why I sew on KCW

what makes me sew: laura

Evolution of a home sewist

Why do I sew?  Well, I can tell you all the obvious (and true) reasons (I’m guessing some of you can relate):

  • an innate desire to create;
  • an opportunity to carve out some time for myself in this world filled with the demands of little people;
  • the feeling of satisfaction I get by engaging both the creative and technical sides of my brain;
  • the personal challenge of pushing myself and learning new things (often through failure/trial and error);

…but for this post I want to delve a little deeper.

To uncover this motivation let’s first go down a very well-trodden route for us home sewists.  We’re starting a new project.  We have the pattern and and fabric and we want to get started.  As we are all too aware, there are now lots of steps involved – if it’s a PDF pattern we’ve got to print and tile that damn thing, then trace the size, then cut the fabric, then mark the fabric, then the actual sewing process can commence.  What is it that makes this whole (often tedious and definitely time-consuming) process worthwhile?  Why do we keep at it?  Have you ever tried to explain to a non-sewist the steps you go through, in detail, to create something?  I usually lose them at “then I print off 36 pages of pattern pieces and try to accurately tape them all together.”  But for us sewists we stick at it.  We keep going.  And, not only that, we actually enjoy it (does anyone else get butterflies in their stomach before starting a new project?!).  But, why do we do it?

After much soul-searching about my true motivation for sewing, I’ve come to the surprising conclusion that it’s all about CONTROL.  By making clothes for ourselves or our children we are taking control of a process, of a finished garment, and, to a larger extent, of the fashion industry.

Let me explain. I’m guessing the vast majority of us (myself included) started out by buying ready-to-wear clothes off the shelves and racks of well-known shops.  At some point we made a decision to try to make something ourselves – usually by following patterns or online tutorials.  Over time, as our skills and experience grew, we started to change and adapt these patterns until we could actually design our own clothes.  Each of these steps gives us more control of what we or our kids wear.

I say this is a surprising conclusion (I don’t consider myself a control freak in other aspects of my life) but, then again, maybe it’s not that surprising at all when I consider my motivation for other interests.

COOKING.  I, like all of us, started by eating food someone else has prepared, then I decided to cook for myself so I followed recipes.  Over time I would change and adapt these recipes until, in the end, I was creating my own dishes from scratch.  Again, you can see this theme of control; in this case control of what I eat, where the ingredients come from and exactly how it’s all prepared.

As another example, let’s look at PHOTOGRAPHY (bear in mind I am NO photographer but my interest is growing and so is that desire for control).  We start by taking pictures on Auto mode and hope for the best, as we learn we start playing with settings, light, aperture, and shutter speed to get a desired result.  Before we know it we’re taking photos in full RAW mode and doing lots of post-editing to boot.  Do you see a trend?  Yup, more control.

Everyone’s passions and interests will be different but I dare say that this sense of control over the subject is a common thread.

I could stop here.  I am motivated to sew in order to have control over the clothes I and my kids wear.  But, as we’re delving, why don’t we look at what this control actually means?  By looking at the evolution of me as a home sewist, I can now answer the question “what is my sewing motivation?”, but the answer also has some unexpected and yet entirely desirable consequences/effects.  These can be summed up as:

  • Independence from mainstream clothing consumerism.
  • Increased clothing self-sufficiency.
  • Supporting and advocating sustainable fashion…and, sustainability in the textile sector in general.

Each of these effects sits easy on my conscience and makes me feel that, in a very small way, I’m making a difference.  I’m not here to preach and say that everyone should adopt this path (let’s face it, if I didn’t love sewing I wouldn’t be doing it no matter how lofty the ideals or goals), but these three issues are ones that have been playing on my mind for a while now and ones that I hope to explore in greater depth on my blog in the coming months.  (In particular, I’d like to get more involved with initiatives such as Fashion Revolution Day due to take place on 24 April).


To conclude, I am thankful to Meg for setting me the challenge of writing this post.  These self-reflective ones are always the hardest and most time-consuming!  But in the end I have learned two very important things about why I sew which, in turn, will effect how I sew in the future:

  1. My core motivation for sewing is a desire for control.
  2. That this desire for control is a means to other, greater goals and not just an end in itself.

I know this is post is rather heavy-going so, if you’re here till the end, thank you!  It’s great fun to sew cute clothes but it’s also nice to reflect on these issues now and again. So, what would your sewing journey look like?  Do you agree with this evolution or has your sewing taken an entirely different path?  I really would love to hear from you.  In the meantime, let’s all keep doing what we’re doing – using our creativity to make ourselves and the people around us happy.

Laura x

PS – And if you missed Brienne’s post on the same subject – go check it out – it really strikes a chord. x

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  • Reply Laura February 20, 2014 at 9:01 am

    This is such an interesting post Laura! I had never really thought about making from a control point of view before but it’s so true. I have steadily made my way through all the steps on your “Evolution of a home sewist” diagram, same thing with food and photography. You’ve definitely given me something to think about.

  • Reply Brienne February 20, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Aha! Very clever Laura. The graphics here really appealed to me. And I love the diagram that you used over in your space! 

    Also… you’re totally right about the control, which usually makes me feel bad. But I dig the spin that you put on it. 

  • Reply Jo February 20, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Great post Laura! You’ve really hit the nail on the head, I’ve recently been realising too how it’s more about control over clothes than about the choice of what to wear. Really interesting! Also, totally agree about Brienne’s post. Some excellent reading here from you guys this week 🙂

  • Reply abby @ thingsforboys February 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Wow! I’ve never really thought about it all from this point of view. Turns out we’re all control freaks! Ha! That’s very interesting. I totally agree with trying to move away from mainstream clothing and consumerism. It’s so ingrained that it’s hard to do. But I feel so much better for it when I’m able!

  • Reply Renee February 20, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    I love your take on this Laura! I haven’t hit on my motivations entirely yet, but I’ve noticed a big change in my consumerism as a result of my sewing. My hubby usually goes overseas once or twice a year for work and I usually put in an order (clothes are much cheaper in the UK and the US than here in oz). This year I ordered nothing – I’m not interested in buying clothes anymore, I just want to make them and I love it!!

  • Reply Victoria As-it-seams February 22, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Laura, you’ve expressed exactly what I feel! I love being absorbed in the technical/creative process of sewing, because it’s such a contrast from the day-to-day tasks of caring for little people. And I love the feeling I get when I put something new on Missy that I made! But yes I also love that I now walk into a shop, or flick through a catalogue, (Boden for instance!) and think, nah…not buying ANYTHING. I can make something better, more interesting and enjoy the process. AND know that it hasn’t been made by a child in Sri Lanka! (Not sure though that I completely agree with you on control – sometimes I feel that my sewing could get out of control!)

  • Reply Sabrina B. February 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I’m a control freak, I’ll totally admit to that!  

  • Reply Home February 23, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    I love your take on this Laura!

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