Good enough or personal best?

No good deed goes unpunished.

A while back I agreed to quilt a charity quilt made by a group that includes the mom of one of my daughter’s college friends.  They make a quilt each year to raffle off to raise funds to make quilts for foster children – a cause I can believe in.  Typically they tie the quilts since no one is skilled in machine quilting.  Somehow, someone figured I could use the practice as a novice with my longarm quilting machine and I agreed.  I have learned a lot, but both the design and execution of my quilting are at the advanced -beginner/intermediate level and I’d love to get really good at it.  So I thought I could practice my skills and do some good at the same time.

Then I got the quilt.  It is probably one of the ugliest quilts I’ve ever seen.  Made of garish, cheap fabric in an incoherent design with, let’s just say, not the best workmanship.  I puzzled over what to do with it for weeks and decided to try a meandering all-over feather design, changing feather type every 18 inches or so in order to get maximum feather practice.  Well, I loaded it up (backing fabric less than an inch wider than the top) and made my first pass.  It was terrible, both in design and workmanship.

As I stood and stared and tried to figure out what to do – rip out and start over or just keep on going – two conflicting foundations of my personal philosophy echoed in my brain.  One side believes that all work that I do is a reflection of who I am, and that to do less than an excellent job is a poor reflection on me as a quilter/worker/person.  On the other hand, it often makes no sense to put more effort into something than it’s worth.  Like my husband getting every single leaf from under every single bush before all the leaves have fallen from the trees.

It took a while to determine my approach.  I left the first pass of stitches in the quilt and modified the design to be more pleasing on the next passes.  I took more time and stopped frequently to check.  In the center medallion where the stitching would show more clearly, I created a design that echoed the motifs in the fabric, and took more care to execute them.  Now, surrounded by better stitches, the first part doesn’t look so bad.

I still don’t love the quilt, but I think – and hope – it will raise more funds than if it had been tied.  I hope they’re pleased.


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