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. 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. 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??” 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. 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). 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. 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.