Let go of perfection to achieve perfection!
This is the advice I have been giving the members of “Ahead of the Curve” this week. They are learning to free-motion quilt with Leaves Galore. I’d like to share these same words of wisdom with you.
Study the MASTERS! Watching someone quilt is no substitute for doing it yourself! However, learning from someone else’s experience will give you a head start on Free Motion Quilting. Artists study the masters…Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Michelangelo. You can study “The Masters” of machine quilting on your path to mastering this technique yourself! Who are the Masters? People just like you who have practiced a whole lot. Look for Angela Walters, Natalia Bonner and Patsy Thompson on Youtube!
Let Yourself be a BEGINNER! Picasso didn’t start out where he ended. He was a student for many years, studying drawing, painting in all mediums, and painting all different subjects and styles before he created his own very unique look. As you develop your own quilting style, you can learn all you can from the masters and put those ideas and skills into your practice. There is no substitute for your own FMQ experience. Don’t expect to go from zero to 60 in one sitting! Let yourself be a beginner and progress through the stages of learning.
I have challenged my students to work 21 minutes a day on their quilt goals (For me, it usually turns into twice or three times that!) Why not make one day a week your FMQ day and spend 21 minutes THIS MONDAY making a FMQ quilt sandwich. Anytime you have a few minutes, practice on that piece. You will watch your skills grow daily!
Practice on something you don’t care about, a printed panel to practice outlining, or a sandwich made of muslin to practice fillers. In this week’s “Ahead of the Curve Technique Video,” we are practicing feathers, so I made a striped quilt sandwich with some leftover batik strips and black fabric. This gave me a great place to play with drawing feathers!
The sandwich was made with four strips of black fabric 6 ½” x 22” and three strips of colored fabrics, 3” x 22”. You could use leftover strips in any size and any color to practice, but keep the fabrics plain, not too busy. You need to see your successes and your mistakes! Use a remnant of batting and a solid backing. Fuse the three layers together so you don’t have to work around safety pins or basting stitches. Use your walking foot (or practice FMQ in the ditch) to secure the three layers together and practice stitching in the ditch along the seam lines.
Knowing where you are going is half the battle! Guidelines and a good plan before you sit down to FMQ takes the stress out of quilting. Draw your designs (or at least part of the design) before you quilt. In time, you will be able to come up with the shapes as you quilt, but if you are a beginner/intermediate FM quilter, you need a plan.
Let go of Perfectionism: Some quilters never get past “practice mode”. Are you so afraid of making a mistake that you never move from a practice piece to a real quilt? If this sounds familiar, it is time to let go of perfectionism and realize that “Perfect” never gets finished. Do the best you can and move on. You will improve with every project.
Let yourself make mistakes. Keep a FMQ sandwich handy before you start FMQuilting for the day. Spend 5-10 minutes getting in the flow on the sample before moving to an actual quilt project, every single time! Even after you are confident, it takes a few minutes to get back into the rhythm and you WILL make mistakes!
When I jump back into a filler design, for example, I need to match the scale and pattern to what I did the day before. Do this on a practice piece. Work out the size, the path, the strategy before you put a stitch on your real quilt.
Once you are on the real quilt project, accept that there will be mistakes. I have a policy of never ripping out stitches. If you make a mistake, just move on. Try to find that mistake after you have finished the quilt. If you can easily find it, rip it out. If it is hard to find…just ignore it.
Graciously accept Compliments: It’s pretty annoying when you are enjoying music and someone points out a wrong note. When you walked through a friend’s beautiful flower garden, did she point out the weeds? Now your eye is drawn right to the weed instead of looking at the gorgeous roses, smelling their sweet fragrance, and watching the butterflies hover from flower to flower.
Don’t be the one to ruin someone else’s enjoyment of your quilt by pointing out the tiny flaw. Noone will know but you! Just nod your head, smile, and say, “Thank You! I enjoyed making it!”
Note from Sue: My word of the year is GRACE. I will work this year on being more gracious when accepting compliments!
Last words of wisdom, BREATHE! It is important to stay relaxed so your designs will flow and you will feel better while quilting. I remember FMQuilting at a retreat one time and my friend Kathy came over and told me to relax. I visibly tense up my shoulders, my face and my neck when I quilt…and she could see the stress it was causing! Now, I quilt with Kathy on my shoulder saying, “Quilting is supposed to be fun!”
I keep reminding myself to sit up straight, drop my shoulders, lengthen my neck, and put a soft smile on my face when quilting! Most of all, BREATHE! Yoga practice can help you with body awareness as you sit and sew.
If you don’t have a yoga practice to draw from, let me perch on your shoulder as you quilt and say, “Relax any tension in your body, let go of perfection, and have some fun!”
It is time to stop saying, “I can’t machine quilt” and start saying, ‘I’m learning to Machine Quilt!’
A great place to start is with the online course “Inner Circle”. In this online workshop, members of Ahead of the Curve cut and fuse circles and circle rings. Then we piece the small quilt top, layer, fuse baste, and practice Free Motion Machine Stitching.
If you missed this workshop, it is available in the Platinum Leaf Membership, or watch for it again in 2021!!