Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

We all know this phrase:  Practice makes perfect.  Everything in life takes practice, especially things like cooking and quilting.  Some things come more easily than others, but they do all take practice.

Take the photo of the quilt at the top of this post.  In the border, I used a technique called McTavishing on it, named for the creator of the technique, Karen McTavish.  It's a beautiful and wonderful filler texture that is reminiscent of the Art Nouveau movement.  It worked beautifully on this quilt, don't you think?  But you want in on a little secret?  It took me quite a while to learn that technique.

First I practiced on a dry-erase board, looking at pictures of the technique in Karen's book "Mastering the Art of McTavishing."  Boy was that a dismal failure.  I just couldn't get the hang of it.  I tried for weeks!  It was only when I finally pulled out the DVD that came with the book and WATCHED her doing it that it started to click.

Back to the white board I went.  It went a bit better.  I went over my lines time and time again until I felt confident enough to try it on fabric.  So I loaded up some cheap fabric with a scrap of batting, and I began.  I started with contrasting thread so I could see what I was doing.  This was my first attempt.

Ugh.  Not so hot.  The contrasting thread doesn't help any either, every last little mistake stands out.  Yikes.  So, I practiced some more, and here is my second attempt.

Getting a little better, I'd say.  The flow is coming more easily, I don't have to think quite as hard, and I'm starting to get into a groove.  OK, let's see how it goes with matching thread.  I rethreaded the machine with white thread.  Let's see what happens now.

Aha!  Success!  It's working!  Oh, how I danced across the room when I finally got it.  I'd been admiring this technique for so long, and struggling for so long, that it was definitely a sweet victory when I finally figured it out.  You can have sweet victory too, just be willing to practice.

Get a dry-erase board and start doodling.  Whether you're practicing a technique developed by another quilter or coming up with your own design, it doesn't matter.  Try it again and again until it looks the way you want it to look.  Then go back and follow your line over and over again until you start to develop a muscle memory of the movements you need to take in order to get the desired look.

Then it is time to move to fabric and thread. Use cheap scrap fabric, or even do it on a charity quilt.  If it's a children's charity, the kids won't care how the quilting looks, they'll be thrilled with their quilt no matter what.  It's a win-win situation for both of you.  :)

Just give yourself time, and be patient with yourself.  You'll get there!


  1. So beautiful, val. I so admire your patience!!

    1. Thank you, Lisa! I admit, it was very frustrating and so tempting to just give up. I did take breaks, sometimes for quite a while (days, weeks) before getting back to it. But once it finally clicked.... it really clicked. That's the reward for perseverance. :)

  2. I have one of her books but no DVD. I guess I'll have to get one. I'm going to try this on some of my stash busting quilts!

    1. Sue, it's a lot of fun when you get it down. Definitely practice on paper or a white board first, as you can see it does take some time to get comfortable with it. But when you do... oh my, watch out! :)