Friday chatter: What inspires you when you’re in a sewing slump?



The other night, we were grabbing dinner at a local dive bar (this is what one does in Portland, where the food is good practically everywhere).

But before we walked in, I saw this dress in the window at Xtabay, one of the best vintage stores in town. And my jaw dropped from all the pretty.

I immediately wanted to run home and play with linen, lace, and pintucks. It made me realize that, no matter how modern and minimalists my tastes become as I get older, I will always be inspired by the flat-out pretty and intricate clothes of yesteryear.

I can spend hours perusing vintage sites and looking at all the little details. To me, it’s an endless source of inspiration and the thing I turn to when my creativity hits a lull.

What kinds of things inspire you to start sewing when you feel tapped out? I’m thinking visual inspiration, but it could be anything!

[image from my instagram]

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 44


I usually get in a sewing slump because I’m bored with or tired of the project I’m working on so I usually just need to start something new to get me going again.

Fabric shopping is my sure fire way to get re-inspired! There’s nothing that makes me *mustsewrightnow* than a box full of new fabric in the mail. :)


I’ve tried several things. Watching Project Runway, going fabric shopping (dangerous but not very effective), shopping for vintage sewing patterns and fabric, pinterest, reading blogs like yours. All fun but when I am feeling low it doesn’t help me out of the funk. I haven’t found the one perfect thing that gets me out of my funk. For me I find if my relationship with my body and environment is good, ie if I don’t feel too fat and my house isn’t a pigsty then I can create. So when my output isn’t that great I have to focus on myself and my house first.


I’m currently in (the end of) a sewing slump, because my current project, simple though it is (it was actually supposed to be only a muslin, but as the fit is great and it doesn’t need alterations (that’s the silver lining behind the clouds!), I decided to make proper finishes so I could actually wear it – the “final” garment I was supposed to make after this muslin will probably be sewn next Fall), is taking a bit of time to finish (catch-stitching a lining by hand takes a long time, especially when you don’t have much time!)
To get out of this slump, I treated myself to a yardage of a cheery, loud printed fabric from Spoonflower (, which I think would be a very good match for the Ginger skirt pattern.
So there you have it : a simple pattern, a fun fabric…I hope this is going to get me back in motion!


A perfectly clear surface. If I can completely empty my one and only table, polish it, then place my little Featherweight on it all rarin’ to go to work…it makes me feel like I can tackle anything!


Yes! My studio is a mess right now because of all the work we’ve been doing for the book… knits everywhere! t definitely hinders me from creating.

Annette Tirette

One sure way to get me going again is giving me a deadline for something else I have to do. Nothing makes me want to sew more than having to finish a load of drawings by the next day!

… Can you tell I sometimes struggle with procratination?


I’ve actually just blogged a bit about being in a bit of a sewing funk, where every project I tried to work on…something went wrong! I just felt so down heartened. But I got so many lovely encouraging comments on my post that really lifted my spirits and brought me out of my funk. I was so grateful of the lovely online sewing community. Oh, and I have quite a few sewing plans for this weekend now! I am feeling positive, and excited to get back to the sewing machine!
My post was here:


I sew for myself and my daughters. Mostly my daughters. They usually come first so I’m never out of projects for myself. I have some very yummy fabric saved up for myself so when I hit a slump with kid sewing, I try focus on myself. But then, sewing for me is more tiring than sewing for the girls because of fitting and wanting everything to be perfect. Sewing for the girls sometimes makes me feel like a one person sweat shop. Bouncing back and forth between the two helps me stay out of slumps. If, for some reason, I can’t find the energy for any type of sewing at all, I might turn to my knitting. Sometimes, I just need a break. If I’m in a complete slump, not doing anything textile related at all, a good creative challenge always works. It’s for kids’ clothes but the Project Run & Play sew along always breaks me out of a rut. In fact, any sew along will help me get going.


With very involved projects, I can run out of steam and start procrastinating. What helps is thinking of the next project which I don’t allow myself to start on until I’m done with whatever I’m working on. Also, like Stephanie, fabric, either shopping for it or just going through my stash usually fills me up with ideas.


If I get into a sewing slump (now), I have to hide any remnants of the project I’m currently working on, find another project to begin that grabs my interest and then start anew!

elizabeth rehmer

I can find inspiration on pinterest, burda, or from many of the blogs I follow. I also am inspired by the guild I belong to. People always bring things to share and it is always inspirational.


Netflix marathons and good food helps me through a slump. When it gets to the point where I’m tapped out creatively I know that it’s time to slowdown and just enjoy the other things in my life that bring me joy.


