Saturday, November 11, 2017

Balancing a Quilter's Life


Have you ever sat down after a long week, and thought through each day? What did you actually do? What needs done? (When will you squeeze in some sewing?) It's usually the moment we reflect on our accomplishments, and hope to have some satisfaction of progress. As a quilter with many hats to wear, my work seems to be more scattered than most, and I rarely have those, "Ta-Dah!" moments where I show a finished quilt anymore. The finishes used to feel more pressing to blog about, but I have learned steady progress is more gratifying in the long run. Note: Think of wanting all the horses to finish the race instead of just one.

Moving from List Making to Listening

 I was the person who relied on a list I could check off after accomplishing each task, and especially with quilting projects. It made me feel so good to put a line straight through it! Check! (I think I would even add little things to it just to cross them out.) Satisfaction seemed to be about that darned list more than a job well done or working alongside friends or family so I opted to try something new. 

The goal was to move my focus away from powering through job after job to creating a more personal path. Instead of strictly following my lists each day, I'm first taking time to listen to what is going on inside me first. It only takes a few minutes each morning. Thinking through the people in my life who need my time factors in along with work obligations, how I feel, the weather, etc. List making rarely involved meaningful interaction with those I cared about, but this method puts people first. I am also one of the people who gets counted this way. It is helping me meet some of my own needs, too.


Lagom is a Swedish word meaning (roughly) "good enough." When I was a teenager living there, it was a hard one to understand. The Swedes also have a word for "enough" so it doesn't translate exactly. It's more of a concept or state of being. I think of it as, "Good for here and now." Lagom.
/lah-gum/ I am seeking this middle ground.

Lagom for me means stepping off the merry-go-round, and living in the moment. Not everything gets done 100% all the time with this method, but my mantra (in English) has been, "I am enough." It's okay to say, "I've done enough for today," or "Everyday plates will be good enough for Thanksgiving this year."  This kind of enough is lagom.

My First Week Without a List

Sunday: We brought up the 2 Christmas trees from the basement, and set them outside to blow off with the blower. They collect so much dust over their lifetimes on display that it triggers my asthma. The blower didn't hurt them, but when my husband picked up one to haul it in, he whacked the other, and the big, glass light bulbs hit the concrete and shattered. We swept and vacuumed the driveway, and brought them in just before the big storm hit. We had just under 3" of rain that night. I've done nothing more with the trees.

Monday: I was having a Tuesday class in the studio so it was cleaning day. Shuffle my projects off to the corners, and sweep everything including the top of my ironing table. I also give time to maintenance of my long arm on this day, and dust the table and wax the tracks. Each sewing machine gets a little loving care with its own dusting and oiling, too. I love having this group of friends come to sew, and the prep work makes sure my studio is swept well and cleaned at least once a month. 

I felt such peace by cleaning the studio I came home and tackled our closet. Pretending I was a 'detached bystander' helped me rid the closet of nearly 1/3 of my hanging clothes. Before you gasp, I do not buy expensive things, and am gentle on clothing. Within a few hours, all of clothing we owned together was neatly organized in one closet, and I had bags ready to go to a friend the same size. (I dreamed about my clean closet that night. It felt so good.)

Tuesday morning: I continued my cleaning into the catch-all room/storage closet. Most of it was organizing, but I came out with several big bags of bedding to pass on also. There is a safe, straight path to walk through the room.

The group came in the afternoon, and the goal was an improvisational project like the Chinese Coins above. 

It was a big stretch from some of their comfort zones, and but turned into an amazing afternoon. These afternoons include my mother and mother-in-law, and are joyful sewing!

Wednesday: I spent the morning making deliveries that filled my car from the days before, and made time to stay and visit with several. It was a good catch up. 

By noon I was headed for an appointment with author Stanley Kauffman, who has written, co-written, and contributed to many books about quilts and local history. 

We talked quilts! I was excited to be able to examine and photograph one of his quilts that has been featured in many publications over the years. 


It is a local Amish-made quilt, and both dated and initialed by maker and for recipient. 


Finally I met someone who loves old quilts and textiles as much as I do! We discovered the original colors of this beauty were lavender and pale blue which have faded to pink and grey.

While I'm still mentally sorting out all the things I discovered during that afternoon, I feel like it gave an electrical zap to my research. Little bits of missing information filtered into cracks, and I have new ideas to launch from.

Thursday: Time for some actual customer work. One quilt loaded, another checked for readiness. By the end of the day, I had about 1/3 of the quilt quilted, and expected to be done the next day.

Friday: I woke up with such a lightness. I knew I hadn't lost any weight, but the house had. It was rid of so much excess stuff it felt different. I almost felt a vibrartion.

The MCC Connections thrift store in Kidron, Ohio was having its annual Christmas sale, and I decided I would take just one hour to see what I could load into the car to donate. It didn't take the whole hour to load it full of Christmas things I had not used in years. Think 4 Christmas trees worth of decorations plus a lot more. Off I went, and out it went. A visit with friends, and back home to clear a little more. One more load of non-essential stuff went to Goodwill this time, and I said, "Enough." I was tired that night, but a good kind of tired.

