The Holistic Seamstress

The Holistic Seamstress Logo

Wardrobe sewing is personal lifestyle choice. If I was a scientist, I might even hypothesize that it’s coded in our DNA. Whatever its origins, making clothes puts a seamstress at the intersection of her physical body, skills, available time, tools & materials, and even her personality. These five elements come together in a unique way for every sewist, leading to a handmade wardrobe that is not only a reflection of individual style, but a wearable record of personal growth. In an effort to understand the relationship between these elements and how they influence my approach to clothes making (and life), I am going to explore these topics in a multi-part series.


After writing about how sewing has shaped my self-esteem, a whole new world of navel gazing about my craft opened up for me. I started connecting dots that I know will bring a balanced awareness to my sewing that I’ve been missing. Discovering my core style and preferred silhouettes through the Wardrobe Architect challenge was a great tactical exercise, but making my own clothes is a lifetime commitment that has more layers to it than just choosing what I want to sew. Every garment I make says something about WHO I am, WHERE I’ve been, WHAT I know (and don’t), HOW I sew, and WHERE I am going. I want those stories stitched into every seam.

The 5 Elements of Wardrobe Sewing

To live holistically means living in balance with ourselves and our environment by understanding and honoring the interconnectedness of all things. When I say stuff like that my friends call me a hippie and make jokes about my crunchy granola lifestyle —it doesn’t help that large batches of granola are actually baked twice a month in my kitchen —but, I don’t mind the teasing because I’m secure in my hippiehood and embrace it. In fact, most makers are part hippie, part nerd, and part artist. The best sewists leverage all of these traits while navigating what I like to think of as the Periodic Table of Wardrobe Sewing Elements.

Periodic Table of Wardrobe Sewing Elements

I believe that examining what’s true for me about these five elements —skills, body, supplies, time, and personality—will elevate my sewing experience, molding it to fit my reality. Too often I have looked to books, experts, other bloggers, or even sewing patterns to help me make sense of my sewing journey, when the truth I seek comes from the same place as Dorothy’s power to leave Oz and return home. It comes from inside. Knowing my constraints, what I’m bringing to the table, and what motivates me. I have a feeling that making those connections will change everything about the way I sew.

The Schedule

I am usually pretty casual about when I blog. A breadwinning mom with a toddler in the final stages of potty training gets a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to following the rules of blogging consistency. But, writing about this feels so right, it can’t be wrong. Nor can it wait for the time when life slows down (by my estimate, that will be in the year 2031). So in the continued spirit of sharing the start of projects that equally scare and thrill me, here is the schedule for The Holistic Seamstress blog series. If the stars align, new makes will be shared in between:

  • Part 1: Skills (Week of October 12th)
  • Part 2: Body (Week of November 30th)
  • Part 3: Supplies (TBD)
  • Part 4: Time (TBD)
  • Part 5: Personality (TBD)

Thanks in advance for sticking with me through what I think will be a close-up look at a seamstress’ attempt at sewing enlightenment.

A Rack of Self-Esteem


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.

Man of the Year

IMG_1457 As usual, a new trend was catapulted into the sewcial community by a post yesterday on oonaballona inspired from a post by Lori of Frivolous At Last about the heroics of their husbands during photoshoots. A well-deserved #unsungsewingbloghero hashtag was bestowed on them and I’d like to honor my man with one, too. Because he is the water that floats my boat. Especially when said boat is contorting herself to pin darts on her ass.

My husband, Matt is many levels of amazing. When Josephine was born, he was more than okay with staying home with her while I worked. His nickname is “MattGyver” because of how handy and resourceful he is. When I come home from work to my domestic hunk, I’m greeted with things like tomatoes from the garden, a DIY deck sandbox for our daughter, folded laundry, and an upgraded OS for my neglected computer.

Most importantly, he lets me sew ALL DAY on Sundays.

On one of these lovely Sundays recently, I decided to tackle a darted skirt muslin I’d been tinkering with for years. I’d finally worked out that three darts at my high square hip did the trick, but I was struggling to reach that part of my body to drape and pin the darts properly. Enter Mr. Carroll. All he says is “Here”, takes the pin from my hand, and starts to finish the job. Whaaaaaat? What is going on here? Is this really happening? Many women want their husbands to buy them flowers and take them out for fancy dinners…. I just want help with fitting.

DIY-ing a wardrobe is hard damn work and I always assumed I’d have to kidnap a local teenager to be my unpaid intern. But, so far, no felonies are required. It took him some time to get the pinning right, but I let him take all the time he needed. At one point, I started to nag about his technique, but stopped myself from ruining the beautiful, historic moment. Because I so want it to be repeated.

Now that I think about it, Matt has always been my sexy sewing assistant. There’s the floor-length hem he marked for my Amercian Geisha kimono, the photos he took for my Make My Lucky Day dress, and all the diva drama he endured while I rushed to finish the Driving Men Mad dress for a challenge deadline. He doesn’t even give me shit about the shirts I’ve never made for him. Needless to say, he is staying.

Tell me about YOUR unsung hero. Who in your life makes sewing or blogging about it easier?