The sting of accurate criticism

Last updated 14:10 30/07/2012

So you know, interactivity. It's what blogs are mostly about - I say something, you can say something, I can say something back. I know that's what I like most about blogs: I can ask a question or have my two cents' worth whenever it takes my fancy.

I like it when you have your two cents' worth. I love it when you tell me what you have been making and hope that soon we will have a Craftology Facebook page where you can show us all too. I take pleasure in being asked where something can be bought, what an alternative is, or can I come up with a tutorial for a particular project.

linesThe thing is, one not so nice thing seems to outweigh the many more positive things I get. Mostly I think crafters are a bunch of cheerleaders. We like each other to get better and spur each other on, right? I mean, I don't think I can remember ever saying that something was rubbish or poorly executed even if it was. I tend to be more taken with what I like about someone else's effort rather than what I don't.

Take quilting. I'm not sure it's for me. I might give it a go at some distant date but I'd have to find a particular quilting project that really called to me. Mostly when I look at quilts I see days or weeks of labour to make something that is ultimately exposed to my children's chocolatey fingers and then not suited to my top loader. In essence, I think developing an interest in quilting would cause me trouble and stress, which is the opposite of what crafting is about for me. For most people I would think. Is it for you?

Anyway I digress a little. I have been told in the past heart whipthat I am a ruminator. In other words, I dwell. I can't let things go. So when I had a teeny little negative (but accurate!) comment on the lavender hearts tutorial the cogs started spinning. I think I actually turned red with embarrassment sitting at my laptop. I was swamped with self-doubt and then overcome with a sense of my own inability to do something perfectly. I've said before that I am a bit of a Jill of some trades, mistress of none, so why was I so affected when a reader noted that my stitching was "abysmal"? You can see the substandard stitching just here.

I don't know why it was so galling, I really don't. I have a theory, though. I think it's because I know that many of you readers are much more accomplished on the crafting front than I am, much more creatively endowed, and, frankly, that rankles. I want that to be me. But there's only one way that's going to happen, right? As they say, practice makes perfect and now that I have had several cups of tea and one hefty glass of wine I am going to say a big thankyou to MJ for the "abysmal" remark. I didn't like it but that's possibly because the truth hurts. I can't promise that my whip stitch will be textbook next time but you have kind of embarrassed me into trying harder to make it look better. And that's a good thing, right?

Please tell me I'm not the only one who finds criticism a bitter pill to swallow? I know in my heart that it's better than false compliments but really, you would think I'd find it easier by this age.

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26 comments
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Simon   #1   02:24 pm Jul 30 2012

Its a tricky one. The information is useful, but not always easy to hear. I always try and go 'hmm, interesting perspective' and try and take it in without too much hurt. Not always easy though.

Cory   #2   02:45 pm Jul 30 2012

Its equally easy to find good things to pick out of an artwork and negative things to pick out. Very easy. Stupidly easy. What IS hard is realistic, friendly feedback. The tried and tested sandwhich which is say one positive thing, say something that could be improved (and ideally, how) and then say another positive thing. In regards to the 'abysmal' stitching comment, I actually think that's out of line and unconstructive. Let it wash over you .. but a big hi-five for having the stones to come out with what it meant to you. That's really brave.

Rita   #3   03:36 pm Jul 30 2012

To call something "abysmal" says more about MJ than it does your work. You may have been aiming for the naive look with whip stitches. Cory #2 is right with the commend, recommend, commend sandwich and the other lesson I've learned from Toastmasters is to have an example of how things could be improved, such as "perhaps a ladder stitch to close the heart would have been neater than a whip stitch". In the end, it's your work and it's how you want it to be. 99.9% of crafters are positive and supportive people. MJ just happens to fall into the .1% Chin up and keep up the good work.

amp50   #4   07:35 pm Jul 30 2012

'Hear, hear!' to Cory and Rita. You are recording a learning experience in your blog and being brave to put yourself on the line so publicly, Colleen. Perhaps MJ should try and do the same!

LF   #5   07:55 pm Jul 30 2012

My mum has always made comment on my stitches, she refers to them as 'toe catchers', hers are always uniform and neat but she also has years of embroidery practice under her belt too. She says it in a loving way though, and so long as it gets the job done and you are happy with the end result, who cares. One time, after doing some size adjustments on a dress and sewing the lot by hand (couldn't use my machine for it, would have turned out looking horrible if I had), was really pleased with how it turned out so I showed it to her and received glowing praise for my hand stitching (lol I can be neat when I want to be)

twopiare   #6   07:57 pm Jul 30 2012

Instead of doing a 'dump and dash', maybe MJ could tell you what to do about your 'abysmal' stitching -- link to a video, point you to a blog on 'perfect stitching' etc. Nothing less helpful than pointing out someone's shortcomings without offering them some hope for overcoming them. And if you can't show someone how to fix them, then really, who are you to criticise? So come on MJ, show us your stitching and teach us how to do it better.

elm   #7   08:30 pm Jul 30 2012

I don't understand why MJ is being castigated for what even Colleen now admits is the truth?

TK   #8   08:59 pm Jul 30 2012

It doesn't get much easier Colleen. Part of my daily work involves taking postive (usually) feedback on improvements through frequent design reviews. It's those not positive comments that rankle and quite frankly hurt, and knock my confidence.

You are doing a brave thing here, allowing your work, which is part of you, be possibly criticised by the anonomous(sp?)masses. Keep up the good work.

Colleen   #9   09:17 pm Jul 30 2012

anyone willing to share any toe-curling, cheek-reddening criticism they may have been given?

D   #10   08:41 am Jul 31 2012

I find it really hard to take criticism, and I try not to demean the efforts of anyone else - THEY MADE AN EFFORT!

As for quilting being hours of work "exposed to my children's chocolatey fingers and then not suited to my top loader"; I use cotton fabrics where possible (old flannelette baby sheets were my first attempt), and fill with cheap duvet inners (WAY cheaper than 'official' quilt wadding) which are machine washable. This means all my quilts are machine washable, and I put extra seam allowances in, and used heavy duty thread so that they're HIGHLY unlikely to come apart. The baby sheet quilt is about 6 years old now, been washed umpteen times, and is fine (I won't say just like new, as the fabrics weren't new to start with, and it's faded a bit over the years).

Please don't be frightened of quilting, it's straight, simple sewing, that gives you a lasting, satisfying token of your efforts - if even I can do it, anyone can.


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