Monday, November 9, 2009

How Do You Get Your Sewing Groove Back?

Readers, I seem to have misplaced my sewing mojo. Have you seen it by any chance? I had it, but now it's gone. I was rocking along last week, high off my domination of bound buttonholes. I was psyched for a weekend of uninterrupted sewing. But then things didn't go as planned.

The mood in the sewing room this weekend was scattered and cranky. I thought I would breeze though my Peter Pan collar version of the bow-tied blouse on Saturday, and then cut out my coat muslin on Sunday. But I kept messing things up: my buttonholes were inconsistent, I ironed the wrong side of a fusible interfacing, burned my thumb, and everything I did looked off. But the most disturbing thing was just a general feeling of sewing malaise: I wasn't enjoying myself. Both Saturday and Sunday, I ended up putting down my projects in despair and lying down for a nap so I could try to shake off my bad mojo.

I know that loss of mojo is just a part of the sewing life . . . or any creative life, for that matter. Usually the best thing to cure it for me is a few good nights' sleep, and the simple passage of time. But I started to wonder if there was a way to break through it more quickly or less painfully.

How do you handle this? Do you have tips for getting your groove back?

P.S. Don't forget to send in your entries for the Most Awesomely Bad Pattern EVER contest! The deadline is the end of the end of the day on this Friday, 11/13.


  1. This sounds like me when my period is due! Everything goes wrong and I normally end up frustrated and in teras. I find waiting a week or two helps tremendously.

    I've never really sewn clothes but I love your blog and was thinking of giving it a go. I was wondering if you have a pattern that is for 'stretch knits' only can you use other fabric but with a bigger size?

  2. Oh I had those moments. Usually, it strikes me after making a long pause in sewing (like I've done these days), or when I sew solely because I have nothing better to do.
    Sometimes anticipate the coming disaster before it happens, and sometimes I don't. Ah well, I'm only a human, and humans make mistakes!
    Anyway, when one of these moments happens, I become a bit intimidated by sewing. Then I usually kill my fear by sewing an easy project.

  3. I've been in the same boat this weekend too! I couldn't be bothered to do all the alterations I needed on a simple knit top yesterday which I usually love to do. I knew I was in trouble when I was lamenting my petite frame and all the extra work I have to do on patterns because of it.

    When this happens, I just walk away from the project, play video games with my husband or just make a simple no fuss, no measure, brainless project like a purse or some handwork with yoyos.
    That or I go and chop lots of vegetables. I think it sounds bad that I find the steady chopping of a really big knife through carrots soothing but it is to me.

  4. Whenever I get frustrated like that I just go back to a "tried and true" pattern, one that I have made before, that is guaranteed good results, all the alterations are already made, I don't even need to look at the instructions, and just whip out something for instant gratification that I can wear immediately. That usually gets me back on track to tackle a project that I have had "the poo touch" on (you know, where everything you touch turns to poo. Kind of like the Midas touch, but...not).

  5. This hasn't happened to me with sewing so much, because I don't get that much time to sew anyway so it generally comes as a treat. But when I lost my knitting mojo for a while recently, I got it back by falling in love with an absolutely gorgeous pattern. I didn't even buy it or the yarn or start to think about making it, but I guess it reminded me of the wonderful things you can knit, and I suddenly wanted to go back and pick up my hibernating projects again. So I would suggest that you go looking for a pattern or a fabric that inspires you and makes you fall in love with sewing all over again, then go back to the things you're already working on. Good luck!

  6. When this happens to me, I try to embrace the time off from sewing/crafting by searching for new inspirations. For example: new magazines, museums, books, my children's drawings, other's blogs. I keep notes of things I liked or enjoyed, add to my project "to do" list and then wait for that mojo spark to make an appearance. It ALWAYS does.

  7. Gertie, I've had a draft of an email to you on a similar subject sitting in my gmail for oh, a week now.

    I'm a beginner sewist (extremely beginner) and I'm trying to figure out how to push past the failures, the flaws, everything looking "off". I want to do this. I know I can do this (eventually). But when I complete a project marked as "sew easy" or "beginner" and I've got misaligned seams or wonky linings or just that amateur air to it, I get discouraged. What do I do? Walk away for a day until the itch comes back? Push through and force myself to problem solve? I don't know. The only thing I do know is this: little sips of port wine make a frustrating session a lot easier to handle.

