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Sewing with less stress…

I didn’t do a big sewing resolutions post this year. I felt that my resolutions last year really helped guide me last year so much so that I don’t need new general resolutions this year. Sure I want to do specific things like sew a coat and use my stash but I don’t have enough of those things to make a full list.

However I do have one thing I genuinely want to work on this year regarding sewing and I want to know if anyone else has this problem, too…

While a lot of sewists make resolutions to sew more in the coming year I think I’m going in the opposite direction. In the last two years I’ve made a boat load of garments. Not all have been winners but many have and now a majority of my everyday wardrobe is handmade. I don’t do a “Me-Made-May” or a “Self-Stitched-September” – I do a “Self-Stitched-Life!” I feel a big sense of pride that most of my clothes are me-made. I love getting compliments from friends and family in real life and I like showing off my projects on the blog.

But it’s gotten to the point that I feel disappointment in myself if I go out and I’m not wearing a single me-made garment. Or even worse if someone asked me if I made something I’m wearing and I have to say “no.” I feel like I am pressuring myself to sew all my clothes. Maybe this me-made pride is getting a little out of hand? I even feel guilty if I have to go buy clothes in a store because I just don’t have the time to make something or do a lot of fitting. And those damn Gap jeans fit so well, too! I just can’t compete! (Breathe, Dixie, breathe!) This is a legitimate problem, I’m telling you! It’s like, “sewist’s guilt” or something!

This manifests in other ways, too. I am constantly inspired by new styles but heaven forbid I buy a trendy garment from a store like a normal person. I can make that myself, goshdarnit! So then in my quest to make every idea that pops into my brain I get distracted and the projects that take a long time to develop, like designing my own patterns, take a back seat to the quick and dirty “fashion fix”, the instant gratification I can get from sewing with pre-made patterns. Sure, I can crank out several garments a month but my pattern development schedule suffers.

Perhaps giving in and buying the occasional piece will free up some time for me to make more patterns or work on more complex projects?

So this year I resolve to chill out when it comes to buying clothes vs. making them. It is just impossible for me to make all the clothes I ever have an idea for and sometimes there are clothes that I like and would be great in my wardrobe but I just don’t have the desire or excitement to sew them (which is perhaps why I have one button down top that I’ve been working on for months ’cause I’m a little bored with sewing it even though I know I’ll like it when it’s done).

Plus, I already know that I can make jeans or coats or bras or some other difficult item but that doesn’t mean I have to make them. I should sew what I like making! I’m going to try to focus on  enjoying sewing and not feel pressured to fill every corner of my closet with stuff I’ve made.

But I will try to at least buy clothes that are decent quality and buy from designers I admire like what I’ve decided to do since reading Overdressed.

Phew, ok, I’m glad I got that out of my system. It’s going to be a hard resolution to keep – not necessarily buying clothes but not feeling bad about doing so. Does anyone else have this problem or am I just crazy???? I think I’m a little crazy…

Comments (41) for post “Sewing with less stress…”

  • I totally know what you mean about the sewer’s guilt – I find myself feeling the same way a lot. Most of my wardrobe is handmade, sure, but I still thrift and buy lots of vintage. I feel like my outfits get a lot of scrutiny now, so that I feel really guilty if I’m not wearing something handmade. And that’s a really weird thing to feel guilty about, honestly!

    I don’t think you should ever be made to feel bad for buying clothes if you don’t feel like sewing them! Since you’re obviously not in the position where you have to sew something if you want it, it’s ok to say, “Yeah, I’m not going to even bother making that” and just buy it. I feel that way about jeans (idgaf, I just don’t want to make jeans. I will buy them. I even have the pair I want picked out for when I have the $$ saved aha). Some people feel that way about tshirts or bras or work clothes. I’ve made the mistake of turning my pleasure/hobby into a chore that had to be done, and I never want to do that again. It’s just not worth it.

    • yes! i agree, hobbies shouldn’t be a chore and i think sometimes the chore aspect has snuck up on me without me realizing it. no more, i say! and you’ve made tons of trousers but there’s just something different about making trousers vs making jeans. thanks lauren!

  • I’m still a shopaholic and I wear what I make but without the pressure to wear mrore often. I know what you mean you this post and it’s great that you sharing with us.. Loads of people feel guilty at some point.

  • you are so right about “sewers guilt!” it’s easily been over a year since i last bought a piece of clothing for myself. wow, i didn’t even realize that until just now… it’s a ton of unnecessary pressure to feel compelled to be my entire family’s personal seamstress; a balance definitely needs to be had. i enjoy making anything from t-shirts to ball gowns, but sometimes you just have to buy a piece to fill in the gaps. it’s certainly nothing you should feel guilty over!

    • wow, i don’t think i can imagine feeling like i’m a seamstress for three or four other people, i’m impressed. and yes, the balance is something i’m currently searching for and it’s those wardrobe gaps that i just need to buy and get over the “guilt”.

