with your host, Jacqui Blakemore
Have you ever wanted to take time out from a dressmaking project or sewing in general but felt like you can’t or felt too guilty to do so? Well that happened to me too recently with quite significant consequences so I wanted to share the value of taking time out and how to come back more energised after your break.
Raspberry Creek Fabrics
Before I get into this topic I just wanted to give a shout out to Justin and Diana at Raspberry Creek Fabrics. They do an amazing job supplying fabrics printed with your own designs either from their gallery of designers that you can customise, or from designs that you can upload yourself.
Just before my recent time out I did an interview with them for the podcast but wasn’t able to release it at the time. It will be coming out as episode 57 so you will be able to hear all about what they do, but I just wanted to thank them for their wonderful patience.
If you have ever thought about creating your own fabric designs I’d highly recommend taking a look at their website: raspberrycreekfabrics.com
Reasons for taking time out
So in this post I thought it would be appropriate to talk about taking breaks and time out because you may have spotted that I recently did just that. So here we are talking mainly about time outs in relation to sewing or dressmaking but you could apply it to any aspect of your life where you feel you need a break but maybe have been hesitant or unable to take one.
I think it’s widely accepted that hobbies such as sewing can be beneficial to our health. Back in 2019 the Guardian reported on how The calming effects of sewing can help people express and heal themselves.
So it would be fair to ask why you might need to take a break from something that can be so beneficial.
And as someone who promotes learning to sew it does feel a little bit odd talking to you about not sewing.
But there are a few situations in which I think it can be helpful to take a break.
Changes in life circumstances
The first is when we experience changes in our life circumstances. By that I mean things like moving house, changing jobs or increased workload, managing the end of or start of a relationship or dealing with family challenges.
Each of these situations can require more of our attention and energy as we go through them and it can help to put other activities on hold to help support these transitions.
Changes in our environment
The next circumstance is when our environment changes for example when the seasons change (particularly here in the UK), it can be harder to sew as the nights draw in in winter, or maybe too hot to sew during the summer months.
Changes in you
If, like me, you experience changes in your body shape, size or hormones that can influence our motivation to sew. I know that when my weight fluctuates in the upward direction it can take the fun out of dressmaking for me as I don’t like looking in the mirror and nothing ever seems to look right.
It might be that your list of projects or your fabric stash has become overwhelming and rather than being a source of excitement, it has become a source of pressure or dread.
Or it might be that your body tells you it needs a break in the form of changes to your physical or mental health, which then require all of your energy and focus to aid recovery.
And you may have other reasons on your own list.
Challenges to taking a break
So you might be thinking, well OK Jacqui, what’s the big fuss about? If I want to take a break or time out then I can just do it. And if that is you then that’s great.
However, I know that when I took my recent break, it didn’t feel that easy. Some of the things that came up for me were feelings of guilt, of social pressure and fear of the impact it might have.
It can be hard to take a break from sewing if you are part of the sewing communities on social media. They are wonderfully supportive environments but it can seem like everyone else is being super productive and making lots of gorgeous things and having a lovely time doing it.
I have to confess that I am definitely prone to comparison-itis. Logically I know that I should just be really happy for other people that they have made something beautiful and I am working on being more magnanimous.
I also know that social media isn’t real life but my competitive nature and insecurities seem to get amplified in that environment. I don’t want to be seen to be being lazy or not making the most of my time and it’s so funny writing that down because who’s going to know or care?
There’s also the fear of the what ifs - what if I stop and never start again, what if I lose my skills or my confidence, what if that means I can’t be part of these communities (online or in person).
I know that many of you post your beautiful makes on blog posts and social media. I’m not sure if it’s the same for you but I have an irrational fear that I might lose my followers if I take a break.
It might also be that you have self-imposed pressures - those ‘shoulds’ that crop up. Back in episode 7 I talked to Amber Allworth about that.
"We sometimes have that expectations in our head that no one else on the planet has, of what we will accomplish with our time. So I plan and scheme a lot of things especially around Christmas time.
Like last year, I know I had really unrealistic expectations of these gifts that I would give people. And I had this moment where I realized, I was thinking, Oh, they're going to be so bummed that I didn't do dah, dah, dah, dah.
And then I realized, they didn't know about it. They're getting a gift and they don't know what it might have been. They just know what it is.
And so I think sometimes with, with when it comes time to put a, you know, a habit or a hobby into our life, we make these expectations that are so much bigger than what could ever be accomplished and then it feels like failure if we don't meet it.
But we didn't fail. Like this was all in our head."
Wise words from Amber Allworth. And you may have other pressures or fears that get in the way of you taking a break too.
My recent time out
My time out was triggered by ill-health back in November 2022. I had been very busy at work and I hadn’t been paying attention to my wellbeing and as a result I got run down enough to catch the flu. That then turned into Laryngitis. My body was telling me to slow down and by taking away my voice for 3 whole weeks I was forced to take a break.
The duration of breaks and time out can vary from a few hours or days to longer periods of weeks or months. In my case that meant stepping away from my extra-curricular activities, such as sewing and podcasting, initially for a couple of weeks which became a couple of months and turned into just over 6 months.
Initially it was kind of OK as being ill felt like a good reason to stop but I now realise that there are much better ways of taking a break than making yourself ill.
As I regained my health, I think started to experience the other fears and feelings of guilt previously mentioned, but I wasn’t ready to start up again and so I just hid away.
But after a couple of months my mindset started to change and it’s some of those insights I’d like to share with you.
