Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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The Needlework Doldrums…


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Have you ever been in the Needlework Doldrums? Doldrums are a time of low spirits, or, in water-talk, an area where there’s either no wind (so you can’t sail at all), or there’s a finicky wind (so you still can’t sail at all). The Needlework Doldrums, in my ‘umble opinion, can be a combination of all of the above!

First of all, there’s the Low Spirits Needlework Doldrums: These can spring from a number of circumstances. First of all, there are those times when nothing you do needlework-wise satisfies you. When any project begun doesn’t measure up to what you thought it would be…. When your normal excitement over having a few minutes to stitch in the evening before bed turns into a sort of Uncharacteristically Mournful Hum-drumness. (*Sigh*)

The Low Spirits Needlework Doldrums can also come from the simple fact that you’re dying to do something – you’ve got your heart set on the project and all the different angles bouncing around in your head, just waiting to burst forth in Creative Activity —- but…. you can’t get to it, because you’re inhibited by some other responsibility or some physical shortcoming (such as house space!) And so you slip into Uncharacterstically Mournful Hum-drumness.

Then there’s the No Wind Needlework Doldrums: You have a lot of plans, and a lot of needlework that needs to get underway (and actually get finished!), but, because of your Uncharacterstically Mournful Hum-drumness, your sails are flat, and you just can’t make yourself drag everything out to start another project. So, to assuage your guilty conscience, you slip into the….

Finicky Needlework Doldrums: You pick up this little project or that little project, just to have “something” to do with your hands – after all, needlework is a habit – but you abandon each little project as soon as you pick it up, thinking that you’d rather try This Thing or That Thing, or This Technique or That Technique, because, in your Uncharacteristically Mournful Hum-drumness, nothing satisfies. But you feel compelled to keep searching, to keep going forward, to keep trying to break through – knowing without a doubt that Something is Out There that will reignite the flame!!!

All three Doldrums are intrinsically related… My first approach to overcoming them and setting sail in the direction I want to go is to reorganize (or, in some cases, to re-reorganize!)…

Have you ever been in the Doldrums? If you have, how do you Get Out??


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(15) Comments

  1. I have visited the ‘doldrums’ many times. I find that I just have to work through them and eventually things turn out OK.

    I recently worked on a piece and I just wasn’t happy with the quality of my stitches. When I finished I put it away for a few weeks, then took it out and it looked pretty good. I couldn’t figure out why I had been so unhappy.

    Sometimes, I think the doldrums are primarily in my head and I am just being too hard on myself.

    One thing I know for sure about the doldrums is that they will eventually pass. I try not to give in to them!

  2. Mary, thanks for giving a name to that state, I’ve been there a few times. It’s usually because I have committments, and I have so many ideas, or no ideas at all, and allow myself to get overwhlmed. Instead of doing a little each day, which works for some other people , I do nothing. When I start a project I need to be enthusiatic and stitch in two or three long sessions, not in little bites. It takes me a while to get “in the groove” so I need to commit a large block of time and then just stitch till it’s finished. That’s how I work when doing costume jobs, so I guess that’s the clue, I need deadlines, like in TAST and TIF, to get motivated. When I get a real “stitchers’ block” I surf the net for inspiration and encouragement, or pull out the old faithful needlework and eye candy books till I find the incentive again. It doesn’t always work, LOL, so I’m not a very prolific stitcher. In a strange way that works best for me, because then projects they are treasured for their rarity, VBG. I’ve found the January TIF challengers very encouraging, and the early finishers spurred me to get on and finish my project last week.
    Hooroo from hot and humid Sydney Australia

  3. Hi Mary
    when the doldrums strike, I pack everything away and do something completely different for a while – then after a while (a few days usually) of doing no needlework, I get the urge to fiddle again – I reorganise my stash and usually get inspired again pretty quickly. I find if I persvere with stitching when I am not in the mood I mess it up no end.
    If this doesnt work, I win prizes on great blogs to give me inspiration!!

