Today I am admitting that I’ve been in a creative slump. This past month I’ve been trying to process what’s going on. I’ve always loved creating, but I’ve been struggling.
Why? Where did my energy go? Where is time going?
I’ve been contemplating: “Have I lost my mojo?” What I’ve realized is that there has been been A LOT going on! Reflecting on the year, I’ve had some wonderful times and some times that set me back.
What I’ve realized is we have to focus on what’s in front of us. Sometimes we use our creativity to heal. And, other times we need to heal before we can focus on our creativity.
What I’ve realized is I’m evolving. I have ideas in my head that are peculating. I’ve been avoiding … yes, call it what it is: “procrastinating.” I’ve felt guilty, but I also had to attend to what is in front of me. Priorities. Promises. Life circumstances. Things both in and out of my control.
I’ve been contemplating and listening to podcasts like “Creative Peptalk” and “Art Juice.” They helped me realize I’m not alone. We all go through it. In one of these podcasts the question came up: “what do you do when your procrastinate?” Is this somewhere you want to be? Is it somewhere you should be? Is it somewhere you should put more focus?
It is good to reflect and process our thoughts and feelings. Some of us just need more time with it than others. If you ever feel this way, I want to encourage you to let all the guilt go.
Wherever you are … hold space.
Wherever you are … You are enough!
My birthday is so close to the new year that and recently I realized I don’t mentally start the new year until it has passed. Another completed rotation around the sun. I wasn’t ready to accept this year’s number. Its getting higher than I ever thought. But, I decided that I agreed with the old saying, “you’re only as old as you feel.” The number may want to taunt my brain…but my body says “you go girl!”
We can become our own worst enemies when it comes to thinking about our aging. We could limit our potential because we think that’s what we’re suppose to do; we’re suppose to slow down. But, why not accept new challenges? Why not learn new things? Are we ever too old to start something new?
Last year I wanted to learn something new and decided not too because it would take too long. A year later, I’m thinking if I had started it last year, I would be done now. How many years have to pass before we say… Now is the time!
I believe there’s always room to start new things. We just need to make space and time for them. We’re not born with an expiration date stamped on our back, so we have to proceed as if there will be a tomorrow (better yet… that there will be many tomorrows). So dream a little…what do you want to do? What would you like to create? How do we want to live. Don’t let your age get in the way. Make a plan and get started. Its never too late.
“What’s meant for you will sometimes feel scary, risky, and new.
Easy and calm doesn’t always mean you are going the right way.” ~ Young Pueblo
Last week I saw an opportunity and applied for something where the deadline was just days away and I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. I do that alot … prepare. Sometimes I put too much time into preparing and often miss opportunities by (for lack of better work) … procrastinating. I don’t know what will come out of this, but then again…I never do. I frequently take the risk and throw the dart at the bullseye. Sometimes it hits center, sometimes not.
As a creator, we have to do that sometimes. It could be as simple as spending hours creating a gift for someone and not knowing if the recipient will appreciate it. Or, it can be more humbling as entering your art into a juried exhibit and waiting for an acceptance/rejection letter. Sometimes we have to take the risk and just go for it. That’s what perseverance is all about. Taking risks… again and again.
When you take a risk, what do you really have to lose? We may lose some pride or feel disappointment, but it really hasn’t changed who we are. If you’re a creator and don’t take chances, what’s holding you back? Are you making things for the kudos or are you making things because you love making them? No matter what, it is always safer to stay away from the edge. But, does that make life boring?
I frequently catch myself in the safe zone. Its comfortable there. Being there keeps my anxiety down. It is easy, smooth sailing. But, “easy” doesn’t give me as much gratification. I can do easy. When I push myself, even if it is just a little, I open myself to dreaming and learning new things I’m opening my energy to greater confidence. I say to myself, like:
“If I can do this and succeed, it will give me great pride.”
“If I do this and succeed, I will move up a level with my skills.”
I don’t like feeling stagnant, so I try to take risks. Maybe I don’t do it as often at I’d like, but I like to try things out of my comfort level. In doing so, I can only hope that what is scary, risky and new is what is meant to be.
“Baby” went for a visit to the spa. She is a Handiquilter Sweet16 machine that I purchased about 5 years ago with assistance from a grant awarded to me through the NC Arts Council. Baby is a reliable friend, especially when I’m working on larger quilts. She was needing the spa time, because I’ll be doing some heavy production work over the next few months and this girl needed to be at her best game. (note: Handiquilter recommends servicing the Sweet 16 every 5 years)
Did you know that using different threads could change how the stitches are made? When I’m doing free-motion quilting, I like to do some warm-up drills to check the tension of the threads I’m using. Checking the tension on a scribble quilt is a good way to avoid finding out about issues when you’re working on the real project. (I’m sure you can guess how I know…) After getting Baby back from the spa, I did some stitching on the practice quilt to check that she didn’t get out of sorts during her road trip.
