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!


  1. What does sewing mean to me, well its definitely a hobby, something I've never really had before. That means its something that occupies a lot of my brain time but in a good way. As a mother of 2 I have found I need something else to focus on (a bit like listening to the radio when you are driving) so that I can be a well rounded parent. My husband has always had his own hobby which over the years I've felt a number of emotions (jealousy that I didn't have a similar part of my life, alienated as I have no interest in his hobby, exasperated as he can spend soooo much time & energy on it) but now I feel more balanced both in terms of relating to him and in myself.
    As far as the creativity side of things I enjoy sewing as it allows me to be creative (something I've always struggled with) but within certain confines. I like sewing as there are rules (scientific brain!) about how a pattern is designed, cut, sewn, pressed etc. You can be creative but within certain boxes, mix and match necklines/skirts, patterns, colour etc but ultimatly the bare bones of what you doing have to follow certain rules if you stand a chance of wearing the garment! I find this is my level of creativity rather than a blank canvas and box of paints. Nothing scares me as much as a blank sheet of paper! I could never be a clothes designer but my objective is to get a number of basic building blocks (basic bodice, neckline variations, skirt variations etc) and then mix and match as I feel inspired.
    A major part of sewing, which I explore internally everytime I sew, is how intimate it feels to sew a garmet. When you understand the thought, time and application that has gone into sewing a garment you look at the cheap supermarket clothes in a different manner. It makes you realise just how little overseas manufacturers are going to be paying their workers for the cheap clothes we can buy these days. Even if you are generous and take into consideration the fact that these clothes are made on an industrial scale so the actual time per garment is way faster than anything we could do at home, and even if you believe that most clothes AREN'T made in dodgy sweatshops, you have to realise that those people (including children) aren't going to be paid loads of money. It makes me question whether we should be buying these clothes and continuing the cycle but without these jobs is life even worse for the people in question? So ultimately it makes me buy less!
    But as you say it does make me look at other peoples clothes differently, both more critically (from a construction POV) and aesthetically, in fact I've fallen in love with a childs dress before now, sketched it out and made by own version, I was eyeing up a lady a few days ago admiring her dress wondering about the construction and checking out the piping!
    It also makes me more critical of the fit of my existing clothes and of any new clothes I were to buy as I understand more about how it should fit and why something is wrong. It makes me critical of my own clothes and their fit and I stive to improve that each time.
    It also give me an opportunity to spend loads of money (patterns, fabric, notions, tools) and new shops to mooch around!
    So in summary, sewing give me enjoyment, frustration, self-criticism, world-criticism, less mass consumption, higher standards both in my own production and others productions and an avenue to express myself. What it doesn't give me atm is a sense of belonging, there are very few people in my RL who sew and those that don't seem to regard it as a bit of an oddity. I follow many many blogs, and some poeple follow me, I get lots of inspiration from the blogosphere but I feel on the periphery of any sewing community. I think I need to commit more to be more involved, e.g. more regular posts, involve in Made-Me-Months, go to meet ups and generally be braver about interaction away from the social media world!

    1. Completely, it's a way of life, as my wife would say LOL I think it means more to her than I do.


  2. Sewing definitely has had an important place in my life since I took my first Beginners Sewing course in high school some 12 years ago. My desire to do it ebbs and flows, and I sometimes have off-times of no sewing that last years, but I always come back to it because it allows me to create EXACTLY what I want.

    I started sewing because I began to see what the clothes in stores were lacking, and knew that if I put my mind to it I could probably make it for myself and make it in better color, fabric, etc.

    I create for so many reasons, but I would say the top reason is because of the rush that comes with creating your own things; you don't have to wait to find what you want, you can make it yourself and love it 10x more than if you would have bought it because you can proudly say that you made it.

    I am just discovering that if you brave the world and share your creative interests with those you meet, it pays off in huge dividends. There are so many social circles out there for sewers, knitters, quilters, you name it. And there's something about finding others with the same passion as you that makes it that much more rewarding and fun.

  3. Hi Tilly,

    I think you've described it well, and I can relate to what sewing means to you.

