Monday, December 8, 2014

When Your Hobby Becomes Your Job

All of us started sewing because we fell in love with it one way or another. We felt creative and inspired. We found something that both energized and relaxed us in the midst of our crazy schedules. In time, some of us even made the decision to take our hobby to the next level -- starting a blog, writing a book, designing fabric, writing patterns, opening a fabric shop, teaching classes. It was fun and exciting to see those doors open, and we were thrilled to have even more chances to do what we loved.

But one day you wake up, and something's different. It's not that you don't still love what you're doing, because you do. It's just that now this isn't something you get to do for fun whenever you feel like it. There are expectations, deadlines, maybe even financial obligations tied to this thing that you used to do when you were trying to escape all of those responsibilities.

What do you do when your hobby becomes your job?

I've seen enough on blogs and social media to know that I'm not the only one who's faced this reality shift, so I thought it was a topic worth discussing. Here are a few things I've learned in my own journey...

1. Find a way to play. The truth is that when your hobby becomes your job, you're left without a hobby. Either something else needs to take its place, or you have to find a way to divide things up so that some tasks are for work and some are for play. Are you running a fabric shop? Be sure to give yourself time to not just cut fabric, but to actually sew with it. Are you writing patterns? Take a break from pattern testing once in a while to make something just for fun. If you can't find that balance, try picking up something else that helps you be creative in a more relaxing way: drawing, painting, knitting, photography, crochet, music, sports, reading, etc. You may even discover another talent that you didn't know you had.

2. Don't take yourself too seriously. When you start a new adventure like this, it's a big deal. You should commit to it, celebrate it, and give it your all. At the same time, though, it's important to keep things in perspective. When I got my book contract, I was totally consumed by the project for months on end, trying to get every last detail just right. Some of the best advice I received was from my family. "Heidi, it's an amazing thing that you got to write this book," my mom told me, "and you'll always be able to look back and be glad that you got to do it. But don't ever forget that the book is just something you did. It isn't who you are." As my husband put it, "It doesn't have to be the best book ever written, sweetheart, just the best book you can write." Cut yourself some slack. You're not going to be perfect in any area of your life, including this one...and that's okay. Do your best and let the rest go.

3. Be honest with yourself. I'm the poster girl for overcommitment, and every few months it catches up with me. It's easy to feel that, because this is something you love to do, it's okay to load yourself up with more obligations in a week than any reasonable person could achieve in a month. It's also tempting to commit to some projects for free that cost you a lot in time and materials because you want to get your name out there. I personally feel that there's no hard and fast rule on these issues. There are times when you're going to have to work your tail off, and times when you desperately need to pull back and reevaluate your commitments. There are moments where you're going to put in a lot of work for less compensation than you probably deserve, and other moments when you need to hold out for a better offer. Deep down, we usually know which is which if we're brutally honest with ourselves. Take time each week to refocus and prioritize so that you can stay clear headed and know that you're making the best decisions for your situation.

4. Be willing to count the cost. I think sometimes we feel that a hobby-turned-job is in a different category than an ordinary, run-of-the-mill job...but it really shouldn't be. There's a line between our dreams and our reality, and it's important to know where that line is. Working on my book for almost two years has been a fabulous experience in so many ways, yet it has definitely come with a cost. Thankfully my family was able to make the sacrifices necessary for it to happen, but if this had come a few years earlier, we could never have managed it. If you're struggling or unsure of your situation, ask yourself a few questions, such as...
  • Am I making ends meet? Can I sustain this financially?
  • Would I be willing to do this for any other typical 9-5 job?
  • Is this working with my family situation? Are the sacrifices that they're making (or I'm making) worth it? Will it be easier if I wait a year before doing this? Three years? Five years?
  • Is this is an offer that I just can't turn down or is there another way to make this happen that works better with my situation? Have I weighed all my options?
If you're happy with your answers to these questions, that's fantastic! Pursue your opportunity in the knowledge that this is the right thing for you and your family. If you look at your situation, though, and realize that things aren't working out the way you hoped they would, there is no shame and much wisdom in changing course. It's ideal if you can weigh the sacrifices before you start a venture like this, but never be too proud to stop and refocus, even in the midst of things. It doesn't always mean that you have to quit what you're doing; sometimes it just means that you need to start doing things a little differently to make it work.

