10 things that make sewists feel guilty

I was out with my sister and her girlfriends during my recent visit to Copenhagen and of course, we love to talk. A lot. My sister is really passionate about psychology and usually, these outings tend to turn into impromptu pour-it-all-out sessions where we lay things out for analysis. And the first thing that spilt out of me was about how much sewing means to me, but also how guilty I feel about it completely taking over my life.

So I started thinking about this a bit more. Clearly, there are many positive effects of sewing on our lives. We create, we unwind, we connect, we escape reality. We surround ourselves with beautiful fabric, we create beautiful clothes that fit the bodies that we have, not that the ones that the fashion industry says we should have.

But is this all there is to it?

Sometimes I find myself feeling overwhelmed as often as I do excited. Or anxious. Or self-pressured. In relation to sewing, of course.

And then there is the guilt. It takes so many shapes that I sometimes feel it’s not just one feeling, there are dozens. So I’ve made a list of the top 10 ones for me so we can compare notes.

1. Guilt of having too big a fabric or patterns stash

I think this is something that a lot of sewists have in common, even if they don’t admit to the actual guilt. I have over 150 m of fabric in my stash and I still can’t stop myself from buying or acquiring new pieces. I can’t say no to a bargain. I also really enjoy the process of shopping for fabric, especially rummaging through the remnant bins or going to Abakhan for the kilo fabric. I have a lot of fabric in my stash because I get given a lot of fabric, from the sewing events I organise or from work, and I can’t say no to free fabric. In my defence, I do pass on quite a lot of my stash at fabric swaps. I try to only have fabric shopping trips only a few times a year, luckily Abakhan is not in London, and only shop for very specific pieces that I haven’t got in my stash.

Comic book card fabric organising

If you’d like to explore this further, check out the Love to Sew Podcast from a few weeks ago where Helen and Caroline talk about fabric stashes, really interesting conversation.

2. Guilt of spending too much of your time sewing

I think this is my number one guilt at the moment. In the last year, I have been spending more time sewing or blogging about sewing than I ever had since I first started. I am becoming aware that my default state when I get home is to head to the sewing room and work on my project. Instead of sitting on the sofa watching TV to relax in the evening, my relaxation takes place in front of the sewing machine. I do realise I am super lucky, as I don’t have kids and other responsibilities that I can’t shun even if I wanted to and this sounds like a bit of a first world problem, but still, this is something that I can’t stop feeling guilty about. Luckily, my husband is behind my hobby, otherwise, I’d be writing about sewing -related divorces…

Joy to Create (2016) #01

3. Buying fabric and patterns that you end up not sewing

I have a few patterns in my stash that I was very keen to sew when I got them, but now I’m not that interested in them anymore. Some of the Indie patterns are especially expensive, so I feel double the guilt, as I am renowned for my stinginess in my family. I just feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth and it feel guilty for spending the money on that in the first place.

4. Spending too much money on a piece of fabric or on sewing in general

IMG_0662

As I have stopped buying clothes for myself in early 2015, this is one guilt that I suffer very little from. It all evens out. I don’t buy expensive fabric, as I said, I am very tight and I just can’t bring myself to spit out excessive sums for one meter of fabric. I also recently started a sewing budget that I set aside each month, and I try not to exceed it. This covers fabric, patterns, haberdashery, gadgets and consumables. I keep this is a separate account and so I can keep track of what goes out towards sewing. And it also makes me think twice about spending on something and question if I really need that, as well as keeping a limit on the overall sewing spend. Before everything was going on my credit card and the sky was the limit, which was not a good policy.

5. Not blogging often enough

I often see sewing bloggers apologising for prolonged silences on their blogs and I must confess I do feel very guilty as well when I don’t post as regularly as I would like to. There are hundreds of sewing blogs out there, do people even care that you have not posted two weeks in a row? I know that I do miss people who have been missing for a long time, and I do wonder what could have happened to them, but I never judge if people skip a few posts. This is especially true for non-monetised blogs. It’s meant to be a passion and a hobby, why do we stress so much?

