Visual Inspiration Overload & How I Deal

Dear readers, I have something slightly controversial I wanted to talk about in today’s blog post.  Visual Inspiration.  When too much is bad for one’s health.

I looove Pinterest, and didn’t know how I survived without it.  It’s my one place to post all of the visual imagery that inspires me to add vintage embellishment, gain insights on how to apply winged-eyeliner, among a whole host of other things.  But I primarily use it to store ideas I don’t want to forget & also to be inspired by new images.

For me, this comes at a cost.  As of writing this post I have accumulated 644 pins on 30 boards with another 448 likes.  That’s 1,092 images that I like, which doesn’t even account for all of the other pins you’ve posted that I have seen at some point.

Not only do I use pinterest, but I love all of my fellow blogger’s projects and blogs (you guys!).  I follow over 100 blogs and I currently have 214 unread blog posts. 

I don’t have much perspective if these figures are a lot, a little, or is average compared to everyone else.  But for me, all of this information has a price.

While I love poking around on pinterest and other places, when I get too much visual inspiration I get overwhelmed and shut down.  I become completely frozen by the overload of information; I can’t make decisions and end up doing nothing.

*These are the times I generally focus on knitting.*

As you can imagine, it’s a catch-22 type situation.  I love looking images on pinterest for inspiration but it easily gets to be “too much” for me. 

Does this happen to any of you?! 

The only thing that gets me out of these ruts, if you want to call them that, is to refocus myself after taking a break.  Oftentimes, I take a few days off of sewing and switch over to knitting.  As my husband knows, I like being productive (ie always making things).  So even though the sewing side of my brain may shut down, another side of my brain happily takes over.  :)

Once I feel ready to make a sewing plan, I sit down at my sewing table and rethink things from a few different angles. 

First Angle:

Instead of working with images on pinterest as a base to create something, I start with what I have on hand first & foremost.  Perhaps I have a languishing project that needs to be wrapped up.  I look at how I can bring some life back into it so that I get re-motivated to complete it.  I ask if it needs a fun embellishment, do I have something in my stash that I can use, was there something on pinterest that would make this garment awesome?

Second Angle:

I frequently pull out all of the patterns on my shelf that I want to make.  The pattern pile is usually around 20 or so, and I’ll start making priority lists vs. gaps in my wardrobe.  Every time I do this my list changes based on my current mood & weather outside.  I don’t mind that I change my mind often; it keeps me motivated and happy to work on my sewing projects.

Third Angle:

Independently, I’ll write down current projects I have sitting around that need to be finished.  I rank them into a few different lists like: top 5 easiest to finish vs. ones I most want completed vs. the ones that have been sitting around the longest, etc.     

As a treat for finishing an old project,  I add in new pattern or two (or three or four) that I want to sew up that I can add fun, new vintage embellishments onto or I pick out a fun fabric from my stash to use.  This keeps me interested and using some visual inspiration *wisely* so that I don’t let it consume me.

I’m a big fan of making lists since it keeps me straight and organized.  But I’ll be the first to say that I’ll deviate from my list often and repeat this whole cycle over many times a year.  At first I felt guilty about it, but I’ve since learnt that this is just how I function and embrace it.  For me sewing is fun and when it stops being fun…. well this is when I take a few days off and re-group and figure out how to make it fun again either by sewing something new or by tackling an old project or switching to knitting in the evenings.

More times that not, Pinterest is the culprit for getting me overwhelmed.  Am I going to stop using it???  Nope.  :)  It’s still a great place I love to go to and I house most of my inspiration & links I want to remember.  I just have to use it cautiously. 

Thoughts on being visually overloaded?  How do you guys refocus yourselves after being in a sewing rut?

After reading this… if you still want to follow me on pinterest here’s my link.  Follow if you dare!  heh

In: Knitting Miscellaneous Sewing

Blogger for 6 years and counting, I am a passionate creator who loves to tinker.

Comments (20)

  1. Meli August 21, 2012 — 8:06 AM

    I definitely get overloaded too. When that happens I force myself to step away from the computer and do something productive. Sometimes that’s knitting, or folding laundry, or reading. Then I try to stay away from bloglovin and tumblr for a while.

