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

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

2018 Let's Do This!

Sewing and Camping

That annual moment where we look forward to all that we want to do. I'm realizing that, professionally, I can be like the January gym rat. Full of ideas and ambition, then life and laziness and chocolate take over. 

Last year I had similar thoughts, but it took me a while to put my finger on it exactly. I never set annual goals for 2017. Instead, I sat down on the first of each month and did an aspirational task list. Finish this particular quilt, query a manuscript so many times, catch up on Financials, that sort of thing. To do lists are awesome! Doing this allowed me to keep our family life in greater perspective.

I'll be honest, I don't put much credence into the term work/life balance. I don't like the implication that it is a seesaw. That balance somehow means stasis or that one is higher than the other when not in balance. So setting this monthly aspirational task lists allows me to look at what we have going on as a family (swim meets, dance performances, visiting family) in relation to teaching gigs and deadlines. Then I can see what I can realistically fit in above and beyond them. 

Tiny flowers

This whole thing has been great for gaining perspective and managing expectations. I did not end the year upset that I didn't launch a new video course, for example, because I knew that there was no way I could have made the time to make it happen. No matter how much I wanted to. Oh, how I want to. I could have had my son skip ballet to do it. Or not get involved in the family business as needed to make it happen. But those other things were bigger priorities. Seeing my monthly lists in my planner, along with the family schedule keeps it all in perspective.

Another confession. I am feeling a lot of disdain for the quilt industry of late. Not for quilters or fabric or quilts or the sheer fun of making. But for the behind the scenes industry numbers game and operations, of the constant hustle. Those who play this game know what I am talking about. The regular consumer may even understand it too if you pay attention to launches of books, fabric, and patterns. If you don't need to know, then I recommend keeping it that way. But playing the game is exhausting, Sisyphean on a good day. 

Busy Bee (On Flowers) Sheep River

When you combine my busy real life with this disdain, it only adds to the need for perspective. I won't lie, just a few years ago this probably would have made me angry, real angry. Ambition is strong here. The clarity of the last year is so liberating though. I am okay with things, really. Last year was probably my quietest year professionally. I loved every second of teaching, I pitched articles and met all my deadlines, and that was about it. No major projects, no secrets ready to come out. And no early, early mornings to get it all in. No stress related tantrums. No TV as babysitter so I can get it done. (No gym much either, but we can't win at everything.)

All of this to say, that these monthly ambitious task lists are da bomb! Put 6-10 things on the list. Include things you know you have to do - planned classes, deadlines, entries needed. And include things you want to do. Refer to it often. Very often. 

For example, here is my January 2018 List:

  • Film and post a Shark Quilt Video
  • Finish a baby quilt that has been basted for over a year
  • Re-jig two quilt tops from the Quilts Under Construction pile
  • Finish 2017 Accounting
  • Write notes/outline for a new story I thought of over Christmas
  • Finish Chapter 3 of my novel
  • Send out 5 new Picture Book Queries

Ambitious yes, but totally doable with the time I have in between dance rehearsals, the gym, a synchro competition, a hockey tournament, time spent at 3 pools for the kids, making dinner and snacks, making love, and watching the new season of Workin' Moms. Early mornings, some late nights, stolen moments, and focused action. Let's do this!

Quilts At the Creek

The Truth Behind Morning Make

morning make Lilla Quilt Improv Quilting

My alarm went off this morning precisely 7 hours and 1 minute after I got in to bed. I did not jump out of bed. I lingered, staring into the mostly dark, listening to my husband breathe. For at least two minutes I debated rolling over and going back to sleep. For another two minutes I wondered if I should go to the gym instead of sewing. And for two minutes more I stretched out my arm with the tennis elbow. Then I got out of bed.

In my PJs I shuffled to the sewing room. My dog is sick so I hugged the wall in case he'd pooped in the basement again overnight. (He didn't, but if he did I needed some sewing before I dealt with that.) I clicked on the machine and turned on both the design wall lights and the overhead lights. Normally I don't make it so bright because, damn, it's first thing in the morning, but I am machine quilting so it helps. I settled on my pillows and set to finishing the stitches on this particular quilt. 

I've been thinking about my Morning Make practice lately and how much it is saving lives. Mine and those of the people around me. Okay, so that's melodramatic. Morning Make is definitely changing lives though. I first wrote about it in May of last year. I'm amazed at what it has done for me since then.

