Satisfaction is often an underrated emotion. Especially when compared with it’s sparkly cousin joy, or it's sort-after cousin happiness. We scramble around looking for the other two, often neglecting the little everday things that give us the former.
If my life is ticking along as I like it to, then satisfaction is an emotion I want to feel daily. More than daily actually; satisfaction as a background hum reminding me that in at least some small way, I am living according to my deepest value system.
So it’s a few days past NY and we are in Sydney. We being my immediate family of 5, plus one grandma, a couple of uncles, aunts and cousins, making us a round 13. They are hungry, we are in three cars, about to leave Sydney to head up the coast for a couple of days. I have to find them something to eat and drink before we get on the road. I’m not 100% sure where we are going - I like to live with the “it will all work out in the end” life philosophy – one which most of them don’t share, being planners by nature. And I'm not sure we will get to the office of the holiday letting place in time to get the keys.
I find a car park in busy Bondi, and manage to parallel park our brand-new-to-us Land Cruiser Prado (big 4WD with bull bars) which is not an easy feat, and take a deep breath ready to wrangle them together, and try to get a table for 13 at a busy café….. I’m still smiling though. It’s all good – right?
I jump out of the car, ready to rumble and herd my clan, but then I have a tiny moment. I look at my brood and I realise that four out of the five members of my little posse are wearing hand made. Totally handmade. Not a top with a store bought skirt…. But totally handmade. Which leads to another realisation - it’s been a while between drinks. So much so that I got the fella to take the photo you see above to mark the occasion.
The last six months have been hectic. We’ve allowed it to be. We took on too much and didn’t say no enough. Renovations, work commitments, love commitments, a wedding and a heap of visitors have meant that there hasn’t been the head space or heart space to prioritise some of our normal family life. We have had our game faces on and have been simply putting one foot in front of the other for months. And so our everyday stuff slips.
Our everyday stuff is normally not that lofty. At the base level try to eat real food, get enough sleep (or at least make sure our kids do), treat one another relatively kindly. And then there is a secondary layer of life stuff that is a little beyond the basics that we choose to make a priority. For me, one of my ongoing priorities is that I have tried to make the majority of my kids clothes.
I’ve been asked many times over the years – by slightly puzzled strangers and family alike – about why I feel the need to sew our clothes. Why? …when you could just go to the shops? They are really inexpensive so you can't do it to save money, can you?
I find it a bit baffling to try to explain succinctly.
I mean it’s lots of things. I want them wearing natural fibres and a lot of what is at the shops is poly. I want them in stuff that looks good, and find I can’t buy what I like without paying sixty bazillion dollars. I want them to be comfy …. Blah blah.
But the real reason I make simply comes down to the feeling I got when I got out of the car. In that moment I feel a deep wave of satisfaction wash over my-ever-so-slightly stressed chest. Satisfaction that there is intention in our lives. That we consciously try to live our values – whenever and however we can.
My values are in their clothes. The majority of what I make is what they need, rather than what they want. And that is as it should be, as we try to live in a way that is mostly based on need, and partly based on want.
And then I’ve thought about and considered what patterns they will love, and what fabrics will suit what they love to do. You need stretchy stuff for circus but robust stuff for soccer. One of them loves everything to be a bit random. A sense of "them" is a big part of what I make them.
As I’m sewing I’m thinking about our life. About where they are at. What they are going through. What they need help with and how I can support them in that. The act of making is in itself a meditation on the person it is for. I want to live a thoughtful life and the space I create around my sewing is part of that. It creates time for contemplation.
There are mistakes and detours in all the garments I've made them, showing life as it was on that day, in that moment. A top that is a little shorter than the pattern dictated as I've not quite had enough fabric, or a top made of four different fabrics. Making giving me a process that allows me to practice failing, making mistakes, completionism, stick-to-it-ness, ingenuity, creativity and thrift. A place in my life where I can practice letting go of what I want, and accepting what is. What is, is often more what I need anyway.
And then there is the part that my smalls know that I made it for them. That they can feel the intention that goes into what they wear as they wear it. They watch me make for them. I can see the pride it gives them, that I spend the time making something that is made just for them. The joy it creates when someone asks them about what they are wearing. They feel loved through this process.
How do I explain to a non-maker that these garments aren’t just fabric and thread. That a part of me, and of them, is in all I make. And that to see in a concrete way that I am living a life with as much intention as I can muster, gives me a feeling of deep satisfaction.