Sewing Room Reflection: Beginnings

For many people, spring is the time of year when they think most of new beginnings and fresh starts as the world turns from shades of white, gray and brown to greens, pinks and blues. For others, January first and New Year’s Resolutions trigger thoughts of starting afresh. For me, August says, “clean slate”. The new school year is always a time for me to begin with my best foot forward. Blank notebooks, a head full of ideas, a fresh routine, and new students all make me feel so positive about the year to come.

On a smaller scale, I feel the same way when I start a new sewing project. Instead of class rosters and sharpened pencils, I have yards of fabric and stylish patterns to represent this beginning. The sense of anticipation and openness is similar though. I get excited about diving into this experience, leaving behind any past disappointments or failures.

Sometimes I get in such a rush to get going on a new sewing project that I don’t stop to notice or savor the feeling. With limited sewing time, I get more caught up in making progress or sewing quickly. Instead I would like to slow myself down just enough to enjoy each step. I would prefer to be deliberate in my making, noticing how each step takes skill and brings me closer to my goal. I want to pause to appreciate the process of going from raw materials to finished garment. 


Sewing Room Reflection: Quiet

I’ve been reading the book Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s about being an introvert, what that means in our culture and the strengths as well as the challenges that come with this personality type. It’s been a very interesting read; I highly recommend that introverts and extroverts alike pick up this book.

What does this have to do with sewing? Well, it started me wondering how many of us sewers are introverts and how we can use our personality type, whether quiet or outgoing, to enjoy our sewing time more.

I know that I can get totally absorbed in a sewing project and be totally content working by myself for hours on end. I also tend to start on one project and stick with it until it is finished. I very rarely have simultaneous sewing projects going on. These are typical work habits of an introvert.

(I don’t want to speak on behalf of extroverted sewers to say what kind of work habits they have. If you are an extrovert, please feel welcome to comment about how being an extrovert affects your sewing hobby.)

Taking the time to think about my introverted side has made me realize that some of my favorite sewing projects are ones where I really took my time to plan the project out and didn’t take any shortcuts on the construction. I was absorbed in and enjoyed the whole process of sewing, rather than just wanting to skip ahead to the finished product.

As I move toward the beginning of a new school year and have less time to devote to my hobbies, I want to remember what I’ve learned about myself from reading this book. First of all, I need to give myself the time and space to sew. I need a quiet hobby that recharges me after a day or week of teaching teenagers because teaching, while I enjoy it because of how much I value education and its power to transform lives, uses all of my energy since I have to exude more and be more outgoing than I am naturally inclined to be. There’s not a lot of quiet, individual work time during a typical school day!

Secondly, I ought to plan out my sewing projects and sewing time so that I can enjoy the process fully without feeling like I have to accomplish a project in a certain time frame. I could maximize my enjoyment if I have all the supplies I need ready and waiting for when I have some sewing time. Doing my preparation for the next couple projects I have in mind will allow me to simply sit down and allow myself to become absorbed in the sound of my sewing machine.

Are you an introverted or extroverted sewer? How do you see your personality type come out in your sewing?

Sewing Room Reflection: Sharing Joy

Sewing is usually a solo activity for me. I get my sewing room set up for whatever project I’m working on, turn on the music I’m in the mood for, and I start creating. The vast majority of the time I’m sewing by myself because, out of my husband and I, I’m the only one who sews. To be perfectly honest, I like it this way. I don’t have to share my sewing machines, notions or fabric stash with anyone else.

The problem is, though, when you enjoy something as much as I enjoy sewing, you naturally want to share that joy with others. It’s probably best not to call something this positive a problem! It may be a challenge to find opportunities for sharing the love of creating through sewing, especially if you’re like me and mostly gravitate towards sewing items for your own wardrobe.

I was very fortunate to have one such opportunity this past week when my good friend, Katie, was in town. When we were planning her visit, I threw out a few different ideas for ways to spend time together and, on a whim, suggested doing a sewing project together. I was so glad when she liked that idea! From going to the fabric store to snipping the final thread, Katie and I had a wonderful day.

Katie chose to make a simple camisole top. Here’s her finished shirt:

photo (10)

(I made a project too, but I’ll do a full post on that soon.)

The best part of choosing to spend her visit doing a project together was seeing the happiness on Katie’s face when she had her camisole finished. I have sewn so many different things in the past that the joy of seeing what I’ve made is muted, but Katie’s joy became my own when I saw how excited she was about what she’d made. My enjoyment of sewing was multiplied by sharing it with a friend.

This is a beautiful cycle, I think, and it can apply to almost any area of interest. Share or give away what you love and it always seems to come back to you in a greater measure. How do you share your enjoyment of sewing? When have you experienced something similar?

