The Named Lempi dress and my useless sewing rules.

September came and went without much sewing. Work deadlines kept me far from my machine, and there was more dreaming than creating. It was mid October by the time I had my first finished garment since August: the Named Lempi Dress.

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I’d hoped to sew the Lempi since it was released last year as a part of Named’s Evolution theory, my favorite collection thus far. So, I’d spent many minutes thinking about how I’d want it to look, how I could wear it. Far from an impulse sew, and despite being nothing particularly complicated, this project was long in the making.

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Preparing and constructing this dress encouraged me to reflect on why I sew, what I sew, and how. First, I realized that the beginner’s doubts on the ability to finish a project are no longer of use to me. The sewing mistakes I make tend to bother my perfectionism more than the finished garment. The anxiety that I might not “make it” to the end has faded with each project, and an impatience is leaving my sewing.

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Likewise, my urge to sew everything is leaving too. I’ve often unnecessarily imposed sewing rules on myself. For example, I tried to sew in a list, to force myself to sew primarily what I “need,” like “basics,” jeans, or bras (in this case, unsuccessfully thus far). Of course, I love the t-shirts and jeans I’ve made. The fit well. They have personal details I couldn’t find elsewhere. I wear them every week. But, I’ve also come to resent the need to justify my sewing by encompassing its value in its practicality.

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As I tell myself I should sew one thing over the other, my queue becomes filled with hurdles that distance me from what I actually want to sew. In the past, this provokes my impatience and adds grouchiness. It sets up unrealistic expectations for what I can actually make, in addition to being unrealistic about what I like to wear. Yes, while writing my dissertation I might not wear my nicer dresses in the house, but when I go anywhere, I actually do.

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Yet this doesn’t prevent me from feeling as though I shouldn’t make so many dresses–even though they are among my favorite projects. This was how I felt at the end of the summer. With deadlines looming, and thinking about my fall sewing plans, I told myself that I must sew something other than dresses for a while. Although it was the Lempi dress that was up next.

Despite having dreamed about sewing this particular project for over a year, having the supplies (a cotton sateen from Blackbird Fabrics!), and now in the appropriate season, I believed I needed to begrudgingly sew other things first in order to, I don’t know, “earn” my time creating another dress. Except, when, in late September’s already stressful professional deadline crunch, I experienced an unexpected, and especially trying, personal event, these self-imposed rules did me no good. With little energy left, I needed to somehow recuperate from what happened and this is when I set my rules aside, and started my Lempi dress.

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That this dress came out of pain, sorrow, and grief, reminded me of why I sew. I sew for happiness. I sew for pleasure. I sew for fun, to follow curiosities. What I do not do, is sew because it is practical. It might be for some, but not for me. Sewing actually distracts me, makes me hesitant to be social, it is expensive. Yet, it affords me unique joys and satisfactions.

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For this reason, I am reconsidering how I “use” sewing–do I do this to simply prevent myself from being naked, just for making clothes? Or is it, foremost, a creative, artistic practice? Over time, I’ve come to lean more towards the second perspective. As I embrace sewing creatively, and no longer see this craft as inferior to other artistic quests, like writing or painting, my methods and goals are increasingly flexible. They are also growing more personal, unique, and satisfying.

When I wear my Lempi dress, or when I see it in my closet, I feel like myself, and then I feel better about what happened. While seeming simple, this one project allows me to feel able. In this, it has a value that is no longer linked to how often I wear it because its value is firstly sentimental.

Thanks for reading, friends.

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15 thoughts on “The Named Lempi dress and my useless sewing rules.

  1. THIS.ALL.OF.IT.
    I’m so sorry you’re going through a trying time, Jess. For me, sewing has always been a creative outlet, when things get tough. I agree whole heartedly, that the whole sewing things, you don’t feel like but kind of need, is hard. I’ve made a sewing list and tried to blackmail myself to stick to it, but I, like you decided that I DON’T WANT to sew another basic my wardrobe is lacking… I want to sew things that will make me happy, and if that is another dress, than so be it. Sewing is supposed to make you happy and not add to your stress level. Take it easy honey, your dress is fabulous and so are you!
    xB

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    1. Thank you, Bianca! I remember reading a comment on IG not too long ago where you mentioned how sewing helps you through hardships, as well. It absolutely resonated with me. It can be very freeing to admit that there are quite a few things we might not like to sew.

