craft therapy · quilting

Quilting for Tough Times

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One of my blog posts from the beginning discouraged sewing while in a bad mood. Honestly, I still don’t like the idea of  sewing for loves ones when I’m sick or angry. I find that I make too many mistakes when I’m not feeling well. Overall, it’s just not a great sewing experience. However, if it is a personal quilting project it should be based on your needs. Working with you hands can be therapeutic for many. I’ve discovered that doing a little bit of patchwork with quilting throughout the month helps me get through periods of loneliness, tough times, and moments when I need to be strong.

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When I commit to working on personal projects, I do a lot of praying and reflecting on life. I enjoy spending time just working with my hands. I also get lost in my thoughts. Once my rotary skills improved, I enjoyed cutting fabric squares to piece together a small quilt top. Achieving accurate seams is the most challenging for me. However, the journey is always important to me.  The whole process of working on a quilt, gives me the energy to keep fighting.

Life has taught me that I’m responsible for loving myself as well as creating my own happiness.  I know that it is recommended to reach out to people when you are experiencing tough times, but for me I just end up confuse. You don’t need to tell everyone your problems. I recommend talking to a professional. However, there are times that you need periods alone where you can work through problems yourself. Over the summer, I prayed a lot, and I knew I was tired of feeling like I was in the dumps.  I decided that I wanted to get better at quilting. I needed a change.

Each week, I was at my house, learning how to prepare a quilt top. The more it came together, the better I started to feel about myself. I don’t really know how to describe it, but when you make something on your own, it’s like an empowering feeling. I felt useful again.  I was learning new skills, and the great thing about it was that I wasn’t depending on anyone else to validate me.

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One of my most recent quilts features a lot of cats. I’ll admit that I’m a cat lady with no cats.  I wanted to make a personal project. It’s not perfect, but it reminded me that I have what it takes to finish a quilt. I hang it over my headboard. What’s different about this quilt, is that it was the first time I attempted to bind a quilt. Binding the quilt was hard, and I made a lot of mistakes. I was able to get over my fear of binding, and I have a lot of motivation to do better next time.

 

The most meaningful part of the quilting process was that it taught me how to start creating my own life again. I was learning how to express myself. I found it hard to get negative being surrounded by so much color all the time.  I say to myself sometimes “when life gives you lemons, make a quilt.” I don’t think the saying is original at all, but I tell myself those very words when I’m stressed.  I will always have problems, but at least I’m not sitting around dwelling on them.

Stephanie

 

 

 

Anxiety · personal · sewing

I wasn’t always a maker

I haven’t always been a maker, but I always had the desire to create things. I would see people making cakes, dresses, and accessories, but it was someone else’s life. No matter how many blogs or magazines I clipped through, it still wasn’t my life. What was stopping me? Why did I have such a negative outlook on life?

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When we are young, we often receive a lot of negative messages from life.  We become sensitive to what we hear. I was constantly reminded that I was bad at math, awkward, and possessed very little mechanical skills. At the time, I didn’t know what it really meant to have mechanical skills, but I took that to meant that I wasn’t efficient at working with my hands. But, the problem was that people didn’t explain to me that it was a set of skills you have to acquire overtime. When I didn’t quite understand new concepts I was called stupid or slow.  People just moved me out of the way. I was use to people moving me out of the way instead of giving me the chance to solve problems. It made me very anxious. Why was everyone expecting me to learn everything so fast?

 

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I was also told that I lacked hand-eye coordination. It made me laugh at times. I remember when  my mom enrolled me in ballet and tap dance classes. I believe she was trying to motivate me, but  it only made me feel isolated.  It took me a lot longer to get things, and eventually, the instructor told my mom that I had to drop down to a lower level class. It was like that with a lot of things. I was always trying to catch up.

My mom might have been proud of me. However, when you leave home, life has a way of humbling you.  I struggled with everything including  athletics, math, cooking, driving, dancing, dating, and meeting people. Some of my family members grew weary and they didn’t know if I could handle things on my own. It got to the point where they wanted my younger sister to look after me. I would grow angry at times. I was four years older than my sister. Why did I need her to look after me?

I don’t know how it all started, but I was struggling in life. I would stay up all night trying to figure out how I was going to make it. I know that in  high school, I received the help that I needed academically. I learned how to study, and I was able to graduate. But, in other areas I was following behind my peers. It took me longer, but I eventually, I went on to finish college.