  4. I get a doldrum you have not mentioned. It is not enough light in the winter doldrums. My room to work in has ragged tan on beige in a north facing room that never gets direct sunlight and I find it extremely hard to make myself go in there to work. I have too much stash in there to paint it white so my solution has been to tack up white fabric and use small floecent lights for extra light in the evenings. This may just happen to those closer to the north. When I lived in the North West Territories it was even worse with only a couple of hours of sunlight in the winter. 24 hr daylight in the summer did a fair job making up for it though. http:crazyqsis.blogspot.com

  5. Are you kidding, doldrums what are those? My simple answer is to take a walk in the sun with my dogs. The fresh air inspires me. There is this one tree that I just dream about as I pass it, the roots are shooting outward and down a gully and it reminds of the fairies and elves and a pot of gold. Planning to one day to work it up in some type of needle art. Even writing it down here gives me the Ahhhhh!and Mmmmm! factor so now I can continue with my stitching.

  6. The Doldrum monster is here….I pulled a ligement in my shoulder and doc put me in a sling….talk about the Doldrums, I sit and look at my stitiching projects I have scattered around the house..(I always have more than one thing going at a time)…and I am ready to tear my hair out….no stitcing, no sewing, no crafts, just rest for the arm.

  7. I had to chuckle when I read Margaret’s comment. I have thrown things away, had a daughter surreptitiously retrieve it from the garbage, come across item sometime in the future in my daughter’s stash, asked where she got it, and was amazed that I had thrown it away!!

    Just recently, I have been snatched out of a major stitching doldrum by joining an on-line friend in a Stitch-A-Long. We are both working on the same project – comparing notes, giving tidbits of advice, suggestions, and encouragement. Starting this project has gotten me re-energized for other projects!


  8. Hm, well, everyone has mentioned at least one motivational activity that I do too-walking, take a break from needlework, reorganize or just play with my stash, try another activity (I read or visit a friend and play with paint or something that requires running water).
    I also will limit myself to just 15 minutes of sewing a day. If that’s all I do, fine; but usually I get excited about the project all over again and work for at least an hour.
    When a project isn’t coming out right, I find that putting it away for awhile helps me figure out how to make it right. Or I may take it apart and use the parts for something else, or it might sit on the shelf for years.
    For the seasonal affective disorder that Melisa mentions, I take chewable Melatonin at bedtime, and I work from noon til 8 p.m. so I can walk with the dog in the daylight, but not all of us are so lucky to have such an accomodating boss!
    P.S. I really enjoy your blog and read it on a regular basis!

  9. Hi, all! Thanks for your comments and suggestions! Some of them really made me chuckle, that’s for sure – it’s nice to know we do all go through the same things now and then.

    Maybe I should get a dog….!

  10. Really well written and funny. And it applies to all art and craft jobs I think.

    There is the thing I’m experiencing at the moment – near the end of the project doldrums. It feels like forever til I’ll be finished, but I can count the tasks on my fingers. I can see things I’d like to change, but I can’t change them.

    The only answer is to power on til the finish – I’ve set the deadline to my birthday next month! 🙂

  11. Mary
    Thankyou for your comment on my blog.

    I do so enjoy reading what you have written. How well you described the symptoms! I am not sure I have a cure except, like most doldrums, time and some good books will eventually improve the situation.

    I am finding Sharon’s challenges each month produce the”I have so many ideas – how can I possibly choose one of them?” feeling. Mostly they are much too ambitious, so it is often back to the drawing board.

  12. Thanks, Marge! I’m still trying to finish my January piece!! I figure I’ll start February sometime in the next few weeks!

    I agree with “good books” – they are my major source of inspiration!


  13. I get all three doldrums a lot, and I’ve discovered that nothing but a browse on needle ‘n’ thread helps. Except that I have to be careful not to fall into more doldrums when I leave the computer because my mind is full of al the projects and stiches that I could try…………..

    By the way, thank you very much for this blog, it has really helped me with my stitching and given me interest in a variety of stitches and technique’s that I never would have thought about. This blog definitely ‘makes my day’

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