Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Being OK with Being Terrified

straight lines scare me, y'all.
Cutting precise straight lines scares the heck out of me, y'all. 
Last week, I started my first quilting class. I've been meaning to try my hand at quilting for a while, but the right moment hadn't hit me yet. After being invited to teach a hand embroidery workshop at QuiltCon, I decided this was the perfect time. This fall would be the time I finally learn how to make a quilt. 

My initial fabric selection - I thought we needed five fabrics, but it turns out we only needed four. I had to change this grouping up a bit. 
I decided to get my fabrics before the first class, and had a lot of fun browsing through bolts. Though the quilt we'll be making in class isn't my particular style (it's very traditional piecing, and I'm drawn more to the graphic modern quilts) I'm excited to be learning so many techniques, and decided I'd try using more modern-feeling fabrics in the quilt. I figured I need to be in love with the fabrics so I can spend the next eight weeks staring at them, and the next who-knows-how-many-years using the quilt.

Even as enjoyable as shopping for fabric is, though, an unanticipated feeling emerged as I picked up, swapped out and debated different fabrics: terror.

The reworked fabrics for the quilt. I actually like this grouping better! 
You see, I haven't tried any big new skills lately. I've been pretty darn comfortable with my infatuation with hand embroidery and dabbling in other simple crafts, but I haven't really s  t  r  e  t  c  h  e  d  much outside of my comfort zone recently. Quilting is big, and pretty foreign to anything I've ever done. Sure, it's fabric and sewing, but it's also precision, straight lines, matching points, perfect quarter inch seams*, basting, binding and ... quilting! All these things are not in my usual bag of tricks. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of crafter. I take pride in not worrying if my seams are 100% perfectly straight. Quilting is going to take some time and thought and purposeful action. There will be lots of practicing on scrap fabrics, lots of measuring and remeasuring, and most certainly, without a doubt ... lots of mistakes.

I nerded out and used my light box to make a copy of the quilt pattern so I could color it in with different colorways and decide which fabrics I wanted to use in which ways. Don't laugh - it's super handy! 
I don't shy away from mistakes, and I love learning new things, but when I showed up to my class and realized I was the only one who hadn't made a quilt before (hey, it's an *intro* to quilting class, I didn't think it would be so odd that I hadn't made a quilt before!) I felt the terror creep back up. I'm typically outgoing and enthusiastic in a class environment. Instead, I became intensely introverted and ... I'll say it ... scared out of my wits. My quilt ruler was futzy, my machine borked out on me, and there were a million other little things that just made the evening a bit crazy and uncomfortable ... and terrifying.

I made photocopies of the tracing and then colored them in, swapping my light and dark grey fabrics. I'm a super visual gal, so this helped me get a better idea of how swapping the fabric placement would affect the overall look of the quilt. See? Handy! 
It took a stiff cocktail when I got home to try to relax and remind myself: THIS IS ONLY QUILTING. I need to take my own advice and not stress. I need to have fun. I've said this a million times to my embroidery students: The more you have fun, the more inclined you will be to practice. The more you practice, the better you will get. I need to stick with that, but I'm also kind of ok with being terrified. This kind of terrified is a feeling I haven't had in a long time, and it's reminding me I'm alive and pushing myself. Somedays the routine of family life makes me feel like I'm not doing much of those things. And I'm a process gal, which means - even when terrified - I actually really enjoy the process of being a bumbling idiot with something new, and slowly working to a point of comfort. I think it's a good thing for my kids to see, too. They see too many perfect, edited "final results" throughout media. They need to see some of that raw process (even if it includes a few swear words, I'm not gonna lie).

What has terrified you lately?

* Ironically, I'm the youngest person in the class, but I have the most basic, simple sewing machine in the group. Most of the others have super fancy computerized machines with special settings and presser feet that make precise quarter inch seams a snap. My machine ... notsomuch. But I keep thinking, "come on! Pioneers had flippin' FOOT POWERED machines!" and then I feel better. 


  1. I can't wait to see what you make! I get really nervous just teaching a class, so I totally understand. My sewing has ZERO precision, too, so quilting would be a challenge for me! You're going to have fun :)

  2. You will do great, just as you did with embroidery. In fact, given how much you've already done...I sense a new obsession coming upon you. As amazing as it is to feel the finished embroidery piece - with a quilt you have an arm-full of tactile textile yummyness. And then of course, you can embroider on your quilts...

  3. Yay, Rachel! I'm so glad you're giving quilting a shot! I can't wait to see the finished quilt! And don't worry: computerized machines are overrated and wonky seams add character to your quilt. Plus no one will notice the imperfections but you!

  4. So happy that you shared this...I just sat down to think about the same thing: being terrified in new class. And fun is the key word -- the more you have fun, the more you'll do. I can't wait to see pictures of your quilt. The last thing I quilted was a four-square pillow in Girl Scouts!

  5. That's a tough pattern for beginners! Lots of little pieces and bias edges! But you'll learn so much about the right way to do things and it'll carry over into the next project you make after this one. And you totally don't need those computerized features! Most people that have them don't use them anyway.

  6. No worries, you are doing great! It is so fun having you in the class. Your quilt will be gorgeous and is already turning out great. Remember, this is a learning process. I know the Quilt Police won't come after us for a few wonky seams or chopped off points. So enjoy and have fun!


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Have fun and be nice! :)