My decade-long adventure in self-taught sewing has got me doing a lot of self-reflection lately. Since returning to what I love after such a long break, I have been trying get my groove back and rebuild my sewing self-esteem. I didn’t even realize there was such a thing until I started reading sewing blogs again and scrolling through my Instagram feed for what was supposed to be inspiration. Seeing so many others have the success and accomplishment that I wasn’t at the time, did a number on my psyche and I started to get that underachiever feeling that can either paralyze or energize me. Fast forward to today, a year after I ended my sewing hiatus. How am I feeling about how far I’ve come? AWESOME!!!!
My handmade wardrobe began that day in January 2012 when I joined the The Sew Weekly and constructed my first wearable garment after seven years of fumbling my way through a foreign craft (with the Internet as my seeing eye dog) and basting together what must have been a million muslins. Since then it’s grown enough for me to wear something I’ve made most days of the month. And, each day that I do is better for it. My attitude and posture shifts when I wear Najah-made. I stand taller (some days I feel as tall as 5 foot 2!). My walk has a confident, purposeful strut, and the work I do while wearing Najah-made always seems to be of higher quality. I smile at strangers when I wear my Najah-mades out and folks always reciprocate, matching or exceeding my enthusiasm. The garments I sew act like super suits, enhancing my natural abilities and giving me the power to engage the world with the strength and assurance of a triple stitched seam.
I am successful at sewing. Boy, was it hard to type that. For someone who has trouble accepting imperfection in her work, saying that to myself (and believing it) is a therapeutic breakthrough. This is coming from the girl who took thirteen years to finish her bachelor’s degree and only invited her husband to the graduation, assuming the event wouldn’t be that significant to the people who supported her perseverance all those years. The irony of my struggle with recognizing my own accomplishments is in the fact that my name actual means SUCCESS. For real. In Arabic, Najah means “success”. So not only can I finally admit that I am successful at sewing, but I AM SUCCESS. Literally. When I first learned the meaning of my name, I thought the whole thing was unfair and way too much pressure for a short black girl, raised by divorced parents in Northern California. Now, I embrace it. Striving to live up to my name everyday by putting 110% in all I do…especially sewing, because it is such a critical part of my self-discovery.
When the Day 17 theme for this month’s Sew Photo Hop came around (Proudest Achievement), I couldn’t choose one garment because I try to outdo myself each time in an effort to make myself proudest of the latest. So, it was clear that my pride lies in my progress. Filling up an entire rack with clothes I made with my bare hands (while living a very full life!) is an achievement I will no longer hesitate to celebrate. Because we all know, self-esteem is self-made.
How much has sewing affected your self-esteem or how you see yourself in the world? Your stories will help me celebrate my own.
19 thoughts on “A Rack of Self-Esteem”
What a wonderful post! I’m so happy to read these words. It’s hard to feel ok celebrating our successes, but we should!
I feel the same when I’m wearing me-mades. I am wearing some right now and man. I feel like a million bucks. I feel… like MYSELF. I have GOT to get sewing because right now I’m wearing the same four things over and over – the four me-mades that are weather appropriate. I am a slow slow sewer so there are a couple other things in the works that aren’t ready to wear yet, but I’ve got to get them out there! I can’t bear to wear anything but things I’ve made, anymore. I feel so sad and slumpy when I do. I think I’m going to empty my wardrobe completely, this weekend, of all the things I’m not wearing anymore. More room for me-mades, right??
I feel like I am finding equilibrium with my sewing self esteem. I don’t think I’m a very careful or talented sewer, I am slow and I often make mistakes. I feel like a bad blogger – I’m slow to blog because I sew slow, I write rambly posts and I don’t take great photos. But I don’t seem to mind much lately. I am sewing things that are better quality and fit than what I can buy, even if they’re not couture, or the insides are a mess. And I can feel myself improving all the time. Being able to wear my makes proudly makes all the swearing and unpicking and worrying that i’m doing it wrong seem not just worth it, but it seems like it never happened.
Thank you! I appreciate your comment on this topic. I get that gotta-make-the-next-thing feeling too when I find myself in that predicament – which is almost weekly! You know, I’ve always dug how clinical you are when sharing your garments – I can tell it helps you learn. It helps ME learn too because you are SO brave with your pattern choices (M6696 feels like a marathon to me, but I love it), and as a fellow curvy, I live vicariously through your open journal about the wrinkles you’d address or construction changes you’d make the next time.
And, you are SO RIGHT about how a finished garment is a trauma eraser the moment it hits our bodies. I am always being dramatic here on the blog about whatever angst I experience while sewing, but the truth is, those memories are hazy as hell by the time I sit down to tell a make story. Whatever spell of elation I’m under wipes out any unpleasantries and I’m left with that cape flying feeling.
