Sunday, September 24, 2017

Listening While Sewing: Suggestions

I've found that I do better work on a quilt when I'm listening to something. Plus, it's fun! I thought we could share some of the media we most enjoy. Here are my lists of music, movies/TV shows, audiobooks, and podcasts - please feel free to sound off in the comments about your favorite listening! If you want to read the absolute latest, I'm always sharing my current favorites in The Wonky Press Newsletter.

I grew up in the ages of iPod nanos, and before that, I had an old school Walkman, so I can honestly say I've never stopped listening to music (also, remember when the "Now" CDs were just starting to come out, and we all wondered what number they'd reach? Ha!). Naturally, music has played a huge role in my 7 year quilting journey.

I make playlists quite often, but I also get lazy and just add to other playlists. I use Spotify for all my streaming (I can listen on my computer or phone - perfect). Sadly, I just got rid of the last of my CDs. I don't even have a CD drive on my computer anymore, so that's kaput for me.

Anyway, here are some of my current favorite bands and soundtracks:
  • My Broadway playlist (changes periodically - I've listened to Hamilton pretty much "nonstop" since April 2016, and Waitress is a current favorite since I just saw it. More favorites: Les Miserables, Wicked, Ragtime, Little Shop of Horrors, Annie Get Your Gun. Honestly, this playlist is *most* fun to listen to for singing purposes!)
  • Panic! At the Disco (especially their latest album, Death of a Bachelor - this is good workout music, too), Bastille, Coldplay, MisterWives
  • Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, TLC, Destiny's Child (the 90s - good stuff, and perfect for car sing-a-longs, too)
  • Good Old War, The Lumineers, Regina Spektor, The Civil Wars, the Once movie album (the perfect chill out music at the end of the day)
This summer, audiobooks changed my life infinitely for the better. I've always been an avid reader, but for the longest time I was stubborn about trying formats other than the good old book-in-hand (can't really beat that, still!). I love reading books aloud to kids, so I should have known that good narrators can really transform a book - ESPECIALLY the ones who are narrating their own books (see below). It's actually gotten to the point where I'm actively reading one book on audio and one in hardcover. For years, I've been keeping track of my reading on Goodreads.

Through much trial and error, it's become apparent that I can only listen to audiobooks when I'm sewing or quilting without much thinking involved (free motion quilting and chain piecing are the BEST times!). If I'm cutting fabrics, it's not going to happen. Math and concentration means I can't focus on something else.

Here are the ones I've enjoyed most thus far. Of course, book preference varies widely per person. If you've never tried audiobooks, they can be quite expensive, so first check out your local library for their (free!) offerings. I also use Audible, which is subscription based; you can score a free month if you use Amazon Prime.
  • Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (narrated by Poehler herself plus a host of friends and family - you'd never get that experience reading the book!)
  • What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton (also narrated by the author herself - I'm almost done with this one, and it's been worth every penny)
  • Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (the audiobooks come highly recommended by my quilty sister Jess, who insists that the whopping 40+ hours of narration PER BOOK is worth it - even after reading them paperback. Right now, I'm slowly listening to the 4th book, Drums of Autumn)
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (and a special essay from the current day, by her), narrated by Claire Danes.
  • A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, narrated by 166 voices including David Sedaris and Nick Offerman in major roles

Once in a while, I'll whip out a crafty podcast. Honestly, it depends on the topic and/or person who is being interviewed. Do you have recommendations for me outside of sewing?

TV Shows and Movies
While I'm sewing, TV and movies need to be something I can watch without seeing (I need to look at the quilt, of course; these are moments when I wish I had 2 pairs of eyes). Sometimes, if I'm doing handwork right in front of the screen, I can manage to watch something new and exciting. But anyway, here are the shows that I've seen a few times, or the shows I can watch without seeing every moment.
  • Friends (never fails to make me laugh - last year I had a Thanksgiving episode sewing marathon and it was amazing)
  • Will and Grace
  • Veep (although I've probably missed some hilarious faces)
  • The Office (same)
  • Parks and Recreation (hands down our favorite show)
  • Master of None (my current show)
  • Call The Midwife
  • Outlander 
  • Lord of the Rings movies (my favorites; I can pretty much quote them, so I don't need to watch... but I want to watch, so this is usually a no-go).  
So, what are your current favorites to sew to? Let us know in the comments!


  1. These aren't crafty podcasts, but you should try Gastropod (science and history of food, usually funny and always fascinating) and Make Me Smarter (a deep dive in to current topics, like Bitcoin for example). I like classic rock while sewing or cleaning, most often starting with Credence Clearwater Revival and letting Google Play take it from there. I'm still getting my audiobooks from the library and can't think of anything recent I'd really recommend. Though, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is excellent in audiobook format and I'm about ready to revisit it again.

  2. Pat Sloan's podcast is fun to listen to as well (and for those who haven't listened it has a LOT of backlog to work through). I've actually been listening to YouTube playlists a lot. My favorite is the "No Vocal" one by Arctic Empire at the moment.

  3. Just downloaded a bunch of audiobooks to give a try while quilting + commuting. Music is starting to give me too much time with negative thoughts. :) We'll see how that works!

  4. I listen to a lot of baseball podcasts or turn on a baseball game while sewing. I also like to turn on Forensic Files on Netflix if I'm in the living room. Did you listen to the Presidential podcast last year from the Washington Post? That was fantastic and I wish they would do another season!

  5. Okay, first, how is Phantom of the Opera not on your Broadway list?? The best is having the movie on with subtitles cuz then it's super easy to sing along, but all the dialog is good for sewing. I've been pretty much alternating between the Civil Wars and Ed Sheeran for months now. Sometimes I mix it up with my Pandora Thumbprint station.

    1. And shows I watch while sewing at New Girl and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I haven't really gotten into podcasts or audiobooks. I've been on the look out for audio books via Prime Reading on my Kindle app cuz I love free books...I should check my local library digital content too!

  6. I do like the television on. I like History Channel and Science Channel, Monk, Fraiser. Some shows of late lack any imagination and are not intelligent, just stuff that makes my brain hurt.
    I have not tried books, but they would have to be non fiction.
    Sometimes I like quiet.
    When I treadmill, I take my laptop and do all of my net surfing at 4.2 mph. I built myself a desk on it so it is at perfect height.
    Life is good for me

  7. Lately, I'm "watching" Gilmore Girls as background noise for sewing. I also really enjoy the Crafty Planner podcast. Have you listened to the Modern Sewciety podcast? That's another good one!

  8. I like the TED radio hour and many of the TED talk videos don't actually require you to watch them. Wide range of topics. There was a great one on originality and design which meshed with the whole "derivative" tempest in the quilt world.

  9. I am watching re runs of the West Wing. Great writing and acting!

  10. I've been listening to audio books for a longtime, first on tape, the CD and then through the downloadable version (all through the library). Laurie King has an excellent series (Mary Russell wife of Sherlock Holmes). All of the Outlander Series are worth listening to more than once.

  11. For times when I can't zone out too much I like listening to audiobooks I've already read - the Harry Potter ones are great for this. I've also done this when I've wanted to re-read a long series in preparation for a new book release. Neil Gaiman reads some of his own books (Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, Stardust) and he's a fantastic reader - pretty sure I could listen to him read the phone book, plus it's fun to hear an author read their own work.

  12. Weird! My comment disappeared while I was typing! I listen to podcasts, just not while I'm crafting. Too distracting. Here you go: Criminal, Strangers, Death Sex Money, The Loving Project, Modern Love, Writing Class Radio.


Let's start a conversation! I love comments and I'd be happy to reply to all who have an email address accessible. Thanks for commenting!


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