It’s Time for a Pat on the Back…

Are you like me?  Are you too critical of your work?  I am guilty of that.  I often don’t try projects because I know it won’t be as good as the original work.  I won’t have perfect stitches.  I won’t, I won’t, I won’t, I won’t…I hear it in my brain all the time.

The other day when I was getting the Huntington Heritage quilt ready for Kayla to work her magic on it and make it into a downloadable pattern, I had to take some new pictures of the quilt.  Find the pattern HERE in our store.

As I was taking the pictures, I looked a the quilt, then I looked at it again….Did I do the machine quilting on this??


Well, of course, I did.  We didn’t hire anyone and I know Kelli didn’t do it.  That leaves me.  Yes.  I did this.  Wow.  This doesn’t look bad.  Does it?

No, it’s not perfect and if I look, I can see imperfections but overall.  BUT it’s not bad….in fact, I’m not embarrassed by it.  Obviously, because I’m showing it to you.

That got me thinking…why am I holding myself back from things?  Is it because I’m seeking perfection?  Am I simply being too critical of myself?  Hmm.  Something to ponder for sure.

That got me thinking, why do I get so critical of myself?

Truth is, I’m not terrible at machine quilting.  Am I awesome?  No…Perfect?  No.  But it’s definitely worth a B if I was grading it.

When I was in school I got a lot of A’s and a B now and then.  B’s were okay.  In fact, now that I can step back and look at the quilt with eyes that are 5 years older and 5 years away from the time I originally machine quilted this and not in the moment, I’m super happy with a B.

I went and pulled another quilt.  Check it out….


Again…I can see it’s not perfect, but I’m not embarrassed.

Another…not bad.  A simple stipple but it looks pretty even.  That one I might even give an “A”.


Another…Okay too!


This has made me think that maybe I’m just a little too hard on myself.  A “B” is a passing grade and for that matter, so is a “C” or “D”.

The beauty of it all is that if I keep practicing, I can improve.  So maybe, I need to just keep practicing.  Maybe I need to quit being so hard on myself.

Can you relate?  Is there something that you are being too hard on yourself about?  Leave a comment and tell us what it is….maybe we can all encourage each other and remind each other that “A” students aren’t the only ones succeeding.  Us “B” students and “C” students and “D” students are still making it through with a passing grade too!!

Maybe it’s time we give ourselves a “pat on the back” rather than a “dressing down”.

29 thoughts on “It’s Time for a Pat on the Back…

  1. Donna T

    Aren’t all women too hard on themselves? I don’t know any women who aren’t and I do believe it’s a woman thing! But as I get older I have learned to accept myself flaws and all! About 10 years ago I accepted that I was never going to have thin thighs!!! I still cut off star tips on my blocks but my hand quilting is definitely an A! My mom when teaching me to sew would say “ I wouldn’t tell anyone I did that!” That meant you had to rip it out and redo it! I still think of that when I am doing anything! If I wouldn’t tell someone I made it, cooked it, etc. I fix it! Nothing is perfect and that’s okay!!!

  2. Kim J LeMere

    I used to try harder at being a great cook like my mother and two sisters. Over the years I have learned to accept the fact that I I don’t make fantastic gravy from scratch, or fluffy biscuits and the list goes on. Its okay and it only took 20 plus years to understand that my family was not suffering at the dinner table or at BIG holiday meals. I give myself permission to not be Paula Dean in the kitchen.

  3. Lisa

    I always admire your quilting ! You are right, we are hardest on ourselves, always. I was just talking to my 13 year old daughter about this the other day. I was hemming a pair of my dad’s jeans (my least favorite thing to do!) She was drawing a wolf at the table next to me and was super critical of her drawing. I know I’m her mom, but it was really good! She hated it though. I just told her what you are talking about- I showed her her grandpas jeans and pointed out all the flaws. She saw nothing and neither did he when I gave them back to him-it was just me being picky about my own work. She did finally admit that her drawing wasn’t so bad. I hope she can learn from our mistakes in being so hard on ourselves.

