Useless but wonderful

How making something of no practical use can boost creativity & focus

I have been doing this handmade business for 6 years almost. Six years full of creating and learning and success and failure. What brought me to sewing was all the wonderful creative and useful things I could make- dolls for my kids, pillows for my sofa, hotpads for my kitchen, handbags for my friends. I LOVE making useful and beautiful things. It is the essential hook of sewing for creative and PRACTICAL people like me. It’s true! I am very practical. I have four kids and I drive them around to soccer and piano and gymnatics and baseball. I make PRACTICAL dinners every night and I clip PRACTICAL coupons. I even have a PRACTICAL schedule for when I vacuum and clean my house! I am sad to say that in my sewing room lately, I approach my work much like the rest of my life…

It is starting to wear on me! I was thinking “I am a business woman now and I need to act like one!” But a creative business needs to be nurtured, and mine has been neglected due to my practical side shoving her way in there. Practical side says “YOU CAN’T MESS AROUND DURING WORK TIME!” (and I am not talking about the kind of messing around I was doing in my last post!) Creative side says “But you are starving me with your schedules and business agendas!”

How making something of no practical use can boost creativity & focus

I finally heard creative side complaining and this sweet, silly and fun project is the result. It is not high art friends. Believe me, I know! But it was fun and loose and totally not PRACTICAL. It was an hour of ripping sheets and digging through trims and the result is a happy reminder hanging on my sewing room wall to encourage me to nuture my creative soul more often.

Practical side was like “How can you just waste all that good trim and vintage sheet strips on that weird hoop thing you just made?!” Do you remember the book “The Artist’s Way” back in the late 90s? It’s a good read! Making this hoop reminded me of her assignments and “artist dates”. Creative people need to have time to refill to get their juices flowing! Projects like this can give you a good dose of that creative juice.

What do you do to get back in sync creatively? Iron and fold your fabrics? Organize your trim and thread? I do those things too! For me, I felt so creatively blocked I had to take it a step further can make something totally impractical. Hanging this on my wall as a reminder that my work is based on creativity and it’s not just another something to check off my schedule, helps to keep me focused on what I want my work to really be about- designing fun (and useful!) sewing patterns so that people can spend their time nuturing their own creative selves by sewing up a cute pillow or duffle bag.

How making something of no practical use can boost creativity & focus

To make one of these for yourself, simply use one side of a big embroidery hoop (mine was 18”). Gather fabric you can rip (NO CUTTING!) and rip strips about 1.5” to 3” wide. I think I have about 15 on this hoop. It looks nice when some of the strips are extra long (like sheets ) but a variety of lengths is key. I have lots of trim from thrift stores that I have been saving (you know, for that trim shortage that is sure to come someday soon) and I tied a bunch of it between the sheet strips for contrast. Voila! A useless but wonderful project for your creative side has been created.

What can you make to get more focused and boost your creativity? Have you ever made a project like this before? I am picturing a lot of paper clip art out there! Or maybe some handmade pom pom flowers? How about totally free form quilt piecing? I want to try that next…what will you make? 



Virginia Lindsay designs sewing patterns for Gingercake Patterns and Design. Her book, Sewing to Sell, is coming out in Novemeber with Stash books. She also has several of her sewing patterns published by Simplicity. Virginia is the mother of four and lives outside Pittsburgh PA.



  1. Tricia says:

    This is a great post! My jewelry is very work intensive, cutting heavy sheet metal, polishing, etching, etc. – which is all lots of fun!! However, sometimes when I have lots of orders and have to work on specific projects versus just making what I “feel” like making, I’ve learned how important it is to give myself “play time” which usually means making more assembled jewelry using pre-made products, charms, beads, etc. This is the opposite of what I’d usually make but something about just combining the different textures and colors with no pre-work required gets my creative energy going so that I can push ahead and complete my orders.

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