Turning Hobbies Into Habits: 5 Practical Steps

Hobbies into Habits

Lately, I’ve been very preoccupied with the notion of habits. Part of getting myself through the various struggles I’ve encountered this year has been a reliance on and strengthening of old habits (the ones that I know work really well for me), as well as building new habits. Although many of us recoil from the idea of structuring our lives around habits, fearful that they go hand-in-hand with predictability and a lack of spontaneity, habits are a cornerstone for us all. More than 40 percent of the actions that we perform over the course of the day are habit-based, meaning that there is no conscious decision-making involved. Statistics like this make it clear why learning to create good habits can be so critical to our health and happiness. Our brain automates what it can in order to conserve extra energy for other critical decisions. If we can learn to automate the different activities that we really want to perform (or, at least, reduce the amount of decision-making involved), we are building our lives on a solid foundation and raising the bar for our own base levels of happiness.

It all sounds very appealing, of course. But habit creation is a difficult thing. I’ve spent months reading through literature, doing research online, and trying to apply various strategies to my life in order to create better habits. Although I’m not suggesting that anyone should give their lives over to habit formation – nor do I think that habits hold a magic answer to all of life’s problems – working on building good habits has helped me immensely this year. Since I work from home, juggle multiple projects, and am something of a self-care fanatic (no surprise there!), I have a lot to grapple with and total freedom in how I do it. All of this free time really lends itself to bad habits, since I rely exclusively on self-motivation in order to get things done (and fall victim to reality TV binges with concerning regularity). I’ve also been trying to better manage my mental health and work through periods of depression and anxiety with a view to lessening their impact. A big part of this has been turning my existing hobbies – or new ones that I wish to pursue – into something more akin to a habit. After my two month hiatus from sewing, I’ve become particularly keen to figure out how these types of hobbies can become more ingrained and less susceptible to life’s ongoing peaks and troughs.

But why should we turn hobbies into habits? Doesn’t it suck the fun out of it? I don’t believe so. Habits are foundational to the overall trend of our lives. If our habits are bad, we generally don’t feel great nor do we thrive. Integrating good habits into my daily life has truly allowed me to take control of the downward trend that I was on. I also know that, when it comes to hobbies, we have a tendency to see them as optional. Life gets in the way. Yet hobbies exist because they expand our life – they make us happier, better, and more fulfilled. The idea that we would allow life’s obligations to interrupt such an important aspect of our wellbeing is a problem. We deserve to take the time to create a habit around these most important activities. Turning a hobby into a habit means that the time is already set aside and we are choosing to use it for ourselves. It’s not simply an optional extra that we can dip into if we happen to find that we have the time left over.

If you’re looking to build a hobby into a habit, I’ve put together five practical steps that you can take to this end. These are things that have worked for me and are also backed up by the truly incredible amount of literature that exists on the topic (I’ll put some resources at the end of the post if you’re interested in reading more). So, without further ado, let’s delve in…

1. Get To Know Yourself

I’d love to do away with the cliches but self-knowledge is critical when it comes to building good, sustainable habits. We all have limited time in a day and, for most of us, we have far less free time than we would like. This makes it extra important that you are working to build habits in a way that is geared specifically toward your own preferences and lifestyle. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in what other people are doing and how they’re doing it. I’m definitely guilty of this. I love reading about the habits of various famous authors and imagining that adopting their routines might suddenly unveil the literary genius that I always knew lay deep down inside me. Or perhaps I could become the Oprah of a new generation by mirroring her morning regime. But the simple fact is that I am not these people and, if I want to succeed in my own way, I will need to know what works best for me.

Obtaining the kind of self-knowledge that can help you on your journey to habit creation isn’t as hard as it might sound. It’s really about getting into the practicalities of what a habit would look like for you. The types of questions that I asked myself (and wrote down the answers to because it really does help), included:

  • Are you a lark who functions best in the morning? Or do you work best late at night?
  • What does your free time look like? Do you have the ability to shift your free time around (if you’re a lark, for example, can you build your free time into the morning?)? Is there a set period of time that you can set aside for your hobby – daily, weekly, or monthly?
  • What are your goals? Why do you want to pursue this hobby as a habit?

These questions will help you to become better acquainted with your goals and how you might pursue them within the limits that your lifestyle imposes. It is important to give some time to exploring the realities of how a habit can fit into your everyday life, particularly when that habit is a hobby such as sewing. Hobbies tend to take up quite a lot of time and it can take a while in each ‘session’ for us to feel like we’re really present. It’s a bit different from a habit of brushing your teeth. However, when you compare to the sort of time that would be invested in exercising or cooking dinner as habits (both good habits, by the way), it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. As I’ve emphasised in previous Sewing for Self-Care posts, even 10 minutes a day at the sewing machine can help to stir motivation and, ultimately, create a habit out of a hobby. Getting to know yourself is really the first step toward setting yourself up for success which, incidentally, is the second step!

2. Set Yourself Up For Success

It can sometimes be difficult to acknowledge the places where we are limited. If we’re in the habit of going to bed late after a Netflix binge but know that we function best in the mornings, it can be tough to acknowledge that we may do better with an early night and some self-care time in the morning. Life can undoubtedly get in the way of us functioning at our best! So it’s key when trying to build new habits that we set ourselves up for success in as many ways as possible. Once you’ve spent a bit of time thinking about your lifestyle and preferences (as per Step 1), you can begin to create manageable goals for yourself. This is so important. You’ve already asked yourself what you want to achieve, so now it’s a matter of figuring out how to go about it. This will look different for everyone. If your goal is time-specific, you may decide that you are shooting for 30 minutes at the sewing machine per day. If you’ve figured out that you are a lark, you might have chosen to set your alarm an extra 30 minutes early to accommodate. Or perhaps weekdays are out of the question for you, so you’re setting aside Sunday afternoons as your weekly crafting time. The most important thing is that you are realistic. Going from doing nothing at all to sewing every evening after work is probably not setting yourself up for success!

