In Pursuit of Perfection

When we pick up needle and thread to begin a new project we all want to do our best and make our project the nicest it can be – and hopefully that will mean it’s perfect. But striving for perfection isn’t always a healthy or enjoyable way to craft.

I recently received an email from a magazine reader who was struggling with a particular technique and becoming really stressed and unhappy that her work wasn’t – in her eyes at least – perfect. This made me think about perfection and the dangers of focusing too much on trying to make your project absolutely perfect.



All the reader in question could see when she looked at her finished work was what she considered to be mistakes. If I followed this line of thought instead of enjoying the floral bouquet above, I could focus on the fact that I’m not totally happy with Rosie’s features – but that would spoil my enjoyment and appreciation of my finished piece of work.

So what should I do? Should I keep unpicking and restitching the offending area until (most probably) my work is spoiled and grubby, full of holes and I’m still not happy with it? Or should I learn from the experience, decide that the features are “good enough”, enjoy the flowers and try to do better next time?

I truly believe that beating myself up when my work isn’t perfect stifles my creativity and prevents me from coming up with new designs and ideas. Everyone’s work is unique. Nobody else will stitch a design in the way you do, so don’t fall into the trap of comparing your work to other people’s, especially if you think they’re “better” than you. By all means learn from others who are technically more advanced, and practise your stitches until they’re the best you can make them, but don’t focus too much on achieving a perfect result.

I remember saying to Rosie when she was younger and worried about exam or test results that I would never be disappointed if she had done her best. Let’s face it, you simply can’t do better than your best, and it’s this attitude I apply to my sewing today.



So my advice to my correspondent was to keep practicing and improving, but stop focusing on perfection and learn to value the handmade, unique quality of your work. Celebrate your achievements, don’t concentrate on your problems – and above all, don’t worry, be happy, and enjoy your stitching!

*Article originally appeared in Bustle & Sew Magazine


That is the best advice anyone can give in my book. You can only do your best, and enjoy what you have done or doing.

Julie xxxxx


Thank you for this, Helen, and your encouraging words! It’s exactly what I needed to hear. You’re the best!


As my grand daughter says” We were born to be real, not perfect”. Good advice.


Great advice. You only grow, by learning. And you learn, by practice. For years, I just could NOT do the french knot. My mom showed me countless times, books, etc. I just did a tiny satin stich several times in place of the knot. Not great, but it was okay. I mostly avoided embroidery with french knots. One day, several years into cross-stitching, there was the french knot. I tried it again, and surprise! It worked!! Don’t know why this time, but all of a sudden it clicked!


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