It Took Over My Entire Life

In my last post, I revealed plans to move to primarily an online presence around mid-year, after the spring shows are done, and I talked about cutting back the product line I keep on hand. Neither of those were easy decisions to make. I have come to really enjoy getting out and meeting people at the shows, talking to them about my soaps, and being able to offer a wide product line. However, as my hope to make this a viable business started to wane, I began to resent certain aspects of running it. Between resentment and disappointment, the joy began to seep out of the entire process, and that’s where the depression started.

I am no stranger to depression; I’ve dealt with it off and on for a good portion of my life. And really, I think everyone deals with depression at some point in their lives, some of us becoming clinically depressed, and some of us dealing with just plain old depression. But regardless of how it’s classified, I almost always realize that I’m depressed when I lose interest in doing things. The one that usually gets my attention is when I have the desire to sew or quilt, but not the ability. I realized last week that I had a problem when I thought about making a quilt but then decided it was too much work to clean up the studio. It’s not really that bad to begin with; there are some things on the cutting table that I need to put away but it’s not like I’m walking hip deep in crap or anything. I thought at first that maybe I was tired, but it happened again. And again. And then yesterday, before I made the decisions about the business, I thought that sewing would be a great way to take my mind off of my troubles, but I realized that the business has sort of sucked the joy out of sewing, too. As I sat here thinking about it, I realized that what I really need to do is create boundaries with my business. Even a smaller scale operation will get out of hand if I let it – and I think that’s where my primary issue is in the first place. I try to do more than I can, and that stresses me out, which then begins to wear on me, and after a while I find myself where I am now – depressed and irritated and wishing I’d never started a business in the first place.

Chris and I were talking about this yesterday, and we agreed that it’s out of hand. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, my work space when I started this business was my office. My desk was in there, and I cut and stored the soap there, too. When I started with the embroidery business, I needed a place to store the blank products, so I installed three large plastic shelves (think garage storage) in our bedroom. Somewhere around September, I realized that there wasn’t really enough space in the office for everything, so I started to store some of my soap in the hallway between my studio and the garage, which leads to my studio. By the end of the year, I’d moved my “office” space to the studio, and started to turn the former office in to a storage room. But that wasn’t enough space, either, so now a good chunk of stuff is in my studio, and under the bar in our dining area, not to mention the wagon I have that holds my big pails of oil. Every time I turn around, I’m out of space, and the business has taken over half of the downstairs area, and moving up the stairs in to our bedroom. There is not a place anywhere in this house that I can get away from it, because everywhere I go, every place I look, there’s some bit of my business.

And because I require the use of a stove and sink (and sometimes the oven), my kitchen is always in use, either by my business, or to prepare meals. I don’t do both at the same time – one is done before the other begins – but it creates a LOT of dishes to be done, and sometimes I feel like I am NEVER done with cleaning the kitchen. There have been days when I have done dishes six times and still couldn’t keep up completely.

I want – I NEED – to claw back space that shouldn’t be used for business, and to create areas of my home where it’s just not acceptable to store business related items. I was so gung ho for a while there, I lost sight of the need to maintain a work-free zone for myself and my family. It’s going to take time to get to the point where I’ve “de-businessed” areas, because I’m not going to just throw that stuff away or donate it. But my current goal is to not add to the mess by buying more things I need to store. I will be doing some embroidery work on some t-shirts in the hopes that I can sell some of them at upcoming shows, in my Etsy shop and on my website, so keep your eyes open for them.

 

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The Apron

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I met Jerri at a show in the fall. She was working for a vendor at one of the high school FFA shows I did, and she was interested in getting some embroidery done for Christmas gifts. So, I did an apron and chef’s hat for her middle granddaughter, and bags for all three of her granddaughters. I also did some bags for her daughter and daughters in law, and when I delivered them a week or two before Christmas, she asked if I could do an apron for one of her daughters in law. I said I would be delighted.