The benefits of taking a sewing time out
I realised that it is beneficial to take breaks and time out. It isn’t necessary to feel guilty or afraid and if I spot the circumstances coming up for me again I will take a different approach.
So what are the benefits of taking time out? I’m sure you know most of these already but these are the ones that I experienced.
recharge and re-energise In the modern world we are encouraged to be on the go and doing something 24/7. But our bodies and our minds do need downtime, to help rest and process and in my case time to recover.
stimulate creativity When our minds have space to wander and explore new ideas they can make unexpected connections that can lead to new perspectives and approaches.
palette cleanse A break can act like a palette cleanse, particularly after the more in depth projects or prolonged periods of sewing that might have taken more time and energy. Allowing the dust to settle before diving into the next project can help restore calm and perspective and set you up for success in whatever you choose to do next.
reflection and objectivity Have you ever been working on a sewing project that is taking a lot of mental energy and maybe not going to plan. The harder you try, the worse it seems to get, until in the end you find yourself flinging across the room, vowing to never sew again. But then you go to bed and sleep on it. You might have a few days away from sewing altogether. When you return and pick up your project you realise that actually it isn’t nearly as bad as you remembered and the rest and time away mean you are in a much better frame of mind when you continue. And even if it is as bad as you remembered, you may have come up with new ways to solve the problem.
problem solving It’s amazing how our minds work especially when problem solving. We may take a break because we are struggling to find the solution to a sewing problem. But even though we may have taken a physical break, our subconscious keeps ticking over, working on possible solutions and a few days later, maybe as you are in the shower or driving your car, the solution to the problem appears as if by magic.
prevent burnout Proactively taking time out can also prevent burnout. Although I know that sewing is great for my mental health and wellbeing, when I start to put too much pressure on myself then even sewing can stop being fun. As the betting advert says “When the fun stops, stop.”
Tips on taking time out
So if you are now thinking, actually there is something I’d like to take time out from, whether that be a break from sewing or some other aspect of your life, here are some of my learnings from my recent experience.
Give yourself permission - I think when I gave myself permission to take time out after I had recovered and didn’t have the excuse of illness, it reduced my feelings of guilt and allowed me to think about next steps.
Set a date with yourself to review - in truth I wasn’t sure when I would be ready to end my time out, particularly in relation to the podcast. So initially I reviewed the other aspects of my life to see when any changes might be likely and set that date as my first review point.
My first review point was at the end of the year and at that time I had all of the best intentions to be back to sewing and podcasting by the end of January. But when that date came around, I realised the changes I had hoped might have happened had not materialised and I needed more time.
What ended up happening was that when I reached my next review point a couple of months later, I realised there were other things in my life that I wanted to change so I gave notice at my job, removing a significant amount of stress and energy that has created the space I wanted to focus on other things.
So if when your first review date comes up and not much has changed, set a new date to review again. The kinds of questions I asked myself were,
have my circumstances changed?
do I have the time and energy now to resume?
do I feel energised by the thought of starting the activity up again?
During your time out it can really help to minimise the visibility of any items that make you feel pressured. For me that meant taking a complete break from social media. If your pressure is related to a backlog of projects or your fabric stash, see if you can box them up for now and put them somewhere out of sight.
Think about how you will know when you are ready to start again.
What would you be feeling or not feeling?
Maybe try to picture yourself - how would you look, are you excited?
Are you energised?
What actions would you be taking?
Are you seeking out inspiration?
Think about what things might have changed and what you might be doing differently, for example setting yourself time boundaries, maybe in your diary or using alarms on your phone, putting in place check-in points each month to reflect on how things are going.
Have you set up a support group or someone you can talk to if you start to observe the signs that things are going awry? Have you set yourself more friendly expectations on what you’ll do and the time you will allow yourself to do it?
Thinking about the future you can help you start to make changes to ensure that you are more likely to feel comfortable taking breaks and time out when you need them and that you will fully appreciate and benefit from them when you do.
So the good news is that my time out from the podcast is over. I have made some changes and created more space in my life and this is one of the things I am now totally re-energised about.
If you’d like more inspiration on this topic then if you haven’t already done so I would highly recommend going back to episode 7 and giving that a listen.
Other great episodes related to this are episode 44 with the wonderful Mary Broddle on Mindful embroidery and also my chat with the fabulous Mel Forrest in episode 49 on How long should dressmaking take.
That’s particularly timely as we talk about the Great British Sewing Bee and her experience reproducing one of the challenges in the last season’s episodes.
And if you are struggling at the moment or if you have gone through any similar experiences and want to share then I would love to hear from you so do please email me at email@example.com.
And finally a huge thank you to all of you that checked in with me over the last few months. I can’t put into words just how much that meant and I am so very grateful to each of you.
Thanks for taking time to read this article and I hope you find some useful tips that you can apply.
To listen to the podcast version of this topic click on your favourite podcast app below:
In this episode you'll hear:
[00:02:18] Reasons you may need to take a time out
[00:04:07] Challenges to taking a break
[00:08:18] My recent time out
[00:09:59] 6 Benefits of taking time out
[00:12:14] Tips on taking time out
[00:15:30] Other useful resources
Other episodes on related topics that you might like:
Sharing is caring - reviews
If you enjoy this episode please be sure to share it and to leave a review in your favourite podcast app to help others find us.
Get in touch
I always love to hear about you trying out what you pick up from these articles and episodes so do let me know:
by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
by DM on Instagram @sewmuchmorefun.co.uk
on the Sew Much More Fun Facebook Group
Thank you so much for listening and for all your support. x