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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Achieving Balance

This is a bit of a wordy post, but in the spirit of full disclosure, one I feel like I need to share with you-

Balance has always been an elusive thing for me.  I have a history of having a one-track mind where certain things are concerned, and most times, that serves me well.  It's why I only like to work on one project at a time, and finish it quickly before starting another one.  It is something that I have learned to use to my advantage, but when it is a problem, it takes some effort for me to combat.

For the past few years, I have strictly been a hobby quilter.  As a full time teacher, I felt completely comfortable and justified in only making projects that I wanted to make, taking only orders I wanted to take.  When I quit teaching and decided to turn my quilting into a business, I knew that I was giving up some of that freedom.  It is a tradeoff I am willing to take, though.  I wish I had the luxury of not needing any second income whatsoever, but that just isn't the case.  Sometimes, that means taking orders to make quilts that I would not ordinarily.

So, what does it mean to you?  Well, it means that there may be some quilts that I make, but don't share in this space.  For example, for the past several days, I have been working on four commissioned memory quilts from men's shirts.  While I truly appreciate what a treasure these quilts are for the recipients (really, I do!), and recognize that having so many orders is a blessing for my finances, they do not fuel my creativity.  Two years ago, when I made my first men's shirt quilts from my own grandfather's shirts, I put all four of them on here.  I feel like that was different.  The story of those shirts was my own family's, in other words, it was my own story to tell.

Since posting the memory quilts I made for a friend in May, I am having to work to find balance amidst a flood of orders for men's shirt memory quilts.  I need to find a way to separate this kind of quilting from the things that got me hooked on quilting in the first place- playing with fabrics I love and pattern writing.  I haven't really figured out exactly how to do that yet.  Should I just do what I've always done and just alternate projects?  Should I divide my day and work on two different projects each day?  At this point, I just don't know what is going to work for me.  The trick is finding a schedule that will allow me to still regularly post creative projects I love.

If you've hung with me this long, thank you.  I do know this- I started this blog to express my creativity in quilting.  I would like to keep it that way, and I hope you can appreciate that.




31 comments:

  1. How about dividing your time based on what stage you're at on the primary quilt you're working on? If it's a commission and you've spent the morning cutting shirts spend your afternoon piecing or quilting.

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  2. What about dividing your week into sections, Mon - Weds memory quilt comissions, rest of the week other quilts. That way you get the best of both worlds.

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  3. What about dividing your week into sections, Mon - Weds memory quilt comissions, rest of the week other quilts. That way you get the best of both worlds.

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  4. I don't have any advice, just keep your blog going! I enjoy it and have learned from you blog!

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  5. I totally understand what you are talking about, I have 4 memory quilts that I am struggling to do. They don't inspire me, they just make me sad. I know the ones I'm making them for will love and cherish them, but I struggle to work on them. In fact I put them basically aside for a month just so I could get my head around working on them again.

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  6. Would it be helpful to set a limit on how many memory quilts you will accept per month? Maybe just one? Then you might need to decide if you'll have a waiting list or refer people to other quiltmakers. I doubt there are any perfect answers.

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  7. Kelly it's such a fine balance. You gave up your paid employment to follow your creative art. That won't work if you spend all of your time and creativity in taking commissions that don't fulfill this. It's great that your work is in such demand ( and I'm not surprised) but in order to retain your focus you will need to order your time initially for paid commissions and your own creative excursions. Note I said initially, I'm sure that in the fullness of time you will be picking your commissions and spending your time at your machine however you wish - well in between writing a book or two!!

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  8. I understand. Once word gets out that you do memory quilts, they multiple, fast! I struggle with memory quilts too. They just aren't the creative sewing I crave, but they bring the money in. I find I need to work on them a section at a time. Cutting one day, Designing the next and so forth. But after I've gotten that part done for the day, I then do what I want to do. Sometimes it is all the memory quilt and my sewing gets kicked to the side, as I work fulltime and am Mommy to two little ones. But in between quilts, I try to sew a little something I need to sew. You just have to find out what works for you.

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  9. Your post is inspiring, Kelly. I think most people can relate to what you are going through.
    I hope that one day, you will be at a point in your calling that you'll be able to do only those things that inspire you.

