Before I talk about my second nugget of advice we first have to talk about blankets and quilts.
I have heard many quilters get incensed when someone calls a gifted quilt a "blanket". I remember reading a blog post from a quilter who declared that she would never give a family member another quilt simply because the recipient referred to it as a blanket. Memes with the similar sentiments pop up on Facebook from time to time.
This is the quilt that my Great-Grandmother made for me when I was very young. She made quilts for all of her Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren.
This quilt was on my bed every day from the time I received it (in the early 1960's) until I went to college. It was my blanket. It is the reason that I remember my Great-Grandmother as a quilter. Even worn and tattered I can't get rid of it. I think of her every time I see it. It's not a masterpiece but it's more special to me than any piece of art I own. I will, someday, think of some way to cut it up and make something from the remaining good parts. My brother continued to use his until it completely wore out. I had to put a new binding on it around 1999 and he finally had to give up on it about 5 years ago and start using a new quilt that Mom made for him.
To me quilts are precious but blankets are love. When I give quilts to people I tell them that my wish is that they use the quilt to death. I want them to need the blanket when they are sick, to nap on it with their pets and kids and I want the kids to drag their blankets around everywhere until their parents are sick of seeing it.
The cool thing about making blankets is that we also don't have to be precious about how we quilt them. Of course they need to be well constructed but they don't need quilt show quality quilting.
Practice on blankets, not practice fabric.
As quilters we are often afraid that we will "ruin" a quilt with our not-so-stellar quilting. Well, I have yet to meet a quilter that didn't have a stack of quilts meant to be gifts. Wouldn't it be better to quilt these and gift them so that some of them might eventually become blankets? It's a lot more fun to quilt a quilt than to practice over and over with muslin. No one is in a hurry to get to the machine to quilt a piece of muslin.
Several years ago I was finally ready to start learning to quilt feathers. A piece of muslin wasn't going to be enough. I needed a LOT of practice and a whole quilt was the best way. I found this one in my stash of tops, picked a blending thread and quilted feathers over the whole surface. The feathers were garbage at the beginning but by the end they looked much better. I didn't need a class, I needed practice.
This quilt is now owned by my youngest brother and it's his sofa blanket. He curls up with it to watch TV and nap in the winter. If you called him today he could not tell you how this quilt was quilted He likes it because of the colors and because it's soft and warm. Get the color right and make it soft and no one will even notice how you quilted it.
Practicing on quilts has 3 big benefits:
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.