"me"

54 -10 = 44

Happy Birthday Cheryl Arkison

Today is my birthday. 44 trips around the sun.

Because I have a love of alliteration I have a special affinity for this particular year. I suppose that means I like all years that are multiples of 11. Perhaps there is a meaning to that in numerology?

Regardless of both my birthday and whatever that numerology may mean, I’ve been thinking about my Quilts Under Construction list this week. So far in 2019 I’ve finished two quilts, a handful of quilt tops, and just have the binding to do on another. Miraculously, I’ve only actually started one quilt and it is already a finished top. Every day I sew, it’s just that it takes awhile to see progress the way I do it - 30 minutes a day, if I’m lucky and small piecing of late.

Quilts Under Construction

Morning tea in hand, I double checked my master list of Quilts Under Construction. It stands at 54, as of today. Even with those finishes I mentioned above. It isn’t that the number upsets me, it’s that I actually do want to finish some quilts. I want the excitement that comes with burying the last threads from quilting or the peace of hand stitching the binding. I want to live with these quilts, not just the creative outlet.

So, as of today - my birthday - I am stating the goal that I want to make this list down to 44 by next year. It seems doable. There are a lot of projects on there that I am still so excited to work on! A few small ones to round out some epic projects, some ones that have been around forever and deserve their day in the sun. And, my Bernina just came back from a trip to the spa so some quilting is in order.

But first, cake. Then assembling those blocks behind me into a quilt top. And washing the floors so I can baste a quilt or two. I did want to research lights for filming video this week. Oh wait, I have to take my son to ballet today too.

10 finished quilts this year. Hold me to it, alright?

The Places I've Been - Improv Letters in Action

Improv Letters and Words Quilting

The quintessential graduation gift is Dr. Suess’ Oh, the Places You Will Go! For whether you are graduating from kindergarten or medical school. It’s a fun one, full of optimism and encouragement. And while I don’t want to disparage any of that, I do think it is also important to look backwards some times. Not to hold grudges, obsess over past mistakes, or fester (although I do a fair bit of that myself). No, looking back sometimes is important for celebrating progress and success. It is a good reminder that our hard work did get us somewhere.

In the wake of some high profile retirements from the quilting industry, plus a few more you might not have noticed, I’ve been doing just that. Well, actually, I started this particular process years ago, but the past month really got me being reflective.

Quilting was a lifechanger and is a lifesaver for me, no question. I would not be the person I am, the mother I am, the woman I am, without quilting. It teaches me to embrace my own creativity. It provides a mindfulness that no amount of meditation would ever give me. It is an outlet for anxious hands. And, at the end of the day, is a career that provides financial freedom and personal challenge.

A few years back I started teaching a class on making letters and words, improv style. For my class samples I started working on the names of places I was at or had been. As a teacher I like having samples that can be something else some day, that can be built upon with each class I teach. It simply provides a focus. Picking the community names was a fun thing I tried. And it kind of stuck.

Cheryl Arkison Quilt Teacher

In all fairness, I haven’t got that far. I will admit to overwhelm when I think of having to add Charlottetown, Kangaroo Valley, and Prince Rupert to the list. That’s a lot of letters! But when I sit down to make a word, in the end, it doesn’t take that long. It becomes a wonderful trip down memory lane. I often pull out the photos from the trip and pick colours based on the scenery or something memorable from the class.

My plan is to make a quilt with all the places I’ve been. I can’t predict where I will go in this industry - it is constantly changing, as are my personal challenges - but I sure can appreciate where I’ve been. Since becoming a professional, as a writer and teacher mostly, quilting brought me to some pretty amazing places to meet some even more amazing people. How lucky am I?? I’ve worked hard and will continue to do so (this is not a retirement announcement). As I have no travel gigs booked for this year I might get this done to this point. Then we will see all the other places I will go!

A Year of Quilt Play

Scrap Quilts Under Construction

There I was, going through the mess on the cutting table, minding my own creative mess. Company was coming and tidying was in order. My blue clipboard emerged. This is my all purpose clipboard - it holds the Quilts Under Construction list, it travels with me to gigs for newsletter sign ups, it holds notes and sketches made during classes. It also holds the list of finished quilts each year. For whatever reason that particular list was on top.

4 quilts. And one was a mini. That was the last quilt I finished, back in July.

My first reaction was a bit of sadness and shock. That lasted for about 30 seconds though. I moved on to a bit of anger. How could I only finish 4 in the year?! Just 4! I know why and that is what brings the anger. Chronic back pain since April has meant that basting quilts is out of the question and sitting for long periods of time is also out. I’d always hoped that I could use a rented long arm and get some done but I don’t have the time to do that with our family schedule. All those things combined into anger, full confessions. Let’s be clear, though, not about the unfinished quilts, the anger it about those situations. But that is life and being angry won’t do me any good.

So perspective kicks in. I’ve been sewing nearly every single day this year. Some days only for 10 minutes, some days I get a whole hour. Sewing is what saved me from rage and frustration this year. Sewing kept me sane when pain and stress and constantly moving kept fighting for dominance.

Heather Ross Fabric

I worked on… let me count them… 22 different quilts this year. I feel like it might be more than that, there might the odd day where I played on one random quilt under construction or another.

Some started from scratch, some were old playtime pieces. These became quilt tops:

Improv Curves

Others were just consistent work that will eventually, probably, result in a quilt. Or something I decided to try, just playing.

I played with scraps, sorting and sewing. I taught classes and those samples became something. I tried ideas I had.

Mostly, I created for the sake of it. Sure a quilt at the end is nice, but mostly I sewed for the sake of sewing and what it does for me. Keeps me sane in a crazy, angry, busy, intimidating, and stressful world. Process matter so much more than anything else.

Maybe I will finish more quilts in 2019, maybe not? Either way, I will be sewing.

Quilt Sketch Uppercase Fabric

Focus

Focus means eliminating distractions, not just from other people, but the things we do to distract ourselves
— Catherine Pulsifer
patterns.jpg

My life moves in short shifts. If I was a lawyer I would book my time in 15 minute increments. It is no secret that I, like any other working mother, am being pulled in multiple directions. Kids and their activities, kids and their emotions, family business, voluntold commitments, my own writing, a teaching career, Morning Make, dog walks, attempts at a clean house, all the food, and that being a good wife thing. Not to mention extended family, some snippet of self care, and simply trying to read a book.

Maybe writing it all out wasn’t a good idea. I might make more changes.

For now, I want to let you all know that I am stepping back from selling patterns. No PDFs, no printed copies. Not until January 1, 2019 though!

I’ve come to this decision for three reasons, and they are outside of the business reality of it all.

  1. Exactly what I wrote about above. I am like Elastigirl in The Incredibles and at point, something is going to snap. Taking one thing off the list is vital to survival.

  2. Patterns require a certain hustle. I just don’t have it in me to do that particular hustle anymore.

  3. Teaching is a real passion of mine. That means teaching technique, skill, and embracing the process of improv. Written patterns rather contradict that.

To be clear, I am not leaving the industry. For all its warts and aging joints, I rather like working in the quilt industry. This is simply about focus. I have plans, big plans, and now I can truly focus on them.

Pattern Sale - now until January 1, 2019