The 3 biggest reasons I sew – what are yours?

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Today, clothing can be purchased for pennies, almost literally.

The expansion of the fast fashion industry has made clothing an almost disposable commodity, and a highly addictive one at that. In that landscape, the idea of sewing your own clothing seems quaint to most people.

After all, why spend your precious time and money creating something you can buy at the mall for a few bucks?

But some of us look our over the sea of clothing racks and sale tags and don’t like what we see. Instead of abundance, we see an overwhelming glut. We see devaluation. We see waste.

Even if you don’t care much about the ethics of fashion, chances are that you have felt overwhelmed on a personal level by abundant choices and cheap prices. There’s just so much.

It is that very landscape that drives us to become more creative, to explore other ways of understanding our clothing, of finding meaning in the objects we surround ourselves with.

Sewing does more than allow us to make some cool stuff. It is something that has brought genuine joy into my life, and in some unexpected ways.

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Joy through creativity

Most of us get into sewing as a creative pursuit. Something inside us is itching to play with fabric, texture, and color. We want to make something beautiful.

This kind of creative expression is a pure joy in itself. The urge for self-expression comes from deep inside, and could be realized through painting, knitting, sculpture, or making balloon animals. Whatever. But for some of us, sewing is the medium that works (or one of them).

There’s another aspect of these kinds of creative pursuits that is often overlooked, and that’s the pleasure we take in learning new skills and getting better at something. No matter who you are, it’s thrilling to watch yourself get better at something you care about.

Finally, there’s another layer of creativity. Not only do you get to express yourself through the things you make with your hands, you actually get to wear them on your body out in the world. That means you get to share them with others.

Planning the things, making the things, and wearing the things all become part of a process of exploring who you are.

reasons-i-sew-appreciation

Joy through appreciation.

Through the economics of fast fashion, clothing has come to have very little value for most people.

Restoring that value is one of the gifts sewing can bring. The more I sewed, the more I slowly began to see that clothing isn’t some commodity that magically pops out of an automated factory.

All clothing is handmade, in one way or another. Making clothing takes time and skill and real human hands. It has worth.

Learning the value of clothing can translate into a lot of new attitudes. For me, it gave me the sense that I needed less of it, but I wanted what I did own to feel special.

Sewing also taught me about what makes something high quality. Being able to see the markers of quality and read past marketing hype helps me make better decisions, and feel good about the things I do buy.

Sewing also helps me appreciate my time more. I’d rather spend 6 hours making a dress in my studio than three hours working extra hours to pay for a dress that has less importance to me.

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Joy through community.

Finally, sewing can connect you to a community of women (and some men!) who share your oddly old-fashioned appreciation and creative obsession.

You can connect with them through classes, through your local shops and studios, at events, or just online. I’ve never met a group of more warm-hearted, kind, and creative people than those I’ve met through the sewing community.

Not everyone gets it, and that’s ok. They might have their own creative pursuits.

But for me, nothing beats getting to wear the things I’ve created every day, and all the joy that comes with them.

What are the biggest joys that you get from sewing?

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Weekend Reading: learning new crafts, travel wardrobes, and a new pattern coming soon!

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I’m taking a ceramics class right now. Exploring a new craft is always an adventure.

I love trying new things, but no matter how much I enjoy the experience, they really have to be pretty special to make their way into my list of hobbies. Not because I don’t like them or want to keep at it, but because I can only do so much.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that saying yes to anything means setting something else aside.

But this class has made me wish I had permanent access to a kiln and a wheel.

The parallels to sewing are numerous. There’s the physical similarity of controlling the speed of the wheel with a foot petal while trying to manipulate something with your hands. There’s the need for coordination and a reliance on muscle memory that takes a fair amount of practice.

But mostly, there’s the serene feeling of being completely immersed in the act of making. There’s no room for other thoughts as you concentrate on moving your hand just so.

I’ve needed that serenity this week. And rather than feeling that it’s something I want to do instead of sewing, it’s made me even more excited about the sewing I get to do this rainy weekend.

I hope you all have a lovely one, and enjoy these links I’ve found:

PS: I’m working on some fun ideas for the launch of our next pattern in a couple weeks! I’m planning to set up a pre-order list like we did last time, but this time everyone on the list will be first to get a look at the pattern, before the general public. We’ll see how it goes!

I am a selfish sewer (and why that’s ok)

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When I started learning to sew, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Let’s go on a trip in the way-back machine. It’s the mid-90s, and I’m in high school. About 90% of my clothes are black, as is my waist-length dyed hair. When I’m not doing homework or listening to Bauhaus in my bedroom, my friends and I are shopping at all the local thrift stores, cobbling together unusual and sometimes downright bizarre outfits from others’ castoffs.

