How good is good enough?

children with their teepee bags at my grandson’s 8th birthday party


This is a question I have struggle with frequently.  Does EVERY project require or deserve perfection?

Most recently, my struggle focused on the party favor bags for my grandson’s 8th birthday.  The party had a sports theme, with a football pinata and soccer field cake.  My contribution to the festivities was 12 teepee bags  (click here for the post with the free pattern) 3 each  from football, baseball, basketball and soccer novelty fabrics.  After enjoying the bounce house and the girls swapping clothes and changing again and again with the garments in the dress up box,  the bags were stuffed by the children with the spilled contents of the smashed pinata.

Like most of you readers, I am very, very busy.    But I am also very, very fussy about my sewing.  Often I ask myself, is it better to sew more with a few imperfections or better to sew less and get my projects as close to perfect as possible?  In fact, I rarely achieve results even close to perfect.

I wrestled with this question when making the quick and easy bags , which take 10 minutes each without finishing touches.  Two of these touches include topstitching the zipper, finishing the seams and trimming stray whiskers from the seams. Ultimately, taking time to cut out and make each bag unique (who wants mass produced?) with different colored zippers and handle loops, winding different colored bobbins and changing threads, I spent about 20 minutes each.  But was it worth it?


Do the seams really need to be finished for a candy bag? Must the stray thread be trimmed?.


In search of the answer, I did not sit in my Adirondack chair under a freshly leafed oak tree on a sunny Florida spring afternoon.   Remember, I am very busy. Oops, I think I already mentioned that…  Instead I contemplated the quotes  below while folding laundry, feeding the cats and scouring the kitchen sink.

Confucius said, “”Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”  Hmmmm….

But Aristotle said,  “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”  I have an abundance of pleasure in the job, but I don’t get perfection.  Hmmmmm…

Plato really muddied the waters with his declaration, “Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.”  Hmmm…again and again.

Then, many quotes addressed the subject of excellence along with perfection.

“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.” ~ Pat Riley

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” ~ Aristotle

Ultimately, it was the wisdom of a football legend who spoke to my heart.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” ~ Vince Lombardi

As you can see from the photo of the single soccer teepee bag, the seams were finished, the zipper was  topstitched,  and finally the stray threads. were trimmed.  I’m not sure it was the wisest expenditure of my time, but I couldn’t help myself.   I’ve decided that I am in search of excellence in all I sew rather than demanding or expecting perfection.  Whew!  That’s a relief!

So what would you do?




9 responses to “How good is good enough?

  1. Hm, a very interesting question. I would probably have done like you did even if it meant staying up all night to do it. I do not expect perfection from myself – stopped doing that years ago but I do strive to do the best I can do and I prefer to unpick than try to live with a garment or some patchwork that is not as good as I can do. As to top-stitching zips I have decided there are times when I do not want to top-stitch them on zipped pouches because I find they look better if they are not – that was not a time-saving decission but rather one that came about because I forgot before assembling and turning out through lining ;-D

  2. Maga, I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. We do think alike! We prefer to pick out something that is not as good as we can do because it’s just so unsettling or unpleasant to live with less than our best. So often it’s not a question of just how good is good enough for this particular project, but a question of how uncomfortable we will be with what is not our best. Thanks for being in touch.

  3. from a facebook friend: I wrestle with the same things. Because I sew for others, I tend to be extremely driven towards perfection. But for myself and my children, sometimes I will make something that is not quite as challenging as I am capable of, so that I can focus on making something simpler as perfect as I can make it. And the little zipper treat bags are adorable!

  4. Like you, Friend, I often find myself seeking simple projects, especially for my 4 yo granddaughter’s play clothes and those come closer to a standard of excellence than more challenging items. With them, I get greater satisfaction than with more difficult things. Those I enjoy but the imperfections make me cringe. Sigh….

  5. from another facebook friend: You made me think. I know with my sewing, there is apparently no limit. I am making draperies right now (Ugh!) and I just spent more per yard on the lining than the decorative fabric. That’s just how I roll. I almost finished one panel this weekend. Hopefully I’ll pick up the pace as I work thru “proof of concept”.

  6. I understand perfectly your spending more on the lining than the decorator fabric. For me, purchasing the best fabric or trims or whatever for the project is something that I can be completely satisfied with. I love your “proof of concept” phrase and process.

  7. from yet another facebook friend: Great post!!!

  8. Wisest words from my friend and mentor. And a reality check that perfection is only God’s. Excellence is human. And Play things are play things, haha! maggieb!

  9. Oooh, Maggie, I love your insight. “perfection is only God’s. Excellence is human.” We can and should strive for perfection, but excellence is the best we can hope for. I’m so happy to be your friend, but I’m just flattered that you call me your mentor. It’s YOU who are teaching me to build a better bishop! And doing a fine job of it, too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.