    I've taken up the challenge to stop shopping and start sewing, almost a year ago now. I was inspired by a woman I met in upstate NY, who had homeschooled her daughter who had now all these amazing skills such as growing your own food, building you own house, stuff like that. And it mad me wonder: all these years at school, and what have I learned? I have to depend on other people for almost everyting. Nothing I own or consume is made by me. I disliked this idea so much I decided this had to change. We now have our own vegetable garden, I quit my job I was unhappy with, and I started sewing. It means several thing to me, related to myself and to the world around me. As for me, it is the perfect combination of things: I can be creative, use my imagination, and at the same time I am getting good at something. Being good at something is such an fulfilling feeling! And with sewing I really feel I learn so much with every new project.
    As for the world, I love that I don't have to participate in the parts I do not really agree with and do not control. Sewing has helped me to see what things really matter in life, which for me is being able to fend for yourself and your family. So many things in the world are just not important. They are made important by the company that sells the product, pretending you need it. This attitude has in some way made my world smaller, more locally oriented. I don't think this is a bad thing. I do read the news to keep up with the rest of the world. On the other hand, it has enlarged my world by all the great blogs I read and the inspiring people of the sewing community! Being able to share my projects and thoughts through my blog has helped me greatly to keep on going and be proud of what I make. So, sewing has been a big part of this change, and it has influenced my daily routine immensely. There's always a project on my mind!

  4. Sewing has changed my life too!

    I started sewing at about the same time as you, Tilly. My job is not a very creative job, but a bonus allowed me to explore that by buying a sewing machine. As a child I'd made clothes for my dollies and such and my mum used to be a seamstress so you could say I have a background of sorts! In that sense I think sewing has helped reawaken a creativity that has always been in me and that I have inherited.

    The timing of starting to sew was crucial for me too. The closure of my workplace was announced in May 2010 (I work for one of the quangos that was axed) so I was facing redundancy and a very uncertain future. Some nasty problems surfaced in my extended family and they happened to coincide with some pretty hefty disappointments in my personal life. I felt like everything was spinning horribly out of control and I couldn't cope at all. I became ill and was forced to take a three month leave it absence from work. It was a tough time because I felt so completely useless, and like I couldn't get anything right. So on all those days off work, I sat down and sewed.

    I'm not saying sewing is s miracle cure for depression! But being able to turn my hand to something creative was a really important outlet for me and still is. At a time when I felt like I sucked at everything, being able to create was an amazing feeling. I knitted and crocheted up a storm then too! It was soothing and stimulating at the same time and it was definitely a factor in my recovery.

    In addition, it helped me to meet some truly outstanding people. I joined a local craft group and made some firm friends there. Through my blog I met others, yourself included Tilly! A few times recently when I've had a wobble, Karen has popped up with words of advice and support, which is amazing (Karen is amazing. but then y'all don't need me to tell you that) Funnily enough, sewing has even helped me forge stronger connections with people I already knew, as a couple of friends have bough sewing machines more recently and we sew together.

    All of the things you said about aesthetics are true for me too, another thing that helped pull me out of that very low spot - being able to see that there is beauty everywhere and that I can make something beautiful with my own hands is a tremendous boon. Goodness, I could say more but I'll stop here!

  5. Hi Tilly, I've put a reply on my blog. It's weird as was thinking of writing something about how sewing has impacted on my life anyway, so hope it's not too disjointed and you get something useful from it! :)

  6. Hey Tilly,

    It is really nice to see how passionate you are about your sewing journey. It gives me such a different perspective. Though I sew, I can be quite ambivalent about it. But your views are really fresh and welcoming to me.

    I grew up with sewing, my mother sew many clothes for the entire family. She always had some kind of sewing magazine subscription. What I loved: I had an extensive doll's/Barbie wardrobe made out of fabric scraps!
    But there came a point, obviously in my teens, I started to hate the clothes my mother made. I thought it showed my working class background, sewing your own clothes meant you couldn't buy clothes from a store. The absolute worst were jeans. I have vivid memories of wearing shop bought jeans for the first time: victory! Even if it was a "brandless" one from C&A.

    Growing older I discovered the wonderful world of those old magazines from my mum of which some from the 1950s. In the 1980s, there was a 50s revival and my mom made me a wiggle skirt with a great top and oversized 50s buttons at the back. I was 18 with and I wore it at my driver's exam and I passed. Ha ha, I thought it had to do with that great outfit, a new victory!

