When I first started sewing, all I wanted was to make a few cool clothes. I was frustrated that I could not find exactly what I wanted in stores, so I took upon myself the task of sewing my own clothes. I figured I could add handmade pieces to my RTW collection, and that would be it. I am happy to say I was wrong. Sewing is now such an integral part of my life that I often forget that was a time when I did not sew.
If you have ever considered sewing but still need some convincing, let me share with you my five reasons why sewing has the potential to change your life.
Sew Your Style
I was never really able to find what I wanted in ready-to-wear fashion. I love black clothing, boots, lace details, and corsets, but I was never a full-blown goth. Goth fashion leaned one of two ways: the mall goth from Hot Topic, or the uber goth from one or two stores on Melrose (yeah, folks, I am that old). I was neither, so the only logical solution was to buy a sewing machine and learn how to sew.
Sewing allows you to create whatever you want. I am obsessed with polka dots, so I have an army of polka-dotted dresses. I love fun Halloween prints, so I’ve sewn a bunch of skirts with skeletons, bugs, and other creepy things. I can hack patterns and create many variations on the same theme, or sew the same pattern in a thousand different prints. My options are endless.
You might say, “Paula, what I really want to sew is a corset, but I’ll never be able to sew such a complicated garment!” You may be limited now, but the more you sew, the more you learn. That gorgeous historical corset with silk and boning and all the grommets will be within your reach before you know it.
Sew Your Size
When I sewed my very first garment—a purple paisley straight skirt–I had no idea that RTW sizes cannot be used for sewing patterns. Needless to say, I was never able to wear that thing (even if it fit, I would not have worn it. The fabric was truly hideous). When I measured myself and realized I was a size 20, I was speechless. How could this be? I was a size 12, 14 maybe, but 20! WTH? And then, an epiphany: Size is a meaningless concept created by manufacturers to standardize our bodies for the sake of efficiency and profit.
Once you start sewing, your size doesn’t really matter. Your measurements will guide your choices. Often, you will be a combination of sizes, and blending sizes will become an integral part of your process. And if you ever draft your own patterns, you can give yourself whatever size you feel like. The important thing here is that you are honest with yourself about your measurements. Squeezing to get a lower number will result in ill-fitting garments—and ill-fitting garments do nothing to help you feel good about the way you look.
Honor Your Body
I have struggled with body image issues all my life. The reliance on a dress size or weight as a measure of my worth has plagued my life for as long as I can remember. I have tried a million diets (I wish that current me could tell 17-year-old me that there is no scientific, nutritional, or rational basis to eating rice all day long). As I got older, I tried to change the focus from how my body looked to what it can do thanks to my interest in exercising and lifting weights. I am in a better place now, but I still have days when I feel ashamed of my body. Having the skills to create clothing that fits me has been another essential part of accepting my body.
I heard somewhere that your clothes should fit you, not the other way (I tried to find the source of the quote; if you happen to know you, please let me know). This seems so obvious today. No two bodies are the same, but we expect RTW clothes to fit a wide range of bodies. When you sew, you can make any pattern perfect for your body. Once you are in control of what you make, you can adjust it until you feel comfortable in your clothes. You tell your clothes what to do; they don’t tell you how to feel.
Refocus Your Mind
Life can get hard sometimes. When it does, it is nice to know that there are options out there that can take us away from our daily woes and transport us to another place. For me, sewing is like this. When I start sewing, everything becomes about the project at hand. If there are no other pressing matters that need my attention, I can sew for hours. Sewing now competes with reading as my favorite activity. You may think this is nothing but escapism; I like to think of it as refocusing my mind.
It is not uncommon to hear people talk about the healing properties of sewing. Many of the activities involved in sewing are repetitive—the sound of the sewing machine, the movement of the needle during hand sewing, the long sessions of unpicking—taking the mind to a state of active meditation. When you sew, your brain is intent on solving many puzzles, so it turns its attention away from what is bothering or upsetting you to focus on the task at hand. Working with your hands is a proven way to calm the mind. I was about to go looking for a bunch of sources when I realized that I am not writing an academic piece. Old habits die hard.
I LOVE the sewing community! Everyone I’ve met has been so kind. There are many great communities, and you will be sure to find a group of sewists who share your same interest. There are so many amazing sewists on Instagram; the sources of inspiration are as many as there are styles. Everywhere on the Internet, you will find tutorials, videos, free lessons, free patterns… free knowledge and resources that you can access and consume at your own pace.
One of the best aspects of the community is everyone’s willingness to help. Post a question on a FB Group like Sewing but make it goth/alt/punk, and you’ll end up with multiple answers. Many indie pattern designers will reply directly to a comment on social media when you post a question. I am sure that there are mean people in the world of sewing (they are everywhere, after all), but speaking from experience, this is a community of people who are eager to be supportive and helpful.
If You Are Not Convinced Yet
Sewing has had a profound impact on my life. The most obvious change is evident in my wardrobe, which is now almost 100% handmade. Sewing has also helped me deal with self-image issues and strengthen my relationship with my body. I’ve met people from all over who are sources of inspiration and encouragement. And I always have the coolest clothes!
If you need ideas for easy, begginer projects with a big payoff, here a a few suggestions: