Sewing our own clothes is, of course, awesome. But sometimes it is also lonely. It can be frustrating. It can be expensive. We can get stuck in a rut. We can get distracted and sew ourselves a pair of velvet dungarees when we were supposed to be making pyjamas. OMG, suddenly I NEED a pair of velvet dungarees. See?
Sewing in groups is good for our mental wellbeing, and here are the benefits I think these sewcial groups give us.
1 Feeling part of a wider community
Doh, social! Or, sewcial, because the sewing community loves a pun. Feeling part of a wider community is a human need.
This sewing tribe will also remind you that you are amazing because you can sew, you have an important skill and yes – status among other humans (another human need, hurrah). Sewing as part of a group gives us our tribe, we belong here, among the folk who also care about french seams and fine fabrics.
I started sewing at the end of a 7-year stint of ME, in which I had been largely housebound, jobless, with no social life. Thank goodness I had my family, but I felt incredibly lonely and socially anxious. A sewing shop had recently opened nearby, and I used to pop in and just chat about sewing to the kind friendly woman who ran it. Having something to talk about that wasn’t related to my health or worries was BLISS.
2 A safe and happy place
Our sympathetic nervous systems are very very old systems. They were designed to keep us safe from sabre toothed tigers. So the limbic system doesn’t know that you are ruminating over the things in your life you have no control over. Our limbic system simply detects a threat and rushes in to help by priming us for fight, flight or freeze. This speeds up breathing, shuts down digestion, shuts down our ability to think rationally. And we have forgotten how to shake off the excess stress hormones so if we keep being triggered in this way we end up like jumpy little rabbits.
Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully – is therefore essential. A place to go that feels safe and happy and calms us down. A sewing space at home can be this, if you are lucky enough to have a permanent sewing area. A sewing group offers a place purely created for the joy of sewing. Nirvana!
3 Spreading the cost of sewing
Sewing groups bring you together with other sewists who can share resources with you.
- You can borrow patterns and trace off your size.
- You can swap patterns and fabrics.
- You can give each other ideas for using up scraps and remnants of fabric.
- You can give each other things you’ve made that turned out a bonkers size.
- Or things you’ve made before you realised that mustard yellow is not your friend.
You do have to pay to be part of a sewing group, but usually they are very affordable because you’re paying for the space, the equipment and someone who is there to support you. They are not lessons or a classroom, so you’re not paying for tuition. And you’re spreading the cost with your sewing friends in the group.
4 A good old giggle
Sewing in a group isn’t all about the sewing. Oh no. There is cake for a start. And tea. And giggling. It can get quite bawdy (evening sewing sessions with a glass of prosecco can result in a lot of filthy cackling).
Unpicking a collar for the 3rd time is never fun. Or is it? Suddenly you see that it is normal, as the quick unpick is the most used tool in the sewing group. Unpicking doesn’t require much attention so you can chat and unpick. And the absurdity of making the same mistake that many times suddenly becomes funny.
5 Help with the tricky bits
Good dressmaking requires more than one person. At the group there will be someone there to measure you. Pin your hem. Help you get the fit right. Someone who can show you how to insert an invisible zip.
And not just help with the tricky bits of sewing. The tricky bits of life are sometimes discussed between the sewing machines. Recently I was at a sewing group and 2 of its members were talking about their kids. Really difficult experiences: adoption, special needs, feeling different to the other parents at school. The sewing reduced the intensity and the talk was brutally honest, and incredibly supportive. I felt moved and happy that these people had a place of respite, and had found common ground in each other.
6 Ring-fencing your sewing time
Often the time we set aside for sewing is hijacked by household chores. I often find myself doing our laundry which is good for our personal hygiene but bad for my sewing. The sewing group is two hours of dedicated sewing time. Even with the chatting and the giggling and the cake-eating, its surprising how much good progress I make on my projects.
Busy people who feel they have no time to sew at home can suddenly find themselves making a garment over the course of 3 or 4 sessions. This is also a good antidote to any tendency to rush, or to have maximum productivity. Its an opportunity for mindful, slow sewing.
Paradoxically, when we sew slowly, we often get more done anyway because we make fewer mistakes and are more focussed.
7 Supporting a local business
The people running the sewcial are probably very passionate about both sewing, and helping people. They are unlikely to be making much money at all for themselves, and are dependent on people turning up each week. The sewing group may take place in a small space in the community, which is being helped by the rent paid each week for the space.
By being a part of this group you are contributing to a positive part of the community. I hope you have a sewing group near you, if not, set one up!