The Free Motion Quilting Project: You Have Permission to Quit

Saturday, June 27, 2015

You Have Permission to Quit

Do you struggle to quit a project, even when it's making you miserable? Do you wish you could just set it aside, or even better, chuck it in the trash?

You're definitely not alone! Here's a little Light Up Your Life videocast on giving yourself permission to quit:

Must. Keep. Stitiching...

I've previously wasted a lot of my life stitching on projects I hate. It's miserable to work on something you're not really into, and even worse when the project really isn't working, isn't pretty, or is quite painful to work on.

I've learned over the years that it's unrealistic to expect to be absolutely in love with EVERY project I work on, but I do have a new rule - I have to actually LIKE what I'm working on and WANT to finish it. If I don't have that, why bother?

And to carry this theme beyond quilting, if a situation, job, or relationship isn't working - why keep banging your head against a wall?

I believe many people stay in painful, toxic relationships, or grind away at jobs that positively eat their soul simply out a lack of understanding that you really can quit, walk away, and start something new.

Yes, it's challenging to quit and there's a lot of inertia in our lives that keep us trekking the same path every day, day in and day out. To truly quit and begin again, you have to also release the feelings of shame, guilt, and fear that accompany your action.

But Quitting is WASTEFUL!

Yes, quitting is by its very nature wasteful, but does your time and energy count for nothing? You may throw away a few yards of fabric, but you'll be saving yourself the time and effort of finishing a project you don't like.

For some projects, quitting just isn't an option. Chucking a fully pieced and partially quilted queen sized, paper pieced, heirloom quilt in the trash is wasteful. If you can't bring yourself to work on it, put it in time-out for a few months (I did this with Duchess Reigns), or pass it on to someone else who would happily finish it.

However I know from firsthand experience that there are those unique times of catastrophic project failure that no amount of stitching, fabric, or glue will fix the project, and the idea of passing it off to someone else is just impossible. When this happened to me, I simply set the quilt on fire.

Smaller projects like my little braided cord shouldn't be such a big deal. Why was I agonizing over a $3 length of chain? Why couldn't I just take it off the loom, chuck it in the trash, and move on to the beautiful green art yarn I really wanted to braid?

I had to give myself permission to quit with no strings attached. I wasn't going to judge myself or feel guilty for the waste of money, but at the same time, I've learned a valuable lesson - I hate braiding with rough chain!

Watch Out for Chronic Quitting

There is a double edge sword of giving yourself permission to quit, however. You need to be careful not to quit too quickly or too often or else you may become a chronic quitter.

Chronic quitting is easily recognizable - you simply never finish ANYTHING! As soon as a project gets challenging it goes in a bin and you're off pulling out new materials or shopping for more fabric.

This was the cycle I became trapped in with beadwork back in 2000. Every project I began was subject to intense scrutiny and judgement. Understandably, I ended up hating everything I made and ripping it apart long before it was finished.

I never wasted the beads, but I wasted tons and tons of time, energy, and self esteem. For this reason, I don't see chronic quitting as an issue of being miserable with a specific project, but being miserable with yourself in general.

So watch out for a desire to quit every project you start, but also understand that it's okay to take a break or flat out quit any project that is making you crazy. Life is too short to hate what you make!

 What do you think? Do you have a project in the works that is really "working" for you or feeling more like a struggle? Have you ever chucked a project in the trash? Share your experience in the comments below!

Let's get moving - let's try something new!

Leah Day


  1. This is an important message.

    As for wasteful, don't forget the phrase "throwing good money after bad," and insert time for money.

    I recently struggled with the quilting of a long-neglected quilt, but kept at it because it was half-done before really having problems. I was quite disliking it by the time I finished, and decided not to do anything to the borders (just so I could finish it). I guess there are "degrees" of quitting.

  2. Well said Leah. We really should count the time invested in a project before quitting on it. Great option you suggested- to pass the item on to someone who would love to finish it :)

  3. Bravo! And don't forget sunk costs. The money is already spent on the project. Wasting your own time on it when you don't want to is just making the waste larger. Time does equal money. Your own free time is a limited resource.

  4. This is true of projects..because these are for most of us, our escape and our fun. If it ceases to be fun and interesting, then it is time to consider moving on or taking a break for as long as necessary. But quitting a job..this is a bit different. A job can be quit, but income will will cease. So more consideration must be taken. It is more accurate to say that you have permission to figure out what to replace that job with. It is all right to give up on that struggle if it isn't going to go anywhere. If there is nothing else to learn..if you are terribly unhappy. Figure out what will make you soar and go after that instead. Another example of when you cannot just quit is when it is your own child making you unhappy. Yes you might be able to kick them out..but maybe they are not old enough. We must continue the struggle with many things like that..and hope and pray we come out victorious. Let's pick our battles and not let that hated project be one of them.

  5. I read the title as "quilt" instead of "quit". I could't imagine why you were saying that quilting was wasteful! Oy, I figured it out. You are right- sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to quit. Well said- thank you so much! (Sometimes when life gets too busy I have to give myself permission to quilt, too!)

  6. I am SO...OOOO glad you finished "Duchess Reigns". I followed your work on it and hope to see it in person one day. Thank you for the suggestions. I am working on my UFOs.

  7. Thank you! I am assuming that giving myself permission to quit means that I can include permission to quit procrastinating as well. I have been stuck on getting my craft room stuff in order so that I might get busy on stuff I WANT to do. I don't know what is holding me back, but I do have a myriad of excuses...I have to do laundry, I have to clean the house, I have to feed the animals, I have to go shopping, I'm too tired, I have no one to help me move stuff, I could go on, but I won't. There are so many things you have posted and I have purchased a few of your DVD's and I really want to dive in a play, but this block I have is killing me.....

  8. Ever since you had a post on dealing with scraps I have found the perfect solution to UFOs. I found out that our local quilt shop collects pillows made from scraps and sends them to the animal rescue center. Now I chop up my UFO, stuff a pillow, and no more guilt! Instead I feel virtuous that the world is now a slightly more comfortable place for some poor cat or dog! Win/win/win.

  9. Very true words, Leah! Last year I gave myself permission to get rid of some fabric I no longer liked (really just hated!) I took it to my quilt retreat and one of the ladies was thrilled to receive it! What a load off my shoulders! So freeing!!! I need to go through my stash again- this time culling out FQs I don't want- my tastes are changing and that's okay. Good balance with disciplining to get the job finished too. I've made great progress this year on completing UFO's- I set the goal of being finished before retreat- almost there! THanks for your encouragement!


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