  8. I second (or third?) the recommendation to sew something quick and easy that you know you'll have success with. I think everyone that sews often has that something that they can make easily, weather it is a quick tee, a bag or an elastic waist skirt. I hope you find your mojo!

  9. A while a ago I came home excited about a dress i was sewing and worked on it for a couple of hours before I noticed that we had been broken in too.

    Everyone who has been broken in to knows how crushing it can be.

    That dress and I havent talked since and I haven't talked since and I haven't sewn much at all. So when you find out how to fix it let me know.

  10. Uh..Gertie...YOU were my inspiration! Oh dear. ;) Don't worry, your mojo is sitting on the beach somewhere enjoying a drink with an umbrella in it! Join her and relax, all vacations have to end! She'll come back when she's had a rest.

  11. When I get frazzled or butterfingery I like to stop and look at all my patterns, fabric and trims and, essentially daydream about all the things I could make. Maybe think about that basic fabric in a whole new way or putting that fancy trim on this vintage pattern. I find it both relaxing and energizing to give myself the time to daydream about sewing but without the expectation of having to make it.

  12. I think I loose it when my projects and wardrobe suddenly just seem to be a big bunch of fabric. That's what it is, of course, but it's also so much more! Then I try to remember why clothes are important to me, and it gets somehow better (it may take long). Putting my stash in order (it usually isn't) helps, sometimes...

  13. Hi Gertie,

    Well, what you're describing to me sounds like what happens to me (and not just in sewing) when I a. underestimate (or overestimate) how long it will take to do things or b. insist on working on a project I feel like I "should" finish instead of something I really want to do. Either way I feel slightly stressed and in a hurry and make bad mistakes.

    It sounds like you were rarin' to go and excited about the projects. But breezing through a blouse with a just acquired skill and then cutting out a new coat muslin for a project that will require new skills and that you have high hopes for the next day, come on Gertie, that's a lot of pressure!

    Just finish your blouse with the loving care you gave the first version and then when you're done plan the cutting for the coat. Or else admit to yourself that you really want to get to the coat and get to the coat!

  14. I know how you feel. I had a bad sewing day on Friday. I usually stand by my 3 strikes and I'm out rule.
    Once 3 things go wrong in the sewing room I shut it down and walk away. My third sewing mishap on Friday was huge. I put a cup of tea (stupid, I know) onto my ironing board. Only I missed by about an inch. The cup spilled half on my ironing board and project and half on the floor. Luckily the dog bed in the corner by the ironing board was empty. I wanted to cry.
    I usual walk away and wait it out. My mojo always comes back and when it does sewing is so much easier. Don't fight it. Sewing when your not in the mood never works out.

  15. I think it's very common to lose the mojo when working on complicated, time-consuming projects, one after another. It's probably good to throw those quick, easy, fun and tried-and-true projects in there in between all of the hard stuff, so they aren't back-to-back.

    I like to get a cup tea, (you could substitute coffee, wine, whatever) and curl up on my big chair and look over my patterns, sewing magazines, etc., and dream of me wearing them, basically, get inspired.

    Then I'll go and organize my sewing stuff and handle and rearrange my fabric and start dreaming again as I lovingly fold each one.

    And what do you know? It usually doesn't take long.

    I wish that would work with ironing as handle my husband's shirts. That would make would make him very happy. But no matter how many times I handle his shirts, I just can't seem to find the ironing mojo. But give me a piece of fabric, and all of a sudden, I love ironing!

  16. This happened to me, last week the week before, and then it seemed to come back but i think it left half of itself still on the beach to flirt with the cabana boy. I have been working on this project for a month and it is becoming extremely tedious. Everything seems to take twice as long. I think working on a quick, sure to please project is a good idea or play around a bit with something new and fun like embroidery (and it can be small and quick too) Lately I have enjoyed obsessively looking at vintage patterns and planning my new wardrobe (which I will eventually sew i think) or when it gets really bad I shut down and watch Mad Men or a good costume drama and just chill out or work on knitting my hat which is going much faster than anything i am sewing! Good luck!

