Sewing for Self-Care: Tamsin’s Story

The first Sewing for Self-Care: You Story post is here! I was so excited to hear from Tamsin, who blogs over at Hazelnut Thread. Her story about using sewing as part of an effective approach to postnatal self-care is incredibly relatable and enlightening! When I emailed her back after receiving her post, I wrote that I couldn’t help smiling as I read. I’m sure that you’ll find the same! Whether you are dealing with anxiety in general, attempting to develop a specific self-care regime around your little ones, or are simply looking for better ways to attend to your own needs, I’m know that Tamsin’s post will help you there. I hope that you enjoy!


While it’s quickest to describe myself as a long term sufferer of anxiety, in reality, what I suffer from is a multi-plate spinning brain. When each plate is being spun, I feel pretty normal. When I’m at work, I teach 30 different children a concept at several levels of understanding at the same time as balancing their behavioural needs, thinking of better ways to explain myself and keep them all in the same room. It’s what my brain is used to. It’s fine. But whenever I don’t need to think about that particular plate, anxiety loads the empty plate – filling the gap that is left behind. In other words, my brain is trained to think about several things at the same time and when I stop, it finds other things to think about, and think about and think about. I can rumunate on a gut-wrenching thought over and over quite compulsively.

Sewing has been part of my life now for almost 3 years and it is a blessing for someone with a brain like mine. I wanted to write about how this happened and where the sewing journey has taken me in that short time. I had always wanted to be able to make clothes since I can remember. I had a sewing machine, actually I had two! But honestly, I could not make a thing, all the gear and no idea, stuffed in the back of my wardrobe for 15 years.

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When Hazel decided to come along (I thought it was early menopause, but no, I was 6 weeks pregnant) the timing was tough. I was expecting to get Postnatal depression, but I didn’t. In fact I distinctly remember feeling Postnatal joy for several months. I would walk around so blissfully grateful. I felt so priviledged to be able to look after her, I still do. However, the antidote to this immense love is that I felt incomprehensibly guilty that I was not good enough for her. I don’t live near my family and only one of my friends has children, so everything I felt was magnified as it was often just me and her. I suppose my day-to-day happiness masked what was really going on. While on maternity leave, an entire dinner service of anxiety plates were building in my head.

An awareness I felt when I had my daughter, which I was not expecting, was the feeling of connection with my female ancestory. I would hold Hazel, humming the same lullaby that my mum had sung to me, knowing that her mum had sung it to her when she was a baby. I never knew my maternal grandmother, but I attribute this feeling of connection to the reason sewing really took hold of me 3 years ago. My maternal grandmother was a gifted seamstress and used it to make ends meet as well as for pleasure. I had an overwhelming urge to make Hazel a pair of dungarees and when I bought that Burda pattern, I also bought a simple dress pattern that included a hat. Why I thought I could do any of it I don’t know. Obviously the first attempt at dungarees went in the bin, but when I needed to get Hazel a summer hat, I was compelled to make one. This is the decision that ignited something in me and sewing took over most of the spinning plates in my brain. Not only was the hat the first sucessful sewing project I had completed, but I distinctly remember getting a buzz from doing the top-stitching! I wonder if some deep seated genetic abililty was starting to come to the surface.

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I wish I was blogging back then to try and remember all the thoughts and learning that I was doing. But I can remember making this simple dress about 5 or 6 times. Each time deciphering the instructions in a slightly different way. The fabric was so cheap and I didn’t have to worry about fitting it carefully or anything – I could just go for it. Every bit of skill, bar sewing in a straight line, was new to me. I can remember getting so excited when I could sew bias binding on neatly. While it took me hours to complete a dress, it was easy to pick up and do in stages during nap time. It was the first time in over a year that I had sat still, with music in the background, focussing on something other than my worries. It was bliss. My mind was able to think about so much at once! The endless possibilities. Fabric choices, details, accent colours, different patterns…my head was full of it. When I wasn’t sewing I was reading about it online or in books. The guilt was there in spades that I wasn’t focussed on her, but I was making things for Hazel while she was asleep, new things in her favourite colours, so this allayed my guilt. Now looking back, I know I had no need to be guilty, but there would have been no point telling me that at the time.

