Guest post by: Lisa Sipes – That Crazy Quilty Girl

Hello, everyone! This is my second guest blog posting for this site (thank you so much, Michele!). I hope I don’t repeat too much information and sound like a broken record!

What I want to talk about is not only relevant in the sewing room, but every room of life. Do you challenge yourself? Are you always learning? Are you open to trying new things?

When people ask me how I got involved in, and good at quilting, I always have the same response. I’ve always been more of an academic and never realized I had a creative bone in my body. My brain is like a sponge, I love to soak up knowledge. What I didn’t realize in all of my academic endeavors was that I could use that sponge to soak up knowledge of other things as well!

When my mother suggested that I try quilting, I thought she was absolutely insane. I didn’t know anything about quilting and had no interest in it, really. But, I decided to just go for it. (Remember that phrase as it will repeat quite a bit.)

So I bought a Thimbleberries book of patterns, picked out what looked like the easiest pattern in the whole book, chose my fabrics and with the help of my mother and online tutorials, I taught myself to use a damn rotary cutter and ruler. (Just so you know, rotary cutters are useless without that ruler. Ask me how I know!). I cut out all of my pieces and sewed away and when all was said and done I ended up with this:


There you have it. I’m showing off my very first quilt with its new owner. Not too shabby, right? I’m talking about the quilt, not the handsome fella holding it up (he’s single, ladies!). It took me about a month to cut it all out, piece it, quilt it and bind it (we won’t even get into the running stitch I used to sew the binding to the back because I didn’t know any better). I was pretty proud of myself.

So I had mastered accurate cutting. I learned the hard way to press and not iron. I (kind of) taught myself how to do a binding. I made a couple more basic quilts to be sure I really had the hang of this quilting stuff. Then I decided it was time to learn something new. But what? Hmmmm. Applique!

Again, I utilized these here handy dandy interwebs and Googled away to find the best technique for applique. I decided on fusible machine applique. I chose my pattern and was really, really, really scared to start this new project. The piecing of the quilt was pretty advanced and seemed far beyond my skill level. But I decided to just *go for it*. This is another example of learning something the hard way. Did you know that when you’re doing fusible applique, you have to reverse stuff when you trace it onto your webbing? Who’da thunk it?! After a lot of doing and re-doing, I finally finished the top. It took a couple of months, but here is my fourth quilt I ever made:

quilt top

By the end of that project, I had mastered the perfect satin stitch for machine applique. Perfect for my sister!

Then it came to quilting it. Now, this was no small task, as this quilt is 115″x136″. That’s a big freakin’ quilt, y’all! I was intimidated by its size and thought that the quilting should be pretty fancy. At this point I had only been quilting for a couple of months and was scared to death by what I was about to attempt: TRAPUNTO.

This is when my Google search acquainted me with Karen McTavish and her books. Holy crap! I’d hit the jackpot! Water soluble thread? Crazy! Water soluble markers? Nuts! I bought Karen’s Secrets of Elemental Quilting book and read it cover to cover. I also watched the included DVD several times before trying out trapunto (and McTavishing) for the first time. I did a small test project before doing anything on the actual quilt.

feathered heart

Not the best but not the worst, right?

So I had (kind of) taught myself how to do trapunto. Now it was time to try it on the quilt! I loaded everything on the frame and then time stood still. I was frozen. I literally stood in front of my machine and stared at this quilt for two hours. TWO HOURS! Finally I slapped myself in the face (no, really), told myself to get over it, and I decided to just *go for it*. I dived in head first and as I worked, I was convinced that it was going to look like total crap. After weeks of trimming batting off the back of the quilt, and then another two weeks of final quilting, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

finished quilt

That would be me standing next to the quilt, with my handsome dad, two of my uncles and my sister (the recipient of this massive quilt) holding it up. SUCCESS!!!!!

A month after that picture was taken I attended Spring Quilt Market in Minneapolis and met Sarah Vedeler. Woah! “I must learn to embroider!” I had been sewing for around a year and a half, and it was time to up the ante. I did have an embroidery machine, but I didn’t know anything about stabilizers or threads or how the embroidery part of my machine even worked. Go figure, right? But I got the CD for Sarah’s GO! BeDazzled quilt, got my fabrics, read all of her instructions and *went for it*. This quilt was a sloooooow process. Very slow. There were tears. There was blood. The was sweat. There were (many) meltdowns and at one point, I actually screamed. But I did it! I taught myself to embroider! I also completed my first show quilt.

Lisa's BeDazzled

I wish i could show you the project that I’m working on now that is my latest challenge for myself, but I can’t. Soon enough!

What is the point of all of this babbling? Challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to learn new things, to try things you never in a million years thought you could do. If something scares you to even think about attempting it, DO IT. What’s the worst that could happen? If it sucks, you can rip it out and try again. But when it’s awesome, you gain a sense of accomplishment and pride that is irreplaceable. To be able to look at something spectacular and say, “I did that”… WOW!

If you’re in a rut or a funk and tired of doing the same old thing, push yourself to try something out of your comfort zone. People often ask me how I got to be “so good” at what I do in such a short amount of time. It’s because I am never satisfied with what I *currently* know, I want to know more. I want to do. I want to learn. I want to drive myself completely insane trying to teach myself something new.

If there has ever been a time when you’ve looked at something and told yourself that you can’t do it, STOP. Give yourself a pep talk. Anyone can do it. You just have to really want to. You can never fly if you never try (that rhymed!).

There is a wealth of information out in this great big world, and there are so many people that will help you if you ask. That’s the great thing about being a quilter. You’re never alone. =]

Thanks Lisa for your inspiring guest post. For those that missed it, read Lisa’s first blog post: The Secret Life of a Longarm Quilter. You’ll be amazed and inspired to see how she quilted a gorgeous antique Sun Bonnet Sue quilt.

Lisa’s having a give-away on her site right now… a lovely rolie polie (jelly roll like) bundle of fabrics from Riley Blake. Leave a comment on Lisa’s blog for your chance to win.

Are you challenging yourself?

4 thoughts on “Are you challenging yourself?

  • August 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

    What a great post and inspiration! We all need to challenge ourselves and I really enjoyed reading Lisa’s post.

  • August 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    You do such amazing work!

  • August 25, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Oh wow. What amazing quilts and what an amazingly driven person you are.

    Thanks for the pep talk.

  • September 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I enjoyed your talk. I have been convincing my self that I need to challenge myself more and this has inspired me to do so.

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