How Do I Begin?

Regardless of what change we wish to make, or what adventure we wish to embark upon, the question of how to begin can often create the largest stumbling block for us. We look for advice, directional signs, or step-by-step instructions. Sometimes we need a clear outline to follow, and other times we want only a point in the right direction.

In this modern day of information overload, often when we ask the question, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the flood of answers we are given. Maybe we aren’t asking the right question, or maybe people aren’t listening to the question we are trying to ask?

In the enthusiasm to share answers, many will rush to supply great suggestions that have little to do with the needs of the person seeking help.

This information overload – or suggestion dump – became quite evident to me recently when a new quilt enthusiast asked the question, “How do I start?” The answers came pouring in with little regard to the personal situation of the newbie. Where do they live? What is their budget? Do they have any background in the skill set?

Without taking the time to learn a bit about the person asking the question, the answers not only can overwhelm but they can misdirect. Additionally, the flood of answers may begin to seem like attention seeking rather than assistance giving. The person who posed the question may find themselves wishing they had not.

There is an old English proverb that states, “Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works.” Over time, it has been altered to, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Taking the time to understand the question – to understand the individual asking the question – is vital. The focus should be on that individual and not on ourselves, or worse, on our desire to promote others. When a person, for whatever reason asks, “How do I begin?”, we should do our best to remove obstacles rather than place more in their path.

Hoping that I am doing good works and not the other option, I have embarked upon Pithy Patchwork Projects. I explain a bit of my intent in this video.

Blending the Past with the Present: Moving into the Future

The joys of life are not found in the uniqueness or exotic nature of the task we do, but rather, it is found with in the way we perceive the task. When we change our focus from that of “must do” to “choose to do”, joy-filled replaces mundane.

Joy can be found even in the common activities which are often viewed as mundane. While blending fiber may not seem be a mundane task for those unfamiliar to the world of spinning yarn, it is labor. Depending on the size of the project, it can be quite laborsome. It is work done in preparation for the final objective, and a task that we chose either to see as mundane or joy-filled.

It is very likely that I have now gone beyond the midpoint of my life. As I look forward to the of life ahead of me, I reflect on the past and blend those memories into the daily activities of the present. The experiences of my youth have taught me to seek joy in the tasks that I do – even the daily tasks that are not necessarily unique or exciting. Seeking joy and blending the lessons of the past with the present is how I hope to move steadily into whatever future I am blessed to have.

Imperfect: Embracing the Joy

One of the greatest challenges a crafter/maker/artisan faces is the challenge of accepting imperfection. Knowing when the results of one’s effort is enough to feel satisfaction rather than dismay is not always the easiest of tasks. Sometimes it requires more practice and skill than the crafting/making/arting (is that even a word?)

Embracing the joy of imperfection can help a person accept the imperfect nature of their creation. Learning to laugh when well-laid plans go awry is not always simple, but it does change one’s outlook. Creativity can flourish when laughter is present.

I laugh a lot in this week’s video. I share many imperfect quilts. With one particular quilt, I show my effort to “fix” an imperfection. I will leave it to the viewer to decide if it is an improvement. At the end of the day, I like the fix enough to hang the quilt on my wall. It may never be my favorite, but it is certainly cheery.

Goals Accomplished

Over the summer I began dyeing and spinning a collection of yarn. The intent was to have a ‘countdown to Christmas’ collection of squishy packages for my children. When I began the challenge, there was speculation that my daughter would be returning to her Peace Corps assignment before Christmas. I thought it would be wonderful for her and her brother to both have something they could do together as they counted down to Christmas.

About midway through this goal of mine, it became clear that my daughter would not be returning to the Peace Corps this year. My desire to get the fiber spun was even greater as it became clear 2020 was going to throw more hurdles into our lives.

As the deadline to get my son’s packages in the mail approached, I wondered at the sanity of dyeing so many different hanks of fiber. With only days to spare, I wrapped the little 50 gram yarn balls and enclosed them into the box that would take them across an ocean.

On Thanksgiving Day, the yarn was indeed in the same country as my son, but as with most things military, there was confusion. So the day after Thanksgiving my son retrieved the big box of mini packages and began the countdown with two squishy bundles to unwrap.

