How important is it that your quilt is ‘perfect’? Do all the points and seams have to match exactly? Does your colour choice have to meet with universal approval? Should your stitch-in-the ditch stay there and never deviate? Should your quilting stitches be beautifully even and neat and accurate? Or, alternatively, why are you making this quilt? Is it to win prizes in quilt shows? Is it a present for someone you love? Are you just making it for yourself because you had an idea and wanted to try it out? Or did you just get the urge to cut lovely fabric up into smaller bits and then sew them back together again to create something else?

First of all – a confession: I am not a perfectionist; I am very far from it, my default setting is ‘it’ll do’. I know that striving for perfection is totally beyond me and will only lead to stress and anxiety, so why put myself through it. I have learned to embrace my ‘oops’ moments and to live with them. I’d like you all to try to do the same. Unless, of course, you are the one striving to win prizes in the quilt shows.

Let’s look at a couple of older quilts first. This frame quilt belongs to Barbara Chainey. I have no idea how old it is (I forgot to ask Barbara), but you look at it and it is a lovely little quilt. Then you look closely and realise that a considerable number of the squares in the border have their corners missing. Does this matter? The maker obviously didn’t think so. The border corners were obviously causing some problems too.

Here’s another, from about 1940 this time and belonging to Ann Jermey. Can you spot the mistake? I bet the maker was exceedingly cross with herself once she noticed and it was too late to do anything about it – unless it was one of those deliberate mistakes made because “only God is perfect”. Do you think this mistake detracts from the quilt? Do you still think it is a lovely piece? I think in some ways it adds to it – the maker was human.

This little cot quilt is made from dozens of tiny hexagons. It looks lovely in this photo. But peer at it closely. It is actually two pieces that have been cut and joined back together across the middle (sides to middle, perhaps?). The hexagons are beautifully stitched together – but look closely, a lot of them don’t quite meet, the stitches show and there are still some large tacking stitches left in place. Some of the hexagons are made from tiny scraps that have been joined together to make a big enough scrap to cut a hexagon from – with no reference to the fabric pattern or trying to match. Again, does all this matter? Do you still like the quilt?

I’ll show you some of my (many) ‘oops’ moments now; a shot of the quilt and close-ups of the various botherations. Would you spot them if I hadn’t pointed them out?

So, I ask again – why are you making this quilt? If it is not to win prizes then, please, enjoy the process of making without fretting about seams that don’t quite meet or quilting stitches that wander astray. If you are making it as a gift, then make it with love and ignore those ’oops’ moments – they show that you, a human, have made it, not a robot – and please don’t point them out to the recipient as then you are devaluing your gift in their eyes. Make and give your quilts with love and learn to embrace and ignore those little errors because no one else will worry about them. The more you make things, the more you will improve. The more you unpick, the better you will become – at unpicking! Before I go stomping off, having clambered off my soap box, one more phrase that Barbara and I find ourselves using in quilting classes – ‘it’s the back, no one will see it!’. Enjoy your (relaxed) stitching from now on and remember – this is a hobby that we do for enjoyment.

Responses

  1. Caroline Clifford

    This is such a great article…….I’m very much a beginner patchwork and quilter, and one of my many unpickers (I have invested in a few!) seems to be permanently attached to my hand! I’m loving my journey though and my quilt is for me – “mistakes” and all!

  2. Christine Hutchins

    I wholeheartedly agree with this Chris! As I often say (because my mum used to see it) – a blind man would be glad to see it! Also – better finished than perfect. I’ve got a couple of BOMs that I’m working on – including Gravity, and I will get Jack out if it is too far out, but slightly out (if it all goes together) is good enough for me!