Just now on Facebook, I discovered a link because my friend and crafts author Susan Beal commented about it: The Dumbing Down of the Quilting and Sewing Industry « LoveBug Studios.

I seriously, passionately, and wholeheartedly disagree with almost everything Ebony asserts in her post. And though I’d never read her blog before, and I’m not familiar with her work, I’ve decided I’m not interested in looking further into either. I find perfection to be pretty uninteresting. And I find the desire of one person to paint the world with her own perfectionism to be infuriating.

We owe her nothing.


You owe me nothing.

You owe other crafters nothing.


Don’t let talk like hers discourage you from making things. And certainly don’t let it discourage you from liking things other people make, from appreciating other people’s work for whatever reasons you have.

Know what I love? Exposed seams. Asymmetry. Feeling the joy a maker obviously felt while making a thing.

I won’t buy or praise or promote work I don’t enjoy or find sub-par.

I’ll spend my money how I want to spend it. I’ll make (and photograph and offer for sale) what I want to make. People will agree with my choices or they won’t. They’ll buy my work or they won’t.

When people like Ebony leave comments on my work – on anyone’s work – with unsolicited I-know-better-than-you-so-obviously-you-must-want-to-hear-from-me tips or advice, I don’t appreciate it. I resent it. I discount it. I do not want to learn from her.


To get past my own rant and into something possibly more constructive, I think Ebony is very seriously wrong in one major way (amongst others), and very seriously correct in another.

First, as I said, she’s painting the whole world with her own perfectionism. She says she wants people to want to do better for themselves, but what she’s really saying is that she’s very disappointed in everyone and would like them to do better so she’s not so offended all the time. She’s conflating her own personal standards with some impossible-to-define set of public standards. Because she’s disappointed, everyone should be disappointed. This is not okay.

But on to the part where I agree with her: There are some very serious flaws in the crafts publishing (and media) industry. Very serious flaws. She’s bang on about this. Some crafts books are overseen by people who don’t know the craft. Some deadlines are unrealistically (and rigidly) too tight. Authors are almost never allowed to attend photo shoots for their own books, which leads to inaccuracies in photography. Marketing sometimes shouts over editorial. As an author, I know very well what it’s like to try desperately to convey my message and maintain my integrity while also playing nice with the dozens of people who are also involved in making my books, and who have their own opinions about what’s best. I’ve won some battles and I’ve lost some. I have no doubt that every author has experienced the same.

I’ve seen some books that could have been amazing but ended up not so amazing. And Ebony is right that some books get made because of the author’s popularity and not necessarily because they have anything important or interesting or beautiful to say. That’s business. I’m not much bothered by the popularity game in publishing. If you were a publisher, wouldn’t  you want some sure-things in your line-up? I would.

{Right here, I deleted a rant about how-to television. I hate it. It’s so awkward. So very awkward. You may or may not notice that I don’t highlight my work in how-to television in my professional bio. It’s the only body of work I’ve ever done that I’m not proud of. Perhaps one day I’ll figure out a responsible way to write about this.} {ETA 11/2015: I’ve since become an instructor at Craftsy, which, though not actual television, is how-to video, and my experience and classes are things I’m very, very proud of. They do it right.}

I had an entirely different post planned for today, but I’ve gone off the rails on this one and I’m just going to publish it so I don’t spend the next hour revising it.

15 responses to “The Last Person I’d Want to Learn Anything From”

  1. Diane Gilleland Avatar
    Diane Gilleland

    Hmmm… you know, I think Ebony’s writing not so much about perfectionism, but about celebrity and mainstream industry. I don’t disagree with her points about popular sewists and quilters getting market opportunity based on their popularity (and the potential revenue it represents), when far more skilled but obscure craftspeople go ignored. (There’s nothing new in that; this is just the first time in human history, perhaps, when we can all see it happening.)

    I also agree with what you’re saying about the internet community needing to embrace all kinds of creating, and to let go of the rigid standards of perfection that can squash its joy. Every wonky thing I make has value for me as a learning journey!

    …But I gotta say this: the longer I hang out in the online craft community in general, the more I gravitate to the kind of carefully-honed, deeply considered work Ebony’s talking about. Absolutely, every maker has a right to his or her joy in spraying chalkboard paint all over yet another mason jar, or covering something or other with washi tape, but I can only be inspired by so much of that stuff. At the end of the day, I get excited by two things: really good skills, and really original expression (my five-word rant: to hell with trends, please).

