Colette

I am a selfish sewer (and why that’s ok)

28

selfish-sewer

When I started learning to sew, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Let’s go on a trip in the way-back machine. It’s the mid-90s, and I’m in high school. About 90% of my clothes are black, as is my waist-length dyed hair. When I’m not doing homework or listening to Bauhaus in my bedroom, my friends and I are shopping at all the local thrift stores, cobbling together unusual and sometimes downright bizarre outfits from others’ castoffs.

Most kids have the same concerns that we did. We wanted to figure out who we were and where we stood in the world. We wanted to play and experiment. Clothes were one of our tools.

I decided to learn to sew because thrift stores weren’t cutting it for me anymore. I wanted to take that sense of play and drama and self-exploration further. I wanted to create the person I was becoming, and that included the clothing I wore.

By and large, teenagers are supremely self-centered creatures. I say this with love and sympathy, because I think that self-centeredness is important. You have to be a little self-centered sometimes if you want to figure out who you are and what makes you tick.

That teenager still lives inside me. My tastes may have settled down and I don’t wear quite so much black, but some of that same motivation still pushes me to sew and make.

As we get older, we lose a lot of that self-centered introspection. We gain responsibilities like family, businesses, kids, jobs, bills. Each of these competes for our attention and emotional energy until there is nothing left for us. We don’t have the time to play and explore. Other things seem more important.

Sewing lets you be a little selfish. It lets you rediscover all those questions you asked when you were 16:

  • Who am I?
  • What am I like?
  • How do I want others to see me?
  • How can I express myself in a way that feels true and creative?
  • Why can’t I be different from everyone else?
  • Why do I have to take myself so seriously?

…And if you’re 16 now (or 14 or 12), even better. Sewing gives you a perfect outlet for exploring all of these questions and more.

Making your own clothes isn’t about becoming a masterful seamstress or producing clothes that look just like ready-to-wear. Those are nice skills to have, as far as they go.

The real joy comes from exploring who you are, bringing more creativity into your everyday life, and gaining skills you can be proud of.

Here’s to being a little more selfish and having a little more joy.

[image credit: Andreas Adelmann]

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 28

Sarah Ford

I completely agree! This is why I took up sewing. To make what I wanted but also to spend selfish time on me, doing something I love. Having only started sewing at the end of last year I have made a couple of skirts and bags and am now on a toille for my first Sencha blouse!! (I have the final fabric bought and washed – a lovely soft deep navy, almost black, lightweight cotton with tiny cream stars – to be finished by yellow buttons!)

Elisabeth projectreclaim.wordpress.com

This is SO true! I have seriously found so much calm and happiness since I started sewing. And while I do have some plans for making things for others (mainly a sneaky ploy to dress my brother better! Lol) I so enjoy taking that time for myself and making things I love to put on. And you are so right about it being something of a self-discovery. For me it’s not about becoming a master seamstress (of course I want to do this well and make things that look good and are well-constructed) but more about creating garments I love and will wear. The joy of watching flat fabric become a 3-D wearable garment is just so fun!

knitmo

I learned to be a selfish knitter ages ago. I am now transporting it to sewing. I have been knitting for 10 years (and pretty seriously) if you don’t appropriately ooh and ah, wear it with pride, and take care of it you don’t get anymore hand knits. I have similar rules for sewn projects.

For me both activities are a calming thing. I remember my grandmother talking about how she used to sew to relax after a day of teaching. I get it now. Totally get it. She was a selfish sewer, until her wardrobe was filled. Then Grandma moved on to sewing clothing for me, and my Barbies/other dolls.

Andie L sewprettyinpink.wordpress.com

I completely agree. I love expressing my style through sewing. :) Thanks for the reassurance that that is a good thing. :D

Jenny cashmerette.blogspot.com

Sewing has been soooo good for me, it’s unbelievable. However, I also get a LOT out of selfless sewing – my best friend’s 4 and 6 year olds squeal with joy every time I make them dresses and call me up to say “the best presents are the ones that are made with love Aunty Jenny!”. You can’t beat that!