Most kids have the same concerns that we did. We wanted to figure out who we were and where we stood in the world. We wanted to play and experiment. Clothes were one of our tools.

I decided to learn to sew because thrift stores weren’t cutting it for me anymore. I wanted to take that sense of play and drama and self-exploration further. I wanted to create the person I was becoming, and that included the clothing I wore.

By and large, teenagers are supremely self-centered creatures. I say this with love and sympathy, because I think that self-centeredness is important. You have to be a little self-centered sometimes if you want to figure out who you are and what makes you tick.

That teenager still lives inside me. My tastes may have settled down and I don’t wear quite so much black, but some of that same motivation still pushes me to sew and make.

As we get older, we lose a lot of that self-centered introspection. We gain responsibilities like family, businesses, kids, jobs, bills. Each of these competes for our attention and emotional energy until there is nothing left for us. We don’t have the time to play and explore. Other things seem more important.

Sewing lets you be a little selfish. It lets you rediscover all those questions you asked when you were 16:

  • Who am I?
  • What am I like?
  • How do I want others to see me?
  • How can I express myself in a way that feels true and creative?
  • Why can’t I be different from everyone else?
  • Why do I have to take myself so seriously?

…And if you’re 16 now (or 14 or 12), even better. Sewing gives you a perfect outlet for exploring all of these questions and more.

Making your own clothes isn’t about becoming a masterful seamstress or producing clothes that look just like ready-to-wear. Those are nice skills to have, as far as they go.

The real joy comes from exploring who you are, bringing more creativity into your everyday life, and gaining skills you can be proud of.

Here’s to being a little more selfish and having a little more joy.

[image credit: Andreas Adelmann]

2 skirts in one: a reversible Mabel

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One of the coolest things about double knit fabric is that it can actually be made reversible. Because there are two right sides to the fabric, you can sometimes find double knits that have patterns on each side.

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I bought this reversible striped double knit while shopping with Christine at Mood in LA. One side is narrow navy and white stripes, the other wider stripes. I knew I needed a reversible Mabel.

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Mabel requires a few changes in order to make it reversible. There are three things that need to be changed so that the skirt looks similar both inside and out: the seams, the waistband, and the hem.

Seams

My favorite way to make reversible seams is to make them flat felled.

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This is easier than you might think with the Mabel because the vertical side seams really don’t require much stretch. All I did was the usual flat felled seams, but using a narrow (0.5mm width) zigzag instead of a straight stitch on my sewing machine.

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While I used a fabric that was already reversible, I do think you might be able to use two fabrics and simply sew them with wrong sides together, like a lining. In that case, you wouldn’t need to do special seams, as they’d be hidden between the two layers. I haven’t tried this, but let me know if you do!

Waistband

The waistband is another area that should be altered for reversibility.

I decided to cut the stripes vertically on both the waistband and hem as a design detail. Since my fabric had 4-way stretch, I could cut it either way.

reversible-mabel-waist

Normally, you would serge the waistband to the skirt. But this leaves a serged seam on one side of the skirt.

Instead, I essentially sewed the waistband to the skirt like you would on a woven garment, by folding the seam allowance under on the underside and edgestitching it down.

Again, I used a narrow zigzag for stretch. If you have a coverstitch machine, you could do a chainstitch instead.

Another option would have been to serge the waistband to the skirt as normal, then topstitch the serged seam allowance down for something that looks similar to a flatlock. Depending on your fabric, this might not be all that noticable, but I wanted something a bit neater and less sporty looking.

Hem

Finally, there is the hem.

On the original skirt, the hem is finished with the twin needle technique (or you can use a coverstitch machine). This leaves a pretty clear right and wrong side.

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Instead, I did a band hem (instructions are in The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits). I installed it just like the waistband, folding all the seam allowances under and edgestitching with a narrow zigzag.

That’s it, 2 skirts for the price of one! You can use these techniques if you come across your own double sided double knit fabric. Here are a few 2 sided double knits I found on fabric.com, for example.

What I really wanted to share here is how versatile knits can be when you’re willing to switch up your techniques and get creative.

You don’t need to be limited by your fabric or the way a pattern instructs you to sew something. Take that as a starting point and try out different hem finishes, seams, and edge treatments for totally different results.

Weekend reading: Pre-spring, Hedy Lamarr, and basket weave insets

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I’m getting pretty excited about this new pattern we’ve got lined up for you in July. I’ve just finished editing all the photos (we shot them in Palm Springs along with Mabel and Moneta, so you’ll recognize the gorgeous models).

I’ve also been working on some tutorials to go along with it, but I don’t want to share too much until it’s a little closer.

In the meantime, check out this beautiful African wax print cotton I got this week! I picked it up from this etsy seller. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet. It’s quite stiff, so I need to wash it and see how it feels. I’ve been reading up on wax prints since I got it, and want to learn more.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy these links:

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