April 20, 2023

We Learn By Doing {Lessons From Quilting}

Welcome to another Lessons From Quilting post! So many of the things I've learned in my 20+ years of quilting can be applied to life away from the sewing machine, too.
Lessons from quilting | DevotedQuilter.com
I love to read about how to do different things. Some I'm interested in doing, like vegetable gardening, and others I will probably never try, like blacksmithing, but reading about how is still fascinating. I'm really good at dreaming about what it would be like to be good at _______ 😅 

I've read a lot about quilting, too, of course! More than that, I've made a lot of quilts, and along the way I've learned how to do a lot of different techniques. In my early quilting days, learning a new technique meant finding a book or magazine article about it, whereas now I look for tutorials on blogs or Youtube. No matter what source I'm using to learn, the most important step is when I pull out some fabric and actually try to do what I read or watched. Sometimes it works well the first try, but more often than not it takes a couple of tries before I really feel like I know what I'm doing. Either way, it's the doing that allows me to learn the skill.

My first attempt at binding was a bit of a mess. I bought double-fold bias tape, pinned it to the edge of the quilt and tried to stitch both sides at the same time. In the process, I missed it on the back in a lot of places. Not knowing any better, I just went back over those spots another time or two, until that binding was stitched down all the way around the quilt. Eventually I learned to stitch the binding on one side at a time, but getting the miters in the corners took a few more quilts after that. I remember it was one of Carol Doak's books that had the illustrations that finally made it click for me as I followed her instructions to fold the binding up away from the corner and then fold it back down. I just kept binding more quilts, picking up a tip here and trying something different there, until finally I could finish off my quilts as neatly as I wanted.

Reading or watching alone can't make us proficient at any new skill, no matter how many books, blog posts, or videos we consume. For all my reading (and the occasional tomato or pepper plant), I still don't know how to plan and maintain a vegetable garden. I can bind a quilt, though!

Sometimes we avoid doing something new because we think it's going to be too hard. Have you done that? I certainly have, more times than I care to admit. In fact, I'm kind of doing it now. I've done a lot of raw edge applique, by hand and by machine, but I've always been a bit intimidated by the needle turn technique. I've read a few blog posts and watched a few videos, so I kind of know how it's supposed to go, but I haven't tried it yet, even though I want to. 
We learn by doing | DevotedQuilter.com
So many times I can't wrap my mind around how to do some new technique until I have fabric in hand and I'm actually following the instructions step-by-step. I'm sure that will be the case for needle turn applique, as well. The same is true for so many other things. I learned how to cut up a pineapple by reading the instructions and then trying it for myself. As a kid learning to bake, I learned how to separate an egg by watching my mother tip the yolk back and forth between the halves of the egg shell, and then doing it myself. Aiden learned how to play drums and then guitar by watching videos and spending hours playing. My mom learned photography by reading about it, taking classes, and taking thousands of pictures.

There are so many things to learn, in quilting and in life. For all of them, the best way to learn is to get in there are start doing it! What would you like to learn next?


  1. Yes, indeed! We do learn by doing- and then we get better by doing it more and more (practice.)

  2. I joined 4H as a young teen. The motto of the organization s "Learn By Doing". Often, the adult volunteer was learning right along with us. We even got to do things intentionally wrong to see what happens. Your hands remember what they learned.

  3. I was really intimidated to try free motion quilting on my own, so I took a workshop. I learned a LOT in the workshop (one of which is that my old machine couldn't drop its feed dogs, so I probably would have been really frustrated trying to FMQ with it). These days, between blogs and YouTube, I'm a lot more confident to pull out some scrap fabric and give something a try.


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