Ch-ch-ch-changes

A couple of months ago I was in my craft room, all dolled up, taking photos for this blog. I had planned on using the day to get several makes photographed so that I could post them over the next several weeks, and I was OVER IT. I don’t like taking photos of myself- lately it’s been feeling like tedious work to set up the lights, the backdrop, the camera, plan the outfits, put makeup on and do my hair, fiddle around with the camera remote which almost ALWAYS seems to have a glitch. I had always thought of this process as a labor of love but on this morning, teetering in my high heels while trying to keep my mark and smashing that tiny remote with my thumb over and over again, I recognized that there was no love here at all- it was just laborious.

I had a tiny break down in Claire’s lap that afternoon. I don’t know why I feel so sad about this! I said. I don’t know why I feel so unhappy! Something about my favorite hobby in the world, the one I had dedicated the last several years to, was making me sad and the mere recognition of that felt like a betrayal. It took me a couple of days to fully sort through my emotions, which tend to bubble up searing hot around my eyes and my throat so fast that I can barely see, much less communicate with anyone that I am struggling; I need distance to process. Once I had it, I figured some stuff out. I knew I had been using sewing to protect myself from stuff that was going on in my life and in the world- it had become a safe haven for me. I am an introvert so time spent with myself has always been a way for me to energize, but sewing made me feel accomplished and empowered in a way that I never anticipated, gave me time to concentrate on small tasks when I felt confused, frustrated or angry. It gave me space to mull over conflicts and have imaginary conversations with people that I felt nervous about. It gave me a job to do when I was left uninspired in my own career. All of that sounds good on paper, of course, and it was- to a certain extent.

But at some point, I started to need my safe sewing nook a little less. I was feeling supported in new ways, back in therapy for the first time in years, feeling more excited about life outside of my home and less inclined to hide from it. So I started to question why exactly I was spending so much time on sewing. Of course I love sewing very much, but why had it eclipsed all the other things I love to do in my life, like draw, build, write, learn, and above all else, what exactly was my goal now? By this point I had made an entire memade wardrobe that I was incredibly happy with and proud of, and I had a guest room closet full of beautiful #redcarpetDIY projects, half of which I hadn’t even worn yet. If it was true that some of my aims in sewing was to ween myself off of RTW, use /buy less and not focus on trendy fast fashion, then I had surpassed my goal a couple of times over, but I was also still weirdly still participating in what I was trying to get away from. I mean, how many sun dresses does a woman who doesn’t leave the house unless she has to actually need? (This is a rhetorical question)! As someone on instagram put it, I had effectively become a one-person fast-fashion factory, and it wasn’t making me happy anymore.

I think my feelings of unhappiness were stemming from a part of me being ready to shift the way I was living my life a tiny bit, ready to make room for other things inside of it, but the sewing habit that I had created over the years was now SOLIDLY engrained in my life. It had served it’s purpose so well that it had become a part of my identity, and now my identity wanted some room for growth but I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my routine. I wanted to change the mindset where I was making sewing my main priority. I was tired of planning the different parts of my day- friend dates, appointments, activities, chores, auditions- to fit around my sewing schedule instead of the other way around. I was tired of feeling guilty when I had a busy day and didn’t have enough time to go to the craft room and work on something. I was tired of being exhausted from a long day and forcing myself to go downstairs and sew because it’s what I should be doing instead of what I wanted to be doing. The line between my wants and my needs in the realm of sewing had become increasingly blurred, and although I still enjoyed the act of sewing and what I was creating, I knew I needed to tweak something to balance the scales a bit.

As I said before, sewing isn’t the only thing I like to do- my interests in everything hands-on is the whole reason I named this blog TryCurious! But the craft of sewing has taken over my life to the point where, when I have the opportunity to learn something new or work on a different kind of project, I either turn it down or procrastinate doing the thing til I forget about it. And that doesn’t feel good. Something has been off, so now I am in the process of trying to fix it.

