Thursday, October 29, 2015

Quilter's Block: the do's and don'ts

Art from the Get to Work Book 
QUILTER'S BLOCK: (noun) a thing that happens randomly to quilters world wide. There is no known cause or cure. Lack of creativity where it was once present. Unexplained inability to make creative choices. Note: Not to be confused with pieces of fabric sewn together to form a square that goes into a quilt, that is a quilt block.

We all experience it from time to time. Quilter's block is not uncommon. We simply can't feel inspired and motivated all the time. We naturally have times when our quilting is going well and decisions are easily made and then, suddenly... WHAM. It's like our creativity falls off a cliff. Or we simply can't see which way is best to move forward. I've talked to enough fellow quilters to know that I'm not the only one who experiences this. It's natural to experience a certain amount of ebb and flow from time to time. Think about it, doesn't everything in life work that way? How boring would it be if we cranked out quilts constantly and never had a change of direction or sudden inspiration?

I've been thinking about the ways in which I embrace the inevitable quilter's block that confronts me on occasion. Rather than fighting it, or forcing things that don't feel natural, I find it's better to welcome small changes to see us through. So I've compiled a short list of DON'TS and a long lists of DO's.

When your creativity flies out the window DON'T:

1. Don't start a new quilt. Don't talk yourself into believing a new project will cure your temporary lack of creativity.  Just go take a look at your pile of ufo's and you'll know why I say this. You will only find yourself more frustrated!

2. Please don't compare yourself to other quilters. You are not on their journey. You don't know what their ufo closet looks like. They may be making gorgeous quilts now, but I promise it wasn't always the case. No one is exempt and comparing yourself to others will never improve your situation.

3. Most importanly, don't feel bad or blame yourself. Speak to yourself as you would to a friend. Be nice. Give yourself permission to take a break if that's what is needed.

Helpful suggestions for what you CAN DO:

1. Knit, crochet or pick up another one of your hobbies that doesn't require difficult decisions. Use this time to relax and make something different from quilts.

2. Organize your quilting books. There's nothing like flipping through books full of quilts to remind you why this is such an amazing art form. Choose some books that no longer interest you and donate them to the local guild or library. Choose your favorites to put on a table to keep them handy. Or organize them by technique or style and see which ones you have the most of? Why do you think that is? Which ones are most appealing to you? Why? These answers just might trigger what you need to get back into a flow.

3. Try a new recipe. Seriously. Being creative in a whole different area of your life just might spark some creativity in another part of your brain. If not, at least you will have something delicious to eat.

4. Go for a walk. Taking a walk and getting fresh air will clear your head. Maybe you are holding onto stress you aren't even aware of. A nice relaxing walk may just be the thing you need.

5. Pull weeds, or do other chores. If nothing else, it will make you remember why you enjoy quilting so much more than these mundane tasks!

6. Flip through magazines. They don't even have to be quilt magazines. Almost all magazines provide beautiful photos and inspiring color combinations. Or read an article and just enjoy something other than stitching for a little while.

7. Iron and fold fabric. You know you have fabric that needs to be put away or organized. I find ironing and folding fabric very relaxing. Sort it by color or colletion or type. Whatever is easy and works for your system.

8. Read a book. I love getting lost in a good book. I find that I miss reading if I don't devour at least one book a month. Choose one that you've been meaning to read and enjoy it!

9. Make a list. It doesn't have to be quilt related. Just make a list so you can feel more organized or more in control of what needs happen. Even if it's just a grocery list. Making a list always makes me feel less overwhelmed.

10. Hand stitch a binding. Do you have quilts that just need binding? That's easy enough and doesn't require any decisions. I love stitching binding because it is easy and relaxing and it means I'm really close to having a finished quilt.

I would love to hear any other ideas you my use for coping with quilter's block.


  1. Looking at a multitude of quilts on Pinterest can be inspirational.

  2. In France, we are on holidays until last week and this week and I did nothing in patchwork !
    Because I dind't want to make just a little thing ! I don't feel guilty !
    I was with my husband (last week) and my children so it was great ! Pinterest is a real source of inspiration, I read, cooked, gardening, walking and thinking a lot in my head about 2 quilts that I am going to make !!
    I think there were happy holidays for me ! ;)

  3. Creatives often encounter "dry spells", I think. I often read, knit, cook, walk and visit with friends. who quilt also and really look at what they are doing--that often inspires me..what I don't do is feel guilty....
    I find that after finishing one or two big projects this happens--no mojo left. I need a breathing spell.
    Nice post....hugs, Julierose

    1. Thanks Julietose, your comment didn't reach my inbox for some reason. You have good ideas and I totally agree with your suggestions. Have a wonderful day!

  4. Diane, you hit the nail right on the head as I find myself in a quilters slump at the moment. So your post was so timely for me!!! I agree about not starting a new quilt.. I was thinking of doing that, but decided to go through my UFOs instead. There is some nice inspiration there. I also am actively involved in suggestion #2, #6, and #10! We need to remember to give ourselves time off from the creative process without making ourselves crazy over it. I think it is natural for all artists. My other ideas are 1. cleaning my sewing room. There is something very refreshing about organizing for a fresh view on things. 2. I also agree with the other comment about going to Pinterest for inspiration - lots of that there! But all in all, I know my quilting mojo will return and I will be ready for it! Thanks for a great post.

  5. Okay, this is where you and I will disagree because I think it's okay to start a new project. lol But I do think it's important what kind of project you start. The key is that it has to be mindless, such as string blocks straight out of the scrap bin. Basically any mindless, thoughtless project you work on out of that scrap bin can keep your mind from feeling pressure, but also constantly introduce you to fabrics that you once loved. It gives you opportunity to see surprising color combinations etc. and can make things spark in the most unexpected way. It almost always works for me in one way or another and the result is a quilt top I adore. It's not guaranteed {nothing is} but it sure is fun to try.:)

  6. This is a great post with lots of great tips. For me tidying the sewing room is a good start, and then getting out and about, gardening, art galleries, and doing other creative projects.

  7. Thanks for this post, Diane. I've been feeling a dry spell coming on and am so pleased (and comforted, somehow) to know that I'm not alone in dealing with uninspired times. And the post almost felt like you gave me permission to stop for a while and do something else. (I know I don't need anyone's permission but being told it's okay to stop makes it feel okay.)

    Sometimes when I'm feeling uninspired just "playing" with fabric helps me. I pull colors and fabrics I think might work together in a quilt, sometimes for several different quilts. I look at my sketchbooks that are filled with ideas. And I look at images I've saved on my computer, in notebooks, or on pinterest.

    I like Audrey's idea to make something simple and mindless and, for me, it would be something safe/no-fail, too. And now I'm wondering if it would be a good idea for me to begin a quilt with the idea of having it to work on specifically when I feel uninspired.

    Thanks again for a great post.

  8. One thing I have done when stuck on a UFO that I really want to finish is set a timer for 15 mins and MAKE myself. Often after about 2 sessions, I'm back into it.


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