I make quilts. While I sew, I enjoy various media. Sometimes it’s radio, sometimes it’s a podcast. A lot of the time it’s junky television via the Internet.
There is lots of great, game-changing television out there. I don’t watch it. It takes too much focus. (I can’t watch Mad Men and sew patchwork; it’s unfair to Don Draper and unfair to my quarter-inch seam.) Instead, I watch gameshows. Reality gameshows. Biggest Loser, America’s Next Top Model, and Master Chef are totally — like, totally — my favorite shows. They’re just engaging enough to keep me company but utterly devoid of real substance. Perfect.
So I fire up the HuluPlus and I let entire seasons play. The downside to this is that any mystery or magic used in putting the shows together is gone. I know the template now. The challenges, the editing, the hosts’ indignation and the tear-jerker stories behind the contestants — every show, every game, it’s all die-cut. What’s really hard to listen to after hour eight are the interviews. I’ve figured how they do them. I’ve never experienced an actual reality show interview, but I am 99% certain they play sections of the already taped show for the player and ask him/her leading questions about what they were thinking at the time. And I picture the interviewer being extremely bored because these players, they say the same thing every single time.
Interviewer: “What does this competition mean to you?” Player: “This competition…it means everything to me.”
Interviewer: “When Heidi walks out, what are you thinking?” Player: “I’m just thinking, ‘What is going to happen next?'”
Interviewer: “What are you thinking right now, when Susan put the shrimp on the plate?” Player: “Right now, I’m just hoping I don’t go home.”
Interviewer: “What did you come here to do? Is this just a game to you?” Player: “I came here to win. This competition is not just a game for me.”
And on and on. And every once in awhile, something actually dramatic or surprising will happen (doesn’t happen often) and I’ll whoop or holler while I’m pressing my fabric and if anyone saw into my condo, they would see that I am a nerd.
I whipped up a baby quilt top for the magazine to show in a Quilty magazine tutorial. “Whipped up” is a kind way to put it. “Threw it together on my way out the door” is a better way to put it. And I made some errors. No, really. Look:
I taped it up in a box, mailed it to Iowa. A week or so later, I got this email from the Quilty managing editor, whom I adore:
“Hi Mary — We were getting ready for photography, and we noticed there were several places in the baby quilt top that you sent us that the seams don’t match up. While we are not trying to be the quilt police, we thought it was important to address this. We need to do very detailed shots of the quilt top and we can’t photograph it without showing the places that are not aligning. I can send it back to you if you are going to use it, just let me know.”
Here are a few things I think we can all take from this course of events.
1. Quilty (and all Fons & Porter titles) have high standards.
2. Just because you’ve made a passel of quilts, it doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes.
3. Slow down, cowgirl.
4. COWGIRL! I SAID SLOW DOWN!
5. Be kind to yourself.
6. Were you drinking?
I’d like to expand on #5 for a moment. When this happened, I had a mini-meltdown. It wasn’t a crying, kicking, screaming meltdown, I just had a horrified look on my face, silently wept for about 3 minutes, and felt like an utter and complete failure. Too much? Well, considering it was my birthday and considering the fact that I teach quilting on national television, I think I reacted appropriately.
But after that, I couldn’t let it go of how dumb I felt. That seam? That’s like, really off. It wasn’t the only one. And I didn’t even notice. Sure, I had ninety things to do, but so does everyone else, and besides: I had thatparticular thing to do and I didn’t do it too well, did I? I felt like a sham. I felt like a fraud.
Several days later, when I was still hearing the word “fraud” in my head over and over, I finally did stop myself and say, “Self, this has gone on long enough. ‘Fraud’? No. Hasty? Absolutely. In need of some perspective? Without question.” It wasn’t an immediate turnaround, but over the course of the next few days, the stung subsided, mostly because I vowed to be nice to myself.
This post is not about vindicating my rejected baby quilt top. It absolutely should have been rejected. This post about vindicating yours.
I’m a writer/editor working in the quilt industry: I see a lot of quilts. I see quilts with problems, both in terms of workmanship and design. I see quilts that are technically flawless but utterly lack soul. I see quilts that would never make it onto the pages of a quilt magazine in a thousand years because frankly, they’re quilts only a mother (or a child) could want. These quilts are all made for a reason. Sometimes that reason is for fame and fortune, sometimes it’s for fun, and the majority of the time, it’s for love.
Look, I read the blogs. I watch the tempests swirl about modern vs. traditional, this sewlebrity vs. that one, the fans vs. the naysayers of the latest trend, latest winningest quilt. I most definitely see people going back and forth about technique. You’d think it was their very soul at stake, sometimes, and all anyone said was “squaring off.”
If you’re going for publication or a job-job in the quilt industry, yes, you need to bring an A-game. But regardless of whether that’s a goal of yours, take the pressure off of yourself to be all things to all people, all the time. Maybe you’re more of a designer, not a blue-ribbon winner. Maybe every fabric combination you choose looks like the dog’s vomit, but MAN are you a crackerjack machine quilter. Can’t turn a binding that doesn’t look like it was chewed by your toddler? Well, fine, but your knack for solving Susie’s (and Joan’s and Polly’s) contrast problems make you the #1 go-to for such things while everyone else is scratching their heads.
Learn the craft. It’s more fun when you know how to do stuff well. Smart quilters say that again and again. I say it. But for heaven’s sake, be nice to yourself. I spent far, far too many hours in the dumps because I made one mistake and of course, I can’t make mistakes. Ever. Lemme tell you, learning to sew on national television was not easy and I thought I could weather any storm after that, but apparently, I can still be felled. And if the editor of a national quilting magazine can be rejected from time to time, you better not feel too bad about it, either, L’il Miss.