The Sewing Community sure love their sewing challenges. And of course, they all come with a hashtag… Myself, I am a bit on the fence, with my bum probably hanging slightly on the ‘against’ side. So, I wanted to explore this subject in one of those ‘conversation opener’ posts that I indulge in on the blog from time to time.
I also did a quick straw poll on Instagram, and very much looking forward to discussing the pros and cons and getting your thoughts on the matter as well.
Let’s dive right in.
Sewing challenges – what are they?
If you engage with sewing peeps on Instagram, and on blogs to a certain extent, you must be familiar with the sewing challenges that seem to be popping up every month (if not every week).
In a nutshell, a sewing challenge is a task set by someone (or a group of people) on social media, usually Instagram with rules around how to complete it. It might be loosely bound, like ‘make a garment a month’ or more restrictive ‘make a certain pattern in a specific fabric within a specific period’. Sometimes, they can take the form of a competition, with prizes and sponsors, other times is just an accountability exercise, like Me Made May, where you are asked to wear handmade items for a month. But all of them are joined under a specific hashtag.
As I mentioned, I did a quick straw poll on Instagram and asked people why they like taking part in sewing challenges. Here are some of the reasons they mentioned (grouped into the main categories).
Who takes part in sewing challenges?
Again, judging by the popularity, you can be forgiven to think it’s pretty much everyone. However, my poll revealed that 61% or the people who replied DO NOT take part in them, and only 39% do. 88 people replies, so that’s not a huge amount, but still, I was surprised to see that fewer people prefer not to take part.
I then asked further what are the reasons for or against them.
Reasons to take part in sewing challenges
BEING PART OF THE COMMUNITY
For many people, sewing challenges are mainly about being part of the community. Many people working on a similar project at the same time can make you feel like you are not sewing alone in your space but are working along with friends (even if they are virtual ones).
Hands up who went down the rabbit hole of a sewing challenge hashtag, scrolling for ever and ever. Yup, I think we’ve all been there. It’s one of the reasons most people use Instagram and join the online sewing community. So many amazing sewers and makers share their projects and successes online and it’s a wonderful source of inspiration. And it’s even easier when you join a specific hashtag on a narrower subject, so all the curated inspiration is at your fingertips.
FOCUS, MOTIVATION, CHALLENGE
Some people might find they need a bit of a push to finish (or to start) a certain project that they have been procrastinating for a while. So, a challenge provides the accountability, courage or motivation to tackle that one difficult project. Also, some people take part in challenges that relate to projects they are either working on or are part of their sewing queues, so it’s nice to follow along on their own terms.
Quite a few people said they find the challenges fun. It may be because of the quirky topics, a different way of looking at something more ordinary or even just the community spirit and the conversations that are being generated and how others in the community are responding to the challenge set.
As I mentioned, some sewing challenges offer prizes, be it for taking part (randomly chosen) or as part of competitions. Some prizes can be quite appealing, such as sewing machines, so no wonder they are strong motivators…
Taking part in a challenge gets loads more eyes on your creations, posts and account. So this can be a great way to connect with more people in the community and get more followers.
SAVE THIS FOR LATER ON PINTEREST
What stops people engaging with sewing challenges
This seems to be the number one reason why people avoid engaging with sewing challenges. This can be both the fact that they don’t have personal time to dedicate to the project, but also that the time allocated to the challenge is too short. Also, they might already have a long queue that they hardly have time for, let alone taking on something new.
Working to a deadline can be really stressful for some people. Also, sharing the end result with ‘the world’ can seem really daunting, especially when we view some of the other participants as being much better, more accomplished than we are. It can also be really daunting for beginners or people who are just starting to engage with the sewing community.
THE BRIEF DOES NOT MATCH MY STYLE/ADD VALUE TO MY WARDROBE
Many people have also said that they don’t want to take part in challenges that result in making garments that do not match their style, personal preferences or add value to their wardrobes. They do not need prompts to be creative in their own way. They also don’t like to be tied down to a particular brief. Conversely, many people said they would take part in a challenge to a brief that matches something they are already working on or were thinking of starting, or in line with actual needs.
To the point above, I was also curious how much people end up wearing the projects made for a challenge, and 89% said they then to wear the items less, and 11% said more. A few said about the same.
WHAT DO I THINK ABOUT SEWING CHALLENGES?
I am so grateful to everybody that contributed to the poll and graciously shared their opinions with me.
I guess now is the time to get off my virtual fence and tell you what I think.
I did find that the ‘no’ camp pretty much captured my views as to why I prefer not to engage with challenges. Yes, I have very little time on my hands as it is (working full time and + whole bunch of creative hobbies on top of sewing). But probably an even more important reason is that I find challenges do not steer my sewing projects in the direction that I would like them to go. In the spirit of building a meaningful wardrobe, I want every piece to be considered and intentional and very rarely a challenge would match my requirements. I am also trying to reduce my sewing output for myself to 12 garments/year, so I need to make every one of them count.
I know that challenges come with many briefs, so clearly one size (motivation wise) does not fit all.
Having said that, I do appreciate challenges that bring like-minded people together on a common ground and get the community to share thoughts, ideas and experiences. One such challenge was Sewing Makes You Love Yourself, when many people bravely put their stories out there. I also like challenges that encourage you not to sew something new, but to use what you have or to mend or alter. An example is the #makeyourstash challenge that my friend Kate (Time to Sew) and Pillar (@Pillarbear) started last year. Also, a shout to the #mendyproject that Paulette Erato (Petit Font) put out there earlier this year.
But perhaps my favourite challenges of all are styling and wearing ones, of which the most famous in the sewing community is Me Made May (here and here), as well as my beloved #StyleBee10x10 ( here, here) challenge. I strongly believe that wearing what you make and making the best of what you already have is the best way to inspire and connect with the community, as well as truly challenge yourself to a new way of thinking and be a bit more sustainable (at least in your wardrobe). Also, my One Year Wardrobe Count project can also be considered a challenge of sorts, although it was a personal one. I was so happy to see that other people are also taking it on board, like @wis_sew and @craftclyde. If you want to also give it a go, the template I use is available for free if you subscribe to the blog.
So all in all, turns out I do love a sewing challenge, and being part of the community, but I like it on my own terms.
If you do like a challenge and not sure what’s out there, check out Pauline’s monthly list on her blog, Petit Font.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SEWING CHALLENGES? DO YOU TAKE PART? WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE ONE?
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