I grew up watching Mom and Grammy quilt. Every time we’d go to Indiana to visit Grammy and Grandad, I’d get to hang out with Grammy’s quilting friends while they worked on projects. These women were amazing, and as a child it seemed like every one of their quilts was perfect.
When I was first starting to learn to quilt myself I had some pretty wild expectations about what I thought my quilting would be like: the perfect process, the perfect end result, and not a lopped off point to be found. As I soon discovered, this was not quite how quilt-making works. The more quilts and other sewing projects that I’ve made, the more I’ve come to discover the differences between expectations and reality.
Expectation: I will finish every quilt that I start.
Reality: I have multiple quilts in progress at the same time, and will often start a new one before finishing the old ones.
Some people do indeed start a project and work on that single project until it’s finished. Once it’s done, they choose the next project and move on, repeating the process. I am not one of those people. I have lots of quilted tops that still need quilting, lots of quilts tops that are partially sewn, and patterns that are piled together with fabric that’s not even been cut yet. While I always have the intention to finish every quilt I start in a timely manner, I’ve also accepted that I’ll always have multiple works in progress and unfinished fabric objects.
Expectation: I will make beautiful, quilt-show worthy quilts.
Reality:Finished is better than perfect, and not every quilt is meant to be a show quilt.
I remember when I saw the Best of Show quilt at my first American Quilter’s Society Paducah Show. I had never, ever, seen a quilt that was so artistic, beautiful, and perfect. Every point was precise, every stitch was even, every color was the perfect hue. And then I heard that this quilt had taken YEARS to make. It was an amazing quilt, but it wasn’t like the quilts that Mom and Grammy made. I realized then that most of the quilts that we make are NOT show quilts. Show quilts are a whole different category of quilting, with different goals and requirements than a quilt that will be used to snuggle under on the couch. Both show and functional quilts are wonderful in their own way, and it’s ok that not every quilts is as “perfect” as a show quilt.
Expectation: I’ll just buy the fabric I need for a specific quilt.
Reality: I will buy all the fabric, all the time. If it speaks to me, it’s coming home from the local quilt shop with me, even if I have absolutely no idea what I’ll do with it.
I’ve definitely learned that buying fabric and building up your stash is half the fun of quilting. While sometimes I’ll purchase fabric with a specific project in mind, most of my purchases are a little more random. In part, this is because Mom and I love to shop the sale tables in our local quilt stores. This can be a great place to buy higher yardage that’s perfect for backing, use in multiple projects, or projects that take up a lot of fabric (like a stack’n’whack). We also pick up lots of fun prints at quilt shows where there are lots of great booths to shop from.
Expectation: Quilts are fast to make.
Reality: Quilting is not a speed sport. There’s no award for “she who dies having made the most quilts.”
While there are plenty of quilts that come together quickly, not all projects require that need for speed. Now, sometimes you DO want a quilt top that can be sewn up quickly. Eleanor Burns has built an entire empire around her “Quilt In A Day” patterns and they are amazing. But that’s just one type of quilting. Others, like English paper-piecing, are always going to take longer. Slow stitching is just as valid as fast stitching, and there’s a time and a place for each one.
Expectation: My seams will always match, my points will never get cut off, and there will never be a ripple in my curves.
Reality: I will always do my best and will rip out and re-do as needed, but there comes a point where I’ll accept my work “as is” and move on.
This is a lesson that every quilter will learn: not every seam will be perfect. When I’m working on a quilt and I find a SERIOUS problem I’ll rip out the seams and try it again. I may even do this twice if necessary. But after three tries I’ll accept my work and move on. I definitely reach a point where I wonder if I’ve now stretched out the fabric so much with my sewing and unsewing that I’ll never get the seam to be perfect. I’m also mentally done by about the third try. I want my quilting practice to be fun, and sometimes that means choosing to have imperfect seams.
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What are some quilting expectations versus reality that you’ve discovered? Share your story below in the comment section!
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