Why do you sew?

212

Why do you sew?

I mentioned last week that I went on a little writing retreat.

I packed up our mazda with a week’s worth of food, a bottle of wine, some dark chocolate, and my laptop and booked myself into a teeny little wooded cottage. It was magical, and I plan to do it at least a few times a year now.

While I was there, I did more than just write. I did a lot of thinking – about you guys.

I thought about what a diverse group of people we are. We have girls in high school reading this who are just starting out. We have women in their 80s who have been sewing for many decades. We have single women in college. We have moms. We have women living in big cities, and women living on rural farms.

But what brings us all together is the simple hobby of sewing. Why?

Because here’s what I realized: We’re all going way against the grain here.

Clothes are cheap and plentiful, or at least they can be. Most people are perfectly happy to shell out a few bucks and have someone else do all that labor. It is much cheaper, at least in terms of time but also often in money, to buy something produced overseas in a factory.

But we don’t. Why?

I know why I love sewing. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it a lot and am writing a whole separate blog post about that.

But given how different we are, I want to hear from you. Why do you sew? How does it improve your life? How does it make you feel?

PS: Maddie is holding a little giveaway for The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits right now, so you may want to pop over for a quick entry!

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

More about our writers

Comments 212

Ann

I learned to sew about 40 years ago. Why? I wanted more clothes than I could afford. Funny, my mom would buy me lots of fabric but not tons of clothes.

Today, my reasons are different. I enjoy having one-of-a-kind clothing that fits. I enjoy the creative process, challenging my brain to think about how to do something. My husband recently retired (which is wonderful) and being in my sewing room gives me back some of the solitary time that I lost (he’s afraid of the dropped pins). I am not a person who can just sit a watch TV so sewing helps fill the time when there’s nothing else to do.

Katrin

I sew because I don’t like most of the rtw clothes offered for plus size women and because I am obviously shaped strangely. And because I love having clothes that nobody else has. I take it as a compliment when people stare at me because they think “Where did this grown woman buy a Star Wars dress? And why would she wear it?” That is who I am, a loud, colourful, individual sometimes, on other days I am the quiet woman in jeans and a hoodie. And I am the only who decides what I wear, not a chain store or a magazine.

Sarah asksarah.com.au

This is why I sew too. I am adverse to wearing the bespangled sacks on offer in RTW. I’d much rather create something flattering for myself. If that something happens to be sweetly vintage or borderline tacky or just a little quirky, all the better!

Stephanie

Exactly! I really hate most RTW plus size designs. It’s not really that much cheaper in the long run to sew, but at least I can wear exactly what I want.

Rebekka

My mom taught me to sew as a teen (me, not her). Her mother had been trained as a seamstress and made a lot of her own clothes and clothes for my mom and her sisters. I actually have her old portfolios from sewing school, but don’t really know how to use them. Also I don’t speak German, so that’s a challenge (she was trained in postwar Germany prior to emigrating to the US.) My mom’s skills were adequate to following a pattern but not really making adjustments, and as I grew older I got a wonky shape she found very frustrating. Now I’m 35 and actually like the puzzle of fitting a pattern. Basically if I want a non-knit top or dress that fits I have to make it myself! But I have a 2 year old and a baby, so there’s not that much time. So I wear lots of jeans and tshirts. I find sewing relaxes the brain if I go about it in the right way (like Sherlock Holmes and his violin). Lets you think about things in an indirect way. And I like the sheer satisfaction of producing things without a lot of fuss when I make clothes for my girls.

Raphaelle deuxsouriceaux.wordpress.com

My first love is knitting. Both by hand and by machine. Back when we were still living in Montreal, I started a textile course (I had to drop out when we moved to New York). The course included one sewing class that I never got to take. It wasn’t a beginner’s class so I asked my mom for her old sewing machine so that I would know some basics before taking the class. We moved but I did get a knitting machine. I kept up the sewing because I wanted to sew the knits I’d made. And sew them well! I realized I was going to need to start from the beginning. So I did. Making mostly clothes for my daughter. And I enjoyed it so much that it became something I do for itself rather than just a means to end.

Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about sustainability and workers’ rights. I keep sewing because I want to limit my participation in fast fashion as much as possible. Sewing also keeps me linked to those textile workers. It reminds me of the value of their work. And the value of my clothes.

Sewing also provides me with a much needed creative outlet. As much as I enjoy drawing and painting, I get more out of making beautiful and utilitarian items.

And sewing can be frustrating! It’s a learning experience with all that entails.

Finally, the sewing community has been so welcome! After moving, I had to make new friends. I couldn’t go to school anymore so finding like minded people was hard. The online sewing and knitting communities have been essential for me. I hope that I will be able to also connect even more with my daughters through sewing. The oldest wants me to teach her (she’s 6) and I can’t wait to get started.

Andrea zoopolis.wordpress.com

I started my daughter with simple handsewing around the age of 4 or 5. Big plastic needles, plastic canvas, yarn or thick thread, just to get used to the idea of the basic hand stitches and how things get joined together. It worked, and now at 10 she’s very comfortable with a sewing machine, patterns, fabrics, needles, knots, and everything. :) Six is not too early!

Raphaelle deuxsouriceaux.wordpress.com

I’ve gotten her a couple sewing kits to make stuffies and she’s completed 3 of the 4 stuffies (2 per pack). She needs help when she screws up! She really really wants to use a machine though so I bought a small Janome (it’s blue!) and we’re going to do this series on a Jennuine Life called Tiny Sewists I think. It’s a series of lessons. The only reason we haven’t started yet is lack of alone time. Little sister is always there! But I’ve found one hour per week so we can get started! I’m excited! And I really love that she’s interested in what I do.

Andrea zoopolis.wordpress.com

Oh, awsesome. I hope she loves it. :)

Bego Aguilera

I sew because I enjoy that moment of concentration (it is something like a silence in my head) when I am trying to make real what I have imagined. I like the process (even sometimes it makes me suffering!) of having a goal (something invented, or something you’ve seen, or something you have the patterns) in your mind, something in the imagination, that turns real with your hands. I enjoy the moments of choosing the clothes, cutting them, sewing, trying, finishing. I live through moments of fear (is that really going to work?) and moments of enthusiasm (yes, I know exactly how wonderful is going to be). And it is something that I do alone, even if I share with other people. It is a personal process. Creation!

ParisGrrl

I think I love sewing because it engages both the creative and analytical parts of my brain–I particularly love the moment where a garment transforms from 2D to 3D, and you never know at exactly what moment that will occur during construction. That, and because rtw rarely fits me without alterations, and because I have expensive taste that creating my own garments allows me to indulge. ;-)

Viper

I learned to sew at 16. I actually dislike the process and find it tedious and frustrating, but love the results. I don’t like modern “casual” fashion, and often too small to fit into anything that doesn’t come from the juniors’ or even children’s sections, so it makes more sense to create clothing that I love and that fits me.

