Studio Life: Why I Can’t Just Finish All Those UFOs

I’ve been slow getting back into a sewing routine. Our summer was busy, and once it ended there was a lot to catch up on in the house and garden. I participated in two back-to-back craft shows (which are always a lot of work), and between my kids’ two schools, there was only one (!!) full week of school so far… And yet, I did manage to get back into my sewing room. I even started flexing my sewing muscles, by once more, tackling those never-ending piles of unfinished projects (also known as UFOs).

A few days ago a friend asked me why I can’t just finish one thing before moving on to the next. It is, after all, the logical thing to do. It would certainly clear a lot of studio space (as in remove the many piles from the chairs/bed/carpet), giving me more room to breath and move. Not to mention clearing the accumulating guilt…

Logic aside, however, I find that for me, following that advice is utterly impossible. I’ve been thinking about why that is, and–despite my wish to blame it all on sorcery–came to the conclusion that many different factors contribute to the accumulation of those UFO piles:

Distractions

This is probably the main reason, and it comes in many different forms. There are small distractions, like dinner burning on the stove. Or kids barging into my sewing room when I’m in the middle of sewing, wanting something. I usually stop whatever I’m doing, and when I get back to it, hours, days or weeks later, I sometimes move on to something else.

Every now and then I also need to sew things for family members. When school started, for example, my daughter got a new school laptop, and asked me to make a sleeve to keep it in. I gave this a priority, and ended up spending more time on it than I expected (as it took three different tries to get the laptop to fit through the zippered top).

There are also big distractions, like illnesses, trips, or summer vacations. These force me to stop whatever I’m working on for long periods of time. When I get back, I often find it hard to go back to the projects I was in the middle of.

And then there are huge distractions, like hosting house guests. Since I sew in our guest room, hosting means moving all of my sewing materials away. It takes me up to two weeks to move everything out, another week or so to move things back in, and then months to figure out what pile is which and where everything is (I’m still looking for items I can’t find after hosting family this summer…). Forget about finishing projects if you can’t even find them…

Design Concerns

Often, I find gorgeous pieces of textiles that I am really passionate about. Sometimes I’m not sure what to make them into. At other times I don’t have the exact fabrics I need to match them with. These go into separate piles. They wait patiently for weeks or even months, until I find all the other ingredients I need to make them into something spectacular.

I found this unusual piece, for example, over a year ago:

It took me many months to find just the right fabrics to go with it, ones that matched not only in color but also in texture. I completed this tote last week:

Yep, one less pile! (but there are already new ones in its stead…).

New Ideas

The biggest pile of unfinished projects is in my head. I constantly have ideas for new things to make, new quilts to sew, new bags to design and so on. Every now and then I just HAVE to try something completely different. It keeps me challenged and excited about my work.

I find inspiration everywhere, but especially on trips. There is something intense about going somewhere else, being exposed to new environments and new cultures, seeing lots of new things. After traveling I am especially eager to make new things. Like when I returned from Peru and made a troll.

Then there is a constant danger in sorting my fabrics, too. I really didn’t mean to start anything new before I finished those UFOs, but as I was putting things away I came across this amazing tapestry in my stack (so guess what?!):

And there are the scraps. My work results in many, colorful scraps of different sizes and textures, that happen to accumulate in my sewing room before I get to put them away. Often, seeing those scraps together gives me new ideas. Thus, even if I try to finish one thing, I can’t help but start another… Only yesterday I began working on this mini messenger bag, for example:

Seeing the leftover strip alongside other pieces made me think of a new artsy sling (I’ll get to it soon, I promise!):

Even putting those scraps away can be problematic. So far I sorted them into different boxes by approximate size. But a few weeks ago, when one scrap box started overflowing, I spilled them all out, and had the idea to sort them by color:

Which lead to some scrap playing:

Which ended up in this “Fall” mini quilt, that I love dearly:

Procrastination

Finally, there are the less-pleasant tasks. I’m sure you have those in your work, too. Every line of work has undertakings that are fun to do and activities that are … less so. Me, I love designing. Thinking of new items, matching fabrics, experimenting with colors and textures–these are the things that get me all excited. Ironing and sewing zipper pockets … not so much. And so, when I design Renaissance Totes for example, I really enjoy making the outer layer. Sewing the lining, however, with its zipper and many pockets, is a chore. And so there is currently a pile of outer layers of Renaissance Totes waiting for their linings. They’ve been waiting for a while. I’m ashamed to say how long. I will eventually force myself to finish them, but not this week…

When I shared my UFO predicament in a Facebook group I’m in, many creative members seemed to understand. One person quoted a known saying, about how, when you finish all your projects, it’s the end. I guess this, alone, is a great reason to keep going 🙂

 

Unisex Urban Messenger Bags

When I first sojourned into the bag-making world, I mostly enjoyed sewing messenger bags. Over the last couple of years, however, I found myself making less and less of them. Earlier this year, I finished some messenger bags as part of my efforts to reduce the piles of Unfinished Projects (UFOs), but those were designed along with my early work, and were already cut and ready for sewing. I haven’t designed new ones in a while.

