Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Little Less Pretty and a Little More Real

On Sunday, after guild, Sheila and I went out for coffee and got to talking about the seemingly high level of "pretty" and "perfect" we've been seeing in the crafty world on blogs and social media. There has always been some level of perfectionism but it seems to have hit an all-time high and I've noticed (especially on Instagram) a proliferation of perfectly placed and filtered photos. I have definitely been guilty of this myself on a few occasions, and I can't help but think that by portraying our lives as shiny and pretty all of the time that we may be doing a disservice to our community.

I know, from talking to numerous bloggers and crafty peeps, that these not-quite-true glimpses into our lives lead to feelings of inferiority and to people feeling that they don't quite measure up to what they see online - this is not a good thing. Of course, every person's blog and social media space is, just that, their own space and nobody should feel that they can't show their lives the way they want to - heck, I'm not going to start photographing the dust that accumulates on the TV for y'all. But it's not really about not showing the bad, it's about over-gilding the rest to make it prettier than it actually is. My life is incredibly un-pretty most of the time.

To honour that, I am going to share some of the not-so-pretty, but very real, in my own life.


This is my kitchen and this is where I sew. I don't have a studio or even a corner - the sewing machine and ironing board get packed away as I finish each project. There is food on the counter from Alex's mum, a mop in the corner, a phone book under the cabinet, and I use an extension cord in order to plug my machine and iron into the one outlet our kitchen has. This is just the way it is.


I cut fabric on the living room floor. I'm sure this is very bad for my back, but it's a good space. Usually I watch TV shows or movies on the TV or laptop while cutting - yesterday, while prepping a new tutorial, it was Supernatural. That there is my scrap box and it lives under the couch along with many of my tools. The giant cutting board slides in behind the couch when not being used.


The stash...yep, it ain't pretty! And yes, this is it. There's some fabric in the little wire shelf unit and in the purple canvas boxes on the floor (solids and packaging materials in one and voile, lawn, and some other miscellaneous bits in the other). And yes, that's my "design wall" curling over in the picture - I haven't used it in an age because it obviously doesn't work and should really just take that batting down (oh, and can I just mention that that's not actually batting either - it's Insul-Bright. Yep. Oy).


Yarn stash. All stashed in the den on the back of the door in an organizer designed for hanging shoes. Well, hey now, I thought this was pretty ingenious when I came up with it. There's got to be other people out there who thought of this before me though, right?


My poor ugly, ugly feet! This is why there has only been one time (that I can think of) that my feet have shown up on this blog without socks on... everybody is always taking pictures of blocks and things that have little peeks of their feet in them and I always think "cute!" but then I look at my own feet and I think "ugh". I even have a half tan across each foot right now from wearing moccasins... oh ya, that's a good look. My nail polish is kinda fun but that's about it - actually, to be utterly truthful, I still can't decide if I like that polish or not and I've been wearing it for close to a week.

I miss the community that was actually a community where people talked and became friends, where it wasn't about outdoing your neighbour, and where sharing was more than just pretty pictures. And maybe that loss of community has been what has made the "perfect" stand out even more to me now, and maybe the "perfect" is a product of our fast paced lives where we aren't necessarily reading blogs so much anymore, but are rather just looking at the pictures (and of course, this is the whole premise that Instagram is based on).

I know that there are many people who won't necessarily agree with me, people who do, and people who half-agree (I think I covered you all, haha!) but even now, having only just finished writing, I feel better for having said what was on my mind. I would really like to hear what you think whether you agree, whether your sorta-kinda-agree, or whether you think I am flat out crazy.

33 comments:

  1. I've never commented here before, I don't think, but I'm de-lurking to say THANK YOU! I absolutely love it when all you amazing, inspiring, creative types show the real-life side of things. It makes me feel so much better about myself! Thank you so much!

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  2. I do agree that the perfection of perfection has become the art rather than the art itself. but yet I do enjoy the "pretty". it inspires me more than the truth sometimes, because while our lives are always busy, loud and messy, I like the filter of pretty to kind of drown out the white noise if you will. it's okay to escape now and then but one must know and realize it is just an escape not a cover up. feeling bad about yourself because of someone else's pretty is called envy. you choose to be envious or content. I am content to look at others pretty.

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  3. First of all, kudos to you for your beautiful creativity with no sewing "space." And cutting on the floor! Owie!
    And I agree! Every time I take pics to post on my blog I check surrounding areas because, "what will people think!" I'm going to stop doing that! It is what it is, baby!!! And thanks for that post!

