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Episode 121

Re-run: Build Your Practice

In this re-run episode, Sarai and Haley explore the second step in the Sewing by Design process: Build Your Practice. They'll share 4 ways to build a sewing practice you really love.

Podcast Transcript

Sarai
I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio.

Hey everyone. Haley and I are taking a break for the holidays, and while we’re gone, we’re resharing our Sewing by Design series from earlier this year. This series was really popular and a lot of people have found it very helpful for building a framework around their sewing so they can get more out of it. Today’s episode is the second step in the process and it’s all about building your practice so you can fall in love with sewing and build momentum.I hope you enjoy it, wether it’s for the first time or as a refresher on the whole concept of creating a sewing practice that makes you happy.

Enjoy the episode and we’ll be back in January. Happy holidays!

Welcome back to Seamwork Radio. So today we are going to be talking about how to fall in love with sewing. So this is part of our series on on the Sewing by Design framework that we’ve been talking about in the last few episodes. And in this episode, we’re going to cover why this is an important part of your sewing journey and why it’s really a part that never ends. We’re going to talk about the specific mindset that helps you to be more creative and just really have more fun with your sewing. We’re going to talk about how you can design your sewing experience to make it right for you. And we’re going to talk about how you can rapidly accelerate your learning and improve your sewing quickly.

So we’re going to start with our icebreaker today. This icebreaker comes from Regina S. And Regina says, “I would love to know, are there one or more certain songs that come to mind when doing certain sewing jobs. Whenever I take my fabric scissors in hand and make the first cut, the melody of Rod Stewart the first cut is the deepest goes through my head.”

When we looked at this together, Haley and I saw that, I was like, I didn’t know that Rod Stewart did that song. And I was thinking about it because it was playing in my head and I was like, Rod Stewart? Rod Stewart. That doesn’t sound like Rod Stewart in my head. And then I realized I only know the Cat Stevens version. That’s why I don’t have ever heard the Rod Stewart version.

Haley
Oh, yeah, I feel like that’s the one I think of most when I think of that song. And then Sheryl Crow did it.

Sarai
I don’t know that one either.

Haley
I think of that too. Okay, well, you have to go do some research.

Sarai
I don’t know how they could be as good as Cat Stevens. I love Cat Stevens.

Haley
Yeah, it’s true. I love Cat Stevens. So I’m not quite sure how Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow jumped on top of my head.

Sarai
So do you have a sewing song? Do you have a song that plays in your head when you do certain sewing things?

Haley
Yeah, this icebreaker just, like, cracks me up. I love it so much. Thanks, Regina. Yeah. So I think of this song not just what I’m sewing, but also, like, when I’m driving in a really bumpy road or when I’m, like, swimming, like, jeans or something heavy and I’m, like, jumping over, like, the seams, you know, I always think of that Chevy commercial rock, that one. Oh, that’s a rock. This is the episode where I sing you kind of have to I’m sure it’s like an actual song with other lyrics other than that. But I just sing that over and over again to myself, just like thrashing on some jeans.

Sarai
I love it. I love it. It’s just like a Chevy truck. Those Kenmore sewing machines.

Haley
Yeah, my good old Kenmore is Americana. Such a vibe. But that’s kind of like, the only song that I like to think about very regularly when I’m sewing and driving, which are kind of like similar activities.

Sarai
Yes, they are, in a lot of ways. I don’t really have a sewing song, I’m afraid. I wish I had a funny answer to this. I have songs throughout my life, but mostly songs I sing to the cats, you know, so not really about the activities so much. It’s about them or changing the lyrics to Just Be Meow, Meow, Meow, which okay, this is getting wildly off topic, but the other night I was doing that, I was singing Simon and Garfunkel’s the Sound of Silence, but just replacing the lyrics with meow and singing it to them. And they were so captivated. They were both staring at me like it was the most beautiful song they’d ever heard. And Duke started meowing along with me. It was adorable.

Haley
That’s amazing. Charley, my daughter recently started getting, like, kind of into singing, and she just, like, sings complete gibberish to, like, every song, but with such heart. And it’s my favorite thing in the entire world. Replace that with cats. I can’t handle it.

Sarai
Okay, so that was maybe a little more chitchat than we needed today. But if you have an icebreaker that you want to share with us in a future episode, if you’re a member, you can go to Seamwork.com/go/icebreakers. And we have a thread there in the community, and you can share your icebreaker, and maybe we’ll use it on a future episode. So that got us going.

