Aerial Quilt (or how much a mini quilt can break you down)

I have been super reluctant to share this quilt but it is time to tell its story because it’s a big one.  Meet my Aerial Quilt; a mini quilt designed by the fabulous Carolyn Freidlander. I started this quilt at Sew Down last April in Carolyn’s workshop. Wow  Almost a year ago.

Aerial Quilt

I finished it a long time ago.  In fact, it was the first project I finished when I returned from Sew Down last spring.  I started it with the intention of having it hanging in our home, a bold declaration *might* have been uttered about bringing more of my art into our home.

A couple of things got in my way.  For starters, I have a lot of quilt insecurity.  I’ve never been a quilter with a capital Q.  The exactitude of Quilting totally crimps my style so I wing it on size and style.  It’s fun but has its drawbacks. For whatever reason being at Sew Down where I was surrounded by amazing quilters, highlighted that insecurity.  Ever been in a situation where you feel just a little bit uncertain and then that little bit grows and grows until you are on the outside?  Yeah, that happened.

My seam allowances were less-than-perfect as noticed by one instructor (oh, the perfection of Quilting!).  I struggled in a class that I wanted to love but just wasn’t interested in or inspired by.  Pretty soon I was doubting my color choices and, as much fun as I was having with my friends, I just felt out of place.  I didn’t feel good enough. I love going to retreats and conferences but at the same time, it’s easy for comparison to get the better of me.

Carolyn‘s Aerial Quilt workshop was the last one of my weekend and it was the perfect antidote to my spiraling uncertainty. If you have ever met Carolyn Freidlander you know that she is unlike anything else. She’s quiet and unassuming and the embodiment of “still waters run deep”.  She’s got a calm and reassuring manner that is so genuinely warm, generous and accepting it feels like a hug.  It didn’t surprise me at all when she came out with her lovely Savor Each Stitch movement.  Aerial Quilt | a happy stitch

When I returned home from Sew Down, I decided to focus on making this mini quilt…to focus on the part that made me feel good and leave the ‘less than’ feeling behind.  I got the boys and my husband involved and asked them to choose colors for some of the squares so all of our choices would be in the quilt.  I blended all of that together and was pretty happy with the result.  The trouble (re)started when I went to quilt it.  As you can see, the quilting stretched the quilt, the stitches went wonky and it lost it’s shape.  It didn’t help that mixing some lightweight cottons,linen and voile with standard cotton made it tough to do tight straight-line quilting. I didn’t help that my machine needed a tune up. I didn’t help that I had so much of my delicate ego resting on the results of the quilting.  I was equally devastated and pissed.  I mean, the universe was kicking me while I was down. It was poisoning my lemonade; the lemonade I was forcing myself to cheerfully make from the bad lemons.

I finished the quilt but instead of putting it up in our house, it’s on the wall in my studio.  It’s hardly awful! It’s just not what I wanted it to be.  Looking at it now, after a bit of time, I can say I like it. In all of its wonky, imperfect glory I like it. When I step back and squint my eyes, I like it even more.  It reminds me of my family;  it reminds me of all the great people I met at Sew Down; it reminds me I still have things to learn and my mess-ups don’t define me.

Aerial Quilt | a happy stitch

We all do this, right?  We fail at something we put our hearts and identities into.  We pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, force a smile, grit our teeth and fall AGAIN.  It happens and if it doesn’t happen…well, we wouldn’t have any good stories to tell, no wonky quilts to squint our eyes at and no passion to strive for better.

I love making mini quilts.  I find them very therapeutic and freeing.  I realize they are not practical (if quilts are for warmth these don’t even cover a lap!) but they offer a great chance to play with color and try out a new technique without the huge commitment that comes with a full-sized quilt.  They suit me, I can learn but still wing it and just make until it feels ‘right’.  Precision be damned.

