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But for the grace of God, there go I

When the allegations of sexual misconduct first came out against the senior pastor of my church (Bill Hybles of Willow Creek), I was shocked and confused. How could the man who endured scorn, isolation, and hate for promoting women in leadership positions also be guilty of sexual misconduct? Also, how could the man the who I’ve observed to only hug people under duress, be guilty of hugging women for too long? None of this made any sense to me. I want to be clear, I believe the victims. I just couldn’t make sense of the public version of Bill I was familiar with and this behind the scenes version.

Until I started thinking about it.

The more I thought about it the more stories Bill told came to mind.

What follows is how I personally came to a place of peace with the dichotomy of Bill’s character. I have never had a personal or professional relationship with Bill. I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever spoken with him was to briefly say hello when I saw him on campus. I think for those of us who didn’t know Bill personally this season has been especially hard because all we know of him is how he presented himself in public.

I also want to say what follows is not a well researched piece of journalism. This is 100% conjecture. So, if you get to the end you don’t agree, I invite you to reject it. This thought process helped me and my only intent was offer it as help to others.

Here we go:

In the beginning, many of the allegations that came forward were from the early days of the church when Bill was in his late twenties and into his thirties. I started remembering stories of the earlier days of Willow. I bet you can still find Bill telling many of these stories in video clips online.

When Bill would speak about spiritual gifts, he frequently told a story about a time in the church when he felt burnt out, emotionally drained and ready to quit. He would say that he was over using his teaching gift which was draining to him, leaving him little to no time to lean into his evangelism and leadership gifts. Bill also told that story when he spoke about filling your bucket so that you can be at your best. Which means there was a time in Willow’s history where Bill was admittedly burnt out, drained, and ready to quit.

We also know from a book Bill and his wife, Lynn, co-authored that they really struggled in their marriage, especially in the beginning. Bill described being emotionally distant and both of them struggled to reconcile their differences of personality along with the stress and struggle of starting Willow.

Next, Bill frequently spoke about his father. He spoke very highly of his father, and Bill also described his father’s emotional coldness. When Bill exhorted dads in the church to be loving and affectionate with their children he frequently spoke of the impact having a dad who was not physically affectionate and did not tell him he was loved.

Kids need to experience non-sexual, physical touch. I had someone ask me what the point of hug was. “It’s sensory integration,” I said. In other words, a hug helps you integrate all the information you’re processing at any given minute (which can be overwhelming) and then helps you CALM DOWN. Persons with autism who struggle to tolerate physical touch will use squeeze boxes to mimic the feeling of a hug so as to help them calm down. Ranchers use something similar to calm their cattle. Those hugs and snuggles are a necessary part of our development and ability to tolerate and regulate uncomfortable emotions and physical sensations.

Another story Bill told at the leadership summit was his dad’s habit of sending him on international trips, starting at a young age, by himself. Bill said his dad’s message to him was, “Figure it out. Don’t call me.” In one story Bill talked about how his dad sent him on a skiing trip by train. When he arrived at his train stop it was night, he was more than a mile away from where he was staying, and he had no plan for how he was going to get there. And this was long before cell phones and uber. The story was meant to illustrate how people develop resiliency when they are left to solve their problems…which is true. And when a child is left alone to solve big problems they often learn that other people don’t help them and the only person you can go to for help is yourself. Total self reliance is a dangerous, lonely, stressful way to live (which I say a person who struggles with it.).

Bill once told a story about how in the early days of Willow they did not pass something around to collect the offering because there was this feeling that churches were all about money and that would turned off new people. Instead there was a box at the front of the auditorium. The result was that tithing was really low and the church was struggling to stay afloat financially. In the story, Bill said one day he was so frustrated he basically told the congregation something to the effect that the church doesn’t have enough resources to go on and he can’t take it anymore. That he was getting in his car and driving west and wasn’t sure if he was coming back. Bill said he made to Las Vegas before he stopped and turned around. This story, to me, demonstrates a problem with asking for help, inappropriate blaming, and impulsiveness.

When you consider a young man who is struggling with his marriage, his vocation and emotional management is really such a shock that he would turn to such unhealthy means of coping? If a person believes that he the only person he can really rely on is himself and he is emotionally tapped out, is allowing himself to violate boundaries and push limits for instant gratification so far outside of possible?

