I Won’t Do That!

A bit ago I wrote my blog post about a UFO project I was working on.  I showed this picture.


I didn’t think anything of it at all.  It’s a quilt block finishing at 6″.  If you work with men’s shirts for fabric you know that some are a little more stretchy (even though they are cotton) than others and if you know me and my sewing habits, you’ll know that in my world, this block looks just perfect!

I had a good chuckle when a blog reader left this comment, ” I can see I am not the only one the needs to square up blocks when working with small pieces :)”  It was reminder that all quilters practice the craft differently.

Kelli and I have had this conversation about “how we both quilt” a million times.  She “hates the way I pin”.  Really how does one “pin wrong”.  She hates the way I make ten blocks and then four blocks and then six blocks.  She wants to make all sixty blocks a quilt needs all at the same time so that every block gets finished in the last sewing pass.  There is whole list of other things that I do that I’m sure many would consider wrong.

The comment that the reader wrote had Kelli and I discussing all of the “wrong” things I do again so I jokingly took the Meatloaf song “I will do anything for love…but I won’t to that” and switched it up.

On a side note…This a picture that has Meatloaf’s signature on it.  We saw him in concert at UNI a few years ago.  It was so fun!


Here’s my list of things “I will do to quilt but I won’t do that”:

1-I will not trim blocks…Never ever.
I never trim blocks unless the block is a string blocks and HAVE to be trimmed.  My philosophy:  Why trim?  Any excess will be hidden in the seam…any shortfall will too.  For me, trimming is a waste of time.  Besides, when it comes to quilting, fudge is my middle name.  I ALWAYS fudge seams.

2-I rarely pin.  Most of my seams nest so there isn’t a need as far as I’m concerned.  Even when attaching a border, I put about 6 pins in the entire seam.  Seams slightly off don’t really bother me either.  I don’t love them but I don’t make huge efforts to perfect them.  Most of them time they aren’t even noticed after the quilting is done.

3-I don’t lay quilt blocks out on the floor or a design wall to made sure they look good and the color is distributed…..EVER-EVER.  However the blocks land is perfectly fine with me.  If two pink blocks touch….so be it.

4-I don’t EVER work on one project at a time.  The more the merrier.  For me and my style of sewing this works best.  If  I am SQUEEZING out quilting time, I almost have to have projects in various states to make sure I have a project I can always work on.  For example last night I needed to bind a MONSTER quilt….problem, I only had 20 minutes to sew.  I grabbed a piecing project instead….for that, my UFO got 20 minutes closer to being finished.

5-I don’t ever limit or feel guilty for the number of UFOs I have.  I love each and every one of my UFOs (unfinished projects).  I want to make and finish each of them and know I will someday, if I don’t die first.  This is my method of completing as much as I do.

6-I don’t get up and iron all the time.  I usually make an entire block before I get up and press it (unless the block includes a triangle-those I iron).  You can bet ladies that quilted before electricity and had to heat irons on the stove weren’t running back and forth from the machine to the ironing board all the time.  I iron finished block and iron again after the center of a quilt is finished…besides that, I rarely touch an iron.  With string blocks, I typically only finger press.  (This drives Kelli nuts)

7-I will not sew methodically.  As I said Kelli sews every quilt block at the same time.  I sew three blocks…then 10 blocks…then 7 blocks…whatever the mood and time calls for.  A couple weeks ago she was here and I was sewing string blocks.  She said how can you do that…I said do what?  She told me if she had a pattern that called for 50 string blocks, she would feed all fifty through the machine before she added another strip. Then iron every block.  NOT ME!!  PLEASE not ever, ever, ever.  I would hate sewing like that.

8-I will always grab the 15 minutes and sew.  I will never say, “I only have 15 minutes to sew so why bother with sewing.

9-I will always sew with fabric and patterns that speak to me for whatever reason.  Yes I will make quilts with recycled men’s shirt.  I will back a quilt with a sheet.  I will sew patterns by whatever designers I want…If only one or two designers call to me…that’s all okay!

10-I will never have a a clean organized sewing room that is photo worthy.  I like scrappy..I like strings…I like to sew.  I hate to clean.  That equals a sewing room that isn’t photo worthy.

11-I will buy some but not every sewing gadget.  I have a rotary cutter and mat along with a couple specialty rulers but that’s about all I need.


12-I will not hand bind.  I will not pin down my binding as I flip it to the back and I will not iron my binding in half.  (I know a bunch of you just cringed)

That’s it….”I will do anything to sew..but I won’t do that (the things listed above)!!”

I’m sure each and every one of you have your own list.  Many of yours would have a list that reads completely opposite of mine.  That’s entirely okay.  Happily there are many ways for a quilt to get made…MANY.

