Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Perfect Quilt

I am slowly reading Quilters Newsletter Magazine, one of my standby subscriptions for many years.  This is the last issue after 47 years of publication, and I am chewing on every word and savoring every picture.  I will miss this magazine so I am including a couple of quotes from this Oct-Nov 2016 issue that are pertinent to my topic.

Thomas Knauer p 40:  
"There is no such thing as a perfect quilt. In my mind the great beauty of quilts is the fact that no matter how we try to achieve perfection the materials will always resist us. Fabric stretches, thread breaks. The geometric perfection of a plan will always confront the material reality of physics."

This is such a true statement!  It is also true that imperfections are often the underpinnings of creativity.  If you read my blog regularly you may think that I spend all my time messing up.  Well, I do my fair share, but you will note that I titled my blog "Quilting Solutions."  If there were never any problems, what would I write about?

Aside from the vagaries of materials and tools, where do problems come from?
  • Ignorance.  This does not mean you are dumb or stupid.  It just means you are still learning how to sew, or how to sew quilts.  There are certain techniques that must be learned and understood in order to create a good looking quilt that will stand up to ordinary use.  Take classes, join a guild, read books, talk to more experienced quilters.
  • Lack of skill.  You haven't had the practice yet to internalize the techniques of sewing and quilting quilts. Practice, practice, practice.  Make lots of quilts.  Do lots of quilting.
  • Carelessness.  We all have our moments.   We tend to get careless when we try to work extra fast (deadline to meet?), when we get tired, when our neck hurts, when our mind wanders, when the kids are screaming.  You need to get up every so often to stretch, walk around and get a drink of water.  I have even been known to do laundry and clean house!  Nothing helps me sew better than having a clean, tidy environment - however I draw the line at fanaticism.  I raised six daughters and would have tipped over the edge if I had been a super fussy housekeeper (moderation is good).
  • Sewing Machine problems.  Sewing machines are just that:  machines.  They get dirty, parts wear out, and adjustments slip.  Learn how to keep your machine clean and lint free.  Find a reputable repair person and take it in for regular check-ups and thorough, internal cleaning and adjusting according to his recommendation.  Always treat it kindly and it will repay the favor.
  • Pattern Difficulties.  Poorly written directions.  Design flaw.  If you are working with a purchased pattern you can try to contact the designer.  She (or he) may appreciate your input.  If you design your own patterns you'll just have to ponder the flaw, talk to others, check your bookshelf and Pinterest, and ultimately you will find a creative solution.
I run into problems because I design my own quilts, make the patterns and sit down to sew.  Things don't always work as I had planned, and often I did not notice that some part of the design would not follow my directions.  I combat my lack of foresight by making testers to try out ideas.  This usually turns up a problem or two that I can solve before I start working on the quilt in earnest.   The surest way to solve problems is to make the quilt completely, solve the problems and make a second one incorporating all solutions.  Ugggh - not for me.  Usually once is enough and I am ready to move on to my next idea.

I am now planning the quilting for my spiral quilt, and have spent a lot of time drawing designs.  I have one motif that flows across two borders of contrasting shades of blue.  I was not sure how this would play out so I made a tester for....uh.....testing.  I made it big enough to incorporate the design from 1/8 of the quilt.  At the same time I previewed possible ideas for thread type and color.  I do not bother fixing minor goofs in stitching nor do I bother tying off thread on these transient endeavors.  The point of a tester is to get a general idea of what it will look like eventually.

Each motif is filled with a different shade of blue stippling.
My choice is on the left.  Ultimately they will all have the same thread. (Click to see large)
After looking at this I decided that I did not like the way the seam line cut through parts of the motif. Back to the drawing board.  I maintained the same idea, but revised it so that the seam doesn't cut anything in half.  The final design can be seen as a totality or as two separate ideas that work together.  Depends on how your brain works.  I have also used my chosen thread.

Glad I tested.  I like this now.
TIP:  Testers take time, but I have never done one that I felt was a waste of that time.  I always discover something that would look better with an adjustment.  I am sooooooo glad that I tested this design and didn't have to unstitch all the quilting or look at it the rest of my life and wish that I had.

Next problem.  I was planning to quilt the spirals with stitch-in-the-ditch only.  However, the quilting on these outer borders is very dense so I think I need to come up with some more quilting on the spirals for balance.  I started working on that as I lay in bed this morning trying to avoid throwing off the covers and facing the cold air of morning.  I call that process free motion thinking.

I leave you with another quote from the above mentioned magazine.  Pam Rocco (p 48) states,
" 'You must plan to be spontaneous.'  David Hockney, a very sensible British painter said that.  I proved it to myself by making a quilt that glows.....  That it glows is an accident, but I did plan, which is how the accident happened."            Wrap your mind around that one!!

Sew a happy seam this week.  I wish you only happy accidents.


  1. Love the points you make in this post - so true! And your practice piece could be a quilt by itself, as it's such a pretty motif. Thanks for sharing on Midweek Makers

  2. Hello Mardi

    Oh my goodness, the FMQ tester is so exact. I quite like the way it crosses two shades of blue.

    Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks!

    Love, Muv