However, I continued to hear things while I worked in my field. It was mostly about how anxious and too overly sensitive I was for the job. I struggled in my professional life. I can’t say it was one job, but it was a combination of feeling inadequate  and going home feeling down about my shortcomings. At the end of my twenties, I decided that I wanted more out of life. I was tired of working the way others wanted me to work. I was tired of living by someone else’s rules and standards.

(I didn’t quit my day job, but I did start looking for the  opportunity to give myself a part-time job.)

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I’m not sure what happened or what triggered it exactly, but I started doing research on hair bow making in October 2016. I didn’t have any kids of my own, but I just kept watching videos on people giving tips on how to make hair bows, and  I was fascinated. As I was watching, I kept hearing the word “sew.” I knew that I wanted to learn how to make hair bows, but I also wondered if I could learn how to sew. I thought I was going crazy. I was fearful because I’ve never really taken the time to actually make something. How would I learn how to sew? How could a buy a sewing machine?  What am I doing? I was very nervous, but at the same time I wanted my very own sewing machine. I kept wondering how I was going to make it happen and then I did. After reading various blogs, I decided to purchase my first sewing machine from Amazon. It was a Janome 2212. I also started going shopping two or three times a week, buying supplies and getting started on my new journey.

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The first few weeks were challenging. Unlike anything else I ever did, I didn’t care. That’s when I knew that I found my passion. I was struggling, but I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to learn. I suddenly didn’t care about what people thought. I had ideas, and I wanted to pursue them.

Today, I feel motivated. I still struggle with bouts of depression, but I feel like I have a blessing that will keep me going. It was something about buying my first machine and turning material into an object that gave me the confidence to keep going. Can you believe that today I actually own two sewing machines, and I’ve also been teaching myself to knit? I never thought I would be someone who sewed or knit after work. I’m blessed. I thank God everyday for not allowing me to give up on myself when I really wanted to.

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I apologize that my blog is too personal, but I had to share this part of my personal life with you all because I want people to know that there is hope. You don’t have to come from a perfect life or have this perfect background to pursue your goals in life. You are capable of  success. and anything you put your mind to today.

 

quilting

5 lessons I learned after making my first baby quilt

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When I sew, I think a lot about family. It wasn’t hard for me to get started making baby quilts during the winter of 2017.  It was how I passed the time.  I remember feeling frustrated with life, and  I wasn’t getting anywhere fast, so one of the things I turned to was quilting for babies. It was one of the things that quieted my spirit. I did a lot of research on potential projects. I didn’t have a particular pattern, but I did sign up for Learn to Quilt: Charming Baby Quilt with Amy Gibson through Craftsy. Through that one particular class, I received a lot of helpful information to complete two baby quilts. Because of that process I learned 5 valuable  lessons that stay with me now as a beginning quilter.

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  1. Whenever quilting for a family member or friend, go into the quilting project with a positive spirit. When I first started learning how to sew, I would sew when I was happy, sad, sick, tired, or angry. It didn’t matter. I thought of sewing as my therapy away from personal  problems. As I moved on to learn how to sew for others, I realize I didn’t want to carry any negative attitudes from problems that occurred throughout the day into a project that was personal. In my opinion it’s different if I’m making something for myself. At this time, I don’t have any children. While completing my baby quilts, I pretended that I was quilting for a child or that I was quilting for a new mom. I thought about how I wanted the child to feel loved. Quilting for others is very personal. I want the project to be successful, so I only think of good thoughts, prayers, and appreciation for the receiver.

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2. Choose Quality

When I first started learning how to quilt, I decided that I wanted to use high quality  tools to have better results. Stop being frustrated while sewing.  A quilt is gift and necessity. You want it to last for you and your love ones. I didn’t want to cut corners. I knew I wanted to grow as a quilter, so I started by  investing in a new sewing machine, a Janome 49360 Quilter’s Computerized Sewing Machine. I purchased it from the Home Shopping Network. It was one of the best decisions I could have made as a beginner. It has speed control, an automatic thread cutter, and a drop-in bobbin system.  The sewing machine came with many helpful tools including a walking foot and patchwork foot. I also started stocking up on quality thread including Aurifil 50 wt thread. I did my best to do research on rulers, rotary cutters,  needles, batting, irons, pins, and etc. It was very time consuming, but I had a much better experience. In the past, I struggled because I was trying to cut corners. I’ve come to the conclusion that quilting can be an expensive hobby, but this is my passion and I’m willing to invest in it so that I can become a professional.

