Budding Creativity

Buds are emerging. Snowdrops and crocuses poke their heads above the ice-packed ground, determined to flower against their iron prison. April 2021 (lockdown freedom?) appears on the horizon of a calendar that has come to mean almost nothing. Confused thoughts spiral around my head as Instagram reminds me that it’s been almost a year since we entered this strange, new version of the world.

And yet… Life begins, again. I see it in my friends. The pregnancies, the life-changing moves from one country to another.

I’ve been in lockdown. We all have. Not just physically, but mentally.

But here I am to say hello and ponder what creativity in lockdown has meant – for me and also … you? I really would love to hear.

My sewing machine remains a long-neglected friend. She (he?) sits in the corner of my living room. Never discarded, but definitely neglected. I’ve struggled to make clothes over the past year.

Partly, this is because … lockdown. Why bother? I don’t go anywhere, rarely see people. Zoom could be pyjama bottoms and a nice top. Bras have become a nicely academic subject and regular showers a moot point. I have still religiously applied make-up, like a hospital inmate, determined to see the best of the world through a sliver of mirror.

But I’ve found too many mental obstacles to sewing clothes. Having always claimed that sewing was the perfect mindfulness, I found it not mindful enough. It’s a bit like standing in front of a block of marble, knowing that every slam of a hammer on chisel will change the sculpture for ever.

A bust dart isn’t just a dart. It’s the apex. Of life, no. But it sometimes felt like that. Too. Much.

A side seam needed to be judged just right. Too much right. Too much risk of wrong.

There was the constant trying on, undressing and then dressing again. When I could barely find the energy to dress in the morning.

It was all too much. For this tired, little brain at least.

I’ve turned to other creative pursuits. Embroidery. The most basic of knitting. Writing in the early hours. Anything that could allow me quiet thinking whilst the rest of the world slept. Solitude. Our saviour and our enemy during these difficult times.

Yet, here we find ourselves. Friends lost, friends found. The world moves on. Those buds unfurl, popping against the sun’s heat, and it’s an iron-sealed heart that can’t embrace that.

I find myself unfurling, too. A few hundred words of a blog post is enough, surely. Who knows? We’ll see.

My loves! We have so much mental health to unpack. Why not start here, right now? Let me know how you’ve been getting on?

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36 Responses to Budding Creativity

  1. Tracey Bingham says:

    I lost my mum (my best friend) in December so I am finding life very painful at the moment. Your words could have come from my mouth! I know she would have wanted me to be happy so I look forward to a time when we can meet friends again and see people smiling x

  2. Sue B says:

    I think the world getting a kick in the bum with this pandemic is enough for anyone to loose their sewjo.
    Just an idea – how about sewing a stretch t-shirt dress. Something comfy around the house but still looks nice, I recently brought the Love Notions – Forte Dress but as its summer here in Australia haven’t made it yet ( want to make the long sleeved version).
    Anyway you will get your sewjo back again, might be a while, might be next week… You never know where it will come from,

  3. Ann scobie says:

    how lovely to see you post in my inbox this morning! Putting into words all my own feelings about my neglected sewing. Plans made and abandoned to sew a loungewear wardrobe for lockdown – too much effort. Dabbling in bits of this and that. No signs of spring yet in Scotland, but the days are getting gradually longer, so it must be just round the corner…

  4. Andrea says:

    This is so true for me as well. My dressmaking and other crafting went right out of the window not least because my “playroom” had to become my office so it no longer felt like my haven but my prison. But something must be in the air because this week for the first time I feel my creative juices stirring. Not sure what I’m going to pull out from my unfinished projects yet. Maybe a simple knit?

  5. Gerry says:

    Lovely writing, thank you. Your journey stokes a chord not least for the connection to the seasons which I have found intensified as time has slowed. I am blessed here in lots of ways and not least in how my butterfly brain has been learning how to focus and get stuff done with fewer errands and social events in the diary. I am an avid reader and prone to spend a lot of my time down endless rabbit warrens of information. Two books have been essential in my improved use of my time this last year and I highly recommend them to anyone who has problems with attention like me. BJ Fogg: Tiny Habits and the twelve week self discovery that is the classic (I have learned) The Artist’s way by Julia Cameron. Morning pages seem like a big ask but better than meditation for me! As a creative person who has failed to produce much these books have given me back my mojo and I am excited to have shrugged off so much baggage and to be loving every day. I know this is just me and I have had it easy (in lockdown at least because I am retired and solvent with a lovely husband) however it has taken me rather a long time and a lot of tough times to get here.

  6. Jean says:

    Hi Karen, your latest message sums up life for everyone at the moment, I could have written it myself. I would quickly run through all the housework at the beginning of the week so I wouldn’t feel guilty, then out would come my current sewing project. But now I can’t summon up my usual enthusiasm. Roll on the summer and hopefully the end of lockdown.

