Having a real sense of your creative purpose can act as a North Star that guides you in your hobbies—or any creative part of your life.
But your purpose can shift as you grow and learn different things about yourself. Uncovering what matters to you is something you have to do repeatedly.
So, it's nice to have a process or a few exercises to help you discover how you're changing and how your purpose might be changing, too.
Whether you're discovering your purpose for the first time or you're rediscovering it, here are some exercises to help you discover why you are creative. Apply these to any of your creative hobbies!
Below are the show notes for this podcast episode and a brief summary of what's covered, followed by a full transcript.
- Sarai’s Aims Blouse
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4 Steps to Find Your Creative Purpose
Follow these 4 creative prompts and write down your answers. At the end, you’ll put together a statement that embodies why you sew.
Step 1: Identify your values
- What do you value as a human being in your everyday life?
- How does that value relate to sewing and creativity?
Step 2: Make a list of your most gratifying projects and your least gratifying projects
- What makes something gratifying to you?
- What makes something not gratifying?
Step 3: Write down how sewing makes you feel.
- Write down 3-5 emotions you feel when you sew.
Step 4: Write a concise statement that captures your purpose.
Now that you’ve done some creative musing, it’s time to combine all of your answers into a concise statement that captures your purposes.
We have a short exercise to help you refine your purpose. Ask yourself “why?” three times. We do this in DYW to develop a goal for sewing for that season.
It helps you uncover your deeper purpose to find the why beneath your why.
Here’s an example:
I sew to do something nice for myself? Why?
Because I don’t feel creative day to day. Why?
Because being creative is a form of self-care.
If you want to dig deep into this exercise, listen to this episode of the podcast: How to Discover Your Sewing Why.
And I'm Haley.
And this is Seamwork Radio. Welcome back to Seamwork Radio, where we share practical ideas for building a creative process so you can sew with intention and joy. And today we're talking about how to uncover your creative purpose so that your creative hobbies feel as fulfilling as possible. And we're going to cover some quick and practical exercises that can help you get there.
All right, let's start with our icebreaker. So, Haley, tell me about a time recently when you felt creatively stuck.
I think I have a good one, but it's not sewing related. But everything is sewing related?
Yeah, it's all interrelated.
It's all interrelated. So right now, I'm about to start remodeling two of the bathrooms in my house, which is very exciting and also daunting, especially as a pregnant person about to rip out toilets from my house. I'm like, oh, my God, I have to pee so often. This is a bad idea.
But I was collecting inspiration for what I wanted everything to look like, and I just started adding things to a Pinterest board, as you do. And when I looked at it, I was so overwhelmed because there was no distinct style coming out of it. It was just like. I was just kind of, like, going crazy with the inspiration, and I got really overwhelmed, and I had to take a step back and kind of ask myself what I would do if I was doing this process for a sewing project or if I was, like, designing for myself or for Seamwork.
And I really kind of had to get back to my personal values and my personal style to start to weed through all of the junk. It wasn't junk. It was all beautiful stuff to land on a place that felt really good and authentic, because bathroom remodels, they're not cheap.
I probably won't do another one. And so you want it to feel, like, really authentic and something that you'll love for a long time.
I was just not working in my design element interiors. I like decorating and stuff, but it's not my bread and butter when it comes to design. And it was, like, a really helpful, thought provoking exercise to have to step out of my element, but then learn to apply the skills I've learned in my own design practice to that work.
So that was a creative stuck I ran into personally in the last few months.
I think that sometimes it's that distance that you can apply that helps you, especially in design conundrums. I feel like if you can step outside and pretend that you are an advisor or a designer that's helping somebody else with their design problem.
I think that's true for a lot of problems in life. If you can create a little bit of distance and give yourself advice from a place of distance, then you start to see things in a new way.
Eric, my husband, he's an architect, so this is his world. And so he was really helpful in it and helped me to kind of go with my gut. He's the space person, and I'm like, the color and texture kind of person. And for any of those curious, one of the bathrooms will be pink, which is very exciting. There will be pink tile. And he was like, you've always wanted a pink bathroom. Just like, go for it. We love to see it. We love a supportive partner.
I remember when we were looking for our first house, we saw this tiny little bungalow in Portland that had a pink tiled vanity in it. It was so cute. The house was not for us. It was way too tiny. But it was just the most adorable bathroom I've ever seen.
