If you can’t say anything nice…

… don’t say anything at all. Is this what we’ve become?
You may have noticed I’ve been a bit radio silent the past two weeks. I’ve been ruminating about something that has caused me a lot of reflection. Now, what I’m about to discuss is probably going to turn some of you off, cause others to send me hate mail, and a few more of you to hit the unfollow button. I promise you though, my heart is still full of joy, and my arms wide open to give you hugs.
I’ve been thinking about the quilt land ideology that everything that is made is meant to be adored simply for existing. Let me first make it clear (you with the hate mail, make sure you read this again) I completely appreciate that the very act of making something handmade is amazing, generous, life-giving, soulful, heart-warming, unique, and usually under-appreciated. However, for me, being handmade does not automatically qualify it as beautiful, artistic, and worthy of praise. Some of it I just don’t like. Ouch. Yeah, I said it out loud.
My point is not one of elitism. It is one of realism. I am self-aware enough to know not all of my quilts are shit-hot. You probably think this as well (about my quilts, not necessarily yours, but maybe those too). And here is my ruminating question: Why is it not allowed for someone to tell us so, if it is coming from a place of constructive improvement? Quilt land has me scared to offer any dissent of the handmade, with the only approved line of commenting being “I love it! I love you! I love everything about it and you!” Can you imagine if I commented, “I don’t like it.” Ordinarily, I would follow that sentiment with a reason, but is it necessary? There is often zero causation offered for positive commentary. 
But wait! If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Right? If it’s not considered nice, I am just not allowed to say it. Well, screw that. I have a big mouth, and I’m tired of biting my tongue, just to appease the sentiments of the quilting masses. You must remember though, my opinion is no more important than yours, nor yours more than mine. Whatever I say, you can choose to listen voraciously, nod vapidly, bitch slap violently, or engage in further dialogue. If you believe in what you’ve created, a voiced opinion can not tear it down.
I’d rather a big dose of realness than silence or generic, unsubstantiated positivity. Perhaps I need a disclaimer, “Tell me how you really feel!” My feelings will not be hurt when you say, “I like it, but I wish you would have used chartreuse rather than emerald. It looks flat and I don’t like it.” And I hope yours aren’t hurt when I say to you, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Emerald is the shit!” Then we laugh, and go grab a cocktail. Two olives, please!
Simply, it’s okay not to like something–as much as it is okay to like it–and it’s just fine to tell someone so. It diminishes nothing, and I believe it would only make our quilting relationships stronger and develop further with honesty. Isn’t that what we’re all here for anyway, a real community?


I’ve made an unbranded button–well, there might be a bit of sparkle thrown in!–for you to declare that “truth tea is always welcome” on your blog. Button code is on the sidebar, use it at will.

113 Responses

  1. Anne says:

    Hrm, some internal reflection of my own. Reading this post makes me relieved. I love (LOVE) giving (hopefully) constructive criticism on many things, but I'm uncomfortable doing so in general because I don't want people to take it as a sign of dislike. Often it comes from a place of extreme interest; the things I dislike outright, I have trouble coming up with anything to say at all. With my good friends, I feel comfortable having those conversations, but with others, I just keep my mouth shut now, after hurting a few feelings. So the relief comes from knowing that in your space, I'm safe to share that feedback openly.

    With that said, I think people should have the freedom to say "No, I don't want that." and that's fine, too. Having grown up in computer science, one of the things I love about the quilting community is that people are by default nice instead of jackasses. (Sorry CS, but you guys are generally self-aggrandizing asshats.) I love how supportive people are in this li'l creative community, because it's helped me grow a lot as a creative person, where former communities have not.

    Maybe we just need some way to communicate "criticism welcome here" for those who are welcoming of it? At this point I'm with you, I'd welcome the criticism (constructive preferred of course), but as a new blogger it would have really turned me off from the community to have someone wandering through and blasting my early offerings (and trust me, they would have deserved it.)

    I think it's the difference between it being a hobby and being an art. As a hobbyist, I'm doing it for fun, and I don't really want criticism for something I do in my free time. As an artist, I welcome the criticism because I want to further my art.

  2. Vera says:

    I know you can handle some "I don't get it comments" but I don't know if others would appreciate it so I fell into silent category. Maybe some button stating Honesty allowed or something like that would help me to let go and say it out loud what I sometimes think 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Vera – you're one of the people who I feel is generally honest with me on my blog (you are always very nice about it, too). 🙂 It's appreciated!

  3. You are very brave to say this but is is true. Not all handmade quilts, knitting, greetings cards, cakes or DIY projects are to everyone's taste or to professional standard in terms of design, execution, longevity or wow factor. But I sew because I love it. And some other people like my stuff enough to buy it. But it does make me happy.
    Kath Kidston started selling junk sale stuff she covered in vintage floral fabric in a tiny shop and look where she is now.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all and I love the support and kindness of the crafting community- It makes a change from the @$£%& I have to deal with everyday in my job. Sewing is a lovely escape. Some people like you are very gifted with a designer's eye and precision execution, why not just let the rest of us admire and say we love your work?


    • Hey EvaRose, first of all, you're a no-reply blogger: http://thewindyside.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/how-to-stop-being-no-reply-blogger.html

      Second, thanks for your contribution to this discussion! Great thoughts. You can say you love my work as much as you want. I just want you to mean it, and love is a very powerful word. I don't want anyone to be afraid to say, "I think this is just so-so for me, but I would have loved it if you would have bound it in black and white stripe!" I think that type of comment is still positive, and creates a discussion, and allows me think about my design decision. It also gives me some insight into your aesthetic, and will have me pondering my next binding choice, for sure!

  4. Charlotte says:

    I agree with you. I think a lot of this has to do with the nature of the community – it's so difficult to convey tone of voice online, and generally people just want to be friendly. "Negative" comments often end up causing a giant defensive response from everyone else. I have had plenty of constructive discussions in real life and have never been offended (or caused offence) by being open and honest about stuff. Some of them even ended in cocktails. Maybe we (*cough* you *cough*) should make a blog button to show that all comments are welcome, like those "friendly" collars you can get for dogs. That way people could feel safe knowing that they aren't going to get torn apart by the masses.

  5. Heather M. says:

    Maybe the rule of thumb should be don't write something you wouldn't say to someone's face? I agree with Anne. One of the things that has attracted me to this community is being able to share and learn without being criticized. I think there's a big difference between telling someone "maybe if you had used this method the seams wouldn't pucker" and "I don't like your color choice."

  6. MsMidge says:

    Well, here goes nothing. Sometime last year, I posted a photo on IG of a little quilt top that I was very unsure about, and stated so in my post. A certain person called "Molli" commented "It looks like mondrian vomit"………. Now, I'm not a fragile little petal, and I certainly do not like reading in to the written word online or on IG – but – I was actually quite taken aback with your comment (obviously – cos why would I still remember it?) and was a little, if I'm honest – hurt. I may have stated that I was not in love with the quilt top, and knew I needed to work out how to make the bloody thing work, but I did not expect a comment such as yours.

    I am from the camp of "constructive criticism". There are SOOOO many god-awful fugly quilts out there, but unless someone is actually asking for advice, I don't offer it. And if I don't like it, I won't comment at all.

    As you would know, all too well, the written word on the internet etc can be taken in so many ways because of its lack of tone etc, and that has to be taken in to account! Also – as much as I like to think I "know" a lot of quilters and handmade peeps online – I really don't KNOW them. So whilst I would definitely be able to have a conversation with my good in real life friends and tell them how it really is (constructively without hurt), I would not expect them to give me the 2 olives over private message 😉

    Love and sparkles xxx

    • AmyH says:

      Now I'm off to look…..

    • Pennie says:

      I think a lot of how to take a comment comes from knowing the person commenting. There are people in the blogging / quilting community that I would actually expect that kind of a comment from,and I would know it was intended light-hearted lay, and from the little I've read of Molli Sparkles, I'd kind of expect that to be a jocular remark. I blog about stuff asking for feedback, knowing what I'm going to get, but maybe we need to think about the other readers who don't know us, and how one simple expression of dislike of something can erupt into a full on character assassination. Molli, I'm happy for you to say anything you like on my efforts!!!

    • moonwolf233 says:

      I'm curious, can you link your Mondrian quilt? My husband was into Mondrian, so it begs me to wonder what that would look like.

    • Ali w says:

      I was somewhat disappointed when I read what Molli had said to MsMidge. Yes, MsMidge asked for comment (indirectly, perhaps, by saying she was unsure of the quilt), but Molli's reply lacked constructiveness. Any negative comment, in my view, should be made with a positive heart and should add value to the conversation by either offering advice or being specific about what the commenter doesn't like (eg "I think it's too busy").

      I accept I wasn't party to the entire discussion but he comment on its own is very bitchy and smacks of high school popularity contests won by making the snarkiest retort at someone else's expense. Yes, it could be seen as witty, but this isn't a stand up comedy show. I too would have been quite hurt if I was on the receiving end of that comment.

