Sunday, September 13, 2015


Have you ever looked at your quilt and said, "I wish I had done that differently.  I have such a good idea, but it didn't come to me soon enough.  I wish...., but not enough to take it out and do it over."  Every now and then you might have that opportunity for improvement, but I guarantee you will not be happy at first.

I have been quilting along on my Phoenix bird, but I looked at it differently when I laid it out and showed it to my daughter.  The bird is beautiful by itself.  The rest of the quilt looks and feels like warped cardboard.  Oh dear!  This is not going to be good enough to show and none of my photos show how bad it is.  I can't imagine it blocking out.  It won't even be good enough to give to my sweet granddaughter who drew the design.  Realization.  Devastation.  Destruction of denial.

I have been going through past issues of Machine Quilting Unlimited, and serendipitously came across an article by Jayne Bentley Gaskins, "Taking Trapunto to the Limit." I looked at it months ago, but forgot it completely because it didn't apply to my quilting plans at that moment.  She made a beautiful parrot, but she thread painted it separately then appliquéd it to the background by thread painting the edges down so they melded with the previous work on the bird.  She also stuffed the bird heavily (trapunto) with polyfill so it sticks out significantly from the quilt.  One of her points was that the heavy thread painting dramatically shrinks the fabric, which is exactly what happened to me.  I knew that would happen, but thought I had prepared for it adequately with two layers of stabilizer.  Instead, I was left with an unmanageable volume of fabric around the edges so I quilted the background heavily, which took up the excess, but the whole thing ripples like a bad storm at sea.  On the sewing machine it looked ok.  Laid out on a flat surface it is hopeless.

TIP:  Sometimes there is only so much you can do before it is time to throw in the towel, but what a great opportunity to rectify mistakes and make a truly magnificent quilt.  Wipe away the tears and start planning.  Maybe you'll feel better if you move on to a new project, but do move on.  None of us is perfect.

I had to accept that I now have an opportunity to fine tune the quilt and try some new methods.  My cup is quickly moving from half empty to half full and I am ready with new plans.  I thought I could cut out the bird (batting and all) and thread paint the edges down to a new, fully quilted background, so I tried it on one of the old testers that I had laying around.  The bared edges flaunted the layer of white batting.  Ick!

Cut out feathers
OK, how about painting the edges with Inktense pencils?  Great idea.  So I tried it out:

Painted edges.
Better, but not great.  Next I tried stitching the feathers (with painted edges) to another tester piece, which was layered for quilting, and fooled around with some stitching.  Ah, that looks pretty good with just a straight stitch run back an forth along the edges.

Stitched down
Not bad.  DH liked it and so did I.  So...I sat down and cut out the whole bird trying to avoid cutting stitches on the outside edges.  I did cut a few, but figured I could fix that when I stitched the bird down, but then I found another problem.  The back neck of the bird looked like he had been slammed by a rock and had a major bump.  The black backing was also badly frayed after being handled so much.  That's when I threw in the towel.

I ordered light weight canvas and Misty Fuse and I am ready to start completely over.  I will fuse fabric pieces for the feathers to the canvas and thread paint the bird.  I still have to work out the potential of heavy fraying with canvas and how to handle it.  I will do all the quilting for the background separately from the thread painting.  I will then cut out the bird and appliqué it onto the "finished" quilt.  I am already excited about it.  I kept all my pattern pieces and guides so I am ready to go.  With all that done, plus many hours of practice at thread painting I am optimistic that all will go well and faster than first time around.  I've got my mother's bulldog gene!

TIP:  Practice may not make perfect, but it will make better.  I am counting on that.

An apropos quote from "Art and Fear" by David Bayles and Ted Orland:"
"The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars....even the failed pieces are essential"
Sew a happy seam this week.


  1. Fails are the best teachers. Good luck

  2. This post is such a great teaching tool. It is rare to see "fails", even though everyone must have them. It's good to remind us that these failures teach us so much, and more than a few of us need to be reminded that a bit of bulldog in us is a good thing. Use it for good, not evil. He he!

  3. Rather like working in a series - the "I should have...", or "next time I would..." thoughts push us forward to the next piece. Good luck with your next experiment!
    (And, what an excellent quote. "Even the failed pieces are essential." Thanks for this encouraging reminder!)

  4. Wow! You've done so much more than I think I could have managed. I'm so glad you have a battle plan for this and can't wait to see the finish!

  5. I like to read how you do not give up. I wil think of that when I make mistakes or had to work out problems.Thanks for sharing. Love to see your bird finished.

  6. I really enjoyed reading your journey with this quilt. I hope you've got all the kinks worked out now and trial number two is much smoother. It's inspirational and humbling to remember each failure is merely a stepping stone on our journey.