I call these quilts my “scribble” quilts. They are made with a layer of quilt batting between two layers of white muslin. I started this particular scribble quilt in a class I took when I was learning to machine quilt. I was kind of saving the sample to remember what I learned long ago. But then a few years ago, I started using it for my scribble practice. The memories of the class are still there along with a hodge-podge of my other stitching attempts.
My test run proves Baby is ready and so am I. As I was moving through the first few weeks of this year, I realized that flipping the calendar makes me more reflective than productive. It takes me time to work out a plan for the year. Now I’m at the point that I’ve done some warm-up drills and it is time to get started.
Last post I bragged about my regular weekly habit of writing a blog post. Already this year, I seem to have fallen behind. I’m learning is OK not fret these things. Sometimes life directs the circumstances and you have to go with the flow. More often then not, our expectations of ourselves are more important to us then the people we know.
Many times I fretted about letting someone down and their response was “that’s ok, not big deal.” In similar situations, I’ve offered the same response to others. Why are we so hard on ourselves? I may get behind on things, but I don’t think there ever will be a time that I’m caught up. Its important to accept that.
As I’ve been straightening up things in my studio, I found many projects that were put aside. Some were things I had already started and some were things I just wanted to do so I felt more organized. In my last post, I showed you the decorative trim I was working with. This is something I’ve had for at least 2 years…sitting in a box as a “to do.” Finding it again, I could have moved it out of my way or I could have tackled it. I decided to sift through it to find what I wanted to keep and donate what I didn’t.
Another project I had was organizing my embroidery floss. Before I started quilting, I use to do a lot of counted cross stitch. I no longer have the patience for this type of sewing, but I don’t want to get rid of the floss. I frequently find uses for it. A few years ago, I started winding the loose hanks of floss onto wooden clothespins. I feel it is a much better way to store the thread, because it doesn’t get all tangled and knotted. After winding all the loose threads, I realized that I had a bunch of floss on flat plastic bobbins. It bothered me that I had two different methods of storage so I opted to re-wind it all on the clothespins.
Does it really matter how I store it? No. Its my choice. Would it matter to anyone if I left it as it was? No. However, my expectations were to have it all stored the same. Every time I re-discovered them, I told myself to finish the job … but not today. Sometimes it matters enough to take care of it and sometimes no one else will really care…. either way its OK.
PS… all the floss is now on clothespins!
This is the last week in December and I’m thinking about the new year. Just a few more days until we can kiss (kick) this year goodbye. I find it funny to think that calendars are just human-made ways of tracking time. But, I truly feel like there’s a shift when we move into the next calendar year. Maybe it is just me. I find I like to start tidying things up. I spent the past month sorting through and purging things. I’m also working on pulling together all things I’ll need for taxes and next year’s budgeting. I like to wrap up tasks that have been hanging around nagging me to complete.
The photo is an example of some clean up and “playing” I’ve been doing. I frequently get gifted with vintage sewing supplies. These blue shapes where once old yellowed lace that I didn’t know what to do with. This month I sorted through the stash and created a happy little experiment. I had some Rit fabric dye and decided to see what would happen if I dyed them denim blue. I definitely can envision more uses for the blue than I could with the white and creams.
I’ve also been looking into updating my website. Things have changed a lot since I last updated this site. I know I’ll be happier with some of the newer tools that are available, but it will take some planning and possibly some budgeting too. While, I was investigating my options, I looked back on the history of this site. It is hard for me to believe that I have been writing this blog since 2015. It has only been in the last 3 or so years that my practice has become a regular weekly post. Still, that’s a lot of writing and stories I’ve shared. Its a great honor to know you’re here reading. I love getting your feedback, it keeps me going and I thank you. Here’s cheers to new year and my wish for you:
May your troubles be less and your blessings be more,
and nothing but happiness come through your door.
~ Irish Proverb
I personally like to slow down this time of year. I like to watch more movies, stay away from the stores, try to get outside in the sun as much as I can, get caught up with things that need attention, and get back to my “slow motion” activities (e.g., knitting, mindful stitching and reading). With the shorter days, I think of it as nesting weather. It is also a time when I need something to keep my spirits up. These activities help. What about you? Do you have anything you enjoy doing during the dark winter months?
A couple weeks ago, I had to get extra creative about keeping myself occupied when we experienced a 4-day power outage. A number of years ago, I purchased a treadle sewing machine specifically for a time like this. It was about the same time as the TV series “The Walking Dead” started. My purchase was based on a discussion we had with friends about, in the event of an apocalypse, what skill we have that would be considered vital to our society or local tribe.
Although macabre, it is quite interesting to think about, because most of us are dependent on support to get by. We get our groceries from stores. Heat is created from electricity or gas. Most of us travel by automobile that also requires gas or electricity. The outage reminded me of the discussion we had years ago, because local stores, gas stations, medical care and other emergency services where impacted. We also had no forewarning to prepare and when it first happened we had no idea how long we would go without. Thankfully, most of us did ok … issues primarily were financial-based.
