Why I (Still) Sew: The Story of a Sewing Evangelist

September is National Sewing Month.  Which sneaks up on me every year, in the same way that Grandparents’ Day sneaks up on me every year, because I wasn’t really looking for it, and because it’s not one of those huge holidays you plan for.  Unlike Grandparents’ Day, though, I want to make a really big deal of National Sewing Month. white-thread-spool But I feel weird doing it.  You know?  I mean, if I wore a National Sewing Month tee shirt and pranced around telling everyone they should sew, it would be…oh, hang on.  It would be a lot like every other day of the year, because I DO think everyone should sew.  EVERYONE.  And I make no secret of that fact.  The world of sewing (especially this shared virtual, online world of sewing) has become increasingly filled with amazing people making beautiful things–but still I think my place is here, calling out the mystery of sewing and spreading the word that it touches you in a way that I can only begin to explain.  I’m not the only one sewing, but there is a good reason why I still sew: because of what it does to my soul. quilted pouch sewing kit It’s becoming a fun party game.  I go to events, usually with my husband or our friends, where virtually NO ONE there sews.  And they ask me what I do all day (very popular question in Atlanta–I once saw a special on PBS about Savannah where a hansom cab driver said, “In Augusta, they ask who your people are; in Atlanta, they ask what you do for a living; and in Savannah, they ask what’s your drink.”  I have found this characterization of our cities to be fairly accurate over the years).  I tell them I sew, and generally get either, “Oh!” or “Ooooooh!”  The first reaction is, “Really?!? People do that??  Huh, something to my right just became EXCEEDINGLY interesting.  How about this weather we’re having?!?”  The second reaction is, “Wow!  Seriously?!?  People still do that??  My mother/grandmother/aunt/neighbor used to sew. You can make money doing that??” Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 10.06.42 PM And universally, I tell them I think EVERYONE should sew.  I think it changes you.  I think it’s therapy.  I think you can’t lie when you’re in front of the machine, because where you are in life and what you’re feeling is going to come out at the needle.  I think we all should have more experience making things with our hands, and appreciating the effort it takes–and the comfort in which we all live compared with 100 years ago (or the other side of the world today).  If you’re not sewing, you’re missing out on a truly accessible means of connecting with yourself, your neighbors, your family, your ancestors, your fellow human beings.  It’s tangible and it cannot be duplicated with any other medium I have experienced. stitchalot decor I didn’t always feel that way about sewing.  It took me some time.  And it took being exposed to it year after year after year.  I think that these small little conversations, in darkened ballrooms over weakly mixed drinks and lukewarm appetizers, make an impact.  I think when I say, “EVERYONE should sew,” it’s a seed that has been planted, and I think it will grow, in one way or another (and probably hardly ever the way I expect, but that is the way of seeds and growth). multipcolored yoyos I sew because I am compelled to create, because I can’t imagine a life where I don’t make something with my hands.  And when I wonder what that life would be like, I realize that I am seeing the world through different eyes: that sewing has changed my worldview and my perceptions, and that I have found a metaphor for nearly every challenge and relationship I have experienced, waiting for me beneath my needle.  Sewing has changed how I think about economy and surplus, how I consider spending and saving, how I parent and wife, how I am a sister and a daughter, how I treat my friends, how I experience success and betrayal.  In a very, very literal way sewing has made me the person I am, because it has shaped my thinking and my seeing and given me a means to make tangible the ideas and beliefs I have.  Sewing reminds me that not by me, but perhaps through me, moments can be made and hearts transformed–it isn’t the answer to anything, but it is a place to begin the search, and to find others who are seeking it, too.whipstitch studio tools And so I continue to do what I do–to teach and design and write about sewing–because I love the world that I see, and I am fulfilled by the relationships that I tend, and I am ennobled by the acts that I can do for the good of others, and I am terribly, terribly grateful for the largesse of the universe that I am so fortunate to hold in my heart.  And I want every other person on this planet, every single one, to feel the joy and the passion and the contentment and the thrill that sewing has given to me–I want their souls to sing, and I think a needle and thread can teach them the notes.