I want to be 100% clear that I am NOT trying to excuse or justify his behavior. My goal is to add context AND to protect ourselves from falling into the “special/monster” trap. Often when we see a great failing of character, especially from someone we admire, our tendency is to deny the failing or dismiss that person as a monster…or some kind of special bad person. Bill is neither. He is a fallible human who did not seek help in a healthy way when he desperately needed.

We want people who do bad things to be a special kind of bad, different from us some how. It shields all of us from the reality of “But for the grace of God, there go I.” All of us are vulnerable to causing great harm to people if we are not open and accountable to our brokenness. And we are all broken.

I think the other way we harm ourselves by thinking of people who commit sexual misconduct as a special kind of bad is that we are resistant to believing it when someone we know is accused of sexual misconduct. Surely someone we know would never do that. Unfortunately this behavior is much too common.

I hope that people come forward and accuse someone in power of sexual misconduct our instinct is to believe the person who comes forward. It is VERY rare for someone to lie about sexual misconduct. Given the way we treat people who come forward, why would someone choose to submit to that kind of scrutiny and treatment to protect a lie?

I strongly believe that no one is special. No one is invulnerable to moral failing. No person is so connected to God and His will that they do not need the same help, accountability, and discipline the rest of us do. Celebrity and power does not endow a person with an inoculation to sin or temptation. It makes them more vulnerable.

I don’t know what the path forward is here. I think a step in the right direction is to assume that people who come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct are telling the truth. I also think we need a better system for holding church leaders accountable and leaders who resist such accountability should be a major red flag.  I am so over the idea of celebrity pastors.

My goal in writing this was to help those of us on the outside to come to terms with the fall of a person we only knew by an outdated reputation. I am so sad for all the women who were harmed by Bill and for all the people who have been hurt by the culture he created. I am so thankful the truth came out and that we are finally talking about it.

I love the church. I hope this serves as a wake up call for Willow about how it treats its leaders, creating change moving forward. I hope we are able to remove the toxic aspects of Willow’s culture so that we can move forward as the hands and feet of Jesus in our community.

I hope.

 

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How Do We Talk About This?

I’ve been thinking for awhile that the #METOO movement is in need of clarifying language.

My hope is to start a conversation about language so that we can understand each other while we process a very difficult issue. So let’s start with some terms:

Sexual misconduct is a catch all term which includes everything from a comment that caused discomfort to drugging a person and forcing sex.

Just like fruit is too broad to distinguish between an apple or an orange (and let’s not get into tomatoes) the term sexual misconduct not specific enough to stand on its own all the time.

Sexual assault refers to a one time incident in which a person experienced sexual contact which they did not consent to. This term is another broad one that can encompass everything from groping to penetration.

Sexual abuse is a pattern of behavior in which a person uses power and control to manipulate, force or coerce sexual contact.

Assault and abuse are both forms of misconduct. Another term I thinks needs to be added is inappropriate behavior.

Here’s an example:

I used to work for a mostly male company with a mostly male sales force. One day, I wore my hair up in two messy buns that in hindsight looked like pigtails. I was in my mid-twenties and looked younger. A male co-worker who was twice my size and almost twice my age commented that my hair style reminded him of Shirley Temple which had him feeling like R-Kelly. I made some stammering statement about how that was not cool and went and told my (male) boss. My boss laughed. Surely my co-worker was joking and I was being too sensitive.

My co-worker’s behavior was inappropriate. It is not okay to imply to someone that their look for the day has them feeling like someone who (at the time) was on trial for statutory rape.

We run into a  bunch of problems when we confuse inappropriate with abuse or assault because they both need different things.

Abuse and assault need immediate safety for the victims, including making it so that they cannot be harmed further. Safety could include firing the one who perpetrated the behavior, removing them from the home, and legal consequences.

Inappropriate behavior needs coaching on why the behavior is wrong and clear boundaries about what will happen if the behavior continues. And for victims, they need to be believed and their concerns taken seriously (that goes for abuse and assault too).

