November 11, 2021

Mindful Sewing: Intentions

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After a decade of working in a bookstore, the arrival of the new year was always marked by an overhaul of the store. Christmas signs down, any vestiges of the holiday in the clearance bin, and a new batch of "New Year, New You" products out on full display. While the tagline changed year to year, the sentiment was always the same: Time to make your New Year's Resolution.

I've never been one for resolutions. It always seemed a recipe for disappointment. And to be honest, I think we all go into the new year knowing that a resolution will fall by the wayside. A year is longer than we think it is (especially lately) and it's really hard to keep the same verve going for 365 days. That's why instead of resolutions, I like to set intentions. 

There's something less fraught about the word intention. There's no expectation of success or failure, no finish line, no burden of a concrete act. It's a state of mind more than a goal or diet or regimen. An intention is a guiding light that allows creativity and divergence along the way.

I also love that the word has two connotations. It can mean "resolve" as in waking up every morning setting an intention to read more or make time for meditation or whatever you choose. I can also mean "attention" or "purpose" as how mindful you are of your actions or words. And it's this dual meaning that made me choose it for our first Mindful Sewing topic. I want to explore the intentions we set or have in our sewing.

Intention in our Boxes

I haven't really given a peek behind the curtain about how I plan our monthly boxes before, but speaking about intention seemed like a good time to do so. Each month, I describe the theme in a blog post, but it's hard to communicate all the effort and, yes, intention, that goes into finalizing a theme and putting it out in the world.

Many factors go into curating the boxes each month. First, I consider the season, which at times can be difficult since we announce boxes 45 days before they ship. There's a bit of cognitive dissidence when I'm announcing an autumn box in August and it's still 90 degrees or when I'm trying to get you excited about Spring dresses in March with snow still on the ground. But I try to think of the seasonality of the boxes first, and what clothing fits that month.

Then, from there, I chose the patterns. With so many sewing patterns out there, I stick to companies that I know are well-drafted and have timeless style because I want the clothes you make to be worn as long as they can be. Good drafting is a key to sewing success so starting with a good pattern creates a solid foundation for our boxes. I then try to imagine how the clothes will be worn out in the world, how you'll style them, how they'll fit into a wardrobe as a whole, and how they will make you feel when you wear them. Only then do I pick the pattern for our boxes. 

And finally, the fabrics. At some point last year, I became more focused on creating a cohesive experience each month. I wanted each month to have a point of view and a mood, and for each box to fit into that mood, like a puzzle piece creating a whole. For example, the current boxes for February are all about creating calm and lightness in the middle of winter, which led me to lighter colors and soft fibers. In this way, each month is like a little fashion line you can shop from, an expression of an idea that gives the boxes more meaning than simply pairing fabric with a pattern. 

With all these parts together, I try to create a sewing experience for you that is about more than just the finished garment. By putting it all together for you, I want you to be able to focus on the act of sewing and the delight it brings you to create something you can wear and enjoy for a long time. 

Or, at least, that is my intention ;)

Intention in Sewing

A few weeks ago, I put out a survey where one of the questions was "What do you love about sewing?". It was no surprise that most of you said sewing was an escape from stress or anxiety, a place to shut off the world for a little while and focus on the task in front of you, a chance to work with your hands and create. That's what sewing is for me too, and it's really at the core of this whole Mindful Sewing Project.

There are so many ways to infuse your sewing with intention. Maybe you plan your projects and find joy in the act of putting everything together. Maybe you follow your whims and create things based on your mood and what you feel like tackling at that very moment. Going in to a sewing project, perhaps you like to set an intention of what you want to learn or accomplish, or how you want that project to fit into your life or wardrobe.

There is also a great opportunity to examine your intention and mindfulness in the very act of sewing. Recently, I've been doing guided mediation to help with anxiety, and one of the practices suggested was to try to be aware of when you stand up or sit down, to think at that moment, "I'm moving my body" and to be aware of that feeling. Simple in concept, it's incredibly hard in practice. We tend to move our bodies out of habit and without putting any conscious thought into it.  

The same thing can happen with sewing. We get focused on the end result and don't take time to enjoy the process. How would our experience of sewing change if we focused on each part, sought to enjoy the feel of the fabric, the sound of the machine, the heat of the seam when it's just been pressed?

I'm a slow sewist, mostly because I make too many mistakes when I try to speed up. I become mindless in my actions, and I know that I need to slow down and focus and think things through, or else I'll sew the seam inside out or miss a step and have to go back. But I also like to focus on each detail by itself. The wonderful thing about sewing is each step is contained in itself and with the start of a new year, it's a moment to see how your sewing would change if you take the time to be really present in each step. 

Intention in Life

Lastly, the beginning of the year is a chance to examine how sewing fits into your life. Crafting and creating changes from year to year, depending on where you are and how you're feeling. Sometimes you're sewing up a storm and churning out make after make; sometimes you have to blow the dust off your machine before you can bring yourself to sew one seam. It ebbs and flows and is part of a natural rhythm.

I've experienced this myself in deep ways. After my mother died, it took me nearly six months to sit down in front of my machine and make something. I just didn't have the desire; the idea of sewing felt too daunting and I simply couldn't put my imagination into a project. I couldn't find the joy of planning a project and putting it into action. But slowly, over time, that ennui faded away and I found my way back to sewing. And even while I wasn't sewing, I tried to give myself some grace and remind myself that even if I wasn't sewing, I was still a sewist at heart.

So, starting off this new year, how do you want sewing to fit into your world? If you're not feeling your sewing lately, like I was while I was grieving, maybe it's a good time to set an intention to allow yourself to take the time you need to come back to it, without judgment of what you should be doing or sewing. If you are in the midst of a creative burst, this could be an opportunity to examine what's sparking your energy and to try to see how you can bring that joy to future projects.

This is where I'll leave you for the month. What's the intention you want to bring to your sewing experience and what do you want out of your hobby, your stress relief, your escape? This intention can be your guiding light for the year as you navigate inevitable change in both your life and your sewing. And unlike a resolution, it can change with you and help you find a more mindful experience in your sewing and beyond. 

Or at least that's the intention ;)


I'm leaving you with reflections that I'm so excited to discuss in our first community zoom meeting. If you have signed up for the Mindful Sewing Newsletter, you will receive emails in the next few weeks with a date and time so you can mark your calendars and we can talk about our reflections live in person.

In addition, since this is the first in our series, I'd love to hear your feedback! I want this series to evolve and grow over time, so hearing from you would help guide me in the process.

Happy New Year and Happy Sewing,

Mary

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