Well, a few weeks ago I set about to tidy up my sewing room. I found a piece of sample fabric swatches that I really liked. Their pattern and colors stood out to me, so I started playing around with them. I realized that the best way to do them justice will be by making them into messenger-bag flaps.There were four flaps in the end, all made from the same fabrics, but in different color combinations. I then set them aside.

This week, winter returned with a spell of gray days accompanied by downpours of rain and even some hail. I was in a gray mood. It was the perfect setting to work on some gray messenger bags!

The flaps were mostly finished, but didn’t have closures. To me, their pattern felt very urban, modern and edgy. I sewed them to be rough on the edges, with a somewhat unfinished look. To match that city look, I decided to give them swivel-hook closures. I also added some top stitching, to make the underside of each flap a little piece of abstract art:

Each flap I matched with a solid fabric for the body, in a color that made its own colors pop out. I sewed the outer shells:

Then the linings:

Before I was about to connect the outer shells to the linings, I realized, to my horror, that I was very low on black thread…

Amazon to the rescue! But I still held my breath as I was stitching them together…

The thread barely lasted through the last stitch!

There still wasn’t enough thread to finish the straps, however, so I had to wait a day for my Amazon parcel to arrive. But the wait was worth it, as I’m very happy with how this collection turned out 🙂

And since I was already in a gray mood anyway, and had a brand new spool of black thread to boot, I went on to make a couple of gray and red artsy sling bags as well:

I plan to put them all up in my Etsy store over the next couple of days, so make sure to check it out!

Off Track, Again… But Isn’t It Fun?!

The days are too short. Or maybe it’s that the weeks aren’t long enough. Either way, I seem to blink, and it’s Friday again… My to-do lists never get shorter. My project piles never shrink. And the many, many ideas in my head just keep accumulating, waiting for a right moment that never comes.

Can you tell I’ve been busy? Both in the sewing room and out. There are kids to drive around, school events to go to, groceries to buy and meals to cook. And then there’s a house, a garden, and always, ALWAYS laundry… Despite it all, I managed to sew quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, and that’s the part I want to tell you about today.

Cleaning up my sewing room a few weeks ago turned out to be somewhat problematic. It’s true that I greatly enjoy the extra space and added cleanliness. However, allowing myself to bend my New Year’s resolution got me off track. I am really happy with how my Peruvian Tapestry Totes turned out. Working on them, though, cracked the dam that held my creativity at bay. The result? A flood of new ideas, unchecked excitement, new experimentation and a bunch of new projects… I just can’t help it! So, sadly, I made only a tiny dent in my original UFO piles, but then added quite a few new projects to make them significantly taller…

When you sew, you see, there are scraps. And when scraps accumulate, they start giving you ideas… For me, there is nothing better than sitting on the carpet surrounded by fabrics. Beautiful fabrics, in different colors, shapes, and sizes. And when this happens, I start playing, matching, designing…

Don’t these pieces look great together? They will make a gorgeous new sling bag.

And these, I just HAD to sew into a flap (for another cute, spring-colored sling):

These are flaps for messenger-bags-to-be. They started their journey as a sample that caught my eye on FabMo’s wall. They looked so amazing together that I just couldn’t resist… And yes, I will sew the rest of them, eventually…

Then I made a cross body bag for a friend, and happened to notice a few other pieces that also wanted to become cross body bags. So I let them. I love them all, but especially this one:

I DID work on some linings for previously-sewn shells (i.e.–UFOs), but these require many steps and take a while to make:

In the midst of all this, I also took a couple of days’ detour to make a custom tote for a special lady:

Ah, and there’s the troll. But he deserves his very own post, another day 🙂

Cleaning Up a Sewing Room Has Its Dangers…

After writing last week’s post, I decided it was time to sort through my sewing room. I took advantage of it being a long weekend, and hired my teenage daughter to help with this daunting task. I didn’t expect her to be enthusiastic to the point of waking me up at dawn on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. My day thus started on the wrong foot. Luckily, a few cups of coffee miraculously brought it back on track…

We began by moving everything from the sewing room’s floor out into the living room. This truly-tedious work took a few hours. It resulted in a huge mess on the living room’s floor. It also exhausted my daughter. So much so, in fact, that she had to take a long break from which she never recovered. Yes, I’m afraid she abandoned me mid-way, leaving me to deal with the rest of the cleanup all on my own…

Once all my treasured were out, I took some of the furniture out as well, and gave the room a good vacuuming. Gone were all the bits of thread and fabric snippets! The carpet suddenly looked so very bright!

