There is a well established connection in my life with feeling stress and wanting to buy something. Obviously, this pattern is rather problematic. Back in 2018, I went on a fabric fast and stopped buying fabric and quilting supplies for about nine months. The experience was painfully amazing. Which is to stay I had many moments of feeling uncomfortable mixed in with increased peace and connection. And I need a repeat.
My work in progress pile is piling up and I am flitting between projects with no real purpose. I need to stop starting and accumulating and working through what I have. Thus, it’s time for a do-over. Starting July 1, 2021, no more fabric, quilting notations, patterns, thread, or that-cool-thing-I-saw-on-Instagram/Estsy/wherever. For this to work, I need rules. So here we go:
No new fabric, notions, books, patterns, blocks of month, cool thing-a-ma-jigs before 2022
No starting new projects until I’ve finished three of my outstanding projects
I am allowed to buy fabric to complete outstanding projects…but bonus to me if I can use what is in my stash
When/if I get to start new project, I have to use what I have.
I am allowed to accept gifts.
None of this applies to someone commissioning me to make them a quilt since they will be doing all the buying/spending anyway.
Anyone else ever feel like they need a cleanse every once in awhile? I find that sometimes I have too many choices and by giving myself some limits it helps me direct my focus. In this case, I want to focus on finishing and practicing my quilting skills. I won’t ever do that if I keep getting distracted by that shiny thing I saw…
I bought most of my quilting stuff online. I loved coming home to packages. I love the surprise of mail. Sometimes I feel the urge to buy something so it can arrive. I actually have this fantasy of coming home from work to have fabric in the mail that I was not expecting.
And that happened to me! I won an Instagram contest hosted by Annika of @nacktduscherin If you’re not following her on Instagram, stop reading and do it! The package made my day! I was so excited to create after seeing what she made and what was inside.
I am eleven weeks into my fabric fast, that’s 77 days. And I’m learning some stuff about myself (in addition to the mail thing). Right off the bat, I’m learning that I do not measure urgency well. Things that I think need to happen RIGHT NOW, don’t.
For example, I bought the fabric for the borders and backing for my Mischief Quilt on June 1st. I justified bending my rules by saying it doesn’t make sense to wait until January 1st to finish a project I’m excited about and can afford to finish.
Turns out I easily could have waited. My Lepidoptera quilt took my more than 30 hours to quilt. I’m only just getting started on the Mischief. 100Days100Blocks is in full swing and that is filling my time. It was July 18th before I started basting/quilting that mischief quilt. Having the backing fabric was not an emergency. I suspect that by June the adrenaline/addictive nature of buying still had not worn off.
One change I made early in the fabric fast process was to start tracking my time working on a project. I am learning the whole process of making a quilt takes much longer than I thought it did. I made the small version of the Dogs in Sweaters pattern by Elizabeth Hartman. Making just the quilt top and binding took me almost eight hours, spread over about four days.
I’ve also noticing that the “I feel anxious so I should spend money” impulse is strongly connected to my false sense of urgency. As if I didn’t have <<insert whatever>> at this moment I AM SURE the sky would fall. I am starting to realize that isn’t true.
Also, temptation is everywhere.
I received the above coupons from my local quilt shop. In the email version it also said if you arrived before 8 am you received 30% off your total purchase. That’s an insane fabric deal. I’m tempted to call it once in a lifetime…expect that they offered these same deals last year. Also, there is nothing I need right now. I have everything I need to finish all the projects I have started. There is no need for me to start anything else until I finish what I have.
I’m trying to be more diligent in keeping to my fast. When I bend the rules, I trick myself into to thinking I need things that I don’t.
I’m also noticing the false urgency is showing up when I feel tired, anxious or overwhelmed. I start to think I have to start on this or that NOW. I’m learning to take that as a sign that I’m anxious. I’ve started keeping a little notebook in my quilting room. When I have an idea (quilt the mini star quilt with dense straight lines!), I write it down. The quilting won’t be any worse because I had to wait.