You will also want to enable yourself by making sure that you have what you need. This is something that’s relatively specific to hobbies as habits. You’ll want to be sure that you don’t sit down in your crafting space, ready to begin your activity, and then discover that you’re missing something critical to the whole endeavour. There’s nothing worse than getting ready to sew and realising that you’re out of thread. This just increases the temptation to throw in the towel and sit down with an episode of The Only Way is Essex and a bowl of ice cream instead (am I revealing too much?!). So be sure to pre-plan and set yourself up for success by being properly equipped. It is also a great idea to have a back-up plan. If you discover that you don’t have what you need in order to sit down and sew, what can you do instead? Perhaps spend some time planning your next makes, or look for some style inspiration. Maybe tidy up your crafting area. Or take care of some of those long-neglected clothing repairs. There’s always something else that you can do and still feel that you are maintaining your habit. The key is setting aside the time and using it purposefully on your hobby.

3. Use The SMART System

If you’ve read anything about creating habits, you’ve probably come across the SMART method before. It’s a really easy way to ensure that you are hitting all of the most important components of successful habit formation. So let’s go through them one by one:

  • Specific: giving yourself vague goals will not work. So don’t say to yourself ‘I want to sew more’. Be as specific as possible when setting out to create a habit. Hobbies are slightly more complex as something to turn into habits because they are naturally more expansive than many of the habits we think of (drink 2 litres of water a day, for example). So there are many different approaches. As I outlined above, you might choose to be time-specific (sew for 10 minutes a day, paint every Saturday afternoon from 2-5pm). Or you might be project-specific (complete one new garment a month). Being project-specific is slightly harder since it doesn’t necessarily create a concrete habit in the same way as designating time. However, it depends on your goals. Perhaps the habit you want to cultivate is simply making more of your own clothes, in which case being project-specific would be a valuable approach!
  • Measurable: This relates back to specificity. It’s important to set goals that are measurable. So time, projects, etc. Saying ‘I want to sew more’ is not a great way of creating a habit because it isn’t measurable. You need to be able to know that you are achieving what you set out to achieve in a very clear and concise way.
  • Reward: Successful habit creation relies, in part, on some sort of reward. This can be something you consciously give yourself as you complete a habit. For instance, eating a piece of chocolate after exercise. With hobbies, this kind of explicit reward shouldn’t be necessary. Assuming that you are picking up the hobby for the sake of enjoyment, the reward is usually a part of the process. You get something out of what you’re doing. In the case of sewing, this might be the absorption that comes with immersing yourself in the activity. It is also very likely that you feel rewarded by completing a garment and wearing it out. That said, there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself an explicit reward. I like to accompany my daily sewing with cups of tea and a podcast. To me, this just ups the ‘reward’ factor that’s part of my sewing time.
  • Trackable: Monitoring/tracking is important. It’s a form of accountability that allows you to acknowledge whether what you’re doing is working. It’s also part of human nature that knowing we’re being monitored (even if it’s by ourselves) makes us stick to habits. It is the same reason that many people advocate an accountability buddy when they’re trying to diet or exercise. I use my bullet journal to track my habits (not just sewing but any habit that I’m trying to cultivate). It helps me to monitor how well I’m doing and often encourages me to perform an activity, even when I’m not really in the mood. Obviously you want to be sure that the habits you’re tracking are ones that actively make you feel good!

Adopting the SMART system is a sure way to set yourself on a good path toward successfully creating habits. Before diving into performing a habit, it is worth figuring out how well it conforms – or can conform – to SMART. Ensuring that you’re ticking each of these boxes just makes it more likely that the habit will stick long-term and survive life’s more tumultuous periods.

4. Get Involved In The Community

For me, being part of a community is integral to habits around hobbies. It is an actively encouraging factor in pursuing hobbies that we love, particularly where time investment might be higher. This could mean taking classes to develop your skills. Alternatively, it might mean creating a blog or participating in a community via social media. Hobbies lend themselves to interactions with others. Whether you’re into fitness, painting, sewing, or cooking, there are huge communities both in-person and online that you can become involved with. I find that the friendships I’ve formed online, as well as the inspiration that I get from others, helps to remind me why hobbies (and habits) are so important. I love to sew because it plays such an important role in my wellbeing. And I like to make a habit of sewing because I know how often life can get in the way of pursuing hobbies. Being a part of the sewing community is a great reminder of why setting this time aside for myself is part of the foundation on which I’m choosing to build my life.

If accountability is something on which you thrive, community can also be a massive part of that. Signing up for a class keeps you accountable, particularly if you know that you’re expected at the class or you have already paid for your place. Alternatively, you might enjoy taking part in an online challenge. The sewing community on Instagram is constantly having 30 day photo challenges (#bpsewvember is taking place right now, in fact) or competitions (the Cosy Cardi Challenge is also going on at the moment) and these can be great ways to up the accountability factor. Using a blog to make a public commitment to some sort of challenge (self-imposed or otherwise) might also help!

5. Acknowledge Your Achievements

This final step is probably my favourite because I’m all about taking time to step back and celebrate the victories. Acknowledging what you’ve achieved is absolutely key to creating a habit. It serves, in part, as the ‘reward’ function that I mentioned as part of the SMART system in Step 3. If we forget to recognise our victories, we’re losing an inherent part of the reward that comes with hobbies! Taking the time to celebrate achievements is also fundamental to what psychologist Albert Bandura called ‘self-efficacy’. Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. So self-efficacy is key to us having the confidence to pursue an activity and is, therefore, absolutely vital to our continuation of habits. If we don’t believe we’ll be successful, we’re not as likely to keep devoting the time to habit-building. Making sure to celebrate what you’ve achieved and acknowledge what you’ve overcome is part of creating self-efficacy. If you can step back and recognise the victory in setting aside time for yourself, creating amazingly unique garments (or whatever is relevant to your hobby of choice), you automatically increase your own self-efficacy. Sticking to the SMART system and setting yourself up for success are also important ways of developing self-efficacy when it comes to hobbies as habits!