It’s funny to think that I must have made 8 items on my simple 20 year old Toyota machine with what was probably the original needle! I had no idea how much I didn’t know. I did go back to that dungaree pattern and made about 4 versions – still with that same needle.

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Skip forward a few months of obsessive sewing practise and learning and I was lucky enough to get the chance to buy a new computerised machine. I was so excited that I drove straight through a buses-only lane! I had no idea until I got the ticket a few weeks later.

I made another dungaree dress in denim for the first time on my new machine, inspired by the triple-stitching feature. I made a zebra motif from felt and zigzagged it in black all around the edges. This went on the front of her dungaree dress. I was now feeling that I could make her any design she wanted. This felt like a mummy super power. I loved being able to make her a one of a kind outfit based on her favourite book for World Book Day (a cow from Click, Clack, Moo!).

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I had some ideas about how to sew in theory – as seen in films etc. – such as measuring, fitting alterations, pinning up the hem. However, I found that with children’s clothes I could get away with following a straight forward packet size with no alterations. I eyeball hems with an iron and pin them flat. I think this gave me the freedom to really learn from scratch and figure out what worked and what didn’t. The continual learning, problem solving, and creativity is such a tonic for my brain. By spinning all those plates and thoughts, I create a new outfit from a flat piece of fabric, but feel calm and relaxed the whole time.

I mentioned that I don’t bother with hemming properly, or fit! Well, I moved onto making clothes for myself. I don’t enjoy the fitting process and I’m really bad at it. But it’s reassuring to know that there is still a wealth of learning to do. I genuinely feel that learning to sew is going to take me years and that’s a relief. I know what I can’t do, but I also feel a sense that I can take on any project and as long as I take my time, it’ll get there. I feel that when times are difficult, I know that there is a way to give myself a break from the incessant ruminating about rubbish.

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Top of my list for feeling happy about my sewing is top-stitching and finish. I give loads of my makes to charity because they don’t fit – but they certainly look lovely on the hanger inside and out. I love things to be neat and tidy and top-stiching just looks bloody lovely to me. My machine definitely helps though! I can spend hours setting in a label (not that I have my own, yet) so it looks lovely. Whereas others will put fit on the top of their list and feel happy, the photos I heart most on instagram are usually of overlocking and hidden liberty facings or a hong kong seam.

I love writing my blog. I can’t keep to a regular posting schedule, but I really enjoy keeping a record of what I’ve learned on my journey, with the odd non-sewing related ramble. Instagram is my go-to social media of choice. I scroll through it a couple of times a day and it’s always been the blame for any impulse fabric, book, or accessory purchase. Mostly, I enjoy connecting with the sewing world. It’s the norm that people have their own sense of style and embrace their individualities, and people just praise each other or ask for more information. If only the whole of social media worked like that. Recently, I have really enjoyed taking part in two gift exchanges – which is odd because I don’t do any crafting and only sew clothes. But it’s definitely highlighted the joy of giving and it’s another way to connect with people.

I think sewing is either something you enjoy or not. Many people would find the whole process an utter bore, with too many things to think about. However, my advice to anyone with anxiety that manifests itself like mine does is to try anything creative. Creating uses different parts of your brain, requiring your main worrying thoughts to quieten down temporaily. It is quite hard to maintain a conversation when you are in this state, so that would be the test to see if you are there. My word of warning would be to set an alarm if you need to be somewhere. When I used to paint, 3 hours would feel like 20 minutes. I can happily lose a whole day to sewing (childcare permitting!). An hour’s rest from ruminating will do wonders for your daily well-being. It won’t fix you, but moments of peace everyday will help in the long run.

My advice to anyone taking up sewing is to start simple and repeat it over and over. Sewing for children is really good because of the smaller scale and lower price. However, if you are sewing for yourself, a nice beginner pattern sewn 5 times will increase your knowledge hugely. Even something as simple as pyjama bottoms. It’s also worth remembering that, yes, there are proper ways to do things, but in the meantime, use a 20 year old needle until you read that you’re meant to change them (and use different sizes and shapes at that). Something I also like to do is try to embrace a mistake in every project. Instead of getting perfection, when each mistake comes along I decide if I will rectify it, or whether that’ll be my “mistake of the make” and I ignore it. This approach saves a lot of heartache. Lastly – and this doesn’t sit well with my eco ideals – when learning, I think if you do it for the process and not to get a dress at the end, it’s a lot more enjoyable. Many of my makes end up going in the bin half way through but, apart from feeling guilty at the waste, it means I don’t develop a perfectionism streak in my sewing.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my experience of sewing and anxiety. Please visit my blog – Hazelnut Thread – for more stories about my journey.


