SEWING CHALLENGES | IN OR OUT?

SEWING CHALLENGES | IN OR OUT?

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).

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INSPIRATION

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.

FUN

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.

WINNING PRIZES

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…

GETTING EXPOSURE/FOLLOWERS

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

Do you enjoy a sewing challenge? If so, why? If not why? Check out a list of what others in the sewing community think and join the conversation.

What stops people engaging with sewing challenges

TIME

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.

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PRESSURE

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.

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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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22 Comments

  1. 11 February 2020 / 9:27 PM

    I did answer on Instagram, and so far have entered a couple of challenges: firstly the Sew My Style 2020 #SMS20 January challenge, which had the Megan Nielsen Tania culottes as one of the two patterns. I made the mini Tania pattern because the largest size fits me and there was no way I was making the changes to the adult pattern when I could make something straight out of the packet. I already owned that pattern and used fabric from my stash. Those I will be wearing when it’s not quite so cold. For the #SMS20 February challenge I do want to make the bag, but I’m not sure how many other months I’ll want to participate. I may if the option includes pattern I want to use that I think has a chance of fitting me.

    Secondly I tagged a refashion of a sweatshirt on the #GBSBingo20 challenge and the SewOver50Bingo (sustainable and refashion and unworn garment, respectively) – not realising the GBSBingo20 would be judged. That top is in heavy rotation – I was wearing it today.

    Both garments tied into the more intentional SWAP2020 challenge (Sewing with a Purpose) which plans clothes to fit together to build a core wardrobe. But the SWAP2020 has a requirement to complete 9-11 garments by the end of April and I have no intention of making that many clothes that fast. I looked at the challenge as it made me think about the fabrics in my stash and how I could use them with existing orphan clothes bringing them back into rotation – and ended up with three plans based around different clothes. (I lost most of my wardrobe over the last couple of years, so do need to do some rebuilding.)

    I had thought about taking part in the #SewYourBooks and #SewJapaneseinJanuary challenges by making a blouse or culottes from my Japanese book, but having properly looked at the patterns and sizing, decided I would struggle to get a reasonable fit so wouldn’t wear any resulting garment and dropped out. The other idea of making a pussycat bow blouse for the #sewtwistsandties didn’t happen because I don’t have a shirt pattern that fits, yet.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 February 2020 / 7:59 PM

      Thank you for your comment! I really like the intent behind your approach, and actually thinking how and if you will wear the garments that come out of the challenges.

  2. artcoopsville
    11 February 2020 / 10:00 PM

    I occasionally take part in challenges, if they fit with my plans/ time or I feel the need to try something new. Rarely can I get something finished in a week. Life is just too busy. Sometimes even completing one project a month is a tall order. I also had thought about the sew your books Challenge as I had plans to sew from the books I had anyway, but the fabric is still in it’s wrapper and I just haven’t had time. When I first started sewing, I really got a lot out of me made May. But the truth is I wear me made almost everyday. Maybe it should be me mended may. I might actually get around to fixing some of my preloaded items.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 February 2020 / 8:01 PM

      I completely agree! Even if I want to take part in a challenge that I’m passionate about, I can never make it on time. I just finished my first garment of this year and it’s mid Feb already! And yes to mending!

  3. Cindy
    11 February 2020 / 10:04 PM

    This was really interesting to read. I do take part in some challenges, but I’m more and more picky as time goes on. For example, I find myself drawn to challenges that are very open-ended, ie, things I would be sewing anyway but can join a community while doing so (or doing SEW, ha). Sewing Instagram seems to be slowing down lately (or it is just me?) so these challenges are a good way to keep things moving. On the flip side, I find myself getting pretty frustrated with the ones that have prizes: you have to follow accounts and sponsors, tag friends, etc., and then only a few people “win.”

    Great read, thanks for posting!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 February 2020 / 8:03 PM

      Thank you for your comment, Cindy! Interesting that you feel the sewing community is slowing down. I haven’t been on Instagram that much lately, but it seems as active as ever… And completely agree about all the rules, I don’t like that either…

  4. 12 February 2020 / 8:08 AM

    Just like Cindy said in her comment, I’m getting very picky about what challenges I enter and I also prefer an open ended challenge or one that includes garments that I would have sewn anyway. I find myself being not to keen on challenges that have winners and set prizes. In the past I’ve won sewing patterns that are completely not my style so have been sadly wasted. I prefer just vouchers that enable yo to choose your prize.
    Challenges I like?…..very losely structured ones like styling etc and ones that just encourage the community spirit with no prizes needed.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 February 2020 / 8:07 PM

      I would love to see you do a 10×10 challenge, to see your lovely outfits styles in different ways.

      • 15 February 2020 / 2:49 PM

        Hmmm, sounds like that could be fun! I’d need pointers from you as I’ve never done it before.

  5. Lee
    12 February 2020 / 1:07 PM

    Honestly, I’ve never been tempted to participate in a challenge, for a variety of reasons, a) they are just not my thing and b) I just don’t have the time to afford. Having said that, I love watching them, as our community has some real creatives out there. Seeing what can be done with a particular pattern, fabric or hack can be a real eye-opener, so I’m always very grateful to those that do take part.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 February 2020 / 8:11 PM

      Completely agree with you, Lee! Following challenges is really fun!

  6. 12 February 2020 / 1:25 PM

    The only challenge I’ve ever taken part was last year in August, when Mia from @sewnorth called in for #alteritaugust. More because I wanted to alter/mend things and think it’s very important for people to think about it, then because it was a challenge with prizes. Prizes are welcome, of course, but the biggest prize for me is completing a project to my satisfaction, being that a new item or a mending one.
    So NO for challenges for me.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 February 2020 / 8:12 PM

      I haven’t heard about that challenge, but I completely agree with the sentiment. So important to also look at finishing and repairing, not just plowing ahead with making.

