Do You Have a Sewing Ritual? Open Line Friday

Free Motion Quilting, TeaI’m fascinated by the “creative process” and recently read this article by Walt Kania at The Freelancery about creative rituals.  It’s a humorous account of his work process as a writer.

Free Motion Quilting, TeaI guess I have a ritual, too.  I usually make myself a cup of coffee or tea (which I don’t end up drinking), throw in a load of laundry, (my sewing room is right next to the laundry room), flip on my sewing machine, the iron, and the TV (which I never watch), and clear off my sewing table.  By then I usually know what I want to do… If I’m working on a  new FMQ pattern, I usually start with a few spirals and then I’m off…

My ritual is not intentional, yet it is consistent.  I would echo Mr. Kania…you have to just “clamber up the ladder and start moving the brush over the wood”…Nothing happens until then.  Or as my mother would say, “When you don’t know where to start, just begin.”

If you need a little technical advice, try Seven Steps to Free Motion Quilting–for the machine set-up…and then just clamber up the ladder and begin free motion quilting.  YOU can do this…just begin!

Free Motion Quilting, TeaWhat about YOU?  Do you have a creative ritual?

I’d love to hear…


58 thoughts on “Do You Have a Sewing Ritual? Open Line Friday

  1. In addition to what you do, I potty the dogs, get a glass of ice water and set it on the windowsill w/ my coffee & my phone, cut on all the lights in my sewing area. On Saturdays, so my mind is guilt free, I do a little housework first. I find it normal, but humorous, that the dogs know it is bed time when I reverse the routine, cutting off the lights, iron, tv, etcllll

    • Do you drink the coffee or the water? I never do, but I still pour it anyway! My dogs are part of the rituals as well. I keep dog treats in my sewing room, so Ruby and Roxie love coming up to the sewing room with me–it means they get a treat!

  2. Lately, I have been reading email while drinking coffee. When I come to your post in my inbox, I do some free-motion drawing on my quilting ideas tablet. I want to thank you for all of the wonderful ideas you have posted. My skills at free-motion quilting are gradually improving with practice…

  3. I have no real ritual, except for keeping my sewing journal up to date. Thanks for the tips on keeping a journal. My dining room is now my sewing room..very handy so I can run in there a do a few things whenever I have the time.

  4. My ritual is similar to yours. I put a load of laundry on and clean off my tailor’s table if I’m starting a new project, but usually I’m continuing the one from the day before. I turn on the lights, iron, sewing machine, and tune the radio to CBC. I can’t sit for too long before my back gets sore so I take breaks to do household chores and then get back to it.

    My toy pom won’t come down with me. He waits at the top of the stairs for me to “come home”. Maybe I should try the treats.

  5. I do all that you do but add turning on the iron (which is plugged into the same outlet as a small lamp that gets turned on at the same time – so I don’t forget to unplug the iron when I’m finished!). I usually lay out my project and instructions in some sort of order that would be apparent only to me. Sometimes I have to spend a few minutes organizing (read cleaning up) before I start my work.

    Funny, I never seem to drink my coffee or tea either. 🙂

    • Claire, What a great idea about the lamp and the iron–I’m going to do that, too. It always gives me a shudder when I find my iron plugged in the next day–even though it has an automatic shut-off! I also love your idea of laying out your projects the night before! So much for tea or coffee–if I had the $ back for all the caffeine I brewed and never drank…I could buy a long arm!

  6. Rosemary B here:
    Well, it definitely is NOT like going to the gym – where you pretty much grab yourself by the collar and throw yourself in the car, force yourself to sit on a towel because the seats are cold in your gym shorts. It is never bone chilling cold here in No Va so 20º is not suffering.

    Sewing, no drinks. I will just knock that over, and probably not drink it. this is not a problem because my sewing room is right next to the kitchen, in the sun room.
    I have been doing “little projects” because I am taking care of my parents. So, my projects are lined up on my ironing board, ready to work on the next day.
    I have kitties. Miles could care less, but if I am sitting, Pierro is ready to find a spot on my lap
    I have been practicing free motion with old bed sheets and making sandwiches. It actually looks good. I use two pretty colors of thread so I can see each side.

