Keeping It Real – a view behind the scenes

A few candid thoughts on social media.

Thank you so much for the love on the spectrum quilt earlier this week. I want to share an important comment I received when I shared the pictures on Instagram that day. The week prior I had shared the picture of the pile of fabrics that I used for the project and that gave rise to this very good question:

“Did you really make this in about 6 days?!??”

Such a good question.

The answer is most definitely no. But I can totally see how that would have been easy to assume based on when the two pictures were shared on Instagram.

So it made me think, I should give a little bit of a behind the scenes viewpoint of how things happen around here because the last thing I want is for anyone to think that I’m super-human.


First of all, I treat all this sewing stuff as my job – because that’s what it’s become for me.  And I love it! But I am definitely not the most neat and organized creator that ever created. Most of the time I have multiple projects and deadlines going on at once. And usually my sewing space looks a lot like this (on a good day):

That said, I treat my blog and other social media channels like the business they’ve become. In order to help things run quasi-smoothly, I keep a calendar with my posts scheduled out months in advance – especially if the post partners with another business – for example that specific post was coordinated with the Fat Quarter Shop’s calendar. And a lot of times those deadlines are really good for me because they force me to finish a project.


Using this case as an example, I shot a dolled-up pretty picture (below) of the project’s fabric before I started cutting into it over month ago. I worked on the blocks in bits and pieces, but I didn’t really rev up on that project until I’d finished the Heart and Soul quilt a few weeks prior.

However, I didn’t share the pretty “glamour shot” of the fabric on Instagram until I was really in the thick of piecing the quilt the week before my deadline. I feel like I’m less organized when it comes to sharing on Instagram and didn’t think to share the picture until I was knee deep cutting and sewing the fabric. Since Instagram algorhithms reward pretty images, I shared the glamour shot, rather than the chaos of my cutting table. Not because I’m embarrassed by the chaos, but simply because I didn’t think to share it.

So, through the magic of social media, I can totally see how two pictures spaced one week apart on my Instagram feed could give the illusion that I went from a gorgeous pile of fabric to a finished quilt in a week. Whereas in reality it took much longer than that. (Not to mention a late night, sick kid, husband-out-of-town, feeding the kids scrambled-eggs for dinner, a long-arm quilter etc., etc., going on behind the scenes to get it done.)

[Also, while on the subject, if I do seem to finish quilts quickly, keep in mind I rarely quilt my own quilts – that’s a HUGE timesaver right there. I frequently get asked how I “get so much done”. I wrote a lot more on that topic in this post.]

I realize I don’t always do a very good job of regularly portraying the reality of life in my social media sphere. But I promise it’s not because of a massive conspiracy theory or trying to hide my chaos. It’s mainly because I’m tired and disorganized, and trying to spend less time on electronics and more time with my family (and fabric). 😉 As a result the pictures that do show up are usually just the pretty stuff.

So I share all of that, just so to acknowledge the fact that, like pretty much everything online, what you see here is just ‘smoke and mirrors’  – or the highlight reel. My behind the scenes messes are just as big as (maybe bigger than) everyone else’s. I’m not trying to be deceiving – I’m not even embarrassed by my messes and real life! – just trying to put out something that’s hopefully, informative, helpful content.

And in case you want to know what Google Arts and Culture compares my life to, here you go:

It’s probably a lot more accurate comparison. 😉

(I’m hoping it’s commentary on my [lack of] selfie skills and not that I really look like a pasty, sick old man…)

With that, one last plea to remember what you see on social media isn’t the full story. To a certain extent there is inspiration to be found, but I know when I’ve crossed a line after looking at too much SM and I start to feel worse than better.

It’s definitely being creative that feeds my soul. So if you start to feel dread instead of inspiration after looking at your favorite social media, blogs, Facebook, etc, put it away and go pet – or better yet – start cutting up some fabric.

