Volunteer Voices: Sewing as a Form of Self-care

From embroidery and cross-stitching, to finishing a pile of forgotten clothing that needs mending, it appears that more people are turning to sewing as a form of self-care. With more free time, and the desire to switch off work-mode when working from home, it is unsurprising that home sewing is having a remarkable renaissance.

Sewing has, historically, been associated with times of uncertainty and economic trouble. For example, the Make Do and Mend campaign of the Second World War, encouraged home dress making when clothing rations meant newer garments were out of reach for many Britains. In the 21st century, even during a pandemic, fast-fashion ecommerce makes it easy to continue clothing consumerism.

However, activists are encouraging home sewing and clothes making. Pattern makers, Made Label, are offering a free skirt pattern for beginners, while furloughed workers are finding time to revisit clothing projects. Harriet, based in Brighton, who studied Fashion and Business has used this time to not only mend items in her wardrobe, but up-cycled items with dye and embroidery and even making dresses from scratch! Harriet says that it has been refreshing to have time to hone her dressmaking skills again, as often her work/life balance doesn’t allow it.

Similarly, inspired by the Make Do and Mend campaign, Cambridge based charity Make, Do and Mend, is a mental health not-for-profit organisation promoting craft activities to help people manage their mental health.

Local sewing bees have been building communities to sew protective garments for key workers. Some groups are affectionately calling themselves ‘Scrubbers’, and their collective work reinforces a sense of community in a time when many are suffering with feeling alone. Sarah-Mary, based in Newcastle, is a proud ‘Scrubber’ and Fashion Historian. She says that making these garments is helping with her mental health, as it helps to give her a sense of purpose whilst on furlough. Virtual ‘Stitch and Bitch’ events are gaining in popularity, again encouraging community, with people taking time out to connect with friends whilst working on sewing projects.

Self-care is especially important currently, and evidently sewing is helping lots of people during this uncertain time. While some are using sewing to get creative with dressmaking, embroidery or cross stitch to brighten up their home or wardrobe, others are reinforcing a sense of community with virtual sewing circles, and the vital work of home-sewers contributing to protective wear for the NHS and care workers. Overall, sewing can be a therapeutic, rhythmic process that helps to steady the mind, increase creativity and enhance self-care routines.

Our thanks to the author of this weeks Volunteer Voices, Jade Bailey-Dowling.


We do hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the Fashion and Textile Museum online. If so, please consider making a donation, to help us continue our work during this difficult time.

Every donation will support us in showcasing contemporary fashion and textile design during our closure, and will assist us in welcoming you back to the Museum, as soon as we are able.

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