I’ll first start by saying that I know this quilt isn’t terrible. In fact, I love it now! But I didn’t always….
Let me show you how I turned something I felt ashamed of (and didn’t even want to finish) into something I’ll cherish for years to come.
For years I had dreams of making a glorious, amazingly-scrappy quilt using all Bonnnie & Camille fabrics. In 2016 I purchased a charm pack from seven separate fabric lines and set them aside hoping to someday make a Snippets quilt. The fabrics are from Miss Kate through Handmade, in case you were wondering… ?
In 2017 Meg @thebaconandmegssews hosted a Snippets Quilt Along on Instagram and I KNEW this would be the push I needed to get to work on my dream quilt. I downloaded the pattern and started following along with the QAL, making the required blocks… for a few weeks. About half of the blocks were completed when I fell off the wagon and put all the pieces away… for over a year.
I don’t remember what spurred me back into action, but in the summer of 2018 I picked up the pieces and started making the remainder blocks. During this time, I had misplaced my copy of the pattern and decided I didn’t need to reference it, because it seemed so simple.
…Are you sensing the foreshadowing of doom here?
How NOT to make quilt blocks
In my confidence, I (somehow! confusingly!) decided to trim the HST units that had not been sewn into blocks. As a result, half of my blocks turned out the wrong size. As in: 1/4 ” smaller than the other blocks in both height and width. Gargh!! Why didn’t I track down that pattern and at least GLANCE at it before I assembled an additional 252 HST and hour glass units into 28 blocks?? What was I THINKING!?
But here’s an interesting twist: I didn’t realize the blocks were different sizes until I had sewed some blocks into rows (because some of the rows were made up entirely of “correct” sized blocks or “not-so-correct-sized-blocks”). When I laid out the different sized rows on my design floor, I was initially confused… Why were they not matching up at ALL? Can you even imagine what I was feeling when I realized what had happened? My stomach dropped and I started saying “No. No. Nononononono…. NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Where to go from here??
As quilt-making errors go, this was a pretty big one. Not only had I made half of the blocks the wrong size, I started sewing them into rows. If I wanted to truly fix the problem, I was going to have to:
- Unpick the rows that I had sewed
- Identify all of the blocks that had been assembled incorrectly
- Unpick all of the incorrect blocks
- Purchase seven more charm packs of fabric
- Assemble 112 new HST blocks
- Sew them back into their blocks
- And pick back up where I had left off
No way was I going to do all that! I had spent hours and hours to get this far! So what did I do? First I contemplated throwing all the blocks in the garbage and forgetting about the whole thing (did I mention how upset I was?) but then quickly came to my senses and realized how ridiculous that would be. So instead I forged ahead and tried to make the best of it.
How do you even fix a problem like this?
First, I tried to spread out the incorrect blocks so that they would not all end up in rows together. Then I ignored the fact that I was cutting off points left, right, and center. Never mind that I had spent hours carefully sewing the blocks together in order to make those points perfect – by that time, I just wanted to get the project DONE!
When I stood back and looked at the quilt top, the missing points were not very obvious. Or rather, if you looked at the quilt as a whole (and not through the critical lense of the quilt maker) they were not very obvious. And it’s true that once you assemble a quilt top of this size, you can’t help but feel like you’ve accomplished something. That gave me the strength to try and tackle the borders.
Borders: another chance to mess up!
To say that these borders ended up less than perfect is an understatement. They were definitely wavy and uneven, and when I folded up the quilt top for storage, it was clear that it was not even remotely square. Oh well! At this point I had stopped stressing about the quilt’s (many) imperfections and was eager to quilt it. Plus, it really helped that the fabric I chose for the borders is soooo pretty. Bonnie and Camille are experts at picking happy, fresh colours.
Longarming this mess
When I was first trying to learn how to use my long arm, I practiced on scrap fabric. Then I graduated to wholecloth baby quilts. I still had not perfected my technique by the time I started working on real quilt tops, but I was (ironically) grateful to have this less-than-awesome quilt top to work on. I figured I couldn’t make it any worse than it already was!
Par for the course with this project, the quilting turned out pretty flawed. At first I thought things were going well and then noticed that there were lots of problems with the stitching on the back. I ripped out a row or two, tried again, and continued to struggle with the tension. Oh well! I carried on making adjustments and finished the quilt (laughing to myself as I arrived at the bottom of the quilt and noticed how NOT-square it was). The stitches were not beautiful, but they would hold the layers together for years to come.
Side note: my understanding of my long arm machine has come a LONG way since this quilt – the quality is much better now! ?
The magic of quilting
Even though there were so many flaws along the way, I’ll admit that I gasped as I rolled it off the long arm frame.
I had done it! I had persevered through many trials and tribulations, and I had achieved my dream of creating a giant, scrappy, happy Bonnie and Camille Snippets quilt! HUZZAH! And you know what? Once I was able to see the overall quilting pattern (Marmalade, in case you were curious), the flaws seemed to disappear. All I was able to see was what I had accomplished, rather than what I had failed to complete “perfectly”.
I had transformed the quilt from something that frustrated me into something I could be proud of. I’m telling you – quilting is truly magical.
Stripey binding for the win
I squared up the quilt and used my usual binding technique of machine stitching it to the front of the quilt, then hand stitching it to the back. The bias stripes are so cheerful and happy, and add such a fun pop of colour! Plus, the corners ended up quite sharp and beautifully mitred – I love a pointy corner!
Another benefit of hand stitching the binding is that you get to spend a lot of time with your project. As I sat on the couch watching curling and stitching away, I saw alllll of the beautiful fabrics that had made their way into my project. It kept me warm on the couch as I worked on it. I was able to feel the softness of the cloth and the drape of the quilt. I fell in love with it all over again, not for what I had hoped it could become, but for what it really was: something I had created and could be proud of.
The moral of the story
I learned a lot of lessons with this project:
- We’re our own worst critics, and we should be kinder to ourselves. You probably looked at these photos and saw something beautiful, and I’m glad that I’m now able to see this project in the same light.
- Finished is better than perfect. I’m sure you’ve heard many people say this, but I had to live it to understand it. If I had left this pile of blocks in the closet, what would I have accomplished? They would make me feel ashamed instead of proud of my determination and accomplishment.
- And lastly, there is no such thing as a quilt that “isn’t good enough to send to the long arm quilter”. If I didn’t have a long arm machine in my basement, I probably would not have sent this out to be quilted. I
probablydefinitely would have though that it “wasn’t good enough”. If I had tried to quilt this myself with a domestic machine, it would have been VERY frustrating (with all those thick seams, wonky blocks, and wavy borders). I might have tried and given up, rather than having a finished project.
- If you have a quilt top that you’re not particularly proud of, I would encourage you to talk to a long arm quilter about it. I’m sure she / he has seen worse, and would be SO HAPPY to help you turn your frustrations into a quilt that you will be able to cherish for years to come. I know I’m glad I did! ?
Let me help you!
Do you have a quilt top in your closet that is currently giving you bad feelings? I can help! Please check out my long arm quilting services page to learn about the process, or visit my contact page to get in touch. Let’s discuss how we can get those tops out of the closet and into the arms of your loved ones!