Now that summer is here, I’ve packed up my classroom and submitted my grades, I need something to fill my time and mental stimulation (besides the inevitable packing for the next move). During summers and lulls in the school year, I tend to rekindle my interest in crafty-type activities. When we were in Alaska, I started a quilt. More recently, during a school breaks, I rediscovered my interest in cross-stitch. Thanks to Pinterest, all I had to do was buy the cloth and floss and pick my own design, instead of spending money on an expensive pattern that may or may not actually fit my style. However, all these crafting pursuits are throw-backs to my childhood, and as I look back, I realize another common theme in my endeavors. I really struggle with follow-through.
As a homeschooled family, my mom instilled basic domestic skills in me and my sisters along with our more academic subjects. We hand-stitched a quilt together when I was little (not sure how much I actually contributed – I was really young). I made a skirt once, and I remember cross-stitch kits in various degrees of completion lying around the house, too. More than a few made it into frames and up on our walls or given as gifts – but I don’t know if any of those were mine.
I specifically remember a doll-making kit I’d purchased from the local fabric store. It was fabric with the pattern pieces printed on to the cloth. My job was to cut out the pieces, sew them together in the right way, and fill it with stuffing, resulting in a soft, fabric doll similar to Raggedy-Ann dolls (minus the yarn hair). I had chosen the project myself and was excited at the beginning, but as the challenge grew, I decided it was too difficult and wanted to give up. My mom wouldn’t let me. I fought her on it, throwing childish temper tantrums. It wasn’t fun anymore, I didn’t want to do it! But she insisted, so I pushed through. I remember my sisters teasing me when I finally showed off my completed doll. “Yeah, and it’s all Mom’s fault that you finished it,” they joked.
I still struggle with follow-through in my crafting endeavors. I’ve learned that I’m better at finishing things for other people than for myself. I finished the quilt-top, but I still need to add bunting and a back in order to make it an actual blanket. I picked a Doctor Who themed cross-stitch design on Pinterest that my husband liked, made it through most of the project, and then became overwhelmed with grading and let it fall by the wayside. As summer approached, I had a new idea for a cross-stitch project, but my husband said no. “Your cross-stitching time is mine until you finish the other project first!” He was joking – sort of – but there’s truth to it. I need to finish my previous projects before I start a new one.
So that’s my goal for this summer: follow-through. Finish the things I’ve begun. I have one new project I need to do, and it has a deadline (a baby shower for a friend), but other than that, no new projects until I finish my unfinished tasks.
The problem is that I enjoy the initial phases the most – brainstorming, coming up with new ideas and personalizing them, and then watching the raw elements begin to take shape into something special. It’s the final stretch that’s a struggle for me, when the novelty has worn off and I already have a new idea percolating in my brain. If the project is a gift, I usually follow through. I want to pass on the gift and allow them to enjoy it. But for myself? I tend to let things fall by the wayside all too easily. I enjoy the act of crafting – using my hands to make something new. It’s a good way to fill the time. I can receive that enjoyment without actually finishing the project, though. So I had hours of entertainment in Alaska putting together a quilt top, but I don’t actually have my blanket yet. I enjoyed my time working on it. I just don’t have anything to show for it yet.
That’s my challenge this summer, and if you related to anything in this post, I’m issuing that challenge to you, too. Last night I picked up my Doctor Who cross-stitch and began filling in that final corner that isn’t done yet. The quilt may be more difficult, since my current apartment is tiny and already filling with boxes for our next move. I don’t know if I have the room to set up my sewing machine and spread out the whole thing to piece it together. But I can at least finish the one cross-stitch before I start another. And I won’t start another blanket or quilting project until I find a way to finish that one first.
Do you have any unfinished projects lying around? To those on the school schedule and have your summers off, this is prime project-completing time! Pick up that story that you started writing but never finished. Revisit the garden that you dug but never planted. Recall the initial novelty and excitement of the project you had early on and envision the pride of completed work. Follow through with what you started, and let me know how it goes!