I have just finished the top of my second quilt and it is the first one that I designed myself. The first quilt I made was an easy one from a kit and consisted of rectangles sewn together in rows. I picked out the fabric and cut it how I was told and I sewed it together how I was told. There was no creativity involved. The only design challenge was putting the rectangles together so that identical fabric pieces didn’t wind up next to each other, and I had my fourteen year old do that part.
I hate ripping out stitches. I really hate it. I generally hate making mistakes but ripping out stitches makes me particularly irritated. It’s not just that I have to undo something that I took the time to do, but I also have to spend time ripping out tiny stitches that have often been stitched on top of each other. The fabric frays, I poke my finger with the seam ripper, and I get a headache from staring at little grey lines on top of grey fabric. Sure I could increase the stitch length and not back up the stitches, but that would require me changing my mindset to knowing I would fail and knowing I would have to redo the edges, and I refuse to see myself as a failure. So I do it the hard way. Every time I have to rip out stitches I growl and grunt and whine and moan and walk up and down the stairs and turn up “Shake It Off,” and eventually it gets done properly. Yah I measure twice and cut once but things don’t always work out, especially if the number you thought you were supposed to measure to was wrong in the first place.
I don’t have a problem deleting any of my writing. I deleted 3,000 words this morning in two seconds and it didn’t bother me at all. They weren’t good words when put together. Spending ten minutes ripping out a seam makes me crazy but hitting delete makes me think that I’m improving on what I had, not wasting what I did wrong. Ripping out seams involves finding a mistake, admitting that mistake (this gets harder the more often I make mistakes), gathering supplies to remove the mistake, and finally redoing it the right way. Rewriting involves thinking and rewriting, that’s it. No supplies needed. Maybe making sewing mistakes will ultimately improve my sewing ability, but making mistakes in a sewing project actually makes the item worse; you’re weakening the fabric every time you rip out a seam. But rewriting makes the final product so much better.
So as I ripped out three seams this morning, I thought about how much I like to delete words and rewrite scenes. They don’t feel like mistakes. They’re not always better but they are another step on the road to better.