When we treat abuse and assault as if it was on the same level as inappropriate we do not protect our people and we minimize the significance of the harm to those who are being hurt. We also continue to expose those who have been harmed to further danger.

When we treat inappropriate behavior as if it were the same as assault or abuse we alienate people and make the whole movement look out of touch and extreme. People who would be allies refuse to engage because treating an R-Kelly comment the same as forcing sex is ridiculous.

Sexual misconduct is happening in homes, businesses, churches, schools, all over the world. And it must stop. A step on the path to stopping this reprehensible and damaging behavior is to formulate the language we need to talk about the issue. I do not believe that what is included here is exhaustive. My hope is that it will provide a starting point for all of us to create the language we need to solve this issue.

Women, men, and children have suffered enough. We need to be able to say what “it” is, so that we can talk about it, so that we can end it.

Project Status, quilting

Bucket List Quilts

I heard the term bucket list quilts recently and I realized that I totally have a quilting bucket list. These are the big or the complex quilts that you take your time making and developing because they cannot help but be stunners! I broke my list into three groups: The quilts I’m dreaming/planning/thinking about doing,  the bucket list quilts I started,  and the quilts I’ve already finished.

Quilts I Dream About:

La Passacaglia

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This stunning version of the La Passacaglia Quilt was made by Karen Tripp of http://www.thediyaddict.com She sells the paper pieces for this quilt on her site. Photo used with permission

This quilt was designed by Willyne Hammerstien and is featured in her book Millefiori Quilts. Hammerstien’s Millefori quilts are sort of like the Godfather (mother?) of EPP quilts. The rosettes form a kaleidoscope effect when the fabric is repeated around the rosette. As you can see from this example below, the quilt is a show stopper. My husband bought me the book and the paper pieces kit for Mother’s Day/My Birthday. I’ve decided to wait to start it until my fabric fast is over. I want to go crazy with the fussy cutting and the colors, which means I need access to fabric. Plus I think after the fast is over, I’ll have enough fabric in my stash to get started that will help me get an idea of how many repeats of what I want are in a fat quarter so I can avoid over buying. I have a deal with my Instagram buddy, Annika, that if I haven’t made a rosette by January 1, 2018, she’ll pick the fabric for my first rosette. I think a barrier to finishing with be getting over the fear of starting in the first place.

I anticipate this quilt being a slow stitcher. I would be amazed if I have the top assembles in less than five years.

Dear Jane or Baby Jane

Dear Jane
Quilt by paperpieces.com They have everything you need to EPP the quilt. Photo used with permission.

The Dear Jane Quilt has a very special significance for me. My late mom-in-law was named Jane, and I miss her a lot. My daughter’s middle name is Jane in honor of the grandmother she was never able to meet. I am also a big fan of Jane Austen and the book Jane Eyre. When I heard there was a quilt called Dear Jane, I felt my heart pulling towards it. This is a quilt of many tiny pieces, which intimidates me. Recently, I learned that paperpieces.com had partnered with the author/publisher to offer an English Paper Pieced version. I’m waiting until after the fabric fast is over to start buying rows.

I’m hoping this quilt will help me learn how to plan color placements ahead of time. This quilt will also be a slow one. I hope to listen to many Jane Austen audio books, watch many Jane Austen movies, and remember my mother-in-law while I create this quilt.

Farmers Wife

I’m going really honest: If Angie Wilson of gnomeangel.com does a sew-a-long, I always want in. She picks the most epic quilts, breaks them down into steps and then builds a community to sew-a-long. It’s wonderful. Even though she’s partnered with paperpieces.com to do an EPP version of this, I think I’m going to try to foundation paper piece this one. I really want to hone by FPP skills. Also, that darn fabric fast gets in the way of EPP. I will say I enjoy the creativity needed to make this one work without more fabric.

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Color Block Solids from the Midnight Quilt Show

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Color Block quilt designed by Carl Hentsch and featured on an episode of the Midnight Quilt Show. The quilt pattern and kit are available on craftsy.com

My daughter and I have a ritual. When her hair needs to be combed we watch episodes of the Midnight Quilt show and this episode is by far her favorite. She loves the colors associated with this quilt, and she thinks Ms. Angela is SO COOL! I would love to show her how to make a quilt using this quilt. Also, I have this creative curve ruler I really want to try.

Quilts I Started:

Sugar Skulls

This quilt is in the book Quilting with Tula and Angela. I wanted to make it almost from the moment I saw it. After I saw Tula Pink’s line De La Luna, I REALLY wanted to make it. When the fabric arrived, I had to start cutting. I love the playful and mischievous of the fabric. This quilt is both. Plus, it turns out that the skulls are quite fast and easy to assemble.

Fancy Forest by Elizabeth Hartman

Elizabeth Hartman is a genius. Her ability to make animals into quilts with traditional piecing is incredible. I admired this quilt from the first time I saw the pattern. This pattern sat on my Amazon wish list for ages until my sister bought it for me for Christmas. I am really excited about finishing this quilt!

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Checked Off the List:

Lepidotera by Elizabeth Hartman

I’d been itching to do an Elizabeth Hartman pattern ever since I saw Fancy Forrest and her butterfly pattern blew my mind. I bought the pattern from a deal of the day. I would regularly take it out and look at it, but I was intimidated by picking the fabrics. My sister rescued me. She was super helpful. I am so super proud of this finish!

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What’s on your list? What are the quilts or projects you’re dying to make? What is stopping you?

quilting

Fussy Cutting

Some of the coolest blocks I’ve seen for #100Days100Blocks are fussy cut or meticulously cut. This can mean a couple of things but for the sake of this post let’s focus on cutting your fabric in such a way that when you sew the fabric back together you recreate the pattern. Like this:

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This year for #100Days100Blocks2018 I really want to hone my skills, and I thought I’d show you my process. Obviously step one is to pick the block. I’m working on block 28 from Tula Pink’s City Sampler Book. Here it is:

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Here is my fabric pull:

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My plan is to recreate the raccoon on the right side of the block, put a strip in the middle and use the solid for the left. This means, I need three pieces of raccoon fabric to line up.

I start by picking what I think of as the “anchor piece”. It’s the piece of the block I’m going to build off. In this case I’m going to start by cutting the bottom piece and then work my way up.

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Next I lay the piece I just cut over the fabric and match the pattern.

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The pins point to some of the places that I matched the pattern such as the stems of leaves and raccoon fur.

It’s time to cut the fabric! First identify seam you want to match. In the picture below that is labeled with an “A.” Next, identify the side that is going to match the edge of the block. In the picture below that is labeled as side “B.”

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You’ll notice I did not work too hard to match the pattern on the bottom of the piece. The seam isn’t going to match here, so it’s not that important.

When you are fussy cutting your seam allowance is 1/2 inch of the total size you’re cutting. Let’s say the piece you were cutting was 1.5 in by 3.5 in (that isn’t what you would cut for this block, but I do not have permission to disclose details of the patterns so we’re making stuff up.) This means when you’re cutting you will overlap your side “A” fabric by .5 inches.

Next it’s time to line up your ruler. I line the ruler flush against side “B” and then 1/2 down on side “A.” Then I cut 1.5 inches down on the “B” side and 3.5 inches across on the “A” side.

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I used washi tape to mark where the edge of the anchor piece meets the fabric I’m cutting.  Since it’s really hard to see.

You can see below the cut extends down a half inch below the anchor piece.

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At this point, I remove the anchor piece and put a piece of paper under the corner I already cut. This helps me line the ruler up with the corner so I can cut the other two sides.

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After I’m done cutting I set out the pieces.

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At this stage I often feel a little nervous because the fabric doesn’t look like it will ever match. But as you can see below, it will

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Another trick, I use a quarter inch presser foot that is a quarter inch on both sides of the foot. In this block, it doesn’t matter if the blue fabric lines up exactly, so I want any fabric shifting to be absorbed by the blue. Therefore, I run what I am trying to match through the machine first.

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I try not to obsess about if the pattern looks lined up while I’m sewing and focus on trusting my cutting and lining up the edges. After I’m done, there is a good press with starch and then it’s done!

