I’m serious. I’m done with seating charts forevermore!
Now that we got that warm welcome out of the way, let me explain –
I haven’t crafted – truly crafted – in months. What I mean by that is, I haven’t made something that someone is paying for and carries a big sense of responsibility for me. The last thing I remember making (without looking back at the blog) were the props for the corporate retreat, back in May/June, so that’s a good six months of not having that type of pressure on – thankfully.
This is one of those posts where I’m going to get raw, real, dramatic, just 100% every thought and feeling, so you understand me a little bit better, especially for people that don’t understand why crafts are expensive and why this is a stressful activity for those who do it for (some sort of) profit.
A fellow craft friend and sorority sister with whom I collaborated in the past when I was actively crafting reached out to me on Monday, January 7th to ask if I would be able to help her with a seating chart for a wedding, as she had a family medical emergency and wouldn’t be able to complete it in time for the wedding, on Saturday, January 12th.
Me, queen of procrastination and over-committing, thought to myself: “ok, it’s Monday. I have all week to do it, all my work tasks are on track (though they could use some extra time invested), and I don’t have anything crazy going on this week that would genuinely prevent me from saying yes. If I say no it’s because I’m lazy, and I don’t want to be lazy. I’ll do it.”
I said yes and got all the logistical points covered about font, color, etc. It should be simple enough (can’t you just feel the movie-type foreshadowing forming here? It’s so thick I can cut it through the screen) and I would be sending pictures to my friend every step of the way to guarantee an early delivery.
I went to pick up the materials (wood plank, varnish, vinyl adhesive and transfer tape) from her on Monday night, and as soon as I got home, I got to work and laid the first layer of varnish on the wood because that needed to be completely dry in order to apply the vinyl cleanly. She sent me the final seating chart that same Monday night, and that was that.
Tuesday, I applied a second thin coat because the coat from Monday was uneven in some places and also doing it at night didn’t give me the best visibility and I missed some bristles that fell off the brush and got stuck to the wood. No biggie, you couldn’t see them (especially once the letters were placed), but I’d know and deep down that’s what ALWAYS kills me.
Wednesday I started working on the design. I use the Cricut Explore machine for all my cutting needs and I’ve been obsessed with it since I own it, and I dared not speak ill of it… until now. My Cricut, more specifically, Cricut Design Space (CDS, the free online software used to design the pieces that will be cut) let me down, HARD. For some reason when you have “a lot” of components in a design, the design space interface slows down. It’s happened to me before, but usually when it’s image-heavy designs, not when it’s only text. I did the seating chart for my best friend’s wedding in one day (do not recommend) last time, and it didn’t freeze up nearly as much, even though that one had more names.
After the weekend was over, I noticed that the Cricut team posted on Twitter that they had received numerous complaints about loading time and they were working on the issue, so it was clearly not just me and not an exaggeration. #Vindicated! Also, I forgot to mention – on Thursday when I went into CDS, there was an alert for system maintenance at 11:00pm MT. You know, because I didn’t have enough things working against me…
Copying and pasting each block of names under their section in alphabetical order took me F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Every copy/paste moment included a 30-60 second lag on the program, and this was repeated for every single letter after the C. Once I had the first half pre-designed, I showed my friend the digital proof and she goes “forgot to tell you, they’re supposed to be in all caps. I’m so sorry!”
Basically everything I had done up to that point (a good two hours of work, at least), wasted. But at least she saw it then and not when I was already cutting, right? Silver lining.
I re-did everything and found a way to hit less keys and endure less 30-60 second spasms of the software, and finally got all the names digitized and ready to cut. By now, it was Thursday night. I do have a job, remember? Oh and did I mention my brother broke his ankle on Tuesday so I’m also kind of caring for him? Good times.
I finish cutting everything on Thursday night, and start laying everything in a “final position” way on the board but not sticking yet, because I need to make sure everything will fit before I start sticking. Once you put the vinyl down, there’s no going back, so this is the time to make adjustments. It actually seems like it’s just *barely* going to fit, even though I set it up digitally as I always do, but I didn’t take into account the easel prongs that would block some names from the bottom if I didn’t leave more space. I was supposed to meet back up with my friend later that day so she could give me the easel, which we’d forgotten to exchange on Monday when I first went to pick up everything else.
The most time-consuming part of the process with vinyl (usually) is weeding. Basically, removing all the negative space from the cut so that all that is left are the letters, and that’s what you transfer over.
Now I had some bad moments with transfer tape for my best friend’s wedding making the menus and the seating chart, so I already had a little bit of fear here. One more thing worth mentioning – my friend hadn’t measured out the vinyl but she said if I needed more, she could overnight it to me. I was like no worries, I have plenty of vinyl at home I’m not using and need to get rid of. My vinyl has been sitting in my garage, in hot and humid Florida. I’ll just end that thought here, for now.
Did I mention I woke up on Thursday with (at best) a cold (at worst, the beginning stages of a severe bronchitis with bronchospasms – aka I couldn’t breathe by Sunday)? When I tell you I’m the queen of “perfect storm” moments…
So it’s Friday. My CEO and part of the management team are in town for an event they did plus they’ll be doing some planning during the weekend. From the moment I woke up on Friday until 8:20am on Saturday morning, I did not stop working on that seating chart. This is not an exaggeration.