Stephanie star-spangledheart.blogspot.com

I love sewing because I’m not an off the rack shaped person. It’s so amazing to have clothes that fit! :D Also, the things that look good on me and are my style are so NOT what is in fashion right now. So I really do have to sew.

Sewcial Warrior sewcialwarrior.wordpress.com

I’ve always been creative but have hopped from one craft to the next, never finding one that really fits. That it, until I rediscovered sewing. I took Textiles GCSE at school then hadn’t touched a machine for about 16 years until I decided to upcycle a skirt I to a bustle skirt for a fancy dress event I was going to. I have been glued to my sewing machine ever since.

I love being able to wear exactly what I want and expressing my UNIQUE personality through my sewing and the clothes I make.

LeeAnn mintbasil.blogspot.com

I love sewing because it is an activity that completely clears my head and allows me to focus on ONLY the project at hand. Sewing is akin to vacation for my brain. Tack on my knack and enjoyment for problem solving, I find the process of sewing to be creatively rewarding and inspirational. And the bonus is a result I can enjoy! I also know that other areas of my life (ie. real job) benefit from my sewing time with increased focus and productivity.

Joni

I find sewing meditative. I can retreat into my sewing room (such a privilege to have one) and design projects that range from clothing to bags to wall hangings to stuffed critters. During this time, I get to think about colors and shapes and textures and different embellishments. I also get to enjoy the purr of my sewing machine and trips back and forth to the ironing board as I construct the project. Perhaps I’ll take some time to consult a reference book to help me figure something out. Maybe I’ll have to persevere through some problems with thread tension or goofy mistakes that require some frogging. Perhaps I need to rethink some of the design features I had planned earlier. All the while I am enjoying a creative outlet and one that provides me with a tangible product when I am finished. I find this time very soothing a balm for my soul. Whenever life is bearing down hard on me, I can always take a few minutes to sew a seam or look through some patterns and the weight does lighten, if only a little. The quiet solitude of my sewing room is such a contrast to the competitive and critical environment in which I earn my living. I can’t wait to hear why others love to sew. Thanks for providing a space in which to share our reasons,

Maryanne sewtogether.com.au

I sew because:
1. it is my time.. It is so easy to have my day to day responsibilities suck me up, overwhelm me and leave me feeling a little flat. Sewing gives me time to think, create and do something just for me
2. every time I send one of my children off in to the world wearing something I have made for them, I feel like they are physically wrapped in my love for the day. I think they feel that too.
3. whenever I make something for a friend or member of my family, I like to take the time to think about them and the memories we have created together.
4. everything I sew gives me the opportunity to feel proud of the skills I have learnt and be aware of skills yet conquered.
5. I don’t like the consumerist world in which we currently live – when I sew for myself and my family it makes me more aware of valuing the clothes we wear (whether made by me or others) and to respect the maker.
6. Sewing allows me to opt out of trends. I create long lasting clothes that suit me. No one can dictate what I wear.
7. I enjoy the community sewing creates
8. I like having a skill that others find mysterious and unachievable!
9. I still find sewing magical – that I can take a piece of fabric and turn it into a 3 dimensional object that can be beautiful and useful continues to astound me…

Anne

Wow. That is exactly my thoughts as well, just better put.

Melinda

You have captured all of my thoughts perfectly! Some things I hadn’t even realized either, like sending my daughter off with a dress I made and her being wrapped up in my love, and recalling great memories with friends as I make them something. Well said!!

Sophie-Lee tworandomwords.wordpress.com

I agree with most of your points – particularly the ability to opt out of trends, to sew for my body shape, the show-off factor you get from it being such a mysterious hobby, the community, and just the fact that I can DO it.

I also like that it’s completely different from my work, which is very science driven (even though medicine is called an “art”), and that people are extra shocked that a doctor makes all her own clothes.

Maryanne sewtogether.com.au

That’s very interesting Sophie-Lee. I am also a doctor and I think sewing creates a wonderful balance to my working life – precision is important but creativity is equally necessary.
I also secretly enjoy the surprised responses I get when people (colleagues and patients) sometimes discover I make the clothes I wear to work!

Heidi

FIT! Making something that fits has always been a large part of the reason I sewed growing up and sew now.
And having something tangible at the end of the process.

Cameron

I sew for so many reasons. I feel so empowered knowing I have a SKILL, I can make something. In fact, I think that feeling is so important, I want to spend my career spreading the word – sewing made me a making-vangelist. I love the constant challenge and ongoing learning. I feel a connection to my grandmothers and aunts who sew. For ethical reasons, I like knowing that I’m consuming less and not supporting working conditions that might be dangerous. Now that I’ve had a taste of the control I can have over my wardrobe, I’m basically ruined as a shopper.

Tina

My Grandmother was a seamstress. I never learned from her before she passed on and regret that. But somewhere in my late 20’s I took up the needle (or more accurately, machine) and felt her presence from day one. I feel like I am tapping into a long line of inherited knowledge. It feels powerfully feminine.

I’ve always been a maker and love the fully present aspect of losing myself in a project and like so many others, I love having clothes that are just me and fit me…not a particular size or instructed style. I enjoy both sides of sewing…the planning and creative side and the technical side.

Ultimately, I sew my own clothes because it’s empowering.

French Toast Tasha tashamillergriffith.com

Yes! This is why I want to get more people sewing/knitting/making too! In today’s mass market culture, we can be so disconnected from everything that we need. When we get reconnected, realizing that we can take just our hands and the materials and tools that have been around for generations, and make it ourselves—that is one of the best and most powerful feelings I know.

Jenny jennymacsews.blogspot.ca

As adults our minds are always on 20 different things. When I sew my mind is on one thing. And when I’m doing something else, my mind is on sewing! I love having a hobby that I am passionate about, that is practical and that so many others enjoy.

Libby

I sew, embroider, bake, crocheted, knit because I like making things myself. I like to wear a coat that I have made thats different from everybody elses, I like to make myself a scarf for the winter, I like to eat my homemade bread because I know it’s much healthier than the one form the bakers. I think I like to make things because it slows me down, it is very rewarding, I like learning new techniques and I love it because I made something myself. It’s different, it’s more me, I can use fabric I like, I can do something fun with it, I can use up all my creativity and it gives me a hobby. You don’t have to earn your money with a hobby and its just a nice way to spend my free time. I am even learning to make my own jewellery.

Christine Guest christineguestdesigns.com

If I want a plus sized, petite dress in fabric that will last and not scratch, I make it. But I’m content with my small, very functional homeschool Mom wardrobe. It’s like a uniform (no denim jumpers though ;-)

Sewing makes me feel like a combination McGiver and Vionet. Sometimes I adapt or drape a pattern to create the perfect ensemble, sometime I mend my son’s backpack and hem jeans. I get called in to make waist pouches for special electronics and dress up gear.

