Sunday, July 22, 2012

More on the Koos Bag and Thoughts on the Creative Process


Empty on the left, loaded with 6 lbs of canned food on the right.

First, I want to thank each of you for your comments on the Koos bag! It really was a fun project, thanks to all those rich home dec samples. I don't know if I've mentioned on the blog that I used to be an avid quilter. After my eldest was born, I made her a baby quilt and there was no turning back. I was obsessively into quilting for several years, until my kids started school, and my projects turned to Waldorf dolls, toys, and kids clothing and costumes.

But calling myself a "quilter" is a bit misleading, as I didn't actually quilt. I tried it once or twice, but didn't enjoy it, especially on the large bed quilts I usually made. What I loved was piecing. I typically sent my quilts out to be quilted, once I realized it was more pain than pleasure. Making the Koos bag brought back the fun of piecing.

Over on Pattern Review, someone asked me how the bag would look if it were carrying a substantial load. Being an obliging sort, I grabbed about 6 pounds of canned food and headed to my backyard. I found the loaded bag to be quite heavy, but tolerable when worn on my shoulder. The photos at the top of the post shows how it looks compared to an empty load.

I think it looks pretty good! It's certainly heavier than I'd ever want it to be.

I made a quick-ish project yesterday. I got all of it done in one day, except for the hem. I'll finish it up today, though I'm not sure if it will get blogged today or some day this week.

Thoughts on the Creative Process

There is something I've been musing about recently. It's that elusive mojo. For the first couple years after I returned to sewing, my mojo was firing on all cylinders. At the time my wardrobe was pretty dire, and there was lost time to make up. It was like uncorking champagne.

But this year, it's been a different story. My mojo comes and goes. Even when it's visiting, it often feels feeble. As a result, I've often found the hardest part of sewing recently is to make a decision on what to make!

I often feel very Hamlet-like in my indecision. I don't "need" much in my wardrobe, so I am sewing for the creative aspect, not because I have no clothes. I have fabric galore. I have patterns. I have ideas. But, still, it can be extremely difficult for me to land on a project. I've spent time musing about why this is and I think there are several things to consider:

  • I want the project to interest me. There needs to be some creative aspect that excites me.
  • Creative ideas don't fall out of the sky every day. Even when an idea does hit me, it may not work. Designers have lots of failures, that's part of the creative process. And, no doubt, the bigger the designer, the bigger the risk, and the greater the chance of failure. All I'm saying is that failure visits us all, whether we admit it publicly, or not. :)
  • As much as I want to, I can't force it. Whenever I try to force the process, I am not happy with the results. It feels labored.

I'm sure everyone is different, but my creative process tends to be:

  • Stroke my fabrics to see if any are speaking to me.
  • Look at patterns. Imagine different fabrics.
  • Look at RTW, mostly online. Look at catalogs, visit stores. (Though usually I am going through this process in the wee hours.)
  • Feel frustration. Repeat first three steps ad infinitum. Or at least for several hours.

Since most of my sewing occurs on the weekends, I like to have my weekend project decided on and ready to go by Friday night. The weekend tends to go better if I can hit the ground running in the morning. It doesn't always work, but that's the goal.

I'd be interested to hear more about your creative process. When you aren't sewing from a wardrobing need, what motivates you?

29 comments:

  1. I started sewing because I couldn't find what I wanted to wear in the shops - now I'm like you - I NEED to sew. Inspiration comes from other bloggers and what they do and nowadays, just a wee bit from what I'd like in my wardrobe. I'm sewing up some white T-shirts at the moment so I guess I've hit rock bottom.

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    1. Ruth, that's me, too. I need to sew, to keep my self sane. You've made some beautiful things lately.

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  2. I am currently planning a handbag project, and taking a break from sewing clothing. I want to play with color and texture and print...right now I am most interested in the intersection of two or more pieces of fabric and what results from that in various configurations. I can feel when it is a "good" fit, but I cannot articulate why. I hope to be able to put words to my visceral experience as I play with this project.

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    1. I am fascinated to hear more about your process, Mary!

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  3. I am just getting back into sewing after a hiatus of a few years.

    I couldn't figure out why I'd lost my motivation. But now that I have it back, I realize that it's because I finally know what the heck I want to wear.

