Fabric Fast, mental health, quilting

Stitching Through Sad

I’m feeling a lot of sad recently. How much sad occurred to me as I was reading the third sympathy card my bosses wrote to me since the start of the 2018. This most recent card was for the loss of my dog, Cooper. One might believe that loosing a pet is not as significant as loosing a human, and I agree with that sentiment. However, my agreement that humans and dogs are different does not lessen my sense of loss.

Since the start of my fabric fast, I’ve spent a lot more time hand stitching. I find myself most connected with what I’m experiencing when I sew with my hands. So I started using the time I’ve been connecting one piece of a quilt to another to reflect on why loosing Cooper feels like such a big deal to me. And it feels like a BIG deal to me. Partly because Cooper’s loss is connected to other recent losses, and also because I used to buy things to make myself feel better. I am choosing to not do that anymore and part of my process for not spending is to try to stay connected to my whole experience of life. So I am down a self medicating strategy in a time of stress while practicing feeling all my feelings and weaving them into my story. And Cooper is huge part of my story. 2012-12-23_09-41-50_283

Cooper lived a month shy of 12, which for a Newfoundland Dog (big breed) is nothing short of a miracle. Nine is considered well into  old age. We brought Cooper home shortly after buying our first house. Sometime after getting married, buying a house, getting a dog and eventually having children, my husband and I made that transition to FEELING like an adult. We were adults by all measure, but I did not feel like one.

Cooper was our dog my whole adult life. He was witness to some great joys and losses in our home. He ran miles with my husband while my husband was training for triathlons and marathons.  Cooper laid on my yoga mat while I was trying to do yoga. I used to wiggle my feet under his warm fur during Shavasana. 2012-05-18_11-23-54_734When I worked in my sewing room, he would lay right outside of the gate. He wasn’t allowed in because of the drool and shedding, but he’d position himself in such a way that I could not leave the room without him knowing. He is in the background of most of the photos of our kids. He slept outside our oldest’s door since she came home. img_0515.jpgCooper is woven into the fabric of the story our family has been telling for the past twelve years. Then suddenly he was gone.

Lucky for me I am a quilter. And quilters know a few things about what to do when fabric is out of print. Unfortunately, I am now going to need to change the pattern of my life because my life is different now. That fabric we wove when Cooper was a part of the family is now forever out of print. It is time to learn to weave something new. Then we get the joy of experiencing how the past can be mixed with the present in a way that creates something new and beautiful, something unlike anything we’ve seen before.

So I am spending a lot of time sewing, slowly, one stitch at a time, letting the sadness fall across my psyche like waves during a storm. The storm will pass. The sun will shine. And I will weave a beautiful tapestry of life to tell you the whole story. I especially love the part about the big, black, drooling dog we loved.

quilting

Sometimes You Have To Try: A look at my mishaps while trying to appliqué borders

I finished hand sewing together all the blocks for my Mischief Quit! I started the quilt in June of 2017. The fabric was gift from my mom for my birthday and the pattern was a Mother’s Day gift from my husband. I met my goal of having the block assembled in less than a year by mere days, but it still counts!! (If you’d like to try this quilt kit you can buy it here.)

Now comes the next big step: appliqueing on the borders. I have never done anything like this before. So it will come as no surprise I spent a lot of time on the internet. Then I read Flossie Teacakes’s Guide to English Paper Piecing. Lastly, Karen Tripp, the DIY Addict herself, shared a photo of my quilt top on her Instagram page and asked people for advice.

I now had mountains of information and needed to get on with it. I figured there are four borders to attach so I have four tries to figure out what technique works the best for me. As it turns out, I did something different with each borders. Yay for being a beginner. 🙄

Attempt #1

One of the Instagrammers shared that she left the end paper pieces in and machine sewed right through them. This was my ideal since I was afraid of removing the edge pieces and distorting that beautiful pattern in Karen’s design. I used a Hera marking tool to mark the border fabric.img_1409

See the line? It means no markings to remove later. 🙂

Next I pressed the edges and applied the applique glue. I was immediately concerned that the glue’s hold wasn’t strong enough so I added pins. I sewed right through the papers and got beautiful crisp edges…then I tried to take the papers out and it was a DISASTER. I destroyed the papers, which I was bummed about because I already have plans for a repeat, AND I don’t think I was able to get all the paper out.

Conclusion: be brave and take the paper’s out first.

Attempt #2

I took the papers out, pressed the fabric and secured the fabric with pins this time. It went okay but the fabric felt a little shifty to me. AND a few of my corners rounded a bit after taking the papers out. I did not like that.