  • You’re definitely not crazy (well maybe just a little :), I get this feeling lots of times. Especially when I meet someone new and the subject of my sewing comes up for the first time. it seems like the first question is always “Did you make what you’re wearing?” And, oh, the shame of saying that “No, I bought this one”. You’re so right, it’s a weird guilt thing and I always feel like I’m disappointing them for some reason. That’s a good resolution to work on I think, that might get added to my non-list for this year.

    • it’s such a unique kind of guilt that i think only creative types like sewists must feel. and i like your ‘non-list’ idea.

      thanks lady! 😉

  • Love this post Dixie! I fell into that trap a year ago on Xmas gifts too — just because I *could* make them all, I somehow felt like I had to. I basically decided not to make any of them this past Xmas, and I can’t tell you how much more enjoyable the holiday was for me. (Even though I did end up making a few. 😉 ) Such a great reminder. Just like Lauren said above — why would we turn this hobby that we LOVE into such a CHORE by putting these rules on ourselves??

  • YES! I agree completely. I feel pressure to always wear clothes that I make. But I still WANT to make the vast majority of my own clothes. But especially if I’m meeting up with friends or family, I feel a huge pressure to wear handmade. Usually, it’s fun, but sometimes it stresses me out. Just because I enjoy sewing my own clothes doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate ready-made too!

  • There is nothing like a sewjo loss than sewing for other people… I nearly totally lost my interest in sewing all together. Now, I just sew for myself and I am in love again!!

    My motivation now is to sew a wardrobe of maternity clothes as in Ireland they are foul in both price and design!!

    bundana x

    • selfish sewing is great 😉 and i admire your ambition to sew maternity clothes! there’s been a bunch of new maternity patterns out lately but i still think it’s an area that’s kind of lacking.

  • Totally get the shame! where I live i’m known as the Sewing teacher so if I go out wearing something I didn’t make I feel so embarrassed if someone asks me if I made it and I have to say no. you’re right though, it shouldn’t become a chore, as Lauren says. We need to all chill out a little bit and stop being such sewing control freaks!

    • in my family i’m known as the seamstress so every time i see a relative they ask if i’ve made what i’m wearing.

      and yes, i need to chill out! 😉


  • Great post! It is hard to see so many sewists who sew everything in their wardrobe and go RTW-free. It’s so admirable, but I realized a few years ago that I don’t have the time to sew everything and I get horribly bored by sewing basics. So, now I just focus on fun and fabulous things that I either couldn’t afford or find in RTW. That way, I love my hobby and stay motivated, and the things I sew have become the real “wow” garments in my wardrobe.

    • i went through a time where sewing basics was fun just for a challenge aspect of ‘what haven’t i sewn but should’? but now i admit i’m bored by it and i just want to sew more fun stuff. maybe i won’t go all out ‘frosting’ and no ‘cake’ but i’ll still make clothes that i can wear everyday but at least something about sewing them will keep my interest.

  • Glad you’re also focusing on enjoying your sewing! And you’re not crazy! I was putting so much pressure on myself and this has helped me remember what my focus should really be.

    I’m also about half way through the book Overdressed. I had already been rethinking my RTW clothing after I started sewing. I started noticing stripes that don’t match up, darts that weren’t in the proper place, flimsy fabric…etc etc.

    Which designers do you admire and like to buy from when you do buy RTW?

    • thank you! you’re right, this year i want to take a step back and re-focus on what i really want to be making.

      i admit, i love built by wendy (which i found through wendy mulin’s patterns but i just like her design style). i have a handful of pieces by her which are in steady rotation in my wardrobe. i also like jen from grainline studio’s hound line and there are a few boutiques in austin that sell local designers clothes but it’s been awhile since i’ve shopped at any place local.

  • This is so true! I always get embarrassed if people ask about my outfit and I haven’t made it. Sometimes I think sewing your own clothes can be a bit of a burden when it comes to buying RTW – I look at things that once upon a time I would have snapped up and loved wearing, but decide not to buy them because “gosh, I could easily make that”…and then regret the fact that I never do! I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head with your post. I’ve taken up this resewlution too and already am much less pressured about the projects I have planned! Good luck with all yours!

    • oh, i totally do that ‘i can make that’ and then rarely do i have the time to go re-create the garment.

      yay for feeling less pressured by projects!

  • I can relate to this as far as the difference between how many times I see something I like and say ‘oh but I could/should make that’ and how many times those items actually get made 🙂

  • dixie, guilt is always a waste of time, no matter what subject you’re trying to apply it to, so let it go. sew what you want to sew, and don’t ever waste your time sewing something you don’t like to sew. so what if you could make it yourself; that’s not the issue! the issue is, you don’t have to make anything you don’t want to, and you don’t owe anyone any explanation, not even yourself. see something you like in a store? if you have the money, buy it! you are an adult! who cares if you can make it? you like it, you can afford it, you get it, it makes you happy, then you have time and energy to sew something else that makes you happy!! a win/win scenario!!

