Sunday, 15 July 2012

A disappointed toe

I am always full of plans, which delight me and make me look forward to when I am actually going to put them into action, and give me a warm glow as to how happy I'm going to be when they come to fruition.  Of course I rarely if ever carry any of them through, which probably explains why I am so moribund and rut-bound.

The two main reasons/excuses are lack of time and lack of confidence.  Of course I wouldn't need the confidence if I wasn't so ready to beat myself up for being useless when anything I try doesn't work perfectly first time.  Anne Lamott (one of my favourite writers when she's not writing fiction) says in her wonderful book on writing "Bird by Bird" that "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and" (insert whatever it is you want to achieve here).  Lord, but the woman is right.

Recently I've made a couple of moves towards actually carrying through on projects I've been planning.  One has worked and one has not.  The one that has not involved listing some of my crocheted blankets on eBay.  Pricing them was difficult.  I am not a fast worker, and of course having a full-time job which also tends to eat into my evenings and weekends means that a large blanket can take weeks or sometimes even months to complete.  So any idea of costing an hourly rate into the asking price is laughable.  I'd have to ask hundreds, even at minimum wage.  So what I did was to work out how much the yarn cost, then sort of add some on to make a number which I hoped wasn't too scary.  I also bore in mind advice that I've read from someone who makes part of her living on Etsy, that under-pricing your work does you no favours, nor is it helpful to other hand-made goods sellers, who need to make something from their labours.  So although the prices I set would probably have amounted to less than 50p per hour for labour, I made sure that my blankets weren't going to sell for peanuts.

They didn't sell at all.  Not one of them, not even the one that I was only asking £5 for, and which took me a week of evenings to make.

I am trying hard to believe that eBay is not the right marketplace for my work.  I will think about Etsy.  Luckily I like these blankets very much, so I am not writing them and myself off as rubbish and I am not deeply downhearted.  I would have been thrilled to sell even one item, but I am not crushed that it didn't happen. I dipped my toe and gained nothing, but on the bright side I've lost nothing either.

The project that did work happened today, and involved taking two useless items and making from them one very useful thing.  It's also something I've been meaning to do for weeks - nay, months - as is my wont.

I had a synthetic fleece mattress cover, double sized, which quite clearly said "DO NOT TUMBLE DRY" on the label.  I didn't notice, and tumbled it, and the non-fleece part that was fitted to wrap around the mattress and hold it in place, melted and shredded, rendering the whole less than useful.  I also upgraded from double to king-size, so my snuggly fleece was looking the local recycling skip squarely in the eye.

I also have a king-size fitted undersheet, that repeated washings and tumblings has rendered bobbly and uncomfortable.  In a fit of inspiration, I decided to sew the fleece part of my mattress topper to the fitted sheet, thus making one useful item out of two that were otherwise destined for the bin.

I decided this months ago, and looked forward to working this little bit of recycling magic, for weeks on end.  It never occurred to me to actually DO it, no, this was a project to savour, and I did.

Then yesterday my cat decided to try to rip off the skin surrounding his eyes with his back claws, and came bounding into the living room with blood running down his face.  When I had wiped it off and stopped trembling, I called the vet and got an appointment for an hour hence.  My cat didn't seem troubled by his disfigurement, but I was traumatised and bizarrely energised and could not sit down for the life of me.  I seized the old sheet and fleece, fitted the one onto my bed and pinned the other to it.  That filled the wait for the vet's appointment, but of course it left me with a pin-riddled item that was a danger in a house with three cats.  So today I had to do the actual sewing.  I knew it wouldn't be perfect.  I knew it might not work, but I got a bit cross with those thoughts and decided to hang it all and do it anyway, and if it was rubbish then the bin was still an option and nothing lost.  It was scary (Husband can't understand that, but then he's quite practical compared with me) and I had a couple of incidents with the bobbin yarn snapping and not being able to find enough white cotton (so the cotton's white underneath and unpleasant beige on top).  I've not used a sewing machine for several decades and I find that it is very little like riding a bike.
My boy Moo, before the self-mutilation incident, napping happily in a position that most cats can't even achieve, let alone enjoy.  He is not your standard model.