    When I was a student, I finally took a sewing course myself and was overwhelmed by the possibilities and freedom it gave me. I can recognize that when reading your posts. Sewing up pillow cases and any odd fabric I could find.
    I even changed to art school to become a fashion design student. I learned about my limits. I'm not a very neat and technical sewer and very impatient. And I learned a bit about the ugly sides of the fashion world. After two years painting became my unexpected passion, I changed studies again…

    Anyhoo, sewing stayed around, it was still the cheapest way to have a full and crazy wardrobe. I have been sewing in bursts and waves, I still wouldn't call it "my hobby". That's a charged word to me, I still feel that sewing is a lot of work. :-) And sometimes deeply frustrating. I made many clothes I hardly wore. Wrong pattern, wron fit, wrong fabric, wrong choice of all. It never was an easy journey, I left behind a graveyard of UFO's.

    Through swing dancing I rediscovered my love for vintage looks and garments. Thanks to the internet I can finally find many great original patterns! And thanks to the blogging community and all those great sewers I feel really stimulated.

    But I don't sew because of ethical reasons. On the contrary, it boosts my consumerism! Internet is very seductive. I don't buy fair trade or eco friendly fabrics and I buy way too much fabric. I'm a mass consumer of fabric! And I have no idea how those fabrics, zippers, buttons, interfacings and threads are produced and under which circumstances. Besides that, my sewing is environmentally challenging, as I order patterns that are flown in form the US. That is not very thoughtful or considerate, is it?

    And being honest? I own a full wardrobe which never seems sufficient. Will I ever quit adding? Even if sewing is slower than buying readymades, it doesn't make me less of a consumer. Maybe I have to reconsider the addictive sides of it and the reasons for an exploding wardrobe.

    But yes, you are right creating something by hand is magic and fulfilling. I dare say it is a very human necessity. I requote Kant: "The hand is the window on to the mind." Maybe you would like to have a peek at Richard Sennett's book: The Craftsman, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/books/review/Hyde-t.html or http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/feb/02/featuresreviews.guardianreview14

    oooh, this turned out longer than I wanted. Hehe, your post is stirring up something!

  7. I only have a moment, but will say that I find garment construction interesting for many of the reasons you mentioned. When you asked similar questions a month or two ago I said that I didn't think many women sewing bloggers were particularly dynamic or advocates of change because:

    --They nurture nostalgia for a nonexistent past in which women were barefoot and pregnant, happy "seamstresses" tending to the home. They want to be cute little "girls" despite being grown women;

    --They are unwilling to contribute to a wider discourse;

    --They seem to think that "soft" creative work will solve all problems. It won't. Some of us, especially women, need to succeed in the world of men's work, the world with the real power, prestige, and money. We ought to be encouraging and training our daughters to do the same.

    So while I think the interest in sewing is great as far as it goes, I don't think it goes as far as you do.

  8. I think for me, it hasn't so much changed my life as shaped it. I started rather young--my mom started teaching me to follow patterns and use the sewing machine when I was about 7, and I knew some VERY basic hand-stitching before that. So by the time I was a teenager, I was sewing a pretty significant portion of my wardrobe, and those handmade clothes became a big part of my identity. (I went to a small private school with a rather strict dress code, so sewing was a big part of how I expressed myself through my wardrobe while still staying within the rules.) I got away from it for awhile in college--not entirely, but I realized once I got to my senior year (and added a bad relationship that I'd been in for much of it) that I hadn't done nearly as much as I used to. So then it was a big way that I re-discovered the creativity I'd somewhat lost touch with. (At least outside of my music major.)

    So between that and my rather DIY parents, I was raised to have that hands-on mentality. But in the last several years (and mainly through discovering sewing blogs) I've become much more aware of how my sewing plays into things like consumption and conservation.

  9. @anonymous...

    Ohmy, I am nor barefoot nor pregnant. And I certainly don't resemble a cute little girl.

    To view the world just with men, money, prestige and real power? Be my guest if that is your choice.

    Funnily enough one could describe that world as a very conservative, old boys network and it neither does it solve all problems. It creates a few... But I know the world is not as simple as that.

    I work for a living, in an office with real men and women and with real money.
    But whatever that has to do with sewing my own clothes I cannot see.

