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Sewing for my Sanity, by Emma (@happysew16)

Back in January 2020 I interviewed and was offered a new job. I finished my previous role early in March and planned a couple of weeks off with a start date of 31st March.

My husband took some annual leave and we booked a few days away after which I planned to spend the rest of the time sewing a new capsule wardrobe ready to start my new job.


And then the world fell apart…… My new employers contacted me and confirmed they had set everyone up working from home, and they wanted me to start as planned and would arrange for my IT kit to be delivered to my home. “OK “I thought “ it’s a lockdown for 3 weeks, I’ll have a bit more free time to sew even more new work clothes and be ready for the office re-opening”. Well, as we know 3 weeks turned into months and lockdown well and truly kicked in.

I found that unlike many people my body wasn’t interested in taking advantage of using the short “commute” to my desk for a lie in – and I was still waking at my usual time. This gave me a good 45 minutes spare every morning and I made full use of it in my sewing room.

We are lucky that my husband set up his home “office” in our study and I was able to use our spare bedroom. So my sewing room was untouched by day to day work related tasks or IT kit. And it very quickly became my sanctuary. It was my constant in a world that was going slightly deranged. Once the door was shut I could block everything else out and just focus on creating. It was my happy place, my safe-haven, my little bubble in a world that was going mad. This became even more important to me when 5 weeks into lockdown my dad was taken into hospital after a fall. You don’t need the details of the 5 weeks he was in hospital. I’m sure many of you reading this will have had similar experiences of loved ones being in hospital and not being able to visit. But I can’t lie – it was incredibly traumatic. Very sadly after 5 weeks in hospital we lost him. My reaction to this was even more sewing – in fact looking back I realise now I became a bit obsessed. Every chance I had was spent sewing. I did pattern tests, made quilts, more clothes and early on in lockdown I did a few masks, headbands, hospital bags and hearts that were given to patients and their families who were separated. The one thing I couldn’t sew were scrubs. I really felt like I should be making them, but, for me it would have meant allowing Covid to invade my safe space. For my sanity I just couldn’t allow that haven to be tainted and associated with it. Is that so wrong?

As we approach October and continue to emerge from the nightmare that has been the last 18 months I am doing a lot of reflecting on how I dealt with it all and survived with my sanity relatively intact. My incredibly patient husband has encouraged me to work through what’s happened and been a huge support to me whilst I’ve been dealing with my grief and working out the new dynamic in the family without my Dad as the patriarch. Looking back I know I wouldn’t have got through it without his support and having such a creative and all consuming hobby to occupy both my time and my thoughts. My on-line and Zoom exercise kept me physically fit and healthy – and sewing provided the calm balance I needed for my mental health.

With the schools back for the new term we’re starting to spend some days working in the office and I’ve finally met most of my new colleagues in person, rather than just seeing their head and shoulders on Teams calls. Changes in our working environment have also meant a relaxation of the “business” dress code so my current project is looking at the gaps in my wardrobe and planning what I can make to refresh that work wardrobe I started all that time ago. I’m also restarting the work I was doing with Crafty Sew and So, I’ve been helping with their open days and we’re finally able to start up in person workshops, and I’ll be teaching a two day jeans course with Sarah in January next year. We’ve also managed to get a couple of well needed breaks exploring places in the UK that we previously didn’t know too well, and with my newfound sense of calm I have been able to enjoy the downtime without the need to manically fill my time (for that read “distract my thoughts”), with activities. I did take a couple of hand sewing projects with me in case of bad weather, and I sat over a couple of evenings taking my time over them and really enjoying the slow process of hand sewing and chatting to my husband.

Back home after our breaks, I have that back to school feeling of new beginnings and fresh terms. I am planning my sewing with much more thought to the way I live post pandemic, thinking how my work environment has changed and how my clothes/sewing can reflect that. I’m being more mindful and putting more thought into what I want to make, rather than manically sewing whatever is closest and easiest just to fill as much as my time as I can. My newly catalogued patterns are making that a much easier task and one I am really enjoying. I am feeling calmer and optimistically positive about the future, so watch this space for my future projects and follow me on Instagram as @happysew16 to share and enjoy as I continue my journey of creativity.

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