Friday, February 11, 2011

Finished Scrap Quilt, or Another Stop on my Journey Away from the Pursuit of Perfection

I'd like to introduce you to my first scrap quilt EVER. All the prints came from my bin of dark 2.5" strips. Most of the strips are leftover from backing and border fabrics. I don't think any of them come from the same collection. Even the batting was pieced together from some large pieces of leftover Warm and Natural. It makes me feel all Ma Ingalls and stuff when I think how I worked with what I had (mostly) to pull off this project.
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Making a scrap quilt was actually one of my 2010 resolutions. I didn't technically finish this quilt last year, but the bulk of the work did happen in 2010.

Honestly, I have lots of mixed feelings about this quilt.

On the positive side:
  • The colors aren't related at all, but they all seem to blend together really well. 
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  • The pattern for this quilt was really easy and did NOT require any special templates or rulers. This tutorial is pretty much the process I used to make the pattern. 
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  • It's quite snuggly and has been the perfect addition to our couch this winter.
  • The backing. It's so quirky, compared to most of my other backings - it includes all the leftover blocks I didn't use on top, some leftover border fabric from the top, and some leftover fabric from the border on this quilt. I love it!
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On the negative side:
  • Everything kind of fell apart as I quilted it.
  • I decided to try straight-line quilting for the first time, and instead of doing something reasonable, like a large-scale grid pattern that maybe followed the seams, I decided to use the width of my presser foot as my guide and do a bigajillion lines across the center of the quilt. It looks nice on the front - kind of a corduroy-like effect, but the pressure on my presser foot was a little too high, so the backing is a little (read: quite a bit) warped. 
  • The quilting around the border - eh, not quite how I planned it. Let's leave it at that.
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I'm sad to say that the list could go on and on and on, with lots of issues the quilt police would no doubt tsk-tsk over. At some points in the quilting process, self-doubt crept in like whoa. I was so ashamed that I didn't even want to show the finished product on my blog. Soooo many things went wrong that really shouldn't have gone wrong, considering I've been quilting my own quilts for a few years now. I vowed that if I ever finished this blasted project, I would throw it in a pillowcase, shove it in the back of one of the linen closets, and hopefully never see it again until I have to pack up and move out of the house. Yeah, that's where I was with this quilt.
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Do you ever get to that point in a project? 

I could have spent hours and hours ripping out stitches and re-quilting it, but that's not my style, and seriously, do you see all those stitches?!?. It took me a few weeks, but I finally came around. I finished the binding, threw it on the couch and started using it pretty much every night to keep warm. Slowly, I realized that when I'm freezing cold, the ridges in the backing, the crooked wavy edges, and the corner where I ran out of batting don't really matter all that much. In fact, you can't. even. tell. that my quilt is impossibly warped unless you turn on all the lights in the room and look for those specific problems.

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Sorry this post has devolved into an episode of Dr. Phil. I'm not sharing all this background drama and angst to fish for compliments, honestly I'm not. If I wrote a sunshine and roses post about this quilt and how fun (!) and exciting (!) and awesome (!) it was to make, it wouldn't be a truthful portrayal of my experience with this project. There might or might not have been lots of adult language flying around the sewing room as I wrestled with this quilt. Seriously, there were some nights that it sounded like a Martin Scorsese film in the sewing room.

It also wouldn't really be true to the name and hopefully, the spirit of my blog to hide the "learning process" quilts. I realized pretty early in my so-called quilting journey that I would never make the perfect quilt. Even with my trusty 1/4" foot, there's going to be at least one crooked seam somewhere in my quilt - THAT's the beauty and unique-ness of a handmade product, in my opinion. I try not to use this realization as an excuse to be sloppy and irresponsible, but it has definitely helped me loosen up a bit and enjoy the creative process, instead of obsessing over the mistakes. This quilt fits into the spirit of my blog fairly perfectly.

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In summary, this quilt is not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's grown on me. It was definitely a humbling project to work on and made me realize that "winging it" and hoping that everything comes out alright in the end sometimes involves some frustration (and unladylike language) along the way. In the end, I think the things I love about this quilt are outweighing the arduous quilting process that led to the finished product. It's definitely left me with a resolve to continue improving my machine quilting skills. If anything, maybe I appreciate the quilt more because of all the angst it caused - you know, kind of like the mothers who talk about how much they appreciate the sweet moments with their "difficult" children.