  10. Wow -- sewing and blogging definitely doesn't make me a happy seamstress tending to my home! In fact, I have a very patient husband who understands that when the house isn't clean and dinner isn't made, it's because I'm caught up in my passions which are textile, shapes, lines, machines. I went back to sewing about three years ago when I left work and it permeates my life - I've gone back to the School of Fashion Design for courses; teach an Open Sew at a fabric store; longingly look at books on design, lines, fabric manipulation. Going into my cutting and sewing areas are inspiring to me and as much a part of my life as a career. I love to create -- it makes me feel happy, empowered, and capable.

  11. I too, started sewing 1.5 yrs ago and it has transformed me in every way you described. Developing my 3 dimensional reasoning skills (something I do not come by naturally) was like learning a new language. I am grateful to sewing for changing my life, every day.

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  13. Tilly! You always provide such an interesting perspective. I don't do nearly as much thinking as you do. But I do appreciate the questions you raise on your blog. You always make me stop talking & start thinking.

    But you're right; it's non-competitive, it's creative & it's useful--all of which appeal to me (the one in school who was always picked last to be on a team!).

    I'll go back to my talking not thinking mode & pack up my sewing stuff for our big (last?!) move next Friday...

    p.s. Marc just moved a bookcase & found 13 (yes THIRTEEN) of Bella's toys behind it. :-P

  14. Sewing isn't just a hobby, sewing IS me! It's such an integral part of who I am.

    I have been sewing since I was a small child and have gotten to the place where I make 90% of my clothes and 50% of my daughter's clothes. This year, I will be sewing for my husband, too.

    Through the online sewing community, I have gained confidence, received constructive feedback, and been helped out of sticky sewing situations. This same online community has spurred my own creativity in new directions, specifically knitting.

    Your blog is one of my very favourite places in the creative community, Tilly. Keep up the great work!

  15. Great post! I read each of your points and thought yes, yes!, ditto!, me too!, exactly!, same here!

    Sewing has also changed my relationship with my body and myself. Being able to make beautiful clothing that fits my body the way it is today helped me stop worrying that I wasn't _________ enough (fill in whatever you want - thin, busty, tall, toned...) and start appreciating that I AM enough, just as I am today. For me, the realization that I don't have to try to make myself conform to an unattainable fashion industry standards of beauty in order to feel beautiful in my own skin is immensely empowering.

  16. I want you to know that your post brought tears to my eyes and overwhelmed me in a very surprising way. I only found this world of sewing bloggers in June. Since that time, I have been happier and more excited about life than I had been in years. I am sorry that your anonymous writer feels the way she does. I don't believe that sewing makes me soft, however, I am an artist who expresses herself with textiles when I get home from dealing with the outside world. Sewing has also provides time for me to spend with God who has blessed me with this gift.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful words!

  17. So much of what you said rung true for me, especially the idea of not relying so much on the "official experts". The DIY mentality is, of course, diametrically opposed to reliance on experts. Specialization is good since we can't do everything ourselves, but making some things is healthy and useful, and makes us appreciate better the skill that goes into the things we don't make.

  18. Sewing has changed me so substantially, that my life feels literally "before and after." I started sewing in the summer of 2008, completely self-taught, at the age of 41. I have spent the last 17 years in the legal field, 15 in law school and as a litigation attorney, and the last 2 as a judge. My day job is stressful. But when I have the opportunity to immerse myself in a project, it is as if I am walking from the black-and-white scene of my "normal" life into the technicolor world of fabric, imagination and possibility. The experience is tactile, visual, psychological and emotional. Nevermind the maddening, frustrating hours upon hours spent on occasion trying (in vain!) to get the fit of something just right, this hobby can be as complex or as simple as you like. Coming off a particularly stressful week, I decided to spend the day with my preschool-age daughter making little pillows trimmed with pom-poms out of candy colored quilting cottons and I enjoyed that as much as my best garments. Sewing has done so much for me, and I am thrilled to be able to begin sharing it with my little girl.

  19. I just have to address @anonymous, whose comments I overlooked before my previous comment: Most of the sewing bloggers I follow, and most of the women I know who sew are professionals who have done very well for themselves in the world (men/women, whatever- this is not an issue I run across very often, even as a female community leader in the southeastern U.S.). I was shocked at the notion that anyone would think the modern sewing movement had anything to do with "barefoot", "pregnant", or any other oppressive female stereotypes. I simply have not seen that message or implication anywhere, and I spend a good deal of time reading blogs, books, articles, etc., on sewing.

