Half-and-Half, Or Thoughts on Confidence

>> Friday, December 24, 2010

I pieced this quilt top yesterday, and started quilting it last night. I resumed quilting what I'm calling "Kandinsky Squares" this morning. I decided to quilt large circles -- a first for me -- and that reminded me of Kandinsky's painting Farbstudie Quadrate (1913). I confess that I didn't know the name of the painting until just now; it was a common dorm room poster while I was in college, and I've seen it elsewhere since, but the name had escaped my attention or recollection.

I paused in the middle of quilting because I was listening to this talk by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, on "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders." A friend had posted the link on, where else, facebook, and I like to listen to podcasts or watch internet TV while quilting. But Sandberg really got me thinking -- about my own education, about quilting, and about how I talk about both. And I had to pause, to record the thoughts that I knew would dissipate if I waited too long (PSA: listen to the talk. Regardless of whether you are pursuing a career or want to be an executive. It's an important message for everyone, female and male, to hear. The information is not new, but it's a well-packaged and funny 15 minute distillation of ideas in circulation).

Sandberg relays an anecdote from a college course that she took with a friend and her younger brother. While she and her friend walked out of the final exam lamenting what they hadn't achieved, her brother -- who she noted, had read all of one book and attended merely a few lectures -- announced that he would receive the highest grade in the class. He passed, he said, with flying colors. Whether he simply claimed that or actually believed it is not totally clear (and I could hear my younger brother, with whom I've never taken a class, make a similar statement). But that's not the point. The point is, of course, confidence.

While on break in college about a decade ago, I returned to my high school while my siblings were still there. My sister desperately wanted to leave and I was still chatting with a few people. A teacher I'd had in 7th grade and again in 11th grade laughed and recalled that my 7th grade self would never be casually talking to people for fun: I was silent in 7th grade, he had no idea if I knew anything until I did well on the first exam. Indeed, 7th grade Bible class terrified me; it was taught in Hebrew, I was less than confident in my Hebrew skills and shy to boot. By 11th grade, I was much more comfortable with language and speaking. Indeed, the academic realm now makes me quite comfortable. It's far easier for me to walk into a classroom and teach 25 students I've never met than walk into a party and converse comfrotably with 25 people I've never met.

How does this relate to quilting and blogging? While listening and guiding the quilt through my machine, I realized that I had been thinking about all the imperfections I would talk about in a blog post. It's easy to do: the circles are imperfect. And the imprecise circles are simply one flaw among others. But if Sandberg's brother (or my own) were to have made this quilt and then blog about it, they'd say it's awesome.

Because it is awesome.

I always have doubts about the quilts I make midway through the process. I stand at my ironing board and wonder, "Are these blocks really going to come together? Did I choose the right colors? Maybe I should have left that fabric out?" But in the end, I like what I make. The doubts are part of the process. From a blogging perspective, I think it's important to acknowledge those imperfections. Or to tell you that I don't baste my quilts every 2 inches, and I leave loose threads hanging out until I remove them later. Because I'm not a textbook quilter or a perfect one. But that's not the whole story.

Rae has organized a fantastic SE Michigan Crafters Meetup. Each time I've gone, I've been inspired by other people's work and learned some tricks of the trade. Each time people have complimented the work I do. Last time, someone asked me if I sold my quilts. Thus far, the answer has been no. I make them as gifts or donate them. But I've been thinking about selling some. And to sell effectively -- whether it's selling a product or an idea -- confidence is key. I want my work to be high quality, but maybe the imperfect circles are part of the design. Look back at Kandinsky: his painting has graced the walls of museums but also dorm rooms and waiting rooms. His circles were intentionally impressionistic, not precise. It worked for him, and it can work for me. Honesty matters and self-critique has a role. But both need to be productive, not destructive.


The AfterCraft December 24, 2010 at 12:10 PM  

I think soemtimes picking colours are the most stressful part of the whole process!! I see people in the quilt shop I work in EVERYDAY freaking out.. it's quite amusing..

"It's just too...blue ya know"

"Nope, it's too loud"

"It's too quiet"


felicity December 24, 2010 at 12:30 PM  

Hear, hear! We are far, FAR too critical of our skills and talents. Your quilt is indeed awesome. Savour it and by all means consider selling your work. Happy Holidays!

Melissa December 24, 2010 at 12:43 PM  

I think that imperfections make the end product more special and satisfying:) Your work is beautiful:)

Shelley December 24, 2010 at 12:45 PM  

Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this!

Sewjournal December 24, 2010 at 6:59 PM  

Great post! I too have had these same misgivings but I've come to some conclusions too. Perfection lies with God alone. I'm human therefore my work will be less than perfect and I intend to enjoy making it. If no one else likes it then that's fine. As long as I do my best then I'm happy with that. Contentment is the key. Thanks for a thought provoking post., BTW your quilt is really lovely.

Micki December 27, 2010 at 11:43 AM  

What a lovely quilt, and I do love the colours you picked.

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