    I suspect that at least some of Ebony’s frustration may be coming from the fact that many of us still (consciously or unconsciously) equate mainstream business opportunity with official recognition of our value – and that makes the “popularity train” difficult to watch. The web isn’t new anymore, but so many of our human impulses are still adjusting.

    1. Kim Werker Avatar

      What I took from her post is a frustration that people who do sub-par work – entirely judged by her – get praise, attention and money. I didn’t get that it was entirely a rant against unwarranted celebrity (which is, in my opinion, a fascinatingly baffling aspect of contemporary culture in all realms), but a more specific waving of the arms at her perception of a degradation of standards. I think where I say “perfectionism” here, I mean “good gods she’s being inappropriately judgmental”.

      A phenomenon I see every so often in creative fields is the indignant insistance of a single person that another person’s work affects them negatively. This is not just in crafts – I see it amongst graphic designers, photographers, writers, etc.

      I don’t see it. I don’t see how even a popular and trendy *group* of people could be doing work that in any way affects the work of another.

      Trends are trends. They’ve been around since the beginning of human communication. I’d bet money that the dude who popularized the loin cloth was a legend in his time, and that the nudists of ancient times couldn’t stand that guy.

      There’s a fascinating belief that many people have that attention is a finite resource. That if the uber-popular, maybe not-so-refined-with-their-skills makers of things get loads of attention that somehow other work can’t ever reach an audience.

      The truth is that that audience is smaller. A smaller audience is not as sexy to publishers or media producers. Ever. Not just now, but ever. This is why the internet is so damned impressive. The internet allows niche experts to circumvent the small detail that gatekeepers might not find them sexy.

      The work that will attract the *most* attention is the work that will be promoted the most. This becomes a game of bell curves. Very few makers are experts. OMG, look at the ongoing popularity of novelty-yarn knitted scarves. For ten years, bizarre yarns have flown off yarn-store shelves because they can be made into bizarre scarves very easily.

      There’s been a ton of grumbling amongst more experienced knitters about this dilution of knitting, as if the thousands of people who learned how to knit so they could make a novelty scarf somehow makes their own knitting – what? worse? undervalued?

      I’ve never bought that line of thinking. People will do as they want to do. Best to let them do it without worrying yourself about it. All that worry will make for some unhappy creating, no?

  2. Jen Watkiss Avatar

    Reading this as a not-particularly-crafty person, I see this as a much broader issue that’s cropping up all over the place, as people keep having to come to terms with the fact that the world is not in fact, a meritocracy. And to those who value perfection over promotion, or tweaking, rather than shipping, that’s a huge disappointment, and seems profoundly unfair. I suspect Ebony is just getting that memo, and is adjusting to the message.

    1. Kim Werker Avatar

      I think the world is, to a fair extent, a meritocracy – but one that may award different merits than desired. An average, sloppy quilter may get a five-book deal, thus enraging experts. But she may get that deal based on other merits than her quilting ability. She might have a stunning eye for colour or pattern. She may be so damned delightful to work with that publishers jump at the opportunity to do so. She may have a massive audience due to previous work she’d done in another medium. All of those are things she earned. Worked for. Built. And I don’t see how her five books degrade anything. Maybe her talent for colour ends up attracting hoards of new quilters. I call that a win.

  3. theitgirl Avatar

    Ebony’s post really bothered, me, but what bothered me more were her fans/followers who agree with every word she wrote.

  4. Heather Avatar

    There’s room in this world for every kind of crafter/person/quilter. If you focus on perfection/making sure every stitch is even, etc., then great. I like to focus on other things. Both are valid approaches.

  5. Julianna Puccini Avatar

    If I had to choose between the two, I would rather make/own/buy/look at something beautiful/innovative/inspiring that was imperfectly constructed rather than something that was boring/unoriginal yet “technically” perfect.

  6. Kim Avatar

    I agree with her somewhat… She comes across as someone who crafts to make a nice finished PRODUCT, and that’s OK. However, there are some people who craft because they enjoy the PROCESS rather than the product. That’s fine too.

