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?