Monday 1 August 2011

Can I live with it?

Firstly, if you haven't voted on my 500th post yet, would you please pop over there and vote - it's all for a good cause (or three). Voting will remain open until 8am (Sydney time) Saturday 6th August. Thanks heaps.


I used to be a terrible perfectionist. I set high standards for my students and those around me. I set impossibly high standards for myself.

I grew up hearing statements like: "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right - the first time!" and
"A bad workman always blames his tools."

I've mellowed in my old age. I'm nowhere near as bad as I used to be. I still want to do a good job but I don't expect perfection.

Now if I make a mistake, I ask myself: "Can I live with it?"

What I am really asking is two questions:
  • Will this error make a difference to the usability of the project?
  • If not, is this error so bad that I have to fix it?
Now, obviously if I sew a bad seam and the project will fall apart at the first washing, I need to correct it. If I drop a stitch in my knitting, I need to find the dropped stitch and secure it somehow, otherwise my knitting will fall apart. Remember this shocking discovery when I was knitting DD's wedding stole?

That obviously needed to be repaired.

But some mistakes don't need to be fixed. Sometimes they make interesting design features.

Sometimes no-one else can tell. As my mother would say, "A blind man on a galloping horse wouldn't notice!" I joined two blocks incorrectly in my Pinwheel Blanket but after realising I would have to to rip out 200cm (80 inches) of grafting to fix the mistake I let it go. The person who receives the blanket will probably never notice there is a design error!

Today I was finishing the quilting on the fifteen blocks for my Country Houses quilt. I was quilting in the ditch, and using the machine on the slowest possible speed to do so. All of the ditches were between a light fabric and a dark fabric. Sometimes I needed to use a light coloured thread, other times a dark coloured thread.

Sometimes my stitches missed the ditch; yes, even at that slow speed (less than a stitch per second), I still couldn't attain perfection. If I was using a light thread and the errant stitch was on the light fabric I left it. Similarly if I as using the dark thread and the stitch was on the dark fabric.

The stitches are 2.2mm long and one has to look quite hard to find them. Mistakes are not obvious - I can live with them.

But there are some mistakes I can't live with! The dark stitches on the light fabric were bad enough but the light stitches on the dark fabric - eek! (no pictures, sorry; I was too busy sewing and occasionally ripping to take photos)

What mistakes can you live with? What mistakes do you have to fix?


  1. When I made my HST quilt for the warm/cool quilt along, I put a row where it shouldnt have been, and it bothered me so much that I ripped out all the seams. My mom said you couldn't tell the difference but I could and I just made the decision=P

  2. I can't find the mistake in the pinwheel blanket and it is driving me crazy! I rip out mistakes if there is a problem in holding up to time-a
    lot of mistakes are just wounds to our pride and those I try to leave if project is for me and repair if I am going to gift it. That is usually my standard. The pinwheel blanket is beautiful btw!

  3. I'm a bit like you and very competitive but only against myself. I don't really remember what I was like at university after school and teachers' college too but in my recent studies I set almost impossible standards for myself. I didn't care about others' marks but mine at the least had to be Distinctions and preferably High Distinctions. This led to both a Dip. Min (Hons) and a B.Th. also with Honours. Would still like to do a doctorate but personal motivation needs a kick to do that.

    In my knitting and what sewing I do, structural mistakes like sleeves set in the wrong way or a dropped stitch are fixed. In lace if there's a rib going up like a stem and I've made a mistake by a stitch, that gets fixed. If I can make it work, I do.

    If it's a typo in a comment, I often let it slide, although I'm meticulous to the pointy of snobbery about spelling usually.

  4. I can't see the mistake kn the pinwheel blanket either! I am definitely not a perfectionist when it comes to my knitting. I do have a cable cardigan that I started ages ago, and I Mia tossed a few cables right at the beginning. And I thought I could live with it, and kept knitting. Have done about 6 inches now and I have almost decided to rip it back. The mistakes really are too obvious, although I dread the thought of ripping all that cabley knitting!

  5. Well how long have you got?! there are so many mistakes made that i think about what really important, and really, if it holds together then there are no mistakes just learning curves! I made a quilt for my SIL and the borders were wonky, but she loved it anyway, god bless her! OMG the word verification is blesses, can you believe that!

  6. I'm a perfectionist, I'm owning up. Can't help it. If it's knitting it gets frogged if it's sewing it gets unpicked. Spelling too! It's also why I hate cleaning so much, I get it just cleaned right and then the kids turn up.....

  7. Oh and you know you're doing my head in saying there's a mistake in the HST blanket and I can't find it. Not that I want to see you be wrong at all, that is definitely not it, it just means I'm missing something!

  8. I'm not a perfectionist. If a garment I knit is structurally sound and the error isn't too obvious I'll leave it. Having said that, it makes me very happy when I do manage to achieve something without mistakes. An acquaintance of mine used to say 'if a things worth doing it's worth doing badly'. There are occasions when I remind myself of this...there are many times when it is better to complete a task imperfectly than to avoid it for fear of failure.

  9. Just because you said there was a mistake, I had to search the pinwheel quilt until I found it. It took a really long time! I always think of my mistakes as part of the process. Some of the quilts I made early on in my quilting career are riddled with mistakes that I would never let slide now. But it was the best I could do at the time. If I were going for perfection I would never have a finished project. Isn't it much better to have lots of to show for your work? Don't be too hard on yourself. I'm sure everything will be better and easier on the next quilt.


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