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  10. I hope you can get this sorted out to where you feel at peace. I love your quilts and designs. I always look forward to your posts, no matter what the content is! Sorry I don't have any clever answers for you!

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  11. I don't know what to suggest, except that both enjoyment AND income are important. If you have so many orders that you can choose what projects to take on, I'd suggest making a waiting list for the ones you'd be doing more for the income.
    I do have to say that I love your style for quilting, and I think you have a good eye for putting patterns and fabrics together.

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  12. I have a wise friend who says "do something that you have to do and then something that you want to do." Maybe divide available time into have to/want to times...I am so glad that you are willing to take on memory quilts. They are so meaningful to those receiving them but not fun to do at all. I am currently making my grandchildren each a quilt (three of them) which contains pieces of the uniforms their Daddy (my eldest) wore in Afghanistan. He just found out he is being deployed again (darn it!). I have decided to sew a uniform pocket to the back of each quilt and he has agreed to write a personal letter to put in each quilt...hope to deliver them in the fall while he is gone...

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  13. I hear you on trying to find balance. I feel the same way about doing projects for a magazine or my patterns vs the stuff i just want to make for the heck of it. Add in to the mix quilts for others that I just don't feel inspired to make. Sometimes I think if I just sew a little every day toward a real project I'm personally inspired for that helps. Trouble is I always end up totally focused on one thing at a time even when that thing drags on and on. Good luck finding your sweet spot.

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  14. Oh, I'm with you on this one, Kelly! One thing that really helped me put this in perspective from a financial perspective was looking at how much money per hour I make on a pattern versus a custom quilt. Over time, patterns keep on generating income, with a minimum of effort after initial publication. A custom quilt doesn't do that, and typically takes me far more hours than I can reasonably charge for. Just my two cents.

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  15. I am happy you have made a decision that is right for you! I hope Needle and Thread Thursdays still has room in your schedule but if it has to slide I will understand. I will be hanging with you as I enjoy your blog a lot and learn a lot from what you share. If you enjoy memory quilts though check out my latest flimsy on my current blog post... it was from the passing of an 8 year old... talk about hard stuff! wow the memories we had to preserve so carefully... now to hand quilt it for the mom to receive by fall I hope! Good luck with your memory quilt! Kathi

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  16. I remember reading your post about leaving full time employment to pursue this creative life. I did that some years ago. There were a few obstacles. My work was specialty quilts, Christening Dresses, some home dec (mmmm) and custom garments. This was in the 1990's, and quite frankly it was difficult to find the customer who appreciated the work and was willing to pay accordingly. My prices were more than fair but still, it was nearly impossible to maintain my creative spirit in such an environment. I do believe that people in general understand the cost and the price structure for custom quilting better now than then, however, our time management to accomplish all that we wish is a fragile balance as you have discovered. Advice? I'm not sure if I can say that anything I learned will help but I do know one thing. If creativity is the fuel that guides you work then to creativity you must return. Grind out the ones that create income in a specific time slot that works for you then stop, return to what you love and remember that this is the nature of the sewing/quilting business. This may just be the nature of your work for now. In addition, these memory quilts will likely fuel additional business more in line with the creative work you want to continue. Best of luck, this is a bumpy journey but you are a smart woman and you will work it out.

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  17. I think Celkalee gave you good advice. In what I like to call The Craft Show Era--the 80s, I made so much money creating and selling at the shows. At first it was great. People were buying what I loved to produce. Then I started creating what I thought would sell at the next show. No fun anymore...just a second job. Tedious and annoying that I committed to more "work". I don't sell anymore. But I know that you need to, and you need to create from your soul. You are going to have to divide your time. Consider your commissions your job and work on them in allotted work time..just like a 9-5 job.
    You MUST allot time to create from your soul.
    xx, Carol

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  18. Just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog and think things will work out just fine for you. I agree with those who say do the work that you need for finances during a specific time - I liked the idea of certain days and then the other days CREATE. You need to keep the JOY in your new venture.

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  19. Oh man...I've been there. I wish I had advice for you, but I think scheduling out your time, as you mentioned, is probably best. And while I don't know how helpful this is but maybe set an alarm when you wan to stop working and begin "playing". That way it's not just looking at a clock, but a noise to kind of disrupt your focus? Which may make it a bit easier to put the work away. :) Good luck...I know how draining that can be.

