Sewing: finish

Yes, I finished this quilt I began weeks ago. Just this morning, in fact. I try not to leave projects hanging around too long these days — unfinished projects have a tendency to collect dust and then an aura of “this is impossible”. Better to be done, in my book, and move on to the next. So I did the edge-binding, and declared the project done.   Shortly, I’ll post it to the Etsy site, but if you’re interested in owning this particular quilt and you want first dibs, make me an offer in the comments.

That said, I’m not entirely happy with this quilt.  My momma, who is a pretty skilled artist herself, says that my job as an artist is to create.  It’s the critic’s job to note errata and complain, not mine.  My job is to make; and the more stuff I make, the better I get.  In theory.


I experimented with free-motion quilting for the first time on this project. In general, I like how it came out even though it was mostly just random lines and curves, and not planned at all.  I learned a lot about how I have to move, and what the tension settings on my machine have to be, and how fast I’m allowed to move (and how tired my arms get!) I have to adjust the height of my sewing table in order to not kill myself with free-motion quilting.

But it’s not an ideal technique for me.  I do better with straight lines and some orderly progression, especially with the set-up I have now for my sewing machine, my sewing table, and the organization of my studio.  If this had been a full-sized or larger quilt (e.g., full, queen, or king), I’d have made a real hash of things.  So this is telling me that to work on larger projects in a free-motion way, I need a different set-up than I have now.  Otherwise, I will make a mess.

There are also some areas of eye lashing (third picture, below). These are the result of tension issues — me moving too fast around a curve, speeding too quickly.  Some of these are going to have to get cut out, and re-done.  Some of them are now in the quilt for the long-haul, though. I don’t know enough about how to take them out safely and repair those sections.

But this is sort of what I mean by finishing your projects.  I could forever assemble and disassemble this one quilt, for ever trying to get it exactly perfect.

But no one benefits from exact, absolute perfection on my part.  I mean, one person might — but they might have to wait a decade for the quilt to be done. The kid would be well out of diapers by then.

So, sometimes it’s better to finish, and then correct, than it is to let the thing languish for months or years.  It will never be perfect.  It might as well be finished.  And if the right someone shows up who wants it, warts (or eyelashes and tension issues, in this case) and all, then it’s ready for them, here and now, no waiting.

There is always a child of power and grace coming into the cold and cruel world.  The best quilt for that child is the one that’s done and close to hand.

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  1. I admire you. Actually, I know little about sewing (and I’m a bit intrigued), so it’s an interesting read. Maybe also because you’re a man. I’ve never met a tailor (not even on the web). I hope you’re not offended, but where I come from, sewing is mostly women’s job.

    • Oh, yes, and I totally understand how you want to make something perfect, and know how you could make it perfect but need to finish. I’m not good at finishing though.

    • I got into sewing because of the MakerSpace I was running. I found that I liked it a great deal, and I was eager to do more — and it fit in well with the work I was doing to bring more hands-on crafts and skills into the school where I worked. Sewing, like many skills, teaches patience, intention, and… yes… completion.

      I’m also not offended by the idea that sewing is mostly women’s work. That’s currently true, but it hasn’t always been the case — for most of human history, up to the Industrial Revolution, making clothes had been one of the most labor-intensive activities on the planet… And I find that it teaches me to think in three dimensions; to think about color, texture, pattern, weight, hue, and sheen; to consider size, weight, and wear; to imagine the long-range history of a garment and how it will wear (and wear out). It helps me think through complex problems, too; I have good ideas about other issues in my life while I’m sewing.

      So it’s an art form I recommend. There’s nothing quite like having enough confidence in a set of clothes that you made, that your’e willing to show up an event wearing the shirt, pants, jacket and vest you made. (I guess this means I should work on socks and shoes and hats, next, right?)

    • Socks would be overdo 🙂 But go ahead with shoes and hats… Btw, the quilt is beautiful. I like the edge, and the colours. I like the 4 corner squares are visually in between the white belt and the blue middle. From afar it looks as the corners were rounded. (ps. I’m an architect, so I can’t stop myself from thinking visually.)

    • An architect!? My hat’s off to you. That’s a challenging and interesting profession. The corners are “mitered”, so there’s a nominal-diagonal that define them to a ‘corner’, but I’m not expert at mitered corners yet.

    • Ahem, I probably should know what a nominal-diagonal is but I’ll claim my non-native-speaker status. I’ll go wiki search. Also, to see what means “mitered”. (There are architects and Architects. I’m the one with the lowercase. Doing tasks, drawing. The most creative work is arguing with my boss 🙂 )

    • Wiki won’t help. 🙂

      The edge of the quilt is ‘bound’ with a piece of fabric cut on the bias (a 45°-angle relative to the warp and weft – the 90° and 0° – oriented threads that make up a piece of cloth). That piece of cloth is called “bias tape”. It’s about 2″ wide, and folded four times — first in half, and then in quarters, with the edges of the tape folded inside itself. This is then sewn onto the edge of the quilt to keep the edge from unraveling.

      The mitered corner is where the bias tape overlaps itself. There’s a tricky bit of sewing where the tape is angled first one direction, then another, in order to produce a sharp 45° corner where the tape overlaps. If you do it wrong — you get something that looks like a rounded corner, or a 40° angle, or something that’s not quite ‘sharp’ or perfect.

    • All right, I’ll pretend I understand a bit. So, how do you prevent it from being twice as thick if it folds as many times?

    • It’s a very thin piece of fabric. Not like the wool of a coat, but rather more like a very thin piece of men’s formal shirt fabric. Fold it four times, and it’s twice as thick, of course… but it’s also not very thick to begin with.

      There’s another trick, too — ideally, the bias tape is sewn in place with slip stitches or ladder stitches, so most of the bulk of the bias tape is ignored; you have sort of a puffy tube around the edge of the quilt, and it’s not so stiff.

    • well, a mitered corner should be exactly a 45° line between the two sides of the quilt, which should themselves be at a 90° angle. But in truth, that miter line can wander a bit: especially when I sew it! So it is a nominal measure.

    • There’s a beauty in making, creating. 🙂 It wouldn’t be nearly as fun if a robot would make a perfect corner.
      Thank you for your explanations and your time.
      Now I bid you adieu. Have fun!

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