Forgiveness, Grace, and Imperfection . . . in Quilting!

Posted by Jenny K. Lyons on Feb 5th 2019

I think that quilting digs beneath the surface and taps into our inner soul. Recent events confirmed that.

I needed a small item to give away at my upcoming book signing for my new book with C&T, Free-Motion Quilting from Ordinary to Extraordinary. I was hard pressed for time and needed to keep it simple. At first I was going to give away my recent project using the tea bags that I made in Libby Williamson’s class at Craft Napa. But there was a lot of work put into that piece and I didn’t know when I’d have the time to finish the hand stitching. I just couldn’t justify adding more time to that piece, so nix that one.

I have lots of silk, lots. So next I thought I’d make a small silk wholecloth quilt based on a very traditional type of design. I sketched that up and concluded—boring! My eye landed on a bright red piece of silk and that got me started.

I love the type of design I did on Back Story (above) so I started there. Unfortunately I did not take a lot of in-process photos.

Once I finished the inner design, I pondered what to do in the border. I quilted piano keys in 100 wt silk thread. I should have stopped there! But I didn’t. Even though it was plain, it looked beautiful in its simplicity next to the complex design in the center.

I decided to put in what I call my Multiple Choice Border It always looks good, and I love it. It especially benefits from being put upon a piano-keyed background. I loved the blue, variegated King Tut against that glorious color—it was the perfect foil to the red.

I hated it. Hated it! It distracted from the center and looked all thready. Ugh.

It took four hours to rip out. The backing is a sateen weave, and you never want to rip out on a sateen weave. Your seam ripper will want to catch those floater threads, and that is un-repairable trouble. So I had to rip from the silk front, which was tricky. It required tweezers, a stiletto, a seam ripper, abundant light, lots of time, patience, and a magnifier.

Along the way, I learned that if I didn’t close the door to my bobbin area I get this. Duh.

The ripping left unsightly holes. Think about this—I used a size 90 needle with a 40/3 weight (thick) thread and pounded over my lines twice. That was not kind to my silk.

I knew I was in trouble, so I tried all the normal things: water, steam, manipulating the holes in various ways (scratching with sharp objects, rubbing with soft objects, twisting and pulling), and cussing. It was a bit better but the holes were there to stay.

This is where forgiveness, grace and imperfection come in. You were wondering, I know!

What did I have to lose? I thought my Curves border might look good, and it’s a pretty intense motif. That might hide/detract from the holes. I loved it as I stitched. I could see it was a great solution to my problem. The underlying piano keys are something I would not have done if I’d started out with Curves, but I like what it does to the border. Now I loved it!

You can still see those holes though…

Then angst set in. This was for a giveaway. Did it degrade my brand, my body of work, to put something so imperfect out there? Is it acceptable to give away a piece with flaws? Should I be embarrassed?

I festered over this for a day, and then the epiphany hit. My work is never perfect, and I don’t care. Would I hang this piece in my home? YES! Was I being harder on myself than I would be on others? YES! If I were to own a piece done by someone else, and I found similar imperfections, would it make me value the piece less? No.

I realized that I needed to forgive myself for my error and accept the imperfections (grace). I needed to be as kind to myself as I am to others. I still have a bit of trepidation about giving away this imperfect piece, but I do love it!

Quilting is more than quilting.

I have a history with imperfection in my quilts. My most awarded piece, Mom’s Lily Bed, received an interesting judges’ comment:

“We appreciate the visible hand of the maker.” That means, in Judge Speak, your work is not perfect and we appreciate your imperfections. There ya gofrom the mouth of a judge. Imperfection is okay. It even gets ribbons.

And then I made this quilt that comes with a story:

QBI, the Quiet Beauty of Imperfection, was designed to make a statement. I deliberately chose to make this without using a ruler. Every one of those straight lines has a bobble, because I’m on a domestic machine, without a ruler. And it is a quiet beauty. The imperfection adds to the beauty.

So I embrace imperfection. Again.

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