I was thinking today as I was working at some free-motion quilting that one of the biggest hurdles for beginners is the fear of not being able to do it well. As a matter of fact, if you ask most beginners to describe their quilting they would say it sucks. You know what? That's just fine! Really, it's ok if you suck. Nobody does anything perfectly the first time...and for some of us, it takes a lot of practice and work to improve. I've been free-motion quilting for more than 10 years now, and I still stink!
Oh, there are lots of things I am pretty darn good at. I can meander the heck out of a quilt. Loop the loops - I got that down. Spirals are my favorite, I can do them in my sleep and they always look terrific. But what I really love and want to do well are feathers - and I suck most of the time. Sometimes they come out beautiful, but often they are just plain ugly. Totally imperfect, in fact they are the epitomy of imperfect according to the World English Dictionary: exhibiting or characterized by faults, mistakes, etc; defective
But, you know what? That's all right. I'm still learning. My feathers may not be perfection, but every time I work on them I get just a little bit better. And that's the point! It makes me happy to see my progress and to know that I am developing another new skill. With enough practice I know they will look much better. Probably never perfect, but that's just fine because I value the little bumps and glitches as being part of the handmade process. It gives my quilts character and depth, which I enjoy.
So, if you are just learning to machine quilt, I would encourage you to just keep working at it. Don't be afraid to stitch badly. Make some simple tops to practice on and find something you are good at and do it a lot! Then find something else that you can work on improving. Show your family and your friends (I guarantee you that most non-quilters will be quite impressed!). Keep a couple of your beginning projects so you can see how much you have improved. Enjoy the process of gaining this new skill and don't give up - value the imperfect and learn to be happy with the mistakes and wobbles.
Here are the feathers I did today:
I wasn't thrilled with my first attempt, but decided to do all four sides, then decide whether or not to rip out the first one and re-do it. Well, you know after I was done I couldn't really tell which one was the one I didn't like! The quilting really doesn't show that much, and I am not making this as a show quilt, so I am just going to leave it and move on. I plan to do more feathers in the last border, so I'll get plenty more practice at this - and I can't wait to see how it goes!