  2. Marie August 21, 2012 — 8:34 AM

    This is exactly why I haven’t joined Pinterest yet (even though I desperately want to), as I fear the same thing would happen to me. I already follow 250+ blogs and I struggle to keep up-to-date with them and comment as much as I’d like to…let alone maintain my own blog too! I also feel overwhelmed just walking into my sewing room recently, as I have way too many patterns and too much fabric. Instead of inspiring me, it confuses me! So I agree that over-stimulation can lead to these kinds of feelings. Having said all this though, I don’t think it’ll be long before I join Pinterest as it’s just so darned good – a sneaky peek of your boards had me drooling! So I’m my own worst enemy I guess ;o)

  3. I love Pinterest, but like you I get overloaded at times. Sometimes I feel I can’t process any more information, so I have to put away my laptop and step away from the Internet for a while to recover. I find blogs hugely inspirational but I do limit the amount I follow because I just couldn’t keep up with lots and lots.

  4. PS just checked out your Pinterest boards – oh my goodness, there’s some yummy stuff on there…

  5. Bobbi August 21, 2012 — 10:40 AM

    I’m not on pinterest. I can find plenty of inspiration on the blogs I like and ravelry. I also like to keep busy – there’s rarely a moment without knitting in my hands, but sometimes the act of plain knitting helps my mind slow down and refocus. I also listen to a book or podcast to settle down too many ideas swarming in my head. Of course, I need to have notebooks and pencils handy in case of a really great idea – can’t let the great ones get away!

  6. I must not be following enough boards on pinterest ;) I do get sewing burn out though, and I find a few days or a week off is all I need before I’m ready to go another round. I’ve found it very helpful to make a list of projects and fabrics, but I try not to be upset when I don’t stick to the list because, this is my hobby and it has to be fun, right?! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that changes my mind and tries to sew in the moment ;)

  7. Sara August 21, 2012 — 11:17 AM

    Shams did a nice interview with designer Marcy Tilton about tapping into your inspired creativity. The five points I took away from it:

    1. Play without attachment to the outcome.
    2. Live in the question for as long as possible.
    3. Follow your intuition rather than looking for the “right” answer.
    4. Be lucky enough to have a small circle of friends who are willing to give you honest feedback.
    5. Sometimes you just have to set the timer for an hour and then go do something else.

    I know it’s an unpopular position but I am not a fan of Pinterest. I think it feeds on the same sort of impulses as pornography does, and like porno I think it can interfere with daily life and one’s personal satisfaction. I know that sounds a bit hysterical, but there it is — I think Pinterest is the gateway to anhedonia and I always look at it in that light.

    1. Liz August 23, 2012 — 11:00 AM

      Thanks so much Sara for sharing these 5 take-aways from the interview. They sounds really practical. #2 is my fav.

  8. Janice August 21, 2012 — 2:39 PM

    Great Pinterest board! I actually don’t have enough time to sit on Pinterest all day, but I wish I did.

    For me, I keep a sketchbook of my ideas at home. I used to do SWAP (sewing with a plan) and do things season by season, but now I find it’s more interesting to actually do things week per week. I work on only one project at a time, and don’t start working on another one until the current one is finished. I also only work on sewing projects now that I feel passionate about, and I find those projects end up making themselves. Good luck with feeling overwhelmed! It happens to all of us.

    1. Liz August 23, 2012 — 10:36 AM

      I’m quite envious, I wish I could draw!

      I’ve tried sketching things few times, but I draw stick figures and straight lines. :) But my line drawings do help me to remember what the visual looks like in my head at any rate.

  9. Liz August 21, 2012 — 8:10 PM

    I am a bit frantic and overwhelmed at the moment too. I think I have bought way too much fabric lately and really want to make it all up right now, impatient I know. I have visions for most of it but unfortunately these are in my head as I can’t draw. My poor head is so busy. I sat down last night and cut out three garments so they are ready to go, I sorted some of the other fabric and put it with patterns so I have a plan. I am trying to make them in order that I perceive I might need them. Method to the madness perhaps. I like Pinterest but it is a great way to suck all your time – I am trying to limit myself so I don’t lose all my precious sewing time online. Good Luck!

    1. Liz August 22, 2012 — 12:05 PM

      Sounds like you have an excellent plan for dealing with the busy-brain-syndrome. :)

      I can’t believe you cut out three projects in one evening though! You must be super speedy my friend. heh

      I love that you’re making the first project in the order in which you need them. What a great way to start.

