Finding Inspiration and Storing Ideas for Later

My favorite part of being a pattern writer is getting struck with the inspiration for a particular pattern. Sometimes I’m browsing Ravelry, sometimes I’m with friends, and sometimes I’m in the shower. (True story!)

Inspiration has no schedule. There are times when I have too many ideas to work on and times when I have none.

I want to talk about two things that I’ve learned from being a creative entrepreneur. First, how to find inspiration when it feels like you don’t have any. Second, what to do when you have too much inspiration… how to bottle it up for later!

Every creative has their own method for finding inspiration. What inspires us individually is so personal that I can’t tell you just to “go to a museum” and then, snap!, you’re inspired.

But I can give you a framework that you can adapt, fill in, and use when you’re feeling like you need a message from your muse.

The first thing I’d like you to do is find someone else whose work inspires you. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to cultivate our own style and ideas that we simply get stuck. Engaging with another creative’s work can not only force us to look outside our own “bubble”, but it can engage the parts of our brain that put together ideas. It can help us see from a new perspective and branch out into new territory.

Next, we can find what I call a “trigger” for inspiration. For everyone, this will be different. I encourage you to go on Pinterest, search Instagram, browse Ravelry, and look out for the things that make you think… what if? Your trigger could be color, style, shapes, almost anything.

For example, my inspiration is usually triggered by one of two things: color, and words or stories. I find that when I see an image with a combination of beautiful colors, my brain instantly starts running through ideas for things to make. I also tend to get inspired by interesting stories, names, or words. For example, I recently picked up a skein of yarn that was hand dyed in gorgeous pink, blue, orange, and black. The dyer had named the colorway Delirium. I immediately thought of the character from the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. The character, named Delirium, is a bit cuckoo, and odd. The colorway fit her perfectly and I immediately pictured a shawl with crazy stitch patterns and changes to reflect her personality.

So find your trigger. Do some digging through images and find what excites you and gets your idea-brain humming.

Another way to engage your inspiration is to create. It doesn’t have to be your pattern or idea or design, sometimes you just need to actually make something. Take a pattern that you like and have made before and work it again. Pay attention to the stitch patterns, construction, etc. Or, find a new pattern that you’ve never tried before and learn a new technique or create a different type of project. Either way, you’re engaging your creativity in a way that your muse might find inspiring.

Lastly, I’d recommend meditating, or relaxing your mind in a way you find helpful. I like to sit in a quiet place and play some nature sounds while I focus on my breathing. The key here is not to force anything. Focus on your breath and let your mind do it’s thing while you sit back and relax. It’s okay to feel like you have a bunch of thoughts running through your head. Just let them pass through while you relax your breath and body.

Those are the techniques that I go to when I’m feeling cut off from inspiration. Sometimes, they work so well that I have a rush of ideas and when that happens, I have a system in place for recording them so they’re ready when I am. Again, there are a few different techniques you could use here. Try them out to find which is right for you.

Usually the first thing I do is I sketch the idea. I’m not a great artist, so I don’t worry about it being a frame-worthy sketch, I just try and get the general shape down.

Then, I’ll take as many notes as I can.

Usually I’ll jot down:

  • what inspired me (including an image if there was one)
  • what colors I’m envisioning for the project
  • any other details I’m picturing in my head
  • like size(s)
  • yarn type or brand
  • hook size
  • function or assembly
  • etc.

This is the part where I just brain dump onto the page. Nothing is too small a detail.

The idea here is to have enough notes and images that when you look back later, the same inspiration and feeling is evoked.

Lastly, you’ll want to have some way to catalog the ideas, so when you come back later and are ready to actually create from them, you can pick up right where you left off. For this part, you can go analog or digital.

If you go analog, an idea scrapbook is a great way to keep a collage of all your ideas. Take a sketchbook and put your drawings, inspiring images, yarn samples, notes, and whatever else you need inside.

If you go digital, you can use a tool like Trello or Evernote to do pretty much the same thing.

I, personally, use a hybrid version: a sketchbook and Trello. When inspiration strikes, I sketch out the idea and then scan it into my computer. I create a new card in Trello with the name of the idea, and all my notes. I attach the sketch and any images that inspired me too.

No matter what method you use, make sure you get down as much info at the “scene of the inspiration” as possible! This will ensure that when you’re ready to start work, you’ll have everything you need.

I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful and (dare I say) inspiring! Coaxing our muse out of the darkness doesn’t have to be hard or frustrating. Using the methods I outlined, hopefully you’ll start finding ideas everywhere!


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