This Would Be Great, Except . . .

“Being a college professor would be a great job . . . if it weren’t for the students.”

I’ve heard these very words spoken, and have uttered them myself, if only as a joke. After all, if there were no students, there would be no job, no need for college professors, right?

All jobs, no matter how fun and fulfilling, have their downsides, I suppose.

In all my years teaching, it wasn’t the students that were the problem for me—I liked the students. It was the grading I hated.

But teaching, at least in American higher ed, means grading. Without students and without grading, there wouldn’t be a job.

In every craft I’ve done, there are tasks I dislike.

Making yoyos is great, if it weren’t for sewing them together.

Quilting is great, if it weren’t for the basting. Ack—I hate basting.

Making jewelry is great, if it weren’t for the polishing stage.

Weaving is great, if it weren’t for winding warp/sleying the reed/ threading the heddles/finishing the fabric off the loom. This whole topic of unpleasant tasks is actually on my mind right now because I face a day, or more, of hemming eleven towels and tablecloths. I have been postponing this for a while!

And, yet, without these tasks would the craft be the craft?

Without sewing them together, yoyos are just a pile of useless, albeit cute, pieces of fabric.

Without basting the quilt top to the batting and the backing, there is no quilt, just a piece of fabric of no particular use.

Without polishing, jewelry is just, simply, ugly.

Without all those steps of weaving, no weaving happens, no fabric grows.

When I was first learning to weave, I read a book where the author’s response was very clear, to a student who hated to wind warp.

The student said, “I just want to weave, not do all this other stuff.” She meant she just wanted to throw the shuttle.

The author’s position was that, when you wind warp, you are weaving. When you sley the reed and thread heddles and otherwise prepare the loom, you are weaving. It’s all weaving.

All the aspects of any job are critical to its being done.

So, if we care enough about the making, and the finished product, we learn to manage the bits that we find difficult or tedious.

I suppose, in some cases, we find more tedium in the craft than joy, and that may explain why we give some activities up and search out new creative outlets, to find the ones where the tedium/joy ratio is more to our liking.

For me, and the crafts I continue to do, I’ve either looked for ways to make the process more enjoyable or tried to re-frame my attitude.

I found a technique for basting quilts that works beautifully for me and, while I still don’t look forward to basting, I do it with much less gnashing of teeth than before.

For the yoyos and the weaving, I have simply (or maybe not so simply) changed my thinking.

Sewing the yoyos together remains a drag. But the only really unpleasant part is the longer stretches of stitching and it’s those longer stretches that also provide a sense of how satisfying the finished project will be. I keep my eyes on that prize and take time to step back and see how lovely this will be!

With weaving, I’ve found that many of the steps I used to hate get less soul crushing as I get better at them. Winding warp used to be my bête noire and now I have no trouble, although it’s still tedious.

I’ve come to grips with other steps by treating them as challenges, as fights I must win. Can I thread the heddles without mistake? Can I get the warp wound on without major tangles? I think I can, I think I can . . .

And along the way, I tell myself that, no matter what stage I’m in, I’m weaving. I am touching the threads and enjoying the textures. I’m watching the colors shift in the light and planning how they will come together. I’m doing some task that is integral to the making. It’s all weaving.

I wonder why we don’t talk about all this more often. I can’t imagine that we don’t share some frustrations about our crafts, as beloved as they are, but we spend our time talking about the fun parts and the finished projects.

Will you tell me about what you don’t like in your craft or in a job you’ve done? Or do you relish every step? Have you found ways to make the icky parts more fun?

91 thoughts on “This Would Be Great, Except . . .

  1. My “fun part” is the final quilting/stitching! (maybe you’ve noticed that fact?? hehe) but the basting process still comes into play, so I use this time to visualize all the stitching possibilities. There’s no marking to remove cuz it’s all in my head! Change it a bit here……tweak it there…..sure, no problem!!!
    Great post, BTW!!!!!!

