Monday, 16 July 2012

In anticipation of the summer holidays


When I came downstairs rather bleary-eyed very early on Sunday morning, I had the sensation that one might have on walking into the kitchen the morning after a particularly good party: an array of unwashed wine glasses and empty bottles littering every surface, the memories of late night antics washing over your senses: happiness, tinged with an exhausted feeling of knowing you should have stopped drinking a few hours earlier than you actually did. Except this Sunday morning, scraps of fabric replaced the half-drained glasses and spent cotton reels took the place of wine bottles.


On Saturday I had brought my sewing machine downstairs to the dining room table which is far bigger than my work desk and so better for accommodating a large, unwieldy quilt sandwich. Throughout the day we did different things - in the morning, I dashed into town to post the fabric parcels I'd sold in my pop-up fabric shop (a few items are still left if you're interested) and went and bought the fabric needed for a present I'm working on for a friend; when my children had their friends over to play in the morning, I basted the Charlotte Bartlett quilt on the floor of my son's bedroom; after lunch when we went to a reading that my daughter was involved in I packed my English paper piecing into my bag so that I could stitch if we had to wait around; as my husband made dinner I cut out the pieces needed for making another pair of Clover trousers; when we watched Mr Bean Goes On Holiday in the evening with the children I pieced together the last few pieces of patchwork needed for a cushion I was working on; and in the evening I free-motion quilted the Charlotte Bartlett quilt late into the night (if you're wondering why it's called the Charlotte Bartlett quilt, you can find an explanation in this post).


On Sunday I woke up at the crack of dawn and crept back downstairs to bind the Charlotte Bartlett quilt; quilt the paper-pieced cushion cover and turn it into a cushion; and begin drawing out a quilt design.

The reason for this frenetic level of activity? The summer holidays are a week away. Every year at this time I begin to feel a little panic-stricken. I feel that sewing time is running out and a list begins to form in my head of things I must have done before my children are home for the summer. Several years ago, when I ran my little shop, I felt torn when I took on too many custom orders and needed to work every day until lunch, leaving my children to amuse themselves - they didn't seem to mind, but I felt pained by it all the same. Since then, I've determined never to repeat the guilt-inducing experience and I always try to begin the holidays with little or nothing left to do, other than the agreed hour each morning in which I write a blog post, answer emails or do anything else needed (or wanted...sometimes they can feel like the same thing, such is the power of wish to sew). What follows tends to be a much more organic series of things made that fits in around what we're doing. I still have the evenings in which to sew, as well as the unplanned times when they have friends over, go out to clubs, or simply don't actually want or need me to be around, but these unplanned times feel slightly pressured because of their fleetingness. I'm hoping that this year, with the more portable and sociable activity of English paper piecing to keep me occupied, it will feel like less of a balancing act.

Before my children started school I often used to stay up sewing until past midnight and bounce out of bed happily the next morning...this doesn't seem such a good option now. After two years of doing that I lost my propensity for morning bounce and it's never returned: now I just feel groggy and awful if I do that and like I've been to the aforementioned party.

On Saturday night I said on Twitter that the empty cotton reels indicated I had sewn over 1500 metres. I realised later that this was warped logic as half of that thread would have been used in the bobbin, so in reality the distance covered was a mere 750 metres (as Kerry amusingly said: I would have had to have been sewing 'like a mentalist' to have gone that far). But actually, by the end of the weekend I think I had passed the 1000 mark and, once again, I felt the inexplicable desire to have a mileometer on my sewing machine - there's something satisfying about knowing how far you've sewn. I like to imagine the places I could have stitched my way to: to the end of my road, to the seaside, or 'oh look, it's taken two years but I'm finally in Paris!' Just think of the fun that could be had.

How does your sewing work out when you try to balance it around your own holidays, or children at home full-time, a full time job, or even children at home full-time and a full-time job?

Florence x

24 comments:

  1. I'm both exhilarated by the thought of the end of term, an impending holiday and no more school for 6 weeks! But equally terrified at the thought of juggling work during those 6 weeks, the guilt is huge when the kids are off and I have to work.
    So I think I probably wont have time to sew anything until September!

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    1. It's really hard, isn't it. Perhaps some paper piecing for hours in the swingpark if the weather ever cheers up?

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  2. I work full time so try to' squeeze in some sewing in the evening and mostly at weekends... Sometimes I have to force myself out of the house... I tend to want to see projects finished! You're right about spending time with your children while at home since you manage to arrange sewing around them. Enjoy the summertime

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    1. Yes, sometimes it's so hard to tear yourself away - I'm not very good at coming at things in little chunks of time - I tend to get lost in things, so I can see that that can be hard. x

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  3. I have 2 little girls and a v.demanding fulltime jo . I just had two weeks off - school holidays - and got zero sewing done. I love my kids absolutely but was a little regretful that my holidays meant zero time to do what 'I wanted to do'. Although we did make sock monkeys!
    I sound selfish but when every hour of your leave is dedicated to caring for children or sick children you become world weary. Ah only 10 more years to go and at least I'm teaching my children sewing and craft skills!

