My View on Sewing
I don't remember when or why I started sewing, I just always liked making things in general. I do remember the first garment I made in school and that I took to it very naturally. I'd grown up knowing that my Nana was a very skilled seamstress and that while my mum could sew, she didn’t have a huge interest in it. She did however, have a sewing machine in the house which ultimately, I took over!
From that first garment made as a Home Ec project, (a god awful wrap skirt made out of burgundy cotton poplin with white top stitching!) I do remember the urge to make it perfect, to add a little extra detail, to make it the best I could possibly make it. From here, I think I just kept tinkering away. The next garment I remember making was a wrap skirt type thing for over my jeans (it was early naughties people, hold your judgement!). I wore it into school on a 'no uniform day' and I was really nervous about it, prepared to be slagged off for making my own clothes. It was an all girls school after all and girls can be meeeeeean. Yes there were a few sniggers but I’ll never forget one of the more popular girls coming up to me and saying she didn't care what anyone else said, she thought it was amazing I could do that myself. I was made up! I was still self conscious but spurred on by the kind words. Because she was right. It was amazing. This was a skill I had pretty much picked up myself and was now able to use it as a tool to express myself.
Applying to art college, I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do but knowing I could sew meant that Fashion or Textiles were naturally my main focus. I was lucky enough that the first year of my course was dedicated to trying out a few disciplines which allowed me to do lots of experimenting. Suddenly I was using my sewing skills combined with metal work, sewing handmade paper, creating mixed media with fibres and lots more. I was able to push my sewing beyond making a piece of clothing. But in the end, I always veered back to applying my work into garments and so Fashion Design was my chosen path.
Here I really learned how to sew. We were trained by a skilled technician, kept technical notebooks and learned the art of pattern cutting. We learned how to take an idea through the design process and turn it out as a fully finished garment to present to the industry. Amazing stuff.
That has been my sewing journey. It took a lot of years but I never lost touch with it. So what is my view on the skill that I've worked so hard to improve? For me, sewing is magic. Taking something 2D like fabric, cutting it out in a particular way and joining it back together to create a 3D object that can protect you, can give you confidence, can alter your appearance, can change the way you hold yourself...tell me that's not a super power!
In a time where our differences are meant to celebrated, the clothing industry still has to cater to a standard to produce clothing cheap enough to entice fast fashion consumers. But when you fall outside this so-called standard, you can feel vulnerable, cast out and defeated. But sewing enables you to create your own version of fashion. You choose the fabric, you choose the fit, you choose the length, you choose the bits to show off. You are entirely in control, not the fashion industry. There is nothing wrong with your body if you don't fit this imaginary industry standard. The standard is the problem. It's the clothing in the shop that doesn't fit your body, not the other way around. We who sew are lucky enough to realise that and rise above it - another super power.
Sewing for me is also meditative. I completely zone out once I've my head stuck in a project and I know I'm not alone here. I've heard so many stories of people who use sewing as part of their mental health care. It allows you to take time out and focus solely on one thing, the project in hand. If you allow yourself to be distracted, you make mistakes. Simple as that. I'm not talking about sitting down for hours at a time (though if you are lucky enough to be able to do that, then enjoy every single precious minute) but even making a habit to sit down for 15-30 minutes every day / every few days / week / whatever works, allows you to get more accomplished than you could possibly imagine. Happy head, happy heart.
There is also the craft aspect of sewing which I find truly beautiful and in my view, perhaps the most important. Being able to create something with my hands is something that I have always been incredibly grateful for and do not take for granted. The process of creating by hand, for me, leaves a mark in the fabric. Not physically, but deeper than that. Being able to hold something that my own Nana made leaves a connection that cannot be explained. The clothes peg hanger that my mum made is still as clear as day in my head and I can still feel it's blue corduroy textures in my mind. Creating by hand is so incredibly visceral and for me, sewing is how I create by hand. It is my mark to be left behind when I'm gone. It is a skill I hope to pass onto others and onto my own children so that they too might connect in a deeper way to the people and things in our lives.
What does sewing mean to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories so please feel free to leave a comment below or on my Instagram feed.