Then I sat down for hours of sorting. It felt a bit like doing laundry: sitting amid piles of textiles, and sorting them by kind and size:

When I was done (a day later), I put everything back where it actually belonged: inside a cabinet, on a shelf, or in a bin. I then put the furniture back in, except I changed its placement a little, clearing up space I didn’t realize I could have. All of a sudden the room looked a lot more spacious, and working in it became significantly more pleasant!

I managed to reduce my UFO piles to two. I put them where I can clearly see them, so that they don’t disappear under future clutter:

Those, by the way, don’t include the almost-complete Renaissance Totes of which I wrote last week (these are waiting patiently on the bed).

Tidying up the space, however, had some dangers. It allowed me to see all the bits and pieces I almost forgot I had, and reminded me of things I wanted to make but didn’t get to. In addition, it also opened some brand new possibilities!

It so happened that in one part of the room I found a bag containing a few pieces of Peruvian Weaving that I bought at a Christmas Market in Cusco on my last trip to Peru:

On the other side of the room I came across a pile of beautiful velveteen fabrics I found at FabMo:

It’s not my fault that the colors happened to match…

I found the vivid colors absolutely irresistible. So yes, I admit I let myself get sidetracked this week. Instead of plowing ahead finishing unfinished projects, I started a new series of Peruvian Weaving Totes. I’ll try to finish those next week, so I can get back to the Renaissance Totes now waiting on the bed 🙂

On Creative Clutter and Productivity

I admit that the clutter in my sewing room is a bit out of control. Getting in and out requires acrobatic maneuvering. Various projects in different stages of completion are piled everywhere, sitting next to piles of fabric and boxes of zippers, hardware and buttons. There are only narrow lanes in between, to give me access to my sewing machine, the cutting table and the ironing board–the three essential stations for any sewing activity. Things are so bad, in fact, that I’m actually ashamed to post a picture of the room for you to see.

That was why I made a New Year’s Resolution to finish all the unfinished items before I start any new ones. It’s been incredibly difficult, but I’ve been working hard to meet that goal. I’ve been fighting a flow of new ideas, and resisting strong urges for new experiments. Instead, I’ve been tackling one pile after the other, even when a pile calls for the less-exciting aspects of creating. So far I’ve been making slow-but-steady progress. And that despite the many distractions that life keeps throwing my way, such as mid-winter gardening, sick kids, or a never-ending array of school vacations.

I already finished most half-started messenger bags. I spent a couple of weeks ironing heavy interfacing onto new market totes, even though I strongly dislike that particular task.

When the market totes were done, I spent another workday or two hand-stitching the corners of the outer shells to the lining (another tedious task), so that everything remains stable.

I was happy with the results, however, especially with this one:

And seeing the finished pile gave me much satisfaction!

Once the market totes were done, I moved on to the pile of unfinished Renaissance Totes. These are my most luxurious items, and the ones I like making most. I keep my most lavish-feeling fabrics for them, and line them with the most beautiful silk-blends and brocades I can find. Collecting the right fabrics for each takes months, sometimes. The last time I sewed those was over a year ago, and in the meantime I collected beautiful textiles to construct several new ones. Over the last week I pieced together a few outer shells, and matched some with lining:

I also started sewing the outer shells of some:

Sewing the pocket-rich linings will take a couple of more weeks, along with the final completion.

So, as you can see, definite progress. However, a funny thing keeps happening as I work on all these: the more piles I tackle, the more new piles emerge. I don’t quite know how this happens. It’s a true mystery. Magic, perhaps; or wicked sorcery…

It is possible that my love of fabrics has something to do with it. Last week, for example, my daughter asked me to go to FabMo to get something for her. She didn’t have to ask twice! I went to get this:

And returned with that:

And since my fabric cabinets have been full for a while … Well, needless to say that most of it ended up in piles…

My kids claim I have a fabric addiction. I say I need a palette to work with… They say my studio is a disaster. I agree with the following:

Often, seeing a couple of fabrics randomly lying next to each other gives me new ideas. Seeing my raw materials out in the open opens up an entirely new array of possibilities… In the clutter I find combinations I haven’t thought of. I get ideas for new designs, or even new products. Thus, although I find the mess distracting, it is also inspiring all at the same time.

