What I couldn’t have predicted is how much I’ve learned from sewing. This sounds mushy, but I live in America now, the land of sentimentality, so please forgive me.
Firstly, patience and the value of enjoying the process. If you know me, you’ll know I’m a classic A-type, goal-oriented, lots-on-the-go type of person. And to begin with, so was my sewing. SEW ALL THE THINGS! AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! But over time I’ve finally understood this whole take your time, do it more carefully thing. Do you really need a shonkily made wrap dress tonight? Or would you rather a really nicely made one in 3 days time? Quite. This comes even more into play when I make mistakes – walking away when I’m frustrated and annoyed with myself and coming fresh the next day makes all the difference. LIFE LESSONS, DEAR JENNY, NOTE THEM.
There’s something in there about perspective as well. You spend so long looking at the thing you’re making and you obsess about all the mistakes, and every time you wear it you just see those wonky seams or that fabric cut that you hastily patched. But you know what? No-one ever notices. No-one. At all. (Unless you point it out to them – note to self, try not to do that any more). No-one sees your flaws like you do.
It also teaches you that to learn something or get better at something you just have to give it a go. This seems obvious and simple, but this was a big lesson for me. I always thought “well I can’t put a zip in, because I’ve never done it before!”. It took me A Long Time to realise that the only way to learn to do it, is to try it for the first time. This was what finally convinced me to make my winter coat – and after all that procrastination, it turned out well. So. Perhaps when I’m not sure about things I need to just try and see what happens.
What else? It’s given me a much better appreciation not just of clothes but all sorts of craftsmanship. I tend to live my life in a bit of a whirlwind, but I find myself noticing fine handiwork all over the place now.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, is the whole body issue. Like most (OK, virtually all) women, I’ve struggled my whole life with the size, shape and weight of my body. The biggest single difference has been adopting Intuitive Eating with my amazing nutritionist over the past year. But after that, it’s sewing. You know when you look in the mirror and think “ugh, I look terrible”? 90% of the time that’s your clothes. They’re too tight, things are bulging, or maybe they’re too loose and boxy. Once you can make clothes to fit, you learn that anyone can look good; no-one needs to bulge. Learning that any clothes can be made in any size is also revelatory. I’m not going to wear a tummy-baring top any time soon, but I certainly have a coat I can breathe in now, tops that don’t show my bra and pencil skirts that skim my stomach. This is perhaps the most liberating thing – I judged my body for not fitting store-bought clothes, and felt terrible much of the time when it came to dressing myself. Now my clothes fit me, suit me, and feel good – and it’s such a relief. To have routinely positive thoughts about what I look like – this skirt looks amazing! – is fantastic. To be regularly taking photos of myself and putting them online and not hiding behind my hands – that’s serious progress, folks.