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Quilt It Yourself Without Guilt

Summary

You put every ounce of effort into your quilt.  So do you send it to be quilted or quilt it yourself?  I encourage you to quilt it yourself without the guilt!

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Quilt It Yourself Without Guilt

How many times have we selected the perfect pattern, poured over hundreds of bolts to select the ideal fabrics, labored over the cutting table to precisely cut out pieces, lovingly stitched seam upon seam, block upon block, row upon row, only to fold up our quilt top and send it away to be quilted?


Quilt It Yourself Without Guilt

 

There are many reasons we would do this.  We could be creating a quilt for a show or a magazine thus desiring beautiful, perfect, ornate quilting.  We might be giving a gift for which we want a specific, detailed pattern.  The quilt may be too large for us to quilt ourselves.  Perhaps we simply do not enjoy the process of quilting our own.  These are all fine reasons to send away your handmade item to a professional quilter.  However, all too often I hear other quilters say they are just not "good enough" at free motion or even straight line quilting to do it themselves and therefore, have to send their quilts off to be quilted.  If you have found yourself feeling that way, this message is for you!



gift

 

I’m sure all of us have made baby or charity quilts and not thought twice about doing our own quilting. After all, stitching in the ditch or straight-line quilting is not too difficult on a small sized quilt.  Perhaps some have even attempted meandering.  But if you are like I was, for anything bigger than a baby quilt or for any quilt that is being made as a special gift, the words “quilt as desired” bring fear and dread and many times a solid “No Way”!

baby foot

 

I recently made a lovely throw quilt for my aunt’s and uncle’s eightieth birthdays.  Significant milestones to be celebrated!  I painstakingly selected all of the fabrics to coordinate with their family room decor and was extra careful while piecing to make sure it was as close to perfect as I could make it.  Then, the conundrum:  to quilt it myself or send it off to be quilted.  Of course, I thought I should send it to a professional so it would be beautifully quilted with elegant flowing curves and designs - the likes of which I could never do myself.  This quilt was to celebrate a combined one hundred and sixty years of life!  I definitely did not want to "cheap out" and do it myself!  I cut out the batting, pieced the backing, ironed and gently folded the top and placed it in a bag to bring to my local longarm wizard.  Fast forward a couple of days to me, on the couch, killing time perusing Facebook.  One of my cousins had posted a lovely picture of my sweet aunt as a young mom.  A surge of memories filled my mind with hundreds of family events and weekends with my aunt, uncle, and cousins.  I smiled as I remembered what a large and precious role they had played in my life.  I thought of the quilt, pleased at how they would love the gift I had made for them.  Then my heart skipped a beat almost with the feeling of a mini-panic.  Wait a minute!  These people would not care that I had invested in having a professional long-armer do the quilting for me.  They would neither expect nor, probably, desire perfection. They were going to love the idea that I made this quilt just for them - with my own, two, flawed, and not-so-steady hands!  I grabbed the quilt components out of the bag, basted them together, and "quilted as desired"!

birtday cake

Wait a minute! These people would not care that I had invested in having a professional long-armer do the quilting for me.

 

I chose some simple quilting around each star and some curvy lines in the sashing. I found a picture I liked of a flower containing hearts and did my best to reproduce it in the center of each star. Each flower was a different size, my stitches were not uniform, and a couple of the flowers looked as though they had been stepped on.  A number of times I got frustrated and started feeling guilty.  Was I cheating them somehow out of a beautifully finished product they could proudly display on the back of their couch?  I pressed on and completed the quilt.  I brought it with me to a retreat to finish the binding.  I was embarrassed to show it to my friends and was almost apologetic about choosing to do it this way for my aunt and uncle on such a momentous milestone.  So many of these ladies simply praised me for doing it myself and reinforced how much my aunt and uncle would love it.  After much encouragement from friends and a lot of soul searching, I came to not only accept all of the imperfections in the quilt but to truly be proud of it and enjoy looking at it, running my fingers over even the least uniform flower!

Completed Quilt

 

As predicted, my adored aunt and uncle love their quilt. They especially love that I quilted it myself.  With all of its imperfections, it is proudly displayed in their family room and used to bring them warmth and love.

Completed Stars1

 

I have since free motion quilted many larger quilts, each time trying new patterns and techniques as I gain skill and confidence.  I select a pattern or technique for each new quilt, draw it on paper, practice multiple times on paper, and then on practice fabric "sandwiches" to get the feel of the quilt design before I begin on my finished quilt top. I still find myself thinking how inconsistent my stitches are or how awkward some of my curves come out; however, unless the error is extremely blatant (each of us will have to determine for ourselves what is unacceptable), I resist the urge to rip it out and start again.

Completed Stars2

 

Lest anyone interpret this story to mean I no longer believe in having professionals do my quilting for me, I still frequently send my quilts out to be professionally quilted.  I love the look of my beds topped with quilts that have been finished with just the perfect design, often selected by a professional with an eye for such things.  I love my long-armers and am constantly in awe of their finished pieces of beauty.  I do not have the time, talent, equipment, or motivation to quilt all of my quilts myself.  So now when the pattern says “quilt as desired”, I give myself the option of quilting it myself without feeling guilty about the end result being somehow inadequate or a cheap way out.  I continue to get better with each quilt I complete myself but I am proud and happy that each one will always contain handmade mistakes that can only be done by an imperfect person such as myself!

 

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Glossary

Backing
The fabric on the back of a Quilt Sandwich (Top, Batting and Backing).

Same As: Lining
Batting
The layer in the middle of a quilt sandwich between the Top and Backing layers consisting of wool, polyester, blends, silk, or cotton.

Same As: Stuffing, Filling, Wadding, Filler
Binding
Binding is used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun it is the fabric that's used to cover the raw edges of the quilt sandwich after it's quilted. This edging fabric is referred to as the Binding (noun). As a verb it is the process of putting on this fabric, and it referred to as Binding a Quilt.
Block
The basic unit of a quilt top, usually square but can be rectangular or other shapes. Blocks can be pieced, appliqued or plain.
In The Ditch
The process of quilting just next to the seams of a quilt, block or to the very edge of an applique area.

Same As: Stitch In The Ditch
Piecing
The process of assembling quilt blocks from pieces of fabric sewn along their edges to form a whole.

See Also: English Paper Piecing, Assembly Piecing, Machine Piecing, Chain Piecing, Paper Piecing, Hand Piecing
Quilt Top
The top layer of a quilt Sandwich.
Sashing
Fabric that separates the patterns or blocks, framing them and making the quilt larger.

See Also: Strip
Star
A large central star, made up of diamond shaped fabric or a square with right triangles, to form the star points from the center out.
Author
Quilting Contessa
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