The Free Motion Quilting Project: I Am Enough

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Am Enough

This is a post I've been wanting to write for awhile. I realized about 3 weeks ago while working on Sinkhole just how much some rippling issues were bothering me about that quilt top.

Rippling happens when a quilt wasn't pieced quite perfectly. It usually happens when a piece of fabric is cut fine, but either from being in a hurry or not paying attention, it's not pieced just right into the quilt. The result is a rippling effect where the fabric of the quilt top is baggy in certain areas and it only gets exacerbated when you start adding dense free motion quilting over it.

I fully admit to rushing through the construction process of Sinkhole, and it caught up with me when I reached the quilting and found huge amounts of rippling and bagginess over the outer rings.

This actually started to bother me more than the negative words did! The rippling was a huge imperfection and kind of like the quilt was saying "You're not as good as you thought, are you???"

While working through that quilt, I laid in bed one night thinking about these issues and how huge these flaws appear on the quilt. Then I started thinking about all the flaws on my other quilts and how enormous they appear to me. Why is it impossible to create a perfect quilt?

As I lay there thinking about this, I remembered the numerous quilters who write every day worried they will ruin a quilt by trying free motion quilting. I remember the number of times I've seen a gorgeous quilt, only to have the creator point out every flaw and issue with the quilt top and quilting.

So I know I'm definitely not alone in obsessing about flaws and imperfections, and I know this tendency stretched beyond our quilts too.

How many times have I complimented a woman on her outfit or her hair, only to hear her cut herself down for her weight, her complexion, or some other perceived flaw?

We look for flaws constantly in ourselves, we know our greatest limitations, our weaknesses, and visible imperfections so well, it's hard to see beyond them, and this bucket full of negative, flaw searching really makes it that much easier to hate ourselves.

In my quest through Sinkhole, I've really sought one thing: to overcome my own self hatred. By writing the dark words on my quilt, I finally faced the underlying causes - every negative, cutting, harsh word that I believed wholeheartedly and that had caused my eyes to focus solely on my flaws, never on my perfection.

Yes, I said the word perfection.

I'm not being stuck up or conceited. In every quilt I've ever seen, there are flaws, but the perfection always far exceeds the small areas with issues. Usually if the flaws hadn't been pointed out, I would never, ever have found them.

Which means that in every quilt, and in every person, there is overwhelming perfection just waiting to been seen and acknowledged.

For years I've been given many compliments "You are so creative. I love your work. Wow, this is so impressive." and those compliments never seemed to stick. As soon as that person was done talking, I was off again pointing out the flaws, nit picking every issue, and with each one found, reminding myself again and again "You're not good enough, you are not smart enough, you are not pretty enough."

And I realized laying in bed that night that these words are kind of like a mantra, chanted over and over until they become true, when in fact, they are the very reverse of true. They are a mantra of self hate, a focus on all things negative, shameful, and lacking.

I've said many times to my friends and family this month "Self hate is a habit."

It is a habit to say these things to ourselves. It is a habit to focus only on the negative, to ignore the perfection and beauty and possibility that lie in every person. I have to remind myself of this daily, so that as I dig myself out of this sinkhole, I don't fall back into my old habits of self hate.

You might think that something as small as finding flaws on your quilt doesn't amount to something as awful sounding as "self hate," but I beg to differ. If you are a quilter, making quilts brings you pride and happiness. To search for and point out the flaws in your quilts is to crush your pride and happiness a bit each time you do it.

Recently I picked up a magazine on crafty blogging only because three words were written on the cover: I AM ENOUGH.

The magazine article went on to describe an artist initiative created by Tracy Clark. It is a self-kindness collaboration of artists and women who share their stories. You can read many of them right here.

But those words stuck with me like nothing else. I Am Enough.

I had to ask myself: why is this so huge? What about these words moves me tears, to laughter, to change?

And then I realized, these words are the very reverse of that negative mantra and there is awesome power in their simplicity: I am enough. I am pretty enough. I am powerful enough. I am perfect enough. I lack nothing.

So this was the last line I wrote on Sinkhole:

I am enough. My love for myself is enough to move mountains. I do not need your approval to be happy or free.

I had to stop writing words at that point, to take some time off to make those words true. To get some practice saying these words, living them, and applying them to every part of my life.

At the same time the idea for Hot Cast popped into my head. A goddess that symbolizes this learning curve. Of learning how to allow love to flow from your heart freely, regardless of flaws or imperfections.

I am enough.

Say it with me because You Are Enough too.


Leah Day


  1. My first quilt was a 9 patch with sashing which I made with some basic instruction from my MIL. I was making it for my sister and I wanted so badly for her to love it. Since I live in one side of my state and she lives in the other I was doing it mostly on my own without help. I didn't know to square up my blocks or that the foot I was using was 3/8" and therefore causing my measurements to be off. When I showed my MIL all the flaws she said two things:

    'Could you see it riding by on a galloping horse? No one is going to be as critical of your work as you are. They don't see the imperfections, only the beauty.'


