On my morning walk earlier this week, I was listening to an episode of the ABC podcast, “All In The Mind”, all about performance psychology. Specifically, sports psychology. Not a link you would normally expect to read on a craft blog, written by someone who’s idea of high performance activity is “getting all the parcels from the post office desk to the car in one go without a trolley”. But it was interesting, listening to them pick about physical aptitude vs mental self-throttling. If you lose a 15 minute race by 2 seconds, they asked, is it that you aren’t physically capable of winning, or is it your mindset that held you back?
A couple of times in the past, I’ve managed the rather impressive (if I do say so myself) feat of sewing an entire quilt in a day, including purchasing of fabrics and stitching down of hand binding. It was a whirlwind and not a sustainable way of crafting, but even so, just the knowledge I can do that kind of thing sets a mental high bar that skews my estimation of my mojo in a rather over-optimistic direction.
It was that off-the-wall, out of touch with reality, optimism, that saw me take on a whole quilt in the lead up to Christmas. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, it seems, since I only, finally, finished the quilt top last weekend. I will confess, it was very different to what I was expecting, and I knew from block one I was in trouble.
I expected the blocks to be reasonably simple, erring towards traditional; something that could be knocked up reasonably quickly given the timing of it, something that could fit around all the everything else that goes on at that time of year, something that would work for a wide variety of styles or preferences. What it was, instead, was block after block of cutesy-kitsch, often highly involved, blocks, that I never stood a chance of getting done in time.
For a free event, the content received was phenomenal, don’t get me wrong. And with twelve designers offering up a block each, with the goal of it being a promotional event for their own pattern businesses, I get why they were bringing the super fancy options to the table each and every time. All of that makes sense. Absolutely I get that. At the same time, two weeks before Christmas is not a time I want to be fiddling with working out why the 100 piece bird isn’t the right size, or making flying geese using foundation piecing. ‘Tis not the season to be learning how to sew curves or EPP a wreath. I changed a couple of blocks for speed and efficiency – foundation piecing might give me nice sharp points, but four at a time flying geese gets the job done faster, as does simple HST construction using the HST calculator for sizing.
Another source of frustration was trying to work from the colour chart provided with both quiltmas and with my fabric kit. I found there wasn’t a direct correlation between what my kit called fabric A and what the Quiltmas master guide called Fabric A – blues where a white should have been, or red in place of gold. It would have been tricky curating a kit with only rough guidelines and quantities, and not seeing the actual blocks ahead of time to help guide the choices. I was able to tweak and change my choices, but it added more decisions to slow me down on each block, and more places to procrastinate. I was also constantly worried about running out of fabric on the smaller pieces that ended up being the ones I reached for more often.
I needn’t have worried, though. There is plenty left over, and I’m planning on using some of it to make a table runner for our dining table – a huge part of the appeal was the colours of the kit, and the cozy texture of the linen fabric, works beautifully in our living room. Even allowing enough for a table runner, I think, should I be estimating correctly, there should be enough for an improv pieced backing. I’m rolling with this plan for two reasons. One, I hate waste, and love using up scraps of the front to make a back. And two, it will make it reversible.
This is the point in the post I confess: I don’t like it. It’s not really my style. I haven’t made a sampler quilt since…gosh, probably since my first quilt, made in 1995, at sewing class, for my parents. No, wait, my 2012 block of the month quilt. So two samplers, in total. One a decade ago, one three decades ago. I tend to err on the side of overall patterns these days, or if I’m working with blocks, they are repeating blocks, not sampler size. It’s not that I dislike samplers, per se, they just aren’t really my thing. Even less my thing? Picture style blocks. So while the blocks are very cute, and the designers clearly good at what they do, it’s not a quilt I would have chosen to make had I have known. By adding a reversible backing, I’m adding an option for how to display the quilt during advent. Maybe I’ll surprise myself and want to show off the christmassy blocks. Maybe I won’t, and maybe I’ll be thankful I did the pretty backing.
I feel bad, moaning about a free project. I am truly thankful for all the designers, and the host, who gave up their time and their skills to make the event possible. There is definitely a market out there for this style of quilt – that’s just not me.
It was a good lesson in maybe not jumping on every mystery -along I come across. My gnome along was equally as…not disappointing, that’s not the right word. Both projects were fabulous for getting me into the Christmas crafty spirit, and it was something fun to do, so I wouldn’t call them disappointing. But both have a certain “oh…right” about them. The gnome wasn’t gnomeish in the way I expected. The quilt was not my style. And that’s ok. Everyone has different preferences. Just maybe next time, I avoid the mystery projects. Especially in a busy season. Even outside of Advent – my craft time is limited, and my storage also. These two projects have shown me that I am better to fight the FOMO, and leave my crafting time and stash for something I am truly excited by.
So why a post about a quilt I don’t like? Last year, I was a guest on the Art Supply Posse podcast, and we were talking about how we often see the pretty shiny finishes, not the fails and the mis-starts. I’ve chatted a bit on insta, about normalising fails, and I wanted to do that in this space as well. I wanted to acknowledge that a project I talked about here, a lot, at the end of last year, was finished but not quite what I thought. I didn’t want it to fade away and be ignored; the work of the designers, and my own work in sewing it, should be honoured and not ignored. In normalising our less-than-favourites, it also gives others permission to share the less-than-perfect. It gives us space to bring the real back to social media, in a landscape obsessed with selling us not “real” but “reels” full shiny perfect aspirations.
And now the quilt is photographed, and I can finally tuck it back in the WIP box until I am ready to baste and quilt and bind. Maybe when I pull it out, I will have more grace for it. But for now, it’s clearing out space on my work table, and that can only mean one thing: new project time! The real question then, is what do I start first?