Ever since I transitioned from a hobbyist to a needle arts teacher, I have struggled with how to effectively manage my day job, personal life and The Stitching Coach. It’s been trial and error figuring out how to balance making gifts, class samples, completing personal passion projects and planning upcoming classes. As I researched and reflected on this, I realized many of the habits Franklin Covey wrote about in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” are very applicable to knitters, quilters, machine and hand sewers alike.
Here is my “maker’s” take on those habits:
Habit 1: Craft a “Long Game”
You can be the person who always finds a problem or the person who thinks three steps ahead. I learned a long time ago to use the tools and skills I’ve invested in to make my crafting more fun. Yes, knitters, that means don’t skip the gauge swatch because it would be no fun at all to find out the sweater I spent weeks making for myself only fits my tween niece. It also means I take the time to mark seam allowances for more accurate sewing or quilting because being froggy isn’t fun either. No one enjoys doing these things but it’s just some of the things we can make our projects look better and, well, more fun.
Habit 2: Create a plan
Use a journal, use your smart phone, use whatever works for you to create an achievable plan to complete your next project. That’s not to say you should ignore inspiration or the impulse to change projects. Instead, it can be as simple as assembling all the components of a project in a folder and researching what tools or skills you need to complete it. Planning sets you up for more joy in making.
Habit 3: Make time
Many of us are busy juggling families, jobs … life. Investing time in yourself, even if it is only five minutes a day isn’t taking away from those things but rather it’s making a deposit in your mental, spiritual and physical “bank account.” But, as Robin Long with A Balanced Life says, “grace over guilt.” To me that means don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way or if your first attempt is not what you hoped for. Making the time is a promise to yourself to refuel and re-energize for a better you.
Habit 4: Make mutual beneficial decisions
Got a stash of yarn, fabric or other craft material that is getting out of control? Organize a craft swap party with friends. You can buy or trade with other guilds or donate items to charities or schools. And who says you can’t have fun and give back to others? Days for Girls, Quilts Beyond Borders and Project Linus are just a few of the charities I feel joy making things for. What will your crafting win-win be?
Habit 5: Make listening a priority
Crafting uses all the senses, but especially our hearing. Don’t ignore that new “ca-thunk” sound from your sewing machine. It could mean costly repairs down the road but only small cost to change your needle regularly (8-10 hours of sewing). Ignoring that pain in your wrist or not making time to stretch your back that’s been hunched over a project for hours can take a toll on your body. Pre-washing smelly chemicals from fabrics gives you a fresh palette from which to start your project but also pre-shrinks and allows dyes to bleed in the wash rather than after you invested hours making a garment or quilt.
Habit 6: Make new connections
Join a guild, become an affiliate for a company you admire, organize a crafting group at your local library. Making friends, joining an organization or creating other ways to connect provides support in the hard times and the joy of collaboration in the good times. Having your people in your corner can be uplifting, educational and inspirational. Becoming an Oliso affiliate gave me the chance to share equipment with my students for free.
Habit 7: Make new skills
Take. A. Class. Whether you have practiced your craft for four days or 40 years, there is always something new to learn. I know that the BurdaStyle Certification course I took made me a better seamstress, quilting classes with Michelle Renee Hiatt made me a better quilter and WEBS certification courses a better knitter. Embrace a new technique or tackle a new skill. Even if you don’t do as well as you think, you still fired up new synapses and sharpened your skills. Seeing your craft from another person’s perspective can give you insight on the choices you make or reaffirm your abilities. Plus, classes are fun.