22 October, 2010


Fear holds a lot of people back. Not only in life, but also in quilting. Fear of a new technique, fear of messing up, fear of being less than perfect, even fear of not being liked (the work, that is). I'm here to tell you to stop being afraid.

(I feel evangelical just typing that. Maybe I should be on a stage with a tiny microphone on my face and gesticulating calmly as I speak. You know, projecting a voice of inspired energy and turning you over to my side?)

This is a bee block. Just a simple wonky star with a twist was requested. I can get those directions, play around with the fabric given, and come up with something a bit different from the typical stars seen out there. For another person, those directions can simply stop them in their tracks. For one, saying wonky paralyses many. Must have a straight lines... And two, this begs for improvisation. Must have a pattern... Finally, what if the recipient doesn't like what I do?

For a long time I didn't understand these fears. In my case it was because I happen to like a challenge and actually sewing that way. But then people asked me to sew very precise things in their bees, with very specific instructions. Definitely not my go-to-choice for a project. But I'd made the commitment to the bee and my fellow participants. And I wasn't afraid so much as less than excited. But it's one block, what's the big deal?

But one block can be a big deal to a beginner, or to someone whose never made a triangle or not worked with a pattern. I don't want it to be a big deal though. I want people to look past those fears and relish the challenge. Why not try something new? Do you want to make log cabins or simple patchwork for the rest of your life?

Okay, maybe you do. Maybe you would be really happy churning out those quilts. And that's fine. But then stay away from on-line bees and expect other people to get bored with your work if you choose to share it with a very public audience. That's all good if you are happy doing what you are doing.

Looking for more, though? Feeling inspired by all you see on-line or at guild? Then it is time to set aside some fear. Here are some tips to get you moving past the fear:

- Join an on-line bee. This will force you to try new techniques and meet other quilters. Alternatively, join a round robin or guild bee.

- Play. You can just sew for the sake of sewing, it doesn't have to turn into anything.

- Don't blog about it. If you are worried about what people think, then don't share it.

- Blog about it. Push yourself to put it out there, flaws (perceived or real) and all.

- When in doubt about that one fabric, include it. If it still niggles at you once you've used it, then take it out. It is only fabric.

- Ask for help. Whether from an in-person friend or by posting on-line, seek input from others (like we did with the Workshop in Progress).

- Challenge yourself. Set up regular goals to try new techniques or colours.

- Stop reading blogs and books for a little while. It can be demoralizing for many to see so much inspiring work. That is, we think we can't be good enough or think it is beyond us. So take a little retreat for yourself and turn off the computer and stay away from the stack of books. Fondle your fabric and sew for yourself.

- Colour. Stuck when it comes to fabric? Then pull out the crayons, markers, or pencils and just colour. Even if it is just a colouring book, go for it. Give people blue skin, colour the trees purple, or make polka-dotted dogs.

Keep in mind that if you are stuck there is no need to make an entire quilt to move past the fear. Make one block, just play for a bit. This reduces the commitment and moves your forward one step, one block at a time.

What other tips do you have for facing the fear?


Kris said...

Great ideas and wonderful post! You captured a lot of the things I have thought about lately too. I love bees for the challenge and it's been interesting to see what challenges different quilters. I'm wrapping up the last month of a bee and hoping to find a new group soon.

Molly said...

I guess for me it was just getting more practice and experience. I started right out doing pretty improvisational and wonky quilts and was terrified of precise, "measurement required" squares. This summer I did a sampler quilt-a-long with some traditional stuff and it was a good way to practice exact piecing. I'm finally confident enough to join a bee after the holidays.

Jan said...

Great post! I think these suggestions could apply to a lot of arenas where fear overtakes us. I have been enjoying sewing quilty-type things for Quilt Market b/c I left no time to overthink anything - as such, my fears haven't even come into play b/c there simply wasn't time for indecision or little voices!

mjb said...

