Saturday, 5 February 2011

Fitting it all in

This week I have written an essay with a few of my thoughts on fitting in craft time.  If you don't want to read the essay, then skip to the end for a few pics from my crafting week.


For I am the boss of my crafts

“I’m an inspiration!,” I crowed to my husband, reading aloud from Miss Martha's comment on my last post 'Starts and Finishes'.  “You’re a something alright”, he may have muttered, but I ignored that, he’s probably just jealous.

Well, maybe not, but it got me to thinking about how many times people have asked me ‘how do you fit it all in?’.  Although it is a mystery to me why my chaotic life would seem inspirational to anyone, the fact that I work full time and still manage to fit in my hobbies of quilting, knitting (hand and machine) and dollshouse miniatures, has often led people to ask how I do it.

My usual response is to acknowledge that I don’t do housework, which makes them laugh, except that I’m not joking.  Someone once said that there is never enough time, yet we have all the time there is.  We all know that we should be prioritising the things that are important to us, but how many of us actually do that?

Are you still vacuuming the house every night because that’s what your mother did? Do you feel compelled to keep your house in a pristine state at all times in case of unexpected visitors who might judge you?  Well, I would rather use the limited time I have for things that are absolutely necessary, like kitchen / bathroom hygiene, and save as much time as I can for things that I enjoy.

But enough about my housekeeping habits – where does the rest of the time for my hobbies come from?

1.  Utilise your down time.  I may only get an hour or less after work to do my hobbies, but I can maximise my effectiveness during that hour by having prepared during my downtime. While I’m standing on the train, or waiting in a queue, I can be planning how I am going to tackle a project, or I can be jotting down a list.  I can read craft magazines on the train, check through a knitting pattern at lunchtime, or read a chapter from a quilting book at bedtime.  As my sewing room is also my bedroom, I have been known to quickly pick some fabric for a block while brushing my teeth with my other hand.  In my weekly yoga class, when the teacher asks us to relax our minds, I am relaxing by picturing the dollshouse kit I am building and how I will tackle the next construction  challenge.

2.  Keep projects where you can see them.  Out of sight, out of mind, I find. I am far more likely to work on a project when it, and the tools needed to do it, are waiting where I can see them.  Again, I can utilise my downtime by taking a few minutes to get things ready - getting out fabric, thread, and pattern while getting dressed in the morning, for example.  And my sewing machine is always out. Then, when I get 20 minutes after dinner and before helping with homework, I can sit down and quickly sew several seams.  Don’t feel that you can’t work on things because you don’t have a solid block of hours to tackle them.  Twenty minutes here and there on a regular basis soon adds up to a quilt, or a knitted sweater.  And you aren’t wasting time getting everything out, and putting it away again.  No room to leave things out? I sometimes put all the bits for a dollshouse project in a shallow box lid, or tray, that I can balance out of the way on top of furniture.

Some people may object to Tip #2 on the basis that it looks untidy to have stuff out all the time.  Well, it's my house and this is my life and my crafts are important to me. My family are very used to living around my crafts and luckily they have their own hobbies which they also leave out.  So our house is messy but full of creativity.  On the odd occasion where I really have to tidy the ground floor up, I jam it all in cupboards or hide it upstairs, then get it out again after the visitors have gone.

3. Have projects ready to grab.  I keep all my knitting projects in a motley collection of tote bags and drawstring bags, ready to be grabbed for a few minutes of knitting in front of the television, or for the daily commute to work.  Each project bag contains everything I need for the current stage of the project: pattern, project on needles with current yarn ball and perhaps a spare ball, and a small zipped bag of accessories.  A few years ago I bit the bullet and bought duplicates of my commonly used tools (scissors, crochet hook, darning needles, stitch markers) and made up zipped bags in various sizes.  If the pattern is in a magazine or book, I scan it and print out a paper copy to go in the project bag.  My current quilting applique project is similarly packaged up with all needed tools and fabric in a zipped case designed for cross stitchers. Even if you only get two rows knitted before the oven timer goes off for dinner, that is two rows of progress towards a finished item.

4. Plan projects to fit your schedule.  Rather than having unrealistic expectations of changing your life to make more time for crafts, make the crafts fit into the life you have.  I have multiple knitting projects on the go at any one time, because they all fit different purposes.  I always have small projects like socks and gloves in my knapsack for knitting on the train to work, or at lunchtime.  I have garter or stockinette projects for when I’m at my knitting group or attending a talk, and charted projects for when I have more space and quiet to concentrate, such as in a hotel room.  Bulky projects stay home for knitting in front of the television.  With quilting, I work on units suitable for small blocks of time at home, such as sewing blocks, or adding a border, and save the more time-consuming parts like cutting out for my monthly sewing group or for that rare free weekend.