It hasn’t exactly been a delight …

I used See & Sew pattern B5125, and the pattern states, “YES! It’s EASY” so like a sucker, I fell for that. And honestly, it SHOULD be easy, but the directions were sort of stupid. The part about attaching the flounce was fine, but the binding around the neck and arms? Stupid. The directions made it appear as though a raw edge would be the product of constructing this area, which was ludicrous, and it wasn’t reflected in the photograph on the pattern envelope. Being a quilter, I decided to do it more or less the same way I bind a quilt, though I had already cut the pattern pieces out and felt obliged to use them. I could explain how I managed this, but suffice it to say, it sucked. Next time I decide to make a pattern like this, I will instead cut and make wide bias tape and use it to bind the appropriate area.

I had originally hoped to have the apron done in three days, but that didn’t happen because of the problems I had with the binding. I spent a lot of time, and tried a lot of options, before I landed on one that I thought would be the best way to finish this particular piece, and I’m fairly happy with the way it turned out, though next time I’ll be better prepared and have a solid game plan. I ran in to further problems with the pocket, which was not part of the original apron View A. I took the pocket from View B, and cut out two of them. On one, I monogrammed it as the customer requested, and then I sewed the two together to make the pocket appear to be lined. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the apron, even though it took far longer than I expected, due to design issues, the holidays and my daughter landing in the hospital for several days. At any rate, the apron is on its way to it’s new owner, and I am on to the next project … more on that on Wednesday.

This Studio!

Most of the time, I love my studio. It is my happy place, my escape, my wonderful corner of the world. Well, it used to be all those things. These days, it’s more like a dumping grounds for anything business related. And I have to tell you that I’m more than a little sick of it. I lost my design wall to bookcases for storage of soap related items. We dump everything in there when we come back from shows because a) we cannot get into the garage right now; b) it’s right at the front door; and c) where the heck else are we going to put it?! At least some of this will be alleviated if we can ever get the garage door fixed (it broke in like, I don’t know … March?), but until then … Ā I’ve added a couple more bookcases to hold stuff for business, one of which is still in my studio, but hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And until I’m making enough from the business to move to a store front, this is my life.

But I’m doing my level best to get it cleaned up this week, because I have this overwhelming desire to SEW. I want to finish the Star Wars quilt, and I want to make myself some clothes, and it would be nice to get started on some holiday items. I feel like I’m drowning in work and school right now, and I NEED the release sewing provides, but right now, this is what I’m dealing with at my sewing cabinet …

I'm embarrassed to even share this, but here it is, in all its glory.

I’m embarrassed to even share this, but here it is, in all its glory.

That’s probably the worst of it, but I also have this cedar chest that my parents gave me when I graduated high school that’s sitting right in front of my cutting table, waiting to go upstairs. However, I can’t take it up there just yet because there’s an old tv stand where the chest is going to go. But I can’t clean that up because … oh, let’s not even get into how bad my master bedroom is right now. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing I’m not planning to move any time soon, because I assure you … it would not be happening this year!

Anyway, in between making soap, cleaning and trying to keep up with this insane tax course I’m taking at school, I’m making a list of things I want to make myself for the Fall. So far, this is what I have on the list …

B5300 McCall's 6084 B6070

Also, this new McCall’s pattern looks super easy and fast to make …

McCall's 7432

McCall’s 7432

I would maybe be interested in something from Simplicity, but how would I know, considering how horrible their new website is?! Someone should tell them to fix it (oh wait, I HAVE).

I’m also interested in some skirts – I hear the hemlines are going to be longer this Fall – and some pants. I haven’t worn dresses or skirts in many years, but lately I’ve been wearing some skorts I purchased and I LOVE them. I love how cool they are, and how comfortable they are. And since it rarely gets that cold here in the Houston area, I figure I can get decent wear out of a couple of dresses and skirts pretty much all year long.

