Taking a Making Break

Before I left Maine I started piecing a new quilt

Nothing too complicated – I am still a beginner when it comes to quilting – just half-square triangles, but more intricate, with smaller blocks than I had previously pieced. I wanted it to be something I could lay on the foot of my bed in my new home, a reminder of where I had been, of my friends in Maine, and of the pandemic months I spent there, crafting and cooking and watching The Mandalorian with my best friend Holland and her little family.

I made good progress

My mom visited and showed me the best way to cut and square up. Holland helped reassure me in my color choices. I spent an afternoon piecing several rows with another good friend. I try not to hold myself too hard to deadlines for creative projects. I know it dulls the joy of making. But that is difficult for me. I don’t think of myself as competitive with others, but I certainly can be with myself, and often fall into a pattern of creating unnecessary stress out of what should be an act of self care and love. 

It seemed like I would indeed finish this project, if not before moving, then just after, and spread it across my bed as a final gesture to signify the start of my new season of life in North Carolina.

And then, well, something a little unexpected, though not entirely unforeseeable happened. Holland and her 9 month-old baby were staying with me one weekend. My apartment, while not in any way dangerous, wasn’t exactly kid proof, mostly because I had projects tucked in every corner, and all kinds of fun things for tiny hands to pull from shelves.

And her baby, newly crawling and excited to explore the world, found my carefully ordered box of quilt squares, and one by one, pulled them out, as if considering each print and angle. He wasn’t out of sight for long, but by the time we realized what he was up to, he was smiling in front of the open box, surrounded by askew squares.

Holland was very apologetic. But how could I be mad at a little baby for being a little baby? In a way I was flattered. I had no toys in my house, but he had found entertainment in my unfinished quilt. All the things I made should provide such joy! 

But two-thirds of the squares were out of order. Although I luckily had a picture to help me put it right, it was a tedious task I did not look forward to, especially among the many far more tedious tasks which were part of moving down the coast. So I decided not to think about it. I figured once I moved, I’d reorder them, restart, and still finish in early summer. But I kept putting it off. I would smile at the box, thinking of little hands, thinking of my friend, and go about my day.

Often unfinished projects nag at me

They make me stressed. But somehow, because the impediment had been created by someone so innocent, I didn’t feel like I was procrastinating. I realized that it didn’t really matter when I finished, or even when I put them back in order. Having unfinished projects is not a moral failing.

I didn’t realize I had been thinking of it that way, but his tiny hands pulling those quilt squares free gave me an excuse to take a break. And I couldn’t remember when I had last taken a break from any of my hobbies. 

Making has been a part of my life for so long that sometimes I forget that there are other parts of me. Working on a project in the evening had gone from something I did for joy, to something I was doing out of habit, or to try and finish as fast as possible to start the next one. I don’t want my creative pursuits to become a check-list.

I no longer want to be beholden to arbitrary deadlines that I create myself. That is not what the making life should be. Not for me, at least. 

I am glad to have that little baby in my life to remind me that it is just a quilt. To remind me that an evening where all I do is go for a walk or watch a show or just relax, is not time wasted. It’s important to remember that I am lucky to have that time at all, and to not turn it into yet another commodity. To not turn myself into yet another commodity.

Being a maker is more than just the things we create

It’s about approaching the day with intentionality, about sharing skills and sharing love, about remembering that though our time here is not infinite, we don’t have to live like we’re running out the clock. To remember that it is never a waste to be in the moment, with the people we love and with ourselves. 

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  1. Beautiful Meredith! I feel similar feelings around making and self- imposed deadlines. The MWP course is helping me shift my mindset so this is a very timely and much associated post!

  2. Perfect timing – this text comes on a day when I was determined to finally finish those pants, but really all I want to do now is lie on the couch and read a book… Thank you 🙃

  3. I have been feeling this ”need to finish’ pressure for quite awhile, and realized that I have been neglecting other fun tasks; like picking a bouquet of flowers, drying the herbs from my garden, baking bread. I have started a "to do" list that is for the week instead of the day. Included in the list are things I don’t want to miss out on doing. So far I have tried a new bread recipe, picked bouquets from flowers in the yard, and made my own natural toothpaste!

  4. What a great essay. I wanted to comment and say how much I enjoy your writing, Meredith, it’s a treat to read your musings.

  5. I loved your story about the baby. Sometimes it takes an innocent to show us what is really good in this life. I have also been sewing after years of not, and I am absolutely LOVING taking my sweet time! No deadlines, no hurry. Even time spent with my seam ripper is calmer and less stressful. I’ve been using this approach in the rest of my life and it has made life sweeter. So glad I got that from this course! And I really enjoyed reading your article.

  6. Oh my! I so needed to hear this right now. I’m trying very hard to be mindful, but my life is so busy that everything is a race to the finish. I AM NOT A COMMODITY. Thank you.

  7. Thank you for writing this, it hits so close to home (in NC too!). No longer will I let the dark cloud of projects loom over and ruin my days.

  8. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve gone through moments of wanting to burn all my projects since having my baby boy a year ago. I just thought I will never ever have time for sewing again and went through a big period of grief about the “old me”. I used to sew gifts for all my friends who had babies, clothing, toys etc. and haven’t made time to sew things for my own son. It’s crazy, but I’ve had to just accept THIS IS JUST A SEASON. I will be able to be creative again sometime. Just not now.

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