The Galloping Horse Test

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Hi there, quilting friends! I am overwhelmed with the fun comments and all of your willingness to open up and share with me after last week’s post about picking colors for your quilt. I loved reading your comments and hearing what strategies you all use to pick your color schemes, and I even took note of a few ideas for future posts, inspired by your comments!

My favorite thing to come out of last week’s post is that you’re feeling inspired to test your limits and try new things, because that’s part of what makes quilting fun!

But what happens when you try something new and it doesn’t quite go as planned? Today’s post is about the very best tip I ever received for dealing with quilting bloopers.

THE GALLOPING HORSE TEST

My mother-in-law, AKA Nancy the Quilting Goddess, shared this with me while I was making my first quilt, and it changed my experience completely.

Now, before I get into the explanation of what it is, let’s pause. I think it is safe to say that most people these days are used to a level of perfection that comes from mass-produced, machine made items.

Robots are pretty good at consistency and precision. Humans? Not so much!

It’s funny how hard we can be on ourselves for not being as perfect as robots. Or is that just me? Well, it is definitely me.

My first quilt was pretty simple (check it out below!). Straight lines, no triangles, big pieces - a really great project to test the waters with!

But those corners - I know you hear me on this - I could not get those corners to line up! Oh, I was distressed. I kept “unsewing” (my word for using my seam ripper) and trying to redo it. I was ready to quit.

Enter The Galloping Horse Test.

Nancy explained to me that The Galloping Horse Test is when you imagine galloping by your quilt on a horse, and if you can’t see the mistake at a full gallop, then it is fine. (AKA put down the seam ripper, Carolyn!)


It’s pretty silly, I’ll be honest, but that concept freed me from my ideas of robotic perfection and helped me to see the beauty in the handmade. It allowed me to appreciate how much more special my quilt was because of its imperfections.

It also opened the door for me to try new things without fear. I’ve gone on to attempt appliqué, triangles, pinwheels, making up my own patterns, adding 3D elements, and many more exciting, scary, daring, and FUN things.

So, fellow quilters, if you are frustrated with a “mistake” like misaligned corners, a square you sewed in with the backside up, a whole block you put in upside down, stripes that aren’t straight, or a piece that ended up in the wrong spot - or maybe you’re too scared to try a new technique altogether! - remember The Galloping Horse Test and let that frustration and fear fall away.

Go boldly into your next project with your head (and ruler!) held high. Quilting should be fun, above all else, so be brave!


And so the rest of us imperfect quilters don’t feel so alone, share some of your most memorable bloopers in the comments!.

P.S. My kids’ daycare does a lot of sewing activities. Check my son Lewis out with his latest creation - a piece of foamy craft paper which he sewed with a “needle” and yarn. He even threaded beads onto the yarn. He seems pretty pleased with himself (it must have passed The Galloping Horse Test!). Maybe we have a next generation quilter in the making!

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  • Carolyn Knees
Comments 30
  • Jacqui Armstrong
    Jacqui Armstrong

    Thank .you for this, for two reasons, My Mum used to say “a man on a galloping horse wont see it” when I was fretting about a mistake so your blog reassured me, as a new quilter that I dont have to be perfect and brought back memoriies of my Mum.

  • Julie Lynch
    Julie Lynch

    Hi Carolyn, I use that saying a lot when I am encouraging others. For me, it’s more of a ’ if they are trotting by slowly’ but still the same. If you look at a quilt overall you can’t see those persnickety problems.

  • Brenda Bacon
    Brenda Bacon

    My very first quilt teacher taught us the same saying and I have never forgotten it. It relieved stress for me on a number of occasions. However, in one of the small lap quilts I made for a friend, I made a layout error that I didn’t catch until after it was quilted. I could not face so much ripping out to fix it. I consoled my self the the friend who was to receive this quilt was blind in one eye and would likely never see it. Boy, was I wrong. It took her about 5 minutes to notice and let me know. Oh well, it is still a beautiful little quilt.

