Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Catharsis via sewing

I have read a couple of posts recently, by Katy and (I thought) Madalynne (but now can't find the post), about sewing being a good stress buster. I agree with this. I think it's one of the many reasons that I got so into sewing in the first place - it was a couple of hours a week, where I was concentrating, but not on the usual things (work, child, the endless list of things to be done) and it took me away from that normal, stressy frame of mind.

I wanted to write today about how I have also found sewing to be cathartic. I have some personal stuff going on just now, which has been both emotionally and physically painful (apologies for not going into detail, but some stuff just isn't for the blog) and as a result have been off work for pretty much 2 weeks. I've felt a little guilty about this, especially because last week physically I felt fine. Whilst I didn't feel up to going to work, I definitely didn't want to sit around and wallow in my emotional state. I know my moods and I know that dwelling on stuff, for me, is not productive.

Muscari on our bedroom windowsill
Now, I was aware that work would have taken me out of that headspace, distracted me. But it would also have come with the added risk of either a) reacting badly to something, resulting in a stressy, tearful, in-front-of-the-whole-team mess, or b) distracting me entirely and so not giving the opportunity to think about things at all.

So, I took some time off and turned to sewing. This, I found, allowed me to concentrate on something other than what's going on, but allowed me to, as frequently as I wanted, explore what's going on in my head. I could gently explore my thoughts, without them occupying me completely, knowing I could break off from sewing when I needed to, but also allowing me to escape from those thoughts if needed. This seems to have worked well. I worked at my own pace, knowing that it didn't matter what I got done when, with no one to answer to, not even myself. It just didn't matter, but becoming engrossed in transferring muslin adjustments onto patterns, or drafting a facing, or inserting a sleeve (God, how I hate inserting sleeves) gave me something physical to do, rather than sitting, staring into space.

The view from our couch - floppy hyacinths
On the upside, dedicating 2 full days last week to sewing also helped relieve the stress I've been feeling about completing various challenges on time. I have completed my nautical craft swap items and have made really excellent progress on my Mad Men dress. My approach to sewing over the past few days has definitely resulted in a less perfect dress than I would have otherwise liked, but it also made me realise that making it less than "perfect" came with a sense of relief. I originally wanted this dress to be as well made as possible, as I felt this would reflect the vintage nature of the project, and as a personal challenge. Attention to detail, for me, is a real attraction in vintage garments (probably because this is the exact opposite of most High Street RTW stuff, as highlighted by Sarai recently). But actually that pressure to make it perfect was almost scaring me off! So, when I say that the dress is less perfect than I would otherwise have liked, it's not such a big sacrifice: a less than perfect dress is far better than no dress!

Beautiful bouquet sent by my managers
I realise this post is somewhat at odds with what I've been posting recently, but I've used the blog (and others' blogs too) to cheer me up. My posts have also probably been fairly reflective of my moods - both up and down. I have found I really enjoy the writing process, and I think I'm better at it than I thought I would be, so again it has provided another element of distraction, particularly this week as some medical treatment at the weekend has meant I've been less inclined to physical sewing.

I'm sorry for such a downer of a post, I am OK physically and will be OK emotionally. I really pondered about actually publishing this post due to the private nature and because it feels quite self-indulgent and "pity me", which is not my intention. But I guess I wanted to share and explore another level of what a hobby like sewing can offer. I'm also aware I will probably reference my current mood when I finally post my Mad Men dress, so I guess I may as well explain it, as best as I can, now.

N.B. I'm not usually one for "here's my week on instagram", but I don't like posts without pictures and these are the other things that have been cheering me up this week!


  1. I've found this a very touching and moving post to read, so I'm glad you were brave enough to write something a bit more personal. I'm so sorry to hear that you've had a hard couple of weeks, but am glad to hear that the experience of writing about it and sewing has helped you and given you a sense of direction without being overwhelming. I look forward to seeing your mad men dress even with it's little 'flaws'. It will always be special to you, and you might love it more in spite of it not being perfect. I love my stress dress for the same reason :)

  2. Your post makes a lot of sense to many of us who may at times have struggles of our own. Thanks for sharing, so thought provoking. Am so glad you found positive ways to get you through your two weeks. Making and creating can be like a boat on a calm-ish sea. Your mind, emotions and thoughts ebb and flow like the waves, but you are doing something, staying still in a boat of creativity, as the thoughts come and then go, you are occupied and above the waters. The thoughts are still there but you are a bit too busy to think on them for long.

  3. Sorry you have had a tough couple of weeks. I often wonder how people without hobbies cope with life, both myself and my husband use various hobbies as stress relief.

    Look forward to seeing your mad men dress :)


  4. Helen, this post isn't self indulgent at all! I can really relate to everything you're saying about sewing being cathartic. It's nice to be able to completely focus on the more complicated parts or just 'zen out' while sewing a basic straight seam. I get antsy when I haven't had a chance to sew for awhile. I wish you the very best with what you're going through. The sewing community is a pretty supportive bunch so you can be sure we're rooting for you!

  5. I'm so sorry to hear you've been doing it hard lately, but very glad you've had the chance to take some time for yourself. Thank you for sharing; I think it's really courageous of you (and echo Shar in that it's not self-indulgent at all). It's wonderful that sewing and writing can both be such positive outlets for you. (And I love the way you write, by the way...)
    Looking forward to seeing the Mad Men dress - and I'm sure any "flaws" will only be noticeable to you! oxo

  6. Thank you all so much for your kind comments. Your support means so much to me and your words nearly made me cry (all over again)! Isn't it strange that you can gain so much from people you've never even met? Thank you!


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