Autumn Update

Hello friends!

Because I’m quite sure you wouldn’t get all giddy over a post that chronicled which boxes I unpacked and where I put the stuff that was in them, I figured it was better to not update you until I had something creative to show you.

I’ve had no inclination to sew, knit, whatever, AT ALL, and I’ve been OK with it because the more I look back on the past twelve months, the more I realize that we went through A LOT of stressful stuff, and it takes energy to deal with all that stress, which came from my creative reserves.  Happy moment, though: This last week I had a brilliant little moment where I wanted to make something.  That feeling has been absent for months, so I’m grateful that things are calming down enough that my interest in crafting is starting to come back.

201811117370910250702226081I did grit my teeth and make my youngest daughter a Little Red Riding Hood costume for Halloween because I did have time for it, and her little brother decided to be a wolf so he could match her, and I think they were adorable!  Her costume was an exercise in frustration–I could not locate the pattern in her size ANYWHERE.  And my best friend rode in for the rescue and bought the pattern* at her local JoAnn Store, not realizing that it came in adult OR child size, and sent me the adult size.  (Oh gosh, we laughed…)  So the costume ended up being the Adult Small skirt, minus five inches around the waist; a plain white t-shirt with aspects of the original costume appliqued onto the shirt; and I tracked down a different pattern** for the cape/hood.  She was so pleased with it all, and totally didn’t care that it was a crazy hodge-podge costume.  A woman stopped me at the school Halloween party to liberally compliment me on the costume, so I’m pretty pleased with the experiment.  (And totally want to make more things edged with eyelet lace!  Such a sweet look!)

20181103_145518-01And right now I am eyeballs-deep in making linen napkins for my Thanksgiving table because I’ve always wanted linen napkins and I have no crafty deadlines on my plate at the moment.  It’s been so. much. fun. researching hemstitching and heirloom sewing, and oh my goodness, do I love me some beautiful heirloom sewing.  So much drooling.

BUT…I massively underestimated how long these napkins were going to take, mostly because I didn’t think ironing the hem allowances was going to take twenty minutes PER NAPKIN.  Four more napkins to press before I actually get to meet needle to fabric!  Ugh!

But look at this gorgeous view from my new craft room’s window…it’s so nice to have something besides a window well to look at!

The napkins are going to be lovely, with mitered corners and hemstitching.  I’m seriously in love with them.  That bit of brown fabric and thread in my craft-room-view photo is the start of one of them.  It’s a gorgeous chocolate brown.  So pleased!

And then it’s on to Christmas crafting, which I was really hoping to not do this year, but something went wonky with my bank transfers to my Christmas savings account when we moved, and there is much less in that account than there should be, so I’ma gonna have to get creative with supplies already on-hand.  Boo/yay

I’ll probably start writing a bit more, now that things have started to settle.  It was such a mistake to think I’d be able to paint everything upon moving in–I’ve come to the decision that I’m going to tackle the house room-by-room, because it’s driving me batty to not have a single “finished” room in this house.  I’ve been working on my youngest daughter’s room, and it’s looking pretty cute.  I’m excited to share that when we finally reach the finish line!  (You can have a housewarming party five years after you move in, right?)  😉

But I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, and there could be as many as twenty people attending, so it’s all about the napkins and the cleaning and the cooking for the next two weeks.  (And my dining room table that was supposed to be delivered in August?  And then October?  They changed the delivery date AGAIN…to December.  Fan-freakin’-tastic.  We’re eating Thanksgiving dinner on folding tables this year.  So classy.)

I hope the onslaught of the holiday season is treating you all well!  I look forward to seeing your posts and photos of what you’re working on in these next weeks!

*Red Riding Hood Costume: McCall Pattern #M6187
**Substitute Cape/Hood: Simplicity Pattern #8729
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There is a House in Washington

So, yes, our family made it safely to Washington almost two weeks ago.  We rolled into town just as the fireworks for the Fourth of July started going off, and it felt like the state was welcoming us with gusto.  (And added the much-appreciated side effect of lighting up the heavily-treed highway that was tough to navigate…but the cats weren’t big fans of the fireworks and may have peed…a lot…in their carriers.)