I am not abandoning sewing and I am sure that this blog will continue to be more sewing content than anything else, but even just recognizing that I needed a shift seemed to set a lot of different things in motion- it’s like the world opened up to me a little bit when I made room in my head for it. To start, I’ve been taking ASL classes for the past month, which I absolutely love. ASL is something that I have wanted to learn for years, and then suddenly I had an opportunity to learn the skill for a future project, so I dove in head first. If this had happened a few months ago I can guarantee you that I would have convinced myself not to make any space for it in my life because I wouldn’t have had enough me time (loosely translated, my “me” time is known by all to mean my “sewing” time, lol). I’m also refocusing on my shoe making process, which is a craft I have tended to put to the side because it cuts into my sewing time too much. I’ve also been cooking more, reading more and hanging out with friends more. The change has been subtle to start- I still haven’t started reupholstering the dining room chairs that have been sitting in the garage since last spring, or learning how to build a dollhouse as I promised myself I would- but I still feel the impact that my new mindset has taken and it feels great!

I want to make clear that this post is not an attempt to encourage anyone to change their own habits or examine the role that sewing plays in their lives- I’m not here to judge anybody, this is just me and my story, and I decided to share it here because I like writing and it’s sewing related- I don’t want anybody to feel guilty about their own relationships with their hobbies. I started this discussion on instagram a few weeks ago and it was really great to read similar (and non-similar) thoughts about the topic of balancing sewing with the other aspects of our lives. I did get a couple of comments about how I shouldn’t change anything at all or feel guilty about it if I liked it so much, and this seemed like a really simplified view of what it was I was trying to communicate. But honestly I can’t blame anyone for oversimplifying the solution to an issue when said issue is being described in 2200 characters or less, haha.

Sewing does bring me joy, but so does balance, and that is what I am on a mission to find for myself. I am trying something new with my sewing now, which is to stick to a roster of makes that I have planned out ahead of time. It’s not quite a capsule wardrobe because minimalism is not my style, but I wanted to try a different kind of approach with the craft. I am continuing to buy fabric with intent as opposed to simply buying everything beautiful that I see (which isn’t too hard- my stash is already pathetically small!) and I am trying NOT to buy every cool, new pattern that hits the market unless I have a specific plan for it. For now, I am focusing only on ramping up my cooler weather wardrobe, which is lackluster compared to my summer wardrobe; I basically wear jeans from November to March and have very few choices when it’s time to dress up for something special. I wanted to give myself several key pieces of clothing that could work as both casual and slightly dressy wear, so I started pinning patterns and looks and narrowing down my options over a couple of weeks in September. I drew them all out in my croquis sketchbook and searched for fabrics that would pair well with them if I didn’t already have them in my stash.

It wasn’t easy! I had to make quite a few changes throughout the process, like when I ordered a cut of autumnal-colored corduroy online to make the Lander Pants out of, but once it arrived realized that it was much too light-weight for the sturdy, structured pants I was going for. That orange fabric ended up pairing well with the paper-bag waist Tully Pants by Style Arc that I had also put on the list, but of course then I was back on the hunt for the right weight corduroy for the Landers. And back and forth it went for weeks. I have since worked out most of the kinks in my plan and have narrowed down my makes to a really nice workable fall wardrobe that mixes and matches with what I already have in my closet. I have already completed three of the projects on my list: a thick necked turtleneck dress in a gorgeous ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, a Jackie dress in a floral velvet, and a blue jean jacket by Alina Design Co., which sewed up fairly quickly and which I am absolutely in love with (I promise to blog these individually in the future)!

Below I am sharing my sketches and fabric swatches paired with their patterns- in a few months I will revisit this post and see if I was actually able to stick to my sewing plan!

Apologies for the poor quality of the below photos- I was in a mad dash to finish them up as I was packing for a work trip and I didn’t have much time to make them look very good!

This is the Jackie Dress from Victory Patterns in a really gorgeous floral velvet fabric that I found in the fabric district in DTLA (funny story about buying this fabric, which I will share when I blog about it later). Spoiler alert, I have already completed this dress and I am in love with it!

 

The fabric for the True Bias Ogden Cami is less orange in real life than it looks in this photo, but it’s a beautiful, supple silk from The Fabric Store that I have had in my stash for like 2 years and I am excited to finally make something up in it. It will make a really great staple for auditions I think, which generally require solid, non-distracting fabrics, but I still like to go bold with my colors- gotta make an impression! I found an AMAZING light mauve wool fabric for the pants at The Fabric Store, and I will probably go with the Burda pattern for the pants after I tweak the fit in a muslin first since I have never made the pattern before.

 

I saw a girl on the street a couple of years ago wearing this flowy silk maxi dress with heeled boots and I am trying to recreate the look with this really pretty floral silk from The Fabric Store and the Stella Shirt Dress from Named Patterns. It’s got a big bow at the neck and an elastic waist, which makes me think the dress is going to be super comfy while still looking dressy. My fabric swatch is too small to show the brilliance of the print, but it’s very largewhich I think looks great in maxis.

 

I forgot to swatch the fabric for this Aberdeen top by Seamwork (it’s about the only pattern I have made of theirs which actually fit me with no adjustments), so for reference, it’s a pale yellow lightweight knit. Aberdeen is a pretty great pattern, a kind of slouchy v-neck top with fitted 3/4 sleeves that falls off the shoulder in a really effortless and sexy way; it pairs great with a pretty bra underneath. I finally found the correct weight corduroy fabric to pair with the Lander Pants pattern by True Bias, and I think this make might be the very first thing I have made in all-black in my entire sewing career! I plan on lengthening the pants legs so that the hem hits the floor- I looooove the design of these pants but I am not into the boot-cut look that doesn’t go all the way to top of the foot.

 

When I was discussing pants on IG acouple months ago, someone mentioned the Style Arc paper-bag waist pant, so I looked it up and immediately added it to my list. I loved the visual interest of the waist band and the comfort of the elastic waist. Also loved the slim leg fit and the slightly cropped ankle. This orange corduroy was too lightweight for the Lander Pants but I think it will work perfectly in this slightly baggier silhouette.

 

You can’t see how amazing my denim swatch is in this picture, but if you’ve been following on IG then you know how pretty it is made up in the Alina Design Co. Hampton Jean Jacket that I recently finished. That pattern is EVERYTHING. I still haven’t found the right fabric for the Named Patterns’ Shadi skirt.

 

The dress on the left is a hack of the Denver dress by Blank Slate patterns. I made it in an ultra soft ribbed knit from The Fabric Store, but I am not sure it works well in this pattern- the fabric is drapey and doesn’t hug my body very well, and I imagine it wont retain it’s shape for long, either. But it’s so pretty!!!! The dress on the right is intended to be a direct copy of a garment I saw on J’Adore’s blog last year, complete with hacks to the McCalls’ pattern that she based it off of. It also has a big bow at the neck (can you sense a theme here?) and is made of a really supple gold velvet from Michael Levine’s (another recurring theme with fall! For the record, it seems like velvet is “trending” right now, but not for me- I have ALWAYS loved velvet, I just haven’t seen it very often in fabric stores over the years! I should probably stock up on velvet now in case it disappears next year!)

 

The hoodie is more of a layering top for a shirt/blouse than an actual cold weather garment, but I was really drawn to the design lines and liked that I had nothing like it in my closet (I chose this pattern as one of my three pattern prizes when I was one of the winners of the McCalls contests on IG!). I decided to make it in a lightweight coffee-colored raw cotton silk, the same fabric I made my hot pink pants from last year – because of it’s thinness I think it will easily fit under a larger coat and give me access to a hood when my coat doesn’t have one. And last, but not least, another Archer button down by Grainline in a super soft flannel herringbone that I got last year from LA Finch Fabrics. I have been waiting for a long time for the perfect pattern to couple with this warm, soft fabric but ultimately I decided to stick with a TNT- my Archers are probably my most worn shirts, both in cool and hot weather, so I knew I wouldn’t go wrong with turning it into another staple!

