The Free Motion Quilting Project: FMQ Friday - It's just a QUILT!

Friday, June 7, 2013

FMQ Friday - It's just a QUILT!

I had an interesting revelation about mistakes today while quilting another tree and landscape section of Duchess Reigns. I made a mistake and stitched off the line I was supposed to be traveling. It wasn't a huge mistake and I was sitting there debating whether to leave it, hide it, or break thread and pick it out when a single question popped into my head:

Does this mistake stop your quilt from being a quilt?

The answer, of course, was no. Even with this tiny mistake, my quilt will still be a quilt when it is finished. In a few days I might not even be able to see where this happened, and when the quilt is on the wall, it will likely be even more hidden in the complexity of all this stitching.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So this mistake is not really a mistake. It's not worth ripping out because it is not really wrong.

I guess this is looking at the quilt from the perspective of utility, not of decoration. If we look at mistakes from the perspective of Will My Quilt Still Work As a Quilt? then, at least for me, it's far easier to accept this little stitch-off as part of the process. It's not worth picking up the seam ripper and making a big production out of it.

I can see from this one question where all my drive and obsession from perfection comes from. My perfectionist nature comes in full force when I'm making something not to fill a need (utility mindset), but for decoration, and especially competition.

Because Duchess Reigns has been mostly designed and quilted to be a decorative, competition quilt, my drive for perfection has been overwhelming. And right now it seems really pointless. I mean, what does it matter if I pick out that one missed stitch or not? The quilt is still a QUILT and it still looks damn good!

Will a judge call me out on it? If they do, will it undermine my good feelings about my quilt? I love Duchess Reigns, but what if it's just not up to the level of perfection the show demands?

A few weeks ago I showed a picture of Duchess Reigns to a friend and expressed my frustration at the perfection drive. I was agonizing over minor thread inconsistencies that I see clearly, but probably no one else would notice.

My friend looked at the photo and said simply "But Leah, this was made by YOU, a human. You have to allow for those inconsistencies because that's where the art is."

So that is what I'm working on today. I'm leaving in the minor mistakes. I'm allowing this quilt to reflect not the skill of a obsessive compulsive stitch ripping crazy woman, but the skill of a human who is making a quilt.

That is, after all, all I am doing. I am making a quilt. There's no reason to get so bent out of shape about it!

Now what are you working on today? Hopefully not having to talk yourself off the ledge of perfectionism!

Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect.

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Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Ha, does this strike a chord! My week has been all about a rather scary mistake I made in my free-motion quilt, although it was not a stitching mistake. I think I've got a handle on it now, though. Anyway, I'm no quilt judge, but Duchess Reigns is far too stunningly gorgeous for anyone to be picking out an occasional stitch error!

  2. Te está quedando precioso Leah. Realmente impresionante. Un abrazo.

  3. Perfection and mistakes are also a matter of perception. I strive to reach your level of "mistakes." The quilt looks stunning already.

  4. I am sure that you have heard that supposedly the Amish put in a "Humility block" in their quilts -a block with a mistake in it. The quilt can not be perfect as only God is perfect. It's a comforting thought when the quilt is all quilted, and you discover that a block is wrong. Just call it The Humility Block and move on! (Besides, who is gonna know it's wrong except you.).

  5. I just finished a quilt that I hope to show (at least at the state fair), and had similar thoughts! There are lots of mistakes, but my enjoyment for the process needed to be higher than I my stress over the end results and what a judge might most of them are still there.

  6. Hello Leah,

    All you have to do is not call it a mistake. It's a visual surprise.


  7. Leah, it is a glorious quilt! Sometimes it's the imperfections that make it even more special. Why would you want to strive to be a computer?

  8. My mother always told me that a quilt isn't right unless there is a mistake in it. Whether it's a mistake in your own mind or in someone's view, it is what completes the project! It's what sets our work apart from the work done by an industry machine. So, job well done!

  9. We're always our own worst critics, all those hours spent staring at the quilt under the bright lights, inches away from it! Given that the 'mistake' is on a tree I feel compelled to ask, have you ever seen a perfect tree in nature? Full of rough edges, bark hanging off etc, sounds like your 'mistake' is only reflecting nature! Lose the stitch ripper and leave it be I say. Its beautiful.

  10. Leah, I've been toying around with doing a competition quilt, mostly for smaller shows. So I have been looking very closely at pictures of prize winning quilts in some of the magazines. Not all of their circles are perfectly round, there's some inconsistencies, but the overall work is spectacular! Just like yours.

    Like Pamelyn said, it's what sets our work apart from the work done by a computerized quilting machine.

  11. Leah, this quilt is spectacular-perfect or not! Thanks for your magnificent work and your vulnerability to share yourself in the process. Hugs!

  12. I love all your quilts and ideas. So fresh and inspiring!


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