 

We signed the papers for our Washington home the next morning and officially had the keys by lunch.  My aunt made a beeline for us and helped us unload our truck and trailer, and our ward helped us finish the huge task later that evening.  We’ve been screeching, “Where is the [insert a million different items here]?!?!” ever since.

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20180713_131255Where we’re living is *lovely.*  It’s a little removed from Suburbia-proper, but only by a little bit, so running to the grocery store/Costco/Home Depot takes minutes, and the drive is lush and green and has a crazy spectacular view of Mt. Rainier the entire way.  Sometimes I have to sit and wait for the dairy’s cows to cross the road to get to their next milking, and there’s rivers, and hydrangea, and four different types of purple or pink flowers in bloom by the roadsides right now (Fireweed, Sweet Pea, Foxglove, and a plant that looks like Butterfly Bush) and I just…get so happy to see familiar plants again.  I figured out plants in Utah, but these are what I grew up with and can name without thinking because my dad taught them to me when I was in preschool.

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We’ve had family over TWICE in one week for dinner, which is crazy amazing and as fun as you’d expect, and we get to attend a family wedding this weekend because we don’t live fourteen hours away anymore.

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The house is bigger than our last house, which I’m loving a lot–six people in our old house got old about six years ago, so the extra space is much-appreciated by all of our family’s members.  Unfortunately, though, this house is painted in a very warm and earthy color palette, and I lean toward the cool and ocean-inspired color palette.  And the ceilings are painted the same color as the walls…the same, sand-brown light-absorbing color…even the twenty-feet-up ceilings in the front room.  Yep, I gotta paint ’em all…and that sand-brown color is just dark enough to warrant two coats of primer every. time.

So I’m busy for the rest of the month, and probably for most of August as well.

But it’s OK, because at the end of all the painting my kids will all have bedrooms with fully-finished walls painted the colors of their choosing, and everything will be just as lovely inside as it is outside.

We went and got our library cards today, which really does make you feel like you truly “belong” in your town.  And I forgot to turn on Google Maps for the drive home, but it didn’t matter because I got home just fine, with no special mental gymnastics.  I pulled up to this house in this new state without help, and my kids clambered out of the van like they always do, helped by dumping our purchases onto the kitchen table before running off to binge-read their library books like they always do, and in that moment it was clear: This house in Washington is now our home.

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Probably still a bit of time before Happy Crafting Times can recommence, but with each newly-unpacked box and newly-painted wall, I’m getting closer to reopening the fun conversations I get to have with my crafty friends!  I’ve missed you!

Fashion Revolution Week & Integrity

I’ve been an ardent admirer of creative mending for many years, and I love to follow the #visiblemending hashtag.  As I was perusing some recent posts, I noticed that a lot of them were all talking about #fashionrevolutionweek, so I clicked on the hashtag and was transported to post after post discussing the need for higher standards in the fashion manufacturing industry, such as safer conditions and basic rights for garment construction workers, and a deeper commitment to sustainable and environmentally-friendlier practices on behalf of clothing manufacturers and distributors.  All the #visiblemending posts were popping up as an example of consumers taking personal responsibility to not add to the growing problem of overflowing landfills of clothing–if you mend torn clothing instead of throwing it away, it 1.) Doesn’t add to landfills, and 2.) Means you’re not buying more clothing.

I’ve been watching this fashion revolution/slow fashion movement for a couple of years now, first inspired by the thought-provoking writing of Karen Templer over at Fringe Association, and furthered by my quilterly instincts to always find extra uses for fabric after its first life as a piece of clothing and curiosity about how people manage to live “like that,” meaning “sewing their own clothes.”  “Where do they find the time?” “Is it truly cheaper?” (Anyone who quilts and/or knits can understand where I’m coming from, am I right?!?!)

