Sewing & Self Love

Yesterday, I went to The Foundling Museum for lunch with a group of people. They have a wonderful cafe in Bloomsbury that’s well worth knowing about if you don’t fancy a generic menu in a chain restaurant. And after your food, you can poke around the museum for free.

The Foundling Museum is a bit sad, but also uplifting. The Foundling Hospital was established in 1741 as Britain’s first home for abandoned children. They would be treated severely, within the cultural perameters of the time, but the hospital helped establish the concept that society had a duty of care to all its children.

There was an exhibition of children’s school shirts with name tags. The tags carried quotes from contemporary children of cruel things that had been said to them. Yeah, sad – especially with those grubby collars.

But kind of not sad, also. Anything that enables people to express themselves, without fear of retribution or judgement, can only be a good thing.

These shirt tags and their messages reminded me of sewing, which can be a powerful way of making a statement. It strikes me that dressmaking (or knitting or crochet) often empowers people. Those with poor body image or a history of eating disorders, others who simply don’t want to conform to a perceived norm, or even people stuck in a jail cell. Writing something down when you can’t say it out loud, or sitting at a sewing machine instead of in a therapy room are both forms of healing. I think. I think I think – my thoughts are muddled! But making things is one of the best methods of self-love there is. I definitely know that.

What do you reckon?

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29 Responses to Sewing & Self Love

  1. karinottilia says:

    I agree with you. Empower and make you happy! Love your blog btw.
    /Karinottilia Sweden

  2. Yep, I think the same, there’s a real healing and self worth that comes from making. And for some people, I’d go so far as to include blogging in that too.
    Harrowing experience though, and harrowing name tape messages ( I guess that reminded you of all the self stitched by me name tapes us makers commission …)

  3. Definitely – such a horrific part of any kind of bullying or abuse or cruelty is being left to feel incapable of responding or doing anything. Being able to recover a sense of action through making is amazing – totally helps you regain a sense of your own power and creativity!

  4. Dibs says:

    I think you are right. I really feel happy when I am sewing, even though it might not always be a successful project. And Winnie is spot on too, one should definitely add blogging about sewing to it.

  5. Andrea says:

    I’ve always struggled with my weight, and in my teenage years I absolutely loathed my body. Shopping was a traumatic experience and the fitting room always brought on another round of self-hatred. But sewing has helped me get to a better place. I realize now what an absurd idea it is that all the women in the world should be able to fit into a certain size range. Learning to sew has been incredibly empowering. I love the idea that my own hands are making something that I know will fit, and that makes me very happy. 🙂

    • I’m so glad to hear that you’ve overcome that self-hate – it can be so destructive. But I’m sure your experiences have made you a more sympathetic and generous friend to others. Nothing like a bit of self-hate to make you want to spread the love!

  6. I agree … My heath been really bad since 2009 and nothing makes me more positive on the bad days as sitting in a sewing machine… Its incredible the self knowledge you go throughout . Im such an advocate that I managed to get my mom sewing for the 1st , my mother in law back to sewing and even friends to join in ! Sewing is the best therapy one can have!!! xx

  7. Nel says:

    I couldn’t agree more! xxxx

  8. LinB says:

    Do you suppose God was feeling badly about herself when she sat down to create Creation?

  9. Leah says:

    shop sizing is so horrible, at least with sewing there’s nothing saying you need to be these EXACT measurements to be a size…
    I have always preferred sewing clothes to shopping for them, I find it so frustrating seeing the bad designs and fabric combos in high street shops.
    I love sewing because it’s the one thing I can do that no one else interferes with. I’m not one of those people who gets really Zen when sewing, but the finished product makes me really happy and I love blogging about what I’ve made.


  10. I don’t know that I could make it through a museum like that. The emotional impact would be hard to take which just validates why it should be there. I was a mess just going through a beautiful cemetary in New Orleans.

    There was an article in Threads on the 24th about the importance of a sewing room in a shelter, how it provides a skill, builds confidence, etc. I completely agree. We all need talents of some sort to feel good about, sewing is incredibly rewarding in that way. You not only (hopefully) enjoy the process, but the ongoing accomplishment of a finished garment is hard to put a value on. I know wearing something me-made gives me a boost for the day.

