Me Made May: A Success Story!

Me Made May is officially at an end! Well technically it ends tomorrow – but I’m totally ready to celebrate a wonderful month. I posted at the start of May about my goals for the month. Essentially, I was just hoping to use the month as an opportunity to revisit some of my favourite me-made garments. I definitely didn’t think I would end up dressing in a me-made outfit every day – the weather in Missouri is pretty wildly hot at the moment and doesn’t totally accommodate my vintage wardrobe. But I gave the month a good shot and ended up feeling super accomplished.

One of the greatest things about the month is that it really hammered home where I need to focus my sewing efforts. I struggled to put together any completely me-made outfits (unless I was wearing a dress, of course) because I just don’t have any tops. Just realising that this is the case has motivated me to fill in my wardrobe gaps and, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m in the process of making a couple of new tops! I think Me Made May is an incredibly useful challenge through which to get totally acquainted with the state of your wardrobe and figure out where you could put in some extra effort. I’m genuinely really excited to move forward and create a complete wardrobe for myself. I owe a lot to Me Made May for giving me an opportunity to make a much-needed appraisal of my garments!

To those of you who decided to participate in Me Made May, I hope that you have had a similarly fabulous month of clothes! I’ll leave you with photos of some of my favourite outfits – you can also see more of this sort of thing by following me over on Instagram (there’s a link in the sidebar)!

IMG_6544

My flowery, dotty version of V1043

IMG_6494

The Veronika Circle Skirt from Megan Nielsen

IMG_6781

My favourite trouser pattern – the Ultimate Trousers from Sew Over It

IMG_6510

The Clemence Skirt from Tilly and the Buttons ‘Love at First Stitch’ book

IMG_6739

The Tyyni Cigarette Trousers from Named Clothing – with bonus Ron Weasley

Here’s to a year of making new, amazing clothes so that next May will be even more incredible!

Sewing For Self-Care: A Round-Up

Being able to post about sewing and its relationship to self-care is probably my favourite thing about running Sew For Victory. I think that so many of us who have battled – or are battling – with mental illness struggle to find a meaning to it. When you’re experiencing something that you wouldn’t wish on anyone, it’s difficult to justify why you should have to suffer through it yourself. Using my blog as a platform to discuss mental health and highlight the incredible benefits that a creative outlet can have for all of us is just one way that I’ve been able to give some sort of meaning to my experiences. And I believe that this search for meaning may be one of the reasons why sewing works so effectively in helping us to manage our mental health. Not only is a great distraction from various external and internal goings-on, it’s a channel through which we can direct our emotions – sadness, stress, anxiety, happiness, or otherwise – and create something meaningful. I don’t even think it matters what you end up creating – a garment, a painting, or a doodle. Because the meaning behind it is there, regardless.

Opening up the blog to other sewist’s stories about sewing and mental health has been an incredible experience. I am honestly humbled by the fact that anyone would want to share such personal stories with an unknown audience, but it’s a testament to those amazing bloggers and the power of this conversation. Although I see the taboo around mental health decreasing in many respects, it still feels to me as though society is most comfortable when it is a conversation being had behind closed doors. Not only does this do little to dispel the ignorance around mental illness, it’s also incredibly dangerous to individuals who are struggling to find a path forward. My hope in starting the Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story series – and writing about my own struggles separately – was to start an open and honest conversation about mental health and the way that creativity can help us navigate the psychological storms.

So far, I’ve had three fantastic bloggers share their stories:

20170610_112946

  • Jenny from Jenny DIY wrote about using sewing as a means to manage anxiety, as well as the complex relationship between self-care and mental health.

Heather Dress

IMG_2939

Each of these amazing individuals spoke openly about the ways in which sewing has helped them to manage mental illness and practice the self-care that we all so desperately need. Their passion for sharing the benefits of creativity is evidenced by their total willingness to share their struggles on a blog that is not their own with a whole host of people that they don’t know. It’s this kind of courage that makes me believe we truly will reach a point where conversations about mental health are no longer ‘closed door’ discussions but are ones that we aren’t afraid to have wherever we choose to.

If you would like to add your own voice to this conversation about sewing and self-care, I would love to have you. You can read the original post or simply email me laura@sewforvictory.co.uk to share your thoughts!

