I have some very bad habits, as far as sewing/making things in the SCA. I do the same things in my mundane crafts, too. I under-estimate the time I need for a project. I forget how many things I have in the works at a time and get bogged down. I have a hard time saying "no." I feel overwhelmed when I take on too many things at once, react to that feeling by procrastinating, and then cram a project into the last few days before a deadline and completely stress myself out. I put a lot of time and effort into making quality things for other people, then rush through things I make for myself, often resulting in sub-par clothing and accessories (or things that look fine on the outside, but, for example, don't have finished seams on the inside, or are devoid of fine details I'd put onto a garment for someone else).
I'm sure everyone reading this is nodding in agreement and empathy. We all do it. I don't know an SCA crafter who doesn't do the same things.
In an effort to learn to set boundaries and to pace myself, so that I can turn out better-quality products all around, I've worked this whole year on creating new habits. It started with finishing up all of the projects for others I had on the line at the beginning of the year, and then not taking on any new ones for several months. And then I set some rules for myself. I've adhered to them all successfully, and it HAS made my life better. It's also made it much easier to say to people, simply, "I have a lot on my plate right now, and can't accept, but ask me again in [time frame] and I might be available then." My fear of turning people away aside, I've found that people really do understand that.
- Absolutely no more than two sewing projects for others at a time. Limit three projects total (only two of which can be sewing).
- Establish expected delivery date before accepting project.
- Ditto project parameters.
- No procrastination: (1) work on each project for at least two hours per week. More if I want to, but minimum two hours.
- No procrastination: (2) as I have a habit as looking at commissions as "work" and things for myself as "play" - thereby making commissions feel like they're looming over me, I now allow myself to alternate working on a commission with working on something for myself, or around my home (the "fun" often as a reward for putting in a couple of hours on a commission when I didn't really want to).
- When I finish a project, I (a) clean up the entire craft room (or workshop), so that when I start the next project I'll have a clean space in which to work, and (b) often will lay out the materials for the next project as soon as the space is cleaned, so that when I walk in the next time, I see potential, instead of an empty room and a need to begin something.
There's another rule, that I've recently come up with, and have been thinking a lot about lately. I've been sewing since I was 9 years old, I've been costuming since I was 17, and have sewn for home decor since I was about 26. As I mentioned before, I tend to put a lot of work and attention to detail into commissions, but not on projects for myself, which are often cheap, plain, and sometimes not completely finished. You'd think, with all that experience, that every thing I make is just awesome, but it hardly ever is, by my standards. You'd think I'd actually work up to my own standards, at least! So then, my number one rule going forward, and my new sewing motto:
Let every project surpass the previous.
- I will put the same attention to detail and quality into everything I make, not just things for which people are paying me.
- I will fine-tune my finishing skills on every project, and get better at it with every project.
- I would like to try to learn a new technique, or at least hone seldom-used ones with every project.
- My work now is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. A year from now, I want the things I'm sewing now to look like a beginner effort next to my progress to come.
And this goes for every craft, not just sewing; although my main thinking lately has been mostly concerned with sewing. In the coming weeks I'll have a few new outfits to show you, some campsite decor type stuff, and even some nifty woodworking and artwork. Hopefully each thing will be better than the last one I made. :)