I'd love to hear from those of you who are dealing with these issues in your own lives. What's your advice?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Merry Mug Rug Blog Hop

When my friend Jennifer asked if I would be a part of her Merry Mug Rug Blog Hop, I was so happy to join in the fun. A mug rug is just about the perfect holiday project: a quick finish that brings something special to your home in the middle of a busy season.

When I think of Christmas, I think of family photos. My grandmother, who passed away last spring, was constantly pulling out her Polaroid camera when I was a little girl. I was always mesmerized by watching those pictures appear like magic after a minute or two. Grandma loved to scribble notes on the white border at the bottom of the picture and put them up all over her house, especially in her kitchen. The one above was taken by my mom when I was almost four years old, and I love it so much. It's been over a year since I've played around with Polaroid quilt blocks, but I was eager to pull out Karen's great tutorial for my Christmas mug rug. These are so perfect for fussy cutting, and I had just the right fabric in mind: Merry Main Street by Alexander Henry. I love the retro nostalgia of this print!

My polaroids are framed in a white sketchy print by Carolyn Friedlander from Architextures, and the background is lime green linen Mochi Dots which I also used on the back of the mug rug. The piece is bound in a red and white scalloped print from Miss Kate by Bonnie and Camille.

I used red embroidery floss to stitch some scribbled notes at the bottom of each "picture" just as if they were pressed in a family album. The embroidery was all done without any tracing since I wanted it to look like someone really had just dashed off a few notes in a hurry.

This was such a fun project, and though I'd originally planned to give it away, I found that I just couldn't bear to part with it when it was finished. The mug rug is definitely going to be coming out with the Christmas decorations every year from now on!

Jennifer has a wonderful giveaway on her blog for a $30 gift certificate to Southern Fabric which you can enter through December 14. She'll also be sharing more fun mug rugs from other bloggers over the next two weeks, so be sure to check back for more Christmas inspiration. Now I'm off to find some tea and a few more of those cookies...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sew the Library Monthly Link-up: Coming in January!

It seems that I'm not the only one with a shelf of neglected sewing books. Several of you mentioned that you were also hoping to sew through your own libraries in 2015, and a few of you even asked me to start a monthly link-up to keep us all gently accountable. As a result, we're officially launching a Sew the Library Monthly Link-up in January!

From the 20th until the last day of each month, you can link up any project you've made from a sewing book or magazine during that same month. We'll make an exception in January and let you include anything from December too, since I'm hoping you'll get some Christmas goodies that you can use for this! In your post, be sure to mention the book you used and feel free to include a photo or a link to where it can be purchased so that others can easily find it too. The January link-up will be here at Fabric Mutt. In February, we'll be linking up at Martha's blog Weekend Doings, and in March, you'll be linking up with Jodi at Tickle & Hide. I'm so grateful to these sweet, talented friends of mine for giving me the push I needed to get all this started!

We're going to give this a trial run for three months, and if we can get a group sewing along, we'll keep it going through the rest of the year. This is not only a great opportunity to sew through our own libraries, but it's also a great way to get exposure to new books we might have missed along the way. If you have any questions, just send me an email at or leave a comment below. I'm pretty excited to get started!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sew the Library: Quilt-opedia

One of my goals this year is to Sew the Library. I have so many fabulous books on the shelf in my sewing room that aren't getting the attention they deserve, and that just shouldn't be. My plan is to make a project from one of my sewing books at least once a month, hopefully twice. This month I made a quick laptop sleeve from Laura Jane Taylor's lovely book, Quilt-opedia.

Quilt-opedia is a book that I've had my eye on for a long time. I really love Laura's talent for mixing colors and prints to produce a look that's sort of vintage modern. This is a nice book for beginners, since it goes into great detail on quilting techniques and finishing, but I also think it works well as a quick reference for gift projects during the holidays. There are tons of photos and illustrations, as well as a useful quilt block directory in the back of the book. I desperately want to make the Obsession Quilt featured on the cover!

My dear friend Becca snagged some new Cotton + Steel for me at Fall Quilt Market, and I've been torn between wanting to sew with it and being afraid to touch it. Last night I finally decided it was now or never, so I pulled out my favorite linen pieces from Playful and Mesa. This fabric...what else is there to say that hasn't been said by everyone else? It's so beautiful, so fun... I kind of want to upholster my entire sewing room in prints by Melody Miller, but for now I'm contenting myself with making a sleeve for my laptop. I followed Laura's great directions which gave me the perfect fit for my machine -- a victory that has sometimes eluded me with previous tech projects!

