It's a common practice for quilters to begin thinking about our winter season projects by mid-year. But for much of the U.S., the summer heat does little to inspire our Christmas spirit.
Young children may be on summer break, requiring more of our attention. Lawns and gardens need tending. There are often home-improvement projects. There's the family vacation and other warm-weather diversions. Some of us have more than a little trouble getting a jump start on our holiday preparations. When it comes to multiple quilting projects that will likely require many hours, time becomes especially precious for those of us who find life constantly getting in the way of our sewing.
We have some ideas for you to push through (and enjoy) your holiday projects well in advance of the December deadlines.
8 TIPS to Finish Your Quilts Before Christmas
1. Identify Your Strengths for Completing Tasks
To work efficiently, we often need to change our habits, but in some cases it's helpful to simply know how you work best - even if it's a little less than efficient. If you have a "workable" method for gettin' stuff done, stick to it when attempts to improve your efficiency leave you frustrated. Don't berate yourself and create negative feelings when some new plan for productivity just doesn't work for you no matter how sensible it seems. Do what works and congratulate yourself for going forward. Pushing through projects as you worry about your inability to change your habits is going to make the entire situation worse for you - a needless bummer!
2. Anything is Something
Remember the comedy film What About Bob? It featured a rather basic if not cliche technique for gettin' stuff done under duress: baby steps. Bill Murray's character "Bob" was immobilized by extreme anxiety. We're probably not that bad about getting our holiday projects underway, but we might procrastinate as we encounter time-consuming obstacles daily. Days turn into weeks... So if we just start moving toward our goal little by little - baby steps - we're likely to become increasingly motivated as we see results from our smallest efforts. Do something to get the project rolling because once you do, the motivation will kick in. You have only 30 minutes today? Cut your fabric. Press your squares. Something. Then the motivation will kick in and you'll want to continue as soon as possible.
3. A Tidy, Organized Work Area - Or Not!
Almost any comprehensive list of productivity tips is going to suggest a tidy, organized work area. If that suits you and puts your mind in the correct state for quilting, then by all means get that sewing room tidied up today so you can start quilting tomorrow. But know thyself! Maybe you don't really care if it takes an extra four minutes to find that missing seam ripper. Maybe messy piles of stash don't distract you. Maybe you just need to sew and save the organizing for after Christmas. Just sew. And if you do prefer a tidy work area, make sure that organization isn't a satisfying substitute for actually working on your projects - incessant organizing can be its own form of procrastination.
4. Assembly Line Projects
Suppose you intend to quilt gifts for five women in your extended family. Choose a pattern that relies more on color than advanced skills. Challenge yourself to pull from your stash boldly (or head to the fabric shop), then execute your five quilted gifts as an "assembly line" project. Cut, cut, cut all five projects. Pin, pin, pin all five projects. Sew, sew, sew. Press, press, press all with an iron. Sew, sew, sew. Keep all five items in sync and you might feel especially energized to see them all evolve to completion simultaneously.
5. Tip #4 Is Ridiculous
Assembly line sewing might violate tip #1 for you. Maybe you tried it and it doesn't suit you. Maybe you dread the idea of even trying it because it sounds like, well, an assembly line - boring! Tip #1 insists that we play to our strengths. If you remain motivated by assembling one table topper at a time, seeing it all the way to completion before starting the next one, then do that. If you prefer to work on different projects on different days - perfect... as long as you do indeed work on them (refer to tip #2).
6. Don't Talk About Your Projects Until They are Finished
This one might seem weird, but if you have problems with productivity and efficiency, give this a try: keep your mouth shut about your projects until they are complete. Don't talk to your friends about them in detail. Don't chat about them online in detail. Don't post your fabric or patterns for feedback. Just think about your project's details... a lot. Quilting is a creative outlet that can rise to the level of true art. Artists tend to remain quiet about their burgeoning projects for a reason - when we talk about them it can have the subconscious effect of releasing the creativity into the world in a false manner while strangely leaving us satisfied by just talking about fabric and sewing. Try holding that creativity securely within you so that it must emerge properly: as a finished quilt project. This brings us to visualization.
7. To-Do Lists and Visualization
To-do lists have their place for scheduling and organization, but they also help us visualize. Visualization trains the subconscious to better expect a desired outcome. When our subconscious anticipates an outcome as a certainty, our conscious mind is more likely to urge our actions toward the goal. Be specific when you write your to-do list, because you are essentially writing down and cementing goals in your mind. One study suggests that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. This principle doesn't have to be reserved for your lifetime bucket list; it can apply to your task list as well. Don't write "make Kathy's gift" on your to-do list. Write "make Kathy's blue and tan table runner and include some fussy cuts" After you write a more detailed to-do item, pause a moment and visualize the finished task. "See" yourself piecing the table runner. "See" yourself selecting the fussy cuts. "See" the completed runner. "See" Kathy overjoyed to receive her gift. If you have the luxury of 5-15 minutes of relaxation each day, spend the time visualizing your goals reaching completion.
8. Remember this Not-So-Secret Secret
For most of us, quilting actually reduces stress. We get in the zone as we make careful cuts, smooth and pin our fabric, then stitch carefully to the soothing rhythm of our machine. The next time you feel a little stressed about your holiday project list and your scarce time, lean on tips 1-7 and start quilting - your stress will likely melt away.
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