This is all one of the reasons that at times, I feel uncomfortable being a teacher of quilting.  I am not a perfectionist.  I don’t know how to make the perfect quilt.  I have no desire to make a perfect quilt.  WOW, that would be stressful if my standard was perfection.  One time Kelli and I attended a class and there was a lady in the class who was very upset.  She stopped an monopolized the teacher’s time telling that she had tried and tried and remeasured her block but she was sure her block was 1/8″ off.  Kelli and I looked at each other and smiled.  We each had a few blocks were that were too….we didn’t care.  We fudge everything!!!  We hide all of that in the seam.  We wouldn’t dream of being concerned about 1/8″.

So if you ever come to a class with Kelli and I as teachers.  We won’t be teaching the art of perfection…we teach the art of fudge.  We each have things that fall in the  “I will do anything to sew..but I won’t do that!!” category and happily through our sewing time together we realize that each and every one of us has our own lists and methods.  All of that is okay.   We know that with quilting there is not a one “right path” method.   What’s not okay is making quilting a chore…holding your work to such a high standard that you don’t enjoy the process or demanding others to be your standard.  On the opposite, you can’t be so lax that your block is not “fudge-able”.

Here’s Meatloaf singing his “Anything for Love” song….

So what won’t you do? I’d love to hear your responses!

P.S.  Yep..I am and always have been a Meatloaf fan!..and please forgive my silliness of this post.

38 thoughts on “I Won’t Do That!”

  1. Great post; I enjoyed it immensely! I won’t hand quilt. It’s just not an efficient use of time for me and, as such, I don’t find it relaxing. I don’t pin when I’m sewing either. I do trim blocks (but I really don’t like doing it!) and I do iron my binding, but now I think I’ll stop doing that! I am yet to attach binding entirely with machine stitching, so the next quilt that needs binding will be the guinea pig!!

  2. I do many of things you mentioned in this post. No quilt police please!
    Although I do bind by hand mainly because I love to do it and find it relaxing
    at the end of the day!

  3. What I won’t do is tell any other quilter that they’re doing it wrong! And I also won’t make a quilt from one coordinated line of fabric; it has to be scrappy. I could never make all the blocks for a quilt at one time. What if I changed my mind?

    What you DO do is get things finished!

  4. So glad to read your list! I think we quilt in a similar fashion. I “fudge” all the time because I’m anxious to see what the next pieces of fabric I’ve picked out look like together! As long as my work is “good enough for me”, I continue to happily sew on! I enjoy the whole process and don’t want to get bogged down in the details! A hobby should make you happy and what I do fills the bill. Keep up the good work and hope you get a lot of sewing in this week!

  5. I think we could be quilting twins. I approach quilting just the same way as you, scraps, strings, things everywhere and many ufo’s and ongoing projects. I have 8 kids and have always fit in sewing time whenever I could, who has time to stop and trim or press! I say just sew your best and keep going till someone interrupts you or you have to quit to move onto another task.

  6. Oh I so applaud you for what you won’t do. I do trim up blocks on occasion but I also fudge. I piece to make me happy not the rest of the world. Surely enjoyed your post.

  7. Susan the Farm Quilter

    I am good at fudging because I’m not the best piecer!! I use pins, I iron block pieces, I trim blocks just because it is easier for me in the end, and Kelli and I could work so well together getting all those blocks through the sewing machine! I don’t like doing hand-sewing at all, so I have learned to do most tasks with my sewing machine. I am over-the-top OCD with my quilting, right down to inspecting my stitches with a magnifying glass to make sure they are perfectly balanced and when doing SID, if one stitch is out of the ditch, I have been known to stop, remove the offending stitch, tie-off and restart the quilting.

  8. We all have our own ways of doing our sewing and quilting. If your methods work for you and you are happy with the finished quilts, then go for it! I’m mostly self-taught from books, magazines and watching Eleanor Burns on TV. Then there’s Mary Ellen Hopkins and “your very own personal quarter inch.” Hasn’t Bonnie Hunter said to be as accurate as you can and then fudge? I finger press, pin where absolutely necessary and trim where it really matters. The quilt police only exist in our imaginations. Quilt on!!!

  9. I really liked your post today. I’m going to try and ‘not do that’ – those things that really slow me down, don’t like, is a point where I just put the project away. I agree with Dot – what you do – is finish quilts. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I trim; I pin; I lay out blocks a couple of (sometimes three) rows at a time; I sew what I have time for; I press binding in half and hand sew-I do not pin or clip it ; I work on more than one project at a time; sometimes I need to “clear the decks” and finish everything; I don’t freak about measuring borders or squaring up a quilt; I love (and own) my own methods!

  11. “Silly” post is good as in my kinda post ~ just made my day! And your “list” is very much how I make a quilt! You rock, Jo!

