Welcome to the very first episode of Dear Jenny, a sewing advice column for everyone!
The whole Seamwork team is thrilled to work with Jennifer Wiese, the founder of Workroom Social, as she doles out the most helpful, inspiring, and REAL sewing advice you can find out here on the Internet.
Haven’t met Jenny yet? She founded Workroom Social, a Brooklyn-based sewing studio offering classes and retreats for adults. Through sewing, Jenny builds communities, stimulates creativity, and improves her students' confidence by empowering them to sew the clothes they want to wear.
This means she’s the perfect combination of your sewing best friend and your most inspiring coach.
Jenny will share quick, thoughtful advice videos on the Seamwork YouTube channel in this series. So, if you have a question for Jenny, just watch the video for instructions to reach out to her. Maybe she can help you out in an upcoming video!
I love this letter! You know why? Because meeting people in real life stresses me out too!
Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, Frocktails is usually a large social gathering—a party—where sewists go dressed up in some kind of a fancy outfit that they’ve made. Whether you’re attending an actual Frocktails event or another social gathering for sewists, I think it’s important to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings about these things, and actively work to rethink our perspectives.
So let’s talk about making two mindset shifts about going to social events where you might not know anyone.
The first mindset shift
“A Timid Sewist” writes: “Not only do I have to sew a really impressive outfit…”
So, I think we should challenge this idea. I wonder why do we need to sew anything at all to attend a sewing social? In fact, as a fashion sewist myself, I’m not wearing anything handmade right now. Does that make me any less of a sewist? Absolutely not!
Now, when we think about a “really impressive outfit,” I wonder what exactly does that mean? We get a lot of outside pressure to make all the things that are complicated and big, and to wear a thousand colors and glitter, and maybe you should make your own shoes too. If the thought of all that makes you excited, that’s amazing!! You go for it! And if it makes you sweaty (I’m a little sweaty right now just thinking about it), know that your value as a sewing friend isn’t tied to your sewing output.
Frocktails and other sewcial gatherings are community events. They are designed to bring people together to provide an opportunity for human connection. With that in mind, let’s reframe the way we think about showing up to these kinds of events. Instead of thinking about how we need to produce something to get validation from others, let’s remember that the event isn’t an event without us there, meeting new people, and making new friends. You, not what you make, is the most important part of our community, and we need you there! So put on whatever makes you feel great, and remind yourself that you’re an integral part of whatever event you’re attending.
The second mindset shift
“A Timid Sewist” also writes: “I have to talk to my online sewing friends IN REAL LIFE…”
Yes, we are talking about attending an in-person event, but we don’t have to talk to anyone. We’re adults, and no one is forcing us to chat with anyone. So, the mindset shift here is that we get to talk to anyone! And how lucky are we that we get to attend these events and meet all the wonderful people there?!
“A timid sewist” chose to buy that Frocktails ticket. No one is dragging them to the party. So I can only assume that they signed up for a social event because, even though they’re a self-identified introvert, they do want to make friends with other sewists.
So with the mindset that we get to talk to people and make new friends in real life, here are the two things I do when I’m anxious about making conversation with strangers.
Number 1: Be curious and ask questions to learn about others. If you’re feeling really nervous, you can even prepare a couple of questions ahead of time. That way you’ll know you have a way to start a conversation with someone new. Since we’re all sewists, you could ask things like…
- What’s your proudest make and why?
- Do you feel like you know your personal style? How has it changed over the years?
- Tell me about a learning success that sticks with you. What was your main takeaway?
- Do you have a dream project you hope to make one day? Tell me about it!
And number 2: Listen your new friend's answers. Don’t listen to respond, rather listen to learn about this new person. If you repeat these two things over and over again, you’ll be the best conversationalist at any party.
Before I go, remember: There’s an amazing friend out there that you haven’t met yet, and you’ll only meet them by being open to the experience. If you’re ever nervous about chatting with strangers and you see me at a sewing event, come say hi. I’d love to be your sewing friend!