Irrational Fear and Crafting

Posted on | July 28, 2015 | 9 Comments

Crafting, whatever your poison, is something that should be fairly carefree (unless we are talking about gauge swatches, they should never be carefree). Creativity and making is what keeps many of us sane.

However, I’ve noticed something over the last few months. When I begin planning a new project I experience fear.


Maybe fear is too strong of a word, but it’s very much what I feel. For example, I’ve had this Liberty print fabric for over a year (it might even be two) and the perfect pattern picked out for it. But every time I made plans to tackle the project, I stalled. I made a muslin last summer, refit it again last April, made a test garment, wore it a bunch of times and loved it, but I still made excuses when it came to cutting into my pretty Liberty floral.

I’ve noticed this when designing knits as well. I’ll start off strong with numerous sketches, but then it comes to the swatching stage? Nada.


I used to throw caution to the wind! I was never the kind of crafter that started off with the beginner project. Knitting? Went straight for a sweater. Sewing? Give me a tailored coat any day. And so on. Experimentation was my middle name.

It seems silly, but when I get down to the bottom of it, I think the more I learn about any given craft, the more I fear making mistakes. As I learn the “correct” way of doing things I’m paralyzed by the thought I might press a dart wrong or forget to use the perfect left leaning decrease. Meanwhile, making mistakes is how we learn. Circles, circles!


The perfectionist, and to a lesser point the time engineer in me, wants everything to be perfect and on schedule. No stopping, no standing. This is not the way the creative process should be!

I’ve thought about various creative exercises to help break me out of this funk, but my brain keeps shouting at me, “no time, just get it done!”



So last weekend, I finally set aside some time for that Liberty dress. As of this moment it’s a collar, placket, and hem away from being wearable. As I cut into the fabric, nothing terrible happened. As I sewed it up, the machine didn’t eat it. As I ironed it, I didn’t burn a hole right through it.

Hopefully this dress will be the break in the dam that I need!

Have you ever experienced this sort of thing? If so, how did you overcome it? I need all the suggestions I can get!


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  • Katy Carroll

    I think as we get more experienced we give ourselves less room and time to make mistakes (as though we should “know better”). I know that I did some knitting experimentation in my beginning years that I would be a little chicken to try now.

  • Alaina

    Yup, I completely get this. I used to do so many hilarious things when I was new to sewing (sewing on bias binding inside out, etc.), and just not really caring, but now I’ve become so worried about making mistakes. And with knitting I always swatch, but now that I know swatches can lie, I get stressed out about casting on the right size for a sweater. I try to just focus on the fun of the process, and cut myself some slack, but it’s really difficult sometimes!

  • Peaceable Liberal

    Absolutely! I’m very much a product knitter. I knit a project until it’s done and then immediately start something else. I keep thinking I’ll spend time enjoying the knitting books I’ve gotten (like Knitsonik), experimenting some with stranded colorwork, but I don’t. I find projects I like on ravelry, and I knit those instead. I’m scared of steeks, so I have a sweater kit sitting on my shelf for a couple years because I’m too afraid to knit it and ruin it. I think I may need to set a time frame when I’ll work on a project that scares me. I’m sure getting started is the hardest part! I’m a new embroiderer, and I find it much less frightening than knitting. I think it is because I’m a much more experienced knitter and therefore less willing to make mistakes. Good job starting the dress!!!

  • Melissa Wehrle

    You would think it would be the opposite! As we learn more, we should feel confident to use what we know to push the envelope. Why is this such a tough concept to wrap our heads around?

  • Melissa Wehrle

    Cutting ourselves some slack is so hard sometimes! I think this becomes really noticeable when someone points out they like something you’ve made. My tendency sometimes is to start pointing out the things wrong with it. No bueno! I will definitely try harder to remind myself this should be fun and if I can’t being myself around, I guess it’s best to save it for another day.

  • Melissa Wehrle

    I got the Knitsonik book thinking it would help break me out of the rut a little and I haven’t even opened it since it arrived in the mail!

    I think that being a product knitter/sewer might be a little bit of my problem as well. It’s rarely about the journey, it’s about the finished useful thing. Which also perpetuates the fear. If the thing isn’t beautiful and useful, then it was a waste of time. Forget the fact that you just learned a new technique or used a fabric you’ve never used before! I’ve been trying to slow down and take joy in the process and when I’m into the project, it’s helped immensely. If I’m not into the project and I’m rushing to get something wearable out of it, disaster usually strikes.

    Also, don’t fear the steeks! They are actually quite fun to work and I promise your sweater will not unravel.

  • Alaina

    Haha, I do that too! Last time I pointed an error out to a friend she just looked at me like I was ridiculous – turns out she didn’t care that one of the pockets was a little higher than the other. Gotta learn to take a compliment. :-)

  • Francis Berryhill

    When I was new to knitting, I would try anything. I did all kinds of things not knowing they were suppose to be for experienced knitters. And they usually turned out fine. I had no fear because I didn’t know what I was trying was considered hard. Now, I worry I will mess up and this has spilled over to other crafts like sewing. I avoid complicated patterns. It might have been more fun when I didn’t know what I was doing:)

  • Melissa Wehrle

    Well, you know what they say, ignorance is bliss! I really don’t know why we put so much pressure on ourselves like this. At least I now know I’m alone in feeling this way!