    The past few years, I've been playing around with style, trying to figure out what suits me best. I think I must have been subconsciously worried about spending time making things, and then maybe not wanting to wear them. I would be so indecisive, and end up not making anything.

    Now I know what I want to wear, and so I'm finding it much easier to think of possible projects.

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    1. Interesting observation, Ms. M!! I think that is also impacting my sewing. I've been refining my style as I continue to sew. I'm finding I prefer the look of garments that are more fitted on top. It sometimes a real challenge to find designs that I love and that also work with my shape. Pants and skirts are easier for me. :)

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  4. Such a good question. All I really know about my creative process is that I need to feel challenged...but not so much that I'm overwhelmed. I have to have freedom to play - it must feel FUN! I also really appreciate the practical aspect of what I'm doing - I really want to feel good about what I see, and find it functional - (with things like art, if it puts a smile on my face and lifts my spirit, that's functional enough!)

    But none of that is really about the process, is it? I think that when I started sewing (this past round of sewing, that is) I was attracted to 'bright shiny objects'; i.e., things I wasn't really going to wear - dressier things. And I didn't derive that much pleasure from stuff I was never going to wear. So now I like to start with a need. Then, like you, I stroke the fabrics and think about patterns. I tend not to browse stores, catalogues, etc., but I will "shop" blogs & reviews for the patterns that I'm looking at. Then I just dive in, and often have no idea where I'm going to go, because I change course midstream so often.

    I guess, bottom line, I tend to start with an idea, jump in the river, and see where it takes me...

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    1. Interesting, JillyBe! I agree 100% with your first paragraph. Challenged but not overwhelmed. And FUN. And, like you, I don't want to make things I will never wear.

      But it's interesting that you find blogs and reviews to be a primary source of inspiration. That is less true for me. While I read, and enjoy, a wide variety of blogs, many of those I follow have a very different body type (I feel like I am a lone wolf in that regard), a very different aesthetic (I don't do retro/vintage, Chanel, or business attire, for example), a different climate (I don't have much need for summer clothes - it's 60 today, breezy and chilly), or a love of dresses. (I know you recently made your first dress, but I'm just not in the dress zone. It seems to me that many of the bloggers I follow primarily make dresses. I enjoy seeing what they make, but it doesn't make me want to make a dress. ;) )

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  5. I think the creative thoughts just come at any old time, while doing or seeing anything and not only on demand just when wanting them or wanting to pull them out right then. And can be very fleeting. So if you really want to catch all of them, you probably do need to make yourself stop whatever doing at the moment any time you have any of them and voice record it or write down/draw a picture. At least enough to jog thoughts on it later on. Just every time you have one maybe. I know that is how it works for me, but everyone is different. But I will have a creative thought, and often really think at that moment, I will have to remember and think about this later, and actually if not recorded just a bit, just then even, probably loose 75% of them, to never get explored or they get lost and forgot for later just with all the other visual stimuli walking around during the day and doing whatever. Have had a creative sewing thought before, while driving, and made myself actually pull over to the side of the road, and write it down quick!

    That said, I don't most times do that! But maybe a note book or something electronic (like even in a purse so you have something to jot a clue on them down in as they just occur) is a good thing!

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    1. You are right, Anon. When I used to do creative writing, I did the same thing. Wrote all of my ideas down - they were so ephemeral they would slip away forever, otherwise. I don't do that so much with my sewing ideas.

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  6. When I was growing up I sewed so I had clothes, the same when we were newly marriage. As work got busier there was little time for sewing and now after a long hiatus I am back... this time enjoying the creative side of sewing, the wonderful, inspirational and generous online and real life sewing communities that didn't exist or I didn't know about years ago. Exploring different and interesting patterns, as well as a better understanding about fitting has meant I feel a sense of achievement with the things I sew as well as enjoyment. So much is different from years ago, including the way we sew. Like Shams I enjoy contemplating a project, playing with fabrics I've chosen or patterns that appeal. In the past I would have gone to the shop and come home with what I needed from what was available locally. This new way of sewing is so much fun!!

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  7. PS That bag is just amazing!!!!

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    1. I agree, Dilliander. I am so grateful for both the online and in person sewing communities. Sewing is such an isolated hobby, and I really love all of my sewing communities.