  2. Great post!
    It made me think about my works in process and why they aren’t finished. With knitting, I hate sewing pieces together. I’d much rather knit a sweater on round needles all at once than do it in parts and sew it together. Now, keep reading and you will find that this makes NO sense…

    With machine sewing, I hate anything to do with curves. I like straight lines. I don’t mind hand sewing, in fact before I had a sewing machine, I used to make clothes with every stitch by hand. Those zippers went in so perfectly! I made many skirts, shirts, dresses this way. Yet I hate sewing knitted pieces together. Maybe because when I am done knitting, I want the thing to be done?

    With most jobs, I hate the prep work. I am thinking of all the room painting I just did. It took 2 days to clear and prep the room! That is just crazy, but I suppose it is like warping the loom? It is all a part of the main thing.

    • I get irritated and impatient on both ends of a project–prep work and finish work, and it sounds like you’re saying the same thing. But, yes, I guess we need to see the prep and finish as every bit as important that “fun” part.

  3. Agree 100%. There are parts of the quilting process I like less, or even don’t like. But they are all part of the making. It reminds me of hiking the Devisadero trail in Taos, NM. We got up fine. When we headed back down, my knees protested mightily. No one was going to come get me and carry me down on the back of an elephant. I had to do it myself, one painful step at a time. Fortunately not every hike goes like that, and most quilts have no long painful segment.

    Thanks for the post. I am reblogging.

    • Thanks for re-blogging, Melanie! I take that as a big compliment! I hate the downhill portions of hikes, too–they always seem harder. As regarding basting a quilt, I just need to get over myself! It’s the step that stands between me and the part I like best, the hand quilting!

  4. I dislike darning in ends and sewing things together in my work. I can avoid parts of it by learning to weave ends in as I go, or knit in the round. But whenever I get too fed up with them, I remind myself that nowadays, we’re a lot more used to instant gratification, and the art of managing/putting up with doing things we don’t like is dying out.

    • That’s totally true–doing these “chores” that we resist are good “equipment for living.” There will always be tasks that aren’t total joyful fun . . . but they have to be done!

  5. I like making cakes, but |I hate shopping for the ingredients. 😦 I like a clean house but I hate cleaning. 😦 A lot of our tasks, or crafts, are now solitary pursuits. Some people prefer it that way but I find when I am with my sister or a close friend, everything gets done much more quickly and more enjoyably.

    • Doing things in groups can make things much more fun, can’t it. I really enjoy getting together with my knitting friends – knit and natter sessions are bliss!

    • Good point! Sometimes members of my sewing group will help each other with an onerous task–it’s true that “many [loving] hands make light work”!

      • Indeed, indeed, and the loving hands have given me a flashback to my grandparents working together on a hooked rug. One would cut the thread, and one would hook. I think they took turns at each task. 🙂

  6. Great post and one that resonate so much. My current knitting project will have tons of ends to weave in when finished but I am ignoring that for the moment and just enjoying the creative process 🙂

  7. Hi Kerry, I enjoyed this post! For me, it was that way in the beginning…I wasn’t crazy about all the steps that go into it, before you get to throw the shuttle. I thought throwing the shuttle was “weaving”. Now that I’ve been weaving for years, I find I don’t really dislike any part of weaving, but I actually start planning my next project when I’m only a few inches into the throwing of the shuttle on the current project. I’m finding that I like putting on shorter warps than I did when I first started weaving, to be able to have the excitement of something new to keep me going, although there is also something to be said for winding a long plain warp & seeing what you can do with it. Avoiding burnout & boredom is key for me. Maybe that will change when I retire, maybe not…What I really want is more weaving time, period!!

    • Geri, I agree with you on the shorter projects. I am always planning the next project while weaving. Not because I’m bored with the one I’m working on but I get excited about planning the next new color and weave structure. I am retired and still feel the same. I enjoy all parts of the weaving process.

    • Hi Geri! You’re definitely right that, as the processes of weaving become more familiar, my attitude toward them changes. I am quite used to putting on longish warps and I know I started that because I figured that, if I had to go through the pain and suffering of dressing the loom, I wanted to get as much weaving time as possible. Now that the pain and suffering has diminished, I should try some shorter warps and be more experimental in what I do. Thanks for commenting!

