Sunday, September 2, 2018

The "good enough" post.

Bear with me -- this will be a writing post eventually.

It has been years since I did any embroidery. I used to do it quite a lot, but let's face it, a lot of the designs of yesteryear were pretty bland: flowers, vines, more flowers and more vines. One can only embroider so many dresser scarves and pillowcases before one needs to move on.

Well, gods all bless the Millennials, because they are making crafting edgy. Even embroidery.

I stumbled on a bunch of embroidery kits in a shop in Old Town Alexandria a few weeks ago and was charmed by these new designs -- so much so that I picked one up. The kit is by cozyblue and the design I bought is the Lunar Blossom. Here's what you get in the kit: preprinted cloth, floss, a hoop, a needle, and a photo of the finished item with directions on the back.


I'll be honest -- I picked this kit partly for the moon phases and partly because of all that running stitch. I knew it would work up fast. And yet it's been sitting on the coffee table for the past several weeks, while I've been beating myself up over the knitting and writing I was supposed to be doing.

Now here it is, a three-day weekend, and the highs are supposed to be in the 90s, which is way too hot for knitting. I figured I could get the embroidery project done this weekend and I could say I'd actually accomplished something. So I started working on it yesterday.

Have I mentioned that it's been a while since I did any embroidery? Like decades? I tell you what -- my eyesight was a lot better when I was in my twenties. I finally broke down today and got out my needle threader, so it wouldn't take me five minutes to re-thread the needle every time I pulled the floss out accidentally. (Of course I do that. So do you -- don't lie.)

The directions say you can do any stitch you want, but if you want to do what the designer did, to use running stitch for the petals, backstitch for outlining the moons, and padded satin stitch for filling in the moons. Well, the running stitch went fine. I got three stitches into outlining the moons and realized I was doing split stitch instead of backstitch. But it looked okay and she said I could do whatever I wanted, so I kept going.

Padded satin stitch, though. Regular old satin stitch I was familiar with, but padded? So I asked Mama Google and she gave me some sources. Basically, before you do your satin stitch, you outline the section and then fill it in with whatever stitch moves you; most folks seem to prefer straight stitches, but I also saw some do chain stitch. One woman cut a piece of felt to fit and stitched it in place for the padding. Then once you've done your padding, you do your satin stitch perpendicular to the direction of your infill stitches. 

I watched one video where the woman doing it had a very soothing voice -- kind of like Bob Ross but for embroidery. She recommended using one strand of floss for the satin stitches. Her reasoning was that a single strand would produce a more uniform appearance, as multiple strands would twist and not lay flat as nicely. So I tried it her way. It took forever. I did the next moom with three strands, which was a lot faster, plus I liked that it was more poufy. Also, I'm not doing museum-quality work here. Have I mentioned that it's been decades since I've done any embroidery at all?

Here's what I mean. On the bottom is the lovely, uniform single-strand satin stitch; in the middle is the poufy three-strand satin stitch, and at the top is the padding.


Note that the padding isn't even. It doesn't matter whether it's even -- no one's going to see it. You might (if you're picky) notice that my satin stitched sections aren't perfectly perfect, either. Now, I could go back and pull all of that out and re-do it until it's perfect. I'd use a lot of floss and waste a lot of time. And who's going to notice?

A lot of writers agonize over their work. They re-work paragraphs and sentences until they're perfect. They spend a lot of time doing that. Some writers work so hard on the details that they never actually finish anything.

Listen: At some point, you've got to let it go. 

Over the years, I've learned a few phrases for just this situation:
  • You've probably heard this one: "Close enough for government work." 
  • I learned this one from a former co-worker: "Ain't making a watch." 
  • And here's one I heard fairly recently: "If a man riding by on a horse can't tell the difference, it's good enough."

Perfect is good -- but it's also a trap. It's okay to settle for good enough. 

I'll probably go back and re-do that single-strand moon with three strands, though. Just so it'll match.

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These moments of imperfect blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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