Tag Archives: Making

Instagram Envy

Research shows that using social media can lead to feelings of depression, which are most likely spurred by envy. When those we follow post fabulous pictures of their lives, their bodies, or their work, it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up by comparison.

I don’t get that sense for myself on Facebook. After all, I purposely keep my “friends” list short, and almost exclusively people I know in real life. And they are really ordinary, ordinarily wonderful people, just like me!

But I’ll admit to some Instagram envy. I don’t know most of the people I follow there, and some of them are stars! They are creative and productive and seem soooo nice!

In Facebook, I scoff at those with large friends lists. After all, who could really have 400+ friends they feel connected to? On Instagram, I yearn for a large following!

In the New York Times, Alex Williams wrote about Instagram envy: Instagram

is about unadulterated voyeurism. It is almost entirely a photo site, with a built-in ability (through the site’s retro-style filters) to idealize every moment, encouraging users to create art-directed magazine layouts of their lives, as if everyone is suddenly Diana Vreeland.  …

Viewers, meanwhile, are expected to let the sumptuous photos wash over them and chip in with comments (“Gorgeous sunset!”) and heart-shape “likes,” which function as a form of social currency, reinforcing the idea that every shot is a performance worthy of applause. The result is an online culture where the ethic is impress, rather than confess  …

Envy, of course, doesn’t operate in a social vacuum. It needs an object of desire. And everyone, it seems, has that friend on Instagram: the one with the perfect clothes and the perfect hair and seemingly perfect life — which seem all the more perfect when rendered in the rich teals and vivid ambers of Instagram’s filters.

Some of the quilters I follow post tens of photos a week, of works in progress, finished quilts, or even just cute sayings with the background of a cutting mat. They’re all perfectly framed and lit. How do they have time to do that, AND to get so much work done?

And in terms of envy, the important question is, how am I failing in comparison? After all, this is my last post in Instagram:

My big left toe, protruding through my holy sock.

And goodness, that was two weeks ago!

So what’s a person to do? Should we opt out of Facebook and Instagram and the other media that feed us idealized images? For some people, that might be the right answer.

For me, it helps to remember that I follow some people because they are so creative and productive! They see the world, or at least their realm in it, in new ways, and that is why they are interesting. I don’t need to envy them, any more than I envy Michelangelo or Picasso or Joan Didion or Shonda Rhimes. I can take inspiration, instead.

And here is the important part: rather than sink into envy, we can just keep making. We can compare our skills and what we make to ourselves at earlier dates. And in that comparison, we can take pride in how much we’ve progressed.

The other day in comments, a quilter asked me, “I’m almost afraid to start! What advice have you for a novice quilter like me? The second thing is how do you manage the time to make a dozen or more quilts per year ?”

I told her:

I can make so many quilts partly because I’ve made so many quilts. 🙂 When I started, I had to think thru every step of the process, which makes it quite slow. The other part is that I’m retired and don’t have a lot of other obligations. My closest family members live more than an hour away, so we don’t spend time with them every few days. How I use my time is for me to choose, and I regularly choose quilting.

Please don’t every doubt your ability to create a good enough quilt! Quilts are beautiful, regardless of how technically perfect they are or even how aesthetically well-designed they are. They are beautiful because they are unique creations. And if you wish to compare, only compare to your own work from previous times. Are you getting better at it? AWESOME! That’s the measure you should use.

If you find the process intimidating at first, go ahead and imitate other people’s work. Use patterns. Learn the process. Spend time looking carefully at color combinations, to see what you like and don’t like. Take a few classes. But most of all, make. Just keep making. Make small pieces, if that helps you get from start to finish. Placemats and table runners are a good way to learn some techniques. Wall hangings are good for learning some design. Baby quilts are always needed by someone, and are a manageable size for most. Be gentle on yourself. Just keep making!

My life and experience are not the same as her life, and also not the same as some of those stars I follow on Instagram. Some of them are making their living at quilting, teaching, and designing. They have to treat it as a full-time job to succeed in that world. I don’t want to work that hard! So I shouldn’t expect my output (or apparent evidence of it) will match theirs.

Envy like this isn’t very useful. Next time I feel envious of my Instagram stars, I need to remind myself how much their lives must suck. 😉 Their travel time is reserved for work, while mine is for fun; their making time is to develop and test patterns, while mine is for fun; their promotional activities are driven by their income needs, while I can just have fun. THEY should envy ME!! 😀


The Curse of Echo

Long ago in the time of gods and goddesses, there was a mountain nymph named Echo. She lived on Mount Cithaeron with other nymphs. One of their frequent visitors was Zeus, who … ahem … enjoyed the company of the beautiful sprites.

