Home Beth Said Sew Dear New Quilter, Don’t Make the Same Mistake I Did!

Dear New Quilter, Don’t Make the Same Mistake I Did!

by Beth Cooper

Want to hear a story? Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to make quilts. She learned to sew and got better and better at her new hobby. One day she decided to try an “intermediate” pattern. It was a bit trickier than the simple beginner patterns she had made in the past. She was up for the challenge! She worked and worked on that quilt! She sewed blocks together for months. The fabrics she was using were her favorite color palette at the time. She had taken some advice from the local quilt shop owner and instead of using a cream-colored background, she was using a darker background in this slightly-more-difficult quilt.

One day, all the blocks were finished. She couldn’t wait to sew them all together and send that quilt off to the longarm quilter. Within a week’s time, the quilt top was finished. She drove it right over to a nearby quilter who agreed to quilt it. The heroine in this story waited patiently for her quilt to be finished. Weeks went by. Months went by. She finally received a call. “You can come pick your quilt up any time.”

Hooray! She was so excited! She drove right over, prepared to pick up this quilt that she was so over-the-moon in love with and so proud of herself for tackling and finishing.

She was met at the door of the quilting business, by a rather-grumpy looking quilter with gray frazzled hair and a faded sweatshirt covered in thread.

“Hello. Come on in.” The quilter said gruffly as the screen door swung open. The girl greeted her with a smile and told her how excited she was to see her quilt.

“Well, here it is.” the quilter said, with an annoyed tone and a sour look upon her face. The girl was a little taken aback by the quilter’s unfriendly demeanor, but looked excitedly at her quilt that was being unfurled in front of her eyes. It was exquisite! It looked absolutely lovely. She didn’t love the darker background and wished she would’ve went with her gut and bought cream background fabric, but the quilt was still beautiful. She was so happy! But the then the grouchy longarm quilter began speaking again and the girl’s spirits crashed.

“Let me tell you!” the quilter began. “There wasn’t a square corner on this quilt! It is wonky from one end to the other!” she accused. “It was extremely difficult to work with and I struggled to get it to lay flat on the frame. It was terrible! Not good craftmanship at all.”

The girl’s heart sank and her confidence plummeted. She refused to give the lady the satisfaction of knowing that her words had stung – badly. Instead, she smiled and thanked her for her help and complimented the quilting. The fact was that this quilt looked fantastic! There wasn’t even a pucker anywhere. She paid her and left.

This quilt is well-worn and has been well-loved over the past twenty years or so.
The pattern is called Meadow Lily and it is featured in
The Best Quilts From Thimbleberries by Lynette Jenson (2003).

While driving home, her feelings were all over the place. She went from “I’m never making another quilt again! I suck. I’m terrible at this!” to “I guess if I quilt again, I should stick to beginner patterns” and then to “I’ll show her! I’ll be the best darn quilter she has ever seen! I will learn everything I can and blow this grouch out of the water!” By the time she reached her driveway, she had resolved to keep trying, not give up, and to NEVER use that lady as a quilter again. She wasn’t into paying anyone for insults.

And that is exactly what she did. She got better. She asked experienced quilters to show her how to square up her quilt blocks. She perfected her 1/4″ stitch. She improved her pressing skills. She pushed herself with harder and harder quilt patterns. To heck with intermediate patterns, she went for the advanced patterns! And she nailed them. No, none were perfect. But by golly, they were good. She used different quilters over the years who praised her work and encouraged her to make more quilts. They never insulted her or were condescending. They would offer constructive criticism, which the girl was thankful for and appreciated. She respected these women for their help and advice.

This girl went on to show quilts at quilt shows and has even won a few blue ribbons. And although she had her feelings hurt and her confidence took a hit, she kept on striving to become a better piecer. Here’s a question though: what if she hadn’t received the harsh advice from the frazzled quilter? Would she have doubled-down in her efforts to improve? Would she had pushed herself to keep going?

The answer is maybe, maybe not. It’s really the difficult moments that push us all to grow, after all. But this situation could have been handled differently by the quilter. There is a middle ground – one with a little bit more kindness and no insults. So, in hindsight, the girl is actually thankful for the grumpy quilter and her harsh words and she’s thankful for the lessons this experience taught her: Keep trying. Do your best. Don’t become a grumpy hateful old lady. Speak kindly to others. Use constructive criticism when necessary, not harsh words and tones. Accept criticism with a smile. Don’t take everything personally. And just keep quilting.

I hope your feelings have never been hurt by someone critiquing your quilts or sewing projects, but if they have, just keep going! In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming!” You got this. And if the project isn’t perfect, who cares! I bet you had fun making it! And P.S. I think you’re amazing.


Beth (The Girl)

By the way, these Missouri Star rulers are fantastic for squaring up each of your quilt blocks. I learned a hard lesson on squaring up, so take my advice. Square up! You can find these rulers in a variety of sizes here.

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8 months ago

Great story! It was hard for me at first, and really, I’m probably my own worst critic. But just enjoy the process, be willing to learn (especially from your mistakes!), and ditch the quilt police – no one needs them!! I love to quilt, I don’t show my work but rather give my quilts to those I love, and I keep it fun!!!

8 months ago

This story actually made me tear up! Such great words of advice. I am a self-taught quilter and when I finished my first quilt for a church donation, my young daughter, bless her heart, said that maybe a blind person would get my quilt! I actually agreed with the comment and it made me strive to do better (which I have!)

8 months ago

I love the quilt. I have a pile of yellow and red fabric that I have been saving for years!
Thank you for sharing the story and the name of pattern. I have been looking for the pattern but have not been able to find it
Any ideas of where to purchase it or find it?
I appreciate your help and assistance

8 months ago

Beth, first of all, I’d like to say that the local quilt shop gave you some good advice on the color scheme of deep yellow along with the reds in the quilt. It would’ve dragged ME out of my comfort zone, but oh how pretty those colors look together! Second, I’ve struggled with the “criticism/learning/keep going” thing too—don’t we all? I wanted to quilt, so I learned to piece—a ridiculous way to start quilting, I realize. But, you start where you start. A steep learning curve on both ends, but I think I’m getting there some days. And I agree—as long as it’s fun, it’s worth doing.

8 months ago

The quilt is beautiful. Forget that grumpy person. I love it. I’ve entered numerous quilts in shows and have been dinged on several small items each time but the judges always say the quilt is beautiful. The people I give them to are the ones who give me my ribbons, they count.

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