  12. Love your post, Jo!! Some things I approach in the same way as you, but others, I am just the opposite….but here is my philosophy….I do what works for me, and you do what works for you….at the end of the day, we both love this craft called quilting!! And that is what counts!!

  13. Love this post. I wish I could be more like this. I so want it to be perfect to the point I have lost some of the joy that comes with quilting. I’m trying to do better and get my passion back so this post is what I needed. I have sewn with some folks that either make it a race or think their way is the only way so I stopped taking classes and going to retreats so I don’t feel the pressure. I will never be an award winning quilter I just want to be able to relax and enjoy it again. Thanks for your list!

  14. Loved this post! I think I fall somewhere between you and Kelli. I loved the comment from Dot about not telling another quilter they are wrong. Your post really comes across in the same way. I just loved the way you would say “this drives Kelli crazy”. Just made me laugh!!

  15. I LOVE Meatloaf! I won’t: hand quilt, machine the binding (handstitching is my evening therapy), cut an entire quilt at once, freak out about 1/8 inch off, fuss about backings-mine often don’t even “go with” the front, perfectly square up tops-I just quilt, trim and bind.

    I pin now and then but it’s a mood thing not a real reason. I do pin borders to prevent big waves.

    To each our own. I’ve never had a quilt rejected as “not good enough” ;-)

  16. Lol! Jo I can quilt with you anytime! It’s how the quilt turns out that counts. I thought that you should enjoy your hobby. Thanks for all you do for everyone!

  17. Love your silliness! We could quilt together! I dread trimming quilt squares but do it on occasion. I hand bind some quilts because the corners of my sewn on binding may look awful. These last few years I realized done really is better than perfect. And friend’s quilts look perfect to me even as they point out errors. And I realized, and you have reinforced, plans change and quilts evolve from what you thought they were going to look like. And as I’m sure you know, people love gifted quilts, imperfections and all!

  18. Yes! I don’t do everything the same but a lot. This is why I enjoy your blog because you’re you! Keep on doing what works for you!
    And I got to visit two shops I’ve heard you mention over the years-Merry’ s Stitch in’ and Forest Mills. I only wish I had time to locate your thrift shops! But this was on my way home from wedding planning in Des Moines with my daughter and a 5 1/2 hour drive to be done.

  19. I do most of the things on your list. However, I do trim blocks (but don’t worry if they finish slightly smaller than they should be). I like to set out my blocks by laying them on the floor and try to get colours/fabrics etc nicely spaced but if I discover one has slipped through the net I wouldn’t unpick the quilt top to rectify it (unless it really bugged me!). I also iron my bindings down the middle to give a double thickness and hand sew the back. I always have a few projects on the go at the same time and of course I have several “forgotten ” UFOs still waiting to see the light of day once more! Isn’t it good that we are all different?

  20. I loved this post too. For years, though I loved quilts I didn’t make them. I learned by handpiecing, and couldn’t get the same level of perfection with a machine. I read magazines, books, anything quilt related, but didn’t make any. Then I started participating in a ministry who made quilts for charity. Several of us wanted to make other types of quilts rather than just the blocks sewn together. We found or designed several patterns (we’re always on the hunt for fun looking simple patterns) – it’s then the joy of quilting really came alive in me. I have an unglamorous sewing room in the unfinished basement, but it’s my favorite room in our beautiful home. My husband calls it my sanctuary. And best of all, I’ve let go of the need for perfection and just sew. Amazingly enough though, my skills continue to improve, just by doing it more often.

  21. I quilt for fun, myself. I have pieces of blocks here and there, prairie points sewn in lengths, small bins of fabric colors, and love string blocks the most. I pin to match seams if necessary, trim only when the extra would throw off my seam, fingerpress all the time, lay out blocks mainly to see how I like it, and will probably never attend a retreat because I don’t like sewing all the same blocks over and over again. Unless they are string scrappy blocks. I make those four at a time, then sew them into a square. Or a chevron strip.

  22. This was so much fun to READ!!! I am in the hand tack binding group as well, I just have not mastered machine binding and making it remotely straight. I have a bazillion UFOs on the go, I also use 15 mins. here and there. I love retreats because I see how others work and maybe steal a tip or two and collect scraps that were going in the trash. I usually work 2-4 string blocks at a time, it is faster to me, so the big ol’ chain of 50 or 75 doesn’t get tangled around itself. I have a small table with a small pressing mat right by my machine, so that when I do work on string blocks, I can press right there. I do get up and press, but mostly that is to fool myself into thinking I am “exercising”. HA!!!! I also do bare minimum of pinning on borders in an attempt to not have wavy borders and I also think the more I quilt, the better my skill sets become. Off to finish a binding!

  23. As I was reading your post, it realy felt as if you were standing next to me while I am sewing. All 12 of those points are so spot on for me. Glad I am not alone!
    Love your quilts!