Zeus’s wife, Hera, was a jealous type, and she followed Zeus to the mountain one day. Echo stopped her, talking so much and so fast that Zeus had time to get away. In her anger, Hera cursed Echo. The curse? From then on, Echo could never speak for herself, but could only repeat the last few words spoken to her by someone else.

How awful that curse would be, without ability to speak for herself! Yet many quilters choose just this way, only repeating designs made by others.

I see it in Instagram, under the #medallionquilt hashtag. While there are beautiful medallions of a wide variety shown there, Marcelle medallion, Aviatrix, and others show up time and time again. Some designers even specify every fabric and color, so you can duplicate their work!

And of course, it doesn’t only happen with medallion quilts. It happens with many successful quilt patterns and kits. The designer’s voice may be heard, but the maker is silent, except for an echo.

I struggle with my thoughts on this. On the one hand, it’s fantastic that people want to make. I think most are perfectly happy making something with a recipe or paint-by-number method. They really do want quilt patterns and knitting patterns and counted cross-stitch and woodworking patterns. They will follow those patterns exactly, often in the same colors or materials. They will enjoy the process as long as it works. If they love doing this, and they are putting beauty and good into the world, who am I to criticize?

On the other hand, I want other people to experience themselves more completely, and to feel comfortable sharing expressions from their soul. The quilts I see that are most powerful, that touch me most, are also designed by their maker. And honestly, it doesn’t matter much if they’re technically strong or not. The maker’s voice comes through.

Self-expression is powerful, but it’s also scary. It can leave us open to failure and criticism. It can make us feel like our efforts or resources are wasted if the end product isn’t as we imagined. Why open yourself up to problems like that? It’s safer to do something with a known result.

I know a little bit about risk and reward. My career was in investment management. If you stick with the safe option, you won’t lose much, but there is not much to gain, either. The farther out you go on the risk scale, the more potential there is for loss. But when things go right, the rewards are great.

Believe it or not, I’m pretty risk averse. While I don’t use patterns, I have trouble pushing myself to do brand-new things. Instead, I keep pushing at the edges, so I’m learning new skills and not making the same thing time after time. (That would be an echo, too!) I’ve had to convince myself that any efforts can’t end in complete failure. If nothing else, I’ll have learned an important lesson. That helps me take on “risk” in quilting with a more open attitude. Trying something, not knowing if it will work out, and learning from the experience is exciting, like an adventure!

Don’t be like Echo. Use your own voice to tell your own story. What’s the worst that could happen?




Making and Sharing

Writing, making music, painting, dancing, weaving, sculpting, quilting, creating garments, telling stories. Humans are creative beings. But even when we create “original” work, we cannot help but be inspired by others.

It is easy to note inspirations for the product of our efforts. I’m inspired by other quilters and their work, by color combinations I see in nature, by rows of brightly painted cottages along a canal, by aboriginal art.

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired in other ways, too. I’m inspired in how to make, as well as what to make. Hearing how someone’s work habits help them produce more and better art inspires me to consider my own work habits. For example, it’s easy to get stuck in the midst of a project, ultimately putting it away and moving on to something else. (How else are UFOs created?) Elizabeth Barton suggests pecking away at it with “one a day.”  If you break your project into small parts and only commit to doing one small part a day, as long as you persist, you will finish your project.

Like the old aphorism, “writers write,” makers make. Last year I shared with you the rules for working as laid out by Corita Kent. According to Kent, the only rule is work.

Another aspect of making is sharing. Austin Kleon has written the book on sharing as a means of improving in your art. Show Your Work is based on ten principles of creating and sharing. They are

  1. You don’t have to be a genius.
  2. Think process, not product.
  3. Share something small every day.
  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
  5. Tell good stories.
  6. Teach what you know.
  7. Don’t turn into human spam.
  8. Learn to take a punch.
  9. Sell out.
  10. Stick around.

Five of those resonate with me in particular. Process, not product; share, tell good stories, and teach; and stick around. The one at which I do worst is sharing, especially on a regular basis. I often wait until a project is nearly done before showing it here. Why? In truth, a big reason is I’m not a photographer. I don’t enjoy it and I’m not good at it, and I don’t like interrupting my creative time to document what I’m doing. And while I usually can articulate why I’m making the decisions I make, I hesitate to spend the time to share that with you, especially while the decisions are in process. But the result is I often share product, not process. This gives the illusion that a product sprung from my brain and my sewing machine as a completed work. It didn’t…

Here is a project that has been both easy and hard. The top is complete, approximately 43″ x 48″. I need to contemplate how to quilt it. Binding likely will be in teal.


This post is not the one in which to share process. However, this post is the one in which to pledge to share more process, more often.

I pledge to share my work in process,
and thoughts about that process, more often. 

Making and sharing. Both.