Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What Do You Want To Be Perfect?

Before I write anything else, I want to say THANK YOU for all the feedback on my previous post. In case you haven't read the comments, it's been a great discussion. As requested, I will not delete the archives and I will include details about my process in the "finished objects" postings.

What I'm creating and how I write is not going to change. What is changing is when I write about a piece. Because some pieces are taking such a long time, it feels like all talk and no action so I want to finish the piece before posting about it. This means that postings may or may not happen with any kind of regular schedule... but hopefully... because I work some part of every day in the studio there will be a kind of regularity to it. Time will tell. Right now, there are four pieces nearing completion although for the rest of this week I'll be snuggling my grandsons and not working in the studio. Next week, it's back to work.

An alternate title for today's posting could have been The Toaster Cover Revisited. The purse started with a piece of surface design work from my really early days of surface design as opposed to my somewhat early current days. I am by no means good at this yet but I keep making "messes" and then I turn the messes into something else which provides a whole different experience. It's good. With this piece of fabric, I'd just bought a new paisley stencil and was playing with it. I don't think I took a picture of the original fabric because I can't find one in the files. It was roughly 18" x 24" with an irregular black and purple design.

My goal was to use the entire piece since one of the "challenges" I'm finding working through the possibility boxes is that my scraps make more scraps.  I didn't quite accomplish that goal. There is a 3 1/2" x 4" patch and an 18" length of strap left that went back into stash.

As I said in an earlier posting, I thought the original version of the purse looked like a toaster cover so I took it apart and reshaped the two main pieces into a more formal clutch purse by turning the curves toward the bottom and the straight edges toward the top. This new shape is an interesting contradiction to the less formal nature of the painted canvas fabric.

After reshaping the main pieces, there were two painted scraps left - one narrower than the other. I decided to use the wider one for a flap and the narrower one for the strap. It was 3" wide. My choice was two sections and a shorter strap or three sections and a longer one. Short would have been too short so I cut the piece into 3 each 1" wide strips and seamed them together into one long strip.


One edge was pressed under and the other serged. As you can see, my serger wasn't working correctly. Fixing the tension wasn't where I wanted to spend my time nor would it have made a tremendous difference to the end product so I zigzagged over the serging and then pressed under that edge and top stitched along each side. Someone looking closely may notice and at one time it may have turned me inside out but I'm not looking for that type of perfect any more.

This style of clutch purse using a frame doesn't always have a flap but I wanted one in order to use up as much fabric as possible. When I sewed the toaster cover version, I liked how the striped knit fabric worked as a binding so I used it again here. To get the correct size of opening, I cut the hole small and then kept widening it until it fit nicely over the frame - about 1/4" at a time. I've learned that I don't have to have the right answer right away. I can work my way toward it, evaluate as I go, and make the results work out. We can learn to trust our own judgement. We don't need hand holding instructions for everything we do.

To give the purse some dimension I sewed darts in each bottom corner - four in all. It adds a slight pouf to the edge that will widen when items are in the purse. The main fabric is quilted to a thin batting and a backing with a lime-green thread. I chose that thread colour because it's the compliment to the purple and would create energy within the piece.

Every time I do something again, it's an opportunity it do it better. This is perfecting versus perfect. It doesn't seem to matter how long a person has been sewing, there will always be stuff that goes wrong. With sewing on snaps using a buttonhole stitch, I typically get knots, twists, and breaks that make the finished hand sewing less than best... but I keep trying... for over forty years now... and this time I sewed the two sides of the snap, twelve locations, with only one knot and one snap. YES YES. That's improvement. I think it looks pretty good.

The purse has a lot of curved lines both in its shape and in the design of the fabric. The stripe of the knit binding adds contrast and is mimicked by the rectangular holes of the button. Some contrast - just as with the thread colour - adds energy to a piece while too much can create fighting parts. How much is just right? It takes practice. Practice means making mistakes... not being perfect... because we don't learn from perfect... we learn from mistakes... and a learning mistake is just perfect.

