Does Sewing Teach Self Knowledge?

LaceI’ve enrolled in another sewing class! I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. To have the mental and physical energy for three hours of midweek learning is a breakthrough.

As I attended my first class, I stood amongst a small group of fellow students and a brilliantly expert teacher. Whilst cutting out fabric, we compared notes on pets, The Great British Sewing Bee, wedding dresses and online fabric shops. I could talk or not as the mood suited me, make eye contact or choose to peer at my fabric. No judgement here.

After five years of sewing, I finally realised why sewing classes work so well for me. They suit my personality. The truth is, I’m an introvert who loves to be sociable. I can have intense periods of chat, chat, chat … and then almost as quickly I need deep quiet and solitude. Sewing classes give me both. No one ever judged a sewing student for going quiet, and concentrating on a seam line. It’s just sewing! And once that seam is cut, you can go back to comparing notes on footwear. (Heels or trainers?)

Sewing has helped me discover self knowledge and it’s helped me manage my personality – powerful tools to carry forwards in all walks of life. If, like me, you’re an introvert in a world that often demands extrovert skills, you might enjoy this book that I’ve been reading and nodding along to. It’s true what they say, it’s the quiet ones you should watch. (Want to watch me make this dress?)

Have you discovered self knowledge through sewing? And are you an introvert or an extrovert – or both!

pattern piece

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49 Responses to Does Sewing Teach Self Knowledge?

  1. lauriesannie says:

    An introvert who loves to be sociable. I get it. That’s why I like blogs and twitter.

  2. Amie M says:

    I used to be a major extrovert, but now that I’m in my adulthood, I am an introvert. I like my me time, and recharge better by being alone and focussing on my hobbies and family. But I still love to hang out in groups, have great conversations and be a part of a crowd.

    • Yes, I’m with you on all of that. It’s empowering to recognise the moments when you need to just peel off for ten minutes of quiet time to recharge – and make no apologies for that. I mean, really, who cares? And then you can go back and be all friendly again, in a happy way!

  3. rillafree says:

    I’m fairly sure you just described a large majority of the online sewing community here! Don’t we all love joining in the online conversation, but turn to jelly at the thought of actually making ‘real life’ chit chat?

  4. Introvert all the way 🙂 I used to be really confused by it, until I discovered what it was. Now I know what I need 🙂

  5. Roni Arbel says:

    Maybe we need new terms to define personalities in a world that is dominated by social media. When it comes to the internet I’m a complete introvert – I don’t use FB that much, and usually don’t like sharing pictures of myself and things I make. This is a true obstacle, as it limits my ability to interact with other seamstresses and develop my skills; all of my sewing education comes from the internet – I know no other sewers in real life (yep sewing in Israel is underdeveloped).
    I prefer real life interactions, and if I had the chance I would have liked to hang out with a bunch of sewers and be social 🙂

  6. Jenny says:

    I used to go to a knit night and feel like I’d been really sociable just by making the effort to be there but realise after that I’d hardly said a word! Hardly co tributing to the group… But the realisation that you’re and i tovert and that it’s ok to be that way is a huge relief. All my best friends are super-chatty – works well.

  7. Amy says:

    I’m a total introvert and get “social hangovers” if I’ve been around people too much and yet I’m a teacher! Even us introverts need social interactions too. I’ve discovered a lot of confidence in myself from learning to sew too and new friends! Sewing rocks 🙂

  8. Philippa says:

    I thought for years I was an extrovert. Then I went on a course to train to be a counsellor and discovered I had all the characteristics of the classic introvert – but am described by everyone as bubbly! I think I just make a huge effort in company then need to go off and read/cook/sew/walk the dog for a time. Strangely, this sounds similar to you. I thought I was the only one!!

    • twotoast says:

      Good grief! I was about to write the exact same! I’ve always thought I was outgoing, cheery, positive, I train investigators at work. Enjoy blogging, was party central in my younger days, I really thought that I enjoyed being who I was etc., etc., and then I had to do one of those Myers Briggs tests at work, and my results were INTJ – introverted. I was stunned, as were friends and colleagues. When I researched it further, the results were actually quite accurate and made a lot of sense. Now I wouldn’t say that I’m a psychopath, but it turns out that I often hide my true emotions and put on a facade to fit into society – who knew? I thought it was normal! So there you have it 🙂

  9. jbkstudios says:

    Yes, ‘Quiet’ is a fabulous explanation of the uniqueness of both introverts and extroverts and how they can best function together…with understanding of each other. I am a natural through-and-through introvert but have had to learn extrovert skills to function in the business world. Now that I am retired, though, I am reverting more and more to my natural style and finally appreciating and enjoying, as well as understanding, who I am!

  10. MichaelC says:

    Thanks for the recommendation of the book. I ordered it right away. Can’t wait to read it.
    Love your blog

  11. lisa g says:

    Most definitely an introvert here! While I certainly enjoy being sociable, it is absolutely draining. I need to pick up that book you mentioned… have heard good things about it.

