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Friday, January 3, 2014

Quilter's Block: when it hits you, don't hit back!

-by Annemart Berendse-

Nope, this is not about quilt blocks or anything fabricy. This post is about quilter's block, your mind going blank on quilting for weeks. Or months. Most of all, this is not a sad story. Nor is it a vibrant story about how easy it is to get rid of quilter's block. This post is just well, a post. Because I bet there are more quilters who have a time in life that quilting gives, well, not the thrill it gave you in the years before.

I've been there, the last half year. So much going on in my life, my head too busy, work issues, health issues in the family, and suddenly it hit me. No idea how to get inspiration. None. I loved to see quilts, loved looking at books. But picking up a needle? A new project? Finding the right fabric? Nothing. Even thread and thimbles were not appealing anymore. Just nothing would came to mind,  nothing would inspire me. I didn't feel sad, it just wasn't there. Blank.

I started my standard path for inspiration. Looking at books. Feeling fabric. Trying something new, something challenging. Grabbed my favorite fabric and tried to make a block. Even tried machine quilting (pardon my French). After 15 minutes it was blah.  And trying to persevere made it worse. I stopped blogging to not push  myself, because it doesn't matter whether my mind goes blank, but when it occurs, I rather put the sound off ;-).

My local bee of 4 people continued, and I kept going to the bee as these girls are really my friends. With a tiny project, each time trying something new. Not an official project, but just something to keep my hands busy, with no idea why I was working on that particular something. That was a smart move. As there was no stress on the project, on having to like it, and with no purpose at all, I didn't lose the contact with fabric or quilting.

Doodling became also one of my things. I focused on some other new things in life that give me energy, like a course I am following and some new friends in life. And suddenly, somewhere in September I felt I could let go. Quilting is important to me, especially hand quilting. I developed a trust that quilting would come back, and kept an old Chinese proverb in mind:

Don't mind if you lose something. 
If it's really yours, it will come back. 
Otherwise it wasn't yours anyway.

It's back. Slowly and carefully I am thinking about new projects. Thinking about fabric. Drawing designs, even making templates. Feeling fabric between my fingers, choosing colors. But you know what? It's different. It's like there is a new path, something where I would never have been if I had keep on following my old path. Yes, hand quilting is still my thing. But one way or another, my colors are different, my designs are more bold, and I am okay with exploring. I do not feel the push anymore, just the sheer joy of playing.

So if quilter's block hits you, and chances are it does, it's okay. It's your brain telling you that it needs time to work something out. First try some inspiration emergency options like books, new fabric, going to a exhibition, all the regular things. If it doesn't work, let it go. And as soon as you can do that, and have trust in the process, your creativity will come back. In another shape, in another way, but it will come back.

Have fun quilting, and if not, then not. Okay too!


  1. Thank you for writing this, Annemart! I can really relate! There were many years that I went without quilting very much. I went back to college to get my teaching degree, then a master's, then a specialist degree. During that time, I did very little quilting, as there was so much more going on. Finally, I reached the point where I realized that something was missing... stitching! It keeps me centered, it grounds me. I HAD TO QUILT! So I brought out my Floral Star of Bethlehem flimsy and worked on finishing the applique on that. I had to quilt it once the top was finished, and it wasn't until the hand quilting began that I realized that I needed to quilt daily just as much as I needed to eat something daily. It keeps me going.

    Excellent article! Thank you again!

  2. I have been wondering if a quilting block is heading my way... I feel better about it since I took pics this morning of my progress thus far on the quilt I am working on... I am just far enough in to call it a UFO now so all in for me! Thanks for covering this topic... will give me lots to ponder as I quilt. Kathi

  3. Annemart,
    While drinking my "Yogi" tea yesterday and reading the little inspirational advice found on each teabag tag.....I immediately thought of read: "Trust creates peace."

  4. Thanks for those words and your encouragement. I've been there, too

  5. I have lost my quilting mojo before. It's like we need a vacation. Love the proverb, so true! Glad you are letting your creative side lead you back into something you love.

  6. Thanks! Just what I needed to read/hear. I have really struggled this past year also, but just kept plugging away for finish quilts for our guild show. After a nice trip out west with DH and taking a complete break from Quilt shops/books, magazines etc, I am back on track itching to do some major projects :) Thanks for the inspiration for all hand quilters.

  7. I'm not exactly over being brainless but I'm getting close. Thank you for putting things in perspective!

  8. Annemart, thank you for this article. My mojo isn't here right now. I think part of the reason is that I don't have/make time for my projects. I've been making quilts for clients-their colors, their ideas. Not mine. It's tiring me out, and I have no juice left for my own stuff. I'm not going to worry about it anymore. I'm giving myself permission to sit back and relax about it.


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