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Sewing Self-care in Uncertain Times

Threads Digital Ambassdaor Becky Fulgoni removed the skirt from a never-worn dress then added pleats to the back hem of the new shirt she created and now wears often.

I have been having a Zoom gathering most weeks with a group of sewing companions since we started staying home in March because of the pandemic. It has been a great way to gather. It has allowed us to keep in touch and see some of our distant members. Although we gather under the guise of sewing, our time together certainly drifts to the rest of our lives, and sometimes we still do some sewing.

At our last meeting, I was struck by the realization that most of our little band has not been doing much sewing during this crazy time. Sewing has been a major part of our lives and something that has always fed our creative souls. But it seems to have been sidelined, at a time when our souls sure could use some tending.

Sewing sanctuary

Why has our sewing has been relegated to the sidelines or, at most, to making masks? I know that when everything around me seems to be out of my control, I find my sewing room to be a sanctuary where I can keep my hands busy and do some soul mending, too. If you, like my sewing buddies, have not been sewing, maybe it’s time to tend to your soul.

If you have made a bazillion masks, baked umpteen loaves of bread, run a marathon on your treadmill, watched every episode of the British detective series Midsomer Murders twice, cleaned every closet in your house, as well as the garage and attic, it might be time to think about some self-care. As we head into another season—and a national election—how are you looking after yourself? Here are a few ideas that might get you back into your sewing sanctuary.

Make something special for yourself

Make it something a bit frivolous, or extra cozy. Something you might not think to make most of the time.
I made myself a new bathrobe. I realized during one of my closet-cleaning sessions that my bathrobe was in the neighborhood of 20 years old. It was high time to treat myself to a new one. I used a gorgeous waffle weave linen that is about 3/4 inch thick and that makes me conjure a luxurious day at the spa.

No pattern was needed. I just cut some shoulder seams and armholes and used the selvage as the front edge.

Sewing self-care: Waffle weave linen yardage is cut into front and back sections for a bathrobe

Waffle weave linen scraps after bathrobe cut

Now I feel special when I climb out of the shower and into my new robe.

Becky Fulgoni's sewing self-care led to making herself a waffle weave linen bathrobe

Make something sentimental

Make it something that brings to mind a significant time in your life or a special person. Something that is wrapped in meaning.
During another deep dive into my storage bins, I found a tablecloth that had been a wedding gift to my husband’s parents. They were married in 1951, and I don’t think the tablecloth had ever been on a table. It was a beautiful Italian linen with amazing cutwork and lace insets.

Italian linen tablecloth with lace insets

Knowing that I would never have a table big enough for it, I decided to think of it as fabric yardage. I ended up making two dresses, one for my sister-in-law and one for me. Then I squeaked out a top as well; it was a gigantic tablecloth.

Sewing self-care: Becky Fulgoni made three garments made from an Italian linen tablecloth

I never knew my mother-in-law, as she passed away before I met my husband. He says she would love that the tablecloth is being used, even if it is not for dinner parties. It’s a special connection that I am happy to have created.

Do some renovations

For every successful sewing project, I must average about three not-so-successful garments.  Because I have spent so much time on them, or because the fabric is so wonderful, or because I really like the pattern, I hang them in my closet and there they stay. They’re poor little orphans that never get to go anywhere. Why hasn’t it occurred to me that I was the one who constructed them and could easily remake them into garments I would love and wear?

Recently, I decided to make some “improvements” to a dress I had sewn. I love the pattern, I love the fabric. In fact, I love the dress, but I have never worn it.

Sewing self-care: a favorite unworn linen dress, front, will be shortened into a top

Favorite unworn linen dress, back

By simply removing the skirt and adding a couple of pleats to the back hem to control some fullness, I have a new shirt that I have worn often.

Closeup of pleat added to side of top to control fullness

Sewing self-care project: Becky Fulgoni made a linen top from an unworn dress

Plus, I have a decent scrap of fabric left for something else. I’m even considering making it again, only this time going straight to the shirt version without detouring to the dress.


Meaningful words

As we head into the last quarter of 2020, it seems that this trying year is going to keep us guessing. I hope these ideas get you thinking about some therapeutic sewing time. A friend created a calligraphy piece I keep in my sewing room. This year it has been especially poignant:

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Saying in calligraphy

Here’s to learning some new steps.



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  1. user-2081973 | | #1

    I am so glad you wrote about your ennui during this Covid period. I too have had this problem but I was not aware that there are more people who have it. Good for you to your new found energy. I hope my returns soon; I miss it.
    I love your creations and what a good idea to use a lovely old tablecloth for something useful and attractive!

    1. User avater
      beckyf | | #5

      Ennui is such a good word for this year. Sending you lots of good sewing energy!

  2. pweil | | #2

    I love this article. It’s inspiring me to do more sewing. Thank you!

    1. User avater
      beckyf | | #6

      I'm 'sew' glad!

  3. melindy | | #3

    I too am glad you wrote about ennui of these covid times. I collected patterns and fabrics to sew great summer clothes and got nowhere. I was so bad that I sought our a counselor! But naming it really helps, and I am now inspired to start sewing again! Great examples of clothing, too!

    1. User avater
      beckyf | | #7

      Good for you for recognizing that you needed some extra guidance and giving it to yourself. 'Self-care' for sure! Sew on.

  4. sewquest | | #4

    Great article. I like that you admitted to making 1 good project for every three that did not go so well. Makes me feel better . Loved your clothes from the repurposed tablecloth. Your mother in law would have been touched.

    1. User avater
      beckyf | | #8

      Lately "success" looks a little different...just getting to the sewing room some days is a victory of sorts.
      I hope she likes it, I know it gave me a peaceful feeling to work on it. Thanks.

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