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Learn from My Mistakes

Some of us are visual learners, some of us learn through hands-on experience.  As I have gotten older, I realize that the BEST way for me to learn is by making mistakes-- and boy oh boy, am I good at making mistakes!  As I collage quilter, I thought that it might be helpful for you to know about some of the mistakes that I've made along the way.  Hopefully, you will learn from me :)

Mistake No. 1)

I have a new long arm machine, and I really should take some classes to learn how to do things!  But, since I haven't bothered to sign up for classes or even to watch YouTube videos I made mistakes right and left on the first project I tried to quilt.  The biggest mistake?  Not making the backing of the quilt big enough to allow me to quilt all the way to the edges.  Whoops!  I had to reposition my quilt multiple times to quilt it and it wasn't until I added leaders to the ends that I was finally able to get it finished.  I won't do that again!


Mistake no. 2) 

Not studying the value transitions in my subject.  I have spent so much time trying to learn how to make a beautiful collaged flower!  Here is a photographic progression...

  These flowers have NO transition between values and the result is a very cartoon-ish image.  I HATE the way this turned out.  Here is another attempt...   


  I like this much better, but this went through multiple versions.  I pulled the yellow flower apart and re-did it at least twice.  The purple shadow in the middle of the daffodil is still a little harsh. 


Collage Quilter Peony

  With this flower, I'm finally starting to learn that the transition from shadow to highlight in the delicate petals of a flower needs to be soft.  This means paying attention to the subtle value changes in the subject.  The difference here, was that I selected a couple photos of a peony that I studied to really understand the subject instead of thinking that I knew what the flower looked like in my head.  


Mistake no. 3)

Being unorganized is a big mistake!  I used to think it was "artsy" to allow my studio to become a disaster.  I've spent enough wasted time now to realize that having a system to organize my fabric is the key for staying productive when I want to work.  Before and after each project, I force myself to re-asses and re-organize so that I always have some semblance of order and can understand what systems are working and what systems are not working. 

One system that I've decided that is not working?  Saving every single scrap of fabric.  Up until now I have been pathological about saving even small scraps.  Now, as I work, I try to use up the scraps.  If I don't use them all, I chuck them in the trash.  This makes cleanup and organization 10x easier, and that means getting to my next project quicker!



Comments (Responses)

02 March, 2020

Carolyn Hall

Save your scraps to donate to the animal shelters. They use the fabric scraps to stuff doggy beds.

02 March, 2020


Ha!!! Even a “mustake” is acceptable

02 March, 2020


Thank you for being so authentic and honest with your mustakes. Very helpful and freeing!

02 March, 2020

Pam Allen

Thank you for this. I, too, learn from mistakes and am happy to learn from others, especially when they have tried something that did not work. I appreciate you taking the time to post this.

02 March, 2020

Julie Pettyjohn

You are so refreshing in that you are willing to share your observational journey, mistakes and all. I don’t even see them until you point them out. Plus, they are NOT mistakes; but rather, possible improvements. I’ve only been a longarmer-for-hire for a few years, but I am pretty good at machine quilting (and I’m usually critical of myself so that’s big for me to have that confidence to say that). I have so much to learn from you! Thank you for your willingness to show good work and compare it to improved great work.

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