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See the rounded corner on the right? Not what I was going for.

Conclusion: Better pinning is needed and need a way to preserve edges without paper.

Attempt #3

For this attempt, I pressed the edge while the papers were still in to crisp up the borders and then I took the papers out and pressed AGAIN with a bit of Best Press. This left me with nice pretty edges. I decided to give the glue another chances…and the second half came unglued while sewing. I had to stop to realign the fabric and pin. I felt grumpy about that.

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Conclusion: Pressing before removing the papers makes a big difference and the glue is not enough.

Attempt #4

Taking in everything I learned, I pressed the edges with the papers still in. Then I removed the papers and pressed again with the Best Press.

Before Best Press:

After Best Press: Then I glued the borders and then let it sit under heavy stuff all day to make sure it set

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And I added a few pins just to be sure.

Conclusion: I still had some shifting problems. I don’t think I pinned frequently enough. I’m chalking this up to being a beginning. I think I’ll need to practice some more.

Mitering the Corners

I used Angela Walter’s framework for mitering my borders. You can check out her episode of the Midnight Quilt Show (skip to about 7 minutes in).

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After I sewed the corners, I went around the corners to make sure everything we super tacked down and wasn’t going to move. Then I trimmed some of the bulk from the seam allowance.

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I’d love say that I used pinking shears for a super strategic reason. The truth is I was afraid to use the rotary cutter because I didn’t want to cut something I wasn’t supposed to and my fabric scissors were in the other room and I did not want to go get them.

A few side notes:

I love my “purple thang” tool. It is amazing for popping out papers and for tucking in fabric tails while sewing. It costs hardly anything and is super helpful.

I accidentally got too close to a pin and now it was stuck. The Purple Thang pushed it right out!

I had to remind myself over and over again that I am a beginner. I have NEVER done this before so the results will reflect my novice status. As we tell our OCD clients All. The. Time: done is better than perfect. When a cold Illinois winter hits and I’m snuggled under this quilt feeling super proud of myself, I’m not going to notice those few bits of paper I wasn’t able to pull out or that corners didn’t miter exactly.

Enjoy!

Fabric Fast

The Withdrawal

On May 8, 2018, I resolved not to spend anymore money on my quilting hobby. On May 9th, I received a $50.00 check for my birthday and immediately began questioning my life choices. My mind started spinning, “if I could just…” or “what if I….”

Since I quit trying to use buying stuff as a way to distract myself from feeling uncomfortable, I’ve been experiencing withdrawal symptoms…in other words, MORE uncomfortable. Since I was using buying quilting stuff as a way to feel good, all those bad feelings I was distracting myself from are suddenly so much louder in my life. As those bad feelings start to get louder the urge to bend the rules and start buying stuff grows. I mean, I said was mostly giving up fabric, right? So if I buy myself a new needle holder* so that I can have threaded needles for two different English Paper Piecing projects at the same time that’s still fair game, right? Also, I have a coupon for free shipping from one of my favorite quilting websites. It’s like wasting money to not use that, isn’t it?

One of the mixed benefits of being a therapist is understanding the process of your own misery. On the one hand, it normalizes my experience. On the other hand, I can’t pretend I don’t know when I’m acting in a way that is unhealthy and blame it on something else. I know what is happening right now. It’s the extinction burst.

Extinction bust is an old idea in behavioral theory that is a fancy way of saying things get worse before they get better. Check out this graph:

extinction-burst-graph

The above graph is charting a child’s behavioral change after being exposed to an intervention. The first five dots represent the baseline behavior or how things were before any attempt at change was made. The vertical line is the when something was introduced to change the behavior, in my case the line would represent the day I gave up spending money on quilting stuff. Notice what happens next? It gets worse…a lot worse. When you really think about it this actually makes sense. If throwing a screaming fit gets me my way and then one day you tell me that screaming won’t work anymore, I’m going to up my screaming fit to see if you’re serious. If you give in and let me have my way, then I learned that you’re not serious and more screaming works. If you hold your ground, I learn that screaming fits don’t work any more and I need to pick a new behavior.

My sister is a special education teacher, working with kids with how struggle to control their emotions. She says all the time, “The way to guarantee an undesirable behavior lasts FOREVER is to respond to it inconsistently.”

I know all this stuff. Which really stinks because I can’t pretend that I really need the needle holder for my EPP projects. I don’t. I already have one and there are other ways I can thread multiple needles at a time that are free or use what I already have. This desire is me looking for a fix. It is a distraction from something else.