3. Aspire for accuracy, but don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes

Accuracy is very important in quilting. In quilting, everything is pieced together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Having a patchwork foot can be very helpful. You also have to check to your seams to make sure that they are accurate. Squaring up fabric and cutting accurately is crucial to the success of the quilt. If you are uncertain about a piece, don’t bother using it. At the end you, will save yourself problems.

My first and second baby quilts were far from perfect. I didn’t give them away. However, I started the projects because I wanted to know if quilting was something possible for me. Could I do it? Could I make it happen?  I realized that I could. You can too. My advice is to always strive to match your seams while piecing and making quilting blocks, but don’t beat yourself up for not making the mark every time. It’s ok to rip out seams. It’s ok to go back and cut your squares again. It’s also ok to invest in pre-cuts if you don’t feel comfortable your first time cutting up yards of fabric into 5″ squares. My very first baby quilts were made with charm packs. A charm pack is a set 30-40  5″ squares that you can piece together to form a quilt. The possibilities are endless. I found them easy to use when I first started because my cutting skills weren’t great. It took a lot of practice and better quality rulers before I felt comfortable cutting my own fabric squares. Take your time, but don’t get upset with yourself if you can’t make the mark all the time. IMG_20170501_121453_100

4. Enjoy the process, and every mistake is a learning experience

In quilting you will make mistakes. When I first started, I use to beat myself up because I couldn’t match my seams. I wasn’t cutting my squares accurately because my measuring was off. All admit that I spent hours feeling bad about myself, but it was wasted energy. So,  I decided to invest in quality rulers that made cutting easier and accurate. I watched several tutorials on YouTube regarding squaring up my fabric.  I did my research and I gathered information on how to match up my points. Yes, it was hard but I was learning. If you don’t make mistakes, then you will not learn. Let each project be a learning opportunity.

5. Be Patient! All beautiful things take time and hard-work.

Sewing and quilting take time. You aren’t in a competition to finish first, so go at your own pace. It takes time to cut, piece, and press all those little parts that make up a quilt. When you are a beginner it can be frustrating, but don’t worry about how slow or fast you are going. The important part is that you are always learning. Keep going! Remember with each mistakes, you are learning for better success next time.

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Knitting · recovery

Knitting through pain

I’ve been knitting since June 2016. I discovered that I like working with my hands, but sewing wasn’t a hobby I could take along with me while away from home. I learned the the answer to my problem was knitting. Sewing is still dear to my heart, but there isn’t anything wrong with learning more than one craft.

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Knitting from a place of emotions

I started knitting coming from a place of emotions. I was having emotional problems, and I couldn’t necessarily escape them. I couldn’t allow myself to act on them either. It was so important at the time that I held everything together.  People were depending on me. I had to fight. Making things with my hands plays a big part in how I deal with life’s challenges. When I get busy making things, I’m more resistant to depression.

 

When you feel pain, you just want to numb what you are feeling inside. Physical pain is different. As annoying and terrible as physical pain can be, sometimes  it can be subsided with medication. However, I’m what some people may called “an overly sensitive person,” and I never handle it well. I’m a big baby, and I will complain until the end.

However, emotional pain is something that can linger on forever if you allow it to. It’s important to take the time to understand your emotions, but at the same time you don’t want to allow it to affect your life so much that you end up neglecting yourself. You also don’t want to take your negative emotions out on others.  Based on my personality, emotional pain is something that holds me captive. I do my best to try to not stay down very long.  However, your emotions and insecurities can trick you into believing that what you are feeling is necessary and that you must act on it. I had to learn how to put my emotions aside so that I could continue to grow stronger and take care of the matters at hand.

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So, I started knitting in between my breaks from sewing  because I wanted to let go of a lot of negative emotions. I knew that my feelings would eventually create problems, so I decided to resist falling into them. I started knitting my way through areas of life. I called it “knitting my way through life’s obstacles.” I pray to God a lot while I knit so it helps me stay positive. I get a lot of knitting down before work just to ease my mind and prepare my mind for the day.

