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Three Lessons I Learned as a Beginning Quilter

Emily Achondo

As a young girl I always enjoyed arts and crafts. My home was fully stocked with beads, markers, colored pencils, feathers, glitter, paint and anything else I might need to express my creativity.

There was thread and fabric available to me, as my mother is a sewist, but I tended to gravitate toward other creative outlets.

This was the case until I joined the Meissner Sewing and Vacuum Centers team. I became inspired by the creativity and passion that was surrounding me and was being expressed through the textile arts.

As a result, I consciously embarked on my own creative journey, starting with the basics in Dara Dubois’ Sew Fun and Easy! class in Sacramento, where I completed my very first sewing project - a monogrammed tote bag.

After wrapping up this class and spending a bit of time practicing my newly acquired skills on my own, I took a huge leap in my journey and decided to take on quilting.

And I recently completed Jeanne Powell’s Basic Quilting for Beginners class at the Sacramento store.

This beginner course is a six-class series, where students piece together nine different styles of quilt blocks and with sashing and borders. Time permitting (because everyone works at their own pace), this series also provides students with the opportunity to learn techniques to attach the backing and batting to a completed quilt top.

I left this class with a finished quilt top that is ready to take home and stitch in the ditch.

While I added several new tools to my creative toolbox, there are three lessons that I learned over the course of the six days in the classroom that stand out to me.

Lesson #1: When in Doubt Pin It Out

I learned my first lesson the hard way, but eventually, I came to appreciate pins in the same way that I appreciate a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

Initially, I thought I could speed up the construction process by making minimal use of pins. Boy, was I wrong.

Having never quilted before, I needed extra pins to keep my block stable as I stitched the pieces together on the machine. With a few more pins, I was actually able to keep sharp points in the blocks, and I didn’t have to take the time to rip and re-stitch seams that didn't match.

Secure pinning became even more important as I progressed from piecing the blocks to attaching the sashing and borders.

In order to match up the edges, I needed to have a pin in place at about every inch of the fabric. On my first try,  I attempted to skate by with a few less pins, and I ended up having to rip the seams of the whole side because the pieces were far from matching up.

I came to realize that, in reality, it would take me less time to add in a few extra pins at the start than it would to rush through with less pins and eventually have to rip out the seams of an entire side of my quilt.

As I quilt more frequently, becoming more familiar with the process and more confident in my skills, this may change, but for now, when in doubt, I will definitely be pinning it out.

Lesson #2: Patience Really is a Virtue

Quilting requires precision. Quilting requires attention to detail. Quilting requires a bit of perfectionism. Quilting requires patience.

It’s not the set of skills behind the creator that defines a completed quilt. Each person’s skills themselves can be practiced and perfected. I learned that there are certain, inherent characteristics that help in becoming a successful quilter. One of those traits is patience, especially as a beginner.

I set out to create a quilt top that I would be proud of. This class was my very first experience with quilting, and I was determined to leave with a finished product that I could show off to my fellow quilters.

But it takes time. It takes time to achieve perfect points. It takes time to stitch perfectly straight seams. It takes times to make accurate fabric cuts. And when a process takes time, it also requires patience.

By no means is my finished quilt top perfect, but I am still a beginner. With time and patience, I will practice and each finished project will become better and better.

If I am patient and take the time that each step requires, then, and only then, will I have a product that I can be proud of.


Lesson #3:  Enjoy the Process

Walking into Jeanne Powell’s Beginning Quilting Class on the first day of the series, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was in awe of the process.

I had seen so many amazing finished quilts that have been created by so many amazingly talented quilters, and I aspired to construct my own amazing project.

Despite my nerves and anxieties, I knew that the only way I would achieve this goal would be to truly enjoy the time I would spend in class and the new process I would learn.

I had to love the fabrics that I had chosen. Which I did.

I had to be equipped with the right tools. Which I was. (Hello, Janome Anna Maria Horner M100 sewing and quilting machine).

I had to listen to the teacher and follow the instructions. Which I did.

I had to slow down and focus on the task at hand, not mentally jumping ahead to the next steps in the process. Which I did.

I had to appreciate the new skills, while perfecting the ones I had already established. Which I did.

And ultimately, I had to enjoy the process. Which I did.

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series. 

Click here to read the first post in the “Diary of a Beginning Sewist” series

Click here to read Part 1 of my Quilting Adventure

Click here to read Part 2 of my Adventure


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