The last thing I’m learning is that my urge to start or try something new, may be connected to the hormone changes that happen naturally over the course of 28 cycle. This new information is starting to reshape some things. I am beginning to see the urge to try something new as normal and cyclical rather than pathological. More on that as I learn more
So slow and steady on I go, missing the mail, trying not to rush the process, and learning about who I am and how I work.
Instagram sew-a-longs are my favorite and no one does a sew-a-long like Angie Wilson of Gnomeangel.com. Angie has a gift for identifying fantastic quilt patterns and engaging a community to sew a long. I have tackled quilts I would not dream of trying because I was sewing a long with her and the community she’s built on Instagram. During an Instagram live event she referred to a quilt as a “bucket list quilt.” That phrase captures why I love quilting along with her. Angie picks bucket list quilts and makes them manageable. In fact, I have my fabric sorted to join her for Tula Pink’s City Sampler Quilt in the 100Days100Blocks2018 sew-a-long.
This kind of event is exactly the reason I started a fabric fast in the first place. I see a cool idea. I get all caught up in it. I forget to count the cost.
Let’s do some math:
The book is listed for $27.99
If I wanted to buy all the paper pieces to English Paper Piece the quilt at one time, it would cost $195.00 OR I could spread it out over course of 9 months a pay $24.00 per month ($216) and then buy the finishing pieces ($14) for a total of $230.
Next there are the acrylic templates. These are super helpful for fussy cutting the shapes AND the book only has paper templates…that means NO dimensions for cutting shapes. There are two template options: only the shapes that appear 10 or more times in the pattern ($80) or every single shape ($240).
Lastly the hosts recommend having 50 fat quarters for the blocks plus a few extra for sashing and corner stones. There are the 12 boxes of fat quarters (10 per box) that Paper Pieces used to make the GORGEOUS version of the quilt showing above. $34.95 each for a total of $420 (if we’re rounding)
Let’s add it all up:
Paper Pieces: $230.00 (because I wouldn’t be able to buy it all at once)
Fabric (not including backing and binding): $420.00
Total: $918.00 add in backing, batting, batting, and thread for quilting, you’re easily over a grand.
Obviously there are ways to do this cheaper. Buy the book second hand, pay for the pieces all at once, only use the top ten templates, and use fabric from your stash and you’re down to $290. Or you could only buy the book and if you have quilting software like EQ8 (which I don’t) you can make foundation paper piecing versions.
My point is that the expense of quilting can get out of control really quickly, especially when I don’t take time to reflect on what I actually need. I have a habit of getting swept up in the excitement of an idea without reflecting on the idea’s long term impact (you can read more about that here). I need to ask myself if the joy of hand sewing out weighs the stress of paying for materials to make the quilt.
I want the answer to be yes so badly! I want to be able to join the Facebook group and post my blocks on Instagram. I want the challenge of stretching my EPP skills.
If I really dig deep, I also want to play with the cool kids. I admire the other makers I see on Instagram, and I want to imagine that money doesn’t matter for them. I want to imagine they live in a world where they get to make whatever they want whenever they want. But I know that isn’t true. Angie has even said many times to stay within what you can afford. No quilt, not even a bucket list quilt, is worth the stress of carrying debt.
Since I am on a fast and the only way I would be able to participate is if I was given the supplies as a gift, and I have yet to secure a wealthy quilting benefactor (is that a thing?), my original plan was to say no.
Then this happened:
Jennifer of @yokokudo88 started the hashtag #GetYourQuiltyWishGrantedSummerEdition Here’s how it works: You post your wishes as a quilter and then someone else grants them. How magical is that?! So I posted my wish for the 1920’s Farmer’s Wife Sampler and someone offered it to me!!! I also posted three pre-cuts that came in my sew sampler box that I was NEVER going to us. I got to mail those to quilters who were excited about them. How wonderful is that?!?
In a fun little twist, a quilter messaged me and said she thought she had an extra copy of the Farmer’s Wife and would look for it. She said it turns out is was The Dear Jane book. I asked if she was willing to part with her extra copy and she said yes!!! That’s two bucket list quilts without breaking my fast. Yay!!!!