 

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The Process: Knit 1 Purl 1

It took me about a week to get my hands together in order to learn how to knit. The idea was so foreign to me at the time. It was so challenging that all I could focus on at times was how I was going to make any stitches. Eventually two weeks later I was taking my yarn and needles with me to work.I started knitting in my car before work, during lunch, and breaks. I would sit in bed in knit while binge watching Netflix. I learned that I could accomplish making a scarf by learning how to create garter stitch. However,  I think all new knitters learn after a while that garter stitch can get boring.

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The Plan

I had a plan last summer. I received a Michael’s gift card for my birthday during the end of July. I bought 9 skeins of yarn. My goal was to make three scarves for the fall. I bought  6 skeins of yarn from  Loops and Thread.I also purchased  the last three skeins from Lion Brand’s Homespun yarn. I had three different colors that matched my wardrobe. I also did my research and purchased a specific needle size for all three projects.

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I needed to take a knitting classes, so I enrolled through an online class on Craftsy called The Knitting Lab with Stefanie Japel. The goal for the class was to create a lace scarf I believe. However, I wasn’t prepared to make a lace scarf at the time. I tried, but I wasn’t at the level. However, I did learn how to do garter stitch. I figured I would start off small and just knit in garter stitch for a while. I took my knitting projects with me. When I made mistakes, I had to rip it out or I had to live with them. The important thing for me was that I was learning.

Accomplishments

Learning new skills and creating my own scarves proved feasible. During the fall of 2016, I completed all three scarves. Although they aren’t perfect, my family and friends really liked them. I also discovered that the scarves I made felt a lot warmer than what I purchased from a big-box store near me. Garter stitch creates a warm feeling when knitted in bulky yarn. It felt good wearing my scarves to work in the cold weather. I eventually got bored with garter stitch toward the middle of November, so I decided to practicing the purl stitch. I started purling away until I stop twisting my stitches and learned how to move my yarn from front to back while knitting and purling in the same row.

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The more I learned, the more I realized knitting increased my self-esteem. There’s a community of knitters out there. I found myself being connected to people through my experience.  Each time, I learned a new skill, I felt better about myself. Yes, it was a struggle. I made a lot of mistakes.  However,  I felt more independent. I felt like I was making an effort to bring more  more joy and contentment into my life. I also thought about all the possibilities, I could bring into someone else’s life. Someday, I hope to learn to improve  my skills so that I can give knitted gifts to others. If you are a crafter, then you already know how much junk you can accumulate over the years.

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DIY · Home Decor · sewing

Making Woodland Animal Throw Pillows

During the last blog post,  I wrote about how I committed to sewing more with my fabric stash. I’m keeping my promise. What do you make when you are a sewing novice? My answer would have to be throw pillows. It’s a practical sewing project that you can use to decorate a particular area in your home.  If you are a beginner, the it teaches you skills such as sewing in straight lines and pivoting corners. As a sewing novice,  it’s instant gratification for me because it doesn’t take me a whole day to complete throw pillows.

I have plenty of novelty fabric stored in a bin. I also had a large bag of polyfill. I hate to admit it, but the bag of polyfill had been in my room for at least 9 months. I told myself, it was time to sit down and start working on a project. My throw pillow sewing project included fabric from Michael Miller’s Norwegian Woods line.  The fabric was perfect for the look I was trying to accomplish. I have an obsession with woodland animals. It reminded me of fall, yet bright enough to uplift someone’s mood. I think it’s a great fabric line for nursery items and quilts as well.

animalsReturning to the basics wasn’t a bad idea. I haven’t sewed any throw pillows in over 10 months. I remember hating my very first throw pillows because they weren’t firm enough. I did some research and started looking for popular sizes of throw pillows. I came by one tutorial, Sew Comfortable: How to Sew Perfectly Plump Throw Pillow Covers by Beth Galvin from Craftsy. The tutorial was very helpful for me  because I needed the correct seam allowance for sewing throw pillows. Although I lacked having a pillow form, I decided to  continue following the pattern by cutting  17 x 17 inch fabric squares for my pillow. I only had enough polyfill for two pillows at the time, so I decided to keep the purple shaded fabric for a later project.