It’s the best medicine and perspective renewal! xo

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  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for writing this, Amy! It was refreshing to hear the real life side of your work. My favorite photo is the one of you taking a photo because my husband likes to take pictures of me taking photos (laying on the ground, squinting, making odd faces). You looked like a professional at home. Nicely done.

  • Reply
    Sally Christiansen
    February 2, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    Great post!

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Amy—so true about social media! It is easy to get the idea that everyone else is close to perfect when we spend too much time on FB or Instagram or other social media! I appreciate you being real!!

  • Reply
    Robby H.
    February 2, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    Thoughtful post. Isn’t the take away most of the time in life that we need to be careful about comparing ourselves to others? For we are all made uniquely with different skills, talents and passions.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Terrific post! Not surprised that reality and a few ig posts diverge!

    I enjoy following your blog, the positve presentation of your creativity and creations. Keep up the great work, enjoy yourself, your work and your family.

  • Reply
    Erin M
    February 2, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    Thanks for reminding us of some of the ways blogging and media don’t reflect real life. I got a good laugh at the art comparison. Doesn’t seem to resemble you in the least!

  • Reply
    Helen S
    February 2, 2018 at 11:23 pm

    So refreshing to hear your wise words, Amy.
    As a grandma and loooong time quilter who has embraced blogland for ideas and inspiration from the many quilters out there, it is good to hear you speak of real life vs. the social media life we see portrayed.
    Thank you for a terrific site, love your work.
    Happiness and good health to you and yours,

  • Reply
    Mrs. Plum
    February 3, 2018 at 12:10 am

    Great post! I enjoyed your photo of your sewing table. Looks a lot like mine! Loved the quote about creativity vs. neatness. I like neat, but I just can’t DO neat.

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 12:12 am

    You’ve hit the nail on the head for me with this post. I am increasingly annoyed with most social media, my quilty blogging buds being the exception. And even there, I don’t much enjoy what I call “Ta Daaah!” posts, where an immaculately staged, lit and styled image is presented of a finished piece of work that has taken weeks or months to make, amidst the chaos of daily life, pin sticks, empty bobbins and not quite enough of that key fabric. I like process. I like to know How, When, Why, and What brought that quilt to life. I want to offer comments, ideas, encouragement and consolation while friends (and heroes) are working. Perfection irritates me because it gives no hint of the intensely personal struggle that creating something beautiful can be. Put simply, I like your mess. Please show it.

    • Reply
      Andrea Rennick
      February 3, 2018 at 4:33 am

      Love this – we do need more messes.

      • Reply
        February 4, 2018 at 2:31 am

        Maybe not more, but I do think we need to *see* some good creative messes, so we can see even our heroes work the same way we do!

    • Reply
      Lisa Knapton-Pertzborn
      February 5, 2018 at 10:43 am

      I agree. I make lots of quilts but do so in a tiny apartment. A good portion is done on the floor (borders, cutting batting and backing, etc.) My sewing table is tucked underneath the breakfast bar with a halogen light mounted underneath. Anything that is larger than a throw I send out to a longarmer simply because I do not have the luxury of space (and the fact they do a much better job than I could). I love sewing and reading blogs but I dont blog because I spend enough time reading them and, to be honest, I’d rather be sewing. I love creating. Blogs encourage me though…so many cute things I want to make. I would love to see the process. Not enough people outside the quilting world know how much work goes into a quilt.

  • Reply
    Jo Avery
    February 3, 2018 at 2:29 am

    Great Post Amy! My sewing space is actually horrendous compared to yours (I may send you a private photo just to prove it!) and I laughed at the photo of you on the chair, this is me most days on a foot stool balancing a piece of mounting board against me! If only I was organised enough to plan my posts in advance – but then I don’t have little kids to look after!

  • Reply
    Barbara Sutcliffe
    February 3, 2018 at 4:12 am

    Thanks for this post – some very wise words in it. I have only recently started posting on Instagram and it is hard knowing what type of photos to post, remembering to take ‘in process’ shots, posting regularly etc. whilst still actually getting things done. The hours that can easily pass looking at other posts is scary – and you are right about the tipping point when it becomes overwhelming and unproductive.

