Straw Into Gold?

Do you remember the story of Rumpelstiltskin? It is one of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and tells of a young woman imprisoned by a king. Shut in a tower room filled with straw and a spinning wheel, she is told she must spin the straw into gold or be killed.

This afternoon I struggled as I tried to solve some problems in my current project. After going backwards, rebuilding my second border (taking it off and starting over with different fabric), fixing the corner attached incorrectly, creating a NEW third border, deciding my FIRST third border was better… I could feel stress tightening my chest, constricting my breathing.

Making a quilt is not a life threatening task like trying to spin straw into gold. I don’t need my body to react as if it is. That kind of response feels uncomfortable, physically. And it interferes with creative problem solving.

I stepped away, first taking a few minutes to switch to a low-stress task, and then to meditate. I could feel my heart rate calming, my breathing deepen, my face soften.

After a break I had a new thought, a different color I could try to solve my dilemma. I keep my stash in bins by color, and pulled the purple bin from its shelf. The one I thought of is probably wrong, too strong for the role. But as I looked at other choices, I saw there were a couple of other options to consider. One of them looks especially promising, if only there is enough.

No, making a quilt isn’t a life threatening task. It’s almost always challenging because I design as I go, and I shop my stash first rather than buying all new. These are challenges I enjoy because they fully engage my creativity and power. When I stop enjoying it, it’s time to stop quilting, even if only for a few minutes.

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14 thoughts on “Straw Into Gold?

  1. Thread crazy

    Oh so sorry Melanie; yes it can be frustrating, and stressful when we are creating a quilt. Just remember when we bring something to “life” it does takes lots of work and pain; but in the end, it’ll all be worth the hard work. While I do use patterns occasionally, I find myself leaning more to creating my own patterns. Sometimes I think I’m going to pull all my hair out and that’s usually when it happens; the blinders fall off and the answer is clear as day. Hang in there…Looking forward to seeing the new quilt soon.

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  2. denmck

    My goodness; you and I have been walking the same path apparently, but I took two days to settle down, LOL! I finally went back to my project last night and worked through my issue. You are right that sometimes you have to literally walk away instead of banging your head against the wall. I’m glad you are seeing some new possibilities now.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      For what I do, I have few deadlines. Even for gifts, while it’s nice to give the gift ON the occasion, it isn’t necessary generally. So it is more practical to walk away, as long as we will come back to it. 🙂

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      🙂 Yes, exactly. I was whining to a friend about my problems with this, and that I wanted to make it “especially special.” She wisely reminded, “In reality, we can’t make it special to them; we can only do our best work and hope they appreciate it.” I am not in charge of anyone else’s opinion. So I need to do what is best for me. This I know, but it’s good to remember now and then.

      Thanks as always.

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  3. jimfetig

    This reminds me of carpentry. Sometimes when I’m trying to solve a problem and I’m tired, I try several solutions and none of the seem to work. I’ve learned to simply sleep on it. Everything is clearer in the morning when I have to rip out the wrong way before the enlightened solution can be implemented.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I expect it’s just the same. Probably the same for any of our creative endeavors. I’m lucky, at least, that I’m not carving into marble. It’s harder to solve problems when the material is all of a piece.

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  4. Yanic A.

    Oh how very frustrating. I’ve been there… just not able to make anything work. It’s hard to not take something we are so passionate about to heart. I’m glad it all worked out.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I haven’t completely worked it out yet, but I think it’s probably lined up for finishing now. Of course by the light of the morning I may change my mind! In the meantime I’ve gotten a few other things worked on, so I didn’t waste the time, just used it differently.

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  5. KerryCan

    I get all agitated like this, too–I think it’s one of the reason I don’t do much jewelry making anymore–there was more agitation than joy, all the time. Sometimes I need to give myself a stern talking to . . . I think I need to learn to meditate.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, weigh the payoffs. Sometimes they are just not enough.

      As to meditation, I am a neophyte, and not regular in my efforts. But I know it helps and that it would help even more if I were more regular about it. I’m reading a book now called Buddha’s Brain (ebook loan from my library.) It looks at the physical, neurological aspects of meditation as well as the emotional and social ones. I’m a third of the way through it, so can’t give you a conclusion or a recommendation relative to buying it. And there certainly are many books and resources for learning to meditate without providing neuroscience justification.

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  6. snarkyquilter

    I hope that by now (February 1) you’ve sorted out what was bothering you about your quilt. Fresh, rested eyes do indeed help solve issues more than constant redoing. And, as a friend’s husband said, you can’t hit a home run every time. Of course, that approach leads to making a quilt series so you can change what bothered you.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I did resolve it, thank you very much. I found the right color for the narrow border, and determined that the piece I thought would make the outside border was all wrong. In the meantime, I tried several variations on my design wall and ended up with something that makes me very happy. THanks again.

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