My best friend sews a lot of her own clothes and is always stomping me in finish times when it comes to garments vs. quilts, which has been doing a lot to change my opinion about whether sewing clothes is the huge time commitment I once thought it was, and I’ve also knit a few sweaters in my day and have come to realize that they’re also not a huge deal-breaker, time-wise.  But to truly commit to a DIY wardrobe…truthfully, it sounds a little too minimalistic-yuppy/I-only-eat-organic/pumpkin-spice-hipster for me.  No thanks.  I’m a fan of science and don’t feel guilty about the technological advances we’ve made in many areas that allows so many of us to live better lives beyond what our ancestors could even dream.  This isn’t Little House on the Prairie–women today are so liberated to not have to worry about sewing up their families’ wardrobes, and enjoying that extra time that’s not tied up in sewing is downrightfabulous.  Not going to feel guilty about that, either.

But then I saw this post:

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Image via Instagram @ecologiqfashion

…and I literally gasped aloud as my heart did a slow-clap standing ovation.

So often, when you hear about sweatshops (which I first became aware of in the ninth grade) and the wish for better working conditions for overseas workers and the need to Buy American (because I live in the USA), people will say something like, “But just think of those factory workers overseas and how us buying those cheaply-made goods allows them to have a job and earn money!”  Followed by a proverbial pat on the back for helping out those impoverished, third-world workers that would probably starve and just die in the street were it not for wages they earn making near see-through t-shirts of inferior quality that end up with holes at the belly button after three wearings so you’ll have to buy MORE of them.

But with the age of internet and instant access to what’s going around the world, we are privy to the knowledge that conditions in those factories are downright scary, and very exploitive.  That horrible factory collapse in Bangladesh back in 2013 (read: FIVE YEARS AGO) that KILLED 1,134 people and seriously injured 2,500 more?  Nothing has been done to help the survivors’ families.  I am not the kind of person who can brush aside the idea that my easiness of living comes at the expense of another human’s fundamental rights.  Crap wages, unsafe working conditions, environmental irresponsibility…by purchasing, and thereby supporting, a company’s product, when that company engages in this type of behavior, that is the same thing as me shaking their hand and saying, “Yes, I agree with what you’re doing.”  Each of us votes with our dollars.

And, simply put, I don’t agree.  I’ve never thought it was OK to take advantage of other people simply because you can, either because they don’t know any better or because you’ve found a loophole that lets you get away with it legally.  It’s disgusting and completely devoid of the basic code of existence that I think human beings need to live by.  I’m not going to do that to other people simply because I lucked out with the golden egg of opportunity that was “being born in North America.”

Does that mean I need to start making all of my own family’s clothes?  Not necessarily–there are options to buy ethical clothing, which means that the clothes are created by workers who are paid decent wages, and given safe places to work, from ethical materials that were responsibly produced and dyed.  The big difference in going this route is cost.  Paying a worker a livable wage means that their end product is going to cost the consumer more money.  Using responsible, quality materials that won’t fall apart after a year costs more money, too.  (Us crafty types already know about this particular point in the form of wool vs. acrylic, and big box store fabric vs. quilting shop cottons–you do get what you pay for.)  But I am a stay-at-home mama to four; making our clothing is going to be a far more economical route for me than purchasing it at fair value.

In the wake of all this paradigm-shifting, I have a bright moment of joy to share with you: Our family was talking about this issue over breakfast the other day, and I shared the “You can’t exploit women in one country to empower them in another” quote with them, which led to explaining how the clothing industry works, and what it means to look the other way and ignore when bad things are happening.  I used the word “integrity” to explain what I meant, and noticed that my fourteen-year-old daughter perked up when I said that word.  Towards the end of our discussion she said, “I think learning to sew my own clothes would make a good ‘Integrity’ value project, don’t you?” and in that moment I wanted to cry from happiness because this girl gets it.  In a world where teenagers (especially white, middle-classed teenagers, such as my daughter) are painted as screen-addicted, entitled brats, this girl empathized with a less-advantaged girl somewhere else in the world and thought of something that she herself could do, at the cost of her own time and effort, to hopefully lessen that negative impact.  I wasn’t that compassionate at fourteen, so I’m proud of her heart.

There is so much more to say on this topic, but for now, this is enough:  Things are going to change around here, and it’s going to take me a little while to figure out exactly what that means.

