6 Steps to Mindful Making

Use these 6 Steps to Mindful Making to help you stay excited and joyful to make and create through sewing, crafting or even cooking! suzyquilts.com

Today we’re examining six mindset mistakes that will kill your quilting mojo… and ways we can conquer them to develop a mindful making perspective. These tips can be applied to quilting, crafting, or even your holiday cooking!

Do any of these mindsets sound familiar?

  • ​Perfectionism: The desire to get everything right
  • Comparison-itis: A habit of thinking our work is less than others’
  • Fear of the unknown: A closed mindset that stops us from trying new things
  • Decision paralysis: The experience of not being able to decide the next step
  • Productivity focus: The idea that we must always be efficient at all costs
  • Guilt: An emotion that fools us into thinking we owe others something 

Woof, what a list! As a wellness coach for makers, I know that all of my coaching clients experience at least one of these mindset challenges. I’ve lived through them all at some point, too! Read on for tips to conquer each mindset mistake.

Use these 6 Steps to Mindful Making to help you stay excited and joyful to make and create through sewing, crafting or even cooking! suzyquilts.com

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Step 1: Acceptance is Key to Mindful Making

If you’re creating a masterpiece with the goal of earning first place at a quilt show, be a perfectionistic – it helps win awards.

For the rest of us, it’s time to choose acceptance over perfection. I’m not saying don’t do the best work possible. One of the most rewarding aspects of quilting is that there’s always something new to master! I am encouraging you to accept imperfections as part of the process.

Practicing acceptance in quilting includes:

  • ​Embracing an always-learning mindset that recognizes we all make mistakes as we grow.
  • Loving how handmade items show the “hand of the maker” (a.k.a. “imperfections”).
  • Recognizing we’re human – not machines or corporations – so our work won’t be uniform like quilts at a retail store.
  • Speaking to ourselves about mistakes as we would to a child (we would never shame them for trying).
  • Accepting that perfection can rarely be achieved.
Use these 6 Steps to Mindful Making to help you stay excited and joyful to make and create through sewing, crafting or even cooking! suzyquilts.com

Step 2: Instead of Comparing Yourself to Others, Look Within

While social media is fun, it’s also given rise to a plague of comparison-itis. With a click we can examine the quilts of master artisans…and wonder why our stitches aren’t as consistent, precise, or perfect.

When we seek external validation, we neglect the most important person we should be comparing ourselves to: Us! The next time you notice comparison-itis, try these:

  • Imagine you’re a non-quilter. Look at your quilt through their eyes. Will they notice wonky-mitered corners, or will they rejoice in bold colors and patterns?
  • Recall what it felt like to make your first quilt. How are you more confident and capable today? What have you learned that seemed impossible back then?
  • Pull out one of your first quilts and admire your earliest attempts. Pat yourself on the back for not giving up.
Use these 6 Steps to Mindful Making to help you stay excited and joyful to make and create through sewing, crafting or even cooking! suzyquilts.com

Above is Suzy sewing on her dining room table years before having a sewing studio. Click here to get a free Sawtooth Star quilt pattern.

Step 3: Curiosity Conquers Fear of the Unknown

It can be scary to not know how to do something. The first time I used a rotary cutter, I was scared I would cut my fingertip off! Imagine if I had let fear stop me? Suzy didn’t let that fear stop her from quilting after she cut part of her finger off when making her first quilt — she persevered and made her second quilt as soon as she healed!

Curiosity is a necessary part of a healthy making mindset. It’s what moves us past fear. When we approach new learning opportunities with a curious mindset, our energy moves toward what could be.

When you’re afraid to make a mistake, consider:

  • Reminding yourself it’s just fabric and thread. A worst-case scenario will yield lovely scraps to be used in a future project.
  • Replacing the unknown with knowledge, by way of asking a friend (or family member, the supportive Suzy Quilts Patterns Facebook group, or Google) for help. Get curious about the many ways you can learn.
  • Imagining positive outcomes. When you’re tempted to catastrophize (what if I ruin my favorite fabric?) challenge yourself to get curious about an alternative (what if I mix patterns together and it’s visually stunning?).
6 Tips for Mindful Making: An organization rack full of spools of rainbow colored thread. #quilting suzyquilts.com

Step 4: Prioritize Decisions to Give Yourself Freedom

Viewing each choice you make as being equal in value leads to decision paralysis. Quilting requires us to make dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions as we create a project. If we labor too much over every decision, we’ll never finish a project. (Heck, we might not even start one!) 

