3 Steps to Let Go of Guilt About Quilting

3 Steps to help you let go of guilt when pursuing your creative passions - suzyquilts.com

Have you ever felt guilty about quilting? If so, you’re in good company. As a coach for quilters and makers, guilt is the most common issue among my clients! Many of us quilters feel guilty when we choose our craft over chores or spending time with family and friends. You might even let guilt stop you in your tracks completely — and never make the time to quilt. In this post, I’ll go over my tried and true steps to let go of quilting guilt!

Hear me out: When we let guilt stop us, we’re actually doing harm to ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. We have passion, artistry, beauty, and gifts to share that can make the world a better place. Guilt keeps us from exploring these things! 

This time of year, many of us are making New Year’s resolutions to try on new habits that feel like they might limit our quilting even more. That is, only if we let them. Today I’ll explain why guilt keeps us from creating, and give you some steps to take to let go of guilt about quilting, once and for all.
Suzy Quilts PURE Solids Fabric

Pictured above: Suzy Quilts PURE Solids in Poppy, Spiced, Shrimpy, Snapdragon, Haze, and Velvet

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What is Guilt?

In her excellent book Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, Brené Brown says, “Guilt is an emotion that we experience when we fall short of our own expectations or standards.” Whether we notice something we’ve done wrong or someone tells us we’ve hurt them, guilt feels terrible. We feel it not only in our mind and heart, but also in our gut; guilt can make us feel physically sick.

When we feel guilty for doing something wrong, we want to take corrective action — to do something that will make things right. We might apologize, do something nice to make up for our action/inaction, and work on changing our behavior. In this way, guilt can be instructive and relationship-strengthening, even if it feels bad temporarily.

Guilt is a Limiting Feeling

But here’s the thing: Unless you’ve abandoned your child by the side of the road to go on a quilt retreat with friends, you probably haven’t actually done anything you need to feel guilty for!

So why do so many quilters feel guilty? 

Clients frequently tell me that many other things (like chores or parenting responsibilities) are more important than quilting. We learn this belief from watching our parents sacrifice their personal interests, or we pick up messages from our peers who make that self-sacrificing choice. 

But I believe that quilting is equally as important as chores or parenting responsibilities. Your quilting practice brings you joy, generates quilts that comfort people, and honors your creative spirit. When you choose to pursue your passion, you’re modeling for your family and friends that you matter. You’re demonstrating how valuable creative work is. And you’re teaching them how vital it is to honor their own creativity and personal passions.
Sugar POP Quilt Pattern

Pictured above: Sugar POP quilt pattern

Guilt Trips Preempt Creativity

Allow me to introduce you to a little thing called a “guilt trip.” It’s when someone preemptively makes you feel guilty before you’ve done anything wrong. This could be a family member or friend who wants your time and energy. Or it could be your own inner critic, repeating messages from your childhood or other past experiences. 

Either way, a guilt trip accomplishes the same thing: It makes you choose someone else over yourself — and your quilts. 

You might go on regular guilt trips if you are:

  1. A caretaker. You might be caring for aging family members, or work in a healthcare career that requires long hours and lots of responsibility for others’ wellbeing. If you’re a caretaker, it can feel important to deprioritize personal time in favor of caring for others. 

  2. A peacemaker. In some families, children are taught they’re responsible for making and keeping everyone happy. That behavior echoes throughout adulthood until a person learns their own happiness matters, too.

  3. A parent. If you have children, it’s hard to wrestle with balancing their needs with your own, especially given our cultural history. 

Some combination of numbers 1 to 3. If you’re reading this, the odds are extremely high that you’re at least two if not all three of the above.
Sugar POP Quilts

Pictured above: Sugar POP quilt pattern

What Happens When We Let Go of Guilt About Quilting?

If you identify as any of the above, get ready because you’re about to get free from guilt! When we let go of guilt about quilting, we feel a sense of joyful release. Our creative time feels more natural and relaxed because we’re not rushing to squeeze in scraps of quilting time. Instead of feeling small and constrained, we feel expansive and abundant.

This is possible for you! It will take effort and a mindset shift. Here are three steps to get you started. You will likely need to repeat these steps several times before you start to do less guilt-tripping.

Step 1: Get Real About Why You Feel Guilty

Do a little journaling or talk with a friend (or therapist) about why you feel guilty about quilting. Is someone explicitly telling you that you’re wrong for wanting to spend time in your sewing space? Are they guilt-tripping you with their actions? Or is your inner critic speaking up, preempting creative time with unhelpful messages? Are you repeating self-sacrificing actions you grew up observing in a parent? 

