30 August 2008

Taking action

I need lots of comments on this please. I spend lots of my creative time thinking about quilts I want to make, but not actually taking action to make them. I look at the pieces on my design wall, but take weeks before I stitch another piece on. I have piles of fabric sorted into projects, but they just sit there while I design quilts in my head.

What I want to know is this - how do you jolt yourself into actually sewing rather than just thinking about it? Deadlines don't make me focus (it's too much like work then), but I wonder if you have some tips? Maybe a system of rewards would work? Please leave a comment and let me know what works for you.


  1. To be honest, my first thoughts upon reading your post were that quilting/sewing/whatever are supposed to be FUN! If you are having to set up a reward system to make yourself do these things, then it doesn't sound like they are inherently rewarding to you. It sounds like it is the design process that you enjoy more than the actual production. Why is it necessary to make the things you design if you really just like the designing phase? Maybe you could just design, design, design, print out your designs and post them up on the wall, and then after however many months you can see which ones you still like and which are calling out "MAKE ME!". Maybe you could put all your piles away for awhile, focus on designing, and maybe get bored of that til the sewing starts calling you again .. just some thoughts :)

  2. I "think up" many, many quilts, that for me is the fun part, I have most in my head,or on eq5 but actually only make one or 2 a year that really should be done as they are screaming at me to be made...but time constraints are my problem and I have an order for a quilt that I just cannot get into it, maybe because I just don't like it, luckily the owner loves the draft of it...and is not in a hurry, but i have to force myself to do it and for me is no fun at all.
    Quilting should be fun, not boring as I find making this pieced quilt a boring thing to do.
    If you get any answers of how to really get the job done I certainly would like to be on that list.


  3. Anonymous1:24 pm

    I find that there is bit of a process between designing and making things up. My daughter did alot of drawings one day and it took me 2 years before I made up some of the drawings into a stitched 4 peice swag. I had to decide on how I was going to make up designs then decide on colours then comes the time to choose the threads and fabrics etc. I hope this helps.

  4. I use the 15 mins a day method....I make a plan to do 15mins every day of something sewing..planning in my head doesnt count but doing drawings or selecting fabric does....after a couple of days of just doing something I spring into action and spend hours sewing and achieving...and find then I have to force myself to stop for 15 mins of housework cooking etc etc.
    Cheers Bev

  5. I used to have to finish everything on the day I started it. Come home from work, make an outfit and wear it the next day.
    Then I gave myself permission to not Have to finish it straight away and things tended to get piled up.
    Sometimes something quite simple can block me. A vase of blossoms cut when pruning, on the table, stopped me using the length for measuring quilts for sashing. Then friend & her machine came last night...I cleared most of the dining table then thought......bother this, so moved a plant, moved the vase to where the plant was...the table was available. Then my friend could set up there. I then started on the cutting table...finally cleared half of that so she could cut. As usual she raced ahead while I drew breath, but then I started. We were making a bag (in my blog) and while she left at 10pm I resorted to the old tricks of keeping working. I finished it....more or less around midnight and can now see the way clear to work on other projects. What was blocking me.....a vase of blossom this time...but there is often something in the way of access or tidyness that can block me. So maybe ask yourself are their blocks? And maybe they are tired blocks. maybe you just want a break for awhile. I have contemplated throwing the stash out..(too much work) an just starting another hobby, but I like fabric too much. Tiredness and pushing past a certain barrier also makes a difference, but look outside the square to things like health. Are you really sleeping well? Magnesium & calcium are basics for me...but then I rattle with Vit supplemnts. Have you had time for a walk or some exercise before you try and start. Are the dishes cleared and the house basically tidy so no guilt trips there. But you cannot push yourself into creative work...or if you do I do not believe you enjoy it the same.
    Just me waffling

  6. Chookerry2:26 pm

    I too specialise in creative blocks including the internet. So I put potential projects (no fabric) in a filing tray with the proviso that one has to be removed for each I add. Now some have been there for three or more years but I still want to do them. In the file tray are my sketch book, patterns, inspirational pictures, photocopies of techniques I want to try etc

    It serves a number of purposes. This stops me from spending my creative time researching/looking for the next project, narrows the field to things I really want to do at that moment and makes me diversify. Some things that 1 years ago were a must make quilt have turned into a hand embroidery.

    Ease up on your self. Life is a journey and at the moment you are going up hill and then you WILL reach the summit and take flight.

