Hello! I’m Emma (@emma.m.makes over on insta) and I’m a Canadian sewist living in Denmark. I moved here with my husband last year after graduating with a BA in textile design and sadly had to leave the fabric shop I worked at/my sewing family. I miss it immensely so joining the sewing community on instagram has helped me still feel connected. I’m relatively new to this community and first off I have to say wow, what an amazing place.
I just want to add a little trigger warning. I’ll be speaking about loss which might be triggering for some.
I began sewing about seven years ago. I had just come back to Ontario after a year and a half stint living in Vancouver, then Berlin, and I was a little bit lost in life. I was a 23 year old college dropout, working as a nanny, and desperate for something to distract me from my grief. Before the dropping out and the wandering my mother had passed away and I didn’t know what to do with myself. So signed up for a pillowcase class at the local fabric shop.
I heard stories from my aunts about how my mum used to sew all her own clothes when she was a teenager. It was clear though that she didn’t enjoy the process. I think for her it represented being poor and unable to afford ready to wear clothes. So needless to say she never taught me how to sew.
After taking that class I jumped in deep. I bought a simple sewing machine from the grumpy man on Ottawa st. and got to it. I take joy in the fact that the place I learned to sew was the same place I would later work. I spent countless hours, after the shop doors closed, sewing away, making all the mistakes. I don’t really have any of the clothes that I’ve made over the years. I’ve either outgrown them or felt frustrated by them (my taste far more advanced than my skills). So my love for sewing grew out of a need for distraction but it was also complicated because often when I turned over a pattern to see the measurements I realized that I had grown beyond those numbers. This was a great source of shame for me.
I have spent years, decades, loathing this vessel that carries me. So it may seem a simple thing to look at a pattern and not see your numbers there but what I saw was yet another message that I didn’t deserve this because of my body. When making clothes I tried to squeeze myself into these patterns (fitting was not something I had patience or skill for) and only felt disappointed when it inevitably was too tight or uncomfortable. It is only recently, in this wave of pattern companies extending their sizes, that I feel I am finally able to make clothes that fit my curves (It also helps that I have slowed down).
This past year has been a time of rest and recovery. Back in November I joined the insta-sewing-hive and I’m so amazed with what I’ve seen there. It’s not flawless and there is a long way to go but I see other women sick of people saying that we’re not enough. Or rather that we’re too much. I see women that look like me making beautiful clothes that fit their stunning bodies. I see people posting their size for all the world to see without shame or regret. And my favourite part is the connection I feel with a complete stranger when we have a moment of “I feel that way too, I thought I was alone”. I am angry at the system and I am tired of convincing myself that I am enough. I have finally cut into beautiful fabrics that before I had deemed ‘too special’ and made styles that aren’t ‘for’ fat women. I feel like superwoman and sewing is my superpower. It’s not perfect. I have many days of not feeling good in my body but those days are becoming fewer and fewer. I attribute that in part to the community of gorgeous fat women on instagram.
One of my last memories of my mother was when she was very sick. We were all home for the Christmas break and I decided I wanted to turn a cheap old scarf into… something. I can’t remember now. I pulled out my grandmother’s old sewing machine, one of those ones that was built right into the table, and set it up in the middle of the laundry room. Having never touched a machine before, I couldn’t get the damn thing to work. My mother came downstairs, deeply sick and out of patience, and said to me “Emma please put it away, I’ll teach you when I’m better.”
She passed away about two weeks after this. I can’t say that learning to sew was a conscious effort to feel closer to my mother. It wasn’t. I had actually forgotten about this memory until recently. For her sewing was a sign of not having enough but for me it has taught me that I am enough. I like to think she guided me here.