A massive thanks to Tamsin for writing this incredible post. Make sure to check out her blog so that you can follow along with her sewing adventures! If you’d like to contribute your own story about using sewing for self-care, please get in touch. You can email me – laura@sewforvictory.co.uk – or message me via Instagram/Twitter – @sewforvictoryuk.

Alternatively, make sure to check out my original post introducing this series and starting this larger community conversation about using sewing for self-care.

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Sewing For Self-Care: Getting Honest About Your Needs

Ordinarily (and as is totally my instinct) I would begin this post with an apology for the fact that there was no post on Monday. Although one day of a missed post definitely isn’t a big deal – and nobody’s wellbeing is dependent on my posting – I’ve made real efforts to work toward my 2018 goal of posting on a reliable three day per week schedule. For me, deciding to miss a day was tough. I’ve been feeling very much on top of game for most of January and have definitely enjoyed the structure that I’ve given my attention to Sew for Victory. That said, my choice not to post was precisely that – a choice. And it very much provided the inspiration for today’s post.

*An important side-note: sewing is definitely not a cure for mental illness and this post is totally reflective of my personal experiences. I got better through a whole range of things, including help from doctors and therapists. But, for me, the holistic approach always works best. Sewing is a huge component of how I maintain my happiness and positivity and I definitely recommend creative endeavours to anyone struggling. But I absolutely see this as a companion to other kinds of intervention. Please make sure to pay a visit to your doctor or call a helpline if you are in a bad way.*

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I’ve been working really hard to stay true to my initial goal when writing about self-care, mental health, and sewing, which was that I try to be as honest as possible. It’s difficult to have helpful conversations about these topics while holding things back or presenting life to be something different from reality. I’m definitely acquainted with how easily the internet – social media and blogging, in particular – offers a warped and very selective version of what our lives are actually like. When I decided to start writing posts dedicated to self-care, it was incredibly important to me that I avoid falling into these traps. Not only am I sure that any insincerity on my part would be pretty obvious to you all, it would also be less than helpful in starting a conversation about creativity and self-care that I believe is sorely needed. I’ve spent a lot of January thinking about these things and one significant benefit has been a greater degree of honesty in my relationship with myself.

Part of developing a comprehensive and helpful self-care regime is learning to be honest about your needs. After all, being in denial about how you’re feeling or what you need is always going to be a big obstacle to practicing effective self-care. This is where therapy, and even yoga and meditation practices, can be particularly useful. It’s important to cultivate a good amount of self-awareness if you want to live as your best and happiest self, and these sorts of resources are so helpful for getting to a place of self-knowledge. Although I’ve worked hard to become more self-aware, I still go through periods of some denial about what I need. I tend to be very all or nothing in my approach to life – I throw myself 100% at a project or hobby until I eventually burn out to a point of being unable to act. Balance is something I struggle with. Recently, this problem has started to impact my sewing.

A couple of months back, I decided that I wanted to spend a while looking at ways to make sewing a full-time occupation. Although I’m still relatively early in the planning stages, this decision totally reinvigorated me in my attention to personal sewing projects and blogging. I’ve spent much of January juggling the various aspects of sewing for myself, developing content for the blog, and moving future plans along. As I got more and more into this, I started shedding my weekends in favour of working. Even though I was still careful to set aside evenings to be with my husband, do yoga, and relax, I found that my mind was never far from my work. I’d lost sight of my off switch. Had I stepped back for a minute, I would’ve realised that this was unsustainable – I have enough experience of these cycles to know that cracks will always inevitably appear. This past weekend, things broke down. Although this happened no way near as dramatically as used to be the case, I felt very low and completely physically exhausted. Fortunately, having a lot of knowledge about the self-care practices that work best for me, I was able to work my way back up to a better place. In doing this, I decided that I needed to take a designated self-care day (hence my lack of post on Monday) and focus completely on myself.

