A Word About Encouragement, Perfectionism, and the Quilt Police. You’re Scaring the Newbies Away.

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Perfectionism. Quilt Police. Whatever you want to call it. This crosses my mind often when I’m quilting. What will the quilt police say if I don’t go back and redo that entire row of blocks because they aren’t perfect? What will the quilt police say if I don’t do my binding to their standards? What will the quilt police whisper about my quilt if I dare enter it into a local show?

I have a fairly thick skin, in a few circumstances, quilting is not one. 

As a relative newbie to quilting (just over three years in), the Quilt Police cross my mind much more often than I’m willing to admit. You see, the quilting community is an amazingly supportive one. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made endless friendships, contacts, and experiences thanks to the many wonderful souls I’ve crossed this quilty path with. But, there are those who strike terror into the hearts of those of us who don’t strive for perfection, and perhaps those that do. They’re the Quilt Police.

The Quilt Police would never, ever buy their fabric at a Fabricland/Fabricville, JoAnn, Walmart etc. They shop exclusively at their LQS, who supply them with the most up to date, trendy, etc. lines. They wouldn’t dream of letting that seam go even a little crooked without redoing it to perfection. They scoff at machine quilting. They are intimidating AF to those of us who are new to this hobby. They scare hoards of us off, never to return. They may even draw a tear to our eyes when we overhear them shaming our entries that we poured our blood, sweat, and tears into at a local show. They are ruining the quilting community one harsh comment and side eye at a time. I know they don’t mean ill will (well, most of the time) but it’s very intimidating to join the quilting world.

Okay, that might be a bit drastic. But, they are scaring scores of newbies off. Some of us have very thin skin and may not try a new skill, fabric, process, etc. for fear of not pulling it off as well as an officer of the QP (Quilt Police). How many amazing pieces, patterns, quilts, runners, projects, etc. are we missing out on thanks to this?

I ask you. No, I beg you. If you think you may belong to this QP force, please, put down your weapons. Yes, those harsh comments and side eyes. How about more support, more encouragement, more love? I mean, a quilter really just wants to make something that they love, or that they hope a loved one will love. Try biting your lip at that crooked row of blocks, that machine quilted top, and that wild fabric you would never have seen because it’s only sold at JoAnn. Some of us just don’t have the funds or the availability to be boutique only shoppers. But you know what we do have? Love of the art. And that is what will keep quilting alive for generations to come. Let’s embrace the newcomers. All of them.

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23 thoughts on “A Word About Encouragement, Perfectionism, and the Quilt Police. You’re Scaring the Newbies Away.

    • These statements above are so encouraging and very much needed. I am 80 and for aging issues find my attempts, no my working, on embroidering and/or quilt squares are not like days of past. Please don’t say to me: Oh, let me do that for you. This is not such a welcoming gesture. I will know when I am no longer doing quality work, but I still enjoy it and this brings me joy in the winter of my life. Again, thank you one and all for the comments and thoughtfulness. J. Coles

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  1. just followed a link from Abby Glassnberg’s newsletter. I’m not producing quilts, but do do cross-stitch and I hate people turning my pieces over and commenting that the back is not neat. My attitude? You want it neat? Do it yourself and lets see how neat YOU get it. In the mean time, turing over and commenting is incredibly rude (especially if it’s being made as a gift for the person commenting), and shows THEIR lack of empathy and grace.

    Meanwhile, buy the best you can afford and produce the best you can. Two fingers up to anyone who judges you on doing anything different.

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  2. (Also brought here via Abby.) I’m a pretty objective critic of my own work, meaning I assess the quality of my work for good and for bad. I really don’t need anyone else’s critique, unless I ask for it. You be you. Don’t worry about other people.

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  3. Oh dear, I am so sad when I read this and your comments. I just love that someone is sewing, or quilting or knitting or embroidering and I am sure that no one sets out to make a hash of things. Yes I agree, police of any craft, keep your comments. We are all learners at some stage.

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  4. Here too,in Australia, I went with a friend to a local group to be told that I wasn’t a “real” quilter because I used polyester wadding .Fast forward 15 YEARS still making quilts for kids and still using easy care poly wadding, never had a seam burst open and I make my craft my way.sad that a few can ruin a social setting for so many.

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  5. Amen. I have yet to enter a local show or festival bevause I machine bind my quilts and don’t tie and bury my quilting threads and I know that those are just “not done”. But I want so badly to share my quilts.

