How to use mindfulness to sew with more joy

5 ways I've used my mindfulness and meditation training in sewing to bring me joy

 

OK guys here’s the thing: sometimes I really don’t like sewing.

Bomb dropped.

Sure I’m supposed to love sewing and it’s something that’s supposed to bring me joy. But sometimes, especially in the past, it’s brought me anger and guilt and I haven’t really enjoyed it all that much. When I’ve been in this funk it’s been really hard to find the joy in sewing and my makes have usually suffered as a result.

But things started to change for me when I started applying what I’ve learned from mindfulness and meditation (level 2 meditation qualifications from the local Buddhist Centre – what what!) to my sewing. Things were still frustrating and hard, but I was much calmer and happier.

I spoke about this in my talk at The Sewing Weekender. Judging by the reaction on the day I’m not the only one who occasionally gets hit with the sewing stick of doom. So if that sounds like you then I think you need to get reading because I’m about to lay down 5 simple things you can do to help bring back the joy in sewing.

 

1. Enjoy the process

This is a big one for me and key to what’s helped me reclaim my sewing joy.

Up until recently I only ever really focused my attention on the final make. On getting to the end and being able to wear what I’d sewn. I found anything that got in the way of that, that slowed me down, really ticked me off. So all those things you do to prepare for construction, like stay-stitching, interfacing or basting, I found beyond tedious.

But then I was going through a particularly funky patch when I read a casual post someone threw up on Instagram about preparing materials. The idea that you could actually build that preparation into the process instead of fighting it or seeing it as a waste of time just blew my mind.

It made me realise that I had this hobby all wrong. It’s not about the end game but the process of sewing that makes those me-mades so meaningful. Being mindful of the process and focusing on the moment I’m in and not the final make.

Now I spend a lot more time focusing on the sewing and actually letting myself enjoy the process (every step of the process).

2. Breathe

OK. Weird one right?

But is it?

How often do you actually force yourself to be mindful of your breathing? Probably not a lot. And one thing I’ve learned from meditation is that good things happen when you connect to your breathing.

But I’ve noticed that my first instinct is to hold my breathe when I sew – especially when it comes to the tricky bits. Not even sure why that is, but that can’t be good, right (mindfully or health wise).

Holding your breath is something you do when you’re scared or anxious. Why make your body think that’s the case? You’re just fighting a loosing battle and it’s probably not very conducive to chilled out sewing times. But when you connect to your breathing you’re more present in the moment and things just flow better.

3. Work with good materials

Nothing makes you stay in the moment and be mindful then sewing with great tools and lovely material. I know it’s not always possible, but I’ve definitely learned that I’m much happier and chilled when I’m sewing with materials that I love – like linen, tencel and organic fabrics.

And I know it’s not always possible to sew with the best because of the costs involved, but I do think it’s worth having a little less in the stash to ensure that you’re sewing with fabric that brings you joy.

4. Give yourself time

Sometimes no matter how much you breathe or how beautiful your fabric is you might just not be feeling it. When that’s the case then you just need to walk away.

I know. It’s not always easy.

I know that for me I’m in that usually in that funk for one of two reasons. Either I have things on my mind that need to be taken care of, or I’m unwell and need to rest up and recoup. I used to try and push on, but that didn’t always work out.Β Have you ever noticed that when you try to persist during those low points that you just don’t produce anything good? That you fight the process rather than it creating flow. Well, that was me ALL over.

Now I try to go with it more and ask myself if I’m feeling it. If I’m excited to be sewing. If not, then I’m letting myself be OK with downing tools. I really believe that these low points in creativity or inspiration are your mind’s way of clearing space, of rebooting, so you come back stronger and fresher.

 

Randomly Happy sewing

5. Clear your space

I don’t know about you, but if I’m in a funk and my space is a mess I just know I’m not going to get much productive work done. Now I’m not saying you need to go all in with the dusting, hoovering, organising and ordering, but sometimes it’s good just to have a simple clear out or a quick go at putting a few things back in their place.

Tidy space. Tidy mind.

 

So that’s my top tips. I’m still learning and growing so would love to hear your thoughts on what you do when you’re in that sewing funk of doom.

  1. Reply
    Mags

    Elena I really enjoyed your talk at the weekender and though for me sewing is my anti stress activity I have found a lot of what you said useful particularly to focus on the process not rush to the end. It’s was great to be able to read as a refresher.

  2. Reply
    PsychicSewerKathleen

    Loved your post – full of really great advice! I’m 62 years old and am a returned-to-sewing sewist after an almost 40 yr hiatus. I went back to sewing on my 60th as a gift to myself and from my husband too. It was a return to a love I remember feeling intensely in my late teens/early twenties. I don’t have to sew my own clothes (I have lots already and can at my age afford pretty much what I want) but I WANT to sew my own clothes for fun, for a sense of satisfaction, for the challenge and learning, for the ethics – there are loads of reasons actually WHY I sew but needing clothes is pretty much not on the radar at all. Due to this I’m not in any hurry ever, I always sew with the best silks, knits, organic cottons, linens and I take classes that look like they’ll be fun and applicable. I’ve met some amazing people along the way and love it to the moon πŸ™‚ Sure sometimes I get frustrated, disappointed in the result, discouraged but that’s the challenge part too – when we’re passionate about something we’re bound to experience the dark side of that passion too! Brilliant post – thank you!

  3. Reply
    Helen

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing. There are quite a lot of bits about sewing that I don’t enjoy, and I do generally feel that rush of impatience to just finish! I’m currently hacking a pattern to make a Pinterest inspired (copied) skirt and this time I’m actually taking the time to muslin it properly, something I rarely do, because impatience. And do you know what? I’m really enjoying the process! I think what’s helped is that recently, I’ve been able to do more small periods of sewing, which makes the times feel less “precious” and limited. Hard to explain, but I’m glad to just enjoy the process. I have another full muslin to do before I cut into the real fabric, but I am looking forward to it!

  4. Reply
    Lesley

    You are very clever because you have found a his all out for yourself while you are young. I had to be retired from work before I discovered that in the case of sewing, it’s not arriving, it’s the journey that matter So!

  5. Reply
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