    • To clarify this account, Midge had asked for thoughts via Instagram. My first response was, "Ummm." To which she asked, "You don't like it Molli?" And I replied, "No, it looks like Mondrian vomit." My comment was flippant and jocular, as at the time I thought I "knew" Midge well enough that she would take it that way, and rightly so, tell me to shove it.

      Our relationship has since grown past the vomit stage, and we've discussed this situation privately, and we both understand each other. I would never intentionally make trollish remarks to someone, about someone, or about their creative endeavours. Pretty much everything I say is with a smile (even constructive criticism) and this was no exception.

      Finally, Ali, life is a stage, there's always room for comedy. MWAH!

    • MsMidge says:

      Yes our relationship has grown past vomit! Bahahahha. I know you would never intentionally make trollish remarks J, which is why I guess I just let it slide, but as I said to you last night, I brought it up here more as an example of how, sometimes, being honest and forthright with your opinion doesn't always work. xx

  7. I agree with you absolutely – and although I love the online quilting community, I really wish people were more forthcoming with the not-so 'I love it, you're awesome' comments. Constructive criticism plays such an important part in any artistic endeavour and it would be great to have a more open forum somehow. I actually changed my comment form to include that I love all feedback, good and bad, but unless I specifically ask for input into how to improve something people generally stay silent rather than say something negative. I agree with Charlotte about the button idea – and I would TOTALLY add one to my blog.
    Great thoughtful post as always Molli, thanks for keeping it real!

  8. Hmm I'm on the fence about this. I think a lot of people (like me) are just starting out in the sewing world and experimenting with quilting and color combinations, so when you put your hard work out there to share and someone says "gross, you might as well have put bleach in my eyes because this is the fugliest things ever" it would really put me off blogging and maybe sewing (for awhile) as well. I think because I sew to relieve stress and sew to find my own voice and my own style but until I get there comments that are constructive like "you know if you tried to stick with 1/4 seams all the way around you would have easier time matching corner points" would be received so much better than "gah, why did you even put this out in the public, pls quit sewing, tnx" Like others mentioned, unless I specifically put "I appreciate all feedback, so I can improve this" I'm not prepared to receive mean comments. Being honest and constructive is one thing but being trollish and mean is completely different. Just my two kwai

  9. Blue Moth says:

    My mother used to say, "if you can't say something nice than don't say it". But there are degrees. If you can't express an opinion without being rude, then just say nothing. It's important to remember that a blog comment is different from a face to face conversation. There is no opportunity to tell from body language how your opinion is being received. After all we all have good days and bad days. There are some days when I might agree with a negative comment, and others when it might send me into a decline.
    Another thing my mother used to say – "be kinder than you need to be".

  10. Fran says:

    Really interesting debate! I did laugh at the 'I love it, love you, love everything' approach. Sometimes I'm put off commenting on a blog post when I see loads of those love everything comments, knowing that the featured quilt didn't really warrant them and there are different issues going on. In many ways it's a fabulous community, but cliques and manipulative commenting for one upmanship can be disappointing. However, as others have said, for me it's a stress release and a hobby, so criticism isn't something I'm looking for, even if it's meant as kind and constructive. As for hate mail, it will always say more about the sender than about you, so best hit delete and, if possible, leave a genuinely kind comment on their blog!

  11. I agree that the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" rule can be a little stifling. However, I also agree with Anne – the way that everyone in the online quilting world is so NICE is super refreshing (I have some great lawyer friends but it's a pretty competitive and sometimes aggressive profession).

    Personally, I try to act online the way I would in real life. I probably wouldn't criticise someone's quilt to their face unless they asked for comments (and even then I would try to be as nice as possible), and the same goes for blog comments. I think a button or a way to invite constructive criticism is a great idea. Personally I think I would ask for constructive criticism only for things where I'm not completely happy with them myself, but I can see that some people would be more open to general feedback. Thanks for opening up this topic for discussion – I appreciate your perspective and the other comments are really interesting too!

  12. pennydog says:

    I tend not to comment if I'm not keen, but I also don't comment if I haven't got the time, feel indifferent or can't think of anything to say, so it's not necessarily a reflection. I'm still reasonably new in these circles, coming from other crafts and I'm still in the "like me, like me" arena where I wouldn't dare say anything negative. I do really appreciate honesty on my own stuff, purely to make replying to comments a bit more interesting than the usual "thank you".

  13. Roslyn says:

    This is a great conversation to have, and not just in regards to quilting blogs. I sew a lot of garments too and I decided to stop participating in pattern tours. I started getting invited to a few and I realised that there were some patterns I just didn't enjoy sewing with, and often I didn't find that out until I started the project. It was hard to say negative things about them in the review because I knew the designer would be hurt for me to say things publicly. A couple of times I did message those people privately with constructive criticism. Those posts had the added twist that the person was relying on those reviews for income.

    I agree that there are many quilts out there in internet land (and quilt shows) that I just don't like. It's a matter of taste and style and while I may not like it, there are many others who will. So I choose to be silent and I will only follow blogs / makers on ig / facebook pages whose style appeals to me. Constructive criticism should only be given if it's invited, and an outright "I don't like it" or worse is unnecessary – it doesn't help, it doesn't add to discussion and it could potentially upset someone.

    That said, in private over a cocktail I am more than happy to say exactly what I think, positive or negative.

  14. Curly boy says:

    Right on mate! I feel exactly the same way. I feel that far too often people gush and fawn over makes from popular quilters to suck up when clearly (to me) the piece is UGLY. I'm not one to be shy speaking my mind either and it has gotten me some grief. As an Art School graduate I am used to the concept of "the critique" and constructive criticism. The only way you get better is if people are negative as well as positive. I think while everyone still needs to play nice, there is plenty of room for unsolicited advice. You put it out there, you have to expect it.

  15. Mike Pearson says:

    I say give me all you got! I can take it. I just wanted to add also that when it comes to quilts (other than wall art) all that matters to me is does it cover my toes and is it keeping me warm. The art of it is ancillary…. A bonus if you will. Most of the time my eyes are closed while enjoying it anyway.

  16. Leo says:

    hmm I actually hate "I love your quilt" "That's so beautiful" comments because what are you supposed to answer to them – I mean it's sure nice to read them but I can see all the mistakes I made in the process can point out every point that won't match. I sew quilts I don't like – simply to have a quilt I won't feel bad using as a picknick blanket, or because I know the colours work even though I'm no fan of those colours and keep the quilts waiting for a friend who likes the kind of colours to have a round birthday …

    But personally my bigger problem with the quilt world – is that rarely anybody writes about what they don't like about their quilts themselves, they don't offer up points for discussion – no their quilts are perfect.

    So maybe some criticism for your quilts – the herringbone quilt in rainbow colours – craftsmanship yeah sure, but it's already a busy block and having all those colours contrasting makes it even more busy … hmm I love the mickey mouse simply because I like the fact of using squares to make a round form – and that's why I'm glad you didn't go all over the top and used HST's to make it more round (yep critique doesn't need to be negative all the time). The purplish-redish whatever challenge quilt you did – hmm not my colours and by going all scrappy you sort of missed the chance to have actual patterns form for the viewer, because in the scetch there were hour-glass blocks on point and stars etc etc, by using solids – non-solids, low, high volume going to the far left or far right of the colour (that was really a strange colours, sort of a rusty purply soemthing) they might have shown more clearly in the result – but then maybe ti was your intention not to let them show …

    So yes I don't do criticism often – at least I usually get no reaction at all instead of hate mail …

    • Wendy says:

      I'm a bit late replying to this – but I do! I point out every mistake I've made in everything I post about.. and then get a shed load of comments telling me off for being negative and putting myself down. I'm not doing that, I'm just, cheerfully, showing how crap I am!

  17. Firstly, I love that when you have "controversial" sorts of things to say that you say them so well. You explain your thoughts and your reasons in a constructive way. I appreciate that. I do generally like your quilts quite well, but frankly I follow your blog more for your writing style than your quilting – although I do follow for those reasons, too.
    I agree with your sentiments with the caveat that I believe that "negative" or constructive feedback should be, well, constructive and said with a kind heart. As someone else stated in the comments, constructive comments can come off much more negative on the internet than if you were sitting next to me and we could have a real, face-to-face conversation. If you don't care for my quilt, you are entitled to your opinion, but also tell me why so that I can perhaps learn for the next go. Also, there are, as we all know, a lot of trolls out there who just love to say hurtful things for the sake of saying hurtful things, so I think that we should try to ensure that what we say is in a loving, kind way so that it's heard for what it is – constructive criticism versus a tear-down.

  18. This is a really interesting topic to me because I recently did a really honest post about not liking one of my old WIPs that I finished up. I invited readers to help me figure out what was wrong with it and many did not hold back! Some of the comments were really thoughtful and helpful, others took it just a little too far. It was such an interesting exercise though and I'm glad I did it. It's one of my most-commented posts.

    You have to allow for 2 things if you really want to start drinking the truth tea. One is that some bloggers aren't as introspective about their work and trying to create art. They might not really need this kind of help.

