I am not saying that we should be careless in making our quilts or aim to make quilts that are sloppy or slipshod. Not at all. I think we should always try to do good work, should AIM for some kind of standard or even perfection. But we should not beat ourselves up if we don't make it every time, particularly if we are just learning, either quilting itself or a new technique. We're not all quilting in an attempt to win a ribbon, but if you are, then that's great. You should be proud. What I meant was that we should never let others judge our quilts according to their standards. They may be in an entirely different place than we are. We should not be afraid or let anyone keep us from trying to do something just because we're worried they may think it isn't "good enough" (according to their standards).
I know that creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of safety and acceptance and play.
Some quilters are naturals and have an easier time of it than others. Their first time at the sewing machine they can whip out a perfect block or quilt and then continue along at this pace. I admire those who can do that. Others, like me, had a longer learning curve. No matter how hard I tried at first I always made mistakes and got frustrated easily. Most of the time I was trying to quilt with all sorts of distractions and children underfoot. But, you know, I never let it stop me and I never talked down to myself or listened to others who did. (There were more than a few who did this when I was first starting out, let me tell you). I knew I wasn't an expert. But I told myself to keep going because I loved the process. I listened to my heart and it told me I loved to quilt. It took me awhile to learn to go easy on myself and give myself a break. I knew my quilts might never come out perfectly but thought - what if I could still offer something to all the quilters out there who were like me?
An early quilt full of triangle points that don't match. Neither do the borders, LOL.
In the end, I like to think I did okay and I hope at the very least I gave encouragement to a lot of quilters who were just like me. Maybe the very first quilt they would make would not be a fancy appliqued quilt or one with a thousand pieces that would win a prize. Some of you have made or will make quilts like this right off the bat. Others will not and Guess what? That's okay. Everyone has to start somewhere and be comfortable choosing a pace of their own. And no one has the right to criticize how they do it. Perhaps we're not all "natural born" quilters with tremendous artistic ability and skills. But we can still call ourselves quilters. Sometimes we have to work a little harder at it but the rewards are great when you accomplish something you weren't even sure you could do in the first place.
One of my imperfect quilts. Maybe not a big deal to some, but never in a million years did I think I could hand piece an entire quilt with Y seams, even a small one. "What are you thinking? You can't do this," I said to myself. But I pushed that thought aside and tried it anyway and then went on to make 3 more just like this one . . . . Not at all perfect, but so much fun. You should try this one.
A few years ago I taught a workshop and a woman came up to me, hugged me and showed me the first quilt she had ever made from a pattern in one of my books. She was not a quilter before that and I was proud of her for beginning to quilt and then taking classes to learn even more. I remember her friends in the class all rallied around her, cheering her on.
My purpose in beginning my pattern business (and eventually writing my books) was to encourage others who wanted to quilt but maybe did not have the confidence to try it or felt they shouldn't try if they couldn't do it perfectly. I knew that feeling and I jumped in anyway.
If you wait until you can do a thing perfectly, most likely you will never do it at all. Creativity is a process and we all have to follow that instinct inside that tells us we CAN do something, not listen to the little voice that says we're not good enough to even try in case it does not turn out perfectly. What I learned is that, if you never try, you will never succeed. And that this does not just apply to quilting, it applies to almost anything in life you dream of doing.
I like to show off a few of my quilts with mistakes when I teach to inspire others to be confident and to keep going despite difficulties. Sometimes I have to shrug off the mistakes and try not to worry when they are scrutinized by others who are better quilters. I think of how much work still went into the planning and the piecing and figure - so what? In the big scheme of things, this imperfect quilt means much more to me than someone's critical words or looks. I'm the one who has to live with it as a reminder that I'm human, that I will always need to continue to strive to be better. I know we can all be a little critical of our own work. But someone who criticizes others' work rather than champion their attempts has to live with that attitude that she has to prove she's somehow better than everyone else (and you know where that attitude comes from). I've met people like this and you probably have too. They're rarely happy with anything other than making others feel bad. I've never met a critical person who is a happy person or knows how to make others happy. I also know which type of person I'd rather be or spend my time with.
Trying to live up to other people's perfectionistic standards just "ain't" worth the headache.
That woman at the workshop inspires me today when I think about her. She was sooo proud of herself and I was too. No, her quilt wasn't perfect, but it was still beautiful. I could see the pride and sense of satisfaction in her eyes when she showed it to me. To me, that's what quilting is all about.
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A reminder - the beautiful Quilted Koala boxes you saw on my blog are available for purchase on their website. Just because you didn't win one doesn't mean you don't deserve to buy one for yourself : )