I love pink tile. Our first apartment that Eric and I shared had a pink tiled bathroom. And so it's kind of like, makes me think of that. So it has, like, a little hint of nostalgia in it as well.
Well, I think for me, this made me think of place where I got creatively stuck recently. We just took a break. We always take two weeks off for the holidays at the end of the year, the whole company.
So I was really looking forward to having this break and being able to work on all these creative projects that I've been putting off. And I think where I felt really creatively stuck was just that there was so much I wanted to do. And when you have two weeks off of work, it's such a privilege, but from a distance, it feels like it's going to be plenty of time to do everything you want to do. But then once you're actually in it, you realize it's really not. And you still have a lot of the day-to-day things that you have to do anyway, like take your dog for a walk and take a shower.
And it's the holidays.
And it's the holidays. Yeah, exactly. Wrap presents, all that stuff.
So I really had to make a choice about how I was going to spend my time and think about both, what was most pressing for me, and then also what would be the most meaningful.
And for me, I realized that if I could work on one big project rather than get a little bit done on a lot of small projects, then that would make me feel a lot more fulfilled at the end of that two weeks. So I chose to work on a quilt, which is a gift for my parents. And I spent most of my free time on that break making this quilt, and I'm really happy with it. I'm really glad that I did that, and I feel very accomplished.
And this is often a problem for me, is just developing enough focus to really dive into one project instead of 100 different projects. So that can be a challenge, and I think it's a challenge for a lot of us.
All right, well, that leads us into our topic for today. But if you have an icebreaker that you'd like to share for a future episode, if you're a Seamwork member, you can go to seamwork.com/go/icebreakers and you can leave your idea there.
So if you have a question for us or just a little icebreaker you want to use for a future episode, be sure to leave it. We'll probably use it.
All right, that brings us to our issue for today. So we're going to be talking about finding your creative purpose. And when you have a real sense of your creative purpose, it can act as sort of a north star and really help to guide your creativity. So that's what we're looking for today.
The only thing is that, I find that your purpose can really shift as you get older, as you grow, as you change, as you go through different life stages, or just learn different things about yourself. Your purpose can really shift and change quite a bit throughout your life. So it's sort of an ongoing process of uncovering what matters to you over and over again.
So for that reason, I think it's nice to have some kind of process or exercises that you can come back to again and again so that you can see how you're changing and how your purpose might be changing, too.
So whether you're discovering your purpose for the first time or you're rediscovering it, it really helps to keep tabs on what it really means to you, so you can create from an authentic place and really feel fulfilled by what you're making.
So let's start just by talking about purpose a little bit. So when it comes to sewing, why do you sew?
I think that the reason that I sew is because—I’m coming at this from a very different place, because it's also my work. So I'll answer it about my personal sewing practice. With my work, what I do, the reason I do, what I do is because I want to empower people and make them feel creative in their day-to-day lives. That's something that's really, really important to me, because I think everybody is inherently creative. That is a belief I strongly hold.
And so much of my professional purpose centers around the creativity of others.
My personal purpose is where I get to be self-centered, and it's something that's just for me. That's why I hardly ever sew for anyone else. It's how I put gas into my creative tank. It's where I can experiment and make something just for fun or make something that I'll love to wear and I'll cherish. It's just like, for pure joy and self creative fulfillment, which sounds pretty broad, but I feel like in the context of my other purposes, it feels defined enough for me, which is probably what's most important.
I think for me, there have always been multiple reasons that all kind of come together when it comes to sewing. I think I have a lot of different hobbies, and I feel like each one fulfills my creative needs in different ways. But sewing has always been something that I'm really drawn to.
And I think one reason for that is I've always loved clothing. I've just always loved dressing up since I was a little girl. Something about color and fabric and the self expression inherent in clothing has always been something that really has appealed to me.
I think a lot of people, especially women, feel that way. But what sewing offers me is a way to engage in that in a much more mindful way, where I get to make a lot more creative decisions about how I choose to dress myself and what I look like day to day. So that's one part of it.
I think it also gives me a different relationship to clothing that is not just about shopping, it's not just about consuming or acquiring. Sewing really forces you to slow down in a way that I think can be hard to do in today's world.