  7. sallyhenbest says:

    Hi Karen
    Spring is definitely peeking it’s head above the parapet. Thank goodness.
    I have been the complete antithesis of you during lockdown and my sewing projects have been ongoing, almost daily. In fact my lockdown birthday present was a new Brother sewing machine which I love.
    I also mastered the art of on line fabric shopping and with the exception of one booboo, I have loved the fabrics I have ordered.
    I am feeling ready to emerge from this lockdown. I have been wearing the clothes that I have made, making the effort to get dressed up at some point on most days, not everyday for sure. I do rather miss wearing shoes to go with the things I have made. My footwear has consisted mainly of slippers and walking boots.
    Onwards and upwards and hopefully we will spring forward with the clocks to better times.

  8. Anne D says:

    I’m sad you have felt so low. Sometimes you just have to hibernate for a while. Then when emerging small goals can help. I always wanted to make baby clothes, so that was an obvious choice for lockdown.

  9. Jen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your difficulty with sewing during the pandemic. I have been very self-critical about my lack of sewing, since technically I have the time I’ve always claimed I needed in order to sew. But like you, it feels like too much right now. I have so admired all of your makes, and you have now made me feel much less alone. Thank you!

  10. Mary says:

    Good to hear from you!
    Yes, the world has been turned upside down… but there is an explanation. Crazy as it sounds, what is going on now was foretold hundreds of years ago. What we are all being led to, (the technology has finally caught up to the prophecy) is found in Revelation 13:16-17. There is a movie titled “A Thief in the Night” that explains it in a very gentle, almost cheesy, 1970’s way. Pastor J.D.Farag talks a lot about which prophecies are lining up to happen, and how to get saved as well. (He is being censored, you’ll want to check his site using a search engine other than google.)
    If you’re wondering why I’m writing this…. you sound discouraged, don’t be, there is hope, look up, that is where you’ll find it.

  11. Cheryll says:

    Good afternoon, I first read your post at 4 am after another restless night, a side effect of the lock down. Knowing that something is in bud, somewhere, is heartening. I am looking at 12 + inches of snow, unable to find a vaccine site, on the verge of being productive. For the first time in my life I have totally lost my ability to create. While ideas float around in my head they go no further. I see no need to dress beyond my slouch knit pants and shirt, my slip-on Alegria clogs are like real feet, they are permanent, I fear the time when I will need to wear real shoes. I do the fuss and primp everyday for the benefit of my mother, who passed at 96 years 5 years ago. She would be distressed thinking I had “let myself go!” Your post strengthens my resolve to try to turn lemons into lemon creme cake. The fool who runs the health dictates in the states is now telling us that 3 masks will be required, for a couple years. I cannot eat cake with one mask, let alone 3! Stay well, talk to us again sometime, we all need a boost.

  12. Lucy says:

    Hi Karen,
    I totally relate to how you have been feeling. The first lockdown was the worst for me. I had total sewing paralysis – I couldn’t sew any scrubs or be helpful in any way. My anxiety was through the roof and many a time only breathing exercises could bring me back down to normality. I found crochet stitching could calm me down a little too. Sometimes I would make a granny square and unravel it again – I wasn’t doing it to make something, but instead it was just the repetitive movements which replaced each second of anxiety with calm. I made a skirt i wore in the summer and a few basic long and short sleeved T-shirts. I made my first tailored jacket too, which I managed to wear doing something mundane. In the autumn I made my first jeans which I wore on socially distanced walks with friends. I made a nice winter dress and wore it on Christmas day even though no-one except my family saw it. I have not sewn anything yet this year, although I just finished reupholstering my mother-in-law’s chair which I have had in my house since last February. We delivered it safely to her porch and it has given her untold joy to see her transformed chair.

    Gardening has kept me going. In the autumn I planted literally hundreds of spring bulbs – what I called ‘planting hope’, and now green spikes are peeping through the solid ground. I watch them grow every day. My dogs are a daily reminder of how they are immune to this pandemic – only humans are suffering its effects. They know nothing of it and life is no different for them than it was in February 2020 – they only wonder why they get no peace with humans around all the time!

    We will get through this – the end is in sight.

    P.S I always enjoy your posts, so thank you xx

    • didyoumakethat says:

      Oh, Lucy, this is such an eloquent response, thank you. That idea of crocheting a granny square and unravelling it again … I can totally relate. It’s the doing, rather than the end product. And pets! How would we cope without them? Thanks for sharing.