So instead of shopping or updating my Amazon wish list, I’m sitting with the discomfort and breathing through it. I’m focusing on the projects I have in progress and letting myself bounce around between them. I am reminding myself there is no connection between what I own or buy and my value as a human. Then I take another deep breath.

*I love my Clover needle holder. It’s great to thread 10 needles at once and then sew, sew, sew. If you’re not on a spending freeze because of emotional spending, I highly recommend it.

Fabric Fast

The Fabric Fast Rules

Let’s be honest, I can rationalize my way into or out of basically anything. Which means, if I don’t have clear goals and rules I will worm my way out of this fast as soon as this gets hard and pretend I was successful.

So here is the big rule:

1. No money spent on quilting stuff from May 8th, 2018 to January 1, 2019

I’m already asking myself if amazon points and gift cards I didn’t pay for count as money…I’m going with “yes” for now…see what I mean about worming my way out?

Exceptions:

1. I am free to accept fabric/quilty stuff as gifts (because Christmas and my wedding anniversary are included in that time)

2. Day to day maintenance stuff life needles, thread, rotary blades, etc. are fair game

Goals:

1. Keep quilting as an act of mindfulness and creativity which adds beauty to my life

2. Discover how much quilting I can reasonably fit into my life at this age/stage

3. Focus my attention on what I have vs what I see. (that seems like a more inspiring way to say “sew from my stash”)

4. Find my voice as a maker and writer rather than trying to be like the people I admire

5. Do something about my growing pile of WIPs.

Fabric Fast

The Journey Starts Here

About four years ago I decided I wanted to learn the sew. I’d just given birth to my first child, and I was obsessed with cloth diapers (I will totally own the weirdness of that sentence). Money in our house was a bit tight, making it difficult for me to convince my husband that spending the money for the start up on a new hobby was a grand idea. In all fairness, I have a history of discovering something new, becoming super obsessed with it and then moving on to another thing. I was a vegan, super into loose leaf tea, making homemade ice cream, scrapbooking, roller skated some marathons….well, there’s a list. My husband was not going to invest in another hobby to take up space in the closet with the vegan cookbooks, cast iron tea pot, and ice cream churn I just had to have.

I was not giving up. I got my hands on a used sewing machine from a family member, and I was going to make this happen. While talking about learning to sew, my husband mentioned he’d always wanted to turn his old t-shirts into a t-shirt quilt. I saw my opportunity and I took it.

“What if,” I suggested, “my first project is making your t-shirt quilt?” Husband went for it, and I was in business. Now all the start up supplies: needles, thread, a class, fabric, etc. are all in service of making his quilt. He had so many t-shirts it turned into two quilts. I was hooked. All thoughts of sewing diapers flew out the window. I was a quilter now.

Fast forward to now. I love quilting. It has turned into the practice that keeps me sane and balanced. Our family has grown to two children, and my work as a therapist has evolved into specializing in trauma. I need something to help me unwind and quilting is my thing.

Here’s the problem, more specifically my problem, I don’t know how to engage without intensity. The pattern of throwing myself into something 110% has followed me into quilting. In the past, I’d throw myself head first into a hobby get bored and move on to something else. This time I threw myself in 110% and quilting as a hobby had enough diversity to absorb it. There is so much to do and learn. Between the online sew-a-longs, different piecing and quilting techniques to learn, and the new lines of fabric coming out ALL THE TIME, quilting started to lose all the therapeutic benefits. I started more projects than I can finish, buying fabric I cannot afford or don’t need, and trying to work or produce on par with makers who quilt as a full-time job.

My hobby has gotten out of control. I started to distract myself with quilting rather than heal and restore myself with quilting. Since I don’t want to quit and I don’t want quilting to continue to run amok in my life, I’ve decided on a challenge.

I am starting a fabric fast. It’s actually more like don’t-spend-any-money-on-my-quilting-hobby, but calling it a fabric fast is much catchier and shorter. For anyone who doesn’t quilt or sew, imagine giving up all added sugar.

The fast will go from my birthday, May 8 to January 1, 2019. That’s 238 days or 34 weeks, starting on a Tuesday and ending on a Tuesday (I didn’t plan that, but I think it’s  pretty cool). I hope to use this blog to document my journey. It took me 7 days to figure out blogging and set up. 7 days down and 231 to go.

I’m sure I can do this. After all, I was vegan and skated a marathon on roller skates. What’s 231 more days without new fabric?