When you find yourself agonizing over decisions, try this process:

  1. Step into the mindset of your most relaxed quilter friend. How would they approach these decisions?
  2. Rank your decisions on a 1 to 5 scale (1 being “barely matters” to 5 being “makes or breaks the quilt”).
  3. Be realistic. If every decision is ranked a 5, you’re taking it too seriously. Go back to step 1 and try again from the mindset of that super-chill friend.
  4. Give each of your ranked decisions the appropriate amount of time and effort. For example, if choosing a piecing thread is a 1, grab a spool and move on.
  5. Repeat as many times as necessary. With time, your prioritizing will become automatic. 
6 Steps for Mindful Making: A baby girl crawling on an Adventureland quilt made in pastel rainbow colors. #quilting suzyquilts.com

Step 5: Choose Joy and Mindfulness Over Productivity

We live in a capitalistic society and are conditioned to approach our hobbies like work. (Raise your hand if someone has ever said “you could sell those!” when they see your quilts.) We might think (or be persuaded) that we should finish an entire quilt each month, or that we must make a baby quilt for every kiddo we know. 

This can lead us to focus on productivity and efficiency to the detriment of our pleasure. But a healthy quilting mindset values mindfulness and joy! Try these:

  • Remember: You’re a human, not a machine. Your value comes not from efficiency but from your humanity.
  • Stay mindful of the task at hand (and the way we want to feel as we perform it), and you’ll naturally slow down to a healthy pace. If we believe we are worthy of feeling joyful as we create, we’ll take our time.
  • Mindfulness applies to our thoughts and our physical sensations. Checking in with our bodies periodically might lead to taking more breaks, and that’s essential if we want to enjoy quilting over a lifetime.
Use these 6 Steps to Mindful Making to help you stay excited and joyful to make and create through sewing, crafting or even cooking! suzyquilts.com
Use these 6 Steps to Mindful Making to help you stay excited and joyful to make and create through sewing, crafting or even cooking! suzyquilts.com
Use these 6 Steps to Mindful Making to help you stay excited and joyful to make and create through sewing, crafting or even cooking! suzyquilts.com

Above is the Hexie Stripe pattern. Get it here! Miss Maddie, the sweet little quilt model is 3 here, but now in 2023 she's 10!

Step 6: Healthy Mindful Making Focuses on Self-Respect

Guilt is perhaps the most common negative mindset among my coaching clients and quilter friends. Maybe you’re a parent, so it feels like you should meet all your family’s needs before your own. Or maybe you grew up in a family that taught cleanliness as a key value, so you feel guilty sewing when you could be tidying the house. 

Whatever the reason, I’m guessing you sometimes feel guilty when you sew. It’s time to start respecting your needs and desires! Try these:

  • Imagine your bestie is feeling guilty. What would you tell them, and how would you encourage them to get back to quilting? What’s good for them is good for you, too.
  • Consider how you would feel if someone said aloud the guilty thoughts you’re having. Would you feel disrespected? How would you respond?
  • Practice saying this to yourself: “Just as I respect my spouse’s desire to pursue their interests, I respect my desire to quilt.” Practice with a variety of people, including friends, family members, guildmates, and work colleagues. Just as you respect their desires, respect your own.
6 Steps for Mindful Making: Hands preparing to hand quilt a Fly Away quilt. #quilting suzyquilts.com

Get the Fly Away quilt pattern here! 

What Mindful Making Technique Will You Try First?

Now that you’re familiar with these challenges to mindful making and quilting, which one will you tackle first? Jump in the comments and let us know! If you’ve found other techniques that work, please share those, too – we all help each other when we share our expertise. 

Use these 6 Steps to Mindful Making to help you stay excited and joyful to make and create through sewing, crafting or even cooking! suzyquilts.com

29 thoughts on “6 Steps to Mindful Making

  1. Carrie says:

    Jenni! So many great points! I think I feel most of these at one time or another. The strong, most recurring one is: how are my IG friends churning out a quilt every weekend and it takes me months to finish one! I’m so frustrated at what feels like inability to finish. I get stuck. I get fearful. Life gets busy. On and on. The reminder that this is supposed to be fun and it should be about being present in the process is a good one. THANK YOU!

    • Jenni Grover says:

      aw carrie, i’m so glad this resonated for you! and that’s a big thing to understand about yourself – both that you’re getting stuck and not finishing, AND that you’re maybe paying too close attention to what other folks are accomplishing. i am very glad that you’re getting some clarity, which hopefully helps you get some distance from the comparison-itis.

      when it comes to wanting to finish, i’m designing an exercise to help people get clarity about what’s stopping them – would that ever be something you’d be interested in? i’m always curious to hear if folks want tools to help with challenges…

      thanks again!