Spring Fever, or, Portable Project Time

I can’t craft, people!  I mean, obviously, because most of my stuff is boxed up, but mostly because it is SUNNY outside, and whenever I think about crafting inside, I just recoil from the thought in horror.  I actually noticed this attitude of mine last year and wrote myself a Google Keep note to not schedule anything from March through August because I just feel so unmotivated crafting-wise once the nicer weather hits.  I’ll do some sewing during the dog days of summer when it’s just too hot outside in the afternoon and all I want is the coolness of my basement, and then something about it turning colder in September just ignites a sudden urge to knit for me, and off I go with crafting craziness.

Unfortunately, just because it’s spring and the weather has turned nicer, doesn’t mean I can really get going on my garden because I live at a high elevation, which means freak snowstorms and freezing temperatures.  The rule of thumb ’round these parts is to not plant anything until after Mother’s Day…and that’s, like, six weeks away!  So I clean up the garden as best I can, and trim errant branches…but that’s not enough activity to fill my days just yet.

But I need to be outside in that sunshine, so I think it’s time to get out the ol’ EPP projects and maybe some knitting before all desire to knit evaporates with the warmer weather.

Does spring fever affect your crafting rituals?  Any great portable/outside crafting suggestions?  I’d love to read ’em!

My “New & Improved” Plan for Battling UFOs and Scraps

Last year I came up with a plan that would allow me to work through more UFOs, whittle down the overflowing scrap baskets in my craft room, and allow me to work, guilt-free, on some new projects.  In the past, I always start the new year with grandiose plans to blast through all of my UFOs, and the white-knuckle willpower would only last about six weeks because the textile world is constantly releasing new fabric, yarn, and pattern collections.  So, I came up with this project rotation:

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The Original Project Schedule

And it worked really well for about six months until I discovered a glitch with my system–I never chose fabric from my stash when it came around to make a “new” project, choosing instead to use new fabric from a new collection that excited me.  The stash was starting to grow faster than normal, and I had this weird reluctance to cut into any of it because it was dear to me.  You don’t buy fabric or yarn with no plan unless you’re really in love, which makes it hard to use said fabric or yarn.  But, as a wise homeschooling parent told me about art lessons with my kids, “Art supplies is meant to be consumed, not conserved.”  The same is true of fabric and yarn.  USE THEM.

Plus, I’ve been noticing a lot of my contemporaries breaking into the pattern market, and they are killin’ it, which made me start wondering if perhaps I should start at least trying to write my own patterns for my use?  I know how patterns work by this point in my creative “career,” and the challenge involved excited me as well.

And then we did some charity blocks in quilt guild and it just made me feel good to make those.

So my project rotation schedule needed a few tweaks:

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And it’s been working WONDERFULLY.  I love the challenge of coming up with my own patterns, and I really love the idea of #everytenthproject being a service project–it’s like paying tithing on my creative abilities, for which I am so grateful to possess.

I kept a spreadsheet detailing my projects for last year, and it really helped me with my stash management and with branching out of my comfort zone:

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(It also alerted me to the fact that I tend to only knit with new yarn, which led to the decision to stop stashing yarn completely…because once it goes into the stash, chances are high that I’ll not be interested in using it EVER after that.  Interesting.)

It worked extremely well until I started sewing again for Fat Quarter Shop–by the very nature of those projects, they are always “new” fabric projects, which very quickly started eating up the next available “new” slots in my plan.  I’ll have to watch out for that this year, and possibly come up with a plan to accommodate those projects–the turnaround time on them is tight, so it’s not possible to actually have a “plan” to include those projects into my schedule.  I might leave them out of the “rotation” altogether, actually, and just enjoy the ride when I’m asked to ride along…because, duh.

Oh, another important note: Babies and weddings don’t have to follow the schedule because they are also impossible to plan around.  I just plug them into the spreadsheet where they belong and then work around them as necessary because I LOVE BABIES AND WEDDINGS.  I’m a gift-crafter at my core.

