The Free Motion Quilting Project: The Importance of Daily Practice

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Importance of Daily Practice

It's hard to explain just how important I believe practice is to learning any craft or skill. It's almost as important as breathing - you must put in the practice or do the work if you want to see improvement in your abilities.

But I've been having an argument with my son James about practice since school started this year. Watch this video to hear why we've been disagreeing about practice:

So 2 hours all in one go or 10 minutes a day? Which do you feel would be more productive?

 Whether it's practice or time to work on a new project from start to finish, many people have unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a creative person. Many assume that we must set aside hours and hours of time set aside to use at once.

The truth is that time rarely happens. I've personally found that if I have a wonderful day set aside for dedicated work on a project...someone (usually me) promptly gets sick the day before. Or we suddenly have an urgent errand that will chew up half my time, or I simply wake up that morning with an intense desire to stay in bed reading.

In the case of my son, he'd promise to spend an hour playing piano, but get bored in about 30 minutes, then spend the remaining time whining about having to practice so much. You just can't expect your attention span to hold tight on a single task for hours on end.

The point here is that creative urges can't be "stored" up for a later time. These impulses are special and should be treated with great care. If you feel like quilting, GO QUILT. Quilt something, anything, any practice you get is the perfect amount. Even if it's working on a real project or a scrap of fabric - it's all practice and it all builds skill.

So I'll end by giving you permission to make this happen. Whatever you need to do to set up your machine so you can plop down and stitch for just 10 minutes a day. Even if it means rearranging your house and getting rid of some unused furniture - do you really need a guest room more than a sewing room? Could you find space in that large master closet or dining room that's rarely used?

Be creative as you look at your home and remember you have permission to stop making do and to make this happen.

Let's get moving. Let's try something new,

Leah Day


  1. I try to my machine set up so if time permit I can slip 10-15 minutes of sewing in. Sometime even when I am feeling down I will slip away for a little sewing therapy. It often makes me feel a little better.

  2. Love this post, and it's true for so many things, not just quilting!

  3. Great post Leah and this goes for everything! I always, always quilt every day and I have been learning to use new software and.....working with it daily makes a big difference.

  4. Another great "it's okay if you only have 10 minutes a day" as well as a great kick for "try to get in at least 10 minutes a day". I had been looking forward to spending most of the weekend quilting; Saturday kept getting more and more booked and I was away from home until mid-afternoon. Sunday I woke up and just didn't feel like it.

    1. Yes, it's really just important to get in those 10 minutes. It's lovely when you can get more time, but at minimum 10 minutes can accomplish a lot if you can do it every day.

  5. Wen I was a Child I had to practice on piano 30 minutes every das and I hated it. But as a mother I saw out choir leader for the children choir repeating every song once and changing very often and it was a very effective learning for a huge group of children.
    I am convinced that childrens Clearing is completely different from the method of the adults.
    So I think 30 minutes every das is too much

  6. Great advice... On the boat, I have to Stowe the machine away when I'm not sitting at it, just in case a rogue wake should topple it over. But instead of carrying it "down below" I store it into a heavy canvass bag and strap it under the salon table. It only takes me a minute to set it up... And I have a dozen of practice sandwiches ready to go at any time... alternately, I have a doodle notebook where I can practice the designs.

  7. I have to believe that the effectiveness of practice declines after a certain amount of time (an argument against long, infrequent sessions). "The Bulletproof Musician" has this to say: Keep practice sessions limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused. This may be as short as 10-20 minutes for younger students, and as long as 45-60 minutes for older individuals. I do know you want your total time to add up, so longer sessions when you can are a good idea, but a daily session helps make a habit!

    I've known of "sewing closets*," which actually seem like a good space & time saver. If you have the machine set up so you are facing the closet when using it, then you can just shut the door when done. Instant clean-up! Bonus: the foot pedal can't go too far away.

    *shallow closet (like with sliding or accordion doors)

  8. p.s. It was an interesting, eclectic selection of videos offered on YouTube after yours was done!

  9. The science of learning is on your side, too. Studies consistently find that we learn more effectively through *spaced* practice over *massed* practice. That is, if you are going to spend an hour practicing some skill, you learn better if you break up that hour and practice 15 minutes at a time over the course of several days, rather than practicing for the whole hour at once. If nothing else, we consolidate memories (including skill-based, or procedural, memories) in our sleep -- so when we space out our practicing over the course of days, we get to learn while we sleep! I don't know if this will persuade your son, but you have scientific evidence to back up your argument if you need it. ;-)

    Check out the book _Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning_ by Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel for more about the science of learning.

  10. I homeschooled my daughter and we used Saxon math. This program used an incremental method of teaching. Every day the child reviews things previously learned for about 10 minutes then learn something new. It was a very effective way of teaching, especially for a child with ADD. I think this is the same approach.


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