So, that is my goal – clean up the studio so I can maybe try to recapture some of my sanity. It works like that, right? Right?? Oh, please tell me I’m right! šŸ˜‰

Trying to carve out time for me

When I worked outside the home, I thought I was busy. It seemed that I could never find enough time to do the things I wanted to do, and that I was always torn away from my favorite past times to do other things – work, mostly. I have come to realize, however, that I wasn’t nearly as busy as I thought I was, and I was, in fact, quite lazy. But to be honest, I’m still a little lazy, even though I’m busier now than I ever have been.

Or am I lazy at all?

I’ve always believed that if I wasn’t being productive, I was being lazy. Sat on the couch all day and watched tv? Lazy. Laid in bed and read a book for three hours? Lazy. Stared into space thinking about lint and aliens and dog fur? DEFINITELY being lazy.

I’ve realized over the last few weeks that it’s not laziness at all; I need that time to recharge my batteries, restart the creative juices, and push forward. OK, maybe it’s just laziness sometimes, but for the most part, I do those things when I have hit that brick wall we hear about so often, when my brain is over loaded and I just can’t deal with things anymore. I have also realized that I didn’t have these problems when my kids were young, because I actively sought out time for myself, and I don’t really do that anymore. You know, when the kids were young, I always thought I’d have more time when they were grown to do the things I want to do, and while that may be true, I’ve become worse at managing my time.

Over the last several months, in fact, I estimate that probably 80-90% of my waking hours are spent either making, thinking or planning something for my business. Another 5-10% of my time has been spent talking to Chris about his business, and the other 10-15% (depending on the day) is spent doing school work for my CPA program. I cannot recall the last time I sat down at the sewing machine just to sew for fun. Sure, I spent some time last month working on the Star Wars quilt, but that was when I was considering selling it at one of my shows. But the more I considered selling handmade fabric art items, the less I wanted to make them. So last week, I made a decision that my fabric art items will not be something I make for shows to sell. I may, from time to time, offer a piece that I’ve made but have no specific plans for, once it’s completed, but for the most part, I am choosing to keep my sewing & quilting activities out of the business. I make probably 10 batches of soap a week; I think that’s sufficient for the time I spend on making things for the business.

I have also decided that I need to set some business hours, because frankly, this “All work, all the time” thing isn’t making me too happy. My mom and Chris have been telling me for months I need to do this, and they’re right. Of course, now Chris has a fledgling business and he’s struggling with this as well. LOL At any rate, my new business hours are from 8 am until 5 pm – just like a regular office job. However, I will not be reachable before 9:30 am, so that I can spend some uninterrupted time on taking care of the books, advertising and other administrative duties. Whether or not I’m reachable until 5 pm will depend on the day, but if you need anything at all, please feel to contact me on Facebook or by email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Obviously, with the nature of the products I make, I’m not always able to stop and chat when someone pings me, but I always respond as soon as I can.

Jill

Butterick B5300 Step 1

Tape measure

I was in a small business seminar all day on Saturday, but all I could think about on the way home was getting a start on my muslin of Butterick B5300. After chatting with Chris for a while about our day, I got him to agree to help me take some measurements that I could use to compare to the pattern. After checking the pattern, I found that the only measurements included on the envelope are bust, waist, hips and bicep. So I pulled out the tape measure and grabbed a pen and paper, and we got started. I will be checking the back length on the muslin, because I am long-waisted and I was a bit irritated that the back length wasn’t included on the pattern envelope; this is often a place where I need to make adjustments, so I will be keeping an eye on it throughout the fitting process.

I started with my upper bust, because I have read that one can achieve better fit results if they use the upper bust measurement instead of the full bust measurement to choose a pattern like a blouse or dress. According to my upper bust measurement, I was in the 18-20 range. Next, we took my full bust measurement, more to determine what sort of full bust adjustment (FBA) I might need, then we took the waist, hips and right bicep. My hip and bicep measurements gave me the 22-24 size range, but the waist was more like a 28 range. My suspicion is that if I use the 28 through the waist, it might be a little bit too big, but I’m going to go ahead when I trace the pattern and use the 18-20 in the shoulders, then taper out to the largest size as I move down to my waist. I’ll leave it at the larger size for the hips as well. I have a feeling that the silhouette that will be created by this will make me look like I’m wearing a maternity blouse, and that it might be too large, but I’m going to try it and see. The reason why I have doubts is that I followed the pattern measurements for Butterick B6070 through the waist and it’s quite large.

