Who We Are: Sewing Makes Me Feel Safe

Hello fellow Sewcialists!

I, like most others spent most of my life trying to hide my identity – trying to fit in. Saying that, I realise I’m only 20, so most of my life is not actually that long. I always thought hiding my identity would give me confidence, make me fit in. I’ve realised the opposite. Being me makes me confident!

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Hand stitched skirt: Butterick 4461

So as I am starting to freak out at the realities of opening up on the internet, here’s me: I’m 20, a follower of Jesus, engaged to be married in June 2018 to the love of my life. I’m a food science university student, I’m dyslexic and I am fighting anxiety and depression every second of every day. Among a whole host of other characteristics that make me, me, each one of these affects how, why and what I sew.

Growing up, my mum taught me to sew and gave me free reign over the kitchen from a very young age. It was my way to express myself and forget about the stress and worries of life. Throughout school I studied textiles. Each lesson was an hour or two for me to relax and separate myself from the rest of school life. I was a completely different person in these hours. In the theory lessons I started to learn about the sustainability and ethical problems facing the textiles industry. This inspired me and the way I sew today.

Being dyslexic, throughout my life I have found it very hard to express and understand emotions; what they really feel like and how to express them. In my first year of university a lot changed. I had made it into university, which was a miracle in itself, but I couldn’t rest now I had got there. I didn’t feel safe any longer. And the world kept reaffirming that to me. Problems from my past kept coming up and I felt more and more anxious which developed into anxiety. But, at the time, I didn’t understand that anxiety was what I was feeling. To me, I just didn’t feel safe.

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Hand stitched dress: Vogue 8766

Before returning to university after the Christmas holiday, I picked up a pattern, some fabric from my stash and a needle and thread. It’s not till now, when I’m writing this, that I’m realising how big a difference that spontaneous action made to my life and where I am now. Throughout the term I hand sewed the skirt and dress pictured above. Each time I picked up the needle and thread I felt at peace, a feeling I hadn’t known in a long time. It made me feel safe. Most nights I would fall asleep sewing. Throughout that year I got into some really bad habits, but that definitely wasn’t one of them.

Dreading going back to university for my second year, my wonderfully supportive parents bought me a Janome sewing machine to take with me. During second year, about January time, everyone starts applying for placements. This was the part of my degree that I was most excited about. I have always been a fan of practical learning and learning on the job which you can definitely see in my sewing. However, I wasn’t excited about it anymore. I couldn’t comprehend how I would cope and I just lost the happy me. It was at this point in the year when I struggled the most. I had lost all hope for the future. I would have breakdowns multiple times a day, panic attacks in lectures and I was scared of the dark. I stopped going into uni and going to events in the evening. It hurts my heart thinking back to it, but it makes me realise how far I have come.

After trying to get counselling on the NHS (National Health Service) for months and being told there was a 17 week waiting time, I started having private counselling. This, my sewing machine and my friends whom I will always be in debt to, got me through the year. And, that’s all I needed. Through the placement application process, I began talking to more of the staff at the university and it was one of them that told me I would qualify for temporary leave. That gave me a light at the end of the tunnel to keep together for the last couple of months.

So, this is me now. I have been on temporary leave since July 2017 and I have come so far. Writing this has shown me that. Frustratingly, I was beginning to forget how far. At regular times last year I could be found planning and designing sewing projects for this year, and all but one I think I’ve completed – only my wedding dress to go! Sewing gave me peace and security, a space for me to pray to God and use the gifts he has given me while counselling helped me to feel hopeful again. I could see a future where I felt safe. I am so grateful that I am in the position where this was an option to me.

I really enjoy taking photos and documenting life. I previously did this on my food blog and Instagram, but I needed this year not to focus on food, so I always planned on starting a new Instagram account. That’s when Coordinated Designs came about. I love coordination. To me, things don’t have to match, but they do have to go together (except cutlery, that has to match). I could keep track and share my projects and interests, meeting others who do too – you lovely people! Being part of this loving community means so much to me and has given me so much focus and belief in recovery. It led me back to counselling and to have CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), without which I would not be where I am. I wouldn’t be able to sew as much as I can now, or interact in this community in ways like this. Sewing and the Sewcialist community has given me a new outlook on life. It’s given me confidence in my own body, wearing clothes that I’ve made gives me the confidence and determination to face everyday life. Sewing makes me feel safe.

Thank you for being such a lovely community to join,

Love Hattie xx

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