    Secondly, and probably more importantly, some people are more sensitive than others. Maybe you can still feel awesome and hold your head up in the face of criticism, but other people might feel debilitated by it. I think if I started getting a lot of criticism instead of encouragement I would stop blogging.

  19. I say I love it when I do and there's a whole lot of awesome stuff being made in blog land, hence the ridiculously long list of blogs I follow. I'll take the permission to bitch slap you though 😉

  20. Much as we might like to think we know the people whose blogs we leave comments on, in most, if not all cases, we don't really know the person behind the blog. We only see the parts of their lives they allow us to see. We have no idea what the ramifications are, of leaving a negative, unsolicited comment. Maybe they've had a really &%#* day. Maybe they lack confidence. Maybe they are at a tipping point in their life. Will that negative comment be the straw that breaks the camel's back? As the commenter, you won't know.

    In the real world, we have a much better idea of where our friends are at. If they're having a bad time, for whatever reason, we take it easy and don't go criticising the things we don't like about them, their clothes, belongings or even their quilts, just so we can improve them. We give them what they need at that point in time. Our help and support.

    And that's what's so great about the sewing / quilting blogging community. It's such a warm, welcoming and supportive community, whatever our skill or confidence level.

    Constructive criticism, when it's asked for, is another thing entirely. I don't like your quilt is not constructive. We're all entitled to our point of view, but remember, it is just that, a point of view. I don't like pink and orange together. Let's say you do. Who's to say you're right and I'm wrong, or vice-a-versa. You're not improving my quilting by giving your opinion on my colour combo. On the other hand, if my points are not aligning correctly, that's a fact… there's something wrong with what I've done and we both know it. In that case, I would have talked about the mis-aligned points in my post. That's an invitation to help with my problem, by suggesting what I could do to improve this skill.

    I think it's good that you've voiced your thoughts and hence allowed others the opportunity to join in the discussion and add their thoughts, too.

    • Ali w says:

      Oh, I so agree! I think you have hit the nail on the head that we do not KNOW the people we are posting comments to, and if we really did KNOW them, as in hang out at sewing groups with them, then we would be able to say our thoughts directly to them and ensure there was no "lost in translation" through lack of intonation and facial expression.

      I also agree that criticism should be constructive and should be a response to a request for comment. Comments such as the above-mentioned "like Mondrian vomit" are just brutal and do not add any value to the conversation (see above for my other comments on that particular case)

  21. Emily C says:

    Hehe, I hear ya. I've seen some of the most hideous things. One day there was a sewing machine that someone had taken their button collection and glued them all over it. Everyone else said it was awesome and beautiful. I still think it is horrid and a waste of a good sewing machine. I would hate to try to use that machine.
    Most of the time I don't leave 'constructive comments' because no one asks for them and many posts seem to be of the 'look what i made' type. Those kind of people usually don't appreciate criticism, they want praise.
    I must say, I think i'm in the wrong quilting era. I dislike most modern quilts and many of the fabric prints. The only ones I really like are applique and traditional blocks. So really I would waste a lot of time if I left a comment on every quilt I see. Also I assumed that many things are a matter of personal taste. Some people love a design, others not so much.

  22. I read somewhere that the best way to give criticism and constructive feedback (not bitchy) is to Oreo it. Say what you like about it first, then what could be done better and finish on a positive note. We are all adults and we all want to be better at what we do (I hope), but don't forget some people can be very fragile and a nasty- even jokingly submitted comment- can hurt someone.

  23. LissaK says:

    Well you definitely stirred up the waters my dear! And I love it! So I am not a quilter (Phew got that confession off my chest!). I am a knitter. And I feel like there is the same problem over in that world as well. I have seen some seriously fugly shit on Ravelry. But everyone has their own tastes. I agree it would be so helpful if people would be honest with constructive feedback. I have no problem being honest.

    As for when to offer – If you post something out on a blog or in our internet space people should be prepared to receive feedback, good or bad. So if you post something and your comments section is open be prepared for a response. I saw on Ravelry a design for a shawl. It looked pretty. When I read some of the notes from the designer she lashed out against the comments from other knitters who stated that the directions for the pattern were unclear. The designer said that the pattern was free and people should not complain about it and stop whining. Wow! I thought. When looking at the notes from other knitters most of their feedback was constructive and potentially helpful for the designer.

    As an art history major I learned one very valuable tool from a teacher – If you think something is ugly (art, craft, whatever!) you need to be able to constructively explain why you believe it is such. So instead of just jumping in and making a blanket statement you can look at the piece a little more then decide on how you feel.

    Now pass over a GnT! Lots of love and sparkles!

  24. Karin says:

    Very interesting debate…will have to ponder on this a bit longer. I reckon I sit on the fence given that it is very easy to offend people in the written form. On the other hand, all these lovey comments are somewhat meaningless at times. It is much easier to receive those types of comments in person…also depends on how long you worked on a quilt I reckon…I certainly have put up stuff that was borderline but took me a long time to complete. Not sure I could have handled it too well if somebody said it was rubbish. The only real comment I got on that quilt was somebody saying they did not like the design…something that actually stood out.
    Anyway, discovered your blog recently and enjoy your thought provoking and funny posts
    Greetings from SA

  25. You love to stir the bitch slappin' pot…don't ya!

  26. ~Diana says:

    Molli, this cuts both ways…there's constructive and there's…rude. I've seen a lot of posts on blogs by the blog authors lately about negative feedback.

    My thought is…if somebody's blogged it, then they're proud of it…if it's not my cup of tea, then it's not, but I don't feel the need to tell someone that. I just move on.

    If someone reaches out and asks your opinion, then that's a different story, but I choose to view these blogs as inspiration, and to keep it that way.

  27. salamanda says:

    This is a very interesting debate here (thank you for having the courage of your convictions) and I think it is partly because of the nature of social media that has like and love buttons on it. At times on various platforms when a close friend posts something heartfelt you don't want to press like – it would be so wrong – and in that case I prefer to private message but that is not always an option on all platforms. I was trying to decide why we share on blogs, IG and other social media and I believe it is because we put out stuff out for public approval and comment. If we receive negative criticism we would be less likely to share so I think it is approval we often look for. In the quilting/crafting communities we are sharing with like minded individuals whereas in other areas of our lives our hobby might not be as easily understood.

    Constructive feedback is good and as a teacher in my day job we talk about two positive points and one area for improvement, although I struggle at times to find the positives in some student work but will try to find something. It is much easier to love and beautify something as one person's constructive comment could be seen as destructive by another.

    Reading the comments above I think many people would appreciate constructive criticism if they used your Tea of Truth button. However we all have off days too and it could be hard to read on a blue day. I used to blog until a year ago when life got complicated and it was hard to separate the different areas of my life and for a while I stopped crafting, sewing and blogging. A few months ago I began quilting again and thought IG might be the way to go. My grown up children were horrified as "IG is most popular with the 16-24 demographic like us and you are too old mum!" I imagine I was just as insufferable about my generation's stuff at that age. I like the fact photos don't need to be perfect and we post WIP and the support. As a relatively new quilter I appreciate the support of the community and help that is there with problems in your quilts if you ask. My work is never going to be perfect as I'm too impatient and I'm in awe of those perfect pieces of work I see. But when I really think about it I know that many of us are out own worst critics so perhaps the work I view as perfect is seen as imperfect by its maker. If we ask for comments we should expect constructive comments but if we just post do want that? I don't know it might depend on how much coffee we've had, work and other stuff which is a total cop out.

    All of which makes this the longest most rambling comment ever which began totally in support of what you were saying and then I began prevaricating and qualifying…

  28. Here's another bit to consider in this debate. I'm a psychologist… From my work with people who are actually paying me to help them out and get real, I can tell you that it's very rare for people to be able to incorporate straight-up negative feedback into their lives unless:

    1) there's a strong connection/relationship between the giver and receiver, and a history of positive regard for one another, and

    2) the constructive criticism is carefully explained, in a sensitive way, and given along side with a compliment.

    Fortunately, it is an extraordinarily rare situation to be unable to find anything positive to say about another person's work.

    For example, you may hate emerald, but you've got to admit that the construction is pretty innovative.

    It doesn't take that much more time or effort, and you've probably gone a long way in making it a useful comment instead of a piece of unkind garbage that serves no purpose.

    Before I speak, I try to remember that my comment, based on my own valid personal opinion, can actually alter someone's brain chemistry.

    If your going to stimulate the amygdala where negative emotions and memories are stored, you might as well stimulate the release of a little happy juice to counteract it.

    -Stephanie @late Night Quilter.com

    • I have one more thing I forgot to add… I just did a Mdm Samm blog hop and my project was still a WIP. I asked for feedback, and many people gave me their honest opinions. And none of it was hard to swallow because they all did it with such kindness. I was relieved and really benefited from their opinions.

    • Mara says:

      Stephanie, you made a fantastic quilt, I even pinned it for inspiration, even as a WIP it was great!