  12. Ditto! I’m an introvert who loves to socialize! I can talk to people, usually in a smaller setting, and then I need a break. I love sewing classes for that reason alone; I get to socialize. I am off to buy that book so I can read it! 🙂

  13. Elle says:

    Another sociable introvert here. The book that was a eye-opener for me was The Introvert Advantage. I think the title is silly, but the book was terrifically enlightening. I wish it had been available when I was much younger. I think I would have been more understanding and less critical of myself.

  14. Marie Noelle says:

    Karen you are right sewing has helped me to better know who I and accept it. I am very introvert and I know several sewers who are too. I think it helps.

  15. Jillian says:

    I’m an introverted extrovert. I am very sociable but only after carefully gauging the room and finding “my place” and then after I have to retreat for a while and recoup. I definitely think sewing can deepen self understanding and knowledge. I find out something new about myself every time I sew 😊

  16. My classes promoted so much self reflection it kept me awake at night! I also did the lace dress class but it was during the coat making class that my inner demons emerged. I was a nightmare student (even worse as I am a teacher myself) but once I finally realised why I improved. Have you got the wonderfully patient Julie? Good luck with your class – I am a workshop junkie too!

  17. Rachel says:

    Thanks for recommending the book – I am always after looking for more titles to read and this one sounds right up my alley. My introversion makes me wonder what the point of (my) blogging is – but then I love other people’s blogs…. Go figure!

    I know we’re not supposed to be jealous, but I am – I can’t find any sewing classes at a good level where I live but I’d love to go on one. Enjoy yourself wholeheartedly, whether talking or not. :-p

  18. Nathalie says:

    I’m mostly and introvert. I do think that the majority of the people that like a very solitary hobby like sewing are introverts. Sewing has taught me that even through I’m extremely impatient I can focus on something for a very long time. (As long as I don’t make too many mistakes, when I have to redo things over and over that is when the impatience kicks in.)

  19. What amazing things you think about. Hmm. In the true sense of the two words, where an extrovert is someone whose reality is consolidated by external inputs and an introvert seeks mostly their own counsel,(as opposed to the gregarious to shy continuum) I am definitely an extrovert, but I slide along the sociable/solitude continuum all the time.
    As for sewing teaching me anything about myself, I started so young I have nothing to compare it with. But tomorrow I am teaching a mad skillz class where the students will be making samples of techniques to take away instead of a garment (a much quicker way to pack learnings in for advanced learners) I know that that 40 years of practice and understanding a discipline is a rock to me – who was once described by a well meaning teacher as a Jack of all trades and a master of nine. Which I took far too much to heart. So yes, it is my self expression, my solace, my triumph, my comfort and my edge. 🙂

  20. Victoria says:

    It’s so funny. I’ve only been reading your blog a little while and I was surprised to read you were taking a sewing class.. I thought, “but you know everything already!”

    Made me feel less of dunce that I’m having a go at patterns and not getting it right first time, so thanks for the reminder that we’re all learning.

  21. That red lace fabric is lovely. I am really looking forward to seeing what you make with that. I am quite introverted but talk too much when I am nervous. Sewing allows me some time to clear my thoughts and concentrate, in silence, on just one thing, probably like creative meditation. Hope your new class is good. There aren’t really any up here so are going to run one soon.:)

  22. Kerry says:

    Definitely an introvert here too! I did the Myers Briggs test a few years ago (you can do it online for free and it only takes a couple of minutes) and turned out I was ISFJ, with the ‘I’ being introvert. Doing that helped identify other personality characteristics that I knew I had, and I think gave me a better understanding of my personality. Also, a validation that being an introvert is not worse than an extrovert (which I’d always kind of felt it was), but just different.

    • Victoria says:

      I’ve just done Myers Briggs through work and was interested to learn that introvert and extrovert doesn’t just mean bubbly & outgoing vs quiet & being alone. It’s more about whether you like/need to think things through for yourself (introvert), or discuss options and talk them through with people before making decisions (extrovert). I consider myself more introvert than extrovert, but came out extrovert on Myers Briggs because I don’t usually make a decision in my own head and go do it, I like to voice what I’m thinking and talk it through with someone before taking action. Our coach at work made the same point as Kerry, that neither one is better or worse, just different ways you feel comfortable problem solving.

      • I absolutely agree on the Myers Briggs point. If you haven’t already, have a look at Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking in by Susan Cain.

  23. Yes, I think sewing does teach self-knowledge, and I think it also can help you change your habits. For example, I was often rushing through my sewing because I just wanted to get to the end product, and I realized I was placing a lot of emphasis on just getting to a goal in the rest of life, and not really enjoying the journey. Now I try to enjoy each step of the sewing process and not focus so much on the end goal. Same thing with other areas–cooking a new recipe, cleaning the house, etc. Being more present-oriented keeps me happier.