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  6. (Came here via Abby Glassenberg’s newsletter). I have over 50+ years sewing experience. I didn’t make quilts until I began working in a new quilt shop in town 6 years ago but had to quit due to chemotherapy treatments. Now I work at JoAnn teaching sewing and quilting, so I have been on both ends. Yes, LQS (local quilt shop) customers can be quite snooty but I agree with SewSillyMom that not everyone can afford the latest and greatest. If you know fabric quality you can find good quilting cotton at JoAnn and WalMart (imagine my glee at scoring some awesome coordinates on clearance for $1.00 a yard!) I say, as my mother always told me, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, so do your best and don’t be OCD about your project. The joy is in the creative journey and the final creation. Don’t let other people steal your joy!

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  7. I have witnessed the horror of the QP, I was invited (with the view to join) a guild for the morning meeting. A lady came in (another newbie) and displayed her beautiful piece, I mean it was gorgeous. Some ‘older’ member stood up and verbally tore it to shreds. This poor lady was driven to tears and started packing up to leave. Thankfully others stood up for her and told that nasty piece to back off. I will never join a guild and to be honest I was so impacted by the incident that I haven’t touched my daughter’s new quilt ever since. The QP are still in my brain.

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  8. What I find interesting is that no one seems to identify themselves as part of this group of self-selected ‘monitors’. I’ve never heard anyone claim that they subscribe to the critiquing, judging, or shaming. Either they don’t recognize themselves, or they don’t want to admit to their true feelings/behaviors, but either way it makes it more insidious. I’ve committed to posting real pix of my work on IG with NO apologies or explanations of errors – not gonna feed that animal. I also use the hashtag #noshameinmygame .

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    • I suspect they dont recognise themselves or that their behaviour is wrong and hurtful – if they do, they would stop doing it, surely?

      Or perhaps they somewhat believe that their comments are “helpful” “inspiring others to greatness” etc. If not, then why do it?

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  9. Wow. I belong to a large sewing group where everyone is welcome. I would be shocked if someone came in and was all ‘judgy judgy’ and I would have to have no problem stomping out that kind of talk. I agree with Nordie, maybe people think they’re being helpful but are, in the end being hurtful.

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  10. I’ve been very fortunate to belong to two local quilt groups that are very welcoming and actively encourage all members whatever their experience to contribute quilts to their exhibitions. It’s far more helpful for visitors to see beginners quilts as well as those of accomplished quilters which can be intimidating rather than inspiring. It’s great to receive and impart advice with fellow patchwork quilters but a police force of critics are not needed.

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  11. I’ve been quilting for some time – I believe that to do proper classes and “know” the right way of doing things adds to my knowledge of the art form. I have always regarded criticism as a way to learn more and along the way I have learnt a lot. Maybe the big message here is HOW YOU CRITICISE!! Positive critique can be most helpful – or a suggestion of an easier method to do something. Surely every art form has a basic set of what is correct within that genre, especially for those who like to do whatever in the correct way!. Do not be discouraged by the few who, with careless and hurtful comments chase quilters away from such a joyful pastime!.. She may be a teacher that only believes the right way is the best way!. Enjoy and carry on……..

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  12. via Abby’s newsletter. Intimidation, strong opinions, disdain & non-supportive critiques do not belong in any school/club/guild/retail shop. Being inclusive & supporting is the best way to greet a newcomer to a shop or guild. If one gets into the habit of praising or encouraging newcomers…..there is great joy in knowing you made a new friend. After providing my family with enough quilts, I have fond great joy in giving my quilts to local charities. Everyone attempting a new hobby, interest or sport needs to be encouraged, not embarrassed. Life is not meant to be a brutal competition, it should be inclusive & accepting.

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  13. My reply to people who have told me I do not do patchwork because I do it on the machine is this. “Oh, so you still do yours by candle light then!”

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  14. […] 2. This encouraging post about why experienced quilters should encourage and support the newbies. The insight in the article can really apply to any adventure. I posted it on my guild’s Facebook page and it got a lot of traction. Many of the more experienced quilters shared it which made me happy. I always feel so encouraged and supported by the members of both guilds I’m a part of – both of which contain far more experienced sewist than myself. I think it’s so important to encourage others – particularly on adventures in which you may be more experienced with 😉 […]

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