  • So true Dixie you have made so many clothes so just make sure this year you are enjoying yourself and making thing you really want. I make dresses and tops cause they are so expensive here to buy so its kinda like a reward. Although you can get carried away and just want to make as many things as you can. I guess as long as you wear them so you feel like it was worthwhile. Happy sewing this year!! Plus you got your drafting projects which are turning out great so lots of fun things for you to focus on this year!

  • Yes! This is me too! I see a lot of people have signed up for the seamless pledge, but this just doesn’t appeal to me at all. I want sewing to GIVE me options, not limit them! Like you, I’m pretty happy to buy things like jeans, bras etc. if I know they fit me well, are good quality and something I’ll get a lot of wear out of. This is not to say that I wouldn’t mind trying to make them at some point, but I’m not putting myself under any pressure to do so.

    Having said all this, I also feel that once people know that you make your own clothes that there is a lot of expectation to wear me-made everyday. It definitely is strange, the guilt you feel on the days that you don’t wear me made.

  • People will always ask me if I made what my kid is wearing, and I’m like, “What? No! Ew. Sewing for kids is the worst.” And then they think I am horrible, especially when I say, “But I made my underwear! Wanna see it!”

    I love to eat the food that I cook, but I still enjoy eating out when I can (in fact even more, because I don’t have to clean up). Think of it like that. You can love well-made clothes made by others even if you make your own stuff. After all, there are seven days in a week and you need to be dressed on all of them (and you eat three times a day). Plenty of time for both.

  • I am all in for this! Thanks for the adorable button to share on my blog. I will be sure to add it soon. For a few years now I have tried to implement this idea, and in general I do quite well, but when you sew for a living it can be difficult to change gears. Sewing for myself is critical to maintaining joy in my work, exploring new ideas etc. But one must put the pedal to the metal when sewing professionally. I am always trying balance the two. A reminder on the blog will hopefully be helpful and provide a different focus for my posts. Great idea Dixie:)

  • I so agree with you! I’m at a place where I feel totally guilty buying clothes, but, let’s be honest– I’m pretty sure all of our sewing queues are crazy out of control. Just because you can (or even have the desire to) make something doesn’t mean you’ve got the time in your schedule. In many ways sewing has really made getting dressed way more enjoyable for me, since I could sew clothes that I loved and that fit, but it shouldn’t become some sort of ball and chain that you have to heave around because you can’t buy anything.

  • I understand you! I’m known for sewing my clothes, and sometimes I feel super guilty when I have to tell someone that I didn’t make my outfit! And once a year I go through this “I should sew pants” thing, when I know I hate making pants.

    I’m headed out to buy jeans this afternoon, and I felt a twinge of “but I can make those!” before deciding that nope… my time is worth more than that, and I want to sew pretty dresses!

  • Oh I know exactly what you mean! ‘I can make that’ becomes a natural response whenever I see something I like at the shops. But that tends to mean the ‘want to sew’ pile grows and grows…

    I often have to recite a mini-manta of ‘Sewing should be fun, its ok to not be in sewing overdrive all the time! Chill down girl.”

  • What a nice reverse of the usual resolutions. I know how you feel, I always feel bad when I am wearing rtw and someone who knows I sew hasn’t seen me in that outfit so they ask, “oh did you make that one too?” and I have to say no, but I shouldn’tfeel bad! I sew for me 😉 and while I try to buy less rtw I never promised anyone that I wouldn’t.

  • Totally get this! I feel that weird pang of embarrassment too, like I should wear something me-made everyday just in case THE QUESTION comes up and I need to advocate for my hobby! But they don’t really care for the most part, it’s projected from me.

  • I am so glad I came across this today. Last night was the first time I sat down and started to sew something so simple — a Scout Tee and I have just taken my time and fussed with hems, etc. The make before that was a fail. I tried to sit down and make a Cambie dress in 6 hours to make for a party. In wool. Lined. It was ridiculous and of COURSE I failed. I have vowed never to do something like that again. And, I won’t. Taking a month or more off from sewing has been really great for me. I’ve been knitting and actual READING.

  • More wise thoughts, Dixie. It’s so different for each individual–balancing what makes us happy and what we need. Personally, I really appreciate design and notice proportion, color, scale… so I do like investing in things that speak to me there. I can’t be a designer every day, and sometimes I like adding pieces outside my usual aesthetic, pieces that someone else has thought through.

  • what a great post and I find myself at a similar crossroad in my sewing life. For the first time in years, I have relaxed in my output expectations. I think I reached some critical point of, well, accomplishment. Yes, I can use that word. It took so much longer than I expected to understand my fitting adjustments. While I was learning to fit myself, the output was just painfully slow.

    But now, I have enough self-made clothing to just relax! I have enough to wear. whew. And I have good basic patterns for fast projects. My 2013 goal is to keep sewing, but with less pressure on myself.

    I am sure you will have a very productive and satisfying year!

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