  20. As a Web Developer/Designer I have a creative job, so I've always been in touch with my creative side. Sewing has definitely changed my life in that I don't buy clothes when I'm upset or sad anymore. (I don't buy fabrics or sewing notions when I'm upset or sad, either.) It has made me more conscious of how much I consume and has helped me pay attention to detail. I stopped buying RTW clothes about a year ago. If I need something I either make it or thrift it, with the exception of shoes. It has helped me find such amazing and inspirational bloggers out there (like you!). All my fashion choices are more deliberate now, and I like being able to reinvent myself and my look on a weekly basis.

    The one hobby that has changed my life drastically is not sewing but martial arts though. :)

  21. No sewing hasn't changed my life because it is so much part of my life and has been since I was about 6! :) I suspect the life I would have had without it would have been a lot duller, and with a far more conventional wardrobe :)
    I make a lot of my work clothes, which are inspired a lot by male historical clothing -frock coats in particular. As a larger sized woman in a professional world, the choice of premade clothing is limited and I would not be able to express myself as I wish to.
    Sewing allows me to take an idea from conception to reality, like you said, and thank you for saying as I hadn't really seen that before. :)
    It has also allowed me to have affordable choices in my homes - making one's own drapes saves a lot of money, for example. And I love to make quilts and tea cosies and all kinds of craft items. Making things that are practical and beautiful is satisfying to me.
    I sew because I love to be surrounded by and dress in fabrics that delight me.
    I sewed my way through university and teacher's college (no I am not a teacher) and I have used the earnings from it to finance several periods of my life when the weekly wage wasn't enough to let me do what I wanted to do.
    Sewing has empowered me to help the women I have sewn for to get over body hang ups, to get more self-confidence. This is as far from being barefoot and pregnant and living in a historic idyll as I can possibly imagine. In fact, I celebrate the pragmatic creativity and ingenuity of my foremothers, and I can think of nothing more anti-feminist than an ignorant dismissal of women's arts, crafts, creativity and self expression.
    Tilly I love the intellect you bring to your sewing - I relate to it and I enjoy it when the artistic meets the technical because it satisfies both sides of my brain, as I suspect it does yours also :)

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  23. @anonymous

    Contrary to what you are saying, I think your view is very conservative! Do you really think that participating in this world of 'men, prestige and money' will make this world better? I do need a significant job to be truly happy, because I have a need to feel useful in the world. Sewing fullfills this need at home, and gives me a way to express my creativity. Like many others here, I started when my job could not give me that.

    Your view is an interesting point to debate on, but the way you state it here is an outright attack to a lot of people. I hope that the fact that you post as anonymous does not mean that you are unwilling to enter a reasonal debate.

  24. Oh, Tilly, I've been thinking about "anonymous's" comment & had to come back & state my piece. First, how do you know I'm not a "captain of industry?" I believe it's possible to be a powerful well-paid corporate executive who has a hobby--sewing!

    And I am about as far from barefoot & pregnant as you can get...I don't like children & have never seen why women want to be mothers or pregnant. I'm only barefoot at yoga, I spend too much on shoes to go without for very long.

    I've been in my relationship for almost 30 years and we have definitely switched back & forth with regards to work/$$. I had a good job (systems analyst at a Fortune 500 company) while he finished college & got started in the world of work. He had no luck, being in a crazy industry. So I supported us & it was my salary the bank was interested in when we bought our first house.

    When working overseas...we always had the same job at the same pay (even in Muslim countries) and got the same benefits (vacation time, flights home).

    Now we're back in the US & he supported me for the 2.5 yrs I was looking for a job. We've both got good government jobs now but he makes more as he's stayed in the same profession (he's rewarded for experience) while my salary is a bit lower because I'm in a new career.

    I wear vintage because it's different (you don't quit your job, sell your house & go traveling at 30 if you want to be like everyone else), and because it flatters my body type while being modest. Don't worry, I was modest before I lived in the middle east (I'm a white girl & spend lots of time trying to keep out of the sun).

