I wish I had all the time in the world to create, but at the moment my nerves have been bothering me in regards to my latest baby quilt. Honestly, I really enjoy making baby quilts and blankets. I feel like it’s one of the most useful things I’ve ever sewed so far. I feel like outside of work I get to enter this whimsical world of joy. I get to be at place that reminds of happiness.
However, the state of bliss ends when I make mistakes. Sewing can be frustrating, but making mistakes is part of learning. You can’t get around it. You will ruin fabric. It’s just part of the process. There are days you will sew and then there are days when you will spend time ripping seams. Binding gives me the most trouble lately. Sometimes, I wish I had a quilting instructor to walk with me through the process of binding a quilt. I find the process nerve wracking because getting accurate mitered corners has been a challenge for me. At this time, I’ve been reviewing different techniques on binding a quilt through Craftsy and YouTube. I keep telling myself that I’m going to get through it. I’m going to somehow find the time and the energy to finish my “back to school” inspired quilt. The not “finishing part” of the project is giving me anxiety.
When I first started the “back to school” quilt, it was almost a project that ended up in the trash pile of projects that just didn’t work out. I chose a free quilt pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop, called the Jelly Roll Jam Quilt. I would eventually learned that there are a lot of things to consider before diving right into a quilt pattern.
Last year, I purchased two jelly roll sets. A jelly roll is a named of a specific pre-cut coined by Moda Fabrics. Its a large roll of strips measuring 2.5″ x 42.” For Moda Fabrics, a jelly roll contains 40 strips of fabric from a particular fabric line. Keep in mind that the not all jelly rolls are created equally. The term can change depending on what fabric company. For instance, Riley Blake Designs refers to their rolled strips of fabric as “rolie polies.” Not all jelly rolls contain 40 strips of fabric. You have to pay attention to the amount of fabric strips you need while doing your fabric shopping.
Precut fabric reminds me of sweet candy actually, and I wanted to look for ideas on how to use them. I thought a free quilt pattern would be an opportunity to start using my fabric stash. One of the cute precuts I had on hand was from a fabric line called Tree Party by Kelly Panacci for Riley Blake Designs. It’s a super cute fabric line, that reminds me of having fun in the fall. The woodland animals appear so bright and cheery on the fabric. You can’t help, but get happy while sewing.
After diving into the project, I realized that I didn’t have enough strips on hand. I was hesitant to cut into the yardage of fabric I purchased from the same fabric line. I found another set of fabric strips that were in my stash that seemed to complement my project. The fabric strips were from the fabric line Crayola by Riley Blake Designs as well. Somehow, I was able to piece the strips together for the pattern. However, I ran into more problems. I accidently measured and cut incorrectly at least twice ruining some of my fabric pieces forcing me to improvise and alter the pattern.
I failed at the pattern, but I didn’t want the fabric to go to waste. I did the best I could to work on piecing what I had together to create a quilt top. In my mind, I knew that I had made various mistakes throughout the project. It’s hard not to feel disappointed, but I had to keep going. I know that if I plan on working on patterns in the future then I must work strategically. It would start with making sure I have correct amount of material on hand. I will be writing a future blog post on steps to take while working from a sewing or quilt pattern.
Despite my mistakes and failures, when I showcased my quilt top no one really noticed or cared about my errors, but me. I actually received a few questions about making baby quilts and blankets. I’m not an expert. I make sure I tell people that directly. In the future, I could become an expert and a designer at making baby quilts. What’s stopping me from working hard and gaining new skills?
My advice for newbie quilters and sewist is to keep going. I’ll admit that there will be projects that turn into disasters, and you might not ever want to return to them again. Maybe I’m a hoarder of some type, but I no longer just through away fabric from my failures. That fabric can be saved to do all sorts of patchwork. I say move beyond your failures, search for new ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
One of my blog posts from the beginning discouraged sewing while in a bad mood. Honestly, I still don’t like the idea of sewing for loves ones when I’m sick or angry. I make too many mistakes when I’m not my best self. Overall, it’s just not a great sewing experience. However, if it is a personal quilting project it should be based on your needs. Working with you hands can be therapeutic for many. I’ve discovered that doing a little bit of patchwork with quilting throughout the month helps me get through periods of loneliness, tough times, and moments when I need to be strong.
When I commit to working on personal projects, I do a lot of praying and reflecting on life. I enjoy spending time just working with my hands. I also get lost in my thoughts. Once my rotary skills improved, I enjoyed cutting fabric squares to piece together a small quilt top. Achieving accurate seams is the most challenging for me. However, the journey is always important to me. The whole process of working on a quilt, gives me the energy to keep fighting.
Life has taught me that I’m responsible for loving myself as well as creating my own happiness. I know that it is recommended to reach out to people when you are experiencing tough times, but for me I just ended up confused. My advice would be to find a support group or talk to a professional. Talk to supportive friends and family. Spend time enjoying their presence, but be very careful about sharing information about your personal problems with people who aren’t from your core group. You will find that you are looking for answers that people can’t give you. Not everyone has your best interest.
I remember when I was dealing with depression. It was hard keeping up, and it appeared that my professional life was stagnant. I made the mistake of sharing my problems with someone. I found out that the person was using my problems against me. I felt like at some point this person was trying to talk me into feeling bad about myself even more. The person would often talk about how depressed I looked and mentioned bits and pieces about how things weren’t going well for me. It was troubling. The person wasn’t encouraging me. It was at the point that I realized that I needed change. It was time to move on, and find a new life.