  10. Rachel August 22, 2012 — 12:35 AM

    I completely understand, and was recently in a similar situation, and did much the same as what you have said – i went through my fabric stash to refamiliarise myself with previous ideas, and have decided to work through some of those before contemplating some new projects

  11. i have recently started posting much less on pinterest as i was spending all my time pinning stuff i wanted to make, leaving myself with no time to actually make! i am focusing on blogs where i can get fewer ideas but more in depth so i can actually evaluate whether i want to make it or not. it also stops me veering off into wanting to learn new crafts (linotype printing i’m looking at you!). i find i can fit blogs into dead time – so lunch hours at work, break times or commuting time, leaving my evening free to sew or cook or y’know, actually spend some time with my husband!

  12. oh and i have made lists. this is always my fallback when i feel like it’s all a bit too much. i find it helps me see things clearer and prioritise better than pages of pretty pictures that are all calling to me!

  13. Jessica August 22, 2012 — 12:02 PM

    Hi Liz,

    I too have had to get a grip on my Pinterest and Tumblr time. I started both as a way of visually bookmarking things I liked, and while I like the “social” part of both sites, they can be waay too distracting. I don’t let myself sit down in front of the computer for a few minutes of browsing “inspiration” before I’m going to sew or make jewelry anymore. I end up sitting there for far too long, and then my brain is full of other people’s ideas. Now I try to make sure I’m pinning or posting something that really grabs ME, (as opposed to competitive pinning–some people seem determined to pin the entire Internet!), and I save the browsing for those times when I really only have a few minutes, like when dinner is cooking.
    I do think we are innate “consumers,” and whether it’s porn or food or pretty pictures, we sometimes have to go on a diet. I realized when I had a few dreams where images were basically just scrolling by in front of me that I needed a break! Fascinating sewing bloggers are another habit….:)

    1. Liz August 23, 2012 — 10:35 AM

      Thanks so much for adding your thoughts on the Pinterest “issue”.

      How funny that you were dreaming about the scrolling images! :)

      I was starting to sit down to my computer to look through my pinterest boards to see what details I wanted to try to incorporate into a new dress and I got so overwhelmed that I didn’t go back to my dress. Sad isn’t it?!

      I’ve kept pinning to a minimum and don’t visit quite as often, but I still love how handy and useful it is. I just have to try and keep perspective and not let it take over my thought process.

  14. Megan August 22, 2012 — 12:13 PM

    The same thing happens to me. I get so overwhelmed sometimes I can feel a little anxious while scrolling through pinterest. I love it though, so it’s a hard trade off. I also follow a bunch of blogs and I get really excited about thing people have made and want to make it. This has lead to an enormous fabric and pattern stash. My biggest weird, anxiety related issue with sewing and whatnot is not having enough space. I’ll want to start a project, but immediately start thinking about how I will have to clear an area and have my husband frustrated with all my stuff everywhere until it’s finished and therefor it will end up getting packed away and taking a long time to finish it, etc. I get so frustrated just from all these thoughts in my head that I often don’t even start the projects. I also love knitting and it goes hand in hand with my issues – knitting doesn’t take up any dedicated space. I can just pull out my knitting and work on it on the couch and put it in a bag when I want to stop.

    So, just know you’re not alone :) You accomplish way more sewing than I do though. I hope you feel better soon! Let your needles zen you out for a while and then make the jump!

    1. Liz August 23, 2012 — 10:29 AM

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Megan!

      I wish I could help with your anxeity-sewing issue. I feel quite lucky that my husband doesn’t complain about my sewing room (aka the dining room) since I too have stuff everywhere.

      I am totally zen-ing out knitting these past 2 weeks.

  15. Jo August 23, 2012 — 8:07 PM

    Yeah, being overwhelmed is a big factor for me. But for me it’s not just Pinterest, it’s the whole internet I find overwhelming!
    When I have a question and google it, I’ll find 20 people with different views, and it drives me nuts!
    Oh internet, you are a gift and a curse.
    I love Pinterest but I try to follow as few boards as possible. And I only pin what I LOVE :) I sometimes get fear of missing out when I “cull” a board, but it keeps me more sane :)

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