  • Reply
    Andrea Rennick
    February 3, 2018 at 4:36 am

    Love the background in the post! It reminds me of the time someone greatly admired one of my own quilt pics and how “perfect” it looked.

    I had to break it to her that the quilt was draped over a laundry basket with two unfolded and wrinkled loads of clean laundry. 😀

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 5:04 am

    Thanks for keeping it real Amy! I think that many forget that SM algorithms manipulate what we see and there is no doubt that it spreads styilzed glamour shots vs “real” pics. Also a great reminder that this IS your job – and with that comes promotion and coordination with other businesses. Not a bad thing but just a reminder for those of us that sew as a hobby – it’s not the same – my deadlines work around my RL job and family. I’ve noticed a small revolution of people heading back to their neglected blogs in response to the SM frustration and in search of more “connection” I think. Regardless I continue to follow you not only for your work but exactly for posts like this! Thank you for keeping it real!

  • Reply
    Gladys Vega
    February 3, 2018 at 5:26 am

    Thank you from this post! I love your work and read your blog. And I like sou much the behing the escene … It’s more real! Keep your funy, your family, your fabric and bloggin!!! (Sorry for the errors I write whit translator)

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 5:58 am

    Love your post, you make quilting real with the ups and downs.

  • Reply
    Barbara Esposito, The Quilted B
    February 3, 2018 at 6:04 am

    I have two words for you Amy…THANK YOU! Seriously. Thank you. I have been on a campaign to try to help my quilty friends (and anyone else who will listen) understand why they quilt. Are you doing it because you want to enter a competition? Then you better well starch every block, snip every dog ear, and pad your binding. Are you doing it because someone needs the hug your quilt will give them, perhaps to get them through chemo? Then get on with it, pray while you make the quilt, and finish it! Are you doing it for a family member? By golly the fact that you took the time to make it and gift it speaks louder than your not-so-perfect 1/4″ seam! It IS hard to see so much perfection and not feel intimidated or incapable. But honestly, I sew for the pure joy of it. My quilts will not win blue ribbons in any state fair. But I can tell you that I do what I do with all the love I can muster, grateful for eyes to see, hands to do, and the means to continue doing it! I understand and appreciate the need for beautifully staged and photographed finished projects. But if we spent less time on social media comparing ourselves to some staged picture of perfection, we would have way more time to create and share our passion in all it’s glorious imperfection!

    • Reply
      Lisa Knapton-Pertzborn
      February 5, 2018 at 10:48 am

      Amen to that! I totally agree. I create because I enjoy it. Getting too many stuffed into a closet. I need to gift them so people know someone cares and that they are loved.

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 6:14 am

    ^^^ I am of the same thought as Barbara Esposito. I quilt bc it is fun and I enjoy making things for my beloved friends and family.
    I do love your blog, and I just knew it!! I knew you were a real person and not a just robot.
    Happy Saturday sweet friend

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 6:24 am

    Thank your for the real post. You made me feel so much better of not having that perfectly organized sewing room and not finishing projects quickly. I work 10-12 hour days and don’t have the time to spend on my projects like I would like and have trouble finishing anything. I love that you showed your realness. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 6:25 am

    Thank you, Amy!!!! I often feel like i!I’m the only one who doesn’t have time to see as much as I would like and don’t finish enough. As a full time mom and parental care taker, sewing is always on the back burner and I carve out time when and where I can. We don’t see the ins and outs of everyone’s days, so thank you for your perspective and beautiful inspirations!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Thanks for that great post Amy. You are very real and down to earth and that is why I enjoy your blog so much!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Barbara Esposito – exactly like that !!! Thank you Amy for this post and all the other thank you too! Best wishes from Poland

  • Reply
    April Martin
    February 3, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Great post, lots of food for thought! Making it real!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 8:24 am

    I enjoy the perfectness of most blog pictures because it gives me something to strive for. It’s fun to see the behind the scenes, for sure…thanks for giving us a glimpse of your reality.