I want you to honestly document the impact of your quilting. How bad is it to skip some housework, in the long run? Try to be objective – I know it might be stressful to consider, but reflect on the actual cost. And then take note: How do you benefit if you prioritize your quilting?

And as you think about New Year’s resolutions you’re pursuing, ask if the pressure to succeed is tricking you into feeling guilty about quilting. It may be tempting to replace creative time with exercise, meditation, or meal planning — but you don’t have to. New habits can form alongside your quilting habit, which is essential to your well-being. 

Finally, take note: What good things does quilting give you? Do you feel joy, satisfaction, stress relief, or fun? A feeling of belonging in a community? A sense of worthiness? Write it all down. 

Looking at all of this real, essential information, can you see how guilt is getting in the way of your joy?

Step 2: Determine What Growth Action You’ll Take

Now that you’re clear about the reasons for your guilty feelings, it’s time to take action. Your guilt is giving you the opportunity to learn about yourself and grow through this!

Some growth actions to consider:

  • Read interviews with quilters you respect and admire. Imagine you’re talking with them about guilt — do they let it stop them? Put yourself in their shoes and act like they do in their practice. 

  • Tell your friends and family members you’re working to let go of guilt about quilting. Focus not on blaming anyone, but on the results you want to achieve by releasing guilt. They might not know you’ve been letting guilt get in your way, or that they’ve been accidentally contributing to your guilty feelings. You could get some much-needed support.

  • Recognize how New Year’s resolutions can support your quilting, not limit it. For example, if you’re sleeping better, you’ll have more energy during the day for designing new projects. Or if you’re giving up your evening glass of wine, you’ll be more clear-eyed to do some hand stitching before bed. 

  • Make a list of things guilt has stolen from you. Then cross through each item on the list, and write next to it what you’re taking back. 

  • Imagine how you would respond if a friend told you they were letting guilt keep them from quilting. You might say something like, “Guilt is keeping you from pursuing your passions — please remember your happiness matters, too.” Practice saying that to yourself once a day, and anytime you feel guilt creeping up.

Chicago Quilt Pattern

Pictured above: Sugar POP quilt pattern

Step 3: Practice… and Model Healthy Behavior

The third step is sometimes the hardest: Implementing new behavior. It will take time and practice; don’t beat yourself up if you fall back into old habits. Just dust yourself off and get in there again. 

It’s the same with New Year’s resolutions! Research shows approximately 80% of them fail, mostly because we think if we don’t stick to them perfectly, we should give up. But whether it’s quilting, flossing, stretching, or eating more veggies, perfectly executing New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, consistent effort — and patience when we’re imperfect — leads to a guilt-free way to approach habits. 

Here’s an idea that motivates me when I’m trying on a new behavior: When you take loving, self-respecting action, you’re modeling healthy behavior for others. Your kids, partner, friends, family, neighbors… by seeing you, they’ll learn that they can do the same for themselves. When you let go of guilt about quilting (as hard as that might be) you’re teaching your loved ones it’s healthy and normal for them to do the same.

How Will You Let Go of Guilt about Quilting?

Now that you know a bit more about where guilt comes from — and some ways to release it — what’s the first step you’ll take to do so? Let me and your community support you by sharing in the comments below.

3 Steps to help you let go of guilt when pursuing your creative passions - suzyquilts.com

34 thoughts on “3 Steps to Let Go of Guilt About Quilting

  1. catherinenicolecampbell says:

    Wow, did I need to read this! What a refreshing perspective on quilting and the inevitable guilt we may feel while doing so, which only sucks the fun out of an activity that should be freeing and restorative. As an introvert with extroverted kids, it can be hard to pry myself away to quilt (both physically AND mentally- thank you, “guilt trip”). I’ve never thought about how my taking the time to focus on something for myself could be a positive behavior model for my kids- mind blown! Great article, and thank you so much for sharing 🙂

    • Louise kronister says:

      Thank you. So meaningful. I have this little magnet that I love, it says, “when I learned to quilt, I tried to find a man who could cook and iron.”. So important to have a spouse or significant other who appreciates time doing other things and helps with those chores. Lol

      • Jenni Grover says:

        yes! it’s important for us to feel that we’re in partnership with our spouses/partners. there’s always trade-offs. we can help each other!

    • Jenni Grover says:

      i am thrilled that this was so helpful, catherine! i wish i had written it for myself for, like, 10 years ago when i started quilting. 🙂 i would love to hear how this mindset shift helps you, so feel free to come back here and keep me posted!