  4. brenda

    finally. i have come to grips with the fact that there are so many different things that i like to do that i will never be “expert” in any of them because there is not the time put into any of them exclusively to allow me to do so. BUT that is ok since i am enjoying all those activities so much. Perhaps it is a bit of adult add that has me going in all different directions or recognizing that we have just one life to live and it is now or never. tole painting, garment sewing, knitting, crocheting, crafts, quilts, general sewing, cooking, baking, rug making punchemboidery, reg. embroidery. there are so many enjoyable things and now i need to figure out my Cricut.
    When i see the little circles in your quilting it reminds me of watching Don Ho with my grandmother when he sang Tiny Bubbles.

  5. Kathy

    I tried HST for first time. I ripped them out because they were terrible, but I caught myself thinking of what I learned rather than the old diatribe that I would never be a good quilter. Maybe with age comes a little wisdom…

  6. Becky Smith

    I needed that message. I am starting to question if my walking foot is my issue but I definitely lack confidence in my machine quilting.

  7. Deb

    Thank you for this. I am hard on myself and seem to always be a perfectionist then I don’t get things finished. You are an encouragement.

  8. The Joyful Quilter

    Thanks for the reminder, Jo. Oh, and that last photo with the Star in a Circle quilting? LOVE!!! I wish I had seen that LAST week when I was deciding on quilting for my little patriotic quilt. Sigh…

  9. Hedy

    I’ve always been in awe of your long arm quilting skills. I’m not very good at it although my husband says what I do is very nice. I’m not adventurous in long arm quilting at all. I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to try different designs now on my charity quilts ? I’ve bought some books and a video you suggested, but I think I’m just scared of messing up a beautiful top. I think probably I would give myself a C now, but if I make it to a B, I would be very happy.

  10. Ellie

    It’s so easy to see the flaws in our work. We forget that when someone else looks at the finished project they don’t see the tiny flaws but the whole project. Yes we could point our the mistakes but that wouldn’t make the person love the project more! The old saying about not being seen on a man on a fast horse has a lot of wisdom.

  11. Kate

    For sure we are hardest on ourselves. After sewing for 4-H, I often tell myself, “This wouldn’t get a blue ribbon in 4-H.” It has been hard to accept my own “less than perfect” sewing/quilting, but getting there.
    Yes, Jo, you do beautiful work, whether quilting or stitching. A quilt does not need to be perfect to be loved and give warmth to the one using it.

  12. Joanne in Massachusetts

    Amen to all of the above.
    I remind myself when I’m fussing over a less than perfect point/stitch in the ditch/curve etc. that I’m looking at it from about 8″ away. ..most people will see the same item from much further a way. They will not even see what I think is a glaring error.

  13. Lori Douglas

    Jo, I think all your quilts are lovely and a treasure. I do not have the time or talent to do what you do with scraps of fabric!
    Perfect timing in this message as I am trying to teach virtually with a new prep. Stressful doesn’t even cover it!
    We both need to give ourselves a break. We show up each day willing to do our best. We are learning through living.

  14. Terry

    This past spring I brought out a UFO to finish. It was a civil war reproduction quilt that I wasn’t thrilled with. I finished the blocks and machine quilted each block differently. I still wasn’t thrilled with it so I put it away. I recently got it out and put it on our bed. I don’t know what hit me but all of a sudden I thought it was fantastic. I looked at all the machine quilting (on a domestic machine) that I had done and I was pretty darn impressed with myself. Everytime I went by it, I looked again at some of the patterns and stitching I did and liked it even more. Maybe we just need to take a break from these quilts for awhile to really appreciate them and all the hard work we put into them.

  15. Elle

    I’m in the “if you don’t like it screw-you” camp. Yup, potty mouth farm-girl here. I do my best work and I take out mistakes I find. When is it a mistake? If I wouldn’t give it to my best friend or keep it myself.

    You do terrific work! And you’ve come a long way in the many years I have followed your blog!

    This girl gives you an A :-)

  16. Judy

    Haha. I say the same thing Kate said”this wouldn’t win a blue ribbon at 4-H roundup.” But I keep sewing. I guess we are more critical of ourselves than others are.

