I have a confession to make. I used to be a little obsessive about details.
Those of you who know me well may be objecting to my use of the words “used to be” and/or “a little.”
All I can say to you beautiful people is…thank you for your patience. 😊
But I stand by my words. I used to be obsessive. Used to be. I am in recovery, at least. I used to worry about everything – particularly about my appearance, as I’m sure all the ladies out there can understand. I worried about the placement of every hair on my head, the color, the cut, the style. Don’t even get me started on my makeup and clothes.
When did I stop? Well, I’d like to say it was when I had kids, but that’s a little too vague. It was when I learned to see things from a kid’s perspective.
One day, after some particularly intense distress over my haircut, I sat down in the floor with my girls. They were little, around six years old. They wanted me to admire their day’s work. Some truly amazing artwork.
(Is there anything more delightful than a child’s artwork? No. No, there isn’t.)
My beautiful girls had drawn pictures of their family. I was in every picture. Here is what I looked like:
They were so proud of their pictures! And I was, too. Emma pointed out the pictures of me, and said she liked my “round” hair.
Those pictures made me realize that the details of my haircut – a smidge shorter, longer, curled, not curled – did not matter one bit. To my kids, I always have “round” hair. They saw no difference between the various haircuts I’d had over the years. Me, I can look at pictures of myself and pick out every detail, every flaw. But why? Why not just relax and enjoy the silhouette instead?
Since then, I have relaxed. I’m still detail oriented, but not detail obsessed. The difference those five letters make is huge.
When I started quilting, though, I noticed that I was falling back into my obsessive ways. It’s easy to do. Piecing a quilt top can be fussy. All those tiny pieces and particular seam allowances can make you crazy. A ¼ inch seam is pretty standard – but then some pattern designers require a scant ¼ inch. Most patterns call for pieces to be cut in ¼ inch increments – but there are many patterns that use ⅛ inch increments.
I’m not even sure my eyes can still see the ⅛ marks on a ruler.
Longarm quilters have even more opportunity to obsess. I often find myself fretting over every imperfect curve and crooked line in my quilting design. Like with this quilt that my mom made. It is her second quilt, a jelly roll race design. She did such a great job on it! And then I chose a quilting pattern for her that I ended up struggling with – circles. (Sigh.) I worried myself to bits trying to get those circles perfect!
(I mean, I would have worried, if I hadn’t learned to stop all that obsessive nonsense.)
All that stress was a waste of time. Mom’s Rainbow Quilt came out terrific in the end:
Since worry just takes the fun out of things, I’ve set myself a few rules to avoid obsessing over a quilt to the point that it is declared a UFO (UnFinished Object). I call them:
Stacey’s Rules for Preventing UFOs:
- Don’t use patterns requiring pieces cut in ⅛ inch increments. Period.
- Don’t look too closely at the finished quilting. Okay, I can look at it – but I am not allowed to point out the flaws to anyone else.
- Spend some video time with Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilt Company. If her tutorials don’t help you loosen up and have fun, I don’t know what will.
- Keep learning. The more techniques you learn, and the more often you do them, the easier it gets. Easy = less to obsess over.
- Join a quilt guild, or visit your local quilt shop frequently. You’ll meet other quilters that are just as obsessive as you…and they have all learned to loosen up, so it will give you hope! If you are in my beautiful home state of West Virginia, stop by West Virginia Quilt in Barboursville, or Quilts by Phyllis in Hurricane. I guarantee you’ll feel right at home.
- Break the rules whenever you feel like it.
Number 6 is key. When you feel like a challenge, break all the rules you like. Refuse to learn – make the same quilt three times, in different fabrics! Forget tutorials – do a liberated quilt à la Gwen Marston! Get crazy and cut some 3⅞ inch squares and sew ‘em together with a scant ¼ inch seam! Choose a too hard, really challenging, can’t believe I started this thing, pattern and only do one block!
Whatever you do, remember to keep a kid’s perspective on your art. How would a child draw it? Stand back a little, admire the silhouette, the outline – and forget the details. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the view.