An act of love: on the quiet beauty of sewing

I don’t think of sewing as simply a female pastime: my experience with sewing and crafting allows me to see it as an act rooted in universal love. My first memory of seeing a cross-stitch was when I was a child when my mum brought down the memory box she had kept of items from when I was a baby and showed me the cross stitch samplers she made and hung in my room. I saw sewing and stitching as an act of love from a mother to her child. 

For me, sewing is also about reclaiming power; having a sense of control and making your individual mark on the world around you. In the current climate, we’ve seen a massive uptake in people crafting and selling masks to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Because masks do not require much material and are fairly easy to follow as a sewing pattern, they have become a firm favourite among both beginner sewers and those who are more experienced. Not only do they have a positive health impact, with sewers having the chance to actively combat a scary social issue, but they have also been an important tool for giving people individuality at a time where people can’t see others’ smiles. In the absence of a friendly face, masks have been essential in being able to convey a sense of personality. From flowers and sunshine to sparkles and skulls, fabric designs have been the only way to show our sense of character. People who can sew masks for others are helping them take back some control over their identity by communicating through the fabric, the person behind the mask. 

I think sewing, stitching and crafting are also connected to kindness. From the bobble hat campaign run by Innocent smoothies to the seatbelt breast cushions created to support cancer survivors, crafting can change lives. Recently, cancer charity The Big C put out a request for help from the public in making them some heart breast cushions. These patterns are easy to make, and don’t require much material, but can make a real difference to those who need extra support. 

Not only can crafting really make a difference in the local community, but it can also mean so much to family and friends. In our consumerist society, spending money on lavish gifts is encouraged, but it means that gifts are losing meaning. Homemade gifts, from jewellery and scarves to hats and jumpers, hold so much more sentimental value and can be cherished for a lifetime.

Sewing and crafting are no longer merely a woman’s chore. Crafting clothes and accessories can bring so much light into other people’s lives, whether that be through homemade gifts, survivor support, or giving people back their smiles. Being a woman has nothing to do with why I enjoy sewing, for me sewing is intrinsically linked with love. I don’t feel empowered because I’m doing something that is traditionally a feminine activity, rather, I feel empowered as a woman because I’m doing something that has the potential to spread love and kindness to others.

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Leia Butler

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September 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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