It's Not Selfish Sewing! Take Time to Make Something for You

Lisa Stewart self sewing self-care The Bailey Basic Tote

With a sewing related business, and three grandchildren, I do very little sewing for myself. Most of the time when I am in a fabric store, it is sourcing supplies for bag prototypes for pattern development.

While perusing fabric to use for The Bailey Tablet Tote instructional photos, I came across a flannel that I had to have. Not for the pattern photos  - it was too dark.

No, this fabric would be just for me.  And I knew exactly how I would use it. This rarely happens - hence, a bigger than necessary fabric stash.

But just as soon as the pattern was finished and launched, I was determined to make this bag. 

Sewing handbags has for the most part been an exercise in frustration for me, with some victories. Partly because of my unrealistic expectations because I have lots of sewing under my belt and that I can certainly make a bag. And partly because I let my new machines get the best of me. I start out "in the zone" and a Pollyanna vision of how it will go.  But as soon as the

  • interfacing starts lifting when handling the bag parts or
  • the thread and or bobbin messes up or
  • the topstitching looks wonky or
  • the seam is puckered or
  • the interfacing lifts some more or
  • my machine can't handle the thickness 

I am ready to throw in the towel. And almost all of my bagmaking to-date has been for testing our patterns, or for gifts. Other than one Janie Pouch that I claimed after making a half dozen, I have not considered even choosing fabrics for my own bag.

I gathered my materials and hardware and had everything ready to go. Then I saw a Facebook post sharing a bag that was a "selfish sew." 

Bag makers are usually posting makes for customers and family. Occasionally, someone will say "this one is for me." But I had to pause when I saw the "selfish sew" term. I will admit that I didn't ask the poster if they were using it tongue-in-cheek. I just saw it as having a negative connotation - the same as saying something is a "guilty pleasure." 

Why would anyone who sews and knows how much time, money, and sometimes frustration goes into your project, but also the great sense of satisfaction you get, ever think that sewing something for themselves is egocentric? Whether your sewing is a hobby or a business, why is using your skills and talents for yourself selfish? 

And the same applies to that good feeling you get when sewing for others. That is absolutely NOT selfish sewing. 

I thought about the project I had planned. My to-do list for both my home and the business is beyond long. There's always something to clean, cook, or wash and a myriad of business tasks to do. Was it selfish for me to take my time to do something for myself? 

Exploring a hobby and being creative are crucial to both Psychological and Emotional Self-Care  -  Columbia River Mental Health Systems

Absolutely not! We all need me-time and self-care. If sewing is your therapy, if making something for yourself makes you happy, if just spending time in your sewing room practicing stitching or sketching ideas, if broadening your sewing skills, or challenging yourself to stretch them, then do it. With no agenda or outcome other than doing for yourself.

And then show if off to everyone and say "I made this JUST FOR ME!

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My finished Bailey Basic Tote makes me smile for so many reasons:

  • The pattern is 100% my design
  • I loved trying out paint pens and matching thread colors from my stash
  • The coziness of sitting on the couch doing embroidery after so many years away from it. (outlining the painted leaves and details)
  • Matching the plaids so well for both the front panel and the back seam
  • Getting the topstitching just right

My tote isn't perfect - the flannel stretched a little on the straps while sewing, making the plaid a little wavy. Perfection was not the goal. 



The process was 100% enjoyable as I was familiar with all the steps, so no frustrations at the sewing machine. I have a bag that no one else will ever have. I've learned how much I have missed creating my own interpretations of projects. I didn't suffer one moment of guilt, and make no apologies for the time well-spent. 

And I made if for myself!

Added 11/8/23: It's been over two years since I made this tote and I smile every Fall as I get it out to use for the season. And when someone asks if it's handcrafted, I proudly say yes - for ME!



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Ready to get creative with The Bailey Basic Tote?  This Beginner Basics pattern is for sewists who have honed their skills in other handcrafts such as quilting, embroidery, fabric painting, or piecing, and want to show them off on the front accent strip. 

Treat yourself to a bag made just for you - KPD Pattern Collection

Only have time for a small project? Check out the Quick Makes Collection.

A bag making beginner? Imagine how pleased you'll be with a bag just for you with Step by Step instructions that insure success! The Beginner Basics Collection.


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  • Margaret Rutherford on

    Selfish sewing:
    Not telling where you got that beautiful print from or that multi stripe zipper tape
    Not sharing the name of your pattern
    Not sharing your secret to invisible strap ends
    Not helping a newbie with a problem
    Not sharing your skills and knowledge because you are afraid of competition.
    Making for yourself is gratitude and pride.

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