    • Way to go Rosemary! So thrilled to hear you are making good progress with your FMQ! and I’m also impressed that you have your projects lined up and ready to go! I need to get into that work habit! As for the gym…that has it’s own set of rituals for me…play with my phone, find some music, talk to anyone who makes eye contact…procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate…

      • Bahahahaha! that is so funny and easy to do!! My best lie is I’ll need a break from whatever around three so I’ll work out then…nope…the 3 o’clock cookie always wins. 🙂

  7. I don’t think I have a ritual – but I am very impressed by those of you who start by clearing your table. Mine only gets cleared if I need to cut something – and the first stage is to remove what is blocking the table onto the floor. Clear up only comes when I’m desperate! As for drinks – I’m British – it is tea every time and anything that gets made gets drunk – and probably refilled!

    • I usually am desperate–that’s why I need to clean my table every day–besides, I have family members who like to put their popcorn bowls and candy wrappers on my table, too! UGH! BTW–what’s your favorite tea and brand? I go through tea phases, but tea is nasty when it’s lukewarm and I always forget about it until it’s cold…Do you drink your tea with milk?

  8. You clear off your work table every day? What a novel idea! My ritual is random at best — dictated by the obligations outside the studio often. I drink copious amounts of tea, sew my way out of slumps, and have too many projects on deck. I need to think more about ritual for sure!

  9. I think I need to adopt and act on your mother’s saying! Perhaps it will lower my UFO number! I may even put it on a quilt border! Thanks,Lori and your mom!

  10. Before I go upstairs to my sewing room, I gather either tea, water or diet coke, snacks if I feel like it, my iphone and mini ipad. Open my door and turn on all the lights (I never seem to have enough light), turn on the TV an figure out what project I’m going to work on. Sometimes, if I’m feeling creative I’ll tell my husband I’m going up to my quilting “studio.” It was my daughter’s bedroom which I redid, painted brick red, hung a couple of shelves – it houses my tin lizzie, oversized, repurposed executive desk, a slanted drafting table (love IKEA) and an oversized ironing board (thank you SIL) When my daughter was 7, she tried to see how many friends she could fit into her closet, buckled the sliding doors and they were never put back on. That is where I have the slide out (gotta love The Container Store) shelving units for all my fabric.

    • My “studio” is similar… brick red and previously my daughter’s bedroom with missing closet doors! Love it and the red was her idea, while she still lived here. It’s a corner room with windows in both sides which helps with the light issue, at least during the day. My ritual is similar, fix a hot drink, which rarely gets consumed, make sure I have the phone, have another household chore going at the same time so I have a reason to get up and stretch frequently (usually it’s laundry). Sometimes I have a hard time actually getting started, but then I never want to stop once I’ve started. 🙂

      • Sounds similar, I think you probably have more light though. I just have one huge window that looks out over our cul-de-sac.

    • I work in the same repurposed area. My daughters bedroom with no doors on the closet so TinLizzie will fit in the room. An old library bookshelf to house fabrics. Ironing board on the washer, dryer next door. When the lights and radio come on the cats take their places on on the floor under foot the other in the window.
      Thank you Lori for inspiring me to get organized and back to my sewing room. I have missed my creative time even though it may only be a few minutes a day. I shall refocus and finish some of my UFO s. Yeah!

      • Someone else with a tin lizzie. Do you know of any lizzie support blogs. My biggest frustration – tension. Went to a sew-N-quilt show yesterday and ran into someone who is frequently here in CA and now working for the Lizzie organization and will be giving webinars – and is having one on March 17 on tension. If you are interested, I can send you the blog info.

  11. I live in a seniors apt. and use my storage room for my sewing, with shelves on one side from floor to ceiling it works great! I have to keep it very organized so I try to clean up each time, so starting the next day isn’t too big a challenge.

  12. No real ritual, but if for some reason I find myself avoiding a quilting project, I promise “just 15 minutes of work.” Which usually turns into a much longer session.

  13. I do my quilting at my friend’s house. We share a long arm that we bought together in June, and all my stuff is there – DSM, fabrics, books, magazines, etc. We are both tea drinkers. I drink mine neat and she drinks hers with sweetener and creamer. Our favorite brand is Twinings. (I like the pomegranate best and she likes orange bliss best. We both drink decaf Lady Grey in the evenings.) I rarely warm mine back up as it cools. I like my tea at all temperatures!!