I would suggest writing down victories as they happen. Maybe, like me, you keep a journal in which you can acknowledge what you’ve accomplished. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of writing a list on your phone before you go to bed. Either way, it’s important to communicate your successes in a concrete way. Writing things down allows our brains to process them more actively and consciously, rather than just half-absorbing them as they buzz around our mind. These victories will play a large role in what spurs you on to keep up with a habit, even when the going gets tough.

So there we have it! Five practical steps for turning hobbies into habits. If you’ve managed to make a habit of your own hobby, leave any tips you have in the comments! Part of what I love most about writing these posts is getting to chat with all of you and hear about your experiences. Happy hobbying!


Some of my favourite resources on habits:

  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • 6 Stages and 16 Tips for Developing Good Habits by Barbara Markway (Psychology Today)

Chataigne Shorts (Deer And Doe)

I’m back with my first truly autumn make! As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been taking a much needed break from sewing and blogging whilst attempting to cultivate some sort of balance between all of the competing elements of my life. Fortunately, my version of the Chataigne Shorts from Deer and Doe patterns is something that I finished back in the summer and, now that the weather has turned, I’ve been able to take them out for a spin…

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I actually ordered this pattern way back in June, just a couple of weeks before Deer and Doe announced that they were releasing it as a PDF. Living in the middle of the US has definitely made me appreciate the joy of PDF patterns. Since this pattern shipped from France, got lost en route, and had to be resent after a 30 day wait period, it ended up taking about six weeks for me to actually get the pattern to my door. Not ideal. However, this is certainly one of the risks of ordering internationally and, in future, I’ll definitely be using PDFs where I can! The long and short of this is that, what was originally intended to be a summer make, has ended up becoming part of my autumn wardrobe.

Fortunately, I’m someone who has always preferred wearing shorts in the autumn. Although the 100F heat in Missouri has necessitated that I embrace summer-appropriate clothing, I’m infinitely happier when I can pop on a pair of tights and plenty of layers along with my shorts. I decided to make my version of the Chataigne Shorts in a faux suede (that I bought from Joann’s), mirroring the pair shown on the model in the Deer and Doe photos. Not only does the heaviness of the fabric make these shorts nice and toasty, the colour also provides that perfect neutral tan for a lovely autumnal colour palette.

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This particular shorts pattern drew my attention largely because of the super unique details. The pointed shape of the waistband and the neat little darts add a wonderfully tailored look to the garment. There are also some lovely deep pockets on the front and, as you all know, I’m a massive fan of anything with pockets. They were particularly helpful here because it was below freezing when I was taking these photos!

Construction-wise, none of these details posed much of a problem. I did find that it took a bit of fiddling and multiple attempts to get the point of the waistband to line up perfectly with the crotch seam. In the end, I accepted that it was going to be ever so slightly off centre. My husband couldn’t even see the issue but I’m sure many of you will sympathise with the excessive fixation that can accompany those not-quite-perfect sewing moments. I’m getting better about letting them go but I still often feel like I can’t see anything other than the mistake. Tell me that I’m not alone in this! Aside from the waistband, everything else was pretty simple. The instructions were quite clear and easy-to-follow and the shorts themselves close with an invisible zip attached to the side seam. If you’re familiar with this insertion process, you’re already good to go!

There’s also an added cute detail of pocket flaps on the back of the shorts. Unfortunately not full pockets, but the lack of pocket on the butt really helps the garment to lie flat against the body without any lumps or bumps. I was a fan of this particular addition because it was quick, easy, and looks very sweet!

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Fit-wise, I simply followed my measurements and hoped for the best. It worked out because the shorts fit really nicely and comfortably. The top of the waistband sits at the waist and it is worth bearing in mind when fitting that adding the waistband will shift the shorts upwards quite dramatically. So, before attempting to gauge fit, make sure that your waistband is comfortably sewn in place. Overall, I think that the shape and detailing of the shorts makes for an incredibly flattering look. I particularly loved the length of the pattern. I’m always a bit concerned when buying short because, as wonderfully as they may fit when trying them on in a changing room, you never know whether the dreaded ‘ride up’ will occur when out walking. There’s honestly nothing worse, particularly on a hot and sticky summer day. Both with tights and without, the Chataigne Shorts are the perfect length to prevent this from happening. I feel like I could wear them all day without fear of them riding up my thighs (maybe nobody else actually worries about this, but it’s a major review point for me!).

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I would definitely recommend this pattern to anyone in the market for a unique and comfortable pair of shorts. The pattern also comes with an option for a scalloped hem at the bottom of the shorts, if you would prefer this to the cuffed legs. There is also an option for a higher waist! So plenty of choices to suit all styles. I’m very sure that I’ll be making another version of these shorts sometime in the near future. Although I think that the waistband attachment would make this a tough pattern for a beginner, it presents few challenges to sewists with a familiarity with basic techniques and a bit of courage. And, if you’re like me, autumn can actually be the perfect time to whip up some brand new shorts!

Life Updates And Autumn Sewing

Happy November, my friends!

I feel that I need to start this post off with an apology. I decided to take a step away from Sew for Victory for a while. This wasn’t really planned or intended. However, I found that creating content was becoming a bit stressful (and, I thought, kind of insincere) given that I haven’t actually sat down at my sewing machine since August. As I’m sure you know from your own experiences, life happens and weeks can zoom by with unexpected speed. So I honestly didn’t even realise how long it had been since I’d last posted. After receiving messages from a few of you lovelies concerned for my wellbeing, however, I feel like I’ve made a bit of a misstep. I’m so happy that I’ve had this blog – and all of you – to help through the difficulties of the past couple of years. Being able to write openly and vulnerably about my experiences and mental health has been an incredible gift and one that has helped me to connect with a wonderful community. What I didn’t realise was that this openness means I can’t just disappear from the face of the earth without worrying a lot of people. Being open about my struggles has allowed me to create a special kind of connection with all of you. And, although I’m really happy that I took the past couple of months to focus on what I needed, I do feel the need to say sorry to those of you who have been worried about me. Rest assured, I’m happy and healthy! Thank you to everyone who reached out. You reminded me precisely why Sew for Victory and the sewing community at large are so valuable! I appreciate you all more than I can say.

