For many years, my internal world raged silently, resolutely at odds with my external persona. Fitting a square peg in a round hole felt like a life-long battle I would never conquer. In a society where certain behaviours, aspirations and achievements are deemed the norm, it takes a confidence I lacked, to bang my own drum.
At first I took solace in academic achievements, riding the waves of self esteem measured in red pen. Hot on the heels of scholarly success, I metamorphosed into the serial girlfriend – validated by the stamp of approval implied by another’s affections. Good luck and a modicum of taste can propel you so far but when the familial hand of conventionality was extended, I knew that path would be my final undoing.
It’s easy to look at the fruits of hard won labours and assume they are the results of natural ability. I’m more inclined to believe that a skill has been so honed, that its seemingly effortless execution belies a lifetime of practise. Anyone who has learnt to craft with their own hands understands how time cannot be equated with monetary value. And on a personal level, it’s taken me the best part of 40 years to achieve a relative ease in my skin and come to a point where I can celebrate a road less travelled.
Over on Instagram I’ve been getting involved in some photo challenges, which is a lovely way to connect with fellow makers. Throughout September there’s #sewphotohop hosted by @houseofpinheiro, posting a daily theme to hang your hat on. And for those who prefer a gentler pace, #dressmakers52 is a weekly opportunity to share your sewing stories inspired by words plucked from a deck of cards.
This week’s prompt is ‘Proudest Achievement’ which got me thinking about my longheld desire to write – a vehicle to bridge the disparity between my insides and out. This blog has provided me with such a portal – sewing the platform from which my writing could springboard. For a writer needs a hook and my adventures in stitch induced an outpouring far greater than any existential angst ever could.
Learning to sew and writing about the journey, has been instrumental in solidifying a burgeoning confidence in charting my own path. Since childhood, I’ve had a strong sense of personal style and in my teens eschewed high street trends for magpie charity finds. With some basic skills under my belt and a proliferation of independent designs at my feet, the creative possibilities this craft affords are endless.
The Xerea Dress by Pauline Alice is the nearest to a sewing table quick win that I’ve encountered. With only one key measurement at the bust, I was pretty confident I could get away without a toile. The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen it by 2 inches. This was my first attempt at extending a pattern and it’s fair to say I botched it. To join the sections up on either side of the extension, I added and subtracted a tad here and there and totally forgot about the knock on effect on the accompanying pattern pieces.
Consequently I had to shave bits off the pocket and side pattern pieces during construction but happily Xerea emerged unscathed. Despite my ineptitude at pattern altering, she came together like a dream. This pattern really is a joy to sew. I particularly like the double fold bias bound finish on the neckline. So, much so that I’m almost tempted to wear her inside out.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought, there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there you read this and know that yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you” (attributed to Frida Kahlo).
Whilst I’m no Frida, writing this blog is one of the ways I’ve been able to connect with others who share some of my traits and values. I’ve been so humbled by the lovely feedback I’ve received from people with whom my words resonate. I’ve encountered such a generosity of spirit which propels me to continue tentatively wearing my insides out.