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A word about perfectionism: I have a three rips rule. If my seams don’t still line up after trying three times I either need to re-cut my pieces or let it go. You’ll notice that ears and leaf to the left line up much better than the ear on the right. At the end of the day, I’m not making a show quilt. No one will notice the leaf being one stitch off, but they will notice the overall effect of the block. Finished is ALWAYS better than perfect! 🙂

Another note: I recently watch GeekyBobbin do an Instagram live in which she recommended starching your fabric (are you following her on wordpress or instagram? You should be.). It’s making my process MUCH easier. She also recommends glue basting which I have not been able to get to work for me. That goes to show that all methods don’t work for all quilters and you must find what fits you.

Happy fussy cutting!

Fabric Fast

Fabric Fast Update

I want to start by saying I miss the mail. A lot.

I bought most of my quilting stuff online. I loved coming home to packages. I love the surprise of mail. Sometimes I feel the urge to buy something so it can arrive. I actually have this fantasy of coming home from work to have fabric in the mail that I was not expecting.

And that happened to me! I won an Instagram contest hosted by Annika of @nacktduscherin If you’re not following her on Instagram, stop reading and do it! The package made my day! I was so excited to create after seeing what she made and what was inside.

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I am eleven weeks into my fabric fast, that’s 77 days. And I’m learning some stuff about myself (in addition to the mail thing). Right off the bat, I’m learning that I do not measure urgency well. Things that I think need to happen RIGHT NOW, don’t.

For example, I bought the fabric for the borders and backing for my Mischief Quilt on June 1st. I justified bending my rules by saying it doesn’t make sense to wait until January 1st to finish a project I’m excited about and can afford to finish.

Turns out I easily could have waited. My Lepidoptera quilt took my more than 30 hours to quilt. I’m only just getting started on the Mischief. 100Days100Blocks is in full swing and that is filling my time. It was July 18th before I started basting/quilting that mischief quilt. Having the backing fabric was not an emergency. I suspect that by June the adrenaline/addictive nature of buying still had not worn off.

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It’s so amazing isn’t it?!? I want to make everything Karen Tripp has on her website (thediyaddict.com)

One change I made early in the fabric fast process was to start tracking my time working on a project. I am learning the whole process of making a quilt takes much longer than I thought it did. I made the small version of the Dogs in Sweaters pattern by Elizabeth Hartman. Making just the quilt top and binding took me almost eight hours, spread over about four days.

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I’ve also noticing that the “I feel anxious so I should spend money” impulse is strongly connected to my false sense of urgency. As if I didn’t have <<insert whatever>> at this moment I AM SURE the sky would fall. I am starting to realize that isn’t true.

Also, temptation is everywhere.

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I received the above coupons from my local quilt shop. In the email version it also said if you arrived before 8 am you received 30% off your total purchase. That’s an insane fabric deal. I’m tempted to call it once in a lifetime…expect that they offered these same deals last year. Also, there is nothing I need right now. I have everything I need to finish all the projects I have started. There is no need for me to start anything else until I finish what I have.

I’m trying to be more diligent in keeping to my fast. When I bend the rules, I trick myself into to thinking I need things that I don’t.

I’m also noticing the false urgency is showing up when I feel tired, anxious or overwhelmed. I start to think I have to start on this or that NOW. I’m learning to take that as a sign that I’m anxious. I’ve started keeping a little notebook in my quilting room. When I have an idea (quilt the mini star quilt with dense straight lines!), I write it down. The quilting won’t be any worse because I had to wait.

The last thing I’m learning is that my urge to start or try something new, may be connected to the hormone changes that happen naturally over the course of 28 cycle. This new information is starting to reshape some things. I am beginning to see the urge to try something new as normal and cyclical rather than pathological. More on that as I learn more

So slow and steady on I go, missing the mail, trying not to rush the process, and learning about who I am and how I work.

 

Fabric Fast, mental health, quilting

The $1,000 Quilt and FOMO

Instagram sew-a-longs are my favorite and no one does a sew-a-long like Angie Wilson of Gnomeangel.com. Angie has a gift for identifying fantastic quilt patterns and engaging a community to sew a long. I have tackled quilts I would not dream of trying because I was sewing a long with her and the community she’s built on Instagram. During an Instagram live event she referred to a quilt as a “bucket list quilt.” That phrase captures why I love quilting along with her. Angie picks bucket list quilts and makes them manageable. In fact, I have my fabric sorted to join her for Tula Pink’s City Sampler Quilt in the 100Days100Blocks2018 sew-a-long.

