My sewing story is a long one so I won’t tell it all at once. I’ll share the more recent phase with you, which followed a number of ups and downs in my creative journey since childhood. If you want to skip to the end for my recent makes, that’s fine!
My first daughter’s arrival turned everything upside down. I wasn’t prepared – and in hindsight nothing could have prepared me – for the physical and emotional impact of a traumatic birth. I had a healthy baby (after a worrying first 24 hours) but struggled daily with my emotional state for almost two years. The darkest time was after miscarrying our second baby, nine years ago, when I realised how much I was still struggling with anger, bitterness and grief. My creativity almost dried up and nothing seemed to break the cycle of sorrow and anger. Breastfeeding was the one thing that gave me confidence and led me to train to support other families.
Finally I was able to let go, accessed some counselling in a setting where childcare was available, and then found I was pregnant again. The fear was less this time as I had good support, but creativity was limited to decorating the house we bought at the end of 2009 (our first).
When I was 34 weeks pregnant, my husband found a lump and was diagnosed with testicular cancer within a week. We were fortunate that the prognosis was good, but he launched into a brutal 3 months of chemotherapy just days before our second daughter was born. Again, the support of friends, family and church saw us through the whirlwind of a tricky birth, a grumpy baby and endless hospital visits.
In all this time, creativity was limited to some drawing and painting with our elder daughter. I sold my overlocker as I hadn’t used it for so long and my sewing machine gathered dust on a shelf. I gave away boxes of fabric and patterns.
About eighteen months later, a friend gave me a Clothkits dress kit and this awoke my creativity again. It took me a whole day to sew a simple toddler dress but it worked and I loved it. Soon I was sewing upcycled dressing up clothes for my girls, then I learned to crochet and eventually I started sewing for myself again. Now most of my wardrobe is handmade!
What really matters to me from all of this is rebuilding my confidence. I felt disappointed in myself and let down by a body that had always been strong and effective. I used to row and to run, but I felt I’d lost all my strength, emotionally and physically. Sewing has helped me to find my strength again, to see what I can achieve, and has linked me up with some wonderful friends who understand so much of this because they have faced challenges of their own and found solace in creativity. It gives me time and space to think, to pray, to count my blessings and simply to have fun.
The #SMYLY2018 (Sewing Makes You Love Yourself) challenge is such a powerful way to weave the threads of our personal stories into one powerful, epic story of overcoming sorrow and disappointment, of finding light in dark places and of building community. Thank you to Athina, Lisa and Hattie for drawing us together in this way.
So, to my chosen outfit. We were challenged to sew something that makes us feel beautiful. I’ve chosen activewear, which makes me feel both vulnerable and powerful. I walk several miles most days and drag myself out to a Pilates class once a week. Running is often on my mind but happens rarely!
The top #106 is from Burda Style 01/2018, and is made in a soft jersey from The Shuttle (of unknown fibre content). Constructing it was a fearsome challenge but gave me a huge sense of satisfaction. It is also my January choice for the Burda Challenge 2018.
The leggings, top and space print Lycra are from the Kickstarter version of the Action Pack by My Handmade Wardrobe Patterns ; the navy jersey is from B&M and the power mesh front lining (my addition) and elastic in the top are from Samuel Taylor.
I used to want to hide, but not any more. I wobble sometimes but can stand up again knowing that I’m loved and that I don’t need to be perfect. It’s all about grace.