For the next few weeks, during National Sewing Month, let’s all think about why we sew, and how to celebrate the amazing depth and passion that we are able to find in the simplest of actions: putting needle to fabric and drawing it through. sew boldly whipstitch

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  • Shalini
    September 2, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Your passion for sewing is contagious and also so delightful. Doing your classes were the most fun and fabulous times. You are an amazing teacher. I am so glad you do what you do. I have recently been feeling like I am missing something and want to get back to sewing. Most importantly I wanted it to be something that I share with my girls, helping them learn a wonderful skill and allow them an opportunity to have fun and create.. I am inspired to go shopping this weekend for some fabric for my simple cushion covers that will bring so much colour to our sofas.

    Keep dong what you do Deborah. You are an inspiration.

  • terribailey
    September 3, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Lovely story,I too Sew,I can’t imagine a day with out creating something,my field trip yesterday eas to a fabric store,Inspiration by the yard,bolt,ream.
    Happy Sewing Month to you!
    I’ve just joined spoonflower, very exciting!
    Thanks Whip stitch

  • Tiphaine
    September 3, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I hear You Deborah. Your words speak to me in a so strong way. I think I needed to read you because I have been feeling so guilty about my sewing, my needles generally speaking.
    I am a stay home mum.
    For some, I might be just a lazy one, hanging in front of the tv or this screen why husband is out providing and kids at school. But my days are full of dailylife chores, which I really don’t complain about, as it is my part of the “deal”. And in some ways, it is nice to give a clean, welcoming house and whatever thing I might make when everybody comes back. But on the other hand, it is not rewarding as it is “normal”: You don’t get thank you much, you don’t get recognition from anyone, you don’t get a salary, you don’t get a “hey, thanks for taking care of everything” because it is normal…
    So my sewing, embroidery, whatever little work that I do, I realise reading you, does make my heart sing, it makes me happy. And I should stop feeling guilty to love that or to “waste” time doing it. Your words today meant a lot to me.

  • Cortney
    September 6, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Hi! I’ve just come across your blog–via #olw2014–and wow, such thoughtful, meaningful writing! I’m headed in to read older posts, but I so applaud you as a champion for handmade.

    • Deborah
      September 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm

      Oh, thank you so much, Cortney–what a kind thing to say! Welcome, and please stay a while! I hope you find lots to inspire you, and share your thoughts with me after. Woot! 🙂

  • Kelly Hiatt
    September 6, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Deborah – I took your skirt class on Craftsy and I have watched it several times because I love watching your passion and joy for sewing. I was excited to find your blog. Learning to sew teaches you far more than how to attach two pieces of fabric together with thread. Patience, personal style, organization, patience, time management, problem solving, patience, the science of color and fabric, oh – and did I mention patience? I have been sewing since my feet could hit the pedal. My mother told me recently there was more than one time, when I was a kid, that she cringed a little as she let me leave the house in one of my creations. My mother knew that my love for sewing would be squashed if I knew that my projects had maybe not turned out quite so great. She wanted to feed my passion and self confidence in my fledgling yet growing love for sewing. What a gift! I continued onto majoring in Textiles and Clothing in college and when the housework is done you will most likely find me in my sewing room. Tomorrow I will be finishing up my skirt from your class :). Thanks again for sharing your love for the art of sewing. I look forward to following your blog regularly!

  • Jean C.
    September 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Can I just say “Amen” to what you wrote! I was a stay at home mom while raising our kids, and sewed whenever I could take a moment to do so. I’ve made tons of wedding dresses, quilts, mending etc… and always felt a sense of satisfaction that not only was I filling a creative need (for me) I was helping someone to feel beautiful or complete or just doing some needed task that they didn’t have the ability (or felt it beneath them) to do for themselves. I love the “finish” of a prom dress that the neighbor girl was going to wear…. and she loved how it turned out. There is just a feeling of satisfaction when it’s all done. Sometimes it’s just a big “heavy sigh” knowing it looks wonderful on the person and they are pleased.
    Take care, I’m older (not necessarily wiser) and feel the same that everyone should learn to sew, quilt, embroider, or something of the sort to help them put a little “quiet” into their world.
    I’m soon going to start teaching my nieces daughter to sew… nothing like continuing the tradition. I’ve taught and still help my 3 daughters and my son sew.