    I’m a crocheter and sometimes I get annoyed at the focus on “quick and easy!” patterns when I am looking for something to engage my crochet skills. Some people might see this as a dumbing-down of the craft. However, I have to remind myself that the majority of crocheters in my age group a) did not start crocheting until they were adults and b) had to learn from books, online videos, etc. because none of their relatives could teach them. The number of people with beginner-level skills is probably vastly greater than the number of people with advanced skills and they need these types of patterns to learn.

    However, I do think that beginners should learn the basic “rules” before they can break them- a crochet example would be how to weave in ends so they don’t unravel. Like the author of the post, I would be annoyed if I saw people teaching or writing books with loose ends unraveling all over the place.

    I think that there has to be a balance between creating something that’s extremely well-made but boring and something that’s exciting and different but sloppy.

    1. Nancy Cavillones Avatar

      What I took away from the post is that if you are making a product to sell, and not necessarily for your own enjoyment, it should be a high-quality item with no technical flaws. I didn’t get that she was saying all these craft bloggers should be turning out expert work but rather, if you are a professional selling your wares (whatever they are) to the public, then technical skills matter, no matter what your style is. I mean, her opinion of what good style is probably different from what yours is or what mine is, but skills are skills. I kind of felt like she is suffering from some kind of inferiority complex–she desperately wants the profession of crafting/needle arts/textiles to be taken as seriously as being some other kind of artist or professional but the influx of crafters out there is bringing the industry down or something.

  7. carrieoke13 Avatar

    I am catching up with my blog reading and man, I could not agree with this post more. hooray for joyful crafting and creating things you love in a way that makes you happy.

  8. Ebony Love Avatar
    Ebony Love

    Thanks for continuing the dialogue here, and presenting an alternative view of the issues I raised in my post. I have to disagree with you on one point though: I wasn’t talking about perfectionism, mine or anyone else’s. I wasn’t trying to discourage anyone from making (making is how you learn, how you get better, how you express yourself) but rather looking at the industry (the people we pay to teach & inspire & supply us) and expecting something more.

    I’m not disappointed in “everyone”; I love that our craft is thriving and growing. I just also want it to be sustainable. We don’t build bridges without standards; but if we don’t make sure that the bridge meets the standard, the bridge will collapse. There are lots of ways to build a bridge; not all of them lead to a sturdy one. Some ways spawn innovation. You need them all to be able to describe the world of bridge building, but the bridges that get built are ultimately the ones that won’t fall down. You hope. :)

    What that initial post did, and the posts that followed, was to open up a dialogue where people felt freer to express themselves. I described the elephant I was seeing in the room… other people see the elephant differently or not at all (or don’t care what he looks like because to them it doesn’t matter.)

    I am sorry that my way of expressing myself turned you off to the point that you couldn’t read any further (rants are sometimes that way), but I am really glad that you did contribute to the discussion here and that I found it & got to read this additional layer of interpretation.

    (And to theitgirl: I found it incredibly hilarious that the very thing I was describing was the very thing that happened on my own post!)

    1. Kim Werker Avatar

      Hi Ebony,

      Thanks for this reply. Reading back on what you wrote in your post and what I wrote and what you just wrote here, I’m not sure I’d have commented with the grace you did, and I really appreciate it. The chill way you responded here has me thinking far harder about this topic, so thanks for that.

      I see where I read your post in a way that didn’t match your intent. As a writer, that’s my biggest frustration (and fear) – that I’ll spend a lot of time explaining something important to me, and people will misunderstand it. I’m sorry I misunderstood so loudly. I’ve read your follow-up post too, and see how you meant your post for a particular *professional* audience. As you noticed, I was chafing as an enthusiast, not a professional.

      I continue to disagree with you (without anger) about certain things, even in a more strictly professional context. Unlike bridges, the manner in which a quilt is constructed won’t affect the safety of anyone. In some realms, standards allow our society to function – laws, engineering, chemistry, food safety, etc. Without those things, people will be hurt and systems will break down. No matter how important craft or art is to the quality of life in our society, it will never affect the safety and livelihood of its citizens. Because of this, if a quilter makes a book and her quilts are less than perfect, so be it. It may be that her colour sense is inspirational to a vast audience (or a small one). It may be that her lack of attention to detail and structural integrity inspires someone else to do it better and get a book deal of her own. It’s the consequences I’m concerned with here. Shoddy bridges = dead people. Shoddy quilts = a shaking of one’s head.

      I’ll copy this over to your blog comments, too. Thanks for continuing this conversation.

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