But today what I wanted to talk about is the next step in our Sewing by Design framework that we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks. And last week we talked about laying your foundation. So that was all about building those essential skills that you need to start sewing and really get your foundation in place. But this week we’re going to talk about the next part of that framework, the next phase, which is build your practice. So there’s one thing that we wanted to talk about with this, which is when we talk about building your practice as the next step or the next phase in your sewing journey, really, we think about this as an ongoing phase. This is a phase that kind of never ends and sort of encapsulates all the things that come after.

So the way we’ve been thinking about it is if you imagine a house, so we’ve got the foundation of the house. That’s all those foundational skills that we talked about. And this is sort of the framing of the house. So this is the outside of the house that holds all of the rooms inside. And we’ll talk more about what those rooms could be in future episodes. But right now, we’re kind of talking about building this outside of your house, which is your sewing practice. This is the way you’re going to sew going forward. I’m really excited to talk about this because I think it’s something that people don’t always think about a lot, especially if they’re early on in their sewing journey. And it can really make a huge difference in how much you enjoy sewing. So Haley, do you want to tell us a little bit more about what we’ve learned about this phase of people’s sewing journey?

Haley
Yeah, so, like you were saying, this phase of your sewing practice and building your sewing practice is kind of like the container that the whole rest of your sewing journey will be housed in. So at this point, you’ve developed your basic sewing skills and you kind of have that foundation going, the basics. You’re probably not, like, googling something every five minutes anymore when you’re sewing. You can probably make it through projects with minimal resources, and you can kind of get a little bit, I think, more into a flow as you’re sewing. And this is like a really fun part of the journey because we’re able to really experiment and start to have fun. You still obviously have a lot of things to learn because sewing is really about this ongoing learning process. But I think the biggest challenge people have in this phase is keeping things feeling fun and keeping things motivating and fresh. Because I think it can be kind of easy to get caught up in this beginner cycle and not really like moving beyond that and progressing your skills in a way. You need to have that right balance of familiar skills and new challenges to keep things engaging and fun for yourself.

Sarai
Yes.

Haley
I think the biggest question people are probably wondering is, like, how do you know if you’re in this phase? And I think that this is just like I said before, anyone who would no longer classify themselves as, like, a very strict beginner. You feel like you can sew, like, a little bit more independently and you have some more flexibility and you’re able to explore more types of projects and you’re not really weighed down by, like, oh, gosh, is this, like, beginner enough? This is the place where you really get to kick yourself out of that and start challenging yourself a little bit more and playing and having a lot more fun.

Sarai
Yeah, it’s such a fun part of not just learning to sew, but I think the entire process of sewing, I feel like this is something you come back to again and again. It’s just figuring out what’s right for you and what’s going to help keep you learning and keep you motivated.

Haley
Yeah, I think that what’s interesting about this phase is you’re going to build this container for your practice, but then over your years or decades maybe, of sewing, you’re going to want to kind of revisit this and reinforce that practice and re-fall in love with sewing time and time again. So this isn’t, like we said before, something that you’re just going to like, do for a few months and then move on to the next thing. This is kind of a lifelong practice and just falling in love with sewing. So we have a whole bunch of tips to help you with this process and to help you fall in love with sewing.

Sarai
Yeah, this is one of my favorite things to talk about because I think it’s such a wonderful period in your sewing practice. And like we said, it’s not even a period. It’s sort of a way of approaching your sewing and something that you can really fall back on any time. So the first part of this that I wanted to talk about, and we’re going to come back to this in each of the different parts of this Sewing by Design framework that we’re talking about. But the first step is always thinking about the mindset behind this. And so there’s some things to keep in mind to sort of cultivate in yourself in order to approach this in a way that makes it really enriching and really fun for you. The first part of it is this idea of creating momentum, which we’ve talked about a little bit. But this is a really important part of sewing because when you have momentum going and you feel like you’re really accomplishing things, then that’s the point at which you start to feel motivated. You feel this sense of motivation that comes from inside you, and it becomes a lot more fun.

So just getting out there and trying new things and finding success and building that momentum is so rewarding. And that’s kind of what we’re shooting for here, is that sense of momentum. That doesn’t mean that everything has to be success. Sometimes that momentum can become from things that you’re learning. So even if something doesn’t turn out right, if you can approach it in a way where you’re thinking about what I learned from this, rather than, I’m not good at this, or maybe this isn’t for me, but if you can create that sense of motivation around learning, then you’re going to feel that sense of momentum a lot more. So that’s just something to keep in mind, is how can I create a feeling of momentum in my sewing?

