Sewing Real Talk: Can Sewing Improve Your Mental Health?2/08/2017
|A snap from my bedroom|
I don't particularly want to talk about my personal mental health story - it's long and complicated. However, sewing has a huge place in my quest for positive mental health and I want to tell you how it's impacted my life since I started selfish sewing & blogging in April 2016.
You may already know, I'm self employed and with that comes it's own struggles. I started planning my business fresh out of university in 2013, launching properly around Summer 2014 whilst working full time and eventually deciding to become self employed at the end of 2015, with business really taking off in the past year.
But rewind a little and every day of the week I was isolated, sewing non stop, not creating or developing, just working like a robot. Along with other personal struggles, this kind of lifestyle is not sustainable and come early 2016 I was burnt out, unmotivated and feeling like I was going nowhere and honestly, pretty much hating sewing.
I started The Crafty Pinup last April, something that I'd be thinking about for a long time but finally started. I've always had a bit of an entrepreneurial mindset and even though it was a hobbyist's blog I wanted to take it seriously and run it with love and care, creating my own sewing space on the internet to share my sewing story with like minded people. The online sewing community was a breath of fresh air and became an endless source of inspiration and encouragement.
I started planning my makes and designing outfits, creating social media profiles to make sewing buddies and designed my blog, with my boyfriend creating me a beautiful header. At first I felt guilty for spending time on something which wasn't making me money and it felt frivolous as a 25 year old woman with a new business setting up a sewing blog. But the days I was spending sewing my own clothes or creating things that weren't lingerie related, those became the days I enjoyed the most. I noticed I was happier, spending my weekends with my boyfriend dressing up for sewing photo shoots and spending my time constantly creating something new and learning & developing my skills as a seamstress.
Whilst I love dress making, my business My Retro Closet are where my priorities lie. With the improvement in my mood and productivity due to a day away from the business, I was able to come back to it with a fresh look. I didn't feel drained day after day sewing babydolls trying to make a living. Instead I felt inspired, designed a new collection, saved for my first professional photoshoot, built a new website and gave it the kick up the butt it needed.
Eventually I scheduled two days a week for The Crafty Pinup, which is pretty much where I'm at now. But I know my moods and my limits and can predict my productivity (something I'll be blogging about another time). On weeks where I work on My Retro Closet 7am - 8pm for 4 days straight, I'll then sew for myself for 2 and have a half a day off. This for me is balance and keeps me sane. Knowing what selfish projects I have lined up always spurs me on.
Within the (almost) year I've had this blog, I now have a beautiful dedicated sewing room for myself and my business, a separate office space for computer work and a varied & creative schedule.
Whilst I received a lot of questions in my Instgram post, I wanted to answer the ones directly relating to mental health in this post. Here they are:
- I'd love to know how you find the motivation/energy to sew when life just isn't great...
Sometimes I don't. When I've reached my limits, I'll accept that I just need a day to do nothing and recharge. But on the other hand people have paid me for a service and I have to deliver whether I want to or not. Again, it's all about balance. If I don't want to sew, I'll cut out garments or reorganise my workspace ready for a fresh day. Having everything tidy and laid out always has me feeling ready to sew again.
- Is being self employed is the right choice for you?
For me yes. But it's not for everyone. People have expectations of self employment of sleeping in, working in pjs and doing whatever you want, when you want. My life isn't like that (well, except for the pjs). I work harder and longer than I ever did in a 9 - 5 job or at university. But it suits me mentally and works with my family. I feel lucky every day I remain self employed and I hope it continues.
- Does sewing becomes more of a burden than a pleasure when you do it for a living and might be under pressure to deliver?
Yes. Which is what lead me to create The Crafty Pinup. This bit of the internet is for me and any expectations I put on it are my own. My business is my dream and makes me a living. I have standards I need to meet, but I'm sewing my own designs, my own way for my amazing customers. Plus being surrounded by ruffles at my desk always puts a smile on my face. Like any job, there's pressure, but how you deal with it is what matters.
- How do you make sure that sewing becomes an act of self care instead of stressing yourself out because you want to learn everything at once/make everything perfect?
This sewing blog is my self care and none of my makes on here are perfect. Since I broke a sewing machine so badly at school it was written off and my mum had to finish my project, it's been an ongoing joke between us that I am the laziest dressmaker ever. Setting out knowing that all my personal makes are a learning curve, keeps me from becoming too frustrated if things don't work out perfectly. I find hammering poppers and jeans buttons particularly therapeutic!
Thank you to everyone who asked questions. I'll be answering more in my upcoming posts.
Here are some of my tips for sewing for mental health...
- A goal - having a sewing project on the go means you have something ongoing. Even a little bit every day is an accomplishment. If you're new to sewing - start small! You can never have enough cushions or pillow cases in my opinion!
- Learning new techniques - sewing and crafts is a endless learning curve, however big or small there are projects to suit everyone. From cross stitch & embroidery to dress making & quilting.
- Accomplishment - no matter what you're making, at least you are making. You're creating something with your own hands and nothing beats that feeling of pride in yourself! (The first dress I made practically fell apart in a week but I wore it all Summer!)
- Create a sewing space - Creating my own sewing space had a huge impact on my productivity. Whether you're lucky enough to have a whole room or just a cosy corner in the living room, that space is yours, and yours alone.
- You time - I still feel guilty for not working on customer orders when I'm sewing for myself. But I know it's necessary for me to maintain balance. Taking time for yourself to do something you find joy in is important.
- Mindfulness - I wasn't sure whether to include this one as personally I find it a bit patronising, but taking the time to focus solely on one thing undoubtedly makes you appreciate the moment (unless you're unpicking!).
Personally, sewing has improved my mental health and my whole lifestyle with knock on effects in the rest of my life. I couldn't imagine living my routine the way it was a year ago.
I hope you've found my first 'Sewing Real Talk' post interesting and I hope that it even might help someone out there who is struggling. Being creative shouldn't be underestimated in the role it plays in positive mental health. From the stories people shared with me on social media, I know I'm not alone in knowing the improvements it's made to my own life.
If you have a story you would like to share about sewing and mental health, please feel free to share in the comments below. You won't be alone in your story.
Thanks for reading, pinups.
For more information and help concerning mental health, please visit www.mind.org.uk