Six Ways to Fight Stitcher’s Block

Like many of life’s activities, I think that cross stitch and other creative endeavors can have seasons.  I’m not talking about calendar seasons, but seasons in life.  There are high and low periods in life when it comes to creativity.  There are also life seasons when commitments and responsibilities can simply overwhelm us and prevent us from setting aside time for hobbies.  For me, though, I know that when I don’t have a creative outlet, I miss it.  I have found that when I am tired or overwhelmed, I am not motivated to work on a project, but then because I neglect my creative needs, I end up feeling even more overwhelmed.  Because I lack energy, I miss out on the opportunity to feed my creative side, which means I end up with even less energy and motivation, and the cycle continues.

 

So while there will always be times when I’m simply too busy to work on creative projects like cross stitch, there are other times when if I could just pick up a project and get started, the benefits of increased energy and satisfaction would outweigh cost of the time invested.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – why is it that even if I have moments all day when I wish I could pick up a hoop and needle… when the evening comes and I have the time, some days I simply can’t summon the energy to get started?  I’ve decided to label this phenomenon in my life as “stitcher’s block” and have given some thought to what might help work through it.
Here are some ideas I’ve tried over the past few months (which have been a stressful period for me).  While certainly what works for each person will be different, maybe if you ever have “stitcher’s block”, some of these might work for you!

 

 1. Get inspired

 

I love (LOVE, LOVE) looking at photos of beautifully done cross stitch. So for me, this one is huge. Cross stitch eye candy is a great way to get motivated.  I spend a few minutes reading some favorite cross stitch blogs, clicking away on Pinterest or browsing any of my favorite cross stitch supply sites, and I am motivated to get to work! One word of caution: if you’re easily sucked into internet browsing, you may want to be careful that you don’t get so engrossed in your inspiration that you never actually pick up a needle. 😉  And this brings us to item 2…

 

2. Set aside 15 minutes

 

Sometimes at the end of a long day, the idea of working on a project (especially a big project) is overwhelming.  I’m exhausted and cross stitching can feel like one more thing to do.  I’ve found that just sitting down and stitching for 15 minutes gives me a sense of accomplishment that can break through a period of low energy.  Sometimes I’ll actually stop after 15 minutes – a few threads are enough.  Other times I get drawn in and will stitch for longer.  But either way, committing to just a few minutes can help break the block.

 

3. Make it easy

 

If you know you have to dig through your stash (or even hunt all over the house!) to find what you need in order to get stitching, it’s going to be a lot more difficult.  Keep all of the items you need to do a project (and I mean everything!) in one place, preferably near your favorite chair!  I keep a small project bag for each cross stitch or embroidery I am working on.  My project bag has the work in progress, the appropriate hoop or frame, a binder with the floss and pattern, and a small kit with scissors, needles, a needle minder and a pen or highlighter.  I also use a small light that hooks onto my hoop or frame and I keep this and a pretty glass jar for my orts (leftover floss) within easy reach of my chair.  I keep all of My project bags in the living room, near my favorite chair and am currently on the lookout for a nice basket for them…

 

4. Clean out your stash 

 

Mess and clutter can be overwhelming.  For me, I have noticed that being surrounded by clutter is a major energy drain.  If look at my cross stitch stash / supply storage and feel overwhelmed by the clutter, this can drain my creative energy.  Why not use a case of stitcher’s block as a chance to clean out? As you go through your stash, perhaps you’ll find a work in progress that you’ll be inspired to finish!  Or maybe you can use this as a time to set up your project bags.

 

5. Use a binder, journal or online organizer

 

Besides cleaning out your cross stitch stash, another way to battle a feeling of being overwhelmed is to use a cross stitch journal, binder, or online organizer.  Personally, I use Evernote to organize many things in my life and it could definitely be used as a project journal.  For my stitching projects, however, I prefer a paper binder.  I have  pages for projects, wish lists, inventories and ideas/sketches for projects I’d like to design.  If you are the type of person who loves to organize or record things, this might work for you.  Whether you prefer digital or paper, try a cross stitch journal and see what you think!

