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Friday, 10 March 2017

Sewing motivation in little steps

You know what sewing is like: you're really into it, making great progress, you're so looking forward to the finished garment... and then something happens that slows you down, interrupts your flow, gums up the works - you put your sewing aside, and despite your good intentions, you don't get round to pick it up again another day. 

Unfortunately it often happens that a short break from sewing results in a much longer period of not sewing at all.  Sewing is not like knitting that's easily put-downable and pick-upable, to coin a phrase.  You have to pull the sewing machine back out, free up the space for all the stuff you need, get all the bits back together, - and you generally need to plan things a lot more than just carrying on on impulse.

I have found it incredibly easy to lose my motivation to sew.  While the thought of my massive fabric stash, and all those lovely patterns, and all these exciting ideas what I could make (if only), and what design features I could incorporate... they seem to percolate away but not lead anywhere.

Tash has written a great post about sewing motivation, I very much enjoyed it.  My post is about  one technique that I use to overcome the not-sewing-but-I-really-want-to slump: do something, anything that comes to mind, even if it's just a little something.

Small steps, the itty-bitty tiny ones, are very useful to regain your motivation to sew again.

The sorts of things I like to do, just one at a time, - in no particular order:

  • Read through some of the sewing instructions to check how it deals with a particular part of the sewing process
  • Wind my bobbin - ready to sew whenever that might be ('bobbin mates' are great for keeping a bobbin spool and sewing thread together)
  • Look at my fabric and stroke it a bit (yes really. Though that works slightly better with wool when comtemplating a knitting project)
  • Clearing my cutting table. You never know it might make me spread the fabric out and maybe even cut out some of the pieces... or all of them once I get started and it's not as horrendously labourious as I expected...
  • If I am further along: pin something, measure something, baste or tack pieces together, do a little pressing with the iron, ...
  • Set up the ironing board, including iron, tailor ham, clapper or whatever else I like to use
  • Heck, even dust off my sewing machine.  It likes a bit of tender loving care occasionally
  • Write a bullet point list of steps needed from now to the end of the project, or just a couple of points of my next steps
  • Lay my dressmaking pattern envelope on my sewing table, or put it with my machine.  Adding the fabric to keep it company is good too
  • Cut out the pattern tissue pieces.  Even if I only start with the big ones, or the little ones, I can usually go on to do all of the ones I need (I have big freezer bags, with a ziplock top, that I put the tissue pieces, pattern envelope and other materials into ready to use)
  • Look at the pattern envelope to familiarise myself with the line drawing, what kinds of pieces there are, what shape they're in, where the seams are. That sort of thing
  • Take out the sewing instructions and circle all the numbers of the pattern pieces for my chosen view or option
  • Go out and buy or look for the other bits I'll need: check the zip colour and length against my fabric, pull out interfacing, set out pins, chose buttons (or pin different options to the fabric to see which I like), grab tape or ribbons, double-check that my sewing thread hasn't gone dry and brittle if I had it a while (been there, done that), double-check the pattern for anything I forgot
  • Check out the fabric in the mirror to see what it'll look like on me
  • Sew 'just' the one seam... which usually leads to a bit more... and this little bit here, and that one bit there...

Any of these things might be all I do at the time.  It gives me a feeling of satisfaction that I managed to successfully put a stop to my slump.  And strangely enough one small thing is often enough to do a second little something: either straight away, or a bit later in the day.

The best thing about the little step approach is that everything more is a bonus and you're not expecting that you'll complete your project in a few hours from the time you get up to do anything.  If you're literally only reminding yourself of the sewing instructions then that's enough to get you thinking about things in a practical manner again.

And that seems to losen the paralysis of "I really want to sew, so why don't I?"

What other small steps can you think of?  What do you do to get yourself over a long pause in sewing?  What gets your creative energy flowing?

Please let us know in the comments!


  1. These are useful ideas! I like to keep everything set up so that I can jump straight in on the next step without thinking. Sometimes that even means threading the machine, putting fabric in and the needle down. Then next time I have a few minutes I can just sit and press the pedal! Stay-stitching is a good thing to do as it's hard to mess up even if you're tired. Sometimes motivation is to do with energy and how likely I am to make a mistake. The last thing that slows me down is knowing I have to unpick and refit something. Just putting the unpicker on the item ready for coming back sometimes helps!

  2. Great tips. I try and do these when my sewing mojo is low. I have had a few times lately when I have gone to start a new project and realised that I don't have the right lining or zipper. I am off shopping this weekend!


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