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This kind of dedicated self-care practice will look different for everyone. In my case, it meant lots of cups of tea and reading a good book whilst tucked up under a ridiculous number of blankets. I ate good food, listened to music, worked on my bullet journal, and totally relaxed. I also unplugged from the internet – meaning no social media checking, no blog activities, and no time wasters. When you feel burnt out, this kind of designated self-care time is vital. Whether only for an hour or an afternoon, setting aside some ‘you time’ can be the most effective method for putting a stopper in feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.

As you all know from my previous posts on the topic, sewing is typically one of my main go-to methods of self-care. But, now that I’m working to step-up my activities in a more full-time capacity, I’m aware that my relationship with sewing is undergoing a transition. I believe that I can continue to make it a vital aspect of my mental health maintenance and I still feel so incredibly fulfilled every day that I get to sit down at my sewing table. That said, it will inevitably become a source of stress. Blogging, in and of itself, can invite these issues. Even if you’re blogging as a hobby, entering the world of social media and online communities can invite negative comparisons with others and a sense of failure. There are very concrete and measurable barometers for success online – numbers of followers, numbers of page views etc. This can make it very easy to fall into a place of stress or melancholy. However, it can also be an opportunity for us to revisit our relationships with ourselves and our self-care outlets. Sewing will continue to be a method of self-care for me but it will require a reappraisal of my approach. Balancing my sewing time with dedicated attention to other things – bullet journalling, reading, cross stitching, yoga – will become increasingly important. I’m also planning on stepping up my meditation game to ensure that I’m able to stay present in what I’m doing when I’m not sewing – hopefully helping me to avoid my propensity to have my mind on sewing while I’m doing other things.

We must never take for granted that our self-care practices are always practiced as self-care. Our relationships with the different components of our life will inevitably change as our circumstances shift. It’s important to check in with yourself often to re-evaluate, making sure that you are properly aware of your needs and addressing them. This will always require a degree of honesty. Sometimes we’re blinkered by distractions. This was exactly my problem when I was so deep in my sewing activities that I didn’t even think to step back and consider the possibility of burn out. I hadn’t anticipated that my approach was turning an incredibly valuable self-care practice into a source of stress. Had I checked in with myself earlier, I would have noticed the warning signs (less sleep, more tension, more irritability etc) and taken some much needed time out.

So remember that a good self-care practice is one that remains attentive to your current situation. To know what this looks like means having an honest conversation with yourself about habits, thought patterns, and behaviours that might affect how and why you practice self-care. One of the most helpful things for me is keeping an ongoing list of my favourite self-care activities – this includes things like snuggling with my dog, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race (YAAASSSS!), and having a cup of my favourite herbal tea. Every so often, some things on the list get crossed out or changed. I also categorise some practices as especially helpful when I’m feeling certain ways (for example, herbal tea is especially great when I’m feeling stressed, watching RPDR works amazingly well when I’m anxious or panicking). This list should be a total reflection of you – although looking around online can give some amazing ideas for things to try. Just remember to remain true to yourself and open to what you need in any given moment. As this past month has proved, I’m still learning about the best ways to be kind to myself. While I’m very sure the learning won’t stop, I really do believe that the process can only take us on to better and brighter things.


Thank you so much to everyone who got in touch or gave feedback about my Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story post. I’ve had some incredible people reach out to me and they should be providing some amazing insights into their own use of sewing for self-care over the coming weeks.

If you use sewing as a self-care practice – whether to combat daily stresses or to help manage your mental health in any capacity – and would like to add your voice to the conversation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can email me – laura@sewforvictory.co.uk – or message me via Instagram or Twitter – @sewforvictoryuk You can also check out the blog post for more details!

Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story

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I am determined to make 2018 a year of great self-care practice. After a lengthy battle with anxiety, panic disorder, and depression, self-care remains a vital personal activity. For the past two years, sewing has been a really major part of that regime and I’m setting myself up for another year where creativity plays a primary role in my life. In my previous Sewing For Self-Care posts, I’ve written at length about the ways in which sewing helps me to navigate life’s peaks and troughs, as well as the specific practices that have moved me out of much darker places (hello bullet journaling, I love you!).