    You really don't know very much about any of us, anonymous, but you've been quite judgmental. I think you're probably not a very happy person. I'm sorry about that, but I've always figured if people have a way to express themselves constructively (art, music, gardening, quilting, sewing, cooking, dancing), then they are happier & the world is a better place.

    Good luck to you; I hope you stop expecting sewing to fix your life and make you happy...it doesn't work that way.

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  26. Darn it, I posted accidentally as my boyfriend. Again! D'oh!

    I think @anonymous raises a really interesting point, and I've been mulling over this point in particular:

    "They nurture nostalgia for a nonexistent past in which women were barefoot and pregnant, happy "seamstresses" tending to the home. They want to be cute little "girls" despite being grown women"

    This is something I have lamented about and been irritated about on many blogs myself, just not sewing blogs! It's something I find really infuriating about certain 'vintage lifestyle' blogs - this sense that everything would all be better if ladies wore gloves, or men wore hats, or if we returned to an imagined genteel past, because there is rarely (if ever) any engagement with the social, economic or political context of those golden days. So I totally get Anonymous's point. I just don't think it relates to any of the sewing blogs I read, and certainly not this one!

    I think the vast majority of us home seamstresses recognise what a *luxury* it it to be able to sew for the love of it. I mean, none of us have to sew - RTW garments are readily and cheaply available and while there are many (many many many) issues with this, I don't think any of us don't count ourselves lucky to be living in an era where we can sew just for the love of it, and not to put clothes on the backs of our families or because we can't afford to do otherwise.

    I don't mean to piss on your chips, Anonymous, because it may well be that you have found this phenomenon elsewhere on the internet! As I said, I totally have with certain other blogs so I can understand what you're saying to a certain extent. I just don't know how much it applies to 21st century leisure sewists such as ourselves!

  27. Very thought provoking, Tilly! The short answer is yes, I'm going to post the longer answer on my blog, probably tomorrow morning. Your paper sounds fascinating.

  28. Hi Tilly, my short answer is also 'yes'! I've posted a longer answer on my blog, here's the link http://handmadejane.blogspot.com/2011/07/has-sewing-changed-my-life.html
    Jane x

  29. Wow, I came back to read some of the other (wonderful!) comments, and just saw what anon said.

    In addition to creativity, cultivating a sewing hobby takes discipline, dedication, skill, problem solving, planning and sometimes patience - the same qualities that have made me an accomplished person in my career and other areas of life.

    Unlike the 80's, I think women no longer feel like they need to hide away their bodies under "power suits" or be less feminine in order to be taken seriously or succeed in their careers. Or, for that matter, that we need to eschew what was traditionally considered "women's work" to gain power, prestige or money. In fact, I think women of my generation (I'm mid-30's) are less inclined to accept the idea of having to compete in a "man's world" for those things or chase anyone else's definition of what it means to be successful or to be told what it is that we "should" want in life. I will determine my own course in life. And that is what I will teach any daughters I may have.

    I blog and read blogs for enjoyment and to connect with others who share my hobby - it is what I do when I step away from my career and other weightier responsibilities. My internet presence is just one facet of my life and who I am, as I think it is for most sewing bloggers. So, quite frankly, Anon, if you think that a blog must be a platform for discourse or that sewists should advocate for societal change, then you ought to start a blog of your own.

  30. Funny how the ones who really get their knickers in a twist are the anonymous ones, isn't it?

    My response is up on my newly revamped blog: http://betyourbobbins.blogspot.com/2011/07/has-sewing-changed-your-life.html


  31. :) Yes, you're absolutely right. In the last year, since I have started sewing, I have come to realize that I'm a creative person. Before, I always thought I was just good at copying and maybe at remixing stuff. I was afraid to call myself "creative", for fear of inspiring expectations that are too high. Now I know that I'm creative. It has spilled over into other endeavors, too, like creative writing, singing, acting... It's a great thing, and I think it's in a big part due to the sewing (blog) community, too. So much creativity, working together, it's awesome!

  32. Ooooh, Tilly, you know how to ask the good questions! Two blog posts for you:



    Hm ... this has made me realize that I haven't written anything deep on my blog in almost half a year! Sheesh. Best get on with it!

