Just Wanna Have Fun…

Count on me to overanalyze, right? What is “fun,” and how can we have more of it? As a noun, the Google dictionary says that “fun” is “enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.” Ah, the lighthearted pleasure. That’s what I want! I want to quilt for fun.

Other sources give lists of ways to increase that pleasure. (Google “how to have more fun in art” for links.) They include things like creating the right environment (light, music, beautiful things surrounding you, the right amount of neatness for your comfort); sharing the process with others, or keeping it private so critics won’t disturb you; trying new things; finding inspiration in travel, museums, nature; quieting your inner critic; and on they go. We’ve talked about all these things before.

For me, the keys are fairly simple: make to please myself, even if the project is for someone else; and don’t over-plan, but allow for spontaneity and serendipity.

Making for obligations can kill fun, don’t you think? If you’re making because someone else has expectations, you’re working to please them. That can be deeply satisfying, but maybe not fun. And those expectations can kill spontaneity, or the sense of play, too.

Just this morning I happened to read Amanda Jean Nyberg’s latest blog post. She’s famous for the blog Crazy Mom Quilts and the book Sunday Morning Quilts. Her designs are cheery, scrappy, and mostly simple. I don’t follow her blog and it was a fluke that I dropped in. The thing is, it isn’t just her latest post, it is her LAST blog post. She is retiring. Why? Because she’s spent the last 12 years quilting and writing and designing and teaching to make other people happy, to meet obligations. When she announced the decision in December, she said, “I am certainly looking forward to quilting and sewing, but doing it for FUN rather than with obligation.”

See? for FUN rather than with obligation.

Over the years, I’ve come a long way in quilting for fun. In the first part of my quilting life (2003-2013,) I gave away almost everything I made. Though I enjoyed the process, I was creating to please other people. In the middle of 2013 I made the first quilt for myself, and it was a breakthrough for me. You can see in the caption that I even named it “My Medallion Quilt.”

My Medallion Quilt. 2013. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

After that, fewer of my quilts were made for specific people, reducing my sense of obligation there. However, I created a whole new obligation on the blog! I used it specifically as a teaching tool, both for myself and my readers. I’m proud of the work I did, and you can find a lot of the fruits of it under the Medallion Lessons link. Between that and my writing for a book on medallion quilts, a lot of time was spent on serious effort, not lighthearted pleasure.

Well, that book is never going to be published. Its window of opportunity has come and gone. And I’m done creating for the purpose of writing tutorials. If you have questions or need help, please do ask. I’m still happy to answer questions as I can.

I’m also done worrying about what picture to use, or the quality of photos, or the hashtags silliness in Instagram. If people find my stuff, that’s great. If not, I’ll still be making stuff, and at least for now, still sharing it here.

This afternoon a package came. It holds a set of longarm quilting rulers. One of them is perfect to help me finish the quilt I currently have on the frame. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have some fun!




26 thoughts on “Just Wanna Have Fun…

  1. tierneycreates

    Quilting for fun sounds awesome! I’ve committed to a couple things and then I want to quilt for fun too! I love your plan to make things that please you and not to over plan!

  2. KerryCan

    Don and I were just having this conversation. We sell some of our weaving on Etsy and, against my better judgment, I agreed to make custom placemats for a guy. I love making these particular mats but he wants different dimensions, and a sort of nothing pale gray color, and I find I am worrying more than enjoying. No more custom work!!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’m with you on that. I have no interest in making commissioned quilts. I don’t even much like making quilts for family/friends when they have expressed specific preferences.

  3. thimblesandteapots

    I think that letting go is key. I am terrible at it. We had to make Christmas presents this year and, although it was lovely to do, I did find it stressful as I wasn’t really sewing for myself. I actually lost sleep over it! So I think that just creating for myself is super important. I finished a quilt for my friend recently. It took me two years but I’ve loved every minute of it 🙂 and I sewed all my wishes for her into it. If I sold quilts or made lots for others I can’t imagine that it would be the same.

