I wasn't going to participate in this "Sewing Makes You Love Yourself" challenge figuring I had nothing to say really, but as it turns out, I do have something to say. Perhaps more for myself than anyone, but it's something I often think about, so here goes. It's going to be a long one, so you may want to grab a cup of tea and a snack before you start reading...
When I was about five my Dad helped me thread a needle while my Mom was busy at the sewing machine and then helped me as I haphazardly sewed a sleeping bag for my barbie doll. A few years later my mom helped me sew a stuffed creature of my own design on her sewing machine. A few more years after that I took home-ec in grade nine and made possibly the most hideous pair of stirrup pants ever to grace a body. Too short, the zipper poked out funny, the stirrups themselves were wonky and uncomfortable. As much as I'd loved my few little sewing projects that fell in between the barbie sleeping bag and the stirrup pants I HATED that home-ec class with a fiery heat of a thousand burning suns. I also hated everything about grade nine. Especially the school, that on the first day of grade nine, the guidance counsellor gave an uplifting (note extremely heavy sarcasm here) speech on how more than half of us wouldn't make it to grade 12. I needed out and I had a plan.
To go to a different school I needed to take something not offered in my school division. Dad taught Metals and Aerospace, so that was my first request. No go. Dad wasn't having any part of that suggestion. Next I suggested Power Mechanics. That was a flat out no as well. I moved onto the next available option, Woodworking. Nope, nope and nope. Now don't get too upset about me being denied these courses. Dad had some pretty valid reasons. I was a complete disaster when it came to shops class in junior high. It was amazing that I got out with all my limbs and digits in tact. There was absolutely no way Dad was going to be comfortable with me using machinery that could possibly maim me. So out of sheer desperation I tossed out the one last option I had at my disposal. Could I please take Fashion Technology and Pattern Design? Yes. It was a go. (My poor Dad. After all his trying to protect me from harm, a few months into my first year in the program I managed to sew right through my finger on an industrial sewing machine and needed to be taken to the local clinic by the school secretary in case I needed a tetanus shot. So much for his theory that I'd be safe! ha ha!). So really sewing at the beginning was simply just a means to an end. A last ditch effort in a desperate plea to get out of going to the school I was in. I had no idea it would become what it is today to me.
Right out of high school I didn't do a whole lot of sewing, just the odd thing here or there, until my daughter was born in '92. Suddenly the sewing bug bit hard and I was obsessed with sewing all the clothes for the kids. Then in '97 I suddenly found myself as a single mom of three young kids, stressed out, struggling to make ends meet, no self confidence and feeling lost. I got a second part time job at the fabric store to supplement my part time bakery job and found my sanity along with it. I kept the demons at bay by shopping the clearance section and using my staff discount and then sitting down in my sewing room after the kids went to sleep, into the wee hours of the night, stitching my troubles away for a few hours at a time. I took in sewing as a third job, making dance costumes and mending along with whatever else came my way. Then a few years later I moved to the city, tried to make my marriage work and sewing went back to being a passing hobby only done on the odd occasion until word got out that I sewed and suddenly I was making dance costumes again. It was my gateway back.
My crafting - be it sewing or knitting (and now spinning) has always been my coping mechanism when things are rough. It took me as a desperate 14 year old to a new school. It saw me through the first and then second and final ugly breakdown of my first marriage. It gave me a way to help put food on the table and pay the bills. When my last pregnancy ended in a miscarriage that left my heart and hopes shattered I sat hand stitching the binding on a quilt, each tiny stitch easing a tiny bit of the pain and sadness away.
Its been a huge part of happiness in my life too. Stitching my first ever quilt when I was expecting Little Man, sewing a Teletubby "Po" for N when he was three because he dearly loved Po and I couldn't afford to buy him one, sewing so many clothes for the little boys and all the sewing I did for the older ones when they were young, making gifts and quilts for my loved ones and more recently over the last few years, sewing my wedding dress and the explosion of sewing for myself that has led to having an almost completely self sewn wardrobe except for my jeans that I wear to work every day. (No way I'm putting the effort into making jeans that might get grease on them!). My husband gets it. He also enables the purchase of patterns and fabric and never complains when the dishes sit unwashed in the sink or the laundry is threatening to take over the basement because I've been down in the sewing room.
But there's more to it than just that. Sewing, and the community that goes along with it has given me the confidence to feel good about myself. I think the change of tide all started a few years ago with the whole "Cake with Cashmerette" experience, although to be brutally honest I was more than a bit hypocritical. I couldn't stand the thought of society daring to try to make someone feel less worthy or beautiful based on their size and more so to have the absolute gall to think they had any right to comment, yet I would catch myself looking in the mirror and berating myself for how I looked. Then feeling like crap because I certainly wouldn't tolerate anyone else treating another human being like that and yet I was doing it to myself. So it didn't really take complete hold until last spring when I sewed the Penny Dress and had the "it's the pants, change the damn pants" idea from Stasia Savasuk hit home full bore.
I have the ability to change the damn pants. I can make whatever I want and have it fit however I want. It also means I can say to hell with society's notion of sizing. So what if my measurements fall into a size 20, an x-large, a 2XL or a large? Am I comfortable in what I'm wearing? Do I feel good about it when I look in the mirror? Is the important thing the sense of pride and happiness I feel when I put on a dress or top or whatever I made that fits me? Absolutely.
I can't tell you how much I used to hate shopping for clothes. Nothing could put me feeling lower faster than a shirt that didn't fit, was too tight or too short. Or dresses that I either couldn't get out of without the jaws of life because they were fitted in all the wrong places or tent like because the next size up was graded up comically huge. Wondering what the hell was wrong with my lumpy bumpy self that I couldn't look good in anything I tried on. All that is in the past. Sure I still have my "Ugh. Why are my jeans so damn tight today?" moments. But it's just a moment. It's not a continuous stream of negative self talk going through my head.
For my project I was planning to sew a new dress this past weekend, but then I made the Halla Patterns Cozy Wrap Sweater last week. It's totally out of my comfort zone as of late. I seem to be more about greys, and muted colours, blending in rather than standing out. Even my florals tend to be on the monochromatic side of things. Don't get me wrong. I do love a good bright floral for a summer dress, but was totally unsure and self conscious about a top.
So I posted a picture of myself on the Halla Patterns Facebook group. I had hard hat hair, I was tired, it had been a very long day, but it proved the whole supportive sewing community point so well that I decided this had to be my SMYLY project. I received so many encouraging and supportive comments from group members (and found out there happens to be a lot of Halla Pattern enthusiasts that are also spinning enthusiasts!!!! These ARE definitely my people!!!). Instead of feeling self conscious about my bright floral print, I am going to wear it with pride and if those little nigglingly self doubts creep into my head, I'm going to squash them and remember all the kind words of the group members.
If you've made it this far, thank you for reading! I'd also like to end with a big thank you to Athina Kakou, Hattie van der Krohn, and Lisa Kisch for hosting #SMYLY2018 as well as a huge thanks to all those that shared their stories throughout the last few months. There have been so many heartfelt reasons why we sew and it's been incredibly touching and inspiring to hear them.