    'No one is perfect but God. We quilters often make mistakes deliberately *wink* to make sure they aren't too perfect.'

    I am sure your standards are a little different than mine since you do show quality work, but try not to over-analyze or get too hung up on the imperfections. They both detract from the enjoyment you COULD be having.

  2. I hardly know what to say -- your words are so inspirational, and so relevant to my life.

    Thank you for your generosity and bravery in sharing them with us.

  3. You're not just enough. You are wonderful!

  4. Excellent. Love todays blog!

  5. Hi. I just read a book by Julie Haddon called Fat Chance, about her weight loss journey on The Biggest Loser. Same type of theme as what you speak of, and with a Christian perspective. Highly recommended!

  6. Thank you so much for this post. It's been inspirational reading about your journey through this quilting project. I give you mad props for tackling your demons. I don't know if I could do what you are doing. I am going to remember "I am enough" when I get down on myself. I hate that the negative stuff sticks and the positive stuff floats away into nothingness. Thank you again!

  7. How right you are Leah
    We each are enough - in taking on the challenge of creating something - a meal, a garden or a quilt, 'we are enough'. We have taken that single, simple important step of trying, its more than some people do (and often these are the people who nit pick)
    You are blessed in many ways, and your efforts and astonishing work is appreciated by certainly me (and many more too)

  8. Love this, Leah. It is so true. We all need to recognize and capitalize on the strengths within us and others. I really appreciated your post.

  9. Nobody in the whole universe deserves your love more than you do. Ok?

  10. Hi Leah,
    In 2009 I took my chicken quilt back to the fabric store to show it off. Like you, I was eager to point out the mistakes. One saleslady told me the only wrong with that quilt was that it was not on her bed. Another said the Amish ladies deliberately put a mistake in all their quilts because only God is perfect! Like you I was trivializing compliments as though I didn't deserve them. It took years for me to learn that when someone compliments me, the best response is "thank you so much."

    You are good enough, I am good enough we are all good enough. There is a difference between perfection and excellence. I always strive for excellence and as long as I have done my best on any given day that is enough.

    Enjoy your sinkhole quilt, I think it is beautiful, creative and most excellent!

  11. BRAVO Leah!! thank you for another interesting, insightful post!! You always give me something to think about.

  12. Leah, your "I am Enough" drawing is awesome, and you certainly are Enough, very much so. Thank you for all you do, and all you have taught me.

  13. We can each look at the same thing and yet we each see it differently.
    I am not ashamed of my flaws, I know I am not perfect and am perfectly happy with that. When I create something it is most likely not going to turn out perfect, and I am very ok with that too. I strive to enjoy the process and the creativity that is happening at that moment. I, like you, sometimes walk away from a project because it is not working or is causing more frustration or some other negative emotion, than it is positive. For me accepting my less than perfect self is a positive thing. I use to strive for perfection in my art and creativity and drive my self and everyone around me to a negative mood of one kind or another. Since I have learned to enjoy what I am doing and the process to get there I have a much happier home.
    I pray you find what works for you.
    Blessings :o)

  14. Thanks, Leah. This was what I needed to read today but I didn't know it. Thank you.

  15. Just what I needed to read today!

    I am a new fan, and mentioned you in my blog:

  16. Wow, Leah, thanks for sharing this. I struggle with this issue as well but I think the way you expressed it, that we all may have flaws but also contain perfection at the same time, is really beautiful.

    I teach beginning quilting and I hear people say so many negative things about themselves and their quilting that I've been planning to give a little speech at my next class about the importance of positive thinking and having quilting be fun.

  17. Leah, I think you would really like and benefit from the books of Wayne Dyer. I read one of his books about ten years ago & still remember & use many of his helpful suggestions for ridding yourself of negative thinking. The book I read was older (published in 1993) & it helped me so much with my negative thinking. I think his most current book is "Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits" by Wayne W. Dyer. Check out all of his books on Amazon. He has written quite a few.

    Chester, NY

  18. OMG! Are you ever right. There isn't one of my friends (or myself) who can take a compliment without degrading ourselves, too. I wonder what they person giving the compliment feels -- "Does she think I'm blind, or stupid or lying?" We not only do a disservice to ourselves, but to the one giving the complimen. It's just not right. We should be humble, but we should also accept a compliment in the manner it was given and just say "Thank you!" Or you can also say "I really like the color, too" or whatever. We have to accept ourselves before we can truly accept others; we have to love ourselves as much as we love others, also. We are all flawed. We are all aware of it, too, but we are working on it, damn it! and the work and the journey is part of being human and maturing into a graceful, lovely, peaceful person. I am on the journey with you.

  19. Leah,

    We have one or two rules in my small quilt group. The first is you cannot point out "flaws" or "mistakes" in work. Period. Stricly enforced. You show it with pride because you created it. Only God is perfect. And once you get in the habit of not sharing them to the group, you get in the habit of them not registering to you either.

    The second rule is, well, I don't know that we have a second rule except enjoy your quilting and encourage others.

    As the song says, Keep on the suuny side of life....

