How To Find Your Personal Style

Today’s post was originally intended to be a pattern review and pics of my Sew Over It Lucia Top. The top itself has been finished for a while – in fact, I’ve already taken it on a couple of outings (when the crazy hot weather lets up a little and I’m not restricted to shorts and vest tops). Unfortunately, I’ve been struck down with a mega eye infection for the past week (super gross, I know) and, although I’m actually pretty much cured at this point, I’m still stuck in glasses. Despite my husband’s constant reassurances that I look “totally cute” in glasses, I really hate wearing them and basically avoid it as much as I can. And although my self-confidence has blossomed incredibly since starting Sew For Victory, glasses-wearing Laura is a very ‘unwilling to have her picture taken’ kind of girl. That said, I’m planning on getting the photos taken this weekend and should have a post about the Lucia Top coming up next week!

In the meantime, I wanted to post about something that’s been on my mind for the past few weeks (and a lot of this year, honestly) – the process of developing your own sense of personal style, whether vintage or otherwise. I’ve always admired people who have a very clear and concrete sense of personal style. As someone who spends far too much time trawling social media, I’m constantly confronted with pictures of people who obviously have a fully-realised idea of how they represent themselves through the clothes that they wear. As a member (albeit a casual one) of the vintage community, the need to have a very definite sense of personal style is particularly acute.

While I see nothing wrong whatsoever with having a clear-cut notion of your own identity through fashion, the image of ‘dressing vintage’ that we get online is very all-or-nothing. I generally come across few online personalities of the vintage persuasion who dress in anything but vintage outfits. Every photo, every #ootd, is very vintage specific. Don’t get me wrong, these images are incredibly inspiring and, ultimately, if what you wear makes you feel good, I say go for it! But in my own world, I’m constantly worried that what I present on this blog isn’t ‘sufficient’ because it is not exclusively vintage. I love vintage styles (and I’m aware that I’m using the term ‘vintage’ very loosely here) and I adore sewing vintage-inspired garments. They’re my favourite thing to make, without a doubt. However, they are not what I spend most of my life wearing, largely because it’s not totally practical given my lifestyle. However, vintage clothes also represent only a small fraction of the outfits that I actually enjoy wearing and in which I feel most myself.

When it comes to my own sense of personal style, I’m something of a split personality. On the one hand, I love vintage looks – circle skirts, petticoats, shoulder pads. It’s all beautiful to me! But another side of me is very much jeans, t-shirts, and generally pretty grungy (my hubs tells me I often look like I’ve rolled straight out of The Ramones). Where I used to dither about this – totally unable to reconcile both parts of the fashions I love – I’ve come to embrace it. Although Sew For Victory will always be largely vintage-focused, it’s also a personal sewing blog. And it makes no sense for me to narrow my own sewing projects to a niche that doesn’t represent what I wear most of the time. More than anything else, sewing my own clothes has helped my sense of personal style evolve dramatically. I pay far closer attention to things like colour and lines than I ever have before. And it’s so much fun. It also gives us the space to allow our own styles to change in parallel to other things in our life. This freedom is, I think, one of the major advantages of taking up garment-making as a hobby.

Vintage or otherwise, sewing has given me the tools to think about what I wear and how I want to portray myself. Although what we wear is a relatively superficial consideration compared to the most important things about us, it is still a form of communication with those around us. Playing with this is something that I enjoy massively. When I feel uninspired or am otherwise looking to plan out sewing projects that conform to the ways I like to dress, I have a few go-to methods for turning it out. These are techniques that apply whether you’re interested in vintage fashion or not, and they’ve all come in super handy for me over the past few months (especially in light of my 2018 goal to develop a better balance in sewing vintage versus everyday garments). So, here we go:

1. Find Inspiration

I’ve talked about this in other blog posts but I don’t think I would be half as productive in my sewing life if I wasn’t constantly searching out inspiration. Whether you do this online or through books, the world is a treasure trove of images and ideas! I’m generally not an advocate of spending too much time on social media – I definitely have to restrict my own time online because I tend to fall down a hole of self-comparison and general despair. But, used correctly and in moderation, social media can also be an incredible resource for finding outfit inspiration. I’m always saving screenshots of outfits I love and then searching out sewing patterns that would work to replicate the look. When you have a sewing machine, the world of fashion truly is at your finger tips!

I also make a point to visit second hand bookshops whenever I get a chance to see if I can find anything particularly inspiring. This is particularly the case when it comes to my vintage makes. I’ve had good luck on a few trips and landed some books with wonderful pictures and information about style during eras that especially interest me. If you have your mind set on any particular era, see if there are any used books you can get that might inspire or help you to develop a more concrete sense of how you might adapt the style for yourself. Sewing gives us an incredible ability of interpretation – with a photo or idea as a starting point, you can piece together a Frankenstein’s monster of an outfit that works for you. But inspiration will always be the starting point!

Really it’s all about exploring and seeing what ticks the boxes for you. If you’re not exposed to it, then you won’t know that it’s a possibility. Look at anything and everything that you think might interest you and you will find yourself naturally clinging on to images or ideas that come together to form a more defined notion of what you want your ‘personal style’ to be (even if it’s a thousand different things).

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2. Research Sewing Patterns

I’m obsessed with googling different sewing patterns. I pass many an evening looking at pattern makers and their patterns, noting anything that looks interesting. Once you’ve found some sources of inspiration, the next step is looking for sewing patterns that conform to this image – or might otherwise be manipulated to look the way that you want them to.

More generally, looking through sewing patterns (in person or online) is just another great way to find that inspiration. Part of the reason that my vintage sewing pattern collection has grown so large is because I find the patterns themselves to be super inspiring. Even patterns that I have no intention of making come together to form a bigger picture in my mind. It’s become a mini-education – I’ve learnt what I like, what I don’t like, and what I find interesting but wouldn’t necessarily what to integrate into my wardrobe. Part of the reason I loved getting the sewing patterns from my aunt was precisely because they don’t represent what I would normally make. Whether or not I get round to making them myself, I love seeing the patterns and thinking about how they might be interpreted to fit my own sense of style. It’s amazing what you can do with a pattern by choosing the right fabric and making a few alterations – it can become pretty much whatever you want it to be.

So have fun and explore what’s out there. If you’re of the vintage persuasion, I definitely recommend digging through the Vintage Patterns Wikia – although be sure to leave yourself plenty of time because you will likely fall down a bit of a vintage pattern hole.

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3. Lists Are Everything

Is anyone surprised that lists are one of my favourite tools?! You all know that I love planning, especially when I get to involve my bullet journal!

When I set out my sewing goals at the start of the year, I put a lot of emphasis on my desire to create more of a balance in the types of things that I was sewing. Sewing is a big time investment, particularly when I’m already juggling multiple things, so it’s important to get a good return for that time! Although I will always love sewing vintage (and gravitating toward vintage patterns will always be my default), I also want to make sure that I’m spending some time sewing things that will get worn regularly. This has meant thinking about practical restrictions (like walking the dog multiple times per day, doing yoga, and the crazy summers/winters in Missouri), as well as the sorts of clothes that I most enjoy wearing.

As part of my 2018 objective, I started creating lists of patterns that I felt had a place in my wardrobe. These are typically not lists of vintage patterns – since I already have so many in my collection and will pretty much always end up making one of these patterns for every one ‘everyday’ garment that I sew. But it’s come in super handy as a way to plan my makes, whilst also giving some direction to my regular pattern/inspiration searches. I’ve started a list at the back of my bullet journal to accommodate all of this. It’s not necessarily a ‘to make’ list. More of a place to record patterns I like, particularly when I have multiple patterns that I think would work together to create a complete outfit.

There are so many different ways that you can do this – and having a bullet journal definitely isn’t a requirement! But I think that having some way of recording your pattern finds and inspiration (even in the form of a scrap book or a folder on your computer) is really key to developing a concrete sense of your own style and plans to execute it.

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So there we have it! Some of the different methods I use for developing my own sense of style. Although so much of this has evolved naturally for me – and I think most of us just gravitate towards the things we love – part of the joy of sewing is in the exploration. I have things I’ve sewn that I look at and think ‘WHY ON EARTH?!’ But it suited me at the time and worked into the sort of identity I gave to the clothes that I chose to wear.

Ultimately, sense of style or not, you need to feel good, happy, and confident in what you wear. Taking some time to search for what’s out there in terms of patterns and fashions is just one way of figuring out what makes you feel your best and brightest. But we’re all constantly changing and learning, so it only makes sense that our style would evolve and adapt alongside us. Have you worked consciously to create your own personal style? Do you have any particular things you do (or have done) that have helped you to figure out what you most love to wear?

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!

Hello to 2018!

Happy New Year, lovelies! I want to say a massive thank you to all my readers for walking with me through the peaks and troughs of 2017. I know that it was a tough year for lots of us – and, in many respects, for the world at large – but we’ve made it out of the other side and have welcomed in a new year. I truly appreciate every one of you for helping to make Sew for Victory happen, keeping me inspired, and offering so much help and encouragement when it’s most needed. As cliche as it sounds, there is no way that I would still be blogging and sewing with any regularity if it weren’t for all of you. I think the best way to start out any new year is with a whole lot of gratitude for what’s been and what’s still to come – I’m definitely grateful for this blog, being able to sew, and for this little community. So THANK YOU!

On to looking forward into 2018. I’m not much of a believer in resolutions. The idea of a ‘fresh slate’ is hugely appealing and this, I think, is why so many people love the opportunity to resolve on new habits for the year ahead. My problem was that every resolution offered an opportunity for self-flagellation when I eventually failed to keep my promise. To turn this on its head and still take advantage of the fresh start that the new year offers, I decided to turn resolutions into goals. Although, in many ways, this is just a language switch, the idea of a ‘goal’ instead of a ‘resolution’ feels more achievable and less intimidating. Goals change and adjust with circumstances – resolutions do not. This approach has worked for me over the past couple of years, particularly with the huge number of unexpected and dramatic changes that have come my way.

Along these lines, I thought there would be no better way of starting off 2018 on Sew for Victory than sharing my sewing goals for the New Year. It’ll be interesting to check back in as we move to 2019 and see what I managed to achieve – although, as I emphasised before, these goals are totally fluid and will probably change as the year progresses. So, here we go…

1.  Sew More!

2017 brought a huge amount of instability. I started off the year by leaving my house, moving in with my Nan, and saying goodbye to my (then) fiancé for an indeterminate amount of time. Although I set up a sewing base at my Nan’s house, the four months apart from my husband were mostly focussed on immigration and trying to get through the whole process. Fortunately, we were reunited at the end of May and got married in July! Shortly after that, there was more immigration stuff, moving to a new apartment, adopting a dog, and then the Christmas holidays. To say that it’s been a whirlwind would be an understatement. But I’m a big believer in viewing challenges and difficulties as opportunities to learn. In that light, 2017 was a very opportunity-filled year!

Unfortunately, with all those happenings, my sewing and blogging fell by the wayside for large chunks of the year. Although November and December have allowed for some stability and a chance to refocus myself on these things, I’m going into 2018 feeling that I need to make a concerted effort to do more sewing. Since I’ll be balancing this with my professional goals (more of that to come soon), I’m taking a carefully planned approach to ensure that I am able to give attention across the board. As such, I’m setting aside a couple of days a week to focus on my sewing projects – making sure that I have a good turnover of new makes and plenty of opportunity to build and consolidate my skills!

To help me along, I’ve been thinking about the different patterns that I’d like to try and get made in 2018. Here’s a few of them:

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2.  Find A Vintage/Everyday Wear Balance

This definitely relates to my first goal. One of the things I started thinking about more in 2017 was the nature of my makes. Since I was sewing a lot less, I wanted to ensure that I was using my time to make garments that I would actually wear regularly. I wear all of my vintage makes but tend to keep them for special occasions, parties etc. Going into 2018, I’m hoping to focus on making more patterns that are vintage-inspired but wearable on an everyday basis. Since I’m not working in an office, this means garments that will work when I’m walking the dog, at my sewing table, or just generally pottering around the house. That said, I will never move away from my love of circle skirts and gorgeous frocks, so there will certainly be more of those on the way too.

On my list of patterns to make for everyday wear:

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3.  Blog More

Grappling with all of 2017’s changes, my blogging schedule had fallen victim to procrastination. My goal moving forward is to return to a three times weekly posting schedule (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). I’m hoping that this will add some level of predictability for all of you but also that it will help spur me on with my general sewing activities. I started this blog as a way to record my sewing journey, warts and all. To me, sewing and blogging are basically intertwined. They run parallel to one another and help to move me forward. So 2018 will definitely be a year of more reliable blogging and attention to Sew for Victory!

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My as-yet empty January sewing Bullet Journal spread. Filling blank pages is one of life’s under-rated joys!

4.  Worry Less And Pay Attention To Self-Care

If you’ve been reading Sew for Victory over the past couple of months, you’ll know that I’ve been emphasising a ‘sewing for self-care’ angle. I started sewing as a way to combat my anxiety and panic disorders and, even though these thing are now only shadows in my life, I still maintain that sewing is an incredible self-care opportunity. My first Sewing for Self-Care post – and my Holiday Survival post – both detail the ways in which I use sewing to remain attentive to my own needs. That said, I still fall into old thought patterns and behaviours that absolutely don’t serve me.

Moving forward into 2018, I want to stay super on top of my self-care and continue to use sewing as a central feature of my self-care regime. In doing this, it’s incredibly important to ensure that the self-care tools themselves don’t become sources of anxiety. This requires a lot of introspection and honesty. For example, I use yoga to keep me on track. For a while I was practicing daily but found that I would get incredibly anxious and down on myself if I failed to practice or missed a day. The whole process then became self-defeating. To manage this, I decided to reduce my practicing to four times a week – meaning that I could switch days around as needed. Voluntarily opting out of some days also allowed me see my yoga practices as less of a concrete thing and meant that I could start paying attention to what I actually needed on a daily basis. Some days I need it, some days I don’t. The same can be said of sewing. Particularly when we’re putting our efforts out into the world via blogging or social media, it’s vital to ensure that we don’t allow these activities to slip into something anxiety-inducing or stressful.

2018 will be a year of super self-care!

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As per my Sewing for Self-Care posts, I love having a list of reliable activities that will always serve as a pick-me-up.

So those are my four goals for 2018. Plenty to be going on with and to think about over the coming months. I feel confident that they are all achievable but they’re also subjective enough to accommodate changes and the inevitable challenges that life brings. If you have your own sewing goals set for 2018, be sure to share in the comments. I’m wishing you all the most incredible and peace-filled New Year. I hope 2018 will bring you all that you’re looking for.

 

 

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.