9 replies
  1. Renee
    Renee says:

    I think this might be why I picked up machine knitting a few years ago. I found sewing to be a little obsessive with me. And, I wasn’t balancing with other interests. Also, I had plenty of clothes for what I needed. Now, I think I sew basics more than anything due to time and change in lifestyle. Sewing is always my first love. But, it’s not the all consuming, stay in from others obsession it used to be. Thanks for sharing! And, I can’t believe you would make a single apology for your ability to draw anything.

    Reply
  2. Kate
    Kate says:

    I’ve gone through a couple of similar shifts where I reevaluated what I wanted from sewing, from blogging, from instagram. I forced myself to stop apologising, and then actually to stop feeling bad, when I didn’t sew or blog for a while. I’ve currently got about four FOs that I need to photograph, but it’ll happen. Eventually. I have a bunch of planned and cut out projects that I really want to wear and honestly need in my wardrobe as the seasons change, but I haven’t been feeling it lately so… I haven’t sewn them yet. I have had to learn the difference between the feeling of not wanting to sew and not wanting to do ANYTHING but if I start sewing I’ll remember why I love it.

    I continue to blog because I like writing, because I like community, because I like having a record of my makes and what changes I made. But it’s supposed to be a fun hobby. If it doesn’t feel fun, I don’t do it! Even if that means long pauses on my blog. I’m not a content creation machine. I need time for other things too! Even if that’s blobbing on the couch. That’s also valid.

    It can be really hard to reassess these things, though. Especially when they feel important to who you are. I’m currently taking a social media break (blogs don’t count!!) because I’ve been using it in unhealthy ways and I need to reassess what I actually get out of it, and how to best manage it. It’s hard! Identity is always hard.

    I’m impressed and jealous at you learning ASL. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – and it’s totally 100% in my power to make happen! I should get on that, huh?

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      I AM NOT A CONTENT CREATION MACHINE. Yep. I said this in a comment already, but I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t get paid to sew or blog, I don’t have to answer to anyone or meet someone else’s expectations because my financial life depends on it. And with that comes a lot of freedom and flexibility, but of course this is not taking into account the self imposed restrictions and deadlines that we put on ourselves. It’s a hard space to navigate sometimes- cause yes, identity is always hard, lol. Yes, learning ASL is totally within your power, and you should totally get on it! ANd of course, like everything else you mentioned, if it’s not fun or feels too stressful then you don’t have to keep doing it, but I gotta say, so far I am really enjoying it! It’s been nice to balance out the other aspects of my creative life with something so clear and concise!

      Reply
  3. Saki
    Saki says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on changing up your creative routine. I’ve been thinking lately on the same thing— sewing was the first craft I learned as a child, but having been a Maker my whole life, I’ve had a lot of time to pick up a million other Maker hobbies. I started my blog and IG as a sewing blog because that was the community I wanted to be a part of, and now I’m realizing how much (time, creative energy) it’s taken away from my other interests. I feel like I’m under arbitrarily self-imposed sewing deadlines that generate more stress than a stress-relieving hobby should. I’ve thought of you often while figuring out the best way to branch out my blogger focus from sewing-only to a broader Maker outlet, since it’s something you’ve mentioned you were considering as well. I think the thing that holds me back is fear— that I’ll lose my readership or that it won’t be well-received.
    All that to say, I hope you’ll start sharing your other hobbies and makes here. As a fellow ambi-maker, I totally support your try-curious ways!