  20. I enjoyed reading every word of this post --- thank you for opening my eyes to the message that is sent when I point out flaws and imperfections in my quilts and "myself". You have inspired me to believe that I AM ENOUGH! three small words that say so much.

  21. Great post... I have been noticing lately that some of my most creative and commented on pieces are those where I am trying to fix (gloss over) some kind of mistake... from this something grows and it takes on a new life in a direction I never anticipated and I like it even better than what I was originally trying to envision...

  22. Thank you for writing this. It is so true with many of us. I love the mantra "I am enough". I will remember that!

  23. Amen!

    I think as Americans (I am first generation in this country) we are taught to be modest, so self-deprecation is supposedly a sign of modesty when it is so self destructive. That undermines the potential for true excellence.

    I am enough.


  24. I thought I was okay with myself, but reading those words and thinking them as they applied to me caused me to tear up. You ARE enough, Leah, and so am I! Thanks for showing me ways to grow I didn't know I needed along with all the creative play.

  25. Absolutely! I am not a professional quilter, but I love to quilt. I always think about the flaws in my quilts, and I see them, and dwell on them, even when others can't even seem to see them. But of course, you are right, they are enough and I am enough. Thanks for pointing it out. I had forgotten. Sue in MI

  26. Striving for perfection is what drives most artists forward, whatever their art of choice. Next time I will fix this, add that. I struggled for a long time with my sketchbook keeping - because its not pretty, its not full of beautiful drawings, colourful pages, mini artworks. I thought I wasn't a 'proper' artist. But finally I realised it/I was enough... because it works for me and my needs, and doesn't need to be anything more than that.
    It takes a lot to unlearn conditioned responses.

  27. I am deeply moved by your post. Thank you for sharing your story with such bravery and boldness! You are Enough! xo

  28. This post is probably one of the most inspirational blogs I have read. It is not just quilters who carry the self hate but most of the population. We are all trying to attain more that level of perfection that is unattainable.

  29. I completely agree with you. We are our own worst critics. I think we should always strive to do our best, or improve upon our skills, but we need to stop beating ourselves up in the process. I, too, have learned that I need to accept a compliment and not try to point out the flaws, regardless of what they are. Like you said, think of all the times you have paid somebody a compliment only to have them turn around and invalidate your compliment by insisting on pointing out the imperfections.
    I admit, I have a hard time seeing the good in my own work, even in myself. It's been a struggle, but I find myself accepting compliments more just as they are. We learn from our mistakes, not everything we do is perfect, it's all part of the process.

  30. Than you, Leah!
    More than you ever know.

  31. Leah, you are more than enough.

    You are beautiful and smart and talented. If you were perfect, that would be really annoying! Haha.

    You really hit a nerve with this post. Thank you for sharing your heart. I can certainly identify with what you're saying. I think it helped that my Dad taught my sisters and brother and me to do our best when it comes to important things, then move on and don't look back.

    When someone says for example, "I really like your sweater. It's very pretty," I will respond with something like "Thank you, it's my favorite one." It's like they give you a little present, and you give one back. If I said "Oh this old thing, I was going to give it to Goodwill, but they were closed today" that's like rejecting the person offering the compliment.

    We all have aches and some really bad wounds. Let the kind words sink in and heal you up. Accept them with a grateful heart. Thanks for this post today. Hugs to you.

  32. hi Leah,
    you are absolutly right!!! to accept our own personality, creativity .... is so important. I believe in the power of autosuggestion. What you are talking from is a very common female acting even on my side of the ocean. Are you going to quilt the mantra?
    hugs - Brigitte

  33. Leah--you are not only enough, but you are a blessing to all of us. You also have more wisdom than most people accumulate in a lifetime. Thanks for sharing--you've said exactly how I've felt at one time or another.

  34. Wow, what an insightful post! I want to be more accepting of the 'flaws' in my quilting, but not feel as though I need to point them out to everyone. Most things no one would notice anyway! Why do we do that? I almost asked that question in my last blog post, then I erased it, wondering if anyone else could relate to that. I guess this post and the comments answers that question! Thank you for posting on the subject.

  35. Oh Leah you hit the nail on the head it is everything I have done all my life and the same thing with my quilts whenever someone says how nice it it I automatically cut it up your words have touched me deeply and I hope to someday be good enough. Love Linda

  36. What a wonderful post!.....very good things to think about....
    Thank You.

  37. I really enjoy your blog and website, and have purchased a few items. Also, I am looking forward to your quilt designs that you are working on right now. I worry about you and burn out, so I hope you will take care of yourself. Maybe you can outsource some of the routine jobs that need to be done.

  38. Ohhh, you should make that "I am enough" a screen print & sell it in your shop.

  39. This has hit so many nerves in me...
    You said it perfectly. Yes, perfectly.
    Thank you.

  40. Well said indeed. It is impossible to be perfect. The flaws we create is what makes our creations unique.

  41. I can really relate to your words. I get similar comments all the time "you're so creative" and so on... but I'm such a perfectionist. This is something to work on for me. Thank you!


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