With that serious stuff out of the way, I can now talk about sewing plans! As I mentioned, I’ve taken a couple of months away from my sewing machine. I found myself gravitating towards other kinds of self care (I’ve read a truly incredible number of books over the past few weeks) and was just generally feeling a bit uninspired. Fortunately, a lovely friend of mine sent me a Joann’s giftcard for my birthday, which got my mind ticking once again over potential projects. Since the weather has turned dramatically and I’m back in my favourite season of layers and massive jumpers, I decided that I wanted to make something super cosy.

With perfect timing, I saw that Sew Over It have released a new ‘coatigan’ pattern – the Jessie coatigan. This pattern speaks to my soul. I love an oversized cardigan, particularly in combination with leggings and a shawl. I’m all about comfort. So I ran off to Joann’s, newly inspired, and ready to find some super cosy fabrics! Fortunately, the trip didn’t let me down.

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The fabrics I found are so gorgeously soft. I was slightly concerned because I don’t wear wool and was worried that I wouldn’t find something adequately thick and soft. But these two fabrics seem totally fit for purpose! I ended up getting both because one was end of bolt and falls slightly short of the fabric requirements for the pattern. But, as standard for my US fabric buying experiences, the width also falls somewhere in between the standard 1.15m and 1.40m given on patterns. So I decided to take my chances and buy a back-up fabric just in case. Let’s be honest, I would probably wear two versions of a good cardigan pattern anyway! I’m starting out with the checked fabric because it’s my favourite, so fingers crossed there ends up being enough to accommodate all of the pattern pieces.

I’ll be returning to normal content next week but I did want to stop in to give a few updates. I’ve missed posting and chatting with you all! How are you enjoying your autumn? And what are you currently making? We need to catch up!

My Favourite Autumn Patterns!

It’s the last day of August and I’m already anticipating the autumn with determination. I love autumn, not least because it offers a break from the 40C weather I’ve been forced to endure for the past five months. Mostly, I adore the cosiness of the season – the hot drinks, blankets, books, and being able to layer my clothes. In fact, clothes play a really central role in why it is that I love the autumn so much. I always struggle to dress appropriately in summer. I’m not a big fan of shorts and skirts, unless I can throw on some thick tights or knee-length socks with them. I love cardigans and jumpers. Unfortunately, none of these things lend themselves to a summer in Missouri.

So, with true anticipation, I’ve been thinking hard about my favourite autumnal patterns. Some I’ve already made, some I hope to make for the first time! I thought I would share them with you, at least partly in the hope that it might motivate me back to my sewing machine.

Chataigne Shorts – Deer&Doe

I’m actually in the process of whipping up a version of these shorts, imitating as closely as possible the suede version shown in photos on the website. Although I’m using faux suede (#veganlife), I really wanted to copy the style that they’ve shown because it just feels super autumnal. I’m actually a big fan of tights under shorts – in fact, I’ve always worn shorts far more often in the autumn/winter than in the summer, so my version of the Chataigne shorts will definitely serve that look!

On a technical level, I also just love the design of these shorts. They have a unique pointed waistband which I just adore. The pleating on the front is another detail that I tend to search for whenever I’m looking for short patterns or buying shorts on the high street. So stick around for this because, fingers crossed, I should have some photos up in the next couple of weeks!

Vintage Shirt Dress – Sew Over It

This is a pattern that I’ve already worked with and loved. However, my version – very pastel and generally summery – is not super suited to the cooler months. The pattern was an absolute dream to work with and I’ve been determined to make a new version ever since I finished my last one.

The long sleeve option would make this pattern perfect for the start of autumn, when temperatures are cool enough to need coverage but not so cool that you need thick layers. I’m thinking that a more muted fabric – perhaps even a plain cotton – might work perfectly with a bright pair of tights or a hat. I’m always on a bit of a beret kick in the autumn so anything I can make work with that obsession is always super welcome.

Ginger Jeans – Closet Case Patterns

Another pattern with which I am well acquainted but planning out a new version. The pair of Ginger Jeans that I already have – navy denim with white anchors – will actually be pretty appropriate year-round. However, I’m in love with black jeans. I think they look so chic and, bonus, they match with just about everything. As we approach the autumn and some cooler weather, I’m excited to actually get some wear out of my trousers. They’ve been languishing in my wardrobe for months because it’s been far too hot (I know, I just can’t help complaining – but I’m English, very fair skinned, and just generally find this weather totally unreasonable).

If you’re looking for some new jeans for the autumn and fancy a bit of a challenge (although not the level of challenge that you might expect and fear), I definitely recommend the Ginger Jeans. They were my first experience with jean making and the process went off without a hitch. Super clear instructions, very simple steps, and just generally a good time!

Juliette Blouse – Sew Over It

One of my sewing goals for this year was to spend more time working on separates. So far, I’ve been doing a pretty good job on this. But my sights are set on a new make – the Juliette Blouse from Sew Over It. Since making the Lucia Top, I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with ruffles. Any top that gives me the opportunity to flaunt some frilly goodness is, in my view, worth the time it takes to make.

I’ve been on the hunt for some good blouse or shirt patterns that would work in colder weather. Particularly something that I can tuck into a skirt or jeans, that also fits easily under other layers. The Juliette Blouse seems to fit these requirements perfectly. That said, the layering would be vital with a blouse of this kind since it demands a very lightweight fabric. But, as I mentioned above, I love a cardigan – so really it’s just an excuse to add on even more layers!