    • Thank you so much for the link to that article. I particularly like this quote: ‘When you work with your hands, your voice comes out in what you make.’

      • Reading the two posts close together, it felt like a theme for the week.
        I think your post has brought out several great quotes that would make a great framed picture for a sewing room.

  11. TanitIsis says:

    Wow, that museum… Aiee.

    I come from a crafty family—my mom went through just about every craft in the book, so I got to dabble in just about everything. There’s really something self-affirming about making something, something real and tangible and representative of YOU. What makes me like sewing best (knitting would probably be up there to if I ever gave it a serious shot) is the utility of the finished items. They’re not strictly decorative, they’re things which are useful to me each and every day.

    I like the thought of sewing as therapy, too 😉

  12. Sherry says:

    I’m with TanitIsis – there is something just great about making things!
    I hadn’t thought of it as therapy, but I do remember when I strained my back and could hardly move for three weeks, knitting and needlework kept me sane! I suppose that is where the role of an Occupational Therapist comes in too.

  13. lysy says:

    So glad you liked (well, appreciated is perhaps a better word!) the museum. I did my PhD on it so it’s very close to my heart. Did you see their exhibition on fabrics and tokens left with the children in the C18th last year (it was called Threads of Feeling – it got reviewed on several blogs)? It was also very moving especially for sewist-types as it really showed the emotional bonds between the mothers and their babies.

  14. oonaballoona says:

    well i agree.

    (i’m also feeling a little ass-ish since i laughed out loud at the first picture, wondering where i could get a tag like that, before reading the post.)

    and having those words on display validates their experience too, i’d think… being able to let people know. everyone wants someone to hear them, right?

    as for sewing, the other day i decided to hand stitch all the raw edges of a silk dress. and i mainly chose that route because i knew i was feeling anxious and needed to meditate. i’m not very good at meditating, but i can do a mean blind stitch.

  15. leahfranqui says:

    Oh, I very much find crafting a kind of therapy. It makes me feel so capable and strong and self aware. The more I understand about sewing the more I like things about my body, and the more I feel less inadequate in the face of perfect models and actresses and impossible goals. Sewing makes me feel like I’m unique, rather then flawed, and it makes me feel in control of how I look. I can craft everything about my wardrobe, so I can make it hide the things I find to be flaws and highlight the good.

    It’s exhausting to hate yourself, and it makes me personally feel so small. Using my hands to make things, whether it’s the frantic puzzle of sewing, the smoothing repetition of knitting, or the easy grace of cooking, makes me feel big, in the best possible way. Women spend so much of their lives making themselves smaller, less obtrusive, less of a bother, it’s so nice to do something that makes me feel in control and in focus. When I think of what my hands can do I can’t help but be proud and calm.

  16. MrsC says:

    The women’s prison outside my city, called Arohata (which means something about love as Aroha is love in Maori) is a pretty dire place – women desparate enough to commit crimes are not happy people. Local quilters run a programme there called Shut In Stitchers, where they teach inmates to quilt. I am not a part of it but I do fundraising and donate fabric etc, and the teachers tell so many stories of women who discover themselves, just through making a quilt. They say that it is the first thing they’ve ever made, let alone finished. They were told they were stupid as children, often. Creating a thing of beauty that takes time and patience is such a breakthrough for them. And they can give their made things to their children, who they miss horribly.
    Creativity is essential to what makes us human, what gives us the opportunity to have free choice.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this – how moving.

      • LinB says:

        Oh, and it speaks volumes about the redemption of what we all assumed were throw-away items (as if people could ever be thrown away) into something lovely and worthwhile and seen by the world at large as valuable. “Stupid” is the worst curse word in the whole wide world. Let’s all agree not to call our children it.

  17. I definitely find sewing calming and good for my self-image. I think part of the reason is that it’s so tactile. It gives me a chance to inhabit my hands rather than my head.

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