Since starting the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, I’ve also shared some additional resources of my own. One of my favourite posts to write was Sewing For Self-Care: The Science Behind Creativity And Mental Health. The more I’ve been writing about sewing and self-care, the more interested I’ve become in the the objectively verifiable ways that creativity can help us to manage our mental health. Although it is an area of increasing interest for academics and professional mental health practitioners, I found a lot of evidence from studies already conducted that indicates a strong positive relationship between creativity and recovery from mental illness. Although a creative hobby is obviously no replacement for professional intervention – whether through doctors or therapists – it is so encouraging to see evidence that points to the benefits of creative outlets in managing our mental health!

I also recently shared one of my favourite posts of personal tips in Sewing For Self-Care: Managing Motivation. My levels of motivation are definitely a strong indicator of where I stand with my mental health on any given day. It ebbs and flows with my mood. Even if you’ve never struggled with mental illness, you’ve likely encountered the ways in which our drive to get things done tends to fizzle out when we’re faced with particular emotions – typically stress or anxiety. Over years of learning to manage my motivation when my mental health isn’t so great, I’ve developed a few different techniques that tend to work in giving my the motivation boost that it needs. Writing this post was a great personal reminder of the fact that I have all of the tools at my disposal – sometimes it’s just about clearing the mental fog so that I can access them!

So that’s a round-up of my most recent batch of Sewing For Self-Care posts. Definitely check out anything you’ve missed and be sure to show your support to the incredible bloggers who’ve shared their stories here. If you’d like to participate in the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, please do be sure to get in touch. Even if you aren’t keen to have anything published on Sew For Victory but just want to talk, you can use any of the many social media avenues (linked at the top of the side bar) to reach out to me. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves.

selfcare

 

Sewing For Sweating: Making Your Own Activewear

I’ve alluded a few times to the fact that I spend most of my work week in athletic wear. Since I work from home and do yoga a couple of times a day, it’s really too much effort to get changed whenever I want to roll out my yoga mat. Despite this fact, I’ve never considered the possibility of sewing for a workout. This is really an oversight on my part because there are constantly pics of other sewist’s athletic makes floating around on social media. So I know that it’s possible! Now that I’m moving towards starting Yoga Teacher Training (I actually have an interview for a programme lined up!), I’ve been thinking increasingly about the need to start sewing some of my own yoga clothing. But where to start!?

Sewing athletic wear is quite different from sewing regular garments for a number of reasons. Most prominent is obviously the fabric. You’ll most likely be working with fabric that contains a good amount of spandex or lycra, so learning to sew with stretch fabric is a must! I’m still somewhat challenged in this arena – although getting a walking foot has helped immensely. You’ll want to be sure that you have all of the appropriate equipment for sewing such stretchy fabric, including machine feet and needles. It might also be a good idea to have a practice with some scraps of the material before diving right in. I found this great blog post written by Melissa Fehr on the Colette Blog – it goes into some of the things that need to be considered when selecting fabric for activewear.

It’s also super fortunate that many fabric sellers now separate out fabric for athletic garments. This is the case on fabric.com (who have a separate section for swimwear and activewear) and, for those with a bigger budget, at Mood. With sewing activewear so clearly on trend right now, it really isn’t tough to find the right kind of fabric for the job! Plus, there are some seriously striking colours and patterns out there!

Rex Fabrics

Fabric from RexFabrics LA

Once reassured that there’s plenty of fabric out there, it’s a question of finding the right sewing pattern. Obviously much of this will depend on the type of activity that you need the garments for – although there is certainly some overlap. Since my primary activity is yoga, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks on the hunt for potential yoga clothing patterns. There are few different places that are worth visiting if you’re on the lookout for activewear patterns! Here’s a list of some of my favourites:

– Fehr Trade

Melissa Fehr is a bit of a guru in the world of activewear sewing, so it’s not surprising that the patterns on offer from Fehr Trade are so great! I think I’m actually going to invest in their book – Sew Your Own Activewear – since it’s the same price as buying a couple of patterns. If you’re not in the market for more sewing books, however, there are plenty of individual patterns on sale, appropriate for a good variety of activities – including things like cycling and hiking! My favourite is the Knot-Maste Yoga Set (of course!) because it looks incredibly comfy:

KnotMaste from Fehr Trade

– Seamwork

Seamwork has a couple of really great patterns (the link above will also take you to an amazing feature about building your own activewear wardrobe). I’m a big fan of their Aires leggings – although I would probably replace the mesh insert with a contrast stretch fabric – in combination with the Rio top:

Aires and Rio

Patterns for Pirates

On a recommendation from one of my Instagram friends, I decided to check out the Peg Legs pattern from Patterns for Pirates. The nice thing with yoga pants is that you really can wear just about anything, as long as its comfy and you can move well in it. My collection includes pants that I’m sure are meant to be for running, as well as regular leggings and actual designated yoga pants. The Peg Legs pattern fits many – if not all – of these descriptions. In designing the pattern for a specific activity, the main choice comes in the fabric used (with running you’ll obviously opt for something stretchy but supportive with a good amount of compression to it, versus using a jersey fabric for regular leggings). I love this pattern for its versatility, but also the fact that it looks super good as shorts! Since we’re headed for 100F in the summer, shorts are a necessity!

Peg LegsSo there we have it! Something of a beginner’s guide to sewing your own activewear, thrown together from the bits of research I’ve done in hopes of building my own activewear wardrobe. Since yoga clothing is also super expensive (the contradictions abound!), it can actually work out to be a really cost effective route! I’ll be getting started on this soon and will definitely share my progress once I’m underway. In the meantime, if you have any tips or suggestions about activewear sewing, please do leave them in the comments below!

 

Sewing for Self-Care: Jenny’s Story

The latest Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story post is here and comes to us from Jenny of Jenny DIY! When Jenny reached out asking whether she could share her story, the questions she was raising totally struck a chord with me. At the time, I’d been dealing with a desire to step back from my sewing and practice other forms of self-care. In this post, Jenny discusses this issue of timing in self-care and how we might manage our desire to sew with our expectations of the results that it can deliver to our mental health. I hope that you find this post as thoughtful and reflective as I do!

*If you’d like to contribute your own story to this series, details can be found at the bottom of the post.*


I’ve been sewing all my life, but it has only been recently that I have realised how much of an impact it has on my mental health.

My sewing journey began when I was a child making clothes for dolls. When I was a teenager, I created some very dodgy clothes! I got my first sewing machine when I was 18/19 and was using my spare time at university learning dressmaking.

Heather Dress

From my teenage years, I’d had anxiety. During my mid-twenties I’d learnt that therapy, in particularly CBT was a treatment for the anxiety I had. I was learning to retrain my brain.

Therapy taught me that the relationship between sewing and my mental health was vital. It taught me that sewing is who I am, what I’m good at and a way to keep myself grounded. The state of mind I had whilst sewing was what I needed to transfer to my everyday life to move away from anxiety.

When I’m sewing it’s just me and my rules. It’s my achievements and failures. The time I spend sewing is time to be me with no judgement from others or myself.

From the first skirt I ever made, to the first collared shirt and getting my garments to fit perfectly, my sewing journey has made me feel like I can do anything. The clothes I get to make and wear bring me so much joy. Sewing is the ultimate self-care practice!

IMG_3741

Melilot Shirt

If this is the case, then why do I sometimes feel like sewing can feel like a chore? I hunch over the machine and tense my shoulders. This isn’t ideal for my self-care!

When I sew I have to be motivated. The machine needs setting up and everything has to be set up right. It has to be light, warm and I need to feel wide awake.

Sometimes sewing is not my self-care. It’s often the little things, the boring things that are self-care practices that ‘work’ the most. Washing your hair and making your bed. Taking deep breaths when you first leave the house in the morning. Eating healthy food and making sure your home is neat and tidy. Those ‘boring’ self-care activities can keep your mind clear and accomplished.

I often set my heart on sewing projects and have a huge to-do list of things to sew, things to amend. My dreaming up projects and constant need to be ‘productive’ doesn’t help my headspace! Is sewing more of a burden to my self-care?

Speaking to Laura about this, she explained that “when our self-care practices become a chore or a stressor, it’s really an indication that we need to be more responsive to ourselves and our requirements in the given moment”.

That’s why I have a struggle with sewing for self-care. I never want to force myself to sew because it will make me feel better. But sewing has been a huge help for my mental health.

I get such a feeling of accomplishment and energy when I do something amazing. It boosts my self-esteem and makes me feel great about myself. It makes me feel like I can achieve so much, and this is the state of mind I have to bring to my every day anxious life.

Elisalex

Sewing might be self-care for some people, at all times, but for me, it’s self-care at a specific time. If I can do my ‘boring’ self-care practices and keep my mind clear, then I can get stuck into my sewing projects. The more I can sew and be myself, the more I can continue to grow my sewing skills, and continue to keep my mind healthy and happy.


A huge thanks to Jenny for this super thoughtful post! Be sure to take a look at her blog – Jenny DIY – to see pictures of some more gorgeous makes and follow her on her sewing journey!

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.

Taking A Break

Lovely friends,

I just wanted to write a quick note to let you all know that I’m going to be taking a break from the internet for the next couple of weeks. As I alluded to a few posts ago, I’ve been struggling a bit recently with various things and – in order to head things off and get myself centred again – I’ve decided that I need to take a bit of time. So I’m off on a retreat where I can switch off for a bit and do a bit of mental spring cleaning!

I’ll see you all back here in a couple of weeks when normal service resumes. In the meantime, enjoy what’s left of February!

IMG_4076

Ode To My Fabric Facilitator (Also Known As Husband)

A little late for Valentine’s Day (although I’m actually writing it on the day) but this is a post that’s been in my head for a while. I think many of us who craft a lot – particularly when we’re also turning that crafting hobby into an online presence of some sort – tend to paint a convincing picture of the activity as something quite solitary. This isn’t entirely inaccurate – the skills involved in sewing and the planning that goes along with creating a new garment tend mostly to come from our own minds. It’s not much of a collaborative activity. But there are almost always other people holding us up in some way. Whether these are shop attendants helping us to find the perfect fabric, blog readers who motivate us to keep sharing our creations, or supportive partners who don’t question our many hours at the sewing machine, we all owe some credit to someone.

I often forget how much I depend on my husband to support my sewing. I don’t talk about him much on here – mostly because I’m the one who has chosen to run this blog and I don’t feel that it’s my right to put too much about other people up on the internet. My husband also has the world’s most Googleable name, which is why I don’t ever actually name him anywhere. This said, I do want to spend a post acknowledging how massively he contributes to my creativity and this blog. Without getting too gushy, of course.

IMG_2422

He was absolutely the driving force behind me picking up sewing and blogging in the first place. I’ve been quite open on here about the fact that sewing came into my life at an incredibly difficult time – a time through which my hubs was totally present and worked every day to help me navigate. I mentioned to him that I thought sewing might, for some unclear reason, be a distraction for me. Within a couple of days, he’d got me a sewing machine, some patterns, and just about all of the accessories I could need. I should mention that, by this point, I’d cycled through about four or five different hobbies in the hope that they would be the thing that stuck and helped to alleviate my anxiety and depression. All of these were time and money investments and they all pretty much fell into disuse. The fact that there were no eye rolls or questions when I brought up learning to sew is really a testament to his patience and belief in me. He also encouraged me to take up blogging as a way to log my achievements and potentially connect with other amazing sewists (that’s YOU!).

Since that point, you’ve all been a party to my journey through this blog. From leaving my PhD programme to moving to the US, it’s all been documented here on Sew for Victory. In the background, my husband has been an absolute constant. He’s financially supported my sewing while I was waiting for my green card and couldn’t work. Now that I have my green card, he’s continuing to give me every form of support needed as I try to figure out where I want to go with my career and sewing. But the material stuff is far from the most important thing. He’s there every time I doubt myself and feel like I want to throw in the towel (this happens more times than I’d like to admit). He’s rescued half-finished projects from the bin on more than one occasion. And he’s the man behind the camera every time we photograph my finished makes, telling me how amazing my garments look.

To say that I couldn’t do this without him would be an understatement. I’ve been working to get to a place where I have sufficient self-belief that I rarely question myself or my achievements. Since I don’t believe that resisting these thoughts is the best way forward – and instead work to let them come and go without getting invested or spiralling – it’s a long process of trying to get to a place where these thoughts don’t impact my actions or choices. The work continues but, because of my propensity to get super self-defeatist, I have no doubt that this blog would have disappeared long ago – along with my sewing – if it weren’t for my husband.

