Oh, what to do when your sewjo says, “so long”? Most sewists lose their sewjo at some point, and, speaking from experience, it’s frustrating and shocking.
One day, you’re all lovey-dovey with sewing, and the next day, sewing projects feel like a chore and you question your creative decisions. Or maybe you’re apathetic toward creative decisions, shrugging, staring blankly, and sighing heavily. Meh.
Let’s chat about why sewjo goes on hiatus and the one thing you can do RIGHT NOW (OK, after you finish reading this post) to reignite your creative spark. (Spoiler: This trick works for me pretty much every time!)
Why Does Sewjo Go Away?
Sewjo skips town for three primary reasons.
1.) Skills Gap
I think this is the No. 1 reason why sewjo evaporates. When you’re not confident in your ability, it’s common to back off an activity to protect yourself from failure. (This is me! My psyche is fragile, y’all!)
It’s a huge bummer to be working on a sewing project and COMPLETELY botch a technique: installing a zipper, easing a seam, gathering, hemming a curved edge, etc. (Related: Choosing the wrong fabric, while not a technique per se, also is tragic.)
And let’s not forget about fitting fails. I don’t think there’s anything that puts the brakes on a sewing project faster than a garment that you can’t get to fit. My projects with fitting woes definitely take the longest; project procrastination is a mild loss of sewjo.
2.) Internal Tension
This is the head stuff, what’s going on with your inner monologue and how you feel about yourself and your life. The major sewjo killers here are body changes and shifts in personal style.
Losing or gaining body mass, among other body changes, can make you feel like a stranger in your own body. It’s no wonder figuring out how to sew for a (somewhat) alien figure might impair one’s sewjo.
Sewjo may flee as you find yourself drawn to different fashion (perhaps to your own surprise). Your current wardrobe no longer feels like “you,” and you’re not sure how to start pivoting toward clothes that better reflect how you feel about yourself.
3.) External Tension
This is stuff that’s swirling around you: major life changes, work busyness, sewing project paralysis, and general sewing burnout.
I had big-time dips in sewjo when I was pregnant, when I was working on my M.B.A., and after my mom passed away. Sewing wasn’t important to me for months at a time.
When you’re bananas busy at your 9-to-5 job, your creative well may be dry by the time you get home. Sometimes you barely have energy to feed yourself and watch TV until 7:30 p.m. Mental fatigue is physically exhausting, too!
Sewing project paralysis is when have too many choices about a would-be garment. It happens when you look at your sewing queue and can’t decide what’s next. Or which view to sew. Or what fabric to sew it with. Or where to buy your fabric. GAH, too many decisions!
Sewing burnout is similar to project paralysis in that you’ve had too much of a good thing. The process feels like a slog, and you start to ask, “Why bother?”
The 1 Thing You Can Do TODAY to Get Your Sewjo Back
If your missing sewjo is freaking you out and you have NO IDEA what to do next, start here: Go to your sewing area and start picking up.
Set a timer for 15-30 minutes (c’mon… everyone has at least 15 minutes to spare!), and:
- Put away stray pattern pieces and instructions. (Ziploc bags FTW.)
- Make sure all your pins are in a pincushion (because DANGER).
- Restack sewing magazines and books.
- Get rid of fabric scraps and pick threads off the floor.
- Put all your rulers, scissors, seam rippers, marking tools, etc., in their respective homes.
- Gently fold any projects under construction and tuck them into bins, baskets, boxes, or respectable-looking bags. No hobo piles!
- Store rogue cuts of fabric.
- If it doesn’t belong in your sewing space, toss it or put it away.
If your sewing gear and projects already are tidy, clean your sewing machine. Use a link brush and vacuum cleaner to defuzz this finely tuned device. While you’re at it, dust your sewing surface with a microfiber cloth and vacuum or dry mop the floor. I get a TON of satisfaction from cleaning my sewing machine and serger, and they work better for it.
Tidying is Good for You!
This ain’t busywork, sewing pals! Neatness has major health benefits. People who describe their homes as “restful” and “restorative” are less likely to be depressed and tired than folks who use words such as “cluttered” and full of “unfinished projects.” And people with exceptionally cluttered bedrooms report more sleeping problems, which can increase stress and depression and impair cognitive function.
Bringing order to your sewing space is self-care, and this self-care will help your sewjo return! (Hey, there’s a reason why Marie Kondo calls tidying up “life-changing magic“!)
I guarantee you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment even marginally tidying your sewing habitat. That’s the first spark in reigniting your sewjo. What’s more, when you sit again to stitch, you’ll know where everything is. Super bonus. 👏👍🙌
Over to you, my sewing dears: Tell us about a time you lost your sewjo and how it came back to you. Is your sewjo currently AWOL? Please let us know so we can hype you up!
P.S. Here’s the previous post: New Sewing Magazine Alert! Read Fibre Mood with Me | VIDEO. Yup, there’s a vid wherein we can page through all 100 pages of a sewing mag together. Yay!
P.P.S. If you liked this post, I suspect you might like these other self-care-ish posts, too:
Sewing for Depression and Anxiety: 24 Sewing Ideas to Improve Your Mood
Sew with the Flow: Sewing for Your Period
Top photo by Taylor Ann Wright on Unsplash | https://www.instagram.com/taylorannwright/
Sparkler heart by Jamie Street on Unsplash | https://www.instagram.com/jamie452/
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This is so true! I’m in a funk due to body changes. I recently (almost 6 months) quit smoking. That has caused some unwanted weight gain. Everything that fit before is a touch too snug or doesn’t look good anymore, can you say muffin top ;P I so hate when that shows while wearing tee’s. To get my mojo back I’ve already cleaned my sewing room, then I started working on small projects that were waiting to be done, i.e. mending various garments, making my husbands long sleeve shirts into short sleeves and so on.
I’ve spent lots of time looking at plus size fashion. That made it worse since so much is just tent like, not flattering, or immodest. What inspired me was Etsy! There are some amazingly talented people there. I found several items that I can alter to my needs. I have 3 tops drawn out and have picked the one I think will be most flattering. Today I plan to draft the pattern and make a muslin. I have a feeling this will help pull me out of the slump. If not then I’ll just sew some small stuff to build my gift box. Things like bibs, diaper covers, fabtic storage cubes, post holders, etc are always nice to have on hand for new babies, bridal showers and new home purchases. At least I’ll be doing something until the inspiration hits again!
Best of luck to anyone having this issue.
Hey, Brooke! Thanks for reading and sharing your two cents! And HUGE CONGRATS to you for quitting smoking. That’s a big accomplishment.
I’m glad you found some patterns that will work for you, and I hope your drafting goes well. I think between drafting and working on gift box goodies (that’s an amazing idea, BTW, that I’m probably going to steal), your sewjo will be back before you know it.
I echo the major congrats on quitting smoking! If you’re looking for other small projects to work on for motivation and sewing interest, I recommend the Spoonflower Quick-sew Project Book (https://www.amazon.com/Spoonflower-Quick-sew-Project-Book-Fabric-ebook/dp/B07BT7W3VJ/). I got a copy for my birthday last fall and found tons of cute things in there that made me excited to get my sewing machine unpacked after I finished moving house. =)
Good tip! Thanks for sharing!
Feel free to steal the gift goodie box idea, I snagged it from my grandma. She always had something really nice made and ready to go for almost any occasion. Every time she took an item out she made a note to make something to replace it. She had at least 3 items (or groups i.e. bib, receiving blanket and diaper cover or kitchen aprons w/matching potholders and hanging towels) for each occasion then made notes so she never ran out. I try to stay on top of it like her, having these down moments give me the time to stock up. I have come out out of the slump from doing those little 30min or less things! And my box is full!!! Yeah!
I think going to JC Penny’s for a couple tops that are flattering helped get my creative juices flowing too. I bought 3 (I couldn’t make them for the price) and then sat in the changing room drawing out ideas from six others I really liked but could be better. My first project is almost complete, just need to sew in the neck binding! Yeah!!! Its good to be back!
A friend of mine sent me a little quilt a coaster in a bag from Spoonflower. It was fun little project that I added to my box! It’s cool that you can mix in your own scraps too, that enabled me to make a set of 8 that matched, but are each unique. It’s awesome that they give the user so much creative freedom while giving guidance where needed. It would also work for people who don’t feel creative since they show how they did theirs. I bet the book is just as cool. I put it on my wish list for next time I need a break or need more ideas for little projects.
Thanks again Erin for writing this article and encouraging us to move forward. I’m glad I didn’t throw in the towel! Now to finish that neck binding so I can wear it tomorrow!
LOVE THIS! Everybody, keep moving! 👍👏✊
Thanks so much for writing this post at this time! I have spent the last ~6 months moving twice, starting a new full-time job, and buying a foreclosure house that needed serious TLC. It’s not hard to imagine why I haven’t been able to get myself to organize a new sewing space and get to work, even though I still love looking at patterns and sewing blogs and planning things I want to make…eventually.
With regards to your #1 reason (that I can totally identify with, too), I think a lot of us also tend to keep UFOs and failed projects around for long after we should just toss them. I have a mostly-finished collared shirt that I managed to screw up the collar facing on; theoretically, I know I COULD fix it. But I don’t WANT to, I don’t NEED to, and I really don’t HAVE to. I’m giving myself permission to throw that sh** out so that it is no longer taking up a space on my “need to finish this before I can start the fun stuff” list. And that’ll be one less mental and physical barrier to me getting back to sewing again! =)
Julia, thanks for reading and commenting! And enjoy LETTING THAT SH*T GO! You’ve got the right idea, lady. UFOs totally siphon sewjo. Do not engage. 🙅 I figured this out few years ago, and it’s life changing.
That’s not to say give up on all UFOs, mending, etc. But ya gotta be real with yourself!
I’m so glad you can finally throw out your old project. Maybe you could cut away the bigger pieces of fabric and use that for stuff in the book. Then you won’t feel like it was a total waste of materials. I hope you see it wasn’t a waste of time, you learned one more way NOT to put on a collar facing! Gotta love Einstein, he had it right when it came to “failures”, they are only failures if you didn’t learn anything.
Good luck in your new home. I hope you can settle in quickly and find some time to sew! Even if you aren’t totally settled maybe you can make some new placemats and/or potholders to get some sewing in. They are both quick, fun and most importantly you don’t need all your sewing supplies at hand to make.
Thanks for your comment, Brooke! 😘 And I second that motion! I’m a big proponent of failing fast. Everything is a learning experience.