Most people don’t like to make mistakes. And we especially don’t like to have others see those mistakes! We want people to see our best attributes, our successes, our orderly lives. So we share beautiful pictures and stories with others, full of our perfect projects, our perfect families, and our perfect accomplishments. If you spend much time on social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook, you know what I’m talking about! It’s a rare day that you find someone posting about a failure or a mistake. We wrap our cloaks of success tightly around ourselves, like armored gladiators venturing forth to face the enemy, making sure no chinks (such as misbehaving children or less-than-perfect homes) are exposed.
In the arts community, including the quilting community, I think there’s even more pressure to look good, appear successful, and hide our mistakes. After all, our work is out there for everyone to judge, evaluate, share or re-tweet. By its nature, what we do is visual and public, and many of us judge our days by how many “likes” or hearts we get on a particular post. In his book “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked,” author Adam Alter explains how people become addicted to the “responses” we get when we post content. And if I’m honest, I have to admit I’m no different! I recognize the little “high” I get when people like or comment on my posts.
But the reality is that most of us don’t share our failures. Why? I know that sometimes I hold back from sharing my failures with others because I think that people won’t like me anymore if I’m not perfect, or they’ll think less of me. Which actually is pretty silly when you think about it. When was the last time you stopped liking a friend because her house was messy when you visited?! Or when did you un-friend someone on Facebook because they posted a picture of a quilting block they sewed backwards?
Just today, I read a blog post by Bonnie Olaveson, an award-winning fabric designer and half of the dynamic duo, Bonnie and Camille. She shared a post about a whole quilt she made where a corner triangle was sewn backwards! And you know what she said? “I have always worried that this might happen! Now that it has, I have to giggle and say, so is life. Sometimes things aren’t quite right, but there are so many things that are good and beautiful and I’m grateful for that.” What a great response.
Another of my favorite quilters, Allison Harris at Cluck Cluck Sew, wrote an inspiring article titled “Eleven Things I’ve Learned in 11 Years.” Number 6 is “Mistakes are Learning Curves.” She says, “Mistakes are how we learn, so if I remember that, I can be thankful for the learning experience, even when it’s hard!”
Lastly, here’s Virginia Lindsay of Gingercake on “Ten Big Picture Habits for Happy, Successful Sewing.”
“Anticipate mistakes and problems because they will happen. Accepting that your seam ripper is going to be used often makes mistakes so much less frustrating….I think accepting that I am human and not a machine keeps me from getting frustrated when a make a silly sewing mistake!”
Perhaps you’ve heard how Amish quilters purposely included an element of “error” in their quilts. At least in urban legends, these are called “humility blocks”, and the purpose is to remind us that only God is perfect. Let’s take a lesson from the Amish: let go of perfection, and the comparison game, where really, no one wins and everybody loses. Rejoice in the things you do well; be thankful and grateful for new opportunities to learn. And be willing to let others see those less-than-perfect experiences, because we all experience them too! And our shared experiences—even the mistakes—bring us closer together and make us kinder to each other. Kindness, gratitude, thankfulness. That’s the community I want to be a part of!