The lining is yet, still, again, this striped fabric that was used for the twin quilts in my guest room. I have gone from wondering if I had enough to being over inundated with the stuff. I'm using it everywhere and there's still lots left. It'll be interesting to see where it shows up next. As you can see above and below, the frame is attached in the middle of the purse top and then the edges are pushed in under the frame. I used the knit binding to finish the inside seam allowances too. Using a bias or a knit binding makes it easier to wrap around corners and curved shapes.

The frame made it impossible to stitch the flap to the back of the purse by machine. I couldn't get the fabric far enough under the needle so I hand sewed the flap in place along the edge of the binding and then secured it even further with three small buttons. The knots are tied to the outside and trimmed about 1/4" long - again a less formal touch for a formal style and again added contrast.

This ability to meander through a piece, to start over and reshape it, and to follow up tickles, is an ability I developed. It didn't just happen. It took work. A statement I hear quite often is something the lines of I could never do that, I'm too much of a perfectionist. Consider... what do you want to be perfect... the experience... or the product? These are vastly different outcomes.

When I was striving for a perfect product, the possible responses were yes, it's perfect or no, it's not perfect. Absolute perfection is never attained so my results were mostly a no or a near mess but never a yes. In the fall of 2004, I changed how I worked from following a precise plan with a guaranteed outcome to the responding method I use now. It starts with something, such as the painted fabric used for this purse, and develops one step at a time, bit by bit, until the piece says it's finished. That process involves adding to what exists and what develops, changing my mind, and experimenting with ideas and incorporating what works. It's never a straight line from start to finish or from product to perfect, BUT...

... the experience, the process, is always perfect because what I want to be perfect is the time I spend in the studio. I don't need another garment or another purse or another piece of jewelry. What I need is nurturing through the intersections of ideas and creative flow from the starting point to the finished object. It doesn't need to be useful,.nor beautiful, but more often than not I like the finished object far better than when I was striving for perfect and - ironically - my work has improved in leaps and bounds by letting go of perfection and embracing process.

Time is the other comment that comes up, that the person is too busy and they absolutely do not have time. That's not an excuse I believe because no matter how hectic life can be - and mine has been beyond hectic at times - it is absolutely vital that we carve out some of it for ourselves, to fill the well, to nurture, to energize. Time never arrives. It is taken. As little as fifteen minutes a day is progress. Fifteen minutes is something. And something is always better than nothing.

WHAT do you want to be perfect?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - fabulous feedback


  1. What do I want to be perfect the product or the experience? I so relate to this. I don't 'need' anything...I 'want' and crave mind expanding, energy creating, problems to solve. Thanks for the reminder!
    Your last post inviting more sharing was also a reminder that we often work in our studios alone and need to 'get out more!' I share my studio adventures here if you are interested, I would love 'more sharing' as well!

    1. Exactly and you're welcome. Thanks for the link. I'll check it next week when I have more time.

  2. Hi Myrna!
    Your last paragraph is golden and so true! We must make time to nurture our soul and I appreciate following your journey as I navigate my path. Thank you for sharing. Mary

    1. So many people wait for time to show up. It doesn't work like that. It needs to be carved out and held sacred. Good luck with your journey.

  3. Beautiful. Beautiful bag, beautiful thinking and beautiful words. Thanks for your work as I head into what looks to be another challenging season.

    1. Thanks. I didn't have time for coffee this trip - I'm spending a day each with the boys - but it sounds like we need to chat and especially about when you're coming to visit. Hugs.

  4. Perfection...reminds me of a quote from Marcy and Sandra..."if you can see the (fill in the blank), you're much too close''; or something like that.��
    Thanx for the bag handle inspiration.

    1. Back when I taught a Christmas tree skirt workshop, I'd tell my students if someone moved all the presents and flipped the skirt over and went looking, let them find something meanwhile have fun.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.