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So those are four of my favourite autumnal patterns, all of which I’m planning to make (or, in some cases, remake) over the coming months. Do you have any favourite patterns for the autumn? Leave your recommendations below!

My First Minerva Crafts Post!

As I mentioned a little while ago, I’m now part of the Minerva Crafts Blog Team! This gives me the opportunity to pick out items to review – fabric, patterns etc. – and a chance to write about some really exciting sewing-related goodies.

This past month, I decided to work with some super cute fabric from Minerva Crafts – a gorgeous floral jersey fabric. I whipped up versions of Nina Lee’s new Effra Skirt and Moselle Top patterns from their Summer Essentials collection. So if you feel like giving that post a read and seeing some pics, click the link and head on over to the Minerva Crafts blog. Here’s a sneak peek of the fabric and my super cute makes…

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Sewing For Self-Care: Being Honest About My Struggle

It’s been a while, friends! In fact, this has probably been my longest blogging hiatus in over a year (which is saying something). Truthfully, this break was not simply a matter of life getting in the way – although I have been ridiculously busy. While I always strive to be as honest as possible on the blog – and my Sewing For Self-Care series was a way to integrate my struggles with my mental health into this – it’s not always easy. The past few months have been tough on me. I started working for the first time since I left my PhD programme, whilst also trying to accommodate increasing amounts of yoga into my schedule to gear up for teacher training. I’ve had a backlog of sewing projects to work through – some with deadlines – on top of dealing with some really severe homesickness. It’s hardly a surprise that I found myself back in the throes of panic attacks and pretty crippling stress.

Surprisingly, given the nature of these blog posts, I generally struggle to talk in detail about my mental health. I’m sure there’s an element of cultural conditioning in this – the whole ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality – as well as an awareness throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of the stigma that still surrounds these sorts of conversations. Starting a conversation about self care on Sew For Victory was not only an effort to point to the remarkable impact of creative activities on mental health, it was also a place for me to learn how to have honest conversations regarding mental health and mental illness. Although I’m so passionate about the destigmatisation of conversations about mental health, practicing what we preach isn’t always as straightforward as advocating our passions.

When things started to go downhill for me again, I realised how much easier it is to share our stories once they’re behind us, rather than when we’re in the middle of them. After all, a story of conquest and victory sounds so much more appealing than one of struggling in quicksand when you’re casting yourself as the main character. Unfortunately, battles with mental illness are rarely simple plot lines – as inconvenient as that fact is when we’re trying to distill our experiences into something that sounds attractive to others. But this realisation is hard to come by.

Writing about mental health on a public forum adds an extra layer of complexity to this whole situation. Having introduced some incredible voices to the conversation, I felt more obliged than ever to stick to a narrative of having ‘survived’ and ‘come through’ my struggles with my mental health. After all, who would consider me a responsible host for the conversation about sewing and mental health if I was still knee-deep in the struggle? It took some time to realise that this idea of ‘obligation’ was one that I’d built up for myself. I don’t believe for a minute that any of the incredible bloggers that have written for the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, or any of Sew For Victory‘s readers, would consider me obligated to any kind of standard.

So here’s the honest truth. I still struggle. Sometimes every day, sometimes every hour. I have panic attacks, I take medication, and sometimes sewing is the activity I’m least likely to turn to for any kind of relief. I cry, I hold myself to oftentimes impossible standards, and I see a therapist. Equally true, however, is the fact that I’m writing this post and that, despite having many moments of feeling that giving up might be the easiest option, I still have an incredible amount of hope. The internet offers us a forum to paint our lives as whatever we want them to be and whatever we wish they were. It’s easy to slip into the habit of creating a narrative for yourself that veers so far away from reality you feel ashamed and guilty when you look at the truth. My story with mental health isn’t one of conquest – although I achieve victories constantly. Neither is my use of sewing to help manage my mental health as simple as I’m sure it comes across in the posts that I write. Although the tips I give and the thoughts I offer are all true and things I use, the ways in which I utilise sewing (or, on some days/weeks, don’t) shifts in parallel to the changes in my mindset.

Although this isn’t really a sewing post, as the host of the Sewing For Self-Care series I thought that it was important to write. When I wonder if stigma still exists around mental health – given the fact that conversations on the subject are increasing – I can’t help but look to my belief that I have to be ‘on the other side’ of the battle in order to offer a legitimate and worthy perspective. Looking around, it’s clear that so much of the information we consume regarding mental health is told by the ‘victors’ – people who consider themselves free and clear of the struggle. Perhaps, like me, they’ve simply made their narrative more palatable to a society that still isn’t quite comfortable talking about the reality of mental illness – the unbrushed hair, the angry outbursts, the feelings of hopelessness that no amount of logic or rationality can contradict. These are difficult truths to face.

I managed to get back to the sewing machine last week. It felt like a relief. I actually ended up taking some of my own advice – tried and tested – to rediscover my motivation. But if you read these posts and wonder why the tips don’t work for you, you need to understand that they don’t always work for me either. As Jenny wrote in her guest post, sewing and self-care have a complicated relationship. Sewing isn’t always what we want to do, nor is it always what’s best for us. I still believe that creativity provides one of the most powerful resources – available to all of us – through which we can manage out mental health. The science backs this up. But sometimes, we’re just working on getting ourselves out of bed. And that’s ok.

I’ll still be writing about sewing and self-care. Even with the fluctuations in my mood and my motivation, sewing is still one of my major passions. But it’s important to write here that I don’t fit the narrative of Sewing For Self-Care. My story with mental health is much bigger than that and, whether you struggle with mental illness or the general stresses of adulthood, so is yours. My overall message, however, remains the same. Be kind to yourself. Whether that involves a session at the sewing machine or not.

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Sewing For Summer!

I’m honestly not sure how we’ve already ended up mid-way through the summer. Things that felt way off on the horizon – starting my yoga teacher training, my 30th birthday (!) – are now just around the corner. Not to mention the fact that I’ve just celebrated my first wedding anniversary and have now been in my apartment for a whole year, even though it feels like I only just landed in the US. I’m honestly feeling a bit blindsided by how quickly 2018 is progressing!

