Getting Unstuck

Now that I’m home, all of my recent travels are finished, and the garden has almost been put to bed for the winter, I decided that it was time to dig out a UFO (unfinished object) and get to work. I have a few of those around, both quilting and knitting ones, and I don’t like to have them lingering. They loom over me like a big looming thing, casting a shadow over any desire I have to start something new.

I recently finished off three knitting projects that had been UFOs for months and even years. It was such a relief to get those finished. Now I’d like to get a couple of these quilting UFOs finished, too. With this in mind, I dug out the two unfinished Crooked Rail Fence quilt tops and had a look at them. They’ve been sitting in a plastic bin for almost 3 years, along with fabric that I had purchased for borders and backings.

Here is one of the tops:

crooked rail fence quilt 1

Now that the quilt tops have been sitting on my ironing board for a couple of days, I realize why I stopped working on them. I’d run into a problem. I wasn’t happy about where I was going with them, but I wasn’t sure why. I was stuck. So I did what I often seem to do – I put them away and did something else.

When I stop to think about it, this is why most of my long-time UFOs end up lingering. I reach a point where I am stuck. Something goes wrong and I don’t know what it is. Or I do know what’s wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it. Or I know what I want to do to fix it, but I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge involved. Or the next step in the project is something that’s difficult or new and I’m hesitant to do it in case I mess it up. What those reasons all boil down to is that I get stuck, and instead of working to get unstuck I set the project aside and ignore it.

I’ve been asking myself why I got stuck when making these two quilts, and the answer I’ve come up with is this: I don’t want to put borders on them. I’d spent all kinds of time trying to decide on the colours of the borders and how wide they should be, without really stopping to consider whether I wanted borders on them or not. What finally got me asking this question was the lecture I attended at the International Quilt Festival in Houston on Modern Quilts. One of the features of Modern Quilts is that they often don’t have borders.

When I was taught how to make a quilt, I was taught to add at least one border, and sometimes two or three of them. Borders could be plain, pieced, or appliquéd. They could be narrow, wide, or in between. But they were always there. They were the frame around the picture that was the quilt top. They made the quilt bigger. They were often a place to add some fancy quilting. I’d just assumed without thinking that these quilts needed borders. But when it came time to cut the fabric for the borders and sew them on, I just didn’t want to do it. And now I know why.

Now that I’ve made that decision, I’ve had another look at the size of the tops as they now stand. They are each 8 blocks by 10 blocks (each block is 6” square), which makes them 48” by 60”. I don’t think they’re quite big enough to be good napping-under quilts. I don’t want them to be full bed-sized quilts, but I do want them to be big enough to cover a snoozing adult. I think that if I add one more column and two more rows they’ll be a perfect size. That would make them 9 blocks by 12 blocks (54” by 72”), which is almost the size of a standard double bed mattress (54”x75”). A little math tells me that I need to make 28 more blocks for each quilt top. I think I can manage that without too much trouble. And I can use up some stash fabric in the process.

It’s interesting to me how much better I feel now. These quilts have been causing my brain to itch every time I thought about them. I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t know why. I just knew that I didn’t want to work on them.

Being stuck – it isn’t much fun. Getting unstuck takes a bit of investigation, and perhaps some inspiration, and a few new ideas. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to try something new, or a bit of instruction in how to do something unfamiliar. Sometimes it might even mean giving up on the project. Whichever it is, it’s much better to get unstuck than to let unfinished projects linger forever.


Mountains of Stuff

This started out to be a minor clean-up of my sewing room. Somewhere along the way things just got out of hand, and it turned into a major decluttering and sorting of all of my craft supplies and more. I suppose that it was very much needed and long overdue. It has put something of a crimp into my creative output, though. Taken together with the spring yard and garden clean-up, I have been busy, tired, and without new projects to blog about.

In place of that, I’ve decided to blog about my sewing room. I’m giving myself the entire summer to chip away at this project, so I might as well get a few posts out of it, right? I need the time and lack of pressure to be able to deal with each decision along the way, and to think through solutions to storage and so on. I am not one to easily let go of things that might come in handy some day.

Here are a few pictures of things as they currently stand. I have been sorting things into labelled boxes. In these photos all of the boxes are in the room because we had an overnight guest on the weekend and I had to clear everything out of the guest room. I’ve been using the guest room as a holding zone for things while this work is in progress.

