It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Friday, September 28, 2012

How to finish a project

This morning, as I do on many mornings, I glanced into my still dark sewing room as I headed down the hall to leave for work.  In the darkness I could see the ironing board and sewing machines, plus all the clutter.  It seemed to call me to "come, come spend the day in here".  I imagined doing a few chores and then heading in there for a day, and maybe an evening too, of sewing.  One can always dream, right?
I have many projects stacked up, all in various states of progress.  I've realized that the key to accomplishment is in focusing on one project at a time.  And, not starting anything else until I finish at least a few of the WIPs (works in progress).  How did I come to this realization?
Last year at the Quilt Festival I took a class from Libby Lehman.  She is a wonderful teacher, as well as an internationally known quilter.  In the class she told us that she works on one project at a time so the creative voices can speak to her.  Her website,, states this in more detail: 
I work on one quilt at a time, from start to finish (“finish” means the slides are taken and in the notebook). This discipline helps me to focus in on each quilt as a distinct entity. It also cuts down on the clutter, both literally and figuratively. Part of my creative process involves an ongoing dialogue with my quilts; too many voices trying to talk at once would be distracting. It usually takes from a few days to a month to complete a quilt.

This is the project we did with Libby; this was the example she made to show us.  Her stitching and interpretation of the iris was stunning!  I got about half way through with mine so it is in the WIP stack!

Excellent advice.  Another influence in my realization came from a comment that a co-worker made to me 35 years ago.  I was young, working in my first job.  My supervisor was older, she already had school age children.  We both liked to do crewel embroidery and I was complaining that I had a project that I just could not seem to get going on.  I really wanted to make the pictures but I was having a hard time spending much time on them and seemed to loose interest after I stitched for a while.  She gave me advice I've never forgotten:  "Just try working on the project 30 minutes a day.  You'll be surprised after a week or two with how much you've accomplished."  I tried this and it was true!  I soon had made enough progress that I felt satisfied with the project and motivated to finish it.
I also read a statement on a quilter's blog that she tries to sew at least 10 minutes a day.  Ten minutes is a little short for me.  For one thing, I have to dust off the cat hair from the machine and work space and de-clutter the work surface and that takes up the ten minutes!  But the thought is still there:
  Focus on one project, start to finish
Work a few minutes a day on the project
Let the inner, creative voices speak to you while you work
Enjoy your work time and be thankful

1 comment:

  1. Something I read recently has made a major difference for me: "if it takes less than 60 seconds, do it now." While we could move that to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, ad infinitum, what it said to me was about not putting off the small things, or at least, not putting off the things that seem doable.