T+T Storytellers: Mending Body Image and Sewing

We are so pleased to welcome Shaye to the Twig + Tale blog, sharing her interpretation of the monthly Storyteller's theme "Mend".  Shaye's story is a beautiful reminder that sewing can be such a healing act, allowing us to create clothing that fits the bodies we have, and wrap ourselves in self-love. 

Mend: Repair (something that is broken or damaged)

Finding clothes that fit, look good and are within your budget is not always easy.  Most people understand this, but living in a bigger body adds an extra layer of complexity.  Sewing for myself wasn't something I previously enjoyed.  I love making clothes for my kids but that's where my interest ended.  Why would I sew for myself?  I won't wear it.  I won't look any good in it.  What a waste.  All things I would tell myself as I wore the same clothes day in and day out.  

It took having daughters of my own to realise that I never wanted them to feel this way about themselves, starting me on a journey to mend the way I think about myself.  Sewing has been a huge part of that, and the most profound thing I read was this:

"clothes were made to fit your body, not the other way around".  

Sewing a Forester Coat

When I saw the Twig + Tale Forester Coat pattern, I simply could not pass up the opportunity to give it a go.  My daughters have their own gorgeous woollen coats, and I wanted to join in on the fun.  Having little ones means there are so many opportunities for matching - I'm sure they will hate it one day, so I have to do it now while they still think it is fun!

For this coat, I used two beautiful woollen blankets I found at my local opportunity shop.  They were partially used from previous projects and I had to really scrape the edges to get enough for the coat.  It was a bit touch and go, but I managed to get enough... just!  For the lining I had some beautiful pink gingham stored away that I had forgotten about.  I wasn't as lucky with this and ended up needing to use some other scrap material to line the sleeves - a dark plum purple - but you really can't tell from the outside.  

Then came getting the pattern pieces together and taking my measurements.  Ah, there it is, the familiar sting deep down in my gut.  The shame developed a long time ago that I am too big, this won't fit me, I shouldn't be wearing clothes like this.  I felt like I needed something baggy in dark colours.  

No, I deserve this.  This will look good on me and I want to do this.  The pattern pieces are letters of the alphabet rather than numbers - that made it easier.  

Working with the wool is heavy and bulky, and cutting it sent so many tiny wooly particles into the air and all over my clothes as I worked.  The dog and I were both sneezing away.  Having two kids at home with me full time meant I would often find myself in the sewing room late into the night, or sneaking away during short nap times to work on my coat.  My Friday mornings are toddler-free, which helped with progress.  I set the bassinet on the floor beside the table so I could peek down and see my gorgeous little baby's face watching me.  Watching me work on the coat, and in turn, working on healing myself.  

I wanted to add something unique for the coat details and I wanted to use as much of the woollen blankets as I could.  One of them had soft silk edging that worked perfectly for the edge of the yoke and the lining pieces of the back belt, wrist cuffs and wind flap.  It was surprisingly easy to sew as well (though in my lifetime I haven't had a lot of experience with ironing, and I managed to burn a big piece of wool before I even got started - oops!).  

The body of the coat was together, and it looked so good.  Then it was time to sew in the lining.  That first try-on was magical.  It fits!  It looks amazing, it feels amazing and wow I did it!  

Top stitching complete and I had the most beautiful coat, exactly how I imagined it would turn out and I couldn't stop staring.  I was telling anyone who would listen about it.  What a feeling.  I couldn't wait to get out and use it for the first time.  

An Outing to Te Rerekawau

We decided to head into the bush for the first wear of my coat.  The weather has been terrible lately and completely out of sorts for this time of the year.  We are used to crisp cold days with lovely warm sunshine, but we're currently being treated to clouds, rain and cold southerly winds. 

We bundled up the kids in the car and headed up to Te Rerekawau (also known as the Kaiate falls) which has a lovely walking track and stunning waterfalls.  When we arrived, I snuggled my youngest into the baby carrier and then zipped in the Nestledown Add-On I had sewn for my coat so she would be nice and warm with me.  

Off we went, toddler and grumbling husband in tow.  Nestled down the path and off the track through some Kawakawa bush, we found a little clearing that took us close to the river.  You can't really tell in the photos, but it was absolutely pouring with rain.  My older daughter was so excited to see the water and all the rocks in the shallows. 

Being able to explore with a child really gets you looking at the smallest things around you.  The raindrops on the leaves and the moss growing on the trees.  The smell of the wet bark and the sound of the water flowing downstream fill up your senses and block out the noise of everyday life.  If fully engrosses you in the present and all the noise in your mind goes quiet for a while. 

My coat was lovely to wear out on our bush walk.  It kept me warm and snug, but I never felt like I overheated.  I was also pleasantly surprised at how little water the fabric seemed to take on.  It felt good to wear something beautiful that fit me perfectly and that I had created myself.  

I remember someone told me that sewing was like being wrapped in self-made love and that couldn't be closer to the truth. 

Shaye, a busy mum to two young girls, loves to sew and spend time out and about in nature.  Previously a midwife, Shaye has been perfecting her sewing skills over the last few years as a stay at home mum. 

She lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in Aotearoa New Zealand and when she isn't hiding in the sewing room, you'll find her catching up with friends or pottering in the garden.  See more of Shaye's work here


There is lots more great Storyteller content on the T+T blog!  Click here to view all of the Storyteller articles.