On Being Lost…

Do you ever feel like you have lost yourself? Everyday there is a barrage of influences — both quilty and non-quilty. Family members pass away, or have health emergencies. Grandparents need transitioning to assisted living. Cousins and friends have babies, buy houses, move away, and/or get married. Someone posts the quilt/tutorial/tip you’ve had on your mind for months, but haven’t posted yet. Mutual friends meet up, but don’t include you. New fabrics and wonderful books are released nearly everyday and fuel inspiration. Good and bad, constantly fighting for your time and attention. In all of this — where is me?

An improv curves project
An improv curves project

I feel lost in a sea of expectations and demands. Everybody wants and needs something, all the time. Some are benign, and take just a matter of minutes, some take days, but all of it is draining, and leaves little time for me. Recently, I was talking with a friend, and I realized I have never made a quilt just for me. The quilts I have, that I have kept, were all for a challenge, pattern testing, or blog hop — none just because. Where does all my quilting time go? I make quilts for new babies, to celebrate weddings and engagements, for those sick or going through a hard time. But why not for me? I can’t even remember the last time I made a bag or a pillow just for me, just because I could.  Even the skirts I made earlier this year, were to ‘compete’ with all the wonderful handmade items I knew I’d see at QuiltCon.

My gypsy wife progress to date.
My gypsy wife progress to date.

This is not a unique situation; quilters constantly find themselves caught between their generous hearts and a lost self.  Every year, in March, there is an event called “Selfish Sewing Week.”  Participants sew for themselves, mostly garments but quilters take part as well, and link up there final results for the chance at prizes. There are other similar events as well.  Events designed to encourage quilters to use their skills for themselves. Why must we wait for a wide event and prizes to sew for ourselves? If you are doing it to participate in such an event, is it really sewing for me, just because?

A personal project, started recently at retreat
A personal project, started recently at retreat

Do you ever wonder why? Why don’t I sew more for myself? Is it because I find others more worthy? Is it because I like other people more than I like myself? Is it because it’s easier to make design decisions for others? My husband often jokes that quilters are really just fabric hoarders who feel guilty from time to time so they make a quilt — is it guilt driving us to make for others? Is it the giving that makes a quilt special? Do you just have too many quilts in your own house already?

Maybe I will finally finish my Supernova?
Maybe I will finally finish my Supernova?

For me, it is a bit of all of these. I do find it easier to design a quilt for someone else. After all, if a design choice doesn’t work out like I thought, I don’t have to look at it every day. Perhaps most telling though — I do find other people more worthy of quilts than myself. Quilts are an external representation of something internal, like all art. It is much easier for me to love others more than myself, and what is a quilt but a big giant show of love and affection that also keeps your toes warm? I think of others and see all their amazing attributes — I think of myself and see the flaws. I am my own worst critic.

My farmer's wife quilt, still sitting unfinished in a box.
My farmer’s wife quilt, still sitting unfinished in a box.

Over the years, I’ve started many, many projects for myself, some of which are pictured here, but none have been completed. Either the harsh critics in my head stop me, or someone else’s needs push my “selfishness” aside. In an attempt to correct the problem, I am an engineer after all, and that’s what I do, I’m declaring this summer a Sarah Sewing Summer. I have just a few more commitments to finish up, but they should all be done by June 15. So starting June 16, I’m just sewing for me — finishing old projects I still love, starting new ones, or maybe even finally cleaning up my sewing space so I can find things more quickly. I’m aiming to last all the way until Labor Day, anyone want to take bets on if I’ll make it that far?

This has been waiting for quilting for over two years...
This has been waiting for quilting for over two years…


20 thoughts on “On Being Lost…

  1. Very interesting. I love swaps and especially the birthday one I’ve been in. Sometimes family and friends think I’m crazy to give away things I’ve worked so hard on. I feel like its an even trade with what I get back. I suppose I could always make those things for myself. Most of them I wouldn’t use though so I wouldn’t make myself. I do end up with a ton of obligation sewing however, so the projects for me are not getting done. One of the problems for me has been one of those life events. I didn’t take into account when I committed to all the projects that I would have something severely disrupt my life for more than a year. I bet I would have dropped out of some if someone had suggested it sooner, but it didn’t occur to me to do so. It wasn’t until I read someone’s blog post about dropping out that I thought, “I could have done that!!” It would have been enough notice that I don’t think anyone would have been in a bind and would have saved me months and months of catch up sewing.

