Why sewing benefits your mental health

Why sewing benefits your mental health

Sewing benefits mental health

I really enjoyed reading the blog I have linked below and can relate to all 6 reasons why sewing helps with mental health. Honestly, I don’t think I suffer from mental health, I do have many issues that could affect my mental health. I suffer from; SAD, I have highs and lows linked to my hormones, I suffer from IBS linked to anxiety, I only have half a kidney, and both my parents died when I was young. I have learnt how to manage all of this and am stronger, more independent and confident as a result.

I am more for prevention rather than cure and sewing continues to help me in so many ways.

Having a child changed my life, before children I had a career, I was a member of a gym working out 3-4 times a week, I travelled and had a social life. This all changed. My son was born 3 months premature, so was very ill for the first 4 years of his life. I had to make sacrifices for his and my own well-being. Initially I went back to work full-time and was exhausted all the time, my son was in nursery from 7.30am-6pm every day. He suffered from chest infections up until he was 4 years old, so was off sick more often than not. I decided to go part-time and stepped down from my managerial role as a result. I gave up my gym membership because the payments transferred to child care and I simply didn’t have the time or energy. When my son started nursery the fees were so high, we stopped travelling for 5 years. We rarely if ever went out after dark, as we couldn’t afford it and we don’t have any family locally to support us. My sons well-being became my priority and the rewards that he gave us, was far greater than work.

This is when I started to sew at home. When my son was a baby he used to sleep for 2-3 hours in the day and he would be in bed by 7pm most evenings. I started to use these windows of time to have sew. I have always liked to be busy and am always doing more than just the day job. a good example of this is the fact that I completed a Master’s degree whilst working full-time, gaining a distinction. I started to sew children’s clothes and cushions, quick and easy makes. I used paper patterns, each new make can have a new set of challenges. I spent so many years fixing students errors, that when I started sewing at home it was soon apparent that my skills had dramatically improved and I really enjoyed the challenges everyone project beings. The make that I talk about in this blog is a fine example of this.

Sewing has taught me a lot about myself; to go slow for one. When a challenge that’s to make me anxious I take a break. Returning with a clear head, what was initially impossible becomes much easier. Never rush a make, make sure you have enough time to complete it, when I start something I can’t stop until it’s finished, mainly because I am enjoying it so much. I have always been very organised, so can only relax when something is finished. in the home environment I can’t walk past a sink full of dishes, my wash basket is rarely full. At work I always finished a job before the deadline, I could never leave something to the last-minute. This is the same for sewing, I just can’t be rushing, when I do my head gets stressed.

It is so satisfying accomplishing something, over coming a challenge, seeing something made to perfection and making your own clothes that fit well is an added bonus.

Sewing has now changed my life, I work full-time developing my own sewing school and website. I swim 4 times a week, I am swimming a mile in the serpentine this weekend and we enjoyed 2 family holidays this year. I make sure I sew every week, blogging about my makes and I run a textiles club in my son’s school 3 times a week.

The 6 reasons why sewing helps with mental health:

1. Allowing yourself some “selfish” me-time

2. Spending time away from your smart devices to prevent sensory overload

3. Being mindful

4. Accomplishing something

5. Improving Body Image & Increasing Self-confidence

6. Effective coping strategy

I am still adding to my sewing skills, I love the fact that there is so much to learn. Making from patterns is a great way of adding to your skills. Start with simple makes and keep building on your skills. with a pattern and plenty of time I can make just about anything. This hasn’t always been the case, for me it’s about practice and coupling this with my past working experiences.

Things that make a difference to my sewing confidence:

  • I trained as a teacher and taught sewing in secondary schools for 16 years
  • I worked in a commercial design house and then the couture industry.
  • I love learning
  • I have patience

Making with Papercut patterns: The Bowline sweatshirt

The bowline top is a good example of how I am still learning. The pattern does say that it is for the skilled. I am not going to lie, it nearly beat me and brought me close to tears. Don’t let this put you off as; it is just 2 steps that are challenging, the rest are simple and easy to do. I am also wearing my new top as I type and it is one of my favourites.

It looks more complicated than it actually is.
When I say hard, it’s hard until you get your head round it, then it is actually easy. As the saying goes, easy when you know how.

I had been fabric shopping the same day as I made this top, for the first time. So make sure you have enough time, a longer window of time and not so late in the day, as you cannot rush this one. The second time I made it, I used a lighter weight jersey and the binding was a lot easier. I used a stripe, so made sure that the stripe was well placed when cutting out.
Just like when you cook a new recipe, it’s really important to read all the ingredients and the method of making before you start. I always read the instructions from the start to finish before I make. It helps you work out what tools and how much time you need.

The second time I made it, the twist still really challenged me, I did make it a second time several weeks later, so it was like doing it for the first time again.  I plan to make it a third time this week, just so I can feel more confident.

when I was a full-time teacher, public speaking used to cause me the most anxiety. Once I had to lead an assembly for a whole week. This thought filled me with dread. The Monday assembly was a completely different experience to Fridays. Repeating it 5 times helped me over come my anxiety and made me so much more confident. I used to avoid public speaking like the plague, but I know that if it became routine it wouldn’t continue to be so stressful. A saying repeat often:

Thinking about something is far worse than actually doing it!

Depending on the anxiety level, if something makes you anxious, do it again and again and again. The anxiety will transform into satisfaction.

Initially I kept looking at the wrap and it just wasn’t right. Then when I eventually understood and got my head around it, it was a relief. I pinned it and looked at it on the dress stand before I stitched it together, this really helped. At first I couldn’t understand where the neck binding should be and the end of the binding was showing. It is important to check before you sew, especially using a stretch stitch, as unpicking is not easy and can leave holes in the fabric. The pattern says to Burrito roll everything into the centre. this is Spanish for wrap.

If I worked in a factory and had to make this over and over, the twist would be so easy. Making it once or twice, it is still a challenge. If you are making this for the first time, for your own sanity, make a mock of the top first. Even if you just make as far as finishing the twist only, it helps to get your head around it.

The neckband, cuffs and waistband are all relatively easy to sew. It has a raglan sleeve, so the sleeve is easy to insert as you do it flat and then sew the under arm and side seam in one go.

The top comes up a little short, so measure your length before cutting out. You may want it to be longer.
There are several sweatshirt patterns out there, this one however is more unique and stands out from the crowd. Having the twist is really simple, but makes it so on-trend,. Making this with a stripe really shows off the twist.
If you want to make this, I recommend that you have a good time window, although it’s simple and quick to make the twist takes time and brain power. It’s not something to do in a rush. I would also recommend using a light to medium weight fabric, as the neck-band is narrow and better in lighter fabrics.

I enjoyed overcoming the challenge and love wearing my make.

Finally this top is very comfortable and will get you lots of compliments.
If you have never used a paper cut pattern before, be prepared for a lovely experience. The paper is thicker, so lasts longer and the packaging, instructions and graphics are of an excellent quality.

Here is the blog that inspired this post.


Both fabrics and this pattern will be available on my website shop.