Sewing is for Everyone and Every Body with Sierra Burrell

Sewing has become an integral part of my life. It allows me to make garments I love and serves as a therapeutic outlet. Allow me to give you a little bit of background about my sewing journey. I started sewing clothes about a year and a half ago as a creative hobby. There was some time in between me beginning to sew and actually sharing my makes online. A big part of my hesitation lied in questions about whether or not I fit into this community. As a new sewist and curvy woman of color, I struggled to find myself represented in the imagery in the online sewing community. The vast majority of the models, testers, sketches and garment images are those featuring thin, white women. While I certainly don’t harbor feelings of animosity towards my sew-sisters, I struggled to examine how I’d be seen in the space. Would I be too fat? Would I be too Black? Am I the only one who has these thoughts? What does this mean for my sense of belonging? The answer would eventually be revealed through my own processing, identity reflections and advocacy for underrepresented groups.

image1.jpeg

Going through this process brought me to a moment where I had a major shift in perspective: My sewing journey became less about what others thought and more about showing up fully as my true unapologetic beautiful self! I have discovered the nuance between belonging and simply “fitting in.” Fitting in became a surface-level aspect that was outwardly focused and involved judgment. Belonging happens with me and involves a deeper connection between my sewing, my creative process and my community.

image2.jpeg

Sewing my own clothing as opened up doors that once were closed for me. Not only do I get to have a variety of pieces in colors and fabrics that I choose, but I am now able to try silhouettes that weren’t available in the ready-to-wear world. I released the idea that certain styles are designated for certain bodies. I found it quite unhealthy to submit to restrictive notions out there that dictate what I’m “supposed to” put on my body. Sewing has this very important way of forcing vulnerability! When I sew, I have the privilege of getting very intimate with every curve I own. It’s a process that simply will not allow me to lie to myself about my body! I’ve come to embrace this process and use it as a means to empower my self-confidence.

image3.jpeg

I’ve had my eye on the Wiksten Haori for some time now. I was drawn to the pattern mostly because it’s reversible and it can also be made in a variety of fabrics. My body measurements are outside of the size range. While this once would have deterred me from choosing the pattern (and sometimes still does), I decided to do it anyway!

image4.jpeg

I made the largest size and decided not to make any alterations. I love my finished make! I have to be transparent and share that I initially had mixed feelings about how things turned out once I tried it on. Sometimes, when garments are labeled “oversized” it becomes difficult to understand what that means for me and my body. What may be oversized for some women is often not the case for me. I end up doing a great deal of searching hashtags to see how patterns look on other curvy women. This is a huge part of why I continue to post my makes publicly. Visual representation is crucial for inclusionary pursuits. I want the sewing community to understand just how important it is to be seen. Imagery is powerful and informs sewing decisions in our community.

image5.jpeg

What excites me the most about my finished make is that it will serve as a fun invitation for Spring to arrive. I also enjoyed sewing this piece as it inadvertently allowed me to confront some important themes about how to navigate my sewing practice. I’m grateful for the process and the product!

Tammy Lee