Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dr. Quiltlove: Or How I'm Learning to Stop Worrying and Love Free Motion Quilting: Day 5

Welcome to my Dr. Quiltlove series, where I'm rambling waxing poetic on how you might overcome some fear and machine quilt some of those tops you have sitting around your house. In case you've missed the past couple of days, here's a quick recap:
Day 1: 10 minutes
Day 2: Getting to know you 
Day 3: Finding courage
Day 4: It gets easier

Like I mentioned the other day, when I first started machine quilting, I essentially quilted in a pseudo-vacuum. I wasn't following blogs, I wasn't really going to any guild meetings, I didn't have the time or money to go to quilt shows (grad school, anyone?), and the only other machine quilter I knew was my mother, who loved everything I did and encouraged me like crazy, no matter how ugly and uneven my stitches actually were. So I didn't have the opportunity to compare my first machine quilted piece to an expert longarmer's most recent masterpiece.

Quilt blogs are great. I love them and can't imagine my crafty life without them now. I know that sounds cheesetastic, but it's true. They're a great source of inspiration and information, but they can also be dangerous if you're insecure about your abilities. Take the pictures and text with a grain of salt. Don't let the pictures of the perfect stitches and smooth arcs paralyze you with doubt and insecurity. Most bloggers, quilters and otherwise, aren't going to divulge the ugliest bits of their lives. I'm not criticizing them for it - I get that, and I'm the same way. But I have to remind myself of it sometimes when I catch myself feeling inadequate or small when I read other quilt blogs.


I don't go to the SuperQuilters' blogs thinking that I should be quilting designs that look just like theirs. I've come to terms with the fact that it's impossible and not what I want for my quilting anyways. I go to the SuperQuilters' blogs looking for something that strikes me and  that I can practice and incorporate into my next quilt. I look at their quilting designs and try to break them down into basic shapes and lines. Then I make those designs my own.

Writing in Cursive

I like to compare free motion quilting to handwriting. Thinking back to elementary school - my first letters were pretty rough. And even after years of handwriting lessons where I meticulously formed each line, my neat handwriting didn't look exactly like my teachers' handwriting. Free motion quilting is the same way. The first few attempts will probably be rough, but if you keep practicing, you'll find your own groove and interpretation of someone else's design. The concentric circles pattern from the Joy quilt is unique. Yes, that design was most definitely inspired by a design in Angela's book, but even if I practice this particular design for months or even years, my circles will still be unique from hers because I made them - she didn't. That's one of the benefits of free motion quilting. You get to put your own spin on each design. If you're aiming to make an exact replica of someone else's quilting design, you should probably start saving your pennies for one of those programmable quilting machines.
Ben & Jerry's Snickerdoodle Cookie

Tip #5: Stop comparing yourself to others. It never ends well - usually with a pint of Ben and Jerry's, topped off with some self-pity chocolate syrup. Pin or bookmark what you like, and look for ways to incorporate those elements into your own craftiness.

With that, I am stepping down off my blogger soapbox and bringing my Dr Quiltlove series to a close (for now). I hope it's been useful! It's certainly felt good to get all that off my chest.


  1. Great post Megan. I do plan to try new things on some smaller projects. Keep up the great inspiration ; )

  2. I just had to let you know how much I'm enjoying this ride-along with you! It seems I am at about where you are in learning this craft and have to let out the occasional chuckle as I can relate to many of your comments. Thanks for the sense of humor and gentle prodding!

  3. I just signed up to follow your blog - looks like you are doing a lot of the same stuff I am! FMQ (although I do mine on a big frame with a little machine) and I'm looking for projects to do with the new moda mini charms - some of your "just one charm pack" tutorials look perfect! Thanks