This photo shows my roll-top desk, the corner unit that holds the tv, DVD player, and cable box, the wicker chest of drawers that currently holds thread and other sewing supplies, and a corner of my sewing table. There is a tall filing cabinet to the right of the desk that isn’t visible in this picture.


Turning to the left you can see the sewing table, with my sewing machine and serger underneath. This table has adjustable legs, so I can raise it to standing height when I’m doing a lot of cutting. I can also use the table for doing other crafts like beading. Above the table and on the wall is a little shelf that I use to hold task lights and the sewing tools I always need when sewing. Above that is a window. Next to the table is a bookcase.


The bookcase holds my quilting, mixed media, knitting, sewing, and art books, and some of the quilting magazines. Way up on top are boxes of photos and photo albums that are all waiting for me to sort through them. It looks like an avalanche waiting to happen, doesn’t it? The adjustable shelves on the next wall hold small boxes of craft supplies, and some tools. Normally the ironing board is set up under the lowest shelf. There’s a small peg board there, too, and my cutting rulers hang from the pegs.


Turning again, you can see the computer desk, which holds various craft supplies as well as my desktop computer and printer. The little stacks of containers you can see are full of beads.


Next to that is a small closet with shelves that currently hold most of my quilting fabric. My cutting mats are hanging from the metal rod using pant hangers. Most of the stuff from the uppermost shelf has already been removed and sorted.


I have craft supplies stashed all over the house. Once I started unearthing everything I admit that I felt a bit embarrassed. It isn’t so much the quantity of any one single thing, it’s the sum total of everything that is overwhelming. Through the course of my adult life I’ve engaged in sewing clothing and home dec things (like curtains), doing cross-stitch and needlepoint, painting in watercolours, quilting (both traditional and art/mixed media), knitting, beading, and spinning. And probably one or two other things that aren’t immediately coming to mind. Like an archaeological dig, this round of sorting and purging has been unearthing all sorts of tools and supplies for things that either need better homes here or new homes with someone else. This is going to take awhile.

In the meantime, I am working on two craft projects. One is a pair of simple socks. The second is a cross-stitch project that has been nearly finished for several years. It’s about time to get that one done and out of the way.


Happy New Year!

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions – they always feel so doomed to failure. I haven’t made any for years. That doesn’t mean that I don’t stop and think about things like goals and desires. At this time of year, with the new year beginning and the solstice having passed and days getting longer, it’s hard not to pause and take stock. I look back over last year and forward at the year to come, and wonder how I can move closer to realizing my goals. That, of course, leads to thinking about just what those goals are.

If you’ve been reading my blog this past year, you’ll know that I’ve been taking classes and trying out some new things in the realm of art quilts. In truth, I’ve been taking classes here and there for several years now. I’ve tried everything from thread painting to fabric dying, from stamp carving to beading. I’ve also taken classes in creative thinking, and journaling for inspiration, and other topics intended to stimulate the creative part of my brain. I’ve realized that I love working with fabric and thread more than any other medium. I also love adding embellishments and beads. I have many ideas, and all of those pieces of the creative puzzle are falling into place and making me want to really get creating.

I find myself wondering what obstacles stop me from doing just that. As with most people, life does sometimes interfere. Things need to be done if I want to eat food and live in a clean home and have clean clothes to wear. It’s also hard to keep focussed. I so easily get distracted by the internet or other things. And my sewing room is constantly a mess and hard to work in. On the other hand, I tend to have unrealistic expectations of myself. I find myself thinking that I could do so much more if I just had more self-discipline, forgetting that I can’t simply will away the health problems that often sap my energy. I need to find the middle ground, where I can focus what energy I have on what matters most, while still accepting that I need to allow enough time for rest, exercise and self-care.

On top of that, I get caught too often in perfectionism and the fear of making mistakes. That’s a big barrier, one that can lead to projects in progress being avoided for months or years. It’s about time for less fear and more courage, and focussing on the mantra “finished is better than perfect!”

So, these are my intentions for the coming months: to spend more time doing the things that I love to do – creating and learning; to use up some of my stash of fabric and yarn – some of which has been patiently waiting for attention for years now; to crack open some of the wonderful books I own, and try out the techniques and patterns contained in them; to let go of that anxiety and have fun making things; and to finally get my sewing room organized into something more functional. And I hope to keep on sharing my art and craft adventures with my friends and readers.

So, do you have any hopes or intentions for the coming year?