With this week’s fibro flare came a realization: I’m not very good at doing nothing.
“You should take some time off and rest. Do nothing,” Mr. December said. “You don’t have to work all the time.”
“And do what, exactly?” I countered.
“I dunno, watch TV?”
That’s how I ended up binge-watching Bridgerton. And then I started watching Derry Girls. It started to feel less ridiculously decadent after a while, but then it got… kind of boring. It reminded me of when I was just freshly concussed and couldn’t read or watch TV… or sit up for long, or follow a conversation. Most boring recovery ever.
I’ve known this about myself for a while now: eight (or so) years ago I went to Barbados for a month with my mum and three kids… and a sewing machine and a suitcase full of quilting supplies. I have to have something to do with my hands and mind, and there are only so many books I can read (back then my brain maxed out at 10 books a month, even with time for more.)
That’s why right now, spare time feels a bit torturous. My everything hurts, which means I can’t use my hands to play viola or guitar; I also can’t really sew for long stretches of time, or use my power tools. I feel like the guy in that Twilight Zone episode whose reading glasses have just broken when he has all the time in the world: “There was time!!!!!”
I did try recording a song parody I wrote about our homeschooling schedule challenges. After six takes I got one I really liked; then I realized that the sound quality was awful. Mr. December thinks I should get myself a good microphone. I don’t even know what makes a microphone good. But it’s a good parody, I think, and I want to make a music video out of it (I’m sure that could be a homeschool project for the kids, right? Video editing?), so I’ll probably end up looking for a mic tomorrow.
See? I’m supposed to be doing nothing (okay, resting) and instead I’ve recorded a song. I’m no good at this. Maybe I should try practicing some more tonight.
A downside to being a creative type with ADHD is that I always have dozens of unfinished projects sitting around. As of today I have two unfinished quilts, five woodworking projects that I started but never finished, a song parody I was supposed to plan a video for, two sewing projects, and assorted things to fix and mend.
Yesterday I started thinking seriously about a quilt for N. I made one for K when she got her first big-kid bed; I promised myself that I would make a quilt for each of my children as they hit that milestone. Seven years later, K is still the only one with an Eema-made quilt. So I began planning a quilt for N and quickly ran into a problem: my design wall was full.
The design wall sounds fancier than it is: it’s a large piece of white quilt batting that hangs on the wall. Quilting cotton sticks right to it without the need for pins, which makes it the perfect place to store finished quilt blocks and to arrange them before I sew them all together.
As I was saying, the design wall was covered with a quilt top I began before our renovation. You’ve seen it in the photo tour of the Makery. I suppose I could have folded it and put it away again, but I really wanted to finish something. I figured I could complete the quilt in a few hours, tops.
So that’s what I’ve been working on when I’m not homeschooling. K helped me spray-baste the layers together, and then I spent an hour last night laying out the quilting lines with masking tape. It took me about an hour this afternoon to sew all those lines—if you don’t include the half-hour when I was unthreading and rethreading the machine and frantically googling “bobbin thread keeps jamming.” Worry not, I changed the needle and reversed the bobbin direction, and it didn’t jam again.
I know I put away fabric for the quilt binding, so tomorrow I’ll go hunting for it and start the binding process. I’m very excited to actually finish a quilt. It’s been a long time since the last time that happened: I finished the last quilt when my niece was born. She turned five last month.
Here’s a sneak peek at the quilt, sans binding:
You know the saying, “A change is as good as a rest”? Quilting is very focus-intensive work, but it’s totally different from everything else I’ve been doing lately. Going back to an old hobby, and still enjoying it, is a really great feeling. Especially when it helps me clear my design wall.
It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here. Welcome to the Makery!
Prior to our renovation, I wanted a space for my sewing and woodworking projects. Then it dawned on me that my kids should have a place to work on projects where it would be okay to not clean up every single time. We needed a messy space, and my concept for the Makery was born.
Not long after the concept, I came up with a motto for our Makery: “Don’t just stand there… make something!” Our good friend Tanya very kindly used her vinyl-cutting machine to make the letters for us. The plan was for each of us to make one letter from the word “Makery” so that we’d have the whole word, made in six different media, on the wall. That hasn’t happened yet, but I remain hopeful.
Here’s my sewing area. It’s in what I’ve dubbed the “clean” half of the room. The IKEA Trofast bins on the right of the photo are full of quilting fabrics in every colour imaginable. I’ve got my threads all lined up nicely and all the tools and notions are close at hand while I sew. My favourite practical detail here has got to be the huge jars across the top of the shelf — those are my scrap jars. I fell in love with scrap projects a while ago, and even when I’m not opening them up regularly, these jars are pretty and cheerful.
