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February 2014

why I sew on KCW
winter

what makes me sew: laura

Evolution of a home sewist

Why do I sew?  Well, I can tell you all the obvious (and true) reasons (I’m guessing some of you can relate):

  • an innate desire to create;
  • an opportunity to carve out some time for myself in this world filled with the demands of little people;
  • the feeling of satisfaction I get by engaging both the creative and technical sides of my brain;
  • the personal challenge of pushing myself and learning new things (often through failure/trial and error);

…but for this post I want to delve a little deeper.

To uncover this motivation let’s first go down a very well-trodden route for us home sewists.  We’re starting a new project.  We have the pattern and and fabric and we want to get started.  As we are all too aware, there are now lots of steps involved – if it’s a PDF pattern we’ve got to print and tile that damn thing, then trace the size, then cut the fabric, then mark the fabric, then the actual sewing process can commence.  What is it that makes this whole (often tedious and definitely time-consuming) process worthwhile?  Why do we keep at it?  Have you ever tried to explain to a non-sewist the steps you go through, in detail, to create something?  I usually lose them at “then I print off 36 pages of pattern pieces and try to accurately tape them all together.”  But for us sewists we stick at it.  We keep going.  And, not only that, we actually enjoy it (does anyone else get butterflies in their stomach before starting a new project?!).  But, why do we do it?

After much soul-searching about my true motivation for sewing, I’ve come to the surprising conclusion that it’s all about CONTROL.  By making clothes for ourselves or our children we are taking control of a process, of a finished garment, and, to a larger extent, of the fashion industry.

Let me explain. I’m guessing the vast majority of us (myself included) started out by buying ready-to-wear clothes off the shelves and racks of well-known shops.  At some point we made a decision to try to make something ourselves – usually by following patterns or online tutorials.  Over time, as our skills and experience grew, we started to change and adapt these patterns until we could actually design our own clothes.  Each of these steps gives us more control of what we or our kids wear.

I say this is a surprising conclusion (I don’t consider myself a control freak in other aspects of my life) but, then again, maybe it’s not that surprising at all when I consider my motivation for other interests.

COOKING.  I, like all of us, started by eating food someone else has prepared, then I decided to cook for myself so I followed recipes.  Over time I would change and adapt these recipes until, in the end, I was creating my own dishes from scratch.  Again, you can see this theme of control; in this case control of what I eat, where the ingredients come from and exactly how it’s all prepared.

As another example, let’s look at PHOTOGRAPHY (bear in mind I am NO photographer but my interest is growing and so is that desire for control).  We start by taking pictures on Auto mode and hope for the best, as we learn we start playing with settings, light, aperture, and shutter speed to get a desired result.  Before we know it we’re taking photos in full RAW mode and doing lots of post-editing to boot.  Do you see a trend?  Yup, more control.

Everyone’s passions and interests will be different but I dare say that this sense of control over the subject is a common thread.

I could stop here.  I am motivated to sew in order to have control over the clothes I and my kids wear.  But, as we’re delving, why don’t we look at what this control actually means?  By looking at the evolution of me as a home sewist, I can now answer the question “what is my sewing motivation?”, but the answer also has some unexpected and yet entirely desirable consequences/effects.  These can be summed up as:

  • Independence from mainstream clothing consumerism.
  • Increased clothing self-sufficiency.
  • Supporting and advocating sustainable fashion…and, sustainability in the textile sector in general.

Each of these effects sits easy on my conscience and makes me feel that, in a very small way, I’m making a difference.  I’m not here to preach and say that everyone should adopt this path (let’s face it, if I didn’t love sewing I wouldn’t be doing it no matter how lofty the ideals or goals), but these three issues are ones that have been playing on my mind for a while now and ones that I hope to explore in greater depth on my blog in the coming months.  (In particular, I’d like to get more involved with initiatives such as Fashion Revolution Day due to take place on 24 April).

 

To conclude, I am thankful to Meg for setting me the challenge of writing this post.  These self-reflective ones are always the hardest and most time-consuming!  But in the end I have learned two very important things about why I sew which, in turn, will effect how I sew in the future:

  1. My core motivation for sewing is a desire for control.
  2. That this desire for control is a means to other, greater goals and not just an end in itself.

I know this is post is rather heavy-going so, if you’re here till the end, thank you!  It’s great fun to sew cute clothes but it’s also nice to reflect on these issues now and again. So, what would your sewing journey look like?  Do you agree with this evolution or has your sewing taken an entirely different path?  I really would love to hear from you.  In the meantime, let’s all keep doing what we’re doing – using our creativity to make ourselves and the people around us happy.

