Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Failure

Last week, I finished this quilt. And I hate it.

I started this a really long time ago, when a friend was pregnant. Her baby is now almost a year old! Oops. I saw the backing fabric (Parisville by Tula Pink) and I thought it would be awesome as a whole cloth quilt--just that print on one side and lavender Minky on the other. Then I saw the scallop stripe print, and got this great idea of borders with mitered corners. I worked on the blocks when we visited my in-laws last July, and got really discouraged. Mitered borders are hard. And use a LOT of fabric. I made 5 blocks, and ran out of fabric, and did NOT want to make any more. I put it away for a few months, because I just couldn't handle it! I got it out again, and decided to just put something else in there with the blocks, and came up with that blue from Joann's. It matches perfectly, but it's just too much! I used my last little bit of fabric for the back, basted it, and put it away for a few more months. Then Angela started Project UFO, so I got it out again. I finally decided to quilt it in this great Big Diamond, Little Diamond pattern from Film in the Fridge. I even used a BLACK Crayola Washable marker to mark my lines--honestly, I couldn't really like it any less, so who cares if there are black lines all over it?

 The lines washed out perfectly, without a trace, surprisingly. 

Anyway, the point of this is that I made this here thing, which I thought would look great, and I really just don't like it at all. To the point that I'm too embarrassed to give it to my friend. I'll be donating it to the charity that my quilting bee donates to, My Very Own Blanket. Because that way, I'll know some little baby in foster care will be getting a quilt that will be just for them, but I won't have to hand it to anyone and see the look on their face when they see it.

After feeling pretty lame about this and two other disaster quilts I've been working on, I read something that made me feel SO much better. I'm reading this great book, Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes. There is a section about having realistic expectations of your abilities in art, and understanding that just as you have to learn how to run or ride a bike or anything else, you also have to learn how to create art.

"Like the rest of us, professional artists are often dissatisfied with their work. Knowing this, we ought to give ourselves and the children we work with the freedom to be dissatisfied and to learn from experience. When an adult beginner doesn't like his or her first couple of drawings, he tends to throw them away and conclude he has no ability. When a child tells an adult she doesn't like something about her drawing, it is quite common for the adult to begin praising the drawing and trying to talk the child into liking it. If you do this, you rob a child of the ability to solve problems and develop creative thinking skills. When I was learning to play the flute no one was surprised when I hit wrong notes or tried to tell me how wonderful it sounded. Our society is totally unrealistic about what to expect of beginning drawers. We have created an unwillingness to take risks and to enjoy the process of learning."

This made me feel much better about my failures. I attempted this quilt without any real plan, measurements, a drawing, or anything, and it didn't work out. Now I know that if I'm going to work without a pattern, I need to draw everything out on graph paper and have Scott do the math. Which led to this piece of amazingness:

Seriously the coolest thing I've ever made. 
(photo courtesy Hilary Reimers)

So it's a learning experience for quilting, and that book gave me some great insight into parenting. Double high five!

Photo shoot out-take!


  1. I agree about that being the coolest thing you've ever made. And I know I'm biased, but it's the best.

    And even though you don't like that quilt, I was going through fabric and crafts this weekend thinking of you(remember how you helped me make a quilt?) and how talented you've become in a relatively short time. And I admire that talent. And some boy will have fond memories of that blanket.

  2. It can be so hard to be honest about our crafting disappointments but you're right it's important. The ideas about realistic expectations are so interesting, I think taking risks and living with failure can be so important to our development. Love the out-take!

  3. Ok, is it just me? I love both quilts. To me they tell a story of where you were, what your eyes picked out and time and generosity in each stick. Both quilts show a lot of love and time. I am glad that you are so kind as to give the blue one away, so some boy or girl will have a home-made quilt. How do you find the time to quilt?

  4. I think the Tula Pink quilt is lovely. But I know what you feel... the first quilt top I made after taking a quilting class is still a UFO because I can't bring myself to quilt it.