My kids are home for holidays. It’s funny, after years of homeschooling, how much school holidays take me by surprise. Shouldn’t I be used to having them around all the time? Used to juggling my work and sewing with them in the house? It’s taken a shockingly short time for me to lose the art of managing my time and expectations really well with a home full of people!
It’s not a loss I grieve too much. ;P I LOVE our new life with lots of focussed sewing and work time for me, and then focussed afternoons for them. But holidays always take me a few days to get my head around the new world order. And it’s not even that my kids even take heaps of work or attention. I can still make quilts while they’re around. It’s just interrupted. There’s no concentrating, no quilt maths, no pattern writing, not even putting colours together, which I love to do in the quiet. When I homeschooled, this was my constant reality, and I became a total pro at organising my creative life around different times of the day and week. And you know what made it work? It all hinged on having lots of quilts in progress.
I have A LOT of WIPS (works in progress). At the time I’m writing this, I have around 30 unfinished quilts in my WIP cupboard. 9 of them are quilt tops (the main bottleneck in my quilt-making!), and the rest are at various stages of progress.
Here’s 5 reasons why this works for me, and why I recommend it.
1. I can sew more. Much more! Different parts of the quilting process require different energy, light and set up. I can English paper piece while watching TV with Tim, while waiting in the carpark to pick up my daughter from dance, on road trips and holidays. But I can’t iron quilt tops or choose colours during those times. I choose colours on days with good light, and I press quilt tops and get ready to quilt when my living room floor is tidy. If I only had one quilt on the go at a time, I would have these huge gaps in productivity where I was waiting on the weather or a tidy house. School holidays may not be good for writing a new quilt pattern, but they’re perfect for taking over the dining table and sewing amongst everything! Today I got the kids to tidy up their floor mess, and then I spent the day basting and then quilting a quilt for my nephew.
2. I try things out. I’m such a huge fan of learning through experimentation. That means being willing to make mistakes, or to have things not work out. I’ll happily try something, knowing I can put it aside or abandon it altogether if I don’t like it. If I know I have to follow through to the end, even if I hate it, I would never try new ideas. It’s too much pressure! As an added bonus, I’ve picked up long-abandoned quilts a year later with completely new inspiration for how I could make it work, that I never would have come up with earlier.
3. I work with my natural rhythms of energy, attention, and motivation. When I’m sitting on my couch for the evening, my huge tub of scrappy shapes is waiting for me, and I find nothing more relaxing than sewing diamonds or hexagons together at random without too much thought. When I’m traveling or need to wait for kids somewhere, that’s the perfect opportunity to bring prepared blocks in little zip lock bags that fit perfectly in my handbag. Some quilts suit being sewn in one big binge, others suit being done here and there throughout the year.
Also, I don’t know if you can relate to this but my monthly cycle has a huge impact on my inspiration and motivation. There are times when all I want to do is finish a bunch of quilts and tidy up. There are other times where I have 5 different ideas that just need to be tried right now! Allowing myself to do both, means that I’m always working with my natural rhythms rather than pushing against them.
4. I finish more quilts this way. Now, my goal or encouragement here isn’t to make more quilts for more quilts’ sake. It’s not a race or competition. But early on, my main fear of putting unfinished quilts away is that I might never come back to them. But I do. All the time! Picking up a quilt in progress that’s been left for a while is like starting afresh, with all that new-project motivation, except that I’ve already made a bunch of progress!
5. I enjoy it more. And damn it, quilting is here for me to ENJOY! Forget that I also use it to make money, that I have followers, or that I give away or sell some of my quilts. The very foundational reason I quilt is that I love it. It gives me joy. And my joy is reason enough to make quilts, and lots of them. I enjoy the freedom to try new things when I get inspired, to put them down when I get bored, or new inspiration strikes.
I remember when I first took up quilting over 10 years ago, I followed a lot of really orderly bloggers. Some would post a photo of their fabric pull at the beginning of the week, their progress mid-week, and their finished quilt by Friday, ready to start again the next week. Gosh I longed to be them! I still do sometimes! I don’t know why that kind of orderliness has appealed to me so strongly when I’m not actually at all like that. Slowly over the years, though, I’ve learned to embrace the chaotic nature of my creativity, and work with it, rather than try to steer it too heavy-handedly. The result? I love my quilting time. I love that it doesn't have to be tucked away for when the kids are in bed, or when I set aside special times on the weekend. I love that my quilts are full of the memories of every day life and of special road trips, of seasons of grief, or uncertainty or celebration. I've stitched through all of it! And I've loved choosing whatever quilt I wanted in those times.