How my messy studio gives me sewing inspiration


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After I wrote a recent post about my struggles with anxiety and depression, one reader emailed talking about how difficult it is to find the desire to be creative on those ‘down days’. Especially when those days drag on and on. Here’s how I get sewing inspiration on rough days.

I’ve been thinking about it, and consciously noting how I usually come out of an emotional and creative slump.

I’m not really surprised to tell you that being in my sewing space has a lot to do with it – even though 90% of the time, it’s a disaster, lol.


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If my emotions are fried and I’m too anxious to concentrate on a project, I can always put away an old mess!

Somehow the mundane acts of putting tools back in their place or organizing threads by color can be so soothing.


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When I’m in a creative tizzy, I rifle through books and magazines, tear apart fat quarter bundles, and get out all the notions!


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But my low will hit after that. I don’t feel creative enough to sew, but after my kids go to school and I wash a few dishes (or put in a load of laundry), I drag myself up the stairs with the intent to just ‘be there.’

Before too long I start to put away things – because it gives me hope that another creative tizzy will come and when it does I’ll need room for all the making.

And it will be so much better if I know where my notions, tools, and fabrics are!


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I’m not sure if it’s a good thing – but I rarely get the room completely clean or organized before a pile of beautiful scraps or a forgotten WIP begs me to create again – and I obey.

I must admit that about 50% of my projects never end up photographed or posted here on my blog. I’m not talking about big things. Just little experiments that may or may not turn into something. It’s my ‘therapy sewing’ and I accept it as part of my process.


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I’ve learned to trust that those ‘down days’ and creative slumps do pass, even though at the time it doesn’t feel like they ever will.

Is your creative space a source of inspiration, solace, or both?

Can you work in a messy sewing room?

Please share in the comments. ❤️

xoxo,

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24 Comments

  1. Marcia Kennedy says:

    My sewing area is in one-half of a very small basement. Because I have such a small space I am apt to keep my area pretty neat (or at least I have piles of stuff that I keep pretty neat). However, my husband and his tools and other stuff (crap, sh*t, etc.) are a complete mess and he doesn’t do anything to make it better. It is so hard to work with his stuff that way. This does tend to make me not want to sew — because I have to mentally deal with his mess. It is so hard sometimes!

  2. Thanks for this post and the earlier one on anxiety and depression. I think being real about these things is so encouraging and empowering to others. I struggle with these issues as well. Sometimes I sit in my sewing room and stare. But just going in there helps. Eventually, I can start the sorting and then the sewing and creating. People say I get so much done. I always say it’s because it’s my therapy and I need a lot of it! What they don’t realize is how true that is.

  3. Judy Bein says:

    My sewing room is my personal happy place. It’s just off the kitchen, where the sun comes up and brightens everything, even a cloudy day is bright in this space. I have my morning coffee and read the paper on the couch, after my husband leaves for work. My WIP’s are laying around waiting to be finished. Stacks of colorful fabrics are sorted with the patterns of the projects they will become. I used to show my dogs and I have their winning photos on the wall above my sewing area; they’re all gone now but having them in there just adds to the comfort of this space. My sewing times are few but everything is ready for me, I just have to sit down and start where I left off. ❤️

  4. Thank you for sharing your feelings. I also suffer from anxiety and it helps to read that I’m not alone. Like you my sewing room is my sanctum. I sometimes jus sit and look at quilting patterns. It’s relaxing and I feel good.

  5. There are times when my sewing table (it’s 6 feet long) is so messy it has only 3 square feet of space to sew. Love to do other crafty things too so it could be that all my paints and brushes are shoved off to one side and other times when its all my beading stuff. When I get down to just the 3 square feet I know it’s time for a tidy-up, during which time I (could, might, probably will) come up with new, exciting projects or be reminded of old, exciting projects to get back into. I love being in there and find it so soul soothing.

  6. My crafting room is definitely my sanctum! That’s where I want to be most of the time when I’m home. I’m lucky enough to have a whole bedroom to myself. It can get messy when I’m working on projects, but I too find solace & comfort in just putting things right again. Some people find my space overwhelming because I have mostly open storage. I like to be able to see things & reach for it immediately!

  7. Yes I do understand you!!! I get so depressed that I start something new and then I walk away from it. My seeing room is in my basement and it is half finished and in t looks like a tornado went through it. I need some help.

    1. Gene Judge says:

      Karen, why not take a small project OUT of the basement? Work on it in the kitchen or another bright place. Even outside. Going down those steps to your ramshackle space must be a total bummer.

  8. Thank you so much for the pics of your creating room.. mine? Sometimes I can barely get in the door.. but at least it’s all contained in that room.. it’s small.. & once in a very great while the guestroom.. on days when I’m especially sad or no energy, I can still sit on the bed & read.. with Toby my LahsaPoo for company.. I’m glad I found you & other sewists.. I was starting to feel like the last carrier pigeon.. hugs.. Annie S. ( NorCal)

  9. Nancie H. says:

    Oh, how I do "relate" to what you had to say. Though, I think most creative people have some sort of anxiety or another. I use to be a quilting teacher, (retired)so my sewing room is full with books, patterns and teaching examples of one project or another. So, I try to focus on how I can help others. This gives me a thrill to see them learn about a new tool or a faster way to do binding. So the next project is always on my mind. This gets me out of a rut and on my way towards finishing some of those UFO’s. Remember, your blog is instrumental to us all.