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  8. I have found that my creative-sewing-juices are oozing into other areas of my life. My classroom this year is enjoying a revamp, knitting has taken a step up, and my home interior has also appreciated my creative wand being waved. My winter wardrobe is chokers, so I find I am more of a summer sewing person. And then on some days, my creative side is more than happy to just sit in front of this computer screen and appreciate what everyone else is up to. That's the beauty of it all - not being pegged into one 'sewing-only' box. And my latest little creative fling is trying to delve deeper into figuring out different bits and pieces in blogger land...

    ✿ Judith
    made by J
    aka Doobee

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    1. That makes sense, Judith. I think those of us with the need to create can channel it in a number of ways. If we didn't sew, we'd do something else. Right now my creative outlet is sewing, but it has been other things at other times. I tend to be a serial hobbyist. ;)

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  9. I so want to make your fabulous bag, Shams. You are such an inspiration.

    Gosh, my creative juices get flowing at the craziest times for the craziest reasons. It's as if something I see cues it up and I have to follow its siren from there. For example, this week I walked by the home dec clearance table at JAs on the way to get my 99 cent pattern. A piece of upholstery fabric screamed at me. I'm am not the type to buy compulsively like that but I will revisit the image and start thinking what I can do with it. That led to searching out patterns, checking out reviews on PR, going back yesterday and revisiting the yummy fabric once more. It is a solid motivator at this point for either the Koos bag or a Marcy Tilton jacket. (See how you have influenced me?). But right now I am in the middle of another big project I must complete. So what I usually do is reward myself with the project necessities for completing the current project. So I wait. But I will get it and that is my process. That is if something else doesn't flip my trigger. It can be just seeing a certain color combination on someone walking down the street sometimes but I put a lot of thought into those inspirations and then they all fight to get in the queue.

    Swap sewing will never work for me because of my creative process. I envy and respect those who do SWAP but I would be so mojo-less by the second planned garment that the guys in the white coats would be coming to take me away.

    Great question!

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  10. As you know, I have been in the depths of trying to figure out what motivates me...I agree with most of the comments above, but I need to add one other..."MAGIC"...:) Sometimes I have no idea where the joy comes from, but I spent this afternoon cutting out challenging stripes, humming all the while!

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  11. This is a very interesting topic. I am in a state of flux with creativity & ideas. Over the last couple months, I sewed a little bit just as a relaxing activity, but all I have to show for are 2 UFO's and I threw away the wadder (red linen jacket).
    Sometimes, I get grandiose ideas, usually it all comes together in the mornings and I have to write things down. But, overall, I am really not sure what direction to take! I still need to unpack boxes so it's a little frustrating. And of course, I have other important things to do, and no real sense of whether I have a lot of time on my hands or very little. Long comment, but you struck a nerve.

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  12. Oh, I forgot, I use the app, " Voice Memos" on my iPhone when a fleeting idea presents itself...I used to write them down, but sometimes by the time I found a pen and paper, I'd forgotten...

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  13. I sew mainly for the custom fit and so that I can have higher quality clothing within my budget constraints.

    Right now, my mojo is a function of sewing excellence. I'm struggling to get my knits to look right; every fail seems to kill the mojo. It's discouraging.

    I'm about to start just working on samples until I can perfect seams, bindings, and hems. I feel like I need to work on variable at a time. The next step will be developing some great basic T&T patterns.

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  14. Hmmm, I don't know what to add here, since I enjoyed reading your post and everyone's responses above, and felt recognition at something in each of them. I am like Bunny and sew because of inspiration, and like Margy because of Magic! I could never sew to a plan either! I think for that reason I have very few projects I have been disappointed with. I have made things I have ended up not wearing very much, but I don't consider them to be failures if I thoroughly enjoyed making them and was happy with them upon completion. I don't embark on a project unless I am all fired up and enthusiastic, luckily this still occurs a lot. Too much maybe :)) I am finding my new self-imposed restriction of no more than one project a week to be needlessly constrictive and annoying, and am also wishing I had not started publishing my accounting for my sewing habit this year :D since I have the shy person's fear of being judged.

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  15. I sew because otherwise I would have next to nothing to wear. My tastes are far beyond my budget. I'm an odd fit. Unfortunately, I also have far too many creative ideas that have absolutely nothing to do with the practical side of dressing myself. I see a technique, an embellishment, a design detail and I want to incorporate that into a garment, but somehow most of these ideas are just that - ideas. I'm trying to get myself to a point where I can spend some time just playing with ideas and creating a garment for fun, rather than for the need.

