Every day I make a six-inch fabric art square. When I walk into the studio, I turn on the iron. I see all the fabric I might use for the current series laid out on a foam board right next to my sewing machine. I start designing directly by laying out fabrics to figure out a design I like. I keep it loose and have no preconceived ideas at this point except for general guidelines I already decided for this particular 25 day series. Once I decide what I like, I sew the fabric pieces to each other one at a time, ironing after each seam is sewed. Then I cut the square down to size using a square acrylic ruler. I take a photo of the square and post it to my Instagram account. The last step is to clean up the studio. All the small fabric scraps are thrown out. The foam board with all the fabric is put back in place next to my machine. The cutting mats are put in order. The rotary cutter is put in its basket. Iron off. Ready for the next day.
These are the things that make it a creative habit. I do the same things every day around the same time. No matter what your creative endeavor is, you can make it a habit. When you make creating a habit, you will create more. Guaranteed.
I would be lying if I said this all came about easily one day. I have fine-tuned this creative habit for a year to serve my need for consistency. The framework is simple, not unlike doing the dishes every day or making lunches for your kids to take to school.
Seeing creative habits as a regular kind of chore takes the drama out of the situation for me. Just show up. Every day.
The steps in my creative habit may be simple but I have a whole system in place to serve this habit. My creative habit needs inputs like inspiration and fabric and tools. Some days, I am inspiration hunting for my next series idea as I described in this article Capture Your Ideas and Evernote to the Rescue. Sometimes I am focusing on the supplies I need like my new Juki sewing machine. In other words, there is a lot of supporting work to be done to create every day, the grunt work or a nicer way to say it is, the preparatory work. This preparatory work lays the ground work for you to keep up your creative habit without missing a beat.
It all starts with a creative idea of what to create. These ideas do not just drop out of the sky. As I stated in the article I mentioned above, I first turn to my Designs and Color Ideas notebook in Evernote. I decide on the color palette and the design. To prep for a series, I first select a variety of fabrics I can use. Currently, I use solid colored fabric in the Kona cotton fabric line from Robert Kaufman Fabrics. The goal is to have enough fabric to keep the 25 days interesting without opening it up to "the sky is the limit" thinking, which can be overwhelming. I prewash all the fabric using Color Catchers to be safe and to capture any extra dye in the wash. After the fabric gets out of the dryer, I iron and starch the fabric that I will be using for the 25 days using Best Press starch alternative. I have found that the fabric sews together easier if it is stiffer from the starch. It is like working with stiff cardboard rather than a flimsy wrinkled piece of cotton. Sometimes, I pre-cut some shapes of fabric to get me thinking. I feel it is easier to improvise with smaller pieces of fabric and then I can see the geometric possibilities. I lay all the fabric out on a foam board so I can see it all and move it around easily. I also have to maintain my cutting boards, rotary cutters, and iron etc. This preparatory work is key to walking into that studio ready to go. It needs to be done before I walk in as part of my creative habit.
This creative habit helps me get squares made every day. But the next step for me is to make the larger square 25 day pieces. I sew all 25 squares into 5 rows of 5 squares which makes a final square of 30 inches. Then I add a cotton batting and a backing fabric. The next step is to quilt the three layers together on my Juki sewing machine. Bind the edges. Make a hanging sleeve for the back. Add a wooden slat with hanging hooks and wires. The last step is the quilt label. As you can see, there are a lot of steps to completing an art quilt.
Due to technical difficulties with my Juki sewing machine attachment used for quilting the three layers together, I am way behind in making the 25 day quilts. Now this is fixed, I can move forward. As I said, the best way for anyone to get a lot done is to make a habit. I need to take my own advice and add a habit for Operation Quilt Catch Up. Stay tuned for photos of the quilt completions over the next few weeks!
Has this article got you thinking about the details of your creative habit? Share in the comments below.
FYI. All these products I mentioned are not based on any affiliation with these companies. My intent is to only give you the nitty-gritty details of what I do every day in my creative habits.