My daughter is young enough that we are still getting cute, comfy and appropriate clothes from the great hand-me-down-clothes-chain that she loves, but I hear warnings that if you want you girl to have the option of looking like dignified human, you need to sew when she turns 13. So I’m teaching her to draw on croquis to communicate what she thinks is beautiful so that may go smoothly when the time comes. So far she can do the running stitch herself too, so maybe she will sew her own clothes when the time comes and we will only have to speak respectfully about what dignified means.

Trisha

I always knew I would learn how to sew someday, since I grew up watching my grandmother make clothes for herself and I found it fascinating. Most of the women in my immediate family sew, so I grew up thinking everybody did!
I didn’t have the resources to try it until four years ago, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a great way to be creative and have interesting, unique clothes. The process of sketching out variations and choosing a fabric and how I’ll embellish my garment is really fun. I like learning new things as I advance my skill level (grandma says she’s impressed with my progress!)
I also love the online sewing communities with their sewalongs, blogs, and photo sharing. I love all the inspiration and challenges as we collectively tackle a pattern in a sewalong- it’s like a huge art project that regardless of skill, everyone can participate in.
Sewing is awesome!

Christine Guest christineguestdesigns.com

Oh, and sewing definitely informs my knitting and crochet designs.

sara blogmixedemotions.blogspot.fr

I bought my first sewing machine 5 years ago because I really wanted to have more special clothes, not the same cheap stuff everybody else has. And I like making stuff, always have. As soon as I started sewing, I couldn’t stop, for reasons I couldn’t have imagined before I started. The love of fabric, the thrill in learning new techniques, the satisfaction in making a garment that really fits. And I think once you’ve started, you can’t go back. You look at stuff in the stores differently. Is it well made? Who made it? Is it unique? My closet is now made up of about 50%handmade and 50%purchased, but there is no doubt that the handmade clothes are a lot more special to me. When I wear them, it really feels like they are a part of me, rather than an outside addition, at least the most successful ones do, and I don’t feel that way about any of my RTW clothes.

Mags

I sew because RTW fashion doesn’t meet my needs. Not in body shape, not in size, not in style, not in quality, not in colour (I’m actually terribly particular about that one). I believe that I deserve to look and feel better than RTW makes me look and feel. And also because I find it incredibly satisfying to make things. I knit and embroider too for the same reason. It’s just a lot of FUN to watch things come out of my hands.

Elizabeth V. thesoftscienceblog.wordpress.com

I sew because it seems to be a bit of modern magic. You take simple materials and with your hands you can transform them into anything. There is nothing so satisfying for me as sewing or knitting.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I love the way you put that, by the way: “modern magic”

Karen churchmouseyarns.com

I’m coming to sewing now from knitting, because I have a vision for creating a cohesive wardrobe that is fun and inspiring both to make and wear.

While I love RTW fashion (enjoy seeing what designers are doing with shapes, etc.), most high street fashion is a) too cheap in quality and b) too ephemeral/changing in design and c) too embellished to fit that vision. I love to wear very simple, streamlined silhouettes and want to build a wardrobe of quality pieces in multiples… i.e. the perfect T-shirt, in 5 colors that I can wear and wear and wear. And then next year, maybe make one new one in my new seasonal color story.

I’m making friends with my sewing machine again (having sewed briefly one summer when I was 12), and demystifying garment construction where you don’t have to shape the fabric while you’re making the garment is fascinating to me. The instant gratification of sewing after the slower process of knitting makes me quite giddy!

Juliette cuisinecoutureandrocknroll.blogspot.fr

I first learned to sew, about 3 years ago, because of a growing interest in “rockabilly” and then more authentic 1950s and 1940s style clothing (therer I mean both repro and vintage), which is rather difficult to find in France if you want some quality to it.
Then I got more concerned about who actually makes your clothing – I mean, I prefer to know that my clothing was not made, for instance, by an underpaid and exploited Indian kid.
An finally, well, I just think it’s great when you start thinking, “hey, but I can actually MAKE something!”
I’m not successful in every attempt at making my own clothing…but I think it’s worth trying!

Carlotta Stermaria carlottastermaria.fr

I’m so surprised to see this post here today, because I wrote a post adressing a part of this very topic only yesterday (here : http://www.carlottastermaria.fr/blog/pourquoi-coudre/ _don’t be put off by the French text, there’s an English translation below)! Part of it is that I want to wear clothes that make one with me, because they will answer my wishes, fit my specific body, and have been made by my hand.

But there are so many reasons why it feels right to sew : it’s creative, it’s more ethical, and I so often feel like the fashion and clothing industry treats us wrong (because of the waste, the prices, the beauty standards or the invention of shopping as a recreational activity)…

Beth B. 110creations.com

Such great answers on here already! I’ve been at this for 2 years and I don’t think I can even put words to what sewing means to me. When my daughter was born and I quit my job to stay home with her, I felt like my identity was a slippery thing that was being transformed in ways beyond my control. I desperately needed a hobby to distract me from the mundane parts of having a newborn.

I sew now because it gives momentum to my life, it gives me goals, and it gives gratification of those goals. It allows me to be more than “just” Mom. I agree with everyone who said it’s empowering. And you can’t beat the community it brings, sewists rock!

Mary B

My mom and grandma taught me how to sew when I was a little girl. My grandma was an amazing seamstress. Her favorite saying about choosing the right fabric was “You put in as much time on a cheap piece of fabric as you do on an expensive one.” She had expensive taste in fabric but she made timeless garments that she wore forever. Some of my fondest memories are the three of us around the dining room table, my mom and grandma cutting out some beautiful new project and me anxiously awaiting for the scraps to cloth my dolls.

I sewed all the way through college because it was an affordable way to fill the closet. Post college the demands of work, then a family carved away at my sewing time. For awhile there, my sewing machine only saw the light of day when something ripped or we needed new curtains. Recently I have been rediscovering the joys of sewing with my tween daughter. We set up a shared sewing space in the basement where we can work on projects together. Many an hour has been spent chatting away while sewing a pillow for her room or something for me. She is going to tackle making some of her own cloths this summer. I plan on joining her. Happy sewing!

Sandra

My maternal grandfather was a master tailor and my mother was also a seamstress/tailor so I guess sewing is in my blood. I started to sew on my own when I was 11 years old; I would watch movies on tv & then try to re-create the costumes for my Barbie doll.

I can’t remember I time when I didn’t sew. My mother helped me but I basically improved my own skills over the years. I’ve certainly bought RTW but have always been happier with what I’ve made for myself because I love the creative process and the challenge plus it keeps me sane. Whatever hurdle is going on in my life, e.g. lay-off, illness, etc. I retreat to my sewing room and immediately feel better. I’m so glad to see that people are still sewing!