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  2. I second sleeplessinbavaria, I’m sorry to hear you’re going through a difficult time and am sending love your way. Your dress is beautiful and looks beautiful on you and I hope it is bringing you some happiness and comfort during this hard time. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A great post that had me thinking Jess. I second and third what Bianca said. Sewing is many things, but it shouldnt be something you feel bound by with rules and lists. It should bring balm for the soul. I’m sorry you’ve been having a bad time personally speaking and I hope you see some joy soon.
    Love your fabulous dress!

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  4. This – “That this dress came out of pain, sorrow, and grief, reminded me of why I sew. I sew for happiness. I sew for pleasure. I sew for fun, to follow curiosities. What I do not do, is sew because it is practical” AND THIS “Or is it, foremost, a creative, artistic practice? Over time, I’ve come to lean more towards the second perspective”

    Says it all! I understand how you feel because you’ve encompassed the way I feel about my sewing. I am an artist who creates amazing garments with needle, thread and fabric and many times I’d rather be alone and let my fabric and patterns talk to me about the new objects I can create…also if along the way I can help others on this artistic journey by inspiring them, encouraging them or teaching them in the ways of our artform than I’m fulfilled.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I am glad to see that we’re able to connect with fellow sewists on this point. I think quite a lot of us are hesitant to see sewing as an art practice, and I am sure there are a fair amount of social pressures which prevent us from doing so. The most obvious reason is that people thing clothes are “not serious” but I don’t buy that for a second! Making garments takes skill, practice, patience, and creative thinking, just like any other type of craft!

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  5. Yes, yes, yes! Though I often want to wear simple clothes, I hardly ever want to sew them. I love sewing garments with weird construction details or unusual prints or many pieces that take time and concentration. If I only sewed what I truly wanted to wear when I get up in the morning then I would die of boredom while sewing leggings and oversized tops. I truly believe that sewing isn’t and shouldn’t be a practical pastime.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Catherine! I am glad to have your perspective on the contrast between wanting to wear simple clothes and creating ones that are more extravagant. Noone tells sculptors or painters that they should only paint things people hang in their houses (or that they should justify ever purchase of crafting materials!), so why should our aspirations be any different?!

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  6. Thanks for writing this post, Jess. It’s both intimate and relatable.

    I was listening to the Love To Sew podcast the other day (the episode on perfectionism), and they read a comment by someone (I can’t remember who!) that stated, basically, that sewing is the one activity where she allows herself to take as much time as she wants without arbritrary deadlines. It really hit home for me, because I think this is why I sew too. It’s not to fill my closet with beautiful clothing, though it’s part of it. It’s because I can let myself just be in the moment, creating whatever it is I dream of.
    There’s an atmosphere of pressure even within our supportive community to wear me-made all the time, because it gives you kind of a boasting point. But sewing is about the activity, not the outcome, and I have no desire to replace all my rtw basics with me-made basics. I do have a desire to make the clothes that feel beautiful on my skin and make me feel beautiful when I wear them. I want to make the clothes that fill me with joy when I’m able to say “yes, I made this.”
    So Jess, you make whatever you want to make or wear, whatever brings you joy. I will totally support that!

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    1. I agree that sewing is about the activity, not just the outcome. I’ve even thought about this lately in rushed moments. Since I have many nice handmade garments now, I started asking myself: why the added pressure if its only to get to the next project? Why not enjoy the construction more?–since its obvious, now, that this is what I need more than beautiful clothes! And, plus, since I’ve slowed down in the past few months, first out of work obligations, I’ve noticed that the projects I’ve made are some of my best, the most thought out, well-made, and unique to my tastes. I know now that this is what I want more of!!!

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  7. Hi lovely Jess. I understand what you’ve been through and I am also so sorry to hear about a personal problem 😦 I think that in the end we sew (not talking about businesses here) because we love it and it should stay free and wild and creative and passionate. Hope you can find your sewing path back again. Lots of love.

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