Something to Think About

Flame-out? or Creative Spark?

If you are anything like me, there are multiple ideas in your head, lurking in the fabric you’ve purchased, or photos on your phone of projects to make. And if you are really really like me, there are some old magazines piling up — perhaps dragged home from your Guild, or pages ripped out, or maybe even a filer drawer somewhere with the label “Future Projects.” You like to browse your favorite on-line shop web-pages, you happily accept emails from your favorite designers and your Saved to Quilts tab on Instagram is ever-expanding. All of this doesn’t even begin to address the folders on Pinterest, or the patterns you’ve acquired, or the drawers stuffed with new tools, new rulers, or quilting notions.

The term flame-out has multiple meanings, but the one I’m referring to is “lose power through the extinction of the flame in the combustion chamber.” My sewing room is my combustion chamber, so to speak. I bring lots of fuel there (see first paragraph), but somehow things can flame-out. I’ve noticed a healthy amount of January blahs in Instagram, but maybe it’s just that the projects your Past Self wanted to do are not the projects your Present Self thinks are worth tackling.

Laura Entis wrote an interesting article about the getting back the “flame in the combustion chamber,” or turning that creative spark into something that can help you fly. She lists several components: 1) paying attention (done…see first paragraph), 2) write it down (see first paragraph), but it was her third idea that caught my attention: 3) put a stake in the ground. She interprets that to mean going public, and many of us do (see our Instagram accounts), but I think for quilters there is a further aspect. It might mean washing/drying/pressing the fabric and putting it with its pattern in a drawer or a box. It might even mean cutting out some of the basic units before even one stitch takes place, like we do when we have a Mystery Quilt we’re making; they always want us to prep with this step. But any way you do it, putting a stake in the ground can mean committing to sparking that project into life.

I also liked her Step 6: Map it Out. At the end of last year, I became immersed in a project that overwhelmed me. It didn’t help during this time, Mom was dying in a state far away, or that I got really sick in December, and January has me battling a painful sciatica (can hardly wait to see what February brings…not!), but the project felt overwhelming. I should have mapped it out, so I could envision the flow, the places it was going. She got that idea from Kelli Anderson:

When Anderson embarks on something new, whether it’s for a client or a self-directed project, she sets a final deadline, and then breaks down the project into stages. “I draw it out visually,” she says, sketching out each phase in proportion to how long it should take. Next, she maps the visual sketch onto an actual calendar, translating periods of time into numerical blocks. Even the best laid plans can go awry, however. “The schedule is just a suggestion,” Anderson says, one she regularly refines. “If you are indulgent and you spend too much time on one part you can oftentimes make it up later at another stage.” (from here)

So, here are some of my “stakes in the ground”:

My latest quilt is back from the quilter, who did a wonderful job; now I need to trim it and get it bound. The thing that bogged me down was writing the pattern, but I ended up selling a different version of this to a magazine, so come fall, I’ll let you know where and when. (The pattern for the above quilt will come a year after that publication.)

Chris’ quilt. I made a quilt for my grandson when he came to my son’s family (he was a boy) and within about 20 minutes he out-grew it. I’ve promised him one forever and decided a large format quilt would be fun to make. It has been.

I’ve even mapped it out, as Entis suggested, in a book that helps me break down all the steps. I’m so pathetic I’ve even listed <wait> while it’s at the quilter. I’ve made you a PDF of this format so you can map out your projects, too. Click on the DOWNLOAD button below to get your copy.

Last, and okay-I-know-how-I’m-spending-my-February:

My house is nearing fifty years old. We’ve done some cosmetic updates to the kitchen, and bigger updates to the house, but it’s time to really get serious and update the kitchen. So we’re fridge-counters-cooktop-stove-vent-hardware-sink-etc. shopping. We feel pretty fortunate to be able to do this at this time, and keep wondering if we are too old for all of this. I was encouraged by all the comments left on my Help-Me-I’m-Remodeling post on Instagram. If you have any tips, let me know. I’m really leaning heavily towards an induction cooktop as I think it’s the way of the future. And double ovens? Yes? No? Who Cooks This Much? Leave me your ideas in the comments!

PS: Yes, I was able to attend a bit of Road to California, and saw my quilt, Eris, hanging there (happy dance!):