  29. Paula says:

    I must admit I don't find the need to comment if all I have to say are negatives. If I don't the the quilt someone has made, and there are a lot I don't like, then I don't feel the need to say it. Surely everyone, or at least almost everyone, realises that you can't please all of the people all of the time so their work is not going to always appeal to everyone. One of the bloggers I follow does some beautiful EPP work, or at least her designs are beautiful. Her fabrics choices however are very much not to my taste so I will comment on the positive aspects only as let's face it telling her I really dislike the particular colour combination she has chosen to use achieves nothing really.
    The one time I am happy to make negative comments is if I feel something is very badly made, and tbh those comments are usually in the form of advice rather than outright critisism. Not everyone likes to read such comments though – I received a mini quilt once that looked more like someone's practice piece of fmq than anything else. When I tried to suggest to the maker that she would be better to stick to the straight line quilting that she did wonderfully until she was more practiced at fmq she took extreme offence, as apparently did several people in the group I was in at the time as I was promptly kicked from the group because I had offended and insulted too many people!

  30. Julie says:

    I like Stephanie's comment.

    You know I love you and everything you do. Just kidding. seriously though I have to tell you I am not one of those people that can take negative comments with a grain of salt. I have a huge block of the month running right now I am doing my best to keep 140 people all happy at the same time and having just one person complain that the colors are not what she expected has gotten me all in a dither. I guess I am just too much of a people pleaser.

    This is a generalization so take it for what it is worth. I think men can take criticism much better than women. We are made different no two ways about it. Men can just say F it. Women think there is a flaw in their character and take it all to heart. I think that might be one of the underlying reasons for the so called "Glass Ceiling".

    I love that you bring up these topics it is fun to has them out.

    • Am L says:

      Julie, I agree with your comment that women and men take criticism differently. I noticed the men who commented have a "bring it" attitude, while the women tended to want more balance approach to the criticism. Obviously, that does not apply to every man and every woman, but we are socialized differently, and that affects how we perceive communication.

  31. Well this topic is taking me away from a hideous quilt that I am working on today- 2 colour blue and white Irish Chain. Can I tell my customer that I am sick and tired of quilting such a boring and dated quilt? NO I can't or I would be out of business. They love their quilts and want everyone to love them too. I praise and complement them and off they go. Am I being honest with them-NO, but imagine the gossip at guild if I told them I hated their quilt?

    I follow many blogs after taking some time looking around first. If they have one quilt I LOVE and nothing more, then I don't follow them. If the majority of posts/ quilts inspire me then I follow and comment on posts. I don't think I know anyone in quilt land well enough to post a negative comment. Maybe that is just me being a mom and seeing my daughter be bullied at school for years and still have to deal with the esteem issues it has caused her (WAY better now after switching schools!) Do I make false comments? NO, if I really liked a quilt that I took the time to comment, even just a short comment, then I truly like your quilt. I don't generally have time for some lengthy comment praising every stitch or matched corner etc (unless I am procrastinating on this Irish Chain-LOL) I just want to post a quick comment to let you know your quilt is AWESOME to me. And I love hearing comments back on my comment and try to do so on my own blog. It gets pretty lonely when you comment and never hear back. I try to point out something special when I do post- like this week I commented on the book title being read under the quilt just so that quilt maker knows I really do post honestly and because something has inspired me.

    In my own quilting group of friends I am totally honest and will critique and accept criticism. Is it because I know these ladies and am not intimidated by honest negative comments. Last month one friend was going to put a pale orange fabric as sashing and borders when it really needed a stronger orange and suggested a colour like Kona Flame. She didn't seem receptive of my comment as she was giving away the quilt (she didn't like it in the first place) but then last week I saw it and it had Flame fabric for the borders and now she LOVED her own quilt again and was going to keep it. So if I had offered only nice criticism then she would have done her own thing, used the wrong fabric, hated the quilt and given it away. In turn I was making a quilt and only wanted to make the blocks (being lazy) but the same group of friends talked me into adding the borders. After many glasses of wine I gave in and added the borders. I like the quilt better now.

    OK I have to get back to the Irish Chain so I should wrap this soapbox rant up! Are there quilts out there that SUCK and are ugly-YES, mine included! Hell, I am making one right now that only Cheap Trick fans would love- and all others just shake their heads. Bring on your negative comments- I will just turn the music up louder to drown you out! But if something doesn't speak to me or inspire me I don't want to waste my time on it, I don't want to post about it and I certainly don't want to hurt someone's feelings over MY OPINION and tastes. Because really how boring would the world be if we all loved the same quilt. Think of how insane I would be if I had to quilt the same damn Irish Chain day in and day out?

  32. I dunno – I just don't feel the need to comment if I don't like something (on blogs, face-to-face is different). They obviously do like it, so my comment won't change that – a lot of quilting is taste and that's personal – so what's the point of pulling it down? Like when someone asks you 'how do I look in this' – you give the truth if they haven't bought it yet, if they have already you just say 'nice', because in the latter case they're not asking for advice, they really want validation. Now that's a whole other problem that I ain't going into!

    Posts that are in the 'boy I've stuffed this' vein I will happily comment on, as they've shown they're open to criticism and want help. But it does need to be constructive – comments where the commenter is obviously taking glee in having a go at something just feel slimy. And boy, doesn't anonymity produce some really vile stuff.

    Are you watching MKR at the moment (sorry for non-Australians, Aussie TV reference here). It's the difference between Chloe and Kelly and Thalia and Bianca. They both give criticism, but the former are coming across as spiteful while the latter still give hard criticism but in a much more constructive manner.

    At the end of the day, I just don't want to take away someone's sparkle for no good reason. Sure there's ugly stuff out there. There's ugly stuff being worn down the street everyday, but I'm not going to stop someone on the footpath and tell them what I think of the leopard print onesie and crocs they're wearing out of the house. They like it, good on them. And truly, who am I to say otherwise? I don't think my opinion is worth any more than theirs.

    I think whatever you say (positive or negative), say it with kindness and hopefully it'll come out okay (and in a way that it will actually be taken on board, instead of deleted in a huff – because that's why you're saying it in the first place, right?).

    • your comment makes me think of my daughter- who always asks if I like this or that outfit. 99% of the time I say no- it's terrible. She gets all pouty and then I say, would you really want to dress in something your Mom likes? No I don't think she would-LOL Funny enough the fashions today resemble what I wore to high school in the 80's, not sure why we have to go there again.

    • knitnkwilt says:

      I got around that with my daughters by saying, "It looks good for that style." Funny thing, one day I asked what they thought of a new garment, and I got back, "It looks good for that style."

  33. Tina Short says:

    I only comment on blogs if I REALLY love something. Often I will see thinks that I kinda like but would prefer in another colour….and thats ok, i dont feel the need to share. Sometimes I see quilts that I really dislike but I know the time and effort that went into them so again, no comment. What really does annoy me are poorly constructed and quilted quilts with a high pricetag….not that I would consider buying one, just that if they are the only quilts that a would be buyer has seen, then they get a very bad impression of quiltmakers in general.
    If asked to comment on a quilt (at a show ) and I dont like it, I always try to say something positive – tiny stitches, precise piecing etc – cos you never know, the quilter could be standing next to you!

  34. Carla says:

    Thank you for posting this. I love it, I love you. I love everything about it and you!

    Now that that's out of the way – I suspect I know the incident that may have precipitated this post – a famous blogger put out a post publicly calling out a no-reply blogger saying they had posted "negative" comments on theirs and other's blogs?

    I happened to follow up on that claim because I was curious. It turns out the "negative" comments that were left on other's blogs – it appears the one on the poster's site had been removed – were things like "I don't like it" or "what if you used a different fabric".

    I come from a public affairs background. On our blogs and sites the policy is you can post any comment you want as long as it doesn't have profanity, personal threats, or is obscene. We get a lot of "you guys are covering something up" or other comments that could be deemed "negative" but since they comply with the policy they get to stay. This promotes discussion from all sides.

    I take the same approach on my own blog. I don't mind if people have other ideas about my quilt or they don't think it's as awesome as I do. That is OK. I didn't make it for them, but at the same time there's no reason I can't hear their criticism. I would love if other bloggers adopted this point of view. Saying "I love it" doesn't promote discussion.

    While modern quilting is about form and function together, some of the best modern quilts in my mind slide toward the "art quilt" side of the line specifically because they make you think. Quilts such as "Bang! You're dead.", "In Defense of Handmade", "Give a Fuck" and other works from Completely Cauchy are some of my favorite because they say something. Your "No Value Does Not Equal Free" is another one that's up there on my list.

    Let's do amazing work and have real discussions instead of the playing-nice. Let's get better and make more awesome shit together as a community. Debate and critique are important to any art form, and modern quilting seriously needs a dose of it.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Carla – Well, since I appear to have inspired this conversation, and people are speculating, I'd like to put out there what the comments were that I deleted from my blog, and why I took the action I did.

      1. In her first comment on my blog, she said about the quilts I made for my twin nieces: "I don't know if I like these or not." Valid, and it didn't offend me, but I had no idea how to respond to a comment like that. Um, okay, duly noted?

      2. Her next comment was on my Shimmer mini quilt. In that one, she stated that the bird on the mini quilt was too small and I should "try again." I had stated in my blog post that I had wanted the bird to be very small, so she has a right to her opinion, but I was offended that she thought I should "try again," and thought it was stated in a rude way. Still, that wasn't enough to ban her.

