Sunday, January 12, 2014

Do You Remember the Selfish Seamstress?

Do any of you remember the posts of the Selfish Seamstress?  If you've been reading sewing blogs as long as I have, you would miss her as much as I do.  She was a fabulous exceptional seamstress and had a witty sense of humor that left you panting for her next project and post....which always included a tongue-in-cheek rant that reinforced her commitment to sewing only for herself.

This past year or so, after moving cross county to be with my recently-widowed sister, the pressure to sew for her friends and the new people I meet became intense.  Although the Selfish Seamstresses posts had become infrequent (following her marriage and move to Europe), I sought out her blog just to purchase one of the coffee cups she offered with her original haiku poems that politely discourage the begging.  The one I chose says, "Sew something for you?  It's not that I don't have time...I just don't want to."  (teehee)  I keep it on my sewing spot filled with the small notions I constantly reach for.  In spite of her blog's inactivity, all of her items are still available and can be purchased to support St. Jude's Hospital for Children, and include a variety of tote bags, tshirts and customizable mugs with similarly unique haiku.  (Check them out....and if anyone knows of her whereabouts, tell her we miss her!)

I had gotten pretty good at dissuading the begging babble that surrounds accomplished sewists, and had gotten really good at politely rebuffing their offers of payment, no matter what the project.  This holiday season was very discouraging, though.  Because of a very limited budget, I chose to make presents for my immediate family and the results reminded me of the reason I had refrained from sewing for anyone except myself.

The niece I had made things for all her life now had an opinion and seemed not to like what I created....she didn't take it out of the box or say much about it...not even a mumbled, "Thank you."  She sorta sniffed at what I described as the 'difficulties' I encountered making it.  (I lengthened each 3 inches, the horn buttons came from China via an EBay seller and I quilted the inside lining.  I was really pleased with the long-haired fur, which had been ordered from a website:  The special length zippers (my niece is 6'2" barefoot) were ordered from an Etsy seller (Zipit) and I enjoyed look;ing for the special zipper pull placed on each one.  This niece has lupus and recently had knee surgery, so she needs to keep her joints warm as she performs her work-related duties.  I thought this was going to be a great present., although my sister predicted she would not like it and suggested instead that I ask my niece what she wanted.  I was too far in, too much time had been spent, too much money had been invested in the project.  I had only enough time to finish it before the holiday, and no time to rethink the process.  Did I have enough money to purchase whatever she would say she wanted? I plunged forward to complete the project.  I just hoped she would be gracious, and watched if she keyed on my sister's was disappointing.

McCalls 6809

Very Easy Very Vogue 9427

My sister didn't goo and gush over her gift either, in spite of the effort and details I put into the project; she sews as well, so has knowledge of how time-consuming my efforts were.  I made the jacket from a plush deep purple fleece.  I quilted the inside hood/jacket facing and made cording for its edge.  Not sure if she liked it either, beside it being extremely soft and warm.   She did say thank you, however and has been wearing inside the house.

Purple and Warm

I know, I know....I have learned that you should give a gift for the pleasure of giving it, and that's what I am concentrating on.  I have made the decision not to put as much work into gifts for individuals that don't express an appreciation for the effort.  Maybe I do better at gifts for the little ones in my life.....i.e., my great nephew and 3 grandsons.  They seem to give me the big smile and thanks for the puppets, stuffed animals and aprons gifted them this past year or so.  I'm trying to be more understanding for my relatives who benefited and felt entitled during the years prior to the U.S. economic hiccup and the salary of a seasoned employee vs. the beginning salary my son and I began with.  Now, instead of getting what you may want, you should develop the skill to appreciate what you are given.  I can't be the only person who feels this way.

I've suddenly become a fan of the proverbial innocuous gift card....I'll be giving them more as gifts in the future.  I marvel at a fellow blogger who cheerfully accepted the fact that his mother did not like the housedress he made for her and (seemingly unaffected) he bounced out to get more fabric in an effort to please her with another effort.  I pray I can cheerfully try, try again.  I'll begin that journey tomorrow.  But, today, I am more like the Selfish Seamstress.  It seems safer....

I continue my stitch at a time....


  1. I certainly remember and miss The Selfish Seamstress! Thanks for reminding me we can still purchase her cute items. I'm sorry your relatives didn't seem to appreciate your hard work. Perhaps as those items come in more useful than they imagined they will think of you.

  2. What a lovely tribute to The Selfish Seamstress... exactly what I would have summed up about her as well... let's hope she's able to find ample time to explore fabric haunts and sew just for herself!
    Thanks for your posts...I agree with your summary re gifts, I suspect that we sewers just so love making and creating that we cannot imagine the recipient won't get the same level of enjoyment from the end result. And maybe a few more years of economic blues will awaken a greater appreciation of a "wrought with love" special gift!

  3. What a lovely tribute to The Selfish Seamstress. Let's hope she has some time to herself to explore material haunts and sew for herself! Thank you for your posts... I agree with your summary re gifts. Maybe it's because we sewers get so much enjoyment from creating and making that we find it difficult to accept when the recipient doesn't seem to share our enthusiasm!

  4. Not everyone is handmade gift worthy

  5. I would never make something for someone unless I thought they really wanted it; taste in clothing is too subjective, and as you recognize,most people don't understand what is involved.

  6. I once agreed to make something for a sibling, but plans fell apart when she insisted on something that was ugly. No way was I going to pour hours or maybe days into something I couldn't stand sewing and as to which I had no sewing experience. She was treating me like a sewing contract worker, even though she wasn't paying me. I informed her that there was a design element to the work and I simply wasn't going to make something hideous.

    She also didn't understand that most sewers with pride and a sense of economy research techniques and do samples, especially when they're using expensive fabric. Needless to say, that adds time to the project.

    I thought the robe Peter the blogger made for his mother was, um, a very strong look, and really couldn't blame her for being honest about not liking it.

    I give gift cards.

  7. I'm so late on this! I discovered sewing blogs quite late, but stumbled across selfish seamstress and loved it. For me, it was an ideal blog. I'm selfish too and it's good to know that it's okay! I was actually interested in her outfits and how she felt about them. Hope that she is alright. Thanks for this post.!

  8. I'm even later on this post but I see this from both sides. One, I admit that I am fussy and so really wouldn't want you to go to the trouble of making something that you think I would like. I don't expect a gift card either, just something more symbolic...a box of herbal tea so we can sit and share tea and talk together. I've been making a handmade present each year for my goddaughter but as she hit ten this year I knew that my taste and hers (800 miles away) are probably diverging. So yes, she got a "learning present" (usually a book but his year a young detective and her dog puzzle cards) and cash. I adored the selfish seamstress, which is how I found your post, and think actually she has it right in some ways. Very few people appreciate the time our projects take nor have the same taste we do so why not accept that reality, enjoy what we do and yes, buy the gift card for the rest of them. I've gotten some handmade presents that I wish the person had not made and am just grateful that the person thought of me. I'm at the age where I don't need more stuff and if I do, I would like to select it myself so I can also decide what the other items I'm going to sending in the donation box. My few friends and I who do gift one another have agreed that it needs to be experiences or consumables, nothing to add to our current stuff.

  9. My sympathies. We have all been there--lots of work, cost, and time and no thanks for it. Seems like people are addicted to throwaway "fashion," except for quilts or really tedious home dec stuff. I loved the Selfish Seamstress and thank her for her legacy. My own wardrobe deserves lots more work!