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My very first sewing project was a quilt I made in college. A dear friend offered to teach me the process of quilting, so I could create a handmade Christmas gift for the guy I was dating. The quilt turned out surprisingly well and when the relationship ended a few months later, I found myself with a new hobby instead! Eventually, I learned . . . quilts are for keepers. I didn’t make another one until I was married to my husband.
A Hobby is Born
When I was pregnant with my first son, I decided to shift my focus to making things I could use. The bandana-style baby bib was popular at the time so I learned how to work with snaps and made a dozen bibs. Later I noticed my bibs were really absorbent so I started making matching burp cloths.
Then I needed somewhere to store them all, so I learned how to work with interfacing and made my own fabric baskets. I was making more than I would ever use, so I gifted them to new mom friends.
Over the next few years, my sewing was mainly utilitarian. I reupholstered all of our outdoor furniture cushions (a project I’m still recovering from) and made a variety of household items like our dog kennel cover, splat mats for the kids, etc.
When we adopted our daughter, I did what I said I would NEVER do. I attempted clothing. To my surprise, that was when I truly caught the sewing bug. I have always enjoyed putting things together. I’m one of those people who like building IKEA furniture.
Hobby Turned Business
I realized making clothing was just like building furniture — I was just building textiles. I made bloomers, then bubbles, then rompers, and Jon Jons. My motto was “skies out, thighs out” and my two youngest wore bubbles every.single.day. I started taking special orders for friends and then friends of friends. My hobby turned into a side business.
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But then, COVID hit. Nobody was leaving their house, including me. There was nothing to sew. I was growing restless. I realized how much I needed my hobby. Like any good hobby, sewing has a purpose for me. It is equal parts fulfilling and stress relieving. It’s my outlet and the way I give back to others. And when I wasn’t sewing, I felt restless and a little bit useless.
I started to think about what I could do during the pandemic that would make a positive impact. The obvious choice was to start making masks.
About that time I came across a Facebook post from a speech therapist asking for help. She wondered if anyone could fashion a mask with a clear panel so her clients could see her mouth. Our middle son was nonverbal until the age of three and had been in speech therapy for most of his life.
The request really spoke to me. I knew I could come up with something to help. It was just another construction project in my mind. I got excited.
I will spare you the novel, but long story short I made just more than 7,000 masks between April of 2020 and September of 2021. I’ve supplied clinics in almost every state, participated in a research study on the impact of small makers during the pandemic, and was interviewed for a book on female makers and social change.
Sewing also helped provide for my family in a big way. Just as the pandemic hit, we were told our son was autistic. He was accepted to an incredible school, but it was expensive and we had no idea how we would pay for it. Then all of the sudden, there was a way with the success of the masks. It was a WILD, divine ride, and my little sewing hobby took us on it.
My mask orders finally started to calm down this past summer. I was looking forward to jumping back into more fun, personal projects until suddenly, I wasn’t. I didn’t feel like sewing.
Death and Rebirth of a Hobby
At first I thought it was because I had basically been sewing nonstop for the past year. But that wasn’t it. I wasn’t tired exactly — it was like a light went out. My husband came to me one day and said, “I think you might be suffering from some post-traumatic stress.”
Earlier that year our family had been through a traumatic experience, and I thought I was okay. But it was my hobby that indicated to me I was not.
I sought help, and within a few weeks of starting with a therapist, I noticed my creativity begin to come back like a little blade of grass growing in from a tiny ray of sunshine. It grew and grew.
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Now that things are slowly returning to normal, I’m back to making children’s items, accessories, and doing some fun collaborations with fellow Fort Worth makers. I’ve also started sewing clothing for myself. I love purchasing PDF patterns from small pattern designers because I always learn something new. Constructing a new pattern is just like cooking a new dish or reading a new book. There is always a new skill to learn or a different technique to try. I enjoy honing my craft and learning from other sewists.
I’ve given a lot to my sewing hobby over the years, the last two in particular, and it’s given me so much more in return. The opportunity to create, build, learn, and serve others are just a few.
Sewing is also my mental health barometer, my “bucket filler” as my kids would say, and my favorite “me-time” activity.
There’s an old joke in the sewing community that I will leave you with. IYKYK: Yes, I sew. No, I won’t hem your pants.