  8. I hate long periods of standing… It’s not actually hating the job I’m doing, more a pain issue, but it makes certain stages of my quilting and clothes sewing (like fabric pressing and cutting multiple pieces) less attractive and I procrastinate… It also tends to make me rush a little where I should perhaps pay more attention, but so far I’ve managed to avoid any really major rush-based problems. There’s not a lot I can do about the back pain; time’s going to make that worse rather than better, so I’m not sure if or how I can change my view of those parts of the process. As long as I’m still able to stand for up to 5 minutes, though, I’ll still be calling quilting my vocation and my art, and not regarding some elements of it as the price I pay for the joyous parts 🙂

    • You’re right, Kate–when we’re talking physical pain, no amount of mental re-framing is going to help! And, now that you mention it, one of the parts of basting that is most difficult is the movement it entails to get a bed-size quilt bested. I would be crawling around on my poor sore knees! The joyous parts trump the icky parts, though! Thanks for coming over from Melanie’s blog!

  9. Great, thought-provoking post! I used to be a teacher, and loved preparing lessons and lecturing, didn’t mind paper-reading, but was washout at keeping order in the class. The more academically -inclined students and I had great learning experiences together, but the ones who who just serving chair time made me miserable. Eventually I was able to switch to another line of work where I got to prepare “lessons” and “lecture” only to interested “students”. The “lessons” were sales pitches, the “lectures” were sales presentations, the “students” were executives in large companies who needed to be educated on why they needed to purchase the high-end business software I was selling. The downside: I don’t think any of my customers is ever going to approach me years from now as I sit in my wheelchair and tell me how purchasing that software changed his life.

    • What an interesting transition you made, in ways that let you do what you liked best! And, if it comes as any comfort, not too many students seem to remember to give credit to teachers! And software does change lives . . . 😉

  10. Great post! Everything in life is about contrast. Nothing is all good or all bad. I love hand work but not so much the machine sewing on quilts and shirts. Somehow, things never go together as I envision. Maybe because I have to get my nose to the needle to see what I’m doing. I can sew on binding by hand all day long but getting the two ends to meet perfectly is still a challenge. If I did it more often, it might be easier. 🙂

    • It is funny, isn’t it? I guess we’re pretty complicated folks! I like sewing binding, too, and am always surprised when someone hates it . . . but then some people don’t seem to mind basting!! Go figure!

  11. I don’t care for the binding part of quilting. I can procrastinate that part ..sometimes for awhile ..sometimes so much so that I’ve learned to cut the binding ,then fold it up with the quilt. I wonder how many quilts my daughters will be binding after I’ve moved on to my forever home.😄 In gardening.. I hate picking up all the weeds that I’ve thrown to the side to be burnt so they don’t root themselves again, maybe it’s because by that time lm tired ,ready for a chair on the porch. My motivation is to have those weeds dead. It’s been fun reading what other don’t like to do.

    • Oh! I just wrote to someone else that I couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t like sewing binding! HA! I go back and forth about weeding. At this time of year, I kind of like it but, as the season goes on, I get really, REALLY sick of it!

  12. My feelings are close to those of commenter Geri Rickard – I used to hate all the set-up part of weaving. Once I realized that when I am done dressing the loom, I am half-done with the whole project, I got to liking it better.
    Also, I learned to put on headphones and sing to my heart’s content. I can’t sing, plus my whole family was afraid I would get them to help me wind the warp onto the loom, so they would flee and leave me in utter peace for hours. THEN I learned how to wind the warp on by myself (tying a cord through the warp chain and then tying that to a heavy suitcase), but I never told them that part. So winding a warp still guarantees me peace. 🙂

    • I love that image of you, warping and singing! Don’t you lose track of the threading sequence, though? Or maybe the rhythm helps? Peace is good, wherever we find it . . .

