Encouragement For The Barn Quilt Painter

While barn quilting has its small challenges (and no painting project ever runs perfectly smoothly), the biggest challenge that I see in most participants in a barn quilt painting class or any type of art is the monster of self-doubt.  I’ve seen self-doubt stop people from making decisions on what pattern or paint colors to choose.  Sometimes it halts the desire to finish their barn quilt in class, or even by keeping them from registering to attend.  Each of those artists has the desire to paint but their head gets in the way by self-sabotaging their thoughts with negativity and doubt.

Encouragement For The Barn Quilt Painter

Before each class is over, I always hear one of the following phrases from at least one barn quilt artist:

  • I don’t have an artistic bone in my body/I’m not artistic at all
  • This class is so far out of my comfort zone
  • I’ll just hang this up where nobody can see it
  • I can’t make mine as perfect as theirs

But I believe that art is not about making things perfect.  The true beauty of our barn quilts is how our personality and efforts are shown in our finished barn quilt square.  In fact, you could even say, the more mistakes, the prettier it is.  But don’t take my word for it…

The Japanese Concept Of Wabi Sabi

Wabi-Sabi believes in asymmetry, roughness, and the simplicity of normal imperfections that come from natural sources from the earth, such as clay.  Art is made of textures and styles that aren’t what you’d normally pay top dollar for or OOH and AHH over in the store window. Chips or nicks in the piece are common and celebrated and frequently patched up so they can get more use out of the piece.  In essence, the more used the piece is, the more loved it is.

Japanese Art Of Wabi Sabi With A Grey Bowl Fixed With GoldPhoto courtesy of Japan Expert Insights

In Japan, they believe that normal wear and tear, imperfections, and mending are a source of pride, not embarrassment.  When a piece of pottery is broken they take gold to mend it so they can continue its use and appreciation.  In some cases, the pottery is intentionally broken so as to remind them that beauty isn’t about perfection.  Wabi Sabi cultivates an appreciation of artwork with all of its flaws.  

Deliberate Errors In Handwoven Rugs

Did you know that Navajo women intentionally leave errors in the corners of the rugs they hand weave?  The women believe that as they are weaving their rug they are weaving a part of their being into the cloth.  They also believe that only God is perfect and intentionally leave small imperfections in everything they make so they don’t forget that God comes first.

Rug Maker Showing Deliberate Errors In Their Work
Photo courtesy of Amusing Planet

Persian rug weavers also adhere to this and believe that worrying about their mistakes slows down their progress, so in an effort to continually improve their craft, they dismiss any ideas of perfection.  And, I can agree with this as I see the steady progress of a painter grind to a halt as they start to second-guess their decisions about colors.  Their mood goes from happy and calm to fearful and doubting.


In fact, you may not have realized it but I bet deep down you appreciate it when someone shows you their flaws, proving they aren’t as perfect as we once thought they were.  They’re actually (gasp) human, just like you!


Photo Of Barn Quilt Points Not Touching Perfectly In Red, Blue and White

So by owning our imperfections, either in life or in our artwork, we’re showing to the world that we’re all alike and none of us are perfect.  

Before you start your next barn quilt

Before you begin to paint your barn quit I want you to know that your barn quilt doesn’t have to be “perfect” to be perfect.  Art is not about perfection, it’s about expression.  If we wanted perfection, we wouldn’t bother painting our own and instead, we would buy a barn quilt that’s computer printed from China in a big-box store.  Sure, it’s pretty but it’s almost too perfect.  It lacks character and the story you could tell behind it.  


Paint Runs When Painting A Barn Quilt That Are Being Fixed In Green, Purple, White

Since many of my barn quilt painting class participants come with friends and family to share the day together your barn quilt is a reflection of the fun day you had with the ones you love.  

What gives character to a barn quilt is the uniqueness of each one.  Every single artist could paint the same pattern in class and each one will turn out different and beautiful because each painter is different and beautiful.

Four Different Barn Quilt Painters Painting The Same Pattern With Different Colors


Three Different Barn Quilt Painters Painting The Same Pattern With Different Colors

What About Criticism?

I also hear a lot of comments about if measurement errors and paint runs are noticeable and, honestly, once you get your barn quilt hung, none of those will be noticeable to anyone else.  They're either too high up to see or, if it is pointed out, you’re showing your art to the wrong people.  


Barn Quilt Frame Not Meeting Up With Perfect Corner In Brown, Blue, White

Be careful because we can be our own worst critic!  The next time you show off your barn quilt to someone, don’t point out anything you see as an “error” and just bask in the compliments that are showered on you!  I promised that you don’t see or even care about imperfections in your work. They are proud of you and excited to hear all about the work you put into it.

To me, the end goal of any work of art is that it expresses your creativity and your personality, so don’t be afraid to make it unique, leave a few mess-ups, and paint it in your favorite colors even though it doesn’t match your house.  It’s yours, it’s unique and it’s perfect just the way you create it - with paint runs and brush strokes and all.  Let your creativity flow and enjoy the process!


  • My husband’s grandmother always said you have to have imperfections to let any evil spirits out! Love your post – it isn’t about perfection; it is about expression! Is every tree out there perfect? Every blade of grass? Of course not, but we don’t think less of God because of it, so do your best and don’t feel like less if there’s little errors or imperfections that probably only you will know about as long as you don’t point it out!

    Laurie Lehmkuhl
  • As a sewist and quilter, never point out your mistakes or flaws! Just call them “design options”. Most people will not notice. Enjoy your craft and learn from any mishaps along the way.

  • As a sewist and quilter, never point out your mistakes or flaws! Just call them “design options”. Most people will not notice. Enjoy your craft and learn from any mishaps along the way.


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