Saturday, 5 April 2014

When sewing gets you through

Boy, this week has been tough. It has been a very long and trying one. Almost every aspect of life has been stressful at some point. Normally when this is the case I turn to chocolate, biscuits or some combination of the two. However, this week has been different. Instead of reaching for a nearby sugar high, I've been reaching for anything sewing related, no matter how tenuous the link. 

Three projects

I suddenly find myself with three projects on the go. I have cut out my Robson coat and started to piece it together. I made three bodice toiles for the Emery and Winifred dresses (two for the Emery, not three each!) and then cut them out of the fashion fabric. One of them is almost completely finished. This is a lot for me - I'm normally a one or two projects kind of girl. Three actively being worked on is practically unheard of! In addition I've been reading books on fit and fabric, examining patterns more closely to work out how and why they were drafted and have re-watched many episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee and the House of Eliott. So what is going on?

Put frankly, I've needed to claw back some control and sewing has done precisely that. Being able to plan projects, ensuring fabric is on grain (tearing fabric is amazingly therapeutic!), cutting out the pattern and preparing everything ready for construction is incredibly soothing in a world full of noise, decisions and confusion. The gentle concentration needed for hand basting darts and bias binding to seams has a quietening effect on my mind. Working out how to balance three projects and sew them well but efficiently, without any interruption from others, has been a tonic. I've been taking my time, trying to enjoy every aspect of the process - even when I've realised that I've cut out half a dress and am struggling to get the rest of it from the remaining fabric and keep it on grain. 

But there has been a bigger revelation this week. When feeling under pressure or low, I also re-establish a close bond with “comfort” clothing. Do you understand what I mean when I say they feel safe? They are like a form of armour when I'm out of the house and warm hug when I'm in. This week all of my comfort clothes have been items I have made. I can honestly say this has never happened before. I haven't reached for my oversized university sweatshirt, my cosy green fleece or my pyjamas. Instead I have worn my Ceylon, Miette, purple Ginger skirt, Cami and my Lady Grey. I have been building an layer that is trying to protect me from life's stresses but this time it is a layer that I have built completely by myself. I have found additional strength and some comfort in knowing this. Does this remind you of Karen's recent post where she describes sewing as providing a coping strategy? I think she is spot on. When you need that extra nudge to help you push on, put on some of your favourite makes and take pride and strength whenever you look at them. And the best part about it? It is completely guilt free compared to comfort eating!

How about you? Do you turn to sewing or something else when you are under pressure? And does anyone remember the House of Eliott? 

21 comments:

  1. Interesting post Claire. Hope you are doing ok :) I guess getting sewing done is your silver lining that comes out of a rubbish week!

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    1. Absolutely - although it isn't normally on this scale!

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  2. Oh I am so with you on this! I was having a bit of a bad time in work last year (thankfully all a distant memory now), but it was crafting kept me sane, including crocheting at lunch time. I think it's a combination of being able to think about crafting at any time, for example planning a project, that takes the mind off whatever drama is happening. Then the process of actual making requires full concentration, therefore again taking the mind off the drama. Anyway, I'm glad you have crafting to take your mind off things too.

    I love all your current projects! I'll look forward to seeing your Robson coat because I have my eye on the Deer and Doe Pavot raincoat pattern at the minute. Good luck with finishing them all! :)

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  3. I forgot to mention that I remember The House of Elliott. I would have thought you were too young to remember it!!

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    1. Haha! It is one of the earliest programmes that I remember clearly. It shouldn't be too long before the Robson is up. I love the Pavot coat too.

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  4. I've never thought of it like that but completely agree. I hope life is being a little kinder now.

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    1. Thank you - it is slowly down a little now.

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  5. It's great that you have sewing as a constant - I often bunker down and read books in bed when it all gets a bit full on. Hope next week treats you well!

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    1. Books in bed sounds wonderful! Sadly, I'm often hit and miss with reading.

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  6. I became obsessed with the house of elliot last year and watched all the seasons. Loved it. I really respond to your idea of bunkering down in layers of self made. I'm exactly the same and reach for the fabrics and clothes that not only protect me but lift me up. I hope that everything starts to seem better this week x

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    1. It is amazing how much difference clothes can make. You make a good point about fabrics that you lift you up - quite possibly why most of my favourite makes are brightly coloured.

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  7. Very thought-provoking post. I hadn't thought of it like that before, but on reflection I think I do feel more confident being out and about wearing something I made myself. I guess it's as if you're carrying around a lingering sense of achievement with you! Although in stressful times I think I'm more likely to turn to knitting than sewing; there's just something inherently calming about it. Hope next week eases up for you. oxo

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    1. "a lingering sense of achievement" - I think you have summed it up beautifully in five words!

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  8. I hope things are a less stressful for you now. Like Danielle, I tend to turn to knitting when I'm sressed, theres something about the repetitive nature that I find calming.

    And yes, I remember the House of Elliott well, I loved it!

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    1. I can see how the repetitive nature can be calming, it sounds similar to the nature of hand stitching. I'm glad I'm not the only one who remembers the show!

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  9. Yes sewing has helped me through some tough times. I won't pretend it results in particularly good results, but the process really helps, so I really get what you are saying. Sewing is so absorbing, but at the same time allows you to think, and to "recover".

    I hope you feel better soon.

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    1. I know what you mean about good results during these times - I've had to rip out so many seams! I think we are lucky that we have such a great hobby.

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  10. This is a really thoughtful post! And so true.I was writing up my PhD thesis for the last six month and I always went to my sewing table whenever I had the feeling I got stuck and felt desperate. There were even a few days that I took off from writing and spend on my sewing machine :) But it helped me through and now that I am almost done, I can't wait to go back regularly to my sewing machine! I hope that this week will be less stressful for you and that you get a proper rest over Easter as well. That said, I can't wait to see your makes :)

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    1. Thanks, Daniela. I guess we all need some of the restorative powers that sewing provides every now and then. We do have a short break planned at Easter and I can't wait to go! I hope the rest of your thesis goes well.

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  11. I LOVED The House of Elliott - we might be going to a 20s themed ball in July, so I've been considering a re-watch for inspiration!

    I know exactly what you mean about clothes being something safe and comforting. It's more than just an 'I look good', I think, it's an 'I made this, I can do this' - as you say, it's about control, and wearing something that demonstrates you're in control. Much better for you than sugar, definitely.

    Hope things calm down this week!

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    1. Thanks, Laura. You'll get so much inspiration from re-watching! I'm envious that you're going to a themed ball.

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