Perfection is a myth. In checking with my friends at Merriam-Webster the definition of myth includes: “a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone; especially: one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society”. Society in general and the quilting world in particular has embraced the myth of perfection in a way that stymies a lot of us. Mythic perfection has wormed it’s way into our literature, the language of how we speak of quilt making, coloring our desires for the perfect quilt somehow from the very beginning of our quilt making days. Working in a quilt shop I see a lot of quilters search for “just the right” when there’s something good right there in front of them. Hand quilters desperately seek that 12-15 stitches to the inch, when the 10 they do is amazingly consistent and beautiful. Machine quilters seek perfectly straight lines, flowing curves, off the hook designs when a simple feathered wreath might just do the trick. The two previous statements are exaggerations.
Much of this idealistic search for perfection has to do with our own competitive nature and the perception that the quilts we see on the covers of magazines, and hanging in quilt shows are made by quilters who started quilting the day before. Most of us are not competitive quilters. No, wait, that’s not quite right. We are all competitive quilters. The problem is that we are competing not so much with other quilters, though it may indeed seem so, nope we’re competing with our self, what we see as the ultimate in perfect quilt making. That perfection has as much to do with what we personally like, and have an affinity for.
In a little bit I’m walking out the door to go to a quilt show. I’m excited. I get to go look at quilts, see friends, and shop vendors. This is perfection for me. This community with all of it’s individual characters, individual character, it’s flaws, the comments said in “outside voices” good, bad, and mean, it’s political and non-political leanings, with each person I see – this is the perfection of the quilting community. This is why I still quilt. This is why I long to sit for hours at my sewing machine creating something that someone will find great joy in.
I’ll be at the Quilt & Sewing Festival in Somerset NJ…if you see me please say hello.