  4. snarkyquilter

    I think much of fun is letting go – of expectations, rules, and self-criticism. It may lead to some less than stellar results at times, but if the process was fun, does it matter?

  5. Debbi

    You go girl! I do enjoy reading your thoughtful blog posts, so for my sake I hope you feel they are fun or worthwhile to continue. We do need to lighten the load on shoulds and obligations but find balance with joyful ness and fun.

  6. Chela's Colchas y Mas

    Melanie, thank you for this post. You have addressed the topic that has had me frustrated. Every quilt I have made has been made for someone else. Each member of my family has one or more quilts. I have also donated quilts to charity and to the community. I know my family likes the quilts I have made them, but they really do not need anymore quilts. I have been trying to justify making another quilt. My sister has told me that my quilts are my art and that I should enjoy making them as my art, and not for someone or some particular purpose. After reading your blog, I have finally given myself permission to make quilts just for the fun and love of creating something out of fabric. Thank you! I look forward to your future posts. I love hearing what you have to say, and I love your work.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks so much for your kind comments! And yes, do enjoy making the quilts, and don’t feel compelled to give them all away. Make one special for yourself! I’ve seen the sentiment put something like this: no one asked (famous painter) who his next painting was for. Quilting is somewhat different because there is an assumption of utility, AND because most famous painters are/were men, and most quilters are women!! WE are supposed to do for OTHER people, not ourselves, right? 🙂 Naw. Enjoy making for the sake of making. Thanks again.

  7. jeanswenson

    Amen. Someone recently suggested to me that I should be selling my quilts instead of donating them. I explained that the reason I donated was twofold. The first is because my Mom had been a hoarder and I find it cathartic to “let things go”. The second and bigger reason is that my heart and soul compel me to donate to Foster kids. And the best part of donating? They have no expectations on what I create, which as an artist is so liberating! I periodically make gifted quilts,but I’m running out of friends and family that I haven’t already made one for.
    Before I retired, I did graphics design and it was oftentimes such a buzz-kill to have to design what the customer wants!
    Have a “FUN” 2019. I plan to do the same 😎

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Really key thoughts in your comment about donation quilts. I usually make pretty simple ones for donation, but it’s still important to me that they be attractive. There are real people receiving them! 🙂 But the fact that they don’t have expectations is part of the enjoyment of making. As to selling quilts, Jim and I have long talked about my selling a few of them — NOT making it a business — but frankly, even the effort in doing that seems like more than I care to do. Thanks for the good wishes!

  8. piecefulwendy

    I started blogging just to chat about what I was making. The more I learned about blogging, the more I felt I had to do this and that to gain followers, get up there in the SEO junk, etc., and now I’m closer to where you are. I have gained some wonderful friends through my blog, and I hope I meet more, but seriously, I really just want to sew for fun. Enjoy those rulers!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the stats, and kind of intoxicating. But it’s one of the least important things unless you make your income on it. And like you I’ve met some wonderful people here, which helps to make it all worth it! Thanks much.

  9. melfunk

    I agree with you!!! It is one reason I do not have a business for quilting. I create for others, but I do not make it a point to go and find. Go and enjoy the quilting process.

  10. katechiconi

    Bravo! Go forth and enjoy. Stuff the expectations, deadlines, obligations and ‘rules’. Make something beautiful that satisfies your soul. I’m going to hang onto those pesky deadlines because they’re good for me; I need the discipline of an end date and a bit of pressure to make me knuckle down and do some work, or I’ll simply waft around picking things up and putting them down, or spend three hours doodling. But I get a lot of enjoyment out of exceeding my own expectations and doing something really tough that I have no idea how to achieve, so there’s space for all sorts of different kinds of fun, isn’t there?

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I think wafting around and doodling are perfectly good occupations, as long as they don’t fill all the time! 🙂 But I’m with you: doing something really tough that I have no idea how to achieve IS fun. It’s great brain work, if nothing else. Thanks.


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