Self-Care & Sewing

I’ve only been sewing for a couple months but I have a deep appreciation of the benefits sewing has had for me, personally. The everyday can be grinding and things do get to us – that’s all part of being human, I’m afraid. Look around you at the minute at what stress and anxiety does to people – do they take care of themselves? No – all I see are panic stricken idiots emptying the supermarket shelves and stockpiling convenience groceries like the four horsemen are riding through the village. And here I am, having not been to a supermarket all week, picking up books on my way home from work in the library and checking my fabric situation to make sure that, if it comes down to two weeks’ self-isolation, I have something to keep me occupied. Self-care is not clearing supermarket shelves to have enough supplies for a fictional apocalypse! Can’t help but think that if it comes to the worst case scenario all we’ll have are people stuck in the house with nothing to do but eat!

We all have our individual pressures and anxieties and it is all too easy to let them get on top of us. However, it is well documented that crafting, of any kind, while not being a ‘cure’, helps to put our worries and our issues on pause for a while. I’ve always been a crafter but, with sewing, I’ve found a whole toolkit of self-care techniques that help keep me feeling balanced and harmonised within myself.

Some people, when they’re feeling a bit down or mentally and emotionally exhausted, take to the sofa and binge on Netflix with a glass of wine and chocolate. This does not work for me –  if I *am* watching something on Netflix, I’ll usually have some knitting or hand stitching on my lap. What does work for me is creativity – the act of making something that wasn’t there before I took the time to engage in some self-care.

Bottom line is this: sewing helps me to maintain my positivity and happiness. So what do I recommend as a methodology of sewing as self-care?

  1. Pick a project that suits your needs

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s probably not the time to break out a challenging pattern and try to come to terms with techniques you’ve never heard of, let alone tried, before. If you’re limited on time, do something small or take on a section of a bigger project. I have a planner that helps me with this – for anything I’m working on, I’ve usually broken it down into sections (trace / cut pattern pieces, cut fabric, mark darts, finish seams, etc.) so I can pick it up and do a little at a time without committing myself to sitting at the sewing station for two hours. Saying that, it’s the days off I relish the most so I can really devote myself to making a new dress.

2. Set aside some time for yourself every day

Yes, I hear you – time is not a luxury for all of us. We cannot all be flexible when structuring and planning our daily life. We all have varying obligations and duties that make competing demands on our busy lives. However, even on my busiest days, when I’m out at work before 8am and have meetings after work that have me falling through the door at 10pm, I’ll still find a sewing gap. Maybe half an hour before the busy day starts over my morning coffee or it could be 15 minutes when I get home. It’s the days that are incredibly busy that need that little bit of downtime, as minimal as it may well be.

However, I do recognise that there may be days when investing in creativity might just to too much to ask – it is a demanding thing sometimes and does require energy and concentration – but self-care means being kind to yourself and admitting when you’re just not up to the task.

3. Acknowledge your achievements

It’s important to acknowledge your achievements – this goes for anything in life. I don’t know about you, but I give myself a metaphorical pat on the back when I rethread my overlocker (and then do a silent prayer that it will magically keep replenishing itself so I never have to do it again) or get really quite excited when I complete that step in the pattern that looked all but impossible – yes, I have a happy dance! Stopping to congratulate yourself brings a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and success.

Keeping a record of your achievements isn’t going to hurt – you might, like I have done, decide to keep a blog or an Instagram to keep a track of progress and improvement. This filter into my next point:

4. Share with others

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste”

Charlotte Bronte

One of the things I have noticed since starting to sew is that the sewing community is filled with positivity and encouragement. Reading other peoples’ blog, seeing their progress with their projects, being inspired to try something new is all part of the communal experience.

5. Find inspiration

Inspiration is the heart of finding the motivation to sew and share what you are making. It can be hard to feel inspired when the pressures of life are getting to you. I find that checking in with other sewists, seeing their latest projects and reading their blog posts is a quick fix to feeling unmotivated. You’ll always see something that gets your sewjo back. And do I even need to mention Pinterest? I’m in the habit of pinning ideas and inspiration – so when I feel I might be in a rut and need to get my teeth into something new, I go back to the boards filled with images that I’ve saved.

Sewing is generally the thing I do for an hour when I get home from work – it’s basically my meditation after meeting the needs of other people all day. Beyond the pleasure of losing myself in the details of a sewing project, because I mostly make myself clothing, I’m also caring for myself by making garments that fit my body and express my individuality which is an empowering activity. By the time I get to the weekend (if I haven’t already finished the project) I can bring together – having done all the prepping – a brand new item of clothing for my handmade wardrobe. What’s not to love? I’ve noticed the hashtag #selfishsewing popping up everywhere as a means of defining making something for yourself – nonsense. There’s nothing selfish about self-care! Sewing absolutely helps me be my best self and makes me more positive in my relationships with other people.

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