Give It What It Needs

One of my objections to some of the quilting establishment is that every single thing about a quilt is supposed to be “perfect”—meaning made to the specifications of the current quilt maven, whoever (s)he may be.  I once signed up for a series of classes that lead through many quilting techniques to the ULTIMATE QUILTING ACHIEVEMENT: a quilt with many tiny pieces cut on the bias, all points perfectly matched!

I did make some quilts I liked in those classes! Design by Cindy Williams

Part way through the class I realized that, for me, learning to make everything more precise was not an enjoyable activity.  I quilt for my own satisfaction, and my version of fun involves developing designs rather than copying somebody else’s design as precisely as possible.  In fact, even when I buy a pattern, I rarely follow it exactly.  My “variations” on these patterns are a (friendly) joke among my quilting buddies: “Mary can’t just make the pattern, she has to change something.”

modern quilt design

I substituted one large block for 4 of the small ones.  

My goal is to give each task the time and energy it deserves, no more and no less.  For example, I think doing a quilt binding the traditional way, by hand, is a waste of time and energy in many cases.  A machine-applied binding is more durable, faster, and at least as attractive.  I even read one modern quilter’s opinion that a machine binding “adds an extra line of quilting on the back!”  So much for the quilt maven’s worry that the machine stitching from the front shows on the back!  I do occasionally apply a binding by hand, but there has to be a reason for it.

Lombard Street quilt pattern

I applied this binding by hand in the traditional way because I didn’t want machine stitching on the front to “fight” with the striped border

So what’s your opinion?  Which quilting techniques/designs/details are worth the trouble and which should be modified?  Leave me a comment!

24 thoughts on “Give It What It Needs

  1. I like the idea of adding a personal touch to a pattern. I think of it as collaborating with another artist. Sometimes the change is made by “accident”; sometimes it just my interpretation.
    I had never thought of Maxine binding, since I always thought it was a no-no. I might give it a try if I think the quilt benefits from another line. Thanks for sharing this. I always learn something from your posts.

  2. I think that we should always strive to do our best in whatever we do. Attention to stitching lines and seam allowances do make for a well aligned quilt. However, if points don’t exactly match up, oh well. Quality construction is more important to me.

    As far as changing designs, that to me is just artistic expression. I actually worry about the people who never think outside of the box. Conformity, to me, is boring. JMO.

    You mentioned machine binding and how you think it is at least as attractive as hand stitching the binding, well I have to say you have never seen my machine bindings, LOL. My machine bindings are simply awful. After spending so much time working on the quilt itself, it is a shame to ruin it with one of my machine stitched bindings, so I hand stitch them. So things I will never be able to master and that is OK.

    This has been a great post, thank you for sharing.

  3. I’ve never done a large size quilt’s binding by hand. I know a few people who would only do a binding by hand, but I like machines (although they don’t always cooperate fully with me). Having always been the child who “had to learn the hard way,” I don’t like accomplishing tasks to fit someone else’s expectations. Although I can see how my own shoddy application, if I let it go as is, will ultimately steal some of my self esteem away…I love your creations, and not because of the tight mitering and even stitches, necessarily, but the combination of colors and animated designs bring pleasure!

  4. I have quit taking classes where all the instructor does is teach how to do a pattern perfectly. If I use a pattern I will probably change it up somehow. I even remember when machine quilting was a no-no; I am that old. 🙂 So far I haven’t done machine binding on a “good” quilt, but I keep practicing on charity quilts where I think the extra durability is needed. I gave up worrying about how it looks on the back.

    • I’ve thought for years that art is 80% chutzpah, so the other quilter’s observation that machine binding “adds an extra line of quilting on the back “ made me smile 😊

  5. I too change things up. But I am not changing them up for lack of experience, perhaps that is what the instructor thinks. I think the classes want you to walk away with what they deem as perfect (yup the dreaded quilt police do exist). At the same time being an instructor, you want them to leave with a make and take that will be finished. I have never understood the classroom sewing craze. Experience happens perfectly and imperfectly, so regardless of perfection you have learned what works for you and what doesn’t. What works for some doesn’t work for all. I used to be someone who would hand stitch all my bindings. I realized the people I am giving them to have no idea or care. One’s I keep I hand stitch. One’s given away are good practice for machine binding in leiu of finding what works. I make my own rules, a quilin rebel at heart!

  6. I love this statement: “I quilt for my own satisfaction, and my version of fun involves developing designs rather than copying somebody else’s design as precisely as possible.” – I like that philosophy!

  7. Hi Mary! I agree, we should quilt for our own satisfaction. A good reason to take a class is to learn something that will serve us. Another good reason is to just have fun (which I guess serves us, too!) Sometimes that is a skill or technique we can do “perfectly.” But most of us won’t master any skill in a class, so perhaps teachers need to modify their expectations, and we’d all be happier. 🙂

    • Hi Melanie! Thanks for visiting and commenting 🙂 I’m linking to one of your posts in next week’s blog, which is about inspiration from travel. Since I’m teaching next weekend, I’ll remember your comment 🙂

  8. I’m with you. I rarely use a pattern but use lots of inspiration from pictures and generally make things up on the fly! I don’t have the patience for following all the rules or making it perfect! I’d much rather play with the color and design.

    I also love machine binding. For one thing, I can always use the excuse that hand sewn binding hurts my hands….and by the time I get to the binding, I just want it done! I love how fast it is and it’s so rewarding to see the finish come quickly.

    Thanks for validating my method! Love your work and your spirit.

  9. I think applying the binding by hand gives me the closure I need for finishing a quilt…it is my preference, and that is why I quilt anyway…to slow my life down, so it is relaxing.

  10. Hear hear! I agree that quilting should be fun and that a strict set of rules interferes with enjoyment. So, ignore the quilting police and carry on making your beautiful variations of the set pattern

  11. Loved this post! Having just taken a class, it articulates what I felt many times: that I should do X or Y *her* way, not my own. It began to be frustrating so I just sort of slunk off and kept at it. I also hate when they try to demo on MY project. No, thank you. I love how you deviated with one large triangle in that sea of triangles–it’s wonderful and really gives a zing to that quilt.
    Lastly, I go alternate on the machine-stitched binding; it’s all quilt-specific to me. Thanks for a great post!
    (Since I rarely re-visit a post, if you want to write back, please use email. Thanks!)

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