  24. Jo Anne Schnebly

    Great post today, Jo! I’m always trying to speed up the process. So, hardly any pinning, scrappy is all lights and darks, machine binding except for “very” special quilts, etc. I do spend time pressing and with steam! And I do “match the plaids” i.e.. motifs when piecing backings. Most people won’t notice, but those who do will know that I took a little extra effort. Silly some times, what sort cuts I take and others I don’t!

  25. Such a fun read. One of my favorites . I too have been a Meatloaf fan forever….and also a fan of sewing whatever, however, whenever …always more than one thing at a time and loving it all

  26. I really enjoyed your post today. I do pin binding after I was scolded by a longarmer about wavy borders. I work on a couple blocks at a time but I do chain piece to save thread. I will hand sew binding if it is for me, if it is a gift, I usually machine sew it so it is sturdier. You don’t know what their washing practices are and I don’t want it to come undone. My friend and I know “good enough” when we are sewing and “path of least resistance”. Works for me.

  27. I totally do what’s right for the quilt I’m working on. If I encounter a problem, I relax and work on a UFO for a bit. Then I return to the “problem” quilt. I usually see what will work after a pause. Quilting must be as stress free as possible !!

  28. No hand quilting for me! I do pledge to start loving all of my UFOs instead of feeling guilty for having them! Ha! I refuse to ever paper piece fiddly little scraps….been there, done that, hated it. All colors in the rainbow are welcomed in my scrap quilts!! Love your blog!

  29. I love your “I won’t do that” list. That is probably why yours is a blog I try to read everyday. You are my kind of quilter…an anything goes quilter. Not sure what I would put on my list but I know I want to have fun and I am okay with points not pointy and blocks that are 1/8″ off are acceptable. They just need to fit with the one next to it. No police allowed in my house (except maybe my brother the cop) ;) Keep up the good works.

  30. Jo, I LOVED everything about this post. However, I am “that quilter” with OCD, it is who I am. I am my own worst critic. I don’t sew as fast or produce as much as others. I am making a concious effort to relax & not follow “the rules” so closely. I like to think, I have very eclectic taste & admire all genres of quilting, including “style &/or colors.” I do not judge other people by the methods they use but, instead try to learn from them. I am always watching & seeking new ways to accomplish something, even if I have to tweak it, to fit my silly ways. There is more than one way tor get to the end result. It is my goal to one day…let go & be a completely scrappy girl!!!

  31. My list is very similar to yours, except you are carefree, and I feel guilty about all the things I am not willing to do. I am trying to loosen up and stop feeling the guilt since I’m not willing to change the way I quilt.

  32. Bless your big heart!!!! I sew wish I could be more like you!!!! I am in between you and a perfectionist!!!! Fifteen minutes is not enough time for me but I can see where it works for you!!! I use to only sew one project at a time but now I am working on three!!!! That is huge for me and I love it!!!! Love reading your blog!!!!

  33. Amen Sister. I could have written most of that myself. My iron does sit right next to me so I do press. But for me to be a perfectionist isn’t going to happen.

  34. Catholic Bibliophagist

    I guess we all have our own list of “won’t do” quilting items.

    I find fudging very stressful and perfect piecing very soothing. Perhaps that’s because my piecing is something I can control, and during much of my life so many things have been chaotic and beyond my control. However, I also enjoy projects that are deliberately wonky such as crumb piecing and string quilts. So doing both styles of quilting — precision piecing and relaxed — keeps me from tightening up and losing my joy in quilting.

    The one thing I will not do is accept a “commission” for a quilt in a color scheme chosen by someone else to match their decor — especially if it needs to be done by a certain deadline. Every time I try to do that all the joy gets sucked out of the project and I end up hating it.

  35. I could almost copy and paste your list as mine, almost. There are some where mine would almost never and I would eliminate number 12 because I do love to prop my feet up turn on a Hallmark movie and hand bind a quilt, it is just relaxing, but all the rest are stress reducers. Thanks for the post because I had never really put it all together like that and it makes me happy.

  36. Loved your blog. Trimming, pinning, ironing, it all depends upon the project. No hard and fast rules on any of it. Fudge factor, of course!! I just had to say that I love my design wall. It is the first thing I see when I walk into my room (overlooking the messy room of course). I like making 4 or 5 blocks of a project and putting up on the wall. It helps motivate me to finish if I love it. When my friend comes over she always has to go see what is decorating my wall!! I always have to find something to put up and not have a bare wall. It makes me happy.

  37. Jo, After reading your blog for a while, I have adopted your style of piecing without ironing, especially as I see the blocks in the quilt top together. I love how it seems to come together so easily and gives me flexibility on which direction to sew seams when they meet. I feel I have less issues with seam matching and laying flat in the end. It also is faster! Thanks for the freedom!

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