My pillow doesn't look just like this,
but it's kind of similar.
I’ve just begun working again on a hand-sewing project I started two or three years ago and never finished. I started the project because I had a small urge to make something with my hands, just as I had done so often in my way-past.
I had always been undaunted by making things—sewing, planting, designing, crafting, building—but not any more. In fact, I had become so alienated from making things by hand that I had taken to calling myself “decidedly uncrafty,” picking up a line an old friend once said to me: “The only thing my hands are good for is holding a book.”
It didn’t make sense, really, that I had gotten this way. I grew up sewing most of my own clothes. And whenever I moved into a new home, I’d sew curtains for all of the rooms, as well as throw pillows for the couch. This was back in the years when “country style” was popular and curtains were often outlined with frilly ruffles, so I would look at the Country Curtains catalog and replicate what I liked. I didn’t need patterns. I had learned to sew, and I was confident that I could figure anything out.
The fact that I was once so extremely confident in my ability to make and create now makes me almost laugh in amazement, but it was true. For example, when I got married, I found three bridesmaid dresses that I liked (in three different pastel colors), so I bought them. Problem was, I had four bridesmaids. But, really, it was no problem. I would just find the same type of fabric in a fourth, complementary color, and sew another dress! I didn’t need a pattern—it was just me fitting the design to my different-sized fourth bridesmaid, and I promise you that no one could tell the dress I made wasn’t purchased right along with the others!
In fact, my sister borrowed those dresses for her own wedding (we were way more frugal in those days, and weddings weren’t typically quite the extravaganza they are now) and asked me to make a flower girl dress to match. No problem! I draped fabric over the little girl one evening in my mom’s kitchen and put the dress together that night.
And when my family was stationed at an Air Force base in Idaho, a friend and I had a blast taking classes together in just about everything that was offered. We took a stenciling class and stenciled our homes into suffocating 1980’s country cuteness. We took a woodworking class, and I made cool shelves and decorative items for all of my Christmas gifts. We took a quilting class, and I . . . well, I didn’t even finish our first sampler quilt, but I did learn how to do the four basic types of quilt-piecing from a true expert, and I made a bunch of quilted pillows!
And now one of those four quilting skills—applique— is coming in handy.
It all started when I was visiting my super-creative, crafty, quilting friend one Saturday. I expressed my desire to make something with my hands and confessed my inability to get myself motivated. I think she knew I needed to start with something simple, so she pulled out her yo-yo maker and led me to her fabric closet. I grabbed a bunch of material I liked, and my friend sent me home with a little kit that included scissors, thread, needles, the yo-yo makers, and everything I could possibly need to make something.
I began creating the yo-yos, and I found it sort of relaxing. Making them was easy, quck work, and when the different colors began piling up, I liked how they looked. I decided that maybe I’d applique them to a neutral fabric and make throw pillows for my kids for Christmas. I made the mistake of sending my kids photos on my phone and asking them what color themes they wanted.
Asking them was a mistake because: 1. They got excited about this. (The idea actually had nice potential.) 2. I petered out and didn’t finish. 3. The kids kept asking me when they were going to get their pillows. 4. I had to face myself squarely and admit “maybe never?”. I don’t like thinking of myself as a non-finisher, but I went back to my standard, “I’m just not crafty. I’m just not a maker.” I kept the yo-yos in the drawer, and I looked at them occasionally, unmotivated.
And then I started keeping my morning pages. This sounds really dumb, and I can’t unequivocally attribute my new movement toward making and doing to the pages, but it seems like they’ve helped. In those pages, I’ve just let my thoughts go wild in a way I don’t necessarily do in my other journals. And I’ve discovered some new things about what hinders me. I’ve jotted down ideas, and somehow, as if magically, I started doing things again. In her book, Julia Cameron promised this would happen. And many who have done the pages attest to this, too.
I don’t want to speak too overconfidently here. I’ve just started, really. But I actually enjoy what I’m doing, and here’s the best part—IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT for me to be happy!
How did I ever develop my debilitating perfectionism? I do a lot of things imperfectly, and I’m not bothered by that, so why did perfectionism interfere with my creative productivity? Why did I suddenly start caring when some spoil-sport said, “Your corners are a little off on this one”? Or “I liked it better the way you had it before”? Or, “You know who is really good at this kind of thing?” Or, “This is cute, but you should see. . . “? And when did seeing someone do perfect, professional-looking craftsmanship start making me think I shouldn’t try at all?
This is why Anna’s “so not a perfectionist” was a call back to reality. I have noticed that she really isn’t a perfectionist, and I love it! She is so smart and talented, and her productivity is impressive. But she doesn’t worry about what others will say or think or how she stacks up against them. She’s makes what she makes for the enjoyment of it and for the gift (she donates proceeds of her sales to help people). I totally love that.
So, now I’m stitching yo-yos to fabric in a pattern I designed to look like a flower bouquet, and then I will draw leaves on green fabric and applique them to my design to finish it. It might not work perfectly, and people may not even know what it is. If it doesn’t look like flowers, it can be a modern piece of work! The colors are bright, cheerful, and pretty, so it will all be good!
I am doing this bit by bit, stitching for a little while each evening, and I’m enjoying it. My girls might actually get their mom-designed yo-yo pillows this year! A gift of love is always better than perfect, right?