Make and Move On

It is teacher appreciation week, and they’re doing a bunch of different things for the teachers at Jude’s school but I also decided that it would be nice to make some Petal Pouches for the three teachers that work in his classroom on a daily basis. I’ve made this pattern before—it’s from Noodlehead and comes with really clear instructions, which makes it a breeze to put together.

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I wanted to go with something neutral, so I used a gray linen-rayon blend fabric I had in my stash and then picked up some more colorful quilting cotton prints from Joann’s to use as the lining. I liked the metal zip and leather cord combo on the pattern photos, so I aimed to replicate the look. The only metal zippers I could find were shorter than I needed, so these are all made with the pattern piece for the large size printed at 90%.

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I’m not particularly thrilled with these pouches. I had a very specific vision for them when I set out to make them and the final product just doesn’t live up to it. I mean, there’s nothing really wrong with them. I wish I had thought to order different zippers online when I still had the time to wait for shipping so that I didn’t have to use a jeans zipper. My sewing could be a bit neater. But there’s nothing here that could reasonably be classified as a problem or as a reason to toss the project in the trash.

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The project just didn’t cohere in the clean, perfect way that I had hoped. And that was enough for me to come very close to trashing the whole thing yesterday and coming up with a plan B. It’s irrational, I know. But it is also real. Perfectionism, as all of us who deal with it already know damn well, is not a cutesy way to talk about having high standards—it’s constantly staving off, and sometimes giving into, a need for things to be *just right* that is so intense it stops you from wanting to try at all.

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It is only rarely that I completely trash a project because it’s just not working out and I can’t find a way to either salvage it or live with the problems. Most of the time, my intense need to get things right manifests as a drive to learn as much as I can and to be careful with making. Even then, I get lots of projects like this where I just feel lukewarm about the end result. But I know if I cling to that feeling of dissatisfaction, everything falls apart. If I let myself dwell or act on the feeling that not quite right is not good enough, then I will never make anything and my creative drive—which is a huge part of who I am—will go unfed and I will just have a gnawing emptiness. I know that because it has happened before. And the only way out is to start making things again, giving myself permission to make them as imperfectly as they want to be.

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The permission to make things imperfectly isn’t comfortable or fun—it’s not like I suddenly find myself taking joy in a project that isn’t turning out the way I had hoped. It just means that I try to stay in the practice of walking away and disengaging when I start to hear the critical voice wondering why I bother at all.

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It just seems so easy to build up pressure around the process of making things. I want to make the perfect gift. I want to make clothes that are unique and practical and durable and beautifully finished. I need to define my personal style. I don’t want things to go to waste. I want to make things that I will get worn or used all the time. I want to make things that look professional. It is all trying to grasp at and hold onto something firm, and it’s all building in more ways to fail, more unrealistic expectations. I’m trying to hold things more lightly—to make a thing, let it be what it is, and move on.

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So I pushed past the strong urge to trash the project and I finished sewing the pouches. I shrugged at the feeling that they were a disappointment and took some quick pictures. I put them in a Target bag and dropped them off at Jude’s school without letting myself think too much about it. I’m still not happy with them, but I don’t feel mortified by the failure to manifest my original vision. It’s just a thing I made. And the more I keep pushing through and just making the next thing, the easier it is to avoid getting bogged down when things just refuse to cohere.

It doesn’t matter that much anyway. When we got to school, Jude immediately leaned out of my arms towards his teacher and gave her a big snuggle. She had been off for a few days and he had missed her. Apparently, he already had his teacher appreciation gift locked down. So sweet!

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