Sewing and Self-Reliance

Sewing and Self-Reliance

What draws us back again and again to the sewing room?  I’m always fascinated with the sewing journey that many have taken.  Some of us started as children and went through the dreaded home ec classes to eventually find our voice as a teenager or young twenty-something. Others didn’t get on the path until mid-life. Some have left the fold and returned, others have been steady eddies. Whatever your journey you know the pull that I’m talking about…that irresistible urge to put needle to fabric and "make something".   I enjoy reading about sewing, fashion, and fabrics but my reading tastes really run the gamut from light fiction to more serious genres. Recently I have been reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I did not expect to find something in this book that would cause me to blog on this site.  But here it is–

"Isn’t it curious how in so many of our pastimes and hobbies we play at supplying one or another of our fundamental creaturely needs –for food, shelter, even clothing?  So some people knit, others build things or chop wood, and a great many of us "work" at feeding ourselves–by gardening or hunting, fishing or foraging. An economy organized around a complex division of labor can usually get these jobs done for a fraction of the cost, in time or money, that it takes us to do them ourselves, yet something in us apparently seeks confirmation that we will have the skills needed to provide for ourselves.  You know, just in case." 

Michael Pollan, The Ominvore’s Dilemma.

So this pull to the sewing room is really about self-reliance?  Maybe so.  There is a satisfaction in knowing that we can produce a garment for wearing and do not need to rely on the industrial complex to do that for us. Perhaps this personality is drawn to crafting more than those who are more content to rely on others.  I’ve always said there is a high correlation between crafters and gardeners. (We lose many of our fabric customers to the garden in June and July as they plant their food for harvest later in the summer.) When our children were young, we took numerous camping trips for vacation. We would meet lots of people "working" to feed and shelter themselves, even if for a week. I often noticed neighbors who were crafting in some way or another…knitting, cross-stitch, handwork, or, in my case, catching up on reading articles in Threads, envisioning upcoming projects to be started on my return to the sewing room.

I have always thought that the magnetism of the sewing room was related to a desire to express individual creativity in color, texture, and design.  I’m not giving up on that idea, but I’m thinking it may go deeper, to some primitive roots of self-determination.  It makes sense…any comments?   

14 Responses to “Sewing and Self-Reliance”

  1. Kathryn Midan

    2008-07-02T01:44:58+00:00

    I believe it is as you suggest, we love the creative aspect of being able to put together color, texture, design elements and sewing skill, but on a deeper level it is very satisfying to fulfill a basic need for oneself. When my children were small, being able to sew allowed me to dress them in a fashion I would not have otherwise been able to afford. They are all grown up now, but I still find satisfaction in knowing that I can create quality garments for myself at a fraction of their ready to wear cost, and custom fit to my personal shape. It is a wonderful passion for so many reasons.

  2. Kim

    2008-07-06T02:45:36+00:00

    I sew, knit and crochet. I started knitting about 20 years ago, after i graduated from college. I just learned to crochet and sew in the last 2-3 years. The funny thing is that when I was about 10 , i took a sewing class and before that I used to hand sew items together and even asked for and received a holly hobbie sewing machine for Christmas one year. And, I once planted a garden with the boy next door when I was about 13. So, this inclination has been in me for a while. I am not sure where it comes from or why, but I returned to my crafting during a recent time of great challenge. And my crafts definately bring peace. But more recently, I do it because I love to. Its just who I am. I feel like I am being true to me when I craft.

  3. Kim

    2008-07-06T02:47:35+00:00

    I sew, knit and crochet. I started knitting about 20 years ago, after i graduated from college. I just learned to crochet and sew in the last 2-3 years. The funny thing is that when I was about 10 , i took a sewing class and before that I used to hand sew items together and even asked for and received a holly hobbie sewing machine for Christmas one year. And, I once planted a garden with the boy next door when I was about 13. So, this inclination has been in me for a while. I am not sure where it comes from or why, but I returned to my crafting during a recent time of great challenge. And my crafts definately bring peace. But more recently, I do it because I love to. Its just who I am. I feel like I am being true to me when I craft.

