Category Archives: Quilting and Sewing

I Took a Risk and Here’s What I Learned

Making something is both an exhilarating creative endeavor and an exercise in failure.  I’ve experienced both, and I’m sure you have, too.  Creativity is also an incredibly healthy outlet.  It’s healing and in my head I understand it is the process, the experience that matters most.  But in real life?  In real life I sometimes catch myself acting like it’s about perfection.  Last month I pulled out a quilt top that I never quilted because my skills didn’t seem equal to the beauty of the design.  I basted it.  And then I took a risk and here’s what I learned:

I learned that my best effort is just fine.

I did my own free motion quilting on this 88″ square quilt.  It’s big and heavy and the blocks are very large.  I made a lot of mistakes, especially on the straight lines.  Although I did my best to follow the lines in the stripes, it’s wobbly.  But I figured out a thread path for all the orange peel quilting in the hourglass borders and the block centers.  I did it!  And in doing it, I got better.  While I slowly improved and stitched my way around the quilt, I also finished a beautiful quilt.

As I quilted this, I found myself thinking about all the times I told myself I’d ruin it if I tried to quilt it myself.  I realize now that the only thing holding me back was my self-talk.  Of course I made mistakes!  But it still looks great!  And its usefulness is unchanged by its flaws.

It made me wonder about other areas in life where I’m telling myself I’m not good enough.  Honestly, quilting is very low-stakes.  There’s a lot more at risk in other areas of life.  Why hold back with fabric?  Where else am I choosing to play small because I think I’m not enough?  Why bow to fear?  What if I found a way to dismiss those words “I shouldn’t because I’m not good enough” every time they enter my thoughts?

One thing is for sure, I’m going after this false idea in my creative work.  And I’m going to take it to everyday life with more determination.  The things we tell ourselves matter.  If you’re holding back somewhere for fear you’re not good enough, get started.  We all have to experience the gap between beginning and mastery.  But your best effort is just fine.  It’s the only way to improve.  I took a risk and I learned.  You will, too.  And remember: beauty has absolutely NOTHING to do with perfection.



Irish Chain Quilt Blocks

Anyone who knows me well won’t be at all surprised that I chose blue and white for a two-color Irish Chain quilt.  I joined a sew-along to make this, although I’ve worked on it in fits and starts, and never on schedule.  I might be behind, but I’ve got a beautiful stack of Irish Chain quilt blocks to share with you today!

There’s a funny story behind this quilt.  Last summer I walked into a beautiful shop and found the last of a bolt of lovely blue voile on clearance for $5/yard.  It’s my blue, my current favorite blue at least, like the blue background of my Lucky Lone Star quilt.  I bought the rest of it and smiled all the way home.  A day or two later I was visiting an online quilt shop in search for an older fabric.  As I looked through the clearance page, I noticed a solid white lawn fabric on sale for $2.99/yard.  I bought the rest of it and thought, “maybe I’ll make an Irish Chain summer quilt with the voile and the lawn”.  True story!

I’ve had the two fabric cuts sitting together ever since.  Then January rolled around and I noticed a sew along for a two color Irish Chain quilt by Amber at Gigi’s Thimble.  I had exactly enough fabric to make a queen sized quilt top.  This will become a summer quilt for my bed.  Voile and lawn can be a bit slippery to sew with, but I haven’t had any trouble with them.  They are lightweight and beautiful and I’m so excited to finish this quilt.

The alternate Irish chain quilt blocks aren’t quite finished, but they’re close.  Sewing them all together will be quick and simple.  I have found this project, and the organization of Amber’s sew-along to be very easy to follow and not hard to catch up on.  If you’ve wanted to make one, check it out, and you can start late like I did!

20 in 20 February Report

At last I am here, with a 20 in 20 February Report to share!  I’m a week late with this report, but the daily 20 in 20 Challenge sewing continues.   February brought a particularly fun opportunity:  I attended QuiltCon for the first time with my sister and a few good friends.  I got sick promptly upon returning home, however, and so I’m writing my report today instead of last Monday.  Life.  It’s tricky sometimes, right?

In February I began to see some results from my twenty minute sewing sessions.  I finished a quilt top, which I took to have quilted.  I also spent some time finishing up a few projects, mostly by quilting and binding.  That means more purple made it’s way into my HRT blocks, and there’s also some red to be seen, the result of joining a sew along.

I sewed my blocks for both January and February into the long rows that will comprise my 20 in 20 quilt, so now I have the first two rows of the quilt.  I love how colorful it is!

My biggest challenge seems to be photography at this point.  It was a dreary month, with bad lighting.  There never seemed to be a good time to take pictures when I had someone around who could hold quilts for me.  This means I have a stack of finished quilts waiting for photos so I can share them.  Perhaps I need to set a goal for taking photos?

Now, for my 20 in 20 February Report regarding creative routine.  It was not a month of solid routine in our home, which made it difficult to construct my days the way I hope to.  I keep reminding myself that it takes time to do this, to be patient, and enjoy the journey.  Just keep sewing, right?  It has felt like a hard winter, emotionally, for our family.  I really hope that spring comes early and that we feel a lift.

I’m enjoying one benefit from my daily sewing.  It’s called “accessibility.”  Because I am returning every day to my sewing room, even for a few minutes at a time, it stays accessible.  I don’t have to spend precious time every day getting my head back into sewing.  It’s still in my mind and is easy to simply get started.  I have noticed a decrease in the amount of time it takes for me to get going and feel productive, even if I sew for less than twenty minutes.  This has been true for both hand sewing and sewing at my machine.  I’m really excited about this part of my experience.

I recently read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.  I HIGHLY recommend reading it.  And re-reading it.  (We’re passing it around our family now.)  One great principle he teaches is called the Two-Minute Rule which states that when you start a new habit, it should take two minutes to do.”  The idea behind this is that the habit is the action that, if you do it, guarantees a certain thing will follow.  He used the idea of working out.  For him, the habit isn’t the workout, it’s changing into workout clothes.  When he does that two minute habit, it guarantees that he will work out.  If he changes clothes, it will happen; if he doesn’t, it won’t.

Interestingly, I realized that my own workout habit starts the same way.  If I get dressed to work out while my kids get ready for school, I always do it.  If I don’t, I usually don’t work out.  My habit is also a two minute one:  putting on my workout clothes.  This has made me think about my sewing habits.  The habit isn’t the sewing, it’s what gets me to sew.  As I mentioned last month, typically it’s remembering that this is my goal.  What I want to do is create a two-minute habit that always precedes sewing.

In fact, I’ll probably refer to this habit, when I fine-tune it, as a ritual.  I want it to be something that helps me slip into creativity and focus faster and with less effort.  So here I am, two months in, and finally figuring out that what I need is a two minute habit to start things off!  But there’s another reminder in the same chapter:  STANDARDIZE BEFORE YOU OPTIMIZE.  Good counsel.  I can’t improve a habit I don’t have, so the key is always to start, and then to optimize it for best results.  I think I’m on the right track!


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