I have tons of these bins. Starting under the window (everything before the window is fabric), everything above table height is my hardware or household supplies, all organized by material or purpose. Below table height is where I keep some of the craft materials that the kids are allowed to access: modelling clay, beads, boondoggle, stamps, paints, papercrafting supplies, and stickers.
Now let’s shift to the “messy” side of the Makery. The white cabinets are from our old kitchen — we removed and salvaged them ourselves. Now they’re home to my collection of non-quilting fabrics: minky, fleece, chenille, flannel, and a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t even name. It’s all in there. Below the fabric cabinet is a desk for the kids. You see it here in its natural state, which is to say, covered in stuff. To the left of the desk, open shelves (also from our old kitchen) hold more craft supplies. The blue cart in the foreground has containers of tools: clay tools, pencils, markers, pens, scissors.
Our printer lives in the corner, along with many reams of paper. You would not believe how much paper and ink we’ve gone through since the lockdown started. We also have a set of laundry machines here: these are our old washer and dryer. They were already ten years old when we were moving back in, and I didn’t want to build our laundry room upstairs around machines that could die in just a few years; so we have this set downstairs and another set upstairs. This set is supposed to be for things that are gross or that we don’t want to carry upstairs to wash. I doubt we’ll replace them when they go.
To the right of the laundry machines, under the window, we have a run of cabinets from, you guessed it, our old kitchen. The sink is fabulous for soaking brushes and washing out paint trays. My favourite thing about it is the lack of pressure to clean the sink itself. I like to think of the paint drips as decoration.
In the drawers I’ve stashed more materials. The large bottom drawer holds all kinds of small scraps of wood. The top large drawer holds cardboard for the kids to use in their crafts. You can see my paintbrushes, paint trays, and spray bottles all stored on the wall rail above the sink. The toaster oven on the counter is for crafts like Fimo and Shrinky Dinks, which need to be baked as part of the process.
My workbench is on the same wall as my sewing room, but on opposite sides of the “clean/messy” line. The two chunky base units were my kitchen island in our first apartment on Charles Street; we added a long countertop and then I hacked a couple of drawers from our old PAX wardrobes to hold my screws, nails, and other hardware, as well as sets of drill bits and other small tool accessories. Magnetic strips on the wall are a handy place to throw things that I haven’t had a chance to sort yet, and all my tools are hanging right in front of me. It’s a great setup.
In the centre of the room stands our old dining room table. At 5 feet by 7 feet, it’s got enough room for many crafters at once, or for huge projects. You can also see our kids’ easel, which gets moved around as needed.
So that’s it. The messy, the clean… well, in theory, anyhow. It’s all pretty messy, which is how I always thought it would be. It’s a workspace, not a showpiece… although I do like to use my work to decorate the space whenever possible, which is why this unfinished quilt top is just hanging on the wall, waiting to be completed.
This morning I woke up determined to eat something really nutrient-dense for breakfast so I wouldn’t snack on chocolate chips and pecans all day. A blueberry-spinach smoothie, a hard-boiled egg, and some cherry tomatoes later I was ready to face the day.
We wanted to get the kids outside in the morning. So close, and yet so far – we finally shooed everyone out of the house for a walk around 12:15. One went willingly; one reluctantly; one whining every step of the way; and one only after a minor meltdown and a protracted argument about wearing socks. The argument was so drawn-out that Mr. D and two of the kids went on ahead.
The other two grudgingly came outside, but one still refused to walk anywhere and the other one was just a touch belligerent. As with every conflict or argument these days, I knew their objections were only the surface layer of all the frustration, loneliness, and anxiety that are part of everyone’s days now. I could have gone with the original plan: herd them down the sidewalk like a pair of recalcitrant cats. Instead, I ushered them towards the backyard.
“Do you wanna do something really cool?” I asked in a conspiratorial murmur.
“Ungh. What is it?” She shot back. I reached into the tool shed and brought out my axe. (For those of you who didn’t know this about me, I find splitting logs calming. In fact, I’ve gone so far to say that it works as well as antidepressants for me.)
I’ll pause for a second here so you can consider the optics of the situation. The tween is complaining loudly and long. I reach into the tool shed and stand in front of the tween, brandishing an axe.