Kat coutureacademic.com

I agree. I find the two to have kinda flipped experiences too. I LOVE the process of sewing for myself and expressing my creativity just for me, but I’m not as satisfied with the end result. I mean, I like it, but it doesn’t have as much meaning. But, when I sew for someone else, I don’t like the process as much (it kinda feels like drudgery sometimes!), BUT to see the look on my friend’s face when her favourite jeans were back to new again was so meaningful and satisfying, the end result meant more to me. Weird.

MaZeLiving mazeliving.wordpress.com

I can totally relate to that! I feel the same way. When I sew for myself, I think I expect more at the end just because the process is so enjoyable, and it lets me down every time because I don’t particularly enjoy the final product. Seeing someone else’s happiness seems like a bigger award.

Gina feministstitch.com

Love this. I’ve been slowly getting over my guilt for always sewing for myself, and this post is helping me to realize that maybe sewing is what’s behind me finally doing some things I’ve always wanted to do but have felt timid about. I got a nose ring last fall and I have an appointment in two weeks to dye my hair an as yet to be decided shade of purple. I’m also thinking about what I want to get for my first tattoo. Once I began expressing myself more through my clothes because I was making them and was no longer limited by what was available in stores, I think I started to think more about all the other ways I’ve wanted to express myself through my appearance that I’ve never made happen. Now, when a friend asks me, as one did last weekend, what prompted all “this” (nose ring, hair dye, tattoo), I’ll simply tell them sewing.

Tina solestitch.blogspot.com

This is why I sew. To create my personality on the outside :)

Sarah C musingsofaseamstress.com

Very well said! I was the same in High School with the same reasons for wanting to sew and design. Selfish sewing really is what I enjoy and I believe it is okay. I don’t think it is any different from going to the spa for mani’s and pedi’s. You are taking time for yourself and that is important to maintain your personal happiness.

Mary young-broke-and-fabulous.blogspot.com

Yep! Unless I am getting a significant amount of compensation and I need the money, I sew only for myself. It is a true expression of love when I voluntarily sew for someone else with no expectation of payment. Actually, that’s how I can tell if I’ve fallen in love with someone- I find myself wanting to sew things for them. My bf was complaining about pants never fitting him right and in my head I was like, “shhhhh babyyy I’ll make you pants that fit shhhhh don’t worryyyy”.

Accordion3 bobbinsbikesandblades.com

I sew mostly for myself and then a little bit for my daughters. My husband occasionally asks for something too. Mending and alterations are part of the “sewing Mum” deal.

I rarely sew for others unless I am certain that they will appreciate the effort, time and skill involved in making something for them. I NEVER do alterations or repairs for anyone but immediate family.

One relative liked the laptop cover I made and immediately asked for one. I knew she had just bought herself a basic sewing machine and could sew the requisite straight lines, so gave her the pattern instead.

I sew for me and my family because it gives me the chance to make clothing that is really wanted and will be worn.

francesca

Totally with you here. No kids or husband but I do make things for the sister I live with sometimes – mainly because she really loves and appreciates them. I blow everyone else off. Including rich ig sis who lives across the road and is full of clothes! She’s had a few hand knits from me as she is so hard to get gifts for but that’s over as I don’t see her wearing them enough!

Really and truly, I don’t see what’s selfish about sewing for oneself. It’s not like you’re making a cake and eating it alone:). Clothes are things we need, whether they’re expressing our personality or not, unless we live in the middle of a jungle where I guess one could get away with a loincloth:). I do understand that pressure from others/one’s own brain can make one feel like it’s taking time away from them – but on that premise one may as well say I don’t have time to cut my toenails (and in my case, no soaking before means I can’t cut them, so I need at least half an hour!). Plus, doing something creative is so good for the soul and that means a better person to be around:). Personally, if a day passes and all I’ve done is go to the office and house stuff, I feel a bit bereft. The minimum to not feel that way is a series episode’s worth of knitting!

