Oh, My Gosh! I’m Stuck!

It doesn’t matter if you make large quilts or small, define yourself as a traditionalist or a quilt artist, swear by the machine or make every stitch by hand: If you’ve been quilting for any length of time, there is a
good chance that at some point you’ve experienced
the dreaded…

QUILTER’S BLOCK comes in many shapes and forms. For example, there’s the BLOCK you feel when you have so many projects you want to make that you can’t decide which one to tackle next. If there is a “good” kind of QUILTER’S BLOCK, this is it. You’ll probably get over it quickly, no real harm done. Temporary burnout is another fairly benign cause. Perhaps you’ve just finished a major quilt and need to do something else for awhile. Don’t worry: you’ll be back.

But then there are the more troublesome “strains” of QUILTER’S BLOCK, the ones that stop you dead in your tracks, that keep you from starting, continuing, or finishing a project … even one for which you previously felt tons of enthusiasm. Know what I’ve learned? Most of these BLOCKS are motivated by FEAR:

  • FEAR of cutting into that gorgeous fabric because I might make a mistake, or the project might not be worthy of it
  • FEAR that I may mess up this incredible quilt top I’ve just made with my less-than-perfect a) hand quilting; b) machine quilting; c) choice of quilting motifs; d) fill in your own quilting nightmare/insecurity
  • FEAR that I’ve just finished the best quilt I’ll ever make, and can never duplicate my success
  • FEAR that my family, friends, and/or show judges won’t “get” the new ideas or techniques I’d like to try

I guess it’s fair to say that I figured some of this out myself, but the real epiphany came when I first read a concise little book by David Bayles and Ted Orland called Art and Fear. Although not specifically aimed at quilters, the wisdom it offers regarding “what holds us back and how to overcome it” is universal. The writing is clear, engaging, and brims with common sense…you’ll find very little “woo woo” stuff here. Often I’ll brew a pot of tea, pull out my dog-eared, marked-up copy, and read a few pages or a few chapters. Afterward, I always feel I’ve had a session with my very own, personal cheerleader/creative therapist/drill sergeant…whatever it is that I’m needing to get my mojo back this time around.

I find this book so inspiring that I typically keep an extra copy in reserve for sharing. (The last copy went to the talented craftsman who remodeled our bathroom after confiding that his lifelong dream was to be a painter.) As it happens, I have a pristine copy of the latest (23rd!) edition waiting on my shelf for an owner.

So…I hope you’ll post a comment, whether just to say hi, to share what (if anything) puts your creativity on hold, or to pass along a tip or technique that helps you overpower the dreaded QB. Do so by noon (PDT) Friday, April 29, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to receive–you guessed it!–that spanking-new copy of Art & Fear.

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29 Responses to Oh, My Gosh! I’m Stuck!

  1. I want to let you know that in the mail was my new book “Art & Fear.” Thank you……
    I know I will enjoy it. I have a lounge in my bedroom, my favorite place to curl up and read. Tonight that is where I will be. Again, Thank You.

  2. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Hi Darra,
    Your blog is inspiring, informative and colourful. I am so glad you are doing it!

    When I have qb I find nothing beats a good old fashion, non threatening four patch. I try not to think beyond making just that one or even beyond the concept of just four pieces of fabric going together. I usually get drawn into the colour and texture and of course cannot stop at one. If I am feeling really stuck and particularly uncreative, but drawn into my studio or need something to do with my hands, I make berries. They are relaxing and addictive. I have about 300 if anybody needs some!

    And I am definitely going to have to look that book up.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      I’m so glad you came by, Mary Elizabeth ;-) I hope you’ll visit often…and tell your friends.
      I’ve used the same block-buster strategy on a number of occasions: four patches, nine patches, or a three-round Log Cabin if I’m feeling really brave. Berries are a great idea. Amazing how it works, isn’t it?
      You might want to hold off until 5/6 before tracking down the book. Who knows? You might be the lucky winner announced that day.

  3. Adrienne Alvey says:

    I’ve found it most helpful to just put the project away and think about it. Quite often a thought or idea of what to do will “pop” into my head – while driving, running, etc. Love the website!

  4. Sylvia Kenyon from northern CA. says:

    I always fear my ideas will not be as good as I would like them to be. Getting what is in my head onto the quilt is usually a disappointment. It feels like it isn’t what I thought up.
    I am enjoying this blog.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      I know what you mean, Sylvia. It’s an interesting point, and one the authors of A&F address. Maybe if you start out trying your idea on a smaller scale; give yourself a chance to work out some of the “kinks”… That works for me sometimes ;-)

  5. Mary says:

    Fear of … Cutting into that beautiful fabric has to be one. I pulled a fabric yesterday and was about to put it back when I notice the copyright on the label started with “19″ as in last century. Fear of the quilt police, fear of what to do after it is a top. Fear is a common feeling around here. Just found your blog, it looks great.

