Alchemical Notes: The Body of a Sewist

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, long before Seamwork published their Body Issue, but that certainly brought these thoughts back to the forefront of my mind.

I find sewing empowering because I can customize patterns to fit me better than the average RTW garment. I’ve been complimented many times on the fit of my handmade garments, and most of the time the compliment-giver doesn’t know the piece is handmade. Overall I am much less self conscious about perceived “flaws”, and in fact I don’t call them flaws anymore. I have a deeper appreciation for my shape and the unique elements of myself. Even when I try on RTW clothes, I no longer blame my hips & waist for being the wrong ratio, but make note of alterations I would need to make to the garment fit. And then I make mental calculations about the cost of the RTW piece and the alteration labor in relation to making something from scratch. 🙂

I am also always keenly aware of my body’s fluctuations, particularly the increases, and this causes hesitation in my sewing. I have been holding off on making my Ginger Jeans because my weight has been increasing with a new medication. I haven’t yet figured out if this is going to be my “new normal” or if it will drop back down with more exercise and fewer donuts on the way to work. I don’t want to invest the time and money into making a fitted garment only to gain more weight or lose weight and have it not fit. I know I could be healthier. I don’t exercise and if I want to live a long life and be able to climb mountains with my husband, I need to change many daily habits.

I am writing this because I just can’t silence the inner voice that tells me “I shouldn’t be thinking this much about my body.” It feels like I am going against my feminist ideals. It feels like I am betraying the sewing community that is so supportive and inclusive and positive. But maybe it is the WAY in which we think about our bodies that is crucial, not the amount of time we spend doing so. Maybe it is the REASONS we seek to change that matters.

I didn’t really have an end result for this post. I wanted to get the thoughts out of my head. I wanted to acknowledge the conflicts I feel and move forward. (One of my goals in therapy is to silence this inner roommate who is so afraid of mistakes and blunders, who is very cautious and anticipates problems rather than experiences life.)

Has anyone else experienced this bell curve of body-acceptance in their sewing (or knitting) of clothes? Has sewing inspired anyone to change their fitness and dietary habits (in healthy or less healthy ways)? Has the sewing community ever tried a fitness challenge together, or is that beyond the scope of what connects us?

Much love,
The Fabric Alchemist


8 thoughts on “Alchemical Notes: The Body of a Sewist

  1. Good decision to write this post! I hope it’s all “better out than in”, and that writing it helped you reflect on your thinking! The beauty of being a feminist and a sewist is that you get to think about your body if, when, and however the hell you want to, and there is no right or wrong way!

    I’ve been aware of some sewists banding together in the past to do Whole 30, or exercise challenges… personally, I don’t love when those things pop up a lot in my IG feed, because it feels a bit “holier than thou”, though hopefully they don’t mean it that way. I think blogs are a nice format for talking about that kind of stuff though – easier for people to skip if it brings up negative self-thought, and more space for the writer to really dig into the process! There is surely tons to be said about how exercise aimed at longevity and health changes our mindset, and that in turn must affect sewing! 😉

    My point: I look forward to reading about whatever your process becomes!

  2. Interesting. As my body fluctuate I have to admit that I struggle with making fitted garments for myself. T-shirts and such is OK, but I don’t bother with the jeans or dresses. +/- 10 kg is quite a bit, and I’ve been at a loss. What to do? I also have an MS diagnosis and that got me interested in Dr. Perlmutter’s writings. I realise I have to go low-carb. Especially as I feel a wicked pull towards the stuff. If I feel that addicted, surely it can’t be any good for me? At least that’s what I think. Especially as I had the same reaction to the though of giving up gluten some years ago. I managed and the effect was awesome. I hope for the same now, and I know how I shall celebrate: making fitted dresses and jeans for me!

  3. I think a lot of us struggle with the way our body weight fluctuates especially as we age. I feel most comfortable 10 lbs lighter than I am currently, but I’m also comfortable in my skin and have been working on cutting back on my carbs and i’m juicing. I’ll like to get back to those fitted dresses and T-shirts too!

  4. I am currently dealing with this. I actually wrote a blog post about it the other day. I have been avoiding sewing fitted clothing because I’ve steadily been gaining weight over the last couple of years.

  5. Old lady sewist here: When you sew, you fit to yourself, and that means paying more attention to dimensionality and numbers than if you just shopped.
    My weight has gone up and moved around a lot since babies, menopause, hip surgery, arm injuries – I can’t dress myself the same way right now due to frozen shoulder (women have this malady twice as often as men). I am grateful that I sew, so that I can wear the clothes I’d like to.
    Make wider seam allowances. Save the fabric you didn’t use for alterations. Jeans don’t have to be skin tight to fit well (hip and crotch are your key #s) and look great.
    My point is this: sew for right now. Don’t put the tasty stuff off for some future that will probably never happen. Life is short. Rock all the curves or noncurves all the days of the week. Own it.

  6. I say make what you’re inspired to make; and if it doesn’t fit later, you get to make it again or make something new. Of course, I’m all about the process of making and, while I love having a finished product, it’s the time with my hands that I really treasure.

  7. Your body is the instrument through which you experience the world! I don’t think there’s anything antithetical to feminism in thinking about your body and the kind of relationship you want to have with it.

    This topic has been on my mind over the past half year or so; after enjoying all the walking during our Japan trip and reading Sallieoh’s post on strength training, I decided I wanted to exercise every day. I didn’t have any measurable fitness or weight goals – I just wanted to move. I tend to live in my brain and have low physical energy, and I wanted to see if moving more would help. So I get up early every morning and move for 30 minutes. I do a variety of stuff I’ve picked up through the years – basic yoga, walk/jogging, hill walks, yoga tune-up massage, and meditation. I love it. While I have seen some changes to my physical appearance – both positive and negative, per our mainstream culture – the ones I’ve become most attached to are the clearer mind and more energy. I’ve also been reading more about traditional Chinese medicine, and I’m really inspired by the focus on organ function. What a different way to think about health – how can we help our organs gather nourishment and eliminate waste? It’s easy to love your body when you focus on how hard it’s working for you, regardless of appearance.

    All this is to say, I think it’s possible to decouple the external effects of exercise and the act of exercising! Your physical form is beautiful now, and will be beautiful if you change your habits. And I vote for sewing the jeans you need right now and saving a bit of fabric for a new waistband, if you need to take them in later. Fitting jeans can take a few (or in my case, many!) tries anyway. 🙂

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