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      This was such a lovely note- thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment! I have to keep reminding myself that blogging about sewing is not my JOB- I don’t get paid for it, so I don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations but my own- and there is even a little bit of wiggle room there! I am pretty goal-oriented and I set lots of benchmarks and boundaries for myself, which definitely has it’s pros… but there is such a fine line (for me) between creating self-imposed plans/goals to keep myself on task and being inflexible and, as you mentioned, sucking the joy out my ‘joyful’ hobbies! And I cross that stupid line all the time! Like, a few years ago I decided I would make all my Christmas gifts for my family, which, had I made just one or two items for them, would have been a totally realistic thing for me to do since I started early and I had the time. But then I extended my gift giving to friends in addition to family members, and instead of making them a couple of good-smelling soaps and putting them in the mail, I decided it wasn’t enough, that they needed homemade soaps AND lotions AND chapsticks AND sleep balms AND body butter bars. By the time I realized I was in over my head, I was in too deep and was in a mad dash to finish and mail them off in time (the cost of mailing the packages alone was plenty of gift for everyone on my list, lol) and instead of feeling the Christmas Spirit I was feeling the Bah Humbug of Frustration, Bitterness, and Exhaustion! So of course the next year I did NOTHING for my friends because I was still recuperating from the year before and my family got lot’s of gift cards! Sigh. I am constantly trying to find that middle ground between doing too much and too little, whether it’s with gift giving or making or scheduling out my week, and I am also constantly having to revise my definition of what “too much” and “too little” actually mean to me, since it changes all the time. I dunno. We are all works in progress and I am glad to know that I am not the only one trying to hammer mine out. ANYWAYS! Thank you again for your comment and insight!

      Reply
  4. eimear
    eimear says:

    I started reading this post this morning – had then to rush to work – leaving a yellow post it on my tablet with Jasika blog (misspelled on the post-it) scribbled….as I really felt I had to read it properly! I started sewing again a few years ago and got slightly obsessive about sewing – as it really seemed to correct and balance me again. Sewing was what I used do more of before art college, and after a while after art college I stopped drawing and hadn’t sewn in an age and it was great to be making again. Blogging would not be my natural environment but I love it as I feel it allows me to be part of a larger sewing community, and as regards photographing myself…..I am the laziest subject and rely heavily on a mannequin. The blog helped me focus a bit on why and how I make. Really like your sketches and swatches! and have been very inspired by your makes and writings – really lovely post – best of luck

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your own story! And I very much appreciate your encouragement! The road is different for all of us, but I figure that as long as we don’t follow the road blindly and really take time to thoughtfully critique the journey every few miles, we can’t go wrong 🙂

      Reply
  5. Fiona
    Fiona says:

    Thank you for posting so honestly, I really enjoyed reading this post and a lot of what you said really resonates with me! My feelings towards sewing and blogging fluctuate and I’ve been going through a spell of finding it a pressure of ANOTHER thing to do on top of a never ending to do list and almost feel guilty for taking a bit of time out watching a movie on the sofa when maybe I should be sewing. I too have tended to bury myself in sewing in the past to avoid or perhaps just distract from other shitty things going on. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether that’s helpful (because the calm act of creating and concentrating is really soothing) or actually feeding the problem. Looking forward to seeing your handmade wardrobe plans come to life, you’ve got some great choices on there!

    Reply
  6. Jasika Nicole
    Jasika Nicole says:

    Thanks so much for your reply! I agree with every single thing you said. It’s a long process, and I just realized the other day that it’s actually a process that might not ever have an ending. Like, assuming that sewing and making will always be a part of my life, I might go through different periods of ferocious participation and utter ambivalence, and that’s totally okay. To periodically take stock of where I am in my personal and professional life and re-define what sewing does for me seems like a pretty healthy relationship to have with it, and gives me a little more room to not beat myself up about not adhering to guidelines I have set for myself, you know? Anyways, thanks again for chiming in, I appreciate what you had to say and I’m glad to know my post has tied in with some things you have already been thinking about in your own practice!

    Reply

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