The response to those posts was overwhelming. I was beyond happy to read about the ways in which sewing has helped so many of you to overcome various types of trials. I have always maintained that creativity should play a part in any attempts to holistically deal with the clouds that drift our way – although I would definitely not suggest that this should serve as a replacement for professional intervention, where needed. I was struck by the number of people who commented, messaged, and emailed to share stories similar to my own – stories of sewing helping to deal with issues including anxiety, body dysmorphia, and depression. The more I thought about these stories, the clearer it seemed to me that sewing provides a legitimate avenue for all of us to work through thought patterns and behaviours that trouble our lives.

I want to provide a forum for those stories. Not just to serve as testimonials on just how fantastic sewing is (because we all know it’s true!) but an insight into the specific ways that a creative habit can help us to practice self-care. This is such an individual experience but I know that, in my bleakest moments, it was the stories of others who had found a way through that really helped me to move forward. I think it’s so important for us to navigate past undervaluing hobbies and creativity as a cornerstone for self-care. Although it can’t replace the benefits of medication (where prescribed and needed) or therapy, it is something that can assist lasting change in our attitudes – it can give us a passion that encourages us to move forward with our day, as well as a much needed boost to our self-esteem and self-image.

I don’t want to keep telling this story in my own words. Although I’m really passionate about having an open and honest conversation about my experiences with sewing and self-care, my perspective is one of many. And I don’t want to speak for others. Instead, I want to invite those of you with a story to share to share it on Sew For Victory. I’ll be providing a space for anyone who is interested to email me with their account, in their own words, of their experience with sewing and self-care. Whatever sewing has provided you, if it has helped you to tend to yourself and your needs, I really want to hear from you.

You can email me at laura@sewforvictory.co.uk to let me know that you’re interested in writing a post on this topic (whether short, long, or somewhere in between) or if you have any questions. You can also reach out to my via DM on Instagram or Twitter (links to both are in the sidebar). I think a discussion on sewing and self-care is one that must happen but only where it can accommodate everyone who wants to be heard. I truly hope that you’ll share your story with me and help to make this conversation happen. In the meantime, I’m sending you all the best kind of wishes for health and happiness.

Sewing For Self-Care: Surviving the Holidays

Since my first Sewing for Self-Care post, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the cross-over between self-care and creativity. For me, it’s a delicate balance. Creative projects are vital to my sense of self-worth and yet it’s so easy for them to tip over into something negative when I’m in a self-critical mode. Although there are plenty of things that can (and should) be done to make this kind of negativity less present (I do many things, including yoga and meditation to help quiet that voice inside my head), I think it’s also vital to manage creative outlets to maximise their self-care potential.

With the holiday season upon us, these issues feel even more important to discuss and think over. The holidays can be a difficult time for many of us – whether because we suffer with anxiety, are made to be around people that trouble us, or have to deal with a sense of isolation and loneliness. Even where none of the above apply, December is often a month of increased financial burden and a larger-than-usual period of time spent around others. Where these sorts of challenges exist, however, we are offered a valuable opportunity to step up our attention to self-care. For those of us who rely on creative outlets, the holidays can take a toll in this regard. Moving around to different houses and meeting familial obligations can make it tough to carve out time, not to mention that some creative hobbies are much less mobile than others (carrying a sewing machine and serger around isn’t the most practical option).

With this in mind, I thought that I would offer up some self-care tips for those of you who, like me, use sewing (or any creatively-minded exercise) to steer your way through the instability and challenges of the holidays.

*An important side-note: sewing is definitely not a cure for mental illness. I got better through a whole range of things, including help from doctors and therapists. But, for me, the holistic approach always works best. Sewing is a huge component of how I maintain my happiness and positivity and I definitely recommend creative endeavours to anyone struggling. But I absolutely see this as a companion to other kinds of intervention. Please make sure to pay a visit to your doctor or call a helpline if you are in a bad way.*

  1. Make It Portable

For me, one of the hardest things about using sewing for self-care is how chained it is to my house. Although I supplement my self-care techniques with things I can do wherever I go, the holidays often mean longer periods of time spent away from my sewing base and therefore unable to indulge myself. Since sewing is so integral to my well-being and, as I mentioned in my first Sewing for Self-Care post, something I have to maintain as a daily habit, it became super important for me to find a way to make it a portable activity.

