Rituals – Are They Important?

This morning, I got up early to prep a make. (You know it – the LBD!) I ironed my paper pattern pieces and my fashion fabric, pulled out my cutting mat, draped my tape measure around my neck and got to work. Once the fabric was cut, I sat down and made my tailors’ tacks. The radio was on – it’s always on when I work. A coffee cooled by my side – I always let the coffee get cold. Then I cleared up my sewing space of any evidence of previous projects and left the right-coloured thread by my machine, ready for the next stage. I went and showered and started my working day.

Ritual complete.

The night before, I’d knitted a tension square for my next knitting project.  I always knit a tension square. I always abandon it, ten rows in. (Hey, you can judge gauge with ten rows.)

Another ritual.

Human beings have a basic need of ritual. Each morning, the toast is cut into squares, right? (Or wrong?!) But do these little habits help? I think so. They get me into the zone. They remind me that a bit of discipline can be the first step towards a successful FO.

What do you think? Am I away with the faeries, or do you have your own sewing or knitting rituals? I’d love to hear what they are – the dottier, the better.

STOP PRESS! There’s another awesome Pattern Pyramid giveaway over at Falling Through Your Clothes. There are still some great patterns up for grabs, and Funnygrrrl teases us with a description of what she’d do with each of them. We don’t yet know which one she’s keeping for herself. Oh, the suspense!

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38 Responses to Rituals – Are They Important?

  1. LLADYBIRD says:

    I love having little sewing rituals… it keeps me more focused & narrows down the amount of things I forget to do. Plus, the prep is the worst part (for me, anyway!), so I like to get it out of the way first :) I cut the tissue, iron my fabric (I prewash as soon as it comes home from the store), cut my pattern pieces – fabric, lining, interfacing, etc – underline if necessary, mark & notch, wind a bobbin or two, thread the serger, and fuse my interfacing. I usually call it quits for the day after that, so the next day I can sit down & just start sewing.

    • Winding more than one bobbin is what I’m really bad at! Nothing worse than swearing violently when your bobbin thread suddenly runs out…

      • LLADYBIRD says:

        My machine has a little blinky light that tells me when the bobbin is running low, so I don’t get that “surprise” anymore, but yeah… hate stopping in the middle of a long line of sewing to wind another bobbin. Boo! So I just make it part of my prep ritual :)

      • Molly says:

        I tend to ignore the blinky light and just wait for the inevitable. My machine allows me to wind a bobbin via the foot so I don’t have to unthread it. It is immensely useful for such a trivial thing. But I still hate having to pause to do it mid-flow (this is usually when I then gulp down my cold tea). I used to scorn the prewound bobbin packs, (how unnecessary!), now I actually find myself tempted to buy them, one less irritation to bear! And actually, it doesn’t always matter what colour your bobbin thread is…

      • Clever Blonde - Donna G says:

        Oh that bobbin running out drives me crazy. I’ve lately been saying sewing machines ought to have space for 2 cotton reels, 1 top & 1 bottom instead of the bobbin winding scenario. I would gladly buy 2 reels of thread. In the meantime winding 2 bobbins at the start of a project is a great idea. :)

  2. sew20something says:

    I am horrible with rituals! I have tried with so many aspects of my life including sewing to set up a ritual. Fail every time. I thrive on change. Every time I sew I go about it a different way, prepping for a day or weeks at a time, or none. I long for tradition and constancy. Maybe one day? Until then, I adapt and move on.

  3. raquel from florida says:

    I get rid of all the bits of threads at the end of my sewing time: always collect them in a little handmade wood bowl and then, and only then to the trash can!

  4. For obvious reasons rituals reign supreme in our house, which is why I don’t really have any specifically for sewing. Sewing is my way of escaping rituals! That said, I do tend to go through the same familiar motions with each project: washing fabric as soon as it’s home, having a coffee to hand in a certain mug etc. The one thing I WISH I did every time as a matter of course (but never ever do) is iron on interfacing. It gets me every time! x
    PS. Toast is cut into triangles in our house on pain of death!

  5. Janice says:

    My sewing rituals are usually put the tape measure around the neck (so I can find it), make some tea and put it far, far away from the fabric and the work area. I do wash fabric as soon as I bring it home though, but that’s more so I don’t forget to do that.

