Sewing left me during lockdown.

Just as creativity can strike out of nowhere, it can also decide to feck off when it wants as well.

My most recent experience of this was unsettling to say the least. The best way I can describe it is to say that sewing, as a creative outlet, got up from the table one day and walked out the door. No warning, no goodbye, no indication of a return date.

I panic-reacted by setting up my laptop by the sewing machine, watching movies while cutting, planning, sewing but it was all an effort, too much effort. It wasn’t relaxing and it was worrying because I run a quilt shop. I sell people fabric and teach them what to do with it.

Sewing is my livelihood, but also my hobby. Well, it WAS my hobby, til it dumped me! It was my retreat, where I went and buried myself when things got heavy or tricky or just too much. It was a coping mechanism and it worked beautifully, as it does for so many of you. What had I done to make my hobby leave me?!

So what did I do?

I hung around my sewing room for a while, in case it came back! I didn’t quite go as far as playing sad love songs, crying for my lost love but I did wonder where it was and would it return. I had a very definite emptiness whenever I thought of sewing, it was as if it had never even been a part of me, a total disconnect. I ignored that new reality for a while and started tidying up all my fabrics and various accroutrements of sewing and then loaned my machine to a friend. I then went with this new urge and gave away the bulk of my stuff and you know what? It felt great! I knew if sewing returned to me I could easily get new fabrics, I have a shop full, lucky me!

Fabrics that would have been languishing on my shelves have now been transformed into quilts for babies, grandparents, neighbours and refugees. And I didn’t have to sew any of it!

With my sewing room empty of bags of fabric, machines packed away and the table folded up it created space for my brothers junk, um, bed/furniture/stuff while he builds his home after returning from years in the UK. Soon they too will be gone and it can become a spare bedroom again, making space for friends and family to stay over.

Where did that leave me?

At first, because it was my main creative outlet, I was worried that creativity itself had left me. To be honest that left me feeling quite bereft.

Creativity is in everything I do, it always has been. I went from colouring in mams walls and arranging the furniture in my dolls house to constantly fidgeting with picture frames, chairs, curtains, wallpaper, anything to tweak my home, make it work better, look nicer. I’m the same with the garden. (I’d like to say I’m the same with my personal style but clothes and shoes have always eluded me, thank goodness for leggings and hoodies)

After catching myself wandering around with a picture frame, pondering where it would be happy, I realised that creativity hadn’t left me, it was just shoving me elsewhere. Nice of it to ask, but all the same I was very relieved.

It reminded me that each of us is inately creative every day, we just aren’t encouraged to think of ourselves that way. Creative people are not just the Leonardo’s, the Brahms’ and the Woolf’s, they are all of us.

We are the creative people.

I see it as part of my job to make people aware of that, it’s like opening a gate to a really fun garden and saying, yes, you are are allowed in here, rearrange the flower beds, dig up the patio, do what you want! It’s your garden to play with as much as you like, go for it, have fun! And then tomorrow come back and change it all about again, why not?! It’s so fun to see someone realise that, to see them give themselves permission to play, it’s what we are here for, it’s the icing on the cake and we’re all invited to the party.

It’s the same with any creative outlet, we just have to open the gate and it’s ours. We don’t even have to be good at it, actually, mostly its better if we’re not. We have to be good, or at least passable at everything else in our day, food prep (no-one likes food poisoning), our jobs (no-one likes getting fired), money management, raising kids, relationships, holding our tongues, driving, every interaction requires us to make an effort, and that is the value of a hobby. It doesn’t give a monkeys how good you are, it just wants you there, and if you’re not in the humour, or don’t have time, it will wait. It’s patient.

So what did I do instead?

I began to write. Not out of choice I might add. Creativity was not content to just snatch sewing away, it then pushed me around until I found a pen in my hand and words streaming onto a page. Only then did I feel calmer, like a path had opened up. I didn’t know where it was going but it was a direction, a relief after spinning around dizzy wondering what I was going to do to stay calm without sewing.

I wrote, and wrote, stories, poems, diary style entries, whatever wanted to run down my pen onto a page. I put words to the transitory feeling of being inbetween two very different forms of creativity, the fear that sewing would never return, the fear of this new, wild thing that was taking me over, steering me somewhere new. The fear of lockdowns, the fear of reopenings, re-emergings, the fear that escalated into panic, anxiety attacks, fear fear fear. It wrote itself down from every angle, when it rose in me I grabbed a pen and wrote it onto the page. In that way it passed through me quicker, although not always smoothly. Where is this thing going? Who knows. Will it bring me with it or drop me off halway like sewing did. I also don’t know that but I am enjoying the ride so far, terrifying though it is at least half the time!

Where are me and sewing at now?

Well, it isn’t returning my calls, or letters. But it does show up quite often, I have a sewing shop after all. I get to see it a LOT, through quilts made by my mam and sister and customers and dyu know, it’s like looking in a jewellers window. These beautiful pieces come before my eyes, incredible arrangements of various colours, patterns, sizes and styles. It’s a purer way of seeing them now, for me anyway. I’m not looking at a quilt, analysing how it might have been constructed, wondering what method the maker used to select the colours. I just see it, as it is, a patchwork of small pieces arranged in a delightful, surprising way. A finished piece of art, simple or intricate, it doesn’t matter. I just see a beautiful thing and I marvel at the maker who created it. It’s fun! It’s joyful.

Sewing left me but I’m not left alone.

I’m left with other tools and a deep appreciation of everything sewing brought me and continues to bring. Friends, customers, a huge circle of all you lovely people who come to our shop, sharing your ideas, creations, mistakes, your jokes and your trials, your unique and valuable experiences and perspectives and your support of us and eachother. That’s the greatest creativity of all of this and it’s the greatest gift the shop has given us.

For now, I’m continuing to write, I’m in the shop every Saturday, working from home most other days, writing and supporting Trina where I can while she runs the shop (better without me I might add!). I’m seeing what happens next but I’m not alone. Many others are re-emerging differently after these weird years. After all we are supposed to change and adapt through life, I just don’t get why it has to be so damn painful though!

Several of you have told me that sewing left you too and I hope you have found a way around that. It may return to you, it may not, but I would put money on you still having creativity inside you, in some form or other, maybe it would be fun to explore that!