Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose

Photo by Charity Banks.

By Kristen Banks

I’ve sewn all sorts of things throughout the years. I’ve made curtains, clothes, costumes, shoes, quilts, and car interiors just to name a few. But no project stands out more vividly in my mind than the time I tried unsuccessfully to make my Dad a tractor seat cover.

His was old, brittle, and cracked. It was barely holding together and needed to be replaced badly. I was sure I could impress him and save money at the same time. I had the machine, I had the vinyl, and I had the know how.

Or at least I thought I had the know how.

After working furiously for a couple of days, I went to fit my new cover on for the first time. It didn’t look anything like it should. My sister asked me if I’d had a stroke. It was really, really bad.

I then made and remade that thing three times, and it only went from bad to worse as I progressed. No matter how hard I tried it always came out looking lumpy, mishapen, and way too big. Sort of like an opossum carcass on the side of the highway after a couple of days or an ugly gray handbag at the bottom of the 90 percent off bin that’s been stomped on a few times during a stampede at the Black Friday sale.

It’s probably the only thing that I’ve ever just had to toss aside without successfully completing in some form or fashion. Even though I had successfully attempted much more complicated projects in the past, for whatever reason, that tractor seat cover just didn’t work out.

Thankfully, most projects don’t turn out as bleak as all that, or at least they don’t have to. There is almost always a way to salvage a doomed project if you can calm your emotions, think rationally, and be creative.

Our first inclination when encountering a problem in quilting, or any other project for that matter, is to declare the project ruined and unfixable. That is usually not the case. When I encounter a serious setback in quilting, after I’ve slammed my scissors down and muttered under my breath quietly – OK I’m lying, not so quietly – I try to take a step back. A lot of times I’ll just put the project aside. I may lay it down for ten minutes or two days and just think about something else for awhile. Whatever it takes to remove myself from my disappointment and displeasure.

Most of the time when I revisit that project with new eyes, a willing mind and a creative attitude, I can find a solution that allows me to salvage my misfit masterpiece. I try to look at these mishaps as a challenge instead of a dissapointment. I purpose in my heart to not let the problem lick me. It is that determination that usually breeds success.

I’ve used all kinds of different methods in the past to cover holes, stains, and fix mangled seams. I’ve darned, painted, dyed, and appliqued over things. I’ve taken clever tucks and tacks, and I’ve hoped and prayed that nobody would notice but me. When I’ve done all that I can do to improve upon the work, I finish up and call it done.

I then present my completed showpiece to my friends and family and wait to see if they notice. Surprisingly not a one of them ever says, “I see you messed up right here”. If they notice they never say a word, and hey, if they aren’t going to bring it up, neither will I. I just smile and say, “Thank you!” and everybody wins.

Every Quilter has a story and we’d like to hear yours! Send us your stories, tips, and ideas to


  1. Carrie Gannon says:

    Good read…I need you to write up my page on newsletter from the president…I m not good with words…You are a great writer. Sounds like it just falls right off your tongue….love ya girl…

  2. Phyllis Cox says:

    Been there, done that. Whatever mistake, I’ve probably made it. And my friends have never said anything if they even noticed. It’s good to have fellow travelers down the rugged road of sewing

  3. Lilly says:

    Kristen, I hear you loud and clear. I can hardly wait to try my new free motion foot, but today I have to get this okra pickled! But the day is young, so we will see, maybe today is the day. I enjoyed your Story! Like you said sometimes it pays to have more than one project going at a time!

  4. Portia says:

    Great read. I think seat cover part is funny…..sorry, can’t help it. It’s too funny.

  5. Paula Hardin says:

    I like this little newsletter! Would you please add me to your list to receive it?