I looked at her. She looked at me, at the axe, and back at me. She giggled. The bad mood started to dissipate. For the next half an hour, she worked at splitting logs from the pile in our backyard. Some of them were pretty tough. But she kept at it, and each time she succeeded I heard her crow, “That is SO SATISFYING!!!”
While K was busy chopping her frustrations out, R played on the swing and invited me to play pirates with her. Her first act as the Dread Pirate R was to make me walk the plank. For doing what, you ask? I’m not really sure. But then she sent me on a mission to prove my loyalty by bringing her the treasure chest.
K was so busy chopping wood that she was mostly unbothered by our banter — which, I assure you, she would be in any other circumstances. So R prattled on in her best pirate voice about how she lost her arm in a shipwreck. She was a bit fuzzy on the details.
We returned inside in much better spirits than when we left. Everyone gathered in the library for a fire (with our newly split firewood) and to add a few elements to our family map. The kids got antsy about 5 minutes in. Seriously, I thought we only had one tween — but there were three of them asking, “Are we done yet? Are you through forcing us to stay in here with you?” Eventually we had to dismiss them.
We’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack a lot recently and probably know about ⅔ of the lyrics, so I suggested some Hamilton karaoke. Nobody but me and Mr. D was interested, so the two of us sat by the fire and found some karaoke videos on YouTube. We had rapped our way through two cabinet battles and the opening number by the time curious children began to emerge from their solitudes and join us at the laptop. A good time was had by all. BY ALL!
I ignored my kids for the rest of the afternoon. I went downstairs and sewed myself a surgical mask for when I go to collect my parents from the airport tomorrow night (I think it can only be less risky than having them take a taxi that dozens of other people have sat in.) It took me way too long to choose my fabrics and in the end I made it reversible so I could decide later. Which one do you like better?
I know, I know. They’re like the worst passport photos ever. But really, which fabric looks better on me?
I took a nap after that. There’s something so sweet about sleeping when it’s still light outside. It was lovely.
Then it was bedtime for the kids and working time for me. I made a printed schedule of everyone’s day tomorrow. Honestly, I thought our days would be simpler than usual, but that doesn’t seem to be true. Look at this thing!
It’s been a while since I showed you any of my creative work. I did some sewing last year, while I was off the blog, and have finally gotten around to uploading the photos from my camera. So, without further ado, I give you:
Gumdrops Quilt for K
K moved to a big-kid bed last year, and she needed a quilt or blanket for it. Setting a precedent for the rest of my children, I went ahead and made her a quilt to keep her warm and to mark this big step for her. She requested pink and purple, and so I gleefully dug into my scraps (I have WAY too much fabric) and found enough of them to make this:
It’s a design called Gumdrops from the book Sunday Morning Quilts. The background is Kona White, the colours are scraps from previous projects, and the backing is…
Well, it’s not anything quilters would recognize. You see, when we were vacationing on our island in the sun last winter, I discovered that a decent number of people on the island still sew their own clothes, sheets, and everything else. The fabric store I happened to walk into (a chain store with a presence in the nearby mall) had tons of fabrics at very low prices. They even had zippers for $1.25 U.S. each, which any seamstress up here will tell you is crazy cheap. I actually came back with a suitcase full of fabric. But I digress.
The backing is 100% cotton sheeting, which in practical terms means that it’s wide enough to make sheets for a double bed without having to make seams. K fell in love with the colours and the design and although her quilt was not on my design board yet, I agreed it would make a great quilt backing. As you can see from the photo above, both K and her stuffed cheetah agree.
As you can see from the binding, once I got started using scraps I couldn’t stop. There are about 10 different fabrics that make up the binding, and I’m very pleased with how it looks.
As for quilting, I had some fun with my sewing machine’s embroidery foot and free-motion quilted the whole thing. At this point I realized that this quilt is a great design to “quilt as you go.” I’ll remember that for next time. Anyhow, I did a stippling pattern on the white background and quilted just inside the edge of each gumdrop shape for a raw-edge applique look. After repeated washings, I can tell you that the quilting has held up beautifully and the gumdrops’ edges are very attractively frayed. But I digress. Here’s the quilting from the back, which gives you a much better view:
Of course, no quilt would be complete without a label. It’s the last thing I sew on every quilt.
The quilt now resides on K’s big-girl bed. She takes great pride in spreading it flat in the mornings, and snuggles under it every night. A few nights ago at bedtime she hugged me and said, “‘Night, Eema. Thank you for my snuggly quilt.”