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I guess the moral of this long, rambling story is to try to look PAST the mistakes in your projects and appreciate both how much you've accomplished AND how much you can still learn and grow in the awesome hobby of quilting. Even the quilts with horrendously offensive mistakes can still be beautiful, useful, and appreciated.

Today's episode of Dr. Phil: Quilting Edition was brought to you...

Update: Oops, I forgot to add that I'm linking up to Sarah's Weekly Whoop Whoop!

16 comments:

  1. I'm glad that you finished the quilt anyway, and didn't just shove it in the closet. I have quilts that I could really have picked apart, then others that I never really liked.

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  2. Wow! I LOVE the quilt and I'm so glad I'm not the only one that gets frustrated with quilting. I haven't even walked into my sewing room since Tuesday because of my frustration.

    Whoop-whoop to you for the finish and the process. It's nice to know that those who aren't newbies still make mistakes. It makes me feel better about my frustrations as I'm still pretty new to the entire process. =)

    Your quilt is GORGEOUS! I'm so glad you are now enjoying it.

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  3. I love your quilt, Megan! It's really beautiful, and from a distance, none of the "deficiencies" are obvious. I'm totally in awe of your patience to "corduroy" quilt the entire center! Just remember, the best quilts are those you learn something from!! Whoop whoop!! Thanks for linking up!!

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  4. This quilt is not what I'm use to seeing you do! Definitely has your mark on it. Looks great, I'm just surprised to see you cut loose a little. Bring it to show and tell so I can see the quilting you've compained about.

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  5. The quilt looks wonderful to me. I love the cordoroy-effect quilting, I want to do that on a quilt someday! And I can't see any of the imperfections. But I know exactly how you feel and can relate to the frustrations. I'm glad you came around on this one. I'll take homemade and quirky over boring mass-produced "perfection" any day.

    Thanks for keeping it real. : )

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  6. I didn't see one, that's right not one mistake! Honest:) THAT is the beauty of quilting my friend and ALSO if it makes it through the washer and dryer without coming apart---you my friend are PERFECTLY fine!!! Keep on quilting!!!

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  7. You are way too hard on yourself! The quilt is lovely...the quilting and the scrappy fabrics give it a vintagy feel that is just perfect!

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  8. megan, i think you aren't alone with your feelings...i think it's extra depressing when something begins in your head so perfectly and then the reality kicks in.
    btw, i just LOVE your quilting! it's awesome and respect to you for all the work you did!
    i hope you will come to love your quilt not DESPITE the 'imperfections' but BECAUSE OF them. it makes it yours. it makes it unique.
    and the best part - i'm sure you've learned a lot along the way!
    hugs, julia

    p.s. i couldn't even see the 'mistakes' with my tired eyes!

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  9. As my MIL says if you can't see it from the broad side of a galloping horse you are just fine!

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  10. I like how you think:) If I learn from the process, then it's all good.

    It's a beautiful quilt whether it's perfect or not!

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  11. The corduroy effect is very novel! I was intrigued to keep reading to find out how much time it must have taken. Those scraps turned into something so lovely and a lesson too! How good is that?

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  12. I did the same thing on a quilt of mine. I took on a quilting task that was too much for me and the "perfect" in me forced me to finish as I cursed every blasted line. However, quilting the quarter inch like you did turned out to be a neat effect that I have copied a few times, so not to be afraid. Your quilt is gorgeous!

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  13. You did a great job and I love the way it is quilting. I think you should be very proud of yourself.

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  14. I think it looks amazing, and I'm so glad it didn't wind up in the closet! A very wise quilter once told me "finished is better than perfect". Words to live by, in my humble opinion!

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  15. This quilt is great - it's where you're quilting is at now, you've learned a few things from it and, best of all....
    IT'S DONE!! Celebrate its completion and enjoy it - thanks for taking a risk and sharing it.

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  16. I just love it. I was telling my daughter just the other day that I could not wait for canning season to end and quilting season to begin. I have tons of scrap and this would be a great way to use them up. You have inspired me. And the back, oh wow, I never thought of making my own backing out of scraps also. Way to go. Mind if I kinda tag along behind you great quilters? Maybe I will learn more cool new things.

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