I think we're really encouraged to continually look for new things and buy new things. And so sewing offers a way to still engage with fashion in a way that is really enjoyable to me, but without fast fashion kind of acquisition mode that I think is so prevalent in our world.
It goes beyond just not wanting to consume the social implications of that or the environmental implications of that. But also, I think for me, there's a mental component to it as well, because I think when you are in that sort of more and more acquisition mode of thinking, I think it infects every area of your life, and shopping is one of them.
Sewing is just a practice that helps me to slow down in one area of my life, and that's really, really meaningful to me. So that's a big reason why I sew these days. But the self-expression part is also really important.
So how would you say that your why has changed over time?
That's a good question. I think that part of it has always been important to me, but it's definitely gotten more important as the years have gone on. I think that originally, when I started sewing, it was purely about fun and self-expression. And I was a teenager when I started sewing, and I just wanted to make cool things and play with fabric and play with color, and I still really enjoy that. But now I feel like there's a lot more meaning behind it and a lot more that I get out of it on a mental and emotional level, and not just for fun, which I think that's really important to me. What about you?
I think I feel pretty similarly. I think it definitely started, and I think for a lot of people who start sewing when they're quite young, it just starts as a fun way to make the clothes that you want to wear but you can't find or you can't afford. So that was definitely a component of it.
And then from there, I think it morphed into this realization. Growing up in the early or coming of age in the early two thousands and being, like, a curvier body type, I always felt like, oh, I can't wear this. Really, I can wear whatever I want. And I just couldn't find those types of things that fit me. And so I think that when I realized that, that became, like a new motivator, a new why for me. And eventually the creative expression and the body freedom that came in, it just like, I guess it just became so integrated into my philosophy that it became a background thing that informed my choices professionally and personally when it comes to creativity and my values.
As we're talking about this, I think another thing that I've noticed over time is that there's a component of, I mentioned slowing down in terms of acquiring things or buying things, but I think there's also, in the short term, the slowing down of actually sewing, I think, is also something that has become more important to me as the years have gone on in that when I sew, I can be alone, I can close the door, I can put on music or an audiobook or whatever, and just be with myself, using my hands to do something in a very quiet, sometimes contemplative, sometimes just quiet space. And I really, really value that because, again, it's a way to slow down in your day to day. And that's something that's really important to me. And I think a lot of handcrafts offer that. And because sewing is just my chosen handcraft, the one I spend the most time on, I think that's another thing that I've really come to value about sewing over the years.
Yeah, it has like a big macro micro effect when it comes to slowing down.
I have an interesting question. Do you find that there's ever a time or times where you want to lean into your purpose more generously, or times when it's more helpful to explore the bounds of it or explore even outside of it a little bit more? Yeah.
I think for me, because slowing down is such a big part of why I sew, times when I feel particularly stressed or feel like I'm too enmeshed in other aspects of my life, that's a time when I do want to lean more into that purpose. There are other kind of smaller things that I get out of sewing that sometimes are more of an emphasis for me.
For example, I also really like the learning aspect of sewing, that I'm always learning something new and that there are lots of new skills to build, but you don't always want to focus on learning new skills. Sometimes you just want to get in there and work with your hands and do something that, again, is just like a chance to slow down. So that's one area where I feel like it comes and goes, or I feel like sometimes I do want to lean more into the learning aspect and trying new things and curiosity.
I feel like those smaller reasons are also really important to me. But there's this backbone of the slowness of sewing that is the most important thing. How about you?
I feel like, because a big part of my creative purpose is exploration, there's like, everything is kind of within the bounds of that. And so it's where I'm really allowing myself to experiment and have fun and not worry about how something is going to photograph or all of that kind of stuff that in my work as a designer, those are things you think of.
For me, it's really like my freedom place. So I don't have creative boundaries, I just have fun.
But there was definitely times where I feel like it was more about, like, I feel like the most toxic era of my creative purpose was when I got obsessed with fit. And then I feel like there's this really fine line of when you're obsessed with fit and making something fit really properly, and when it becomes an obsession over making something incredibly flattering or trying to create the illusion of a body conforming to some sort of standard of beauty,
I feel like that's the place where I was like, whoa. This activates something maybe slightly toxic within me, like a perfectionism that doesn't feel good to me and also, like, a criticalness of my body that I'm not super comfy with.