    And similar to you, I’m an introvert who sometimes likes to be sociable. I love to talk with people that I have common interests with, but I need alone-time after. I also really like to perform and would be far less afraid of giving a speech or performing on-stage, than I would to have to chit-chat with strangers.

  24. Hélène says:

    Great book suggestion, thanks! I’ll order the audio version on CD so I can keep on sewing/knitting while “reading”. BTW, I totally feel like an introvert who likes to be sociable – love the expression!

  25. Lorrain says:

    I am an introvert and a deep feeling person, I love sewing and being creative. I live to be inspired and enjoy quiet moments alone to re-charge, but my curiosity prompts me to be sociable especially with women that share my passion, there has to be that chemistry.I`ve always envied bubbly extoverts, but now feel normal to be the way I am.

  26. I was beside myself with excitement when I attended my first sewing class, and was totally in the zone throughout. It was only after I realised that I’d barely spoken. How unusal to be so absorbed in a solitary activity, yet surrounded by lovely strangers to engage with at your will!

  27. I’m quite the introvert, and I think that’s typical for a lot of creative people… Drawing or sewing often means spending a lot of time working alone, which is hell if you hate being alone! I don’t really like learning from classes but that hasn’t really got too much to do with being an introvert (I work in a shop between people all the time and I manage, even though it gets really tiring and overwhelming at times). It’s more about the way I like to learn: I love figuring things out by myself, by doing research and trying (and often failing at first). I’ll look for classes when the thing I want to learn involves equipment I wouldn’t have access to otherwise, but I really see that as a last option. My mother still talks about how I taught myself to read this way: I wanted to know how reading worked, she explained it and got me an alphabet poster and I just copied and studied that until I could read and write.

  28. sewandsnip says:

    Most people would say I’m extrovert, I spend my day talking but as a hairdresser that’s my job! But I really need some time alone & quiet, wether that be out walking the dog or sat sewing, I’m happy in my own company

  29. amcclure2014 says:

    Ditto! I relate to what you say. I also love my classes.

  30. Stina P says:

    I am so far out on the introvert scale… But also rather chatty and social – as long as I can retreat when needed. That’s what I like about internet – I can be both at the same time! (Your red lace dress looks lovely!)

  31. Katie says:

    I found Quiet so incredibly profound and helpful. I think sewing has both helped and hindered my introversion. I can happily go out and talk sewing with you lovely lot for hours. But I’d much rather stay in and sew than see most other people… I suppose classes are a happy medium.

  32. Ann says:

    I am very introverted and up until recently thought I was just “different” or even “odd” as I am unlike most people I know. Then I discovered and read the book “Quiet” that you recommended and at last I feel normal ! ! Maybe normal isn’t the right word but as what I feel about myself is normal for me but now I feel ” non different” and” non odd” Only took me 62 years to feel that way lol.I am also a sewer and have done so since childhood.

  33. Sylvie W says:

    Thanks for the book suggestion – looks intriguing. I think I’m incredibly introverted. The school run for example is agonising! And yet in a former life I used to give seminars to hundreds of people! Very strange. I did do a sewing class though and felt very comfortable.

  34. I’m thinking of taking that lace dress class next time it’s offered in Clapham. Would love to hear more about your experience and see the finished dress.

  35. katemcivor says:

    You are right-on! Sewing is perfect for introverts who like structured sociability. I have also learned a lot about my body, and about accepting my body.

  36. Ann says:

    Oh my gosh, that really resonated with me. I also need down (alone) time to recharge, but I also like being social. I have found I have to keep my mind busy and focused on solving a problem–this is something sewing does for me. If I’m not working on solving a problem, I tend to find problems elsewhere in my life, regardless of whether they are really problems or need to be solved. So I guess sewing keeps me out of my own way. 🙂

  37. KnitNell says:

    Well put – it is the joy of evening classes as well as sketching groups and knitting groups that they enable one to be sociable but are not stressful and one never has to think “oh what are we going to talk about tonight?”

  38. ElenorSeagull says:

    Oh so high on the introvert scale, but sociable and chatty in the right settings. Thoroughly recommend the book to any introvert who hasn’t read the book, or an extrovert who lives with an introvert. You will spend lots of the book saying, “I recognise that.” I didn’t expect to see quite so many people confessing to being introverts; must be just the right kind of hobby for us quiet souls.

  39. Tammy says:

    This is a great book! You would also be considered an extroverted introvert on the Myers-Briggs personality inventory. It sounds like you’re going to enjoy the class.

  40. I am definitely extrovert but I like the solitude of sewing, learning new things, challenges, taking my time, or rushing which ever is required. I just love learning new things and with sewing I can build up knowledge in sewing while contemplating myself – bit heavy – but true. Jo x

  41. It’s so nice to hear someone else say this. I’m exactly the same!

    The same thing applies to social knitting too. To say I’ve made more friends through craft than any other outlet is an understatement.

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