Thankfully, I’m feeling pretty accomplished when it comes to my sewing. I already have a lot of makes under my belt and have definitely taken good steps on all of my 2018 sewing goals. Mostly I’m pleased that I’m finding a way to spend more time on building my everyday wardrobe and I’m getting so much joy from actually wearing my makes on a daily basis! I still have big plans for the rest of the year. Sewing is definitely harder in the summer – longer days and nicer weather mean that I’m generally keen to spend as much time as possible out and about. Plus my work commitments have escalated dramatically, so trying to fit everything in is definitely presenting a challenge. But that won’t stop me!

I’ve just wrapped up a beautiful make with one of my all-time favourite fabrics – the Fox Tales fabric from Dear Stella. I deliberated for quite a while on what pattern I wanted to use. In the end, I settled on the skirt from Sew Over It’s Rosie Dress. I really love the pattern – plus, it was one of the few that worked with my very narrow fabric. I’m excited to show you some proper pics, although I’m working on a new white version of the Lucia Top to go with it before I’m ready with an outfit to photograph. For now, here’s a little teaser…

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Definitely the cutest fabric ever!

I’ve been planning out some other new projects. I’m super lucky to have been accepted as a new member of the Minerva Crafts Blog Team, for which I’ll be reviewing some different sewing-related delights. I’ve been working on my very first Minerva Crafts project and my first post will hopefully be up on their blog soon! I’ll be sure to link you to it once it’s done so that I can finally reveal one of the things that I’ve been working on.

I also picked up a few new vintage Simplicity patterns from Joann’s a couple of weeks ago. I got them in a super sale, each for about $3, and thought the sale would be a good opportunity to stock up! One of my more immediate makes will be this super cute 1940s pattern…

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I picked up the fabric from Joann’s at the same time as the pattern, without much thought on an appropriate project. But mulling over it, I think the cotton will work incredibly well for this skirt and top! The fabric itself is a little stiff so I think I’m going to have to pre-treat it in the hopes that it will soften up. If anyone has any tips on this, please let me know! I normally just do a standard pre-wash but I feel like this will not be enough to soften this particular fabric. I also have crazy sensitive skin so need to be careful about what I use (if I don’t use certain brands of washing liquid, I break out in a full body rash, so it’s no joke!). Any tips are definitely welcome!

I picked up a couple of other Simplicity patterns that I consider to be more along the lines of wardrobe staples. I’m not sure when I’ll actually use them but, at such a wonderful price, I figured it was a good opportunity to grab them!

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So much to work on! I think it’s going to be a busy summer of super sewing. Fingers crossed I’ll continue to feel the motivation. What are your summer sewing plans? Do you find yourself sewing less or more in the summer months?

Have a beautiful week, friends!

Coocoo For Colour: How Do Our Colour Choices Impact Our Mood?

“The best colour in the world is the one that looks good on you.” Thank you Coco Chanel for your endless fashion wisdom. Whilst I’m usually inclined to defer to Coco on just about anything style-related, her thoughts on colour definitely have me wondering. Is colour selection really just about figuring out what looks ‘best’ on you? Or does this approach simply narrow the way that we think about colour and its potential impact on us?

Interestingly, I have lots of books about both sewing and fashion but one thing none of them mention is colour. Yet, to me, colour is such a key part of why and how I sew. As most of you know, there’s little planning involved in my selection of new projects. Instead, I just trawl fabric shops for endless hours until a fabric catches my eye. Then I either pair the fabric with a pattern I think it’s perfect for, or stash it away until I find exactly the right project. Although my being drawn towards particular patterns and projects is driven by a whole variety of factors, colour plays a massive role in how I select my fabrics.

My attraction to particular colours goes through phases. It doesn’t just influence the sorts of fabrics I select and sew – it dictates most of what I place around me at any particular time. Frequent visitors to Sew For Victory might recall that I’ve been in quite a strong and unrelenting mint green phase recently. From my favourite shoes, to my fabric choices, to my water bottle and my nail varnish – everything has been mint green. And, honestly, I’m not even slightly mad about it. You see, I firmly believe that our colour preferences and choices are tied heavily to our mood and general place in life. I’ve become more and more interested in this as I’ve delved deeper into both the various dynamics of self-care and sewing, as well as trying to understand my own very prevalent attachments to colour.

The psychology of colour impacting our moods is actually very well documented. Throughout history, people have created dominant associations between particular colours and certain emotions, thoughts, and situations. Red has, for example, become almost synonymous with love and romance. However, our colour choices go beyond this in actually having a demonstrable impact on the way that we feel. According to Professor of Psychology Andrew Elliot, some evidence points toward green as having a particularly calming effect on us “because it is associated with growth and nature.” (1) Similarly, orange “is said to stimulate enthusiasm and creativity,” (2) which is good news for us sewists! One really powerful study from back in 1982 found that colour has a dramatic impact on the health and wellbeing of children. As reported by the New York Times (the article is well worth a read if you’re interested), school room colour and lighting changes saw a drop in the children’s mean systolic blood pressure from “120 to 100, or nearly 17 percent…” Their behaviour also changed for the positive. (3)

So what does this mean for us sewists? Colour definitely doesn’t have to be a conscious choice because, ultimately, if it makes you feel good then there’s really no need to interrogate. However, sometimes understanding the impact that colour has on our mood can help us to make purposeful choices in order to move ourselves in a particular direction. If we’re feeling down, throwing on a bright dress can certainly work wonders! As with everything, colour is obviously no miracle cure. But I was super impressed by the amount of evidence out there to suggest that colour really can have a demonstrable and measurable impact on the way that we feel. Having browsed around and plucked different pieces of information from different places, here’s a summary of colours and the moods most strongly associated with them (I’ve included a list of articles at the end of this post, if you’re interested!):

Red: Stimulates and excites. Can be associated with passion and love.