Life came at us hard once September hit. Like any other family it is the daily barrage of school lunches, playdates, sports, homework, drama, driving here and there, work, and moments of glory, beauty, and snuggles. It's exhausting and most days I feel like the only time I sit down is in the car and then the kids are all talking and nothing is silent or calming about traffic. Add to that family drama,  a bountiful harvest, and financial stress and life is like the peach tree done for the year - all the promise and the lingering sweetness, but ready for a good long rest. 

Despite all that, or maybe to spite it, I am committed to my Morning Make. Some days it is 10 minutes of random piecing of scraps, others it is machine quilting. Some times I take an hour to write. If the kids get up early I sketch and colour with them. The phone, as always, stays on the nightstand. The computer does not get opened. I use my hands, my feet, my heart, my brain to do, to be. I create before I consume.

Morning Make Values Quilts Cheryl Arkison

The reason Morning Make is saving lives is two fold. One, most days that is the only time I get to actually be consciously creative. The whole day is a juggle and even making your bed or dinner can be considered creative acts. Yes, even those. You have choices to make and hopefully the end result is somewhere between passable and beautiful. That counts as creativity. If I've started the day with a creative act, a dedicated moment where I did the thing that gives me so much joy and peace, then I've set up my mood for the whole day. And when Mama is calmer we all have a better day. Not to mention I won't be cranky or frustrated quite so much when I elect to watch the Daily Show when my day is finally done instead of heading in to the sewing room.

Two, Morning Make has turned in to a daily practice. From what I understand what I do is very similar in practice and impacts as a meditation practice. It is about being present, with no outside influences. I focus on the task in front of me and that is all. Just rather than that focus being on breathing, a mantra, or a particular thought, it is on the creative act I am doing right then. It is focused concentration. The more you do that, the more the benefits extend to the rest of your life. That's why meditation is so strongly recommended for anxiety and even problem behavours in children.

Beyond these two amazing benefits, Morning Make has made me far more productive. In terms of sewing I am getting things done. A little each day goes a long way! That ability to be more present in what I am doing also means I waste less time when I am doing things. I can stay off social media, avoid click bait, and process the news in smaller chunks. So the little time I have for all the things means it is getting used well.

In no particular order, these are quilts or quilt tops I've finished via Morning Make:

Improvisational Picing Small Piecing Cheryl Arkison

The icing on the cake is quite literally, the creative energy. Not just the making of things, but the fuelling up I get from this daily practice. This is my time to play, explore, improvise. Zero expectation for what I do, only some time to try. Creativity begets creativity. I get a million more ideas, I see things differently, I want to try more, do more. 

So today I finished quilting that quilt. Then I went about my day of momming, part time work, cake baking, driving, and all the rest. And not once did I have a temper tantrum or even say something snarky. I totally give credit to Morning Make for that!

Tonight I will put out some fabric. I will set my alarm for 7 hours and 1 minute after I get into bed. When I wake up in the morning I will breathe and stretch and make. 

For practical tips and more about Morning Make check out this piece on the Craft Industry Alliance blog

Everyday Skirt in Juxtaposey by Betz White

Every day skirt by Liesl and Co.

Don't mind me, I'm just over here pretending it is spring.  Despite the recent snow on the ground I am feeling decidedly spring-like in my new skirt. Betz White's new fabric for Riley Blake, Juxtaposey, is the perfect fit for this time of year. The Everyday skirt by Liesl and Co is also a perfect fit for me. As soon as I saw the fabric and Betz asked if I wanted to play with it I knew these two beauties would be perfect for each other.

It is wonderful to see Betz White designing fabric again. She has a really strong, interesting sense of colour. Between her ornament patterns, eco-throws, and bags she also has a great eye for what looks good. 

Juxtaposey calls on textile design from around the world. Betz brings together motifs from different traditions, highlights her love of wool in the collection itself and with the llama featured throughout. It is one of those fabric lines with something for everyone. This floral immediately called out to me. 

Juxtaposey by Betz White for  Riley Blake

I will admit, I was hesitant about using quilting cotton with this Everyday Skirt pattern. I've only ever made it with rayon. As my butt is already big, would the gathers of the waist make it worse? Turns out, nope. That's because my butt is already big. The not a full skirt, not an a-line of this pattern just seems to work for me.

If it would ever stop snowing I will happily put this skirt into heavy rotation in my spring and summer wardrobe. My daughter asked for one as well. I'm all for cute, but that's a bit much! No, Juxtaposey is all mine. Well, at least in this house. You can get it yourself in stores now.

Every Day in Juxtaposey Fabric

Disclosure: Riley Blake provided me with the fabric to make this skirt. I purchased the Every Day Skirt pattern myself from The Workroom.