There are many components of the sewing process that can easily be done away from the machine. Cutting out pattern or fabric pieces is a pretty portable activity – I often cart my cutting mat and rotary blade along with me when I have cutting to do (especially good when I’m working on a small project). Another great way to make garment sewing portable is to save up any bits of hand sewing that you have to do. I hate hand sewing so I am always procrastinating anything that forces me to get out the needle and thread. Being away from home gives me sufficient motivation to finally tackle these neglected projects, learn some new techniques, and tick some more things off of my to-do list.

Similarly, if sewing is your bag, you might consider taking up a small cross-stitch project when you know that you have a lot of travelling or time away from home approaching. I’m not an avid cross-stitcher but I find the process just as soothing and absorbing as garment-making. The same could be said for knitting (which I know how to do) and crocheting (which I have no idea how to do). Whatever your particular hobby, there will always be ways to make it a portable pursuit. What this does require is some forethought to ensure that you have activities lined up.

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2.  Make Some Lists

Lists are super important to planning holiday self-care and are honestly brilliant for monitoring self-care in general. I have an ongoing list of activities or resources that I can reliably refer to when I’m feeling low and know that I need a distraction or a pick-me-up (this can include things like great Youtube videos, favourite music, activities and hobbies). But, when I know that there’s a challenging event or few days approaching, I find it helpful to make lists that are a little more specific. When it comes to sewing, I will often break ongoing projects down into smaller goals or components so that I know what I have to work on. Not only does this let me keep track of my current projects, it helps me plan adequately when I know that I need to be equipped for time away from home.

If, like me, you keep a bullet journal, you are likely already acquainted with this kind of thing! You can also refer to the details in my first Sewing for Self-Care post where I wrote in more depth about how I use my bullet journal to document sewing projects. Whether or not you choose to go the bullet journal route (it’s certainly a more involved way of doing things), forethought and planning are absolutely key to surviving the holidays with your self-care intact.

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3.  Do Your Research

Whether or not you run a blog, sewing can be a relatively research-intensive process. From finding patterns and fabric to searching out sources of inspiration, there are plenty of opportunities to spend some time on your phone and absorb yourself in sewing plans. I’m constantly on the lookout for great vintage photos that might help me design future projects and, when I find myself at a loose end, I’ll often pass the time browsing the internet for new resources. Down-time can also be a great opportunity to scour your favourite online fabric shops to see if there are any great sales or new finds.

Another fantastic thing to do is take the time to work on new sewing techniques – or improve those that you’ve already acquired. As I mentioned above, my hand sewing leaves a lot to be desired. But it’s inevitable that I’ll need to slip stitch gaps closed or collars down in most of my garments. So working on this, or other hand sewing necessities, by spending some time watching Youtube videos or reading blog tips is a really useful way of passing the time. Plus, all you really need for this is a phone and a bit of fabric for practice!

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4.  Try To Devote Some Time Daily

As I mentioned in my first Sewing for Self-Care post, it’s vital to make self-care a daily habit. In my day-to-day life, this means carving out some time to sit at my sewing machine – even if I don’t think that I’ll last for 5 minutes, more often than not it’ll turn into a much longer session because I become so absorbed. When I’m travelling or otherwise busy with plans for an extended period of time, I try to maintain this daily commitment. One of the biggest challenges about the holidays can be the loss of control over your daily activities. You’re essentially subject to majority rule in deciding what you’ll be doing and when. To make sure that I continue to feel stable and present in my own mind, I have a few things that I make uncompromisable everyday activities – yoga, meditation, and sewing.

Although each of these activities might change their form to accommodate the circumstance (sewing becomes portable, yoga becomes a 10 minute sun salutation practice rather than a 50 minute guided practice etc.), they are essential to making sure that I remain calm and collected. Sewing offers an opportunity to retreat inwards and remove yourself from the hustle and bustle taking place around you. So try to find a way to ensure that you can give a bit of time to it each day. Whether this becomes a snatched 10 minutes in between meals, an activity to accompany Christmas TV watching in the evening, or a 30 minute wind-down session before bed, it’s vital to keep yourself grounded through what you love to do.


So there we have it. A few tips for using sewing to survive the holidays. As much as the Christmas season is a time for compassion towards others, this is a kindness that we must absolutely learn to turn inwards at all times. To make sure that you can be your best self and feel fully recuperated by the time that the holidays end, pay attention to yourself and your needs. If you have any tips to add for using creativity to make it through the craziness of the season, please feel free to share in the comments below. Otherwise, I’m wishing you all a wonderful and joy-filled weekend – whether, and however, you celebrate.

 

Sewing for Self-Care

Most long-time readers of Sew for Victory will know that I came to sewing during a battle with severe anxiety. At the time, I was stuck in a state of permanent physical panic and was working to find a solution that lay outside of a doctor’s office. Although sewing was by no means a cure, it took me out of my head and let me put all of my issues on pause for a brief period of time. Since then, things have really turned around for me. While I never count myself totally free and clear, I now have a whole toolkit of self-care techniques that keep me in check.

That said, it’s inevitable that new battles emerge. I mentioned in my post on Monday that I’ve been on a bit of a blog hiatus while I’ve been dealing with a bad bout of homesickness. It’s been about 5 months since I moved to the US and it’s definitely not been the easiest transition in the world. Anyone who has moved country knows that it comes replete with challenges. Since I’ve lived in the US before – albeit for brief periods of time – and I was also going to be moving closer to my parents – who are English but have lived in the US for about 12 years – I figured it would be super easy. Not to mention that I was actually going to be back with my then-fiance and finally able to get married. But I’ve learnt that none of this is a guard against missing what you’re used to.

My instinct when I feel down is always to wrap myself up on the sofa and binge on some reality TV. But I know, after many years of figuring this stuff out, that this rarely works to turn things around. So, after letting myself mope for a couple of weeks, I’m back on my self-care game with a vengeance. And, in light of what I’ve been going through recently, I wanted to share my tips for using sewing as a method of self-care!

*An important side-note: sewing is definitely not a cure for mental illness. I got better through a whole range of things, including help from doctors and therapists. But, for me, the holistic approach always works best. Sewing is a huge component of how I maintain my happiness and positivity and I definitely recommend creative endeavours to anyone struggling. But I absolutely see this as a companion to other kinds of intervention. Please make sure to pay a visit to your doctor or call a helpline if you are in a bad way.*

  1. Pick a project that works for you

It’s important that, when you’re sewing during a difficult time, you have a plan. Since my mind is typically all over the place when I’m feeling down, it’s especially difficult to focus. The beauty of sewing is that its very nature demands your attention. So, before you sit down at your sewing table, make sure you know what it is that you’re going to be working on. Otherwise there’s a good chance that you’ll spend the next 30 minutes staring into space whilst you try to decide what your next project will be, ultimately leaving you frustrated and feeling a bit like you’ve failed.

In order to help with this, I have a designated monthly page in my bullet journal where I plan out my projects for the month. Although I might not get around to all of them, it gives me a clear vision of what I have lined up. For each project, I then break down into bullet points the specific things I need to work on. For instance: cut pattern pieces; cut fabric pieces; construction; seam finishes. This list can really get as detailed as you want it to. Have a look at the photo further down in my post to see how this looks in practice (*disclaimer: I am artistically challenged*).

I’ve found that keeping track of projects in my bullet journal is a really helpful way of avoiding the inevitable fuzzy-brain that accompanies anxiety, depression, stress, homesickness etc. I tend to set up my sewing page a couple of weeks in advance each month so that I can develop my plans on a rolling basis, when I’m in a good frame of mind. This gives you the flexibility of avoiding making these decisions when your mind isn’t in the best place. And it gives you a super accessible and well thought out reference point for when you’re feeling down but know that you want to sew.

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2.  Set aside some time, daily

Now, this may not work for everyone. I have the luxury of flexibility when it comes to structuring and planning my day. But some people have other obligations that might keep them from designating daily sewing time, or they might just have a whole list of self-care techniques that they choose to mix and match. However, when I’m feeling at my lowest, it’s helpful for me to commit to sewing as a daily activity. This means that, even if I only spend 5 minutes at my sewing table, I’m actively carving out time to focus on something that I love to do.

For me, the best strategy is not telling myself that I must be chained to my sewing room for a pre-allocated amount of time. I don’t force myself to sit for an hour, or even 15 minutes. Instead, I simply commit to sitting at my sewing table on a daily basis and seeing where it takes me. Most of the time, I expect to give up within a couple of minutes. But, more often than not, I get quickly engaged in the activity and end up sitting there for  well over an hour.

