This post is not for people who sew.
It’s for people who want to understand people who sew.
A garment sewist can be a tough nut to crack. She’d rather buy the raw materials to make a dress and pull all-nighters to sew it than take a hour-long field trip to the mall.
Why? Well, even if she’s sewing from a pattern, the dress still is one of kind. Her creative decisions drove the process, and she’s now better craftsman because of the project.
Still tough to wrap your head around? Keep reading. I’m spilling the beans on 12 truths held by people who sew clothes. Here’s a look at the surprising inner workings of sewists.
1.) They don’t sew to save money on clothes.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HOOO. Oh man. Excuse me while I wipe a tear. Quality garment textiles are expensive. And you almost always need more than 1 yard. Even if a silk is *only* $35 a yard, guess what — a dress calls for 3 yards. And then you have to line it. And let’s not overlook the cost of the time it takes to sew a custom garment. Sewing clothes ain’t a cheap hobby.
2.) They don’t want to hem/reline/take out/in your clothes.
Or make your Halloween costume. Please don’t ask. I’m going to be real with you: Mending is an epic bummer, and alterations on a garment that you didn’t make pretty much suck. If a sewist is willing to help you — especially without compensation — she must REALLY like you.
3.) Fast fashion bums out people who sew.
Fast fashion has too many consumers believing that all clothing — even handmade clothing — should be inexpensive. Two factors (among many) that make fast fashion inexpensive are low-quality fabric and rushed construction. Think about this, too: When clothes are cheap, someone or something in the supply chain is being abused. It could be seamworkers and/or the environment.
4.) They don’t want to be fashion designers or appear on “Project Runaway.”
Being a home sewist IS NOT the same as being a fashion designer. Most sewists are content to take someone else’s design and make it their own. Following a sewing pattern, choosing fabric, and making figure friendly adjustments all call for creative thinking and technical aptitude. Fashion designers don’t have a monopoly those disciplines.
5.) To sewists, there’s so much more than color.
When choosing fabric, they mull over fabric pattern, drape, and hand, along with whether it’s suitable for the desired garment. Color might be least important in a decision, depending on the project.
6.) Ready to wear garments leave them feeling empty.
They just won’t do — the colors, the care requirements, the pocket situation, etc. For example, I’m long waisted and thin. A lot of small RTW shirts fit fine in terms of width, but they’re too short. And a medium often is baggy. Good thing I can make Erin-sized shirts with my sewing machine!
7.) Sewing makes them feel connected to people who make RTW.
Sewing is a hands-on, human activity. It’s high touch and cannot be completed without human hands and judgment. Robots didn’t make your jeans — a person/people did.
8.) They think about how to re-create RTW garments — and put their own spin on them.
People who sew see all clothes and other soft goods in pattern pieces. They think, “I could make that” when they see a simple gathered skirt at the mall. They’re constantly observing fits and finishes of the garments they encounter — yes, even the clothes you’re wearing right now!
9.) They swoon over pretty insides.
When the Milwaukee Art Museum exhibited “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair,” I spent most of the show trying to see inside the garments on display. So interesting! I wanted to touch them SO BAD. Pretty guts impress to people who sew clothes.
10.) They fantasize about replacing even half the polar fleece at Jo-Ann with high-quality garment fabric.
There are several polar fleece blankets at my house, and they are toasty. I do live in Wisconsin and am cold 85 percent of the time. But do we really need ALL the fleece that’s on offer at Jo-Ann? I can barely maneuver a cart in that store around the fleece. Quilts and well-constructed garments will become heirloom objects — not no-sew fleece blankets.
11.) They accept trial and error.
When it comes to a new technique or pattern, people who sew know they likely won’t get it right the first time, and they’re OK with that. Tests are part of the process and critical to building a sewing practice.
12.) Just because they know how to use a sewing machine doesn’t mean they know how to or want to quilt or make softies or work on home decor, etc.
It’d be like asking someone who runs track — let’s say the 10K — if she can switch to hurdles. She can run and jump (in principle), but hurdles aren’t her specialty, and she’s probably not interested in making that event her specialty. There are lots of sewists who dabble in other needlework and textile crafts. But knowledge of one discipline doesn’t necessarily translate to others.
Over to you, my non-sewing friends: Which of these truths most surprised you? What can(s) of worms do these sewing secrets open for you?
And to my garment-sewing friends: What other secrets of people who sew should we reveal to the greater public? Which of these truths is most truthy? Please sound off in comments!
P.S. Here’s a few more non-sewing posts for people who sew — things to stew on and smile about:
53 gifts for sewists: The ultimate guide to gifts for sewing lovers
What sewing a chemo quilt for my mom taught me about parenting
Creative inspiration: 7 times Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ spoke to sewists
Title photo with needle and pins by Anderson Mancini via Flickr
Make do and mend from The National Archives (United Kingdom) via Wikimedia
Forever 21 by Elvert Barnes via Flickr
Project Runway” judges by Jiyang Chen via Wikimedia
Woman choosing fabric by Visit Grand Island via Flickr
Clothes hangers by dalvenjah via Flickr
Seamstress by Mark Fischer via Flickr
Skirt by Geneva Vanderzell apairandasparediy.com via Flickr
Selvedge jeans by Jeff Nelson via Flickr
Quilt by Jody Morris via Flickr
Ahhhhh! The last one! I absolutely love quilting, and home dec sewing is my second favorite, but I don't enjoy sewing clothes at all or making bags, even though I know how! And I still get people who ask me to hem clothes!!! Great post, Erin!!!!
Thanks for reading, Pamela! Certain types of sewing just DO NOT appeal to certain sewists. To each her own! 😀
Also the last one & number 4! I adore garment sewing and did make some drapes this year. Grudgingly. (but they look awesome!). There is no way I am imaginative enough to design my own clothes with all the beautiful options out there!
I cook from recipes and sew from patterns. I'm happy doing that and know my results aren't like anyone else's.
I feel like the desire to DESIGN clothes and the desire to SEW clothes are very different urges. And good for you for doing drapes! I'm not keen on muslins either, but my finished garments ALWAYS turn out better for them. My background is writing/journalism, and I know the importance of the crappy first draft. The discipline to DO the crappy first draft… well, ya just have to put your head down and rock it!
Thanks for reading, Susan! 😀
YES! Well said, Roseana! I feel the same way. Whatever I touch, I approach it in my special Erin way. No one else Erins the way I do. 😀 And no one else Roseanas the way you do, either! 😀
Thanks for reading!
Word to every each one point on your list (except Joann's only because we don't have that chain in Sweden!) And no 2 is my pet peeve. I've even had random co-workers ask me this. As I get older I find it harder and harder to be polite when I decline and I even if I can, I don't think anyone can misinterpret the dark stare in my eyes. And thank you for the shout out for my Youtube-channel!
LOL, Johanna – the dark stare of "OH NO YOU JUST DIDN'T ASK ME TO HEM YOUR PANTS." Thanks for reading! And you're welcome for the shoutout! Keep up the great work. I especially liked your vid about making workout wear. Are you going to release patterns? Please say yes!