  2. Yes to all of this. Especially to being my own worst critic. And on top of that I take on commissioned work occasionally, and most of that work is just that – work and not really something fun to do. I have been slowly creeping over to the, “what the heck, I’m making this for me because I want to” camp, too. I hope you make it to Labor Day and maybe even longer with your Sarah sewing – you deserve it. Honestly. Oh boy am I looking forward to more details about that personal project, too…

  3. Yes, yes, and yes….. little boy pants, a window treatment, bag for my MIL, a commissioned baby quilt, a wedding gift quilt and then maybe I’ll be able to sew on “my” things. Yes to life getting in the way of my creative process, but such is life! I like the idea of “Sarah’s sewing summer” and I can’t wait to see what you come up with! 🙂

  4. Man what a thought provoking post! I totally agree with you! And the thing your husband said about fabric hoarders is interesting–I used to quilt with whatever, I just liked to make things and didn’t want to spend a lot of money of supplies. Now I realize the worth of good quality supplies and would rather spend more on it for it to last longer…but I sure do collect a lot more fabric than I use. I love your idea of committing to a whole summer of making things for yourself, or things you’re inspired to make for the joy of it! Love how your personal project is coming along!

  5. Please continue to create and please yourself FIRST. I loved reading about your block of time finally devoted to self. I have an idea, give yourself permission to relax. How many sewing tasks you complete for yourself is only important to YOU. Years of doing for others sometimes does create loss of self. Guess what, I gave up sketching & painting, and advancing in art to do for others that I thought needed all my attention. This was never true, but we adults often believe we are being selfish and must put everyone first. I wish I had your wisdom so much earlier. I believe you will be successful in this new journey! You are so very talented, Sew for Sarah!!

  6. I get in this space sometimes, too, and need a reset button and a ‘break’ to do a few projects I really want and/or need to do. It often recharges my passion for the craft. I can’t wait to see the results of Sarah Sewing Summer – it’s gonna be good for you! Maybe it will inspire others to have a Selfish Sewing Summer. I know that I have a few ‘selfish’ projects that I’ve been wanting to do but keep putting off. . 🙂

  7. This Post really resonates with me. I do love giving quilts as gifts, but end up with very little in my own home. Good luck with your resolve to make more for yourself.

  8. This really resonated with me too. I constantly feel like I’m trying to get to the bottom of the ‘to do for someone/something else’ list so I can get onto the giant bucket list of things I’d like to make. I hope your plan to sew for you works out, you’ve inspired me to try the same thing!

  9. So, I think that because we all have this (relatively expensive) personal hobby, we need to justify by making it “useful” to others – hence the baby quilts, wedding gifts, etc. But, if it doesn’t make you happy and proud and satisfied to spend your limited sewing time making those gifts that may or may not be treated as you would have wished, or appreciated to their fullest extent, then why can’t we still be like the non-quilty people and spend a little bit (less than we would have on quilt materials) and buy the set of onesies/fancy creme brûlée torch/other registered item that people registered for? Make your hobby useful for you! Don’t think about what other people need/are making/are posting and “you do you”.
    June 16-Labor day. Sarah’s Sewing Summer. Check in often, because I think that you’re going to make cool stuff, and even better, you’ll be able to enjoy that stuff for years to come! 🙂

  10. I selfishly sewed today, and felt tiny twinges of guilt all day! I have several projects that have to get done for others, but I NEEDED some personal sewing time. So even though there was some guilt, there was also happiness and joy. I now feel refreshed and ready to tackle the must-do projects tomorrow. I think a summer to do sewing exclusively for yourself is perfect! I hope it leaves you rejuvenated and I hope you find your quilting joy again soon!

  11. This definitely resonates with us all! Thank you so much for writing so honestly and giving us all the freedom to think carefully about the obligations we take on. Maybe we’ll both finish our Supernovas! Isn’t that crazy – the host didn’t finish hers???? For exactly the reasons you stated here…..

  12. I hear you loud and clear … I’ve taken a step back for sewing for others this year to concentrate on quilts for myself, hubby and two girls … apart for signing up to two swaps on IG (ahem …) I’m basically on track! Feels good too, I highly recommend it.

  13. Wow, there’s so much in this little post, but I’ll keep my response short. I’m glad you’re calling it the Sarah Sewing Summer. I don’t think there’s anything selfish about sewing for yourself. And creating a quilt is only part of the joy for us as quilt makers. Using it is a joy, too — and that’s a part of the process we should get in on, as well!

  14. The first three lines are my life at the moment, but I just reclaimed a whole weekend for myself: craft show, Eurovision with knitting, and walking on the beach with a friend. You can do it too.
    After Sarah Sewing Summer, transition to Sarah Sewing Autumn and keep going for a while.

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