Dealing with FOMU

Today’s topic is FOMU – what it is, how it works, and (hopefully) I’ll give you a few steps to get over any FOMU in your quilting world.

In case you didn’t know, FOMU is an acronym for Fear of Messing Up.  All of us experience FOMU in some area and at some point in our lives.  It’s typical and normal and human.  I used to get it when I began a new job.  Others have it when they must give a speech or a performance of some type.  And quilters…well, we get it, too.  Sometimes it occurs when we start to cut into a piece of beautiful fabric.  At other times it may occur when we try a new machine.  For me, one of the biggest FOMUs I have is when I’m in a class, learning a new technique.  The only thought running through my head during that time is “I’ve done this stuff for over 30 years…I should know how to do everything by now…”  But I don’t and this is why I’m in class.  I worry I can’t keep up or I’ll do something so hugely wrong it will completely wreck my project.   I had HUGE FOMU moments when I was learning to long arm. 

Biggest FOMU moments in my quilting life?  Working on my guild’s raffle quilt.  A large chunk of our budget comes from ticket sales.  Since I’d rather applique than eat, I always am asked to work on the border.  I’m honored and I have so much fun, but I am anxious I will mess it up royally and ticket sales will plummet. 

Fear of messing up happens to us all.  People who have irrational FOMU are said to have atychiphobia.  I think, as a quilter, it’s easy for us to have FOMU moments because almost everything in the media concerning our art is presented in pristine perfectness.  Websites and sales catalogues glow with faultless examples.  YouTube videos with quilt teachers show only precise and flawless technique and projects – not to mention speedy performance.  All of these things are enough to make any quilter (no matter or long or how short a time they’ve quilted) have just a bit of atychipobia about the process.

I think we all have moments in our quilting where we have to hold our breath and murmur a prayer for clarity and steady hands.  What I hope to do today is give you some tools to work through any FOMU you may have.  Be aware that FOMU may strike at different points in the process.  For me, it’s always when I’m cutting the quilt out – which is probably one of the reasons I dislike that part of the quilt process the most.  For you, it may be when you’ve finished the quilt and have to decide on the quilting.  Or flying geese may be your nemesis.  It varies from quilter to quilter and sometimes even from quilt to quilt.  What I hope to do with this blog is give the tools you need to fight FOMU and keep it from putting a screeching halt on your quilt process.

Get to Point C

In past blogs, I’ve mentioned it’s a good idea to have quilt goals – goals for the New Year, goals in new techniques, etc.  I think a good way to get over any FOMU you may experience with a quilt is to set goals for it.  These don’t have to be anything earth-shattering or major.  Just realize that to get from point A to point C, you have to go through point B.  And if point B is the part of the quilt you’re worried about, the push to keep moving may be enough to spur you through any FOMU moments. 

Face it Head On

As much as I love project boxes, they can be your worst enemy.  They’re great for organization.  You can put your cut-out quilt, threads, patterns, notions, and anything else you need for the quilt in the box, and it keeps everything together. 

However…they make great hiding places for quilts which are giving you issues.  You can tuck that quilt top back in the box, slam the lid, throw it in a closet, and forget about it. 

Don’t.  Don’t do it.

Face any quilting issues head on, even you have to take some time to look at a few videos about the technique  giving you problems.  What you don’t need to do is….

Take Too Much Time Planning

Once you jump on the internet, it’s easy to chase quilted rabbits down quilt-lined rabbit holes for hours. YouTube is the worst for this.  It gets a minimal whiff of what you’re interested in and suddenly sixteen similar videos find their way into your feed.  Next thing you know it’s three hours later and you’re no closer to solving your problem than you were three hours earlier.  Look for answers, but set a time limit for your research – no more than 30-minutes.  Any longer and you’re ignoring the elephant in the room.  Look for answers and inspiration and then use those to push you forward and through your FOMU.

Use What You Love

If you like a particular fabric designer, line of fabric, color of fabric, or a particular quilting technique, use it in your quilts.  You’ll be more prone to jump any FOMU hurdles to get to the part of the pattern you love or to play with some of your favorite fabrics.

Take Your Time Cutting the Quilt Out

Even though this is the only part of quilting I have a dislike for, I don’t try to zip through this process.  The first step in a smooth quilting process is accurate cutting, so this means slowing things down a tad.   If the pattern calls for twenty-four 2 ½-inch blocks, take your time and make sure the blocks are as close to 2 ½-inches as you can possibly make them.  Most quilters can’t be both fast and accurate.  So if you’re like me and cutting out the quilt is probably the biggest FOMU moment you have with a pattern:  Don’t try to cut multiple layers, don’t try to cut so fast you break the sound barrier, and reward yourself after each cutting step – a piece of chocolate, a sip of wine (not the whole glass, because there’s that accuracy thing I spoke about earlier),  or the carb of your choice. 

