Posts tagged ‘fear of failure’
Continuing my story…
Friday afternoon and Saturday morning were devoted to my two hands-on domestic sewing machine quilting classes. I feel almost honor-bound to take as many of these as the powers that be at QwM will offer, as I want to do my part to make sure they keep offering them. It also gives me the opportunity to meet, and therefore evangelize to, my fellow DSM quilters who may not know that any of the design-type classes are equally applicable to them as to the more numerous longarm quilters in attendance. We may have to sit through some minor references to canvas leaders and advancing the machine and so forth, but I use that time to meditate about how I can quilt in any direction I choose, for as long a distance as my quilt requires, and how my dining room still has a table in it. Kidding, of course, but Leah Day had an excellent post recently on Seven Reasons Why I Don’t Want or Need a Longarm, which was exactly what I needed to galvanize me pre-QwM against feelings of machine inadequacy. She reinforced the fact that quality machine quilting is possible on a DSM even if you’re not Ricky Tims/ Diane Gaudynski/ Lee Cleland/ Patsy Thompson/ Barbara Shapel/ Karen Kay Buckley/ Caryl Bryer Fallert/ Hollis Chatelain. Don’t get me wrong; if I walked downstairs tomorrow morning to discover that my house had magically grown an extra room with a longarm quilting machine in it, I wouldn’t turn up my nose. But in the real, non-magical world, that’s a huge investment for a huge machine that I’d only use for my own quilts, and buying one wouldn’t automatically turn me into a better quilter, just one with no dining room and a big payment to make every month. The learning curve is still paramount, and the big machine isn’t a shortcut around practicing.
OK, off the soapbox and on to what I did in class. The first was “Freehand Feathers” with Beth Schillig, who has had quilts at Houston and Paducah and used to be a Bernina dealer near Columbus. She was a kind, patient, generous teacher who showed us several feather styles I hadn’t tried before, and I was very happy to have produced these doodle cloths in a four-hour class:
(Click on the pictures to zoom in if you need to, photographing wholecloths is hard.)
The next morning I had “Becoming a Domestic Diva Part 2″ with Penny Roberts, who is primarily a longarm quilter and inventor of longarm gadgets, but keeps her hand in with DSM quilting and was an excellent teacher with a well-thought-out lesson plan. She provided us with a pre-”stitched in the ditch” sample so we could concentrate on the free-motion fun stuff. When she started with continuous curve, I was concerned I had taken too beginner-y a class, but I quickly came to realize that my current lifestyle doesn’t really allow me much time to just play and experiment with my quilting; I always feel like I have to make every minute count so I have to accomplish! Taking these classes was like the “spontaneous activity in a prepared environment” concept from Montessori school: it gave me permission to just goof off with my machine, and I definitely feel the value of the experience. As you see:
Not to mention, through all that in-class quilting, I did not have a single problem with my machine! Not one! I certainly hope this augurs well for the future.
Saturday afternoon, feeling more than a little fried, I finished up with “But How Should I Quilt This?” with Debby Brown. While the class was excellent, the most valuable thing I took from it was finding Debby! She was not someone whose reputation I knew before taking her class, and I’ve greatly enjoyed perusing her blog and checking out her free online videos and tutorials. She was an entertaining lecturer, and really synthesized a great deal of disparate information into a fairly coherent system for helping the quilter focus on a few complementary designs to successfully quilt each top.
This spoke very centrally to my recurrent problem of Analysis Paralysis when it comes to quilting my own quilts: I fall for the fallacy that there is only one way to “correctly” quilt the quilt, and if I don’t find it, the quilt will be a failure. Debby rationally and rightly pointed out that the first step to quilting a top is to simply make a decision. Her next words stopped me in my mental tracks and made me write them down: ”Sometimes it’ll be just good enough, but sometimes it’ll be perfect.” I think the reason I found that simple statement to be so profound (aside from sheer mental and physical exhaustion) is what she didn’t say, but I’ve apparently believed to be true, that there is no acceptable alternative to perfection. And the secret, of course, is that there is. There’s good enough. There’s quite nice. There’s really special. What there is not, is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE OH MY GOSH YOU RUINED YOUR QUILT. Because even crappy quilting results in…A QUILT! Not a top sitting in a box, waiting to be sold in (hopefully) many decades in my estate sale, but a quilt, that gets used and loved. That keeps the baby warm. That gives the cat a place to sleep. That lets me see that fabric I absolutely had to have. That goes to show and tell and hangs in the guild show and maybe gets given as a gift to wrap the people I love in the longest-lasting hug I know how to give. A top can’t do any of that, and it’s not a quilt until it’s quilted.