      • I thought about this — I rarely lose my place when threading. Maybe because I usually do pretty basic stuff, but I have done a few complex threadings. I think it’s because my weaving professor taught us to count and move the heddles we would need for the next unit, so I have a self-checking system. Or maybe it’s because the singing drives away all other people who might distract me. 🙂

  13. Loved this…my husband taught college for forty years and absolutely grew to hate the grading…( but as an inspirational teacher, hardly a month goes by without a word from a former student about what a big influence he was on their life…nice). I HATE putting the backing and batting and top together on a quilt. Double ugh. Things have gotten slightly better since we got a new huge dining room table which makes the process much easier, but I still don’t like it. I pin baste and have tried to trick myself into interesting patterns of pins, taking weird angled photos of the process for IG, imagining how nice it will be when quilted and planning my quilting (I LOVE the hand-quilting part), but truly, I still dislike it. I used to hate binding too, like Deb, but have come to enjoy that last satisfying “coming together” of the quilt …siting with it on my lap…etc. Nice post…thanks!

    • We have a lot in common, Bonnie! I did find a basting method–developed by Sharon Schamber, with a good youtube video–that I liked a lot better for basting than anything I had done before. But, honestly I would NEVER baste except I so look forward to the hand quilting! Right now, I’m working on yoyo coverlet . . . no backing, no batting, no basting!

  14. What came to mind for me is revising a piece of writing, whether an article, novel, short story or poem, the excitement is in the creation. Then it’s done and it could be better, either needing a few tweaks or an overhaul. And that’s when the rubber meets the mythical road. It’s a different process and a different way of thinking about the thing. Nonetheless, it needs to be done if the finished product is going to be any good–just as a properly set up loom is important to the fabric and the quilt must be basted. I think that for me it’s often a relief to go into a different mode of thinking, to change things up on the same project. But sometimes, it’s just a task that you don’t relish, the way some gardeners hate weeding!

    • This is funny–I actually enjoy the editing process more than the initial writing stage! It’s getting my ideas corralled and on paper that gets me nervous and worked up; once I have the ideas down in print, I love choosing better words to express them more clearly. I guess it really takes all types!

  15. I read through all the comments too – what a wonderful topic to bring up Kerri! Before I say how I handle things nowadays I’ll ‘fess up to having near tanties and throwing things in corners when I was younger and had NO patience! When I began to take control of my life – which meant taking control of me – crafting became a major teaching venue. It was here I could experience how the well of frustration at the most minor of slip ups could overwhelm me and I would lose myself in it. [And possibly because it was inanimate, a safe place to explode in!] It took years of practise to learn that everything that occurred was part of the learning process and fed into my desire to become better at whatever I was doing…… And, ultimately, better at being me!

    My personal belief is that life is a classroom. We are served up lessons, repeatedly, until we learn them. Then we are served up different ones 🙂 It is here we are learning the ultimate reason for our being here at all. We are here to learn how to love, how to be truly human. This means even the bits we find challenging – the bits we enjoy less than the glory bits. [It’s such a first world issue isn’t it – I don’t like knitting on these needles, I must buy better ones 🙂 ]

    That’s how it all came together for me – and now even the tedious bits are just a step to completion of something, hopefully beautiful in the end. Probably my favourite aspect of the catchers is choosing the ingredients for the recipient. My favourite part of any handwork – seeing it completed and on the recipient. My favourite part of any painting – watching it come in and out of layers until it feels ‘done’.

    I so love your posts! ❤

  16. For me and weaving it is definitely the finishing. But I think that’s partly because I usually have to [re]arrange my space for that. Twisting fringe needs a clear surface and something to weight down the scarf. Hemming dishtowels requires getting out the sewing machine, and sometimes pressing the raw edges first. There’s no room for the ironing board and the sewing machine to always be out, so it turns into “a project” whose completion is driven by deadlines.

    • One of the reasons I used to hate basting was it did cause me pain. I could never figure how to do it without crawling around on the floor. But the Sharon Schamber method lets me sit at a table! Now if we could only weed that way . . . .

  17. Yoyos are sewn? Do tell… Cooking and baking are great except for the clean-up 🙂 What is your least favorite part of chocolate-making?

  18. What an interesting post! I taught Second Grade for 10 years and I hated the parents! It was a private school and they would rip me apart…and when the headmaster decided he didn’t like me and really let the parents “have me” I had to quit. O well. Making, as people like to call it now, is a process and you’re right, you have to get through it somehow. I keep my eye on the prize and envision what the end product will be and hope to goodness that I will love it! Much of anything I do I like/love because I am handling fiber or fabrics in some way. Weaving has the most tedious tasks I think (perhaps why so few of us do it?) but creating a fabric from thread/strings/fiber is so amazing! Thanks for another thought provoking post!

