Today I was reading the blog post of another quilting lady and I felt that in describing and critiquing her own work she was being much too hard on herself. So that inspired me to post a picture of one of my early quilting projects and talk a bit about how we judge ourselves and our work. She will probably see this post, but I’m not naming her, so she is the only one who will get the reference and I hope she won’t mind 🙂
(the pictured quilt went to a friend of mine who is also a quilter, so she isn’t going to mind either!)
Depending on how this shows up on your own computer, you might have to zoom in to see what I’m talking about, but if you look at the stitching you’ll see a double loop pattern, some unevenness in stitch length, some not-so-rounded loops (read as “pointed sections”) and there is a lot of empty space that doesn’t balance with the scale of my quilted areas. I could also mention the terrible time I had on this one with tension and nesting of thread on the bottom while getting used to some of the features of a brand new sewing machine, but after a LOT of picking and a couple of trips back to the store for adjustments and advice, I got those parts fixed up 🙂 I was also still using a lighter weight thread so that my stitching wasn’t overly obvious, although I did take a bit of a leap in using white!
Thankfully, the friend who got it isn’t the type to look for mistakes and although she is a very careful crafter herself, perfectionism doesn’t hold her back.
But it has often held me back in various areas of my life, and it did hinder me at the beginning of my quilting journey until I really got going with my free motion quilting. I won’t say that I no longer cringe a bit when something doesn’t look EXACTLY the way I want it to – and obviously if I’ve made a distinct error that is going to bother me, especially on a custom quilting job, I do fix it – but it’s getting easier and easier to give myself a break and start to appreciate what I’ve been able to learn to do and how far I’ve come from those first quilts.
Take another look at the early quilt, and then look at the picture below:
Are there mistakes? You bet! But the point is that when I first started I never thought I would be doing something like this. I show you this comparison not to brag, but to encourage anyone who is struggling with learning and feeling like they aren’t doing a good enough job. Good enough for who? The more you do it, the better you get, literally and with each and every quilt. Any improvement is “good enough”!
And pretty soon things that look way beyond your scope come into focus and you start to see how all the little things you’ve learned go together and become one big whole cloth full of really cool stitching and you can stand back and breathe a sigh of satisfaction because you did what you set out to do. And no it’s not perfect, it’s probably not even competition worthy (I have no desire to be a competitor!) but it’s yours and it’s unique, and that’s something big.
I’m not a quilting teacher; I’m no kind of expert. I’m just a person who absolutely loves free motion quilting. I’ve had experienced quilters encourage me and remind me not to be so hard on myself, so I’m sharing that with you.
I’ve learned from online classes and professional teachers who remind us that quilting isn’t about being perfect – perfect is impossible because we’re not machines. It’s about having fun, learning, and doing our best. Leah Day reminds us that we don’t learn to free motion quilt by picking out everything that isn’t exactly right. Angela Walters says that when someone admires our work and compliments us, we should simply say “thank you” instead of launching into a list of reasons why it isn’t as good as they think it is (she suggests that it’s sort of insulting to respond otherwise because it’s like we’re telling the person they are wrong!) because they are looking at the overall effect and not seeing every little picky thing that we see ourselves.
I’ve also noticed that mistakes and glitches I see while quilting are things I’m often not able to find easily once the quilt is finished and I’m looking it over as a whole project. It’s easy to see them when that one section is right in front of my face in a little area between my two hands because that is exactly what I’m focussing on as I work. But we need to spread it all out and look at the whole picture (and yes, a finished quilt is a work of art!) and take a minute to appreciate what we have done just then, with what we know how to do 🙂