      3. In her final comment on my blog, she stated that in my latest pattern, I was copying a pattern from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. She did not link to the pattern she accused me of copying, and after an exhaustive search, I couldn't find what she was talking about, nor could I ask her, beyond replying to her in the string of comments. And at any rate, it was completely untrue, and my latest pattern is based a traditional quilt block anyway (something which I am always very upfront about on my blog). So that accusation was the final straw and she was ousted. it seemed she was escalating the nastiness of her comments, for whatever reason, and I wasn't willing to continue dealing with it.

      And here are some of the other comments this same person has left on other blogs: Not polite and certainly not constructive:

      On a zipper bag post: "Really? Another zipper bag requires such hipe? Oh come on creative people dig deep and come up with some fresh ideas."http://www.saltwaterquilts.com/2014/01/sporty-quilted-zipper-bags-with-rabbit.html

      On a post about a skirt someone made: "Didn’t we wear these ugly skirts in the 60′s, only made with ties and other reclaimed fabrics? Ugly then and ugly now." http://blog.modafabrics.com/2013/11/whats-new-at-serendipity-studio/

      And I found several other examples.

      I have a journalism degree and was a daily newspaper reporter for several years, so I completely understand the need for open conversations. But there's a difference between constructive conversations and nastiness. I'm very open to constructive criticism, but this person just seems to have a chip on her shoulder and I wasn't willing to read these types of comments on my posts anymore. This is my blog, and while I do use my blog to sell patterns and the like, for the most part I blog for free, and to inspire others. If you don't like it, and you can't say so in a polite, constructive way, then move along please!

    • For what it's worth, I would have done the same thing Lee. Move along is right.

    • Mara says:

      Holy Cow Lee that sounds like one person with a very sad life, perhaps she needs a hug and some love. I have chocolate cookies for everyone and a Homemade Greek Cheesecake is baking in the oven for any one in need of something yummy to chew on (actually it melts in the mouth, so yummy).

  35. Liz says:

    I love it! I love you! I love everything about it and you!

    Seriously though, I think this post is thoughtful and intriguing, and something I ponder often. On one side there are people who are just making things for the sake of making things. They might not care for any critiques, because the act of making is enough. Or because their skill set is so limited that sewing two pieces of fabric together is more than enough of an accomplishment. On the other hand there's those who like to create and use quilting/handmade objects as an artistic expression. For those people constructive criticism may be more than welcome. I love constructive criticism, so long as it's constructive (I'm probably more fragile than I like to admit) and not hate-mail-ish.

    Basically, I wouldn't tell a stranger that their project is crap, but I would provide solicited opinions. I can't tell you how many times I see typos or incorrect information in quilting blogs that I want to point out, but I bite my tongue because I don't want to be 'that person'. In the same way I won't critique someone's work without the go-ahead. I hope your blog button catches on, because then it's fair game!

    • Carla says:

      The difference between "improve" and "improv" on major quilt blogs (including those in the "Quilt Improv" book blog-hop) drives me bananas. I never say anything but I desperately want to. Some of it may be automatic spell check changing it, but especially when the typo is right above a picture of the book cover it looks bad.

  36. The lack of trolls and trollish behaviour is part of what I love about this community so much. I do find it sometimes too saccharine, and I probably add to it, but I'd rather that than the alternative. The world is rough enough and I like our fairy land.

    That said, I think there is more room for constructive criticism. I'm pretty clear on my blog about which projects I do want constructive criticism for and I am thrilled when I get it. It's usually at the WIP stage, rather than at the finished project stage. I can make changes at the WIP stage and I can't (won't) at the finished stage. Constructive criticism is respectful and should provide possible solutions though — comments like "that's fugly" is just not constructive.

    When I comment on other posts, I try to ascribe to the motto of "THINK before you speak". Is it:

    T – True? If it's not something I particularly love ('cause it doesn't matter whether I love it really), I look for what I do like about it — colour scheme? design? quilting? fabric?
    H – Helpful? If the quilter isn't asking for constructive feedback, then providing it isn't helpful so I don't. If the quilter asks for ideas, then I give some — positive ideas and suggestions, not 'you should do x'.
    I – Intelligent? Self-explanatory, I think.
    N – Necessary? Again, if they haven't asked, I don't provide it. It's not necessary.
    K – Kind? Something that will it take them to a better place with their quilt rather than make them shove it in a cold dark place.

    Great discussion, Ms. Molli! 🙂

    • Jenny says:

      I kind of like our fairy land, too! Maybe it's because in my other world, I'm kind of a brutally critical realist/cynic. Probably what I think boils down to this: I don't necessarily think we need more criticism, constructive or otherwise, for the reasons others have said (including lack of tone, lack of relationship), BUT I also think maybe we could rein in the undeserved, overly effusive praise. Is that rude? LOL.

  37. Auntie Pami says:

    I have a friend who has no issues at all about saying something is hideous. I chastise her about that. It's not nice. If you don't like something, that is your opinion (and you know the adage to that). Example of criticism/rejection, I did the hiring and firing at one of my previous jobs. If an applicant didn't pass the typing test, I told them how to improve. Turn a negative into a positive, let them leave on a good note. If they didn't know how to use the computer, same thing. It works that way with everything I think. If you can't do something then if you get negative input, you are going to give up and not even try to do better. In the quilting world, it seems that we all want to love and be loved (basic need). I understand that. You know that I don't love everything you do, but, does that mean I need to say eew. No. I just admire your work. Just as I hope you would mine. I don't show my work much. It's intimidating sometimes, ok all the time. I make quilts for cuddling not to win ribbons or publish. Just for fun. Ok, enough rambling. Glad you are back. I've missed you.

  38. I agree that the effusive praise for all of the things can be a bit obnoxious. Is it really genuine? Are they fishing for compliments for their own work from you? I don't know. I feel totally comfortable being critical of work from people that I actually know. People that know I love them, their work, and their effort. Online, with people l don't really know, I say, "Nice is free, sprinkle that shit everywhere" (<—quote stolen from somewhere I can't remember).

  39. Jean(ie) says:

    I totally get your point! Glad you put it out there. I'm guilty of just not commenting when I don't like something. Very guilty. I totally get it that something I like will be something someone else totally loathes and vice versa. It's in the eye of the beholder. And, yes, it's okay! After all we're all not making the same damn quilt. And there are a lot more of us technicians than artists out there. (There is a difference)

  40. Kristy says:

    Oh, look at the lovely mess you created…hehehe! I come from a Fine Arts background and have sat through countless hours of critiques about my work, most of which was sh*t back then as I was trying to sort out what kind of artist I was [quilting wasn't in the picture back then].

    This reminds me of the firestorm that happened after QuiltCon 2013, when those who had submitted quilts to the juried show were then surprised by the comments they received afterwards. While there were other behind the scene issues going on, I think people were just unprepared to have their work actually critiqued because as you have said, in the world of social media it's all about how many sugar-coated Likes you get. I know that when I first saw the critique on my work, I was frustrated for about 2 minutes until I remembered that this was not an attack; but rather a score based on a set of "standards". It took be back to my early days as an undergrad.

    I think there definitely needs to be more positive critique; but done in a pleasant and helpful way. Yet, I also think that for some, no matter how positive you spin it…it will always feel like a personal attack.

    Thanks for getting the conversation started.

    • Carla says:

      I agree with some of your comments about the QuiltCon show but not all of them. As someone who did not enter (I was still very new to quilting at the time), I felt like the blogs posts I read after the fact reflected a lack of a rubric when judging the quilts. Some quilts with poor workmanship (inconsistent stitches per inch when quilting for example) were rated higher than others that were more technically perfect. It seemed like the subjective interpretations and design took more precedence than being proficient technically. In my mind a rubric which explained how the quilts were to be evaluated would have been helpful in order to set out expectations for the entrants.

  41. Anne says:

    After thinking about this more (and seeing you've made a little badge over there, yay!) I'm hopeful I can have an honest conversation with my blog readers about it. Sometimes I will post things and point out design decisions I'm unhappy about, and I get chastised for it, because I shouldn't be down on my own work. I'm not down on it, I just recognize it's not perfect, and I love thinking about how I could do it better next time. And sometimes someone /will/ point out something that they think I could have done differently. I'm happy to have design debates (I am so VERY opinionated when it comes to design, so I find it fun!) but then I get scolded for being defensive. I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that this is written word. As bloggers we often "type like we speak" because that's what creates the most connection with readers, but we're missing the tone which can lead to misunderstandings. So thanks for the post, it will give me a chance to address all that on my blog, and hopefully help clear up some misunderstandings before they happen.

  42. Anne says:

    Okay one last comment. I agree with quite a bit of your post, but I find this paragraph disingenuous.
    "Simply, it's okay not to like something–as much as it is okay to like it–and it's just fine to tell someone so. It diminishes nothing, and I believe it would only make our quilting relationships stronger and develop further with honesty. Isn't that what we're all here for anyway, a real community?"