Orange: Stimulates creativity and enthusiasm. Also associated with feelings of playfulness and warmth.

Yellow: Creates positive emotions, such as hope and happiness.

Green: Creates a sense of calm and relaxation, largely due to the association with nature.

Blue: Calms the mind and provides a sense of concentration. Can also be associated with trust and security.

Purple: Creates a sense of calm and soothing. Purple is also historically associated with spirituality, so can help you to feel spiritually connected (is that’s your cup of tea!)

Pink: A calming colour that stimulates a sense of safety and connection with femininity.

I find it so reassuring to know that something as simple as picking a colour to wear can help my mood. Even working with bright and playful colours on my sewing machine has a very real impact on my mindset. Although I couldn’t find the evidence out there during my search, it would make sense that there is also a sort of reverse relationship here – meaning that we might be ‘drawn’ to particular colours as a reflection of how we feel or (if you believe it) what we most need at a given time.

Part of the reason I’ve been reflecting so hard on this recently is that I’ve very much transitioned from a mint green obsession to a love of all things pink. I didn’t even notice it happening but just suddenly found myself picking out pink fabrics, wearing pink nail varnish and clothes – even selecting pink/red flowers at the supermarket. I’m not sure how real the connection is between colour and the way that I feel, but there’s definitely some kind of relationship between how I choose to surround myself with colour and the way that I’m relating to the world around me.

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So what does this mean for self-care? Thinking more consciously about the way that we interact with colour may be a positive step toward checking in with ourselves. However, I think the indications that our colour choices give will vary dramatically from person to person. Just like I wouldn’t suggest wearing black will make us all depressed and sad (it actually makes me feel pretty good most of the time), it won’t be the case that choosing pink fabrics or clothes means the same thing for all of us. As with everything relating to self-care, it’s really about becoming more aware of yourself and your needs – looking at what colours you’re drawn to and how they make you feel. Ultimately, it could all be one big placebo effect – but, if it helps us to be our best and happiest selves, colour is an amazing tool to have at our disposal!

Do you find that colour has an impact on your mood? Are you ‘drawn’ to particular colours when you’re in a certain frame of mind? I’m interested to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!



(1)
‘How Color Affects Our Mood’, Rachel Grumman Bender, HuffPost (27 Nov 2011)
(2) Same as above
(3) ‘Color Has A Powerful Effect On Behavior, Researchers Assert’, Lindsey Gruson, The New York Times (1982)

Other articles/websites of interest:

‘Colors That Affect Your Mood’, Brook Haven Retreat
‘Color Psychology: Does It Affect How Your Feel?’ Very Well Mind

Lucia Top (Sew Over It)

You might remember that I posted a few weeks back about my feelings at the end of Me Made May. It was such a great month of working through my handmade wardrobe, but it definitely left me with a sense of the gaps in my makes. I have such a tendency to get carried away by the beauty of vintage dress patterns, throwing myself whole heartedly into creating my own versions of these gorgeous garments. However, I live in a State where the winter and summer weather is pretty extreme and I’m also quite active throughout the day. This means that a vintage wardrobe doesn’t really suit my lifestyle (however much I might want it to be the case). So I set myself the task of interspersing my vintage makes with some more ‘every day’ projects, with a particular focus on separates.

Fortunately, my resolution timed with the release of Sew Over It’s Lucia Top. As soon as I saw the email about the new pattern (I’m in the PDF club so I got an early look!), I knew that I would immediately set about making some versions for myself. It’s a beautiful pattern – perfect for those (relatively few and far between) cooler summer days. I’ve already got a couple of new versions planned but I wanted to show you my first Lucia creation because I’m totally in love with it!

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I won’t lie, I was pretty well sweating buckets whilst I took these photos. It was about 95F outside and really not a jeans/knit top kind of day – but I was super determined to show Lucia to you all! Also, I really wanted to take my Ginger Jeans out for a spin because I’ve been in shorts for weeks and I’m always quite impressed with myself whenever I look at or wear these trousers!

As I mentioned, I made this top in a simple black knit fabric. I hate working with knits but this top is definitely bringing me round to them. The Lucia Top isn’t necessarily a knit project – in fact, the versions pictured on the website look like they’re made from cotton combinations. But I had a specific image in my head for how this top would look and it required taking the leap into the world of knits. I’m actually very glad that I decided to go with knit fabric. The top itself is super flowy (there’s a generous amount of ease in the bodice) but the knit gives it a more fitted feel – particularly when tucked into trousers. I definitely prefer this look to having the top billow out. I think the knit fabric makes the sleeves look super sleek and lovely too!

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The construction process itself wasn’t tough at all. The pattern only comes as a PDF (so if you aren’t a fan of PDFs, you basically have to suck it up on this one). I generally prefer to go with paper patterns to reduce the amount of pre-sewing faff that I have to go through. But Sew Over It PDFs are always pretty easy to put together and don’t usually have any issues with matching up the various pages and pattern pieces, which means it isn’t a standard PDF nightmare!

The top itself came together very quickly. Obviously the most arduous part of the process is adding the ruffle and the elastic. I’ve never used elastic in my sewing before but all of the steps were incredibly clear and well diagrammed. I honestly had no issues whatsoever getting it all to work. Just make sure that you use a small enough safety pin when passing the elastic through the channel that you sew around the neckline – otherwise you’ll find yourself getting stuck at the seams that you have to cross. Speaking from experience, I was lucky that I picked out a multi-size pack of safety pins because only the smallest kind ended up fitting through properly. So don’t use normal sized pins or you’ll end up making yourself very frustrated!

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I honestly can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I wore anything shoulderless. Probably largely because I only bought my first strapless bra last year for my wedding dress. It’s strangely liberating to wear a top with no straps or shoulders – especially in the summer. For those of you who don’t enjoy strapless/shoulderless garments, the top can be quite easily pulled up over your shoulders. You’ll obviously still have a pretty wide neckline but you can definitely sit the top far enough up your shoulders that you could get away with wearing a normal bra (albeit with the straps pushed slightly off to the side). This versatility will also make the top a good one for summer workdays (particularly if you work somewhere with a strong dress code).

Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced sewist, I highly recommend the Lucia Top pattern. It’s so easy and quick to put together! Although you might find yourself facing skills that you haven’t used before, the instructions provided are definitely sufficient to guide you through. I really do think anyone with a sewing machine and a love for ruffles could make a beautiful version of this top!

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As I mentioned at the start of the post, I already have a couple of other versions of the Lucia Top planned. Although I won’t be making separate posts specifically for those tops, they’ll definitely be featured on Sew for Victory as part of other makes and new outfits! So keep an eye out for new versions of Lucia popping up on here in the future. And, in the meantime, be sure to check out the pattern on Sew Over It’s website and share your own versions with me!

My Spring 2018 Favourites!

Happy 4th July, everyone! To those of your reading from the US, I hope that you’re having a fabulous holiday and are looking forward to seeing some wonderful fireworks this evening. I’m excited to spend a few days off with my husband – it’s our first wedding anniversary on Saturday so we’re celebrating with a mini staycation! We don’t have many plans, other than some trips to the book shop and a couple of museum visits. But this will be the longest amount of time we’ve had together since I moved to the US so I’m just hugely excited for that!

In other news, my eye has finally healed itself meaning that I’ll actually be able to get some pictures of my Lucia Top this week. Look out for that post on Friday. In the meantime – and now that summer has officially started – I wanted to do a roundup of my various ‘favourites’ from the past few months. Originally I had intended to do a very general ‘my favourites’ post but I’m one of those people who reliably claim that whatever I’m currently focussed on is my “favourite thing of all time.” So I thought it wise that I restrict this post to just the past few months. With that, here we go…

Favourite Pattern: Vintage Shirt Dress (Sew Over It)

I’ve been pretty productive with my sewing through Spring. In fact, there are no patterns I’ve sewn that I don’t absolutely love! But my favourite pattern to work with has to be Sew Over It’s Vintage Shirt Dress. The construction process was just so simple and the finished product looked incredible. Not to mention the fact that the fit was total perfection.

Obviously my obsession with this dress is largely assisted by the fabric because the Le Map cotton from Dear Stella is beyond a dream. But purely from an ease of construction, clarity of instructions, and just all around fun-level standpoint, the Vintage Shirt Dress is definitely my favourite pattern from the Spring!

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Favourite Fabric: Le Map (Dear Stella)

What a surprise! I really wanted to be able to mix it up a little so that all of my sewing favourites aren’t focussed on one make. But, let’s be honest, was there any way that this super sweet Parisian fabric wasn’t going to be my favourite from the past few months?! Not only is the pattern so adorable, the cotton has such a great weight to it – it made the fabric perfectly suited to the Vintage Shirt Dress, giving the garment a really crisp and tailored look.

Obviously my other Dear Stella fabric – Fox Tales – would be a contender here. However, since I’m not quite finished sewing with it, I decided that it counts as a Summer make! I feel that this is probably a spoiler for a Summer Favourites post!

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Favourite Listen: Studio Ghibli Cafe Music

I’m super obsessed with listening to music while I sew. I tend to stick to lyric-free music, mostly because I like to create a very relaxed environment whenever I’m in my sewing room. My favourite listen from the past few months has to be the Studio Ghibli Jazz playlist. I actually found out about it from one of the few YouTubers I watch and it has changed my world. The soundtrack consists of snippets from various Ghibli films but played in a jazz style. I love Ghibli so I’m all about anything that integrates my favourite films into my everyday life. This soundtrack/playlist is just amazing and, if you’re a fan of Ghibli films, I definitely recommend giving it a listen. An added bonus is that it’s available via YouTube and on a 3hr30 loop – so you can leave it be for a good long time and just get on with what you’re doing!

Favourite Watch: Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Every so often, I’m really in the mood to pop something I love on my laptop and watch while I work on sewing projects. As with the things that I listen to, I tend to go through extended periods of focussing on just one thing. Spring has been a very Agatha Christie heavy time for me – and I’m totally on board with it. I adore the various televisations of her books but I’m most in love with David Suchet’s Poirot. The series is amazing and I watch the episodes on repeat without any enjoyment diminished at all. Plus I met him and he stayed in character as Poirot the whole time, so this series will always have a special place in my heart.

Favourite Read: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This one isn’t sewing related at all since, although I’m an epic multi-tasker, even I can’t read and sew at the same time. But I’ve done so much reading this spring (I think about 16 books, which is pretty good going!) that I felt compelled to include my favourite. Most recently, I’ve been working my way through the Pulitzer Prize winners going back from the most recent (I figured that they will always be pretty reliably amazing books) – so obviously this meant that I finally got around to reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I can’t quite put into words how much I loved this book. At around 750 pages, it’s definitely a lengthy read. However, I ended up racing through it because I was so enthralled. Although the book is emotionally heavy, it is truly Dickensian in its scope. Definitely my favourite read from the past few months!

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Favourite Purchase: Spirited Away Mug

My favourite purchase from Spring happens to be very much unrelated to sewing – unless you count the fact that I drink tea from it habitually whilst sewing. As I mentioned above, I love Studio Ghibli films. I’ve always had a love for animation (of course, I remain totally Disney obsessed) and Studio Ghibli takes the art to a completely different level of beauty. Plus the stories are just amazing. I was so excited to find that Barnes and Noble have a pretty good collection of Studio Ghibli items – although they’re all quite pricey – and I’ve had my eye on the Spirited Away mug for ages. My husband bought it for me as a present last month and I’ve been glued to it ever since!

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So those are all of my favourites from Spring 2018! It’s been an incredibly varied and successful few months – something that I hope carries over into Summer! Do you have any favourites from this Spring? Share in the comments – I’m always excited to read your thoughts!