Kat coutureacademic.com

Why do I sew? I’ve always sewn. I’ve tried and given up many ‘hobbies’ during my life, but sewing just stuck always. I suppose it’s in my blood. Since I do it so much, I can see myself improve and progress in ways I never thought possible – which it and of itself is a great motivation. When I’ve run into a frustration or a barrier, I just bust through it, where I’ve given up doing something else long ago. Why do we sew? Why do some knit? Why do some scrapbook? I suppose something within the process speaks to our soul.

sojoysews

I worked at a fabric store in high school and made my own clothes so I could have more of them on my limited budget.

All these years later, I can afford to buy my clothes but find that I simply can’t abide the poor fit and shoddy workmanship in much RTW, let alone the overwhelming prevalence of polyester. And forget about finding colors that fit into my palette! If I want natural fiber (or blends) clothing that fits well and flatters, sewing is the only way to go.

Lady Stitcher ladystitcher.wordpress.com

Like many of the other commenters here, I love sewing because it is both a fantastic creative outlet and wonderfully meditative. I initially learned to sew because I was curious about the process of making clothes. I also had a really stressful job at the time and was looking for a hobby that was totally unrelated, yet was a constructive use of free time.
I didn’t realise this initially, but my long dislike of ‘fast fashion’ was also a huge impetus for me to sew (chiefly, the abuses of industry workers , the way stores keep pushing people to buy and buy and buy, and the ways marketing/advertising makes so many of us feel somehow lesser people because of our body shape). Sewing frees you from a lot of that – you can make something you want to wear regardless of ‘fashion’ and I find that an appreciation of the process means you value each item more, they’re much less disposable.
Now I want to find out more about where the fabric I sew is made!

Ashley

I’ve been sewing for about 10 years now but have only recently begun taking it seriously. I’ve dabbled in a bunch of different crafts but nothing has captured my attention like sewing. It is such a satisfying and creative outlet. As a stay at home mama to 2 little ones, a good hour of sewing tends to keep me sane throughout the day as well :)

My family has also started on a journey to simplify ours lives by living with less and depending less on the consumeristic culture. When out shopping, I tend to buy things on sale whether I need them or not. With this new mindset, I first ask whether or not I can make it (whether clothing, accessories, food…) and then decide whether or not I need to purchase it.

Making my own clothing has become an ethical endeavour as well. It’s to the point where I can’t justify buying something new for such a cheap price knowing the human cost that has been put into making it for me. I know that refusing to buy cheaply made clothes is not the answer to this problem, but I think it at least brings awareness to the situation when I tell people that I make clothes for our family.

vrai-lean-uh vrai-lean-uh.tumblr.com

I enjoy the process of sewing– the focus of it, the construction, is incredibly calming to me. I love the satisfaction that comes from a completed garment, or a beautifully finished seam, or a really nicely installed zipper. My regular-job work is mostly on a computer, or on conference calls, or managing budgets or teams, and without sewing or knitting I miss making actual, physical things.

And I enjoy the creativity in all the little design decisions (even if I’m using a store-bought pattern). I can make clothes or quilts or whatever else that I personally find beautiful, and are also individual and idiosyncratic.

Finally, I find it helps me turn off the consumer part of my brain. I can look at clothes and appreciate them and be inspired by them without feeling like I have to buy them. It helps me engage with the world in a slightly different way.

Pattie

I love fabric and matching a new fabric to a pattern to create a garment totally unique to me. I have LOVED doing the Wardrobe Architect. I feel so prepared to make a custom wardrobe entirely made by me. I also love the connection I feel to my mother and grandmothers when I sew. I grew up on a farm during a time when activities that are now considered “hipster” (canning, gardening, sewing, self-sufficiency, slow food, farm to table eating) were not cool. I was often made fun of for doing those things and because my mother made my clothes or I wore my sisters’ hand me downs. I love the reaction of people now when they compliment a garment I’m wearing and I tell them I made it. Sewing is escapism for me, so relaxing and fun.

Andrea zoopolis.wordpress.com

So many reasons.

I’ve been sewing since highschool, and actually made my Grad dress (teal silk). I made myself some clothes for work when I graduated from university too, and have always been sewing things like curtains and cushions and whatnot. I blame Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of making things myself, and it struck me as tragic that I was born in a time when that wasn’t a regular part of life. (My daughter’s the same way. She wants to be a farmer when she grows up.)

There is just something very satisfying about producing something with your own hands and effort. Speaking for myself, the paid work I do each day is so theoretical and mental that the only thing my hands do is type and organize papers. It’s challenging and it’s good work that I enjoy, but frankly this is not how our ancestors spent their lives, and I’m convinced it’s not healthy for us psychologically. We’re designed to move and surmount challenges and produce the goods we need with our own bodies.

I cook, bake, embroider and crochet for the same reason. After a day of doing what often feels like cog-in-the-works work of processing my little bit of the information superhighway for the good of society, I get to go home and feel like a competent and well-rounded person with practical skills.

And there’s always a new technical challenge to master. Last weekend I made my first leather bag, and I just stare at it and grin and pet it every once in a while. This year I’m also learning quilting and I’ve made coats (for my daughter) for the first time and I bought some suit patterns, because I think it would be an interesting skill to master. And of course, knits now too. :)

Plus the RTW fit challenges so many others have mentioned. Not just for me (what used to be my favourite RTW blouse I can’t help noticing now has darts that are much too high), but for my daughter, who has some health challenges that make clothing fit a definite issue already. Her dad and stepmom sometimes have kid’s RTW clothes altered for her, which strikes me as so ridiculous and expensive for children’s clothing, but I guess that’s what you’d have to do if you can’t sew. Not everything I make for her is a success, but it’s getting a lot better and I can make her cute and wearable clothing that fits and is comfortable for not much money–oftentimes, not much more than the fast fashion at the mall. My hope is that she will grow up comfortable and competent with sewing her own clothes, so that when these fit issues follow her into adulthood, she has the skills to ensure she is comfortably and appropriately dressed without spending a fortune on alterations (unless she chooses to).

So much RTW is crap. It’s inexpensive crap, and sometimes it’s expensive crap, but it’s crap. It’s made from poor fabrics assembled without much care. There are certainly exceptions, but once I consider the cost of buying a piece of clothing made from the same high-quality fabric I like to sew, the cost difference between cheap RTW and expensive sewing pretty well disappears.

When you add in the labour rights and environmental issues, it’s a cinch. It doesn’t totally address those issues–I’m sure fabric factories have their own labour rights violations, and the fabric is transported over sometimes very large distances before it lands in a local store–but it is at least mitigated. And when I know that I spent two full days putting together one really nice dress, I feel I know that much better exactly how underpaid those factory workers must be, when I pay $50 for something similar at the mall.

knitmo

I sew for many reasons but the No. 1 is for fit.

My body does not fit fashion’s standards of what a woman should look like. People say I should shop at Anne Taylor, or Brooks Brothers or whatever to find things that will fit my extra curvey body. But I live in an extremely rural place (on a farm, no less) Even if I traveled the two hours to the nearest big town/what passes as a city here, they don’t have these stores, and there’s no guarantee stuff will fit.

