Unlocking creativity with stitches: Make some rules

Creativity, sewing and rules

A header image with the words unlocking your creativity. Used as the title image for series on creativity, stitching, sewing and inspiration

As promised, my first post in a series on sewing, stitching, creativity and inspiration, is here! In the series I’ll be looking particularly at the way that sewing can affect mental health, mood and well-being – both positively and negatively. This is about my explorations rather than any expertise that I have, and I’d LOVE to read your feedback, comments and thoughts in response to these posts.

Sewing & decisions: when it all goes pear-shaped

When I am in the creative doldrums, and feeling anxious or stressed, the first sign of it in my stitching life is an inability to make decisions. What shall I make – I have loads of ideas to choose from, but don’t know where to start. Then I dither about fabrics, colours, fabric styles and prints, turning over (what feels like) 1000s of ideas. I try different combinations and none of them seem right – my confidence slides away, and my enthusiasm with it. Out of nowhere, a relaxing day of sewing turns into a great big heap of stress.

The power of limits

I’ve had this experience quite a lot recently, so I turned to one of the ideas that I’ve noted down from my creative reading list – creating set of rules for a particular project.

Free Play by Stephen Nachmanovitch

In Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art (which I highly recommend – at first it’s a touch hard going, but worth sticking with), Stephen Nachmanovitch talks about the power of limits and how by intentionally limiting ourselves, we can tap into inner resources and jump-start our creativity.

…necessity forces us to improvise with the material at hand, calling up resourcefulness and inventiveness that might not be possible to someone who can purchase ready-made solutions.

Limiting yourself or setting creative rules seems a bit regressive and not at all playful  – and playfulness surely is a foundation stone of creativity – at first, but think about it:

What’s a game without a set of rules?

Another quote from Nachmanovitch:

Commitment to a set of rules (a game) frees your play to attain a profundity and vigour otherwise impossible.

Jane Dunnewold makes similar points in  Creative Strength Training, where she uses Japanese haiku as an example of how working within limitations (17 sound units/syllables) can produce exciting results.

Identifying parameters around process or materials may feel limiting, but in fact it frees you to concentrate on making and meaning and teaches a little about balancing work and play.

So here’s my first suggestion for the next time you are stricken with stitcher’s creative block:

Write yourself some rules

The idea is to release yourself from decision making by putting at least some of those decisions in the hands of ‘The Rules’ (and remember, they’re your rules, you can change them if you want – don’t let the rules make you stressed too!).

Here are some suggestions – you can think of some of your own I am sure, and then combine them to give yourself a great game plan. You can even put the suggestions in a hat, and select a couple at random:

  • Use one or two colours or a defined colour palette
  • Work in black and white
  • Use only the supplies you have
  • Ask someone else to choose the supplies for you
  • Only use hand-stitching
  • Only use a sewing machine
  • Work on tiny scale
  • Work on a huge scale
  • Learn a new technique
  • Use straight lines only
  • Use curved lines only
  • Improvise
  • Use shortcuts
  • Use traditional methods
  • Use thrifted fabrics and supplies
  • Work with a colour that’s not one of your favourites
  • Revisit a project that didn’t work out
  • Make something for a friend whose taste you don’t share
  • Give yourself a time limit
  • Do a craft swap where the rules are written for you

I’ve done a couple of projects using self-imposed limitations over the last 10 days or so.

Mini embroidery hoop with flying geese patchwork blocks using Liberty lawns and shot cottons
Rules: 1) Work small; 2) Use patchwork; 3) Use colours from a palette I created for my #100daysofcuratedcolour project. I used this colour curated selection of fabrics.
Photo showing mini embroidery hoop with log cabin patchwork block made with tweed silk, Liberty lawn, shot cottons
Rules: 1) Work small; 2) Use patchwork; 3) Use colours from this palette; 4) Complete the project in 90 minutes

Training to make decisions

An added bonus to this exercise – as you work within the limitation of the rules, you might well encounter difficulties – but, hurrah…

The difficulties aren’t your fault!