I sewed around the fabric squares right sides together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance and left an opening at the bottom of the pillow for turning and stuffing. After sewing, I pressed my seams and trimmed the corners so that they wouldn’t be so bulky at the ends.

IMG_20170611_221733_675I also used a wooden stick to help place an even amount of polyfill on both sides of the pillow. Once I was happy with the firmness of the pillow, I pressed the opening at the bottom edge of the pillow tucking the raw edges inside. Finally, I machine stitched the bottom opening close.

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Now, I had two bright woodland animal throw pillows that would be great in my bedroom or my next apartment space. I’m one for going against fashion rules. Yes, I’m 30 years old and I still like adorable baby print fabric. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being a kid at heart. If you have any kids or have a baby on the way, then I would highly recommend it for a new nursery or baby gift making project.

Happy pillow making!

-Stephanie

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Fabric · Goals · sewing

Fabric Hoarder to Sewist

When I started learning how to sew, I’ll admit that the majority of my sewing money went to novelty fabric purchases.  I wish I would have done my research on strategies for building a fabric stash before I made purchases. At the time, I was exploring and living out my inner child. I was bored with work, and I looked forward to receiving little happy mail during the week.  It didn’t take long for me to become a fabric hoarder. I started sharing my purchases on my Facebook and Instagram accounts. My online friends were always amazed of what fabric I found.  My favorite prints included anything with cats, dolls, food, unicorns, and woodland animals.

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During my first months into sewing, I gave myself a $50-$60 dollar fabric purchase  limit each pay period. I remember having the desire to make a lot of cute things I would see on sewing blogs, but my skill didn’t match up with my vision. I also realize that my work schedule made it nearly impossible to complete all those beautiful project ideas I found online. It was time for me to get serious about my what I wanted to learn and what did I expect to get out of sewing.

I don’t have the perfect strategy for buying fabric. However,  I’m working on a strategy as I do research on what works for other successful sewist and quilters. My goal it to acquire new skills and techniques with each project. I also want to make things that represent my personality as well as uplift my mood. Another thing I’m doing is learning to make things I can actually use in my everyday life. Finding projects take time, but if I don’t get out of my comfort zone each week then I’ll never make any progress towards my sewing goals.

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My summer goal is to make practical things from my fabric stash. It could be for my personal use or a gift to a friend. Some project ideas I have in mind, include pincushions, zipper pencil cases, pouches, mug rugs, throw pillows, and small baby quilts. The important part is that I’m not just collecting fabric, but I’m making something out of what I have.

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Life · Personal Development · recovery · Self-Love

Life Update

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It’s been a little bit over a year since I’ve posted a blog. At one time, I was uncertain about the  direction I wanted to take my blog. I knew that I wanted to be a professional, but I felt like my blog was lacking purpose. I think that was true for my personal life as well. For many years,  my story was related to depression and how my work-life contributed to it. One day I decided that I wanted to change my story. I decided that I wasn’t my depression. I wasn’t the negative things that I believed all these years.

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I took a break from blogging for a while to focus on new goals and hobbies. I’m 30 years old now, and for the first time in my life I feel like I’m passionate about the work and the things I’m doing in life. Back in my twenties, I focused a lot on how everything was making me depressed. Two factors I recognize that contributed to the depression was  lack of identity and community.I  didn’t have a strong sense of self. Because I wasn’t social and didn’t do a lot of hobbies back then, I couldn’t relate to people. I didn’t have anything to talk about. I must admit, I wasn’t a very interesting person.

Today, I’m an aspiring quilter who loves petting new fabric. I love patchwork, woodland animals, and all things cute. I love visiting the PNW, eating vegan food, and exploring all things natural and healthy.  I do have a day job as a public librarian. I enjoy watching television shows from the 1990s. I also venture into other crafts such as knitting and crochet. Someday, I hope to have an Etsy baby store full of warm quilts and cuddly accessories. That me! I wasn’t those dark things I told myself all those years. It just wasn’t true.

In life we go through changes. What I’ve learned is that challenging times bring out the strength in a person. I’ve learned to accept life when things don’t go my way. I know how to cope when trouble comes. I’m better at picking myself back up after a stumble. I didn’t get here alone. It was God, good people, and recognizing the blessings that life has to offer.