This is where it really got bad: I met up with my friend around 5:00pm, got the easel, showed her a picture of the first half of the names “placed” to make sure they fit and told her “don’t worry, I will deliver it done tomorrow” and had an out of body moment thinking “you will regret this promise.”
I went back home and started sticking. The title “your seat awaits” went pretty easily – big letters were not my concern. Actually, sidenote – when my friend asked me to do this, I asked her how it was sticking vinyl on wood because I hadn’t worked it before, and she said “it’s a lot of rubbing” which is not ideal, but what I expected from my previous experiences. I measured everything out carefully and started with the As. All good. Then I went with the Bs and for some reason, the letters would not come off the transfer tape onto the wood. I think it’s because it was a fresh piece of transfer tape and those tend to be a little more frisky. So I start rubbing the next transfer tape pieces on random surfaces to create some “wear” so that wouldn’t happen again. C, D, E, F, G, H, J – done. It took about two to three hours to do them. It was about 1:30am when I was ready to move on to the next side. I believe the vinyl my friend had was enough for half of the name, and the vinyl I had did the other half. I don’t know which half was which, but I have a feeling her half did the first and my half was the second because…
As I start rubbing off the K, L, M, things are starting to slow down like they did for the letter B. And I come to realize that it might be because I did the second batch of names with my vinyl, which was sitting in my garage for months with heat and humidity, and that’s probably why it’s not sticking as well as the other one. Now, I can’t quite put into words the level of frustration that it is to try and lift transfer tape and all the little letters and periods in “Mr.” coming back up and not sticking to the wood, but at 3:00am and with a deadline, I reached a level of desperation I don’t often get to. It was panic attack central. I was playing anti-anxiety music, trying to calm down and remember how every time I’ve ever freaked out about anything, I’ve always pulled through, and this time would be no different, because I had made a promise and my word means everything to me.
My brother tries to help calm me down with his presence (he’s not even remotely a little crafty) and then I run an idea by him. I have another roll of new vinyl I got which might work better but, I’d have to re-weed everything from O-Z so it’s probably going to take just about the same amount of time, but it will frustrate me less so it might be better for my mental health. He says go for it. I opened a brand new Cricut Design Space project and try with just the letter O. For some reason the font came out slightly smaller, but the weeding was fast (only 3 names) and it gave me enough push to decide to do the rest. I re-digitize the remaining letters (because the original design takes too long to load to even try to cut it) and while that’s happening, I decide to go stick the Ps so I can do something valuable with my time. I discover that removing the transfer tape diagonally instead of laterally kind of helps.
The new batch is cut and as I’m weeding it, I realize that the backing of this other vinyl is too slippery and the letters are moving around and won’t sustain the spacing/will look crooked. So… I gave up on the newly cut names, and go back to my original, unsticky vinyl.
As I finish up the Ts, I realize I cut off two names from the S group and now I have nowhere to put them (and even though at first the letters don’t stick, then they don’t come off… even though I tried, so I had to do double peel duty on the Ts). So it occurs to me that I should join the R & S and use the space that was originally for the S for those two names (thankfully the space, even though scrunched, was just enough for two names).
I then go down and do the Z to make sure the space is even from the bottom and then realized that my worry that I’d run out of space made me save too much and now I’d have extra space. So I got artsy with the Y and Z to make up for the excess space.
And then it was 8:20 am. I clocked it when I sent the picture to my mom.
I had to deliver the chart at the reception venue which was about an hour away from my house, and be there by 1:00pm. It was also a friend’s birthday and I had committed to making crafts for the room of the hotel where I was also supposed to stay, except that I had a virus and horrible bronchitis by this point, but I had still committed to the (simple) decor…
I passed out and woke up at 11:30am to get ready to leave by 12:00pm. I printed my friend’s decor, took everything to the car, had a mini photo shoot and left by 12:05pm.
I was so tired from the all-nighter I almost didn’t realize I didn’t have enough gas to make it as I pulled into the gas station to get water… so I got gas, made it to the venue, delivered the seating chart, and thus concluded the nightmare that was the last seating chart I’ll ever make.
It came out beautiful, and no one would be able to gauge a second of the struggle it entailed just from looking at it. And that’s crafting, at its best.
These are the types of projects that yield equal amounts of fulfillment and anxiety. I can’t believe I pulled it off and I’m so happy I did and it’s in the past, but I seriously had the worst burst of anxiety and panic thinking of the consequences if I didn’t finish it – lose a friend, give her a bad reputation with the event planner (or even circle of planners, because they all talk and can destroy a vendor with just a word), “ruin a bride’s wedding day” because everything is so high stakes in that emotional “best/biggest day” of the couple’s lives… I’m surprised I didn’t need a defibrillator with the amount of thoughts and pressure I felt at the time. I can tell you, I was close.
Not quite sure how to close this other than thanking the universe and every holy power that intervened for me to retain some semblance of sanity and finish the project so I could deliver on my promise. Any comments, stories, or whatever reactions you may have, feel free to sound off below. I just felt all the feelings all over again so I’m reluctant to stop typing until I can feel something else… Jk, bye!