  17. Cathy

    Different times I’ve noticed your quilting…I thought wow that looks like a panto-graph, but I don’t think she uses panto-graph…she has done that all free hand. I’ve been very impressed with your quilting…you deserve an A+. I check out quilting for ideas how to quilt my quilts. I’ve been quilting my quilts for 7 years now on my domestic machine. I got to the point that I want a bigger throat machine. I wanted to get a long arm and 10-12 ft frame, but I have no room or the cost was out of my comfort zone. I found a used sit down mid-size and I love it!! I have the room for the table and more room to maneuver the quilt. I’ve accepted my quilts are not perfect…I’m learning as I go. Every quilt I quilt is practice. Practice is progress. As I look back over my quilts I too think…This isn’t bad, its actually pretty good. We are too hard on ourselves. Accept the quilting and all the imperfections as the personality of the quilt. None of us are perfect. They are used and loved and we made it and quilted it the best to our ability and we should be proud of that. If someone else thinks it’s not good enough…shame on them. Thanks for showing your quilting up-close. It gives me more ideas. And your quilts are beautiful!! Thanks for your tips and helps that you give so freely. It is helpful and most appreciated.

  18. Nancy

    Jo, you sound like me–I was raised to do everything perfectly. Hence, that unfortunately has followed me throughout my life. Within the last year, you and another quilter (professional like you) mentioned that quilting imperfections make the quilt. It is hard for me to ease up on my perfectionism –it is a work in progress!
    I appreciate your advice and always look forward to your blogs!

  19. Janet

    Your B grades are most likely A’s. They look great! Remember that even A’s aren’t perfect. They can have 10 percent errors and still be A work. And your work is beautiful!!

    I do understand your point, though, and I do think we all can be too hard on ourselves. I can’t say that anything quilty I do is perfect. My seams aren’t straight, they aren’t perfect quarter inches, my tips get cut off, etc. But my family likes my quilts and that makes me happy.

  20. Mary

    Because of always criticizing myself about my everything, quilting, cooking, gardening, you name it, my husband said to me “put the hammer down”, always so hard on myself. I will never be the best at anything, but what I mostly strive for is being a decent person and a good friend. Pretty good at that, most of the time. Love your quilting.

  21. Janine Baker

    None of us is perfect!! I look at what you do and definitely give you alot of A’s. Like the purpose of your post, we are way to hard and critical of our selves. I can see growth in what I am stitching now as opposed to several years ago. Everyone else that looks at our works are in awe, so we should just look through their eyes and enjoy! Hugs,

  22. Cindy F

    I know I’m supercritical of things I am going to give away. I’m trying hard to let go of having everything just so because it comes back to bite you. I had a quilt ready to quilt 5 years ago…a baby quilt. I was too intimidated to quilt it as it needed more than an overall design. Got it back out to finish and realized it was now too small to give so I bought more fabric thinking to add borders. Nope, didn’t look right. Decided to add more blocks when I realized I had made a smaller quilt with leftover pieces so I took it all apart and have now added to it and it’s the right size. I will have to go try and quilt it now and am going to try to do some custom quilting. If it doesn’t come out great, it’ll be okay as I think the little girl will still like it. I’m 62 and still a work in progress.

  23. Sandi

    Jo, your quilting is beautiful! I’m hard on myself with quilting as I can see my mistakes but I keep trying to quilt on my dsm. Good job and you deserve a pat on the back!

  24. Rosie Westerhold

    Jo,
    You hit the nail on the head! It’s a woman thing. If someone compliments our work, the first response from many of us it to point out the “flaws.” We just need to learn to say, “Thank you.”

    A very, very good friend of mine is a perfectionist in her quilting and needlework. She does beautiful work. She chooses to do mostly pantos with her quilting because “she can’t do anything freehand.” She refuses to doodle a design, she won’t try things on a practice sandwich. It has to be “perfect” or it’s not good enough. If there’s a “wobble,” she is all stressed out, and will stop and rip, and try multiple times until it’s “perfect.” Once it’s washed, no one will notice a wobble or where you didn’t follow the panto exactly because they won’t know where that line is supposed to be! We need to lighten up about our work, and just enjoy being able to create. I try to do the best I know how when creating quilts. I’ve learned many, many things along the way. I’m a much better piecer than I was 10+ years ago. I strive for perfection, but it’s not possible.