Each day (or every other day as schedules permit) my two kiddos unwrap and share photos with each other. They are counting down the days, not just to Christmas, but to the end of 2020.

I think many of us are counting down the days until 2020 ends and we can enter a new year with hope for less strife than 2020 has presented. For many, 2020 began with hopes, dreams, and goals that would be disrupted – even shattered. For many, as 2020 marched along the only goal was to see it come to an end.

For me, my goal for 2020 – for any year – is to find as much joy as I can, and to find ways to share that joy with others. Tears, disappointments, strife, and hardship may make me stressed and filled with sorrow, but despite the stress and sorrow, I still find joy. Long ago I learned that joy shines a light into even the darkest corners of our lives and minds. We must seek that joy, open our eyes to that light. At times this may be hard, sometimes very hard, but it is a goal for which the hard work is worth it.

The goal of finding joy in our lives each day is one worth accomplishing. It is one of the many goals I have accomplished this year, and one that I hope I can accomplish in the year to come.

Merry Christmas!

For those who have been following my Christmas Countdown Collection journey, this week’s video shows some of the finished Granny Squares. I have also put together (with the help of my daughter) a pattern for download for any who wish to join the Granny fun.

Pattern to download.

Inspiration, Memories, Holiday Joy

Confessions of a Crafter

During the holiday season, my world seems to be inundated by inspiring social media posts and videos. So many wonderful new things to try, hidden among some crazy crafting fodder. I enjoy watching videos of projects coming to life, even ones that show crafts that I know I will never take on. Every so often though, I will decide to join the crazy train of a popular craft. Yet, I prefer when my new crafty undertakings are able to overlap with my current arsenal of creative techniques. Finding an overlap is not always easy. Clay work, for instance, is still rather a stand alone. Although, I have made my own polymer clay buttons, so there is some overlap with my sewing projects.

Good organization skills and proper storage techniques come in handy when there are multiple crafty people living under one roof. The joke about the entire house being called a craft room is not much of a joke when so many rooms hold craft supplies. With the constraints of limited space and a need to actually live in the house rather than just craft in the house, I am hesitant when I feel the urge to take on a new type of crafting endeavor. However in the days since I last contributed to this blog, I have finally succumbed to the ever popular world of blinging up a project with gems.

In the past, I have made embraced glass beads for my blinging needs. This was a frugal way to use materials I had on hand, as well as a permanent way to attach bling, but glass beads have their limits. Working with freestanding lace embroidery turned out to be one of the limits. I knew that hiding the attachment stitches on delicate lace ornaments would be difficult. So after many years of resisting the urge, I took the plunge and purchased a hot-fix gem tool and an assortment of gems. When the supplies arrived, down that rabbit hole I dove into a magical world of sparkling light. What was I thinking by resisting this craze for so long?

Fortunately over the years I have learned restraint. So I don’t think my home will be blinged up, nor will my husband worry that his clothing will start to twinkle in the sunlight, but the ornaments I make each year may very well sparkle when the lights of the Christmas tree are turned on.

Another Video

After taking a couple weeks to rest/play/craft, I sat down and tried something new – a vlog rather than an inspirational mini tutorial. It was not my intent to ramble along for such an amount of time, but I now understand why my favorite knitting vloggers vlog for nearly an hour each episode. It was quite to my surprise that I realized how very long I had been rambling about inspiration, projects completed, memories, and lessons learned. I do not know how many people will ever watch the video in its entirety, but at the end of the day I am so very pleased that this vlog has been created. It is a glimpse into my world, my head, my life, and it has brought me joy. I hope that it will bring others joy too.

Saith Me… Master and Beginner

We live in a world were we no longer seem to celebrate the concept of mastering a craft or in celebrating the beginning of that journey.

There is nothing wrong with intermediate, but that is not a place where we get to sit while putting down the beginners or scoffing at the journey of further improvement.

I will likely never be a master, but I will never stop improving, nor will I ever forget the joy of beginning. The process of self-improvement, even when it is diminutive improvement, is where the joy truly begins. For in that small, simple advancement of the skill, we are rewakening the memories of our first glorious attempts at something that inspired us to try something new.

