Have you read Tilly's post and the comments section "Has Sewing Changed Your Life ?" This really got me thinking and I ended up writing a whole post, which will also give you a bit of backstory.
I realized a long time ago that I have to create. When I was in college and graduate school, I spent a lot of time sneaking into the garden, cooking big meals or sitting up late with my sewing machine as an escape from the hours/months/years (?) of reading and writing. Later I got a job doing archaeological surveys for an engineering company and I became an obsessive knitter. As I spent hours glued to a computer screen, I would often fantasize about the feeling of yarn. Later, when I had two young children and a job, making stuff became a selfish pleasure-- one of the few times I felt I had control over what I was doing.
Still, I was always pretty closeted about my crafting. In college, doing domestic stuff could be a way to express oneself and beat the system--or it could open a girl up to an attack for conforming to society's expectations of the feminine. I never knew who would attack and who might encourage, so I just kept quiet about it. As a graduate student doing any hobby was just considered an odd waste of time.
In the male-dominated engineering/consulting firms I (perhaps wrongly) thought that the same views would prevail, so I continued to be pretty quiet. And, I must admit, that the more time I spent in a sterile cubicle flattened by worry about the percent billable hours on my time sheets, the more flamboyantly bizarre my knitting became--and thus the less likely be shared.
When my second child was about two, I started making children's clothes from recycled sweaters. In a short time I had way too much for him to wear. For the first time in my life, I decided to take my crafting out of the closet and brought my sweaters to be juried for inclusion a shop linked to a textile center. I was terrified, to have anyone closely look at what I had made, but also excited to finally share my creations.
Aspects of my micro sewing business gave me the confidence to do my creative thing and put it out in the world. When working with two young children became unsustainable, I quit my job, and put more effort into my micro-business. Yet, making things for others to buy didn't really connect me to buyers or other like-minded people. I felt empowered, but became less excited about the creative process.
Then I found a wonderful opportunity teaching East African women sewing as a way to encourage home-bound refugees to interact and speak English with people outside their culture. Of course, I learned as much as they did and most of it wasn't about sewing, but sewing was often our link. Eventually though, the funding for that program was cut.
And finally, there was the internet. Except for my teaching job, my sewing and knitting had often made me feel isolated from other people who just didn't get it. Suddenly it seemed there was a whole world of like-minded sewing freaks. Honestly, would any of you out there be as excited about your hobbies without internet-aided discussions it? How many knitters have stayed addicts due to Ravelry? (P.S. Ravelry addicts have you read this? And thanks for the link, Jack.)
As a former archaeologist I have always been preoccupied with the ways that people make objects their own--and not just as consumers. There really isn't a much more personalizing process than making clothing to fit one's own body, sense of style and fantasy, budget and available materials. With the internet I can not only watch people create clothes that fit themselves in all these aspects, but talk to them about it.
This year, sewing and knitting helped me survive the emotional devastation of losing my brother. At times it feels strange to go on and on about my "hobby" when the undertow of that pain is so close to surfacing. Yet, moving my hands, turning my mind from grief to arcane pattern directions, and then chatting about it all it has been a necessary distraction--if nothing else.
So yes, there are a lot of reasons sewing has changed my life, but it isn't the stitching alone that has changed my life, it's the people I have met along the way that have made it so much more than a personal hobby.
So, does anyone else out there have any thoughts on this?