I’m Jealous of Your Quilting Success, and Here’s What I Do About It.

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I am the Green Eyed Monster.  I see you succeed at something, and I want it so desperately for myself I can taste it.  My jealousy of your talent is so deep, I have been in a serious funk… more than once… many times to the point of having considered giving up the quilting thing because “I’m no good at it”.

Social media makes it worse.  Someone is always saying great things about a show they got into, a ribbon won, or some other awesome accolade.  I’m happy for them but secretly… I sure as hell wish it was happening to me.

Sound like anyone?  Sure.  It sounds like everyone.

Way way back in 2005, I attended a quilt show and for the first time saw what the masters of the quilting art were doing.  I was dumbstruck.  I should have been revved up.  Instead I went home and moped.  “I will never be that good”, I said.   That depression lasted a long time too, during which I made barely anything.

In 2009, I was at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago, and Pokey Bolton introduced me to Melly Testa.  Melly and I were instant friends, and we hung out the rest of the show together the way new best friends do.  Over lunch, she said to me “What do you want to do with your quilting?”.  And I knew. Right away.  “I want to get my quilt into a show… No wait… the BIG show!  And.. and… I want to win AWARDS!  And I want to be in the catalog… I want to be picked to teach, too!  but most of all…. I want to be published.”   I told Melly my deepest secret.  And she told me one of hers. She wanted her own fabric line.  I’ll never forget it.

It was my jealousy, yes, but it became something else.  It became a GOAL.

That same weekend, Pokey approached me to be the Moderator of the new Quilting Arts website.  “Hey, you’re always online and connected, would you do it?”  YES!   Next, people asked me to help them with this or that project.  Would I do it? YES!  Man a booth? YES.  Make a block? YES.  Volunteer? YES. Why?  Because I wanted to be included, because my jealousy screamed at me to be “just like them”.

It served another purpose too.  I became someone to be relied upon.  I could step in, and step up.  If you needed someone, I was that person.  I worked… and it worked.

Even now, I see quilt artists….people who I admired from afar but who I am so lucky now to call my friends… and I feel that deep rooted jealousy of their accomplishments.  I still want what they have. I want that cover image.  I want that book deal.  I want that interview.  I want that fabric line. I want that gallery show. Someday, I will get them, because they are now goals of mine.

Are you jealous of me? Because it’s in my nature to want to be liked by people, I hope not.  But if you are, I want to tell you this ONE thing… you can have what I have.

You just have to be willing to WORK HARD to get it.

It will not happen overnight.  A fairy will not come down and magically select your quilt to be in a show without you submitting it.  A magazine will not be opened and an article you did no work towards will be there with your by-line.  BERNINA will not stop you on the show floor and scream “We found our new Ambassador!”.  These things are EARNED.

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When people post stuff like this, I feel DEEP rooted jealousy, but that’s OK.

I put in 17 years of quilting towards it.  I have worked hard….harder than I have ever thought I wanted to work for anything… to get to this point in my career.   I took every little step I could take, made every connection I could make, volunteered countless hours, made literally hundreds of mini quilts to perfect my craft… built my own empire… ALL with a smile, blood, sweat, and a fair amount of tears…. just to get where I am right now.

Each of the things I have accomplished started with that seed of jealousy, and in almost every case, that became fuel for the fire in my belly to go get that for myself.  You have to ask yourself…….. how hard do you want to work to get that?  If your answer is “not hard” or “none at all”, then there isn’t much to be jealous over is there?

34 thoughts on “I’m Jealous of Your Quilting Success, and Here’s What I Do About It.

  1. I enjoyed your post. I think it rings true of all of us. I can tell you I was having those feelings in Paducah as I saw our quilts hanging together and walked down the row of amazing quilts wondering if mine should be there. I appreciate your words of encouragement and I have my secret goals always in the back of my mind hidden behind my never ending design ideas. I think you have a book bursting to get out and I hope there is a publisher who realizes you don’t have to have every quilter out there buy it, but the specialty niche of quilters who would love to have it. I was thinking about you and your manuals that you already have written. They are well done. I’m sure you can make more off of those than a book. It doesn’t come with the prestige, but if you keep track of your sales, it will be another piece of evidence to show the publishers what kind of sales you have. I’ll keep watching you with my green eyes! Keep making me jealous!

  2. Thank you so much for the much deserved kick in the pants. It is long past time for me to stop critiquing my work in the worst way. I do something similar when looking at the amazing long arm work done by some amazing long arm quilting artists. They’ve been at it so much longer than I have. I’m not going to let that hold me back, though. I’m still practicing and learning. I’m they kind of person that wants to learn something every day. Today is no different. Thank you.

