Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happiness And Insets

What do you do when you don't want to do the thing that you want to do? In other words, how do you avoid? If it's a big, major, life altering avoidance, I typically want to move houses and if it's something on a less dramatic scale, I read, do endless research, or go shopping. Yesterday was my day for learning how to do insets. I procrastinated until after lunch, read half a romance novel, watched a TED talk, and went shopping.

My inspiration is the insets that Diane Ericson puts into her work like the pocket on the front of her airplane shirt in the June/July issue of Vogue Pattern Magazine. At each of the three Design Outside the Lines retreats I've attended, I watched Diane sew the insets and from an observation point of view, it's so doable. From a reality point of view, I could be at this for days. I want to learn how to do them the way Diane does because it's quicker only it's going to take practice especially eyeballing the seam allowance and the corners. Mine are less than amazing however, by late afternoon they were showing some improvement. The samples are in order.

The TED talk was Stefan Sagmeister: Happiness By Design. In it, Stefan talks about things that illustrate happiness as opposed to things that evoke happiness and gives a list of six items that make him happy. I could have composed the same list. It resonated.

1. Thinking about ideas and content freely - with the deadline far away.

I've never been one for tight deadlines. My personal deadline is usually two weeks before the actual deadline and if I require someone else to produce a portion of the work, that person's deadline is two weeks before mine. I find adjusted deadlines take the stress off a project and allow me to enjoy the process.

2. Working without interruption on a single project.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I only work on one thing at a time. In the design stage, this allows me to be fully immersed without agitation and to focus all my thinking on the project at hand. For me, it's the way I work best. For others, they need multiple projects to float between. How fabulous it is when we have the choice to work as we work best. When I'm comfortable with how my current project is progressing, my mind begins to think about the next one so there is almost effortless flow.

3. Use a wide variety of tools and techniques.

I find repetition boring and yet it's easy to play it safe and do the same thing over and over again. I'm forcing myself to learn new techniques like painting and making insets. Broadening my repertoire is good for me and my work because when you're bored, you're boring and that's not good.

4. Traveling to new places

From his talk, it seemed Stefan meant this literally. He listed flying to a lot of locals. The equivalent for me is taking a workshop, or a day trip, or visiting a friend, or meeting someone new, or making a phone call to another artist for some shop talk, or snoop shopping or.... There are so many possibilities. Julia Cameron calls this going on an artist date in her Artist Way series of books. They are breaks that widen my horizons, spark inspiration, teach, and give new directions to my life and my work.

5. Working on projects that matter to me.

Right now, I have the opportunity to sew whatever I want to sew every day. That may sound like bliss but it could easily become dull and repetitive and it can be hard to be motivated when there aren't any deadlines. One of the ways I maintain enthusiasm is with projects that matter to me, ones that have some element of the unknown in them such as refashioning or learning a new technique. I try to have a higher ratio of these energizing projects than of sewing more repetitive basics which means I do a lot of experimental work that results in a lower ratio of wearable garments and that's okay with me although I have noticed that ratio improving lately.

6. Having things come back from the printer well done....
which he went on to describe as being able to enjoy the end results.

When I'm knitting, I often stop to pat the developing piece and enjoy the way the stitches loop through each other. When I'm sewing, I pat at the pressing stage. I really enjoy a flat crisp seam and the way the project comes together seam by seam. In the end, I put the garment on the mannequin and stand back and acknowledge what I've learned and accomplished. No project is ever perfect but each project has something perfectly wonderful to celebrate. And then I get to wear what I sewed and that's an incredible bonus that many artists don't get to experience.

This morning, I'm having breakfast with my youngest son and then it's back to sewing more insets until I get comfortable enough with this process to add it into a one of the little girl twirl coats and practice "for real". What are you learning?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - instructions

To function freely as an artist, I must take the focus off of winning, off of being the brightest and the best. 
- Julia Cameron, Finding Water


  1. I love TED Talks, and I've just bookmarked this one to listen to the next time I need to cogitate (I refuse to call it procrastinate) a project "just a little bit longer." For me the most desirable, and unfortunately the most elusive of those elements that bring sheer happiness, is the second one - to be able to work on a single project without interruption. I thought when I retired from IT middle management I would be able to organize my time to allow expansive amounts of uninterrupted time for sheer creativity. That is still my big dream. Thanks for the inspiration you provide.

    1. In observing people I know who have retired, I can see the need to take control of your time or someone else will. Friends that retired in April have been going non-stop doing renovations and chores for their kids. Hmm... I'm taking notes and early on - in my twenties - I made sure that I started the day with at least twenty minutes in the studio no matter what came next. That seems to have worked. I can minute away at a project.

  2. I am one of those persons who needs multiple projects going on at one time. As I work on one (doing what is nearly a mindless, if enjoyable, set of task steps) my mind is free to explore any problems that may have arisen on another project. That said, I've been sewing for almost 50 years and knitting for nearly as many. When I undertake a set of projects, they are usually related in some way, as in sewing multiples of one garment, or using the same fabric and thread for a bunch of garments so I don't have to change out the thread so often. In setting up projects that way, one can explore variations on a theme while in the moment. You seem to have a much more methodical mind than do I. Both methods are valid. Each of us has come to be comfortable exercising our skills, in different ways. I so enjoy reading your musings, and you've inspired me to actually make up the Marcy Tilton patterns that I bought but was afraid to cut into. Why did I wait! Silly old woman.

    1. I'm in awe of people who can juggle different projects. I'd definitely have to have a connection between them as you have. I never thought of myself as methodical but when I explore variations on a theme it's one item after another so I guess that is. It evolved from a New Year's resolution in my twenties when I had a gazillion projects started and abandoned. I wanted to change that and this new way seems a match. I love looking at how we all accomplish similar things different ways.

      I'm glad I inspired you to do some of Marcy's patterns. They are quite wonderful and you can certainly adapt them to your needs. I'd love to see some pictures.

    2. I'll do my durnedest. Just finished a version of the V8489 long pants that I am wearing today. First version I made my usual size, and they were elephantine. Much happier with version two. Made the V8982 blouse/jacket for Easter, from a bolt of some really excellent linen -- I'm thinking it was Swiss -- that I found while thrifting. I ended up taking a tuck over each shoulder instead of facing the heartbreak of re-setting sleeves, and I like the way it turned out. Looks very Conquistador. Will try to enlist Dear Husband as photographer. He's a little blurry, but at least he does not cut off my head.

  3. LOL - I usually go down a few sizes with her patterns. I base my choice on the finished measurements if they're available. The linen sounds gorgeous. Hope you get a few good pictures so I can see them. Thanks.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.