Learning to say no
I really had no idea what I was doing when I started up my Instagram account back in March 2018. I thought it was a place where cool people went to show off their cool pictures. Or where teenagers fled to escape their parents and aunties who kept embarrassing them on Facebook!
What I really wanted was to find some other people like me who enjoyed sewing and who would perhaps inspire me and give me some tips. Well, I got that and more! I met so many lovely people, so much talent, so many ideas and makes to copy!
I still can’t believe how much I have sewn in that time. How much fabric has passed through these hands, how many patterns have been studied. How many buttons and zips have been bought. How many blog posts and reviews have been written!
Yes, I really didn’t know how Instagram worked and what went on in this corner of sewing lovers social media. I didn’t know that people would approach you and offer you stuff, I didn’t know you could be asked to freely advertise, I didn’t know about the endless competitions and challenges that could lure you in. It can be quite overwhelming and heady. If you’re a new maker and new to Instagram, beware!
I remember the first time I got a message from Minerva crafts asking if I’d like to join their bloggers network and get free fabric each month in exchange for a blog post. I was so excited- free fabric, yes please! These fun trousers were my first make for them. They are the Carrie trousers from Sew Over It and are well loved and well worn.
As well as being part of Minerva crafts bloggers network, I’ve also pattern tested for 4 different companies, and this is really fun. Trying out a pattern before it comes on sale, looking for any mistakes and being a small part of the design process is really exciting. Pattern testing has been a great way for me to develop my skills and try different styles.
But recently I got to a place where my desire to sew all the things was getting in the way of other things I loved, namely my family and rest! I would often find myself saying yes to every offer of a free pattern or free fabric and entering every challenge. I ignored the fact that free isn’t always as free as it seems. If I got free fabric, then I would often buy a new pattern. If I got a free pattern, I would often buy new fabric. And then there are all the notions, and all your time. Some of the companies I test for pay a stipend for fabric, others give you an extra free pattern. All this is great, but none of it pays the bills.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful, neither do I want to bite the hand that feeds my likes! This is how instagram works, but this isn’t how sewing needs to be all the time. I love getting freebies and I love pattern testing. And I’m really happy to give a shout out to someone else doing their hustle. But as an unpaid job, it can sometimes create so much work and even some stress, that I have to pause ask “woman, what are you doing?!” Am I actually spending less, am I enjoying this and is this improving my skills. Even if the answer is yes to some or all the above, am I just making for the sake of making?
Daughter #1 is our eco warrior and she tries to keep my making in check with a “mum, do you really need that?” thrown in every now and then. And I’m glad for it. Part of making for myself is my way of combatting the fast fashion industry. It’s also about me being less materialistic, trading several quickly made items for fewer slow and careful makes. So does it make sense to be grabbing every “freebie” that comes my way?
So, I have been learning to say no, I do not have to sew all things. What other people do is their business, but I felt the need to slow down. I think I’ve settled down a bit after those giddy days and I’m choosing who to sew for and when. I’m deciding which challenges to take part in and which to just cheer along from the sidelines. I’m taking control of my sewing and finding the space to explore other things.
I will always make room for pattern testing though. For me it ticks two boxes: I enjoy it and it helps improve my skills. In fact these sewing experiences have given me more confidence to sew for others, and who knows where I might go with that!
I’d love to know if you resonate with any of this, perhaps it’s just me!
In summary, sewing is a liberating, fun and creative hobby. The Instagram sewing community is largely a great place to meet like minded people, to be inspired, to be encouraged and to learn from. Just don’t let it control you! Sew because you love to. Set your own agenda and goals, and you really don’t need to sew all the things 😊