Sunday, 24 July 2011

Has sewing changed my life?

‘Has sewing changed your life’? asked Tilly in a recent blog post. Tilly is writing a paper on the impact taking up sewing has had, not just on her own life, but on the lives of other sewists too.  Interested?  Then hop on over to her blog to find out more.

To come back to her question, my answer would have to be a resounding yes. By coincidence, I was one of Tilly’s interviewees for her Stash Amnesty! series a few months ago and her first question was “when and how did you decide to take up sewing?” Here’s my reply:

Like a lot of other sewists, I was taught to sew at school by two very critical, impatient teachers who almost put me off for life.  I’ve always loved clothes and fashion and was increasingly frustrated at clothes not fitting properly, so learning to sew has been on my wish list for years. 

Then, three years ago, my younger son was diagnosed as autistic.  After a very stressful year waiting for his special needs statement, we eventually got him into an amazing school where he’s coming on in leaps and bounds.  When he happily started school, it felt like an enormous boulder had been lifted off my shoulders.  With that worry lifted, I realized I needed to focus on something different, something that I would really enjoy.  So, in September 2009, I signed up for a beginner’s class in clothes making in Shepherd’s Bush.  I loved it from the very first cIass…I only intended to do one term, but I stayed for the whole year…. you know the rest!

So yes, sewing has changed my life, let me count the ways…

1. Learning to sew gave me a new focus and stopped me dwelling too much on having a disabled child.  It’s very easy to feel sorry for yourself in this kind of situation, and whilst I think we all need to wallow in a bit of self pity from time to time, sometimes you’ve just got to pick yourself up and get on with it.  Sewing has definitely been a more productive and positive use of my mental energy. 

2. I gave up paid work nearly 10 years ago when my first son was born.  This was a very deliberate decision and one that I’ve never regretted, but in my experience there are bits of your brain that are just not used as much when you’re at home with children. Sewing has allowed me to flex a bit of brain power and it feels great. The fact that it’s a creative part of the brain is even better – the sense of achievement when you finish a garment or navigate a particularly tricky area of pattern instruction is immense!

3. Sewing my own clothes has made me accept the shortcomings and imperfections in my body. Don’t get me wrong; I’m in the happy position of being quite content about my body and size. It’s just that I’m now in my forties and have had two children, my body is quite different from the one I had in my twenties. I can choose to sew styles that show off the best bits and skim over the worst bits.  This is a choice you don’t always get with shop bought clothes.

4. As well as making more of my own clothes, I’ve made a conscious effort to buy fewer items of clothing from shops.  This has not only saved me money but has really made me think about what I was spending my money on before.  It’s been a good exercise in economy and being a better consumer.

5. I like to think I’ve always had a ‘look’ that was particular to me.  This has been a bit suppressed in recent years, probably because I haven’t had the time or energy to think about it.  Sewing has helped me re-discover my look and I love it!  I really enjoy making clothes that express who I am and what the real me looks like. This has also given me more confidence than I think I had previously.

6. Sewing has allowed me to make my own money for the first time in ten years.  When I gave up work, I also gave up earning my own money. I’d always worked and had my own separate money, so along with the drop in income, this was one of the most difficult things to accept as a stay at home mum.  About a year ago I started selling my own creations at craft fairs and open houses.  And although it’s never going to be a living wage (I’m far too lazy for that), the feeling of making my own money from items I’ve lovingly sewn with my own hands is indescribable. I’ve even started seeing a few bags I’ve made and sold being sported by strangers in the park!  

7. And finally, since I started sewing I’ve discovered the most supportive, friendly and welcoming on-line community I could ever hope to meet.  I’m blown away on a daily basis not only by the talent of fellow sewists out there but the willingness to share and give back to the sewing community.  Having a blog and connecting with like-minded people in the blogosphere has had an important and very positive impact on me.  I’ve also been lucky enough to meet several in real life, which is always an absolute pleasure.  There’s never been any worry in my mind that I wouldn’t get on with people at these meetings.  Why wouldn’t we get on?  We’ve all got so much in common and so much to talk about!  The only downside is there’s never enough time.

My thoughts on this are a bit rambling but nevertheless its something I feel really strongly about. Put simply, I love sewing and love the positive changes it’s brought to my life.  Have a happy day. x


  1. Here, here Jane! There's so much you've said that echoes my own reasons for sewing and feelings on the subject of sewing and blogging.
    And by the way I LOVE your style :)

  2. Jane, so well put. Thanks for sharing this; you've verbalized a lot of what I wanted to say when I wrote on Tilly's original post. And what a cute sewing area!

  3. Hi Jane, great post today, thanks for sharing. I completely relate what you said even thought my circumstances are different. Sewing change my life because my back problem debilitated me and I started to say at home alone all day and I found the confidence I had once I started to sew... Today I meet my neighbour and her mom and just talking a bit with them, her mom said I had inspired her to take sewing.. That felt great too.

  4. Thanks for sharing! It's very nice to hear your story! (Though I would not have guessed that you are already in your fourties!)

  5. What a lovely post! I am so in awe of your dress making skills. You make gorgeous things. I might attempt a top for me next week. Wish me luck!!

  6. Brilliant post Jane, you sum it up well, and numbers 2, 6 and 7 particularly apply to me. well done for articulating what I'm sure a lot of us are feeling :)

  7. Lovely post Jane, and I love your style!

  8. YAY! I love this post so much! And I agree with the others that I love your sense of style!

  9. Great post! I have an autistic son too, and find sewing really helps me to focus and gives me some 'me' time.

  10. Lovely post, Jane, as always!

  11. I recognise that illustration in the frame!!!

  12. Yep, it's a Carol Seatory original, dated 1992! I still love it, which is why it's on my desk, so I can see it every day. x

  13. Jane, thank you so much for your thoughtful post. It's very moving to read about what an impact sewing has had on your life.

    Ooh and I love your style too! x

  14. Great post and perfectly worded, like many above I can relate to much of what you have written. Oh I love sewing. PS. Cute owl hanging about on your shelves ;)

  15. Tilly it was a pleasure and thank you!
    Beth, thank you, and yes, the cute owl was from a very talented lady who goes by the name of The Linen Cat!! I love it, it's also a perfect match to sit next to that Orla Kiely pot! x



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