I may deserve the title “slowest sewist” where my English Paper Piecing (EPP) projects are concerned. My Ice Cream Soda blocks still languish, untouched in over a year. The La Passacaglia quilt I want to make is still just a kit of tiny papers. But after two years of a stitch here and a stitch there, I finished my last mandolin block!
I forgot that I started with an extra set of papers, so I’ve got 21 blocks instead of the needed 20 to make a quilt top. That’s fine with me, because there were one or two that I wondered about while stitching them, so I can leave the worst one out. I shared the first 13 of them about a year ago. The remaining 8 I stitched in the tiny cracks in life’s transitions, and sharing them also fell through the cracks.
Still, with the last mandolin block done, I can now start on the filler blocks. I could/should have been making them along the way, but I just never prepped the pieces for them. That’s my biggest holdup with EPP: the prepping! I put it off and then do it in huge batches so I can sew for a long time without doing it again.
I promised myself I can start on a La Passacaglia quilt after I’ve proven to myself that I will actually finish an entire EPP quilt. Additionally, I started following @alewivesfabrics on Instagram a while ago. They post amazing Lucy Boston blocks every week. I might have purchased some papers to make a few of those blocks as well. That makes four EPP projects in my sewing room, but I resisted a couple others that also appealed to me. I guess it’s time to cut and glue my filler blocks so I can get started. I’m at the point that I’m not sure I’ll love my mandolin quilt. I hope I end up happy with it!
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.
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!