What I find, though, is that this schedule greatly reduces the chances of acquiring more UFOs.  I’m horrendously distracted by the new-and-shiny, but when I’d start thinking about cutting for or casting on a new project, I’d consult my spreadsheet and see if it could fit into the next category up for grabs.  If it didn’t, I’d tentatively schedule it; but more often than not, when I came up to its turn in the rotation, my excitement for the new pattern would have waned and I could move on to something that had been on my bucket list and would truly bring me pleasure.  I started 2017 with thirty-eight UFOs, finished (or donated or frogged) nine UFOs, and am taking in two new UFOs–that means I now have thirty-one UFOs, which is totally an improvement!  I have never ended a year with less UFOs than I had at the beginning of it.  Feels good.

And now it’s onwards to a productive 2018!  Happy New Year, and may you find a little time each day to move forward on your projects.

clementine-qal-e1504126058289And if you’re looking for an idea for a service project, maybe you want to consider joining Fat Quarter Shop’s Clementine Quilt Along?  I’ve committed to it, and it would be lots of fun to have some more friends quilting along, too!

You can find more information about the Quilt Along by clicking here to visit the Fat Quarter Shop Blog.  Proceeds from this quilt along will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

 

Life’s Simple Pleasures

I was driving the Brookelets home from school the other day and noticed that a tree on the side of the street had a lot of its leaves twirling towards the ground, which prompted me to exclaim, “Oh!  Falling leaves!  One of life’s simple pleasures.”

Miss Junebug scrunched her nose at me and asked, “What does that mean, ‘life’s simple pleasures’?”  I explained that a simple pleasure was a rather ordinary occurrence that just made your heart happy, and generally didn’t cost any money, which made it all the more special because it reminds you that you don’t need to spend money to be happy.  My girl nodded and went back to reading her book.

What I thought was a quick little explanation of some random phrase has apparently been percolating in her mind because we were driving to the library today, and saw a maple tree whose leaves had all turned a brilliant scarlet, but hadn’t fallen off the tree.  Junebug saw it and said, “It’s too bad those leaves aren’t falling off the tree because then they could be a simple pleasure for Mom.”  I explained that, even though the leaves were still on the tree, it was still a simple pleasure for me because I liked how it looked.

She looked at me through narrowed eyes, “Does that mean that simple pleasures can happen even if you spend money on them?”

“What? How did you make that leap?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “you spend a lot of time just looking at your quilts and the things you knit, and it makes you really happy.  But you spent money on them, so I thought it was a complicated pleasure.”

I laughed, “A complicated pleasure?  No, spending money doesn’t take away the simple pleasure of admiring a job well done.  I’m proud of myself for finishing a big project, and I’m pleased with the good job that I’ve done on that project, so it makes me happy to look at it a lot and just be pleased.  It’s fun to make stuff.”

“Really?” she said, “Because it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of fun when you’re making stuff.  You yell a lot, and you breathe angrily when you run out of thread.  And sometimes you burn yourself on the iron or cut yourself with the circle blade…”

I studied her face for a moment, then turned away to stare at the traffic on the road while I thought about her statement.  Then I nodded, glanced over at her and said, “You’re right…it’s complicated.”

 

Best of 2016, and Planning for 2017

I love reading everyone’s “wrapping up the year” and “plans for the next year” posts so much!  The online creative community is so interesting in that a lot of us are pretty transparent about what we do, which I really appreciate because online creativity *can* become an overly-staged, whirlwind-finishing sort of thing very easily…but then there’s those souls who refuse to get caught up in it all and just stay real, and I love reading their blogs.

Best of 2016

Trying to nail down my “best” projects of 2016 is really hard because almost every single one was a gift I made to be given away, and I don’t want anyone to think that I hated making the gift I gave them because it didn’t show up in this list…NO.  If I didn’t want to make a gift for you, I didn’t make you a gift, end of story.  I actually had four more gifts scheduled to make this year, but I quit one about 2/3 of the way through because I hated it so much, and with another one I just wasn’t feeling it, and will probably finish it up in 2017, and with the other two I just didn’t have time once all the crazy post-op stuff went down.

Oooh!  Categories!  Let’s see, five categories to round out the year:

Prettiest:  The baby quilt that my daughter and I made for her teacher who had a baby girl in May.  I loved working with Vintage Picnic, and the design of the quilt was just perfect.  For some weird reason, this quilt was blogged on our family blog, so if you want to see more pictures of it, you’ll have to head over there.