  4. nata

    2008-07-13T09:57:22+00:00

    Barb, DH and I recently finished Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, which draws on the subject of self sufficiency (it’s about our food supply however). “A year without made in China” is another book on my list to read. I wish somebody would take upon writing a book about where our clothes come from. I hope that people would consider very hard when they buy very inexpensive clothes. There is a very hefty “human” price to this cheap stuff (another book comes to mind “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich).
    For me, it’s a very satisfying feeling to know that through sewing our family contributes less to this global insanity. My sewing fascination didn’t start that way, however. I started sewing because I could make something out of “nothing”, so I guess it was a “process of creating” that sucked me in. And so true with gardening too: first year my garden grew I felt like Merlin 🙂 Here is the strange part: I am also very practical. I think my left and right brain halves are equally strong. The money investment in my hobbies has to be justified by the benefits I am going to derive from it. Benefits can be both material and not.
    I think sewing, for me, is the ticket (one of few) to the “American Dream”. It’s a human instinct to better our life, to strive living better than our parents did, and to make sure our kids can live better than we could. Through sewing I feel self sufficient and socially responsible. Therefore my children will inherit better world to live in. At the same time sewing satisfies instinctive need to create something and to control something. It makes me happier on a very personal level by creating a better balance in my life.

  5. Oma Froehle

    2008-07-14T13:49:01+00:00

    I love quality fabrics and original designs that fit me perfectly. And sewing for children and grandchildren is the ultimate ‘hug.’ More importantly, my sewing time connects me to generations of women who quilted together, who took in sewing to make ends meet during the Great Depression, and who made the perfect dress for my piano recital. You are right. It’s much more than a hobby. It’s a legacy. 🙂

  6. melissa

    2008-07-15T13:28:53+00:00

    I noticed this about myself too. I feel much more compelled to make useful things for others and for myself than to make merely decorative things. And finishing a sewing project feels like more than just creating something lovely; it is a feeling of self-reliance and accomplishment!

  7. Dana's Energy Fabric

    2008-08-07T14:06:50+00:00

    I agree completely with your hypothesis! Personally, I get as far as the design table. Beyond that, I look for the seamstress who can create that top or jacket that I see in my mind. I create the fabric I want to wear first, then co-create the final product. Any takers?

  8. Laura White

    2008-08-12T10:19:30+00:00

    Thank you for putting words to the many reasons I sew, knit, and now quilt. The concept of the need to feed the self, as well as the necessity for self-sufficiency, speaks to our desire to bring communities together and to our roots as a human species.

  9. roberta hanlon

    2008-08-18T18:10:29+00:00

    I have several blouse patterns. I want to know how to delete darts from pattern.
    thank you
    roberta bettyboop07

  10. Marguerite Cato

    2008-08-22T13:08:51+00:00

    Unless you are really flatchested you need darts orfullness of some sort to cover thebulge that is your bosom. Consult a good book on fitting, one even like Palmer and Pletsch Sew for any body and learn to transfer the fullness of the dart to another seam. If the fabric is very stretchy, the dart cn be folded out in a horizontal pleat, but the fabric will pull across your bust, and the larger the cup, the greater the pull.
    Marguerite

  11. Barbara Blom

    2008-08-22T15:13:35+00:00

    We’ve moved the discussion about darts to the salon
    Follow it at http://www.sawyerbrook.com/salon
    Click on Ask a Savvy Sewer and find the topic “deleting darts”

  12. Dianne Foster

    2008-08-28T12:27:49+00:00

    I like this understanding of the seeming illogic in making clothes, planting gardens, when there are cheap things to be had and cheap fruits and flowers. I am one of those people who must sew and plant in order to have those few exciting moments when it all comes together.
    I am not trying to start a business, but getting more businesslike conserves my energy.
    I also write, and I have noticed that the muses definitely have conflicts with each other.
    Does anyone remember a study from the Freudian fifties, where the advertising world studied the habits of housewives? I remember that some cake mix manufacturer discovered that women liked to put a fresh egg into the mix and did not want the mix to include a powdered one so that this would not be necessary.
    The interpretation was, of course, Freudian. But what if it was actually one of taste, a growing sensitivity to it that would eventually result in a revolt against mixes of all kinds, and would lead to a probing of many a Pandora’s box as well.
    With leisure, we can afford to experiment, to break things down into more understandable parts, to craft our own things.
    That, of course, is where the business of organizing our spaces comes in. It is a thriving business, last time I looked.

  13. seo company

    2011-02-03T10:58:00+00:00

    persons are engaged in different skills of their choice, ranging from welding, sewing, leather work among other craft, for self-reliance. …

  14. brisbane seo

    2011-02-09T11:43:00+00:00

    . lesson on handling life’s knocks and reads like a testament to rural self-reliance and the strength of family ties. “When I was able-bodied, I could sew …

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