When I started quilting I focused on making quilts for family members and putting a deadline on myself. In my first year I made two children's quilt and a round robin. Then I made an anniversary quilt for my sister and my brother outlaw, and with the contribution of the family two 50th wedding anniversary quilts for my parents. Then I pushed the next year with another border round robin and some hug quilts. Then decided, as they were clamouring for them, that all the other nieces and nephews needed quilts and it was impossible to decide who got theirs first so made the incredibly stupid plan to make all the quilts in one year ready for each of their birthdays. That meant 9 quilts in a year. I got to October and had finished 7 and my personal life imploded and the last three took another year to complete.
I still joined another 2 round robins, contributed to another 2 hug quilts and over the next 8 years began to stockpile the UFO's which were always my own quilts. I still put impossible time lines on myself. Quilts has to be ready by a certain date and if I failed that date, the quilt had to be completed in a hurry to make the next deadline I set myself. Increasingly quilts were almost late in the planning stages for completion. Everything was a rush. I wouldn't quilt for a couple of months and then in a burst of activity would push over a month to finish a quilt. I was always battling with myself to complete and in my mind was a growing list of quilts I wanted to make.
The first break through was two years ago when I made a double wedding ring quilt for my cousin's wedding. I bought all the fabric early and left the project sitting until I had 30 days to start/complete it. I decided I could work on it in two ways - usual couple of weekends starting early in the morning and finishing late at night, rush, rush, rush. OR I could do this one differently - set myself a 30 minute sewing period per night on weekdays and a couple of hours on the weekend. I chose the second option and the sewing went like silk (it was a silk quilt). I had none of the frustrations of mistakes and issues which come with sewing for hours at a time. I stopped quilting before I was ready and so the next day was ready to embrace more. It was the perfect project. I had decided on simple quilting but was so enjoying the process and increasing in confidence and fun that I added more and more complexity. This was how quilting was supposed to be. Quilting was meant to be fun for me, I was so focused on the end result and pleasure of the recipient that I forgot that the process was meant to be fun in itself for me.
But as often, we learn a lesson and need to go back and repeat the mistakes again for a while until the lesson has truly sunk in.
So at the beginning of this year I put a "halt to my gallop" as the Irish like to say, and as Leah's perfect blog about UFOs said, decided Step 1 was to add no more new projects until I had completed my UFOs. Interestingly those 4 UFOs were all quilts for me from round robins I had participated in. I was also aware that the end of September 2012 would see the end of another border round robin and my Mama Africa would come home to me - another quilt to finish for myself. So what would be so wrong in completing 4 quilts for myself - 2 nap quilts, 1 wall hanging and 1 bed quilt? Nothing.
I put the embargo on myself and despite two emergency quilts - new baby and a hug quilt for my sister who lost her husband, kept on track.
Then I found myself thinking of when my UFOs would be finished - what would I do? And suddenly I came up with 4 quilts I just had to make for siblings and before I knew it those quilts were burning in my mind and even without really thinking of what I would do for them and when they had to be done by, they took over my mind and I stalled at 3 UFOs finished but the huge Mariner's Compass was still sitting on my table looking in askance as I pulled out stash, made designs and even cut out fabric for these new quilts. Doesn't matter that there are no deadlines, that the Mariner's Compass is huge and I have ambitious quilting plans for it, that Mama Africa round robin quilt will be home in a couple of months and is 100" x 100" - no suddenly everything had to be put on hold to push through 4 QUILTS (I mean honestly what madness?) that had just popped into my mind and once again I was rush, rush, rush and leaving two huge UFOs, one on the sewing table and the other coming my way, unattended.
Stop the Madness.
I put away the designs and the fabric I had already cut out and just stopped. And that is when Leah came up with UFO Sundays and I followed her advice and thought why? Why was I ready to leap into new projects with unfinished ones left on the table?
I figured out a couple of things:
- I feel quilts I make for someone else are more important then mine
- The lure of giving a quilt to someone else is more emotionally satisfying (the "aren't I a lovely person to put myself last" syndrome) then a quilt I make for myself
- My quilting pattern is based on finish, finish, make another, finish, rush, make another - to simply think "so and so would love a quilt" is for it to became an internal binding contract in my head "you must do this, you promised". In other words, to think of a potential project was to put it on my list of something I MUST get done
- Fear - of tackling a project where I wanted to do good work, increase my skills and above all take the time to do it well, so better to launch into something else.
Thinking about my quilting history made me look over past quilts and enjoy them.
Year 1 - Brian's Fish Quilt
Note in the following quilts that all painted panels were created by my very talented sister in law Amanda who would absolutely forgive me and embrace that I decided to put away the ideas for a quilt for her and focus on finishing my own UFOs because she is lovely
Year 3 - Ciara's Dolphin Quilt
Horrors, I can't find a picture of it!