Lessons from a Mother’s Day Quilt

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My mom has been quilting for more than 5 decades. She has given beautiful quilts to everyone in our extended family, mostly as wedding and baby gifts, as well as to a large number of friends. She’s also done countless charity quilts. And they are all beautiful.

Soon after I took my first quilting course, in which I made the requisite lap quilt, our local quilt shop offered Quilting 102. This was a twin size quilt made with half-square triangles. At the time, that was a big challenge for me. I was determined to make a quilt for my mom, as she had a special birthday coming up. More importantly, nobody had ever made a quilt for her, and I was honored to be the first.

I worked hard on this quilt. I chose a floral theme, since she also loves gardening. I bought some variegated purple thread that matched beautifully and proceeded to start quilting on my trusty Janome. Here’s where the quilt taught me my first lesson: free motion quilting on a domestic machine is HARD. I quilted the borders and decided to take a break.

Soon after, I bought a longarm machine. I added muslin leaders to the half-finished quilt and proceeded to finish quilting it. The longarm stitches looked great, but they made my Janome stitches look terrible by comparison. I decided to rip out the Janome stitches and re-quilt these areas with the longarm.

Here’s when I learned lesson #2: It takes a very, very long time to rip out stitches on a quilt. I finally realized that it would be much faster to re-make the quilt top and give up on the ripping. So I re-made the top using similar fabrics.

Two years later, the quilt top remained in my UFO pile. I was determined to get it finished before Mother’s Day this year. I hung the quilt top up to photograph it and realized it was extremely wavy. Lesson #3: Boy my piecing has improved a lot in the last couple of years!

You need to know that my mother is a hand quilter. She’s old school and likes minimal quilting. She’s not a particular fan of machine quilting, because she feels quilts aren’t as soft. So I was determined to just do some light stitch-in-the ditch quilting and give it to her.

Now we come to Lesson #4: There’s a reason why we shouldn’t be our own doctor, and the same premise applies to quilting. If anybody else had brought me such a wavy quilt, I would have explained that stitch in the ditch was not enough. There needed to be a fairly dense overall design to smash down the lumpy piecing. However, for some unknown reason, I convinced myself that this was not necessary.

Lesson #5: You can not get rid of bad piecing using stitch-in-the-ditch. You need a dense overall design. As a result, I ended up quilting this quilt twice — once for the SID, and the second time with flowers on each half-square triangle. This resulted in a lot of stitching over stitching that didn’t particularly enhance the quilt.

Overall, the quilt turned out nicely. I had to get over the fact that my piecing skills had improved a lot over the last 2 years and accept it, as well as acknowledge that my longarming could have been better. Regardless, Mom loved the quilt. This brings me to the final lesson: Quilts made with love are always beautiful.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, and to all the other mothers in cyberspace!

(If you can’t see the photos, please visit my blog at quiltnotes.wordpress.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 responses »

  1. You’re right – it turned out beautifully!! I can imagine how thrilled your mother was to receive it.

    Sue, I love the way you write. This post, in particular, had such great flow and cadence. You should submit it to Canadian Living!

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