But that is all immaterial.  I did it.  I was right, it isn't perfect.  But it's good enough, and miraculously one of my projects has actually happened, rather than just being something to think about comfortably as I drift off to sleep.  And do you know, I couldn't be more chuffed.  Well possibly I could, if I'd sold a blanket or two.  But that aside, I'm pretty damned pleased.  I may try it again sometime soon!

My cat Moo is apparently allergic to something, according to the vet.  This information plus 2 injections cost me over £70.  But if that stops him poking out his own eyes it's money well spent.

Quite an eventful weekend, overall.


  1. Poor little Moo! But at least you know what the problem is now, and hopefully he'll be OK. He sorta looks like Yoga Cat to me! Please give him a "get well" smooch for me.

    I can TOTALLY relate with the projects that get lost in the land of good intentions, and I also completely understand the fear bit. Well... I mean, I experience the same thing - I don't really understand it because my brain keeps telling me that it's silly. I think it's a perfectionist thing - AMAZING quote on that topic BTW. I just have to keep telling myself that the world won't end if it doesn't work out, and neither will it be an indictment of my worth as a human being. I still get a knot in my stomach though.

    That's such a bummer about the eBay thing... I agree that it's probably not the best venue as people there are generally looking for bargains. Etsy might be a better fit.

    I think when you're selling that sort of thing you really have to find the right audience who specifically wants and values something hand made. I mean the reality is that in this crazy world of ours there is no shortage of goods - in fact, we're overwhelmed with them!

    I'm sure I've mentioned this story before, but once I set out to make a hand made quilt because it seemed like the perfect "simple living" project. Thing is, I HATE the sewing machine. Anyhow, I finally realized that I could buy an entire quilt at WalMart for less than the cost of the thread to make one. Seriously... just the thread! I already had the fabric on hand - if I'd had to buy that too it would have cost 5-6 times the price of the WalMart quilt!

    My brain has trouble figuring out how that all works... I mean, the WalMart quilt had both thread and fabric in it... I guess the main cost of these things is the labor to package, distribute and sell them. I dunno what conclusions to draw from it all, but it sort of made me wonder.

    1. Moo is still worrying at his face, but not as badly and I think at least some of it is psychological rather than allergy-based. He gets loads of loves and cuddles, but I will definitely add one in from you - thank you!

      Moo was born with a genetic condition known as radial hypoplasia, in which the front legs don't form properly ( His spine is not quite right and his tail is kinky, so he tends to get into positions that other cats wouldn't find comfortable, such as the "folded in half" position in the photo. Plus which I think he is on the autistic spectrum, but for all that he is a wonderful cat with the gentlest, most loving nature ever. But he does get stressed easily and is scared of a lot of things, probably because he senses his own physical vulnerability. I think it's this stress that makes him worry at himself, and of course this makes him uncomfortable so he nags at the injury some more. I should say that this is not all the time, in general he lives a very happy and active life. About the only thing he can't do that other cats can is to climb trees, fences etc. Because his paws are essentially on sideways, and he doesn't have much muscular control of them, he can't use his front claws to grip. But he races up and down the stairs and jumps on and off the bed, chairs etc, so he never feels sorry for himself and I have learned over the years not to pity him because his life is good and there is no need. I am however very protective of him as you can imagine, and I talk about him at the drop of a hat as you no doubt have noticed!

      I can't believe that Walmart quilt/thread cost thing. I mean, I can obviously believe that it's true, but I can't believe we live in such a twisted economy that this sort of thing can happen. It's the same with yarn-based crafts. I can easily buy three sweaters from a shop in town for less than the cost of one sweater's worth of yarn. It's a world gone mad and no mistake!

      As for the fear of failure - well I'm still working on understanding and overcoming that one. I have an idea that when my father dies it may drop away, but I may just be fooling myself. If you ever come up with an insight into how to jump this particular hurdle, please share.

  2. My Goodness... he certainly isn't the "standard model" is he. It's amazing how animals cope with their "disabilities" isn't it? My best friend cared for a paralyzed bunny for years and years (he got paralyzed when the vet dropped him.) But little Bunny did just fine and really didn't seem to mind his condition.

    My perfectionism is similarly "parentally imposed." I fear it's been installed so deeply that their presence is no longer required to elicit the response though. I just have to keep reminding myself that it's really a reflection of their own feelings of inadequacy, not mine - but that's easier said than accepted, if you know what I mean.

    Best to you & Moo!