  13. I just want to send you all hope bubbles that pop over your heads and pour sparkly inspiration upon you! While we are about to go into what we call Level 2 and 3 due to a two person community transfer in Auckland, last night I performed to 1,000 people in the Opera House so in most ways life goes on. And we’ve been able to move back into our home. Thank goodness. So much to be thankful for, hopefully I will find another contract soon.
    As for Sewjo, I had a wee flutter over Christmas/New Year and made an Adrienne blouse and Willandra pants, and I’ve got Sculthorpes made all but the waistband. I had a HUGE shakedown of my stash in anticipation of moving, parted with several boxes of it at a stash market, and the rest I have carded meticulously. Putting my hands on each piece, folding it and carding it while binge watching The Repair Shop was a magical time of connecting and reimagining what the pieces will become. I’ve been a dress wearer for years now but am re-embracing trousers and tops – and that Adrienne blouse has my heart, with a few changes!
    I heartily recommend carding stash – I keep mine in cupboards with shelves so they are a bit like bookshelves, with each end being a story yet to unfold. Literally. I made the cards by taping two old trim cards together, so they are deep enough to use most of the depth of the shelves. Shorter ends are on single cards in crates that fit on the shelves.
    Right now it’s all still in boxes but when I get the shelves back in, I’ll be organising it into some sort of taxonomy, not sure yet.
    Big hugs, I can’t imagine how hard this is -we had 6 weeks of real lockdown and I collapsed into ennui almost immediately. ‘ve been so in aw of those who have managed to achieve anything at all.

  14. Renita says:

    Hi! Just wanted to say a beautifully written post. Fortunately I don’t relate to it. As I don’t seethe lockdown/isolation as a curse. One needs to look at it as a daily extension of one’s life! At 74 it is extending my life yet another day during this dreaded disease. The father of a friend of my daughter just past away from CV-19 because he wouldn’t stay away from his ‘touchy-feely right wing’ church. More than half the parish have it. One fourth have died. No thanks I’ll stay home and healthy!! Don’t look at it as a ‘have not’ but as being yet another day to live. Stay well and stay safe, Renita in NC,US

  15. Michele says:

    You are certainly not alone in the feeling of inertia. My sewing tends toward quilts and wool applique wall hangings. The hand stitching has kept me sane through quarantine, a cross country move, and a builder who shows up some days. Which days they will be is always a mystery. I keep stitching, perhaps sometimes my bullion knots are wound a wee bit too tight.

  16. All your feelings are not unusual. We had 110 days of it last year and are now in a 5 day snap lockdown to combat a new outbreak. THIS time I’m feeling more prepared, viewing it as a 5 day “holiday” and am finding myself more creative and definitely more positive. I think us being in Summer has helped as it’s lovely to walk (for our allocated time) in warmth and sunshine. We can and will get through all of this! Sending hugs to you and yours xx

  17. Janet says:

    Lovely to see a post from you again Karen. The lockdowns have been a real rollercoaster for me – homeschooling is rewarding but exhausting, my small business feels neglected, but sewing has been one of the things I’ve been most keen to do with what spare time remains. It’s changed what I sew – masks, scrubs, more small craft projects, fewer complicated garments – and I’ve tided my sewing space endlessly! What I haven’t felt like doing is browsing Instagram, much less posting on it. Somehow social media seems even less important than before, and looking at the multitude of things that some people have been sewing at home gets me down. The same doesn’t apply to blogs though – the longer format helps me feel more connected. So thank you for putting fingers to keyboard.

  18. Carol says:

    What a year it’s been, I believe we are all having to look at ourselves with more depth. I have only recently got back into sewing a few years ago after a long period without it for many reasons but during lockdown have, like many, not felt it appropriate to make clothes for myself. I’ve made a couple of things for babies of friends that are due and enjoyed it enormously. To continue that pleasure I have been rooting through my stash and am now making clothes for my local baby bank so that uses up current fabric and I’m sure will be appreciated by people who need the clothes. I simply searched for local baby banks to find my closest. If anyone else feels they would like to do the same, it might be worth calling them to find out the type of things they need. Best wishes to all.

  19. Sandra says:

    Glad to see you’re back. Sewing has kept me sane during this period. I’m very lucky that I am retired as many people are struggling with work. My niece is expecting and I have been sewing things for the baby and some maternity items for her. We will get out of this but it’s a long road and thankfully we now have vaccines. Stay well.

  20. tammyhappyis says:

    Try Quilting!
    Chain piecing is so therapeutic. You can actually sew mindlessly When making patchwork but you also need to apply a bit of brain matter Once in a while
    It’s kept me sane!

  21. Sheree says:

    I do hope TMOS has managed to somehow keep his business afloat. Will you let us know, Karen, when the market opens again, if he is still there, please.

  22. Mary says:

    Today was good – mostly. Did some knitting. Then for some silly reason I decided to run the vacuum. Where does that dust come from!!! But then….I get a call from my health care insurer. They’ve scheduled me – 73 asthmatic and hypertensive – for a vaccination. So I celebrated with a bit more wine than we’re supposed to. Who made up those silly rules.

  23. Connie Turner says:

    Dear Karen, today I got your newsletter and enjoyed it as always. You are such a good writer and have such a conversational tone that it seems like you are here and I really wish you were. We could have such a good chat. I live on the other side of the world from you in Olympia, Washington, US. Give Ella a head rub for me.

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