Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Operation: Keep Michelle Sane

About every other month, my husband travels for a week for business. Instead of dreading my time as a single parent, I’ve learned to embrace these trips. In the days leading up to my husband’s departure, I anticipate the small perks of a week without him: enjoying a clean (boy-free) master bathroom, preparing simple kid dinners instead of nicer ones, and being selfish with how I spend my evenings (i.e., by sewing).

When my husband revealed that he would be traveling for two full weeks this summer, however, I promptly curled up in fetal position. After all, there’s no school during the summer! There’s no structure! That’s a lot of free time for one mama and her two little boys. Then it occurred to me to find the silver lining in the situation—or create it myself, if necessary. And I did.

During the weekend that my man was out of town, I invited some quilty ladies to join me for a day of sewing at Quilter’s Way, my local quilt shop. Summer weekends can be tough to schedule, so I was psyched to round up a group of seven of us.

And here we are. Top row (left to right): Terri of Childlike Fascination, Mary of See Mary Quilt, Jenn of Never Just Jennifer, Caitlyn of Salty Oat. Bottom row (left to right): me, Sarah of Smiles Too Loudly, and Beth of both Instagram and Munchkin fame.

The sewing studio was ours for the entire day. We sewed. We laughed. We ate. We bought fabric. The day was perfection.

In between oohing and aahing over each other’s projects and fending off the siren call of the Munchkins Beth brought, I made a few mental notes about the experience.

1. Sharing a common passion goes a long way in developing friendships. I have my mom friends, my church friends, my college friends—and just like those other groups, I have a connection to these sewing friends. We may be in slightly different stages of life (damn, I was the oldest in the group again, Karin—and by more than 11 days!), with different interests outside of sewing, but I think it would be impossible for us to get together and not have fun. Quilty friends are the best.

This is one quadrant from my Obsession quilt, which I worked on at the sew-in.
It’s not done, but I got a good chunk of piecing completed.

2. People have different processes. It’s interesting to see how different quilters approach their creative process. For example, some in the group are unfazed by having dozens of concurrent WIPs; others have just a few (and resort to the aforementioned fetal position when the WIP count gets above six or seven).

Inviting others into our creating space is a worthwhile exercise, but it’s harder than I thought it would be. I mean, I’ve gotten feedback before on how I should quilt something or how I should bind something. It’s different, however, to lay out my plan for a project with just a few fabrics and pictures to help someone else understand my nascent vision. Even the process of trying to describe where I’m headed helps, though; it makes me fine-tune my plan.

3. It takes a long time to piece a quilt top. I mean, really long! I brought two in-process tops and finished neither of them. Don’t get me wrong—I made some good headway. But I usually sew in small increments at home. When I can actually account for the time I put into a quilt, it’s a lot!

4. When I label my quilt pieces and write notes to myself, I make fewer mistakes. (Duh.) At the retreat I went on back in April, I made one bonehead mistake after another. Maybe it was the sheer number of hours I spent sewing or the cocktails that were consumed each evening—I don’t know. I was more conscientious at this sew-in and didn’t use my seam ripper once. Woo hoo for efficiency!

And despite those snafus from the spring, April Michelle wrote some helpful notes about where August Michelle should pick up with her Obsession project. August Michelle was very appreciative. Woo hoo for thinking ahead!

When I got home after a day of sewing, I sewed these strips.
I am excited about how this wintery quilt will turn out!

I left the day physically exhausted but renewed in other ways, and I funneled that energy into the days with my boys that followed. I still have a few more sleeps before my husband returns, and I think I’ll be able to stay afloat. So far, there has been no bloodshed, no broken bones, and only a modest amount of yelling and frustration (from all parties present at my house). There was one morning when the guest-room alarm clock mysteriously went off at 5 a.m., waking my older son, who woke me. Sigh. I can’t figure out how it was turned on. My son blames the tooth fairy, who visited that same night. As the resident tooth fairy, I assure you, it wasn’t me!

How does sewing keep you sane? Have you organized any get-togethers for your fabric-minded friends? (In addition to this sew-in, I got a group together to go to a local fabric mecca last month. Fun!)

Linking up to Sew Cute Tuesday, Let’s Bee Social, WIP Wednesday, and Needle and Thread Thursday ...

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20 comments:

  1. What a great photo! Thank you so much for inviting me! I had a a fabulous day!!

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  2. Still so bummed I couldn't make it :( Glad your obsession quilt got some TLC, it's going to be so pretty once it's finished. Also glad you got secure your sanity with a little away time.

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  3. Such a fantastic idea and a great list of helpful hints. Marking pieces, leaving notes when there are months between starts and stops! You are going a great job!

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  4. Oh, this is so much fun! I'm glad to hear you had a sew day. I know full well what two weeks of kidlets means! Hope you're doing well, friend.

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  5. Hang tight! My husband travels too, and our little one is now three. I used to enjoy those free weeks when we didn't have kids, because I could sew and paint and be totally selfish. Now when he's gone I can barely shower by myself! You're lucky to have quilty friends nearby!
    ps - great block!

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  6. I love getting together with other quilters and sewing together - I have a day like that tomorrow! I love your block - will have to investigate that pattern more and think about adding it to my to do list!

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  7. I get together once a month with two quilting friends. We don't get a lot accomplished either. I think because we are talking so much and checking out each other's projects. It's really fun. I love the picks of your day.

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  8. Your Obsession quilt will be amazing! I love what I see so far. Sounds like you had fun and learned a lot. Woo Hoo for sew ins!

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  9. Love your obsession quilt block, I just adore rainbow quilts.

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  10. Oh I totally know what it is like to be home alone with two boys - sympathies! But what a great idea to organise a day that would inspire and enthuse and reenergise you :-)

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  11. I love that you embrace your husbands trips and use them as 'me' time! It sounds like an amazing day with your friends! There is something so wonderful about being with likeminded people! Our guild meets once a month, that is the only time I get the pleasure of sewing with others! I'm now obsessed with your obsession block!

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  12. Looks like a brilliant day out. I can relate to what you say about explaining your vision. I'm lucky I get to sew with a great group of sewers on Thursday evenings during school time. It is inspiring, motivating and a brilliant place to get help!

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  13. Sounds like you had a great time out and a bit of self-reflection is always useful. Love the Obsession quilt block.

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  14. Friends like that make all the difference. I raised my three with my husband mostly gone, traveling for work. It looks like you had a wonderful time together Michelle. The obsession block is beautiful!

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  15. Loving the obsession block. Can't wait to see that one finished!

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  16. your obsession quilt is going to be gorgeous. I must agree with you- quilty friends are the best! Sew-in days are so much fun!

    :) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

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  17. Sounds you had a great time and friends. It is good that you can make the best out of it for you and your boys when you husband is away. That obsession block is a beauty!!!!

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  18. Quilty friends are great! I love what you've shown so far of your Obsession quilt, and the wintry quilt looks like it's going to be a lot of fun too. Thanks for sharing!

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  19. So jealous! I don't have quilty friends near enough to organize a sewing day, so all my sewing days happen over IG. Still better than none, though :) Looks like you had a lot of fun, and leaving yourself notes sounds like a great plan!

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  20. Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! I'm so proud of you for organizing this event, surviving your husband's long absence and that winter quilt is, um, just so lovely. Wish I lived closer and could have been a part of the fun! So glad you made the most of this time :)

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