Spiros, here is the result of the quilt-as-you-go blocks that I started last June to learn to machine quilt (using my delightful Bernina 640).  After quilting all those blocks, learning to stay on the lines, I felt confident enough to attempt to thread-paint the borders in orange and purple thread to match the colors in the fabric.  I sketched in the leaves and spirals with a chip of soap on the black fabric, then free-hand quilted the shapes.  I quilted the borders before attaching them, then once they were attached and the corners mitered, quilted in the design on the corners.  I sent this quilt to Alex, the son of my friend Lela, for Christmas.  (His reaction, as reported by his mom was, in teenager-2011 vernacular “That’s SICK!”  Translation: That’s amazing!)

As I worked on this quilt I hit a turning point that I hope you, my readers, will find helpful.  I started off by reading a variety of books on the subject of learning to machine quilt and all of them told me that this would be a skill that would require much practice and patience to master.  So, I went into this with the mindset that it was going to be difficult.  And it was.

Then one day something that I read in Diane Gaudynski’s book went ricocheting through my brain.  She said that moving the quilt shouldn’t happen with your arms, but that really the bulk of it is moving around a small part of the quilt with your fingers under the needle.  I realized that for good machine-quilting you need, primarily, good finger coordination.

And that’s when it hit me: I was a professional pianist for 25 years.  I’ve got finger coordination up the wazoo!  So I sat down at the machine and tapped into the skill I already had and suddenly I was doing beautiful machine quilting — nice smooth lines and even stitching (even without the stitch regulator).

What I learned about books is this: they assume (because they are writing for everyone) that you are starting from Square One.  But most of us are not complete beginners.  We acquire a collection of skills over a lifetime, and many of these carry over from one endeavor to another.  Next time you set out to learn something new, don’t assume that it’s going to be a big, scary process requiring arduous practice and saintly patience — that mindset will only get in your way.  Instead, ask yourself what you’ve done before that is similar to what you’re about to learn, then build on the skills you already have.  Chances are you’ll find that learning this new skill is easier than you expected.

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Detail shots of the borders

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