Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Skill Building

There's always so much to learn. As a quilt designer and author of a few quilting books, I often feel that I'm expected to have excellent skills in EVERY area of quilting and to know how to navigate every technique really well. Here's the truth -  I'm just like you. I'm not a perfect quilter, I'm a work in progress. I've made some very pretty quilts but I still struggle with the same things many of you struggle with - I'm good at some things and awful at others. I don't always have the time to perfect every technique I attempt without a lot of practice.  Honestly though, I  really want to become better at some of those things. Finding time to do everything is what I struggle with the most.
So, every now and then I decide to take it upon myself to pick something I'm really bad at and work on becoming a little more competent at it. Build those skills. Lately, it's paper piecing, or foundation paper piecing as it's called. I resisted it for years thinking - yuck! - it's just too much trouble, fussing with that paper and flipping it all around, etc. Way too much work. Years ago, I had to learn because I wanted to make a small Crazy Quilt for my first book. That one was pretty easy to make. Mostly, though, I hated doing it. Every time I tried I made mistakes and so stopped trying for years.
 I bought books. Not even the good ones helped me.
I decided it was me -  I just wasn't that good at it and didn't like doing it enough to care. And, since I didn't need it for the quilts I liked to make, who cared if I knew how to do it well? I didn't.
Until Dear Jane came along, that is. Making some of the Dear Jane blocks was the real motivating factor to learn paper piecing. There are too many blocks with too many tiny pieces not to use paper piecing on them. For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to knock off a few more blocks. I decided I really have to try to finish the quilt before I die . . . . A bunch of blocks sitting in a box isn't going to thrill anyone after I'm gone, despite all the hard work that went into each and every one of them.  What if they get tossed away or something?
Look at how tiny some of these pieces are!
But they all came together nicely. With a little time and a lot of patience I'm learning I can conquer almost anything.
So I bit the bullet and decided it was now or never. I broke down and gave up avoiding it. I knew I needed to learn this skill if I was going to commit to finishing the quilt. This time, though, instead of trying to learn from a book (or a bad video; I tried lots of those) I sat down and watched a great video. I tried it again and what do you know - this time it clicked and it all suddenly became easier. Maybe it was just the right time. Or, maybe I just needed a little self-encouragement and patience on my part and the right tools. Here's the video that I hope will help you too if you struggle with this technique.  Don't be too hard on yourself if you've tried it before. Have patience and you'll succeed.
This pad of tracing paper I bought at the drugstore works well for me.
The other indispensible tools. Flat head pins, an index card. The ruler is standing in for the recommended add a quarter inch ruler. I'll have to look for that soon. This one works for now.

I started by making a few simple blocks so I could get the technique down. They didn't turn out half bad, if I say so myself. I haven't figured out what's different this time or why it seems to be going a lot easier.  I still can't say I love paper piecing but I can definitely tolerate it now. The best thing is - I gained a new skill and conquered my fear. And that's always worth the time and trouble.
Sometime in the near future I'll share with you how I conquered my fear of  applique (that nasty "A" word for so many of us).

I'm definitely getting better. Almost perfect Pretty good circles!



Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

Dear Jane quilts can be fun to make - I made two of them both hand pieced and some applique on the ones that needed it. I didn't try the paper piecing although I know of a lot that have made it that way too - have fun!

Sue said...

Karen's video is the one I watched that made the most sense for me too! I'm still not a huge fan of it...and that's only because of the paper. I don't find I needed that special add-a-quarter inch ruler. I just use my little creative grids one like yours in the photo. It is nice to be able to conquer new techniques though :)

Janet O. said...

I finally conquered my fear of paper piecing a couple of years ago, but applique still looms large in my mind. : )

moosecraft said...

Your paper pieced blocks look fabulous! Thanks for the inspiration! I've bookmarked the video to watch later...

Pip said...

Love how your blocks are looking, before I started on my Dear Jane (and I still haven't finished the quilting) I learned to paper-piece from Carol Doak's book, I loved it, but didn't want to draft up all of those DJ blocks, so I bought the DJ software which means you can print out the template or paper-piecing patterns which makes it so much quicker and easier.

Stick with it and you will finish your Dear Jane :)

Anonymous said...

Your blog always make me either smile or think about my quilting as well. Today is both!
So funny your talking about the DJ blocks, I felt like I wrote it myself - same feeling.
Have a great Spring,

Cindy P said...

It's amazing how many techniques we've conquored making DJ blocks. Some quilters are afraid to attempt it because the blocks are considered so 'small' to them. But it really is a learning quilt.

And it's like eating an elephant. One bite at a time.


Sue Bennett said...

Your blocks are turning out very nice. The paper piecing is a big help with those size blocks. Loved the read this morning.

Rosa said...

Such a beautiful blocks.Love them allĂ­!

Nita said...

I an intrigued with the Dear Jane quilts, the Gypsy Wives quilts, all of these large sampler quilts made of small blocks. Maybe some day I'll start one...as for paper piecing, it brings me to tears every time. I don't enjoy it at all and am put in an instant bad mood every time a bee member chooses one for her month! However, I do admit one can create a nice, tidy little block with the method...so good on you for figuring it out! :)

Granny's Button Box said...

A lightbulb moment, thank you for reminding me, I started by paper piecing but progressed to machine quilting, bought the dear jane book but was looking at with machine quilting eyes, doh. Your post reminded me that I loved doing paper piecing, its somthing thats very portable and fun.

Pattyskypants said...

I just can't get over the feeling that it's just a waste of paper and fabric and that I will never develop the skill of piecing if I don't do it without the paper. It's like making cookies with prepackaged cookie dough. The recipe never improves and you can't make it your own. I know everybody's all into get-it-done-FAST-no-matter-how. I'm just not into easy.

Priyanka Sharma said...

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