Similar to another commenter, I find a deadline will knock me into motion again. I can have any number of projects laid out, and oodles of free time, but seem to avoid even the smallest tasks. Committing myself to finishing a shirt to wear the next day can make it happen – or wanting to get a garment ready to ‘swap.’ Most recently, I sewed a table cloth into a skirt for a fellow choir member and was able to ride that wave of productivity through several alterations that have been waiting anywhere from a few days to years.

I am also trying to institute a requirement that I not buy anything ‘new’ (I shop second hand almost exclusively already) without altering that garment in short order if necessary -and- altering another garment in the stash. Well, it’s not perfect – but I changed the plastic drawers to an open cart and my projects stare at me on a regular basis, so hopefully this will also help me stay motivated.


I’m going to try that. I sometimes set deadlines so that I can do a post for the blog.

But often times, deadlines can also take the fun out of it for me. Then it starts to feel more like work.


For a designer who loves a nifty trick, fabric is always where it starts for me. Touching fabrics will often do it for me, although a photo can kickstart another round of experiments. This one for example

There’s a lot of building collage fabs on Spoonflower, and suddenly I see my 2014 summer dress!


I sew for fun so I have to watch that it doesn’t become another obligation. I stick to quick projects and really plan before a longer project, so that it doesn’t bog me down. I’ve also learned to make Sunday my me-time sewing day.


Just having a bunch of different kinds of projects on the go. Spending a week on a crocheted sweater will make me want to sew again. Working on a quilt for a few days will make me want to work on clothes. Sewing up a shirt or jacket will make me want to take out the cross-stitch or blackwork. I try to keep enough active projects going that there’s always one I feel like working on. Sometimes this means projects take a while to finish, but it also means that I’m rarely not working on *anything.*

It also means my house is a mess. That’s the down-side.

Laura Lee

This dress is insane! My inspiration comes from old movies. If you ever see Norma Shearer films, especially pre-code, they are nothing like you see today. I have a book of all the sketches with the name of the film and what fabric I think they used…I try to incorporate those design elements into what I am currently working on. Congratulations on the article, new book and awesome swimsuit reveal.


Oh, that sketchbook sounds amazing! What a great idea.


For me, it’s just seeing one garment or item that speaks to me. Pinterest is a huge source of that! I browse around and see a picture of a gorgeous top, some amazing colors, a beautiful pattern, etc and then the flood gates just open.

If I’m hung up it’s usually because I’m bored. Either I have been working on one project too long or doing too many of the same types of projects. Once I get inspired to try something different the creativity keeps on flowing.

It ebbs and flows. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with all the things I want to do and I just burn through them all like a little hummingbird. Other times I have no desire to work on anything.


Goodness, that dress is amazing! To get out of a slump, it doesn’t usually take more than looking at a few sewing blogs and sorting through my massive collection of vintage patterns before I feel ready to sew!


Honestly, the sadness that is my current wardrobe inspires me to keep going when I’m in a sewing slump. I’ve been trying to add good, happy things to it as much as possible this spring, but life has gotten in the way: sickness, work, blah! I can’t wait to feel fully rested so I can devote more time to my projects. :)


I find that if I look at sewing blogs and see everybody’s new pretty makes I can get out of a slump pretty quickly. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be apparel that makes my heart go pitty pat — quilts, bags, pretty pillows, anything bright and new to me will do it.

But pretty new dresses or jackets: the best.

Jet Set Sewing

Looking at vintage patterns on Ebay and etsy usually gets me going. I particularly like the Spadea patterns from the 50s and 60s, representing some of top designers of that era. Also having good quality fabric in my stash calling to me…


I visited several web pages but the audio feature for auddio songs current at thus web
site is actually excellent.

Diane @ Vintage Zest

Honestly, I will be inspired by almost anything: fabric, old movies, vintage patterns, etc. However, the only thing that gets me out of a sewing slump is actually having my sewing machine out and ready to go with a clear surface to cut and my supplies ready to go! Otherwise, I dread sewing if I know that it will take extra long to do each step.

Giggles in the Sun

Burda … I usually go to the library and pick up 3-4 burda magazines and just trace some of the patterns I like and do some muslins … I have countless ones that I have never made in proper fabric, but it usually inspires me to pick up some of the projects that are on my to do list. I think one of my problems why I lose interest is because I have a ‘to do’ list for sewing and that is a little bit of a drag sometimes


Completely a project. Even if it’s small, finishing something boosts my mood and my sewing mojo.