Izy

I first started to sew to make gifts for friends & family. This year was the year I really started to make things for me. It’s hard as you have to question things for yourself. It’s a nice change. A strange feeling to buy things for yourself, but welcomed. I am really starting to like it.

Gemma silkpinsandstrawberries.wordpress.com

With 2 small children, sewing is SO important to me. It’s time for me and a chance to create as well as get my brain working a bit. I feel a bit lost when i don’t get a chance to sew, like sewing is something concrete…. something that i do and is a solid part of my personal identity. It’s so easy to put the kids, family, house and work first and never have time to do anything for me but sewing gives me that me time that is so incredibly important. Sewing is such a useful and practical craft as well that I don’t feel like I’m frivolously wasting time or money I should be spending on something else!

In terms of my personal style, I was pretty indifferent about clothes when i was a teenager and now I realise that it was because I found, and still find, RTW so frustrating, boring and restrictive. Now in my mid-30s I’m really discovering my style because I have the freedom to pick and choose fabrics, patterns, design details that I love wearing.

Danica

I don’t think a hobby is not selfish unless you use it (excessively) to escape responsibilities/reality.

Sewing is, for me, a hobby. I don’t feel the need to sew for anyone else, but I do sew for my daughter sometimes.

Danica

Sorry, I meant to say “…a hobby is selfish…” Ah, multi-tasking.

Heather newbiesewist.blogspot.com

I love this! I’m happy whenever I get in front of my machine, but my true joy comes from creating something for myself. It really is helping to find my love, my style, and my place in a life that has undergone some serious changes in the past few years.

Eileen Laurette chroniclesofcrafting.blogspot.com

Damn if you didn’t just hit the nail. ON. THE. HEAD.

Boom.

I’ve been thinking about it and trying to articulate it for myself as a guide to streamline my sewing and creativity, to narrow it to express just these same concepts, and here you beat me to making That List. Which I have now copied and pasted right above my head, at my desk. Here’s to choosing joy, for the rest of the life I have left – so, thank you.

Robin patternrevolution.com

I enjoyed your post. There are a lot of bloggers writing about this right now- you might try searching #whyisew to read other great posts on the topic. I have stopped using the term “selfish sewer” myself. I just don’t feel like it is the right terminology for me; instead I call it “self care sewing,” but I wholeheartedly agree with you that we all deserve to allow ourselves the joy/comfort/ creative outlet that sewing brings.

paula a-andorinha.blogspot.com

This is so True! A few days ago I wrote something similar and then I erased it because I thought maybe I was wrong after all. But seeing this written here confirms what I was (I am) feeling in this moment of my life. Thank you very much :)

Tiffany amazonsews.blogspot.com

Thanks Sarai! I totally agree!

Sometimes I feel slightly guilty about not “accommodating” my loved ones but it takes me FOREVER to make my own garments. Right now I’m all about building up my skill set in quirky garments for myself. If I bend over and my pants split, I’m prepared! I dread worrying about someone else’s goodies being displayed because of a wardrobe malfunction from my handiwork.

Carol Bales carolbales.com

I’m a selfish sewer too! Its so funny when I purchase an interesting fabric, and the cutter says, ‘are you making a little girl’s coat?’ and I say, ‘no, its for ME!’

Enrique Granados enriquesews.blogspot.com

Very true! Now that i sew and make my own clothing i find myself feeling one with myself! I now little by little am wearing the clothing that make me who i am. I am not like the rest. My clothes shows the world who Enrique, from the fabric to the buttons i choose!

Sally thequirkypeach.blogspot.com

Wonderfully said!!! :)

Ange blacklabelblog.wordpress.com

{AMEN}, couldn’t agree more!

We’re sorry, comments for this post have been closed.