  17. What?!? Gertie is human? ;)I am amazed at how prolific a sewer you are. I am still in awe despite you having a bad sewing day. When this happens to me, I like to take a one-day sewing class at Stitch Lab, my local craft-class center in Austin. Being around other people working through projects helps. I always learn some new tricks from the experts. And being around all the bright pretty colors of the shop doesn't hurt. Good luck!

  18. I wish I knew.

    But don't worry, looking at how prolific and speedy you've been in the past I think it's only natural you need a little break. I expect you'd been on a "sew a little bit or a lot every night" plan. Unless it lasts weeks like it does with me I don't think you have anything to worry about.

    Though you could take this time to write up that handy crinoline/petticoat tutorial though? Just a suggestion...hint, hint. ;)

  19. I find that if I accomplish something else completely unrelated, it really helps me get back on positive footing.

  20. This happens to me when I least expect it. This summer I was making dresses and feeling good and then nothing...I was so confused!Things were going so well.
    I just stepped away for a little bit and it came back just like the good ole times!
    Best of luck! You will be right back at it very soon. And you can't just keep us hanging!

  21. I had the exact same kind of sewing day yesterday, except I actually managed to break the upper looper on my serger in the process. Arrgghh!
    However, I had a new pattern come in the mail this morning, so I am hoping it's going to inspire my sewing mojo to come back.

  22. Ah, I too have lost my mojo this week. Was making a top with a deadline of a wedding, then found out I wasn't going to the wedding and my top is a deflated pile of bamboo and pins.

    Usually I give myself a few days off, and then go fondle my stash, or my elastics collection. That soothes my woes and caresses my textile third eye enough to get going again.

  23. You actually do a lot, a little burn-out maybe ? Sewing holidays ?

    I know that, as soon as I feel compelled to do something, I lose all interest in it. The key is to keep thinks funny and, above all, free.

    Plus, I always have a huge pile of books to read, yarn to knit, movies to watch, short stories to write ... So if I don't feel like sewing, I don't sew, it's OK :)

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  25. "How Do You Get Your Sewing Groove Back?" When this happens to me, like today and this weekend. I love to catch up on all of my favorite sewing blogs, like yours. You are such an inspiring!

    Also I like to go through all my sewing patterns and pick out all the ones I have yet to make and day dream about the outfit. This always seems to do the trick and who can resist a new project.

    Everything you make is so well done and adorable as all heck, your choice of patterns, fabrics and colors plus your lovely style is what draws me in to your blog and keeps me coming back for more.


  26. I hear you loud and clear!! I always turn to a tried and true pattern that I love and don't have to alter or think about too much. Something that gets my sewing confidence high. sometimes it is a great pair of pants and sometimes it is a new hand bag, sometimes it is something super sweet for one of my kiddo's. Don't try anything that is going to tick you off! think happy thoughts! :)

  27. I normally use those moments to go through my repair box and do all the little hand-sewing jobs (Missing buttons, hems and little seams) and then I find I am back in the mood to tackle the big jobs.

  28. When I'm in the sewing zone, so to speak, the thing I neglect is keeping the sewing room orderly. So when I lose my mojo but still want to "sew" I clean up my sewing room. Unearthing half done projects, finding a new pattern I forgot to try out, or a great piece of fabric I forgot I bought is usually enough to get my juices flowing again.

  29. Thankyou for enlightening me with your post... I hardly ever sew without burning myself, ironing interfacing on the wrong side or screwing up buttonsholes. Perhaps I've never found my sewing mojo! Now that I know, I'll start looking for it.

  30. Is there a certain amount of pressure on you lately, like, say, posts on two blogs? Perhaps a lingering crinoline tutorial? Like they said; put things away, tidy oop, get your ducks in a row. Take a nap, check out a good movie, call us in the morning.