I also have a penchant for being self sufficient. I would rather be independent and have complete control over what I wear and how I wear it. Living in the country it is far easier to have a stash of material, a handful of patterns that fit great (thanks to learning how to do it) and the available notions to make a truly custom wardrobe that fits great.

In another less, tangible way, it is a way for me connect with the past. Both of my grandmothers were excellent seamstresses. One died when I was 7. The other died after a long bout of Alzheimer’s and was essentially “gone” when I was old enough to sew/talk to her about fashion and adjusting patterns — because she was built a lot like me.

I’ve not sewed a lot for my children, but my daughter is very interested in the idea of couture clothing — custom made clothes to fit just her. And she loves what I’ve made for her, too.

Stacy thelandofka.com

I enjoy creating unique things. I started sewing when I was 12 because that was the only way to get non-handmedown clothes. Now I sew because I love to create things for me and my kids that are uniquely us. I am making an Elsa dress for my daughter right now that is going to be very fancy and sparkly. That is something I would not buy in the store for her. I also made a costume for my son that just isn’t sold in stores. Being able to create these things for their imaginations is such a gift.

Juliana @ Urban Simplicity urbansimplelife.blogspot.com

There are so many reasons I sew–I wear 40s-style most days, but have had five babies in six and a half years, so my figure isn’t exactly retro! Repro clothing is out of my budget, and while I’ve found vintage in my size, I don’t get to choose what looks best on me. I like being able to choose fabrics (oh, how I love fabric!), patterns, details, etc, but mostly I just enjoy the tactile experience of sewing. I like having clothing I’ve made myself, even though I don’t do a lot of professional finishing (see: five kids in six years…someday), but I figure the typical 1940s home sewer would have used a lot of the techniques and finishes I use. Sewing for myself has also helped me to refine my personal style, and to discover what styles I tend to gravitate toward, what I feel good in, and to remain very familiar with my measurements (although I’ve never been afraid of them, just sometimes unaware). Sewing for myself has given me an appreciation for my body’s particularities, and as my tailoring skills get better, to have better-fitting clothing (I’m getting there). I think a lot of store-bought clothing is hardly worth the price of admission, and I’ve been pleased with how much better my sewn clothing holds up over time and hard wearing. I love vintage, for the quality of fabric, the good lines of the garment, and the nice touches that we only see in coutour garments now. Sewing is a creative outlet for me, and something that is compatible to do with small children underfoot.

Holli

For the past 10 years I’ve taken a great interest in the Fair Trade movement and have slowly become aware of the great expense of cheap clothes. It made me a much more conscientious shopper (this company is a staple for my wardrobe: http://www.matatraders.com/), and made me more thoughtful of my needs versus wants.

I discovered Colette a few years ago and completely agree with Sarai’s ideas of creating the wardrobe that makes you feel the best and being a positive contributor in the socio-economics of the garment industry.

With that said, I hadn’t sewn anything until last month. I suffered a late-term stillbirth in February and sewing has been the only thing that has made me feel anything near good. I decided to give it a shot due to the frustration of not fitting into any of my pre-pregnancy clothes.
But aside from necessity, it’s turned into a therapy of sorts. Something positive to concentrate on, study, learn and see personal growth.

Sarai- thanks for creating this little community. Through your websites, patterns, and sew-alongs it’s really helping me through a tough spot.

kc theactofmaking.tumblr.com

I’m so sorry for your loss, Holli. That must’ve been such a tough time.

vrai-lean-uh vrai-lean-uh.tumblr.com

I’m also so sorry for your loss. I know a few women who have suffered stillbirths, and it’s really, really tough.

I had a relatively late miscarriage a few years back, and I still remember the dress I made a few months after as a major event of sorts in my healing. I had forgotten about it until your post.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Holli, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. My heart goes out to you.

Anne

So many answers to that one.

First of all, because I enjoy the process of actually *making something*, producing something with my own hands. It’s almost magical. Without this pleasure of making, all the other reasons are not enough to convince me to spend so much time and attention to something.

Then, there’s the money thing: I buy cheaper fabric, most of the time on sale, and use the same pattern several times. More expensive than some ready made things, but less expensive than ready made things that will actually last more than a season.

Related to the money thing, I find it more and more difficult to buy things that have been made by poorly paid people working in terrible conditions just so I can buy more clothes at a very cheap price. I will buy ready to wear, but I try to avoid it as much as possible.

Also, I like *my* things. I like to choose everything: the fabric, the pattern, the style, I don’t like choosing from what’s offered, I like doing whatever I want.

And I love the fact that I can fit my dresses to my own body. No more “I should lose a few pounds to wear this” for me, but “I will adapt my wardrobe to my actual body, breasts, waist, tummy, hips and all.” Very satisfying.

Ruth Procter nightingaleanddolittle.blogspot.co.uk

There are a few reasons why I sew – I can make something unique that nobody else will be wearing, I don’t always like the clothes that are in the shops, and the clothes that I do like tend to be on the expensive side, I’m increasingly uncomfortable about the way that lots of high street clothes are produced, and the more I sew the more fault I find with clothes in shops, but most importantly I sew because I love it! I find the creativity and the processes involved in making something really relaxing, and putting on a well-fitting, pretty dress that you’ve just finished making is such a good feeling!

Lisa

Like many, my mom taught me how to sew. Really how to sew and not just read a pattern. I’ve been picking my fabric and pattern since I was 6yo. I was also a kid who would ask mom, “Can you change that collar or add this or take away that”. I was customizing my clothing from a young age. Later my mom would buy me fabric in a heartbeat but hesitated buying ready made clothing. She valued the making of clothing. Sewing was a worthy effort.
Sewing is not a way to save money, I can find cheap clothing. But the style and fit I now work for is my vision, my worthy effort. I still love to tweak patterns. I still rely on patterns but I sometimes change them a lot.
My only quandary now is finding quality fabric these days.
Sewing is a worthy effort. A world I love to think about, engineer about, plan about. If you sew you get it.

Tiffany eleanormeriwether.etsy.com

Why I started sewing is probably more interested than why I sew now. When I was 22 (I’m 31 now) my husband was buying me insanely expensive handmade corsets and said “you could make this”. I was very skeptical only having sewn one small item with my grandmother about 15 years prior. He went and got his mother’s sewing machine, a corset pattern and all the supplies to make a corset. I sold the very first one I ever made, and ran a successful gothic clothing website for 6 years before I became an antique dealer. I still make and sell small items, but mostly I sew for myself and my family now.

Why do I sew now? It’s sooooo relaxing and rewarding! I am working on building a 100% me-made wardrobe. You have been quite an inspiration to that! Thank you for your lovely blog & books!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

That’s awesome! I made corsets when I was younger too. It was so much fun.