  • Judy
    Judy

    I am SO encouraged by the galloping horse line☺️ My sister is such a perfectionist and I,I am so not, I got many things compleated but never perfect. My sisters few compleated items were SO perfect that it made me feel less than Adequate . I’m seeing my finished quilts in a new light! Thank you

  • Debra Gregory
    Debra Gregory

    Hi, Carolyn! I agree! I learned a long time ago to forgive my mistakes. My very first quilt was a wedding gift for a dear cousin. I look at pictures of it now, and cringe. The color placement was wrong, too much yellow (it overtook the quilt), etc. But my cousin and her new hubby loved it. I based it on a quilt top our mutual grandmother had made, so it was all the more special. Now, over 40 years later, and probably over 100 quilts, I work on new ones with the same sense of accomplishment I had with the first. (and the next quilt design is always percolating in my mind!) Happy stitching!

  • Lynda Robar
    Lynda Robar

    I was putting together a circle table runner. Did not check it over put the batting .backing and quilted it bound it and then checked it over. Low and behold one of the blades on the front was inside out. I was so upset I wanted to throw it out. But I gave it to my niece anyway. She lives along way away. I have never heard that she noticed. I Saw the mistake every time I looked at it. Maybe it passed the galloping horse test.

  • Jim Medeiros
    Jim Medeiros

    I do love when all my points come together though when I gave my 2nd quilt to a dear friend, I saw the look in her eyes that truly didn’t give a hoot about the corners being perfect, the binding being not robot perfect or the threads I forgot to clip. Thanks for a new test method that’ll bring happiness into the quilting world of non-robotic perfection!!

  • Barbara Bernard
    Barbara Bernard

    The owner of the local

  • Sandra Mazer
    Sandra Mazer

    I use the 20/20 eye test. 20 feet at 20 miles an hour.

  • Dorene Darby Nuttman
    Dorene Darby Nuttman

    Love his picture. Really pass the Horse test. Been quilt ing for a while but want to QUILT as I go with each block.

  • LESLIE ANN SNYDER
    LESLIE ANN SNYDER

    I love reading you blogs! Allowing ourselves to be human and have miss-takes (yes, on purpose) is a great reminder were NOT robots. And that in itself can be added to many of the things in our lives. But I can’t wait to find a beginners class to quilting…any in the DeKalb IL area? Happy Quilting! Leslie Ann

  • Ila Harris
    Ila Harris

    Growing up my father insisted on “perfection” from me. If I came home with a 99 on a test, I was not praised for that but asked why wasn’t it a 100. This has followed me my whole life in everything I did = it just had to be perfect or it was not good enough! When I started teaching kindergarten, I really strove to not make my students feel like this but really praised their efforts while guiding them to improve. When I started quilting, I was once again fighting the perfection goal and it seriously affected my working on quilts. I would not try many of the different patterns because I just knew I could not do them perfectly. One day I heard the galloping horse story and it really helped to free me to quilt and have fun. I still fight my very early training but I am getting better. I have a small picture of a galloping horse by my sewing machine to remind that quilting is fun and fulfilling, and not meant to be perfect because, as you so awesomely put it, I am NOT a robot!

    When I was growing up, my father insisted on perfection from me. If I came home with a 99 on a test, I was not praised for that but asked why I didn’t get 100. This has followed me my whole life

    +

  • Elaine Osteen
    Elaine Osteen

    My grandmother always told us that no one noticed what a galloping horse was wearing, and most of us young mothers were definitely galloping horses, so we shouldn’t be so concerned with our looks! Same concept!

  • Diane patton
    Diane patton

    Perfection is something I need to overcome. I take items. to a Quilt Club meeting and I start pointing out the imperfections and everyone says, “If you hadn’t pointed it out we would have never noticed!” I’ll have to try the galloping horse, or at least at a trot! 🤪

  • Janice Lawrence
    Janice Lawrence

    It sounds like good advice to me. I, also, have a hard time getting corners straight.

  • Roxanne Seymour
    Roxanne Seymour

    My mother sewed clothes for me and she used “ the galloping horse” method too. I’ve not heard or read anyone else talk about this before, thanks made me chuckle

  • Lynda
    Lynda

    I have been quilting for over 20 years and just recently made a quilt when I was travelling which gets taken out over and over to work on. As I was working on it I couldn’t figure out why I had extra cut pieces, but oh well just kept assembling the quilt top. It wasn’t until I went to quilt it and was wondering how they finished it that I realized I had left one strip out of each block! Oh well it still looks good and I am happy with it the way it is and now it is a new pattern.