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  16. I think you are less of a lone wolf than you imagine, for starters...

    I also think our approach to sewing morphs as we hit different times in our lives. That's part of the creative process (if it's a genuine creative process, that is, not just repetition).

    Right now, for me? My wardrobe is indeed dire. (Pathetic would also describe it.) I also want to spend some time mastering various techniques that I either never got around to in my early sewing years or never thought I'd need.

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  17. Ah Sharon, you gave me food for thought on my walk. I generally look at my patterns, and think about my stash. I used to get motivated by ordering fabric, but I can't afford to do that much anymore. i love reading the blogs and the Stitchers Guild to see what everyone one else is doing. Your blog and Carolyn's are among my favorites. I also enjoy looking at my sewing mags. Lately, I've been watching the video's on the Threads website and that has been motivating.

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  18. The moments before sleep are when I give myself permission to think about sewing in a non-linear way. Most of what I make seems to be driven by the desire to have a garment, but on the other hand I accept failures pretty stoically and move right on to the next thing--which makes me think I am also sewing for the joy in the process. I'm so inspired by other bloggers; I don't seem to have developed the kind of sense of what is right for me that you have (yet?), so I shift and turn under the influence of all the wonderful examples I see on the web. Not sure that is the smartest way, but I love the freedom of it.

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  19. I would rarely describe myself as a creative person, and never as an artist. My sewing is motivated more or less by a sense of wanting to push my *technical* limits. I almost always wonder whether I *can* make something like whatever-it-is, rather than by do I need it, do I want it, does it flatter me, am I even interested! So because of that I have tried many many crafts - dyeing, knitting, weaving, embroidery, drawn thread work, fabric painting, sewing, crochet, lace making, sprang, macrame -- you name it I have very likely tried it or feel that I might try it. I prefer to work to a pattern, trying out a technique in an "approved" way first. My more artistic side shows mostly when I make children's clothes, where the techniques are very very simple and I feel I've more or less mastered them. I sew collections of garments mostly because otherwise I'd have a selection of samplers and nothing to wear! And because the how-to part of a collection fascinates me.

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  20. "Make something" is my prime directive, so I don't suffer from lack of mojo unless I'm just plain sick. But I'm not really a creative seamstress. What I makes me happy about sewing is that if I follow the right steps and do them right, it comes out right. See -- not a creative process. It contrasts with other parts of life where it's impossible to tell what's right and the outcome is always messy.

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  21. My sewing mojo has been gone for a long time... and I know of a few reasons why, but not how to change the situation.
    #1. I sew for a living. I'm a costumer in a mid-sized university. All day long I'm making patterns, altering patterns, cutting, sewing, teaching sewing, fitting altering... by the end of the day/week I feel like I just can't face more of the same.
    #2. I have multiple alterations I have to do to any pattern before I can use it. I'm plus sized and busty with narrow shoulders and very large upper arms. The scope of alterations, and the need to muslin first because of those alterations causes me to stall out.
    #3. My only sewing place right now is at work. And even if I feel like sewing for myself the idea of staying at, or coming in to, work is completely repellant. (Now THIS cause I can tackle. I need a new(ish) working sewing machine and iron for home. I would have to set up and take down, but it's still do-able.)
    I do get inspiration from many blogs... especially yours. I love, love, love your sense of style and the obvious joy you get from your sewing. Now if I can just hold onto that spark until I get home...

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  22. I started sewing again last year because my wardrobe was so sad. All the same style, just different colors. No dresses. This need very much motivated me. Sewists at Pattern Review and on Stitchers Guild motivate me with all the beautiful garments. Threads Magazine. Books from the library. I read and read. And...
    These things motivate me to sew:
    > the feel of a soft fabric against my face
    > fabric color/s that sing to me and I'm realizing now what those are!
    > a pattern that is like a RTW that I
    tried on and liked. Alas,that RTW dress was too short, or the price too high, ...but I can sew it!!
    > special details: pintucks on a top; covered buttons; french seams, bagged linings, hand stitching.

    I especially enjoy your blog. Your creativity is inspiring to me. :)

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