I feel like I pushed up against the boundaries of my purpose, and I had to kind of shift my gears a little bit.
Yeah, and that's a really good point, that even doing something you love and that is really meaningful to you can sometimes stray into either perfectionism or something that actually doesn't fit your purpose. And that's one of the reasons why it's so helpful to understand what your purpose is, so that you can recognize when that's happening.
Totally. I think that leads us perfectly into our tips for today, which is how to discover your purpose and your creativity. Maybe this is something that you're exploring for the first time, or something that you're like me, and you're like, I really need to shift gears, or what I'm doing right now doesn't feel super authentic to me anymore.
So Sarai and I are going to share a little four step process that you can use to kind of uncover that for yourself, because no one can really uncover it for you but you. But we have some ideas on how you can get there.
So step number one is going to be to identify your values. And I'm not necessarily talking about your sewing values. I'm talking about your values in your life. So what do you value as a human being in your everyday life?
I think Sarai has some really great examples in her own purpose of how her creative values align with her personal values. And write down some of your things that you really value in your life, and then write down a few notes about how that value relates to sewing and your creativity in particular.
This is something where there's, like, no right or wrong answer. No one's going to look at it, no one's going to grade it. So really put it all out there. And don't worry about being silly, because you'll get more from it if you maybe are a little bit more free with it.
Sometimes I think what can help, if you have trouble identifying what your values are, one thing you can do is just write down a whole bunch of ideas, like, just brainstorm a whole bunch of ideas. And then whatever words come to mind that you think are really important in your life and whittle it down from there.
Maybe choose ten to start and circle ten of those, and then from there, maybe narrow it down even more, maybe to five or three, until you find the ones that really resonate with you.
Because often you'll find ones that are really similar to each other, and you can decide for yourself whether these values are too similar, if they really mean the same thing to you, or if there's a subtle difference between them. I think it's a really interesting exercise to do for yourself anytime, but it can really help with this.
For me, I think one of the things that I really value in my life that I think ties into what I was just talking about with slowing down and with sewing, is the idea of gratitude. And gratitude is something that I really value in my life, and that's really important to me.
And I think the fact that sewing allows me to slow down and appreciate both the moments, the time that I'm putting into something, and also the end product, the object I'm much more appreciative of than something that I bought in a store.
So I think those are some of the ways that sewing really reflects a value that I hold dear. Just as an example, because sometimes the way your hobbies or crafts that you engage in reflect your values might not be super, super clear at first. So it might take a little bit of thinking to get to it.
Yeah. I think another example for me personally, one of my life values is just, like, humor and light heartedness, and that's something that I really strive to seek in my day to day. And the people I surround myself with. Life, can be very serious, brings more fun and joy. And I think with sewing the way that I do that is I lean into the fun of sewing, and I try not to take myself too seriously, because then that's when I start to feel really stuck. Humor and sewing don't necessarily have a ton in common, but once you sit on it for a while, you might find that there's more common ground than you think.
Yeah, definitely. So the next tip is to make a list of your most gratifying projects and your least gratifying projects.
So this is a way to sort of reflect on what you've already done and see how that might inform your value. So once you've done that, once you have a list of your most gratifying projects and your least gratifying projects. Think about what makes something gratifying to you and what makes something not gratifying to you. I think this can be really helpful to understand, really what you get out of your sewing practice, what it really means to you, and when you feel the most fulfilled. And when you feel the least fulfilled, I think this could be really helpful.
So, as an example, I think for me, the most gratifying projects are the things that I've really invested a lot of time into, where I really thought about the details. And I think also when I try something new and learn a new skill, that's really gratifying to me. So, for example, the Aims blouse I made in 2023 that had the white work embroidery all over the yoke, that was something that I hadn't really done before, and I spent a lot of time on it, and I had to learn how to use some new techniques and some new tools, and some things worked and some things didn't work.
And in the end, I love the result. But more than that, I love the process that I went through to get there and the fact that I challenged myself because that's something that's really important to me.
So that helped me to uncover what matters to me in a new way. So I would say try that out. Most gratifying projects and least gratifying projects.