  7. I wish I knew the answer. I get the same way. I just can't get myself started but once I start I usually get myself into that creative zone and have fun. It's the starting that's the hard part. Having too many choices can cause me to freeze like a rabbit in the headlights. In recent years, I miss not having someone around me with similar tastes/skills/imagination to bounce ideas off each other. The quilters in the groups I belong to only seem to be interested in making pretty/cutesy/applique quilts - not my taste at all after 30+ years of quiltmaking - so I find no inspiration there. I think I like Bev's 15 mins a day idea. No procrastination, just do it whether you feel like it or not until your over the hump and on a roll.

  8. Hi Erica,

    May I ask a question?

    What happens when you do get started? Do you enjoy it? Do you sew for hours and wonder what stopped you? Or do you get bored easily with what you're doing?


  9. You will find a lot of musing on this topic on my blog. Sometimes it is me thinking "online" that helps, or preparing a blog post that gets me ready to work on a project.

    The bottom line is, I don't want to increase the number of UFOs I have.

    I can't start something until I finish something else.

    This does not mean that I work only on one project until it is finished. Too hard! But I have started to limit myself to a list of 4 items to work on. At least one needs to be handwork.

    I sew for my enjoyment and relaxation. If I don't feel like doing it, why should I?? So, I need a few projects on the go.

    Now that I have listed my UFOs on my blog, it is helping me when I feel like.. Hmm.. what will I work on next? What do I want to make next?

    I wonder what will work for you. :) Don't get distracted. Keep a list handy or keep your projects in view or you will forget about them.

    I have finished 17 items this year. I know my lists are helping.

  10. Anonymous7:25 pm

    My hint is to make a small project to boost your confidence. You can finish it easily then get back to what you really need to do. But hey - don't stress the world doesn't come to an end if you don't meet deadlines, there are lots of people that deliver wedding quilts 2 years after the wedding (and lots that save having to deliver because the couple are now separated). So be kind to yourself and do what you can. Jill

  11. I too have more ideas than Wips and I have a lot of Wips! (Although unlike you I do sew as well as designing, its just that I can do the latter quicker than the former). Two things that have helped:

    1. I made a journal with a page for each WiP. I made a decision as to what was a reasonable number to have going at once ( I counte dthe ones I had and added about three). On the front of each page is a decorated tag in a pocket identifying the project. I guess you could just write it down but I had fun making them and it looks nice! Plus the page is reusable so there is no temptation to add another one to the journal Then on the back is a clear pocket with a list of steps each quilt requires. That way it is broken down into tasks - you are not thinking I must finish this quilt. only, I need to check one item off the list. Much more managable. Then I have a different section at the back where I keep a list of ideas I have. I am not allowed to start those until a page at the front becomes available. Of course this system still requires some self dispcipline but it does allow you to plan and dreamn but no cutting of fabric before a space for a new Wip becomes available. As you can see I don't beleive having a lot of Wips is necessarily a bad thing as long as you do make some of them as well!

    2. I had a finish up day with jennifer of www.infinitymore monkeys.blogspot.com which really helped us get to tasks we were avoiding ( and which didn't take anywhere near as much effort or time as we thought!) As we were in different time zones she started early I started late and we worked away emailing at preagreed times to encourage ecah other and report back. I am happy to do the same with you sometime if you like.

  12. Erica, I do the 15 minute a day principle - it works for me.
    I have hand projects that get taken/worked on when visiting in hospital, travelling by train or bus, in waiting rooms etc.

    At meetings I often sew on bindings and labels, allows me to get them done and still be able to concentrate on what is happening at the meeting.

    Chose the charities I wanted to support - knowing their need is enough to prod me into making the quilts for them.

    Guess you need to decide what it is that you want p&q to be for you.
    For me I enjoy using my *spare* time this way and then being able to bless others with whatever I have made.


  13. Anonymous12:29 am

    I find that having my sewing machine 'up' at all times helps, When cutting projects, I cut the odd shaped and smaller leftovers into various sized squares and just sew them into sashings or hospital quilts if the artier ideas wont translate for me. Like most of us I make lists and try to finish a few UFO's each year, mainly, just have fun.

  14. I too struggle with this - but lately (due to financial constraints I must say) I have been FORCING myself to finish stuff that Ive had laying around here. Yes it is boring at times and I really do have to force myself but the satisfaction when it is finished is fabulous!!!
    BUT I really really would like to make some of my designs I have done too but I am trying to be strong.
    But in the end it is "whatever floats YOUR boat"....if you start stuff, or not start stuff or whatever it is you and you alone that has to live with it - so as long as you can live with that - then do whatever - clear as mud?