  • Julia Lewis
    Julia Lewis

    big thumbs up!!! thank you Carolyn and Nancy. BTW I love your 1st quilt. Better than mine…lol

  • Sue Ryckman
    Sue Ryckman

    Oh my! How timely this is! Just finished a pineapple block table runner for a swap. While putting the binding on this weekend, realized strips got a bit mixed up in one block! 😳 From horseback, it’s not noticeable unless the viewer checks each block! So I’m thrilled with my interpretation of the pineapple block!

  • MaryAnn Perry
    MaryAnn Perry

    That is absolutely precious! I have been sewing since I was 8 years old. I’m now 64! Making my own clothes through high school, college and on into motherhood. Maternity tops and nursing dresses. Then I got into sewing Halloween costumes, talk about forgiving!! If you made a mistake it really didn’t matter, who was going to notice!! Over the years my four children loved their choices for costumes each year. I also taught my 3 sons and one daughter how to do hand and machine sewing. My youngest son(8 at the time) now 32 years old and a Police Officer, and I joined a quilt group our church had. We made community service quilts, he still remembers that quilt! He was so proud. I thought it was very important to do that. Two years ago I started teaching my then 8 year old grandson to sew. He sits and surges my yardage before I wash it. Our children and grandchildren need to learn how to sew a button on, because even as perfect as those precision machines can sew, the buttons fall off!!
    I’m a member of a Quilt Guild and our Community Service project is donating quilts to the local Police Department. They carry then in their trunks to give out at accidents. Now I’m sure those people are not going to check to see if our corners are joined perfectly!!
    MaryAnn Perry

  • Gail Goff
    Gail Goff

    That is always a good thing to remember; although when you spend $100 on fabric, it does ‘encourage’ perfection! Thanks for the reminder!

  • Melvena ROBICHAUX
    Melvena ROBICHAUX

    I love the galloping horse test…it makes my quilts look a lot better..lol. One of my family that received one of my quilts said she preferred the small imperfections because it made it more personal and one of a kind.

  • Ginger
    Ginger

    Thank you Carolyn, this makes me feel better and now maybe I can stop fretting so much and get my project done.

  • Margaret Hynes
    Margaret Hynes

    What a great way to look at ‘imperfection’! We all seek perfection but is there really such aa thing? Everybody makes mistakes, many of which add to the charm of a ‘handmade’ product.

  • Susie Sanclemente
    Susie Sanclemente

    First time blog follower 😁.
    I was always told, “they’ll never notice it on a running billy goat, so keep on running”. I just started quilting about 4 years ago although I’ve always saved fabric and dreamed of it. I make my fair share of mistakes, but that is life. You do the best you can and tredge forward. And the little boy is very cute. He reminds me of my grandson who is now 15. He’s been trying his hand at sewing and designing costumes since around 9.

  • Susie Sanclemente
    Susie Sanclemente

    First time blog follower 😁.
    I was always told, “they’ll never notice it on a running billy goat, so keep on running”. I just started quilting about 4 years ago although I’ve always saved fabric and dreamed of it. I make my fair share of mistakes, but that is life. You do the best you can and tredge forward. And the little boy is very cute. He reminds me of my grandson who is now 15. He’s been trying his hand at sewing and designing costumes since around 9.

  • Diane Walter
    Diane Walter

    I have a yellow, grey and black quilt that has a mistake in it. However no one has seen it yet. Hehe. I passed the galloping horse test.

  • Jeanie
    Jeanie

    I like that -—no one is perfect and after I sewed clothing for all the years I thought how simple a quilt top would be as you did not have to “fit” a person. Whoa!!!!! those simple straight 1/4 inch straight seams almost drove me nuts as I wanted perfection. Would take me ages and a few times playing frog (rip it rip it) to get it almost like I wanted it. I began to watch another person who sewed fast and didn’t seem to really care and never trimmed the threads neatly and when she finished a quilt top the front looked so good and the back was all a mess but who saw the back. She could do 10 times the work I could do in same time frame. and the end result was a beautiful quilt. So I learned to loosen up some and not be as hard on myself. You don’t have to pass inspection.

  • Deborah
    Deborah

    My mother’s advice was “Finished is better than perfect.” Takes the stress from creativity!

  • Holice Turnbow
    Holice Turnbow

    I always say that if you see a quilt beside the road, better stop and pick it up because it probably fell out of someone’s car and you should return it to its owner., if possible.

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