Yeah, that's such a great exercise, because a lot of times we just will categorize something as, like, you didn't like it or you liked it without maybe putting a ton of thought into the whys behind it. And so, beyond uncovering your values, it's also just a helpful exercise so that you can have more sewing wins, which I think we can all use a little bit more of in our lives.
I just read this article a couple of days ago on a mindfulness blog, and it was about the difference between enjoying something and appreciating something. And I think it's kind of similar in that you can appreciate things even if they're not super pleasant. You can still appreciate what's happening. For me, that was a big mindset shift, and I found that a really, really helpful framing. And I think that's similar in things you make, that you can still appreciate the work that went into it, you can still appreciate the process, or even appreciate an inadequate result without loving it, without thinking it's the best thing ever. Or even if it didn't meet your expectations, there can still be a lot to appreciate.
Oh, I'm going to take that one with me. I really like that.
All right, let's take a look at step number three. So, step number three is to reflect on how sewing makes you feel. So this is a pretty simple one. I would advise you to just write down, like, three to five emotions that you feel when you sew. I feel like this is a simple exercise, but it's really helpful when you look at it in contrast with your personal values and also your hits and misses in your sewing, it can start to paint a bigger picture of what's important to you. Because the first two exercises are, like, a little bit more cerebral, you're a little bit more in your head with it, and I think grounding it in sensation and in feeling can make it a lot more personal and meaningful to you so that you're not just connecting with it on an intellectual level.
I think that's a really good point about grounding it in your body. I think sometimes we can feel like emotions are something that, I think we can intellectualize emotions a lot.
And try and really make sense of them in our minds when really emotions are just something that are happening in our body. So I think it can help to think about how you feel physically when you're sewing. I don't know if it's helpful to think about. Your back hurts sometimes when you're leaning over your sewing table. Maybe it does, though. But how your emotions manifest in your body is a really helpful thing to think about.
Yeah, I highly recommend it in this exercise and in day-to-day life. It's game changer.
Yeah, for sure.
And the final tip, once you've done those first three exercises, is to write a concise statement that really captures your purpose using the words that came up in those first three exercises.
So here's a short little exercise you can do that can help you if you're struggling with this a little bit. The exercise is to ask yourself why at least three times. So we do this in Design Your Wardrobe to come up with a goal for sewing for that season, and it really helps you to uncover your deeper purpose and to find the why beneath your why.
So just as an example, you might tell yourself, I sew in order to do something nice for myself. And then if you ask yourself why, the answer might be, well, because I don't feel creative in my day to day. So this is a way for me to feel creative in my day to day. And then if you ask yourself, why again, maybe the answer is because being creative is a form of self care to me. So maybe that is your deeper why and you can keep going with this.
I think the original exercise is a five whys exercise. So you can keep going with this as long as you feel you need to until you uncover what you think is kind of the deeper purpose behind your sewing practice. So I find that this is a really helpful exercise to do in a lot of different situations, especially when trying to uncover a creative purpose.
It takes the pressure off a bit, because I think when we're writing statements like this, there's, at least for me, this need to get it right the first time and get it perfect. And this way, you can write, like, a nice, rough draft for yourself and let the exercise take you to the finish line a little bit.
Yeah. Similar to that brainstorming exercise I mentioned at the beginning. It's always helpful to me to take the pressure off and realize that whatever I'm writing is just a first draft, and I can write whatever and come back to it and edit it. If you find yourself struggling with any of these exercises, that can just be a nice way to approach it.
Yeah. You could even write down maybe a couple of statements that feel good to you, but maybe you're not totally sold on yet, and you can tape them somewhere in your sewing space, tape them on your sewing machine cover or something, and give yourself some time to live with it.
Again, like, having a creative purpose, it's not something that's like a must. You have to have scissors, and you have to have a creative, written, creative purpose in order to sew.
I think that it's really just a nice to have, and it can really help you. It's a nice crutch to lean into when you are stuck creatively or when you're feeling like you're having a lot of losses and not a lot of wins. All that is to say, don't pressure yourself too much around this. This is a fun exercise meant to help you.
And it changes over time, like we talked about in the beginning. So if you're struggling with it and you're not sure if this feels right to you, like Haley said, you can just hold onto it, and it'll probably change over time. And so it's not something that you need to have set in stone by any means.
