Can you balance joy in sewing when you go viral online?

A preview of my monthly newsletter, featuring sewing friend Wendy from @bbreath.designs.

A perfect storm of events got me thinking about the performative aspect of social media, especially in sewing spaces.

  • I saw this TikTok that deeply spoke to my soul. For those who won’t click through, she remixes another TikTok about the ‘new Instagram aesthetic’ with her response: “You guys know you can stop, right? You can stop posting on there. It’s not about sharing memories with other people. It’s all about putting on a performance. For who? JUST YOU.”
  • A sewing influencer quit Instagram. Influencers and YouTubers quitting is becoming more common lately, and I can’t really blame them. Read the entire carousel and you’ll understand why she left.
  • My friend Wendy at @bbreath.designs—who is wonderful and you should follow— and I were chatting about this weird need on Instagram to show off a new sewing project every week. And then she created a Reel that went viral.

I could not make this shit up.

It\’s not often that your friend goes viral. And it happened at a really interesting inflection point for Wendy.

Since I love it when the universe aligns on something I must write about—aka I’m opportunistic trash— I hopped on a Zoom call with Wendy to chat about her ~newfound Internet fame~ and how she\’s feeling about it.

Meet Wendy from @bbreath.designs

How did you start sewing?

Lots of people picked up new hobbies during the pandemic. I watched sewing YouTube for a long time before I ever started. I thought, “I’m not gonna be good at it,” and “I’m not going to be good enough” at the same time.

If anyone taught me sewing, it would be The Closet Historian. I love her. I give her a lot of credit.

Money was a big issue at first, so I initially shopped at Goodwill. During the pandemic, I’d do eight hours straight of sewing. I was living by myself and I didn’t have a proper chair. I’d stand at the kitchen island. I’d be so focused I wouldn’t pick up the phone.

What do you love about sewing?

Sewing is just for me. I used to be a multimedia artist before I sold my soul for money, and when I’d paint things, I used to be very unhappy with them. I didn’t paint much for fun. But in a few weeks, you’re not going to remember [why you didn’t like them].

I don’t have the paintings now, but if I did, I’m sure I’d go back and be like “oh, those weren’t that bad.”

Now, even if I make a mistake [with my sewing] or something isn’t how I like, I can still appreciate it.

Sewing gives me this weird confidence that I can make anything I want. And of course, making clothes that fit you. A lot of patterns are too big on me, so I started drafting my own. I followed The Closet Historian’s pattern drafting videos. Who knew if you made things that fit, you don’t have to worry about having a small chest?

The only con, if I could call it that, is that you always know your size.

When and why did you start the Instagram account?

School was boring. I was sewing for six months before I started the Instagram account in December 2020. When I started sewing, I didn’t share it with many people. In the pandemic and the new state I was in, I wanted to talk to sewing people. Before I started my Instagram, there was another Instagrammer who built a nice community and I liked that.

You and I DM-ed each other about the weird online expectation to sew a new item a week. I have a theory that it’s because the first people you might follow when you start sewing is people who do this for a job.

For me it was YouTube! Like Coolirpa or The Closet Historian. People who do this for a job and are expected to post weekly. Maybe I got the idea from them.

The first year of creating, you don’t always have to work on something every week. But I was sewing all the time in the pandemic. I didn’t have a dog, I was in a long-distance relationship, so I was putting a lot of time into Instagram.

Now I have a house, a dog, a husband, work. I’ve been re-evaluating how much time I’m putting into Instagram. I only have like one to three hours to devote to this.

What’s interesting to me is one of your recent posts, you spoke about getting off that train. About a week later, you posted a reel that got you 8000+ followers!! First, congratulations? Second: How are you feeling about that?

During that time, I tried to be away from my phone. That was interesting, considering my video blew up.

I don’t know what to do next. How do people deal with this? When I watched the Abby Cox video [on how a viral video changed her], I didn’t think it would happen to me. I still can’t wrap my head around it. I don’t know what 9,000 people look like. Before, it felt like [my account] was low-stakes. I’m getting comments like “looking forward to your next video” and I’m like “uhhh.”

[Before the Reel], I was worried I was going to mess up my new puppy, so I took two months off. I was stressed when I was taking the time off. The guilt is so hard, no one gives you a how-to guide.

I’m trying to keep myself in check, that I don’t have to post if I don’t want to post. I’ve thought about whether I was sewing for me or Instagram. I’d say now it’s about 80/20—80 percent for me, 20 percent Instagram.

I was talking with a friend recently and they said, “a third of [your new followers] will probably leave.” And I’d be okay with that. I can barely meet my own demands.

What would you hope to keep in mind for yourself this year?

I had no idea what I wanted to make when I started. Now, I prefer making things that are fairy tale and fun. The duck dress brought me a lot of joy to make. Even if it’s not logical, if it brings me joy, I’ll go for it.

Making the thing is so much fun, there’s this thing called the flow and I’m lost in the moment. The dog interrupts the moment nowadays (lol) but it’s a different high. I feel so calm and my anxiety and depression doesn’t get to me as hard.

This year, I want to spend time with my family and spend time with my dog. And I want to make more of the things I want to make.

I try to aim for 70 percent [satisfied] with what I do. But when I made my Xialing costume, it came out almost exactly how I envisioned it. I couldn’t get this out of a pattern. It didn’t get a lot of traction on Instagram, but it meant a lot to me. I often don’t feel Chinese enough, but when I watched Shang-Chi, I cried. Representation matters.

This was a conversation I really wanted to have because I don\’t think we talk enough in the sewing community about how performative we can be in online spaces. Who are you trying to impress? Is it really worth the brand deals? Why does every hobby need to be monetized?

🤔 I\’m curious: How would you feel if you went viral? Do you want to go viral? Do you feel any pressure to \”perform\” or present a certain version of yourself online? Comment below with your thoughts!

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This is just a small snippet of what Wendy and I talked about. We chatted for two hours! I can\’t thank her enough for graciously chatting with me, especially as her Reel blew up. From what I\’ve gathered in my limited perspective, when you blow up like that, everyone suddenly wants a piece of you.

If you liked what you read, you can get more of this in my monthly newsletter. I don\’t always interview people, but it\’s a monthly, unfiltered take on sewing and mental health. If that sounds like your jam, subscribe below!