We made it through Halloween.
And like a collective sigh, the online creative world shifted from maple leaf quilt blocks and fabric pumpkins to an overwhelming insistence that “YES, YOU HAVE TIME TO MAKE ALL YOUR CHRISTMAS GIFTS.” Overnight. I went to bed on October 31st proud of myself for getting my kids’ costumes done right, and woke up the next morning to an online frenzy of DIY gifts.
Many years ago I stumbled across the advice to get your handmade Christmas gifts done before Thanksgiving so you didn’t spend December in a state of anxiety over whether or not you’d finish your gifts. For the most part, I adhere to this wisdom because it’s the only way that Christmas baking is happening–I dearly love Christmas baking, and I don’t have time for it if I’m struggling to also finish knitting and quilting projects.
So I tried something different this year. On January 1, 2016 I drew up a list of the people I generally give gifts to at Christmas and concocted an rotation of various categories that I like to make, assigned them to a ten year schedule, and then plugged my gift list people into the categories based upon what age they were turning this year.
Example: If your age on your birthday in 2016 had you turning something ending with a 5 (ie. 5, 15, 25, 35, etc.), then you were assigned a hat because I assigned hats to 5.
Other categories included: Pillow (1), Socks (2), EPP (3), Apron (4), Scarf (6), Mittens (7), Choice (8), Bag (9), and Quilt (0).
After spending my New Year’s Day happily ensconced in pattern searching and stash diving, I woke up on January 2nd with optimism and excitement. I decided to start with the big items first and work my way down to the smaller things, and first on my list was a quilt to make for a special girl who celebrated her tenth birthday in 2016. (Understandably, I can’t show you a picture of it until after Christmas…)
And it was glorious for a few weeks–oh, the pace was exhilarating, and I patted myself on the back for my excellent plan.
But then, in March, I had to start a project that just wasn’t interesting to me, mostly because of the colors. I lagged behind my schedule as I grit my teeth each morning and forced myself into my studio to continue plodding along towards the completion of that project. The next gift on the list was once again in a color palette that failed to excite. My life started to look like one long, endless road of projects I didn’t really want to make.
And on top of all that, so many people had babies this year. To date, I’ve completed six baby quilts, with another 1-3 possibly in the works.
People, I am gifted out. I have spent this entire year making gifts for people. THE ENTIRE YEAR.
I don’t regret it at all, but I’m also just. done.
I think I’m evolving.
Have you noticed that so many people, when learning a new skill, give away their projects? It’s like they make that first project to figure out how to work the new skill, and then start cranking out projects and just give them all away? I’ve touched on this idea before in a previous post, but it seems that we go through a phase of “Look at what I can do!” with any newfound skill, gifting any living being with the works of our hands. I think it’s part excitement and pride in a job well done, and the other part love. All good things.
But there comes a point when you look around and know that you’ve spent most of your time creating beautiful works of art, and realize that your personal life is quite devoid of any of that particular beauty because you’ve given it all away. There is beauty in service and giving, definitely; but…that moment when you realize that your dwelling is practically ascetic causes a big pause and an even larger moment of reflection.
Giving gifts is good. Improving one’s skills while working on said gifts is also good. There has been a lot of good this year. (Please no one who received a gift from me this year think that I’m upset or regret making something for you. That is totally NOT the case AT ALL. I’m quite proud of all the nice things I made for you all this year.)
…it’s falling short. There are new techniques to try, new skills to learn, and they don’t fit into gifting categories, so I’ve been slow to start working on them, despite my heart being pulled in that direction.
So, I think it’s time for a Gifting Decommission.
Less time spinning my wheels creating more of the same, and a new focus on learning new techniques and stretching my abilities. I can’t do that with the pressure of gift lists on my shoulders; with the thoughts of “Now who would like this? Maybe I should change that color to match their decor a little better. Hmm, I know that so-and-so really loved that appliqued one, so maybe I’ll put this pattern aside and do something with more applique because then I can give it to her for Christmas…” in the back of my mind. A shift to making art for the sake of art. “What is best for this project?” instead of “What is best for this person?”
My creativity needs to be mine, and I also need the time to tackle new techniques that will allow me to progress.
I’ve a few gift projects that are near completion that I’ll see through to the end, but after they’re done, that’s it for a while.
It’s time to build a cocoon and do a little bit of growing.
This is what I will tell myself in two weeks when I snap and think that, yes, I SHOULD MAKE ALL THE GIFTS.
I am not an elf in Santa’s workshop. It is not my job to make gifts, nor does my livelihood depend upon my ability to supply others with gifts.
Now to get going on that cocoon…