Sewing Self Care Series, Part 1: Amber


     Happy October, friends!  This month (and always, actually, but let’s just focus on this month for now), I want us all to really think about how we are taking care of ourselves in big and little ways every day.  We are busy. We are needed by so many people in our lives, by our jobs and businesses, by the causes that scream to our hearts to get involved in.  Every one of you in this community is completely amazing, and you deserve, and need, to take care of yourself too.
    For pretty much all of us, one of our favorite ways to do that is by sewing!  This month I have asked four of my amazing sewing friends from the internet to join us here and share about how sewing helps them take care of themselves, and a bit about what else they do in case any of us are in need of a bit more inspiration, and I am so excited to share their creativity and amazing spirits with all of you! And can I just say, thank you internet, for bringing these amazing women into my life.  
     First up is my friend Amber. I do not know how we found each other on Instagram, but I do know I am so, so grateful that we did.  Amber is full of love, kindness and support for every person and every animal she comes in contact with and shares all about her sewing, activism, love of cats, nature, history and the occasional tasty beverage on her Instagram account @kindness.cat and you should definitely check it out!
Picture of Amber from Craftcation
     I was very excited when Grace asked me to guest post on her blog about sewing and self care. It's an extremely important topic. I had planned to make my favorite Ruby top with one of the many gorgeous Nani Iro fabrics from Grace's shop that I greedily hoard while divulging all my insights.... but the universe waits for no woman and life threw a few curve balls and here we are right before I promised to get this to Grace and I'm just getting started. But let's face it, that's exactly why we sew for self care isn't it? To deal with all life throws at us.
        Ruby Top Pattern                    Fuccra Rakuen Double Gauze Fabric
     Only now that I'm careening towards 40 am I able to fully appreciate what my sewing skills do for me. Yes, I can make pretty things, and I'll speak more to that later, but sewing has saved my sanity. When I married my husband 12 years ago I began having daily anxiety attacks. I was prone to intermittent attacks but after our wedding they became a daily thing and I decided to reach out for help. I began going to therapy weekly and my therapist insisted regularly that I find something to do with my hands. It took me a while to realize that the "something" was sewing.
     Like many of us, I had a difficult childhood. But when I was five my mom got married and I got a new grandmother, my Abuela.  She scared me. She was loud and forceful and independent, nothing like my mom or her mom. She was a teacher and a very talented maker in her own right.  After she divorced my grandfather (did I mention she was independent) she worked to put herself through a couture sewing class in Beverly Hills so she could make smart clothes for her and the neighbors. Abuela was very excited to have a girl to sew for, as she had four boys herself. I still have a number of little dresses from that time. When I got older she started teaching me, about life really, but also how to do "things". For one week every summer I would stay at her house and we would read, cook, and do something creative. Sometimes we sewed, sometimes we painted, but we always created. Then I would go back home, where I had no supplies, equipment, or support, and wait until we could do it again.
     Fast forward to the end of college. Abuela felt that having a sewing machine was necessary and gave me the Viking Huskystar mechanical sewing machine that I still use today. I somehow managed to eek out a duvet from flat sheets (so I wouldn't have to cut or measure anything) and a couple of awkward tote bags. Later, as newlyweds in our tiny second floor apartment, I pulled out my sewing machine. I used a yardstick to measure and kitchen scissors to cut. I found a pattern for a tote bag with french seams. It was basically a bunch of rectangles and I went to work making a handful of bags. The first time you make something that you admire, something that you are proud of, is a practically indescribable moment. The child in you jumps up and down clapping with pure joy. At least that is how it was for me. 
     In the early days of Pinterest, a dear friend and graphic designer kept sending me links to stuff on Pinterest. Back then you had to be invited by a member and you had to have Facebook or Twitter. So I made myself a fake Twitter account and spent many work hours pinning away. I was completely amazed at all the patterns I could find for sewing accessories and I obsessed for weeks over the best way to make zipper pouches. I even opened an Etsy shop and got a business license. Suddenly I was a Maker. Eventually I would realize that being in business as a maker was not for me, but what I've gained from my journey in the last seven years has been priceless. 
     I began connecting with other makers on the Etsy message boards. I slowly started to get a sense of community, which I had never had. We talked about sewing, cats, regulations, and love. One year I caught wind of Craftcation: a retreat for makers where I took business and social media classes, and I learned new crafts. Most importantly my online community of crafters became real life friends. It was mind blowing. It was like the best summer camp you've ever been to. We spent four days together laughing, crying, and making until we were exhausted. I went to Craftcation for four years and discovered an amazing tribe of people who I feel so strongly for, a group that I'm proud to be part of. It's how I met people like Grace. Makers are my very first tribe. I did not grow up in religion, or the traditions of a certain culture, or even with mundane family traditions. I had never known "my people" before I discovered my maker family. Through our common interest of making, we gave ourselves a network of support. How do you describe the importance of something like that?
     It was at Craftcation where Christine Haynes taught me how to sew garments. Until that point I had never considered sewing clothes for myself. I was afraid and needed a teacher by my side. While quilts still freak me out, learning how to sew garments provided me a freedom of expression I never expected. It taught me how to forget about what size I am and focus on how I want to express myself. I love fabric and pattern and glorious color. 
     Sometimes we can't take the time to throw ourselves into passion projects. Work, family, and other obligations will easily suck up our time and energy. (I have SO MANY projects I want to start with the fabric and patterns just waiting for me.) Sometimes all you can do is stare at your beloved fabric stash in the middle of a messy sewing area.
                                  Fabric Stash
     Sometimes you try to sneak in small quick alterations just to get a little sewing fix.
       
          Sewing Machine
   
     But for me, each of those moments is dear, because of everything that came before. Each time I create I have a sense of who taught me, how I gained confidence in my own taste and my own skills, and the amazing group of people out there who really are interested in what project I'm working on. 
     This is why I sew for self care. I sew for my sanity and my community. The time I set aside to give myself the room to be creative, to alter a pattern in a new way, or figure out how to make a ready to wear garment more flattering - that is time spent showing myself that who I am really matters to me.  The act of creating and making is an act of self love.
                         Sewing self care
     Grace again, friends! I LOVED loved reading this and am so grateful to Amber for agreeing to share with us here.  I will have a new addition to this series every Thursday this month, so be sure to come back here and check them all out.  Let me know I need the comments how sewing helps you or what else you do for self care! Thank you for reading!

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