What all of this really tells me is that I need to lose weight, but I already knew that.

What it also says is that pattern companies, much like ready to wear designers, don’t take into account trouble spots and try to help camouflage or otherwise attempt to draw attention away from them. To combatĀ the too-large stomach area, I’ll need to come up with something that will draw the eye upward toward the neckline.

I’d like to see a silhouette more like a loose-fitting t-shirt through the waistline, because I like my fit to be a little closer to the body than what most blouse patterns seem to be these days. So if I don’t like the way this looks, that might be my next modification – to bring the waist and hips closer to my body, but not so close it’s uncomfortable when I sit.

By Monday afternoon, I hope to have the pattern drawn off and ready to lay out on some muslin. We’ll see where it goes from there.

Lessons in patience and frustration

Last week, I wrote about all my plans for the free time I would have now that I’ve left Corporate America behind. I was so excited and looking forward to doing what I want, when I want to do it. I’d like to report back to you that I’ve been having a great time doing all the things I planned, and more, but alas, that is not the case. Instead, what I can report is that I’ve been sick all week. At times, I’ve been so sick that even the idea of walking up the stairs to my bedroom seemed like unnecessary torture. Not only that, but the few times I’ve felt well enough to drag myself in to the studio, my results have been frustrating and irritating, to say the least. In fact, nearly everything I’ve touched this week has resulted in similar feelings of ineptitude and irritation. The only thing that has truly worked in my favor is sitting on my butt, watching Netflix and playing on the iPad.

So that you don’t think I’m exaggerating, here, in no particular order, is a partial list of the things I have failed at miserably in the last seven days …

  • I decided that since I was sick, and didn’t really feel like doing much standing, I would work on improving my Electric Quilt 7 (EQ7) skills. EQ7 is a great program that quilters can use to plan out quilts, and I’ve long wanted to master it. I did some tutorial courses a few months ago, and I thought that maybe it was time to give it another go, so I pulled out my notebook and opened the program. But something is wrong, and I cannot open the Sketchbook. The Sketchbook is the “clipboard” that stores the blocks and fabrics you’ve planned to use on your quilt, and without it, nothing is going to happen. So now I’m waiting on technical support to tell me what I’m doing wrong (it must be my fault, right?).
  • I thought I would try scanning the patterns from the Amy Bradley Campers quilt into the Brother ScanNCut. I’ve had the SNC for probably a year, but I haven’t used it to its full potential, so I thought I’d try using it for this. At first, I couldn’t get the patterns to scan properly, but then I figured out it was the way I was trying to scan them. Got that figured out, and got a block’s worth of pieces scanned in, so I thought I’d test it out with some “throw away” fabric, and maybe use that to make a cute sewing machine cover for one of the machines. But I couldn’t get the Wonder Under to adhere to the fabric. I thought I finally got it to adhere, so I tried cutting a couple of the pieces on the SNC, but … wow. It was a mess. An utter mess.

Brother SNC trial

  • When that didn’t work out, I thought I’d try using the AccuQuilt Go! Baby I bought last year but haven’t used much (are you noticing a theme here?) to play around with applique. While I knew I wouldn’t use it to do the Amy Bradley quilt, I figured I could get some practice fusible interfacing and such. I happened by SewVac City in College Station yesterday and bought a new die to use with my Baby, a cute owl I thought would be fun to work with … but again, I still can’t get the fusible to fuse to my fabric! At least the die cuts fabric well …

55333_pkg_1_1

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. So I’ve decided to take the antibiotics the doctor gave me today and wait a couple days to see if my abilities improve with my health. Because I mean, what else can I do? I think that one more failure might push me to the edge of sanity and let’s face it – I’m already barely hanging on as it is!

I will say this – if I cannot figure out how to get the applique thing going, next week I’m going to do something I know I CAN do and piece a quilt!

