21 August 2011

Reflections on: finding the spark

Creativity is hard to pin down. It can be an elusive spark but when it flares, small embers of ideas scatter widely and can ignite later, quite unexpectedly. Just as well, because when I’m bereft of ideas, I count on external inspiration to get me going.

Sometimes I endure periods when nothing goes right with my sewing. On a single day last year, I was trying to join pieces of a mystery quilt and nothing was going right. It was a really hot day with high humidity and my sweaty hands were not gripping the fabric easily. I stitched 36 squares along the wrong diagonal line and then stabbed my finger with the unpicker while trying to remove the thread from those squares. While stitching along the correct diagonal line, the sewing machine needle broke. After replacing the needle, the bobbin ran out of thread. I spilled water on the instructions and, to top it off, I dropped the scissors on my foot.

That was enough for me. The quilting gods had sent me a message and I needed to take notice. I turned off the machine, left the fabric pieces exactly where they landed and then spent the rest of the afternoon watching movies. Some days, it is much safer to stop trying to sew!

The next day, I found I had lost interest in doing anything creative. I mooched around the house, picking up various projects and putting them down again without making a stitch. I flicked through the channels on the television and then switched it off without watching anything. I wandered around the garden, tugging out a weed here and there, but not really enjoying it. I had totally lost my creative spark.

Usually, the more I struggle to get going again, the more difficult it is. So I decided to ignore all the projects waiting to be finished and pulled out a pile of quilting magazines and books. Yes, I’d read them all before, but this time I just grazed – browsing and reading about anything that grabbed my attention.

I have never doubted that creativity can be contagious. We see it in every workshop and at every quilt group meeting. Works in progress are shown, techniques are demonstrated and new ideas are shared. We pore over the newest fabrics and look for tools that will make our quilt making more fun. We spark off each other and go home enthused.

My afternoon of absorbing inspiration from magazines and books reinvigorated me. Suddenly, the urge to sew had returned. I sat at the sewing machine and started feeding the fabric pieces through. All my seams were straight, there was need to use the unpicker – even the temperature had dropped. All was well in my sewing world as I continued to stitch for hours. An ember of creativity had flared to life and I was content.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I agree that creativity is contagious - that's why quilting together is so important. I'm off to a retreat next weekend to do just that! Hope you have a good week.

  2. Anonymous11:07 am


    Yes! Creativity is contagious.

    And about that bad day ... it was the weather, at least in part. When it is too hot, my creativity just melts away!

    Judy B

  3. You definitely wont find a creative spark today if you are quilting AND watching the Swannies. Dropped pins, snipped background fabric, needle unthreading Rippled applique. I had to give up!

  4. Anonymous10:59 pm

    grazed - through magazines.... I like that word a lot. As that is what I do without realizing there is a WORD for it.... in the garden, grazing through the paths, with a weed pulled here - a thought filed there and left in the brain to ferment to something wonderful. Same with quilting...but I have not Swannies to distract me! Happy Day


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