This detour round your ego frees up the brain to see the problems as possibilities, making it easier to keep going and work them through with good humour and maybe even a little bit of playfulness. And you might even break through to the other side and create something you love….

So, for example, when I made the second hoop pictured, I knew that there was no way I had time to draw the log cabin grid and foundation piece the fabrics as I would normally, so I decided, very quickly, to go wonky and trim the fabric pieces to size as I went. I think the wonkiness really suits the small size of the hoop, and more importantly, I had fun.

As I worked, I thought about the plasticity of the brain, and the way that with practice and training (as with CBT) it’s possible to change the habits of a lifetime and learn to approach life’s difficulties and annoyances in a more positive way. And of course, this exercise, if it works for you, will do just that – giving you practice in responding creatively, imaginatively, resourcefully, when stitching stresses occur.

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I’d love to hear what you think – is this a technique that you think would be useful to you?

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cloud-craft-2017

The lovely 3 inch hoops used in this blog post are from a brilliant selection at Cloud Craft. Please support Very Berry Handmade by visiting my sponsors.

 

Sewing and quilting – when you need a creative boost

All stitchers struggle with creative blocks, lack of inspiration and ideas, and even just general apathy now and again. I’m thinking of people taking their first steps in the world of sewing and textiles, wondering if they actually ARE creative at all, perhaps because early efforts were met with a less than enthusiastic response. Other people have been stitching and working with textiles for years, but have hit a block, for whatever reason. Or perhaps you are sewing regularly, but want to try express some of your own creativity, and wonder if you actually HAVE an authentic creative voice? Or maybe you’re still sewing but it’s become a source of stress rather than fun and relaxation.

I’ve been thinking so much about sewing, stitching, creativity and inspiration over the last couple of years, doing lots of reading and thinking, and I really want to share some of the ideas I’ve collected together about ways to getting started with sewing when ideas and inspiration are hard to find. So a new series has arrived at Very Berry…

An invite to join in with series of blog posts at Very Berry Handmade for stitchers sewers and quilters to unlock their creativity.

I have loads of ideas to share and explore. And because I am epically far away from being an expert on the subject, I really hope it can become a conversation and a sharing of frustrations, irritations, ideas and enthusiasm. First post will happen over the weekend, and it’s going to be about sewing rules! More fun than it sounds. 😉  Hope you can join me!

100 Days of Curated Colour – week 6

One hundred days of curated colour header

It’s colour time again! Making photos with colour, fabrics, threads, buttons and a few Sharpies thrown in for good measure… that’s what I’ve been doing every day for over 40 days now! I want to tell you that it’s really helping me understand colour, and how to use colours together more effectively. I hope it is, but I think it’s real value to me is as a reference library, as a starting point when inspiration is lacking, and a guide when I am trying to find the exact shade of blue for the exact shade of pink! I’m gradually uploading all the photos onto my Colour-Curated Pinterest board, if you think you’d benefit from them too.

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - lilac pink cerise cream

36/100: Design Seeds – Summer: Melting Hues

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - green yellow purple orange

37/100: Design Seeds – Flora: Flora Hues

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - blue red pink charcoal

38/100: Design Seeds – Wanderlust: Color Wander

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - green teal blue pink

39/100: Design Seeds – Summer: Air Hues

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - grey taupe blue

40/100: Design Seeds – Summer: Color Shore

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - teal blue purple olive green pink

41/100: Design Seeds – Summer: Melting Hues

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - peach cream taupe black grey blush pink

42/100: Design Seeds – Flora: Flora Tones

Can you guess the favourite this week? It was 36/100 with all those lovely lilacs, pinks and creams.. Personally my favourite is the last one. I love those subtle ice cream shades and I was really pleased that I realised that the best way to put the palette together was with just a touch of black. I have a fondness for 37 too, it’s so unusual.

I really hope you are enjoying the project (part of the #the100dayproject on Instagram) as much as I am. You can follow my updates day by day over on Instagram too at #100daysofcuratedcolour, if you want the day by day effect!