  10. Yvette Niesel says:

    If you think your sewing room is messy, you should see mine! Occasionally it gets so bad that I just have to clean up a bit, but for the most part I don’t mind the mess. I’m a YouTube vlogger (sewing, opening subscription boxes, etc) and I have an Etsy shop and I work full-time outside the home. How do I do it all? I have no idea. But most of the time keeping that busy helps to keep the darkness away. I know exactly what you are saying about all of this. Thank you for this post!

  11. Amy Witzlib says:

    Thank you for posting "real" photos of your sewing room. My room was small and so messy I could barely walk through to get to my machine! Sometimes you just need to know you are not the only one that isn’t perfect all the time!! My daughter just moved out into her own apartment, so to help me accept that, I took over her room as my sewing room. I just got it organized and it feels inspiring now. Like others mentioned I too just like to be in my space and just sit and think. I may make a space for a comfy chair so I can go there to relax and plan my next project or sip a cup of tea. Thank you for your blog and all that you do!!!

  12. Gene Judge says:

    Over-the-moon happy to know that my messiness—of spirit and/or sewing room—is not a solitary condition. I only recently found that going into my often disastrous calamity of fabric, tools and arrangement, and "putting things away" is, for me, emotionally very soothing. And, when I have established some order, I get a bright idea for "what to stitch next."
    I gotta say you have achieved a certain courage to post those messy photos.
    I have a very creative and very productive friend whose sewing room is never messy—even when she’s working. She is an organizing, as well as a sewing, genius. (Her daughter describes this trait as "organizing everything right out of existence.) My friend’s environment is so ordered and maintained that she calls her space, not a "sewing room," but a "sewing studio." She sets a very high standard for creativity and order. I always thought EVERYONE—except me, of course—kept her sewing space in good, fine and remarkable order. So I am grateful and relieved to see that you and—apparently from the comments here–others who are skillful sewists, not bothered by transient messiness. Isn’t it nice we find calm in straightening it all out.
    I so admire your work, Caroline. And your courage to talk about what matters most.

  13. I read thru these comments and it’s nice to know I’m not alone. As others have said, if you think your space is messy, I wish mine was that messy LOL My space is in two areas of my "Mom’s" space at my son’s home. I have my own quarters like a 1 bedroom apartment. I have a large bedroom where my fabric, cutting area, office area is. Then my actual sewing space is part of the large area where I have my kitchenette, living area and sewing. I say this because I’m always moving things back and forth and when in full craft show sewing mode, fabrics, etc., tend to move to the main area. I call it my fabric bomb when that happens LOL

  14. Caroline,
    You describe me exactly. I’ve been a fan of your site and now that I’ve discovered this aspect, and your willingness to be open about it, I am more of a fan. I have the same struggles with anxiety and depression, the same messy studio and also find it helpful to organize and tidy it when I am missing my Sew-Jo. I am forever grateful to you and others in this community who put themselves out there to share their truth. It makes it that much easier to know that we’re not alone. Thanks again.

  15. Janet Hasselblad says:

    Totally get this! My room is usually a disaster. But it’s my disaster and I love every scrap. Thanks for sharing this.

  16. Jean Blythe says:

    If I couldn’t sew in a messy room, nothing would get done! I find myself doing what you do: go up and clean a bit, then get inspired and make a big mess! Thanks for sharing! There are lots of pictures of beautiful tidy spaces that make me wonder if any sewing ever gets done there!

  17. I have just discovered your blog…wow…I am sitting here reading through all of it and feel so connected to you. Thank you for sharing what so many of us experience; for opening up to us.

    Messy room? lol…I taught eighth grade language arts for 37 years and feel at home in a messy room! My poor type-A husband and daughter go nuts when they walk in to "my" (sewing) room…I just laugh and move a few things to allow them to sit for a few minutes.

  18. I also have to deal with depression and anxiety. when my daughter died quoting saved me. Like you I also have a messy coating space and there are times when I take refuge in it and organize it and get it ready for projects just like you described. I can totally relate with what you wrote about how you use your room and what you do when your creativity lags. Keep going and keep blogging because it means a lot to us

  19. Terri Wren says:

    Caroline, I’m on the same page with you and many others! I too suffer from depression and it can be very distracting. I owned a quilt shop for a short time, more or less it was a bucket list situation for me, depression took it. Everything you said about the messy sewing room was spot on. Mine is always a mess, but I’ve always heard that a clean sewing room meant there was no creativity there. LOL It’s good to know I’m not the only one in the depression boat! Keep up your blog, I read I every day.

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