23 July 2011

Has Sewing Changed Your Life?

For some people, sewing is a hobby. For me, it's much more than that.

I took up sewing on a whim a year and a half ago, after I felt a sudden urge to put my hands to some use other than typing. As someone who spends most of their life dealing in ideas and information, I felt an overwhelming desire to make something tangible. I nearly went with ceramics, but then signed up to a workshop on how to use a sewing machine. You know the rest of the story.

I've been trying to articulate the impact that sewing has had on my life since then. Here goes an initial attempt... Taking up sewing has:

- Reconnected me with my creative side, a side of me I'd been suppressing for years ever since I reluctantly gave up studying art to concentrate on subjects more likely to get me a job. It has allowed me to flex a different side of my brain from the one I use at work;

- Offered me a sense of childlike play, experimentation and discovery, whereby I can make things in a non-competitive environment, in my own way;

- Made me feel more in touch with the physical world, less alienated from the production process that goes into making things. It has given me a stronger sense of agency - I can have an idea in my mind and see it come into existence and be realised in physical form;

- Helped me feel more empowered and less reliant on other people, experts, or factories to make things and sort things out for me;

- Given me a sense of achievement with every stitch, and improved my self-esteem every time I wear a handmade garment out the house;

- Shifted my relationship to consumption, removing my previous compulsion to shop, to acquire things, and helping me to lead a more ethically and environmentally responsible life;

- Encouraged me to appreciate the aesthetics of everyday things, the beauty of the lines on the coat of someone walking in front of me, the folds of the dress on the person sitting opposite me on the tube;

- Made me feel part of a global community of like-minded people who make stuff and support each other.

We say that the arts inspire people, challenge them, make them feel good, add value to their lives. I attend a lot of cultural events at arts venues - galleries, cinemas, museums, concerts, theatres... But none of those events have had as big an impact on me as sewing a dress, in my own home, when I choose, without the leadership of "official experts" but with the support of the online sewing community. For my Clore Fellowship, I'm writing a provocation paper (my initial rambling thoughts here) in which I want to highlight the importance of self-led creativity in the home. The brief is to write something very personal, so I'm going to discuss the impact that sewing has had on me. But I don't just want to write about me.

* Have you recently rediscovered your creativity?
* Do you feel that taking up sewing - or another craft at home - has changed your life in some way?
* Has it affected how you feel about yourself?
* Has it changed the way you interact with the world?
* How would you explain this to someone who doesn't have a creative hobby? 

If you have a story to share and are happy to be quoted in my paper, I'd love to hear from you. I'm sure you can articulate the impact sewing has had on you much better than I can! You could leave a comment below, drop me an email or write a post on your blog and send me the link.

Thank you!