Friday, 3 April 2015

When Perfect Isn't Perfect

I've been sitting on this post since yesterday afternoon, unsure if it was something you would want to read...or more accurately, if it was something I wanted to tell. I eventually came to the decision that if you don't already think I am a little mad, then you never will ; )

If you've been following me for a while, you will know that I have a 'close enough is good enough' attitude about sewing. I thought it might be interesting to explain to you where my approach comes from.

Before I begin, I will point out that what I say here is about my attitude towards myself and my home projects. It in no way reflects how I feel about other people or the quality of work I do for others.

It may come as a surprise that my approach is not a result of me being lazy or not a perfectionist. Quite the opposite. I set incredibly high standards for myself and, until recently, have not accepted anything less in my work. In fact, I set such high standards that it is almost impossible to reach them. I expect perfection from my first attempt at every single task. Even the tiniest mistake results in self-ridicule and the words 'useless' or 'idiot' being mumbled under my breath (and sometimes yelled at the top of my lungs).

My decision making process consists of clearing all other thoughts from my head and running through the options over and over and over...and over again. Do you know how frustrating it is to be completely locked inside your own mind??? Sleepless nights, not eating, ignoring all others...these are just some of the side-effects. I say this not for sympathy or psychological diagnosis, but to give you a better understanding of why I have chosen a more relaxed attitude to my work/hobby.

What does this have to do with sewing? Everything.

As you all know sewing, like any craft, is filled with just as many mistakes as successes. Even the most experienced quilter or seamstress will make the silly mistakes. I'm pretty sure one of the top tools on anyone's list of 'must haves' is the seam ripper. For me, however, these mistakes weren't just 'whoops' and unpick. They were intense personal failures on a monumental scale. I wasn't enjoying myself and it was becoming a mountain I had a to scale...but a mountain that kept growing and growing no matter how quickly I climbed.

One day I simply had enough. I gave myself the ultimatum: Either sew and enjoy it, or give it away and watch television. I decided to have one more go, but with a new approach. I set a few guidelines. If it's not 'wrong' then it stays. 'Wrong' will obviously mean different things to different people. For me, it was a mistake that made the item unusable or hideous. For example, sewing the wrong pieces together, or having points on a quilt block inches out. These are considered wrong. A point being a millimetre or two out though, or a topstitch not being perfectly straight? These I can now live with. Don't get me wrong, I still get frustrated that I'm not perfect, but I'm slowly learning to accept it and enjoy my time. I would rather finish ten imperfect projects happily, than sit on one and hate the world.

On a little side note I've also found that, by dropping my crazy down a few notches, I have more patience and understanding with those around me. Reducing my negatives has increased the positives in my life.

Why am I telling you this? I honestly have no idea. I just thought it was interesting and might ring true for a few of you. Perhaps it'll even help someone find a way to enjoy their passion again.

7 comments:

  1. You have the perfect attitude now! If my points aren't perfect. who will really notice once it is quoted and washed? nobody and if they do, so be it. Imperfections are what make it unique!

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    1. Thanks. You're absolutely right. It's the imperfections that make us interesting. Who wants to be like everyone else when they can be unique ; )

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  2. You are not alone. I often remind myself that it is the sum total that counts. I step back and consider if anyone would notice at all. Most of what I make is made to be loved and used so I try to concentrate on making it so it will survive many washings. I won't create things unless I enjoy the process. I already have a sharp eye and an attention to detail so that will serve me well enough without having to be critical. Good for you! Carry on.

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    1. Thanks so much. I'm really enjoying it now that I'm accepting mistakes. It's nice to actually finish things, stand back and think "Hey, I made that....that's pretty cool" rather than "oh that's wrong...and that...and that...I'd better unpick it and start again". Very refreshing and I'm amazed at how this way of thinking has moved into my normal day-to-day life too.

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  3. Really enjoyed reading this post. I'm not a perfectionist, but I do get to the point of feeling like my work just isn't good enough, especially when I encounter quilters who are all about the perfect 1/4" seam. I mean, I would like a perfect 1/4" seam, but if I had to have one, I would never finish anything. I admire perfection, but I don't need to achieve it myself. Every once in a while, I get a vibe from another quilter that my work is not good enough. Sadly, the owner of my LQS is just such a one. So I never show her my work anymore. Ever. Happily, 95% of quilters just don't think that way, even ones who are probably perfectionists.

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    1. I love how you said "I admire perfection, but I don't need to achieve it myself". That's exactly how I'm feeling. I love seeing work from people that have perfect seams, or those that will unpick 100 times just to make a point match. It's not for me though. I don't enjoy myself when I'm like that.

      It's a shame your LQS gives you that vibe. One of my pet peeves is people that look down on others for having a different approach. Quilting isn't supposed to be about the perfect quilt. It should be about fun, love, appreciation, passion, and a million reasons we choose to make quilts. We should never look down on someone for choosing a reason different to our own. I mean, how boring would the quilts be if everyone made them in the exact same manner?

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