You know, that really hit me! My style (ie: the clothes I like to *wear*) are classic, elegant and understated. No frills, ruffles or embellishments here. However, I also find myself admiring puffy 50s dresses from time to time. I used to want to ‘reconcile’ these ‘differences’ into one unified style…but that’s where I’ve changed my thinking lately. When I see a fabulously poufy dress, I get excited, kinda like a little girl! And that got me thinking that perhaps that’s my play side coming through. That little girl that wants to play dress up!! I say, let it happen! My tastes have gotten more refined in my age as well, but sometimes it’s good to let that little girl out to play :)


To me, it’s like looking at a gorgeous French pastry. It looks amazing and beautiful, but once I eat it I’d probably wish it was a piece of simple pie instead. :)


I like that! :)


I haven’t hit a slump yet; I’m still learning. Slumps come when I feel there’s no challenge. I’m a long way from that!
There is a wealth of inspiration, from blogs to things I haven’t tried yet (or things I need), to tv. TV is a big one. Loving the costumes on Downton Abbey with such great details- I totally stole Lady Edith’s tie front dress look from season 4. I also binge-watched Miss Fisher’s mysteries on Netflix and fell in love with everything she wore, so more 1920s influence there. I have always loved fashion history, and I love a good excuse to work it into my everyday style!

Alice Elliot

Fashion magazines and fashion shows!!!

Loofie and Mishka

I love Pintrest for inspiration- however it can be a distraction.
I also find that sewing slumps happen when I am doing too much of the same thing, so I try to mix things up a bit.
Deadlines help a lot, I seem to work better when whatever I am working on has a “due date”.

I LOVE that dress it is absolutely beautiful !


A FABRIC SWAP! You bring a bunch of fabric that un-inspires you or is collecting dust, then gather with as many other sewists as you can, and the swapping begins. First its about finding new fabric, but then you swap ideas. The conversations move toward our current projects and of course the dreaded slumps. I always end up with a few new tips, and some new inspiring fabric without spending a dime. Just went to one last night at my local sew shop Mama Said Sew (


The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online textiles collection is my biggest inspiration. I incorporate a lot of period details into my work because I find sitting in my rocking chair, doing hand work to be emotionally restorative. It’s a way to sit actively, focus on something lightly physical, and let my mind quiet down. Mostly hems and internal structure, but I’ve built some actual period garments entirely by hand.

Most of my garment construction is contemporary, but looking at white-work, or the lining of an early Victorian bodice, or an 18th century chemise de Reine gives me ideas and motivation. It’s often a technique creativity — things like understanding how lining worked before we started bagging out (in non-machine garment sewing, one finishes the edges first, then joins the seams with a tight, tiny whipstitch) — rather than a visual inspiration. I don’t know how much sense that makes, but the collection is gorgeous and should be appreciated.


I get inspired by cleaning, yes, cleaning my stash of patterns and fabrics. I realize the treasures I have and am very inspired to start fresh using what I have on hand. I did that just today and now have so many ideas and combinations of fabric and pattern that I want to try. Going through what I have is how I get going!

Lady ID

Old movies, looking through my sketchbook. Checking out images of clothes and not clothes that I have on pinterest. Sometimes a fabric “tells” me what it should be so like Bunny, I may just look through my stash and see what fabric jumps at me.


I’m working through a slump right now — it’s not that I don’t want to create, but I’ve started working full-time and when I get home, I’m far too tired to sew. Working on very simple things helps, like stockinette knitting, plus breaking down a project into micro-projects does too (so rather than “make a toile” or “assemble the skirt”, I’ve broken it down further, like “cut out a sleeve” or “assemble a pocket”). Stuff is taking longer, but I feel just as happy with it.


Funnily enough, I just noticed that my avatar is a picture of me asleep!


The thing that gets me inspired are the Oscars or any of the other grand events. Just seeing all these beautiful people all dressed in their finery makes my head say, “You can do that.”
Now whether I can or not is not the issue. It gets me up and pawing through my stash and I am on my way. Love your site also and I have gotten much inspiration from it as well. Thank you.


This is an interesting topic for me – because I really love fashion from the 20’s-50’s (I confess that Masterpiece Mystery is one of my primary sources of inspiration there). However, like you, I’m finding that my personal style is evolving to a simpler, more casual look (something about moving to Portland? Am I just getting older? I never thought I’d outgrow my quirky, playful, fun-loving aesthetic, I mean, kid of the 80’s and all that, let’s just do more more more already!). So now I’m trying to figure out: how do I bring components of what I love from those eras, into what I wear today? I love the middi dresses and skirts of the 30s and 40s, but realistically, that doesn’t reaaaally fit my life (especially not the heels that go with them!) So, hm. One thing I’m trying is using art deco-esque fabrics in modern patterns. Or maybe honing in on what I love most about an inspiration piece – is it that giant floral print of that 50’s dress, or maybe the elegant swish of the 30’s skirt? – and working that one piece backwards into a garment that’ll fit better in my day-to-day life.


When my sewing table gets cluttered, I lose my creativity. So if I’m in a slump, I need to clear my workspace. This often means clearing spaces in the rest of the house as well, but mainly my sewing room. I find when the space is there to work in, I can just get going.

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