Now, there is no reason for me to spend $200-$400 on paper pieces and templates. That totally breaks the fast rules. Here’s my plan, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that the person who offered me her book is able to find it. I am going to do some research on making my own pieces or seeing if there are foundation paper piecing versions of the patterns.
Then I’m going to play around with using my scraps from #100Days100Blocks2017 and all those little pieces of Alison Glass I have and the left over Tula Pink that will inevitably exist after #100Days100Blocks2018. Maybe that will work and maybe it will not. We will have to see. In the meantime, I am breaking my habit of leaping without looking and I am going slow and planning.
I mentioned in another post that I engage with intensity, part of that is personality and part of that is patterning. I imagine most people have a handle on personality, so I’d like to explain patterning and the pattern I’m trying to rewrite.
We are wired for maximum efficiency and habit. Sort of like how some quilters have few favorite patterns or designers they use over and over. We are constantly looking at what is happening around us and matching the present to the past. Growing up you learned a style of dealing with conflict. You may have learned healthy things like how to listen, respond assertively, and hold boundaries. If you learned growing up that it didn’t matter what you said, you would have to do thing the way your parent(s) wanted you to, the pattern you may have learned was to go along to get along and not assert yourself. As an adult, you will likely struggle to set boundaries. If growing up you were encouraged to keep trying no matter what, you likely developed a pattern of perseverance and resiliency (the ability to bounce back after a set back).
We are constantly pulling patterns to respond to our present. If you have ever had the experience of meeting someone new and immediately disliking them, they likely tapped into a pattern. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again and you feel like you can’t stop, pattern. I hate that stuck feeling.
I would now like to introduce you to my favorite phrase in all the study of brain and wellness: neuro plasticity. Neuro plasticity refers to brains ability to grow and change at any stage of life. So right now, even in my mid-30s, I can undo a pattern that is causing me problems in my life. So about that pattern…
My Pattern:Where it came from
My parents are wonderful people. They are wonderful and like everyone else, they are not perfect. My parents got married very young and had four kids in five years. We did not have a lot of resources growing up. Money was tight and my parents were exhausted most of the time. My dad work 12-13 hour day, often 6 days a week to support us in a job that was seasonal, so every winter my dad didn’t have work, unless it snowed. I was probably one of the few kids who was super conflicted about snow on Christmas. Snow at Christmas meant no dad but holiday pay. And we really needed the money. My mom was tasked with caring for four very young kids by herself from wake up to bedtime. Anyone else feeling tired and stressed just imagining this?
Growing up in my family, I developed this connection between spending money and value. If someone bought me something it was a BIG deal because it didn’t happen very often. Special people were given gifts or spending money. Anyone else see how this can be problematic later in life?
I developed this association between spending money and feeling good. Every time I got to use my extra income for a new thing, I felt empowered and special. Today, I find myself buying fabric, participating in another sew-a-long or buying a new quilting tool I saw cool people use on Instagram to stop me from feeling uncomfortable, tired, or emotionally drained. But as soon as those feel good chemicals cool down in my brain, I am left with all the discomfort, exhaustion and emotional drain with the added stress of having spent money I did not need to spend.
So that is how I got to this fabric fast. Really, it’s more like “don’t spend any money on quilting related stuff.” For me, I need a hard line in the sand that I cannot dance around to force myself to handle feeling drained in another way. To use all the strategies I teach as a therapist for myself so that I can experience the benefits. In the end, I hope to be a more balanced, calm, thoughtful person.
Step One: Follow the Breath
My favorite tool for healing to connect with the breath. In addition to all the physical benefits of lowering your heart rate and reducing tension in the body, deep breathing also helps to switch myself from an anxiety state to a calm state. Now when I’m sewing I make an effort to connect my breath to my movements and engage as many of my senses as I can. I even started doing a lot of yin yoga to help me learn to slow down my breath. The overall goal is to be a fully integrated person.