Remembering the Crazy

It’s been 20 months since I finished the Giant Quilt of Craziness, and the memory is perhaps beginning to fade a little. I thought about it a lot this last week, though, as resuming work on the Rose Quilt (moderately giant & definitely crazy, albeit not a crazy quilt) convinced me that now was the time to make the Hussif of Perpetual Remembrance, crafted from the leftover materials of the GQC.

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This hussif is not only going to save me a world of trouble (in carting about a needlecase, scissors, thimble, pin container and reels of thread), it is also going to remind me of a Very Important Lesson.

Small is Beautiful.

Small is elegant, well-designed, pleasingly executed. Small is, in fact, Sanity.

Even the process of making the hussif has been a revelation. The careful planning and exquisite care of a small thing well done is infinitely more satisfying than the ambitious blaze of a Big Thing Begun followed by years of procrastination, dutiful slogging and regret.

Not that small things are guaranteed to go well, of course, and something going less than well in an enormous ‘just get it done’ project is probably less distressing than something going badly in a project which was, until then, Just Dandy. (Do not click for larger images unless you want to see some terrible stitchery.)

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Mad ambitions aside, it appears I still have some lessons to learn.
Stretch + Non-Stretch = Frustration, for example. Physics is (are?) non-negotiable. Except you can finagle a little when you’re dealing with fabric – but only a little. Except for stretch fabric, which finagles itself whether you want it to or not. Ditto slippery fabrics such as satin.

Other lessons include: always check carefully that the line of stitches you are snipping and unpicking is the line of tacking, and not the line of intended permanence; and always assume that everything will take longer than you expect. (Try to enjoy this.) The lesson about proper needle-thimble interactions I will spare you; and don’t worry, it doesn’t look like I’m going to lose the nail.

I am considering this as a working toile: something which you do for practice and to see how it works, but which can also (hopefully!) be used as a thing in itself. Which takes the pressure off a bit: every time the reality fails to connect with the beautiful dream in my head, I remind myself that I can make another. (Without stretchy or slippery fabrics.)

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Who knows? Perhaps when all this is finally done and dusted, I will make another one out of the leftovers from the Rose Quilt. That sounds a bit more cheery than this one of black and grey and purple: the colours of Victorian half-mourning. Rather than refer to it as the half-mourning hussif, or the Hussif of Perpetual Remembrance, I am using the less mellifluous but cheerier title of the Butterfly Hussif.

As you may have guessed by now, I did not make much progress (translation, any progress) on the main projects this week. But I did make (and finish!) a useful tool which I trust will make me more efficient in future.

Consider this a sort-of-progress report; your Gargoyle Chips for the week. Rose Quilt 0, Curtains 0, Hussif 1.

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Getting Control of Your UFOs

Spreadsheets have a reputation for being cold and factual. Less often are they seen as a form of inspiration and a repository of dreams.
I Love Spreadsheets
Let me explain. Some time ago, I was going down for what felt like the third time under a morass of unfinished things and dreams deferred. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, as the writer of Proverbs sagely observes, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (You know you have too many UFOs when even the creator and sustainer of the universe tells you to get your act together and start finishing things.)

But where was I going to start? There were too many of them, and some had to be done before others, and they all had different conditions attached, and….

Enter the spreadsheet. The first thing to do is to list all the projects you have underway, followed by all the projects still at planning stage (Column A). To my shock, my list came to nearly 20 items.

Fotothek df roe-neg 0006317 003 Zirkusdarbietung einer Jongleurin mit ReifenThe next step is to assign them deadlines (Column B). These socks need to be finished by the intended recipient’s birthday; those curtains need to be lined before summer; this project needs to be completed before that one can be started, and so on. Some things don’t have a deadline; that’s fine. Just put down NA.

Then reorder them accordingly. Column B gives you your deadlines (where applicable) but it’s Columns C and D which really tell you what to work on next.

Column C tells you whether each project is portable or not. Can you take it out and about (to the theatre, on the bus, to a friend’s place), or is it a strictly stay-at-home kind of project? Obviously, if you only do one or the other sort of project, skip Column C.
Albert Guillaume 15 minutes d'entr'acte
Column D rates the concentration necessary for each project. A rating of 1 means you can do it while focussing on something else – TV, someone reading aloud, a conversation… Plain knitting, sewing hems or seams, and projects you’ve done a zillion times all fall into this category. A rating of 3 means that the project requires your full attention: complicated projects, cataloguing materials, or trying something you’ve never done before.

A column for notes can also be handy – take photos throughout for this one; break this one down into smaller tasks; check you have all the materials before starting. Do not attempt when tired. Here be dragons. Whatever.

The results? While I still have plenty of UFOs, there are fewer of them. Fourteen at last count, of which only six are actually UFOs – the others are still in the planning stages. When I add something new to the spreadsheet – for a gift, for example – it moves toward completion more quickly.
Albert Anker Sitzendes Mädchen mit einer Katze 1903And then it disappears. You may wish to keep a record of your Finished Objects, so you know where all your time went, but don’t clutter up your UFO spreadsheet with them – you want to see at a glance what you still have on your plate, and what you have, so to speak, eaten. (Let us leave this metaphor before it becomes any more ooky.)

After so long spinning my wheels, I finally have traction, and I am enjoying it. Enjoying making progress, enjoying knowing the UFOs are under control, enjoying seeing my dreams come closer, and enjoying the productivity of my hands. Because good time management isn’t about being harried by a to-do list, it’s about enriching your life. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”