So I’m going to go quilt those tops. I’ll keep perfection on the horizon, but I’ll try to keep perfectionism at bay. Let’s go make some good enough quilts.
I can’t put all my UFOs up at once, or this would be the longest post in blog history, but I have to start somewhere, and I may as well start with one that I never dreamed would end up unfinished. As with so many dysfunctional relationships, it all started so well…
My friend Diane and I took a class from Barbara Lenox in 2003 (or so) on Lemoyne stars. I definitely needed a class, because my first attempt at sewing together 45-degree diamonds resulted in bra cups rather than blocks. Now, Barbara has a reputation for being a tough teacher because she insists that you do things her way. But her way works, and what did you come to class for if you just wanted to do things the same old nonworking way?
As part of this, she had us make our class blocks using red and green diamonds. She didn’t want to have to talk about light and dark, or fabric A and fabric B, she wanted to be able to say, “Put the red diamond on top of the green diamond” and have everyone on the same page. It was very effective, but at the end of class I had red and green stars on a pink background, as I hadn’t wanted to make Christmas blocks. They were beautiful and flat — not even a training bra.
At this point in my quilt life, I believed myself to be a finisher. I was not comfortable with the idea of putting these blocks in a drawer for some mythical future project; I wanted to make a quilt. A big, bed-size quilt. And I had just bought my mom a book about two-block secondary designs. So I made a total of 12 Lemoyne star blocks, using complementary colors from the color wheel as the star points with pastels of the three primary colors as the backgrounds. (No one was going to accuse me of not thinking this through.) Then I used one of the block layouts from my mom’s book to make the alternate blocks and join them together.
Then I was possessed by demons. At least, that’s the only logical conclusion to be reached if you look closely at the border fabric I used on this quilt top. I wanted a black background, and I wanted all the bright colors from the top to appear in it to tie it all together. However, I apparently didn’t want to spend any time or effort finding the RIGHT fabric to meet these criteria, so I bought the first one I found:
I won’t sport with your intelligence discussing WHY this is a bad border fabric (for anyone who doesn’t happen to be a 6-year-old playing Pretty Pretty Princess, that is) but I will say that I have no intention of ripping it all out. Since it is actually pieced into the alternate blocks, ripping it out and replacing it would be an exercise in futility and a way to make sure that this UFO stayed unfinished forever. But I do plan to cut the Bad Border down to a less objectionable width and add a pieced border, which I actually made the blocks for within the last 4 years, the last time I tried to finish this quilt.
So what’s the holdup? First off, there’s fear of failure. I have to calculate the right size to cut the Bad Border down to so the pieced border fits properly, and then I have to actually cut it down correctly and accurately. Both these obstacles seem much harder than doing it right the first time would have been, and undoubtedly seem harder than they will be once I muster up to do it.
This quilt also represents another barrier to finishing, the learning curve. In a (wonderful, game-changing) machine quilting class I took in 2004 from Karen Kay Buckley, she told us that people frequently ask her how long it took to make her latest (gorgeous, award-winning) quilt. She said she always wants to answer, “My entire life up until now.” This makes perfect sense to me. Every quilt I make is a learning experience, and I’d like to think that each one gets a little better in some way or another. When I have to “go back in time” to finish a UFO, all the things that I would now do differently jump out at me, and they get demoralizing. In some ways, it seems easier to just move on to a new project that doesn’t have these problems than to try to fix this one.
Some good advice to remind myself of at this point:
“Nothing in life is a failure if you learn anything from it — even if all you learn is, I’m never going to do that again!” – Ricky Tims, speaking at the Ricky Tims Super Seminar, Richmond, VA, July 2007
“Just play. If it goes wrong, fix it. The best things happen from that. If you haven’t done anything wrong, you haven’t done anything right, either.” — Sieglinde Schoen Smith, speaking at York Quilters’ Guild, July 2009
Amen to all that.