Well… Maybe I tricked you because You can’t. You can’t sew without investing time. You’ve got to figure out what the pattern is telling you to do which can take a long time and some YouTube searches. You’ve got to do lots of tedious ironing and pinning so your fabric doesn’t shifty shift on you mid stitch. And then once you’ve stitched things you’ve got to find out you don’t like the size of the stitching so you use your hand dandy seam ripper to rip out all of those stitches you’ve just put in. The sewing itself isn’t that time consuming, but the preparation in between the sewing steps is. If you’ve figured out how to sew without investing too much of your time, please let me know.
Something my mother and I have discussed in length since I was a little kid is the idea that you can easily buy many items of clothing much cheaper than which you can produce them. This idea is reinforced by fast fashion and $7 T-shirts, $20 jeans, etc. Why would someone spend hours or days or months sewing, spend $9/yard on fabric, buy $20 pattern, and more $$ for additional embellishments when they can buy one from the store for 1/3 of the cost? How about 7 Reasons Sewing is Worth Investing Too Much of Your Time, but read that with wavering confidence because I’m still unsure if it is.
When I first began sewing for 4-H at 10 years old, my favorite step in the process was the first one, the fabric store. In the middle of the store are two giant tables, feeling oddly like a conference room or dining room set-up. Instead they’re covered with giant pattern catalogue books, one for each pattern company- Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick, Vogue. Massive filing cabinets stand by, for when you’ve made your selection you must find it in the mix.
I loved spending a few hours flipping through all of the catalogues and dreaming about the things I could one day make, looking at all the colorful photographs. The fabric store is filled with rows and rows of bolts of fabrics, all of different colors and textures. I’d heap a cart full of possibilities before bringing it to the cutting table.
As my sewing career advanced, I moved beyond pajamas to more sophisticated things such as coordinated outfits, dresses, skirts with zippers, shorts with zippers, patterns with more intricate designs and further confusing instructions.
The thing about sewing that many people don’t realize is that it’s often much cheaper to buy a version of whatever you’re going to make in the store. Fabric is expensive, it takes a long time to make, and it can often be frustrating to create a good fit. I hated sewing. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a project without crying. Often times reading the pattern instructions is like trying to decipher something written in another language. You google “understitching” and “interfacing” and “Does straight of grain even matter?” and watch 5 Youtube videos on installing invisible zippers. You attempt to install the zipper. You seam rip it out, realizing the zipper opens from the inside. You accidentally sew a sleeve on upside down. You realize using a slippery fabric causes your item to pull in weird places and finish with a button-up sleeveless top that is nearly an inch shorter on one side than the other.
The pattern doesn’t tell you what length of zipper you need so you take five trips to the fabric store before you find the right one. Then you find you’ve bought the wrong shade of brown, heaven forbid, and must buy four other shades until you get it right.
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.
After all this, you finish it and you’re not sure if you’re going to wear it. You’re not sure if it’s “you enough” so it sits in the back of your closet.
So what’s the point of this? Sewing your own clothes is an act of love. Maybe you do it out of a desire to create things that fit you. Maybe you do it as an act of rebellion against the fashion industry. But you don’t do it to save money or time shopping. It does feel really good to be wearing something you’ve invested so much time in.
Of course, I’ve recently discovered the Instagram account of one inspiring woman who, after experiencing sexual assault, found sewing herself her whole wardrobe to be the beginning of her road to reconnecting with her body. Her clothes are beautiful. The construction is beautiful. The details are envy-invoking. Her blog is addicting.
After writing this post I now know I’d like to write a new post featuring a bunch of people who DO sew all of their clothes. It’s something I’d like to be able to move towards in the future but as a current full-time student not in a fashion design degree, I find it tricky. In May I will be released and free and my Pinterest boards are continuing to fill up with ideas. I can’t wait to begin. In the meantime I’ve been interested in how to source fabric sustainably, exploring sewing books at the library, and seeking out more sustainable brands for inspiration.
I’d love to hear from other sewers or aspiring sewers!