Passionately Pursuing the Good Life

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Life List #20 – I made a quilt! Just don’t look too close

Perhaps one of the lessons learned in crossing things off of a life list is that not all pursuits of life-long interests are going to be a smashing success. And while I’m doing my best to reserve final judgment on my potential role as a quilter after only making one baby quilt, let’s just say this wasn’t a triumphant experience.

After having a great time at the basic sewing class at Home Ec in Silverlake, I decided to enroll in their three part beginning quilting class which involved the making of a baby quilt.

Allow me the small digression to point out the irony that economics were a large part of my interest in quilting. In theory, I should be able to make a beautiful, full size quilt at a fraction of the retail cost. But learning is apparently expensive. Given the cost of the class itself PLUS all the materials…let’s just say I easily could have purchased a new full sized quilt.

Ouchie money part aside, I proceed to gather the materials I need and prepare my fabric strips for the first day of class. This part was actually fairly easy (especially with a handy dandy rotary cutter) and kind of fun! I feel I’m off to a good start!

Class Number One: Sewing Machine from Hell, Anxiety and a Hangover

I start off on the wrong foot by overindulging in a few hefty glasses of red wine the night before and arrive to class with a naggy wine headache. Despite that I’m excited to be there and ready to start. We are instructed to lay out our pieces of fabric in a design we want the finished product to be. Easy enough. Quilting is easy! Then we are sent off to our sewing machines. This pretty much marks the end of my free ride. I’ve only taken one class and I can’t recall how to properly thread this retched machine. I anxiously await help from the instructor which sets me behind my fellow classmates. Finally, the machine gets set up and I’m back on track. I start sewing and….JAM. Argh. Remove fabric, untangle mess, try again. Sewing, sewing…JAM. This happens repeatedly. I again attempt to flag down the instructor who is busy chatting about her day job. It doesn’t help that I can’t remember her name. “Um….teacher?? I decide maybe I should rethread my machine. Again…setting me behind and making me nervous (which is agitating the wine headache). Rethreading works and I complete my first sewing task.

Our next step induces such anxiety that it literally makes my hands shake. We are supposed to cut our fabric pieces to an exact length and width. Which sounds easy enough until suddenly you are faced with rulers and lines and flashbacks of high school geometry (which I definitely did not excel in) and all you can think is OMG WHAT IF I CUT IT WRONG AND RUIN IT??? At this point I start to think maybe quilting isn’t for me. I thought this was supposed to be a relaxing experience? I cut the strips to the best of my ability, am sent back to the evil machine to sew the strips together, and mercifully, our first class comes to an end. I go home. Drink more wine.

Class Number Two: Survival and Success!

I approach the second class in sheer survival mode. I do something that isn’t very nice…I sit at a different machine. While everyone else is gravitating back to their spots from the previous class, one poor girl is forced to sit at the evil machine because I got there first. But did I have jamming problems? Nope. Not once. I spent the remainder of class avidly avoiding eye contact every time I heard her machine sputter and cough.

Our second class is all about quilting! We sandwich the top of the quilt to the back with the batting inside, and smother it with pins to keep it in place. Then away we go! This is what I was most looking forward to. The whir of the machine, the fabric moving beneath my hands, and line by line the pieces of fabric magically turning into a quilt! My confidence restored, I stop short a few inches once our time runs out but our instructor assures us that we can finish the quilting part the final week. We have lots of time! Phew…maybe I’m not the Quilt FAIL I was worried I would be.

Class Number Three: Disappointment

I arrive at the final class feeling good about my work and excited to walk out later with a fully completed quilt. My first setback comes when the instructor looks at my piece and says “Oh, you need to finish quilting? Um, OK…” But Stupid Lady you said we could finish this week!!!! Aw, hell. Now I’m feeling rushed. About a half hour later I finish and…DRAMATIC THUNDEROUS MUSIC…we have to cut. AGAIN. Lord help me. If I had anxiety with cutting the pieces imagine now the anxiety of cutting a fully quilted….quilt. My shakes return. I cut as instructed but my inferior geometry skills have slightly reduced the intended size of my piece. Oh, well. I repeatedly remind myself that this is my first quilt ever, so maybe I should go easy on myself.

Finally we reach the last part of the quilting process: the binding. And, I am not kidding, but the use of a calculator was required in this step. Did I miss something? Should I have taken a refresher math class before attempting to quilt?? Apparently math is needed in order to equate exactly the length and width you should cut your binding pieces. OK. I compute, I cut, I iron, I bind. But something is amiss. Even the teacher is confused when I bring it to her. When I cut my binding pieces I had two strips of the right size and then the leftover fabric. Any guesses as to what I sewed onto my quilt? Uh huh…one correct size and one friggin’ scrap. So my only option was to rip out the scrap and sew on the correct piece. I’m miles behind everyone else and at this point I just can’t wait for it to be over. Binding is sewn on and now I’m told that the quilt has to be finished by hand. Basically, the binding is machine sewn around all the edges of the quilt and then you pull it back with your fingers and hand sew it into place. AT HOME. I leave class with mixed feelings and an unfinished quilt. Boo.

Two Months later: Finished yet Flawed

After mostly ignoring the quilt for a few months, I finally finish it! And, in the process, discover a multitude of additional mistakes. One of them being that I hadn’t quilted far enough up on a few spots so the quilting ends before it reaches the binding. And one part of my binding didn’t get quite sewn on all the way. None of this is detrimental. But I can’t help feeling like I didn’t get a solid educational experience from… “Teacher” (I still can’t remember her name). She repeatedly joked that she was what the quilting community refers to as a “Lazy Quilter,” which is funny and cute when you’re messing about but when I take home a quilt full of mistakes it makes me kind of mad.

So, will I ever quilt again? I honestly don’t know. I guess I took away enough of the basics to fiddle with it later if and when the next crafty mood strikes.

But in the mean time, check out my cute little TV cozy:


  1. This is a beauriful quilt, Jen! I love the colors! :-)

  2. Jen - As a fairly new quilter, I am impressed with your first creation....hang in there, it gets easier. Try some applique - that is really neat (handwork in front of the TV).

  3. Hey! Nice life list! I found you from Maggie Mason's blog and clicked over to read it.

    Number 96, "...that thing where you are strapped to a parachute and tied to a boat and they drive you around." is called "parasailing" (not to be confused with "paragliding"). This was on my list, and it was on Maggie's too, so we did it in March.

    Here is my account:

    Here is Maggie's: