The Free Motion Quilting Project: Stop Hoarding, Start Creating!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Stop Hoarding, Start Creating!

hoarding craft supplies
Are you really a creative person, or just a hoarder of cool creative stuff?

This is an issue I run into a lot. I have a lot of creative interests and in recent years I've been able to invest in those interests and expand quite large stashes of beads, yarn, fiber, paint, and fabric. But does owning all this STUFF actually make me a creative person?

Nope. It just means I have a very full feeling house.

See what I mean in this Light Up Your Life video:

crafty supply hoarding | art yarn
How to Actually Be Creative

To me being creative comes as natural as feeling hungry for lunch around noon and feeling tired and ready for bed around 9 pm. It's like a little nudge of desire in the back of my head that makes me want to spin, knit, crochet, bead, or quilt.

Sometimes it's the feeling of the craft that I find myself craving - like the feeling of soft wool sliding through my fingers as I spin, or the meditative pace of hand stitching hexagons. Sometimes a project will pop into my head fully formed. I MUST go make that blue jacket right NOW!

I believe that natural impulse to make beautiful things or to revel in the crafty process comes to everyone. I believe ALL people have creative urges, but unfortunately most have learned to ignore those urges and squash them before they even become real desires. Remember, you are allowed to WANT.

crafty supply hoarding | yarn hoarding
Excuses Kill Creativity

But I often find myself killing my creative impulses too. I'm too busy, or too tired, or the house is already a mess, and why in the world do I want to pull out my drum carder now?!

I make a lot of excuses and then (because the impulse never really goes away) - I go shopping.

Touring the aisles of Michaels or Mary Jo's Cloth Store certainly makes me feel very happy. So many beautiful things to play with - paint, yarn, beads, and more fabric than I could ever use in my lifetime...

And so a vicious cycle beings with creative impulses being ignored in favor of a quick trip to the shop and new materials being brought home. Soon the STUFF is so overwhelming it needs it's own special shelving and storage bins and MORE time is spent organizing all this cool, creative stuff than has ever been spent actually USING it.

I find it interesting that I'm not the only one having noticed this trend recently. Bonnie Hunter recently shared in her post Stash Attack! and I loved her comparison to cooking food:

"I want to be able to call myself a quilter because I MAKE QUILTS.  Not because I shop.

That’s like saying “I’m a cook!”  And all I do is buy groceries that fill the fridge and no one eats them, and when things go bad, we toss them out." 

Making Mistakes and Learning

Personally the main thing that stops me from using my supplies is the fear of wasting my awesome gear. What if I make a big mistake? What if the project is a total catastrophe? What if that jacket doesn't fit? What if I totally botch that painting?

All these little questions are little threads of fear that eventually tie you up in a web of insecurity. I'm scared of wasting my paint and canvas because I'm not that skilled at painting and I will likely mess it up.

crafty supply hoarding | creative painting Leah Day
But what will help me gain the skill for painting? ACTUALLY PAINTING!

Mistakes are simply part of the creative process. They are necessary, intrinsic and essential. I will learn nothing by keeping the paint safe in the tubes. I have to be willing to use what I have, accept my skill where it is, and DO THE WORK.
So what about you? Do you tend to hoard your craft supplies and fabric or do you only buy exactly what you need for exactly one project? Do you follow your creative impulses or try to squash the impulse with other activities?
This week I challenge you to follow one impulse, no matter how big or how small. Just follow it, try the idea, play with the materials, and see where it leads!

Now let's get moving, let's try something new,

Leah Day


  1. Quite right Leah! If we have the stuff we should just get on and use it, no point worrying about finding the 'perfect' project for it, we've spent money on it, so use it! And yes, we only improve our skills by practising our skills; even doing a little bit each day, no matter how tired we are, can often be a soul-soother!

  2. I also have a ridiculous number of Sterilite containers from Walmart. Why do they keep changing the colors of the handles? I'd love a wall of all the same color.

    1. Haha I have thought the same thing.

  3. Hi, I love your videos, they really light up my thinking :)
    I often find myself doinig those things, you write on
    and this morning I was laughing loudly about my hoarding.
    What I do instead of being creative is shopping and reading creative post :))
    So, let's start sewing :*

  4. Ah yes, hoarding supplies is a biggie. And it seems like a constant battle to "tame" the sewing room given all the items. Like you, I'm interested in so many things and each one has its own set of supplies. The result can be chaos (and buying the same item twice- blush). But I do use most of them and get quite a bit done.

  5. Dear Leah,

    You have just conversed with my soul with this post!! ☺☺

    This week, I'll rise to your challenge and start to "use up" some of those accumulated supplies, despite my fear of making mistakes and potentially 'ruining' something. After all, great ideas are just ideas if you don't act on them.

    Kind regards, and happy creating,

  6. I have to admit to being a supply hoarder...and for many years I did do a lot of different things. Lately, however, I have come to the conclusion that it is unlikely that I will "do and make it all". Divesting art supplies has been more difficult for me than than any other category. I have gotten rid of 2/3 of my clothes, 20 odd boxes of books and upwards of twenty bags of fabric (and I still have an awful lot!) but when I get to my mixed media and art supplies I freeze. Yesterday though I started the process but giving away many paints, books and other art supplies at an our Guild's "auffle" raffle. I am hoping that this will be the beginning of loosening my hold on art supplies that need to go,to someone who will use and appreciate them!

  7. Awesome post and video, even though I'm totally innocent of the things you talked about. (Yeah, right! LOL)

  8. such a fab post and video - love that you mentioned the time needed to organise all the stuff - so true and such a waste of what could be creative time !!

  9. Leah, you are correct. I just rearranged a few shelves in my sewing room and moved random craft things I bought for one reason or another. I don't know why I'm keeping them. I should get rid of them. If I haven't touched them in a while I doubt I will any time soon. I would rather sew.
    Last week my oldest wanted to know how he could get better at something. I told him by doing it more often and messing up. I guess even kids need permission to practice and make mistakes.
    I like your hand painting. Practice painting and then you can sell what you do not want to display. I need a new piece of artwork for over my fireplace. :-)

  10. I just finished reading Bonnie's post, yours and Jane Dunnewold's article in the April/May 2015 issue of Quilting Arts magazine. Ms. Dunnewold's advice dovetails with the things you and Bonnie both have said: "use what you have" and "Stay in the studio" working on whatever inspires you and don't "avoid work by defaulting to shopping mode". Very good advice indeed!!

  11. Oh my gosh! Who has been spying on me? You described me to a t. I thought it was my own little secret "sickness". Thank you. NOW is the time to STOP DREAMING and START DOING. Thanks again.

  12. Thanks for this, you have clarified what I've been feeling lately. You also made me realize that I am using the internet to fill the same need. Looking at lots of pictures from everyone else and reading about what everyone else is doing doesn't help me get anything real done. But don't worry, I'll still read your posts.

  13. In the last week, I keep tripping over this topic! I also read Bonnie's post, and the day before had started The Little Spark by Carrie Bloomston and not hoarding supplies was one of her main lead points. It is definitely a thought that resonated with me. I hate cutting my favorite fabrics unless I have a definite plan. And the fabric just keeps PILING up!

    I had to laugh at your 'go shopping instead' comment. I am so guilty of that! Thanks for your post.

  14. Oh dear- guilty as charged!! I hate having to organize all my "stuff" and trying to find what I want when I feel like making something; I know that means that I have too much "stuff". But I've finally stopped buying more organizers to hold yet more stuff- no more organizers!!!! But I, too, tend to go shopping (online shopping is like an addiction!) instead of making things with the stuff I have. Ok, I need to break my bad habits (guess I can no longer support the national economy single-handedly!), use what I have and JUST DO IT!!! Thanks for the great post.

  15. Oh my gosh! You hit the nail on the head so to speak. I have everything to quilt ,crochet or knit, or needlework. So afraid of making mistakes, wasting. When I first learned begining quilting, the teacher was nice but wanted such perfection it made me reluctant to sew. I am trying again because of you.

  16. I've lived long enough to go through many crafts such as macramé, mosaics, sewing, crocheting, knitting and I dabbled in spinning and weaving enough to consider raising goats and angora rabbits (glad I didn't follow through.) After I finished learning each craft, I either gave away or sold my supplies. It was hard but necessary. I've found my "forever" craft in quilting and enjoy making and giving quilts to others. I started a quest to use scraps on all my quilts (even yardage for backing) but have barely put a dent in my stash. I really believe scraps procreate at the bottom of my containers while I'm pulling scraps from the top. ;-) BTW, I believe Gesso is pronounced Jesso. Happy crafting!

  17. Thanks, Leah. I've been toying with the idea of sewing some tops and shorts for myself and even bought two patterns yesterday. Now you've taken away any excuses I could come up with so it looks as tho I will be sewing this weekend. Will get the notions together in the meantime.

  18. Ok, like everyone else I am guilty of this. We will be moving in about 3 weeks, and I was astounded at how much stuff I have accumulated. Thanks for the weke up call! I am committing to satart using my stuff. Once I unpack if all.

  19. This post as well as the post that Bonnie Hunter did really speaks to me. I have only been quilting (or what might be called shopping) for 6 years, but I have managed to accumulate quite a STASH.......I always find myself hesitating to use particular fabrics, because I might need them for that PERFECT project!! This week I have started on Bonnie's Wild and Goosey blocks and I am using some scraps, but I am also making myself cut into some of that yardage when I feel it is just the color I need!! I really want to be a quilter not a Hoarder!

  20. Hi Leah!
    I discovered free-motion quilting thanks to you. YouTube I think.
    As I was jobless and didn't have much cash I sourced my fabric from my local British Red Cross charity shop. No problem. Then I decided to volunteer there, and now I have first pick of all sorts of gorgeous stuff. I keep telling myself that I won't get any more, but what can you do when the perfect colour, texture or pattern turns up and gives you yet another great idea? or even a 'boring' piece that's big enough for a quilt back? And some blankets are good for batting.
    Scraps have to be totally unusable for me to get rid of them, (I'm resisting the urge to try turning them into teeny tiny pieces for 'confetti' quilts) and I take them back to the shop where they raise more money through recycling (hint to other quilters)
    I should get rid of any I don't absolutely adore, but you never know do you?
    The floor area of my small house is shrinking rapidly and soon I will have no choice but to sew like mad just to be able to get out of the house. :)
    Love it!

  21. You just hit the "nail on the head"! This is me Bang On! I always say to myself.... but..... but I need to do this first and that needs to be done before.... I need to just drop everything and say NOW! I have mixed media supplies, scrapbooking, knitting, encaustic, crochet, and most of all quilting..... I'm in a mess trying to organize everything all the time. Well, this goes here and that goes there.... I can hardly move in my "Room". So today I start, but first I'll put a load of wash in... lol ( )

  22. Having too much stuff just makes getting anything done harder. Takes so long to find anything, if I can find the time I do, am too tired to do any sewing. But now I have so much, don't know how to get rid of it, or go about in an organized way, to start using it uo😞

  23. I've been particularly bad this year by buying stamps, stencils, fabric paints, etc. I really need to use these supplies now so that I can have a reason and purpose for having bought them. I really didn't buy them to adorn the shelves. I don't even know what shelves they belong to.

  24. Well done, I need to or rather will start creating with my stash.

  25. Yikes! Maybe we should all meet and finish a project or two together (and then go shopping)! Thank you for the inspiration!


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