Looking back at 2016: Reflecting Back on a Year of Creativity

I find it appropriate, on the week of the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to look back upon my own year of creativity. On Yom Kippur we are supposed to contemplate our deeds and misdeeds over the past year. We are expected to consider how to make ourselves better in the year ahead. It seems fit, therefore, to also take account of what I have achieved so far, and of what I have yet to accomplish.

A year ago this week I took a small pile of rescued upholstery samples and turned them into a messenger bag. I had never made a bag before, and didn’t really know what I was doing. I’ve been quilting on and off for about a decade. I knew well how to work with thin, fine quilting cottons. But handling thick upholstery fabrics was a different matter altogether.

That first bag took hours and hours to make. It broke at least two of my sewing machine needles. When I wanted to attach the flap to the body of the bag, I realized I had a problem. To my horror, the accumulated thickness of the fabrics couldn’t fit under my machine foot. I had to sew it on by hand. It took forever, and was quite painful (pushing a needle through a thick layer of heavy fabrics isn’t an easy thing to do!). I remember my amazement when the bag was finally born (those of you sewing bags know what I’m talking about!). I could hardly believe it actually looked like a real bag! It was a magical moment that made me proud.

Yet, at that time it never occurred to me that I will be spending the next year in a bag-sewing frenzy. It took another week or two for me to get the Bag Bug. This happened after my second daughter excitedly claimed my bag for herself, following by her sister requested one, too.

Since then, by trial and error, I learned an entire new set of technical skills. I figured out how to attach a flap in a way that my machine can handle. I’ve discovered which needles to use for upholstery fabrics, so that they won’t break every few minutes. I understood how to sew zippers in different ways, how to insert a variety of closures, how to attach diverse kinds of straps and handles, and how to hammer rivets so that they hold fast. Likewise, I experimented with different bag patterns: messenger bags, totes, slings and shoulder bags of assorted kinds. In addition, I played with, and greatly enjoyed, making other fabric products, such as journal covers, i-pad covers, zip pouches, bookmarks and even a phone case.

Most of the things I made came out to my liking, others not so much. A handful ended up being total failures and got tossed. But each project taught me something new, sharpened my tastes, or allowed me to improve my skills. I had a lot of fun this year going over fabrics, choosing colors and patterns, matching different pieces together. I enjoyed designing, cutting, sewing and just plain creating beautiful things. The fact that I was mostly using rescued materials and keeping volume out of landfills was a nice, feel-good bonus. It supported my way of life and everything I believe in.

Overall, I sewed more than two hundred items, big and small. I gave many of them away as gifts to family members, friends and teachers, or as donations to good causes. Being able to give things I made rather than store-bought items was a deeply satisfying experience.

In the coming year I would like to try new products. I’d like to play with new combinations, and maybe create more art of the non-utilitarian kind. I have many ideas I’m really excited about, and just need to find the time to try them out. Also, I hope to continue improving my professional skills, and to learn new techniques that will keep this adventure as exciting as it has been so far.

ANY Texture: Some of the art I made this year

I have been making art my whole life, but never dabbled with the craft of selling it. This year, for the first time in my life, I participated in a couple of crafts fairs. I began learning how to sell my work. I also started learning about approaching stores, about the difference between wholesale and consignment.

This year also marked my first foray into social media. I opened a Facebook account, an Etsy store and started this blog. All this opened up a grand new world of which I knew nothing about, and of which I still have a lot to learn. Going forward, I will need to keep deepening my knowledge in all of the above. Making art is great fun, but seeing people use it is even more gratifying!

My sewing ardor brought about many changes that transformed not only my life but also that of my entire family. We previously used our guest room, for example, as a music room or as a quiet place to read when no guests were present. Now I transformed it into a crowded, messy workshop.

The room now displays new cabinets packed to the brink with an assortment of fabrics. Boxes of notions and a selection of webbing rolls are everywhere. Leather straps and handles are hanging on the door. Piles of already-matched fabrics, that only I know what to do with, are scattered on the floor. They are waiting for me to sew them into all kinds of pretty items. The room is currently off-limits to everyone but myself… I would like to say that keeping it neat would be a noble goal for next year, but knowing myself this will not be an achievable goal…

Lastly, I am still struggling to find the right balance between wanting to sew at all times and getting to my other tasks. My garden, which I love dearly, is quite neglected at this time. The family’s laundry service is not what it used to be, and our dinners are not always what I would like them to be. I would also like to find more time to exercise, see friends, hang out with the kids and so on. But I guess all of this is a constant work in progress, something I will just have to keep working on and adjusting as time goes!


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