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I am ready to get piecing for #100Days100Blocks2018 Check out all that Tula Pink!!!

Recently she announced a new sew-a-long featuring the 1920s Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt and a partnership with Paper Pieces to provide an English Paper Piecing version of the quilt sampler.

I. Want. In.

This kind of event is exactly the reason I started a fabric fast in the first place. I see a cool idea. I get all caught up in it. I forget to count the cost.

Let’s do some math:

The book is listed for $27.99

If I wanted to buy all the paper pieces to English Paper Piece the quilt at one time, it would cost $195.00 OR I could spread it out over course of 9 months a pay $24.00 per month ($216) and then buy the finishing pieces ($14) for a total of $230.

Next there are the acrylic templates. These are super helpful for fussy cutting the shapes AND the book only has paper templates…that means NO dimensions for cutting shapes. There are two template options: only the shapes that appear 10 or more times in the pattern ($80) or every single shape ($240).

Lastly the hosts recommend having 50 fat quarters for the blocks plus a few extra for sashing and corner stones. There are the 12 boxes of fat quarters (10 per box) that Paper Pieces used to make the GORGEOUS version of the quilt showing above. $34.95 each for a total of $420 (if we’re rounding)

Let’s add it all up:

Book: $28.00

Paper Pieces: $230.00 (because I wouldn’t be able to buy it all at once)

Templates: $240.00

Fabric (not including backing and binding): $420.00

Total: $918.00 add in backing, batting, batting, and thread for quilting, you’re easily over a grand.

Obviously there are ways to do this cheaper. Buy the book second hand, pay for the pieces all at once, only use the top ten templates, and use fabric from your stash and you’re down to $290. Or you could only buy the book and if you have quilting software like EQ8 (which I don’t) you can make foundation paper piecing versions.

My point is that the expense of quilting can get out of control really quickly, especially when I don’t take time to reflect on what I actually need. I have a habit of getting swept up in the excitement of an idea without reflecting on the idea’s long term impact (you can read more about that here). I need to ask myself if the joy of hand sewing out weighs the stress of paying for materials to make the quilt.

I want the answer to be yes so badly! I want to be able to join the Facebook group and post my blocks on Instagram. I want the challenge of stretching my EPP skills.

If I really dig deep, I also want to play with the cool kids. I admire the other makers I see on Instagram, and I want to imagine that money doesn’t matter for them. I want to imagine they live in a world where they get to make whatever they want whenever they want. But I know that isn’t true. Angie has even said many times to stay within what you can afford. No quilt, not even a bucket list quilt, is worth the stress of carrying debt.

Since I am on a fast and the only way I would be able to participate is if I was given the supplies as a gift, and I have yet to secure a wealthy quilting benefactor (is that a thing?), my original plan was to say no.

Then this happened:

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Jennifer of @yokokudo88 started the hashtag #GetYourQuiltyWishGrantedSummerEdition Here’s how it works: You post your wishes as a quilter and then someone else grants them. How magical is that?! So I posted my wish for the 1920’s Farmer’s Wife Sampler and someone offered it to me!!! I also posted three pre-cuts that came in my sew sampler box that I was NEVER going to us. I got to mail those to quilters who were excited about them. How wonderful is that?!?

In a fun little twist, a quilter messaged me and said she thought she had an extra copy of the Farmer’s Wife and would look for it. She said it turns out is was The Dear Jane book. I asked if she was willing to part with her extra copy and she said yes!!! That’s two bucket list quilts without breaking my fast. Yay!!!!

Now, there is no reason for me to spend $200-$400 on paper pieces and templates. That totally breaks the fast rules. Here’s my plan, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that the person who offered me her book is able to find it. I am going to do some research on making my own pieces or seeing if there are foundation paper piecing versions of the patterns.

