June 6, 2009

When is something done?

One week later, I think this is now ready to be sewn. (Click on image to enlarge.) After the version posted on 5/30, I fiddled for another hour or so, and then wrote to a friend, "Knowing there are limitless variations, it's sometimes hard to know when to stop. Sometimes I know 'This is IT,' but sometimes the feeling is more like 'yes, I could go on, but this version is good, so get on with it.' Right now, I feel more like the latter. I'll look at it again tomorrow and see what I think." Well, when I looked at it the next day, I knew it wasn't there yet. Every day this week I've spent time adding and changing pieces. As soon as one section was better, something would bother me in another section. When is it done? When I can sit peacefully in front of the work, with no one spot catching my eye, calling out to me for further attention.

As I've turned from writing and scholarship to quilting, I've often seen parallels in the two processes, but this issue of "done-ness" seems different. When doing research, I could tell I'd done enough when there started to be diminishing returns--when the more I read, the more I came up with things that confirmed what I'd already figured out. When writing, I would always go through multiple drafts, revising, revising, and more revising. But when writing a book--or even just an essay--one never sees the work all in one visual experience. It's easier--or more necessary?--to accept that one has to let the work out in the world without perfecting each minute detail. But maybe there's a parallel also. What would keep me from considering a chapter finished? If there was a place where I realized the argument wasn't clear--where the reader would have trouble getting from one paragraph to another, or one sentence to another. In a quilt or visual art one also needs movement through the piece, needs not to get caught in one place.


  1. Penny,
    I think you've really improved on an already great piece! The eye flow is great - you were right to break up some of those repeated horizontal strips at the top. This really has a feeling of cascading.

  2. Just testing comment function.

  3. More testing of comments