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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When what you are creating is yourself

I was all set to go to bed but I've come back because there is something on my mind.

A well-respected sewer on another blog has been fielding "where do you wear those fancy clothes" questions.

This resonates with me and it brings to my mind a comment Carolyn made here a few days ago about make that silk top and wearing it to the grocery store.

Of course I should and I will.

I used to teach sewing classes sometimes, when my kids were little, in the evenings for a local fabric store. Off I would go in my heels, still leaking milk in those early classes, and do my best.

I was always amazed at my students, the ones who were spending absolute fortunes on expensive fabric, machines, and patterns but who would come to class in tennis shoes, jeans and, I kid you not, husband's T shirts.

You see when you sew you have a chance to not just create your clothes, but in some ways, your life. It is an opportunity to take.

I did that in several ways at various times. I sewed, and thought about clothes, and figured out how to do it better. I learned to look the part when I needed the part.

At one stage, my first husband had exited, and it was not easy. One day my daughter went down to the drugstore and bought a pen. She came home and gave it to me and said "this is for my mother the writer." Well, because she expected it from me, I wrote to Threads and told them what I made, and what I thought was important about sewing. The wonderful Christine Timmons, retired now but a truly great lady, asked me to write some articles for them and I did, quite a few articles eventually.

Then one day the equally amazing David Coffin called and said he wanted to come and visit, and could he stay with me and talk sewing for a few days? Now I was a single mother with a bunch of kids in a little house. I didn't have a "studio". I wasn't an artist. I was, and I am, an ordinary sewer with a very ordinary life. Of course, I had a fit. A complete fit. 

Well, David came and he was wonderful. He explained deep mediation to my then very young sons, who thought he was amazing. He showed them how to drink "greens" from a bottle and talked to me about sewing and his paintings and life. One boy moved into his brother's room and David stayed in a little kids room, surrounded by little kid mess, and acted as if it were perfectly normal, as if my ideas, thought in my own house, in my own head, from things I had observed and taught myself, were as significant as anything that came from any New York atelier. 

I kept sewing after that, worked at increasingly complicated jobs, and as I went, kept making my own clothes.

I don't know quite why I am telling you this, probably the most personal thing I have written here, but I somehow want to share that sometimes people, women, need to and can make who they are. I did.

Sometimes we are called on to reinvent ourselves many times in our life times, and we have a right to do that. We can sew an outside that expresses the inside. Sometimes the world doesn't hand you much respect, and you start by making it, literally, for yourself and by yourself. You should dress as well as you want, sew as much as you want, be who you decide you can and need to be, and be good to yourself.

You can sew a life. 

OK now I am going to bed.


kbenco said...

I don't think there is much ordinairy about you.
I am suddenly inspired to sew some silk, and to wear it.

Debbie Cook said...

Loved this post. Loved it!

RuthieK said...

What a LOVELY story. I shall sew up that silk blouse :D

Shannon said...

Excellent post!

Roobeedoo said...

There is a children's book I read to my daughter with the immortal line "Grace - you can be anyone you want to be". Grace achieves this through "dressing up"... and why should it be any different for us adults?

NuJoi said...

Thank you so much for this.

NancyDaQ said...

Great post; thanks for staying up to write it.

Karin said...

Inspiring stuff! I am one of those mom's spending loads of money on sewing stuff, while wearing old jeans and a tshirt. I am going to give your thoughts on the matter some thought.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Wow! That was an amazing post!

Lisa Laree said...

How have I missed your blog till now??? Great post!!

a little sewing on the side said...

How very right you are! I love the play on words when describing sewing.

I am creating new patterns for myself.

I am creating my own patterns that fit me.

patterns of behavior? patterns for clothing?

Linda T said...

Thanks so much for sharing that story. That reminded me of a story from my working days that a lady shared with me. She had worked with a lady once many years ago that was a single mother without much $$. She had 3 skirts and 2 or 3 blouses that she made and wore in some combination to work - every day of every week for the better part of one year. She made sure the skirt and top of the day was always clean and ironed, and my friend said she was definitely the most "put together person" as far as dress in her office. At the time, that's all she could afford, but was considered the best dressed lady in the office.

Anna R. said...

I've never visited your site before but came here from a mention by the Sewing Fanatic. Just wanted to let you know this post is just what I needed to hear right now today, a little blessing, thank you.

Barbara said...

Thanks Anna, and others who commented. If what I wrote connected then that is a blessing to me.

Marie said...

What a great daughter. Fantastic post.

Melinda said...

I agree with Anna...this post is just what I needed today. I just retired from a job I held for 32 years!! I have moments I feel lost and not sure what is next. Time to reinvent myself! That sounds exciting! I'll be sewing a new life for myself. Thanks for the wonderful post.

Sew Great To Be Me said...

This is my first time reading your blog. I came here via another blog. This is truly what I needed to hear tonight. I'm in a transitioning period of my life. I must reinvent myself and truly I can decide the image I want to project and write the script for the next phase of my life. Thank You SO Much for the GREAT advice.

sewabeginner said...

Beautiful story. Great post. Thank you for sharing it.

Giselle said...

Thank you so much for this wonderfully inspiring post. I feel this strong -need- to sew: I want to make my own clothes and be able to wear something that is completely individual and original, and yet...? I don't even start. It's as if I'm scared of achieving something!?
The idea of reinvention via your very own individual style completely resonates with me. I'm glad that I started quilting again this week, maybe this is my 'in' into sewing?
I have a feeling that once I start then the process of sewing will continue to inspire and motivate me. Fingers crossed!
Thank you again for a great post, it's a great inspiration!