5. Keep related stuff together.  There is nothing more irritating than having some precious time to work on a project, and then wasting that time looking for things.  I’m afraid some advance organisation is necessary to tackle this problem. I bulk-ordered 100 large clear plastic bags, and bagged up all my quilt projects and fabric collections – including the fabric, pattern or book, and any specific notions – and wrote the name of the project in permanent marker on the outside. I leave dollshouse kits in their packets until I’m ready to build them, and keep the kits and accessories for a project all together in a labelled bag or storage box.  Yarn is left in its packet, and single skeins are grouped by weight. Try to get in the habit of putting tools back where they go when you are finished with them, and keep related tools together, e.g. crochet hooks all in one bag, or craft paints all in one cupboard. I’m certainly not perfect at all this, but I’m trying.

6. Multi-task, and prioritise your time - When I was younger, I think I spent a lot of time doing things that I didn't necessarily want to do, but felt like I had to - because of peer pressure, or family pressure, or social pressure.  Now that I am moving on in life, I have become rather more assertive about doing what I want, if it isn't hurting anyone, and also about using up waste pockets of time.  I knit on the train, I knit during talks at my son's school, while visiting with my in-laws, on long car journeys and when waiting for appointments. I even knit during my off-site work seminar yesterday - I felt conspicuous doing that because there were only about 40 people in the room, but at least half of them were working on laptops, reading email on their Blackberrys and texting on their phones while the speakers presented, so I felt defiant that I was probably paying more attention as I knit than those people were. Nobody said anything about the knitting and I got quite a lot done during the day. I have done applique and gathered Yo-Yos on long car journeys, I have taken sewing machines and knitting machines with us to holiday cottages, and assembled dollshouse furniture while camping.  It just takes a bit of forward planning and ingenious packing.

7. And most importantly, keep a record of your work.  Keep a camera handy, and snap progress pictures, and make sure you get a picture of finished objects. Keep these in a scrapbook, or post them on your blog if you have one. I find this the best motivational tool, and also the best weapon to combat the ‘I-never-get-anything-done’ blues.  There are weeks where the sum of my progress is 30 minutes of knitting and a few coats of paint on some dollshouse furniture, but at least I did something.  And unlike the endless repetition of household chores, that progress stays done and I can add to it when I get more free time.  

Because I’m the boss of my crafts.  


So what have I managed to fit in this week?  I completed the second block in my Kitchen foundation-pieced wallhanging which is a little jam or marmalade jar.

I also darned the ends in on one Selbuvotter glove, and started crocheting the edging on my Jaeger Natural Fleece Yoked Cardigan.  I've decided to go with the wooden buttons for the cardigan.  I had to travel up to a conference in Leicester Thursday night and all day Friday, and I took along my Baby Surprise Jacket and my Haapsalu Shawl, as well as my Selbuvotter Annemor 12 Wedgewood gloves.  I got as far as dividing for the fingers on the Annemor 12 glove, which is when I discovered that the charts for the fingers (and these are the Errata charts) bear no relation to the reality of stitch counts.  I looked on Ravelry and apparently this is a problem several other people have found, and you basically have to wing it.  So I spent some of the time in my hotel room working out a possible plan for the fingers which I will include on my project page if it works.

And I seamed up my Machine Knitted Regia Sock Wool Sleeveless Pullover and wore it to work. Not the most trendy of garments (although Retro is back in) but very comfortable and perfect for air conditioning in the office.  The shoulders came out too wide, partly due to the tension problem that made the back too wide, so they are a bit more like cap sleeves, but there you go.  At least it's finished and I got some practice in on my machine.

Best wishes, and here's hoping you are the boss of your crafts.


swooze said...

Nice! Apparently we are cut from the same cloth. I do many of your tips.

Hope you are well!

Teresa said...

Well you do get a lot done and now we see how. Thanks for all the good tips. Only think you left out was sitting down, feet propped up, eyes closed and taking nap, lol. Hmmmm, maybe I do too much of that and that is my problem.

Daisy said...

I had been wondering how you fit it all in but it makes sense now! It has actually helped since I moved in with Neil - he's very tidy which makes me be tidy too, so I can now find all the bits of any particular project. And he does all the housework so that saves my time as well! ;-)

Ptitemaana said...

I, too, had been wondering how you fit it all in. Thank you for this brilliant essay, it is very inspiring!

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