Since most of us, when we feel down, end up stuck in a cycle of lethargy and guilt, finding something to commit to daily is a super important step. Sometimes this commitment will be something as seemingly small as getting dressed in the morning, or making sure that you eat three meals. I’ve had days where these things are a massive victory. Investing in a creative project is a demanding thing and sometimes you won’t quite be up to the task. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge what’s achievable for you.

3.  Acknowledge what you’ve achieved

This follows on from what I said above and also relates back to bullet journaling. It is absolutely vital that you find some way of keeping track of what you’re achieving. My bullet journal is one component of this because it allows me to check things off of my list. The act of doing this is incredibly satisfying. But it’s vital that you also keep a daily log of what you’ve done, where you’re actively noting what you’ve achieved. This can be as simple as writing down ‘I sat for 5 minutes and planned out my projects for November’, or ‘I finally started to attach the sleeves to my top’, or ‘I actually got around to changing the threads in my serger. It was a nightmare’. Just making a note of these things, however seemingly small, is so important. It promotes a feeling of accomplishment and success – which we all need on a rolling basis, but is particularly necessary when we’re feeling blue. I also find it helps to note down how I’m feeling about what I’ve done. Maybe getting myself to sit down at my sewing machine was super hard that day or maybe I feel particularly triumphant. This all provides a great record of your progress and your achievements.

You could make a project of this record, as I’ve done with keeping my bullet journal (although sewing is just one small component of what goes into my journal). You might even use a blog or social media – such as Instagram – to keep track of things. There are definitely ways to make this into a larger and more involved hobby, which can be incredibly rewarding in itself.

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4.  Share, share, share

Since I’ve been dealing with a particularly acute bout of homesickness, one of the best remedies has been renewing my connection with the sewing community. I’m very lucky in that I already have this blog on the go and a community through social media. But it’s easy to have these things and still feel isolated. Sharing your creativity with others should be an active and engaging process. Read other blogs, comment on people’s photos, share your experiences. Each of these things will make you feel a part of something bigger and you’ll find that you end up attracting people with similar tastes and experiences. I posted on Instagram earlier in the week and mentioned that I’d been feeling homesick. I got some wonderful comments and messages from people, offering support and telling me about their own experiences. This was incredibly comforting and, given that I’m in a new country with a very limited network of people, made me feel far less alone.

Sharing your crafts will also help to reaffirm what you’re achieving. As I mentioned above, it’s important that you’re able to document what you’re doing so that you can recognise your accomplishments. Doing this online – or even by starting a Meetup group or attending a sewing class – is a fabulous way of keeping a record whilst also finding inspiration from others around you, and reminding you that you are part of a community of like-minded people.

5.  Find inspiration

It is vital to stay inspired. Inspiration is really at the heart of finding the motivation to sew and share what you are doing. It can be incredibly difficult to feel inspired when you’re struggling with other things and your mind is everywhere but on your sewing. To make sure that I stay inspired, I do a few different things. The first, and most important, is that I constantly check in with what other people are doing. I keep an eye on my Instagram, read other blogs, and generally look out for makes that might inspire my own creative instincts. This doesn’t always work. Sometimes I’m in a bad place and the last thing I want to do is be reminded of all those things that other people are achieving. It’s not always the healthiest thing to look to other people when you know that you’re going to be inclined to compare yourself negatively (trust me, I’ve been there!). In these instances, I keep a cache of photos on my computer and various bits of inspiration on my notice board in my sewing room. I’ve curated these as time has gone on to reflect the different kinds of inspiration that I usually need in order to get my creative juices flowing. Another great resource for this kind of thing is Pinterest. Although I’ve fallen off of the wagon a bit, I used to use it a lot as a place to store all of those pics and patterns that sparked my interest.

However you do it, make sure that you find a way to stay inspired through the dark times. Scrapbook, blog, use Pinterest, glue pictures all over your walls (unless you’re a renter like me, of course). Inspiration is perhaps the most important resource for ensuring that sewing remains a positive self-care technique.

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So there you go. My tips for self-care through sewing. If you’ve used sewing for similar reasons, definitely let me know if you have any of your own tips to add. Obviously all of this is based on personal experience, but I’m sure many of us share the opinion that sewing can be a powerful tool in difficult times. If you’re going through it right now, remember that everything really does pass and, before you know it, you’ll be in from the cold.