Firestarter Friday: Reigning in Your Energy

Detail of quilt block I made a few years ago. After a lot of agonizing.

Earlier this week, I shared my big craft hit list. It’s an extremely helpful tool, but it can be a double-edged sword.

The entire block, for those who were wondering what it looks like.

Yesterday, I had a few hours of what I call craft overload. If you are crafting to the point where you buy supplies “just because”, than you know what I am talking about. You already have a list of twenty projects, and then someone tells you about Event X. Instantly, the perfect project for said event pops into your head. And then another…and another. Pretty soon your head is spinning with all the ideas. You’re imagining finding the perfect materials and creating a thing so great that it will elicit ooohs and aaahs from other event-goers. At least that’s how it goes in my head.

But once I add Event X to the craft list, my brain goes into hyper drive. I imagine all the awesome gift possibilities. Naturally, each one is more awesome than the last. Then my brain gets all swampy and I can’t narrow down exactly which is best and most logical decision. The sad thing about all this – it’s totally self-imposed. I have been to bridal parties, baby showers and birthday BBQs where I know darn well I would be fine with a $10 Target gift card. But I have personally set expectations for myself. Not that I need to arrive at a friend’s wedding with a hand-stitched queen sized quilt. I just want to create a well-made gift that truly fits the recipient’s tastes. And on a logical level, I know other guests aren’t sizing up my gift, deciding whether or not I should be shunned from future events.

It can be really easy to let all the excitement and ideas get away from you. Then you’re not having fun – you’re stressed out. Instead, when the craft overload hits, use those thoughts to create momentum. Once you get your brain in order, you can create great things.

Fabric clock I made for a Warhol lover.

Step 1: Get it out
Just like many creative processes, brainstorming is a great tool. In the case of planning crafts for others, I simply make a list. Sometimes the list includes quick sketches. The important part is getting every awesome idea into a tangible form so you can take the next steps.

Step 2: Get rational
First and foremost, think about the person you are crafting for. Is it a close family member? A close friend or one you only see a few times a year? A co-worker who you never see outside the office? That thought alone will help narrow the field of gift ideas. It’s natural that the people you are closer to will get more of your resources. But never think that you can’t create something awesome when you are tight on time or money.

After you think about the person you are crafting for, think about your expenses. Don’t just consider money; think about the materials and time. What can you realistically expend and create something that is good quality and fits the bill? Never ever (ever) take quality and personalization out of the equation. The world is already littered with poorly made crafts. If you are going to take the time to create for others, bring your A game. The payoff of watching someone opening the perfect gift is unparalleled.

One of twelve packages from the 12 Days of Christmas Swap 2007. A great example of how helpful writing down ideas can be. The star coasters, sleep mask and candy wreath were all made by me.

Step 3: Make a plan
By now, your list should’ve narrowed considerably. If not, great – more to choose from. At this point, you should pick which idea you like best and go with it. Plan out whatever you need to. This includes going to the store for supplies as well as the actual craft time. I started doing this a few years ago out of sheer frustration. I would plan an awesome gift and then not make a plan. The result? I would have to go back to the craft store or sometimes make do with what I had on hand. Now that I live out of town, I make sure I consider all upcoming crafts (a month or so out) and make a material list. That way, I can make sure I have everything on hand. Nothing sucks like really getting momentum going and then having to stop because you ran out of glue.

Step 4: Gather the goods and go!
Now that everything is in place and your crafting area is re-stocked, it’s time to make stuff! So brew some tea, grab a handful of chocolate chips and create!

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