What is Selfish Sewing?
Before you answer that, let me ask some other questions. Have you heard of selfish basketball playing? Selfish tinkering in the garage? Selfish poker night?
I grew up with a very, very strong-willed mother. Not a single mother, mind you — my parents have been married over forty years now — but a Boss nonetheless. I expected to grow up and be the same. But I was a little conflicted: at school, I noticed that boys could go off and do whatever they wanted, but girls had to sit nice and quietly and behave. I wanted to be free! I wanted to be wild! I wanted to be a Boss like my mother — but my microcosm said no. And once puberty hit, I said no, too.
Fast forward to the present: reading sewing blogs, digging through the archives of blogs I really like, clicking links to other blogs. Basically, reading lots of thoughts and opinions of others, mainly women. One of the thoughts that kept popping up was ‘selfish sewing’. There was even a blog called the The Selfish Seamstress.
Interestingly, The Selfish Seamstress sewed designer-inspired pieces for herself — basically, applying her talents to giving herself the very best. But the term ‘selfish sewing’ usually refers to “stealing” one’s own time and energy to make something awesome for oneself. *side eye* Of course, the irony is that most women who sew clothes typically sew for themselves, anyway.
It’s a contradiction: we ladies sew for ourselves, but feel guilty putting so much time and energy into doing something purely for ourselves. So we set aside time to ‘selfish sew’, to make it occasionally okay to self-indulge to the max. I tell you, sewers, this decidedly un-Boss way of thinking chaps my hide! Not because I’m angry with this socially feminine train of thought, but because it’s sad that anyone feels they need to gain karmic permission to treat themselves well.
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On a personal note, my journey to this point has been a long one. Very long, if you consider I designed my first dress at the age of thirteen for a school dance. That turned out to be a disaster, then I had another disastrous sewing experience that turned me off sewing for many years — but I continued to design clothes as a secret hobby. Secret, because I put the ugly in ugly duckling — pretty clothes were not for someone like me. I had a lot of body shame and a lot of artistic insecurity, and still do. But I also want to make and design clothing. When will I be ready? I ask myself. I look for signs, for permission from the universe, to answer this question. Do I have to dress a certain way? Be the best seamstress ever?
You know how they say that what you don’t like in others is what you actually don’t like in yourself, but can’t face? It’s true. Because my questions are a decidedly un-Boss way of thinking, and it chaps my hide!
Starting a sewing and design business is what I want to do, for me, and I don’t need permission to throw my hat into the ring. I don’t need to wait for a sign that it is time. It’s not selfish to try — or sew, or do anything else that we love and experience satisfaction doing. If anything, doing what we love is the embodiment of generosity! I’ve read and watched and learned so much from sewing bloggers, sewing professionals, sewing writers, some of whom are no longer blogging, or writing, or working, but left their mark nonetheless. Look at this five year old tip for matching plaids from The Selfish Seamstress; or this more recent tip for getting bias tape in the right color from black label. My favorite patternmaking book was published in 1959; the author, Adele P. Margolis, has since passed. And my favorite designer has long been Betsey Johnson, whose use of color has always inspired my own.
No, my friends, I think the real selfish sewing isn’t spending time and energy sewing for yourself; I think the real selfish sewing, the real selfish anything, is withholding from it. Withholding your energy, your intellect, your unique approach. Avoiding embracing your endeavor and making it a new facet of your personality and life experience. Happily, there are many, many, non-selfish sewers holding things down online, and I look forward to the day when I join the ranks of non-selfish sewing/fashion professionals!