Apr 10, 2011
Readers, I always welcome the opportunity to take a break from actual sewing...to talk about sewing. I find myself in a contemplative mood today and thought I'd reflect a bit on what sewing has given me, and perhaps you too.
Here, then, are my 8 Benefits of Making It Yourself:
1. Sewing is creative. When you decide to sew yourself something instead of going to a store and buying what somebody else has designed, manufactured, and marketed, you're tapping into your own ingenuity and inventiveness. Like so many of our abilities, once you tap into them, you realize how much more you're capable of than you ever thought possible. Creativity begets creativity: you've sewn your own shirt, now let's see if you can sew your own vintage Fifties lace overlay cocktail dress (to make one example...).
2. Sewing is educational. There is so much to know about sewing and the learning never stops. Fabrics, notions, techniques, fit -- the list is endless. No matter what level sewer you are, there's always a new challenge ahead. What can be more thrilling than that?
3. Sewing is self-actualizing. I define self-actualization as becoming the person you really are, being true to yourself, and feeling authentic. Doing something we love solely because we love it is self-affirming. You know you're on the right path when you're doing something that brings you joy.
4. Sewing gets you into your "flow." Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian psychologist and author of the classic work Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, argued that people are happiest when they are completely immersed in an activity that requires their full attention and skill. (More about Csíkszentmihályi -- including the pronunciation of his name! -- here.) Because sewing requires our full concentration, it puts us into our flow state, where we feel not only most alive, but also most relaxed, as our other concerns fade into the background.
5. Sewing is part of a craft tradition. A century or two ago, most people were able to make most everything they needed. The majority lived in the countryside and grew their own food. Many built -- or participated in building -- their own home and furnishings. Commercial industry as we think of it today was next to non-existent. You might barter services with another, but basically you had to take care of your own needs. Self-sufficiency is profoundly satisfying. Today most of us no longer need to grow our own food or make our own clothes, and as a result we lack the knowledge -- passed down generation to generation -- to do so. Learning how to sew reconnects us with these traditions. And if you can do it with your own energy (by treadling or using a hand crank machine) you're even more self-sufficient!
6. Sewing is fantasy. In the same way that it's no more difficult to paint a picture of a palace than a hovel, an extra foot of fabric can turn a house dress into an evening gown. Sewing is a vehicle to explore not only who we are and what image we want to project into the world, but also who we like to pretend to be. Children are able to access this ability with complete lack of self-consciousness: a blanket thrown over a table becomes a fort, an old sheet, a cape. How many adults are still attuned to this capacity to dream and play?
7. Sewing is a window into history, sociology, and economics. Sewing for ourselves challenges us to think about the role making clothes has had throughout history. Sewing machines helped to emancipate women as it gave them a commercially marketable skill. As sewing became an industry, sewers organized themselves into unions so that those in the textile trade could make a living wage and support their families. Today, because of globalization and concentration of corporate power, we're moving in the opposite direction. Sewing taps into a lot of academic disciplines and if we're inclined to study it, we can learn a lot about the world we inhabit.
8. Sewing is social. Sewing used to be something most people did in isolation. Unlike an activity like knitting, it's hard to sew in a group -- though obviously not impossible. It requires sufficient space, organization (all those notions!), and portable machines (unless machines are provided). But thanks to the Internet, we can connect with an unlimited number of people all over the world who share our passion. One of the most exciting benefits of Male Pattern Boldness has been connecting (virtually and sometimes even in person) with readers from different cultures and traditions and learning their different perspectives on everything from fashion to sewing machine maintenance.
9. Sewing builds self-confidence. This relates to many of the points already discussed. When we are able to pursue something we love, we validate the importance of our own passion. The same goes for being able to do something to take care of our own -- and/or our family's -- needs. Feeling less dependent on the mall, on artificial trends, and cheap labor -- feeds into our self-confidence too.
Related to this is body confidence. When you learn how to fit yourself, when you become more intimately aware of your body and how to dress it in a flattering way, you feel more confident about the way you look. What could be more dispiriting than feeling like you're the wrong size for the ready-to-wear clothing available to you, that somehow you are at fault?
Friends, this is what I've gained through sewing. What have you gained?
I'd love to hear from you!
Labels: sewing and culture