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  20. Kelly, I understand your dilemma. My advice is the same as some above - divide your time. During the time that you used to be 'at work', you sew for others. Then you have your normal creative hours for your wonderful creativity. Your creative spirit has inspired me, as well as others. Keep it alive! You will find your rhythm... I know you will.

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  21. Kelly, I understand your dilemma. My advice is the same as some above - divide your time. During the time that you used to be 'at work', you sew for others. Then you have your normal creative hours for your wonderful creativity. Your creative spirit has inspired me, as well as others. Keep it alive! You will find your rhythm... I know you will.

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  22. Kelly, I understand your dilemma. My advice is the same as some above - divide your time. During the time that you used to be 'at work', you sew for others. Then you have your normal creative hours for your wonderful creativity. Your creative spirit has inspired me, as well as others. Keep it alive! You will find your rhythm... I know you will.

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  23. I feel your pain! Right now, I have 6 commissions for memory quilts and just can't make myself do them! I too appreciate the fact that they make the recipients happy, but they're not much fun to make after a while... there's little opportunity to be creative! On the flip side, doing them DOES give me spending money for FUN quilty stuff... Guess I should quit whining and just DO them!

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  24. I started out planning to suggest some sort of schedule, spacing out the memory quilts, like one per month or something. That will need to be a balance of the income you need to generate along with other ways, like your patterns. But as I read through the comments, the biggest thing in my mind was "why not use your creativity with the memory quilts?" Most vintage quilts were memory quilts, built from the bits and pieces of their lives, using all different types of blocks and designs. If I remember right you even did the memory quilts from your grandpa in different ways. Make the memory quilts a creative challenge!

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  25. It's very hard to work on a project your heart isn't in to. I've done it. Well, we'll be here when you post again : )

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  26. It's easy for me to find a reason not to work on a project on any kind to which my heart is not totally committed. Sometimes I have to make a to-do list and work on multiple projects due to boredom becoming a problem. I even have to pick up knitting needles or embroider from time to time to change things. I know it can be a pain to work on multiple projects due to loss of concentration on the given project and the logistics of changing projects, yet the hassle is worth it to me to keep me moving forward on anything. I get what might be considered writers block in another creative endeavor when I don't keep my brain moving. I find my brain thinking about things I'd rather be doing rather than the task at hand and that just makes the situation worse. Reasonable deadlines might allow you the freedom to try working on multiple projects at a time. Then you'll possibly have multiple finishes close together in which to rejoice. You'll work this out for yourself.

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  27. The main thing is that you are being honest with yourself. I love your blog and I also have learned so much from you.

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  28. My main advice is spoken to myself, and I'll let you listen in. "GET OFF THE COMPUTER AND GO BE CREATIVE. This will create a huge block of time to do the custom work and the for-me work!"

    I'm always working on multiple projects, and I keep everything that pertains to that project in a bin, including the instructions, fabric, blocks already made, specialty rulers used, etc. I also keep a paper in this bin with my notes of how many blocks I need, how many I have, exactly how many minutes I spend on it, etc. This relieves my mind from having to keep track of the details. Then it's grab the bin and go the next time I work on it.

    I'm signing off the computer now. :)

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  29. This is so very true - it is a dilemma you will get solved and then something else ( like a kids new sport schedule) pops up and you have to be flexible. I try to reward myself - 1hour on a client quilt - 30 minutes on my project or playing with the kids, or a walk .... good luck!

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  30. As a new blogger, I appreciate your honesty because I've been thinking a lot about the same thing. What to share, what not to share, 'work' vs. 'hobby'... Some of the things I'm doing just don't fit into my creative vision, or I'm helping out a friend who's style is vastly different than mine. It's nice to at least now I'm not the only one!

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  31. I think leaders and enders would help you a lot... you could do your creative making before and after/at the beginning and end of the day, bookending your custom order quilts, or the other way around. I always have 5 items going at once, but then I have much less to show people on any given day... It is so important to stay creative and not be stifled by the things we need to do to make money. XX!

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