I was listening to the latest episode of Love To Sew Podcast where Helen and Caroline talk about sewing struggles. They turned to the community to see what are the most common struggles and one of the first things that came up was loneliness. I spend many weekends sewing and I don’t even contemplate going out of the house unless I have to (or my husband makes me). So I can completely relate to that.
And this made me think if, in spite of the amazing sewing community, blogs, vlogs, Facebook groups and Instagram, is sewing making us feel more lonely?
In this blog post, I’m exploring this in a bit more details and also offering some solutions to help you become less of a sewing hermit.
We are very fortunate to be living in a time and in countries where sewing can be just a hobby and many times (not always) is slightly divorced from its practical and economic purposes: to make clothes to cover our backs, as an only option because of lack of availability or incomes.
Compared to even our parents’ generation, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to buy new clothes, so even if I’d never sewed a stitch from now on, I would definitely not go naked. Indeed, sewing is my hobby – a pleasure I can afford to dedicate time and money to pursue without searching any particular practical outcome. And I am incredibly grateful to be in this position, especially in contrast with many people, especially women, around the world, who don’t have this option and must sew to support their families, sometimes in difficult conditions.
The loneliness of the long-distance sewer
Like any hobby, sewing is addictive and I noticed that even almost 10 years later, I am still prone to dropping everything to go sew. That includes seeing people in my wider circle of friends, sometimes spending time with my husband, going to drinks with my co-workers and even just getting out of the house to go walking around town.
In 10 years I have gained a few good real-life friends through sewing (and we don’t just talk about sewing when we meet either), but I have also shed a lot of acquaintance-level relationships that I don’t have the time and energy to pursue, because, well, I’d rather be at home making things.
I am definitely feeling less ‘in person’ social because of sewing, but then again, this might be a question of age, you know, less patience, more cantankerous, more selfish and can only be bothered with people I actually want to spend time with. But sewing is a good motivation not to make the effort.
But then, the question arises, why don’t we just get together with sewing people and you know, sew together?
Well, here’s a few explanations I came up with as to why physical, in real life loneliness can be caused by our beloved hobby:
- SPACE: you need space to put your sewing machine to sew with friends and most people hardly have enough room for their own, let alone other people’s;
- DISTANCE: maybe the people you’d love to hang out with live far away from you and you don’t really know that many people where you live
- ONLINE LEARNING: many of us learned to sew online or are self-taught, so we never got a chance to meet that group of people that come to in-person classes
- MONEY: classes or sewing cafes, where you would meet like-minded people, can be expensive and it’s hard to justify the money just for the social aspect
- HEADSPACE: sewing needs concentration and you need your own space and tools to be able to focus on your project.
The last one is definitely my main reason. I love hanging out with sewing people and if you’ve ever met me, you know I can talk for England, but I really hate sewing anywhere else than my sewing room, where I have my machine, my tools and all I need at my fingertips. Plus, I can’t talk and sew at the same time, I really need to be focusing on the task at hand, otherwise, I will end up unpicking more than sewing.
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Alone in an online world full of people
I also wanted to talk about online loneliness. Probably it’s not a real thing, but what I actually mean is the feeling of loneliness when you have loads of IG friends that you talk to on a regular basis, being part of groups on Facebook, reading or writing blogs and recording or watching vlogs.
But how do you truly break the screen barrier and connect with people in a more meaningful way? I often feel that although there are a lot of people online that I like, whom I enjoy following and whose posts I find myself commenting often, they still seem to be part of tribes that are not my own. So you end up with a superficial connection based on ‘likes’ that instead of bringing us together, is only increasing the feeling of loneliness and isolation, by feeling left out of a cool club.
Talking about comparison and authenticity can form an entire blog post on its own, but I think we need to acknowledge that this is happening more an more in our online sewing community as well. And this is also contributing to online loneliness.
