Why I sew

posted in: Inspiration, Uncategorized | 20

My husband spent most of last weekend watching the cricket. Faced with a free weekend and no commitments I decided to sew for two days.

I made a few items but the solitude also gave me a chance to think about why I was sewing.

Here are my reasons.

  1. I am always seeking perfection
    • This is what drives me. Don’t get me wrong – I am not a perfectionist, but I think I know what great looks like. So while I am happy to wear “good enough” clothes, eat good enough food, and to do as well as I can at work, I still have a vision in my mind of where I would ideally like to get to. This is my primary driver – my sewing can become a meditative act as I strive to be better. Of course if I worked on one thing – zips for example, or French seams – for days on end I might reach a very high standard. Unfortunately I would be bored beyond belief, so I try to improve incrementally. New projects are sometimes just about trying a new fabric, or a new technique.
      Dali on Perfection
  2. i enjoy the mental challenge
    • There is also the desire to win, or dominate, or succeed with something that is quite hard. Not really, really hard like running a marathon, or always thinking before I speak. But challenging enough. I actually enjoy reading the instructions for something that I have not done before and puzzling it out. Or constructing a garment without a pattern or altering an item to fit. I get a great sense of achievement from this.
  3. I need a creative outlet
    • I believe we all need an opportunity to be creative. Some people can sing or dance – I wish I was one of them. I envy people who can write, draw and paint. I am not much good at these things. I am not actually very good at sewing, or making textiles. But I do put in significant amounts of time and consequently I have reached an acceptable standard ie I can make something I am happy to wear. I like sewing as a hobby now that I have a degree of competence, and I shy away from things I am generally hopeless at – like skiing, for example. Making beautiful things is inherently satisfying and, as it uses physical as well as mental skills, it also provides a good contrast with my job (which is mainly about communication).
      Little girl drawing
  4. I get nice feedback
    • Most of my endeavour is solitary and I enjoy my quiet time alone. But when I surface I do like someone to notice what I have been doing, to comment positively on it, or if the work is not so good, to help me with suggestions on how to improve. Even though I am becoming more mature, my ego continues to yearn praise. I know how nice it is to receive compliments and I try to give as good as I get. This is what the “sewing community” actually comes down to, in my view. There is definitely some great sharing of expertise out there – I have many generous contributors who help me with my projects. But even more important is the affirmation we receive when we go public with our efforts.
  5. I like clothes, fashion and style
    • I find clothes – their history, origins, cultural meaning and manufacture endlessly fascinating. A dress is never “just” a dress. I enjoy making clothes as it allows me to say what I want to say rather than what is created by another designer or company. I can wear something no one else has, allowing me to express my individualityI want a good fit and more choice over colour, fabric and style
      Dior Evening dress
      Dior Evening dress
  6.  I make clothes that suit and fit me better than RTW
    • The last reason is the one that women usually give for why they sew. But ask yourself this – if you had lots of money would you get someone else to tailor-make your wardrobe? And do you have plenty of clothes, but keep on making more? If so, like me, this is probably not your primary reason for sewing.

Why do you sew?

20 Responses

  1. Maggie

    I’m still sewing because I need clothes, but I feel like once I get basics sewn, I am interested in experimenting with styles. I think I also sew for a creative outlet, and because it gives me a sense of accomplishment.

  2. Sweaty Knitter

    I’ve only recently started sewing again … gifts for family members who have no room in their closets for more hand knit gifts. 🙂 Next on my list are a couple of aprons based on a 1920s pattern … I picked up some nice batik fabrics that I thought would work nicely though I doubt they would have been used in the ’20s!

  3. Lesley

    Me too, hate skiing while the rest of our family live for it!
    I sew because I need to feel productive. Perhaps because I don’t do paid work I feel like I need ti justify my ‘off’ hours. Then there’s that other thing, the entire room dedicated to sewing, full of all sorts of goodness – I can’t seem to turn my back on it or I’d have admitted defeat!
    If someone made all my clothes to fit me, I’d be really happy. in fact recently I was thinking of drawing up the patterns and giving them to a maker. For me its the designing I enjoy more than the sewing. We had a portrait of our kids painted – I didn’t love it entirely. At least when I’m in control I only have myself to blame. This is something I’ve been pondering Kate – very interesting stimulous.

  4. Anne

    Point 6 had me thinking – I have to agree. I thought my original spur was not being able to buy RTW (no matter what the price) – it’s in there but not major. All of your points resonate with mine, perhaps a slightly different order. I’m trying to improve technique. I really enjoy manipulating patterns. I’m less sure I have a design ability. I’m not quite at that stage of competence where I’m happy to wear what I’ve made and certainly not competent enough to make what I want to wear! I have a lot more wadders than successes. I’m happy to continue with the challenge of improvement. An interesting post.

  5. Kim Hood

    I love to sew but spend most of my sewing time on other people’s work. Sewing for myself is a real treat, and an opportunity to play with techniques I am not often asked for by clients. Feedback via blogging is always good to get – even when it is to tell you something you might not initially want to know! The information received is almost always worth knowing.
    A friend recently said ‘Dont let perfect be the enemy of good’ which I thought was a brilliant message.

  6. Liz Cooney

    I echo your thoughts completely, Kate. We sew for a variety of reasons, and not just one. – I suppose it just makes me happy. I have noticed that people with hobbies tend to be more fulfilled. Being creative gives us something that just going out and buying an item does not. It’s a sense of achievement. “I made this!” – I find it interesting that you say that you are not artistic (drawing, painting). I say that also…..but have come to think that maybe it’s something that is a self-fulfilling prophesy. What about if we said, ” I CAN paint….I just have not yet learned how.” ?

  7. Hila

    Mmmm I sew because I love it. I love fabric. I am increasingly loving drafting patterns. The puzzle of construction excites me. I hope I will be enjoying it for years to come

  8. Hélène

    Would I buy pricey clothes instead of making them if I were really rich? The answer is NO, NO, NO! But, God, I would be so grateful to improve my sewing room, enjoy more free time to put things together and get all the benefits from my hobby, that is the first 5 points of your list! Great analysis. I share it all.

  9. Lynn Mally

    Why do I sew? I love textiles. Really, I think this is the answer for me. In general I make simple things out of textiles that are beautiful to me. I enjoy the hunt for fabric, I enjoy sewing with the fabric, I enjoy wearing fabric that I have picked from the millions of options.

  10. Stephanie

    This is great, K. Re. 6, I know that when I buy clothes, even nice ones, I get bored of them easily. The things I’ve made myself I wear over and over and over again, because I feel connected to them. They remind me of who I was when I made them and I connect to the time I spent with the objects. It’s why I stopped wearing bought jumpers quite a long time ago and spent nearly twenty years putting on an awful too-long cardigan I knitted on bus rides with a broken heart when I got home from work. (It was long because I knitted and knitted, like the lead character in Like Water for Chocolate as she is being taken to an insane asylum.) On the other hand, I sometimes feel awkward when people I know know that I’ve made what I’m wearing, so I don’t publicize it. It’s too personal to me. Odd, I guess? That said, I really enjoy the blogging community, so affirmation must be somewhat important to me.

    Furthermore, I love sewing, but to some extent I feel it is an avoidance thing for me. I always wanted to be a painter but I feel as though I do everything else that I can with my hands because I’m afraid to discover that if I applied myself I couldn’t be a good painter. That said, I tend to think as Liz Cooney above does. We tend to have these tracks in our head that say we aren’t this or that, when anyone can learn just about anything. It’s true that some people learn some things at faster or slower paces, but generally with effort we can all reach a high standard in anything. Becoming van Gogh or Matisse might be something else, but one ought not to stop before trying. My mom always says that she can’t learn languages, but I don’t think that’s likely to be true at all because I am not quick with languages and with application I learned Italian, etc.

  11. Mary

    I sew for so many reasons and they are all woven into the fabric of my life (awesome to work that in!). Besides my joy at being creatively productive I like to recycle what is cast off. Most of my fabric is inherited from elderly friends and relatives and I find gorgeous lengths of expensive fabric at thrift stores and garage sales. I can be thrifty, environmental, and creative. And sew with $70/yd cashmere coating that I paid pennies for.

    And as for perfection I think you sum it up when you wrote: “but I think I know what great looks like.” So true! Once I get to the point I am so satisfied because I know it looks great.

  12. rosemary

    My first love is textiles and thread. I have dabbled in other mediums but in the end textiles are it. I like problem solving, the hand stitching, the planning. My least favorite part cutting out. It I was rich, I’d pay for someone to fit my patterns to me,and maybe cut them out, then I could sew to my hearts content.

  13. Sam

    I’ve just discovered your blog through Sew Photo Hop on Instagram and am catching up with some of your posts. I can identify with all your reasons for sewing – mine are very similar.
    My main reason for sewing is that I wanted to be a fashion designer when I left school, but was encouraged not to go down that route, or to study/pursue a creative career at all, despite being drawn to creative pursuits from a very young age. I’m now a building surveyor for a housing association which is something I never considered doing and sometimes wonder how I came to be in such a role. Whilst it stretches my mental creativity sometimes, it doesn’t provide the outlet of actually creating something physical, so that’s where my sewing comes in.
    I also enjoy being able to make clothes that (hopefully) fit me better than RTW, and that no one else has. I hate the idea of walking down the street and seeing 2 or 3 other people in the same coat as me, for example!

  14. Elle

    For me, there’s also the joy in the beauty of the fabric: the way it looks; the way it feels; the pleasure of handling it, sewing a lovely seam; the feel and smell of pressing. All of it fills the senses.

  15. Stina

    Hello! This is a really good blog, sorry that I have not commented yet! I’ve been reading old posts from the beginning. I’m trying to learn to sew my own clothes and I’ve found several good tips here. I’ve always drawn and painted, but with two small children it’s been very difficult. Somehow, sewing is easier to do in small steps when I find time. I used to hate fashion, actually. Now I have discovered that sewing allows me to focus on what I want rather than what the shops has to offer at the moment. I also want a good fit- it is difficult to buy trousers that fit me- but I haven’t yet made any so we’ll see if it works!

    • fabrickated

      So nice of you to drop by Stina. I don’t always find the time to say thank you. But I appreciate this. And it was trousers that drove me to sew – but these days they seem to fit much better than they did.

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