I didn’t make it into Sewvivor.

That isn’t the failure I’m referring to in my post title, but it’s put me in the mood to go ahead and write something that’s been on my mind since a particularly disappointing day at the long arm.

What happened?

I’ve been pretty lucky standing in front of the long arm. Loading’s gone well. I’ve found a rhythm in the physical free motion movement. My thread tension has cooperated.

Then, I had a day where absolutely none of that happened.

I struggled for an embarrassingly long time before realizing I loaded the machine incorrectly.  My arms were stiff and clumsy; unlike my other successes with the AMH Patchwork and the Clamshells and Dogwoods, this quilt is not a snuggle quilt with minimal piecing effort – it’s a wall hanging that took a lot of thought and time. I got nervous.  And the thread tension – oh, the rat’s nests were everywhere despite what I thought was some pretty meticulous adjusting.

And when I thought nothing else could possibly go wrong, I hated the thread color.

photo 1

By the way, there’s a fine line between pressing on and knowing when to throw in the towel.  If you’re going to unpick, just unload and go home.

If you’re not going to go home and you insist on unpicking while your quilt is loaded on a long arm, I recommend masking tape for gathering loose threads.  And please comment with any other methods you know that speed up the process a little!

photo 2

So, perhaps the failure wasn’t epic, but it was a bad day.  And bad days need pep talks.

I like getting pep talks from Ira Glass.  (This one is less than 2 minutes. And really, why read it when you can listen to his voice?)

So, Ira says “do a lot of work.”  Until I can get back to the long arm, I’m sitting on the playground sidelines with my sketchbook, training my brain to follow some free motion patterns.  Serving snacks. Collecting piles of sand.  And making progress towards overcoming failure.

photo 3

By the way, I’m very excited that I was number 17  out of the 78 entries for Sewvivor.  If I can’t play as one of the 16 contestants, it’s nice to know I was SO close to making the cut!



  1. Fonda

    I feel your pain I think we have all had days like that. However thanks for the masking tape tip AND if it makes you feel any better what little I saw of your wall hanging it looks really nice and I await a full blo when it’s finished. For now enjoy the beach and doodling.

  2. Erica

    I was certain you would turn up on Sewvivor – your butterfly pillow is gorgeous and I was happy to see it featured as an alternate player if someone decides not to join. Sorry you had a bad day longarming but your quilt is truly beautiful. My only suggestion with the threads would be using a lint roller as it might help you pick up a wider pass worth of threads at a time. I look forward to seeing your finished quilt.

  3. Cindy

    Sorry to hear about your bad sewing day. If you did not piece your back you can take your rotary blade and move it against the back of your quilt and batting peeling the layers apart. It will go really fast.   Your batting should be on one side and your backing will be on the other side.  This will protect the front of your quilt.  I have done this several times.  I have yet to nick the fabric on the back of the quilt but I have been told it can happen.  I can send you a picture if this does not make sense. 
    Congratulations  on being a runner up.   Your pillow looked amazing.  

    1. Daisy

      This. Is. Totally. Awesome.  Thank you SO much, Cindy!  I still have quite a bit of unpicking to do, and I will definitely try this approach.

  4. Ella

    I didn’t even make it to the backups.  I felt the same blah today.  Lint rollers are fab.  I’ve not gotten to play on a long arm yet, so I don’t have a lot else to offer.  Loved your pillow.

  5. Sarah

    I think a lot of quilter’s get the “blah” in summer — its a little warm to have a quilt on your lap, everyone keeps posting about beach vacations, the weather’s gorgeous…. a little hard to be inspired inside. 😀 As far as Sewvivor – you were 17!!! Up against some tough competition, and I’m sure a lot of it came down to personal taste. I’ve heard this theory in quite a few places, but I think it might have been Malcolm Gladwell who said it first – it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert. If you quilted 40 hours a week, it would take nearly 5 years to get there. And that would just be for quilting, not piecing, choosing fabric, etc. Don’t be too hard on yourself, we all have bad days, and really this wasn’t a failure, just a hiccup. 

  6. Yvonne @ Quilting Jetgirl

    Beautiful piece by Ira Glass, thank you for that. I also tend to find that after the fact (sometimes a loooooong time after the fact) that some of my biggest setbacks and disappointments have been some of the more serendipitous moments of my life. They still aren’t fun to go through. I love you sketchbook and look forward to the beauty that I know you will be able to create. I wish I had great long arm advice to share, but from what I have learned FMQing on my home machine, I tend to be my own worst critic. The moments I can let go of the nit-picking and fear of imperfections I tend to do my best work.

  7. melintheattic

    I’ve been using Ira’s advice lately too (my mantra is “just keep making”). I’m going to file that clip away for my next bout of frustration. You have a great attitude! And you are so talented. Just keep making. 

    1. Daisy

      We watch a lot of Finding Nemo around here (and Cars, for that matter).  I will definitely take your words and Ellen Degeneres’ voice and put that mantra to good use, Mel!

  8. Vera

    I saw your cushion on #17 and thought damn! so close. sorry to hear about your bad day. those happen and there will be another one completely different.

  9. Beth

    My watercolor painting teacher suggested 200 paintings. It would take at least 200 paintings to get something really good.
    I love your work!

  10. Shauna

    I’m sorry you didn’t make it, and sorry it was such a bad day.  But what I’ve found when I’m struggling on my long arm is to walk away for a few minutes, then come back and things look different.  I recently had thread issues and ended up pulling a quilt off my machine and it is still in a ball under the machine.  I will pick it out and quilt it again some day, but not today and that is ok too.

  11. Chelsea Huckins

    Congrats on being so close!  That is actually a huge feat, although it probably doesn’t feel like it.  No matter how experienced/new anyone is to something we all have bad days.  You’re right is knowing when to keep pressing on and when to toss in the towel.  That is a fine line! 

  12. Michelle C.

    I feel your pain over unpicking so many stitches. Days like the one you had are especially frustrating when you have little ones and free time is a commodity not easily come by. For the record, I still adore your butterfly-pillow submission to Sewvivor. I’m happy to send along my mailing address … I promise that I’ll give it a good home! ; )

Comments are closed.