Natacha

If someone had told me 10 years ago that one day I would be sewing, I would have called them crazy!
What happened? Life I guess… When my companion and I decided to start a family, things did not turn out as we had expected. Two miscarriages, the feeling of being empty, worthless and unable to control anything about it. So I guess I started a sewing course because I wanted to be able to actually create something, control this process with the certainty that something was at the end of the process. And I enjoyed it. And it also took my mind away from gloomy thoughts at least 3 hours a week :-)
And then our miracle happened (her name’s Lili) and I started sewing for her because she was so precisous (and still is) to me. My first sewing project for her was a little coat. I have always tons of projects in mind!. Not only for her anymore. Last year I started sewing for my man (two shirts, very proud of myself!) and have started sewing for myself as well! And I started with a Lady Grey trench coat, soon followed by an Albion coat. The next one will probably a Moneta.
So why do I sew now? Because I love being able to create something out of a piece of fabric (I am in looooove with fabrics), and even if the sewing process usually goes with its lot of swearing, I am usually quite proud of myself when I am done. I also love this community and all the talented people I get to know through the internet.
So you know what, I think I am not about to quit sewing anytime soon :-)

Erika A. trialanderika.blogspot.com

I sew because I hate the way store-bought clothes make me look and feel about myself. Not only am I too tall for them, but my hips and shoulders are too wide. Why should I spend $30 on a shirt that is either going to be too tight in the shoulders/hips or huge everywhere except there? Especially when I have the skills and equipment to make my own?
I also love making things. I’ve been crocheting since middle school, took 5 semesters of ceramics in college, and always would rather DIY than buy. I’ve always been partial to science and math academically, but this is my creative outlet. Yes, a lot of the times I’m following someone else’s design, but the actual creation is mine.

Mindy thegeekyseamstress.com

I originally started sewing so that I could make my own costumes. As a cosplayer, it’s so much more cost effective to make costumes rather than commission them. As I read more and more blogs, my sewing skills slowly started improving and I thought that making my own clothes would help me improve my costumes and open up my wardrobe options. Sure enough, I got hooked on sewing and have learned a lot about what actually flatters my body. I used to think that RTW clothes just wouldn’t fit me and that I would never find something that worked for my Amazonian frame. I love that sewing gives me the freedom to customize my wardrobe and actually feel good about myself.

Tina solestitch.blogspot.com

I sew because I don’t want to be wasteful by buying new things every few years, throwing the old ones away, and just consuming everything in sight. I also sew because those clothes I had to replace, because they were cheaply made, usually didn’t fit my body or my personality.

With sewing, I can create the diverse wardrobe of my dreams and everything, hopefully, fits and flatters me.

Katie agirlnamedkatie.com

I sew because it excites me. I am passionate about designing something, choosing the perfect materials, and creating something that I can wear. A little piece of who I am. It is rewarding and wonderful.

I also sew because I am petite and become frustrated when mall shopping. I feel like my style is not represented in clothing stores for young adults. I am a modest dresser and I want to look feminine and youthful. Which leads me to shop in the career-driven women stores where everything is just a little too big. And before I go and spend $50 on a blouse just to shorten it and take it in 3″ I would rather just make it myself and spend about $10. Good thing I love to sew!

Juliette Williams

Why do I sew? I have to think about that one. I started hand sewing as a young woman as I wanted to alter my mothers hippy clothes to suit me. Often I would get inspiration two hours before going out and I would shorten a dress or change a neckline etc all by hand. One day I thought I would make a pair of shorts for myself and I measured myself perfectly and created a perfectly fitting pair of shorts, all by hand, that I couldn’t get over my hips because I hadn’t taken getting INTO the shorts into consideration – ie waist was exactly my waist size and no zipper or buttoned opening.

After having both of my children, and whilst my son was under a year old, I came across My Child dolls and a whole online community who were searching for original clothing of these dolls which was very hard to find. I decided to create replica clothing of these original clothes after I came across a few originals myself and patterns that a fellow collector had created. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to use a machine. I sewed the first few by hand (including all the embroidery) and before long, I had orders coming in from all over the world. I had to be able to create these clothes faster and so, my lovely husband suggested we buy a good quality machine and I simply had to learn to use it. I sewed the same two doll dresses for a year before it drove me crazy and I had to stop. I was sewing from 11pm – 1:30am almost every other night whilst looking after two little ones under 5 and it was just too much.

I started thinking about making clothes for myself and my quest to make clothing that people wouldn’t know I’d made began.

I think it took about 4 – 5 years before I actually liked and wore what I’d made and these days, I actually prefer it.

I’ve taken a few courses online and in person to help with fit which is my main concern. Whilst I used to look at a pattern and wonder if it would fit me, now I know that it’s actually up to me to make the changes to ensure that it does.

I sew now because I’m drawn to fabric. I see it and I know exactly what I want to do with it. Certain styles lend themselves to different prints and I pride myself on making the two work hand in hand.

I sew because I can create something that noone else has or might even want. I get embarrassed when I receive compliments on what I’ve made but I admit that I do love it when someone asks me where I got it. My favourite comment is when I’m wearing something store bought (even some designer stuff) and people ask me if I made it. That is a real hoot and makes me feel proud that they think I could even make something like that.

One of my favourite things to do is to buy “vintage” fabric and to make a vintage pattern with it. It will be so much more satisfying when I finally get a treadle Singer machine and make it on that.

Finally, I sew because I can create something just for me. I don’t have to please anyone else but me and all the time I spend is just for me. It’s entirely selfish and I love it!

Melissa

It’s extremely satisfying, both in the process and in the end result. It’s something I do that makes me feel good about myself — my skills, my creativity. It’s empowering. I don’t need the clothing stores, I can make it myself. It feels good to get compliments on something I’ve made, and to be able to make nice gifts for others that make them feel special, not just in the receiving but in the wearing.
It’s a useful kind of creativity — I can make it and then wear/use it.

Elisabeth projectreclaim.wordpress.com

Sewing engages a whole other part of my brain than regular life. I get in the zone of sewing and I can focus just on that and not worry about all the other junk that is going on. I love the process of creating and making a 3D from a 2D object. Like many have said it really is just magic! I’ve only been really seriously sewing for the last year or so but it is the most fun and has really awakened my creativity. I love making things that really fit and really are my taste (I do actually enjoy some of the trendy clothes out there but I can’t justify buying them often times). And I also love it because I an geek out about it with my mom who has only recently gotten back into it herself after a very long hiatus spurred by some terrible machines. And this blog in particular has been very inspirational to both of us!

Elisabeth projectreclaim.wordpress.com

Oh also, I love that you did a bubble-chart! I totally did one of those a couple weeks ago! I don’t think I’d thought of one in years but it suddenly seemed to fit.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I do them all the time! Usually with mind mapping software, but paper and pencil will do sometimes. :)

It helps me when I’m writing about complex topics.

