Perfectly Imperfect

OK, let’s not worry about perfection for a few minutes. Any practice will improve your machine quilting skills. When I lecture, I always shows the audience one of my practice pieces. Yes, that’s right, a quilt I made simply to practice my machine quilting skills. It’s comprised of 25 nine patches, some open blocks and two borders.


From a distance it looks reasonably OK. Bear in mind that’s not a binding on it, it’s the back pulled around to the front and basted to make it easier to get the edges in and out of the machine. Also, please note that there are still safety pins in it, and some stray blue marks. I made it in one week back in about 1995 or 1996.

Now, let’s look a little more closely.


Unless you click on that image to get the bigger picture, still looking kind of OK.

Now for the dramatic “first stitches, last stitches” comparison. Go ahead, click on them to make them bigger if you want.


Who’d have thought that by quilting a 42″x 42″ baby quilt that my quilting would improve that much? If I’d stopped after that first rosette, I’d be able to say that I really wasn’t very accomplished at machine quilting. But near the end, it’s not so bad.

Things I did right include selecting a slightly patterned fabric, instead of a solid, which masks at least a little bit of my uneven stitches. I also chose a thread that matched the fabric almost exactly. That’s why, from a distance, the texture is more noticeable than the stitch quality.

Many new quilters are, understandably, very invested in the beautiful, probably time consuming, and often expensive top they’ve created. How about giving yourself a little leeway? Create a quilt top that you’re not afraid to mess up. Use fabric you have on hand. Make it a manageable size. Then quilt it with designs you’ve always wanted to learn or improve. Whether you keep it to use yourself, or give it away, no one will be as critical of your work as you are.

Looking for inspiration? Check out any of our issues. Here’s a sample from Margaret Solomon Gunn’s July/August 2016 article on creating dense fillers:

©Margaret Solomon Gunn, from July/August 2016 issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited

And here’s one of Bethanne Nemesh’s wonderful and whimsical feathers from our November/December 2016 issue:

©Bethanne Nemesh from November/December 2016 issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited

It may be that we never achieve the level of expertise of Margaret and Bethanne, and maybe we don’t want to, but give yourself the gift of practicing and you’ll definitely gain some confidence and skill.


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