  6. symondezyn says:

    Interesting! I never really thought about whether or not i have rituals but reading your post and some of the above comments I guess i do after all :P I always prewash my fabric when I first bring it home, label its yardage and fiber, roll it up and tie it with a ribbon. When beginning a project or if I have one lined up, I put everything I’m going to need in a mesh hemp bag and hang it ready to go. I always follow the same prep work, and I too wind at least two bobbins prior to sewing. I collect all my threads in a little bag near my work station and empty it after each project, and clean everything so I have a fresh slate for the next one. Then shoot and blog and start again! LOL

    And that’s just my sewing routine… OCD much? ^___^ I feel sorry for my dear partner sometimes – thank goodness he’s so understanding! :)

  7. Molly says:

    Hmm, what defines a ritual vs just being practical? I like to make sure I have everything to hand so I’m not toing and froing across the room to fetch stuff, I enjoy laying everything out and checking it ready to go, but setting up is not a ritual is it? I would say the closest I probably have to a ritual is putting the kettle on before I start anything but not necessarily making the tea if I get distracted!

    When I buy fabric it is washed straightaway so I don’t have to waste time at the making stage, I don’t own a tumble drier and in the house everything takes a minimum of 24 hours and sometimes as long as three days to dry. Another reason for doing it is when I’ve got a sudden urge to make a particular pattern, I find some great fabric from the stash and then have to wait a day or two to start it, the bug has usually passed by then… I also label the source, fibre content, care instructions, yardage, date bought, price paid, but again that is just practical, right? It doesn’t make me any calmer, or in the zone to do it.

  8. Roobeedoo says:

    Now that I think about it, I definitely DO have a set of rituals leading up to sewing, mainly to prevent interrupting myself once I get going. It starts with vacuuming up the dog hair from the floor, setting up the ironing board, clearing “my side” of the table (i.e folding the tablecloth over FL’s pile of newspapers!), getting a hot drink AND a cold drink ready, locating scissors, pins, interfacing. The final step is to put the dog in the corridor or out on the washing green and then it’s all systems go go go! By the time I have done all that, I can tell whether or not it’s going to be a productive session – sometimes I run out of steam at the vacuuming stage!

  9. Nessa says:

    I never wash the fabric when I bring it home – I love the crisp way they fold it all up! My sewing usually begins on a weekend, so if I know what my project will be, then I wash the fabric midweek and iron it straight out of the washing machine (whilst it’s still damp) and let it air dry in the house (Scottish weather means we don’t even own an outdoor clothes line – there’s just no point). On the Friday evening I cut out the paper pattern in front of the TV with my Mr and a glass of wine. Sometime on Saturday I love puzzling out my own pattern piece lay out, then cut out all the fabric. Then on Sunday, I actually get to begin the sewing! No drinks near the fabric for me, but I do always put on my thread-snipping scissors that hang around my neck and have the iron at the ready. Ritual = back straight, roll the shoulders back and a deep, joyful, “home again” breath in before the first stitch.

  10. Shams says:

    It’s been interesting to read the post and the responses. I don’t have many rituals, but I realized when reading the responses I do have one. Usually Friday night is when I prep my weekend sewing. I love starting Saturday ready to go. Other than that, I can’t think of any rituals, though some of these sound nice.

  11. Sam says:

    Hmm, I don’t think I really have any stitching rituals, which is strange, because I do like to be organised!

    I am totally with you on abandoning your gauge swatch 10 rows in…… of course you can check gauge with 10 rows…… that are still on the needle!

  12. Rachel says:

    I wish I had stitching rituals. I haven’t managed to get my sewing space organised enough yet to be able to do the same thing every time.

  13. Carolyn says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and the rituals, including yours Karen! I can’t really think of any of my own, even though I am highly organised. I guess I start and finish each project completely before starting another, and I *need* to tidy up my sewing space completely of any traces of the old before starting a new one. Since I sew out of a tiny space that is really just practicality! Also I only knit 6 rows max in a tension square, I figure that is plenty to see that my tension is going to be good or not. Not that I’m lazy or impatient to get onto the yummy new project or anything :D.

    Just letting you know; I have posted about the Pattern Pyramid on my blog today, and am offering up my set of patterns. Thank you so much again for this gorgeous scheme; you’re a winner in all our books!

