Monday, February 17, 2014

Where the light is better

Stop me if you've heard this one. A kid loses his toy and he's tearing up the living room looking for it. Couch cushions flying, magazine baskets overturned, in short, it's general mayhem. Enter mom, who is not at all thrilled with the state of the room, asking, "where did you see it last?" The kid answers (wait for it), "in my bedroom, but it's dark in there, and the light is better out here." Cue the rim shot.

If I were the sort to choose a word of the year (and I have been that sort in the past), my word would have to be "searching". For the last couple of years I've been looking for something I've lost. The trouble is, I don't know where I saw it last, or even exactly what it is.

Symptoms include (but are not limited to) false starts, re-reorganizing, duplicating tools in the search for the "right" one, acquisition of supplies for new hobbies (just on speculation because it looks fun and offers new stuff to organize), lack of blog posts (because there is nothing to report) and general crankiness.

Perhaps this is what burn out looks like, my loved ones have certainly suggested it, more than once. But how does one burn out in a vocation one loves? I mean, really, I get paid to design and make quilts, and share that joy with others. How is this not the coolest job ever?

Last summer I had a bit of an epiphany. I had come to dread time at the sewing machine. My long awaited dream machine had become a stitching nightmare. No matter how carefully I adjusted it, the tension was always off. Always. I couldn't even create a sample of a zig zag stitch with cotton thread in both top and bobbin, the stitch was so distorted.

The machine was returned to the mothership for repair, repeatedly. After some minor adjustment, it was returned to me with the suggestion that my problems were all user error. Over time I began to believe them. After decades of success with my sewing skills, I had somehow become incapable of properly threading a sewing machine. How demoralizing.

It's true that I put up with it longer than I should have, but in time the manufacturer made it right (as I knew they would), and the beast was exchanged for a new machine of the same model. When faced with the idea of creating several projects and a bazillion step outs for my Craftsy class on piecing, it nearly drove me to tears. Imagine my relief when, after a couple of days of sewing, I realized that I was having fun! Oh, yeah, this is why I loved making quilts. It's fun!

While I'm back to sewing, I'm still searching for that creative spark that compels me to make something lovely with needles and thread. There is still that longing for the passion that drove me to make stuff. I've been building up my supply of colorful embroidery thread, wool for spinning, looms for weaving in hopes of finding what I've lost. But I suspect that they won't be the answer. The light is just better there.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rearranging Deck Chairs

It's February, my favorite winter month because it's only 28 days long, and the sun sticks around a little longer on each one of them. It's also time to start spring cleaning, of the studio kind.

It's a simple concept: I have too much stuff. Despite my constant effort in organizing, and I love organizing stuff so much that sometimes I think I buy stuff just so there's stuff to organize, there comes a time that there is just no where to put even carefully organized stuff.

But there has to be room for more stuff, right? Physics be damned, it's just a matter of getting stuff properly arranged, and then there will be room for everything, right? My husband, an engineer who often formats factory layouts for the most efficient use of space, drew out a schematic of the current floor plan, and then gently pointed out that before I could bring in anything new, something had to go. Sure, I could push the furniture around the room to new locations, but that would just be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Of course, the first step is putting away the stuff that actually has a space, and getting rid of the junk that doesn't even belong in the studio. That grocery bag, for instance. It's empty, but I'm saving it for recycling paper. On my sewing machine cabinet. Nice. And, unless I decide to start seasoning my projects, it's time to get the salt and pepper grinders to the kitchen. We often use the studio door to bring our shopping loot in, and sometimes it's hard to get it past the first level surface. I'm sure that never happens to anyone else.

It's been decided that the oval table has to go. I have an emotional attachment to it. We bought it unfinished, back in 1982, for the dining room in our first house. When we moved here it became the kitchen table that hosted thousands of family dinners.

The ultimate plan is to replace the raggedy carpet with wood laminate flooring. And I have a new space hogging toy due to arrive in a week or so. (More on that later, and no, it's not a long arm.) Later this spring I'll be hosting a quilter's rummage sale to find new homes for stuff I'll never use so I can replace it with new fun stuff for me to organize. In the mean time, that grocery bag has to go.