Our first quilts, or, what I learnt from making the Pansy Monstrosity

We all have to start with our first quilt. If we are fortunate, this quilt is made while we are young. This is so we can blame the chopped off points, uneven seams, and casual approach to colour theory on our inexperienced, youthful selves.

Unfortunately, I cannot blame a small child for the hot mess I have come to call the “Pansy Monstrosity”. I was not only of a mature age, but even had some limited sewing experience, when I “created” this quilt.

Pansies, and more pansies.

I have come to view it a bit like companion planting in the vegetable garden. The theory is that you plant sacrificial species in amongst the useful vegetable crops. The pests swarm to these, leaving your precious edible crops to grow. Similarly, after the initial construction phases I left this quilt in my quilt studio, abandoned, for a couple of years. Every time I picked it up, further gross quilting errors were made, enabling me to avoid making these errors on more prized quilting projects. Eventually the time came to pluck this quilt out though. Bind it, wash it, and find it a home…somewhere far, far away.

In the interests of the greater good, I thought I would share with you the painful lessons I have learnt from making this quilt.

  1. I now show some restraint in my fabric curating habits. For example, I will never again become infatuated with collecting a themed fabric (e.g. pansies, cats), with no future project in mind. Although browsing for fabric is a delightful pastime, and supports our LQS, eventually you do have to do something with those 28 Pansy fabrics you bought. Do you really want to be including them in every project for the foreseeable future? Besides which, I have discovered eating chocolate is a far better use of my time when stressed, rather than cruising the internet buying yet more fabric. It’s cheaper, and my children will even walk down to the dairy to get it for me.
  2. I learnt it is a good idea to take a beginners quilting course, rather than throwing yourself into designing your own quilt first time out. This is especially true if the techniques required use acronyms you have never heard of (e.g. QAYG), let alone understand the ramifications of.

    I cut squares of each Pansy fabric, outlined them with a contrasting colour, then joined into strips and quilted them. The sashing later between the blocks seemed too plain, so out came the fancy stitches and variegated threads.
  3. I learnt it pays to plan your quilt, and do some quilt math. That way you avoid having just as many Pansy blocks left over, as there are in the original quilt. My local hospice may yet be blessed with it’s own version of this quilt.

    Blocks, blocks, and more blocks. My pile of leftovers.
  4. I have now bought a quarter inch foot. I know, it cost $65 (gulp!), and the Hubbie still shudders at the cost of that tiny piece of plastic he bought me for my birthday. But when none of your blocks are equal in size, despite starting out as similar sized pieces, you’ll really wish you had one.
  5. I learnt to measure and trim my blocks. Measurement errors compound, and it’s too late to correct the errors when  you find each strip in your quilt a different length when joining them at the end. I’m still not sure how I ended up so far out!
  6. I learnt that using the fancy stitches on my new sewing machine does not distract from the glaring errors created by ignoring the previous two points.
  7. I now choose a nice backing fabric for my quilts. After all, if you attempt to use 28 Pansy fabrics on a quilt top, the back may end up being your preferred side of the quilt, so choose a fabric you like.

    Some of the black and white fabrics I chose for the quilt back. With the black sashing and black/tan binding, it is slightly more restful than the quilt top to look at.
  8. I learnt very early that quilting is not a cheap hobby, at least in New Zealand, so I now keep an eye out for bargains. During one of my first sewing sessions, my LQS staff sold me three meters of backing fabric ($32/m), black cotton thread ($23), black sashing fabric ($26/m), and two meters of batting ($40/m) for the quilt. I was sewing, and they just helpfully cut fabric etc after telling me my requirements, and bought it to me at the table.  I felt so sick to the stomach at the bill, I almost stopped quilting for good that day. Note: the class cost only $5/day, and making sales is what makes it financially worthwhile for them.
  9. Lastly I have learnt that there is a quilt for everyone. My MIL quite likes this quilt, calling it the “Pansy Riot” quilt instead. I’m glad she likes it, since it I can now wrap it, and put it under her Christmas tree this year. It saves buying her some Avon again.

    While too big to capture in a single shot inside, this photo does capture the variety of fabrics in the quilt. And to think I had professional guidance from LQS staff during the design process!

I have washed the quilt, and it is now hanging outside on the line. I’ve found a hole in it already, yet another mistake. Maybe it’s time to compost it.



8 thoughts on “Our first quilts, or, what I learnt from making the Pansy Monstrosity

  1. Oh Tarnia! “Pansy riot’ is the perfect name, it’ll be what I call a great cuddily ugily quilt! (and we’ve all got at least one of those!) And on the +side, you certainly learnt a lot! I did laugh when I read your “Avon” comment!


    1. Hi Linda. I made the mistake of buying some Avon from a local rep out of pity, since my MIL uses it and her birthday was approaching. Now I have fortnightly visitations to look forward to. I feel so guilty saying “no thanks”.


  2. I am glad I am forewarned. I have been collecting ladybug fabrics regardless of color and scale and if they go with each other. Hmmm. Have not found a pattern or idea to consume those yet so no quilt to learn the error of my ways from that one. I also have been collecting chicken fabric. At least this time it is all red white back and yellow. Oh, no! I just remember I did add a lime green to the mix. My fiascos are not made up yet so there is still time to redeem myself and split up all those discordant fabrics of the same theme. Laughed my way through reading your post. Really enjoyed it.


    1. Thanks for visiting, and I am glad you enjoyed the post. Ladybird fabrics will be a significant challenge to use in quantity. Maybe a series of garden themed quilts? Maybe you could start a QAL for those of us who have collected unfortunate fabrics.


  3. I had to laugh at learning to curate our fabric collections! I had such a collection of Debbie Mumm fabrics I thought I’d never use up.:) Very fun post and so great that your MIL loves the quilt already. Much better to gift this one than try to make one especially for her now that your tastes have changed!


    1. Hi Audrey, yes I have found a few Debbie Munn fabrics in the discards pile at my local arts recycling centre. I guess we have moved on to a different palette of colours in the modern quilting world. Still, there are some pretty cute prints in her fabrics, so I have taken a few home to include in a country style quilt at some stage. Thanks for visiting.


  4. Hi, Tarnia:
    I wondered here from Let’s Bee Social, and this quilt caught my eye. I love purple, and I never knew there were so many pansy fabrics. Wow! You could ask the hospice if they need IV pillows. They are about the size of a quilt block. You could just see two, together, and add a bit of polyester stuffing.


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