Monday, January 16, 2017

Thoughts on Balancing One's Quilting Act . . . . . .

The beginning of any year is a reflective time as we look back at what has been accomplished and forward at what we hope to accomplish.  This weekend as I've been working on machine quilting a teaching sample, my mind has been contemplating how to prevent begin overwhelmed with projects and deadlines in 2017.  Perhaps you struggle with the same challenge? 
It occurs to me that some of my students and readers would be surprised this is a struggle for me.  Readers of my blog who I met face-to-face often mention "how much you get done" and I'm thinking, "yes, but you should see the list?!?"  This is a good illustration of the principle that perception plays a big part of one's attitude.  Others are impressed and we are overwhelmed but it's a mistake to compare our lives with another's because our view of our self is uncut while our view of someone else is the cleaned up, edited version -- the highlights! 
You don't see what I don't do around my house that you do everyday. 
I don't see your "to-do" list. 
You don't watch me cut corners to make things work because I have too many deadlines this week. 
I don't see you start over and over to get that amazing idea out of your head and into fabric.
And so on and so on and so on.
Looking through my pictures from the past two years, I realize how much fun I've had with new projects.  I enjoy scrolling through my Instagram feed several times a day.  I love all the inspiration from other quilters around the world and the encouragement they share with one another!  
And the challenges and the follow alongs and the swaps -- oh my!! 
It's so tempting to join all of them!! 
That's how I stumbled across this project last fall!!
But TIME is finite and so I find myself reconnecting with the decision several years ago to (attempt) to evaluate how accepting/participating in a project, swap, or challenge will benefit my interests.  
Will participating help me build skills or broaden my perspective? 
Can I use the final product to meet a goal or need? 
This coming year, one of my goals is to manage my work load in such a way that it gives me time to be distracted and have a bit of fun with a pile of fabric even if it doesn't seem productive because I might not be finishing a UFO or planning a workshop or writing a new pattern to promote my DVD, Set-In Piecing Simplified.

Perhaps an example or two will clarify my current approach. 

Last week, I shared my response to the Project Quilting Season 8's first challenge.  One of the things that appeals to me is the challenge of interpreting a theme/idea "my way".  I believe the time constraint of one week will be a good exercise to help me loosen up again and regain my sense of confidence about being spontaneous.  So "my" rule for participating is to pay attention to my intuitive reactions to the challenge prompts and go for it without a lot of deep contemplation.  At the same time, I've decided to consider each of the projects I complete as potential donations to my favorite causes.  
When the prompt for the second challenge was announced on Sunday, I was delighted (and a little surprised) at how quickly I had an idea.  By the time I had to watch Victoria on Masterpiece while knitting a pink hat for a friend headed to the Woman's March in Washington, D.C., my idea was sketched out plus diamonds were cut and pieced.  I left my block units spread out with a variety of background prints so that when I returned to the studio Monday morning, the best choice was almost be apparent with my first glance at the design wall.
My excitement with the results thus far might lead to a new workshop or pattern idea but that's not my motivation -- enjoying the process is enough for now.  Ideas are fun but they often lead to more work.  The important thing about having ideas is to realize that one doesn't have to act on every idea.  Some ideas are meant to lead to other bigger and better ideas. 
Some ideas are meant to be merged together meaning less work. 
Some ideas are meant to be passed on to others. 
The trick is to make sure to enjoy that aspect of "having ideas" and not let the ideas overwhelm or create an unnecessary burden!

Another tempting sew along popped up in the past few days.  I've been following Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts on Instagram for 6 months -- I love her playful designs.  If you aren't familiar with her, you can find her HERE and on Instagram.  Lorna did a wonderful and silly sew along in 2016 -- the Ugly Sweater Quilt.  It was mid-year before I found it and I successfully resisted getting caught up in it.  At the beginning of January she started showing peeks of a new Christmas themed sampler -- Jolly Little Christmas -- and I caved! 
How could I resist simple cute fun!!
  I was first introduced to the main piecing technique used by Lorna by the legendary Mary Ellen Hopkins 20 years ago -- she called it "connector corners" and it has spread through out the quilting world to the point that I don't think many know where that egg was hatched.  It's going to be a cheerful, easy quilt so I'm going to make two -- one for each of my grandchildren.  The first set took about an hour to cut and piece.  
Both of these projects run through March and sooooo, I think I'll draw the line and wait to jump on any more band wagons until these are finished.  There will be lots of temptation I'm sure.
Some BIG reminder notes to myself might help -- "Don't clog the schedule" or something like that to remind me to leave space in my goal setting for spontaneity!
And maybe one that says "WHY" to remind me to stop and think?
How about "are we having fun yet?"
How many sew-alongs and challenges can you handle at the same time?


  1. Oh, Mary... Such wise words. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Although I don't have a physical "to-do" list, I do know that my housework is neglected. And I am fine with that. So glad to see that you are enjoying the Have A Jolly Little Christmas quilt along!

  2. I've tried to let those I've decided to join segued into each other. For instance, I caved into Pat Sloan's Winter Solstice Project, but I'm using the blocks not to make another sampler, but to play with Angela's Rainbow Scrap Challenge which I decided to do first. And then there is the call from Shelley for her 350 Blocks Project - that one you make blocks, blocks, and more blocks with the goal of reaching 350 in 2017. So actually, it's like doing a 3 in one quilt along. With that and all my WIPs and UFOs, my year is full already. I did seriously consider Project Quilting. However I came to the conclusion, I just don't have the time for it. Maybe next year.

  3. Elephants, dogs, sweaters...Lorna's QAL's are always fun! I'm joining in for this one, too.
    Your bird quilt is fantastic. Off to find a link and read up on it.

  4. Wow! Those moose in the sampler may prove to be irrestible.

    I need to print out this post and tack it up in my sewing room because so many of the themes resonate. As I was working on some charity topes this weekend (while I should have been working on "my own stuff"), I realized that I do feel a lot more free to take creative risks and try something different when it isn't something that I'll keep or give to family or friends. I need to figure out a mind game that I can use to apply that concept to my UFO list.