  33. I began sewing again after many years. I learned in junior high and majored in home ec when I started college. But life happened and I became a nurse instead. Becoming frustrated with ready to wear, I bought a new machine last year and began reading sewing blogs. I have been inspired to find vintage patterns, those I had made in the 70's when I was in high school-I still love that style. I love going to fabric stores and just touching and imagining the fabrics made into beautiful dresses. I now have amassed a large collection of pattern just waiting to be made.

  34. Me again! Just posting the link to my response, I really enjoyed writing it and I think it's probably the most personal thing I've published on my blog - scary!


  35. I'm sure you have loads more interesting comments here, but I thought I'd chime in! :)

    Sewing has been something I've done (granted off and on) for most of my life. In a way it hasn't been wildly life-changing since it seems as though the skill has always been there. But it has afforded me several benefits and continues to engage me with new techniques to learn and the long list of projects on my wishlist.

    I think the largest benefit for me is that sewing has helped me accept how I look. As silly as it may sound, having suffered from an eating disorder for most of my early 20s, having an alternative to the clothing and mainstream fashion industry has been healing and freeing. I no longer am so apt to view myself critically, but embrace the little "lumps and bumps" and learn how to fit those so as to flatter (instead of berate and try and forcefully change through unhealthy means). I can cloth myself and my shape how I please--this has been a huge boost to my self confidence!

    Sewing also presents a set of unique challenges--almost any new project brings some sort of variation or skill set I have to master. I get bored easily when hobbies become repetitive and stagnant; sewing has yet to do that. There are so many off-shoots of Sewing to discover and learn more about: couture techniques, tailoring, pattern making, heirloom sewing, surface embellishment, etc. I dare say I will never get bored!

    I often am questioned by others about my sewing hobby. Most people think it is quaint and a "nice" thing to keep me busy, but few people (who aren't makers of some sort) seem to really "get" how creatively challenging and satisfying it is. My standard explanation is that sewing satisfies my insatiable drive to discover how things are made and learn how to do that myself--particularly in regards to fashion and garments. Certainly there are the benefits of good fit, quality materials and making something for less than I would pay at the store (and far better too!). But ultimately it comes down to the fact that I am a "curious creative sort", and can't seem to sit still for two seconds at a time!

  36. I'm so happy you took up sewing. I started sewing at 7 years old and it was an escape from a difficult childhood. Now I'm back into with full force because it is an escape again but also a source of income or will be. Love your blog.

  37. That's a big question but I'll try and keep it concise. Sewing has changed my life in that I am interested in fashion because I have more control and more invested in what I wear and the look I want to create. Instead of going to a chain store and finding things that don't fit my style or my body I now have exciting clothes with thought put to them that are unique. Sewing has also helped to break my addiction to consumerism. After learning so much about human trafficking and slave labor used world-wide to make cheap clothing I now feel empowered to "vote with my dollar" by refusing to shop at places like that. Instead I make my own clothing or re-make clothes bought at thrift shops.

  38. Sewing hasn't changed my life per se, but the social aspects surrounding it have. I realized a long time ago that I have to be creative in order to survive the other, less tactile aspects of my life. But, for most of my life I was pretty closeted about my crafting as I was in an intellectual and male dominated career, where these things were seen as a waste of time.

    What has changed my life is the threads that link my sewing to the larger world. For a short time I had a micro sewing business that connected me to a lot of like-minded people and finally gave me the confidence to do my creative thing and put it out there in the world.

    Partly because of this experience, I spent 3 years teaching African refugees sewing as a way to teach english and encourage them to interact with someone outside their culture. Of course, I learned as much as they did, and most of it wasn't about sewing.

    And then there is the internet, that has connected me to a whole world of like-minded freaks. Honestly, would you be as excited about sewing without internet-aided sewing discussions like this? Can you believe that for years sewing made me feel isolated and not connected ?

    So yes, there are a lot of reasons sew has changed my life, but it isn't the stitching alone that has changed my life, it's having people to share it with.

  39. I will need to find time to go through all the previous comments, but just reading Sigrid's above seems to confirm one of the aspects I'm keen to consider. Indeed I'm curious to know how much it is sewing per se that changes your/one's life, or how much reaching into a community of like-minded people (via blogging, meet ups, sewing classes, etc.) contributes to it too. Whilst some bloggers write only about their sewing in a nuts and bolts (pins and needles?) kind of way, others strive for a sense of community through sewing and creativity in writing about sewing that seems to greatly transcend the act of sewing itself.

