Tag: history

Why sew?

Today I read a post by Becca at Red W Sews about why she sews; it is a pensive entry and has inspired me to write about why I sew and what it means to me…

Sewing has only been in my life for two and a half years. I didn’t start sewing out of a desperate need to make clothes; I just fell into sewing. My first makes were cushions and curtains, but then I made a skirt and fell in love with the process. It was much more exciting that sewing straight lines for miles hemming a curtain.

So I guess you could say dressmaking chose me (it didn’t really, it was a random interest that developed).

smallAt the time I started to sew I was very ill and although I was volunteering at a local charity, I was unable to take on a proper paid job. So in many ways – although I did not consider this at the time – it was an escape route from what I was dealing with.

More than that, I was enjoying learning a new skill, and developing my techniques. I got frustrated at being a beginner and wanted to be better, like yesterday. As I made progress and improved, it made me feel good about myself at a very low point in my life.

I’m an overthinker, a worrier, and whenever I was focused on sewing – whether that was choosing fabric, cutting it, sewing, watching a video or reading a book – it would take my mind off other stuff, in turn this reduced my anxiety and made me happier.

I then got to the point where I was able to go back to work part time and my time sewing became more limited. This is the point where, historically, I would have normally lost interest. I didn’t; it grew. It helped there was a fellow sewist in the office, I guess.

I would take my makes into the office and I would love it when I impressed my colleagues… it was absorbing more good feeling around sewing.

Then we moved cities and I changed jobs, eventually going full time. My sewing was even more restricted because aside from the limitations on time of working full time, I was also dealing with chronic fatigue; it was a constant battle between feeling worn out and need to rest, and feeling frustrated I wasn’t sewing with each passing moment.

I have never really been into fashion, and I don’t have a very strong opinion on the state of RTW clothing so I don’t sew for these reasons. Some say sewists are thrifty but in this day and age its far cheaper to buy RTW, especially when you factor in time spend making a garment. I have always struggled with my weight (this is another post) and I do like that I can fit a garment to flatter my figure, not buy a piece of clothing in the hope that it will be close to a good fit (invariably it is not).

DSC_0056However, for a long time (until the last few months really) I hadnt been sewing garments for me because I did not want to accept the weight I had developed. It was only when I started blogging about the wardrobe architect than this changed. I still felt a huge sense of achievement making clothes that looked like they were sold in a shop with fabric chosen by me. Some say I have a distinctive style in terms of fabrics I choose and I like that.

I love the process of choosing a pattern and fabric. Weighing up in my head what I want the garment to look like and assessing which fabrics are best suited to this. I also like purchasing fabric for my stash to use later, when I find the right pattern or when I do not have funds to buy new fabric.

And I am set up. I have all the sewing equipment I could ever want or need. Should I find myself too ill to work again, or indeed set up as self employed working from home, I wont need anything (apart from more fabric, obviously) and I like that. It gives me a sense of security, that whatever happens I will have my sewing to fall back on.

When I read Becca’s post and she asked about wanting to sew versus needing to sew, I thought to myself I don’t need to sew, I sew because I enjoy it, and yet when I think about it sewing means much more to me than enjoyment.

DSC_0070littleThis perhaps became most obvious when my sewing machine had to go in to be serviced a few weeks ago. It is a good machine that I really enjoying having and using. And when I found out it was staying in the dealers shop for longer than anticipated I became very upset. I didn’t expect to feel like this. I do sew a fair bit, it is my central hobby, but I never thought it would be the end of the world to go a few weeks without my machine. On the contrary; I have my overlocker so I could sew if I wanted to and yet I found myself in actual tears because I was without a machine. It surprises me how little I know myself at times. I ended up purchasing a cheap bottom of the line machine to tide me over, and this turned out to be a good decision as the dealer has told me he needs to send my machine back to the manufacturers.

I fantasise about giving up work and running my own pattern making company, and maybe that will happen some day but it is a long way off. Right now I am all about gaining experience. I do tend to go OTT with my projects though. I have three projects on the go right now and about 5 others my brain is nagging me to start. I don’t have the time but I will find it somehow, because I need to…

I realise I am a bit late to the Wardrobe Architect party but after seeing it mentioned on Vintage on Tap I thought it is definately something I should investigate. So, essentially Collette HQ decided in 2014 to run a series on their blog to enable followers to look into their wardrobe and restructure it into something more functional and aesthetically pleasing. This is something I desperately need assistance with and so I have decided to give it a go.


The first week asks us to look at various aspects of our lives (history, culture etc) to look for influences in our current style. It was very interesting to do because it made me think of where my style sits, why and where I want it to be. It was quite a raw conversation I had with myself and is making me address some thought processes and the direction my sewing is going in.

Here are my answers:


111orange leggingsHow has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystalize? Have they changed over the years, and why?

As a child I did not like dresses but as I have gotten older I have begun to like that fashion sense. I’m not sure why I didnt like it but I have had a turnaround because I feel more feminine. As a teenager I liked to have colourful clothes; I owned a pair of bright orange ski pants. I have never been one to be concerned with others’ opinions; at times I felt like I should be. I’ve enjoyed comfortable clothes from a young age & this aspect of my taste has not changed.


How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

I havent felt like religion or spirituality have dictated or influenced my style choices, although perhaps those aspects in society have played a part as I have been at times quite conservative.


How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

In my culture it is seen that being slim is valued even above health. As a result of this I have often felt extreme pressure (once losing 100lbs in 7 months). My fashion preferences are sometimes dictated by what looks good on slim people when I need to get away from this. This could be gathered skirts or big dresses, which would make me look bigger in my eyes.


How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?

I think I am more influenced by what ‘I’ think than what others do (I am not sure how true this really is!). However I am by no means immune to the dazzle of fashion trends. While I don’t follow them specifically, I cant help but be influenced through popular media. Its more for my imaginary wish-list for when I get my perfect body! I am also influenced by work and social appropriateness and what ‘I’ feel is appropriate for me.


How do your day to day activities influence your choices?

I work full time in an office and suffer from chronic illness so comfort is priority for me. Currently I try to find the comfiest clothes in the supermarket that are most flattering to my shape (basically sacks) that is affordable. I spent much more money on fabric for clothes I make for other people than I do myself!


Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

I live in the south of England where nice weather is pretty limited. Cardi’s and leggings are a staple of the winter months. Additionally where I live is an elderly community in the main and so there are restrictions around that but I have no intention of being mutton dressed as lamb so this suits me somewhat.


In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

In my head I am skinnier than in my mirror and this has over time resulted in disastrous clothing and pattern decisions! With patterns, I then make them in a ‘normal size’ for no one in particular so I can pat myself on the back for my developing dressmaking skills… but then somewhere deep it makes me feel bad because I cant fit into anything I make.


One thing I noticed reading the comments on the collettehq page is that I am not alone in my thinking. There were lots of comments around different areas of body image and fashion and most if not all were self restricting in their own way. That is why I think this process is such a positive thing for the sewing community.

What are your thoughts? Have you been through similar to me? Do you disagree? Could your wardrobe also do with re-structuring? Let me know in the comments.

I will be hosting a week of wardrobearchitect on my instagram account, make sure you look me up @penguinandpear to keep up to date.

Until next time (which will be a review of swedish sewing paper…)… keep sewing!

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