Sewing Better with Mood Music

One of the things I emphasize in my lecture on “P/AMing It” is setting up your optimal sewing environment.  Ergonomic concerns like sewing machine set-up, cutting counter height, and weight of your iron all contribute to sustainable physical health in sewing and quilting, but just as important is the mental and emotional environment you have in your sewing space.

I learned in college that putting on headphones with some upbeat pop music helped me study, as long it was songs I was familiar with and didn’t have to concentrate on. The tempo kept my energy up, and the headphones reduced any distraction from roommates or other people around.  That continued to work after I graduated (and finally ditched all those “I have math test tomorrow and haven’t attended a class all semester” nightmares!) with housework, cooking, or anything else that I needed to get done expediently.

When it comes to my sewing room, though, I tend to listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I recommend the Hip to be a Square quilting podcast if you need a place to start! *end shameless self promotion*.  The spoken word keeps me company in the sewing room, but I do find there are times when I have long stretches of cutting or pressing I need something a little peppier than talking.

That’s when I turn to mood-driven playlists. I have a subscription to Amazon Prime, so I can take advantage of their range of pre-selected music in the “Happy & Upbeat” category; you can click through that link to see some of the music in that category. My personal taste pushes me towards 80’s pop, but I occasionally dip into the 70’s or 90’s. Last year I discovered a new (to me) band that I proclaimed to a friend to learn it was popular in the late 90’s. Last month I discovered the “Meghan Trainor and More” playlist, and so enjoyed Ingrid Michaelson that I thought I had stepped into the ’10’s. Alas, still a decade behid!

Regardless, to bring some science in, the beats per minute (BPMs) for upbeat music that gets me moving is around 120 BPM, which is the cardio equivalent of jogging or running; that’s good for cutting which can be very tedious.  For a piecing pace, I like a good 80-90 BPM, or the equivalent of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking“.

For hand quilting, a slower tempo can be a little more soothing and meditative, around 60 BPM, like most meditation music. A 2010 study showed that listening to music at this tempo can help move the body into an “alpha state”,  a relaxed state in which we are alert, not drowsy or sleepy.  That’s definitely the state you want to be in to reduce stress and strain while quilting!

Amazon Prime is not the only place to take advantage of mood-driven playlists; streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify also have these sorts of playlists. If you’re in an area of the world with limited internet-streaming, many library systems have CDs and other music formats you can borrow to spice up your existing music library. My local library system in Georgia just started a sewing machine lending program, too!

If you’ve watched the last few episodes of The Stitch, you know that Lynn listens to Hamilton (also available for free on Amazon Prime as of this posting).  While we provide recommended playlists in all of our patterns for both music and television or movies, my choices are usually upbeat to keep the quilting process moving. I’m curious what you all listen to while sewing, if anything?

Author: Pam

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2 Comments

  1. Great post! I like podcasts when I’m not at the machine, and I’ve found that my running/workout playlist double as a great high-energy sewing motivator! Right now I’m delighted to play my favorite Christmas playlist–it fits the bill as being cheerful and familiar. Hand-stitching is pretty much always in front of the TV, unless I’m in the car, where podcasts win the day. If this gets any more complicated, I’m going to need a flowchart.

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  2. I love music that is like white noise or ambient sounds when at the machine. I do listen to podcasts when piecing as long as it is something I don’t need to concentrate at a laser like intensity on to get it right. I knew there was science to the need to have background music on, thanks!

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