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.


  1. Anonymous11:24 AM

    I think we all lose our 'mojo' from time to time. I find it happens when I'm always making things for others and forget about myself. Quilting is not my profession, but I made over 70 blankies this past year for Project Linus. As much as I love doing that and know that they go to a very worthy cause, I recently lost the desire to make blankies. I am solving the "missing mojo" problem by making something just for me. No deadlines, no hospital-imposed specifications, and most importantly, no guilt. Take some time for yourself. The mojo will return.
    --Frances (fmbegly132 at comcast dot net)

  2. If you love sewing as much as I do, sometimes you do just burn out and need to take a break. I sew for a living, and then I quilt for my passion. I have just returned to quilting and sewing, as my husband was quite sick with cancer and recently died. I had to return to the sewing part of it for financial reasons, but I almost felt guilty about returning to my quilting, as he used to help me to cut out my applique pieces when he was feeling up to it. It has been 6 weeks since he died, and now I am finding my quilting is keeping me sane.

  3. Anonymous12:57 PM

    I find when I'm crafting for a deadline it sucks the oomph out of me. So after Christmas, birthday, wedding whatever I was working on, I pull out my old patterns and pick something I always wanted to try [ knitting, needlework or quilting ] it becomes my relax and refresh project.

  4. Beth I also wanted to mention that there is nothing worse than having a machine that doesn't work. There have been times when the thought of throwing a machine out the window sounded like a good thing. Once they work well, or are replaced it can help. I hope your new machine had the gremlins removed at the factory.
    Take Care
    Best of luck

  5. I understand the loss of the mojo because I only recently regained mine--and it was gone for just over 2 years. You will find your way back. Having a fully functioning sewing machine will certainly help--and for myself, just digging in on something, ANYTHING, got me going in the right direction.

  6. Beth, I'm going through something similar right now. Maybe part of your "searching" is for your former life as a Mom. You think you're ready, only to find out that there is a wide open space in your world that you struggle to fill. Work, play, travel...they all fall short. Just give it time; that's what my friends tell me. Just wait, and there will eventually be a flicker that becomes a flame once again.