Sewing Room Reflection: Almost There

My mind this week has been preoccupied with how it feels to be almost there. You know what I mean. It can happen near the end of a long car ride. It happens in the sewing room when all that’s left is stitching the hem. It’s happening in my “garden” right now as I wait for tomatoes to ripen. You can just about see, taste, hear, smell and feel your reward. It’s a good feeling; one of anticipation and excitement.

I’ve been more concerned lately with what it’s like to have this feeling of being almost there interrupted. There’s a detour. A seam needs unpicked and re-sewn or the bobbin runs out. A storm breaks the heavy branches full of green fruit. What does being interrupted at this point in the process feel like? My gut reaction to this situation is to feel the opposite of anticipation and excitement; I feel disappointment and regret.

Once the sting of my initial reaction has faded, how do I move forward? There are certainly two paths laid out in front of me. I can keep driving, sewing or waiting. The alternative is to let the circumstances that were out of my control get the best of me. It can be very hard to hold on to those feelings of hope and enthusiasm that I started with, but I think that’s the better path.

I try to think of how my enjoyment of the final result will be multiplied by the struggle, how my patience will be rewarded, if I stay the course. But there’s no reward for giving in to the feelings of frustration. It’s, of course, okay to stop the car or take a break when the disappoint occurs, but I encourage everyone to keep the end in mind when you are stopped by something you can’t control.

Sewing Room Reflection: Personal Style

As a sewer and an avid reader, I spend a fair chunk of time reading others’ sewing websites, getting ideas and learning new things. One thing that gets me hooked on a particular site is the author’s personal style. Since most of what I sew is clothing, this aspect tends to draw me in first. As a reader though, it’s the writing that keeps me coming back.

I read and love blogs with varied writing styles, but one thing they all have in common is that the voice of the writer seems to accurately portray the author’s personal style. I think it adds to the sense of community and camaraderie that there is in the online sewing world.

This realization led me to think about my own writing style. What is my personal writing style? Does it match my real life personality? Does it match my sewing style?  I started to think about whether I was good at conveying my personality through my writing as well as through my sewing.

While I think my writing style is an accurate portrayal of my thoughts and style, I can’t help but compare myself to other bloggers and feel a bit of self-doubt. I feel that my writing style is rather different from the style favored by some very popular sewing bloggers. They write in a very bubbly, colloquial style that uses the second personal perspective a lot. I had to ask myself whether writing in a style more like theirs would help my blog gain readers.

I ultimately have decided that this wouldn’t be a good plan. Just like wearing clothing that doesn’t fit wouldn’t be comfortable, writing in a style that doesn’t suit me wouldn’t put me at ease.  My writing style is more bookish and formal than what might be popular. But that matches who I am.

I am a bookish person who gathers information about things that interest me and stashes it away like a chipmunk stuffing her cheeks. In large group conversations, I often realize late in the conversation that I’ve just been listening to everyone, yet I still feel like I was involved in the discussion. I make friends slowly and I don’t enjoy being the center of attention.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to let my writing style evolve naturally rather than try to mimic what’s trendy. It might mean that I gain online sewing friends more slowly or that I’m rarely the center of blogland’s attention. But I think it’s better this way. I’d rather have a smaller audience that is genuinely interested in what I have to say than a large audience that I have to try to keep entertained by putting on an act.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite blog that you like because of the writing style? Do you struggle with finding a comfortable writing style? How did you find a writing style that matched your personal style?

Sewing Room Reflection: Routines & Creativity

I admit it. I am the kind of person who likes to-do lists, schedules, routines and calendars. I feel very organized and productive when I can look at my list of tasks to see what I’ve accomplished and have yet to accomplish. I have even gone so far as to create a calendar for the fun and 100% optional activities I want to do this summer, things such as going to the farmer’s market and attending concerts in the park. If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator test, you’ll know what I mean when I say I’m a “J”.

I often feel a little bit aimless or adrift when a day without a schedule is in front of me. I’m afraid I won’t make good use of the day if I don’t have a list of things to do. I hate the idea of wasting this precious time. Even though I know it’s good for me to have free time to just take things slowly and spontaneously, it often feels unnatural to me.

Lately, even though I’ve had lots of unscheduled days, I’ve had some very creative (in my opinion) ideas and opportunities come to me. If I had had a schedule to keep I would probably have missed out on these moments, which is a very sad thought. I feel like these ideas and moments have “come from nowhere”, which I know is impossible and false, but it’s the sensation I’m left with nonetheless. If my time had been taken up with a schedule to keep, I wouldn’t have had the freedom to just accept certain creative opportunities, with no specific goal in mind. If my mind had been occupied by the list of tasks I had to accomplish, I might not have been in the right frame of mind to solve a problem with a creative solution.

