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Why do we sew?

This year, let’s explore the creative fulfillment we can get from sewing and better understand the challenges that come along with it, by Sarai Mitnick.

Posted in: Creativity & Mindset • December 31, 2017

Why do we make clothing? This is a question that I’ve asked myself and others many times.

Clothing is very cheap to buy these days. Making it yourself takes much more time—and time is a resource that’s precious to most of us. To top it off, it requires learning new skills and often facing failures and frustrations.

Everyone has their own reasons for choosing to make their own clothing, but what we’ve all found is that there is something about the experience that is so deeply gratifying that it outweighs the costs and the struggles. To me, it is the experience of everyday creativity that drives me to sew.

The need to express ourselves creatively is deeply human. In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a theory of human motivation commonly known as the “hierarchy of needs.” At the bottom are the most basic needs: physiological needs, followed by safety. After that is love and belonging, then esteem, and finally self-actualization. As lower needs are met, it becomes possible to grow through pursuing higher needs.

In the book Understanding Comics, author Scott McCloud says, “Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts: survival and reproduction.” While this might sound like a great oversimplification at first, there certainly does seem to be a connection among all the things that bring us fulfillment, whether that’s cooking a wonderful dinner for our family, getting immersed in an interesting project at work, or composing a song. While these are all very different activities, they each touch upon our higher needs for connection, esteem, and pursuing our innate deep curiosity.

Art and creative practice are ways in which we pursue some of these deep human needs. Sewing our own clothing is just one of many paths we can take each day to bring that creativity into our daily lives. We connect with others when we wear what we’ve made, expressing who we are and sharing what we’ve created. We feel proud of ourselves for what we’ve accomplished. We have the satisfaction of learning and continually improving. And finally, we have the actual creative experience, that quiet moment when you’re “in the zone” and the world falls away.

This year in Seamwork, I’ll be exploring the creative side of sewing. Together, we’ll look at sewing as a creative practice, with all the joys and struggles that includes. We’ll examine this creative outlet in light of what others have discovered about creativity, from famous psychologists to artists and writers, and uncover why creativity can be so hard, but also so rewarding.

We’ll start by looking at the actual experience of creating: what it feels like, why it matters, and how to bring more joy into it. Then we’ll talk about the idea of creating a practice, and how and why you might want to develop your own. Finally, we’ll look at some of the struggles that come along with creativity, how other creators overcome them, and what you can do when you feel discouraged or stuck with your sewing.

Like any creative practice, sewing can be challenging, frustrating, and difficult; but it can also be an enormous source of joy and connection in our lives. This year, using the wisdom of other creatives, let’s illuminate the good and try to understand and accept the challenges that come with it.

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