Friday, February 14, 2020

making great quilts - quality vs quantity

Hi! Thanks for stopping by today. If you stopped by last week, you might know I am trying to blog again on a regular basis. I will be talking about all subjects that mean something to me or something that I think needs to be addressed in the quilting world.

This week, I would like to address the quality of our work. Great quality quilts take time to make. They require skilled hands, love, attention to detail. If we concentrate too much on the quantity of our quilts we make, the reality is, the quality of those quilts will suffer. We all have a zillion projects that we want to make, but we also need to step back. Do all of those projects really need to get finished? Here are my thoughts about the subject.

If you've been quilting for a year or two, you probably have made your hobby or passion known to others. Do you often get comments to your quilting confession as, "Oh, so you like to cut up fabric and sew it back together again," or "it must be so nice to cut up your old clothes to make quilts." Now, we all know, quilting just isn't that simple, now is it? It is exciting to design a quilt with matching fabric that works well together. So, cutting up old clothes (made from polyesther) really doesn't work anymore unless you have five yards left over from making that Victorian vintage dress, right? Making a quilt, just isn't throwing some old fabric together, sewing a design, throwing in a few stitches to hold it in place (quilting). Oh, no! There is so much more that goes into a quilt.

I am a lover of the entire quilt making process. And even though I joke about not liking to quilt and applque, I really do enjoy them too.

Making a quilt, starting with a design, choosing fabric, cutting, sewing, pressing, fixing inconsistencies, pressing, basting, quilting, binding, all of these processes in quiltmaking require time, patience, love for detail, endurance and perserverence. 

There is no need to rush the process. "Just getting it done" doesn't enter my vocabulary. Most of us quilt for the enjoyment of sewing, of creating something, for the process. Live that moment.

My mother drilled the basic phrase "if you don't do it right, just don't do it at all" into my head. Today, as a grown woman, I understand what that means. Going back and fixing those problems is more of a headache than doing it right the first time. But, in most cases, it has to be done.

This week I was working on small baby quilt. Some of my quilty friends stopped by and called to my attention that the backing fabric had a tuck in it. The quilting crossed over that tuck. Now, we can't have that, now can we? I made a mistake. No big deal. It just needed to be corrected.

I didn't make a big fuss about picking out the stitches, tying off the threads, and requilting those areas. It just needed to be done. In the end, no one will see that I took out the stitching. They will only see the final product. Those repairs will be forgotten. So, a well-made product stands out as just that. If I had left those mistakes in, they would have been seen.

Let me dig out another photo. When I was working on a demonstration quilt for a quilt-as-you-go class, I was trying out different techniques. My log cabin strips got a little wonky in the end and ended up with a VERY scant seam allowance, so much that it popped open upon inspection. Since then, I have found that sewing the log cabin counter-clockwise prevents some of this from happening.

As you can see, the binding was already on, so I just bit the bullet and fixed it. You will only see the mistake if it stays in. It just wasn't acceptable. It wasn't good quality. I can do better than that.

I have found in my own sewing, when I am anxious or in a hurry to get something done, it just doesn't work out. More mistakes happen. So, if I don't feel the balance in my own spirit, I step back and leave the process for another day. There is no need to put myself under pressure.

The first fifteen minute of sewing are usually for the birds. Most mistakes happen in those first few minutes. I've learned to just accept it and laugh.

Unless there is quilting with a deadline - birthday, anniversary, publication, holiday, there really is no need to hurry up and get it done. Take your time. Enjoy the process. Creating a quilt is time intensive. Allow yourself to take your time. Have you every calculated the amount of time you actually put into a quilt? You should! You would be surprised just how long it takes. But think of the quality of the quilt as your legacy. You will be remembered for your work, your creations, your contributions. If you create beautiful work, you will be remembered for that.

This week I dropped in to hear the podcast from Quilting Daily with a special guest star Kim Niedzwiecki of gogoKim. She was very inspirational and stated something that should be addressed.

"Don't compare yourself to others." Kim Niedzwiecki

We are all at different phases in our own personal quilting journey. There is no need to feel pressured into performing or showing that you made a finished quilt. In reality, it just isn't possible to make a new quilt every week. There are professionals behind those quilts and accounts on social media. Most of us sew our own quilts from start to finish, and that takes time. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the journey. Don't get caught up in trying to impress others.

To be honest, I used to love showing in-progress photos of my creations on social media but didn't get as much of a reaction to them as to finished products.Finished quilts got the most likes. I was pushed by the recognition of likes. It took me a while (several months) to step back and rethink what I wanted from social media. I am in search of dialogue, interaction, community, support, education. I see in today's world with social media, we need real-life, in-person interaction more than ever. Interaction is more important to me than a like.  

Sorry, I think I went off on a ramble there. When making a great quilt, it is important to take the time to care about each step of the process. Don't rush through. Do the best that you can. Show what you have learned and show how much you care about the person you are making the quilt for. Those are your stitches of love!