    • I agree that, for most people, weaving would seem to be one tedious task after another. I’m really beginning to feel differently about some of those tasks, though. Threading heddles has always really worn me down because I am so physically uncomfortable doing it but, even there, I’ve been experimenting and learned new techniques. And, yes, making fabric out of string seems magical!

  19. I think of the fun, creative part as being play, and the part that’s more boring and takes some discipline as being work. With sewing, much time is spent doing things other than sewing: tracing,
    cutting out, trimming, pinning, pressing. I enjoy it all, but I don’t like all the trial and error of fitting clothes, and taking out little stitches is the worst.

  20. Time… Arrnanging enough to do the variety of tasks on the To-Do-List. So many tasks end up being “half-done” at the end of the day. The next free day ticks that one off the list, but then the next is left half-done by the end of that day… Or, as a friend said the other day, “They’ll have my casket in the ground, but I will not have shown up for my funeral yet, because I still have this-that-and-the-other-thing to do before I die.”

  21. Just browsed happily from one beautiful post the next! Ending with another one of your ‘food-for-thoughts-posts’…tedious jobs?? I have a very slow pace of life, not entirely by choice but I am happy with it nevertheless. I have learned over the years to adorn/spruce up those tedious jobs with with listening to audiobooks or lovely music or calling a friend whilst using a headset. What does the wonderful American say about lemons and lemonade? ;o) xo Johanna

  22. When I was younger a minor frustration often meant the end of a project. I am much better now at figuring out how to resolve issues and move on.

  23. You will show us a photo of those yo yos all sewn together someday, won’t you?
    Kerry, you have such a great way of breakting things down. Since I’m not crafting these days, I’ll just offer this about my civic commitments and the various committees that I am in charge of: I like the writing of the agenda, the planning the meeting, the enthusiasm and energy of many meetings … but those darn minutes!

    • I think you can be quite certain that you’ll see photos of the *&%#% yoyos once they are sewn together! And I think you are the first person I have EVER heard say that she enjoyed meetings! Of course, all my experience is in academe–maybe the meetings there are just especially annoying . . .

    • Hmmm . . . I’m not sure this would’ve helped me get through the interminable meetings I had to attend when I was an administrator . . . Some aspects of some jobs are simply no fun. At all.

  24. I hate threading the sewing machine and trying to adjust the tension so that I can start sewing – it takes forever and it’s so frustrating when it’s not going to plan. I also hate sewing the in the ends of my granny squares when I’m doing crochet. You feel like you’ve finished a granny square but then that extra step just makes it feel so much longer. You’re right though that it’s good to get better techniques / think about things differently. My new sewing machine makes threading up so much easier, and if I stick a load of un-finished granny squares in my bag, then tying in the ends makes a super portable project!

    • I always felt the same way about the sewing machine, until recently I started using mine a lot more often and now we get along quite well! I can imagine what a nuisance it is to weave in the ends of the crochet, though–ick.

  25. This article really got me thinking! I do a lot of quilling and I do detest some steps along the way. When I cook, I hate getting the blender down from the to shelf!! But I’m glad a lot of people are sailing the same boat as me!:)

  26. An excellent post, Kerry. Sometimes, it’s our inattention to the details, or the boring, arduous stuff, that trips us up.
    For me, proof reading is arduous. And on very challenging days, all of it is arduous. I leave it and return when I can, knowing it must be done.

    • I agree–while I like editing, I don’t like proof reading. But, as you say, it must be done. It’s an integral part of the process of writing!

  27. HI Kerry, I can relate so much to this post. As a new weaver, I too use to only want to “throw the shuttle”. After Vavstuga Basics and a trapeze class with Katie Reeder Meek, I began to appreciate the various steps of weaving. Finishing is the final step for me to embrace. My goal is that by the time I finish all of the pieces from Vav Immersion, I will be more effective and efficient and love the process. I’ll soon be writing about this on my blog! Thank you so much for this post, I realize I can transfer this wisdom to all areas of life. 🙂

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