Recently I spoke with a quilter who was agonizing over the spacing of her quilting lines. She was obsessing (my term)/being meticulous (her term) about whether to rip out already done quilting because she felt the spacing between lines was about an eighth inch off. I certainly didn’t notice this in her work nor would I have even considered ripping it out if it were my work.
This got me thinking about the old nature versus nurture question because I am inherently a “good enough” person while my brother is a perfectionist. When I made my clothes in high school and sewed my facings in wrong side up I just tacked them down as is. Nobody would see them. In college I had some hems held up by tape for four years. It worked, right? Those guys were not interested in the quality of my hems.
In contrast, my brother glued hundreds of little pennants to a string for one of his battleship model kits. If they weren’t straight he redid them. He went on to become a computer programmer.
We grew up with parents who took very different approaches to tasks. Our father would decide to touch up the window trim and start slapping on paint without bothering to clean the surfaces first. If the dirt got painted on it just added interesting texture. Our mother would frantically try to swab the surfaces before his brush reached them. She would stay up all night before Easter to get the armhole of my brother’s suit jacket sewn in just right. Yes, she made our spring outfits each year, including my good spring coat.
Here I am about age 14 in that year’s outfit.
I can’t help but believe that the different approaches my brother and I take came coded in our genes. He got our mother’s fair skin and perfectionism; I got our father’s easily tanned skin and his slapdash ways. We witnessed both approaches during our childhoods, so I don’t think nurture had much of a role, despite my mother’s constant admonition that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right.
What does this have to do with quilting? One conclusion I have come to reluctantly is that sometimes I have to rip stuff out, that care from the beginning will pay off later. I have looked at too many of my finished quilts and regretted not having redone some piecing or quilting.
I have gotten more careful over the years, but it’s because the nag inside my head is scolding me, not because I have an innate desire for perfection. I’m still not ready to rip out a sleeve seven times to get it perfectly smooth.