Tips And Tools Tuesday – It’s All About Perspective

Have you ever started a project, or nearly finished a project, only to discover that your work is barely visible?

That’s exactly what happened to me this past Saturday.

Well, let me start at the beginning.

I’d been working on a monogram pillow for our living room. I wanted to have a whole-cloth pillow with the initial of our last name quilted in the center. It turned out exactly like I had envisioned it.

It hasn’t become a pillow yet, because I was was so happy with how it looked, that I wanted to make one for each of our daughters with their last name’s initial for their homes. 

Daughter #2 decided that she wanted hers to be a wall hanging, so she and I went shopping for fabric. She chose a beautiful dark green. We tried out a few different threads, unwinding several feet of it onto the fabric to make sure that we could see it, and finally decided on a soft, light green.

This wall hanging will be 24″ x 24″ finished. I prepared the fabric, drew the design on it with a mechanical white chalk pencil, and stitched away!

I’d stitched the center square and the triangles, and thought, “Hmm, the stitching seems much lighter than I had expected.” But did I stop and reevaluate? Nooooooo!

I kept right on stitching. Even after I finished stitching the Spiro Stars and Curly Loops designs on the sides, it still seemed lighter than I’d hoped. Did I stop stitching then? Of course not! I mean, I was more than halfway done, so why not just finish it. Perhaps with more quilting, the dimension and texture with finally show.

You guessed it. Nope. Well, up close it looked beautiful!

When I hung the quilted square on my portable design board, and stood back about 8 feet, it just looked like a giant green square! Like nothing had been done to it! Nothing!

I had to walk up to it and stand about two feet away in order to really see the design. GRRRRRR!

Wouldn’t you want a giant green square hanging on your wall, so that guests could look at it and wonder, “Uh, okay, what’s that supposed to be?”.

I was ready to just chuck it and start over with another piece of fabric. There was a slight problem. I didn’t have enough of that fabric to make another one. The store where we bought it, is 45 minutes away! So, I had just decided to count that project as a learning experience, and keep it in my “Hall of Shame” collection for teaching purposes.

I showed my hubby what I’d done. He couldn’t see a design either until I brought it up close to him. Then he said, “Why don’t you just stitch over it with a lighter thread?”

I laughed.

I said, “There is no way I can follow all of those stitching lines exactly. The previous stitches will show!”

He said, “That’s the perfectionist in you talking. Nobody is going to look closely enough at those stitches to be able to tell.”

My Sweetheart. He was right. If I stitched carefully, someone would have to get awfully close to see what I’d done.

I thought about it, then said, “Well, I can’t screw it up any worse than I already have, so, why not?”

This time, he laughed.

First, I used my regular free-motion foot and stitched over one of the corner Spiro Stars. Eh. It was okay. I mostly stayed on the stitching lines. Not too bad. But, I couldn’t see the previous lines all that well.

I could sort-of see the stitches through the “clear” plastic foot, but, sometimes the glare made it even more difficult. The tiny hole in the center gave a better, but limited, view. Like, one stitch at a time was in view. Looking through that teeny, tiny hole was such an eye strain to try and see the stitch that I was trying to stitch upon. I knew I’d never finish if this is how I had to stitch. Oh, how I wished my machine had an open-toed foot!

Then I remembered that my ruler foot is a nice round, open hole. I don’t HAVE to use a ruler with it.

I switched to my ruler foot. Perfect! I could see the stitches before, behind, and all around the needle. I could see the stitches no matter which way they ran. Woohoo!

Along with a foot that let me see my work area, I used a stitch regulator to slow my stitching waaaaaay down. I have the words “stitch regulator” highlighted because my machine does not have one. I rigged my foot pedal so that it can only be depressed so far and no farther. (You can click on the link to see just how I “regulated” my stitching speed.) This way my stitching speed is consistent. That’s one less thing I have to think about. I can just concentrate on staying on the stitching lines and moving the quilt sandwich under the needle at a relatively even pace.

I stitched along the Spiro Stars and Curly Loops designs, to get a better feel for following the stitching lines before attempting the more detailed design of the “S” in the center. I figured, if I mess up the “S”, there’s no point in stitching the straight lines of the center square and star points.

You can see all of the stitching of the “S” here, because the camera is about 1 and one-half feet away from it, and many spotlights are pointed at it. Notice the difference between the stitching in the triangles, and the stitched designs in the upper left corner and left side of the block.

I’ve now over-stitched part of the “S”. What a difference the white thread has made!

Now look at it from about 4 feet away.

Now 8 – 10 feet away. I turned off the bright lights, so this will be more like the lighting when it’s hanging in the living room.

See how the original stitches practically fade into the giant sea of green?

Now, I know that the farther away from it you go, the less of the design’s details you’ll see. But at least now you can see that there IS a design on it! Now, her guests may be intrigued to look closer to see the details of the design.

Well, I told you all of this, to make the point of the title of this post. “It’s All About Perspective”.

IF, I had been looking at this project from the perspective of where it will hang in our daughter and son-in-law’s living room, we would have seen that, compared to the dark green fabric, the beautiful light, soft, green thread was waaaaaay too dark to be seen at any distance.

When choosing fabrics for a quilt, I always lay them together and step back to be sure that the fabrics are distinguishable one from another. Or, I take a peephole with me to the store. You know, the kind you put in your front door to see who is on the other side before opening it. That is an invaluable tool when choosing fabrics! It let’s you see the fabric’s “value” rather than just it’s color. By “value”, I mean, its lightness or darkness as it relates to other fabrics around it. Why didn’t I do either of these things when choosing the thread? I have no explanation. I just didn’t.

You can bet that I will remember this very valuable lesson of perspective.

Other lessons learned with this project:

  1. Stitches CAN be stitched over! When machine quilting, I often “travel” over previously stitched sections to move the needle to another area to be quilted. It’s the same process, only A LOT MORE OF IT! 🙂
  2. I AM a perfectionist, but, I CAN learn to cut myself some slack. Some. 😉
  3. Look at a project from more than just one perspective. Think of every possible scenario where your project may be used or displayed before deciding on fabrics or threads.
  4. When the thought pops into my head, “Hmm, that looks different than I thought it would.” STOP! Reevaluate what I am doing. Find another perspective. Perhaps from another person who is not involved with that specific project. In the end, it will save time and supplies.

I hope these thoughts on perspective will help you to not make the same mistakes that I did.

Today is a good day to try something new. Maybe try machine quilting a whole cloth pillow, wall hanging, or small table topper.

Have fun creating!


What tool or tools do you use to help you distinguish your fabric’s “value” for your quilt projects”?

I’d love to hear from you!

You can leave a comment here, and we’d love to have you join our The Lookout Mountain Quilter Facebook group page.

When it’s finished, I’ll post a photo of the completed wall hanging.

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