    I agree it's totally fine to not like something. But unless you have something constructive to say about why you don't like something, then I think it's fine to keep your mouth shut. I think "that looks like crap" or even the nicer "I'm not into that." does diminish the feeling of community. It's possible to be honest and respectful at the same time. Community does require honesty, I don't think you should say "I LOVE THAT" if you don't, but it also requires respect. If you don't believe me, go check out the "community" on pretty much any games blog/site that doesn't censor their comment section.

    I don't have to point out to my neighbor every time they plant a rose bush that is a color I find ugly. Yah I have to look at it every day as I walk my dog, but so what? Pointing it out would diminish our relationship and our feeling of community we've built. I'm still being honest with them, and if they asked me outright I might mention it in a constructive way ("maybe you should add a peach rose bush to tie the red and yellow ones together more?" or whatever.). I think maybe the difference is that I /would/ tell my good friends that. But a community is actually a very different construct than a friendship.

    So yes, being honest with your friends builds stronger relationships, but I disagree with being negative just to be honest will make a stronger community.

  43. I think you have to be careful how you criticize. There is a huge difference between being constructive and just being rude and, at least for me, I appreciate how helpful and open and warm and nice the online quilting community is in general. I don't want to encourage people to start being rude to people if they don't like their work. Isn't it better to just move on to something else that you do like? Life is too short to live it being rude and hateful.

    That said, I do think many people would be open to constructive criticism so long as the person commenting is truly trying to be helpful and give feedback that could help the quilter improve. That means things like techniques, tips, tricks, etc that are helpful are great (especially if you are also able to point out some good things you do like in addition to your critique). But just saying you don't care for the pattern or colors someone chose isn't helpful because those things are so subjective to personal tastes. Just because you wouldn't choose something yourself doesn't mean that many others would.

  44. Melissa says:

    I'm just going to make a short comment because though I do get what you are saying, and agree, just meet people where they are. Maybe something created is where their skill set is at this time. It's probably partly my age and seeing a whole range of quilts, or looking through my own ufo bin recently and seeing some of the crazy things I've made over the years, I always like to give positive comments along with constructive criticism if warranted. After all, I love that I have been able to create some bad things over the years all in the name of experimenting and just "being where I am".

    I used to like going through my old blog (had to start new because it was taken over by spam viruses) for this very reason, seeing the progression (sometimes recession) of what I thought looked good at the time. Some are still hits, many are misses, but something was always learned.

  45. Am L says:

    Thank you for starting this conversation. I studied communication in college, and the problem with text-only comments is the non-verbal communication cues are missing. All of our face-to-face communication includes non-verbal communication that adds a layer of understanding to our conversation. For instance, if we are discussing a topic, and I offer a critique, I can see by your facial expressions and body language how you took that critique. Using those cues, I can add clarity to my comment, or a supportive statement, if I intended it to be constructive and you appear to be taking it as negative. The non-verbal communication in my tone, posture and facial expressions also give you the cues as to the intent of my words. You simply cannot do that in a comment on a blog or IG feed. That being said, if a blogger or IG post is looking for constructive criticism, they can ask for it. As a commenter, we should be truly constructive. I have also heard about the criticism sandwich mentioned above, and try to use it in my personal life. That being said, I generally try to avoid posting criticism on FB, IG or blogs when it comes to quilts and other creative endeavors. Does that mean I love them all, of course not! I also tend to post quick, positive comments. I would love to post specifics about what I appreciate about the quilts I find interesting, but I would never get off my computer/iPhone if I did. Generally, I am simply cheerleading someone's creative effort that strikes a cord with me. Quilts are so personal, and often the quilter is exploring an idea or concept so my two-cents adds nothing unless they are looking for guidance.

    • just happened to come acros your blog. and i'm glad i did. my mouth has no detour. half the time i dont think about what i'm saying. but if someone were in front of me w/a quilt or anything id not say anything if it were ugly. i would however say so quickly on the internet. the pen is mightier than the sword. recently i commented about a quilt show being a rip off & my comments were taken off the board and i was asked not to comment like that again. bull. if i'm paying for something then people should know what it was all about. not everything in this world is roses and flowers. i'm glad i found your blog. thank you for the honesty.

  46. Sandy W says:

    I couldn't agree more with just because its homemade, does make it great statement! And we all have our own sense of style, I think you can appreciate the work that goes into something, if the pattern or colours aren't your thing. If you are making something for someone else then you better know what they like, because it is about them not you!! And I want honest, kind remarks always! Don't ever lie, just don't be rude either.

  47. Katy Cameron says:

    Oh I am guilty of not saying anything at all online if I can't think of anything nice at times! In real life my filter (ie time to contemplate before hitting publish) is rather less developed, and I often find myself clapping my hand over my mouth before I get myself into further trouble lol

  48. Lee says:

    This is a tough one, and as you know I went through some problems with negative comments from one certain commenter recently. My problems with those particular comments came down to the following: 1) They were made anonymously – the commenter's email was not attached to the comment, so I couldn't respond beyond replying in the comment string (and I have no way of knowing if she would ever see that), and 2) They were not CONSTRUCTIVE comments in any way. In one, she simply told me what she didn't like and said "You should try again." (Hello, rude.) In the other, she accused me of copying someone else's pattern, which couldn't have been more untrue (and in fact, after an exhaustive search, I couldn't even find the pattern she was claiming I stole).

    I love the idea of constructive criticism, but personally I am afraid to ever give it, because I'm never sure if it's welcome, and I would be particularly reluctant to give advice on any aspect of a quilt that is already finished and not changeable. And in general, I'm not sure "the Internet" collectively understands the meaning of constructive. I've seen too many discussions that were supposed to be constructive degenerate into rants and personal attacks. It's a slippery slope and I don't know if we're capable of not falling straight down to the bottom!

  49. Lee says:

    Okay, I have to add one more thing (because you've gotten me thinking!): Constructive criticism is one thing, but I don't think it's okay to just tell somebody on the Internet, "Hey, I don't like that quilt." Because that's not constructive, even if you say it in the nicest possible way. That, to me, is the equivalent of me wearing a new shirt to the office, and one of my co-workers sees me and says, "Hey, I don't like your shirt." Who does that? It's just rude. (My BFF can say that – random co-workers can't. LOL.) But just because nobody TELLS me they don't like my shirt, I wouldn't automatically assume that everybody in the office LOVES it. Like you said, it's okay to not like things. But I can't get on board with SAYING that you don't like things. That's just not how polite society works.

    My husband actually asked me about this a long time ago: "What if you made a quilt that completely sucked? How would you know? Wouldn't all your blog commenters still say they loved it?" (Gotta love him for keeping me grounded. LOL.) I told him I think I DO know when a quilt kind of sucks, because it just garners less comments than others. The silence speaks louder than words, right? And if somebody did say to me, "Hey, sorry, Lee, but I don't like this quilt," what am I supposed to do with that information? I wouldn't even know how to respond to a comment like that – not because I'd be offended, but because I really wouldn't have a response. So unless you've got some kind of constructive, positive thoughts on how to improve the piece, it's probably better to just keep your mouth shut. LOL.

  50. Patti says:

    I almost didn't respond to this because I am in the "if you can' say something nice…" camp when it comes to comments about the work of others. I guess my problem is more about the whole Social Network than it is about individual comments. When a negative comment is written, it isn't just a thing between 2 people. Everyone gets to read that comment, and judgements can be made. It would be difficult for me to just brush off something mean, knowing that others are aware of what was said to me! Anyway, that"s just my thoughts.

  51. I would welcome constructive criticism. Come at me, bro! Lol!

  52. moonwolf233 says:

    I like the truth tea, it answers my point that I was going to make if you could ask if you could give constructive criticism. But ummm, how do you use the code? Where do you put it? Would you kindly make a blog post with code for dummy type instructions.


    The people who read this, will be from various different techy backgrounds. Making it simple for those who don't understand to use, will help.

  53. ronsondalby says:

    One of the reasons I stopped participating in what are probably the two most popular quilting forums was the posting of someone's newly-finished quilt followed by pages and pages of posts saying nothing more than I like it or it's gorgeous. Boring, unnecessary and not at all helpful.

    One thing I have found though, and please don't make this a sexist war, discussion on creative sites with mainly male participants tends to be more honest than the mostly all women quilting forums.

    • Paul Burega says:

      I'd love to find these mainly male creative sites!

      Seriously, unless I totally love someone's quilt, I don't say anything. And many times there is one thing I like about a quilt and I know the person, I will point out that one thing. (Love the top left block, or the light greens and yellows create great highlights to the cool blues … don't care about the technical details being perfect, unless the wadding is coming out a hole).

  54. Heather says:

    I, like many others here, am conflicted. If I've just posted a finish, I don't really want to hear about why it sucks. While it's in progress I welcome any and all feedback (and wish I got more!) but once it's done and I can't fix it…I don't really want to dwell on could'ves and should'ves. Someone in the comments mentioned never saying something you wouldn't say to someone's face. I think back to my guild meetings, and certainly many quilts have been shown that I don't like, but I would never ever tell that to the person to their face. So similarly it shouldn't be said online. Quilts are very personal and we are all at very different levels. So I say only offer constructive commentary if it is invited.

