Sunday, 5 March 2017

Sewing is a modern and radical act, not just an old-fashioned hobby

Sewing was one of my first hobbies; as soon as I could hold a colouring pencil without poking myself in the eye my grandmothers were buying me children's tapestry kits, showing me basic embroidery stitches and encouraging me to make simple toys like sock puppets. I loved art and textiles at school, and I have been sewing full-time for fifteen years (I can hardly believe it myself!) 

So it sometimes takes me a moment to remember that not everyone has had the chance to learn such a fun and useful skill, and that at first glance it can seem like it's not for everyone. 

Sewing, even in the context of fashion and clothing manufacture, is rarely mentioned in any discussion of the garments themselves. When it is, it is in the context of something extraordinary; the hours (usually running into days or weeks) it took for a team of seamstresses to make a couture gown or show-stopping film costume. Even in the world of home sewing, the number of 'must have' gadgets on offer in a specialist sewing shop can seem overwhelming, and sewing (or dressmaking in particular) can look like a hobby that is only suitable for people with time, money and physical space to spare.

Yes, it does take time (and patience!) to get really good at sewing, but that's part of the joy of it for me. There is always something new to learn; a new technique or fabric to work with, new challenges to master.

A basic sewing kit needn't cost a lot or take up a lot of space- my must-haves are surprisingly similar to the contents of my grandmothers' sewing baskets.

Just because the fundamentals of home sewing have stayed the same for so long doesn't mean it is a tool of oppression, or a regressive hobby that has no relevance to modern life. Sewing and embroidery have been used as methods of both self-care and protest by people of all genders for decades; ideas that have been revived by activists like the Craftivist Collective for a 21st century audience. 

The world's problems (and our 24/7 access to endless documentation and discourse about them) can seem overwhelming. There is no way that we can, by ourselves, fix all the things we worry about. But, by sewing, we can fix something. It may only be a tiny thing; a button on a cardigan or shirt, a hole in a favourite jacket or pair of trousers. We don't have to return our garments to their original state, we can help them evolve, making them unique to us, a way to showcase our skills and personal style. We can keep our clothes out of landfill for that little bit longer, and push back against a system that is desperate for us to buy more and more stuff, even when our bank balances and the environment can no longer take the strain. 

And of course, the beauty of sewing is that you can always unpick it and start again! If only that was possible for more things in life. By seeing sewing as a creative process rather than just a way to get from 'broken' to 'fixed', we can enjoy the act of sewing and allow ourselves the room to make mistakes as we learn. So be brave! and tackle something in your 'I can't wear this in its current state' pile today. You'll feel better for it, trust me! 

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