We’re back with Part 2 of our Intention Series, and today’s subject is:
Mac and I love this sewing community that brought us together. I’m a Midwest girl through and through — born and raised in Iowa and now living and working in the Kansas City metro area. Mac is a true East Coaster — born and raised in New York City, now living and working in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. The chances of us ever meeting was slim to none if not for this amazing community that connects sewists and makers around the world.
So with Me-Made May, possibly the biggest event in the online sewing world, upon us, we wanted to take some time to explore what this community means to us, and how we can all work to turn those virtual connections into real-life friendships.
3 Ways to Turn Virtual Sewing Friendships into Real-Life Relationships
If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t have a lot of “real life” friends who are serious sewists. Most of your circle probably asks if you made your outfit, and then reacts with stunned admiration when you say yes. They may shake their heads and lament that they would never be able to make their clothes, and maybe jokingly ask if you’ll hem their pants (since of course they know you DON’T hem or mend clothing).
But as much as you love those friends, they can’t kibitz about the new Deer & Doe collection, or help you tweak the crotch curve on your Ginger Jeans. They can’t understand just how amazing that new Cotton + Steel rayon actually is or agree that Mimi G looked amazing in her Joni Jumpsuit.
No, for those things we need our sewing sisters. Those lovely women we “meet” in Facebook groups and through Instagram hashtags. Who give you the push to believe that you really can best that slippery rayon challis. Who applaud when you reduce the underbutt wrinkles on your handmade jeans. Who assure you that it’s totally normal to buy 36 yards of fabric in a single go — just wait at the front door for the mailman and get the fabric washed and safely in the stash and no one will be the wiser.
But as great as those friendships are across the Internets, it’s even better when they can morph into real life friendships. But how can we make that happen? Well, Mac and I have both made concerted efforts to do just that, and we want to encourage you all to do the same!
Make a “Cold Call”
It can be hard to take that first step. Making the first contact kind of makes you feel like the new kid in school who has to muster up the courage to go up to a strange kid and ask if they want to be your friend. What if they say no? What if that virtual connection you felt was one-sided?
Well, that’s always a risk. But as I’ve been telling myself and my kids for years — the worst they can do is say no. What do you really have to lose?
This is exactly how I met Leslie from Threadbear Garments. I had admired her blog and Instagram account from afar, but had never met her in real life. We didn’t have any mutual friends or randomly cross paths in Trader Joes. No, I cold called her. I knew that she was also in the KC metro area, took photos with a tripod and remote like me, and maybe had reached the conclusion that her tripod was a sucky photographer, like I had. So I went to her blog, found her contact e-mail address, and reached out.
I admit I was nervous when I hit “send” on that first email asking Leslie if she wanted to be my friend. Me, a lowly little sewing blogger who she had never heard of, and had nothing substantive to offer other than an ability to click a camera shutter better than her remote.
But it turns out I shouldn’t have worried! Not only does Leslie live a mile and a half away from me, but she was just as anxious as I was to make connections in the KC sewing community. Since that first email, we’ve met almost weekly to take photos of each other, sometimes with kiddos in tow, or have lunch and talk about all those obscure indie sewing patterns that sound like Greek to others.
I’m so glad I made that first cold call and turned a virtual acquaintance into a real life friend.
Arrange a Meet Up
You don’t necessarily have to cold call someone to make a new sewing friend. Mac and I were online “friends” for almost a year before we met in real life. We had chatted and admired each other from afar in various Facebook groups, but lived halfway across a rather large country from each other.
But as fate would have it, in August of 2017, Mac got assigned to a project in Kansas City that required her to make a trip here for some meetings. She was booked pretty solid, but we managed to squeak out a couple of hours for lunch together. Mac was only on that case for about a week, but the rest is history.
We discovered that we were “sistas from other mistas,” and what started out as a virtual acquaintance became a very real friendship. Now we talk at least once per week, at a regularly scheduled time, and frequently more often if inspiration strikes!
