Creativity has always been a driving force in my life, guiding major decisions. I remember a bag full of half cut fabrics and old sewing patterns stored deep in the back of my mom’s closet when I was a boy, packed away with her sewing machine and sewing box.
Even though I was instructed to leave the ‘stash’ alone, I always found myself rummaging through it in search of treasure when mom wasn’t looking. Who knows why it was so enticing to me at the beginning; whether it was my love of textiles, engineering, or pure creative energy; but it is an enticement that still lasts over 30 years later.
Besides the remnants left stashed away in the closet, I have no memories of sewing with my mom, or ever knowing her to sew at all. I think it was a hobby that fell to the side when ‘momming’ took over. Growing up in a very conservative family and area led to distinct gender roles, and sewing wasn’t on the list deemed socially acceptable for boys. But, I had a secret weapon-my granny.
Granny did sew and she didn’t shy away from helping me create the Halloween costumes I envisioned. Now granted, this was many years later after sneaking to explore my mom’s closet, but delving into this craft felt free and nonjudgmental with her. From cutting eye-holes out of a sheet to trick-or-treat as a ghost, to more elaborate costumes like a velvet king’s robe, or a gold lame’ appliqued Elvis costume, to Captain Jack Sparrow’s pirate ensemble-I learned the basics of sewing, making a lot of mistakes and building on each as I progressed. Halloween gave me the excuse to dive deeper into my love for sewing and creating. It gave me an annual chance to wear my creations proudly without fear of judgement.
Sewing for me has been a journey of self exploration as well as a creative practice. It has allowed me to explore my personality by creating and portraying an image that best describes me. Growing up with strict gender role expectations led to me questioning a lot about myself- and my love for sewing, fashion, and style was a huge part of that. Feeling the need to hide my passions led to questioning everything about me, which in return led to low self esteem.
The things that hindered my confidence then are the same things that strengthen my confidence and allow me to share my true personality now.
When I began sewing regularly again as an adult I was bursting with creativity, excitement, and a long list of project ideas, but two projects stand out. The first project I remember truly being proud of was a chocolate brown, corduroy, crossbody backpack that had two large lime green buttons which closed the front pocket flap. I broke many needles sewing through the layers of thick corduroy and piping, but I remember finally feeling like it was at a standard high enough to give as a birthday gift.
A couple years later I decided to jump into tailoring by making a winter coat for a trip I was taking to New York City. I followed video tutorials for hand stitching, and layers of horsehair canvas, interfacing, and lamb’s wool interlining. It was made from a navy wool coating and lined in a leopard print charmeuse. I finished sewing on the buttons late the night before I flew out for the city. The coat still hangs in my closet, it’s one I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of-even though it no longer fits.
I still love tailoring and have learned to use perfectionism to my advantage to focus on honing fit. I sew a wide range of clothing, mostly for myself these days-using design, color, and style to have fun. I love how layers of interfacing, hand stitching, and garment engineering can shape a garment, or how interesting pattern shapes come together to form something draped and organic. Tailored coats and jackets are my favorite things to make and dream up, although I have more than enough in my closet already for the heat of Florida.
Keeping Me Inspired
Sewing for Instagram has had a huge positive impact on my life, but it also was beginning to feel somewhat forced and job-like. Deadlines and goals began to put a negative spin on my practice and thoughts of over-consumption filled my head. Starting a new job a couple months ago created a break from sewing which allowed me to re-evaluate my goals. Going forward I want to slow down, put more design and creativity into my garments, and try new techniques. I want to create new silhouettes, use different fabrications, and venture into the unexpected. Experimentation seems to be the guiding word for my upcoming sewing practice.