6. Wasting fabric on projects you don’t wear or did not turn up alright

Because of my job in sustainability, I feel doubly guilty about anything that results in waste or unnecessary production or consumption. So, if I produce something unwearable, even something that is perfectly nice but I just don’t wear often enough, I feel terrible. For some people, it’s the work that went into the project, but for me, it’s more the fabric being wasted and the fact that I put something out there that will not be used.

7. Sewing too much

This also links to the point above. Do you feel like you are churning garments for the sake of it, or just to blog about them? Garments that you don’t actually like or that don’t match your lifestyle. The slow sewing movement, like slow fashion, is something that I recently became aware of and I am schooling myself to be more considerate in my choices and well, sew a bit less, and bit more thoughtful and a bit more meaningful.

8. Not sewing fast enough

The opposite of the previous point relates to comparing ourselves to other sewists we follow on social media with tremendous outputs, who finish garments of a quarter of the time it takes you to complete the simplest project. I often envy them, but I try to tell myself that it’s not a competition. And then I realise I haven’t got anything to blog about this week, grrr.

9. Not sewing with sustainable fabrics

A lot of social media campaigns that have been emerging lately, from Fashion Revolution to Dirty Fashion report on viscose, Zero Chemicals Discharge Campaign, all the issues around plastics in the ocean etc, the environmental impacts of fashion are being put in the spotlight. And let’s not kid ourselves, we’re not H&M and Zara, but the majority of the fabric we use is produced in similar conditions. Even if you use less of it, it has an impact. This is a massive source of guilt for me all the time because I don’t always live by what I know I should be doing.

10. Not wearing hand-made all the time

Wedding Dress (2015) #02

I get in massive panicked frenzies every time I need to go to a sewing meet-up. Even events like weddings (including my own) and other fancy dos stress me out, as by now everybody expects me to wear something I made. Whilst at non-sewing events, people are usually in awe of your skills regardless of the issues you know are there (but of course no one else can see), the sewing meet-ups come with the added dread of people that actually know what mistakes look like as soon as they take the first glimpse. So, yes, I do feel quite guilty when I have to say ‘actually, this is shop bought’.

SO, HOW MANY OF THESE REASONS RESONATE WITH YOU? WHAT DO YOU FEEL GUILTY ABOUT? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT? START THE CONVERSATION IN THE COMMENTS OR TWEET ME @SEWRENDIPITY.

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38 comments

  1. Guilty as charged!
    I started reading this and thought…..does she know me?
    So many points I could relate to. Yes I have a huge stash but I love fabric shopping too. Abakan in London would be a massive problem. At the moment my visits are restricted to when I visit my son in Manchester ( and how much I can carry back on the train)
    I agree pattern guilt not so bad. Is it because I buy so many pdfs and I cannot physically see them? ( unlike the mountain of fabric)
    However I love my hobby! It keeps me occupied, it’s creative and I have met some lovely people in person and virtually.
    And I get to read some interesting and thought provoking blogs

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  2. Such an interesting read, especially in the comments. I don’t believe anyone should feel guilt for taking part in a constructive and creative hobby that makes them happier people (better than mindless tv watching, or computer games etc in my opinion!) but I know I’ve crossed the line, as it seems many have, in accumulation of either fabric or pattern stash. I feel in the early days of sewing that it’s really hard to justify spending a lot of money on fabric because the chances of making something that is either a great fit, or well constructed or still going to fit with personal style down the track is pretty slim. But once that experience has progressed I do believe that (like other things in life) buying better quality but less of it is definitely the way to go. And so that is how i offset part of my guilt – I’d rather spend more per metre but buy fabric of natural fibres, in a local shop where I can touch it (and be more likely to support a small business owner too). Wastage of scraps also plays a lot on my mind, so I tend to try to buy the absolute minimum yardage needed and use things like other scraps for facings, pocket linings etc. I’ve got an enormous scrap collection that I recently had to come to terms with as my sewing room is now going to be my baby’s room, but I was thrilled to be able to make a whole heap of baby clothes, a couple of small quilt tops, give an enormous bag to my cousin for sashiko embroidery,and finally cut up a couple of kilograms of unusable scraps to stuff a nursing pillow for myself. And finally I’ve started reading The Curated Closet in the hope that I get some tools to reduce impulse or FOMO fabric and pattern purchasing – knowing where a fabric or garment will fit into my personal style and lifestyle needs will I hope help me make sensible decisions on my future projects (as time will obviously disappear once my baby arrives) and purchases. Thanks for a thought provoking post. Xxx