  2. Sandra Schwartz says:

    Thanks Suzy,

    I really needed this talk on guilt. Haven’t sat at my quilting table in over 17 months for many reasons, but this article on “guilt” has made me realize what’s going on. Thank you so much
    You have helped me more than you can ever know. God bless you.

    • Dawn Moore says:

      I’m with you. I haven’t been quilting and couldn’t figure out why until I read this article and realized I was guilting myself. I keep letting myself down every time I don’t quilt. Thank you for this article. The first step for me to implement what I learned in this article is to clear off my table and organize myself just a little so I can finish a few UFO’s.

      • Jenni Grover says:

        oh i’m really excited to hear this powerful realization, dawn! and i love that you have a clear next step to try. have you given it a go yet?

    • Jenni Grover says:

      sandra, thank you so so much for sharing that. i love that this article resonated for you. what will you get back to work on today? please come back here and keep us posted on how it goes! 😉

  3. Deb says:

    thank you so much for words well written. we all need a new perspective sometimes and i think you have done a brilliant job of it. a good read and a lot of good sense. thank you dear lady.

      • Susan says:

        One day my therapist asked me, “What is it,really, that prevents you from allowing yourself to play?” That was a rabbit hole I fell into and have yet to emerge.
        Guilt is certainly one of the reasons keeping me from playing with fabric. Until my “room” is clean, I can’t play. That “room” might be my sewing space, laundry, or housekeeping.
        Thanks for shedding new light on an old problem.

  4. Marcia Gardner says:

    I like this topic too. Mainly feeling guilty because of household chores and yard work. Yet I can get into that “just one more square or row “ (I knit too) and next thing I know it is dark outside. Luckily I am retired now and my husband doesn’t mind a messy house.

    • Jenni Grover says:

      sometimes we need to appreciate the mess because we know it allowed us to be creative 🙂 what a great lesson for us all, thanks marcia!

  5. Angie says:

    As a caregiver, I feel guilt when I work one day a week at our local fabric store or go into my sewing area to quilt. I realize I need this time away from him for myself and him from me but it doesn’t make it any easier to not feel guilty. I picked up cross stitch again to help when I have a little time and can sit quietly while he’s watching tv. Guilt is a hard emotion to let go but after reading this article, I know it’s what I need to do to make my life better so I can take care of my loved one without losing patience and me.

    • Jenni Grover says:

      oh angie, big hugs. thanks for sharing this with us. i’m glad this resonated and that you feel ready to prioritize yourself, too.

  6. Leigh says:

    Oh boy I definitely needed this read – I have recently started a long arm quilt business but am over anxious before any quilt I do that I am not worthy and guilt ridden that I am not spending time with husband and planning our time in retirement. Guilt turns to anger and frustration and creativity is lost. I think it’s time I had that talk with myself! Thankyou.

    • Jenni Grover says:

      leigh, thanks for sharing this perspective! what’s the first thing you might change based on what you’ve learned? please come back and keep me (us) posted on how it goes 🙂

  7. Colleen says:

    Really great advice. I always have a long to-do list, and I always feel like if I am quilting, I am not being “productive”. This past holiday vacation, I made a large Christmas quilt from start to finish. It felt amazing, and I was super proud of myself. I vowed that in 2024, one of my resolutions would be to quilt more often, and improve my skills. It was obvious my mental health benefited from my quilting time.

    • Jenni Grover says:

      i am THRILLED that you’ve come to this realization. quilting can give us so so many benefits, including improved mental health. it sounds like you’re off to a great start!

  8. Melinda F Jackson says:

    May I repost your excellent article on our Sacramento Art Quilt Guild page? Your insights and action plan spoke to me.

  9. Nancy Bonaguro says:

    Thank you for your article. I’m 69 years old and still feel guilty about quilting. This year will be a change. Thanks for your help.

  10. Sara Charchian says:

    This is such a great post! Thank you! Also, do you have a bundle for the fabrics in the red/blue POP quilt at the top of this post? I’m in love with it!

    • Jenni Grover says:

      you’re so welcome! i’m thrilled to hear it. and i defer to suzy or laura on the answer to that question about fabrics…

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Hi Sara! We’re glad you like the quilt! We do not sell fabric here at Suzy Quilts, so our best suggestion is to show a picture of the quilt to an employee at your local quilt shop. They would love to help you choose similar fabrics!

  11. brneyedone says:

    Self love and self care are so important. We have to do something that brings us joy.. keep our cup full so we can effectively survive the other aspects of life! 😀

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