    That said, I do wish the online quilting community was a little more willing to discuss topics of controversy that aren't related to a specific quilt. For example, "modern vs. traditional" or hand sewn bindings vs machine sewn bindings. One other thing that drives me nuts is whenever I read pattern or book reviews (or craftsy class reviews) on blogs, they are nothing but glowing. The authors say "oh this was sent to me for free but my opinion is completely honest" but then just gush for the entire review. Really? I would like to see a bit more honesty amongst us on these more general topics.

  55. I like this post, and I've notice that everyone on quilting forums tend to pat each other on the back, but it has never stopped me from saying what I think – if it is constructive. I would never say "that is butt-ugly", because I have come to realise that what one person thinks is ugly, another thinks is beautiful, so why make someone feel bad just because I don't like it? That's kind of like trolling. I just move on and say nothing, or if I can find something I do like about it, I say what I do like (e.g., the quilting, a particular fabric, or maybe just the top left hand corner). I also like to offer constructive criticism, suggestions or just comment on my own personal preferences, for example, I like your "Truth Tea" button, and the sentiment behind it, but I think "Honest Tea" would be a little funnier, but that's just my opinion 🙂

    When I was blogging I learned to read between the lines:
    'I love it!' = 'I love it!' or at least 'I like it'
    'I like this or that aspect,' without actually saying they like it outright = 'It's not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate what you are doing with it'
    'I recommend you do this or that.' = 'Here's how I would do it if it were mine' (I appreciate these comments, and this is where the truth really comes in, but I don't feel the need to act on them if they are not up my alley. Everyone has there own likes/dislikes)
    NO COMMENT = I don't like it (or I just don't want to comment right now because I am tired, or your post was too long, or I don't have time, etc., etc.)

    Having said all that, I do remember when I was blogging I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of 'I love it!' or NO COMMENT replies, when what I was really after was some constructive criticism, other people's opinions, or just a bit of plain ol' conversation 🙂

  56. Woo, I was reading this on my phone but grabbed my computer to comment.. I've been silently following your blog for a while. I just want to say I absolutely LOVE your sass, which is a quality SO foreign to the quilting world!
    As for this subject, I have to say I totally agree with you. To a point. I don't believe you should downright say "that is ugly" to someone who just crafts for fun. Not everyone is trying to make an art piece out of fabric. If you have some sort of hint or tip to make things better, I would totally appreciate that sort of comment. There is a huge difference between a quilt sewn out of love and a quilt sewn from an artistic standpoint. It is an art form. Some art is fantastic and some art is boring and crap. I know this very personally since my husband owns a gallery. We see a lot of terrible art that people try to get in there! My husband usually tries to give the artists some sort of creative criticism as he turns them away from the gallery. It would look bad on both him and his business either taking the artists or just telling them "your art is shit."
    I notice the simple praising all over the sewing blogging community though and it bothers the crap out of me. Especially when you are looking for honest reviews about independent patterns. It seems that all bloggers just go nuts with praise. I have sewn some of these patterns and been less than pleased with how they are written or laid out. I actually posted on my own blog a while back wondering what to do when you are less than satisfied with a certain designer. I just don't understand how you can sew something up and hate the process that someone laid out for you, but then blog about it only stating the positives while ignoring the negatives…

  57. Dana says:

    This is an interesting post. I've been watching the freaked-out-over-reaction on a FB site I belong to and I just end up pitying some of the people who have the nerve to tell the truth…because then they get HAMMERED by the others. Seriously. One little "I don't think this is modern" becomes 47 people responding meanly to that comment until the writer goes away to commit the Seppuku they so clearly deserve. I am a HUGE fan of not hurting people's feelings. I hate doing it, and I feel crappy when I do. But I am also a giant fan of friendly, intellectual discussions about different choices, likes, and dislikes. I think the problem is the internet- If you say something in person, the human you are talking to can generally see your face and (assuming you aren't sticking out your tongue) can see that you are saying with a smile or as a question. But with comments on a blog or FB post, people are all up in arms immediately. I think this is why there is a 7-day wait for handguns in the real world!
    Since the internet isn't going away, I choose to only comment if I am being supportive. If I know the person "in real life", then I will tell them my thoughts the next time we meet out in the world, over beverages, without weapons.
    But I do think your button has a great purpose and is a good idea. I've just had my head bitten off too many times to be "constructive" on the internet.

  58. giddy99 says:

    If I like something, I'll leave a comment. If I don't, I won't. Opinions are just opinions, and I don't expect everyone else to love everything I do, nor should they expect that of me (or anyone else). Some folks offer constructive criticism, but a few just make hateful or hurtful statements that have nothing constructive whatsoever (no matter if they attempt to squeak "all-knowing tip" in there – I'm looking at QFP here). I don't have a blog, but I'd rather not see a hateful comment on someone else's blog. It's really unnecessary. I'm in the "say nothing" camp. 🙂

  59. Farm Quilter says:

    I'm like Giddy, if I like something, I'll leave a positive comment, if I don't, I usually won't comment. I know that every quilt, beautiful to me or not, has taken the time, talents, and resources of the maker and they like it or they would not be showing it off. I would hate to be the Negative Nellie that discouraged someone in their pursuit of this art/craft. If someone asks for my opinion on their blog – like I have done when I wanted help on choosing a border – then I will give my opinion, but otherwise, I choose to encourage everyone's efforts or just keep quiet. My mom keeps sitting on my shoulder telling me that if I can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!

  60. Megan says:

    I have only commented a couple of times on your blog – I usually see a big love-fest of comments and for some reason that makes me feel less inclined to say anything. I don't follow masses of blogs, just the bloggers who make things I really like, or who write well because I enjoy a good honest account of a quilting challenge or journey. I like that you are provocative but I think to echo a few other people, some people just quilt as a hobby and for a break from other life/work pressures not because they are aspiring artists. They are, however, being creative and playful so in my view critical comments may not be appropriate. Perhaps the process is as important, if not more, than the product?

  61. Dominique says:

    Very interesting discussion. I generally only comment on the quilts I like, and stay away from those I don't. I agree that not everything handmade is beautiful and worthy of praise, but if whoever made it is happy with it, why bother? Many of us aren't doing it for money. We're just chillin at the sewing machine after a day at the office/school/shop or after kid go to bed and dishes are done. We're sharing our quilts on blogland so we can make connections, not necessarily to promote/sell our art. I provide honest opinions when it is invited, but I have to say I am very cautious. As others pointed out, everything can be misinterpreted without the voice, facial expressions, etc. and it is a series of one-way comments as opposed to a real discussion.

  62. Sfredette says:

    My grandmother always said "Don't let people rent space in your brain." Even if someone commented that they out and out hated my quilt and it was fugly – not a big deal. A.) I don't have to approve their comment. B.) It's not their quilt, it's mine. If I like it, and my husband likes it – Great! We're the ones living with it. But I do appreciate constructive comments, you know, have you tried this, you should try this tutorial for HST, you need a better camera, etc. So I'll be adding your button to my blog.

    One further thing – if you're bothered by negative comments, I think you might want to ask yourself this: Are you quilting for you, or for the community? Is this all consuming obsession of mine (if you're as "bad" as me) for my benefit, or just to get adulation from almost strangers? I love the support and camaraderie of the community, but at the end of the day, I make quilts because I want to and because I like them. Its great if others like them and are inspired by them, but others' reactions do not define who I am as a quilter. I do.

  63. Leanne says:

    Interesting perspective, but having seen the way negative comment from quilters go quickly into vindictive flame wars, I'll not be going there. I am happy to receive any of your honest opinions of my work via email and have a friendly and constructive conversation from you.

  64. Lisa C says:

    To put my comments into perspective, I work full-time and read blogs while I eat my lunch. So, yes, I read a lot of blogs. I quilt in my spare time. I feel that bloggers provide a huge service to me – entertainment, ideas, tutorials, just to name a few. I am hesitant to comment any way but positive because they are providing a free service to me and it's my choice whether or not to read it. I just unfollow certain quilters who do shoddy work or who are boring. I do find it very interesting that if I comment positively on blogs, most of the time I get a short thank you type note. Very rarely do I get a reply if I ask a question. Not a critical question but a question that probably requires a 10 word answer (as opposed to requesting a tutorial, which I have never done).

  65. Salley says:

    Dahrling…*Mosman airkiss*…. Just love it when you go for the jugular.

    Trouble is..quilters get so precious about their "babies".
    As a mum of four…I admit….absolutely none of THEM are perfect…so why would my sewing be perfect?

    Oh, and thankgod you and MsMidge kissed and made-up. Rotary cutters at twenty paces is not a constructive outcome.

  66. Mara says:

    91 comments and your responding to my old comments, bless you, I plan on reading these because I like controversy it kind of cracks me up. I believe there is a difference between positive criticism and negative criticism, I am a learner so if you want to teach me something by your comment then go for it. But there are people out there who like to tear down others and those are the people who should stay quiet. When I participate in blog hops and it is a kind of requirement to comment on everyone's blog, if I don't like what the person has made, perhaps it is not my style which is mostly what it is, especially when it looks really dark and muddy, I love bright and sunny, then I won't comment on what they have made. I'm off to read all of the fun comments left.

