Modern Quilt Lovers Want to Know: Why Perfectionism is Ruining their Sewjo (And what to Do About It)

Modern quilt lover and designer Kim Soper poses this question: “Have you ever found yourself stuck on a work-in-progress and not sure how to move forward?

If so, you’re not alone. In the September/October 2018 issue of Modern Patchwork Magazine, you’ll find the premier article from Kim’s Series entitled Nurturing the Creative Soul. In this series, Kim will be exploring what we as ‘creatives’ can do to bolster our self-confidence, cultivate creativity, and follow a creative practice that is true to our inner artist.

Read on for more great advice.

Photos courtesy of the artist

Photos courtesy of the artist.

How Perfectionism Shows up in Quilting

“Perhaps this will sound familiar: you’re worried about cutting into a fabric that you love a little too much; or maybe, you’ve cut out all of the pieces for your project, but the pieces have curves and the project seems hard, so you put them in a zipper bag and stuff them in a bin full of other unfinished projects. Or maybe this: you’ve finished a quilt top but now it sits, in a pile, unfinished, because you’re just not sure how to quilt it.
We’ve all been there. And frankly, perfectionism is ruining your SewJo.

Blocks in progress

Blocks in progress

The truth is, perfectionism walks hand-in-hand with anxiety. We don’t normally associate quilting with “walking on the edge” but when it comes to our creative selves, it doesn’t take much to feel vulnerable. There are so many ways that we can feel apprehensive. We may not want to be judged by others, we may not want to fail at a skill we’re unfamiliar with, or we may think that we’ve become known as a particular “type” of quilter and making something different will contradict what is expected of us.

How many times do we focus on the points that are not perfect, and not on the beauty of the process?

How many times do we focus on the points that are not perfect, and not on the beauty of the process?

Use your fabric

Perfectionism also surfaces when we do not want to waste valuable resources. A fabric purchase is an investment, so mistakes can feel costly. We don’t want to waste the good money we’ve spent. Particularly when we’ve held onto a collection that we really love, we don’t want to risk making a mistake when we cut into it. We also don’t want to waste our time by making something we deem to be beneath our standards or not worth the effort.

Mini quilts are a great size for practicing letting go of inhibitions.

Mini quilts are a great size for practicing letting go of inhibitions.

Yet, by focusing on these potential mistakes and scenarios of what could go wrong, perfectionism refuses to allow us to move forward with a project. As our heads fill with unrealistic expectations, we stay blocked and stuck in the same place.”

Life Lessons

Throughout her article, Kim shows how modern quilt lovers may use skills they learn—life lessons for sure!—to minimize stress, grow as artists, and makers, and be better people. She then shows how she used those tips to create her award-winning quilt “Lincoln” that was featured in QuiltCon Magazine 2017.

Kim’s quilt “Lincoln” won the coveted People’s Choice award at QuiltCon 2017.

Kim’s quilt “Lincoln” won the coveted People’s Choice award at QuiltCon 2017.

Here are a few tips to allow the creative work that is waiting inside of you to shine through.

Tips Kim used to create “Lincoln”

1. Say It Out Loud I announced my plans to make the quilt on my blog, Leland Ave Studios, and on my Instagram account. When I got stuck, I shared my struggles and found support from the online quilting community. They encouraged me to keep working and not to give up.

2. Seek Guidance Journaling and meditation were a consistent part of my creative practice. I wrote about my process and used the time for reflection to encourage myself to keep going even when I was unsure if I knew how to finish it.

3. Release Control While I hoped the finished quilt would resemble the image of Lincoln on which it was based, I committed to the improvisational process rather than a perfect reproduction. I reminded myself to focus on the journey rather than the destination.

4. Forget Being “Perfect” I made “Lincoln” with a dedication to and love for the improv process. There would be no “Lincoln” quilt if I let the concern of being perfect stop me from finishing.


Kim Soper Headshot

Kim Soper

Are you looking to “up your game” and let perfectionism go? To be more accepting of your artwork and abilities, all while keeping your “sewjo” intact? Read Kim’s full article in the September/October 2018 issue of Modern Patchwork and apply her tips to your own creative practice. You’ll be happy you did!


Kim Soper is a quilter, maker, and curator of the 52-week interview series, The Creativity Project: Exploring ‘Why’ we Quilt. On her blog, Leland Ave Studios, she writes about ways to nurture our creativity and ourselves. She lives off the coast of Long Island with her husband and three sons.

Vivika Hansen DeNegre

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