For us less-than-perfect quilters, the only way to learn how to quilt is to spend time quilting. Lectures, magazines and tutorials are wonderful — and they do help improve our skills — but there’s no substitute for sitting at a sewing machine. The same holds true learning how to use the longarm.
Every time I go to shows, I hear stories about people who bought their longarm machine and immediately started to quilt for customers. This amazes me. My first year’s worth of quilts were … um … let’s just say learning experiences that I wouldn’t want to inflict on a customer.
This red and white quilt is the first large quilt I did on my longarm. The piecing was decent. I had a beautiful red and white backing. There was a guild challenge coming up and I was determined to enter this quilt. I can’t remember the details of how I squared up the back (because it certainly was not square). However, when I took the quilt off the longarm, the back had some major pleats. I was devastated. I’d ruined the quilt because I’d skipped a crucial step of properly preparing the backing. Needless to say, the quilt did not make it to the guild challenge. I shoved it in a storage bin and tried to forget about it.
Is there a happy ending to this story? Actually, yes. First of all, my teenage daughter loves the quilt and it now has a good home in her bedroom. This quilt taught me the importance of squaring up the back fabric, so that pleating has not been a problem in future quilts. I’ve also used this quilt in lectures to show others the importance of a square backing. Finally, it made me realize that I could only concentrate on so many new things at once — until this quilt, my focus was largely on getting good tension — and that it was okay to have some fumbles on my road to being a quilter.
A year later, I just finished a large quilt. The back turned out beautifully and it hangs straight. I can now look at this red and white quilt and feel thankful for the lessons it taught me.
(If you can’t see this photo, please visit my blog at quiltnotes.wordpress.com.)