I was very lucky to grow up in a family that nurtured creativity. My sisters and I were bought up wearing clothes that my mum and grandmother made for us.
I’ve sewed sporadically since I was a child. I didn’t own my own machine until my 20’s when I inherited my grandmother’s old Elna after she passed away. I initially started to sew with my grandmother as a way to spend time and learn from her. She was a very talented seamstress and was very lonely after my grandfather died. Sadly my grandmother was not a natural teacher. During the odd university holidays, my friends and I would have sewing days. Five of us would bring our machines, eat snacks and sew all day. It was bliss.
I graduated in the middle of the financial crisis when jobs for graduates—especially Fine Arts graduates—were very scarce. I always thought I’d become an art teacher so I enrolled to complete my Masters of Fine Arts while I used to the routine of studying. Around this time, my long-term boyfriend and I broke up. I was emotionally a bit of a wreck and was battling self-confidence issues, but my family, especially my mother, were awesome during this period.
After graduation, I won a year of mentoring from an artist, and I worked several part-time jobs (full-time jobs were hard to get) while I tried to figure out my next steps. Eventually, I got a full-time job as a gallery curator working on 25 exhibitions a year. All my creative energy was channelled into exhibition ideas to keep viewers engaged. I was a one women band, organizing advertising, sourcing artists, developing concepts, networking, the list goes on. At the end of the week, I had no energy to sew.
The sewing days with my friends seemed to stop when we all started working full time and while we figured out the transition into adulthood. Trying to balance low incomes while moving out of home and setting up flats proved tough. At this time I met Paul who has always been encouraging of my creative talents.
Fast forward 3.5 years and Paul and I moved cities to Wellington. He had felt stuck in his job, which he had been at for 10 years. We were living in a suburb where we felt socially isolated. Housing in our home-city is very expensive, which made it hard to imagine making our homeownership dreams a reality. But then Paul was offered a new role in a different city, in an industry he wanted to be in. He took a pay cut, we quit our jobs the next day and we moved 4 weeks later. It was a crazy time. He was sick with food intolerance issues and it was only a month and a half before our wedding.
Even so, moving to Wellington was exciting! We had both been craving change. I didn’t have a job when we first moved but we had set some money aside for me to find the right job in the new year. I set up our apartment, I built us a dining room table, and I travelled back to Auckland train my replacement (she lasted 4 days). Having time out allowed me to reset after a stressful time.
In Wellington with time, I got my creative energy back. I decided to sew some clothes as nothing I owned suited my new weather conditions. I made a couple of garments and it felt good. I got a job while wearing my freshly sewn pants to the interview. At this time I started to nervously Instagram my makes as I wanted to join a community after feeling I had lost the community that I’d built.
I made friends by reaching out to people who I met on Instagram. I have met some amazing people this way so definitely don’t be shy about contacting people. It’s hard to make friends as grown-ups!
Teresa, Rachel and I at Fabricabrac
We’ve been in Wellington coming up four years at the end of October. We are so at home in Wellington. We own our own home, have great jobs and friends. While my job is a completely unrelated industry to my university studies, I love having a job that doesn’t leave me stressed, exhausted and creatively sapped.
Sewing has been a constant throughout our time in Wellington. It’s a way to refocus after a hard day at the office. Paul and I have both benefited from my skills. He chooses the t-shirt prints of his dreams often featuring dinosaurs or zoo animals (to the envy of his -colleagues).
In the past 8 months I’ve been focusing on creating fewer, but high-quality garments. I want to create clothes which will be in my wardrobe many years later.
Things I’ve done/am planning to do this year:
- Watch more Craftsy classes by taking out an unlimited subscription for a couple of months.
- Purchase an Elna Press to make sure my fusing is well set. I get impatient with irons. (Done)
- Purchase a copy of the ebook ‘How to sew professional activewear.’ I want to learn more about coverstitching.
- Take a jeans fitting class (soon!)
Thanks for taking the time to read my origin story. I’d love hearing about how people get started on their sewing journey. I’d love to know if there are any courses, books or resources that improved your sewing practice.