I haven't quilted much this summer at all because every time I walk into the room, I just turn around and walk back out again. It's time to clean up!
And I keep meaning to get into the studio and get started, but it's kind of like being presented with the biggest cake in the world, you really have no idea where to start, or how to deal with the sheer enormity of the situation.
Part of the overwhelming nature of the room is the number of unfinished projects. Two weeks ago in a fit of anger about my UFOs, I got a pen and paper and made a list of every single one. That list filled two sheets, single space!
Most of these projects were started long before this blog (more than 2 years ago). They are bed quilts I pieced for family or friends, fabrics I purchased with a specific quilt project in mind, and quilt blocks pieced or appliqued, but never finished.
Looking at it all now, I feel a mixture of guilt, resentment, and a weighty feeling that is hard to understand. It's like I'm underwater, I can't move because this complex set of emotions has me stuck in place.
But this is just JUNK! Yes, it is fabric, yes, it is quilt tops I pieced once and had some intention of finishing, but why is it making me feel so terrible? Quilting is what I do! How and WHY am I allowing fabric and quilt tops to make me feel this stuck and crappy?
Exploring the emotion, I find guilt to be the overriding emotion, which is interesting because I really don't feel guilty that often. People rarely can inspire me to feel guilt, but fabric, quilt tops, and quilt blocks, however, seem to have found that guilt trigger and are firing with extreme accuracy.
It's like this: by getting rid of all this stuff I'm admitting I failed.
I failed because at some point I was happy and excited about these projects. The day they were cut and pieced I obviously had to feel some level of happiness about them.
But at some point in the construction process, the love died and along with it, all desire to finish these projects.
By cleaning it out, by pulling these quilt tops off the shelf, sticking them in a bag, and removing them from their lofty places on the shelves, I am declaring to the world "I will NEVER finish this! I can't do it! I bit off more than I can chew!"
And now that I've written this out, processed this whole idea out of my head, I realize that this is not a bad thing. Reaching the end of your rope can be a good place actually because this is often the point where things start to change.
No, I will never quilt this light green throw quilt:
I will never finish this landscape quilt. Despite this good looking photo, it's actually full of issues and mistakes. Fixing them all would actually take more time than just chucking it and starting over from scratch:
Isn't it high time I gave myself permission to ONLY work on what I WANT to work on?
It doesn't mean I'm a failure for admitting that I have no desire to finish these quilts. Who I am as a person has nothing to do with these quilt tops! They are just fabric and thread and do not love me and will not care whether it's my hand or someone else's that finishes them.
Yes, I did bite off more than I can chew, but that doesn't mean I can't spit it out and try again.
A large part of this whole process has been looking back at my habit of running headlong into projects with no planning or oversight. As soon as a new project popped into my brain, BANG! I was off to wash and cut fabric, BOOM! I was ready to piece it all together, and FIZZLE.... that's the eventual sound of my energy collapsing when it all got to be too much.
I've been doing this for years without really realizing it. I finally made the connection last spring and since then I've carefully stuck to a very simple rule - I have to wait to start a new project for at least 1 week.
1 week of planning. 1 week of oversight. 1 week to cool down from the surge of adrenaline and joy at doing something new. 1 week to THINK and not just REACT.
After making this rule in May my number of new projects has nearly stopped. Knowing I had a book to write and DVD to produce and keeping a more realistic idea of my time and energy level in mind, I've been able to see that now is just not the time to fall head over heels for a new quilt.
It's also allowing me to more time and planning for the projects I want to start this fall or winter. More time planning means less time working out the kinks when things go wrong. More time planning also means the quilt has more potential to be shared on this blog.
Gone are the days when I just walk into the studio and pull fabrics down and start slicing. This worked at one time, but now my focus is on sharing everything I do in the studio online.
This makes it easier to say Good-bye to many of these old quilt tops. No thread color will contrast brightly enough with these light colors and busy fabrics. If I can't film it, I'm not keeping it!
Everything I can't or don't want to finish is going in the bags. And the bags are going to my quilt guild tonight. I'm hoping the quilt tops can be quilted and donated to charity, the UFOs can be completed by someone who wants a fun project, and the rest will be picked up by whoever is willing to give this stuff a good home.
Yes, it might be easier to just leave these UFOs on the shelves. It might be easier to let another 5 years go by and pretend I'll get around to them sometime. This emotional deadlock had certainly kept them on the shelves this long, why not a little longer?
But I know it will feel a million times better to have this studio cleaned out and for once, only filled with those items that are actually going to be finished.
I'm just glad that by the end of this post, after writing all of this out, I no longer feel like a failure for admitting I can't do it all. That it's okay to let go of these projects I no longer want.
Because in the end, shouldn't we be spending our time quilting the quilts we WANT to quilt?
Here's to cleaning out the UFOs, finding more space within and without, and lightening the load. Now if I can just apply the 1 week wait rule to buying more fabric...
Let's go quilt,