But it doesn’t take a cross country trip to meet up, though Mac and I both try to meet up with local sewists when we travel for work or otherwise. Reach out to other sewists in your area. Find your favorite Facebook sewing group and put out a call (we’ll suggest the Sew Altered Style Society, but any group will do) — who’s in my area and interested in meeting other local sewists? Set up a group date to get coffee or meet at a playground and chat while the kids play, or maybe even reserve a space for an afternoon and meet up to sew.
Plan a Sewing Retreat
And if you’ve made those first connections — made the cold call (if necessary) and met in real life, you may be thinking that a sewing retreat sounds divine.
I am lucky to have some real life friends beyond Leslie and Mac who sew. They don’t live in the Kansas City area, and we don’t see each other very often, but once a year or so we plan a sewing weekend where we all meet up, spend most of the weekend in various levels of undress, and drink copious amounts of wine and coffee while we churn out project after project. It. is. fabulous.
Since planning a weekend like that is a little different than other “girls weekends,” I thought I’d give you my:
Tips for Planning a Sewing Weekend!
#1: Don’t go someplace new and fun.
This is my first and most important tip. If you want to have a sewing weekend, go someplace where you can focus on sewing and won’t be distracted by your surroundings. The ladies I do my sewing weekend with all have roots in Iowa, so that’s where we go. Iowa is a lovely place, but it’s also someplace we don’t feel a strong urge to explore. We can happily hole up in a big Air bnb for a few days and not leave the house without feeling like we’re missing out on anything.
New York and LA have some amazing fabric shopping, but if you want to hit up those stores, plan a fabric shopping trip, not a sewing trip. The lure of the city is likely too great to let you hole up and sew in peace.
#2: Choose a location where most attendees can drive.
This is more of a practical tip, but you really need to go somewhere where most attendees can drive. As we all know, sewing requires a lot of stuff, and someone has to bring it. You can carry a sewing machine on to a plane, and pack some projects, but that doesn’t account for everything else you need for an enjoyable weekend of sewing. Things like thread snippers, bodkins, and tweezers. Extra needles, a rotary cutter and an iron. The list goes on and of course someone has to bring all that stuff. Historically we have chosen a location where only one of us has to fly, so she just brings her machine and fabric, and the rest of us bring the extras.
#3: Coordinate to pool resources.
You’re all friends on your sewing retreat (or will be after spending a weekend together in your underwear), and friends can share. There’s no need for multiple irons, tweezers or pinking shears, and space may be limited as well. So coordinate in advance on who’s going to bring what, both for sewing supplies as well as food and drink.
#4: Cut projects before you go.
This is how I was able to be so productive on my last sewing weekend. I completed 15 projects during my three uninterrupted sewing days, and that was largely because I cut most of my projects before I left.
Not only did that reduce my luggage, but it also meant that as soon as I had my sewing machine set up, I could get right down to work. I actually got through all the projects I had cut and had to cut a couple more while I was there. So even though you cut your projects in advance, bring some extra fabric and patterns just in case 🙂
#5: Share the Love
Bring patterns you love to share and try on. Maybe your friend can trace off and try a favorite pattern. Or bring fabric or old handmade garments to trade. Something that you may be ready to discard could find a loving home somewhere else.
And of course when you do meet up with those sewing friends, snap a photo and share it with all of us! We love to see others turning virtual friendships into real life friendships and will happily share in that joy!
So here is our challenge to you. If you’ve been feeling the urge to make your online sewing connections more real, take that first step. Whether it’s a cold call to a blogger or sewist you want to meet, or posting in a Facebook group to set up a local meet up, just do it. Send the email, hit the post button, and turn those virtual acquaintances into real life friends. I’ll be the first one to tell you how great it is to add someone to your circle of friends who can use the terms selvage and armscye appropriately.
To help facilitate these wonderful relationships, Mac and I are each going to host a meet up in our respective home towns! We are tentatively aiming for Saturday, June 2, so hopefully it will be lovely and warm by then! If you are in either the DC metro area, or the Kansas City metro area, please let us know so we can be sure to get you the meet up information!
After all, what do you have to lose?