Life sewing

Why Do I Sew?

I started sewing back in 2011, right before my daughter turned 2. I bought a super basic Singer sewing machine for $55 on clearance at Kmart with the intent to make her super cute things that I kept seeing ads for, but couldn’t afford. I spent hours and hours on Youtube and various blogs teaching myself how to sew. I made a few tutus, a few simple skirts, and a cute little outfit my daughter wore for Christmas photos that year. I made a few rag quilts and started having grand ideas of going to school for fashion design. Needless to say, that never happened. My love for and interest in sewing waxed and waned over time. I was an eager beaver during the first few months after my (then) boyfriend surprised me with a new computerized sewing machine (the Brother SE400). As I was active duty Navy at the time, and managed single mom life to a toddler and two high schoolers, hobby sewing didn’t feel like it was in the cards.

First Outfit for my daughter
First rag quilt

For several years to follow, my machine was in and out of the box. Either I didn’t have space to drag it all out, or I wasn’t in the mood. It just didn’t seem to be my “thing” anymore. One day in 2014, I pulled it out and set it up in the living room to sew a table runner. I’m quite sure that was my only project that year. In 2015, in the beginning months of my pregnancy with our little boy, I unpacked it again. I wanted to make bibs. Then making bibs turned into burp rags, and a blanket, and a boppy cover, then the rest is history.

In 2016, I took on any project that I wanted that wasn’t “hard.” I made headbands, booties, simple dresses & rompers, my son’s Halloween costume. I also sewed my first clothing item for myself. I didn’t have as much time to sew with a new baby, but I started feeling the desire. Time and passion never could quite get on the right page.

Burb rags and bib set I made
Wonky quilt blankie thing I didn’t know how to bind

In 2017, I began sewing pretty regularly. I attempted to run a very small shop, but I honestly HAD NO CLUE what I was doing. I had no training, no one coaching me on the business side of things. I had no mentor, and knew no one else who sewed or owned a small business. I was just trying to do what everyone kept urging me to do—have my own shop. In hindsight, running blindly into it was about the most ridiculous thing I could have ever done if I wanted success. After about 8 months of that, I realized how in over my head I was. I had found so many Facebook groups and resources by then. As a result, I learned soooo many things about compliance and certifications, and tags, and I felt overwhelmed and unable to deal with any of that at the moment. I also had to admit a very big thing: I wasn’t that great at the craft I loved so much. My skills were meh. I didn’t bring much of anything special or original to the table to compete with all the other custom shops that I was coming to find existed out on the market. At the end of the year, right after my husband and I got married, I decided that I was done and wouldn’t sell anything else I made.

Favorite make of 2017 for my niece
My refashioned wedding gown

In the beginning of 2018, my machine kinda got ignored again. My family was going through a huge transition, and I just didn’t have the time or the mental capacity to deal with projects. We were temporarily living with my best friend when I decided to break it back out. I tried making a few pairs of jammies to get me jump-started. I put them away and didn’t finish them until months later. In August 2018, after we had finally settled into our own place again, I suddenly felt a burst of inspiration. I decided to claim a small space in the living room to start sewing again, but not too big of a space in case I decided to quit again, it’d be less to pack up.

Y’all…I haven’t looked back since that moment. That same month, I started pattern testing, and including tests, I began sewing around 20 items per month. I sewed clothing for myself, for my kids, for my husband, even! I made Christmas gifts for the friends and family members closest to me. I’ve been a machine. I sewed so many of my fears that year. I’ve sewn buttonholes and buttons, plackets, zippers. I’ve sewn with satin and velvet. I’ve sewn for other adults (something I said I’d never do). You can view many of those projects in my portfolio, if you’d like. In the years since, I’ve tested patterns for many companies, sewn many many rounds of strikes, been invited to blog tours and collaborations. I’ve met a lot of truly amazing humans in the sewing community and grown soooo much, not only as a sewist, but as a person.

I truly believe sewing and creating new things is my thing. It just feels right. Even on yucky-stuck-in-a-rut days, I itch to use my machines. People often say one of two things when they find out I can sew: 1) OMGGGGG, you should own a boutique!! You’re sooo talented and could make sOoOoOoO much money and 2) Ugh, I wish I could sew.

My original response to number 1 when I published this post was: NO. Business owning is not presently in the cards for me. I sew for gifts when I have the time/resources every blue moon. On rare occasions, I open up a window to sew and sell a specific thing for friends. I’m pretty busy weekly with pattern tests, adding to my kids’ wardrobes. In all honesty, I just now feel like my skills are improved enough to profit from and compete in the handmade market. I plan to enter a craft fair or two this year in hopes of winning a ribbon, but that’s about the most public I intend to go at the moment. My 2021 revised response is that I actually DID open a shop for a year from end November 2019-202. It was sooo fun, and I enjoyed starting to see “the world” wearing my clothing. Our family had some big stuff going on which included a cross country relocation, and I also started working more regularly. As a result of all the hooplah, I decided to close while I focused on all the other things life needed me for. I hope to return back to the small shop world in the future. Who knows what the future brings? 😉 I also did enter items in the craft fair and all three won First Award. That was soooo cool to see my stuff on display for the entire city of Memphis to see!

The answer to number 2: YOU CAN!! Did you read my story? I’m a 100% self-taught sewist. I have NEVER taken a formal class or personal lessons. My education was FREE (well, if you don’t count all the money I’ve spent on supplies). I learned strictly from YouTube and blogs. Did I get it right away? Nope. I even quit several times and started again over the course of 10 years. Can I do EVERYTHING now? BIG OL BUCKET OF NOPE. But I am 10000% better at sewing, garment construction, understanding patterns and fabrics than I was 6 months ago, and this will always be the case. I encourage anyone wanting to learn to find a machine and get started. I will add a disclaimer here though: I am not responsible for your PDF pattern hoarding habit that may form, nor the obsession you may develop with custom fabric. Just sayin’! 😉

Even in 2021, I didn’t have to revise this post much, simply because all of it still rings true. I still sew for the same reasons, the only addition is that sewing is now a source of income for our family, as well. I’m wayyyy better than I was before. I now use a sewing machine, serger, and coverstitch for all my items. I sew with many more bases than I did in the beginning. I understand a whooooole lot more about garment construction and I’m really beginning to understand fitting more, now.

I still sew for the joy it brings me. For the therapy it provides. I sew for the smiles it brings my babies. I sew for the pride in which my husband wears his tees. I sew for the challenge. I sew for the thrill of creation. I sew for ME.

So tell me….why do you sew??

originally published 1/12/2019

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