I will be making more mini quilts this year and already have. I will conquer quilting tightly with a mix of fabric substrates because I love texture in a quilt.  I will be putting a mini quilt on our family wall.  And, I will be telling their stories.

22 Comments on Aerial Quilt (or how much a mini quilt can break you down)

  1. Sara
    March 4, 2015 at 11:45 am (3 years ago)

    I love it! Really. Since it’s not an obvious geometric pattern, it looks as though everything about it was intentional. The earthy colors are fairly neutral, but it’s still interesting. I want to keep looking at it! I think I would love to try something like this for my own wall!

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 4, 2015 at 11:47 am (3 years ago)

      Aw, thanks so much Sara!

      Reply
  2. thecozypumpkin
    March 4, 2015 at 11:45 am (3 years ago)

    Yes, we ALL do this. And I’m so glad you shared your feelings and thoughts. I love honest blogging. 🙂 And it really is a story of triumph, because you worked through all of it and persevered. Way to go!

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 4, 2015 at 11:48 am (3 years ago)

      I’m so glad it resonated with you! Yes,no triumph without trial, right?

      Reply
  3. Daniela D
    March 4, 2015 at 11:49 am (3 years ago)

    Oh…quilt insecurity. Tell me about it. Talk about being in a room filled with experienced quilters/sewists and feeling “less than.” I’ve been there, sister! I, for one, love the quilt. I love everything about it. I am so happy I that you shared this story!!!

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 4, 2015 at 11:57 am (3 years ago)

      You are the best. I certainly know I’m not alone but it still feels good to hear it! Love you!

      Reply
  4. Crafty Ashley B
    March 4, 2015 at 1:39 pm (3 years ago)

    I second everything that has been already said. THANK YOU for being honest! I often feel “not good enough” when it comes to my quilting. That being said, I’ve really put myself out there and joined swaps where my piecing and stitching can (and likely will) be scrutinized. But that’s okay. But I tried. And remember when all else fails: your piece has character!!! At least that’s what I tell myself when I have a mess up! 🙂

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 4, 2015 at 2:06 pm (3 years ago)

      Good for you for doing swaps! That’s a great way to conquer the “less than”‘s! And, character is the perfect word.

      Reply
  5. Andrea
    March 4, 2015 at 2:19 pm (3 years ago)

    Oh goodness! I just finished my first quilt and talk about wonky!! But it wasp r my daughter and in her eyes? It’s perfect. Yes, I want to try again, but it’s a path. We don’t start at perfect. We don’t start at expert. These are all steps on our creative paths 🙂

    Also, I thought you might like to hear Danielle’s experience. She wrote about it here: http://eepurl.com/bbU4ED

    Reply
  6. kristin
    March 4, 2015 at 7:14 pm (3 years ago)

    I’ve been there too, especially with quilting and knitting – I don’t feel like either a Quilter or a Knitter but I have fun with both! I love your mini! It looks great from here. 🙂

    Reply
  7. kristin
    March 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm (3 years ago)

    (ps i hear so many quilters say how hard it is for them to sew garments…so…)

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 4, 2015 at 9:35 pm (3 years ago)

      That is so true and I’m always surprised to hear it! Like, “What! It’s a garment…so much easier than quilting!” I guess it is all relative!

      Reply
  8. erin
    March 5, 2015 at 8:46 am (3 years ago)

    I love that we traveled the Sew Down workshops together because I can understand EXACTLY what you are saying. I have all those same insecurities about the things I make. I tend to put pressure on myself where it is not needed, compare when it robs all the fun and joy out of what I am doing, and doubt every little step instead of trusting my gut. You are not alone! All that said, I love this quilt of yours. It is beautiful and I applaud your for sharing its story!