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Most Fun to Make:  The Dr. Seuss baby quilt.  It was a last-minute decision, so I picked a pattern that was on the wonky side and wouldn’t need perfect seams and the like, and I just had fun slapping it all together.  The fabrics were super fun and bright, and I really enjoyed the process of just making and not getting bogged down in the minutiae of perfection. I’ll have to remember to throw a wonky/improv project into the mix every now and then when I’m starting to feel a little stale.

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Biggest Skill Stretcher:  The Beehive Swarm swap blocks.  There was a lot of foundation paper piecing, which I tend to shy away from because I don’t like it, but there’s nothing like it for perfect piecing.  I still don’t like it, but I’m better at it now, and can grudgingly admit its superiority for certain qualities.  I also tackled curved seams for the first time with August’s block, and they are not as difficult as I psyched myself out to believe!

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Most Popular:  Within the walls of our home, it’s the Layers of Charm Flower Sugar Quilt.  It sits proudly on the back of a couch in our living room and it gets used pretty much every day.  The kids fight over it, and I’m always finding it snuck into one of their beds.

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Outside of our home, the Art Gallery Fabrics Blithe pillows have been the most popular, garnering 25% of the blog’s web traffic this year, and also being the only project about which I’ve received comments from my friends and neighbors when I’m out in the real world.  Pink and mint are hot, people.

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Project of the Year:  Not really a project, but 2016 was “The Year of All the Baby Quilts.”  There were a lot of baby quilts this year.  All good things, but man, I’m going to take a break for a while.  If you’re expecting, do not expect a quilt from me in 2017.  I’m just done for a little while.

Planning for 2017

First and foremost, my health.  If all I accomplish in 2017 is to raise my health to an enjoyable level, that will be enough for me.  It’s been three years of pain, almost two years since my back surgery, and I am simply to the point where nothing else really matters to me other than feeling good again.  Luckily, we found another source of some of the pain I was experiencing, hence the surgery in November, so I think I’ll be able to move along the path to better health a little easier, and hopefully a little faster.

When I woke up from my most recent surgery, I had no back pain, which we were hoping would be one of the side effects of that particular surgery.  Upon being cleared to do normal things again after six weeks of lying around with very little to no back pain, I ambled on down to the ol’ Craft Dungeon, and did a little sewing.  I felt some familiar discomfort in my back, decided that was enough sewing for the day, and stopped.  Unfortunately, the discomfort increased steadily throughout the evening until I was forced to give up, take some serious pain meds, and just go lay in bed.  I think using my sewing machine is needlessly adding to my back pain!  It’s happened a few more times, so I’m pretty sure I’m correct, which makes me incredibly hesitant to sew at all anymore.

It’s my hope that after a few months of consistent strength training (read: if I can manage not to injure myself for that long), that my back will be strong enough to handle sitting at the sewing machine.  Until then, I’m making a goal to just not worry about the crafty side of life, and to give it a go when I think I’ve gained some strength.  If I’m not strong enough at that point, then I’ll wait a few weeks and try again, rinse and repeat.

Of course, there are some projects that I would love to start, finish, adore…but I’m going to be patient, and when the time is right, I’ll resume my place in the Craft Dungeon.  A few months isn’t going to hurt anything.

Evolution of a Crafter: Gifts

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.

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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.

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Some of the swap blocks I’ve made this year. I’ve actually been able to do a lot growing with The Beehive Swap!  New techniques and skills galore!

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.)

But…

…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…

The Worth of a Century

Today is a big day.  Not for me, but a big day nonetheless: my great grandmother turns the big one-zero-zero today!  One hundred years old, can you even imagine?

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Christmas 2013. Sadly, we live too far away to be with her today.

Thinking about that–being alive for one hundred years–all the things she’s seen and experienced, gets you thinking about all the things that you’ve not only seen and experienced, but will see and experience over the course of the remainder of my life.

My great grandmother was thirteen when the stock market crashed in 1929, a student in middle school.  The attack on Pearl Harbor happened two days before her twenty-sixth birthday–while she was pregnant with my grandmother.  What was she doing when she heard that the war had ended?  What did she think of Martin Luther King’s speech when she first heard it?  Where was she when she saw footage of the first man on the moon?  What feelings surged through her when the Berlin Wall came down?