Yesterday we had a little family conversation, and I ended up getting an earful from my children. They suggested putting a quota on the new fabrics I’m allowed to bring in (!!). The kids argued I should not buy any new fabrics unless I get rid of old ones. They even brought up the idea of imposing a tariff on fabrics!

So maybe it’s time to be a good parent and lead by example. Perhaps I should take time off sewing and tidy the room up instead… As for limiting new acquisitions … well, that might be a wee bit more difficult…

 

A New Year in My Studio: Trying to Finish Partially-sewn Projects

I’m not quite done writing about my trip to Peru, but I thought I’ll take a break from that to tell you a little about what I’ve been up to in my sewing room.

Transitions are always hard for me. It usually takes me a while to get back into a routine after going on a trip. Especially a trip as exciting as the one I took this winter. So after coming home from the Andes in early January, I warmed up my sewing muscles by making a few new toiletry bags. Zip pouches are relatively simple to make, and are a quicker sew than my more complicated bags. They were a great project for getting my creative juices flowing!

This time I decided to experiment with using foamed-filled fabrics for some of the bottoms. I love the result, as the foam gives the bags a nice shape in addition to fun textures!

Since valentine’s Day is approaching, I then went on to make new original fabric heart-cards. These are always fun to create. This year I made them in three different colors: red, blue, and my favorite purple!

Here are the red ones:

The fabrics I used for the cards inspired me to make a wall hanging, too:

When this fun part was over, I was ready to tackle some less-pleasant tasks. Over the past couple of years, you see, I accumulated big piles of partly-finished projects. These are now taking up a lot of space in my small, messy sewing room. They make moving around hard, and concentrating even harder.

I began working on these projects at various times, and didn’t finish them either because guests arrived before I got to it (my sewing room is also our guest room), or because we went on vacation, and I never got back to them upon return. I usually have so many ideas for new things I want to make, that unless I finish something right away, I never do…

But a new year just started, and I thought that this was a good reason to try and finish these partially-finished things. In the past, I started the year by cleaning up my sewing room, but this time I can’t do that unless I move the unfinished piles into the finished-work bins…

I started with a couple of messenger bags and a tote. The bag on the upper left is my very own long-awaited-for summer purse:

I still have a few more messenger bags to finish, as well as market totes and my absolute-favorite Renaissance Totes. There is also an eclipse-inspired art quilt that I started last year, and a twin-size bed quilt for my daughter that has been waiting, sandwiched and ready to quilt, for at least four years (!!!).

I guess I have my work cut out for me for the next few months… It’s hard to keep disciplined, because a million-and-one new ideas are calling. But I will do my best to keep on course. Wish me luck!

 

Looking Back On My Second Year of Art-Making

Another year sneaked by, busy, eventful, and quick. “The days are slow yet the years fly by,” a book I once read noted. How very true.

My first year of art-making was consumed by a sewing-frenzy and the excitement that came with tapping into my long-hibernating reserves of creativity. The second year was characterized by more experimentation, and was filled with lots and lots of learning.

My family, which two years ago found it difficult to adjust to my new passion, has since accepted my work as a part of life. My kids already forgot what it was like to look out onto a neat garden, get their laundry back in a timely manner, or dine daily on home-made dinners. They now help more, eat less, and wear mismatched outfits. They are also experts in unloading and loading boxes, pretending to be interested in ANY Texture news, and setting up fair booths.

Over the last year I completed the conquest of our guest room. I now deter those who try to venture in not only with threats, but also with ginormous piles of various treasures. Some claim I’m a hoarder. I say every pile has a purpose, and every little rescued item will be useful some day…

And useful indeed have these items been!

Learning the technical skills of bag making excited me the first year. By the second year, I was already proficient in that. This gave me the freedom to be more creative with my designs. I played with new combinations and experimented with additional types of bags.

True to my decision to pursue a zero-waste policy in my sewing room, I started to think of useful and beautiful things to make from my smaller scraps (I told you all those piles come handy!). I began making eyeglass cases, textile hearts, fabric greeting cards, bookmarks, and much more. Discovering the beauty of textile jewelry, I have been greatly enjoying making necklaces and bracelets as well.

I wanted to create more art quilts this year, but ended up making only one (though I did start another…). My Dare! quilt took a while to create, and called for researching the looks of moths and butterflies, and experimenting with sewing textile butterflies. Looking back, I am quite happy with how my three art quilts turned out, including the two I made at the end of last year:

This year I also familiarized myself with the other aspects of being an artist: selling online, venturing into social media, participating in fairs and joining professional associations.

