So Many Options, So Little Time

Lately, I’ve been doing a fair bit of pattern testing for one of my favorite designers—the previously mentioned Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill of Whole Circle Studio—in between working on a few other projects that I already have at various stages of readiness for completion.  I thoroughly enjoy pattern testing because it helps me get past what I like to call “pattern paralysis” which I think all crafty folks encounter every now and again.

For me, pattern paralysis comes about due to being overwhelmed by not only wanting to do at least ten projects at once, but also because there are just so many options out there in terms of fabric, design elements, techniques to explore, etc.  Occasionally, the fabric I see in a store tells me immediately that it wants to be a modern or traditional make, and other times, it just sits there and stares at me with its pretty face, but offering no suggestions at all on what to do with it.  So I start wandering through favorite Instagram accounts, quilting books, online quilting blogs and the like looking for a way to transform the fabric I love (for unknown and unexplainable reasons) into something I’ll love to make and then love to gift/keep afterwards.

Sunset array of Paintbrush Studio Fabrics Painter’s Palette solids ready for sewing.

Searching for the right project for a fabric isn’t the only cause of the paralysis though–searching for the right fabric for a project can also instill a sense of “what the heck do I do?” foreboding as well.  A fully stocked stash of varying color palette choices helps a lot with this part, but it isn’t always the answer as the pattern/project on hand may require only a few fabric color choices, or it may allow for dozens of fabric choices.  “Scrappy happy” quilts are great at dwindling down the overflowing closets, bins and crevices, but just how scrappy do you want the end product to be is a delicate balance and achieving it can be very daunting if you have a large stash of fabrics from years worth of makes.  One too many random scraps may make for a design which may definitely be considered colorful, but may also be nausea inducing as well.

Still though, a pattern needs to be picked/designed/settled upon in order to start sewing.  Time considerations for all steps of the process can also add to the stress of getting a project underway.  Pick a pattern that’s too intricate, and it may never get completed, but pick one too simple, and it may end up disappointing in the final stages as it seems too simple and lacking in “wow.”  Then there’s the case of seeing a design that looks easy, appealing and fast, but then turns out to take much longer than anticipated, therefore compounding the overall project paralysis.

Collection of Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton solids and Paintbrush Studio Fabric’s Painter’s Palette solids prepped for a pattern test.

So the quickest way for me to get past my pattern paralysis most of the time is to test patterns for other people.  This way, I don’t have to take the time to choose and deliberate endlessly over patterns and designs; it typically has a built in time tally upfront; there’s already a list of fabric measurements and number of fabrics needed for the project; it also often pushes me to try a new skill or perfect an existing one with further practice; and has the added bonus of helping someone at the same time (and I’m all for helping fellow crafters and designers).  Then after the test top is completed, starts the process of figuring out who shall receive the finished quilt—another set of options always presents itself.  Options never end.

Testing the Cabana quilt pattern for Whole Circle Studio.

However, if I have an option to test a pattern (and can carve out the time and scrounge up the fabric to do it as well), the decision is always an easy one—because one more skill learned and quilt top or craft project under the sewing needle is always a good thing in my book.  

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