    For me sewing is very much a hobby. An all-consuming one maybe, but still a hobby. I do not blog and have no desire to. Every now and again I'm proud enough of my work that I feel it merits posting on Sew Retro, but I can't be bothered with the fuss of having to take and download pics and write up about the sewing process involved, and so I don't... I work in a creative industry and spend so much time writing for a living as it is that I want to keep my sewing as far away from feeling like work as I can. My love of sewing is an important facet of my personality but doesn't define it like my love of film does, say.

    That said, I greatly enjoy the sense of community that I have discovered via other people's sewing blogs, and am fascinated at watching how people like Gertie for instance have managed to use it to redefine themselves and make a career out of it, finding a niche for their creativity that extends far beyond simple sewing.

  40. ok, my english is not so good, but....

    I love your blog!

  41. I sewed as a teenager because I wanted nice clothes but couldn't afford them. I took up sewing again about 2 years ago because I was desperately needing a creative outlet from my Big Corporation work stress (and frantic, wearying evenings and weekends with my young kids). It's great to have a "just for me", no stress, no deadlines passion. And interestingly, I found my memory improved in parallel with taking up this hobby - something to do with learning new skill(s) I believe!

  42. It's awesome to read how sewing has impacted you. I wish you heaps of luck and good vibes for your essay.

    I could write about these considerations for years, but something that struck me as I read your questions, is that I guess sewing has effected my self-esteem too. I've never had much in the way of a career, none of the possesions or life-steps that so many people judge themselves by (no car, flat/house of my own/not married/no kids/etc.) which used to bother me until more recent years. I'm sure many of my friends and acquaintances look at my life and see it as pretty juvenile, but becoming good at sewing has really given me a level of achievement that makes me feel very proud, many of them probably wouldn't understand anyway.

    Like you, the feeling of being free from the influence of advertising and clothes shopping and generally consuming rabidly, makes me feel awesome. Like I have more clarity and time to pursue what really interests me. Figuring out what I like and what I want is so much easier when I no longer visit the church of Topshop regularly!

    please post sections of your essay if you are able to, or the 'ramblings' as you figure bits out. I'd LOVE to read more from you on all this.

    besos y abrazos guapa!


  43. I just wrote a little post! I hope it's useful, excuse my not-so-great-English in it, it's not my first language...


  44. Alright, Tilly. I had to write a post on this, too. I'm not sure it's exactly what you were asking. Mainly I ramble on about sewing and art. But it was fun to write about. Cheers!


  45. What a great post, very thought provoking. I wish you well in writing your paper.
    I have written a post on my blog endeavoring to answer this.

  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

  47. The question is can a sewer live their life without sewing?

  48. A thought-provoking discussion as usual, Tilly! Too many questions here to answer all at once, but I'm mulling them over - a bit on my blog here http://dianaandme.co.uk/?p=734

    I think your project will be fascinating!

  49. Thought provoking post and interesting answers from all.

    I started young, with parents who are both "makers" in their own ways. I have the house and the mainstream job, but am enough of a hippie to view that as a choice I made. Still, it's tough for me to think of sewing as a hobby; I think of it as part of housekeeping, a part I really enjoy. It gives me pride that I can 'opt out' of mass-market food; I feel the same about mass-market clothing. Not only can I beat the consumerism down a bit, but I can make things that suit ME and my loved ones, not some average/ideal image of a person out there. The idea that the clothes, not the body, are the problem, was totally revolutionary for me.

    And as far as anonymous and her 'ideal past', perhaps some people feel that way, but I am well aware of the 'nasty, brutish and short' aspects of the past. I am amazed and reverent at the artifacts that survive from earlier times and tough situations today that show that even with little time and little resources, the human desire to create, to beautify, to embellish, is universal.

    Seeing tangible results, using little-exercised skills, learning new things, making our visions real--what's not to like? Sounds like pretty heavy, 'self-actualization' kind of stuff. Hey, could sewing be making us (gulp) happy?

  50. Interesting questions and replies!

    I just blogged my reply here:


  51. Fantastic is the most proper word to portray this blog.


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