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Zen and the Art of Sewing

Updated on March 8, 2017
Sewing Class in Victoria BC Canada
Sewing Class in Victoria BC Canada | Source

25th Anniversary Gift

In the fall of 2015 just prior to my 25th anniversary my husband asked me,”What you want for your 25th anniversary?” I answered, “I really don’t know. I’m pretty happy and fulfilled. I love my work. I love my life! I can’t even imagine what more I could have that would make me any happier than I am already”.

With glee, he said, “I know! I know what would make you really happy.” I looked at him, and seeing the light in his eyes, I thought oh boy this is going to be good.

He said, “We could out fit you with a sewing centre. We could get some machines, some tables, sign you up for some classes. You could completely revive your sewing passion. I had regaled him over the years with how much I had loved sewing and to be fair, over the years I did try. Twelve years ago I bought a sewing machine at a local sewing centre but it had turned out to be a big mistake.

I went to the small, local sewing machine centre with an idea to purchase a good quality portable machine. We didn’t have a lot of space and so I needed something light and portable that would be easy for me to tuck away in a closet when I’m not using it. When I was going to sew I could set it up on the dining room table. The owner talked me into purchasing a reconditioned Husqvarna which sadly never worked properly. I could have purchased a small portable Pfaff for the same price. I never actually did any sewing at that time and my husband ended up taking the machine apart to see how it worked. It ended up in the trash can ending my tentative venture.

For my anniversary we set off to do it right this time. We bought some sewing tables, a couple of beautiful sewing machines (albeit ones I have since replaced!). I signed up for some local classes and all this before I had to really wandered into the world of sewing.

The in-person classes were good. To be fair, they did get me started and I recommend you do local classes if possible. But once I had ventured fully into the online sewing community, I was at a full gallop. I started following bloggers, watching YouTube videos, taking online classes through Craftsy, and other private online classes. I began ordering patterns online and finally fabric. I set up a Pinterest board and leaving comments on blog postings making connections with a number of women. I learned a lot.

Beware!

After a little more than two years in, I feel as though I have some things to share that new sewers or newly returned sewers might find helpful to know. There is a lot of people in the sewing business online that are struggling to get their businesses off the ground and you must be mindful of the intensive efforts that are being launched by many to attract buyers.

Watch out for,

  • Notions that you will never use. I have ordered umpteen number of notions that in all honesty are cheaply made and really don’t perform the task they advertised. Spend some time researching how others have found working with this notion. A good site to investigate for reviews is pattern review. At pattern review they have extensive reviews of all types of sewing machines, patterns, notions, almost everything related to sewing. It’s a great community. Deepika owns and manages the site. Professional and trustworthy.
  • Beware of patterns which are only offered PDF download. In my opinion many of these patterns are overpriced. They are going to involve a lot of work for you to paste/tape together and trace. Ask yourself, how many blouse patterns do I need? How many T-shirt patterns do I need? How many pants patterns do I need? Once you have a good fitting pattern there’s many ways that you can adjust this pattern to look completely different every time you sew it.
  • Resist the temptation or order fabric that is advertised on sale or seems surprisingly inexpensive. Much of this fabric is very cheaply put together and will fall apart after one wash. It’s one thing to have ready to wear garments that fall apart after one or two washes but it’s quite another to have spent hours, days, possibly even weeks making for yourself and have it fall apart after one wash. I recommend you buy the most expensive fabric you can afford and leave that cheap or on sale fabric to someone else. Either that or use cheap fabric to make your practice runs.

Tautly Pulling Where Creativity and Precision Meet

I’ve read other bloggers who say they can’t go a day without sewing. I remember the first time I read that statement and I thought, “oh that’s funny because I feel exactly the same way!” What is it about sewing that we feel we just have to do it every day or we feel discombobulated, disconnected…sort of toxic? I’ve tried so often to articulate why I love it so much. Perhaps even need it!

I love the challenge of it I think the most. The tension that tautly pulls where creativity and precision meet. The art of following the laws of physics and pushing at the edges of those boundaries with creativity, imagination and manifestation. There are rules! There are precise and detailed tasks that must be executed successfully. But there are endless possibilities too!

I even love washing the fabric ironing it to prepare it for pattern placement and cutting it out. There really isn’t any part of the process that I don’t enjoy. Sizing the patterns, drafting pattern adjustments so that it will fit well is among the most challenging tasks. All bodies have their own idiosyncrasies and frankly not all of us that are going to suit the same type of clothes. I always ask myself, “If I were in a store when I buy this for myself?” If the answer is no to that, then there really is no point in me making it either.

Meeting new people, some of whom I’ve only met online, I feel a special kinship to. We may have nothing in common at all except sewing, but we never run out of things to nerd out about. I have witnessed sewers make the most amazing creations, typically with a unique and yet characteristic humility.


Vintage Silk on the Bias
Vintage Silk on the Bias | Source

Working with a Sewing Planner

I get excited when a pattern arrives in the mail and I envision how that will look, what fabric I’ll use for the first my practice run and ultimately the finished garment. What sort of seams I will employ, what types of stabilizers and interfacing I’ll use. Even at the planning stages I’m excited.

I discovered the value of working diligently with a sewing planner. I can’t recommend that you do the same enough. You really need a book, a binder, a journal - something that will be a place for you to document your process from planning to make. Your final conclusions and what you would do in the future if you decide to make it again.

A sewing planner also is a place for you to really plan your wardrobe because sewing can become so random, repetitive and redundant. How many blouses do you need? What do you need to make your wardrobe complete? What do you wear a lot? If you don’t wear dresses ever, why are you making them? What is your style? What suits you? What is it that you would love to wear but cannot find anywhere in your size or the type of fabric you like to wear?

Sewing your own clothes is all that and more. For me it’s Zen. I enter the world of flow where time moves in a wondrous fluid sort of way. Sewing has shaped my life in so many ways. It’s a home coming for me. A place where I am completely myself and content with the world.

Lauren of the British Sewing Bee

Learning to Sew for Free

There are so many videos now available online for free.

Go to youtube and search:

The Great British Sewing Bee

Silhouette Patterns

Look for Blog Tutorials on Any Topic:

Sewing on a button by hand

Refashioning Tee Shirts

Making your own Leggings


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