You did a fabulous job! I still get so frustrated.

  11. Great reminders about having fun with your craft! The quilt looks fabulous! I love the vines of flowers you quilted!

  12. I wanted to comment on this when it came out, but I was on a computer break and it's hard to type a lot on your phone:) This is one of my favorite posts I've ever read online. Lately I've been reading a lot of negative posts about what people think is "good" quilting and your attitude is just the thing I needed to read when you posted it. I feel the same way you do, and it was nice to hear someone say that a quilt is good even if it's not perfect and that everyone has to start somewhere and enjoy the process. That is exactly how I feel!!! There is a time and place for perfection, but those aren't the quilts I want to hear all about or even read about. I think it's so wonderful you shared the quilting with your daughter. The time you spent together and passing on a tradition to her is something you can never get back, no matter how perfect you may have made those daisies otherwise. Besides, they look pretty perfect to me!!! She is going to love that quilt not just because it's pretty, but because of the memories, too. And that is perfect.


I so love your comments! I read all of them and reply when I can. If you don't hear back, I'm lost under a mound of scraps or outside jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Jodi. xx