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  4. I love to see pretty pictures, but yes - it makes me feel like I am somewhat lacking. My carpet has iron prints from the cat jumping up on my ironing board and my sewing area looks like a bomb exploded (a fabric bomb, that is!) It's good to know not everyone really lives in those perfect pictures we see every day, and that reality is very different! Thank you for being real with us!

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  5. I've actually noticed several bloggers talking about this lately, doing a post to show the real side of their lives. It's good to be honest about the challenges we face in our craft and as people. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with presenting ourselves and our projects in the best light possible. I think there has to be a balance there.

    I think my biggest struggle has been trying to make my projects what I think will appeal to the rest of the online sewing community, especially when participating in contests and sew alongs. It becomes such a burden when you feel you have to figure out what everyone's going to like. I'm learning (and constantly relearning), that while it's great to share my work with friends online, it's okay to sew for myself...to make things I love in the way that I want to make them. It's amazing how that one lesson alone can set you free.

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  6. What a good, truthful post!
    I had never really thought about it like that before. It is a very good point. I am going to try to be a little more real on my blog too. Although I still love looking at the pretty pictures and will still try my best to make life more beautiful, I will do my utmost to be humble and encouraging to others and definitely show the real side too. =]

    Ha ha! It seems you've got us all contemplating life. =]
    Thanks!
    Marguerite

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  7. I am finding that you almost have to have at least some pretty on your blog because, unfortunately, people don't want to come to it if you don't (I get around this is my head because my "pretty" pictures are helping me with my photography!). Life is not perfect; life is messy! Most of us figured that out the day we had kids if we didn't already know it in the first place! Do you know what's interesting to me about blogs with "optimum pretty"? I like to go there for inspiration and to see their pictures but I don't feel a close tie with the people who own them. I have almost drawn a line between two groups of crafty/quilty blogs; one set are often the overly pretty and striving for perfection, but I usually don't expect to really develop any type of online friendship with them. The other is my crafty community. They create beauty as well but have more meat and bones type blogs. These are the people who will have an email conversation with me about a certain type of thread, or who send me something extra in the mail because I mentioned I liked it. I just had an email convo with someone I was congratulating on being in the Blogger's Festival finalists and she didn't even know! She was traveling so I helped her figure out how it all worked. She will definitely be part of my community.
    Oh, and I have a whole room to craft in and it's not any better than what you have...it's almost harder to keep clean and straight because there's more of it.

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  8. Thank you for this post! I actually doubt myself a lot. Especially when I get compliments from my Mother-in-law (an accomplished seamstress who sewed wedding dresses!), I always think "well it's not as good as so and so on the web.."

    My sewing space is the laundry room/ kids' playroom and currently looks like a disaster! I have fabric exploding everywhere and no less than 4 baskets of laundry on the floor, let alone all the little people toys I have to walk around! I like to look at others' pretty things, and I will learn to look at my own projects in the same light. Thanks again!

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  9. Kaye,

    Thank you! You see I've slowly quit leaving comments (everywhere) because it no longer feels like a community and honestly, I was just starting to feel pressured. Crazy because I was the one putting on the pressure myself. That said I do have a couple of friends who I met via blogs.... folks whom I consider real life friends yet we have never met in person. and a couple whom I have met and dearly love!!

    So once again thank you!! You truly do inspire me (even when i simply lurk because of time constraints)!!!

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  10. I'm with you. My facebook group started out as honest and helpful and has turned into "oooh lovely, no i wouldn't change a thing" when people ASK for help... And my sewing room looks far worse than yours - and my kitchen. I think the bathroom is sewing free....

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  11. I love this posy !! So open and honest. I too post on FB that I made this or I made that, and if I were to show pics some may say wow nice or boo not so nice, but they would never see my truth "behind the scenes" .. my sewing was set up in my dining room, fabric stashed in containers and drawers or boxes in the bedroom close, and the frustration of knowing what I had, but not where to readily find it. I am quilter with RA, and more recently due to unforseen circumstances, a left below knee amputee. So I look at the pretties too and yes sometimes drool, but your openness has changed that. And, now my sewing has a home of its own in my very own room, with closet for fabric, and a hubby who will build tables for me, and more importantly for me, it will be practical, so I can do what I love to do :) Maybe it will be pretty too .. all I know is not to read too much into what you see, because you know not what lies behind .. it that makes sense ?

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  12. Nice post. Makes me thankful for my sewing room and not so anxious that it doesn't always look pretty. Pretty pictures (like the one at the top of your blog of the quilts on the chair) and work-in-progress pictures sure do inspire me! but so do 'real' glimpses of work spaces. Thank you.