Even though I am excited about this burst of creativity in my life, it’s probably not enough to change my nature as an organized, methodical person. I guess it’s just a reminder that life well lived is about finding a balance. The pendulum may swing from one extreme to the other at different points in my life, but I can be assured of a good measure of happiness and fulfillment if I recognize that I need a good deal of both structured and unstructured time.

Sewing Room Reflection: Confidence in my own Two Hands

There are a lot of things out there that can make a person feel less confident. From social media being used as a way to shout an opinion without thinking of who it may affect, to our own personal demons telling us we’re not good enough, there is so much judgment and evaluation. It can seem almost impossible to get a break from these influences.

In my sewing room, I am reassured though. With each stitch, each seam, each step of the process, I gain confidence in my own two hands. It’s hard not to feel a little bit good about yourself when you’ve just taken some two dimensional pieces of cloth and created something new (even if that something new isn’t quite what you’d imagined).

I’m not saying that when I make a mistake I don’t feel frustrated, because I do (just ask my husband). It’s just that this sort of thing doesn’t jar my confidence in the same way as other things. I don’t feel inadequate when I’ve made a mistake.

Maybe this is because, through past experiences, I’ve learned that most mistakes can be undone or fixed. Knowing that I am both capable of making and solving problems is freeing. And isn’t freedom pretty closely related to confidence? 

Sewing Room Reflection: Amateur

I’m an amateur sewer. I’m not a professional. I have not been specially trained to write about, photograph or even sew my own clothing and accessories. I don’t have any credentials that I can show you to prove that I am good at what I do.

Sometimes this fact makes me second-guess what I’m doing here. I wonder why anyone would choose to read my blog when there are much more professional sewing websites. I worry that people will think I’m unqualified to share what I’ve made or give out sewing advice because I’m not a professionally trained seamstress.

But recently I learned that being an amateur shouldn’t have such a negative connotation in my mind. The word “amateur” actually means “lover”. Rather than thinking of myself as a non-professional sewer, I should just think of myself as a lover of sewing. With this new-to-me definition of amateur, I feel much freer to embrace my role without fear or worry. When I think about it this way, I’m much happier as an amateur sewer.

I sew and photograph what I sew and write about what I sew because I love sewing. I may not be especially qualified to do these things, and it may show, but I hope the love I put into it shows too. Though I may not look at my own blog and see the same level of work as I find on professional websites, I still hope that I can contribute something worthwhile on my little corner of the Internet.

Sewing Room Reflection: Power



Power is a word with both negative and positive connotations. Putting aside the negative connotations associated with power and focusing on the positive, to have power is to have strength, control, influence, authority or a certain capacity.  So, why am I bringing up the subject of power on a sewing blog? Well, because sewing is empowering.

When I’m sewing, I use my physical and mental strength to join pieces of cloth. I need the strength of my hands to hold a slippery piece of cloth as I cut, press, pin and sew it into shape. Through the strength of my feet and legs, my sewing machine comes to life. My brain is perhaps the muscle that gets the best workout in my sewing room though. With the strength of this muscle I can envision a finished dress or jacket before I’ve sewn a stitch and solve problems in fit or construction.

When I’m sewing, I’m in control. I choose what pattern to sew, what fabric to use, what notions I’ll need. After that I can still control whether I change my mind or follow through on my original ideas. As the seamstress, I have the power to decide what a piece of cloth becomes. I control the destiny of that cloth.

When I’m sewing, I’m the authority, the one with influence. I decide what I want and have the authority to shape plain objects into what I desire. But I’m a caring authority figure. I take delight in my influence over these implements, but I respect them too. I treat my tools, notions, materials and those who supplied these items with respect because I know that without their presence I lose my capacity to sew.

I am empowered because I sew. I am empowered mentally by the challenges and problems I have solved. I am empowered materially because the objects I create have a purpose. I am empowered emotionally and spiritually by the sense of accomplishment and joy that I feel when I look at or use what I’ve made or when someone I’ve sewn something for feels appreciation for the item I’ve made.

While I believe that a similar sense of accomplishment can be found in almost any activity, I believe that sewing seems to be growing in popularity because it is so empowering. It’s a great reason to pass on this skill to young people. It’s motivation for experienced sewers to learn something new about their craft. It makes sewing valuable for anyone, male or female, young or old.

So, as you pick up your needles, thread and cloth this week, let yourself savor the power you have because you sew.