I am currently in England and having been advised to practice social isolation due to my eldest daughter’s underlying health conditions. I am away from my home in Hong Kong. I am away from my husband, who I will likely not see for at least 6 weeks — if not longer — as he will be in enforced quarantine in Hong Kong after a work trip to Europe. I am away from our family friends, some of whom remained in Hong Kong, some of whom are still in different parts of the United Kingdom. I am away from my pets, my wardrobe, my oven, my Netflix account, and I am away from my sewing machine and all my sewing paraphernalia.
But funnily enough, when I came to the UK I had figured that I might be visiting for awhile and so I thought that I might be able to do some sewing. I had brought two patterns with me: the York Pinafore dress by Helen’s Closet, as I wanted to perfect the fit and felt it was simple enough I could do it without instructions, and the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers which I threw in at the last minute; I had just made them and thought they would be fun to hack if I got a chance. I must have known that down the line I would want to be sewing.
Everything changed when, 10 days into our trip, my eldest daughter (who has other medical issues) developed epilepsy. After multiple daily seizures and 5 hospital visits, we knew we were unexpectedly staying in the UK indefinitely while we try to manage her condition and get used to a new normality. Through all this, Covid-19 was gathering pace in Europe, an ominous background to our new reality.
In the initial stress of the epilepsy diagnosis I didn’t have the capacity to think about anything, let alone miss sewing. But when I went overboard on a painting project sent home by my daughter’s school and ended up making a short stop-motion film of a dinosaur watching a volcano erupt, I knew it was time for me to reconnect with my creative side.
And there are so many wonderful resources to do just that in the UK: I am so privileged to be in a place with such a range of shops and services for the sewing community. Before we had been advised to self-isolate and before my daughter had started having seizures, I bought a sewing magazine and instantly got three patterns for my stash. I saw a few fabulous vintage patterns in a charity shop and snapped them up at £1 a pattern. I got some PDF patterns printed out and delivered to my home from a small copy shop. I am now replete with patterns and won’t be buying any more!
I am enjoying reconnecting with planning and being excited by individual projects rather than feeling overwhelmed by my fabric stash. I bought some lovely grey denim from a shop in a seaside town near my parents, specifically because I wanted something that was a keepsake from home. I started sewing it into a York pinafore at my parents’ on a hand crank sewing machine which we think is over 100 years old.
After everything going on the back burner to focus on my daughter, I ended up finishing my York Pinafore at my in-laws’ on a borrowed machine only a few years old. I found a local bricks and mortar shop and chose some beautiful stretch navy corduroy to transform into a pair of dungarees after I heavily hacked the Ultimate Trousers into a dungaree pattern. Now we are isolating, I have the time to see if this actually works and what it will look like! But I’m taking it slowly, allowing these processes to take time and considering and appreciating each step.
I’m also strongly aware of the need to sometimes do absolutely nothing in the evenings, except maybe browse Netflix or read or knit. I have ended a lot of evenings with headaches, as the stress and strain of anxiety coupled with hours on my own with two active under-5s while not leaving the house takes its toll. But I’m giving myself the space to say that’s okay too, there is no optimum productivity level and I have all the time in the world at the minute, so right now I am #slowsewing and relishing it!
Government policy changes every day, as do my daughter’s seizures, as do my plans on how to approach building a routine away from home. I am still learning the best way to support my daughter and manage my own anxiety without allowing her to be affected by it. I know that sewing (and knitting) can help give me a break, a moment to myself, to come back to the challenges of parenthood calmed and recharged even in these difficult times.
I am currently away from the familiar and facing uncertainty and fear for both my own loved ones and all the vulnerable people in the UK. Sewing is an outlet for me to plan for a future in which I’m not staring at a video monitor to check my daughter isn’t fitting in her sleep, where I’m not calling loved ones but seeing them in person and sharing a comforting hug and a cup of tea, and where I’m settled with my husband in a place of our own facing all life has to throw at us as a family unit. I am so aware of all the people who have heavier burdens to carry during this time of stress, upheaval and anxiety. I hope (if you are able) you can all find your own small moments of escape.
What sewing are you doing through the Covid-19 crisis — if any? How have you been coping? Share your stories with us in the comments, and I hope you all feel the global connection and camaraderie of the Sewcialists community through this!
Sophy is originally from the UK and is currently living there for the foreseeable future but her home is in Hong Kong. Sophy started sewing three years ago and is looking forward to the moment when her wildly optimistic plans match her finished garments!
Firstly, best wishes for your daughter’s health. Secondly – well done for getting motivated to sew and what a lovely pinafore! In these unknown times many people are finding solace in crafts they may have neglected or been unable to do due to other commitments – you have gone that one step further and I commend you!
All good wishes to you & the family. I second the “well done you”. And that machine is fab – what a pretty opportunity for focus & creativity. Yes I do want to see the dinosaur move! Take care
I hope you are soon into smoother waters with your daughter’s health conditions,
I think for a lot of us here in UK (I’m just outside Cambridge) , there’s been a tense waiting period while we watched what was happening in Spain and Italy and knew that if some people in UK were still crazy enough to head off to the beaches instead of staying home the lockdown axe would fall…
Meanwhile, congratulations for getting down to bringing life back into an old sewing machine and look forward to seeing more of your projects. Audible.com is doing a whole load of free audiobooks, children’s and literary classics mainly, if you want something peaceful and calming to sew to.
Just want to say that I am wishing you and your daughter all the strength and healthful vibes at this time. You are managing these struggles very elegantly (though I imagine some moments are less elegant than others!) and you look beautiful in your new pinafore.
I have a machine like that. Mine was given to my grandmother in 1925 for her 21st birthday by her employer who was a Harley Street doctor. I think it’s called a VS. Vibrating shuttle.
Best wishes with your daughter’s health and coping with being stuck in a flat with them both. That sewing machine is almost exactly the machine I started sewing on although I don’t remember the Frister and Rossmann logo. The sphinx head and shapes of the places to access oil and bobbin winder are all very familiar. I lent it to a friend when she was learning to sew and never got it back, sadly.
You are under a ton of stress and then The Plague hiits. lI utter swear words in your behalf! I can not compare one kid with another but our friend’s son was fitting w petit mal seizures pretty much constantly. Now he’s 6’ something, gorgeous and hasn’t fitted for many years. Seems they sometimes grow out of it, hope your youngen does because there is no stress like a sick kid. Best wishes to you and yours ,awesome York btw. X