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  13. Aww, thank you for this post. The "perfection" does seem intimidating at times, and it's always refreshing and reassuring to see an honest, warts and all kind of post. Reminds me that we're all pretty much the same and that everyone has successes and failures, and some not to pretty days in the mix, and those are good things to be reminded of every so often. Thanks again. :)

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  14. oh, i like this. while i'm definitely into the pretty (both reading about it and blogging it myself) what really makes me feel inferior are the bloggers who make, like, 20 new things a week and then complain that they hardly had time to sew that week. ugh. it makes me think that the person behind the blog is some kind of hard-wired sewing automaton.

    so thank you for keeping it real!

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  15. Great post!
    I took up blogging again some 5 months ago and actually have this feeling that I'm in a community of (international) quilters whom I could visit IRL if I wish - and I do:-) So I do not have this feeling that its all about pretty & perfect pictures but a lot about learning and helping each other.
    As for perfection I struggle with that on a personal level. I am also diagnosed with RA so I have to cut back on a lot of the 'pretty' simply because it is too hard - for instance my quiltblocks and -tops very rarely get ironed before I take a photo. I cut fabric at my kitchen counter because that is the only place where the hight is good, I sew in my tiny bedroom that looks incredibly messy and I iron in my tiny living room, that is now into its 5th month of rearranging with boxes of fabrics etc everywhere - its going to be my 'studio' too. I just have to take the time - Mr. RA decides how much I can do:-)

    So I do not blog 'pretty' or 'cute'. I am quite honest about things including how I mess up sewing blocks, measuring etc. I am also very honest about my likes and dislikes in the quilting world on my own blog and reading 'pretty-cute' blogs where the entire world is pink, flawless and without 'edges' bore me immensely as do the blogowners who can spit out a king size quilt or two every week while the kiddos play nice in the garden. Just not believeable to me.

    I believe that quilting/crafting should be FUN and I fight to make it fun - and to find the funny, ironic, sarcastic and not-so-serious blogs. I need the fun more than I need photos of perfect quilts and perfect lifes:-)

    But I DO have ok pretty feet *lol*

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  16. Great post! Well said and very true! Thanks for writing it.

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  17. a thoughtful post, thank you for writing it. I find so often lately my blog is silent because I am scared to write about my real feelings, unwilling to provoke negative comment-banter-headaches. I feel something from the "good old days" of blogging is lost, but at the same time I feel it might be me who has changed..
    at any rate, it's nice to know I'm not the only one stitching with cords dangerously hung across the kitchen, hehe.

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  18. LOL! Love your post. I think of the 'pretty' photos like I think of guests in the house. You only show them the pretty clean rooms (if you have any...I don't!). You're right though. I now feel pretty good about my over crowded and disorganized space. :-D

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  19. Like arajane, for me it's not the perfection deceptions that bothers me, it's the thousand FOs that the "blogging stars" seem to churn out that are intimidating. This is pretty much the thing that discourages me from starting my own craft blog, even though I honestly just want a little corner of the internet to document my crafting (mis)adventures. I, straight up, do not have the time to sew AND blog AND participate in swaps AND contribute to bees AND follow quiltalongs AND run an Etsy store AND go to Market AND cultivate a book deal AND AND AND...I totally know that doing EVERYTHING is not mandatory, but it feels like that's The Way To Be A Craft Blogger. I have like one or two hours a day to dedicate to crafting, and I feel like if I tried to sew AND participate in the online sewing "community", I would burn myself out. And that failing to do at least some of that is Failing At Blogging. Not having a neat workspace is seriously the least of my problems.

    This issue is slightly different from the one you blogged about because I don't want people to start being "more real" by achieving less, but I just wanted to say that it really doesn't make me feel "more included" to know other people have clutter :/ But if it helps other people, I'm not gonna hate.

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  20. Yeah,I feel better now- my sewing is NEVER perfect. Don't think I could sew if it was. Thank You!!