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    1. That's a lot - I'm amazed how much you get done with all that then - you seem to be such a prolific seamstress! But yes, two weeks with nothing to directly fulfil your own hopes for a holiday is difficult.

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  4. I'm starting to feel slightly panicky about the summer hols too - I know they've been coming but hadn't quite realised that they're next week. Now I"m slightly scared! I try very hard to get the balance right but something always gives (normally the quantity of sleep) as like you a few years back the children are young, I'm trying to run a small shop and sewing til late is the only choice. Oh, and at some point we have to move too.....I haven't even contemplated the packing yet! Can't wait to see pics of all your beautiful new creations! x

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    1. Years ago an older sewer said to me that she'd burnt the candle at both ends sewing when she was younger and regretted it...I never really knew what she meant at the time until after a few years of doing it myself I just felt rather prematurely aged! However, like you, I can't really see a way around it when the children are young as I gained more psychologically from staying up late every night doing it than I lost...

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  5. I work full time (an extra hours) so my sewing time is usually restricted to a Saturday. I feel the pressure and end up getting very little done!

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    1. I know that one - pressured sewing is awful. Occassionally in the holidays my mother will take the children off and I rarely achieve anything as it feels like so important that I 'use the time well'.

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  6. OMG, I love this post Florence! Sometimes I work late into the night and it's out of obligation, and sometimes I'm wired like a crazy person and buzzed as if I'm drunk! I totally understand that feeling and the morning after mess too! It's so hard to find time to fit it all in, sewing, cooking, etc. But it's also awesome to take a holiday and be with your family, so that's awesome that you're allowing yourself to do both!

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    1. Yes, yes, yes! Totally get the buzzed as if drunk thing! I think the pleasure in sewing can make one feel giddy and decide that one doesn't need to sleep at all!

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    2. It's true! I don't know if it's the former art school kid in me, but I love those nights when my creative desire is so strong it just takes over and fools my brain into thinking I don't need sleep and you just keep going and going! There are less of those nights as I get older, but still, every now and then they happen and I just hold on for the ride :)

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  7. I love the idea of a mileometer for the sewing machine and drawing ever increasing circles around my house on a map to see where I'd sewn to!
    I have three children under the age of five at the moment (although the eldest is off to school in September...sniff) and so life is fairly hectic. I also have a fairly steady small FB business selling various sewn things (mainly beginning with the letter B for some reason!). I tend to do the majority of my sewing during the evenings, or during the 2 hours whilst the baby naps at lunchtime, if I'm really busy and/or it's not very nice outside - I let the girls watch a film and so they can wind down after a busy morning playing! I also go to sewing club once a week, if my husband isn't working away!

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    1. What letter B things do you have - I'm fascinated!

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    2. Nothing too exciting! Bunting, bibs, bags, bootees and blankets. I didn't intend to only make things beginning with B, it just seems to have worked out that way :D (Bye Baby Bunting, in case you're interested!)
      I'm about to embark on making cloth nappies, just to buck the trend!

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  8. You have given voice to do many of my feelings about sewing and school holidays and staying up late! Unfortunately I can't sew late into the night, I make too many mistakes. Have a wonderful summer holiday with your children. I can't wait to spend more time with my lovely boy, I will try to surprises the urge to sew!

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    1. Oh no - I hadn't even thought of that as a reason!

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  9. (I meant surpress, Spellcheck, grrrrr!)

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  10. Great post. Can I get back to you after the school holidays?!

    This summer is going to be a first for me, I'm a stay at home mum and I've only been 'seriously' sewing since my little boy started school last September. I will be taking some hand sewing away on holiday with us, but six weeks is a long time to entertain a five year old... although I may resort to allowing a couple of Scooby Doo DVD sessions so I can get on with some sewing and have a bit of piece and quiet!

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    1. That sounds like a good balance - good luck!

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  11. The only alarming thing I Have to get made is a dress for a wedding we are going to in August - I at least have the fabric and pattern, just need the time haha. Other than that, like you if I get moments to sew then I will. My kids are older than yours so it might be easier as they get up much later than me in the mornings which enables me to quitely sew!! Hope you all have a good summer (haha) break. x

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    1. So there's that to look forward to! My children both get up at 6am - they're real morning people. Teenage sleeping patterns have something to be said for them! That must be lovely having a few hours to yourself at the start of each day.

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  12. Most of my 'free' time is filled with housekeeping... Last weekend the kids were at their grandparents and I made an shirred dress for mijn girl. Made less then I had planned, but also had qualitytime with husband an watched movie in the middle of the day on sunday and made grown up food for dinner. So, it was a great weekend with no regrets! I do the best I can, and regrets aren't helping with that. But highlight: I learned my six year old sewing on my machine.... She was thrilled by sewing her own little bag. I only pushed the pedal, she did the rest. A little seamstres is born Yeah Now I have to share

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x