How many quilts do you need?

This is a very good question. I am a quilt designer, so I have a couple more quilts at home than others. But there are probably no more than 20 quilts (not including minis) in my household even though I have made hundreds of quilts. A lot of quilts were made and gifted out of love. Do we need more quilts in our household. No, I don't really think so. There are still a couple of quilt tops in my cabinets. I've been seriously wondering what I should do with them when/if quilted. I am thinking about donating them for some type of raffle or giveaway for a humanitarian cause to raise money, seriously! How many quilts do you have at home? Do you gift your quilts? Do you make and donate? What do you do with your quilts? Do you finish your projects or is learning the technique more important?
I love trying out new techniques but don't need a finished quilt, table runner, etc. to just to "get it done," either. It doesn't need to be finished. I learned from the process. I learned to improve my technique. I prefer to make a quilt for someone who needs, cherishes, and uses the quilt.

We are so fixated on trying to outnumber, outdo, outperform, we feel compelled to increase our own productivity. In my opinion, increasing productivity usually decreases quality.

As I get older, I am asking myself these questions more and more. Maybe it is a midlife crisis, maybe I am just getting older. I think when we do something or make something, we need to think about the why's how's, if's, and or but's. We need to think about the ramifications of our actions and intents. We all have become just too self-centered and egoistic. It is time we give back to our fellow (wo)man.

"We are not the center of the universe," as quoted by Joaquin Phoenix at last week's Ocar Awards.

I will now get off my soap box and extend my hand to you. What is your opinion? Did I strike another nerve or can you follow along? We would love to hear what you have to say. Please leave your comments below. Thanks and have a great weekend.

My next post will be about eco-friendlier sewing.


  1. Love it, absolutely true! I have a million projects I want to do but if I'm doing them for the sake of it or because I feel like I 'have to', I make mistakes and I start hating the process.
    I have gone back to basics in my approach on what is realistic, what is necessary and what is generally good for my soul.
    I'm just 5 finished quilts in, with another 2 basted and happily in progress, few in the cupboard which stressed me out, new fpp project on the go and a desire to pause them all while I learn some fmq.

    Thanks for the encouragement to accept where I am at and the reminder to love the process.

    1. Good for you! So happy that you have found your balance again. Thanks so much for dropping by!

  2. Danke für das Teilen Deiner Gedanken! Mein Ziel ist es, nur Quilts zu nähen, bei denen ich weiß, wer sie bekommt. (na gut, bei kleinern Projekten nähe ich auch einfach "mal so"). Denn neben meiner Zeit wird auch einiges an Geld benötigt. So verschenke ich das meiste meiner Patchworkarbeiten und habe zum Glück eine große Familie, in der sonst keiner Quilts näht!
    Ich liebe es, Neues auszuprobieren, neue Techniken kennen zu lernen und v.a., zu "nähen". So versuche ich, mit kleineren Projekten wie Kissen und Tischläufern meinen Wissendurst zu stillen. Liebe Grüße

    1. Dank Ines, für deine Meinung und Erfahrungen. Die kleinere Projekte sind ja toll neues auzuprobieren. Es mus Spaß machen so eine große Familie zu haben um alles zu verschenken. : ) LG, Karen

  3. You are spot on, Karen. Enjoying the process is what keeps me motivated and inspired. First of all, I don’t own a gazillion rulers. I have three. (Almost) everything that can be done with the specialty rulers, can also be accomplished with the basic three. It takes a little more time, some extra thought, but I enjoy the process. I’ve been making quilts for 35+ years and only have four in use in my home. One I made, one a round robin challenge with friends, and two were gifts. I am a slow and deliberate sew-er, and some quilts take over a year to complete. Granted, I’m a 'snowbird' and am only in one place six months at a time, so some of these quilts have a resting period until my return, but I’m pokey because I enjoy the process. Like you, I stop and thoughtfully fix any mistake....I enjoy that process, too! Often, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of quilts others 'spit out', but then I remember. I remember that I prefer to do it my way. Sometimes I need a quick quilt, but even quick quilts take me forever to complete. Thank you for this thoughtful, honest post. We are alike in so many ways, except I don’t 'design'. XO

  4. The very first quilt that I made was a disaster. It was touted as beginner friendly but was not. As imperfect as it was it was a baby quilt. The fabric was still beyond cute and out shown my mistakes. It turned out to be a functional and beautiful item that I was not embarrassed to give and the re ipient was thrilled to receive. My frustrations with my imperfections launched me to systematically improving my skills. So not let perfection be the enemy of the good and the perfectly functional. Quilting is like cooking. The genius is in taking what is available and optimizing for its intended use.

  5. Strange "water hack" burns 2lbs overnight

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    It's very simple and it works with everybody.

    This is how you can do it yourself:

    1) Go grab a drinking glass and fill it up with water half the way

    2) Then do this awesome hack

    so you'll be 1-2lbs skinnier the very next day!


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