  15. I think you are a designer and I am a quilt maker and I change other people's designs to suit me. I have around 10 projects on the go and change to something different as the mood changes.Perhaps you need to find your ideal type of patchwork i.e. applique,piecing,machining etc .I love cutting out and have many projects cut out ready for the mood to change.....Natalie

  16. Jenni9:32 am

    I also have had trouble starting and thinking a project. I have lots of ideas in my head but I just can't take that first step to get going. If I have a pattern, no worries, someone els has done the thinking for me.
    A piece of advice I as given by a textile art teacher was, " I tell my students to paint a colour on the middle of their canvas or place a piece of fabric on a background piece and go from there." It actually works. it seem to get the creative juices going.

  17. No worries Erica, just make a list of all the projects you really want to do and pin it up on a wall that you see every day... then put a big red pen through each one when it's completed... there's nothing more pleasing and rewarding than seeing things crossed off a list!! Actually I must do this myself... Good Luck!!

  18. Not every idea deserves to be started and finished. I have many starters that I've recycled on for someone else to love - no guilt attached! Sometimes, the 'playing' process is enough ...

    Remove what's on your wall and see what happens - how do you feel about it? Does anything need to go back? Or do you feel free?

    Meanwhile, keep your projects small and achievable, and discard any that aren't working. If the passion's not happening, take a break and enjoy the garden for a while instead.

    And most importantly ... don't compare yourself with anyone else.

  19. Anonymous8:50 am

    POWER OF 10

    The "Power of 10" in quilting is not some higher mathematical formula that quilters all need to learn to make a quilt. It is a simple way to complete those projects we want to finish before we buy anymore fabric.
    First, simply find the projects that you are no longer interested in completing and pass them on to someone who would love it as much as you once did.
    Second, list "10" projects that you would like to complete. Now remember "Only 10" projects are to be on the list.
    Third, begin working on the projects on the list and spend three hours toward completing it.
    Fourth, keep a list of projects and the hours worked.
    Fifth, once three hours are spent on a project move to the next. A
    quilter's interest wanes and is usually spent after three hours. Now if a project requires two to four hours it doesn't matter. Simply finish the project. Feel good about finishing it.
    Sixth, find another project and add it to the list. Remember, only
    Ten Projects are your focus.
    Seventh, continue to rotate the projects you are working on.
    Eighth step is to list the supplies needed to finish your projects.
    Ninth would be to shop for items to finish your projects.
    …and Tenth, the `Power of Ten` becomes reality when you are able to share your project.

  20. Anonymous3:38 pm

    Ask yourself:
    Am I waiting for permission from myself or someone/some voice inside me? Whose permission do I need? Why do I need it?
    Is there some unacknowledged task/ chore/ priority that I am putting in front of putting my energy into the quilt? Am I actually getting to that? or am I procrastinating there as well?
    Do I really want to do this? Maybe staring at this in potential lets me hide from something else I would like to do but lack the courage to attempt?
    Am I ok? How healthy is the rest of my life's motivation? Am I just being plain old lazy? Am I depressed and in denial?

    Listen- really listen- to your thoughts and self-talk when you get to the stare and do nothing stage; it can tell you a lot- even stuff you don't expect to hear.

  21. Erica,

    I am sorry i am late with my comment, your problem in a perenial one I suffer from it, I have a daughter who is a printmaker and it afflicts her as well. I cant give you magic advice as I have learned simply to live with it. And when I do make a quilt I enjoy it so much.

  22. Hi Erica

    I've found a good 'un-blocker' is to sew some of my (rather large) collection of small scraps into mile-a-minute or crumb blocks (as per Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville). I just pick up 2 pieces that don't clash and stitch them together, chaining about 10 in a row. I then keep adding until I get a piece that is about 5" which I then trim using a 4 1/2" square ruler. It doesn't take long to get a few blocks done and it is no-risk, no-brain sewing. I haven't done what I've been struggling with but I find it frees my mind to then do what I have been blocking. It doesn't bother me at all If I don't use them. Somehow I feel more virtuous with scrap blocks laying around rather than the scraps themselves. I feel I've achieved something without the higher stakes of an actual project.mpdf

  23. Oops, sorry about the letters at the end of my comment. I typed the word verification code in the wrong place!


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