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 2

One hundred days of curated colour header

Wow – it’s the end of another week of Colour Curation already…! It has been a super-busy few days for me, building up to a little family party at my house to celebrate what would have been my dad’s hundredth birthday. We had a lovely time sharing memories of our lovely dad and marvelling over the growth of various children (always a thing of endless fascination!).

But in spite of all the busy-ness I managed to put together another seven colour-curated fabric and haberdashery (and a few other bits and bobs that sneak in) mood-boards for my 100 Day Project (an Instagram art project – lots of people are doing it – check out #the100dayproject). My project is #100daysofcuratedcolour (and I’m trying not to feel annoyed that someone has piggybacked on my hashtag.. grump grump):

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

8/100: Design Seeds – Wanderlust: Courtyard Hues

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

9/100: Design Seeds – Spring: Spring Tones

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - red brown grey

10/100: Design Seeds – Autumn: Color Harvest

Color curated moodboard by Very Berry for #the100dayproject - teal green yellow mustard

11/100: Design Seeds – Heavenly Hues: Color Heaven

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

12/100: Design Seeds – Color Collage

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

13/100: Design Seeds – Makers Hues: Color Studio

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

14/100: Design Seeds – Flora: Color Paradise

11/100 was the favourite this week amongst my IG followers. It’s a little bit mid-century, a little bit North-Norfolk-weekend-getaway, a little bit John-Lewis-furniture-catalogue, so I am definitely up there with the fans! I think my favourite is 10/100 though – the collection I’m calling ‘Virgina Wolf’s Drawing Room’. I am a sucker for that dusty vintage feel, that’s why I love French General so much… The Umbel fabric from Liberty is also one of my favourites, so it’s pretty irresistible to me.

This week I’m learning that it’s not just about the colours, it’s about the balance of colours in the collections. Three or four times I’ve looked at the collection I’ve put together for the photo and despaired, but added just one more piece which has brought the whole lot together. I will try and take some Before and After photos of what I mean next week. But a couple of examples from this week – 9/100 was unimpressive until I added the little purple cotton reel, and in 13/100, the grey wool was a last minute addition that seemed to bring a much needed balance. I’m learning that when I am working with a palette, you don’t have to use equal quantities of each colour. Writing that down, I feel like this should have been obvious…! But as usual with me, it’s in the doing that I’m learning. 🙂

Which is your favourite this week?