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 8:31 am

    really good post

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Cathy Melancon
    February 3, 2018 at 8:43 am

    I always enjoy your posts and thank you for this “keeping it real” info! Keep up the great work and, you look nothing liks that ancient make Dr!!!!?

  • Reply
    Maria Gee
    February 3, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Just wanted to say thanks, and “Amen, sistah!” That social media disillusionment can get the best of me sometimes, so thanks for keeping it real.

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 8:53 am

    The view behind the pretty pics helps me to not judge my messy creative process. The end justifies the means, i say!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 9:02 am

    I’m so glad you shared this post. It’s reality for most of us! I’ve been following your blog (and purchasing your book) for years because you are refreshingly honest and humble – as well as inspiring. Your username said it all – “DIARY of a Quilter”. Diaries are a wonderfully personal way of storytelling. The way you tell your story has kept me following you for years. Thank you!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Best post ever! “It’s definitely being creative that feeds my soul.” Amen. I am of the generation where social media meant sharing a polaroid pic of your creations with friends at church or Bible study or bringing a quilt to a baby shower to have everyone oh and aw over it. Still the best social media feedback experience 🙂

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 10:33 am

    So thoughtful, so kind, and so helpful to all of us. Thank you.

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 11:57 am

    One of the reasons follow you is be you are real, and I respect you even more for writing this post. Us hobby quilters see these posts from our favorite professional quilters and think you really must be super human to sit down and create a quilt from start to finish without any distraction in X number of days! This inspires us but also makes our naturally insecure nature feel more insecure! I really appreciate the look behind the curtain!

  • Reply
    Janice Holton
    February 3, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Unplugging and just getting to sewing is genious advice. I have recently been right there where there is sooooo much to see and do and make on SM that you start to get overwhelmed with sensory overload. I am going to try your advice!

  • Reply
    Cindy B
    February 3, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Thank you for sharing your soul! I identify with your sentiments and I loved your photos as well!

  • Reply
    Tabitha Keener
    February 3, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Loved your post! I think most of us that live in and understand reality get all of that and normally it’s a given. When I look at your pretty pictures, I already figured out all the hard work and mess that goes with it, especially if you have family, a job, etc. If you really did it in a week, I would just think that you gave up quite a bit to get it done! Love your posts!

  • Reply
    Pamela Fitzsimmons
    February 3, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Good for you! I appreciate that sooo much, and I must say your blog is the best one out there, and my sewing room is a lot worse than yours.

  • Reply
    Cindy Mizer
    February 3, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks for being a real person.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann
    February 3, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    Thank you! Such a real chat with us. My table usually looks like yours and I certainly can’t pull off a complete quilt in 6 days unless it’s super simple and I got the baby shower date wrong. I try and remind myself that for some bloggers and IG poster this is your business. And I am not competing with anyone…not even myself.

  • Reply
    Linda Stewardson
    February 3, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Amy, I admire your honesty. I also admire your talent and your dedication. I’ve learned a lot from your website, I’m a 65 year old beginner and need all the help I can get ! Thanks for maintaining this blog and helping beginners of all ages!

  • Reply
    Needle and Foot
    February 3, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    Excellent post, love to hear the real life version – so much more inspiring then the perfect glimpses we might see on social media. Thank you!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2018 at 12:04 am

    Maybe I’m the odd one out, but I like the smoke and mirrors. It lets me believe the myth that someone, somewhere, is finishing gorgeous quilts with ease and style while my sewing machine has been packed up for months and my two year old daughter is tearing the papers out of my (unjoined) EPP project.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Thank you for sharing part of your life with all of us! I have always love your blog and thank goodness we have you as a friend ??

  • Reply
    Sheila Perl
    February 4, 2018 at 7:39 am

    I loved this blog and I love the real glimpse of your sewing room! I happily posted it on my “sewing room organization” board on Pinterest because it looks exactly like MY sewing room and not all those perfectly organized pictures! Beautiful to look at but who sews there!?

