Color the Emotion

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How to Create More Often

Art journal pages inspired by modern quilting and embroidery, by Peony and Parakeet

For many years, I have been dreaming about constantly making quilts. I have even recorded that into my art journal. Even if I have quilted almost all my life, especially in the recent years, I have had difficulties to arrange time for it. It has always seemed to require so big block of time that I am able to arrange that only few times in a year.

I am especially fond of modern quilting. One of my favorite quilting blogs is Crazy Mom Quilts by Amanda Jean Nyberg. She is especially focused on quilting from fabric scraps. I also love her book Sunday Morning Quilts. There are so many days that I have browsed the book, admired my fabric stash and felt sorry for myself not to have enough time for the actual making.

Unfinished quilt project with printed rose photos, by Peony and Parakeet

I don’t like showing unfinished projects, but as a proof, here’s one of the many patchwork projects which has been untouched for months. And, my dream is to make more of these quilted boxes for the fabrics (the pattern is from the book Sunday Morning Quilts)

A quilted box, the pattern is published in the book Sunday Morning Quilts

The problem: How to create more often?

I have asked so many times:
– How to quilt more often?
and answered to myself:
– Arrange more time.
– Buy more fabrics, books, classes or subscribe to a magazine.
– Follow more blogs, have a Pinterest board for inspirational quilts.
– Organize your scraps first.
– Take more/less time for planning … etc.

None of that worked. But now have found the solution! I have developed a method derived from digital scrapbooking, another hobby of mine.

A Case Study: Scrapbooking as a regular practice

I had a similar kind of problem with digital scrapbooking, just not so bad. I wanted to do more of that but often realized that I had not done anything for a long time. Last October I decided to start scrapbooking one page a week with Project Life style: insert photos to a grid and make it simple. I only included one photo of each day or two, so it was not a big task to fill the page during the week. I decided that one page per week would be my minimum dosage. If I wanted to do more digital scrapbooking and be more creative, I could create more pages if I had any energy left.

What happened? I have not only created those weekly pages but 12 other layouts as well. That’s 33 pages total in 3 months which much more than my usual pace! Surprised by the result, I began to think about the magic behind that. And – could it be use for quilting as well?

Here’s is what I discovered.

1) Lack of time is not an issue, moving from one task to another is.
It did not require much time to take a sewing machine and start sewing. The reason I needed bigger and bigger time blocks to begin, was because I was thinking about too big tasks that seemed overwhelming. In other words, I required too much of myself. After working late in the evening, I should have started sewing a big quilt in a snap! The more I thought about starting, the less time I had to actually to do that and the less inspiring it sounded. When moving from one very different task, like writing, to another, like quilting, is not easy for the brain.

2) Lack of energy is not an issue, if the task is small and interesting enough.
It’s amazing how tired we can feel ourselves, but still spend time browsing computer or watching tv instead of going to sleep! There must be some energy left in us! I got that energy in use by telling myself that I was allowed to make only one little task. That way I did not imagine doing a lot and feeling a lack of energy for that. It also helped if I had some freedom to perform it. Then it sounded not only manageable but also interesting.

3) When the task is done, move to working with bigger projects.
The biggest thing that I learned is that I should always keep the promises for myself. If I presented a little task to get myself going, I should never ever make the task considerably bigger. Why? Because the next day I remember that one small task is actually a huge one and I don’t want to start it anymore. After I have made the small task and if I feel like doing some more, I can move to the bigger projects – to those unfinished ones that I actually want to finish!

Here’s how I adapted all that for quilting:

Sew One Block per Day

I decided to start a new quilt. But instead of planning and measuring, I just set few simple rules for each block. If I feel exhausted I can only pick one fabric, cut one 4-inch square and call it the block of the day. At the most I can make one 12 ” square with as much piecing as I feel like. But that’s it – no other blocks are allowed on the same day.

I started the quilt on the 1st January and here’s what I have made so far. This won’t most probably be my greatest quilt but more importantly, I have started to make a quilted box, a red one for the red fabrics. And – it is so much fun to sew it!

Sew 1 Block per Day, a quilting project by Peony and Parakeet

As the result of the new project, my studio has turned into the sewing room!

Peony and Parakeet's studio

The little project bags are also handsewn (two of them are made just recently!). The old cardboard box is for buttons and been inherited from my husband’s grandmother.


Now you might ask:

How to apply this to art journaling?


Why not make a page in phases from element after another! Here’s what I have made in two days: two little ornaments. I continue adding one doodled element or text each day. When the page is full, I will start coloring the elements, each at the time.

Preorder my class: Artistic Embroidery with Pens and Paper

D.H Lawrence has said: “Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law.” You can replace the word “love” with the word “creativity”! But whether love or creativity, I believe that we need to do a little push to make the blossoming really happen. Like one doodle per day!

If you love crafting, quilting and needlework and want to show it in your art journal too, preorder my class from 21 Secrets Spring 2015 art journaling workshop! Let’s add little treasures to our pages! (Here’s also a recent blog post about the class).

14 thoughts on “How to Create More Often

  1. I agree, about getting into a rut of lethargy, and I live where there is lots more sunshine even in winter. But I still get stuck. I use my creative space for sewing and drawing/painting, but have a hard time getting started on unfinished projects and new ones. Keeping the room as tidy as possible helps me want to go in and get started. Your idea of just doing a small task each day does help. I’ve also found that listening to audio books also helps me stay in the room and creating. Other than long car trips, that’s the only place I listen to them. When I find a book I really like, I am drawn back to the creative room to listen to the story. I don’t feel so isolated and alone while I work. It works better for sewing projects than drawing/painting. I often get too involved n the painting to listen to the story but it gets me started creating again, and I can always go back and replay the story if I need to. Happy New Year of creating. I really look forward to you blogs.

    1. Pat, thanks for the great comment! The observations in your comment really resonated with me too. I love to keep things organized and listen to something, usually podcasts, while I am creating.

  2. I have found myself doing what you suggested and it does work! Also, like Pat, I find listening to audio books while creating helps me stay focused. I think it helps to silence the critic in my head and I just play with more freedom. Happy New Year! Thanks for all your great ideas and suggestions.

  3. I have found this to be very true for me also. Leaving a “little” project out on my desk, I see it while walking by and before I drink my first cup of coffee in the morning, I add one tiny ribbon, a cut up piece of thread, a handwritten word. Even talking on the phone I can spy something that I do in less than a minute that makes the project sparkle and I wouldn’t have thought to do it had I just sat down and tried to think what to do. I think that is why some classes work so well. We do the one step given and then must wait for another day to do the next step – giving us something to look forward to. I really appreciate how you present your ideas so well thought out and having so much purpose. I just love your blog and really look forward to each post.

  4. Thank you Dear Päivi for the insigth!

    For quite some time now, I ‘ve been frustrated because of my lack of creative power. I oftenly feel inspiration for starting big projects, since I love crochet smal and big amigurumis.

    But before I begin, usualy, I realize that I lack time and in the end of the day, I’m oftenly tired and lack energy and as you say here, the project seems suddenly far to big and complicated.

    Thanks to your article, I feel now more secure about starting projcts and you are right, I should start working with smal pieces and just as you suggest make one part a’ day.
    And suddenly a month passes, or maybe two and I have created my dream!

    Thank you again for inspiration and for sharing the insight about-how to create more by doing it each day – with us!
    I wish you a great year, with lots of creativity and wonderful things!
    your darya

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