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  3. I have no guilt about my fabric or pattern stashes. None! Or my every-growing collection of machines. I’m sure my husband would say I sew too much, but he watches too much television. I wish I could sew faster, but if I do, I’m wasting time ripping things out, or I’m unhappy because I haven’t thought out my fabric pattern placement well enough. If I take my time, I’m much happier in the end. Yes, I’m a pretty guilt-free sexist.

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  4. No guilt here- I don’t do guilt lol I am aware I spend too much these days on random purchases of fabric, and occasional pattern splurges, but in my defence [should I need one] I wear all the clothes I make TO DEATH [any that I finish and don’t like go straight to the charity shop, no lurking allowed]
    I throw away almost nothing, but do need to get my scraps to a recycling collection point someday, I now know I will NEVER make all those quilts or other fabulous things wth them! Biggish pieces all get turned into binding, and no trims or other accoutrements ever get thrown. EVER. It’s a relic from my days of making costumes I’m afraid!
    I haven’t bought RTW in yonks, other than undies and tights, and I’m more likely to buy quality fabric these days than bargain rubbish, which makes me feel better. If I spend too long sewing, I make my wife something fabulous to make up for it!
    As for blogging, I do it totally randomly, just as likely to overkill as have a drought!

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  5. I can own up to all nine guilts listed. But I think most human beings I know are guilty about something. I certainly have a load of other “guilts” too numerous to mention and not just those about sewing. I think you have to ask yourself “Is there anything that I feel guilty about that is really bad and I definitely should not do- drug pushing, beating the children, stealing etc?” and just give yourself some slack on things that do not come in that category. Life is too short to worry excessively.

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    1. So true, Linda! Definitely worse things to feel guilty about. I guess my point was that we sometimes have to acknowledge the that sewing does not always come just with positive feelings and that we need to explore and understand those as well.

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      1. Yes, I agree Alex. You have done a good job mentioning all the options. I feel guilty actually when I make something for family, something they have specifically requested. I always see my mistakes and hope they will like it anyway! Love your blog by the way! You always have great photos!

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      2. Oh, don’t get me started on sewing for other people :). But you really should not feel guilty, so few non-sewing people actually have a clue about what good looks like (just look at how many people buy stuff from fast fashion shops and don’t see how badly things are made :)).
        And thank you, I do try to get good pics, thanks to my long suffering husband, bless him!

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  6. WHAt a great post! Some of those are very familiar, especially the one about spending too much time sewing. I don’t feel guilty about not blogging enough though 🙂 And I feel less guilty about stashing patterns than fabric. I think it’s because the fabric has been cut, so if I change my mind about what to use it for there is likely to be some waste. Patterns don’t work like that. Also fabric can deteriorate in storage.

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    1. I agree, much less guilt about patterns. I have recently been on a course about textiles and I have seen first hand how fabric is made and how incredibly time consuming and complicated process this is. It made me feel doubly guilty!

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  7. Oh, you’ve hit so many nails on the head here! I get at least three of these (having too much fabric, wasting any fabric at all and not sewing fast enough/blogging enough finished items). Plus a variation on your second one – which is guilt about thinking about sewing when I shouldn’t be. Does anyone else find their mind drifting to sewing when it shouldn’t?

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    1. I think about sewing all the time, or find my mind wandering to a sewing problem or other. But it is a bit of escape from reality. I often find that I am thinking about sewing when I have things that make me anxious or worried in my real life and it helps me calm down and manage my anxiety. And I really refuse to feel guilty about that. Thank you for commenting.

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  8. I set limits on stash and as well as charity shop buys to resew. They can only take up one cupboard in my sew room total…. as I figure after that I am hoarding. I dont feel guilty about sewing too much as if I am enjoying it then its good. I think time sewing instead of TV can only be good and I do think the level of engagement sewing gives me is good for my mind – that being said, I do try and plan social stuff as I will often stay at home making instead and need to remind myself to get out.

