The Enemy of Done

I’m not sure if anyone actually wants to read about quilts so I tried to have some Ideas about it. There’s also photos of Merlin involved.

The old saw you use on someone when you want them to hurry up, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” has a lesser known corollary.


Don’t let good be the enemy of done.


The earthier version of this is the unofficial state motto of Oklahoma, coined by a brilliant friend: “fuck it, it’ll hold.” Words that have been my guiding star in times of uncertainty.


I made a quilt for Merlin using a traditional pattern called Adeline from Busy Hands Quilts. In terms of piecing it is probably the most technical and accurate work I have done (barring the border strips, which I had significant trouble in getting to match), but it is by no means perfect. The blue fabric is the Doc Bronner label, which I vectorized, tiled and printed via spoonflower.

I planned out a very 80s backing, but it didn’t work with the quilt top so I knocked together something fast using off-cuts and I like it, but the assembly was very sloppy and the end product is probably only good for a quilt you know your kid is going to barf on.


PARENTING SIDE NOTE: Kids have no idea that there are socially acceptable places to barf. In one ninety minute period Merlin managed to throw up in his carseat, several rugs and every bed in our house. It took significantly longer than ninety minutes to clean up.

Anyway on to the quilting, the point of this mini-essay. I decided to attempt free-motion quilting for the first time, which is a process in which you manually guide the fabric through the sewing machine (as opposed to letting the excellently-named feed dogs pull the fabric through in a straight line).

You can do lots of stunning, artistic work this way but it requires significant practice–most quilters suggest making practice quilt sandwiches.

But practice quilt sandwiches leave me with hours of practice and an unfinished quilt.. So I just jumped in, attempting a meander pattern that would normally be a lot more rounded but in this instance looks like realtree camo had a baby with a topographic map.

During the surprisingly fast (and surprisingly high-energy) process I contemplated the number of times I just decided to finish things and then work out the details of improvement later.


Jeff, Rebecca and I built a brewery on twenty thousand dollars and we have spent years (and magnitudes of money more) to improve upon and refine the original concept. I had an idea about a tabletop role-playing game while on a bike ride and wrote the manuscript for it in about 20 hours, then spent a year knocking various details into place. I started as an infant (i.e. done) and eventually got good at some things. Starting perfect is impossible and starting good requires years of diligent effort. Starting done is that diligent effort.


Programmer types refer to this idea as rapid prototyping (a friend once gave a very excellent talk about it titled “Building a Duct Tape Canoe”) but I think for creative pursuits especially (like writing novels) it’s easy to obsess over the overall idea to the point that the concept no longer serves as a finishable object–you’re too hung up on it being perfect for it to be good, and its potential for being good is too strong for you to ever finish it.


Quilting is one of the few things in life where done actually equals done (after all we make our core lineup at the brewery several times a month, affording us constant opportunities for improvement), and although the individual details of this quilt aren’t perfect (aren’t even good, in some places) the whole thing is done and, as it turns out, the effect of the whole is pretty impressive–you don’t even notice what little idea I have of what I am doing.


Raise a glass to the slapdash-yet-finished. It’s good enough.