  • Reply
    Karen Seitz
    February 4, 2018 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for the important and valuable post, and thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

  • Reply
    Mrs. Blum
    February 4, 2018 at 8:29 am

    I loved seeing your planner! Even with all the apps and calendars on our devices it seems that quilters (and other creative people) still love the paper planners!!

    • Reply
      February 4, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      I really do! There’s something about writing things down on paper that helps me!

  • Reply
    Jenifer Farrell
    February 4, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Such a great post! I feel like you do a good job of keeping it real – and your advice is something I’ve learned to tell myself too — it’s hard to have a full-time job and family commitments, and a part-time obsession with making things whenever I have a moment … and I often tell myself that people like you do this for your job! I still love to live through your productivity vicariously 🙂 Thanks for keeping it real !

  • Reply
    February 4, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Thank you Amy for keeping it real and inspiring, and showing the progress shots – which is why I prefer blogs to instagram.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Thank you for putting your real self out there and bringing life and injecting reality into your blog. I have been “trimming down the fluff” and unfollowing accounts that have stopped inspiring me to “enjoy the process/embrace the mess”. Quilting for me is an inner peace that generates great joy and contentment; the part of my life I give myself permission to let the messy child shine through. When I quilt, it’s my time to play with scissors and “finger paint”.
    I no longer subscribe to the exclusively staged/ purely self marketing accounts; migrating instead to follow along for the genuine creative mess. I’m just a hobby quilter learning as I go and taking back control of my own social media.
    I admit that I’ve kept a few of those perfect marketing business pages generated specifically for sales; although, stemming from the disintegration of customer service I’ve significantly narrowed down that list to include a select few. The explosion of sites pedaling their wares is a mind field of its own and another topic all together.

    • Reply
      February 4, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      Is there a reason my comment still says awaiting approval?

      • Reply
        February 4, 2018 at 2:37 pm

        Sorry, Evie. I don’t get to my computer much on Sundays – just getting around to it today. Thank you so much for your comment!

        • Reply
          February 4, 2018 at 4:16 pm

          No worries, I was just hoping it wasn’t too long. I didn’t know if there was a character limit and was going to shorten it if need be.

  • Reply
    Cynthia Holmes
    February 4, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Your Diary of a quilter post is the only one I actually save to read on my computer instead of deleting it without reading it. I enjoy every one of them. Thank You.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2018 at 11:28 am

    I love the behind the scenes peek! I always appreciate knowing that there are real humans out there, maybe a bit like me, who aren’t as perfect as presenting the right photo can make it look. 🙂 Thanks, always, for your blog; it’s wonderful and inspiring!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    The Instagram comment about rewarding pretty pictures was jaw dropping. I follow you and love to see real life with some inspiration thrown in but I guess that we do live in a world where beauty is rewarded in all shapes and sizes. Keeping it real gets props.

  • Reply
    Stacy R Gregerson
    February 4, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Thanks for your post and for being “real” I’d love to read a post/how-to on how you take photos of your fabric and quilts.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2018 at 6:26 am

    Love. This. Post. As always, you put things exactly into the proper perspective and shared that “this is life”. You rock!

  • Reply
    February 5, 2018 at 7:35 am

    Wonderful post! I was laughing at out at your frank analysis of your art comparison! To me, your creative content gives inspiration and information and never adds on stress. Thank you!

  • Reply
    February 5, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    I loved reading this! Thank you for the reminder that we are not all perfect. I love to quilt and sometimes wonder why I don’t seem to ‘keep up’ with others…social media has a lot to do with this feeling. I really enjoy your blog..Thanks!

  • Reply
    Helen LeBrett
    February 6, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Loved your beautifully honest post Amy!! And my favorite pic was the one of you on the chair taking the picture. I’ve been there: so good to see other people have to do some of the inelegant things I do!! 🙂 Hugs, H

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