    One thing I would genuinely be lost without is reading sewing blogs in the morning – I have always sewn but not all the time, and over the years knew less and less that sewed, so its really inspiring to see other sews and reviews of patterns etc. as I know so few makers where I live, although since starting my blog, I started got to know some embroiderers and knitters and crocheters and we do a weekly meet up which I love, but I also think this only happened because of blogging!

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    1. I do have to remind myself to go out rather than stay home and sew too! I like your idea of having one cupboard. I have filled every nook and cranny of my sewing room and currently installing even more storage. And definitely, every available space will be filled.

      With regards to blogging, I LOVE reading blogs and seeing what other people make. The inspiration and advice it brings are really priceless!

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  9. I have a fabric stash that would probably exceed yours (and yes more happened to arrive in the post today as well…). BUT I don’t buy RTW anymore except in dire need so money wise I tend to not feel too bad as I used to have a massive clothes shopping habit. I definitely regret some choices – both fabric and pattern wise but I think that I’m often like that in life about all things!
    Knowing me, I’ll probably binge on the Black Friday pattern sales and forbid myself from buying any new patterns or fabric for a few months next year! 😂

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    1. I think we need more fabric swaps! I don’t feel so bad if someone else ends up using the pieces I don’t love anymore. My sewing room is a mess at the moment, as we’re decorating, so I couldn’t even think about sewing during Black Friday, so didn’t actually buy anything new, whew!

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  10. I would definitely feel guilty if I had fabric or patterns I didn’t use. I love to shop for fabric, but I also know how to say ‘no’ to myself…and others. I also think guilt is a very luxurious emotion. It kind of absolves us from dealing with whatever we’re feeling guilty about. It’s almost as if when we feel guilt it’s okay to carry on because, you know, we do feel guilty. Not a situation I like to be in. I know, not likely a popular perspective, but I’m old enough to have worked through a lot of things for myself.

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    1. Absolutely all opinions are welcome, thank you for your comment! I do try to address the reasons I’m feeling guilty, and some of them, like an increasing fabric stash, are absolutely solvable. Others, like spending too much time sewing, not so much. I don’t think I will ever want to decrease my sewing time, but I am working on developing a better balance, not to neglect more social pursuits.

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  11. I’m seriously thinking about buying a bernina, but can I endure the guilt of that? Will I use it often enough and for enough years to justify that investment? What if I got it and it didn’t work well, like something was wrong with it. You do read about that. Oh the guilt – there’s plenty of it!!!!

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    1. Absolutely do not feel guilty about getting top quality tools! A Bernina will last you a lifetime. I used to have loads of sewing machines (3 + an overlocker) at one point, and I did realise I am hoarding, so I just gifted them or sold them, because that was not justifiable. But I never regretted getting my very expensive Babylock Overlocker and a Coverstich machine as well. They will probably be the last ones of each I will ever buy, so I might as well get the best there are. You could get a second hand Bernina and if you don’t like, it sell it back, it won’t lose its value as much as new one. And find a good, reliable repair person that you can call on if things go wrong :).

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  12. This resonated very deeply Alex! (I’ve also got an amateur psychologist for a sister!) When I’m not sewing I’m thinking about sewing and I have to really work hard to make sure I don’t lose perspective and become utterly consumed. I force myself to take breaks, from sewing and social media, otherwise I think I’d quickly turn into a crazy lady (as opposed to turning into one slowly, haha!). Xx

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    1. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing, I’m glad I’m not the only one. I didn’t even scratch the surface on social media, this is a massive source of anxiety for me…