Then I’m going to play around with using my scraps from #100Days100Blocks2017 and all those little pieces of Alison Glass I have and the left over Tula Pink that will inevitably exist after #100Days100Blocks2018. Maybe that will work and maybe it will not. We will have to see. In the meantime, I am breaking my habit of leaping without looking and I am going slow and planning.

mental health, quilting

From Beginner to Expert

My first block for #100Days100Blocks2018 was a legit stunner. I am still surprised that I did that. And many of you asked how. I am not an expert quilter, yet. My real area of expertise is in mental health.  So I thought I would share my thought approach to quilting, specifically developing a growth mindset.

Dr. Carol Dweck of mindsetworks.com coined the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset.” She defines a growth mindset as, “The understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed.” A fixed mindset views abilities and intelligence as permanent.

A growth mindset looks at the various skills involved in quilting (selecting fabric, piecing, basting, quilting, hand sewing) and asks, “How I can get better?” A fixed mindset assumes how things are is how they will be. A growth mindset believes people developed skills by learning. A fixed mindset assumes a person came by their skills naturally, without much effort.

One of the mistakes we make when comparing our work to another person’s work is assuming that person achieved that work with ease. My first block  for 100Days had to be re-cut right away because I forgot to to allow for the double seam allowance needed for fussy cutting. Then I had to rip and re-sew many times to get the center to line up. When all was said and done, I probably invested two hours into making that block. I struggled to execute my vision. None of that struggle is obvious from the photo.

In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth talking about improving a skill through deliberate practice. First, identify a stretch goal, something outside your current comfort zone. Work relentlessly towards that goal until you achieve it and get feedback on the process from others who are better than you.

My stretch goals for 100Days this year are:

  1. Improve fabric selection, especially mixing color and patterns
  2. Improve my fussy cutting skills
  3. Increase the precision of my piecing.

I also have a way to measure each of these:

  1. overall visual impact of the block, feedback it generates online, how many patterns, colors, fabric types did I use and did that work?
  2. how well the seams line up, is the selected image properly centered in the block
  3. Are my seams straight, is the finished block the correct size, do seams match where they are meant to?

To prove that I wasn’t always this good a picking fabric, behold two of my disaster blocks from last year:

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I hated how block nine came out so much that I re-did it with a solid pink in the middle. Block 43 I also hated, but I left it to remind myself I’m learning. You can see that even my block photography needed work.

Here is the lesson I was learning about fabric selection last year: there is a difference between blender patterns and focal patterns. Your eye needs space to rest on a block and blenders give your eye rest. My fabric pull last year was almost exclusively focal fabrics and solids. None of the patterns worked well as blenders. This is the reason I had such a hard time mixing patterns…they didn’t mix!

For this year, I’m using Tula Pink fabric, and I have blender fabrics. I’m noticing that I’m using those fabrics the most because they bring the block together. For example, I’m using the tortoise shell fabric Tula Pink’s Slow and Steady collection a lot.

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Notice how every fabric choice has a pattern but the block doesn’t look too busy.

One of the things I enjoy about declaring this quilt about improving skills and learning is that it gives me freedom to play. Here’s an example of something I tried that did NOT work.

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There is something wrong with these colors, and I can’t explain what it is…I’m still learning about color…I can say that I look at this block and think, “Gross!” So it didn’t make it into the quilt. Oh well and on to try again.

I also want to clarify between honing skills and falling into perfectionism. For example, I recently ripped and re-sewed a block because my seams did not nest exactly. They weren’t that far off:

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I didn’t rip and resew because I needed to be perfect. I ripped and resewed because I’m experimenting with pinning vs no pinning and different methods of pinning. I wasn’t satisfied with one method, and I wanted to try again. My third goal is to increase the precision of my piecing which I cannot do I do not try and improve my technique. I’m asking myself, “Can I do better?”

I also have a three rip rule. If I can’t get it right after three rips and resews, time to leave it as is or make a big change.

Here’s an example of choosing done over perfect: In this block I chose matching fussy cutting/pattern over nesting seams.

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What is the skill you are trying to improve? Once you figure it out,  decide how you’re going to measure it and follow makers who do a better job than you do. Ask people for feedback.

Try, Fail, and Try Again. This is how experts are made. It’s hours alone in your sewing space. Over and over until you figure out what works for you. Then you get to show the masterpiece on Instagram, creating the illusion that you create with ease.

Let’s get practicing!