January blues

I am not a good winter person. The days are too short, the nights too long, and the temperatures too cold for me. Granted, I’m not exactly a summer heat person, either, but I do love the longer days of the summer months. I have always suffered from January blues, and this year is certainly no different. In fact, it may be a little worse than usual considering my personal situation this year.

When I found out in November that I was being laid off from my company, I had high hopes that I would be able to find another job internally before my mid-February exit date. But I work in the oil industry, andĀ as you may know, oil prices are in the tank. So I started looking externally last week. Job hunting is not one of my favorite activities, and I’ve been with my present company for nearly six years, so I’m a little rusty. However, it isn’t like the wolf will be at our door the minute I leave my job; there is a generous package, which will keep us going for many months if it’s necessary. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary, but it’s nice to have the safety net if it’s needed. In light of the present oil market and futures, moving on might be in my best interest, and fortunately I have skill sets that are applicable in a wide range of industries. Everything will work out just the way it’s supposed, of that I am sure.

Still, it isn’t easy to get on with the day to day life when you feel this unsettled. I’m doing what I can to keep myself distracted, though. I spent several hours last week preparing the Minions quilt for quilting. I spent most of Saturday cleaning and re-arranging my studio. Sunday morning, I decided to see how the Pfaff would do with free motion quilting (FMQ). I am by no means an expert, and I need LOTS of practice, but I have decided that I will never improve if I don’t actually start using FMQ in my quilting. So, I switched gears and decided to work on the Cat in the Hat quilt that I started FMQ on back when I still had the Janome 8900. That was like, two years ago! So yes, I thought, finishing that would be a great idea. I pulled out some scrap fabric and batting, and gave FMQ on the Pfaff a whirl.

My first attempt at free motion quilting on the Pfaff

My first attempt at free motion quilting on the Pfaff

I know it isn’t very good, but I was pretty happy with it since I haven’t attempted FMQ in at least two years. There is one pucker on the back of the sample, but I didn’t actually tack the layers together in any way, so I was a bit surprised there was only one pucker. I thought, Well, as long as I don’t try anything too crazy, this will work alright on the Cat quilt. So I moved the Pfaff to the sewing cabinet and got ready to quilt. Only … I realized that I didn’t have an extended flat surface on which to work. No extension table or cabinet insert to make the surface easier to work on, and nothing to tape down my Supreme Slider to so that the quilt would move easier. /sigh

I would have used the Brother – it has a bigger throat and I have a cabinet insert for it – but I cannot get it to FMQ, no matter what I try. I am going to try to get to the dealer soon to see if there’s anyone there who can help me figure out what I’m doing wrong, but for now it’s not an option. I do have an extension table for the Viking, but I haven’t tried any FMQ on it, even though I bought a foot for that purpose, but it isn’t quite as big in the throat area as the Pfaff, I think, and definitely not as big as the Brother. So I’m concerned it might be a bit of a trick working on it, but I don’t think I’ll be buying a table or insert for the Pfaff for a while, so if I can’t get the Brother to work I might try it out. In fact, I might try out a sample on it today, just to see how it handles FMQ.

In the meantime, I have block 11 of the 2014 Wishes BOM cut out and ready to assemble. I got sidetracked yesterday evening with making dinner, then I got sucked in to watching tv with Chris. But today I’m going to get that one together, and maybe get the 12th block cut out, at least. Once that’s done, all the blocks will be completed, and I can sash them and put a border or two on it and then that’s another quilt top completed. I have so many quilt tops finished right now, that if I can work out the FMQ thing, I will have practice pieces lined up for MONTHS. LOL None of these quilts are specifically ear-marked for anyone, though I am thinking I will give the Cat in the Hat to my grandson. Well … this is embarrassing to admit, but one of the quilt tops I made for my daughter, when she was about 10. She’s 22 now with a kid of her own. So I guess I’ll give that one to her when it’s done. But other than that, none of them have a specific destination yet. It would be really great if I could get them done and use them for gifts this year.

Have a good Monday, everyone!