We all have days (weeks … months … years?) where we’re less than productive, where our motivation is non-existent and where we just can’t seem to muster the energy to do much more than vegetate in front of the TV or computer. And there are those times where we seem to have been constantly busy, but don’t seem to have actually achieved much. I hate those times.
Well, the lovely Tilly over at Tilly and the Buttons has come up with a rather interesting idea to see if we can combat this lack of productivity: The Sewing Productivity Project. Essentially, it involves closely monitoring what you do over a couple of weeks or so, when you sew and how you feel before, during and after sewing and producing a report/series of reports on what you find.
Now, you’ll notice that I have been hugely busy with PGCE work since September (I have two ring binders plus a box file full of uni work, never mind all the marking, the lesson preparation, the meetings, the office politics(!), the reading, the theories, the feedback, the observation …), so I have been horribly unproductive in terms of anything non-teacher-related, including writing (A Thief & a Gentlewoman and this blog!) and sewing. Though, I suppose that can be expected with all that work for the qualification. You might also have noticed that I tend to set myself high standards and ambitious goals. Add these two things together and the lesson for me is that in terms of productivity for non-essentials (that is, anything non-teaching/PGCE-related), I have to be realistic and not set myself unrealistic goals. At the moment, any sewing productivity is an achievement for me.
In the next few days, I’m going to give some highlights of the past couple of weeks (even thinking back to before the Productivity Project started) and look at what I’ve learnt …
First off, I haven’t told you, dear reader, but I have been taking a ‘mixed craft’ class on Fridays taught by a friend from my PGCE course. Yes, 2pm to 6pm on a Friday I have allocated sewing and crafting time. The first lesson was on 1st April and we learned how to applique and she went over some basic sewing machine skills (there are only 5 of us on the course, but we have quite a range of skills – my friend on the course hasn’t used sewing machines before). It was actually helpful to do those basic machine skills – I found out that somehow I’ve been putting my bobbin in the wrong way round all this time. Really don’t know how I managed that!
The classes so far have been brilliant – they take place at The Textile Workshop, which has lots of different teachers, a shop selling lots of bits and pieces and there are even bins full of various scraps and pieces of fabric that are either free or 50p for a small piece or £1 for a larger piece. The classes have left me very inspired afterwards and I’ve really wanted to get my machine out as soon as I get home, but so far I’ve been too busy with uni work to do anything outside of class. We will be covering: applique, free machine embroidery, fabric manipulation, making a cushion cover, making a tote bag, wet felting and lots of other fabric-based bits and pieces!
On 7th April, I was lucky enough to win Abby’s giveaway over at Stay-ing Alive – wewt! I have a $25 voucher for Burnley and Trowbridge – double-wewt! This got me thinking about sewing, even if I didn’t have the time to do it (see below) and left me plotting and planning what to do with that voucher … I still have decided, but I have some ideas (zone-front pierrot jacket in this lilac taffeta, anyone?).
The craft lesson for that week was free machine embroidery: I made a picture of a tea set for my mum as a Mother’s Day present (sorry, I forgot to take photos before I gave it to her).
What I Have Learnt (so far)
Focus and A Time and a Place for Everything
Thinking back to my free machine embroidery class … I really enjoyed being able to work on one thing for almost the full four hours and our teacher commented that I had my head down and focused for the whole lesson, while others were getting up and taking breaks. This reflects what I tend to do with uni work and what I used to do when drawing (which I used to do a lot) – once I get started, I keep going for hours with the bare minimum of breaks. Once I focus, I work and work and work. However, like clearing out the store-room and writing, it’s starting that is the problem for me. Doing the mixed craft class means that I have invested money in making and that I have an allocated time and place, set up, ready and waiting for me, complete with friendly people also there to make and chat. Having that dedicated time and place has made me sew and left me inspired afterwards.
The outside influence and company has also helped, I think. That’s surprising, because although I’m quite a sociable and friendly person, I do have a tendency towards solitary pursuits. Since I was a child, my favourite pastimes have been reading, drawing/painting, writing and various crafts. Pretty much exclusively, these have been done alone. The reading and drawing are often done with a person in the same room, but they will be doing something else and I will be focused entirely on what I’m doing. In the craft classes, though, I have been in the room with others working on related projects and, while I’ve been super-focused on my work, I’ve still interacted with them, offering praise of their work, receiving comments on mine or just generally chatting while working.
But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by being motivated by working with others – after all, am I not constantly inspired and motivated by all those blogs linked to on the right? And behind those blogs are people, bloggers, sharing their work and themselves with the blogosphere. Reading and commenting on blogs is interacting with other people, albeit once removed.
It’s probably not very healthy (and is certainly not at all healthy for my bank balance), but I like new things (new to me, that is, not necessarily brand new) and they get me inspired to use them. I’m one of those people who, when they get new something new, has to use it now. Really, I put on new shoes straight away. I rush home from Paperchase to use my new pens and notebook. I will even sit at home alone, hair unwashed, make-up undone, wearing sloppy jeans (or even PJs!) with my new bright pink lipstick on, just because it’s new and it would be rude not to use it immediately. So, the thought of spending my Burnley and Trowbridge voucher has me excited and whenever I buy something new and sewing-related, it does get me productive. Maybe I can harness this in a way that won’t bankrupt me … it’s certainly something I need to think about and work out a way of managing.