There are times that you need periods alone where you can work through problems yourself. Over the summer, I prayed a lot, and I knew I was tired of feeling like I was in the dumps. I decided that I wanted to get better at quilting. Each week, I was at my house, learning how to prepare a quilt top. The more it came together, the better I started to feel about myself. I don’t really know how to describe it, but when you make something on your own, it’s like an empowering feeling. I felt useful again. I was learning new skills, and the great thing about it was that I wasn’t depending on anyone else to validate me.
One of my most recent quilts features a lot of cats. I’ll admit that I’m a cat lady with no cats. I wanted to make a personal project. It’s not perfect, but it reminded me that I have what it takes to finish a quilt. I hang it over my headboard. What’s different about this quilt, is that it was the first time I attempted to bind a quilt. Binding the quilt was hard, and I made a lot of mistakes. I was able to get over my fear of binding, and I have a lot of motivation to do better next time.
The most meaningful part of the quilting process was that it taught me how to start creating my own life again. I was learning how to express myself. I found it hard to get negative being surrounded by so much color all the time. I say to myself sometimes “when life gives you lemons, make a quilt.” I don’t think the saying is original at all, but I tell myself those very words when I’m stressed. I will always have problems, but at least I’m not sitting around dwelling on them.
When I sew, I think a lot about family. It wasn’t hard for me to get started making baby quilts during the winter of 2017. It was how I passed the time. I remember feeling frustrated with life, and I wasn’t getting anywhere fast, so one of the things I turned to was quilting for babies. It was one of the things that quieted my spirit. I did a lot of research on potential projects. I didn’t have a particular pattern, but I did sign up for Learn to Quilt: Charming Baby Quilt with Amy Gibson through Craftsy. Through that one particular class, I received a lot of helpful information to complete two baby quilts. Because of that process I learned 5 valuable lessons that stay with me now as a beginning quilter.
- Whenever quilting for a family member or friend, go into the quilting project with a positive spirit. When I first started learning how to sew, I would sew when I was happy, sad, sick, tired, or angry. It didn’t matter. I thought of sewing as my therapy away from personal problems. As I moved on to learn how to sew for others, I realize I didn’t want to carry any negative attitudes from problems that occurred throughout the day into a project that was personal. In my opinion it’s different if I’m making something for myself. At this time, I don’t have any children. While completing my baby quilts, I pretended that I was quilting for a child or that I was quilting for a new mom. I thought about how I wanted the child to feel loved. Quilting for others is very personal. I want the project to be successful, so I only think of good thoughts, prayers, and appreciation for the receiver.
2. Choose Quality
When I first started learning how to quilt, I decided that I wanted to use high quality tools to have better results. Stop being frustrated while sewing. A quilt is gift and necessity. You want it to last for you and your love ones. I didn’t want to cut corners. I knew I wanted to grow as a quilter, so I started by investing in a new sewing machine, a Janome 49360 Quilter’s Computerized Sewing Machine. I purchased it from the Home Shopping Network. It was one of the best decisions I could have made as a beginner. It has speed control, an automatic thread cutter, and a drop-in bobbin system. The sewing machine came with many helpful tools including a walking foot and patchwork foot. I also started stocking up on quality thread including Aurifil 50 wt thread. I did my best to do research on rulers, rotary cutters, needles, batting, irons, pins, and etc. It was very time consuming, but I had a much better experience. In the past, I struggled because I was trying to cut corners. I’ve come to the conclusion that quilting can be an expensive hobby, but this is my passion and I’m willing to invest in it so that I can become a professional.
3. Aspire for accuracy, but don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes
Accuracy is very important in quilting. In quilting, everything is pieced together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Having a patchwork foot can be very helpful. You also have to check to your seams to make sure that they are accurate. Squaring up fabric and cutting accurately is crucial to the success of the quilt. If you are uncertain about a piece, don’t bother using it. At the end you, will save yourself problems.
My first and second baby quilts were far from perfect. I didn’t give them away. However, I started the projects because I wanted to know if quilting was something possible for me. Could I do it? Could I make it happen? I realized that I could. You can too. My advice is to always strive to match your seams while piecing and making quilting blocks, but don’t beat yourself up for not making the mark every time. It’s ok to rip out seams. It’s ok to go back and cut your squares again. It’s also ok to invest in pre-cuts if you don’t feel comfortable your first time cutting up yards of fabric into 5″ squares. My very first baby quilts were made with charm packs. A charm pack is a set 30-40 5″ squares that you can piece together to form a quilt. The possibilities are endless. I found them easy to use when I first started because my cutting skills weren’t great. It took a lot of practice and better quality rulers before I felt comfortable cutting my own fabric squares. Take your time, but don’t get upset with yourself if you can’t make the mark all the time.
4. Enjoy the process, and every mistake is a learning experience
In quilting you will make mistakes. When I first started, I use to beat myself up because I couldn’t match my seams. I wasn’t cutting my squares accurately because my measuring was off. All admit that I spent hours feeling bad about myself, but it was wasted energy. So, I decided to invest in quality rulers that made cutting easier and accurate. I watched several tutorials on YouTube regarding squaring up my fabric. I did my research and I gathered information on how to match up my points. Yes, it was hard but I was learning. If you don’t make mistakes, then you will not learn. Let each project be a learning opportunity.
5. Be Patient! All beautiful things take time and hard-work.
Sewing and quilting take time. You aren’t in a competition to finish first, so go at your own pace. It takes time to cut, piece, and press all those little parts that make up a quilt. When you are a beginner it can be frustrating, but don’t worry about how slow or fast you are going. The important part is that you are always learning. Keep going! Remember with each mistakes, you are learning for better success next time.