  14. I really like your mother’s advice. I tend to distract myself out of applying my time to a project. It would help me to have a beginning ritual. I’ll report back on that….

  15. I guess I am a creature of habit and I love early early mornings…first one up makes the coffee..last one up makes the bed. DH thinks he makes better coffee so he’ll pop out of bed if he hears me stir. I let him think so (heehee!) I love waking up to brewing coffee. I always throw in a load of clothes and pad out to the kitchen to get a cuppa. Soon as that first gulp hits the bloodstream it’s kind of like what I imagine a difibulator feels like…you gotta try my DH’s “cowboy coffee” to know this feeling! I have to doctor with cream and sugar…lots of sugar. So after reading and sending a quick note to a girlfriend and reading what the inbox jaunt is up too I’m off!! First for another mug of that cowboy coffee, swiffer the floor and then have to do my Insanity workout…my girls got me hooked on this and I do my version…I’m glad Sean T can’t see me haha! but I work up a sweat…shower…clothes in the dryer and maybe throw in another load and if I’m lucky I can get a hour or two sewing in before it’s time to make lunch….and sometimes I make sure I don’t do any laundry that would require ironing when finished or I have to move the ironing pile off the ironing board so there is room for my quilt blocks. 🙂 Sometimes I have to iron a few shirts…sometimes not. My little Papillion (spelling!??) Romeo bounces along everywhere I go. He’s never far away no matter what I’m doing. ( Although he always looks a little worried when I’m doing Insantiy and rightly so LOL!)

      • Thanks we will!!…sounds like it’s going to be very loud and very wet!! We are hoping the rain goes North! Recipe for Cowboy coffee is find the blackest dark roast bean you can and grind them til they are such light powder they half fly away when you try to dump them in the coffee filter..LOL! He uses a cup full ground to one reg. pot of water. Not kidding. Now you know why I’m such a motor mouth! LOL!
        As for Insanity there is alot of wheezing and wimpering and an occaional cry of pain but it’s all oddly addictive. My ocd wants that mark made on my “schedule” he has you print out.
        I’m so exited to get home to WY and to see my girls. Been so homesick. There will be plenty of winter left to get in lots of good sewing and quilting before the warm weather will beckon me outside. Have a happy day! 🙂

  16. I don’t have a ritual but I do find that if I think I’ve got to get some housework done before I start sewing then I never get started. So the answer is forget the housework I can do that another day, I don’t have children at home any more so most things can wait. As for the which tea question, I’m British too and for me its Twinings English Breakfast tea every time, brewed in a proper tea pot and drunk with milk. If the day is really hot which it isn’t very often, i do like an iced tea but only if I’ve been on holiday to the States and brought back some iced tea bags, you really can’t make nice iced tea with Britsh tea bags, after all its not what they are designed for.

  17. I start off with checking my emails there is always something from my quilting friend who recently moved away so we tell each other what we are doing for the day, lots of the time we do the same projects and send pictures of our progress through out the day. Then after watching the morning news I get coffee and head to the sewing room, turn on the machine and the switch for the light and iron (which are both plugged into the same power bar) that way I know when I leave the room and turn off the light that the iron is turned off.
    Puppy follows me because she has a bed under the sewing table. My laundry room is also right across from the sewing room which makes it handy when I’m doing laundry I can hear when to change it. I will either carry on with the sewing project I left from the day before or decide on a new one to start.
    It sounds like we all pretty much have the same schedules going on.

    • Don’t you hate when you go up to sew and you find you never get out of the laundry room? On the other hand, I love to tell everyone I’m going up to do laundry and I am really up there stitching!

