My cycle commutes to and from work each day are my free time to think (whilst still paying attention to the roads and all the potential death traps, of course). The name of this blog came to me one morning whilst cycling past Bermondsey station, and I often think about fabrics, patterns and life in general whilst zooming through London on two wheels – heading in the direction of the office (downhill, yay) or home (uphill, boo).
One thing that I have noticed about the sewing community is the sheer diversity, in every sense of the word. People from all walks of life, making totally different things in different styles. For just as many different reasons. And it’s these reasons that intrigued me – it got me thinking about WHY each of us chooses to sew.
I love the fact that so many people out there enjoy sewing and dressmaking, a skill which (when I was younger, anyway) is not taught in schools, and is still seen to be an ‘old fashioned’ hobby. But is ‘hobby’ even the right word anymore? Not everyone does it as a hobby, and for some the reasons behind it are much more significant.
Do you sew to save money?
There are many people out there that have learned to sew their own clothes with the aim of saving money – after all, if you can sew the garment yourself, you are not paying the wages of someone else to do it. For them, sewing is not a hobby as such, but a means to an end – new clothes, at a low price. I’ve seen people score some absolute bargains – fabric picked up on sale for literally pennies, or from a charity/thrift shop, or even upcycling some old curtains or bedsheets into something amazing. Patterns can be had online for free, and if you’ve been gifted a sewing machine, you’re really on to something. Of course, a lot of sewists out there will say that making clothing does not make their bank account happy (silk fabrics at £40 per metre, I’m looking at you), but if saving money is your aim, it can definitely be achieved.
And if you’re refashioning, that leads me on to…
Do you sew to save the environment?
If you recycle old materials into new clothes, you are saving something from potentially being sent to landfill and reducing the need for production of yet more materials. There are more and more fabrics nowadays that are being made from recycled and natural materials – plastic bottles, banana stems, pineapple leaves, and coconut husks.
With the onset of the throwaway mentality, the world is drowning under all of our waste. Thread International are turning litter from the streets into what they call the ‘most responsible fabric on the planet’. In Haiti and Honduras, they use plastic bottles (collected up by locals who earn a wage for doing so) and process these to make fabric and yarn which is subsequently made into clothing.
With so many people in the world today, we are over-consuming pretty much all our resources. Finding ways to reuse, repurpose or recycle and researching alternative materials can go a long way to reducing the strain we put on this planet – and by sewing with eco materials, people are helping to do this.
Do you sew for your conscience?
We’ve all seen the news articles about the terrible working conditions of garment makers in countries like Bangladesh and China, and of course the devastation caused by the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse.
And then there’s the secret notes that have been sewn into Primark garments by the seamstresses pleading for help:
Fashion Revolution, a global not-for-profit movement, designated the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster as Fashion Revolution Day, which birthed the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes?. This prompted millions of people to demand more transparency of the fashion supply chain and reveal exactly what’s involved in the making of their clothing – including the environmental and social costs.
When you make your own clothes, although you don’t exactly know what was involved in the process of creating that fabric and getting it to your sewing table, you know that the garment was constructed by yourself in hopefully enjoyable (or at least not adverse) conditions. You know that child labour was not involved in the sewing of your seams, and exhaustion was not suffered by a husband and father working a twenty-four hour shift sewing in zips just to earn enough to feed his family. For some people, this is why they sew – to take a stand against ‘fast fashion’ and exploitation.
Do you sew to get a perfect fit and design?
Us humans are a mixed bag, we come in every single shape and size you could possibly imagine. So, when it comes to ready-to-wear clothes, one size definitely DOES NOT fit all. One style does not fit all. Heck, even one colour does not suit all (well, maybe black).
There is an enormous variety of ready-to-wear clothing out there to choose from, so it may seem absurd to say that you can’t find anything – however, once you’ve whittled down the options to colours you like, in the styles you are looking for that suit your body shape, you’ve got considerably less to pick from. Even then you’ve got to try each item on for fit – jeans for example might be too long, too short, too baggy around the calf, too tight around the thigh, too small at the waist, not big enough around the bum, too low-rise, too high-rise, the pockets might be an unflattering style, the colour might not be quite right… it’s exhausting to trawl round every shop in town just to come home empty-handed because you can’t find those jeans you can picture in your head in real life.
So why not make your own? You can choose the colour, the fabric, the pocket style, the length, the topstitching colour, the button, everything. OK so it might be more work in the long run than trawling the shops for a day, but you’re pretty likely to end up with something that fits YOU rather than whatever shape the fashion industry thinks people should be, and that template can be used again and again – so long as you’re not shoveling in the Krispy Kreme’s like there’s no tomorrow (in which case, your template might need a little alteration).
Do you sew simply for enjoyment?
And then of course, there’s making stuff just BECAUSE. Making something for yourself or a loved one simply because you enjoy it – taking pride in pairing fabrics and designs and feeding your creativity. I know that for most of us, our day jobs don’t reflect what we truly enjoy in life and for those who love to create but spend our days at our desks looking at spreadsheets (or something equally as thrilling), bringing beautiful things to life in our spare time makes getting up at 6am Monday-Friday to go to work just that little bit easier.
Why do I sew? Because I love choosing combinations from the millions of colours and designs out there and seeing the finished result. You can bring your own vision to life and be proud to say it’s yours.
And also because I sit at a desk and look at spreadsheets all day 🙂
So tell me, why do YOU sew?[Jetpack Subscription Form]