Sunday, November 29, 2009

How Creative People Survive the Holidays

While Christmas is looming around the corner, I would urge you to do one thing that will make your holiday season better all the way around. Don't sew anything for anyone that you don't truly in your heart want to do. We are all pretty guilty of this and are oft well known for burning the midnight oil to finish up those projects in time for gifts. I look back on family photos from Christmases past and see the kids in nice hand sewn clothes, and I have bags under my eyes from trying to get them sewn in time to get the cards out in the mail before Christmas. Crazy. For sure! However, over the weekend, Therese was going through the trunk of little dresses and suits that I'd made over the years for our children. Listening to her delight over her favorites and tell me how much she loved this one and that and how she remembered family events and how special she felt wearing her new clothes...well, I think it probably wasn't so crazy after all. That the kids loved the feel of new clothes that were handmade gave me a lot of joy. I clearly remember being happy the whole time I was sewing for them. They would check on the progress of their things.

I now think it wasn't the sewing for the kids that sent me over the edge but rather all the things I tried to sew for everyone else. A family friend often had me making curtains for her home. After the third bedroom, I tried to let her know that it was really hard for me to do this with my young children and asked if she could just order the curtains from the Penney's catalog that she had me working from to redesign her curtains. She was indignant and told me that she would think I would have wanted to earn the money being I have a big family. Little did she know, I charged just a pittance because I was doing more of a favor for her since she wanted to save money from buying them in the catalog. I was charging her less than she could order them. Boy, that was a lesson quickly learned. (On top of that, I never remember telling her I needed the money because I had a big family, her assumption was in error.) What I "lost" in earnings was gained in wisdom that has served me well for a long time.

I clearly remember when I stopped trying to sew for everyone and do everything at Christmas time. It really hasn't anything to do with age or ability but is the stuff that I pass on to our children and anyone who will hear. The holidays are no longer stressful to me because I reduced my stress level by making a conscious choice to better care for myself. I love the holidays because I do what I want, create what I want and ignore the rest.

Following are the key elements to surviving the holidays with less stress:
1. Before starting any creative projects, put away all the distractions from your creating space.
2. Set out all the things you would LIKE to get done for the holidays.
3. Be fair to yourself in time evaluation for sewing.
4. Prioritize what would most make YOU HAPPY to get done.
5. As you sew, think about the person you are sewing for. This is the gift to YOU.
6. Savor every moment of sewing.
7. Change up your routine of when you "allow" yourself to sew. Let yourself sew at unconventional times to reduce stress.
8. Plan to wrap up some of the patterns and fabrics without finishing them
9. Plan to not finish things you aren't inspired to finish.
10. Be kind to yourself.
11. The moment you get anxious about getting it all done, set it aside. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and look at Christmas lights.
12. Don't hinge your happiness on finishing EVERYTHING.
13. Listen to Christmas music if you want or listen to the Stillness if you need.

If you forget these lessons, keep coming back the next couple of weeks. I will be your sewing cheerleader and remind you of what you are trying to accomplish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ain't No Mountain High Enough...

...No Valley Low keep me from sewing!

A few weeks ago, Henry and Joel brought in my new Koala sewing studio to my current sewing space. Since I was gone when they did this, they "stacked" all the notions and fabrics and stuff on the pool table and any horizontal surface to move the old stuff out and make room for my new and fabulously beautiful studio. I have done my best to not wait until it is all in place before I started sewing. If I wait that long, I'll be a wreck.

Plus, you know how it goes when you get new furniture. You measure and vision and are sure it will work this way and then it arrives and it has the wrong "feel" in that configuration. So for the past two weeks, I have moved these four fabulous pieces around my sewing space. I have tried nearly every configuration, drawn it out and dreamed about it. I go to sleep thinking, "if this piece is here and I move that there...." A couple of times I got up and went to my sewing room in my pajamas and started re-arranging furniture.

Most of the time I kept shoving stuff around and moving stacks of books, patterns and notions around. Knowing that if I start putting it in the drawers, I won't have a good feel of where everything goes until everything is sitting where I want it. And, even with that I can't set it all up because in early December I am having the carpets cleaned. It will all be upended again!

