Tuesday 9 January 2018

Maintaining Enthusiasm with a Repetitive Project

I am feeling very pleased with myself!!! I have just finished 30 easy to sew items in the space of two weeks - a first for me. When sewing multiples of the same thing, my initial enthusiasm usually wanes fairly quickly. I imagine myself sewing heaps and consequently cut out more than I can often finish. But not this time.

This project started like any other... 

I saw the call out to make library bags for disadvantaged kids. Enthusiasm kicked in immediately and I could see many bags already sewn in my head.  

Previous experience has taught me that cutting out less will usually result in them all being finished, but of course I ignored this, and in one night I had 18 bags cut out.

As always, I collected all the extras - thread, interfacing, labels, etc - so as to reduce the chances of the project stalling.

First up, I did the colour blocking (about ⅓ of the bags), knowing I could get through a lot quite quickly. Impatience set in when I started sewing individual fronts and backs. I needed to see a few bags finished. 

And so I changed tack and finished a few bags. Three bags with the same fabric sewn in a row was all it took to again lose interest. Instead of stopping, I started sorting through my stash, looking for totally different fabrics and combinations. And another set of bags were cut out.

For a bit of variety, I'd pulled out an old paper pieced block - linked squares. However, each time I looked at the patchwork block, I put it further down the pile. At some point I realised that it was better to pack the block away for another project.

Any bags that needed a change of thread colour were put to one side. Don't ask me why, but stopping for less than a minute to change a bobbin or spool can bring everything to a standstill for me.

I was on a roll and powering through the bags.

Sometimes I sewed for lengthy periods, whereas on other occasions, it was a few minutes here and there. At no point did I push myself past what I felt like doing. This is in stark contrast to my normal mode of operation where I set myself goals - either time wise or number of items.

Extra motivation was created with two fabric vouchers I'd been given for Christmas. I so needed to make room for the new fabric I was going to purchase with these vouchers. And 30 bags does use up a reasonable amount of fabric.

As I sewed, I made three piles...
  • finished bags
  • partly finished bags
  • fabric not yet started

Much to my surprise, watching the three piles changing in height spurred me on. By the time I was down to two piles - finished and partly finished - the job seemed like it was over, when in reality it wasn't.

It wasn't until I'd finished all 30 bags that I actually analysed why this project seemed so effortless - why I was able to repetitively sew multiples of the same item...
  • finish a few items to readily see the outcome
  • vary the fabrics used
  • combine the same fabrics in different ways
  • experiment with colour blocking
  • apply no pressure
  • vary the sequence of sewing 
  • utilise forgotten fabrics from my stash
  • discard items that bog me down

Whether my system works for future projects, only time will tell. What tips can you add to help me maintain enthusiasm during repetitive sewing?

... Pam



  1. Great job pushing through to finish! I started 18 doll dresses and I am still trying to find motivation to finish. Perhaps I will try working for a few minutes at a time.

    1. I got as far as Taking the Pattern out of the Envie and I did Get 1 dress cut out and that was at least 3 yrs ago.. now GD has 18 inch Doll .. and I have patterns for that Doll...

  2. I made 100 tote bags to donate to a literacy project two years ago. I blogged as I went along. Here's the first and last post - http://scrapstitching.blogspot.com/2016/07/cdr-bag-project-100-bags.html


    I just took my time and hung them up as I finished one. My thread holder in the picture held 10, so I watched it fill up 10 times. I'm not sure how I maintained motivation. I think I was excited to get to 50 and start counting down. I do know it felt good to give them away!

    1. WOW!!! 100 bags - that's impressive, Donna!!! I don't think I'd be able to last the distance. I have to learn to have more discipline and patience.

    2. The good news is that I used up a LOT of my stash, especially the juvenile fabrics. And I used older spools of thread. I did, however, buy the materials to make the handles. It wasn't so much discipline as it was hard headed determination. 30 is quite impressive! 100 is nuts :)

    3. LOL!!! Nuts maybe - but you've spurred me on, Donna!!! I love this blogging community.

  3. I'm with you 1000% on the reasons for projects stalling during (or before) construction. It was like seeing thoughts from my mind, coming out of your fingers (keyboard)! Well done, Pam - 30 bags is an AWESOME gift to send out, but that loss of fabric needs to be rectified sooner rather than later, IYKWIM - get cracking on those gift certificates, LOL! I was at the fabric store today for a quick second - hubby was in the car and we were in the midst of running around so I only managed to pick up two remnants (red polka dot fabric will ALWAYS find a loving home with me :D) and a small piece of fleece I needed to mend a hoody for DS1. I'll wait for their next 50% off sale (probaby next month) to shop for stash --- in the interim I'm going to see if I can use up at least 10 or 15m of fabrics :D I hope there's a Joanns run coming next month as well, seeing as hubby didn't offer me a trip for Christmas like he usually does! (He's seen my stash. I think that's why there was no offer, LOL!)

  4. Impressive sewing project! That's a very good post, with lot of good tips, and I don't know what you could add!

  5. Pam, so down-to-earth, yet invaluable tips!

  6. I am in awe of anyone who can use a sewing machine without tossing it out a window. I can relate though in what I make...fabric covered tape measures. I used to do one at a time but have now broken it down to many starts and stops with a dozen at a time and I am more efficient. And most importantly, not bored!

    1. Isn't it great when we can be more efficient with out hobbies - saving time, and staving off boredom.

  7. That is a great article! And for some reason, changing the bobbin is always a way bigger deal than it needs to be, LOL!

    1. Thanks, Robin. Glad I'm not alone in my thoughts on changing the bobbin... LOL!!!


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