And the next thing I want to talk about, which is a way to do that, is finding reasons to celebrate. So every time you have a sewing win, give yourself a pat on the back. Make sure that you celebrate that win. And don’t just I think we all have a tendency to do this not just with sewing, but with anything in our lives as we have a success, and then we move on to the next thing. Okay, I’m done with that. That’s what I wanted to do. Now what’s the next thing I need to do, or what’s the next thing I want to do, but just take a moment and recognize that you made something really cool or you learned this new skill or you tried something that you’d never tried before. And I think if you can find those reasons to celebrate, that’s also extremely motivating, and it’ll just make sewing a lot more fun.

And then the last mindset thing that I wanted to touch on is the idea that creativity isn’t something that’s frivolous. It’s something that’s really essential for all of us, and we all find it in different ways. And if sewing is one of those ways that you find creativity in your life, then it’s important, and it’s something that matters to you. And I think that’s something just to keep in mind, that it’s not a frivolous hobby and that you should feel proud of what you’re doing and proud of the time that you spend on it. So for some people, that’s not sewing. For some people, it’s writing or it’s painting or any number of things, even things that you wouldn’t consider, most people wouldn’t consider, maybe creative hobbies.

It’s something that’s important in our lives, and I think it gives a lot of people a lot of joy. It’s something that’s universal to, I think, the human experiences that need to make and create.

Those are sort of the mindset things that I wanted to touch on, that are part of this idea of building a practice and building momentum into your creative life.

So the next thing that I wanted to talk about so part two is actually designing your experience around sewing. This is really fun because I think this is also something people don’t take the time to think about often, except maybe in a very practical sense, but it can make a really huge difference in how you approach your sewing and how much you enjoy it. So the two things that come up for people the most when it comes to designing your experience around sewing, are space and time. We hear that all the time, don’t we, Haley? Like, space is a big concern. Time is a big concern.

Haley
Yeah. These are two really big obstacles that people come up against in this part of their sewing journey, because they’re really starting to take sewing more seriously as a hobby. It’s probably starting to take over your dining room table. You’re like, where am I going to put all of this stuff?

Sarai
What am I going to do with it?

Haley
And I think that this is also a place where a little bit of that guilt starts creeping in for people.

Sarai
So guilt, like, around how much space is taking up, how much time it’s taking up from other things or other people. Yes. I think that goes back to this idea of validating that your creativity is important and that’s a part of your life that you want to give time and space to that can be hard for a lot of people because we have a lot of competing demands in our life. I see that guilt, and I’ve definitely felt that guilt.

I think these challenges around space and time are also really big opportunities. Because if you can think strategically about how you create your space and you block off your time, or you find some other way to make that time feel special to you and feel like, this is my self-care, this is my me time, then I think it makes such a huge difference in how you approach your sewing and how you feel about it. For me, I think for years I didn’t really have a space to sew for many, many years, and I would have to cut my fabric out on the floor in a tiny apartment and have to take out my machine every single time out of the closet and set it all up and put it all back.

And I know for a lot of people, that can be a big hurdle, but there are things you can do to make it feel a lot easier and a lot more like you have a creative space. We actually have a free download called The Ultimate Guide to Sewing Spaces that you can get. We’ll put a link to it in the show notes, but it has a bunch of tips for setting up your sewing space, even if you have very little space. So no matter what your space, no matter what your budget, ways to make it feel more like a creative space that you want to be in rather than kind of a hassl.
Haley
And just kind of minimizing the effort—there’s so many obstacles in your day to day life that are going to want to pull you from your creative practice, whether that’s sewing or painting or whatever it is for you. Removing as many of those obstacles as you can by, like, if you have the opportunity to create a dedicated space by making it a place you want to be, or by making your set up as easy as possible to unpack and then pack back up again. I know I’ve had like, teeny tiny apartments and I set up like, a little cart that goes into the closet that I pull out with all of my sewing gear and rolls right back in when I’m done.

Sarai
Yeah, there’s so many little tricks that you can do for me. When I didn’t have much space, I just never really thought about those little things and how I could make it feel better. I think if I had done that, then I probably would have done more sewing at that time in my life and enjoyed it a lot more.

I think there’s similar stuff going on with time. It’s hard to find time for yourself, no matter what that me time is. And it’s hard for people to prioritize things that make them feel good versus things that they’re doing for other people or that they feel like our obligations in their life. But it’s so important, it’s such a vital part of, for me at least, for maintaining my mental health is having time set aside for myself, don’t you think?

Haley
Yeah, absolutely. It feels like the first to kind of drop off the to-do list and times in your life when you’re busier than others or overwhelmed. But I know for me personally, when I claim that time that everything else feels a little bit easier.

Sarai
Yeah.