I often find myself struggling to find people (who also sew) that are interested in the same things as me: sustainability, style, minimalism. I also do not have kids, am an average size and do not like vintage (or prints). The Venn diagram of that intersects all these things is very, very small…
Before getting too down, I do want to absolutely acknowledge that overall, the online sewing community is amazing, and my heart really sings when more and more of its members are making efforts towards inclusivity, diversity and reaching out to everyone regardless of anything that might make them feel different and excluded. A massive shout out here to Gillian, the wonderful force of nature behind The Sewcialists. The Who We Are series really helped to shed a light and bring into the limelight in the most positive way, all the communities that exist under the mainstream, general sewing blanket.
So, how do we fight this sewing loneliness thingie?
Well, let’s tackle the physical loneliness first.
Go to a sewing meet-up
I will start with a shout out to the great meet-ups that take place in the UK (and I’m sure in other places around the world as well), where you can go and meet like-minded people and maybe it will turn up that some of them live in your neck of the woods.
In no particular order, a few of the big annual meet-ups:
You can also find a monthly regular meet-up that I know of. (Please let me know in the comments and I will update this list).
A few more resources to find local meet-ups:
- Check out the Sewing Directory
- Check out Facebook Groups for a group in your area
- As a question on the FoldLine FB Group
Organise your own group or local meet-up
If you have the time, how about organising your own local group? This can tackle both the cost part (you can often get a space for free in community halls, libraries etc).
A few resources on how to go about that:
- The FoldLine
- House of Pinheiro
- The Sewing Directory
- The Spruce Crafts
- Sewing parts online
- Shiny Happy World
Try a virtual meet-up
If your sewing bestie lives miles and miles away, you could try sewing together, each in their own sewing space, but with a Skype or GoTo meeting or Zoom or even FaceTime window open on your laptop or tablet. You can get on with your sewing but chat with your friend as if they were in the same room. They can also provide opinions on fit, though sadly not possible to help to pin etc. All you need is internet connections and your sewing machines!
Share your skills
I’m not suggesting starting a sewing business, but is there anyone you could share your sewing skills with? If you are retired, for example, have you got a younger person in your family or in your circle of friends that could benefit from learning a new skill? Nobody in my family sews, so when I was learning, I would have bitten the hands of anyone who could have taught me the basics of dressmaking. That’s why I love teaching what I know with anyone who cares to learn. I organised a lot of sewing for charity events where I taught people how to sew and they made projects for charity. I organised sewing fundraisers where I taught beginner sewing classes and the proceeds went to charity. I also often have friends over to teach them the basics of dressmaking and it’s so much fun to share the love of sewing, plus I am being social at the same time.
Try different projects at meet-ups if you don’t like sewing socially
If you have trouble concentrating enough to tackle a bigger sewing project, try something that doesn’t require that much headspace and you can still chat. You can try hand sewing a hem, or bias binding. Or even unpicking. I have a few projects that I keep in my mending pile that pretty much need to be taken apart and redone. They are a great item to bring to a meet-up, as you only need your seam reaper or scissors to get a lot of work done. If there is space available, you can also try copying patterns, like Burda magazines, or even a paper pattern. You can also try hand embroidery or cross stitching if you are good at that.
Find your tribe
The online aspect is a bit more difficult. But my one advice, which I am trying to take myself, is working harder to find my tribe. I have discovered and then met IRL people who are into sustainability as much as I am, who also sew. It’s so rewarding when so many things I care about come together, and we never run out of things to talk about. How to find them? Talk about your passions outside of sewing, and share bits of your life that can make people connect (of course as much as you feel comfortable with) and use hashtags on Instagram, like #sewingrunner to find like-minded people.
I know this is a massive subject and there are so many aspects that will come into play. I probably only scratched the surface of a very big topic and of course, only looking at it from my personal lens. I would love to hear your views as well.
DO YOU FEEL LONELY BECAUSE OF YOUR SEWING PASSION? HOW DO YOU ADDRESS THIS? HOW ABOUT ONLINE LONELINESS IN THE SEWING COMMUNITY? HAVE YOU FOUND YOUR TRIBE? PLEASE LET ME KNOW KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS.
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