Last year I opened an Etsy shop, but didn’t quite know what to do with it. I uploaded a few items and let them sit. This year, I spent more time reading and learning about what it actually takes to run such a shop. I began implementing some improvements, but realize I have a lot more work to do going forward.

I stated this blog on Blogger, but wasn’t quite happy with how it looked. So in March I opened my own WordPress website, and moved the blog over. I like the new look, and am also happy with my newly-opened independent e-commerce shop 🙂

When I opened a Facebook account last year, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I found it quite overwhelming at first. I’ve learned a lot since then, and grew to enjoy the platform’s discussions. My Facebook Page now features my own work and news from my studio, as well as interesting and inspiring works by other artists. I also use it to highlight the importance of up-cycling and reducing waste. The best part of being on Facebook, though, has been my discovery of fun groups of like-minded people. I met a lot of interesting artists online, as well as people passionate about sewing, bag-making and recycling. People’s creativity amazes me on a daily basis, and their passion inspires me greatly.

This year I discovered Pinterest, and have spent a lot more time than I should have surfing its great trove of treasures (hence the completion of only one quilt!). Check it out at your own risk! Finally, a couple of weeks ago, at the urge of my teenagers, I also joined Instagram, and am still trying to figure it out.

During my first year of making bags, I participated in two small crafts fairs. Since then I also tried a big street fair, a church holiday fair, and a handful of small school fairs. I learned a lot, but realize that I have yet more to learn. Some of it simply by doing, by trial and error.

Earlier this year I was honored to be accepted to the Textile and Fiber Art List, and become acquainted with some of the beautiful work created by other TAFA members. Check it out for some textile art inspiration!

Finally, a couple of days ago I received an exciting end-of-the-year gift: one of my sling bags was featured in the December issue of the British No Serial Number magazine (check p. 74). It felt great to see my work in print!

I am looking forward to 2018, and another year of creating, experimenting and learning. I am already drowning in ideas for new textile products, new quilts, and new designs.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and a great new year!

 

News from My Sewing Room: Getting Ready for Holiday Fair Season

I noticed that since I shared my Dare! quilt several weeks ago, I haven’t written anything about my work. Truth be told, I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked. The Market and Renaissance Totes I cut out in the spring are still patiently waiting to be sewn. We had a rough summer, and somehow I found getting back into routine a little harder than usual. In addition, I’ve been suffering from bouts of back pain that really pulled me down for several weeks. When I did get myself into the sewing room, I had so many ideas all at once, that I often didn’t know where to start. I spent a lot of time staring at fabrics. When I finally began one thing, I often left it unfinished, and then, the next day, started something new. As you might imagine, it didn’t take long for my sewing room to get messy again, with piles of unfinished projects all over…

Somehow time flew by, and, sooner than I expected, Holiday Fair Season is upon us. My first fair for the season is only a little over a week away. So in the past couple of weeks I forced myself to sit down and finish some of those unfinished projects. Here is a peek at some of the the things I managed to complete:

Butterflies

If you read the post about my above-mentioned moths quilt, you might remember that it took a few tries to perfect the butterfly. Those practice butterflies weren’t exactly what I needed for the actual quilt, but they turned out quite nice nonetheless. I wanted to use then for something, and eventually decided to frame them. Here is one:

After the Dare! quilt was finished, I remained a little obsessed with butterflies. I found them fun to make, and wanted to try some in happy colors. And so, I sewed a few more in blues and purples, and added some colorful wooden beads to brighten them up. I had a little pile of them sitting around, and couldn’t quite decide what to do with them. This week I bought a few barrette pins, and glued them to their back. The result: bright and cheery textile hair pins!

Necklaces

Last year I made a textile necklace for myself. So many people asked me about it, that I decided to make a few more. I made three a few months ago, but over the last few weeks played with several more. I’ve been experimenting with different combinations of fabrics and beads, and created several statement pieces.

So far, I’ve been working on two kinds of necklaces. Here are some of my tassel ones:

And here is an example of a pedant necklace, which is a miniature collages/quilt:

Handbags

The butterflies and necklaces got me into fabric-and-bead-combining mode. I thought it’ll be fun to try doing this with purses as well. So over the last few weeks I’ve been playing with fabric collages that incorporate some beads as well. These resulted in several asymmetrical, funky small cross body bags, that I like very much:

Fall Inspired

Finally, the cooling days and the turning trees inspired me to make some textile fall leaves. I made these of a combination of smooth silk and rough upholstery textiles, with a few glass beads for an extra pop. I think they, too, will end up as statement barrettes:

If you’re in the Bay Area, come see everything in person at the FabMo Textile Art Boutique on October 29!