    • Handy to have laundry where you sew…I must confess if there is no one coming home to cook lunch for I will stay downstairs for hours…then do the oops with the clothes in the washer and have to rewash. It’s usually when someone drives in or comes in and I tear upstairs like I’ve been caught slackin’. haha! I restart the washer like yep..just up here doing more laundry! LOL! I scold myself for wasting soap but not too bad anymore…I get over it pretty fast. 🙂

  18. Hmmm… Well, I have a TV in my studio that I NEVER turn on, unless my sons are in there working on their projects. Then we put on I Love Lucy on Hulu while they sew. For me, I turn on my music, light a scented candle, and yes, I bring dangerous beverages into the sewing room — espresso beverages or even red WINE. Someday I will ruin something and repent these evil ways, but for now, I live dangerously! I do like it when my dogs come in with me — Otto likes to supervise the embroidery module, and Lulu rummages through my trash and runs off with fabric scraps and used Kleenexes. They both like to look out the 2nd story windows and then they CHARGE from the room and down the stairs like a pair of wild stallions if they see any other dogs being walked on the street below.

    I never thought of any of this as a “creative ritual” before, more like creating an inviting, relaxing workspace. I try to leave the room with everything ready for whatever the next step is, so I can just sit down and sew without having to climb the hurdle of setting up, rethreading, changing needles, etc. I mean, if I had to go out to the garage, change the tires, fill up the gas tank, and clean the car windows every time before I drove, I’d probably just stay home and never get up the momentum to go anywhere. I want to hop in, turn the key, and go, and I feel the same way about the sewing room.

    • I really am going to work on having everything set up for the next sewing session-it would be a big time saver! I would NEVER bring a candle in my sewing room–I don’t always remember to turn unplug the iron (fortunately it has an auto-shut off) and I’m sure I would forget the candle too–though I would love the mood setting…and what’s with the dogs and kleenex? I’m glad to hear my dog isn’t the only one with a used kleenex fetish-yuk!

  19. I haven’t been sewing for a while – as I’ve been feeling like I’m chained to the chair. However, I’m thinking of doing the journal – I think that would be fun and enlightening. It might get my mojo back. My ritual actually starts with previous sewing session. I make sure my little area around the machine is clear of threads and scraps, the pins are all in the box, scissor and seam ripper in there place and a mental note of what I want to accomplish in the next session. Something easy and managable – just in case I’m really busy. I often get a coffee but I seldom drink it before it’s cold – as sewing really is so fun I forget about it! (I do drink it cold)

  20. My ritual needs some revisions! The first things I do in the morning are make my oatmeal and coffee. I use a thermal cup for the coffee so it stays hot. I eat the oatmeal and head for my sewing space, which is half of a converted garage, and turn everything on. Sometimes I know what I plan to work on, but even so, usually turn my monitor on to check for quilting (or other) emails! If I don’t have a plan, I can spend all day getting more ideas, saving quilt pictures, studying tutorials, or window shopping fabrics online. I just finished 7 lap quilts. That kept me busy 6 to 12 hours a day for 2 1/2 months. My days and nights got all messed up so my schedule is out of control! I just got the fabrics re-sorted and organized my tools so I can find things easier. I really want to get going on a new or old project. Since I don’t have a deadline, there is no pressure to get started, so I find myself procrastinating. The hardest part is deciding which project to work on – too many ideas! If I sit too long at the computer my cat, Shorty, yells at me for attention. He acts as an alarm, reminding me to get busy and do something. Today I will practice FMQ. Thinking I need to upgrade my machine to one that will do more. My Viking Lily serves me well, but it would be nice to have one with more work space for larger quilts. See how my mind just rambles aimlessly?…

  21. No ritual, but have set times morning and afternoon (with a break at noon) and tell myself that this is my “job”/discipline. Generally, I have run through my plans/FMQ designs all night in my dreams so I may do a warm-up to bring it to reality and then go for it!!!!!

  22. I try to sew or quilt at least one hour every night after work and supper. On the weekends, I normally make coffee, have breakfast, then call my mom( which I do every morning as she is 90 and I want to keep tabs) then ti pour my second cup and head downstairs and sew. I am presently quilting a few for a friend and then I need to complete baby quilts. Then I will work on my nephew’s quilt this year is so busy!

  23. My cat sits at the stairs up to my sewing room and meows me to go upstairs ( he likes his routines at age 16). I love the smell of my sewing room, it’s that mix of art supplies, fabric and quilt books all mixed together, a creative perfume of sorts. I totally forget the time up there.

