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: