Whoever woulda thunk it? Sewing, the simple act of putting a needle and thread through some fabric has led to a robust change in attitude on my part, to myself, my body, my skills and my responsibility to society. It’s not an exaggeration to say that taking up sewing has been an eye opening revelation!
I entered the competition to win the Mabel pattern from Colette, and the simple act of trying to write down my newly forming thoughts on sewing brought on a rush of emotion. Until I put pen to paper (or rather finger to keyboard) I don’t think I realised what a profound effect sewing was having on me. I realised I was rapidly becoming absolutely obsessed with it, but I am not sure I had quite worked out why. Jenny asked me to expand my thoughts in this blog post, to try and explain the way sewing was making me re-evaluate my body, the fashion industry and my self-esteem. So here goes!
I started sewing about 6 months ago. My mum had bought me a snazzy new blue sewing machine from John Lewis for Christmas, and I was full of hope about the glorious creations I was going to make. I ordered some fabric and a simple pattern and felt ready to MAKE! And then I looked at the back of pattern and got out the tape measure. I nearly cried when I measured myself and saw I should cut out a UK size 28. I had put on weight, but I was not a size 28. I had always tried to stay at an 18 at the max, but had slipped over and out the other side of a size 20. But 28????? What did it mean? Was I much more enormous than I thought? Had I been deluding myself? Had I been wearing the wrong size clothes all my life? I felt horrified. Until I opened the pattern pieces out. Then suddenly, my horror disappeared. The distance between the sizes was so small that I laughed. I had spent so long attaching self esteem to numbers and, look! they meant absolutely nothing. The difference between sizes was a couple of cm. The numbers were just map markers, not symbols dripping with meaning about one’s value as a woman. And so I cut out my dress and realised it was tiny in the armpits and enormous round the knees and laughed again. It was all meaningless. Vanity sizing was absurd and impersonal. Shop bought clothes are made for abstract mannequins, not people. What was meaningful were the beautiful patterns and fabrics I could buy, the creativity and personality I could put into the things I made, the fact that I wasn’t engaging in a fashion trade that demeans women and employs child labour and oh, the buttons and bias binding! My 50 inch full chest is a thing to drape fabric on beautifully, to enhance, to think about practically and cleverly and not a just number to be ashamed of. I can sew any dress I like and make it fit me and my shape, rather than feel I need to change my shape to fit into something made for random beauty standards.
Sewing is an injection of childlike joy that takes away all those weird insecurities about your body and your skills that develop with adulthood! You just MAKE. Oh! I am so happy that I have started sewing.