Haley
Sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Sarai
Yeah. And there are different strategies and some strategies work better for some people than for others. Some people like a lot of structure and having certain time set aside. I like it that way. Just makes my life easier if I have a certain time set aside for things that I really enjoy doing, like even just yoga or meditation or writing, I have those kind of rituals in my life. But for other people they like it to be a little bit more free flowing and having too much structure makes them stressed out. So it really is about what works for you.

The next section that I wanted to talk about so we talked about mindset, we talked about designing your experience, is actually the practice of building your skills and doing that with intention because that’s, a big part of the motivation process is just finding new ways to learn and new things that excite you. So Haley, you were telling me about some ways that you taught this to students when you would teach sewing in person. Maybe tell us a little about that.

Haley
Yeah, what I would always tell my students, because most of the people I taught in group class settings were usually beginners or advanced beginners. And then there was kind of like a time where I needed with certain students, I needed to give them like a little nudge out of the nest, like, fly free. You can do it. And my recommendation is always when you’re picking out a pattern, especially when you’re in this phase, get very familiar with reading pattern descriptions and reading pattern flats so that you can identify the skills that you’re going to learn or use when you’re sewing this pattern—and then kind of inventory those skills and try to pick patterns that have a max of like two to three new skills. I think that that’s kind of like the sweet spot, three or less, because you’ll still get to practice all of those skills that you’ve been learning with your previous projects but you’ll also get to sink your teeth into something a little bit meatier and really progress your skillset. So that’s like my number one recommendation for people to not get stuck in sewing the same old same old and relying on the same dozen skills—is just pick those projects really intentionally try and choose something where you’re going to learn a little something new every single time.

I think it’s great for people who want to build their skillset in this not super rigid, structured way. You can just kind of choose your adventure as you go and not have to worry about all of the steps that you need to take together. Just kind of as cliche as it is, kind of enjoy the journey and just take strategic turns here and there.

Sarai
Yeah, that’s definitely how I approached knitting when I was learning to knit. We might have talked about this before. I feel like with knitting, it’s a little bit easier to pick a project that just has one new skill than with sewing, where you kind of often will encounter several new skills that all kind of combine. But I like that framework of thinking about maybe a max of three new skills as you choose your next step.

Haley
Yeah, or even just being intentional about knowing how many new things you’re going to encounter. I think that people sometimes have a tendency to, like, just choose projects willy nilly and then they get in over their head and they might give up on the project. And this is a real speed bump that can cause you to lose momentum. But if you know the challenge you’re up for when you start out, I think you’re a lot more likely to complete that challenge.

Sarai
Yeah, that’s true. It’s just about the expectation and knowing what you’re going to encounter that really sets your mind in the right place to handle those challenges.

Haley
Yes, totally.

Sarai
Yeah. So the last step or part of this that we wanted to talk about, so we’ve talked about mindset, we talk about designing your experience around sewing, we’ve talked about building skills intentionally, is sharing and learning through sharing. So this is a big part of, I think, the modern sewing community. And I think it’s a real reason that sewing has taken off online, is that having a community around you can really help you to learn much more quickly. Because there’s sort of this hive-mind that you can turn to, and you have this huge range of experiences that you can draw from and you can get people to help you answer a particular challenge or question that you’re having. People who have been through it before or who might have ideas that you don’t have, that just really accelerates your learning. It really helps you to develop those skills a lot more quickly and solve problems a lot more quickly. So where do you find a community like that? Obviously there are many places you can find a community online. So it’s really about where you feel safe to share and really develop a support system around you.

And that might be, for some people, social media. Some people really like doing that on Instagram and developing a community there or maybe even Facebook or a place like that or Facebook groups out there. We have our own private community at Seamwork, which I think is amazing because it’s enclosed, it’s private, you can post whatever you want there. It’s not open to the whole internet. You can share your projects there. There are a huge number of really, really helpful people that just want to talk about sewing and help you with your sewing. And we hang out there too, and answer questions all the time.

Obviously. I think that’s a great option because it’s the one that we built. But there are other forums out there that you can go to. There’s all kinds of places where you can find help. But I do think that having access to other people who sew is such a game changer and it’s so helpful. And a lot of people don’t have that in their personal lives. They don’t necessarily know a lot of people who sew, or maybe they don’t have access to them all the time. So this is a real benefit of, I think, sewing in modern world right now as opposed to 50 years ago.

So sharing and learning, I think is huge. And it’s fun. It’s really fun.

Haley
Yes, it’s a really consistent source of inspiration and motivation for me in my sewing practice, at least.