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  13. oh boy I REALLY resonated with that guilt about fabric (now when yet another arrives in the mail I dash off to the back room to stuff it on a shelf so my husband doesn’t notice) and patterns! YIKES I have so many patterns – if I sewed all the patterns I have I wouldn’t need another garment the rest of my life (I’m 63 so trust me I’m not exaggerating!) and many of those patterns looked interesting in the moment but as I’ve come to understand better what looks good on me and REALLY doesn’t I know many won’t get made up after all. I do belong to a monthly meet up of sewists at our local fabric shop however and I often take a couple with me to see if someone would like them (there are a few sewists in the group who are in need of some $ help so this assuages my guilt thankfully!) AND I bought myself yet another machine this year that truly I didn’t need but couldn’t resist (with my husband’s enabling at full tilt!) We manufacture guilt so we can keep doing what we want 🙂

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Kathleen! I don’t know you in person, but from your comments on my blog and others, I can definitely imagine you as being very generous, so I’m not surprised you pass on your patterns. My husband is also very supportive, plus he also has a very expensive hobby (go-karts), so he really can’t raise any objections about my sewing spend, ha ha!

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  14. Not too much guilt about money spent… as I desperately try comparing sewing to other hobbies, like golf, or diving. And with sewing as a hobby, I often get wearable items for *free*! I also feel guilty about using non-sustainable fabrics, and thus sometimes try to re-purpose bed sheets, curtains etc… Not posting enough, definitely, even if no-one reads my posts, I often feel a garment is only complete if it’s made public, I owe it to the garment so to speak. Crazy, I know! Final guilt-trip, not making time to read (then like/comment) all the marvellous blogs I try to follow, like yours Alex!

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    1. I love your makes (though absolutely guilty of not commenting enough on blogs I follow and love)! I was just browsing through your back catalogue, such beautiful projects, and so varied! No wonder you don’t have time to blog with so many crafty pursuits! And small children to boot!

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  15. Here’s another one: not finding time to comment on all the blog posts that I enjoy!! Rather ironically, just as I was thinking this at the end of your post, I saw the “Don’t miss a single post” banner calling me!! I can relate to so much of this post, but I think we also need to be kind to ourselves. After all, if we didn’t feel guilty about sewing, we’d probably find something else to feel guilty about…

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    1. Absolutely suffer from this one too! I follow over 500 blogs on Bloglovin’ and it’s nigh on impossible to engage with them all, though I do read most of them. I think I’m going through a bit of introspective phase at the moment and I’m thinking about my sewing through a psychological lens at the moment, so I identify the guilt more acutely. But yes, let’s be kind to ourselves, we absolutely deserve it!

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  16. Wow, your post really hit home. I’ve been working for months on muslin after muslin, trying to get the fit exactly right on a basic tailored shirt. So, yes–guilt for the fabric I have bought, but won’t use until I get the right fit; guilt for the wasted muslins that haven’t solved the problem; guilt for the time; guilt for not making something else out of the non-fitting muslins. But, I’ve been engaged in learning, sharing that learning with my sewing friend, reading and engaging on sewing blogs, listening to podcasts while I sew, loving most moments that activate the creative side of my brain. I think we all need to think that sewing does a lot for the brain, and the most generous and kind people I have met in life are people who sew, knit, crotchet and make art. If we see an error in someone’s hand made items, we probably think of the issue, and how to solve it, while we admire the effort and product. It is less judgement, than acknowledgement that making something fit and by hand is hard, and something to be appreciated. My blog hasn’t been updated for ages. I’ve been busy sewing, but I really love reading the blogs of other people–and sometimes, fewer postings are just more humane! Thank you for yours.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! The main reason I hate toiles is the waste of fabric. But now I take all my scraps to be recycled and I feel a bit better. And you are right, the learning process is definitely worth it. And double right on sewing people, they really are the nicest people. I already feel better having shared this with you all, and getting so many responses.

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  17. I feel guilty about buying my new Overlocker even thou I saved the money from my part time job & didn’t take it from the joint funds & even thou my husband says I earned the right to treat myself, I still feel guilty about not spending it on the house or kids etc. Mummy guilt & Sewing guilt all in one lol

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    1. Oh dear, that’s a double whammy! I refuse to feel guilty about things I saved for. That’s enough of a sacrifice to put money away in the first place. An overlocker is an essential tool if you are serious about your sewing, and you will have it for a long time. And it will help your garments last longer, so you are saving on that side too. May you enjoy it in good health, it’s an awesome investment!!

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