So why the hurry to do anything? It is my dream space. It is my getaway and all it does right now is scream "Get Away!" With Thanksgiving coming, I don't want our guests to enjoy every notion, thread, fabric and publication I have ever purchased being spread out all over the pool table and the air hockey table. (Those are my room companions.) Feeling the crunch of time, I decided to implement plan B. That would entail shoving stuff into storage. Since the closest storage is the room for the house electrical, that seems obvious to me. I am sure my husband Henry will veto it when (and if) he sees it. Nonetheless, in the relief of having some of the mountains of stuff out of the way, I visioned a new way for the sewing room to sit. Poor Johanna (my 17 year young daughter) got recruited for yet another move around the sewing room. She has her own studio piece in the room; so, she is a bit motivated to assist me. And magic happened! I had been trying to take up as little space in the room to save space for a TV for Henry and ample space for the kids to play pool and air hocket. Then it dawned on me...this is really my room and I am just letting them share it with me. So, I spread out a bit more and found a lovely configuration to the room. I selected the studio pieces that my family can all sew together when they come home at holiday times. With the newest piece from Koala, I have a cutting station that can also be fitted into TWO sewing spaces. I absolutely love these pieces. They are heavy critters but they are so manageable and functional. I selected the tallest pieces of them that I could have ample shelving for my publications, fabrics, notions and even my knitting stuff. I also like the higher height with the adjustable foot rests. On top of that, they are so pretty. Mine are the cherry finish. When I get the room all "set" and decorated, I will certainly share those pictures. However, I always think it is great to share with my friends the process pictures. The pictures in progress should make you feel a little better about your creating space.

The process is what is the most fun and the most invigorating. The product brings closure and sets balance for me. However, it is the process that gives me the energy and the inspiration to go. That I get so excited about configuring my sewing room gives one a glimpse of how I think. Imagine what happens when I vision sewing and creating?!

A couple of my favorite magazines Where Women Create and Studios by Cloth, Paper, Scissors really speak to the creative in each of us. I study the way the rooms are set up and love to see personalities blooming from those spaces. Not usually highly stylized spaces many are so functional and normal....perhaps tubs for fabric, recycled dressers, shelving units borrowed from other places. Each of them speak of functionality and comfort for the designer. Then today a home design magazine came in the mail. While beautiful spaces with large open areas, I kept wondering where their "stuff" was. Where do they keep the magazines they are studying? Where are the notes, the artwork and the creations of clay from kids and grandkids? I wonder if they keep boxes of special things to sort and study. While I need enough order to find my things, my spaces are combination of who I am, who I was and who I love.

Occasionally my daughters will tease me about things mauve and blue or the many hand-woven basket, but I just cannot part with things that still have function and still bring me great joy as I remember their childhoods of growing up in a house of country blue and mauve and a lifetime of collecting their things and my things in baskets handmade by friends. With age, I just get more and more sentimental. However, just as it was when I considered the space I should take up for my creating time, I am old enough now to relinquish any sort of modesty about being inordinately tidy or organized. I doubt I will be much remembered for someone else's vision and will be more likely remembered for the passion for life that I have.

Affording ourselves a space and time and freedom from serious restrictions on our creative expression is the best form of self-care we can enjoy. Cultivating a healthy amount of self-expression and an avenue for us to keep touch with who we are is the most life-giving thing we can do to afford us each the chance to better serve others and to become who we are called to be in our daily walk.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I need a sewing day...scratch....MONTH...scratch....LIFE

Having been on the road the past six weeks for work and family, I have been too long away from home and my own sewing room. The nice thing is I have had a couple of chances to quilt and got a bit of escape. Problems and worry just melt away when I machine quilt. I know this isn't so for everyone but for me, it is like a child with chalk and a blank sidewalk. What makes it easy for me isn't that I have a natural bend to it but rather complete abandon. I don't get all hung up about if there is a "right way" to quilt. In fact, if there is a "right way" I am sure to find a new path.

I have great appreciation for quilt masters. I am transfixed watching Karen McTavish dance the needle across her quilts. I am in awe to watch the details of Diane Gaudynski's work and am always thrilled to see my own replicas when I use an embroidery machine with her designs. While at the AQS show in Des Moines, I got to spend some time watching Marilyn Badger and the easy conversation of how she enjoys her APQS and the new cruise feature.

While on retreat, I got back to my Red Silk quilt. My rendition is from Terry Atkinson's Happy Hour book, called Snap Shots. I love this quilt and loved it more as I quilted it with one of my new favorite that is variagated. I love silk thread anyway and variagated is beyond my wildest dreams. I FINISHED my quilt in a day and quilted it such that the rectangles "popped." Let me know what you think. I love it!!

When I was a younger soul, I longed to be an artist. I have no regret even though I am not living in Paris as a starving artist. My life, my creative journey, my passion, my family and friends are so much more than I envisioned. Life is always a surprise and an absolute joy to me. My Red Silk lovely is my expression and MY dance. Give it a try. Red Silk kit is a collection of fat quarters that will take you to a new place with your imagination!

I have been asked what am I going to do with my Red Silk Dance. I am not really sure what that means. Red Silk Dance has done so much for me. I smile everytime I see it. I loved every minute of sewing it. I even love the pictures of it. Do you think anyone asked Vincent Van Gogh what he was going to do with his painting Starry Night?

There need not be a practical side of my sewing. But, if one needs to justify it, I would suggest that Red Silk Dance makes me happy, brings me joy. So, it is better than medication!

All the Best to You, jill