Planning, Organizing and FEAR

In Creativity, organization, Projects, Quilts by Brenda4 Comments

Ever feel like you spend way more time planning a sewing project than actually doing it?  I’m one of those.  Although I feel like the planning stages are very important, if I let myself remain in that stage too long, it turns into a fear of failure rather than a planning session.  So I’m trying to tell myself (like my friend and mentor Maria Elkins always says), “It’s only fabric!”    Yes it is.  And even if I ruin something, I can count it up as a learning experience.

I’ve spent most of my life preparing for projects that I ruin, scare myself out of, or just never get to!  I’m trying in my old age to become more realistic in what I actually have time to do, and more realistic as to the fact, I’m going to mess up sometimes.  I’ve tried to focus on the enjoyment of the process.  And I’ve tried to lose my fear of failure.  I think the fear came from many years ago.  I “saved” things and didn’t want to waste them.  I was afraid to use my favorite fabric, for example, afraid to ruin what I was making with it.  I may find something later that I had wished I had saved it for too.  Fear, fear, fear!

I remember as a young girl using my birthday money one year ($5.00 from my grandparents) to buy a pattern and fabric to make a bikini.  I made it and found out it didn’t fit.  I had wasted my birthday money and my time and somehow felt robbed of my birthday present!  Instead of a learning experience, it became a fear-maker in my life.  Fear of cutting, fear or wasting, etc.  I am still trying to undo these fears and fly in the face of fear!  Just this morning I was asked the question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”  Good question to ponder in many ways, and today, in my sewing room.

I almost always have multiple projects started.  I go through spells where I start several, and then I take spells when I try to finish up all that I have started.  Today as I entered my sewing room to spend the afternoon, I found fabric spread EVERYWHERE from my recent session of auditioning fabric for my next fabric portrait. 

There is a certain energy I want to feel from this piece, and I want it to come from the colors and movement in the batik fabrics. Lots of pondering involved in these decisions.  Just the right shade, just the right color…..I stewed and stewed over it!  (…again afraid to make the wrong choice and waste something…especially some of my favorites.)  After forcing myself to make some decisions, I laid aside the fabrics I plan to use and then focused on reorganizing the rest.

I tend to lay folded fabrics in groupings of color.  Of course some fabrics represent more than one color, but I try to go with the dominant color when organizing.  I sat staring at the countless batiks strewn on every horizontal surface (mostly the floor!) wondering what the perfect fabric organizing system would be.

I had read Maria’s great ideas on how to organize fabrics.  They looked so beautiful.  (  and  But I just didn’t know if this might work with my methods (or my messy auditioning methods).  I pondered.  I asked myself to think outside the box. What way of organizing might pair well with the way that I audition fabrics and sometimes even take them to the nearby dining room table to evaluate?

I realized that every time I dug through my stash I was left with a mess and had to reorganize.  I started imagining how I could organize it that I didn’t have to lay it all out each time and didn’t have to reorganize when finished each time. Hmmmm…

I started sorting by color categories and laying them in rows of color, with just a small amount of each fabric showing in the gradated string.  I realized I like to be able to see each fabric, and I like to bring them to a table or wherever I am auditioning.  Then the light bulb came on.  What if I had corrugated cardboard sheets, strong enough to lift the fabric I would spread out on it?  I could have several boards, lay fabric out on them, and then stack the cardboards full of fabric on my shelves.  When it was time to audition next time, I could just bring out the boards spread with fabric, then return them when done.  Minimal reorganizing would be required.  I could keep them in whatever groupings I saw fit too.  Maybe I’d have a grouping of companion fabrics that I wanted to keep as a group.  Or maybe I bought some fabrics together to use together in a specific way.  I could lay them as such. I got excited.  I thought it might just work.

When I started hunting for some cardboard, I instead found some foam core boards that I had taped pictures to at my sons’ graduation parties.  I found another I had made a sign with (but still usable for this project). So glad I had saved these in case I needed them ‘someday.’ I quickly had three of the boards (starting 30” X 20”) cut into twelve mini boards (10” X 15”).  This was a nice size as my shelves were 15” deep, and most of my fabric was a quarter yard (or would fold down to be that width) so the 9” fabric fit well on the 10” boards.  It’s not super critical how the fabric is laid out.  It just needs to be so I can see each fabric.  That’s about it!  It’s like I have stacks of rectangular “platters” of fabric! So far I love it!


(And here they are [below] back on my shelves after stacked up…)



This seems a little simplistic, but I’m hopeful that it works great for my needs.  I’m anxious to see how this works for me in the months to come, as I find myself spending too much time organizing and not enough time pursuing my projects.  I hope this helps me move forward in my quest to create and abandon fear!  Onward and upward to the quest for creativity…… because it’s only fabric!



  1. Great idea! I love the idea of having a portable “palette” that you can easily bring to your design table and return when you’re done. Good job. Isn’t it fun to problem solve and try to find a solution that works for you? Can’t wait to see your finished portrait!
    PS: thanks for the shout out 🙂

  2. I should spend more time organizing–I think I’m the opposite–I jump right in too fast wanting to see how it turns out instead of investing in the
    planning time! Your fabric looks luxurious though!

    1. Author

      You have inspired me through the years by showing no fear in approaching a project. I need to be more like you (in more ways that this!). 🙂

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