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  21. Thanks for making things a little more real. One thing that always gets to me is that it seems the same people are always invited to participate in the blog hops. It is like a little clique. Another is that I will leave comments from time to time on blogs where there is something I like, but many people don't reply to the comments - or don't check out my blog. So I'm left feeling like they aren't interested in cultivating my friendship. Also, I've never left a negative comment for anyone so I've never said this before, but since you brought it up....I HATE photos of feet. Very few people have pretty feet in my mind. Yours are actually not half bad. :)

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  22. I agree with a lot of what you said - but mostly it's intimidating that people can 'do it all' - I feel like a failure when I can't! And most craft bloggers seem to have a clique that they belong to - very 'mean girls' (though I'm sure none of them are actually mean at all!). It's hard to have your own craft blog with less-than-perfect pictures because you can only take pictures during nap time or at night, and you can't blog daily or even weekly because you're too busy wiping noses, making dinner, cleaning house and trying to have an hour to yourself so you don't lose your sanity. If you don't blog you don't seem to belong, and even if you do occasionally blog, if you don't have sponsors and aren't friends with the 'right' people, no one reads and/or comments on your blog, so why blog at all?

    Thanks for the look at the 'real' you! :)

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  23. So glad to read this post. I haven't blogged in a while as I didn't really feel I was "arty" enough. Maybe I will try again. :)

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  24. This is a great post. It's exhausting trying to be better than everyone else, isn't it? How do people even have time to craft?

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  25. Thank you so much! My kitchen looks like that too, and I often get bummed by seeing all those perfect sewing rooms and spaces, that honestly I don't have the luxury of, and probably won't for a long time. It is nice to see that you don't have to have a perfect situation to create wonderful things!

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  26. I'll echo a few other commenters here and say I'm not concerned with pictures of the pretty (which can be lovely to look at) but rather the overwhelming (to me) output volume and (I think unintentional) sense of in/out. I've reached the point where most of those blog tours for every new book, gadget, fabric, etc kind of annoy me b/c I know that the same book or contest or promotion will repeat itself through my google reader on the blogs of the same craft-household names. Every latest venture, whether a quilt-along, a book tour, or a contest, seems to revolve around about 15-20 usual suspects.

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  27. I love your post! I finally noticed on the blogs where they put out one or two new quilts to show are usually the fabric or pattern designers and if you notice, they will say in the credits that they are not pieced or quilted by them usually. They aren't superhuman doing it all :) I felt better about my output after I noticed this. Also, I do not blog daily, usually once a week because that is all I can do. I am ok with that too. I also sew in my kitchen and I am ok with that too coz I have my space all comfy. I guess I am just happy with what I have and what I can do. Dont get me wrong, I love the pretties, and want so bad to win something just once ( I hate it when shop owners win hehe) I just know that all I have to do is my best and not beat myself up if it isn't as good as a professionals. I have some serious medical issues that I deal with and I am just happy that I am still here.
    I just started blogging a few months ago and have no sponsors, hardly anyone comments or visits but it is my place in the cyber world where I can chronicle that I was, in fact here.
    I really enjoy your honesty and also enjoy coming to visit here and seeing what you are up to. By the way, in all honesty (LOL) I don't care for the nail polish but i think your feet look just fine!

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  28. I found this post (and your blog) through a link Rosa, who commented above, posted in our flickr bee and I love your authenticity. You cutting floor and stash look a lot like mine! I've been quilting and blogging about it for less than a year so it's really heartening for me to see I have things in common with someone with a 'big' blog and 1000+ followers.
    I do try to make my blog pretty but I also make things I like and things that challenge me. I notice with a lot of bigger blogs the sewing projects seem to be a thinly veiled device for promoting their sponsors. I think this sends out the message to us newbies that unless we are churning out quilts showcasing the latest fabric lines and saying it was "so simple and so much fun" we are somehow failing. I don't have the time or money to do that and I'm sure I'm not alone. And I don't always find sewing simple and fun. But I do find it very satisfying to do be able to make something that challenges me and know I've learned how to better next time. To be honest, I don't always like the latest, greatest fabrics anyway and if I found everything I made really easy I'd soon get bored.
    I'm going to visit some the commenters above. They sound like the sort of quilters I'd love to meet :)

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  29. Ja! Where I live, it's hard to find such a beutiful fabrics as yours, so I always feel my quilts aren't so pretty. I sew in my room, while my baby sleep and my husband always complains about the mess...
    I only follow the blogs where i can learn new techniques, and don´t care much for the looks.
    Love from Argentina!

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  30. Thanks for sharing the not so perfect. Don't be hard on yourself! By the way your feet are far from ugle and the nail polish is funky. It's up to you of you like it or not.

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  31. Thanks for saying it how it really is for most of us, I'm lucky enough to have a shed with electric, but it measures 7ft x 7ft so I end up just sewing and cutting there, my living room or conservatory floor is where I baste my quilts and during the winter things are left all over the dining table. I would love my blog to look more polished but thats not how my life is.
    Helen

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