A Word About Purging

Purging, clearing, or cleaning--whatever you call it is exhausting. We all keep things for emotional reasons, but there is only so much space in our homes and hearts. Moving the object on means dealing with whatever emotion is attached to it. It could have belonged to a family member before you, or a time in your life that wasn't so rosy. You might have invested money into it or someone else may have sacrificed to purchase it for you. There are infinite possible scenarios why we hold onto things we don't use, but all of them are messy. Messy emotions are bad energy. Bad energy makes you feel angry and out of balance. So be prepared for the emotional warfare when it comes to letting go. Move slowly at first, but be confident that it will bring relief--like crystal clear air after the storm. Positive ions. 

It's too early to tell if I'm ready to throw out the physilist making altogether, but I will say I feel less anxious. I am more aware. Important dates are still written down--appointments, holidays, trips, etc., but I feel like life is moving at an even pace. There are no feelings of getting behind or catching up on the weekend, and I feel free. 

I have some routine work to get done then I'm off to sew. Sewing and quilting fill me up, and bring me good energy. Good energy in our lives does battle with daily stress, and in turn gives us balance. Yin and yang. 

Be well wherever you are.

Come on, Doxie girls.

Let's go sew.

Linking up with~
Crazy Mom Quilts


Susan C. said...

Your blog post ....which I discovered from Quilty Folk....could not have come at a better time for me! I am struggling with a house move, and my emotional state has been haywire. I am trying to fit my old life into my new one and it's causing no end of angst. I have set my self a task to open all the boxes and deal with all the contents, and a lot of stuff is being discarded. I have for quite a while amassed quilting supplies but not actually made a great many quilts.....too much fabric, too many possibilities have actullay served to stall my creativity. To read how you are dealing with your creativity resonates with me and I just wanted to comment and say Thank you! I am good enough also!

Leslie Frost said...

Thank you for this! I especially like your notion of trying to have a bystander point of view. I have always been better at helping others purge their stuff than I am at purging mine. This year, my husband and I are working on our own purge. We ask ourselves: will our kids and their spouses treasure this, or not? If the answer is ‘not’, out it goes! We have done the easy things so far. Now we are getting to some precious things, like some wedding gifts from 40+ years ago.

Marla aka YaYa said...

Amen. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

KaHolly said...

Such an enlightening post, Julie! Thank you for sharing your reflections and putting so many things into prospective! XO

Quilting Babcia said...

Such a thoughtful post, and so true in many ways. We need to purge of some of the clutter too, though my husband is a packrat and I'm a quilter who still 'needs' her stash, so what does that tell you?! I do know I won't attempt a '17 in 2017' list like I did this year. At least I figured out a temporary solution to my disillusionment by adding an 'Opportunity Quilts' side to that compilation that lists all the ministry quilts I was called upon to make during the year, so the lack of accomplishment on the front of said 'list' isn't such a disappointment. Thanks for sharing that lovely Amish quilt - 1946 - the year of my birth, and that quilt still retains its beauty and function after all those years. I should be delighted if those who know me can say the same at the end of my days.

mangozz said...

Your post today has a lot of truth in it for me. I have an awful time trying to let go of things that have an emotional attachment. It fills me with guilt for some of the same reasons you gave. Also, some of the hardest things to let go of are those which I have sunk a lot of money into. Sometimes it seems more prudent to hang onto them and more wasteful to get rid of them. Does that make any sense? It doesn't even sound sensible when I re-read it. But since I haven't moved in many years, I have accumulated lots of stuff. And since I live in a small apartment I really need to purge a lot more so I can be more comfortable.

Barb Neiwert said...

As a person reading about your week, I think you've accomplished an enormous amount! I find that in my day-to-day activities, I don't count all the mundane things that need to be done around the household - dishes, meals, laundry, dusting, purging. They are just part of daily life, but really do need to be reflected in the mix. You've some great points about purging, btw. I have done similar things recently, and would like to do more. I just don't throw things away, and have a hard time giving them up. But I feel I'm about to reach the top of that hill, and it will be awesome. Oh - last week I recycled all (nearly all) my plastic containers. Did it right before they drivers came to collect, so I couldn't change my mind. Now I have an entire kitchen drawer empty! Oh - and I like your Swedish word. One year we had an exchange student from Stockholm, which was a fun experience.

Stitchin At Home said...

I have never been a list maker. What gets done today gets done if not there is always tomorrow, life is to short to worry about whether or not an item is crossed off a list.

Linda Swanekamp said...

The photos today are just gorgeous. Love the trees and the old quilts.

helenjean@midgetgemquilts said...

As always, I read your blog posts and then take a big breath, like yourself, an asthmatic breath! I did a big clear out a few weeks ago. I find it hard to pass things on, I get emotionally attached to "things" yet I also like a clutter free house. I have now rationalised myself to think, that if I| don't want things sitting about, then it is pointless keeping stuff in the cupboard, or in the loft. Gradually I am letting things go and passing them on. Like yourself, our household runs on lists, even I generally lose the list or lose my way on the list.
And how fantastic for you to get to spend time with a true quilt historian and afficionado. That must have been an interesting conversation for you.

Ruth said...

In the midst of a project I can happily revel in a mess but when I am procrastinating for some reason or other I need a good clean up to clear my head and clear my space to get going again. I struggle with the rest of the house though. I have been clearing for about 2 years now - tackling bits here and there and it takes time and looks worse before it gets better! My mums version of decluttering is to give the stuff to me! I like the listless week and really enjoyed seeing the Amish quilt.

Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

You had quite the week. Glad you were able to purge stuff from your house. I have to get over the I might need it someday, what if it fits again, etc. I'm again to try again to get focused. But I don't have to purge my fabric, do I???? ha ha ha ha ha