 

6. Make a wish list

 

Whether this is a paper wishlist in your cross stitch journal (see #5 above) or an online wishlist at your favorite stitching supply website, try a little window shopping and see if this gets the creative juices flowing! I love to check out my wishlist periodically, update the patterns and fabrics I’d like to have someday, remove patterns that no longer appeal to me, etc.  Inevitably when I’m through browsing I want to pull out a project and stitch away!

 

These are some ideas that have worked for me.  What about you?  What do you do to help during periods of low energy?
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Cross Stitch: Pattern Marking

Lately I’ve been stitching Heart of Christmas by Stoney Creek, which has some sections with lots of “confetti stitches” (different colors scattered about throughout a section, rather than in larger blocks of color).  To keep my place and have a counting reference as I stitch, I find it’s helpful to mark up the pattern as I go, but I’m curious how other folks do this.  First, of course, I make a copy of the pattern so I’m not marking up the original… just in case.  In the past I’ve used pencil, but that can be difficult to see.  Using pens or markers I would not being able to erase mistakes. One thing I haven’t tried is a colored pencil.  That would be inexpensive, but more difficult to erase and also less visible than a marker or highlighter.  This time I tried an erasable highlighter made by Pilot.  I bought it at 123stitch.com, though I’ve seen them on Amazon as well (for a bit more $).  Here’s what I think so far:

Pros:

  • Very bright, easy to see – I have pink, but they come in other colors as well
  • The tip makes it easy to mark in small areas – even individual stitches on a pattern or to draw a fine line to mark a backstitch or outline a section
  • It is erasable, so if you make a mistake in your marking, you can correct it
  • Reasonably priced at a few dollars each (at least in the U.S. – not sure how available it may be in other places)

Cons:

  • While it does well for erasing a small area, erasing a large area would be difficult.  It takes friction to erase, so it’s a bit more work than erasing a pencil mark
  • It doesn’t erase completely and does leave a faint mark.  I think this is fine for this purpose, but I wouldn’t want to mark up an original pattern and then expect to completely wipe it clean

I have only used it a few weeks so far, so no telling how long the ink will last before it runs out.

I’m curious though – does anyone have other tips for keeping your place in a pattern like this?

Marking a pattern with highlighter.

Marking a pattern with highlighter.

Erasing a section.

Erasing a section.

New project and a scissor tip tip

Last week I posted about my finish of Faith Hope Love by Joyful Expressions.  This left an open spot in my rotation.  Joy of joys!!  Just think of the possibilities!!  After seeing so many lovely WIPs on stitching blogs I follow, I decided I wanted to tackle a slightly bigger or more complex project.  The others I have going right now are fairly simple and with just a few colors.  For quite some time I’ve had my eye on “Heart of Christmas” by Stoney Creek.  I know we’re coming into spring and I have no idea why I am so drawn to a Christmas pattern except it has so many beautiful bright colors!  You know how I love to stitch bright colors.

Sadly, I don’t have a local needlwork shop within an hour of me, so I do a lot of ordering online.  In this case, once I got on the Stoney Creek website, I had to order a few specialty threads and buttons to go with the pattern… and I just couldn’t resist the winter edition of their magazine… and a subscription.  Sigh.  So here’s the deliciously lovely pile of stuff that arrived a few days later.  I adore the ‘clear sky’ dyed fabric as a backdrop for the pattern, don’t you?

My package from Stoney Creek!

My package from Stoney Creek!

On a totally unrelated note, I wanted to share a tip to keep your scissor tips sharp and undamaged, as well as to keep them from poking other items in your project bag.  I’ve been using knitting needle covers, which can be purchased inexpensively from most any craft store, on my scissor tips!  Here’s a photo of a few of the tool kits in my various project bags.  (I buy the plastic containers, which are meant for scrapbooking, when they go on clearance at the big box craft store):

image

What’s your favorite project bag or cross-stitch-stash tip?  As you can see, I love organizing almost as much as stitching 😉

Happy Stitching!