The perfect vs the good

In my life, I so often fall victim to the problem of making the perfect the enemy of the good. For instance, with housecleaning — I will say to myself, “I only have half an hour, I can’t clean the whole house in that time! I may as well wait for a day when I have a whole afternoon to clean.” As you probably know, pushing something off to a future day often means it never gets done! A good bit of cleaning for half an hour would further the cause of order in my house… putting it off till a “perfect” time to clean only means nothing gets done.

Sewing was the same for a long time. I felt that if I only had a few minutes to sew, it wasn’t worth it! I kept pushing off my sewing to “a day when I have more time”. Now that I have a sewing area that I can leave set up and ready to go all the time, I am trying to sew a little every day — even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes. In that time, I can often get something pressed, finishing cutting something out, pin some blocks… a little something that furthers the projects I’m working on in a useful way. And ten minutes every day for a week adds up to more than an hour of sewing. By embracing those little moments, I’ve gotten a surprising amount done lately. I don’t need to wait for the perfect sewing day or cleaning day — a few minutes a day can be good enough.

The perfect vs the good can also apply to using fabrics in my stash. I may buy a fabric I like without a clear idea of how I will use it — and that can be very dangerous. Because it means that I often end up waiting for “the perfect project” for those fabrics, which results in them sitting untouched for months or years. Here’s an example:

funky train fabric I bought this train fabric — some cool panels and some yardage — to make a train quilt for my young, train-obsessed son. But I didn’t have a pattern in mind to work from; I had to come up with one myself. I had all sorts of plans for making the quilt extra special with funky piecing, etc., but never settled on a design I was completely happy with. “Maybe I can think of something even better!” I kept telling myself.

As a result, my young son is now an adult, and has largely lost interest in trains. The fabric is still untouched. This morning, I pulled it out of my cupboard and laid it out on the table. I measured the panel pieces. I looked at how much yardage I had. I considered the size of his bed. I realized that I could simply cut large squares of the train fabric, equal in size to the panel pieces, and alternate them, then using the bright square fabric in the border. Pretty easy.  No, it wouldn’t have been the perfect pattern I’d dreamed of coming up with, but it would have been something I could have done in a few days all those years ago, and enabled my little boy to have a train quilt he would have been delighted with. Because really, done and in use is better than theoretically perfect and unstarted.

tulip leavesHere’s another example — it’s a small piece I made in a hand-applique workshop I took years ago. It’s the leaves of a flower: I think it was supposed to be a tulip. I finished the leaf part, but never found the right fabric for the flower. Nor did I have a clear idea of what to do with it. Today I came across it when I was pulling out the train fabric, and it occurred to me that if I just popped on a flower, I could make a nice little fabric postcard with it. It’s the right size. And would be perfect to give to a quilty friend on her birthday or as a thank you. Why didn’t I simply do that years ago? Because I was waiting for the perfect idea to come to me… and finally I’ve given up waiting. A good, finished fabric postcard will be much better than the perfect project I still haven’t thought up.

Even after all these years of sewing, I guess I’m still a little nervous about cutting up fabrics, or “making a mistake” with a project. In the back of my mind, I’m worried that I will finish, and then realize what I “should have” done instead! But you know what? There’s always more fabric in the fabric store. There’s always another project on the horizon. There’s always another chance, so I should stop stressing and just enjoy creating nice things I can share with others!

That said, it’s time for me to take advantage of a free half hour, and go make something right now! (Fabric postcard sounds just about right!)

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