All right, well, we went over some helpful exercises for you to try today to help you with uncovering your creative purpose. So we talked a little bit about why having a creative purpose can be helpful to you and how it can really help you to get more out of your sewing practice. And then we talked about four different ways that you can uncover your own creative purpose.
And the first was to identify your values. So come up with what your values are in your life generally.
Then make a list of your most gratifying projects and your least gratifying projects, and try to uncover what makes something really gratifying to you.
The third one is to think about how sewing makes you feel, and that includes the way emotions feel in your body.
And then finally to write a concise statement that really captures your purpose. And we talked about using the three why’s exercise to get to your deeper purpose behind sewing. So hopefully those exercises were really helpful to you and you found at least one that you can take away and try to help you get more out of sewing and enjoy sewing a little bit more. What's your big takeaway from today's episode?
Haley I think that the piece that I really liked, and I'm going to walk away with today is the distinction between enjoyment and appreciation. That gives me something to ponder a little bit. Definitely they are two different things, and I think it's a concept that I've understood and grasped in the past, but having kind of a name to put to it is always helpful for my nerdy little brain.
Well, maybe if I can dig up that article, I'll send it to you and put it, we can put it in the show notes. It was really helpful to me.
I think for me, just in talking about it today, I hadn't really thought about it in this way until we started talking about it, which is that kind of microcosm effect we were discussing earlier. So the way sewing offers me a way to slow down both in the long term in terms of acquiring things and slowing down my relationship to the material objects in my life, and then the smaller way that sewing helps me to slow down on a day to day basis in that it's a time for me to rest and replenish myself and work with my hands and kind of allow my brain to do something very different from other activities that I'm engaged in throughout the day. So kind of the way it affects me in both those ways and both long term and short term, I think was really helpful for me to think about.
All right, well, if you would like a safe and encouraging space to talk about sewing like this, you can talk about it in our community. We would love to have you there. You can find it at seamwork.com. If you join us and we have design your wardrobe coming up really soon. So if you join Seamwork now, you can participate in the next round of Design Your Wardrobe, which starts on February 5.
We mentioned it a little bit in today's episode, but I think if this is something that really appeals to you, this idea of having more meaningful sewing, you'd probably love Design Your Wardrobe. So it's our super popular premium course all about designing your wardrobe.
It walks you through a process of designing and creating a collection of projects for a single season. So it's available as a self guided program if you're a Seamwork member or we run it as a group course a few times a year.
So the next one is coming up on February 5, and you can learn more at Seamwork.com/go/dyw if you're interested and if you want a taste of what's included, you can get our free sewing planner at seamwork.com/go/freeplanner and that free Planner is something that we use throughout the Design Your Wardrobe course. So it offers kind of a little taste.
And we'll put that in the show notes as well. And if you like this episode, please consider leaving us a review. We would absolutely love to hear from you, hear what you think, and get those five star reviews that help other people find the podcast. And I have one today I wanted to read from Adriana Maya, who says, “Thank you, Seamwork. I absolutely love the Seamwork podcast. I've been listening for maybe about a year and a half and it's honestly my favorite podcast I listen to. I love Sarai and Haley’s personal stories and fun tangents. Please don't ever stop this. I look forward to the podcast every week and feel like it's just my time to think about my favorite hobby. I could not recommend this podcast enough. It's the perfect mix of entertaining, personal, and educational. Thank you, Seamwork.”
Wow, that is such a sweet review. I appreciate that so much. It is so nice when people take the time to leave a review and say such nice things. Definitely makes my day.
Yeah, same. And I'm glad to hear that you enjoy our personal stories. It can be easy to fall into a trap. Sarai and I record batches of these at a time and I drive home at the end of the day and I'm like, I just feel like I talked about myself for the last 6 hours. But it's really meaningful to know that you're getting enjoyment out of it. So I appreciate it. Thanks so much.
I know some people are not into banter on podcasts. They don't want to hear about people's personal lives as a host. Maybe that's more true for other types of podcasts, I don't know. But for me personally, I like to listen to real people and hear their stories because you learn so much from people's experiences, and I think that's one of the beautiful things about podcasts.
All right, well, thank you for that review. And if you would like to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever podcast platform that you listen to us on, I should say we would absolutely love it.
And that does it for us this week. I'm Sarai.
And I'm Haley.
And this is Seamwork Radio.