The pouch is lined in one of my favorite text prints, a dictionary design by Tim Holtz. I added a pink and white striped hair fastener (love that touch of whimsy!) and a vintage style leather button to make an easy closure so that I can keep the laptop secure when in transit. All the top stitching is done using gold Aurifil thread.

It always amazes me how truly painful it can be to sew with a treasured piece of fabric. The pressure is huge. Holding that finished project, though, and knowing that I'll be able to see this fabric every day on my desk...well, it feels pretty great.

Sew with a print from your special stash today, even if you just use a tiny piece of it. You'll be so glad you did.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Introducing...My Book

 Image 1

Oh, you guys...I can't believe the day has finally come when I can write this post! I've been working on this project officially since summer 2013, but it's been on my mental radar since the end of 2012. It's an absolute joy to present you with my book: Sew Organized for the Busy Girl, due out in March of next year. It's already available for pre-order on Amazon and C&T Publishing (where you can see some project pictures too!)..and yes, I'll admit that I check those sites once in a while to remind myself that this is all actually happening!

I've always tried to be real with you here, and I want to keep it that way. I wouldn't have written this book if I didn't hope that someone would read it, so I'll be sharing some projects and ideas from it in the coming year. However, I am not going to beat you over the head with my book from morning till night. It's really important to me that I keep this a place where I chat with you about what I'm sewing and how it all fits into daily life...and honestly, Sew Organized is just an extension of that. I wrote it for all of you out there who, like me, are struggling to fit sewing time into your busy schedule. If there's anything special you'd like to know about it or would like to see in a book tour, feel free to let me know in the comments below, and I'll do my best to work it in. I really want this to be actually helpful to you!

But the details will keep for now. I'm off to celebrate with a little happy time at the sewing table...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mochi Pot Holders

I had piles of dishes and laundry to finish on Wednesday, definitely two things at the top of my "no, thank you" list. For some reason, even the prospect of a fresh, clean house just wasn't motivating me this time, so I decided to set up a little rewards system for myself: clean for twenty minutes, play with new Cotton + Steel fabric for ten minutes. Wow, did I get motivated pretty quickly after that...

I've been meaning to make some more pot holders, and Rashida Coleman-Hale's adorable new Mochi line has just the right colors for brightening up my kitchen. I kept things as minimal as possible -- no piecing and very simple quilting. Pink and white twill tape made perfect loops for hanging, and I bound them in a grey canvas print from the collection. These finish at about 7" square. Now everybody's happy: my kitchen, my pot holders, and definitely me.

It's been a ridiculously long time since I've linked up with Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, so I'm joining in on the fun today. Time to head over and see what everyone else is making...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ever After Quilt

It feels like the Revenge of the Machines at my house today. My Singer has been fighting with me for a few weeks now, skipping stitches for no apparent reason. I finally had to admit defeat and take it in for a tune-up this morning, getting the sad news that I won't see it again for three weeks due to the holiday rush. Thankfully my sister still has the original Brother machine which first enticed me into the world of quilting three years ago. She brought it over this morning, and I felt downright nostalgic to be sewing with my Old Faithful again. I was able to finish binding the Ever After Quilt which I've been working on all week for my niece as a belated birthday gift. I grabbed my camera to take a few pictures before sending the quilt off with my sister, but of course, the battery was dead since someone (yes, me) had forgotten to turn the camera off the last time it was used. So we'll have to make do with cell phone photos today...

It struck me several weeks ago that Dreamin' Vintage by Jeni Baker and Far, Far Away by Heather Ross have unbelievably similar color schemes. In fact, they look absolutely darling together. The colored patchwork in the middle of this quilt is surrounded by tiny pink La Creme dots by Riley Blake. It's backed in one of Jeni's florals, and I bound it with a great aqua and cream star print from Unicorns and Rainbows by Doohikey Designs.

It all works perfectly together for a little girl's bed, and I was so happy to give this to my niece at last. Since I have two nieces, there will be another one of these in the works as soon as I finish up a few other projects on my list.

A few weeks back I shared Mouse's new seat cushion with you as a part of Riley Blake's Flannel Showcase Blog Tour. If you'd like a chance to play with some flannel yourself, they're giving away some fat quarter bundles here on their Facebook page. You can catch up with the rest of the fabulous blog hop projects at the links below in case you missed them the first time around. My girls are still asking for pajama pants from my leftover Sidewalks flannel. I guess I'd better add those to my list...

9/5 Riley Blake Designs - Flannel Play Dress
11/4 Riley Blake Designs Final Post + Giveaway
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