Life lessons from my first quilting project

Do you ever do something and once you’re finished with it, you have this realization that it was never really about the thing?

I made a Christmas tree skirt last week and have since realized what a huge representation of growth it signifies. 

There are some stories about myself I’ve always believed which are noteworthy here.

  1. I cannot sew
  2. I never finish what I start

I cannot sew

We come from a long line of quilters and I always thought that gene had skipped me. I’d made attempts at sewing but the only ones I ever finished were for school, and they weren’t very appealing to look at.

Quilting was something that always intimidated me way too much to even start. There is so much creativity involved. Picking out the fabric and what pattern will I use and how do you even sew in a straight line? What if I hate it at the end?

I do not finish what I start

Look, my half-done wedding album is still sitting in a drawer and we got married 7 years ago. The anniversary present I got for Paul on our first anniversary is also still collecting dust in my “to finish” pile. Starting things and not finishing them has been a big pattern in my life.

However, this year has been a significant one of growth, and one of the things I’ve focused on sticking it out when I want to quit. It’s been some of the absolute hardest work I’ve done to date if I’m being 100% honest.

The Christmas Tree Skirt

Since Christmas is the time for miracles, I decided to try my hand at sewing a Christmas tree skirt. We got a gorgeous new tree this year and I bought a super cute new skirt for it. I was planning on using our old skirt for the Charlie Brown Christmas tree the kids decorate.

As I pulled out the old skirt, I realized how bad it smelled and immediately threw it away. Time for a new skirt! A quick search on Amazon and Etsy uncovered that I have very expensive Christmas tree skirt taste. 

In addition, every time I looked at one of the beautifully quilted ones, a voice in my head kept telling me that I could make that. For a day or two, I kept rationalizing it away. 

I don’t know how to sew. It would take too much time. Those are the exact kind of projects I always start and never finish.

Then, I decided What’s the worst that can happen? So I sent the link to my mom to ask for help.

Away she went to YouTube for a tutorial based on the one I’d sent her. She found one and the nice old lady told us we’d need 6 pieces of fabric and a wedge ruler. She also promised we could knock this out in an afternoon. I was psyched, I knew I could finish a project like this if all it took was an afternoon!

Day 1: 

With a sense of excitement, we packed up my two kids who hadn’t napped, and set off to grab our essentials. If this was as easy as the tutorial lady said, I’d be home to decorate the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, new skirt in tow, by dinner!

Why I ever thought taking my kids to the fabric store was a good idea is beyond me 🤦 I used to dread it when I was a kid and had to tag along. After a few meltdowns and an eventful potty break, I picked out some awesome fabric. But the ruler was nowhere to be found.

No worries, Amazon to the rescue with the perfect ruler, arriving two days later. I also had enough time to cut my fabric to the right length and width before I cut it with the elusive ruler. 

Day 3: 

The ruler’s arrived! All set to get working, I lined up my fabric just like the lady on the tutorial said. Only to find that the ruler was too short. 

You’ve got to be kidding me?!

Determined not to let this get to me too badly, away I went to a different craft store, no luck. Another craft store, nada. Previous versions of me would have taken this ruler we couldn’t get our hands on as a sign to pack it up. But I was feeling optimistic about this skirt. 

Impatience was also creeping in. I had a naked Charlie Brown Christmas tree sitting in my living room and I was ready to see it decorated and cheery. Sure, I could wait the 5-10 business days for the right ruler from Amazon to come in but could I bear to look at our depressing tree that long? HECK NO!

I remained calm. I had put my desire out to the universe that I wanted to make this tree skirt and I kept my faith that it would happen. A quick search on Maps for quilting stores and I found Cactus Quilting. The only store that was still open that afternoon and they HAD THE RULER!

Luckily, I had a sleepy 3-year-old and a baby who loves car rides with his mama. 

I got back to my mom’s with some freshly napped kids, a hubby who was working late, a grandma ready to spoil her grandbabies, and a new gusto for the tree skirt.

After a quick snafu with the measuring from yesterday, I was able to cut my triangles out. Then it was time to go home…so much for wrapping this up in an afternoon!

Days 4-7

If you regularly sew, craft, or quilt, I’m willing to bet you already know that every project you undertake always takes longer than you think. I guess I should have figured this out from my previous projects…I definitely never thought my wedding album was going to take me 7+ years to put together…

I finally began to sew all the pieces and parts and things started to really come together. I was seriously impressed with myself. There was never a time during the cutting and sewing that I thought about giving up. My mantra when I felt like I was messing something up was This is my first time doing this.

It took me a little longer than I anticipated but a couple of days later, I had the skirt almost ready! 

After another quick run to the craft store to get some binding, I was approaching the last two steps: binding and quilting. As I laid out the pieces to pin and put the binding on, I was kind of in awe at how easily this had all come together.

To be honest, the binding of the quilt looks a hot mess and the quilting could be straighter but as I was sewing the last couple of stitches, I reminded myself to stay present. These were the last moments I was going to spend sewing my first quilting project. I’d never have this first sewing experience again.

The lessons

You guys, I am not joking with you when I say that I cried as I pulled the finished skirt off the sewing machine. I’m a 38-year-old woman bawling over a completed sewing project.

It was in those last moments of putting the skirt together I realized how far I’ve come this year. I changed a giant story I’ve told myself for a long time about me. I am actually not a quitter. 

I am someone who can and will follow through on a promise I make to myself. And that changes everything for me.

Sure, there were some missteps and turnarounds. Yes, it had taken longer than I’d thought. But the thoughts and feelings that were leading me on this journey were ones that I want to keep around. 

A couple of other things I learned along the way and new stories I am currently rewriting to make true for myself:

I am willing to be a beginner

As a recovering perfectionist, being new at things has sent me into a tailspin. I have always strived to be perfect at something the second I’ve laid hands on it. I’ve been unwilling to make mistakes.

This project showed me that mishaps happen and that being a beginner at something can be fun. The point is, I get to choose how I feel about being a beginner. I can get caught up in the drama of not knowing how to do something…or I can not. I can pick myself apart as I make mistakes…or I can revel in the beauty of a completed tree skirt with some extra personality. The choice is, and always will be, mine.

There is a part of me that still wants perfection

I’ve changed the way I relate to the parts of me that want things to be perfect. Instetad of following that voice and believing what it’s saying. I acknowledge that it does want things to be a certain way. 

I get it! It would be so cool to be so good at things we touch right away. But there also isn’t a lot of room for growth along that path. The part of me that wants to change and grow is now bigger than the part that grasps for perfection.

And I’m learning so much about perfection…I get to decide what’s perfect for me. And what if imperfections are beautiful? What if they’re actually perfect?

My mom is amazing

Logically, I know my mom can take care of my kids. They always come back fed, happy, and worn out. But I’m never actually there when she’s watching them.

I could hear how well she works with them as I was sitting in the other room sewing. She has so much patience and kindness. She plays with them and talks to them. She listens to what they’re saying and is always willing to help them.

I am proud that she is my kid’s grandma and I am so grateful to her for her support through this project. She never once tried to take over and she encouraged me the entire way through.

So there you have it. When I first got the intuitive hit to make a Christmas tree skirt, I didn’t realize what a huge thing it was going to end up representing. 

And now I’ll have that representation for a very long time. Something to remind me of my commitment to myself and what happens when I’m willing to be a beginner and enjoy the ride.

You might also enjoy

About Sarah

Sarah is the intuitive tech witch who helps soulful coaches who don’t want to mess with tech. So they can get back to what they do best.