This event reminded me of my sewing machine and the discussions with friends. If this was a long-term outage, what skill do I have to help others? Well, I can sew and knit! But, I can only sew if I have power … or wait … I have pedal power. While we were without, I spent some time setting up my treadle machine and sewing with pedal power. This 100 year old machine purred. The stitches were lovely. And I pieced a small quilt. (You can watch the video on my YouTube Channel) I couldn’t use an iron to press the seams, so I used a bone folder tool to press them down (an old school technique). I felt good that I had this machine, because I still have my apocalyptic super power. We were down, but not out.
I’m in a strong habit of writing these blog posts on Wednesday. I do this so those who subscribe get it in their email inbox on Thursday. Last week that didn’t happen. If you watched the news last week, you may have seen how a portion of North Carolina was targeted by vandals (aka domestic terrorists) who shot up two electrical substation. My community was the one hit. The event affected the entire county, with forty-five thousand households without power. I was one of those estimated 100 thousand people. It almost seems like ancient history and I want to show you some of the things that creatively got me through it all. However, right now I really want to share some great news I received right before all this nonsense….
I’VE BEEN PUBLISHED!!
“Stabilizers for Thread Painting”
in Quilting Art Magazine’s Winter 2022/23 edition.
I’m really excited to share this article with you. When I teach thread-painting, I cover a variety of stabilizers (interfacings) you can use to support your stitches. I think students sometimes get stuck when they only know one way. In teaching, I want to open doors to say, there are other ways and you just might find a different way works better for you. There are a variety of different stabilizers. It can be very overwhelming deciding which product to use. In this article, I categorize stabilizers into 4 types, then list the pros and cons of each.
When I started thread painting, I too was confused by all the different materials and it took me a lot of years to understand how to work with them. In the article, I focus on the practical uses for stabilizers when thread painting (aka free-motion machine embroidery). However, the article can also helpful for those doing hand embroidery or other stitching techniques that need extra support.
If you subscribe, you will be receiving your Quilting Arts Magazine Winter 2022/2023 edition this month (December 2022). Right now, it should also be available at newsstands/bookstores. If you can’t find it locally, you can purchase a digital or print version through the Quilting Daily website: https://www.quiltingdaily.com/product-category/magazines-ebooks/quilting-arts/.
I hope you get the chance to read the article. If you do read it, let me know what you think. I hope you find it worth keeping a copy for future reference.
Recently I was talking to someone who had accomplished a major victory with a personal hobby. I had the privilege to see the work she put into it and knew the event was something she had been training for a long time. She won the event. When I praised for her dedication and accomplishments, she responded with…”yeah, but…” and began listing reasons it could have been better. She was devaluing the fact that she owned the award she received.
Her response reminded me that I have done this too. I know I lot of people, especially women, who seem to be uncomfortable holding space with their accomplishments. The word for it is, “self-deprecation.” Yes, there’s always room for improvement. Yes, sometimes things seem easier than they should, sometimes they are harder than expected, and there’s always something not “perfect” about the outcome. Always…something…to lessen the pride we should have.
Maybe it is how we were raised, because I remember being told “don’t be too full of yourself.” This in-grained thinking makes it challenging to be truly proud of our accomplishments. I personally have learned to hold the space. When something I’ve done is praised, I know the only thing I need to say is “thank you!” When I hold that space it is powerful!
Prior to this realization in myself, I was always the first to point out how my art could be better. I’d point out the flaws, even though no one else saw them. It always seemed easier to do that, then say “thank you.” The reality is, if we look, we’ll see flaws in everything. It takes courage to try and strength to grow. So be proud of what you do and enjoy the praise! You deserve it.
The cold weather and holiday season are upon us. Although, I’d rather be out in the sunshine, I’m happy to hunker down this time of year. There’s not enough daylight hours, so finding projects to do inside helps pass the time when darkness settles in. I am motivated with my inside projects, because there are fewer external activities to grab my attention (e.g., yard work). One project I’m working on involves quilted leftovers.
When I create my quilts, I start them larger than I need. Shrinkage happens as you stitch a quilt. Making them larger, makes it easy to cut them to an exact finished size. Sometimes when I start a project I don’t know what size the finished design will be. By starting larger, I can let the finished composition determine the dimensions I need to trim. I save all these trimmings as “leftovers.”
This year I gathered a few larger completed projects that weren’t working for me. These quilts have also been delegated to my sacrificial pile of leftovers.
I trim the scraps and sew them together in a serendipitous process. I then cut them into 4″ x 6″ pieces to use as the background for my fabric postcards. With the addition of the larger quilted pieces, this year I have more (and larger) assemblages. As I’ve been working with the scraps, I’m thinking of other things I can do with some of these random compositions. I have an idea (or two), but I need to play with the concepts a little (hint: imagine some surface design experiments). With or without sunshine, this winter I’m ready to play. This should be fun.