My general sewing MO is to make some rough plans of the kinds of things I want to sew, and then when I feel like sewing something, I pick what appeals to me within that. I also often get a bee in my bonnet to sew a particular fabric, pattern, or type of garment, and happily let them skip to the head of the informal queue. Because this is a loose, flexible process, there’s some thinking about what would be useful to me – things like my School Witch skirt or denim circle skirt come to be because I notice a gap in my wardrobe that would make other things more wearable. But there’s also a whole bunch of reacting to unseen forces. Like many and over-educated person with two semesters of economics under my belt, I like to delve into those from time to time.
I really noticed this a lot when planning for my SWAP sewing. I was trying to be deliberate and sew what I would wear. I am done my sewing now, and looking at my original plan, I see I have only sewn five of the things on that list – and only two of them will make it into my final SWAP post as the others don’t really go with the others in terms of feeling like a cohesive whole.
Partially this is because my personal style is undergoing some shifts and of course the influence of external fashion trends etc, but there’s more at work than that I think. (Of course I do), and it ties into my motivations for sewing in the first place. I was also prompted to actually blog about it when I was commenting on one of Ciara’s posts and could’t stop talking about it! Sorry Ciara…
Motivation one: I sew mostly work clothes
I generally don’t have trouble finding loungewear (although I do then feel guilty for buying things made in sweatshops but that’s another issue). But I DO have a LOT of trouble finding work appropriate clothes that I like. Partly this is size ranges – I am a tweenie which means I am often in between the plus and straight sizes. It’s also about price, material and fit. I am not paying hundreds of dollars for a poorly made, polyester shirt that gapes across my bust. Not. Happening. It didn’t happen much before I could sew, either. So before I sewed for myself my work clothes involved a lot of knit tops. It still does, but now it also includes fitted dresses.
So my sewing is mostly work-appropriate clothes, and that is very different for me now than it was two years ago because I work in a different workplace. (As an aside, a colleague found out last week that I sew my own clothes and she exclaimed ‘Really?! But you always look so professional!’ I am choosing to take that as a compliment, I suppose…)
Motivation 2: I sew what I already wear. Conversely I sew what I can’t already wear
My choice of patterns has always been influenced by what I wear, which in turn has been influenced by what was already available to me. I don’t have a desire to make jeans (or any kind of pant), for instance, because I don’t wear them. But I don’t wear them because I can’t buy them to fit my in a way I like. So perhaps it is worth making them, because then I can make ones that fit and then I would wear them!
I am also influenced by things I would like to wear but aren’t available to me to buy – whether that’s shape, style, fabric, or fit. My first makes were numerous skirts, not just because they were relatively easy but because I already wore a lot of skirts and tops, but this way I could wear well fitting skirts in colours and patterns that I liked, and shapes that weren’t fashionable at the time. The trouble I had buying an A-line skirt! Ridiculous.
Motivation 3: I sew what I can sew – or can almost sew
Ultimately I am sewing clothes to wear them. That means I naturally gravitate towards things that I know I can sew with enough skill that the garment is wearable. As with the above mentioned skirts, I didn’t quite have all the skills to make them when I started, and admittedly, some of those early skirts were a bit of a disaster – but honestly no more than many of the RTW options available to me. As my skill level has increased, and I acquired more sewing tools and better machines and a dedicated sewing space, what I sew has increased in complexity.
I’m a product sewer. I like reading about seam finishes and I like knowing the couture ways to do things but honestly I’m not at all bothered by raw knit edges and overlocked seams – or even obvious mends or mismatched seams as long as they’re not in a place where they’re highly visible. I am much much more interested in the overview of how the garment looks on. While I do continue to enjoy building my skills and knowledge, and can certainly see a future where I spend a month making a simple skirt with couture finishes, that time is not now. I am coming around to not feeling guilty about that – I always feel like I should spend more time and effort on my garments. But why? Does that have a value in and of itself? Maybe, but I don’t think that value overrides the value of having a finished, wearable garment – at least for me, right now it doesn’t.
Motivation 4: I sew to cover my nakedness
Riffing off of that last point, as I have moved into sewing being the default rather than shopping, it’s actually put a fair amount of pressure on my sewing time. I need to be clothed, respectably, and in a seasonally appropriate manner. Six months ago I went through my wardrobe and got rid of every thing I didn’t wear. I was left with essentially five outfits, all but one me made, all appropriate for high summer. It was lovely to see my wardrobe comprised of my sewing but likewise it meant that my future sewing time needed to be practical. As we moved into autumn I found myself very hard pressed to dress myself appropriately every day! So I have focused lately on sewing very versatile things that work well in this transitional season and also work with my existing wardrobe. I can’t afford not to! Very soon I am going to need to sew some warmer items for winter, or shiver through it!
Motivation 5: I sew what works with the materials to hand
Fabric shopping in Adelaide is pretty limited. There are a couple of nice stores but the only fabric I can access in a consistent way is from Lincraft and Spotlight. That means I sew things that work well in the fabrics that they do well – sateen and broadcloth and cotton linen and voile and other plain cottons. I find it hard to access nice, higher end fabrics – and I don’t know that I am willing to pay the prices if I could. In theory I believe that it’s worth paying for, but in practice, when you are large and like big skirts and therefore need six metres for a dress, and that dress may or may not end up getting worn a lot… well. It’s a disincentive to spend thirty dollars a metre, is all. I also have a hard time accessing knits – the main topic of the comments on Ciara’s blog. I don’t tend to sew many tshirts because I can buy ones that are basically fine, still have a drawerfull, and find good quality knit hard to find. That said, I do feel guilty for buying sweats and yoga pants and tshirts because of issues of sweatshops etc. And prompted by the discussion with Ciara, I realised that despite having a whole drawer of tshirts I really only wear the ones I made myself. So I will be looking into buying more knit fabric when I can get it and making more, and giving away the bought ones I don’t wear!
There are some things I have no desire to sew at all. Jeans, bras and underwear (which I have FINALLY found RTW ones I’m comfortable in and so don’t seem worth it). And there are things I can see myself sewing eventually, when it’s less important to clothe myself (in between being excited about shiny new patterns, which I suspect will never change) – sweats, yoga pants, more tshirts. And garments that I am working my way up to because my skill level isn’t there yet but I find it impossible to buy RTW – coats and jackets and also swimsuits although that’s less urgent.
So that’s my navel gazing about what I sew. I craft because it fulfils a deep need in myself, but I SEW, specifically, to clothe myself. And that has an influence on the kinds of patterns, fabrics, techniques and garments I choose to make. It was very interesting to look back over five years of sewing blogging and notice not only how much better I’ve gotten but also how the silhouettes I am choosing have shifted. And it was wonderful to realise that now, when I want a new garment, it doesn’t even occur to me to shop for it.
I’m looking forward to this changing, too – I’m not planning on quitting sewing any time soon! Tell me, what do you sew? And why?