Are those even things that she thinks about anymore?

Or do her thoughts sift through other things?

I mean, if I was one hundred years old, living in a bed in a nursing home, what would I be thinking about?

The happy memories? The day my husband proposed to me?  Our first kiss as husband and wife? Christmas mornings when my children were young? Christmas mornings when I was young? The first time I heard my first baby laugh?  How happy my second daughter was when, after months of mauling the poor thing, the cat hopped into her lap as she sat on the couch?  My third daughter’s smile when she rode the Dumbo ride at Disneyland?  The moment when I found out our fourth child was a boy?

The painful memories?  The things I regret?  My moments of triumph?

I assume all, actually.

But I’m pretty sure I won’t be bragging about being alive when 9/11 happened. Or recounting my first experience with Facebook.  Or where I was when…well, whatever the next huge step is in regards to advancing as a civilization.

I’ll be thinking about my family and my choices.  That time I yelled at my child when I shouldn’t have. That time I made a huge sacrifice for someone else and it turned out to be completely worth it. That first decision that started the chain reaction that led to the worst mistake of my life. That moment of divine intervention that led me to the best joys of my life. That smile. Those tears. The words. The feelings.

Which has me thinking about what’s truly important today.  Of everything that’s going on this week, this month, next year…what will I be thinking about, expressing gratitude for, during the winding-up years of my life?

And is there anymore that I can do to make right now even better?

Because that’s what life is, even when you’ve had a hundred years on this planet–the total of your “right nows.”

That smile. Those tears. The words. The feelings.

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Randomly in November

  1. I saw the sign-ups for the Bee Hive Swap in time this year, and got in!  :::happy dance:::  So excited!
  2. My own swap group that I’m running liked it so much that a bunch want to do it again next year!  So, busy with setting that up at the moment.
  3. Yeah, two year-long swaps…talk to me at the end of next year.  🙂
  4. I wrote up an exhaustive inventory of the many works-in-progress taking up space in my craft room, and then hammered out a plan to plough through almost all of them in the next year.
  5. The first WIP that will reach completion as a result of my awesome new plan is probably a pair of socks that I started back in Australia.

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  6. A newly-finished pair of socks right now is kind of perfect, given that the snow has started.  I was actually thinking the socks would be a Christmas present for someone dear to me, but my feet are freakin’ freezing, so I’m going to keep them.  Mwa ha ha.
  7. The second WIP that will probably get finished is a baby boy quilt I started almost eight years ago.

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    The kid in this photo is Penguin, who is now nine years old.  She’s drinking from the mug I received after giving birth to Junebug, who is now seven-and-a-half years old…

  8. It’s funny how you can start a project with so much excitement, but with each passing year of not completing said project how much that excitement turns into resentment and shame.  So much so that I definitely don’t want to keep the quilt when I’m done, but fear the repercussions of giving a new life an item infused with so many negative feelings from myself.  The act of giving wipes off all the bad juju, right?  Right?

  9. I’ve also fleshed out a “Baby Gift Flowchart” to help me decide what to make for tiny humans on my radar.  In this age of social media, I find that I’m inundated with the awareness of many a pregnancy, and the baby-lovin’ crafter part of me really wants to make something for every one of them.  However, given the physical limitations of time, I can’t.  So I came up with a way to shrink the pool a bit and ease my conscience.  A line had to be drawn somewhere, or I’d never be done with making baby gifts.

    Baby Gift Flowchart

  10. I’m currently aware of nine pregnancies, and of three women trying to get pregnant.  That’s twelve impending births in the next year.  My flowchart narrows the gifts down to five recipients, which is still a lot, but gives me back a bunch of time.  I am raising four children of my own…
  11. My son broke the teeth off of the zipper of his winter parka the first day he wore it.  Of course.  Even better, he broke off enough teeth that the actual zipper pull fell off, too.  So, instead of working on WIPs, my time is needed to repair a zipper in a parka.
  12. Once again, making plans is a dumb idea.