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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.