I enjoyed your post. I think that sewing is so hard to do. I feel I can sew well enough and can learn new techniques with practice and Patience! But fitting, yikes, sooo much fun. But I know that my clothes are fitting better because I like RTW even less now. So I must be getting better! I love your blog!
Thank you, Janet for rocking my world with your compliment. Even though only like five people read this blog, it’s nice to hear one of them digs what’s going on here. 😉
Patience and practice are exactly the two things behaviors sewing requires. I had plenty when I first started out, now I love it so much (and perhaps learned, bought, and saw too much) that it’s hard to maintain those traits when I want to SEW EVERYTHING NOW.
So beautifully said. Thanks for sharing. I feel similarly! I celebrate every act of creation and I feel more confident and beautiful in clothing that I have made to perfectly fit my own body.
So glad you get it, Erin!!
I like this post (and others) because you always have a thoughtful take. I never feel satisfied with my efforts. I think this is what spurs me on to try again – always trying to strive towards perfection.
Thank you for kind words, Kate. They mean a lot of getting all vulnerable up in here.
“Never be satisfied” is a recurring meme with me. I tried to balance it with recognizing I am human, but when I sew I don’t want to be human. I want to be super human. With a couture cape.
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You have a wonderful way with introspection and I love your makes- I’m glad you are owning your wins and sharing the journey with us!
Thank you. Means a lot coming from you, one of my first sewist crushes.
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Great post! Thank you for sharing. It touched me and made me think. When I was younger, my overall confidence in life was so much higher. I felt like I could do anything that I put my mind to. This included my sewing. As a young seamstress I wasn’t afraid of zippers, princess seams, or pleats. Somewhere along the way, I lost this confidence in sewing …….I lost my my overall confidence in life. For me, rebuilding my sewing confidence has been so much bigger. With every garment completed (perfectly or imperfectly) I am beginning to believe in myself again.
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Exactly!!! Every garment is a confidence re-builder for us! Our younger sewing selves didn’t know enough about the craft to fear it. Now, we’ve seen it all, read all the books and blogs and had enough success to fear losing it. It’s a strange thing that happens when we grow up. It’s like we grow out of the innocent, wide-eyed learning and tolerance for mistakes we come into sewing with…
I want to get in touch with that again. Confidence is the new black, right?
Thank you, Angie…I love when sewing lets us go deep.
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Ahhh, what a great story! And congrats on getting your degree–as they say, no one can take that piece of paper away from you!
Sewing is marvelous. I don’t really have a good tale of my own regarding it; I’ve always been too foolish to be scared of most things. I will say that sewing has taught me patience. I am the queen of impatience, and unrepentant about it–but in real life, especially real adult life, things take time. They take steps. You have to crawl before you walk. Before I sewed, I didn’t get that, and tried to rush through life–now I know things take time, they take WORK, and if I want any kind of result, I need to put in the time and do the work. I’m grateful for sewing teaching me what no one else could (because I’m hard-headed, hah).
As for wearing my makes, it’s old hat to me now, but I do prioritize wearing makes over RTW. My favorite thing to do is find RTW that fits into my me-made style, so that people think I made it. Ha! Ha! 😀
Thanks, Ebi. I graduated in 2007 and I think that was right around the time I was figuring out sewing. I didn’t have much patience back then and I don’t have much now, but like you, sewing has been a great place to see the power of steady, persistent work. All of the seams we’ve arrogantly sewn, only to rip them out. Again and again.
OK, so I thought I was the only one who tried to fake folks out with their RTW purchases. I am always styling handmade with factory-made into DID YOU MAKE THATS?!! Gotta keep ’em guessing.
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I have been sewing most of my life, and since joining various sewing forum and reading blogs I have valued my sewing skills more than I have done in the past. However, I caught myself doing it again, ready to recycle clothes I’ve made, but hanging on like grim death to things I have bought that I haven’t worn/got value for money out of.
Thanks for sharing, April. I know what you mean about putting RTW on a undeserved pedastal. We are strangely critical of our makes because we forget how beautifully imperfect we are…just as we are. Crooked topstitching, poor fit wrinkles, uneven zippers and all.
I really needed to read this today… I’ve been trying to get myself out of a sewing slump for over a month now, after sewing consistently each month…. I also love to wear what I’ve made and pride myself in getting better with each garment, whether it’s adding more creativity to a pattern or more color than my closet’s black, white, browns…. this is helping me to get back and just go for it.
Thanks so much for sharing!!
So, glad this post spoke to you! Our craft can feel lonely, sometimes. It’s important to pat ourselves on the back for what we’ve accomplished. Especially when our mojo is on vacation.
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