  67. Jacqueline says:

    This topic reminds me of something I see quite often in a certain quilting Facebook group… people will say they gave somebody a quilt as a gift and the recipient merely said "thanks" and not much else (gasp!). The maker then gets annoyed that the recipient didn't go nuts over it (zomg raddest quilt ever!) and then a heap of other quilters will comment telling the maker the quilt is beautiful and the recipient is an ungrateful sh!t who obviously doesn't appreciate handmade etc etc. Whereas I'm thinking perhaps the recipient just didn't really like the quilt (eg. the 10yo boy isn't really that in to Peter Rabbit) and still said thanks to be polite (which is nice). But knowing that if I said this I'd probably be crucified I tend to go with the silent option.
    Good topic Josh!

  68. Jess says:

    I haven't read the previous comments yet…but I really wish more people would feel comfortable critiquing my work. I have a background in the interior design/architecture profession and am used to critiques being a part of the design process – try this, I'm not sure of that, have you thought about this, etc. – it helps to expand my creativity as sometimes I get stuck on one idea and have a hard time seeing outside of it until someone prompts a new line of thinking. I do wish the online quilt community (and even my guild if I'm being honest) had that approach. I love getting honest feedback!

  69. Ruth says:

    Coming from photography forums, where comments like you obviously don't know what you are talking about abound, I love the supporting community we have in quilt land. When I have asked for help or put it out there that something caused me difficulty I got lots of helpful comments and emails. When I don't ask for help, I don't expect to be told either way. I blog to share, share a cool pattern or a technique I've learned, share where I've gone wrong and share my sucesses when it's gone well. There's a way to provide helpful feedback that fills your sails and makes you want to make more and a way to totally knock the wind out of you and leave you floundering in quiet seas. A kind word doesn't have to be untruthful or false, it isn't that hard to find something positive to say most of the time. To be fair there are quite a few quilts out there that I love and have saved in my inspiration folder and I have told those quilters I love their project or a particular aspect of it. And if I don't like something, so what? I don't like mushrooms, I pick them off pizzas and pass on the mushroom soup and move onto something I do like instead.

  70. Vicki Price says:

    In a former life I used to hire and fire and give performance reviews. People have a WIDE variety of reactions to criticism. Sincere, specific praise of good work almost always pumps them up and makes them feel appreciated for all their efforts and motivated to continue trying, day after day. As far as negative reviews go, almost everyone reacts badly, either defensive or just deflated. Almost everyone forgets the positive and dwells on the negative, mulling it over, exaggerating it, focusing on it, obsessing over it.

    So, why not say something sincerely nice or nothing at all.

    However, if someone is an artist or makes a living at quiltmaking and invites criticism, they should be open to whatever they get. Learn to interpret a comment as constructive or useless, a real compadre in quilting or just an unhappy bitch wanting to vent. After all, you present your work to the public – don't you want to know what they really think?

    Oh and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Truth Tea logo. No, not really. All right, my real feelings are these: great idea and wonderfully provocative discussion, just like your quilt costing posts. You have contributed lively thought and diversity to our community. How did that make you feel, Molli?

    • Vicki – You're a no-reply blogger, so I couldn't email you back.

      First, thank you for adding to the discussion, it's a lively one! I leave comments open on my blog posts because I am open to people giving feedback — in any form, as long as it's not just hateful gibberish. But from reading so much of the discussion on here, I do see a lot of people don't need / want others comments for validation. That's totally fine as well. We are all different! So for me, I'm happy to have a truth tea party any day. Haha.. and you make me feel so special. I love it, I love you, I love everything about it and you. 😉

  71. Suz J says:

    While I don't think there is any need to be rude, I also don't like the needless comments along the lines of "that's so cute" or "I love it". I'd much rather get a real comment – something with a bit of meat to it. I originally found this link on Jacquie Gerings blog, and it pretty much sums everything up (hopefully I get the link to work out properly) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0la5DBtOVNI

  72. charlotte says:

    I guess I missed this post in my crazy week, so here is my 2 cents. I often say nothing when I don't like something. I was raised that way. If I could offer constructive criticism, that would be different, but just to comment and say I don't like it, well, I just can't. I have been doing blog hops with Madame Samm for the last couple of years and one of the "rules" is to leave comment love for all posters each day of the hop. I have learned how to let them know I appreciate their efforts, even if it isn't my cup of tea. Some are downright awful, but the effort that a creative makes needs to be recognized. Thanks for another thoughtful discussion, Molli.

  73. knitnkwilt says:

    Will anyone be reading at 106?

    I would emphasize two things: the descriptive word and timing.

    While there is a momentary rush from "I love it," there is a lot more information if that is followed by a description. Something like "I like your arrangement and balancing of brights." I would like to see more positive comments followed by explanations. And quite frankly, the like+reason communicates more like than the mere statement.

    Timing. There is more value in constrictive criticism when a piece is in progress that after it is finished. But for that to happen, people have to show progress shots, not just finishes. And constructive criticism includes description of the problem and possible solution.

    A few secondary musings. Many have said critique if I ask for it. Hmmm. Once, on the assumption that bad design decisions should be posted as well as successes, I did so. And said so. Did I get anything constructive? No, I got a bunch of pats on the head. "It doesn't look THAT bad" type comments.

    I would consider the button on my blog IF and only if it linked to this specific post. A link to your most recent post does not further this conversation nor even explain the button.

    I'm not a no-reply blogger on wordpress, but some of our platforms don't talk to each other. I'll come bak in a week to see if you have a reply and to see if there are more comments.

    I agree that it is an important topic. I agree that snarky negative comments or mean ones or rude ones should be avoided. And I agree that silence is its own kind of negative comment.

    • Whew! Someone drank her Truth Tea this morning, and I love it! Totally, agree about the below statement, in fact, that's what I thought I had done. My mistake, so thanks for so gingerly pointing it out. 😉

      "I would consider the button on my blog IF and only if it linked to this specific post. A link to your most recent post does not further this conversation nor even explain the button."

      I agree with your arguments about positive praise followed explanations. I think it is no different than providing constructive criticism, it's more beneficial if there is an explanation behind it. I'm happy to receive constructive criticism / opportunistic feedback even after the piece is complete so that I can review it with a critical eye. Definitely can be more helpful during the progress though.

      Thanks for your contribution!

    • knitnkwilt says:

      Thanks for fixing the button; it is now on my sidebar.

      While I stand by my comment that there is more benefit in constructive criticism along the way than after a finish, I would agree with you that there is some benefit after– if it can be applied to future quilts. So somehow generalizing from the finished quilt at hand to a principle for future use.

  74. One Wee Bird says:

    Wow I'm slow at 107! But I've found all of this very interesting and enlightening and controversial….as always Joshua!
    I think it depends on why you blog and why you share via that medium.
    Is it just, like me, so that you're not talking to your sewing machine and expecting an answer….no real life quilty friends.
    Or is it that you want people to recognise what you see as something wonderfully handmade?
    I don't have the answer….all I know is that unless you know the person in real life, you don't really know how their day has been aside from that one page of their blog.
    Your flippant comment, that wasn't even an intentional negative when typed could be making someone sadder.
    However if you ask for feedback be prepared to put the bullet proof bra on baby and receive it,good,bad or otherwise!
    Just my 2 cents….sometimes a comment that justs shows you stopped by is enough for me 🙂

  75. Kelly Vetch says:

    Truth tea tastes better in lime green. IMO. 😉

  76. OPQuilt says:

    I've only read through a few comments–and you're probably sick of reading all of our blah blah blah, but here's my rule of thumb: I write what I want on my blog. Even if it means I get a bunch of scolding from people who don't like my quilt show regular feature of Most Ugly Quilt.

    But when I comment–I comment only if I can say something constructive or reasonably helpful. The quilts that I can see that obviously need a little more time in the studio before hitting the Big Time, I'll try to comment on some facet of the quilt, rather than the whole thing, if I feel like I have to leave a comment (like in groups, etc.). And I've noticed the same phenomena operating on mine sometimes. That's okay.

    That's why it's healthy that we get a few more men in here in Quiltland. They tend to avoid that nice nice nice business that women do (and don't get me trapped into that post of yours of men v. women thing), and I think it's healthy to sometimes just say WHATEVER out loud/in print. But I do it only in my own writing and on my own blog.

    Keep it up. I'm a fan.

  77. As usual, you eloquently speak what the rest of us chew on but can't spit out! I'm the one that doesn't say anything if I don't like it. I'm also often asking 'what do you REALLY think?' The pablum responses I get to 'spare' my baby-tender feelings make me all the more insecure. I've come to the point where I don't trust anyone when they praise my work because it all sounds so fake and contrived. Help dear Molli! I've come to trust what you say even if it stings a bit at first. Like tearing off a bandaid! It's so good when it gets a breath of fresh air!

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