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you SO MUCH! You have these insecurities, really? But, you are rocking this!! This is such a big part of the reason that Alexia’s speech was so inspirational. It is about remembering that my gut does know best…and it’s so hard to have faith in that but it never does me wrong! And, even if my gut did do we wrong, it’s still the only guide I have. I would be pre-destined to fail if I tried to mimic someone else’s vision! It’s so obvious but still so hard to remember!! I guess if I keep writing about, I keep reminding myself. <3 Thanks Erin, I'm so glad Sew Down connected us.

      Reply
  9. Mardis Burns
    March 6, 2015 at 2:41 pm (3 years ago)

    I have been quilting for over thirty-five years. Do not ever feel that you do not fit. Every day is a learning process. I think your wall hanging is beautiful. I used to get upset over mistakes, but learned that life is too short to go that route. I am quilting more than ever since I retired at the age of 68 three years ago. I strive for perfection, but do not dwell on a mistake anymore. I found that my most valuable tool for machine quilting is a spray on temporary adhesive and my walking foot. Never without it for all curved and straight line quilting.

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 6, 2015 at 5:00 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks for such kind words Mardis. Cheers to imperfection!

      Reply
  10. Beth
    March 6, 2015 at 5:34 pm (3 years ago)

    As always, your lovely voice and willingness to bravely and honestly talk about your creative journey has touched me deeply. I think the “not good enough” battle is fought for a long time within each one of us. Maybe it is a necessary battle to keep pushing ourselves to try something new or look at something differently. I am just so happy that you hung this beautiful piece instead of letting it get dusty in a pile. That would have been the sad part – not the wonkiness or the not so straight quilting – but missing the point of the process. The only sadness is in not getting meaning from the journey. xoxo

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 6, 2015 at 5:42 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks so much Beth! “The only sadness is in not getting meaning from the journey”…such wise words. <3 you!

      Reply
  11. Tara
    March 19, 2015 at 5:27 am (3 years ago)

    Hey Melissa, finally got a chance to catch up….Aw another quilt is born. Congratulations to you Quilt-Mama. Your quilt is too beautiful. I’m a quilter and I think it looks GREAT. Quilting really is a journey filled with all kinds of emotions. I love to go against the grain, break all the rules and turn everything inside out. Why NOT?. You did learn a lot and you did get meaning out of your journey because you finished the quilt however, realizing what it all was, well….that will come with time.

    You really are a quilter Melis – have faith in yourself. I can see you enjoying the fiber art quilts coz they use all sorts of mediums. My group of ladies like to use the words ‘fudge it’. When things go wrong you ‘fudge it’, till the fabric does what you want it to do. Secondly, to have fun you CAN NOT feel sorry for the quilt. Be Brave and sew another. I see your quilt stands proud – so should you 🙂 :).

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 19, 2015 at 10:08 am (3 years ago)

      Oh goodness. Tara, what a nice message. I love the way you boss around your fabric!! I’m definitely going to make more little quilts, the making never ends!! Thanks for the love lady. So glad to have your voice in this conversation. <3

      Reply
  12. Izabe
    March 24, 2015 at 3:17 pm (3 years ago)

    Shame on you for talking bad about that beautiful quilt! Really! I saw the photo and thought, “how lovely, I wonder what the story is behind it? so creative!” Didnt assume that there were “mistakes”, instead assumed that you made intentional design and construction choices, that I thought were very smart and creative ….but thanks to your public self flogging, you’ve ruined it for me and countless others! 🙂 (jk, of course, just hoping you’ll lighten up on yourself a little.)….Put the darn thing up on your wall where people can see it, and be proud, it’s BEAUTIFUL.

    Reply
    • Melissa Q.
      March 24, 2015 at 3:31 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh, I hear you! I also cringe a bit when others spend all their time critiquing their beautiful work. Truth is, I wanted to be honest about the process behind this quilt…that it was hard, that I did cry, that it scared me a little and I kept going. I still think of it as a victory story but not a simple one. 🙂 Thanks for your compliments! I did enjoy the creative process. And, I’m glad that the quilting was tricky because I learned so much from that.

      Reply

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