This is not a blog post that should be read as suggesting that it’s impossible to develop or sustain a new hobby unless you have a partner. I’ve been alive for 29 years and with my husband for just four of those. I completed an MA, MSc and took up countless hobbies without him – all while anxiety and depression were very present in my life. It’s totally possible to achieve anything that you want to without a relationship. Not to mention the fact that there are so many other types of relationship that are just as valuable as those of a romantic nature. The support I get from my husband is the kind of support that everyone out there deserves – but it doesn’t have to come from one place. I count myself lucky every day that I found all of this in one person.

So I wanted to write this post for the man who is so constantly present behind-the-scenes. He may rarely be featured but he is somehow always helping to facilitate what I do. He deserves a lot more than a blog post but, for now, this is what I have to offer. And I know he’s reading this – so thank you, my gorgeous one, for everything.

19780301_1571951656211731_8039680353922697136_o

Denim Dilemma!

Picking fabrics can be a nightmare of indecision. This is the main reason why I tend to pick projects based on fabrics that I already own. That way, I can fabric shop purely for what I love rather than panicking myself into a stupor trying to decide on what’s most project appropriate. But this doesn’t always work. Sometimes a project finds its way to the top of my To Do list without any workable fabric in my stash. Participating in The Big Vintage Sew-Along and The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour were great lessons in fabric shopping with actual purpose!

When my only pair of jeans (store-bought – and yes, I only had one pair due to my pre-transatlantic move wardrobe cull!) ripped at the weekend, I knew that I would have to shift my upcoming projects around a bit to accommodate my need for new jeans. Since I already had the Ginger Jeans from Closet Case Patterns lined up, I decided to just delay my Mimi blouse for a little bit and prioritise a new pair of jeans. Who knew, however, that picking out denim could be such a task? My husband drove me out to Joann’s where I managed to spend 45 minutes looking at a pretty limited selection of denim, trying to decide what I wanted to do. Initially, I was planning on simply replicating my old jeans as closely as possible by picking out a relatively dark, plain denim. But then some alternatives caught my eye.

Firstly, I was super tempted by a white floral design that I thought would make such a gorgeous pair of jeans for the spring. I carried it around the shop with me for ages before deciding that it might just be too far away from the versatile pair of jeans that I’d initially been intending to make. I’m all for straying off of the beaten path and I adore a good pair of statement trousers (my Ultimate Trousers really demonstrate this fact) but since I currently own no jeans – and I practically live in jeans and yoga pants – I figured best to stay as simple as possible.

That said, I obviously can’t resist making garments that look as unique as possible. So when I came across an adorable dark denim with embroidered anchors, I couldn’t resist!

IMG_6111

How cute is this? The only thing that remains to be seen is whether I actually have enough. I ended up finishing the bolt and it came up just short of the requirements. Annoyingly I fall in between two sizes for the pattern, both of which have different fabric requirements (2.75 yds versus 3 yds). The width of the fabric also falls between the two given widths. So estimating whether the 2.75 yds I ended up with will be enough was a bit of  a task. In the end, I bought it and am going to check the pattern layout before prewashing (in which case, the fabric is still returnable). Fingers crossed that it will work!

I also bought a super cute cotton for the pocket/waistband lining! I love the triangle pattern. Plus the colour scheme feels very much fitting with the nautical theme. I spent a while trying to find a stripy fabric that would work – mostly because I thought that stripes would look really great – but no such luck! I’m super happy with my choice anyway!

Deciding on the fabric was definitely a bit of a trial. But I always have to remind myself that I can have a second stab at any pattern I love. If this version of the Ginger Jeans goes well, I totally anticipate a return trip to Joann’s for the super sweet floral denim! This said, I absolutely need to get better about not feeling as though I’m making life-changing decisions every time I have to pick out fabric. Not least because I fear my husband will eventually stop driving me out to fabric shops if he has to spend many more hours trying to have opinions about fabrics.

Stay tuned and fingers crossed I’ll have some jeans to show you soon!!

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.

20160912_163330

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.

20170302_074102

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.

20160613_184813-1

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!).

20160509_093452-1

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.

20160818_122535

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.

20170610_112946

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.

New Projects: What’s Next?

With February now well under way, I’m attempting to get together some coherent sewing plans for my next few projects. The down side of not planning out a series of makes for the year (along the lines of #makenine on Instagram) is that I do spend a lot of time dithering when I find myself between projects. Since my sewing productivity has increased massively this past month, my lack of planning is becoming even more of an issue. On the other hand, my makes tend to be responsive to whatever I’m feeling at the time so planning out patterns for the year doesn’t really work well. To navigate these two perspectives, I’m trying to develop a planning method that falls somewhere in between by having the next few makes lined up – hopefully sufficient to get me through a month or two. With that, I thought that I would write up a post on my more immediate sewing plans – at the very least it gets my plans out of my brain (where they will inevitably slosh around and eventually disappear into the ether of my other thoughts) and written down in a concrete way!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been spending a lot of time recently working from Tilly and the Button’s Love at First Stitch book.

IMG_6084

I’ve owned this book for ages but had yet to actually make anything from it. Having just finished up the Clemence skirt (photos to come soon!), I’m now working on a version of the Mimi blouse. I’m actually super excited about this make. I’ve never been big into making separates – I always seem to default to dresses because they’re just so pretty! But I’m determined to diversify my me-made wardrobe this year and separates are going to be a big part of that. I fell in love with the 60s style of the Mimi blouse and thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to use the beautiful fabric that I won during #vpjuly last year.

IMG_5127

I was going to hang on and make a dress from this fabric (as per my traditional dress obsession) but I can’t help thinking that it will make a super cute vintage blouse. Plus there will be some extra fabric left over for other things, which is always a bonus!

After I get done with the blouse, I’m thinking of working on another version of the Decades of Style Belle Curve dress. This was one of my earliest makes and remains one of my favourite patterns. It’s just so beautiful! Unfortunately, my early version of the pattern is both much too big for me now and not amazingly made. I definitely applaud myself for managing to make the pattern at all and, given my complete lack of sewing knowledge at the time, am still very happy with what I achieved. But I think the Belle Curve dress is definitely a pattern that will benefit from my much improved sewing abilities.

Pattern

I don’t yet have any fabric for this dress. I think it’s going to be a matter of rooting around at some fabric stores in order to find the perfect material. I think I’m still going to go for something plain (not patterned) and relatively light in colour, since this allows for the darts to show up especially well. I was actually really pleased with the fabric choice on my first version, so I think I’m going to try and use something relatively close to that – because why change what works?

The last project on my current list is the Closet Case Patterns Ginger Jeans. I’ve seen these jeans circulating in the blogosphere for a while and with consistently incredible reviews. I always struggle to find good jeans in stores because they’ll inevitably be baggy on my waist and thighs or too tight on my hips. The idea of making my own jeans is massively appealing and, with my recent Ultimate Trousers success, I’m feeling really motivated to make even more trousers! Not to mention, Closet Case’s jeans patterns are all 30% off for the month of February, as is their online Jean Making course! So I think I’m going to capitalise on that discount and give these jeans a go.

So that’s everything I have planned for the next month or so. If I continue on my current trend, my self-made wardrobe will definitely be growing exponentially through 2018! What do you have lined up for February? Dark, cold winters are definitely optimal sewing time. Maybe this -10 Celsius weather will clear up in St. Louis soon so that I can actually go out wearing some of what I’ve made this year.

 

January Goals: How Did I Do?

At the start of 2018, I set out a few goals for myself. This was in an effort to (1) avoid the inevitable pitfalls and discouragement that come with the idea of resolutions (I feel like ‘goals’ are much more fluid and less associated with berating yourself for failure), and (2) help to give me some direction on the things I’d like to accomplish this year. Although I’m totally open to the fact that these objectives will change as 2018 progresses and circumstances shift, it’s always nice to have some goals that keep you moving forward. In an effort to keep checking in with myself – and to also give you some idea of my current sewing status – I thought that it would be a good idea to do a short monthly rehash of my progress and projects.

January has actually be a super productive month for me. My first goal for 2018 was to do more sewing – and this is something that I definitely succeeded in fulfilling so far! I’ve completed three projects in all, which is pretty amazing compared to my rather paltry showing last year. My first make was a version of B6242 – a reproduction of a 1960s pattern. This was definitely one of my more ambitious projects but ended up being one of my favourites! I especially loved the fabric choice because cherries always have a vintage feel to them (how did this come about, I wonder?).

20180113_132849

After finishing up this dress, I decided that it was high time to use one of my favourite fabric finds – an Australian aboriginal cotton that I’ve been too scared to cut in to. After consulting with lots of wise sewists on Instagram, I decided that a pair of simple trousers was the way to go and found my perfect pattern in the Ultimate Trousers from Sew Over It. The finished project is honestly one of my favourite makes of all time. I love absolutely everything about the finished product and the whole construction process was such a joy. Nothing crazy or complicated. And the resulting fit was something I didn’t think could be achieved without some serious alterations – instead, I just followed the pattern sizes, made the trousers, and found that they fit like a glove all over.

20180130_122615(0)

Once the trousers were all done, I decided to continue working my way through my fabric stash and, shortly before the end of January, had whipped up a version of the Clemence skirt from Tilly and the Button’s Love at First Stitch book. I’ve had this book for a while and had yet to dip into any of the patterns (or, honestly, even look through it). But I’ve had the most darling sparkly bicycle fabric in my sewing cupboard for the past six months and knew that it would make a perfect skirt. I’ve yet to review the pattern – or show any pics – on Sew for Victory, but this will be coming up in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek…

IMG_6085

My second 2018 goal was to find more of a balance with vintage versus everyday wear. I definitely feel like I accomplished that in January. The Ultimate Trousers are absolutely something that I will be wearing on an everyday basis – as is the Clemence skirt (albeit only once spring/summer rolls around because it’s currently sleeting in St. Louis). That said, it’s a continued priority to sew vintage and vintage reproduction patterns when I can because, even though they are perhaps less versatile in terms of daily wear, they are absolutely my passion. A balanced approach to vintage versus everyday sewing is going to be key, and I think January reflects the development of a much better balance between the two.

My final goal for 2018 was to blog more. Without a doubt, January has been my most productive blogging month since I launched Sew for Victory a couple of years ago. I’m now in a position where I can dedicate much more time to the blog – in the past, Sew for Victory has always coexisted alongside PhD programmes and international moves. January has definitely been an amazing month for engagement with you all and with the broader sewing community. I’ve learnt SO much. I launched my Vintage Sewing 101 series at the start of the month and it has been an incredible learning curve. I’ve been baffled by a lot of what I’ve read but always leave more informed than when I came in. Since we’re not even at the end of the first of the eight sewing manuals, I’m sure there will be a lot more learning (and bafflement) coming my way.

Of all the posts I’ve written this month, however, I’m hands down happiest with Sewing for Self-Care: Your StoryI’ve been so overwhelmed by the response to this initiative and so excited by how supportive the community has been. The post appeared on The Fold Line and is currently featured on their Sewing Challenges and Hashtags page for 2018. As a result of this post, I’ve been contacted by some amazing and seriously courageous people. Some will be writing posts, others simply reached out to share their own experiences of sewing and self-care. Universally, these stories demonstrate that sewing is an incredible tool for people facing all kinds of battles. I feel so genuinely honoured to have been able to hear these stories. Never, when I was at my worst, would I have anticipated being in a position to share my experiences and have people prepared to volunteer information about their own to me. I can’t express how much respect I have for all of you who have faced, or are still facing, challenges with your mental health and attention to self-care. As much as self-care has become something of an overused phrase within the past couple of years, there is no catch-all term that better encompasses how we must all work to treat ourselves. I’m so excited to write more on this topic and introduce some other fantastic crafters to the conversation!

selfcare

So there we have it! What a whirlwind of a month! It’s been a fantastic way to kick off 2018 and, even though I’m still figuring some things out (and there are definitely places for improvement outside of these three goals), I’m excited to continue to move forward in February. Given that January and February are typically my personal annual low points (I don’t enjoy extra hours of darkness), 2018 is definitely bucking the trend! Thanks for following and supporting me through the first few weeks of 2018. I can’t wait to see what the next month has to bring!