  31. When I lose my mojo for sewing, which is quite easy, as I am an impatient sewer... I have to walk away. Frustration and problems just tend to give me more frustration and problems. I leave the whole debacle and get some clear space in my head, and then I can get back to it again later on.

    I just LOVE what you are achieving!

  32. I have thought about this a lot. This is a good article about the state of mind you want with a few suggestions embedded in it that you might be able to apply to your situation.

    I've got to be careful about not making sewing into a work assignment or piling on too many perfectionist goals.( But I do need SOME perfectionist goals to be happy.) I am still working on it--in kind of a blue funk just now.

  33. I don't know a specific way, necessarily, to get the mojo back... sometimes I just wait it out til I feel like going back to sewing. Sometimes I force myself to sew because I need to get something done and then get into the groove.

    Right now I have the opposite problem... I'm totally wanting to sew but have to force myself to - ugh - write a cover letter. BLAH. My fuschia lambswool pencil skirt is way more fun.

  34. Alas, I have the mojo and lack the time!! I had no time over the weekend for sewing. It was a good weekend, but I missed the abililty to sit and sew for even a little while. Maybe Wednesday night I will have some time . . .

  35. Aw... My sewing mojo has periods of playing hard to get too! :p You're so right: those of us that have creative pursuits tend to be plauged by this, and it's a sad part of the artistic life.

    Anyway, I sometimes have a harder time than others shaking it off, but here are a few things I usually do to try and get back in the groove:

    - Take a break. I find that after I go for weeks, months, etc. sewing/creating, I burn out. The frenzy just finally gets to me, and the loss of creative drive is just a way for my mind/body to tell me to give it a rest. Let it recoup! So, those are the weekends/weeks that I just give myself permission to not do a whole lot creative. Sometimes it's hard to convince myself that it's alright not to be doing though. ;)

    - Find some little projects you've been itching to tackle. Usually I have a mental "wish list" of small projects that I want to try or ideas that have inspired me (like the little, black felt hat I made a couple months ago), but don't have time to do normally. During the times when I just don't feel up to the big, must-turn-out-right projects, I pick up something that is more play and exploration than anything else. If it works, great. If not, I still had fun figuring out how to do it!

    - Gather inspiration. These are the times I go through my massive picture folders on my computer, sketch ideas, watch old movies that are visually inspiring, rearrange my inspiration board, etc. I call this "quite creativity" because it really doesn't involve much active doing so much as gathering and refilling those inspiration banks to get me started again.

    - Re-reading my sewing manuals. Crazy, but true. I find that sometimes when I've had a huge whack! to my sewing confidence, going back and reading a sewing book will either tell me that I've been doing it right all along (and it was just the sewing gremlins that got to a project), or inspire me to redouble my effort to try again.

    Anyway, those are just the things I do. This past year I've had large periods (months) of not feeling up to doing anything creative. It's taken a lot of talking, tears (unfortunately), and just chipping away at the malaise to get back in the groove. Although I dearly hope you aren't in the same boat right now (as far as being stuck for months! I wish that on no one!!! :p), I am sending you lots of good thoughts and wishes that your mojo will come back. ;)

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  36. Hello Gertie,
    This post made me laugh because I lost my sewing mojo for a very long time, 20 years in fact! I used to make all of my own clothes and then I lost my mojo, I was inspired to find it again after seeing your blog and could not wait to get sewing again. I am now making a summer dress and it looks lovely so far, although I have had to read up on how to make garments fit better because I am a little bit larger than I was all those years ago, I am now an English size 12, I used to be a size 8!
    I am hoping to start a sewing blog soon!

    I love your blog, I am sure it will help me with my new sewing projects.

    Kind regards

    Lynn B

  37. I know this post is several years old but I'm glad to read it. I'm an extremely ambitous person and I'm constantly pushing myself -my sewing life is no exception. inevitbly this means I fall short ALoT. I also tend to compare myself to people who's work i enjoy and am hard on myself when i dont seem to live up. It's nice to see that you arent churning out new things every day like it ain't no thang. It encourages me t not get discouraged in both sewing and blogging.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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