My SMYLY Story - Grainline Studio Farrow Dress

SMYLY stands for Sewing Makes You Love Yourself.  This challenge was set up by Athina KakouHattie van der KrohnLisa Kisch.  This challenge is open until the end of the month, and all you have to do is sew something that you love and share how sewing has changed your life.  I have decided to share a little bit about why I learnt to sew and how sewing has helped me.  If you are reading this and struggle with depression/anxiety or infertility struggles then you may not want to read my sewing story- the pictures are right at the end of the story so you can skip down to them if you like.

At the end of 2016 I was diagnosed with severe depression and a generalised anxiety disorder. There are multiple things that resulted in my diagnosis and I am going to touch on some of those things briefly. 

I am a registered nurse in the UK and prior to my diagnosis I was working fulltime in the NHS.  For the last few years I had been feeling extremely overworked and undervalued.  My work load increased to the point that I no longer had a healthy work-life balance.  Morale at work was extremely low, which resulted in a toxic working environment.  This negatively impacted on my mental wellbeing.  Although I knew this couldn’t continue I didn’t know who I was outside of nursing, and I felt that I couldn’t do anything else.  Through therapy I have re-discovered who I am and built up my confidence in order to see all of my transferable skills.  Finding the sewing community has also helped, because I have met so many different people that come from all different working backgrounds.

During this time in my life I would look in the mirror and not recognise the person looking back at me.  At my lowest I just couldn’t see a future for me, and just wanted to end the pain.  Through support from my mental health services I started to learn who I really was. I learnt that the majority of my life decisions to that point had been made in order to please another person because I thought that was how I would be liked and accepted by my friends and family.  Deciding to learn to sew was the first decision I made on my own, and deciding to leave nursing and put all my energy into Sew Me Sunshine was the second biggest decision that I made on my own despite a lot of negative feedback from friends and family.  

At the same time my husband and I found out that we would be highly unlikely to have our own family without medical intervention. Our experience so far with the infertility services has not been a pleasant one.  There has been no continuity of care throughout our treatment and we have experienced very little compassion and empathy from the staff. We completed our first fresh IVF cycle late last year.  I am not going to sugar coat it, it was extremely hard, physically & mentally.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work.  Do you know what is the worst thing about it?  The drugs that you have to take make you feel like you are pregnant even when you aren’t.  I will never forget desperately googling what it will be like stopping all the medication.  I felt a huge sense of loss, I felt like I was grieving for something that was never actually there.  My GP who has been extremely supportive reassured me that this was normal to feel like this and that it is called unfocussed grief.  A lot of our friends and family members have found it hard to talk to us about our infertility journey, and often made statements that we both found very painful and hard to swallow.  We are at that age where a lot of our friends have started to have a family of their own, and although we are both over the moon for them and would never wish this on anyone, it still hurts every time we find out another one of our friends is expecting.  The worst bit about this is the feelings of guilt around feeling jealous that it isn’t us that is announcing the news.  So how does this fit around sewing?  We live in a 2-bedroom house, our second bedroom was supposed to be our nursery, it used to make me feel incredibly sad entering that room.  That room is now my sewing room and Sew Me Sunshine HQ.  I am sitting in this room as I am typing this smiling because of sewing.  Also the sewing community has been incredibly supportive around my infertility journey.  I have found other people in the community who are unfortunately going through a similar journey as we are and although I do not wish this on anyone it is comforting to know that I have someone to talk to who understands our pain. 

I still struggle with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, however, through my mental health services and medication I have a lot more good days than bad days.  I feel accepted for who I am by the sewing community, I don’t feel judged, and I feel that I can be Harriet.  I don’t feel stigmatised for my mental health problems.  I feel that I can be open and honest with my sewing friends about how I am truly feeling.  And on the days where I am struggling I can shut myself away and sew something, I can forget about how anxious I was or sad I was feeling and immerse myself into a sewing project, and at the end of it all I can take a photo of my finished garment, share it with my sewing friends, and know that they will be truly proud of my achievements even though it might not be perfect. 

Without sewing and the incredible sewing community I don’t think I would be here today.  Thank you to every single person in the sewing community that has supported me personally and through supporting my little business.  I decided to sew myself another Farrow Dress for this project because I wanted to sew something that I had sewn before so that I could relax whilst sewing it.  I also wanted to sew this pattern because it is a shape that I would never have picked prior to all of this.  I was often so concerned about what other people thought of me that I didn’t ever know what to wear, I would often purchase the same dresses over and over again as I was too scared to try anything new. This farrow dress really does represent me finding who I am and falling head over heels in love with sewing.


  • Beautifully written post. I too felt the same as you with regards to nursing and I have experienced mental health issues. So so common personally I think it’s because we don’t live in smaller supportive communities anymore where women would come together to cook and sew support each other through childbirth and loss and grief that also comes with it and nurse each other through illness. Love your business so inspiring xx

    Jude Pursey
  • Thank your for sharing your story, depression and anxiety are such a huge struggle for many people. I think it’s incredibly brave that you took the huge step of leaving nursing and setting up your amazing business! Lots of love xx

  • Thank you for sharing your story. You should feel very proud of everything you’ve achieved and will continue to achieve. It’s wonderful you’ve found comfort and joy with sewing and in the sewing community xx p.s the dress is gorgeous

  • Beautiful story and you look lovely in your dress. That pattern is one I’d like to try.
    I appreciate your honesty and I also have anxiety so I understand what it feels like. You are such a sweet person even though I haven’t actually met you. You are in my thoughts and prayers. ?

  • Truely one of the bravest and inspirational people I know. So glad that you found sewing otherwise I wouldn’t be able to call you my friend. Love and hugs xxx


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