Marissa instagram.com

I sew because I can’t help myself. I dream of chambray and the shearing sound of scissors, that metallic snip, as I cut into a yard. On a long walk across the river or in the waiting gate of the airport, I daydream of line and pattern and the way a dress feels when you pull it over your head for the first time and look at yourself in the mirror. A thrill blooms in the brain. I can almost see the sparklines of my happiness. My pleasure and esteem. I make myself anew with my sewing. I say, This hour is mine. The world is reduce to a small square room. There is no clock or errand calling. I can take my hands and feel the grain. I can make my armor or my invitation. The heart swells. If I am not sewing, I am thinking of sewing. Beyond that there is no explanation. It is the oldest trick. The simplest reason. I’m in love.

French Toast Tasha tashamillergriffith.com

How beautifully put!

Vicki yellowsubmarinetime.blogspot.com

Three reasons.
1. I don’t have to be limited to the current tread or what is available in the stores. I get to wear what I want.
2. My clothes come out of the wash the same way they went into it. No shrinking, twisted grain, ripped seams….ect. I make quality clothes and they last!
3. Its fun.

Melissa neoknits.com

Back in high school, I used to make all sorts of clothing. Usually they were thrown together over night projects so I could wear them to school the next day. I sewed to be unique.

When I went off to college, I decided I wanted to study fashion design to continue to make unique things (and learn how to make them properly!) The funny thing was, I immediately got overwhelmed with school projects, then fell in love with knitwear. I’ve been a serious knitwear designer for over 10 years now.

Now that I’m rediscovering sewing, I sew because I know what really goes down in the industry. I’m in the mass market area and I can tell some stories! On one hand, I’m conflicted by my choice, because if everyone sewed/knit their own clothes, I wouldn’t have a job. However, it makes me feel good to spend time making pretty and useful things and clothing is one of the most useful things you can make!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Your last point is interesting. I’d like to live in a world where most people at least knew a little about the process of making clothing, because I think it would inform more ethical choices. As many have said here, it teaches you the value of the labor.

Jane handmadejane.co.uk

I learned to sew about five years ago. My son had just been diagnosed with autism, and to be honest I was a mess. Once he started school I took a dressmaking course, which was the best thing I could have done. Learning to sew gave me a different focus and stopped me dwelling too much on the fact that I had a disabled son. It was, and continues to be, an absolute lifeline.

Amber Allen facebook.com

I started sewing when I was about ten years old when I randomly asked for a sewing machine for Christmas even though no one I knew could sew. I think I was inspired by the tv show ‘That’s so Raven’ when I was a kid. Ever since then I have been completely obsessed with sewing. My projects gradually grew more and more complicated, learning from books and the fabulous online sewing community! Eventually this allowed me to make my first dress when I was thirteen. To me sewing allows me to create something that no one in the world has. That uniqueness is what drives me to make more clothes. The feeling when a friend asks me where I bought a dress from and I say I made it is one of the best feelings ever!! I just love seeing a pattern online and know that I can visit a fabric shop, explore the gorgeous fabrics and make that item within a week to exactly the colour and fit that I want. I simply couldn’t imagine my life without sewing. I have now taken my hobby and transformed it into a business venture, making and selling my own clutch bags online. I love sewing and can’t wait to sew my next project! :)

Tracy Cooper-Posey tracycooperposey.com

When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be an architect (so NOT what I became!). I signed up for a tech-drawing class…and was the only girl in it. The boys hazed me so badly, I asked to be transferred to another class. Any class.

I got a sewing class.

I’ve been sewing ever since. My mother encouraged me like crazy – buying fabrics, and even lining up a Saturday job for me at a fabric store (learned LOTS, there!).

Roll on the years — as a single mother with two kids, sewing was a financial lifesaver — I made everything, including curtains for my kids’ rooms out of the cheapest calico.

Now I’m an empty nester, I’m easing back into sewing (I drifted away for a few years) — my mother helped there, again, by buying me a new serger last Christmas. This time, I’m tailoring overcoats for my sons (who are now taller than I am), and plan to sew as much of my own wardrobe as possible because:

1) The retail fashions out there suck, and are so badly made I’m creeped out just looking at them — or else they’re ridiculously expensive, and made of terrible, cheap fabric.

2) Retail fashion, because it’s mass made, has no fine details. Try buying a button through dress these days — they’re an endangered species. Ditto anything with complicated finishes, embellishments, closures….they’re gone by way of the dodo.

3) Personal satisfaction.

4) Fit.

5) I get the styles and finishing I want, not what the commercial world is telling me I should wear (which usually, I can’t anyway because it clashes with my red hair!).

My one problem with sewing is that I have to find time for it — a major challenge.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Your story about how you ended up in sewing class is so sad, although it’s great that you found something you like much more! It reminds me of all the young women who get pushed out of STEM because they don’t fit the boys’ culture.

Melissa

I originally started sewing because I used to live in a country where they didn’t have clothes my size, or if they did, they didn’t have it in my shape. Although I returned back to my home country, the reasons I continue to sew clothes are . . .

–Pride. There’s a sort of pride I get when I make my own things and use them.

–Knowledge. At least for me, it’s important that I learn at least some of the skills that our ancestors had such as sewing, knitting, etc. My mom makes fun of me and says that I would build my own car if I could.

–Fit. I never really realized until I started sewing for some reason that people had different body shapes. After I started making alterations to my patterns, I finally owned shirts that don’t gap around the armholes, and I felt that that was something magical. I’d rather spend the time figuring out the pattern than go clothes shopping and try to find something that fits right.

–Self esteem. I used to curse my body and think it was awful because there were never clothes that fit it properly. After sewing, I learned that there are different body shapes and, for example, if I can’t fit into a pair of jeans, it’s because they were made for a different body shape than mine and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I still feel depressed when trying on ready to wear clothes so I rather just make mine and feel confident about my body.

kc theactofmaking.tumblr.com

Wow, what a great question (and what thoughtful answers from the people above). When I first started knitting and crocheting almost 20 years ago, I was an actor in live theater. I would spend so much time on a production and then once it was gone it was gone forever with very little record that it had ever occurred. Aside from looking at production stills, I didn’t really have a record of what I had done — something concrete enough that I could compare it to the work I was currently doing to mark my progress. When I first started making little knit and crochet accessories and housewares, it was to fulfill this equation of hobby x time = object that would give me physical proof of actions I had taken, and (when compared to later work) physical proof of my growth as a maker.

Once I became good enough at knitting/crochet (and eventually sewing) I realized that it had changed my way of seeing. I became much more particular about the fit, finishes, and fiber content of my clothing. Making my own clothes allowed me to control all these factors to the best of my ability. This has been a revelation — as a thrifter, I’ve been used to the idea of “Well, it’s perfect except for…” and just buying something because it was allllmost right. When I sew something well, I can make it *actually* right.

In the last couple of years, my reason for making my own clothing has shifted again. I don’t like the environmental toll that fast fashion has on the planet (both environmentally and in terms of labor relations). My current challenge is to break the cycle of filling my closet with new, pretty things that I don’t wear — whether these are things I make myself or things I buy. I want to reduce the waste I create by choosing my projects more thoughtfully and spending the time on each garment that will help it stand up to repeated wears for years to come.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I really relate to your comment about being a thrifter! I had to cut back more and more on thrifting because I was buying things that I liked but didn’t love.

