Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Things Beginner Quilters Should Be Told

I'm completely self-taught as far as quilting goes. I learned mostly from Craftsy, and a few occasional YouTube videos and blogs. I've developed such a passion for it and I can spout poetry about how much I love to quilt (machine quilting, in particular), but the journey wasn't the easiest in the world.

Here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I first started:

1) Everybody has an opinion. They're just opinions.

When I first started learning to quilt, I naturally took advice from the first teacher I had. Press seams to the side, toward the dark side. Use steam and starch. Use cotton thread. Then, when I really got into it and started reading different resources and taking classes from different teachers, I was shocked at how wide the opinions are in the quilting world. For every issue, there are people, all very well-known and renowned quilters, standing on each side. Press to the side or press them open? Steam or no steam? Polyester or cotton thread? These are just a few of the debates going on, and I quickly realized there really is no right or wrong in general. There are a lot of "gasp, you can't do this" myths that are more rooted in tradition than anything else, and sometimes it's just personal experience that is circumstantial.

It's important to remember that everybody has an opinion, there are general guidelines, but it's important to decide for yourself what you like to do. I too have formed my own set of opinions, and now know better than to question my own practices just because a quilting teacher said it has to be done a different way.

2) It's totally okay to machine bind.

I collect quilting books, and upon looking through them, about 95% of them have a section on how to cut, make a sandwich, baste, quilt, bind. It's kind of a waste of paper, actually, because it's usually not enough information for people who don't know how to do it, and for those who do, it's redundant. However, I noticed that for all the books I own with that section, nearly all of them teach stitching down the back of the binding by hand with a slip stitch and nothing else. I personally hate hand stitching, so I always machine bind, and when done right, it's virtually invisible from the front. I think about 5% of the quilting books I own even mention machine binding as an option and not a sacrilege. Seriously, it's stronger, and when done right, you can't see it from the front anyway. It's not traditional ... but I don't know why that should matter.

3) Do not start your free-motion life by stippling.

I too fell into the trap of feeling like I needed to master meandering / stippling before moving on to other designs, despite the fact that I hated it. It looked like worms, and it was so hard! Then I did pebbling, and realized how easy it was for me, and quickly discovered that it doesn't matter that I can't stipple. I can do other things, and on top of that, I don't even like stippling.

As it turns out, I wasn't the only one. Lori Kennedy has a great post on why stippling is so hard for so many people, and it made a lot of sense. Yet, so many free motion teachers and resources start by suggesting stippling, and they make it sound like it's the easiest design. So those of us who can't stipple end up thinking that if I can't even do this *easy* design, there's no hope for me. Just move on, there are so many better looking designs that are actually much easier for beginners.

4) If you can't do it, cheat.

I wrote a post about this awhile ago that I call piecing cheats. I'm not great at piecing, so I find ways to achieve a similar look I want without doing the harder work. At the end of the day, it still looks good, and really, nobody knows I cheated. Or should care.

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