  3. i loved your post, Cheryl! I can remember being at a big quilt show and just being overwhelmed by the winning quilts…..the beauty and the impossibility of them! Don’t we wish we could all make them! I think goals are important….but even better…..finding what we love and just loving what we do! At some point I realized the quilt world was only about 10% applique lovers….but I just kept stitching and teaching applique. Be true to yourself!

  4. What a fun read. Thank you Cheryl. And of course I appreciate seeing your acceptance into Sacred Threads :-)
    I echo Bill Volckening’s sentiments. You DO make it look effortless.
    AND I see you having great fun which is an inspiration and reminder as to why I love this business!

  5. Cheryl, you are such a treasure! Even with all your success, you are still reaching out a hand to help and inspire others to achieve their goals. You even give a roadmap on how to get there! Great post!

  6. Great post Cheryl and one I’m embarrassed to relate to. I call it FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) but it’s basically the same thing. When I see someone’s post about their wild success, sometimes I have to pull back, check myself until I can sincerely NOT be jealous, then read their post.

    I read on someone else’s blog the word “doomspiration”. That is what happens when you go to a major show-you’re both discouraged and inspired!

    Thank you for an excellent post!

    1. You are not alone in embarrassment. I had this post written in February! I didn’t have the guts to post it until now. Thanks, Jenny, for your comment.

  7. Cheryl, I grinned and chuckled as I read your post, but then thought back to the late 90’s and my life long garment making and start to my quilting (2nd career). I too set goals, and was going to get myself into that Bernina Fashion show. You know the one, the one that they only invited 50 artists in the world to create a garment… ugh the goal was lofty. I wasn’t jealous, but I was hungry to create something that could walk down a runway! No one except my folks and closest friends got to see the the tedious hours of construction just to add a couple more fabulous garments to my portfolio that was sent of to Houston/Bernina every year, just to get my foot in the door. That drive to create can also be inspiring, we see it in you! I love Lyric’s comments about “room for all”. We all have different techniques and inspirations to share, we also have to take time for us to learn too. Keep developing your techniques that inspire us, your awesome quilts and most of all keep your great smile and sense of humor that draws us all in!

  8. You hit the nail on the head. I too vascillate between excitement and jealousy and beat myself up for feeling a little jealous. But then I am grateful for the successes that I have had because it is more than I dreamed of when I secretly wanted to be an artist and the elders said “no no, go into some other line of work”

    1. EXACTLY!! Nothing wrong with pangs of jealousy, they are telling you what you want! Thanks, Linda, for your comment!

  9. Not jealous–just so proud of my friend! Besides, the only thing I would want is the dimples….

  10. You are so right here! When we see another person’s success we sometimes mistakenly think that they are just “born with it” or that they are somehow luckier than the rest of us. We simply don’t see the thousands of hours of work, all the ugly stuff they made first before they even came close to the good stuff. We don’t see all the rejection letters from shows. We don’t see the hours they put into teaching locally, revising and refining their classes. We can’t assume they wave a magic wand and fabulous things just appear. WORK is what leads to success. Often, hours and hours and hours of work. And often, failure after failure.

    I think jealousy also often comes from a mindset of scarcity. In the quilt world there truly is abundance. When a star rises she often brings other stars along with her. There really is room for all. There really is a sharing and wonderful space here. We need to look at others success and be deliriously happy for them. It’s amazing what happens if you reach out to see if they will mentor and share – or simply watch and learn and follow. This is a wide open and wonderful community!

    1. Lyric- That is 100% true. There is room for everyone in quilting. You just have to be willing to work to get there! Thanks so much for your comments, I truly do appreciate them!

  11. Thanks for this, Cheryl, somedays we all need a dash of reality and a kick in the pants. I don’t have lofty goal of being quilt famous, but I do get a little jealous when I see my other quilty friends with perfect binding or perfect points. But it also kicked me into gear to practice, practice, practice and I’ve come miles with my quilting in the last year or two. Anyway, thanks again for reminding us that everyone feels jealous or “not good enough” sometimes!

    1. Hey Kimberly! I feel that way too about people’s beautiful quilt pictures! It’s great inspiration, though, if you let it be that way. Thanks for your comment.

  12. this reminds me of my favorite quote by artist Chuck Close:
    “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

    He goes on to say:
    “If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

    So excuse me now while I get to work. Great post BTW!

  13. Very true! I think it was in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that I first read the concept of a Jealousy Map. If you examine who you are jealous of and why, it gives you a clear idea of what you want! I loved reading your story and makes me feel better about my own green-eyed monster.

  14. It is a lot of hard work to be successful, but people usually do not see the work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If it looks effortless, you’ve done a great job making it appear that way.

  15. thanks for that! I could use a good swift kick in my butt to get me to the next level :-) and congratulations on your success!

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