Sarai
Yeah. And I think we’ve all kind of realized in the last few years. So we’re recording this if you’re listening to this later, we’re recording this in January 2022. And we’re still kind of in the pandemic times, which we’ve been living in for the last couple of years. And I think we’ve all sort of realized how important community is and how important those connections are. Obviously in-person connections are extremely important. I think we’ve all realized that. But also these relationships you can develop with people online and how fruitful and nourishing they can be, and also how much they can teach you, I think has been a big lesson in the last couple of years.

Haley
And sewing people are just like, really cool people. When I started hanging around people who sew, I was like, oh, yes, these are my people. They just care about all the same things that I do, and they’re cool and they like to make things and—what’s not to like?

Sarai
Yeah. I think the best thing about people who sew, I think all those things I’ve found to be true. Also, I think the best thing is that I’ve found people who sew to just be very—they’re individuals. Like, they want to be themselves, you know, and that’s why they sew. Because I want to be myself. I want to express who I am. And not in a narcissistic way, but in a like, yes, rebellious way. Like, I don’t have to be I don’t have to be like everybody else.

Haley
Yeah, totally.

Sarai
They’re smart.

Haley
It’s like very independent and I just like it. I don’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing. I want to make it my way and I’m going to do it myself.

Sarai
They’re smart, ambitious, independent, just good people, the best people.

So those are our four tips for building up your sewing practice and making sewing fun and helping yourself to fall in love with sewing, which I think is just such a game changer when you really feel that love for what you’re doing in your creative life. Haley, do you want to recap these for us real quick?

Haley
Yeah, totally. So today we’ve been talking all about building your sewing practice and how to fall in love with sewing. And we gave you our top four tips for falling in love with sewing. The first one is getting your mindset totally right. And the goal of this phase is to really start to build momentum. And part of building momentum is learning how to celebrate and learning that a successful project that you wear all the time or making your new favorite thing in the world is not the only measure of success. So just really learning how to love the process and not just the finished product I think is so huge in this place in your journey.

Also you have to design your experience, which is really fun. It’s a time where you get to claim your time, you get to claim your space and really just optimize both in a way that feels right to you and fits into your life really well.

Next, you’re going to want to work on building your skills intentionally. I gave the hot tip of kind of intentionally choosing your sewing projects based on the challenge you’re up for. And kind of a general rule of picking projects that have no more than three new techniques at a time. Unless you’re really feeling up for a challenge and then, you know, do whatever you want, just know what you know that you’re doing it. Do it intentionally.

And then last but not least, we recommend sharing and learning along the way and really tapping into the amazing sewing community that Sarai and I just finished waxing poetic about that we just love so much.

And like we said before, this isn’t just what you’re going to experience in the early days after you have conquered beginner sewing projects. These are four tips that you can revisit throughout your sewing journey. Whenever you’re feeling like you’re not really feeling the love anymore and just kind of like reinforce these areas and patch them up. It’s not enough just to build the house, you have to maintain it. It’s a practice of love.

We also have some great resources for you. We have our sewing spaces download. You can check out the community which, like we said, is a private community where you can feel really safe to talk amongst other sewers about sewing all the time and not really a whole lot else. Also you can check out a couple of episodes that are related. We have What is Sewing by Design—that explains this whole Sewing by Design thing we’ve been talking about the last few weeks. And Lay Your Foundation, which is all about that beginner phase. And you can also go to seamwork.com/go/icebreakers to share your icebreakers from makers with us, because we love starting our show off with these icebreakers, and you guys just come up with the best ones.

This is a whole lot of links, so we’ll be sure to add all of these to the show notes. So you can just hop on over there and click through. And if you like this episode, we would super appreciate it if you left us a review. Today we have a review from Nerdal. They say. “Thank you, Sarai and Haley, for your thoughtful sewing stance on this podcast. Always something different each time. I became an unlimited member about a year ago. Though you both are decades younger than me, I find the values, questions, and open quality of the podcast to be perfect for me.”

Sarai
Thank you.

Haley
Thanks for being our podcast friend.

Sarai
Thanks for listening.

Haley
You can sit at our table anytime. And if you’re not yet a Seamwork member and want to try one of our most popular sewing patterns, you can currently get the Quince jacket for free. Quince is like one of my favorite patterns of ours.

Sarai
I love it.

Haley
Definitely such a good deal. So just head over to Promo.seamwork.com/freequince where you can download the pattern instantly.

Sarai
I’ll put that in the show notes too.

Haley
Yeah.

Sarai
Alright. And that concludes our episode for today. I’m Sarai.

Haley
And I’m Haley.

Sarai
And this is Seamwork Radio.

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