I Took a Risk and Here’s What I Learned

Making something is both an exhilarating creative endeavor and an exercise in failure.  I’ve experienced both, and I’m sure you have, too.  Creativity is also an incredibly healthy outlet.  It’s healing and in my head I understand it is the process, the experience that matters most.  But in real life?  In real life I sometimes catch myself acting like it’s about perfection.  Last month I pulled out a quilt top that I never quilted because my skills didn’t seem equal to the beauty of the design.  I basted it.  And then I took a risk and here’s what I learned:

I learned that my best effort is just fine.

I did my own free motion quilting on this 88″ square quilt.  It’s big and heavy and the blocks are very large.  I made a lot of mistakes, especially on the straight lines.  Although I did my best to follow the lines in the stripes, it’s wobbly.  But I figured out a thread path for all the orange peel quilting in the hourglass borders and the block centers.  I did it!  And in doing it, I got better.  While I slowly improved and stitched my way around the quilt, I also finished a beautiful quilt.

As I quilted this, I found myself thinking about all the times I told myself I’d ruin it if I tried to quilt it myself.  I realize now that the only thing holding me back was my self-talk.  Of course I made mistakes!  But it still looks great!  And its usefulness is unchanged by its flaws.

It made me wonder about other areas in life where I’m telling myself I’m not good enough.  Honestly, quilting is very low-stakes.  There’s a lot more at risk in other areas of life.  Why hold back with fabric?  Where else am I choosing to play small because I think I’m not enough?  Why bow to fear?  What if I found a way to dismiss those words “I shouldn’t because I’m not good enough” every time they enter my thoughts?

One thing is for sure, I’m going after this false idea in my creative work.  And I’m going to take it to everyday life with more determination.  The things we tell ourselves matter.  If you’re holding back somewhere for fear you’re not good enough, get started.  We all have to experience the gap between beginning and mastery.  But your best effort is just fine.  It’s the only way to improve.  I took a risk and I learned.  You will, too.  And remember: beauty has absolutely NOTHING to do with perfection.



Good Morning, 2020!

It’s January 1st.  A new day, new year, new decade.  We awoke this morning to a world blanketed in white with puffy snowflakes peacefully falling to the ground and the luxury of staying at home.  I love the way the world looks with fresh snow – glistening perfection, undisturbed and covering the dull brown of winter.  I looked out my window and thought, “Good Morning, 2020!”

New snow is like a fresh notebook without a mark in it, or a stack of fabric waiting for the perfect project.  It’s full of promise and potential.  The perfectionist in me is sometimes intimidated by the blank canvas these new starts offer; I’m afraid to make the first mistake.  The funny thing is, I make mistakes no matter what, so why hesitate to dive in?

Really, there’s nothing special about January first.  Any day – every day – is the day to make a change.  Still, it’s fun to change the calendar and start a new year and I want to dive in the way my children race out into the snow, excited to leave tracks all over and see what kind of adventure they can create.  I like the sound of “twenty-twenty”.  It reminds me of perfect vision, and the phrase “hindsight is 20/20.”  The idea of taking everything I’ve learned from 2019, even from the last decade, and putting it to work in 2020 has me excited.  So I really mean it:  Good Morning, 2020!

Last year I tried, with limited success, to sew for 15 minutes a day.  I noticed I felt happier and more productive in general when I was doing it. In the last few weeks I’ve only looked longingly at my sewing machine as the holiday season commanded my attention.  I have goals for 2020 in several areas, but my creative goal is one I’m really excited about.

I’m calling it “20 in 20” and it’s a goal to spend twenty minutes sewing every day (Monday – Friday, at least) in 2020.  I’ve got a master plan for it, and my official start date is Monday January 6th. That’s the day everyone goes back to school at my house.  We’re going to enjoy vacation mode for a few more days as a family.

I’ll be back here on Monday to share the details of my “20 in 20” challenge.  I have a great feeling about the new year.  Good morning, 2020!

Wishing 2019 Goodbye

The sun is shining today, a welcome sight after yesterday’s snow and gray skies.  From all appearances, it’s a day like any other.  It is, and it isn’t.  It’s December 31st, New Year’s Eve, the last day of the year – the last day of the decade.  And I find myself thinking about that like it’s a big deal, and yet it’s not.  After all the ups and downs, I feel tenderhearted as I’m wishing 2019 goodbye.

2019 cracked me wide open.  It cracked me open in January and for a lot of months I had no idea what things would look like going forward.  I will never forget this year.  It’s been the hardest, scariest, most lived by faith and most full of miracles year of my life.  There have been heartbreaking lows and long, dark weeks followed by sweet blessings that really matter.  Eleven months ago I might have said I couldn’t wait for this year to end and that it was the worst year ever, but as I stand today on the edge of 2020 I have to say it was a good growing year.  We learned that nothing is impossible for God.  I’m different, and I intend to stay changed.

Additionally, every member of my large family experienced a major life transition or challenge in 2019, which meant that I experienced them too.  We learned more about being a strong and supportive family.  We’re slower to judge and quicker to empathize.  Hard as it was, 2019 has made us better people.

Five years ago a chain of events cracked me open and left me reeling with pain.  I got through it, but I closed up creatively and couldn’t bring myself to sew a thing for months.  This time around I handled it better.  I let my sewing nourish me instead of clamming up.

It’s been a good year for quilt making.  I blogged about almost 20 finished quilts, Christmas tree skirts, and mini quilts.  I have another half dozen projects finished, just waiting to have their picture taken so I can share them here.  In spite of resolutions to finish all my unfinished projects, I still have several waiting in the wings and some quilt tops to quilt.  Still, I made progress in this area!  And during an incredibly intense period for my family, the Lone Star Tree Skirt Sew Along was a success.  I’m grateful that sewing and creativity were threads that helped keep life together in 2019.

I’m excited about 2020; about the next ten years.  But 2019 and I still have some unfinished business.  Most of it involves writing, but we need healing too.  And more sewing; I’m so excited about what’s ahead with making quilts!

Tonight I’m wishing 2019 goodbye, knowing it will never really leave me.  And I’m looking to 2020 with confidence and a heart full of stories to tell.  I hope to tell them in words and in quilts, and I hope you’ll come along.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my goals for 2020.  Tomorrow, a new year.  A new decade.  A day like any other, yet different.  Life is good; we’re lucky to be here.  Let’s make the most of it!


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