A Crafter's Life

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Crafters

Do you have a favorite inspirational book of all time? A book whose message you have woven into the core of who you are as a person?

I do – Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you have not read this book, I highly recommend that you do.

Recently revisiting this book got me thinking: “how would the habits discussed in this book apply to creativity,  making handmade crafts, and creating a collection of art quilts?” Can I apply Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to the work I do on my tierneycreates business: striving to make a catalogue of handmade items infused with smiles to offer to my Etsy shop customers; and to working towards my dream of becoming a professional artist?

I came up with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Crafters, based on Covey’s 7 Habits. If you have read Covey’s spectacular book then you know the background on each habit listed. If you have not read the book, read it, it is a life changer! 


  1. Be Proactive: Those projects will not just start or finish themselves, Tierney! This habit reminds me that if I want to move forward with my goals, I have to get off the couch (and stay away from those highly addictive iPad games) and start working on projects and actions to achieve my goals.
  2. Being with the End in Mind: This habit helps me when working on an art quilt. When I get to the point when my intuitive and free-form design appears to have gone awry, I step back and think: “What do I want this piece to be? What do I want it to truly express and represent?” Taking a step back and thinking about what I want the end (the completed piece) to accomplish helps me refocus.
  3. Put First Things First: I use this habit when deciding on what priorities of projects to work on. It is very attractive and fun to work on another set of log jam blocks (read about my addiction to “log jam” blocks on my post “Log Jamming”: The Sequel) but it does not move me towards my goal of becoming a professional artist. What I need to put first is working on a new art quilt to build my catalogue of art quilts. This habit is also important when there are times I need to step away from the sewing machine and focus my attending on spend time hanging out with my husband and dogs.
  4. Think Win-Win: This has been a helpful habit on rare Etsy shop issues. Recently a customer mistakingly ordered the wrong fabric for a quilt project she was trying to complete. I did not carry in my Etsy shop the hard to find exact color she needed, only a similar color. I offered to accept a return on the fabric and I spent a bit of time researching for her where she could find the hard to find color in rare fabric line. She decided to keep the fabric she ordered by mistake and she used the links I sent her to work on locating the rare fabric for her quilt.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: The meaning of this habit is actually much deeper then how I am about to apply it to crafting: Sometimes you have to step back, slow down and try to understand why something is not working on a piece in progress. I get so focused on trying to complete something it is as if I am trying to force a square peg into a round hole. If I take a step back and try to understand what is really going on with the piece then I can come to solution. This habit is also an invaluable habit when working with other quilters on projects and working with my Etsy customers.
  6. Synergize: This habit comes into play when I am consulting on designing and piecing a new quilt with my quilting friends. Their external ideas help fuel and enhance my internal ideas.
  7. Sharpen the Saw: I am an experienced quilter but I need to continue to take quilting classes and workshops to learn new techniques and refine existing ones. I also need to continue to network with other quilters and crafters, both those doing traditional quilts and those doing art quilts and experimental art quilting techniques. Inspiration does not come to me in a vacuum.
photo credit: Wikipedia
photo credit: Wikipedia

True Tale of Shipping Terror (and Packaging Obsessions)

Sounds like the title for a new horror film, right? Or perhaps a made-for-TV-movie featured on a certain science fiction TV channel known for really bad plot lines, less than stellar acting, and suspicious special effects? Unfortunately this tale is true. Fortunately is has a happy ending. Hopefully. I do not know if the monster I thought I killed will pop out of the ground in the last shot of the film…

I was accepted to my first juried show and needed to ship my art quilt across the country to the gallery in Poughkeepsie NY. Very nervous about how to ship an art quilt across the country, I consulted with seasoned quilt artists who had participated in many shows. They provided wonderful advice on how to set up an account with a shipping company, how to package and protect my art quilt, and what steps to take to make everything go smoothly.

I set up an account on line with a national shipping company (name removed to protect the innocent…me) and then went in person to the local office of the shipping company a week prior to needing to have it shipped to investigate all shipping procedures and select an appropriate shipping container, which turned out to be a tube.

Then I proceeded to obsessively package up my art quilt (I figured as long as I did that right all would go well):

  • I created a special fabric label for the quilt with my address and phone number (should it mysteriously fall out of the package during shipping)
  • I lovingly wrapped it in acid free tissue paper (like one would use to protect a wedding gown)
  • I inserted into a plastic bag and then double bagged it to combat unexpected olive oil spills (you never know – in the container next to your delicate piece of art is a giant box from Olive Oil R’ Us that accidentally breaks and leaks everywhere in the delivery truck!)
  • I then most obsessively labeled each end of the tube – one side for “paperwork” and the other “art” (my paperwork to accompany the piece was also meticulously organized).


So with my package obsessively prepared (it may have taken me more time to prepare it for shipping then I spent originally creating the piece), I returned to the national shipping company local office to mail it. The clerk told me to just sign into my account online there and complete my paperwork and bring it up to the desk.

So I got that all done and dropped it off with the clerk who I saw scan it in. The clerk asked if I wanted evidence that it had been scanned in, but the info would all be on my national shipping company account with the tracking number, so I declined getting receipt – I would just check it online later.  I realized I never saw what the shipping cost when I set it up online. I asked what the cost of the shipping was and the clerk said to check online with my account with my online receipt for the shipping and the tracking number.

Naturally I forget to do that until after 9:00 pm (when of course my local national shipping office is closed). When I check my account online – THERE WAS NO RECORD OF MY SHIPPING, NO TRACKING NUMBER, NOTHING!!! My shipped art had vanished into the nether regions. Likely to the same place lost socks go – my art quilt doomed to spend eternity with piles of non-matching socks…

I did some quick thinking (which is important in moment of sheer terror) and I check online the credit card I had set up with national shipping account to see a record of the charge – and there were no charges to the credit card account. My panic worsens, as I truly have no way to prove I even shipped the package: no receipt, no tracking number, no credit card charge, etc.

I cannot call the local national shipping office as they are closed, so I call the national 1-800 number and speak to someone who’s is very difficult to understand (after several minutes of automated prompts) but very helpful – he tries to reverse track the package using the shipping address. After several tense minutes on hold, he comes back on the line and informs me that the package is not in the system (gasp) but after a pause he states they have not updated the system and it may not be listed until the morning.

At this point I would rather be chased by some mutant monster from a bad horror movie than facing the realization that my art is lost and there goes my opportunity to be in my first juried show. Finally I realize there is nothing I can do until I talk to the local national shipping office in the am and I reluctantly go to bed.

In morning I talk to the local national shipping office as soon as it opens at 7:30 am. They cannot locate the package info but take my phone number. An hour of sweating later, the clerk calls me and gives me the tracking number – YAY!!!  I of course go immediately online to national shipping company package tracking page to check it and voila it is there – now sitting in Troutdale Oregon on its way across the country. However still no record on my national shipping account of this package and no charge to my credit card….

LESSON LEARNED: Never ship anything of value without getting a receipt/tracking number for your shipment. Just like the guileless women in horror films, I was dressed up all fancy and running with my high heels on and never thought to stop and take them off – so I tripped and the monster nearly got me!

EPILOGUE 9/10/14 – No scary monster grabbed my leg in the closing scenes of the shipping horror movie – my package was delivered today to the gallery!