I've been making a lot of baby quilts for friends and love playing with fabric, but when it came time to making my own baby's quilt I froze up because I wanted it to be a perfect heirloom quality quilt. I spent way too much time about each decision. The best thing that happened was when I went to make the borders, I cut the width of the fabric instead of the length - the stripes went the opposite way from what I wanted + I wouldn't have enough fabric to go around all four sides that way. I made it work by patching in another fabric for length, but it totally got me past the roadblock of fear about "messing it up" since now it was an improvisational type thing again.

The other thing that helps is not committing to a design for a whole quilt from the beginning - make one block to try it out, see how you like it, and go from there. Sometimes there are color combinations and designs that can surprise you that way.

Tapestry Tree said...

Great post! Just what I needed to read this morning. I am in the process of starting a new crafty business and fear niggles at me constantly these days. I have wanted to do this for over 20 years and always, always let fear get the best of me and backed off. NOT THIS TIME! I'm moving forward and taking it as far as it will go. Thanks again for inspiring words.

felicity said...

Thanks for a great, inspiring post, Cheryl! My advice is totally plagiarized but it's "feel the fear and do it anyway." I actually repeat that to myself in some instances.

Becky (My Fabric Obsession) said...

Oh you have explained my fears so eloquently!! Part of why I've been afraid to join a bee is because there are so many talented bloggers in them. I am totally afraid I'd get someone awesome and let them down with my work. I think it's going to be a New Years resolution to join a bee! (my to do card is too full right now - oh, is that another excuse?)

elle said...

Thought provoking post, Cheryl. BTW I LUV that wonky star! Fear, don't delay doing SOMETHING because then you have an excuse to say I didn't have time to do it the way I wanted. My tip: Jump on the fear and get something started so you have time to finish it well.

momto2wasd said...

Thanks for the reminder! I need to get over my fears of free motion quilting!

I keep trying to tell myself to just do and stop thinking!

snore stop said...

Thanks for a great, inspiring post,your work is great.I spent way too much time about each decision.

Suzanne said...

I needed this kick in the pants. I've been in an online bee for the last year and it's pushed me. This last block is a self portrait block. Fear has dogged my every move. It's halfway done. I just have to finish.

I agree with what was said that sometimes the "mistakes" lend a great hand in improvisational quilting. I inaccurately squared a bee block recently. Once I got over the winded feeling, I did the only thing I could think of. I repeated the mistake on the other side and sewed again. It was fine and really felt inspired.

Thanks for your thoughts.

PatSloan said...

Here Here!

Victoria said...

Cheryl, this post should be broadcast from coast to coast! Shouted from roof tops. Recited at guild meetings. Tattooed on peoples arms! People need to get over there fears and PLAY more!

Now, I admit I get fearful that when someone purchases my work from just seeing a photograph of it... I worry to excess that they won't be happy with the real thing, (luckily that fear has not ever become a reality, knock on wood) and I need to get over that. However, I can not for the life of me understand why people are afraid to experiment with new ideas, fabrics, techniques, and plain 'ol improvise.

I think it stems from when we were young and in school. Something happens somewhere in between kindergarten, (where every kid feels like a bona-fide artist) and fifth grade, (where most kids will tell you they "don't know how to draw"). So many lose their creative confidence so early in life, and never really seem to get it back. Very sad.

Amanda Jean said...

i think i fall into the camp of needing to quit reading blogs and books for a time...and just create. i have recently been feeling the overwhelming intimidation of the interwebs. and it stinks.

great post, cheryl!

Kate said...

Loved this post. You're such a great writer!

brown robin said...

Those are wonderful tips! Love the part about "fear." I have found that I don't put that much of my work on my blog anymore. I thought it was interesting to read in print. I also stop looking at other blogs when I'm really productive or highly engaged in my creative process. You always nail it in your posts. Love that.

Twinfibers said...

I love your post, thank you!
I'm also loved your point about not reading blogs or looking at books. I have often felt that is a good idea and that I tend to compare myself to others too much when looking at so many other things. Sometimes, I think that can stop me from creating anything that I really love myself. (and it also takes a lot of time away from creating)
Thank you for such an inspirational post. (and the block will be beautiful in my quilt, thank you!)
:) Jessica