Realize Outside Forces Can Affect You and Cut Yourself Some Slack

From the beginning, I’ve been a Type A personality.  I expected perfection from myself in everything.  Time and life events have gone a loooonnnnngggggg way to mellow me out, but I still like to know I give anything I undertake 100 percent of my effort and attention.  This (unsurprisingly) includes one of the things I’m most passionate about –quilting.  When working through a quilt, it’s important to realize events, health, and most especially stress, can not only affect the quality of your quilting, but also how you work through the project.  For instance, normally HSTs may be “your thing.”  You may know how to make them and make them well.  They’re not wonky, they’re true to size, and completely lovely.  Throw in a factor such as you’re waiting on some test results from your doctor, or you were rear-ended while driving to work, and your ability to make those absolutely wonderful HSTs may be affected because you’re mind is somewhere else.  If this is the case, cut yourself some slack.  Don’t berate yourself.  Realize everyone has these moments.  Take a deep breath and try something else.  If that doesn’t work, call it a day and get some rest, talk to a friend, or do something mindless.  Just don’t let the outside force turn into FOMU moment.  Soon enough you’ll be back to your usual skill level. 

Test Blocks Are Your BFF

If you’re undertaking a challenging quilt pattern, make a test block out of your scraps.  This helps get you over FOMU in two ways.  First, you’re using your scraps – not the lovely fabric chosen for the quilt – so nothing goes to waste.  Second, the test block takes the pressure off.  It’s made for nothing but your information – is it as hard as you think it will be, are the seam allowances accurate, and is there a different technique you’re more comfortable with you could use in the block?  All a test block takes is your time and your scraps.  But it can go a long way in taking the FOMU away.

Make Peace with Your Seam Ripper

I hate, you hate, we all hate ripping out stitches.  However, it’s a fact of life it’s going to happen because we’re all human and we all make mistakes.  I learned a long time ago there’s really very few ways you can completely ruin a quilt.  You may deviate from the directions, but generally you can get the quilt back on track again in some way (here’s where it’s great to have some quilty friends to help you).  Part of pushing the quilt forward may be taking out some stitches with a seam ripper, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  We don’t like to do it – it takes time away from stitching – but a good seam ripper can be worth its weight in fabric.  Learn it’s your friend, not your enemy. Which is a great way lead-in to my next point…

Cutting Mistakes Can be Great Opportunities

I’ve revealed I dislike cutting out quilts.  I’ve also told you slowing down when cutting is a great way to get over your FOMU when slicing and dicing your fabric.  However, there will be at least one time in your quilting career when you’ll make some cutting mistakes.  Once you realize you’ve goofed, it’s super-easy to let that stop you from moving ahead with the quilt.  Don’t let this become one of those events which completely halt you in your quilting tracks.  Look at the pattern to see if you can shrink the size of the blocks, or maybe even alter the blocks so your unit will work, and you won’t have to purchase more fabric.  Sometimes this means setting the project aside for 24-hours to think about what to do, but usually there is an alternate opportunity out there.

Don’t Be Afraid to Learn New Things

Another great aspect about quilting is there is always something new to learn, or a different way of doing something, or a new technique.  When I’m tossed in a classroom situation (an in-person class, not a Zoom one), my mind battles three things:  1.  I’m probably in an unfamiliar classroom 2.  Despite the fact I packed my supplies and followed the list to the letter, I’ve left something at home and 3.  I need to set my space up so it looks vaguely familiar, and I can find things.  Those three items set my mental teeth on edge, and it can quickly turn in to a FOMU moment.  I don’t know if you’re the same way, but there are several ways to work around it.  Realize the other students in the room are there for the same reason you are – to learn and grow as quilters.  Recognize they’re learning something new, too.  Everyone is in the same quilting boat.

It’s also important to understand quilt teachers love their students and want to help them.  From my personal experience, I want each student to leave my classroom understanding what I’ve taught and I’m more than happy to take additional time to explain things.  Don’t let fear of the classroom stop you from learning something new.  And classes (both Zoom and in-person) are a great way to make new quilting friends.  

And last, but most important…

Remember it’s just quilting, it’s just fabric, and it’s all a part of your quilting journey

This isn’t brain surgery, it’s a hobby.  It may be a passion, but it’s not a person.  Notions, fabric, patterns – they can all be replaced or altered to fit.  There’s no need to stress yourself out over any of it.  If you have a FOMU moment, take a deep breath.  Work on another part of the quilt.  Let mistakes become creative, alternative opportunities.  Take 24-hours away from the project if you need to.  Just be sure to return to it and finish it because….

Finished is way better than perfect!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

2 replies on “Dealing with FOMU”

Glad I happened upon your blog. I’m pretty much a newbie, but I am really enjoying myself and am proud that I have made a lot of progress and gained a lot of confidence since my first quilt: a baby quilt for my first granddaughter, who will be two next month. My mantra on the quilt I just finished was, “It’s not a perfect world,” but I adapted a pattern to use the no-waste geese method instead of stitch and flip, and am very pleased with my results. Now if I could just get one of the tips for a consistent 1/4 inch to work more reliably…

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