The Importance of Self Care
Updated: Jul 22, 2022
It's been a little quiet around here for the past couple of weeks. Rather, I've been a little quiet online, but it's actually been extremely busy here at the Studio.
The freelance editing job has picked up again, and I've been finishing commissions (generally posted on Instagram) that leaked into January and now February, working early morning hours, as late as my eyeballs can function, and through the weekends.
I desperately needed a break. I kept at it, telling myself that after these few projects, I'd take a break and work on something else for a few hours. My mind was having trouble staying focused.
We have a monthly data limit on our satellite internet service. It's a price to pay for living rural where all the electrical and phone lines are buried. We don't lose power unless something happens in town, but we don't have great internet either. This is why we don't do live events here, and for being on channels such as Fae Productions, I use the limited data on my phone as a way to connect. We don't subscribe to any streaming services because they take too much data, and we wouldn't be able to watch enough to make it worth it.
So I've been watching YouTube for the last several months, mostly as I work in the early morning hours (using our 2-8am bonus data that otherwise goes to waste). I discovered the CosTube rabbit hole, through a video by Bernadette Banner where she hilariously roasts a cheap knock-off of one of her dresses. Since then, I've discovered others, like Noelle of Costuming Drama, Morgan Donner, Rebecca of Lady Rebecca Fashions, Opus Elenae, and more.
I kept telling myself that after this next commission, or that next commission, I would finally take a moment to make a new historical item, work on costuming for myself or Allan, or finish some other personal project. I even bought more linen to make a new tunic for Allan. But here we sit, almost mid-February, and the linen has been washed, but it is still folded up, along with other half-finished skirts and whatnot, waiting to be done.
I have been taking some time to try to get the studio back in order after a year of only needing to make it passably tidy for people coming to pick up orders or come for carefully orchestrated and masked measurements and fittings. I've purged a mountain of magazines and books, and the next step will be to purge some yarn and possibly other supplies and look hard at how things are stored and organized. The wool room, where my wares are also displayed for in-person shoppers, also looks much better. There are still drawers and boxes that haven't been gone through since we moved here almost 6 years ago, but all things in time.
As I kept working, I was having more and more trouble focusing. During brief breaks while waiting for job-job tasks to "finish cooking" as I call it, I was googling ideas and more information about techniques or sources. Planning and scheming continued constantly at the back of the brain while trying to write and edit for the job-job.
Then Annie's Attic advertised a free trial of their Creative Studio subscription. I thought watching some of their fiber arts videos might help to boost my knitting, crocheting, and weaving mojo.
Lo and behold, I discovered English Paper Piecing.
EPP is an old-fashioned quilting technique that uses paper templates in various shapes to produces amazing results. The most common shape people start with is a hexagon, but you also see squares and diamonds and kites and apple cores and triangles. As with any other old-fashioned skill, there are many techniques and preferences of tools and supplies as there are grains of sand.
When I was young (9 to 14 years old or so), I quilted and sewed by hand because my mom's sewing machine didn't work, she had a dresser full of old fabric scraps, and I was determined to create. I didn't produce a lot, and most of it was ugly stuffed animals that looked like the leper colony from the Island of Misfit Toys, but it kept my hands busy at the time. In fact, I even sewed an entire dress by hand during a summer between college years! That didn't fit for long, since that was a summer where I had a very physical job and didn't eat a lot. But I was pretty proud of that, as janky as it was, and enjoyed the process immensely.
Picking up quilting again as an adult in today's world is dazzling and overwhelming. With something like EPP, it lends itself to scrappy quilting, so I've started looking at charity shops not only for fabric to be used in costuming but also for quilting fabrics. With access to the internet now (that's right, kids; my previous quilting was in the age of using cartridges for 8K of RAM and tape deck computer storage and no internet!), patterns and fabrics from all over the world are now available, and research into historical designs is readily available. It's a slippery slope of mind-blowing proportions.
But it seems to be what my brain needs. It's a series of small tasks. It doesn't take up much room and can easily be transported between the house and studio in one basket. It's easy to do a bit during our weekly gaming sessions and then put away. It's another fun way to play with colors and pattern combinations, and I don't have to worry whether anyone else but me will like it. It's also a nice rest for my hands to do something else. (Getting old is tough.) It can also be done quite inexpensively, which is nice in a year when sales are minimal.
While it's yet another outlet for design, don't expect any quilt patterns to be published here anytime soon, but who knows where things will go in the future. In the meantime, I've started setting weekend time aside for personal projects (like EPP and costuming and gift knitting) and letting my brain rest by freely exploring and rediscovering new skills without an ever-slipping deadline looming. It's exactly the kind of self-care and relaxation needed as we wait for vaccines and the medical experts to do what they can so that we can eventually return to social events and shows and faires.
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