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Staying Motivated in the Craft Room

Crafting is such a great hobby! It’s a fun and creative way to help others, pass the time, and step away from worry for a while. Even so, it is hard to get and keep going sometimes. Here are a few things I’ve learned about crafting as a hobby, in no particular order. Perhaps you will find them helpful.

Pay attention to what you are drawn to. For example, there are many types of sewists: quilters, garment-makers, costumers, toymakers, etc. There are many complimentary crafts as well, such as felting and embroidery. I have the equipment and materials for all of these, yet my main groove seems to be quilting. This awareness will help you focus your efforts, energy, and money on what is most important to you.

Do expect to spend money. This is a hobby, and hobbies can be expensive. You can spend less by purchasing used equipment, watching sales, buying in bulk, and thrifting for materials, but even if you gift your crafts, it’s still less expensive to purchase gifts. Speaking of gifts, hint around for craft supplies and gift certificates for your birthday.

Don’t expect to make money. Professional artisans spend a lifetime and a fortune learning and practicing their craft. No matter how simple or easy it looks on the internet, it’s not. If anyone can do it, the market will be flooded. There are also the worries of setting up shop, sourcing materials, photography, marketing, shipping costs, selling fees, and customer service. Not much time left for fun, and this is supposed to be fun. If running a business sounds like fun, go for it! But sell something else.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. We would all love to create an amazing masterpiece, but that might not happen for a while. Your stuff is going to look wonky at first. Never mind – you had fun making it and will do better next time. Learn to laugh at your mistakes and remember that art is the mistakes you decide to keep. Pretty soon only you will see the “mistakes.” Keep early work on display to remind yourself how far you’ve come.


The basting spray I had always used changed formulas and my thread kept breaking while I was trying to free-motion. Frustrated, I switched to straight-line quilting so I could clean the sticky needle at the end of every seam. Everyone thought I did it on purpose!
Ugliest doll ever (on the right). My inspiration was the primitive Raggedy Anne in red, and I found a free pattern on-line. Looks like E.T. in a dress, so next time I will shorten the legs, make it in green fabric, and leave off the hair and clothes.  Or, shorten the neck considerably and use way smaller buttons for the eyes
The doll on the right was my first attempt at one of the fabulous Jan Horrox designs from her book, “Introduction to Making Cloth Dolls.”  I was also testing doll faces that I had uploaded onto my embroidery machine, because I cannot draw.  Not bad for a first attempt, although the features need to be lower on the face, and I need to use disappearing marker for the darts.
Find community. It’s out there – connect! Social media craft groups are prolific, and every craft has a beginner’s group where you can ask questions and know that others have questions too. There are also groups for specific crafts, such as crumb quilting, rag quilting, crazy quilting – whatever you might want to try.
Get the best equipment you can afford and take good care of it. This is where social media is most helpful, especially if you are new to your craft, branching out, or stepping up. They will advise you and often have equipment and materials for sale. Learn to maintain your equipment; keep it clean and in good working order. Manuals and videos on almost every kind of sewing machine ever made can be found on the internet, for example, as well as, you guessed it, a social media group for troubleshooting.
Get organized! There’s nothing more frustrating than cruising along and not being able to find a specific tool. It just breaks the rhythm of the creative process. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is important in the craft area, especially if it’s a shared area, like the dining table. Put stuff away so you can find it when you need it.
Get other stuff done first. Undone work and tasks are a distraction.  I don’t mean everything perfect, but reasonably orderly.  Run the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry, and answer those e-mails before you head for the craft area. Ask someone else to cook dinner once in a while.
Have a designated space, and make it inviting. I’m lucky enough to have the sewing room in the first photo, but before the oldest moved out I sewed in the dining room and used an Ikea Kallax unit for storage, which actually worked really well.  A sewing machine fits into those spaces, and the drawers and bins hold an amazing amount of fabric and yarn.  My sewing room has blue ombre walls because it was the boys’ room, and I have a small television, some vintage sewing signs, paintings by my daughter, a string of twinkle lights, and a chair for relaxing or visitors.
Keep learning and trying new things. Read books, watch videos, take classes, sign up for newsletters or subscribe to a craft channel. Try a new technique or improve an old one with each project.


Here are some scrap mug rugs I made while I practiced a few new free-motion quilting patterns.  

Work for five minutes, or do one thing. Sometimes it’s hard to get started, even if your chores are done. One day I made myself put bindings on these mug rugs, a pretty easy task. The familiar movements and sense of accomplishment were very motivating.

Take on small projects. Arts and crafts teaches us to slow down and have patience – not my strong suit. When I need instant gratification I make something small, like a doll quilt, mug rug, or table topper. Small projects are great for practicing new techniques and perfecting old ones. Small projects are great for beginners.

Look for inspiration/daydream. Keep a scrapbook of ideas. Spend time with your materials, imagining what they could be. For many quilters, a favorite task is going through the fabric stash and experimenting with different combinations of patterns and colors.

Set realistic goals, if you set them at all. Ever since I taught myself to machine quilt I have wanted everyone in my family to have fall and Christmas quilts. I’m still working on that. My mom got the first tied patchwork comforter I ever made, in the 1980s. As I advanced in skills and techniques, early efforts were replaced or redone. Her Christmas request in 2019 was for me to take it apart and turn it into two quilts because she loves the (now vintage) backing fabric as much as the top. I also made a brand-new Christmas quilt for a friend. That was my holiday quilting for that year, and it was a really good year.

Walk away! When you’ve been working hours without a break, when nothing seems to go or work right, when you’ve made a bad mistake that has to be undone and then redone, when the reality isn’t even close to the vision and your thread keeps breaking, just walk away. Shut the door. Have a snack, take a walk, take a nap, take a shower. After a good night’s sleep, it won’t look so bad, I promise. Take care of yourself – this is supposed to be fun. If you really hate it, toss it, and don’t feel guilty. It’s part of the process.

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