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Getting My Sewjo Back: Post Surgery

I started sewing at the start of the pandemic lockdowns, first making masks for hospitals, family and friends and then graduating to my first me-made garment just in time for Me-Made May 2020. 

Then, this past November I got sick. I already have a chronic illness that dictates how much time I can sit upright to sew or craft before needing to rest for a few hours, so adding in abdominal surgery and bed rest for nearly 2 months simply ended all of the sewing plans I had for this past winter. 

Val, wearing a non-memade hospital gown

Now that I am feeling marginally better, I am wrestling between my want and need to have a creative output like sewing and my actual stamina for sitting up for a long period, focus on the fine details of a handicraft like sewing. To built up my stamina and still get the “I made this thing” dopamine rush, here’s a few things I’ve been working on to get my sewjo back:

Home from the hospital, but on bed rest.

Chair Yoga

My surgeon actually recommended this to me as part of my recovery. If you are in a similar situation where you’ve left sewing for medical reasons or have any other medical condition, please check with your physician before attempting any exercise regiment- including yoga. 

I find that the stretches and poses have helped build up my stamina immensely and prevented my muscles from atrophy during bed rest. I always practice when someone is nearby in case I need help and I try to keep my practice short with only a few poses per session. It’s more important to make small progresses than push myself and risk an injury. 

Mending garments by hand

I am my family’s master button sewer-on-er, (that’s an official title!) Any small mending projects from my household and extended family falls into my mending basket. I know that there’s a whole Instagram account dedicated how much sewists hate being asked to do everyone’s mending (@canyousewthisforme) but when on never ending bed rest, small projects and small victories are a joyful relief from boredom. 

Great-grandma’s button collection has come in handy

I’ve sewed on a hundred lost buttons, repaired the crotch on some torn pyjama pants, fixed the top stitching on some jeans and darned some toes on some socks. Sure, some of these mends could have been quicker on a sewing machine, but then my family would have had to pay a tailor. I consider it a win. 

Planning out future makes

This one seems very obvious. While on bed rest, daydreams of many things are abundant (including a daydream about swapping places with Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing. Yes, Swayze and I had the time of our lives.) 

Some makes I’ve planned include a colour blocked Cris Wood’s Parasol Dress in the Vivaldi Linen (which I used before for a self drafted hat.) I’m also trying to decide if I should attempt a faux quilted joggers look with Muna and Broad’s Sculthorpe Pants and Merchant and Mills Jacquard Cotton Laine or stick with a colour blocked pair made from the Stretch Corduroy. Leave me a comment below with your vote or I might be compelled to attempt both!

Small Alterations

Most of my wardrobe isn’t me-made. I wish more of it was, but as someone who is disabled and chronically ill, it’s just not realistic. But that doesn’t mean that off-the-rack can’t fit like it’s a custom me-made piece. 

A bought a dress from a sample sale that I fitted to my largest measurement (my hips) and I’ve now taken in the sides of the bodice to make it fit my bust properly. I may still hem the skirt a bit and use the extra fabric to make wider straps to make it work with more bra options. We’ll see. 

An off-the-rack summer dress I took in

I’ve also hemmed all of my lounge wear bottoms to hit my ankle bones so that they are no longer a trip hazard. I altered a pair of pants that wrap at the waist to have a snap side closure instead for ease of dressing.

These small alterations give me the opportunity to work with my sewing machine for short periods and still get that quick dopamine rush of finishing a project. They are low commitment and easy to set up or put away if my energy changes. 

While I hope that no one ever loses their ability to sew short term or long term, I hope this list helps you should you ever lose your sewjo. Happy sewing friends! 💛

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