  6. Bonnie Yourzak says:

    Thanks for the article on QB. When I have QB, I think on how great a project looked when I finished it after having a bad case of QB. I also try to remember that sometimes there is more than one great way to finish a quilt, so I just pick one and don’t second guess myself later.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Bonnie, I love your comment that “sometimes there is one than one great way to finish a quilt.” What a wonderful way to “muster up the moxie” to forge ahead!

  7. Cyndy says:

    Oh Darra, How did you know? I have a growng pile of quilt tops that I want to quilt myself, and my fear of destoying them has created a firewall around them. Time to find my copy of Art & Fear. Thanks for reminding me about the book! You rock!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Now you are one person, Cyn, whom I would never suspect as a candidate for QB. You are one of the most prolific quilters I know! But do I know (and often share) that feeling of facing a pristine top, and thinking: “uh-oh!”
      Sometimes I wish I were one of those lucky people who have a beautifully integrated quilting plan in mind before they even begin the piecing…and the technical skills to go with it ;-)

  8. Marilyn Chapman says:

    Thanks for the therapy session! A good reminder that I am my own worst enemy!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Funny that you refer to my post as a “therapy session,” Margaret. When I was mulling over titles, one possibility was “The Doctor is in Session/5 Cents”–just like Lucy in the old Peanuts comic strip.

  9. Darra, so good to see you blogging! I definitely get stuck when I have so many different projects that I should be working on and can’t decide which is the most important. I ended up not working on any of them for a few weeks. aagh. Finally decided to play instead. I made the plunge to try just scissors and rotary cutter – no rulers. wheeee!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Glad you stopped by, Ton, and hope you’ll come back often. No surprise that the “unruly” gal would have a free-wheeling solution to QB ;-) Will you be at Market in SLC? Hope to see you there. Darra

  10. Teresa says:

    Right now I have a stack of place mats ready for quilting. I’m making them to practice my machine quilting. Whenever I’m stuck, I quilt a placemat. That small success gets me feeling ready for the next project!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Teresa, This is a great idea for rebuilding confidence…and a great warm-up exercise, even if you’re raring to go but feeling a little rusty.
      Sorry I missed you when I stopped by last week. Let’s talk soon! Darra

  11. janis stob says:

    perfect timing! thank you for this bit ~ i found myself unable to “finish” a project and then when I had talked myself off the ledge(with the help of fellow artistes) – it only took a small amount to finish and i love what i did! This is a book I do not have ~
    thank you!

  12. Debbie Sedberry says:

    I think my block is fear of the unknown; will I really be able to do this? If I can just make myself give it 5 minutes, I’m just fine!

    • Darra Williamson says:

      The authors of A&F concur with you on that point, Debbie! If we just commit to a little block of time, the commitment seems less overwhelming. I know that when I finally drag myself to my sewing room with the intention to spend just 15 minutes or so, I frequently become absorbed and the minutes–sometimes hours–fly by.

  13. Sharie - Moss Bluff says:

    I posted a comment without saying what gets me going. I’m not sure, I think it is color. I just love putting color together. And then there is EQ7. I usually sit down and start one block and before long I have three or four blocks drawn and then the challenge is to put them together. I guess I like the challenge, How to make the design work and how to put the color together.

  14. Sharie - Moss Bluff says:

    I love your Hall’s teapot (without checking it looks like one). So many quilts to make and so little time. That could be a t-shirt.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Sharie – Moss, You piqued my curiosity and I had to go and check my teapot. It’s not a Hall, but was manufactured by The Enterprise Aluminum Company in Massillon, OH. I found it in one of those little antique/flea market malls, fell in love with it, and brought it home to use with my Fiestaware. Now I’ll need to do some research on both Hall and Enterprise. ;-)

  15. gloria g. Walls says:

    Yes, I too have had Q B……..I hate it. But somehow I have always pulled out of it. I so enjoy doing many things. Always being creative. Quilting, crocheting, crocheting rugs, yo yo’s, yes, – made hundreds of them. I also enjoy applique. But sometimes it’s hard to move forward when you have hundreds of projects as we say UFO…….so I would love to read Art and Fear. Thanks for letting us know about this. I’m sure there are lot’s of us who could use it! Again, thank you from gloria g. in South Carolina.

    • Darra Williamson says:

      Thanks for your post, Gloria. Where abouts are you in SC? I lived in Charleston for about 6 years in the ’80s. Love that city!

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