You’ve been diligently working away on your new project and everything is going well. Like a smooth train ride until…it derails and you’ve lost all motivation to sew or it feels like a dreaded chore. There are a number of reasons why this could happen – you’ve got distracted by something else, you’re tired and would rather meld with the couch, life gets in the way. And the next thing you know, a week turns into two, a fortnight into a month, and…. when was the last time you sat at your sewing machine?
Welcome to a sewing slump.
There are different ways to get back into the sewing flow, and some will work better than others. Hopefully one (or maybe a few) of these ideas will help you get back into that sewing space of yours, ready to sew up a storm.
Don’t beat yourself up
Probably the worst thing you can do is get frustrated with yourself for losing your motivation. It doesn’t help the situation and makes you feel more bitter about the fact that you haven’t been sewing. Sewing when you’re in a bad mood is never a good idea because you are less likely to care, run the risk of being rough and damaging your project, and if you do make a mistake you might feel like throwing the project in the bin or out the window.
If you’re keeping a cool head then perhaps you could employ Nike’s slogan and…
Just do it.
Put down your phone. Step away from the television. Set aside that book from the Outlander series… Now, go to your sewing space, close the door and give yourself half an hour of pure sewing time (you can put some music on too if it helps). Just half an hour. Feel better? Try another half hour. Making progress? Do you want to keep going? Great job!
Sometimes you have just got to get it done – I ended up absolutely detesting the process of sewing flowers onto my ball skirt but I knew that since I had started there was nothing to be done about it – except to keep plugging away at it. Sure, it took about a week before I could look at the skirt after finishing and actually appreciate it. But it was done and I was so relieved that I was no longer saying to myself ‘I really should sew the rest of those on.’
That’s the eating-your-biggest-and-ugliest-toad-first method, and it works for some (and it sometimes works). But, perhaps that just isn’t doing it for you. So… what else can you try?
Take baby steps.
If you’re making a completely new outfit then you’re going to have lots of different elements that you need to create. If you’re not feeling all that enthused or motivated to work on that bodice or skirt, then why not tackle one of the smaller projects? Something simple and quick like a reticule, or a new chemise. Once you’ve finished a smaller project you’ll get that high and, hopefully, that will spur you on to tackling the next biggest project.
Make it a game.
I have a very long list of little things that I need to do – things to fix or replace on existing projects, or those preparatory steps needed for the next. I forget about the little tasks too easily so I came up with the idea of my project jar. I have the different tasks on pieces of paper, which I folded up and put in a jar. Now, when I have a spare five to thirty minutes I can pull one of these tasks out and can get them done.
Do something else creative.
If you’re needing that ‘I just made something’ feeling to give you that boost of encouragement to get on with your project then you might be able to get that by making something else. I like to bake and, while I’m known for my cupcakes, it doesn’t always take that long to whip something up. I can then use that little buzz from finishing something (and the sugar hit) to help me feel like achieving some more of my sewing projects.
Sew when you’re freshest.
I’m a morning person (mostly). I love getting up early and working on my projects while everyone else in the house is still asleep. I can’t get distracted by talking or listening to them. This tactic was one that I put in place when I was living with my sister because once my nieces were awake they just wanted to play games or jump on the trampoline with me and I started losing too many hours of scheduled sewing time. But don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love and adore my nieces and I hated shutting my door to sew if they were home because they’re my biggest fans and too much fun to hang out with.
I would rather go to bed early and get up before the sun to clock up some productive sewing hours but if you’re a night owl then you probably want to schedule some time in the evenings to get your project out. Find whatever time of day works best for you and take advantage of it. You’re more likely to enjoy what you’re doing and be more alert if you’re sewing when you feel the freshest.
Tidy your sewing space.
Creativeness often creates clutter and chaos and often when I’m sewing I end up with bits and pieces all over the place. I’m not the tidiest person and sometimes I’m too lazy to put things away once I’m finished with them (Sorry Dad, I really did try to listen to your advice of ‘tidy one mess before you start another’). Physical clutter can create mental clutter and just having a lot of stuff around can affect your mood. Sometimes the easiest way to feel like working on my projects is to have a tidy up.
Schedule your sewing time.
Last year I was house sitting over the Easter break and I had absolutely no interruptions (well, there was the incident of trying to rescue a tiny live mouse present that the cat brought inside…) I had my patterns and fabrics, and I had a plan. I’m not sure how many hours I clocked up by the end of it but my days pretty much looked like: get up, shower and eat breakfast, then spend the rest of the day alternating between sewing stuff and taking coffee or food breaks before falling into bed in the evening. I’m not normally that much of a machine and sometimes I wish that I could be like that over the course of a normal weekend but the best thing I can do is schedule in a morning or afternoon.
Have a deadline.
There’s an upcoming event and you want to wear your new outfit so you’ve just got to go ahead and work on it. Some people thrive on deadlines and can plan their time really well to finish well ahead of time. If I’m organised then I can usually do this but sometimes I underestimate how long a task takes. Or, as in the case of my Shippensburg Bodice, I get sick and end up finishing off my projects once I’ve checked in to my accommodation…
Now that I’m blogging I give myself mini deadlines for different projects and posts to try and keep myself on track. They’re generally more flexible (I’m not that much of a task master) but even so, I do like to finish on time if I can. If I wasn’t blogging then I wouldn’t have as much of a reason to finish and then I would probably end up with a nice big pile of projects that I’ve started and then discarded when something more exciting comes along.
Have a sewing date.
If you’re fortunate to have a historical costuming friend living nearby then arrange to get together and have a social sewing session. Just making plans to sew might help you get back into the right mindset or maybe your friend’s enthusiasm will rub off on you. Don’t have someone nearby? You could still sew socially via skype. Knowing that someone will see where you’re at and where you’re aiming to be might also help to keep you motivated. This is also true for blogging and, personally, I don’t like leaving my blog un-updated for too long so knowing that I have to finish ‘that project’ so I can write about it helps.
Regardless of how you get back into the sewing flow, just remember…
Don’t push yourself.
If you’re tired or sick then don’t press on, trying to finish because you’re just going to burn out or end up making mistakes. When I’ve had a sewing-and-only-sewing weekend I find that I do need to take breaks during the day and that helps, but I tend to be slow to realise when I’m too tired and often find – after a good night’s sleep – that I’ve made one or two (or more) mistakes that I have to rectify in the morning. If I’m staying up because I want to finish a task and it needs some problem solving then all I end up doing is tying myself up in knots. The solution is so easy to come by after I’ve slept.
I really hope that if you are currently suffering from a sewing slump that something I have written has helped you find a way to escape and to get back to your sewing projects. You’re not the only one out that that experiences it and it isn’t the end of the world. It’s just an interruption to your journey – a detour if you like – and one that doesn’t have to plague you for long. It happens to everyone. After all, you’re only human.