The Quilt Police


I’m finishing up Christmas gifts. It’s hard. I just completed a 36″ x 36″ wall hanging, which I will reveal on the blog after Christmas. It’s based on log cabin blocks, with some fusible applique . My piecing is getting pretty good and the quilting would have been fine, I think, on my longarm machine. It didn’t turn out quite so well on my Janome, however. I admit there was some puckering, the edges weren’t completely straight, and it was — well — nowhere close to perfect.

My friend Vicki and I had a long talk about our recent quilting projects. Like me, she’s become pretty good at piecing. She’s making a gorgeous quilt and attempted a difficult design in the quilting. Probably, I think, too difficult for a domestic machine. But she’s challenging herself and she’s becoming an awesome quilter. But, guess what? Her quilt isn’t perfect either!

So our conversation went something like this: Some of our first attempts at quilting actually looked the best. We used simple blocks and quilted in straight lines. The designs were easy and they looked awesome. Now we’re trying harder stuff (Vicki’s latest quilt had a bunch of trapunto), with more difficult free motion quilting or template designs. And then we’re not happy with the results.

This, my friends, is incredibly frustrating. To grow as quilters, we need to challenge ourselves. But it’s incredibly difficult to have our work, that we’ve spent dozens of hours completing, turn out to be sub-par.

Fortunately, we are our worst critics. Most people, even seasoned quilters, don’t notice our mistakes. They see the whole and not tiny errors. After all — how many of us show our Christmas gifts to quilt judges? Secondly, most gifts go to non-quilters. I showed this wall hanging to the carpenter fixing my studio and his comment was: “Wow! You used a lot of different fabrics!” He certainly didn’t notice the puckering or wavy borders.

I think the quilt police do exist, but they’re in our own minds. And they can be a nasty bunch. However, they only triumph when we refuse to finish our projects, because we let perfectionism get in our way. We have to be willing to finish our quilts, imperfections and all, and let them out into the world. It’s tough. But this process enables us to become better quilters, and doesn’t deny our loved ones treasured gifts because of our pride.


One response »

  1. Yes that voice inside our minds can really cause a lot of conflict when it comes to finishing our quilts. As you say Sue, we have to let it go and get it done. It’s through the experience that we learn and grow otherwise we would still be making very basic quilts and possibly even getting bored with the whole thing.

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