Creativity: On a Wing and a Prayer

"You can't just wing it!"

Yeah? Watch me.

I should have feathers, I 'wing it' so often.

In fact I fly often by the seat of my pants!

No cage for this bird, I'm taking flight!

Sure, there are some things that you can't just wing. Taxes for instance. To bring it to quilting, it's highly likely that winging a complex pattern of angles and measurements is bound for unexpected results, if not downright disaster.

Disaster being relative of course, as this is just quilting, not brain surgery.

Speaking of the brain, it's common to refer to people like me as right-brained and people who are more analytical as left-brained. Turns out that research doesn't support the idea of using one side of the brain over the other.

Because I do tend to wing it, (and my memory is poor) I don't tend to use left or right brain terminology, instead I like to refer to people tending to be more like an artist, or more like an engineer. Yes....because I can't remember which side is supposed to be which.

I talk about this artist/engineer concept often in my free motion quilting classes as I find that there's usually a correlation that affects how easily someone picks up free motion quilting.

I'll talk about that in another post, but today I just wanted to sing the praises of being able to let the artist in our brains have some freedom. In part it's because you can't just 'wing it' when it comes to running a business (yes, I've tried), especially that of a retail business and in the quilting industry as well. I've been squashed creatively. Well, except for the pretty awesome row I created for my shop's participation in the Row by Row Experience this year. Any rail fan will recognize the 611 steam engine.

So I've stepped away from the computer, accounting, and huge piles of paper in order to maintain my sanity and to let my creative spirit come out to play. Just a little bit, at least. Every day I now make time to wing it in my studio.

Two of my projects are totally wing friendly. First, I've started doodling on the boring brown wall in my shop's bathroom with a white chalk marker. (Chalk marker, because in theory, I can wash it off. At least enough to paint over it.) Yes, the bathroom is getting a custom mural of quilt doodling!

Just doodling when I can.

The second project I'm pretty proud of so far. I'm making a linen slip cover for a wingbacked chair in my shop. It's the non-shopper/handwork chair. Not the husband chair, just the waiting chair. It's had a large cream and green toile slip cover over it for ages. Every time someone sits in it, the thing shifts and looks bad.

So I made the slip cover fit better and then began using it as a very rough pattern to create a new cover out of linen. By rough I mean slap the cushion onto the fabric and trace around it with a blue marking pen. Sloppily, messily.

Guess what? It worked! More importantly, it's been getting done instead of just sitting there, waiting for me to be able to 'do it right' as that might happen never.

Just a ruffle and some finish work and this chair will look so much better.

And folks? Getting something DONE is what got me into quilting in the first place. It feels so good to have something done, even if it isn't perfect, in a time of a never ending to-do list. My season of chasing around little ones and a house that comes undone constantly may be nearly over, (The kids are still quite the mess makers!) but the never ending undone stuff has just changed to different stuff.

Think about it.... are you letting the need to make something "right" keep you from getting things done? Sometimes close enough is perfect. As my husband sometimes says, "gooder enough." Yes, he knows that drives my inner grammar nazi crazy, one part of me that is decidedly left brain. (Let's leave my overuse of exclamation points and .... out of things, shall we?)

There's a reason why improve piecing, scrap piecing, and folksy wool applique is on the rise. These things allow for less precision and more winging of various aspects of it. Life can get horribly rigid, regimented, and judge-y. Fight it by allowing yourself to enjoy the less than perfect process.

Free motion quilting looking not as good as you want? Give yourself permission to just wing it and play with it. I guarantee you'll get better and some projects will get done!


  1. Well I'm glad it's not just me! I used to "help" my father and grandfather when it came to fixing their cars. Then when I was old enough I used to do the same with my car. Now they are computerised, I just don't go there any more. Pity. Same with wood work. I made a rabbit hutch which lasted longer than a shop bought one - we had to demolish it eventually because it just wouldn't fall apart! Now I am enjoying my new (hah!) vintage sewing machines. I think it's the artist in me just eyeballing it all! I know I see colours and shopping for paint or fabric I know without needing a sample quite often. Husband says it's too weird. Well, he's the finance and figures man - maths is definitely not my strong point!

  2. Someday I'm getting to your shop just to see the bathroom quilting! How fun is that?!

    1. I'd love to have you visit! Though we can show you more than the bathroom!

  3. Oh how I wish I could "just wing it". My day job involves lots of analyzing and managing of data, all in an orderly fashion, of course. ;-). At the end of the day, it's very difficult for me to switch gears from analytical to creative. However, I am getting better at "done is better than perfect", or as your husband says "gooder enough". (Love that!).

  4. Girlfwend, I so needed that reminder. I have an art quilt that I have been afraid to start. Months of research, designing, planning, trial quilting on fabric other than the expensive stuff it is going to made on. What am I waiting for? I be scared it won't look like the art quilt in my mind? So what! It's just quilting! Thanks for that reminder. Let's catch up!