Writer, author, memoir teacher. I write about the connections we find by giving each other the time and space to be heard.

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A few days ago, I ran screaming – in my head – from a quilting class. It all started last winter, when I signed up for three classes at my favorite quilting store. The first, on machine applique, was fun. I made a small wall hanging for my kitchen, three chickens cut from scraps of vintage-style fabric. But I needed help loading my heavy sewing machine into and out of my car, and onto the table at the store, where I noticed a couple of women using lightweight machines they bought “just for class and travel.”

It was obvious. I needed one of those, and the next day, Amazon delivered. I put in a few hours practicing with my new portable, because one of the class requirements is “a sewing machine you are familiar with using,” and god forbid I should look “unfamiliar” with my own machine. The next class, “binding basics,” was fun until one student’s hands were covered in blood – I’m not sure how that happened – and I nicked my ring finger on my rotary cutter blade. Otherwise, it was a good session with tips about “un-sewing” and cutting a bias binding and…okay, I won’t go on because this isn’t about sewing. It’s about quitting. Which I did in the middle of the third class: Paper Piecing Primer.

It seemed like a good idea last winter, when I envisioned myself happily sewing in my “spare” time. Or the time I would have if I didn’t keep signing up for things. Maybe the bloody binding class was a sign of how this would end. By the time paper piecing came up on my calendar, I didn’t want to go, but I’d already invested in the portable machine.  

In case you don’t know, in paper piecing, you sew small bits of contrasting fabric to a piece of paper. Simple, right? All you do is “take piece #1 and lay it right side up on the wrong side of the paper piecing template paper. Then take piece #2 and lay it right side down over piece #1 such that when you sew, fold over and iron fabric #2, it will cover the space on the pattern labeled #2 when you hold it up against the light.” If you understand that, I bow before you. It’s a lot like origami, which I tried years ago. And quit.

Everybody in class got the hang of it, with few mistakes, but me. I needed the instructor to stand beside me and go over each step as I worked. Nearing tears, I took a break, got a cup of coffee, and went for a walk in the park, where I realized I was done with paper piecing. Forever. “It’s not you, it’s me,” I told the instructor, packing up my machine, travel iron and pad, fabrics, pins, rotary cutter and mat, rulers, seam ripper, binding clips and scissors. Quilting requires a lot of supplies, and there’s always a new tool on the market, many of them fun and labor-saving. Unlike this class.

Besides paper piecing, I have quit knitting socks, swimming the breast stroke, and yoga headstands, all things that sounded good at the time but were just too hard. I’d rather go for long walks, swim the backstroke, do the corpse pose and sew table runners, totebags and placemats for my friends. 

So no more fancy classes for me. Except for the one I signed up for next month on how to use my Instant Pot. What could possibly go wrong?

Tell me I’m not alone here. What have you tried to learn and quit before attaining mastery, with no regrets?