Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Because If I Refuse to Quit, I Just Might Learn Something

Some years ago I took a machine quilting class with a wonderful local teacher (Hi Libby!) who taught the basics, but also gave an overview of drafting feathers. Well, I had been machine quilting for years, but I was self taught and doubtful about being able to do feathers so I never even tried it beyond the few exercises I did in class.

Last year I travelled to take a class with Harriet Hargrave. Her two day workshop on machine quilting was very good and I'm glad I took the class, but the most important thing I learned had nothing to do with quilting. I'm not sure I remember the statistic exactly and I'm too lazy to look it up in a notebook from a year ago, but it's approximately close enough:

It takes the average adults more than 70 tries to learn a new skill.
Most American adults quit after 12 tries.

I'm not sure why that lesson stuck, but it sure did. I decided I wasn't ever going to let myself quit until I tried something a WHOLE bunch of times. At least 70. In 2007 I wanted to quilt free form feathers into a piece I was going to submit to the ECQG show. After taking a mini-lesson with my resident expert Pam, I went home and grabbed a huge stack of scrap paper. At least 50 pages and using a pencil I filled every inch of every page with free form feathers. I spent the next few days on this "homework" alone.

My first few feathers were ugly. They looked like toes. I couldn't get a continuous line design going. I had trouble remembering which way to turn. But it was only scrap paper and pencil. It was okay. By page 50 I had an idea of how I really wanted my feathers in this quilt to look, but the space I needed to quilt was hardly a blank piece of paper. It was a border with applique motifs I would have to work around.

I took my quilt top to the local copy shop and photocopied a corner of it. I decided 25 copies might be enough. Then I sat and put paper to pencil, again. After about the 10th sheet I began to have a real sense of how I could approach the quilting. I also tried different motifs for the centers of the stars in the corners. Did I want a wreath? A heart? Finally I decided a single diagonally oriented feather was best.

Finally, after almost a week of paper practice it was time to take it to the machine. I had done these designs so often I felt confident I knew what I wanted. I used chalk to barely mark where the spines would go, but I didn't worry about staying on the line exactly. I worked with mono-fil which is my favorite machine quilting thread for this kind of work.

Ultimately I was really pleased with the outcome.

I've taken this same approach to Kay's Glorified 9-Patch quilt:


Catherine said...

Wow! I'm impressed!! I can't even manage free motion quilting so, to me, your feathers are absolutely amazing!

loulee1 said...

Yay! You did it. Cute feathers. I'll have to have another go now.

Caryn said...

Your quilting is beautiful! I have to learn to have that much patience!

Scrappy Cat said...

WOW! All that practice really paid off - the feathers are beautiful and so is the quilt.

I understand about feathers looking like toes - that's what mine look like. Guess I haven't done them 70 times yet!

Marlene said...

Your hard work really paid off! Your machine quilting is absolutely beautiful! Practice makes perfect! Thanks for the inspiration.

Teresa said...

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful work. My biggest problem with free motion quilting is getting the bobbin tension right and I am just about to give up on that. So you have inspired me to keep trying - but I can't even get to feathers until I can get that tension to look good!

Nana's Quilts said...

70 tries, heh? Well thanks for that info. I will just keep at it. And using paper and pencil first - that's great. Gets the mind and hand going in the same direction.

Thanks. You've inspired me.

Beth said...

Feathers are awesome! I do agree with that mentality. I refused to give up learning to quilt...made some "interesting" ones, but now I can actually follow a pattern. Good advice.

BTW, Welcome to the quilt studio ring!