    I machine-quilted on my DSM for about 17 years, and I was pretty good at it. It was killing my body though, and I wanted to do more things than I could on my small DSM. I found a VERY small longarm with no bells and whistles for a ridiculously low price. I jumped on it,, but it had less room to quilt than my DSM. But I loved it from the very first minute I used it. So I saved and got a slightly bigger machine after 2 years. Still no bells and whistles. But I learned all the tricks and some tips about using a longarm. I took every class I could find, bought every machine-quilting book out there, and knew I wanted a machine with more bells and whistles. I saved some more and got the best thing I could afford at the time. I thought I had it all when I got my fancy machine with all the bells and whistles. It was time to put all my knowledge to work. I wanted to create beautiful FEATHERS and FLOWERS and this and that. I thought the new longarm would make that happen. I cried and CRIED when I couldn’t do those things on my fancy new toy. I thought I had wasted thousands and thousands of dollars. I was miserable because I felt like a failure. I wasn’t “perfect.” But I practiced and practiced, got more and more books, took more and more classes, both in-person and online. I needed to give myself the time to be a beginner. I needed time to learn those skills. I can now do many, many things I thought I could never do 15 years ago. Am I “perfect?“ Not by a long stretch. And I good? I think I AM good, and I learn something with every single quilt I piece and quilt. I mostly do charity quilts. They will not care if my tension is slightly “off.” Nor will they care if the design isn’t quite appropriate or the thread is not exactly the right color or if there’s a wobble somewhere. They will appreciate that someone made something for them that will keep them warm or make them feel cared for when they are scared.

    So, I say strive to do the best work you can. We are all aware of all the “mistakes” that may be in the piecing or the wobbles in that star or the the feathers that look “odd.” Learn to say thank you, and don’t point out what you think is “awful.” Another quilter might notice points cut off or an uneven seam here and there. But other, non-quilters will not know that YOU think something is awful. Accept the compliments from others, learn from “mistakes,” and move on to the next, great project. It should be all about the fun and the creativity. If perfection is stressing you out, then it must no longer be fun to create. And that would be a shame.

  25. Melissa G

    Thank you for this reminder. I am having to learn new technology and teaching techniques to teach my distance learning class. It is overwhelming and I feel like a failure most days, but I practiced a lot this afternoon and realized that I am learning and I don’t have to be so hard on myself. No one has done this before and it’s okay to not know everything. A month ago I didn’t know any of this. I appreciated that Lori D is in the same boat. Your post was the perfect finishing touch to this day.

  26. Judith Fairchild

    Jo, I’m just the opposite. I was raised with if it does what it’s supposed to do (hold the pieces together and keep a person warm) it’s good enough. I did my best when I started quilting but that attitude kept me from getting better. About 10 or 12 years ago I tackled a lone star quilt. I started with my usual hurry up and get it done. But the point of the diamonds didn’t meet. So t stopped put it aside and did some simpler things trying to deliberately match seams and corners. Thanks to Find and Porter’s program I learned how. When I got comfortable knowing that with care and pins when needed. I went back to the star quilt. It’s the best I ever did . I quilted it in my sewing machine mostly in the ditch. Now I try to do the best I can and am happy when someone goes Wow that’s pretty.
    You do great work, keep it going.

  27. Gladie

    I, like many others, have admired your FMQ. Yes we are too hard on ourselves. Somewhere along the way one decides what is “good enough”. Honestly have a couple of very special quilts “in waiting” until I get better. I think the waiting is over, because we never get “good enough” with that attitude! Life everything in life we should learn from each project. At this point I do like using pantos because it helps my muscle memory, but pantos do not guarantee perfection either. Take care

  28. Barbara in FL

    I have been following your blog for a few years now and this is my 1st time to comment. I have so enjoyed getting to know about you and your big beautiful family. Thank you for sharing. I identify with your comments about being too hard on ourselves. I have been accused of being a perfectionist and I am probably guilty. But in my defense I don’t require it of others and in fact have not achieved it myself. I just try very hard to do my best. You definitely deserve a pat on the back as the quilting you showed in your post looked beautiful to me.

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