Thankful for Memories

The Autumn and Winter holiday seasons inspire me to be creative, and flood me with memories of times gone by. So many of my memories include the practice of creating something that can be given to or shared with others.

I awoke this morning from a troubled dream. It was nonsense, but the crazy chaotic scenes were all too familiar. It was a reflection of the many times I overdid my efforts to make the holidays special for others, and in the process, overwhelmed myself. The overwhelmed me is not a person I like to recollect.

With age and greater understanding of my limitations, wisdom has emerged. This year, a year of stressful uncertainties and worries, I have made a commitment to myself (and my family) to maintain balance – or at least try my best to do so.

I have focused my creativity on projects that not only bring me joy, but represent all the things I didn’t do because I was busy doing too much for those I love. I am still giving and sharing, but now I am focused on sharing inspiration and joy rather than physical things.

I have long lived by two adages. The first relates to eating an elephant one bite at a time, and the second that it is better to teach a man to fish than to give him one.

This year it my goal to share these truths rather than cookies, quilts, or hand-knitted hats. Hopefully by doing so, I can feel the joy of sharing, and not the chaos of overdoing.

Emotional Detox from Creative Thinking

November heralds in the winter holiday season, and what can be the beginning of an emotionally stressful time of the year. With so many major holidays arriving back-to-back, the joy of the holiday season can often become overshadowed by obligation or loneliness. We can feel pressured or misunderstood. Sometimes, even as we are surrounded by family and friends, we can feel isolated and alone. With Covid-19 forcing many to change traditional plans, the emotional stress may be even harder to combat this year.

I suspect many people will feel conflicting emotions of guilt and relief as they find that extended family get-togethers are cancelled. Attempts to replicate them virtually may cause distress rather than solace, and may cause one to question if there really is a way to still have connectivity while social distancing.

One of the lessons 2020 should be teaching all of us is that when faced with a major roadblock, we are better off looking for a new road forward rather than simply trying to adapt our old traveling patterns to get us where we want to go.

Patching over a problem is never as effective as creating something new that eliminates the problem all-together. Certainly there is value in a patch or in making the old work for a new day, but when we have the opportunity to create something new, it is good for us to give it a try.

As we embark on creating new 2020-inspired activities, success will be more likely if we evaluate what made the old activities so important to us. By understanding what the old provided, we are better set to include key attributes into our new endeavors. Most importantly as we experiment with a new way of celebrating the holiday season, it is vital that we remember the old ways didn’t become successful traditions without growing pains.

Creative thinking and collaboration can lead us through this difficult time. The process, in itself, can be a celebrated moment in our life if we allow it to be. If we focus on what made us love the things of our past, and then seek to find ways to replicate that joy in our present circumstances, we may very well find that the 2020 Holiday Season is one of joy rather than toxicity. It just requires creative thinking and a willingness to embrace the future rather than simply long for the past.

Tips for Emotional Detoxification

  • Go for a walk and get some fresh air. If you can’t get outside, watch YouTube videos of other going for nature hikes. It really can help.
  • Color outside the lines – whether it is something new, or something you are already proficient at, try letting go of the constraints of perfection.
  • Finger paint – allow yourself to make a mess. The greatest work of art is the laughter-filled journey and not the finished object.
  • Share a video/audio message with a friend. A video or audio recording of a message is easily done with most cell phones. Rather than simply sending a text, emoji, or meme, try sending a short recording.
  • Virtual Creative Play-dates – virtual creative play-dates, (not just for the kiddos) can be a fun way to socialize, work on projects, or simply try something new with companionship.
  • Be kind to yourself – if circumstances prevent the above, you can still find a way to be kind to yourself. This should not be a last resort, but it is the foundation of all the above. Kindness to others must begins with kindness to ourself. If this is something you struggle with, then please seek assistance from a medical professional or a local or national hotline for mental/emotional health. You are worth it and are not alone.
I took my own advice – here is the video showing how I played with making natural dyes. There is also some footage of me getting some fresh air – it really can clear away life’s stresses, if even for just a moment or two.