Since I began Project Simplify months ago I’ve been having this one topic consistently on my mind to discuss in the blog. Minimalism is a movement sweeping the world right now. People are realizing they can have a fuller life with less stuff and they are becoming happier in the process.
Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
After my health scare last year I reevaluated what was most important in my life. Time. Time is the one thing I can’t make or buy more of and the one thing I have no idea how much I actually have left. I wanted to find a way to change my life so I spend a majority of my time doing the things that are important to me and bring me joy and less on the things that take up my time needlessly.
When I moved into my little Corgi Cottage last year I’d gotten rid of about 70% of my stuff. I still have more to purge and go through but the one thing I’ve noticed is I don’t miss anything. I love not spending so much time cleaning, organizing, and tidying up because I have less.
I want to apply this principal to my hobby but how do I do that when the quilting hobby seems to require so much stuff? Is it even possible to be a minimalist quilter?
What if applying minimalism to quilting changes my whole outlook on design? What if being a minimalist quilter means I’m limiting myself or my craft? What do I gain by applying minimalism to quilting?
The list of things quilters need seems neverending. Beginners are often intimidated seeing everything they have to purchase to begin. Experienced quilters feel pressure to upgrade tools, machines, space and fabric. When is enough enough? This is one area that I think is difficult for people to get a handle on because at every Spring and Fall market there is something new coming out that we must have. I know I have had a difficult time getting rid of something because what if I need it later?
What do we really need to make the quilts we make? I know the basics: rotary cutter, 24″ x 6″ ruler, 12″ x 12″ ruler, cutting mat, pins, scissors, seam ripper, thread, and fabric. Somehow after six years I’ve ended up with a lot more than just the basics. Some projects require special tools and I’ve noticed that I seem to use those items maybe once to finish that particular quilt and then it collects dust for quite a while. It all adds up to a lot of stuff. Stuff that I have to figure out how to organize, store and sort through. Stuff that I’ve had to move three times when my studio has changed locations. I’m done dealing with stuff I don’t need.
Studying minimalism made me think of a concept that often comes up where for any particular item you can divide the cost of the item by the number of uses and see if it was really worth the initial purchase price depending on how often you’ve used it. For example – a $40 iron used daily for three months comes out to .44 cents a use. The idea is for items you get a lot of use from you should invest more in so they last a long time. It also can reveal things you’ve purchased and never used or only used once. That $35 specialty ruler or book doesn’t seem so special if you only use it for one quilt.
How many tools do I have that do the same thing in a different package? I know I have at least three rulers that make flying geese but all use a different technique to do it. Maybe I need to decide what technique I use the most and destash the other rulers that do the same thing a different way.
Can I do more with less?
In the practical sense I can only work on one project at a time. Given my last UFO Confessional you can see that I tend to start a lot of projects and not finish a lot. I think I’m addicted to starting things. The idea and conception of a project is fun for me but actually sitting down and finishing it I find myself challenged at times to find motivation. Keeping minimalism in mind it would force me to focus on projects already in progress, finish them and once they are done only work on one project at a time.
Working on one project at a time would also cut down on the number of materials needed on hand at any given time. If I buy for one project I don’t have to worry about stocking a lot for other things or overbuying.
My storage space is really limited so I’m now having to think about where quilts will be stored while they are in progress and after they are finished. Before I start a new project in the future I’m going to have to figure out what the purpose of it will be when it is finished. I certainly have some space now for new quilts but its not unlimited. Wall quilts are lovely but I only have so much wall space where quilts can be rotated. My office walls are pretty bare and I do spend a lot of time there at work so I’m sure over time I’ll have more. Still, I think it’ll be important to think about what the end purpose of my project will be before I begin working on it.
Patterns, books, notions and fabric should also have a purpose. I was absolutely shocked when I cleaned out my studio and found so many things I bought at trunk shows, quilt shows and quilt shops that I didn’t remember purchasing or ever using. I’m sure they had a purpose at one point in time but it wasn’t for anything immediate so they just sat unused. I can keep a list of things I’m interested in possibly working on in the future and if it’s meant to be I can always buy it in then.
A few years ago I added up the amount of time I spend each week on average quilting and it was about 25-30 hours a week. I did get a lot done but it was basically a part-time job. I definitely burned myself out. Now I spend about 4-8 hours a week working on quilting things. Time is one of those things I can’t buy more of. I work really well with deadlines so I see myself scheduling out time each week to work on a project and get a goal finished for a quilt. For me personally its important to see a finish in the future and a date attached to it.
Efficiency in quilting will make the most of my time. I love chain piecing and working on things in a batch so I don’t have to setup tools or a new work area each time I’m in a different stage of a project. I think only doing one project at a time will massively improve this part since I won’t be constantly shifting or cleaning things up from other projects to do something else.
Modern quilting design goes hand in hand with minimalism in a lot of ways. I love the balance of using beautiful fabric while still leaving negative space to show off gorgeous quilting that enhances the overall design. I see myself gravitating towards simplistic but interesting designs that use color and space without overwhelming the eye. It is possible to have a gorgeous quilt without spending four hours making one complicated block. I’d rather spend that time working on the quilting and showcasing that.
I think my journey into becoming a minimalist quilter will be gradual but ultimately I believe this is the best way for me to work on my hobby while utilizing my time and budget in a smart way. Keep it simple. Minimize some things to maximize a lot of other things. This will be my ultimate goal with Project Simplify.