Laura x

PS – And if you missed Brienne’s post on the same subject – go check it out – it really strikes a chord. x

why I sew on KCW
winter

what makes me sew: tara

Ok, Tara from Girl Like The Sea back here one more time for the post season of KCW. Do you ever wonder sometimes why you’re even sewing things? Especially kids clothes. I mean, if you’re sewing clothes for kids it probably means you have kids, in which case you probably don’t really have TIME to be sewing for kids. But you do it anyway don’t you? This post gave me a chance to think a bit about why I sew and make things.

What Makes Me Sew?

It’s a question I ask myself with frequency. Especially when I’m walking through Target looking at all the cute stuff that doesn’t cost much, especially in terms of time.

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There’s definitely a compulsion that comes with motherhood. I’ve heard enough moms say that getting pregnant/having kids made them want to start making things, to learn about eating better, to just improve and become better at doing. That’s definitely where it all started. I think it was a combination of wanting to be able to forge something for my baby with my own hands, learn a skill that I could use “just in case I need to”, and my innate creative tendencies making me do it.

Plus a lot of Martha Stewart at 10 am when my oldest was still a baby……that helped. Haha.

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My experience in parenting for the past 5 years is that life becomes more chaotic, confusing, and impermanent as you add more little people to your life. You’re trying to make order and sense in the wake of tiny hurricanes. If you clean something, it becomes dirty as soon as you walk away. You’re not sure if your parenting methods are right. You’re not sure of a lot. One way I create order and permanence (to an extent anyway) is with sewing and creating.

I plan out, focus on, execute, complete, and look at a thing that is now three dimensional and useful. The unfortunate byproduct of all this creating is the terrible mess of fabric and crafty crap that I can’t seem to make order of unless it gets streamlined into a project and made into something. Oopsies.

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But on top of all of that, it’s just fun.

But the question is: Why would I make something instead of just buying it someplace?

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Because it’s fun

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Because I can

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Because I can make it in whatever color I like, with whatever graphics I like

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Because my kids get to dream things up and ask me for them

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Because I get to dream things up and create them

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Because if the zombie apocalypse happens, and industrial life as we know it ceases to exist….someone will have to make the clothes

 

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Because old things can become new things

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Because it’s kind of a great feeling when I’m watching my kids playing outside and realize that they are both dressed head to toe in things that I’ve made them

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Because I can put ludicrous and obscure things on my creations

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Because sometimes I really can make the expensive things I like for cheaper than at the store

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Because maybe this project will teach me something that will make me better on the next one

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I make things, sometimes, so I can make things better in the future. And because if I don’t make things, I feel sad. Plus now that I know I’m capable of making something that I see in a store, it feels weird to buy it.

Not that I really need a reason to sew things…..

Other than “Just because”

why I sew on KCW
winter

what makes me sew: brienne

Hello, readers. Brienne Moody here, one last time this season to talk about the why.

I spend as much time as I can making things. And even when I can’t, it consumes my thoughts. And kids things in particular. As I considered this post over the last few weeks, I couldn’t come up with exactly what it was that compels me to make. Compulsion is the nature of it, to be sure – but why?Feathered Vest By Brienne

There was a time when my marriage was new and my babies were both so little and unfamiliar that hand-making helped me to make sense of domesticity – a concept that I had always flailed hard against.

Feathered Vest 2

But that’s not why for me anymore.

Feather Vest Front By Brienne

As I worked on this leather-feathered vest (using this pattern), I finished listening to a novel, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. About midway through, the book’s writer answered this question for me and much more eloquently than I could have.

“In the evenings, she lit a lamp and unfolded the fabric on the table. Following the pattern offered a kind of comfort, a quiet balance [to her day’s work which was] coarse, exhausting [and unpredictable]. Sewing was different. She knew if she was patient and meticulous, if she carefully followed the lines, took each step as it came, and obeyed the rules, that in the end when it was turned right-side out, it would be just how it was meant to be (205-6).”

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That passage about a woman sewing a coat for a child is one that I’ll be thinking about for a long time. Even though she’s musing there about stitching, the passage also contributes to the book’s persistent theme of impermanence. The stitching, it helps us to cope with the fleeting nature of things. Of kids and of youth and of thwarted meant-to-bes. And, I think, that’s why I do it.

Baby in the Hood Jacket By Brienne

What makes you sew?