  2. Emily F says:

    Soooo good! I love how quilting gives me the opportunity to practice all of these steps in a beautiful way. No wonder that quilting is therapy! I’d love to hear tips about how to manage the fabric addiction! 🤣

    • Jenni Grover says:

      emily, thank you so much! i love that this was helpful for you. yes, quilting IS therapy!

      i would love to pull together something about managing fabric addiction hee hee – do you mean how to organize your stash, or how to gain clarity on your relationship to accumulation? or both? 😉

  3. Shannon says:

    I needed to read that entire list today. I think all of them are hitting me right now. I find myself feeling bad about my quilts, fabric choices, accomplishments whenever I scroll through IG. That’s not how it should be. Thanks for the list and the suggestions.

  4. Linda says:

    I’m still having problems with cutting fabric straight…so instead of quilting a do small projects. The 2 small quilts I was so proud until I put them together..then butting on the backing, well it was just wonky. So I left one and seam ripped the other.😔

    • Jenni Grover says:

      aw linda, that’s always so hard when we get a surprise of bunching on the back! how can you take a moment and be thankful for what you’re learning, while also acknowledging your difficult feelings? all are valid!

  5. Hanneke Nelson says:

    I so needed to read this today. I am not a quilter and I don’t know if I have the patience to be one. I am halfway through a lap quilt but then my needle broke, I dropped the replacement needle in my machine and couldn’t get it out, the pandemic happened before I could my machine in for service, and so on and so forth. The lap quilt is on the WIP pile. Some day.

    But tonight I am stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the first of five pottery classes. The muse is beckoning.

    • Jenni Grover says:

      hanneke, that sounds so hard! i can understand your self-doubt. i bet your pottery classes will reinvigorate your creativity in a way that motivates you to hop back on that sewing machine 🙂 what kinds of things will you make in class?

  6. Linda says:

    Quilting has been my unexpected joy after retiring. I never would have thought I would be a quilter! And I don’t like that quilting fits my age as a stereotype! But I find it is very soothing and relaxing. It is for fun and I make myself stop if I start to get too wrapped up in productivity. I like that I can stop and go back later when I make mistakes. I like that no quilt has ever been perfect, and that’s alright. Imperfections add character.

    • Jenni Grover says:

      ah linda, i love this perspective… and that you’re able to stop when it stops being fun. can you think of any memorable imperfections that have stories behind them? i have one quilt that has a powerful blood stain on it that i remember, um, fondly? 😉

  7. Darcy Spellman says:

    Wow! I never thought a quilting email could bring me tears. As I was reading to my husband this morning, tears were streaming down my face.
    Thank you for such a thoughtful reflection!

    • Jenni Grover says:

      aw darcy, thank you so much! i love that it resonated for you. were they tears of relief? recognition? happiness? i would love to hear more – if you want to tell me more but not in the comments section, feel free to DM me on instagram @coachjennigrover. hugs!

  8. Patricia says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article today. I’m always feeling guilty because I’m thinking I should be doing more house chores. I was raised that your house should be immaculate, but we all know house work is never done. Little by little I’m beginning to focus on my joys which is sewing/quilting.

    • Jenni Grover says:

      patricia! i love that you’re liberating yourself from the housework trap! i mean, it’s great to have a clean house. but also so so great to feel creatively challenged and fulfilled. what’s one way you can start emphasizing sewing/quilting more starting tomorrow?

  9. Deborah says:

    Wow! Love your thoughts on Mindful Making! I took a quilting class right before the pandemic, then I found Suzy on Instagram! I’ve made 4 of Suzy’s patterns with 2 WIP.
    Needless to say, I’ve struggled with all the ‘isms’ you wrote about. Your 6 Steps are having me rethink my self talk! Your insight is certainly appreciated… Thank You!
    I always find inspiration from Suzyquilts! So grateful!

    • Jenni Grover says:

      aw thanks deborah. i’m so glad this was helpful. i think all of us can see ourselves in some of those isms! i mean, i can write about them cuz i’ve lived through them 😉 was there any one that you felt the most strongly about?

  10. Elemjay says:

    I like to think about the wonderful quilters of Gee’s Bend who have made such amazing art. Is it “perfect”? Maybe not – but their work has incredible impact and visual style, far beyond any narrow minded technical rules.

  11. Joan says:

    WOW this is so – I can’t even give it the emphasis it needs – great news will do for now. I’m taking this to all the other parts of my life as well and want you to know how I appreciate this and taking it to my entire life. (in baby steps of course) Thanks so much.

    • Jenni Grover says:

      joan, you’re so welcome! i’m thrilled that it resonates for you so much. i agree, this is advice you can take to any area of your life for sure. care to share one of the baby steps you’ll try? for an example, a thing i’m trying to do lately is just sew for at least 10 minutes a day. keeping it nice and simple, but even on really hectic work days, i want to take those 10 minutes.

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