Adventures in Making a Quilt Pattern and Perfection

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Growing up and as an adult my mom tells me that everything I do is just incredible and so much more amazing than anything else practically in existence. This is a high bar to set, right? Even more so, I have access to seeing what all is out there via the internet, Instagram, etc. So, when I show my mom something that I’ve recently made I brace myself for the elaborately unjustified compliments.
I will say I do have confidence that I am good at making art. I don’t, however, believe that I am the savior and apex of all artistic endeavors. In fact I believe that holding myself up to these standards is quite destructive. I see it in my mom and I used to be like this myself; striving for perfection and never able to attain that. It’s paralyzing and perhaps a bit of masochism, too (not that we derive pleasure from it for the true meaning of the word, but you get the idea).
You see Mom is a writer. She makes beautiful use of words and loves the language. She is the reason I, too, love the language. Growing up we always had a massive dictionary that we’d be ordered to look words up in if we didn’t know their definitions. We played games trying to make up and guess the meanings of words and, of course, played a lot of Scrabble. Mom loves her journalism classes and writes for the school’s newspaper. She writes lovely articles, but verbally abuses herself for them not being up to her personal standards of perfection. I’ve asked her, “Mom, is there any way that any article or piece of writing can be absolutely perfect, even if it’s written be a professional?” She says, “No.” Then I ask her why she holds herself up to these impossible ideals. She understands what I mean and just keeps doing the same behavior.
I’m not trying to harp on my mom. I’m not even saying not to strive for perfection or do the best you can do. What I’m trying to illustrate that, at least for me, constantly critiquing a piece of creativity and making that limit what you put out into the world is not helpful. People will connect to you through your artistic endeavors, but only if you publish them, record them, take pictures, or try selling them. For me, I used to do the same thing as Mom when I was younger to a massive scale. I would be livid if someone looked through my sketchbook without my permission. These days there definitely are pieces I don’t show people and projects that never see the light of day, but it’s a far less percentage. I guess, too, that I’ve become a much better artist from my younger days!
I will say after discussing this with my husband, not everyone is like me. Some people love to redo, revise, edit, and tweak everything until it’s perfect. They find joy in the journey towards perfection. I could be wrong, but I think quilting is a bit challenging for people like that (which is part of why I enjoy it), because constantly ripping out seams is eventually going to shred your fabrics. Most of the tweaking seams to me to be in the constructing of a pattern, which I do find enjoyable, and measuring everything like a million times before cutting.
All of that being said I have a lot of progress to make, but I want to share that progress with other people along the way. Without further ado, here is the process for making my first pattern.


Above left you can see my first rendering of the pattern. To the right you’ll see a more concise pattern with two color options. My favorite graph paper notebooks to use for quilt patterns are made by Fabriano, but there are so many great options out there.

At first I wanted to make these beautiful circles (disregard the triangle pattern at the bottom of the first image), but realized I don’t have a pricey drunkard’s path template. (I did end up finding a great template from Joanne’s as mentioned in this blog post). So I opted for those handy half-square triangles. Not perfect, but close. I found a great youtube video which shows you how to design a basic pattern from Fave Quilts. My half square triangles need an additional inch of each fabric from the desired finished block to make two finished blocks. The squares and rectangles just need an additional half inch for the seam allowance.
My vision was blue and yellow. Here’s the sequence of cutting and sewing my pattern:


I love the bright yellow with white lines, but I ran out of the fabric. So I had to improvise. Not perfect, but close. I wanted to get the tall blocks and half square triangles completed first, because they seemed like the best first steps to take. Check out my previous blog for a great video from Angela Walters showing half-square triangles made easy. I’m a big fan and watch all of her videos. For other technical help with quilting I love Fons and Porter, Quilty, Sew Very Easy, and Missouri Star. More on those later. Next step for me was assembling the small squares and the half-square triangles with squares as shown below:


I really like the process of working in small, manageable portions at a time. Whenever I had a big task in life I used to just feel overwhelmed and put it off to the last minute. Then I’d totally flip out when the deadline is the next day or something. This does nothing for my natural leanings towards anxiety (born and raised; thank you very much). So with quilting I like to keep it as anxiety-free and pleasure-filled as possible. This may be why I have no patience for perfection! If it takes me away from being able to sew in the moment (having to wait for an order, for example), then it’s not fun for me. Sewing is my hobby and there’s no point in making that stressful.
Once I got everything assembled it was fun to play with the different arrangements.


Just imagine all the possibilities. I played with the different variations for a while as it kind of celebrated the long day of completing so much of the project within an afternoon. I’d say it took three to five hours as we were entertaining guests and my set up isn’t quite the most efficient. Below you can see the final placement, which I did sew together that evening.



I felt pretty good at the end of the day and felt that it was a good stopping point, along with the fact I didn’t have any fabric for the border or binding. About a week later I had both the fabric and the time, much to my delight. This was two days ago. This is what I call a big mini quilt or wall hanging. I’m not sure if there’s an official term. The border pieces were all cut to 28 inches. There was a momentary freak out when I laid the quilt top on my batting which was just an inch shy of the right size. ARG! Ganesh suggested I sew the batting together. My first thought, just being honest, was “no way,” but I looked it up. Lo and behold, it can be done. I didn’t do it probably as gracefully as I could have, but the recommendation I found was a multi-stitch zigzag stitch and to just butt up the batting along the side that needs extra. It took a lot of going back and restitching. I figured the quilting will help reinforce everything, right? Not perfect, but close.
Okay, then I didn’t have enough backing fabric. “Oy vey! When does it end,” you must be thinking. Well, I used my stray bed sheet fabric and trust that the back of my quilt is not so pretty. Not perfect. I found a tutorial on how to make binding. I did not finish the binding in the same way as she did in the video, though. The last section of binding I sewed on is an easier way that produces less anxiety for me. I do think her way is better, but I know my way is easier. Not perfect. One day I will show you my silly, easy way to finish up binding. But now I have a finished quilt to put on our wall and make the apartment that much more cozy and colorful.
There has been some progress on two of the mini quilts from the collection I started showing you in last week’s blog.


Thank you for taking the time to read about my adventures in making a pattern, not being perfect (and being okay with that), and blogging. Please contact me if you have any questions or thoughts. Constructive criticism and suggestions are always welcome. Stay tuned for next week where I’ll be working on a new, exciting pattern. Have a wonderful day and try to take a few minutes to be creative if you can.

About Your Brain On Quilts

I'm an artist and novice quilter here to share my thoughts, process, and to help other quilters.

2 Responses

  1. Richard the nonconformist

    Jessica I would say you can be whoever you want to be but I really enjoy your writing I think you’re a writer

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