How Sewing helps in difficult times

Using Sewing to help others

“I am certain that a Sewing Machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more.”Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

March 16th, 2020 is> the day I “temporarily” closed the doors to the Sewing and Fitting Mentor Studio.COVID-19, a new curveball, in a long, recent succession of curveballs thrown into my life. However, this one impacted not only me & my family but the rest of the world. I’ve witnessed both online and while working in healthcare, people are struggling and searching to find meaning and a purpose in this pandemic.

Sewing in its basic form is utilitarian a skill. However, it also gives us more than our basic need for clothing. It is creative, giving us both fashion & artistry to our clothes and in our homes. Yet, there’s one more thing that sewing gives many of us that most people are unaware of; a sense of peace, calm- Zen. The New York Times discusses these many facets in their article:

Sewing: 30 Million Women Can’t be Wrong.

Yet, for many of you, in an effort to cope, are finding purpose and the ability to help, have turned to sewing face masks to help protect our healthcare workers (through Facebook groups like Million Mask Challenge), your friends, and/or family members at high risk and now, because of new guidelines, also for yourselves. While sewing these masks, you may have discovered a new hobby or rekindled an old one.

Both of our sons chose sewing as the basis for their Eagle Scout projects. My oldest son, Shayne, chose to have a quilt-a-thon to create lap blankets for our country’s veterans through the Quilts of Valor organization. My youngest son, Gunnar, chose to have a sew-a-thon to make pillowcase dresses to allow little girls in Africa to attend school through the non-profit, Little Dresses for Africa. There are many other organizations where sewing skills can be used to help others.

For me, sewing has always been my passion, a part of my DNA. I have sewn since I was a young girl creating my own clothing, then as I and my skills grew, I began creating clothing for others. I formalized my skills in college and went on to open my own custom dressmaking business after college. Closing it to concentrate on homeschooling my sons. I returned to sewing as a profession after requests for my alterations skills and to teach others how to sew.

May 17th, 2018, I filed for a Certificate of Assumed Name with the State of Minnesota to officially register my business name, Sewing and Fitting Mentor, which I created to help others with sewing skills, clothing, and pattern fitting difficulties. I discovered a few days later that it was almost 20 years to the day since I filed for my dressmaking business, D. Renee Designs.

Using Sewing for my Mental Health

May 19th, 2020. Two years, where has the time gone? The last few years have been a blur because life has thrown one curveball after another at my family and me since Sewing and Fitting Mentor became a reality. Allow me to share how sewing has allowed me to persevere in business and the personal struggles of multiple curve balls thrown my way.

Getting a new business off the ground both on and offline rarely go as planned, causing stress and anxiety. First was the delay in getting the studio open due to difficulty creating terms of use for the initial location. This led to choosing another location and opening the Studio doors in February of 2019.

Afterward is when the curveballs started coming, often knocking me off my feet. The first was when news that my youngest brother’s brain cancer had returned after an almost 5-year remission. This was followed by my becoming ill with a respiratory illness that triggered my asthma and compounded with strep throat. My illness prevented having a Grand Opening and getting sewing classes started.

By the end of March, I had stress-induced hives and anxiety/ depression after 5 years of working in a cancer clinic and my husband’s recent unemployment. This placed me on a leave of absence from work. The studio became my solace, my happy place, and I began to sew instead of teaching. This became part of my recovery. I rediscovered how; sewing makes you concentrate and focus on the here and now and distracts from everyday pressure. Sewing is a stress buster.

Word was getting out about the Sewing and Fitting Mentor Studio. There was a Ribbon Cutting by the Forest Lake Chamber of Commerce and an interview by the Minneapolis Star and Tribune. A few sewing students and bridal/special occasion alterations started to flow in.

Sewing was calming my anxiety and giving me joy and purpose again.

I created circle skirts & dresses for myself and a friend to wear out swing dancing. However, June brought a job transfer to a different clinic for me and a prostate cancer diagnosis for my husband. More curveballs…

My thoughts and creativity turned towards creating classes and projects for fall and winter classes at the studio. I hadn’t yet learned I needed to plan 6 months or more (I’m still working on that one!) Word was also getting out on social media regarding special occasion alterations, and I was once again enjoying making brides and bridesmaids alike feel like Cinderella

October brought the decision to have surgery in December for my husband, and I got my first student for my kids/teen class. I was completing the final alterations of the bridal season and creating samples for the upcoming Sewing Sewcials: Make & Take events.

November took me to Colorado to spend my birthday with my family. Also, to be with my brother as he waited to learn if he would be in a research trial or begin chemotherapy (it was the latter).

Yet, even during my trip, sewing was a part of it. I experienced the joy of going shopping with my niece to select tools and notions for her first sewing box, teach her how to use her sewing machine, and make her first project—a hair scrunchie.

December and January brought more sewing, teaching classes, and my husband’s surgery & recovery. Through a couple of Facebook groups, I was invited to teach my classes at 2 new community venues.

The final curveballs came; on February 15th, 2020, a fire began in the barn on our farm, losing livestock, farm equipment, and personal items. Then, 3 days later, it was discovered and diagnosed that I had a benign brain tumor. Despite all of this, my mind wanted to be in either my sewing room at home or the studio to escape, be creative, and sew.

This now brings us full circle back to March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic, and using sewing to not only help others but how it also helps you both physically and mentally.

The Study of the Benefits of Sewing for Mental and Physical Health

I shared my recent struggles with you to show how my love and passion for sewing have helped with my mental health recovery. That you also can discover both the mental and physical health benefits found in a landmark study sponsored by Home Sewing Association. Here’s an excerpt from LinkedIn’s SlideShare of the study:

“Howard University/ World Renowned mind, body expert Herbert Benson, M.D. says repetitive and rhythmic crafts evoke relaxation response. A feeling of bodily and mental calm is scientifically proven to enhance health and reduce risk of heart disease and depression. You can induce a relaxation response through sewing. The art of sewing and learning a creative skill breaks the train of everyday thought. (Obsessive thoughts)”

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