Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My sewing philosophy

A year or so ago I read a marvelous blog post by Meg McElwee from Sew Liberated titled "a philosophy of sewing". At the time I read it I had absolutely no inclination to sew clothes and couldn't see myself sewing any time in the future. I had a fabric stash that was stressing me out because it hadn't been sewn up yet and the amount of space it was taking up could have been used for other things. My pattern hoarding was getting ridiculous - PDFs printed out and never taped together.

Basically my sewjo had run off into the bush somewhere and didn't want to be found anytime soon. I was devoid of inspiration and energy to sew clothes. I didn't even want to go into my sewing room.

On reading Meg's post I started thinking about what sewing meant to me, and how I could get sewing to fit back in with my life again. I mean, I LOVED sewing my own clothes. And not just because I hate going to the shops. My clothes fit better and look better and no one else is wearing them. Why wouldn't I sew for myself?

I remember telling a few friends about the blog post, and how much it had affected my thinking. But it took a year to finally write my own sewing philosophy. I had to work out a few things first, and a couple of things happened which totally changed my outlook on clothes sewing.

The first was minimalism. I've been trying to minimise our stuff and lives for the last few years, but I still have a long way to go. Does this thing bring value to my life? Is it easily replaced? Is the memory better than the actual object? Is this stuff stressing me out? All these questions get asked daily here, and not just by me. I'll be honest - I hadn't yet used it in the sewing part of my life, and I needed to.


The other thing that happened was Stasia's Style School. Again, it was a newsletter from Meg that alerted me to the existence of such a thing. I enrolled in Style School 9 in September, and IT CHANGED MY LIFE. For the previous year, for a variety of reasons, I had lacked sparkle and was just trying to hide myself away and it was hurting me! It was allowing other people to take advantage of my lack of confidence. And it was hurting the people around me! I realised I had to start showing up and by showing up, I mean SHOW UP. Every day during the course we did an exercise. I found my smile again half way through week one. WEEK ONE! I got my confidence back by week three. I rediscovered the importance of colour, fit and accessories; about congruency and finding out how you want yourself to be seen by others. It took me five weeks, but I discovered my power words and I now use them every single day.

The final week was a closet curation exercise and oh boy did it get cleaned out. It took me 10 hours to do the hanging closet, the shelves and my tallboy dresser. I went through the laundry basket, the ironing basket and the spare room. I'm just waiting for holders for my accessories and I'll be all set!

This was before I had minimised my closet a couple of months before.

Closet curation

And this was after I minimised (by doing the 30 day minimalism game).

Closet curation

And this was after Stasia told me what I really should be doing.

Closet curation

In a nutshell, I got rid of a LOT of clothes. I started to see clothes that could be worn across all seasons (not all my clothes mind you - sometimes I like that 6 month break from linen skirts!). I saw what no longer fit me or flattered me and I got rid of it. I now only hang the woven stuff - all the knit stuff and cardigans is folded on the shelves. Nothing is stored away except travel stuff and winter cycling stuff (top left shelf).  I've never felt calmer getting dressed in the morning.

But the best thing that happened was it eventually helped form the final version of my sewing philosophy. I have a clear idea of what I want to wear and what I need to sew, but also how I go about doing that with no stress whatsoever. So here is my philosophy of sewing. It's not for anyone else but me. It's certainly not a judgement on others and how they sew.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1. My sewing will be thoughtful and it will be slow.

2. I will make clothes that I love to wear, that suit my body shape and personality, and make me happy.

3. I don't make things to be worn once or twice, or for only one season. The aim is to wear my clothes for years. 

4. My home made wardrobe is about quality, not quantity.

5. I will sew when I feel like it, even if it's for just 5 minutes.

6. I will aim to go into my sewing room every day, even if it is just to look at it.

7. I won't sew to deadlines. 

8. I will always investigate the stash I have before I buy new fabric.

9. I will sort through my stash and sell or give away what I can no longer use. The aim for my stash size is a maximum of 20 pieces of fabric (not including linings).

10. If I buy new fabric, it must be sewn up in the next couple of weeks, and before anything else.

11. I will only cut one item out at a time. And I will only sew that one item at a time.

12. I will be thoughtful with my pattern purchases

13. I don't need to make very single item I wear. 

14. I will mend and alter clothes when I can, and when they are worth keeping..

15. I deserve the time I spend sewing. I need it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

So far this philosophy has worked pretty well for me. I have cut out and sewn just one thing at a time. I go into my sewing room every day without fail. I stop sewing when I feel like it. I definitely haven't sewn to deadline and I take my sweet time. And the stash is getting scrutinised quite thoroughly during this holiday. I'm finally excited about sewing again! And about inserting more pieces in my wardrobe that suit me and make me happy.

Hand stitched hem

Do you have a sewing philosophy? Has sewing stressed you out without you even realising it at the time?


  1. What a great way to bring all these thoughts together! I've really enjoyed following along this journey of yours. Minimalism and simplicity have made such a huge impact in every area of my life.
    I love that your philosophy is personal, easy, straight forward and you're sticking to it. There's really something so empowering about owning your stuff instead of it owning you.
    I'm going really s l o w with my sewing at the moment and hand sewing a top from start to finish with needle and thread. So far this week I've sewn two sleeves and gosh darn it I'm proud as punch of my wobbly little stitches.
    Sew on sister!

    1. I think you and I are travelling along the same path with minimalism, simplicity and thoughtful sewing, Jodie. It's been so exciting seeing you grown over the last year!

      I absolutely love the idea of you sewing a top by hand. You should be so proud!

  2. Hey there.

    Great post and one that I can relate to. I remember reading Meg's post ages ago and loved what she wrote then.

    I am also going through what we own and have gotten rid of quite a bit as well (responsibly). I am also going through my fabric cause a) I have too much, b) I don't like most of it anymore and c) I know I won't sew it all. I don't have a lot of clothes in my wardrobe and desperately need to get some style in there.

    My change is also around that my body has changed a fair bit due to menopause and I haven't quite gotten my groove as to what I want to wear. I don't like the way I look at the moment which isn't helping either.

    Maybe I need to check out Stasia's school, maybe it is what I need.

    Keep on owning it Michelle!!

    1. I was where you are Stephanie! Can highly recommend Style School - it sells out super quick so I recommend getting on the mailing list. I'm doing another mini course with Stasia starting on Sunday and I can't wait. It was such a boost to my self esteem and it made such a massive difference to my outlook but also my wardrobe.

      I think so many of us are on the minimalist and/or thoughtful usage path at the moment. We are coming out the other side of the age of consumerism. I'm excited by the changes I can make in the next year!

  3. I've loved reading this post. So much goodness to be gleaned from your thoughts. I'm ignoring the last question for the moment, la lalalala. .. hopefully I can answer it more positively in 6 months.


Thanks for stopping by! I love reading your comments, but if you're anonymous please tell me who you are.