Do more quilting practice; without going crazy (or broke)!

Do more quilting practice cover image

There are three strategies I use to “trick” myself into getting more quilting practice.

I have recently bought myself a new machine, and I really need to become friends with it fairly rapidly. But, as I mentioned in my last post about quilting, I am hopeless at practising my quilting, especially when that quilting practice is purely for the sake of practice. Don’t get me wrong, I think quilting practice is a brilliant idea, and I highly recommend it. It is just that I never actually get around to doing it.

So, I pondered recently: “Why this is?” And I have decided:

  1. unfinished quilts abound
    Unfinished quilts abound at my place. I love all of these projects, but they remain unfinished for various reasons.

    Like most of you, I am busy. Non-urgent, non-critical activities tend to fall by the wayside. including in the sewing room. My quilts are quilted to deadlines, such as birthdays. Quilts without deadlines often end up as UFOs. Pure practice falls into an even lower priority category than UFOs! Deadlines are key!

  2. Fabric is expensive in Australia, even the rubbish quality stuff. Occasionally I actually do go into my sewing room with the intention of practising. But then I balk at making a AU$10+ (US$7) fat-quarter practice quilt sandwich from my pretties. (This is a cheap estimate of the value of a fat quarter-sized quilt sandwich at retail prices here). And as often as not, I just walk out again. Essentially, I resent the monetary cost of practice.
  3. I am a goal and progress-driven person, and I am not actually very good with exercises that don’t have a concrete end point. I get “quilter’s block” when faced with a blank quilt sandwich. And I have very little patience for tasks that have no greater purpose than practice. I hope some of you can identify with this! I suspect I am not alone, and I think this reason is really the main reason why I do not practise quilting very often.

So then I wondered: “What can I do to fix this? How can I get more quilting practice without the mental torture and budget blowout?”

Well, I have decided that to cause more quilting practice to happen, I have to play to my personality strengths and my situation. And these are: I thrive on goals. I love to help other people out. I have little desire to keep the crafted objects I make, as the creative journey and the gifting have always been my strongest motivators. And finally, I have to keep costs down (don’t we all?!). So there are three things I am now deliberately doing to incorporate more quilting practice into my life.

The solutions

To get more quilting practice into my life without causing a blowout in available time and harming my quilting budget I have:

  1. Found a quilting group to be accountable to.
  2. Combined my quilting budget with my gifting budget when this makes sense.
  3. Signed up to help a local charity quilting group.

    Finding a quilting group to be accountable to

    I have started meeting regularly with other quilters who have a formal show-and-tell regime, and an optional homework schedule. This gives me both the deadlines I need and a broad goal. My need for a purpose is satisfied without adding too much stress, because I can choose not to participate in any particular exercise. Here’s one small project already completed from this new motivation: the Dandelion Wishes appliqué.

If you can’t access a similar local quilting group, you can get the same outcome by committing to a quilt-along online and staying on schedule. Here’s a free project by Lori Kennedy, where you are encouraged to practice multiple quilting motifs.

Leah Day also has quilt-alongs that cover lots of quilting skills, although hers will cost you monthly for the pattern. I am sure you can find a quilt-along to suit your needs with a fairly simple internet search. 

Combining my gift and quilting budgets for more spending power

I have started thinking more strategically about combining my quilting practice with gifting. Some people like to turn their practice sandwiches into gifts.…. such as quilt-as-you-go lap quilts, small bags, purses, placemats, heat pads etc. Well, instead, I am now turning my gifts into practice sandwiches. This means that I start with the person and the gift in mind. Then I work out how to incorporate the quilting practice I want/need to do into the construction of that gift.

Project for a friend designed in part for feather quilting practiceFor instance, this last month when I needed to practice my feathers, I sat down and designed a cushion (throw pillow) that my friend with an imminent birthday would really love. Then I worked out how to quilt it with feathers. The feathers happened because her birthday was the deadline. There was no blank quilt sandwich to spook me, there was a very good purpose for the exercise, and no “wasted” fabric. Perfect!

Charity quilting benefits you and others

Pin-basted quilt ready for stabilisationI have just signed up to help a local quilt charity quilt their quilts. This means that someone else makes a quilt top and pays for the fabric and batting to make the quilt. When I receive it, it is already basted and my job is to quilt it. So I will hopefully get a great deal of quilting experience for the price of the thread and my time. There is a loose deadline, and a very good purpose. And as an extra bonus I get experience trying to decide on quilting patterns for quilts that are outside my usual style. If you are looking to strengthen your quilting skills I strongly recommend finding a quilting charity group to donate some time to. You,  the charity group and the quilt recipients will all win!

I have just received my first basted charity quilts, and I will keep you posted on that quilting journey – update: read about the start of that journey here.

I hope you have found more motivation to practice your quilting. You at least have three less excuses for not practising your quilting now!

So – go quilt something!….. after you have shared with us what keeps You motivated to practice your quilting and adding to your quilt story. 

Now it's your turn.... what do you think?