  24. I enter my sewing room early (at this time of the year) to turn on the heater. I go back down to the room with Good Earth original tea blend in a thermal cup and a bottle of water. They stay on the window sill or across the room – far away. Then I shoo a cat or two off of my project, turn on lights and machine, start my audible book and quilt away. I cannot listen to my book if I’m cutting fabric at my cutting table or piecing, can’t chew bubblegum and walk type of thing. On work days I come home, get dinner, chat with DH and then end up downstairs after I have decided if I’m “too tired or not.” Problem is, once I get down there, I have to practically be drug out of there to get some sleep before work the next day!

  25. Not much of a ritual for me unless its a day off. I pop into my room which is exactly as I left it, plug in the iron and go at whatever I left. I do try to dear off the cutting table every once in a while and when I get too frustrated with the mess I tidy up. on days off and I can sew I take a coffee along and my cell phone, sometimes my laptop if I need it that day, plug in the iron, and turn on the machines. My iron is close to the door so I have gotten into the habit of making sure its unplugged before turning out the lights.

  26. I have to warm up my quilting room in the winter, so that’s the first stop in the morning. Then I’ll come down and make hot tea in the AM, iced tea in the PM. I’ll take that up in a thermal cup with a lid (no spills, thank you) to my “quilting loft”. I rarely sew in my quilting loft, I spend almost all of my time on my longarm quilting for others. I do drink my tea when I roll the quilt or do something where I can step away from the longarm. I found that I was getting dehydrated when I quilted, so I am conscious of drinking enough. Occasionally I’ll persuade my Chihuahua to come upstairs with me – it is usually too cold for her (if I leave a glass of something up there over night it will freeze solid). I usually spend 6-8 hours a day quilting during the week and if my DH has something to do on Saturday, I’ll head up there then. I’ll take a break for lunch and go outside to feed the horses, farm dog and barn cat. If I get distracted by the computer during the day…oh that is bad!

  27. My ritual consists of tidying up the house, bed made, dishes done, dogs toys put back in the basket, lol. He only gets them out at night when I sit in what he thinks is the play with me chair.
    Off to the quilting studio, turn on the lights, turn on the tv news channel, it must be a talking head I can listen but don’t have to watch and be distracted. If its afternoon it has to be a talking head on the radio. I fire up the long arm and get to work. I find in my old age I seem to have developed sewing A.D.D. I have a hard time staying on task for very long before growing bored.
    I run and do this little chore and back to sewing, start supper, back to sewing. Not all customer quilts are exciting, some are downright boring and it is a struggle to be inspired. Some are wonderful and exciting and I’m over flowing with creativity.
    Above all else there must be coffee and yes it all gets drunk cold or hot or iced.
    When I must have a good sewing time with my Bernina it is quick to pull out a projects. I keep my blocks all prepped in a large plastic flip top sewing bin next to the sewing machine. I’ll sew a couple of blocks or prep some applique for hand sewing.

  28. Great post and thanks for the link to the Kania article! I like the idea of having some ritual to get me going when I’m not inspired to go to my machine. I know I could quilt every day but sometimes (usually a challenging task) will “spook me” from sitting down and working. A warm-up task might help me ease into that transition.

  29. I realized a while ago that I do have rituals, when I told myself I was going to skip the computer for the morning and get busy on a client’s quilt with a fast approaching deadline. I couldn’t do the skipping part! I just had to work up to the sewing with the other parts first! Thus I do have a ritual. Turn on everything in the sewing room, make hot tea to sip while reading email and posts. Check the calendar for anything I have extra for the day. Shower, dress, make bed, tidy up kitchen. Then get to the sewing for the day.

  30. My ritual is only having the project I’m working on on my table and a cup of coffee. I’m still trying out the sewing barefoot thing and tend to forget that one. I know you didn’t ask about post-sewing rituals, but a more organised sewing friend tidies up after each project so I have recently adopted this practise; I must admit its quite cathartic to tidy up the scraps of thread and fabric and have a clear table again before the next project starts.

    • Barefoot is best for FMQ, probably don’t need it for regular sewing. Tidying up is always cathartic for me, too! I tidy up before I start each morning…partly because there would be no place to work otherwise! LOL

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