Why I Sew
It’s been a very introspective couple of weeks for me. With long drives and lots of quiet time, I've recently been able to think more about how I want to live. About what I want to share with the world and how, without a doubt, sewing has to be front and center. About how to feel productive, and get shit done. I want to make waves in the sewing world, without overturning anyone’s boat. It’s interesting, this life as an entrepreneur. Suddenly the world is full of options. It feels as though I’m being told, “Take this course, or that one. But whatever you do, don’t take the wrong one.” It’s terrifying, but I oddly love every unpredictable minute.
But the thought that has been playing over and over in my head for nearly a year now, is the question, "Why do I sew?". What exactly is at the center of my need to create? Why am I drawn to my sewing machine like a kid to a cookie jar? Why does my life feel so empty without fabric and thread and contrasting bias tape? Today I decided to put pen to paper and get these thoughts down.
1. I sew to create.At the core of my love for sewing is the simple need to make tangible things. Making functional, tangible things? Even better. I’ve never been excited about crafts that produce items that are merely decorative. I just can’t get behind a craft that doesn’t give me an item that I will sit on, wear, or eat for days, months or years on end. Pottery, woodworking, and beer brewing? Now those are things I aspire to learn. Sewing fulfills my need to create because I get to wear the thing I made over and over again.
There's a small Laura Ingalls Wilder part of me that would love to lead a mostly handmade life. The thought of a big veggie garden, home cooked meals, and a completely handmade wardrobe makes me giddy. Also, in a total doom-and-gloom scenario, if our economy collapsed and we had to rely on our current skill sets to survive, I could clothe people. I'm okay with that.
2. I sew to avoid fast fashion.
Ugh, fast fashion. Up until about 2011, roughly 90% of my wardrobe was made in China, Indonesia or Pakistan. It wasn’t until grad school that I did any research into the world of fast fashion. What I found out horrified me. What is fast fashion? Read about it here. The social and environmental harm that fast fashion causes is astonishing. Sewing my own clothing takes a few of the harmful elements out of the equation, such as poor working conditions at garment factories in Bangladesh. But it doesn’t solve the problem completely.
Unfortunately, right now, fabric is still a major concern in the home sewing industry. It’s often produced with little regard for the people making it or for the environment. Rivers in Japan are running red with the dyes used to color your fabric. But choices are popping up for more sustainable fabric. When you can, buy Made in the USA fabric.
When I can’t sew what I need to wear, I seek out ethical fashion companies. My favorite? Seamly.co, a Denver-based eco-fashion company that uses over-stock fabric for their awesome designs.
3. I sew to save money.Right now? 100% true and essential. Starting a business is expensive! Extravagant clothing purchases are just not possible right now, and probably not for the next year or so. Some will argue that home sewing is no less expensive than fast fashion, and if you factor in the hours you invest in sewing a garment, this is probably true. But when I thrift my fabric and notions (the photo below is just a small peek at my thrifted fabric stash), I can easily make a tank top or dress for less than $5. Yes, maybe it took me five hours to make, but I enjoy my sewing time and rarely think of it in terms of an hourly rate.
To save even more money, I reuse patterns often. Most patterns come with a plethora of variations, so make that tank top into a dress and add an elastic waist. You’ll learn a ton about garment construction and end up with some unique items. Plus, modifying patterns will give you the confidence to start making your own. Which costs $0. Go you.
4. I sew to fit my body type.I’m a total pear. Size 2 on top, size 4/6 on the bottom. For this reason, store-bought dresses, skirts, and pants don’t often fit quite right. They’re usually huge in the waist and too tight around the hips. The day I learned to modify a pattern between two sizes was one I’ll never forget.
To be honest, most of us are not a “conventional” body type that most fast fashion stores design for. As women, our body shapes vary more than men’s. Our chests, waists, hips and thigh measurements are all over the board. That variation is what makes us so stunningly beautiful and different. Start sewing and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for your body when things just fit.
5. I sew to develop my personal style.I never paid much attention to my personal style until the last couple of years. I always had a vague idea of what looked good on me, or that I tend to wear mostly black, grey, and navy. I knew that I generally preferred knits over wovens, and that my favorite fabric for summer dresses was (and still is) rayon. My fashion Pinterest board is a lovely curated set of images of what I’d like my personal style to embody. But it’s not there yet. Not even close.
But sewing is getting me closer. There’s something about picking out a pattern that feels more deliberate and considered than shopping at the nearest fast fashion outlet. It’s a big decision. Add in the time spent picking the perfect fabric and trims. All told, the time spent preparing to sew your clothing item is several hours more than it would take to pick up a shirt at your local H&M. And because you’ll be spending so much time sewing the clothing item, it HAS to fit your personal style. The stakes are higher when you’re sewing. But the rewards are greater.
Today? I know even more about my style. I still prefer knits, but lean towards the organic, bamboo variety. I know that a fitted, formal dress will get little to no wear in my closet. And I still lean towards neutrals, but have figured out where to sew in pops of color.
Why do you sew?I’d love to hear from you! Maybe you have a completely different reason for sewing? Let us know in the comments below. At Indiesew, we want to hear more from our users about what drives them to sit down in front of the sewing machine for several hours per day. We want to know what makes you crave a trip to the fabric store.
Whatever your reason, we want Indiesew to be a place to collaborate around sewing. Do you have ideas on how we can do that? We want to hear them!
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