  7. 12 February 2020 / 4:30 PM

    Thank you for the multiple links! When I first started sewing, the online challenges were a great way to connect with other people. I didn’t know anyone IRL who sewed, so that’s how I developed my community. They were also great for helping me decide WHAT to sew. I was still learning what my sewing style is, what I like to sew and what would help stretch my skills.

    Now that it’s been a little while, I don’t actively participate in them as much. Sewing on a deadline sucks the love out of it for me (even when it’s for someone else and the deadline is a birthday or something). So I usually avoid deadline-driven ones altogether. I have taken the “slow” part of slow-fashion to heart (which is what led to #themendychallenge)! If a contest happens to exist for something I’m making, great! If not, it’s no big loss. But that’s because I already established what I was looking for out of sewing challenges. And now that I’m running one myself (#sms20), it’s a lot more “challenging” to find the time to participate in others. But I do love them and think they’re great for the community overall, so I’m glad there are so many for different sewists to choose from!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      14 February 2020 / 8:14 PM

      Yes, completely agree on the deadline part. Btw, congrats on the Love to Sew interview, you were great! I really enjoyed learning more about you. And I love your no-nonsense approach to sewing (and life).

  8. 12 February 2020 / 7:40 PM

    Interesting topic, and interesting replies. I have this feeling that challenges are somewhat on the decline; or perhaps rather that there is a shift to make them more meaningful-in-this-current-day-and-time.

    Sewing as a hobby suddenly took flight about ten years ago, with many younger people, who’d never been taught at school, embracing it – just like many other ‘maker-hobbies’ that re-emerged at the time – and still do.

    At the beginning, sewing challenges served a purpose of community-building and expanding one’s horizon. Perhaps that may not have been the original intent, but I do believe that they certainly helped to achieve that. And, possibly, challenges also attempted to ‘lure’ more people into the craft (hence the prizes and awards/honorary badges) and (thus) creating a larger clientele/following.

    These days, however, it feels to me as if that’s no longer so appealing or ‘needed’. The sewing community is already ‘out there’ and in full swing, many people do have quite an array of more advanced techniques under their belt. This, combined with the zeitgeist, brings a shift to make it all more meaningful. *Why* do you sew? How can I employ sewing to create something that fits my life/my person? Can I implement sewing to ‘mend’ the world/environment’

    I think that challenges which link to those latter themes are more ‘popular’ (and will become even more so) than the challenges of yore. The ‘old’ challenges have served a purpose, but we need a new breath of challenges to, well, keep us challenged – as both we ourselves as the world/world view around us have changed and keeps changing.

    I think that themes like those mentionef above, combined with a (far) less strict time schedule and more of a ‘let’s learn from each other & inspire one another’ vibe may attract more people now. Also, I do think it a serious shame that 89% of Challenge-made clothing tends to be worn *less*!!?! (That was the most surprising *and* revealing number in your survey, to me.) When challenges center about making their outcome more meaningful (i.e. more worn), that would be a huge win in itself.

    That said, I think that the majority of people would still not take part. There’s something to be said for keeping a hobby, a personal interest stressfree/free from any feeling of obligation. If the idea of “I *have* to do this” (in said time/according to said rules) comes into play, I usually bail out. There’s so much that I *have to do* already, please don’t add it to the things I enjoy doing, as they both require and give me a much needed sense of freedom.

    So, there may lie a challenge in setting up such a challenge for this non-challenger; a challenge fit for this new decade of awareness! (Ideas like mending and altering are this >< close to luring me in 😉 )

    Sabine C, Belgium

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      16 February 2020 / 11:58 AM

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Sabine! I agree with many of your points. And particularly around how much the garments made for challenges get worn. And yes, mending and altering for garments to be worn again are definitely the way forward!

  9. 13 February 2020 / 10:46 AM

    I quite enjoy the odd sewing challenge and find myself running a couple! I prefer the ones that aren’t competitions and do not have prizes (I never agree with the judges’ choices!) and I aso enjoy the ones which have token deadlines. A deadline is great, but if I’m a day late, who cares?! I like the ones that push me to do something different (sew your books, Sew Japanese in January) but I must be honest, I do not have a carefully curated wardrobe and I make whatever I feel like, although I focus on sewing my stash or recycling.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      16 February 2020 / 11:59 AM

      I know you do, Sue! The paper outfit one was amazing!!

  10. 14 February 2020 / 12:16 PM

    I love a sewing challenge and take part in them quite often. As I have lots of ideas buzzing around my head I can often find a project to fit in with a challenge theme. (For example when the Sewcialists announced that February would be denim month it finally gave me the push to pull out my finger and use all my denim scraps to make a jacket – nothing new was purchased and I was planning to make this anyway). I am shocked that people are making things for challenges that are worn less and think that is very disappointing. I didn’t take part in Sew Frosting etc because I knew I wouldn’t get 30 wears out of the resulting garment. So I do love a sewing challenge but only when the garment is something I wanted to make anyway, I don’t buy anything especially so I can take part!

  11. sewrendipityalex
    Author
    16 February 2020 / 12:01 PM

    I am not that surprised to be honest, because my own experience was that I tend to wear more things that are made thoughtfully, taking into account my needs and wardrobe gaps. However, that does not mean that the thoughtful project I have in mind already might not fit in with a challenge. Thanks for commenting!

  12. 1 April 2020 / 7:20 PM

    I quite like them, I prefer the ones were its just one hashtag and you can add to it when you want to, EG #seweverydayseptember. I find the more regimented ones where you a have to post everyday a bit much. Its really great to connect with other people, I find I get a lot more comments and interaction when I do these hashtags.

So, what do you think?

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