  14. Joanne says:

    Love reading all the responses. I didn’t realise I had rituals until I thought about them but I do. Mine is: Always wash fabric straight away and fold badly until I need it. Always wail mournfully throughout the ironing of said crumpled fabric. Always trace pattern in an evening before (I think I’ve only abandoned this ritual twice). Always wipe down kitchen table of cat paw prints and get cutting. I also always wind two bobbins now and after cutting and doing interfacing etc I like to put all my pieces, notions, instructions etc into a shoebox ready to go. I WISH one of my rituals was to change the needle every time but I’m a bad stitcher so it isn’t always. Oh, and my tea always goes cold and I BBC listen to 6 music in the kitchen and BBC Radio 2 in the sewing room. There!

  15. What an interesting discussion, as always (how do you manage it?). I think in a general way I’m of the school that perceives there’s a very fine line between just being as organised as you can so that things go smoothly and calling the little preparatory things rituals. No, I don’t really have any (although, having read all of these tips, I’m wondering if I should); unless it’s perhaps the “engage neutral, turn off power, unplug cord from power point and douse room light as you leave” routine. I’m fairly religious about that. (Are we using sewing rituals to replace religious rituals?!)

  16. hmm, i don’t think i have many but am finding loads of great tips from what others do! i am definitely going to start hanging thread snips around my neck – that makes total sense! as i use the dining room for sewing, i normally clear all remnants of the last project, toys, snack wrappers out of the way first to focus on the new one. all fabric is prewashed when i get it home so that it is ready to go when i decide to focus on it. oh and i empty my thread collecting pot. i really should change my needle too for each project, which i currently don’t.

  17. prttynpnk says:

    I find that the setting up and little ‘pregame’ activities help me get into that immersion I like when I sew. Selecting the movie, refilling the iron, getting my instructions hung, it all makes me feel like I’m sliding into the familiar. It’s calming.

  18. LinB says:

    Habits or rituals can ease your life, by removing the necessity to constantly stop a process to make decisions — the ritual has already made all the decisions for you. Having a long-standing socially acceptable ritual in place can greatly reduce stress at the events that mark life changes, times like weddings and funerals. When rituals can get you into trouble is when you continue a habit or ritual long after the need for it is gone, or when you find yourself unable to perform even simple tasks unless you have gone through all the steps of the (often self-imposed) ritual first. This condition is usually diagnosed as Obsessive-Compulsive syndrome. Try not to let yourself fall into that, and rituals can be a calming, soothing set of steps that allow you to work more productively.

  19. Kristen says:

    I think I need some sort of ritual for sewing – get my brain into the right mood first, get settled. I feel like I’m usually very scattered when sewing, and I don’t like that part of it…

  20. Erika says:

    Interesting post, love the comments =) And so exciting you’ve cut out the LBD, looking forward to seeing how the final muslin translates into fashion fabric (I know, I’m a muslin and fitting-nerd ; ) )

    Rituals are great for helping out in everyday life. Yesterday I was tired, and strayed from one of my everyday-rituals. Had to go back to the supermarket to find my bus-card… (which I never usually leave in the easy-to-fall-out-of pocket) Sewing rituals? Well, I always feel a need to clean away any mess in my sewing room/bed room before I start, and to make a cup of tea. Order and tea, every time =)

  21. Christina says:

    Perhaps I need a ritual?! Sewing happens for me in fits, so there isn’t really a ritual to it, I just grab the pieces when I get the mojo. I always have my current project lying around to be able grab it when this moment comes (usually on a hot an sunny summer day), and I always only have one sewing WiP at a time, while my numerous knitting WiPs tend to build geography…

  22. Clever Blonde - Donna G says:

    I have often marveled at how much you achieve as well as your employment and trips away. I can see rituals would be an important part of your methods. Your talk of cutting reminded me of a post you wrote once about cutting out on the floor. You had a photo of your ironing board, in the background I think. It stuck in my mind and I now have a thin piece of timber ply wood measuring 1m x 1.25m which I lay onto the ironing board as a cutting table. When not in use the ply wood slides behind a cupboard. I can adjust the ironing board height to whatever suits best at the time. I don’t think I have any rituals yet except to wash all fabric as it comes into the house. I guess that’s a start.

  23. Nothy says:

    I also end my sewing time by wrapping the cord around the iron and placing it back on the shelf. Otherwise, I worry that I’ve left it on, which i never have done, but I believe this routine keeps me sane. Then I make a pot of tea and sweep, cut my threads (which I do not do as I go along) and generally tidy. Let the dog out and get a cookie for him and one for me (a dog cookie for him; an orea or chocolate chip for me)!

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