Sew. Let's be honest for a minute. My generation is really awesome in that we're passionate about making a living doing things we love. If you've got to deal with the stress of work either way, why not make sure it's something you'll really love most of the time?
However, the downside to this is that it really drains the hobbies out of our lives. When everything that you enjoy has to make you money, you stop doing it simply for the enjoyment. Older generations understood that "work is work, and play is play"; "work hard, play hard"! But my generation, by trying to make our work always feel like play, have instead lost the true benefit of play.
Sewing has been a hobby of mine for at least half my life now, but over the last year or so I was feeling burnt out. Not getting any enjoyment out of sewing, and wondering what was wrong with me. Truthfully, I blame it on three things.
First, fit issues. I'm really particular about how my clothes fit and feel, and for a while I couldn't make anything fit properly; that combined with a body changing due to health issues had me really down-in-the-dumps about doing any personal sewing.
Second, limited range of projects. The majority of what I was sewing was historical items. Yes, I adore historical costuming, but man, sometimes it's really refreshing to make whatever item you want out of whatever fabric you want, without having to worry that a dozen stitch-nazis will pounce on you if you do it wrong and don't have a dissertation's worth of primary sources to prove you right.
Lastly, the fact that sewing is now my business. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy sewing for other people, and I am incredibly humbled and grateful that people are willing to purchase my imperfect creations and wear them in public. But sewing stopped being something I did simply for fun, and became entirely related to output. How much could I get done in how little time, while still making sure every detail was perfect so no customer was unhappy? Yikes. Talk about a kill-joy.
All of a sudden, it clicked in March, while I was listening to a delightful and amazing podcast called Love To Sew. In the first two episodes I listened to, the interviewees talked about how they sew simply because they enjoy the process of sewing. Yes, it's nice to have a finished garment to wear, and yes, it's nice if it fits well and you love it. But in the end, did you enjoy making it? Did you enjoy the way the fabric felt, or the way the collar seemed to magically go together, or the nicely finished details you created? That is why we sew.
Think of it like cooking. There are people who cook simply because they must eat; they are equally as satisfied by sticking frozen chicken-fingers in the oven as they are by following a recipe to cook from scratch. And then there are people who cook because they love the process. Frozen meals are so unsatisfying, because they want to see the colorful veggies on their cutting board as they dice them with a sharp knife, and hear the sizzling while sauteing, and wait patiently for the bread to get just the perfect brown on it. Of course it's great that they get to eat when they're done, but the cooking was equally as great.
And that's what I realized: I don't want to sew just to create things. I want to sew because I enjoy the process of sewing. Since then, I have re-started sewing as a way to relax in the evening, embraced my love of hand sewing, and feel inspired to learn the nitty-gritty of garment fitting so that I can make things I really want to wear. I've been amazed at the ways that skills from historic sewing are just as helpful in modern sewing. And now I want to sew All. The. Things.
All that rambling to say - my Easter dress! This is one of the first creations to come out of my sewing epiphany, and I truly love it. It started out as a wild 1970's outfit that was just a bit too much; the whole tunic and maxi skirt thing - I couldn't bring myself to wear it. But that fabric! Silky, and colorful, and oh so floral!
My original plan was to simply take in the tunic to fit me better, slightly alter the collar, and use the maxi skirt for something else entirely. But the more I thought about it, I realized that first, I didn't really like the shape of the tunic, and second, if I had a dress I was unlikely to ever make another garment out of the same fabric. So, if I had to take the tunic apart anyways to bring it in, why not really change it up?
I started by taking off the collar, sleeves, and zipper. Then, I cut the dress in half at the waistline. I cut two new skirt panels from the maxi skirt, and sewed those in between the two original skirt panels, to end up with a fuller, four-panel skirt. Then, I pleated that new skirt back onto the bodice. I then drastically cut down the neck and re-inserted the zipper (which, holy cow, was actually fun to sew by hand). Last, I was going to entirely change the sleeve shape, but ended up simply shortening them a bit; I really loved that the bell shape helped the dress retain a bit of its 70's vibe.
|The lovely zipper placket.|
I did all of this alteration by hand. It was so enjoyable to spend an evening or a weekend curled up under a fuzzy blanket, listening to podcasts, and feeling my needle slide through the silky fabric.
One of the things I'm post proud of is that I took the time to finish all my inside seams. For most of the seams I folded the allowance in towards itself and whip-stitched the edges, but I also used a pretty green seam binding for the waistline and neckline. The inside of the dress is almost as pretty as the outside!
These finishes mean so much to me because up until recently, I was too impatient to sew that way! I've always been a "good-enough" kind of person, and I'm certainly not a perfectionist now, but I've truly come to appreciate a well-made item that shows the maker spent a little extra time on it to get it just right. I'm so proud of how far I've come in my sewing practice!
This dress definitely taught me that I still have a lot to learn. It fit a lot more comfortably before the sleeves were put back on, and why do I always get a weird little gap at the front of my dress whenever I do an open neckline? But, it's still a garment that fits well and that I love to wear, especially because wearing it reminds me of the joy of making it!
Sew. If you've made it all the way to here, thank you. I hope, if nothing else, this inspires you to go do something you love, simply for the enjoyment of doing it!