I Quilt, Therefore I Err Blog by Paper Pieces

I Quilt, Therefore I Err


I recently told you that I started teaching a quilting class to middle schoolers at our homeschool co-op. With that age comes an apparent shyness and lack of self-confidence. One girl was getting upset that she couldn’t baste her hexies tightly enough. I said, “Remember, you’re not a true quilter until you’ve made a mistake.” Her face lit up and she cheered, “I’m a true quilter!” Then it became a goal. I teach the same thing to my own children during art time: it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect, it matters that you tried your best. (It’s adorable to hear a 4 year old mimic that sentiment to her baby doll.)


I’m my own worst critic, and I’m sure you are too. My last finish was a twin-size BOM quilt, and there were a couple points that just wouldn’t line up. I stitched and restitched, but I couldn’t get them exactly right. And that’s all I could see when I looked at the quilt. Everyone else loved it- the color scheme (Vintage Modern by Bonnie and Camille), the layout (my own design), all of it. But I zoned straight in on those mismatched points and still can’t get past it.


Mistakes are not an exception, they are the rule. I’ve seen quilts where the quilter swears there’s a mistake, but I can’t see it until they point it out to me. Whether it’s my quilt or theirs’, one thing remains- mistakes are going to happen. 

 A Little of This A Little of That Quilt

Can you spot the error in our sample quilt for A Little of This, A Little of That?

There’s a concept called “Humility Blocks”. Some say it’s a myth, I myself have heard it’s true, but it’s the idea that Native American or Amish crafters purposely add a mistake into their crafts so they aren’t seen as trying to be perfect/mimic God. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but what a great concept either way!

Paper Pieces Humility Block

Paper Pieces "Humility Block" in A Little of This, A Little of That sample quilt

While we’re on the subject- I’ve also taught my students about the “Quilt Police”. If someone is showing you a quilt, you find something nice to say about it. If they’re asking for feedback on fabric choices, you give them feedback on fabric. What we don’t do is criticize their technique, sewing skills, or other choices. “There are no Quilt Police in my class,” I said. “If you can’t think of something constructive to say about someone’s project, then please don’t say anything.” I wish I could talk to someone in charge of the internet and make this rule for everyone!

No Quilt Police!

No Quilt Police here! 

Remember as you are quilting, perfection is boring. Mistakes add personality and charm. If everyone made the exact same project with no creative license, our art would become a bore. To quote the fabulous Ms. Frizzle- “Take chances! Make mistakes!”

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I have been quilting for 40+ years and don’t make as many mistakes as I used to. When I do I either use it as is or if it will change the size/shape of a block I “fix” it.
When I’m ask for my opinion I’m always positive in my response. You can usually find something you like about the quilt.
If you have to comment on a mistake make it a teaching moment. Share with them how not to do it again. Don’t just point it out.


One of my favorites is “we never make mistakes, just create new ideas”

Joyce Scanes

I really enjoyed what you wrote. I don’t correct my mistakes unless it’s detrimental to the outcome of the piece i.e wrong side of fabric. I am from a generation which strives(ed) for perfection but I always thought those who did had too much time on their hands. Since today is my birthday I will reflect and say, “I believe mistakes v. perfection is generational, both have issues and in the end need to meet in the middle. Although, I really admire the part concerning the Native American/Amish belief. Well done! mjl


I love the positivity. What a great lesson to share with all the littles in one’s life. Thx


I’ve been quilting for 40 years and consider my skill level as somewhere between beginner and advanced. I love to quilt because it makes ME feel happy! I remind myself that mistakes aren’t deliberate and are only (and rarely) observed by others.


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