Chris Wilson

I sew for me. To satisfy the secret, inner artist that hides behind the computer analyst everyone else sees.
I learned sewing basics in grade school in 4-H (late 1970s!!!). I stopped after 5 years when H.S. interests became more interesting. I picked it back up VERY briefly in the early 1990’s, but became discouraged when my creative vision FAR outstripped my sewing abilities. And my husband bought me a sewing machine with far more functions than I knew what to do with! There’s nothing more discouraging than having a vision in mind and having the final product look NOTHING like what you intended, and having no idea on how to FIX IT!
I got the creative urge again recently when I realized the vast array of sewing blogs available, and the resources now available to me that could teach me how to do ANYTHING I wanted to learn. The resources that weren’t available to me in the past.
It’s cathartic to be able to go into my sewing room, choose a pattern (from my ever growing pattern stash) and a fabric from my (ever growing) fabric stash, and make plans for a garment. And its gratifying to know that if I hit a roadblock, assistance is a Google away :-)

Katie

I sew because it is simultaneously an intellectual challenge and meditative. In addition, I enjoy a sense of pride every time I wear something unique that I’ve made by hand that is often of a better quality than what I can afford to purchase.

Thami fiveanddimevintage.com

I started sewing in 7th grade Home Ec class (which for me was in 1986) and never stopped since! I still remember the projects I made for that class, too. It saddens me so much that schools don’t offer things like Home Ec anymore. If I hadn’t taken that class, would I have still sewn now as an adult? I honestly don’t know? What I do know is that I love being able to alter something if it doesn’t fit me. I love being able to make special things for people of my own creation. When I need new curtains or new pillows or new potholders I just sew them up myself. I never buy new purses, mine are always made myself. I love being able to mend old vintage dresses I find while thrifting. And of course, I love sewing new garments for myself from scratch, too. To me, having a skill like sewing is empowering.

Amanda symondezyn.wordpress.com

You’re right, it’s much faster, and cheaper to buy your clothes than make them, but there are so many reasons to sew, many of which I suspect will be the same for most of the community here. I started sewing because RTW clothes never fit me properly – the busts were too tight, the pants and arms too short, and the fabrics were never that great of quality.

In learning how to do my first FBA a whole new world opened up to me: I finally realized there was nothing WRONG with my body, and despite the incessant frustration with chasing the perfect fit and always having to do pattern alterations, I kind of love the challenge it provides me and the outcome is well worth the cost in time and energy. Not to mention it always tickles me when I can make a garment out of luxury fabric for far less cost than it would be to purchase an equivalent item, plus it actually fits me! :)

Aimee aimeemajor.com

I learned to sew properly when I was in college in order to make fanciful costumes based on Japanese cartoons. The costumes would not exist for me unless I made them, so it wasn’t a choice of “should I buy this cheap clothing at big box store, or should I make it?”.

I learned more and more thanks to other costumers in the hobby. Lately I’ve been making clothes for my twin babies. I don’t make them THAT often like mothers who make staple clothing for their children, but I do enjoy making the occasional cute thing out of a crazy awesome print that normally I would not be able to buy for my children. Like I made matching dresses for all three of us out of a vintage Star Wars sheet.

The other reason I sew, lately, is because hemlines are often just too short for me. I’m 6 feet tall. I’ve sometimes bought two of the same cheap dress in order to hack the length off one and sew it onto the other. I like if I make it myself, it can be covered in a macaron print, it will compliment my waistline perfectly and it will not be too short. Also, like in costuming, sometimes the style of dress I want simply does not exist. My time is limited, being a part-time working mom of twins… so do I buy a cheap dress sometimes instead of making it? YES YES I DO. But I get such joy from making a dress exactly the way I want it.

Kate katieandthemachines.blogspot.com.au

I know if I didn’t make clothes to wear I would just make party dress after party dress. I sew because I enjoy it, even if I don’t go to that many party’s.

GriseldaK griseldak.jimdo.com

I love sewing because I can create my own style, choose the colour I want combining it with the pattern I want. It gives me immense freedom in terms of fit. And not to forget the satisfaction you reach when you have finished a piece quite well. And when I am sewing I forget everything else around me. Also it makes me very happy to do something with my own hands. And I must confess I desperately love to work with fabrics.

linbo linniedarling.com

My mom was a professional seamstress and my earliest memories are of her sewing. She had me on her knee guiding fabric at three and of course continued to teach me as I was growing up!

Sewing is an integral part of me. I cannot imagine not-sewing. After 50+ years of sewing I still derive an inordinate amount of fun, satisfaction, and general kick-ass pride from sewing.

PoldaPop poldapop.com

I took one of those personality tests a few years ago in my early 40s and found that my particular personality/mindset is well-suited for engineering. This came as a complete suprise to me, since my academic (Latin American Lit & History) and career choices (reading teacher) have largely been based on my love of literature (reading it, discussing it, writing about it, teaching it). My first thought was, “Well if I’d known that, I could be making a lot more money!” But my second thought was that this helped explain my love for sewing. When people try to tell me I’m artistic or creative because I am good at sewing, I tell them that’s not it. I’m good at engineering – designing, planning, executing, problem solving. Sewing really exercises that mindset/talent for me and I find it immensely satisfying.

Angela

I sew for a lot of the same reasons as others mention here – the satisfaction, the link to the past, the meditation – though my reasons may be a bit different. I have ADD, and I find that sewing really helps me in being able to concentrate in other areas of my life, and it also helps me realize when I am getting hyper-focused on something. Both are amazingly helpful, as not enough concentration can mess things up, and hyper-focus can result in frustration that ends up in my rushing to finish a project and doing a crappy job (not to mention the time suck hyper-focus can cause!). Being able to recognize when either of these is happening is great, and the ability has definitely improved since I’ve taken up sewing.

Another reason I enjoy sewing is because I am a novelist, and sometimes when writing a novel, you feel a bit lost and like you’ll never, ever finish. There is a lot of uncertainty involved for something that requires so much work! It is a wonderful feeling to sit down with a somewhat straightforward project in mind and know that if you follow a particular line of tasks, you will finish it in a reasonable amount of time, and it will likely be something useful. When I get stuck in a story, sewing is a nice escape, a way of reminding myself that working hard and “staying on the path,” as it were, does result in a finished product.

And lastly, I started sewing when my Aunt Jean passed away and I inherited her gorgeous 1950s Singer and other sewing supplies. The women in my mom’s family – except for my mom, go figure – are all big sewers. My grandmother was a seamstress and worked at a fabric store her entire life; my Aunt Glenda is an interior decorator who has her own shop making everything from custom drapes to bed dressings to slipcovers; and my Aunt Jean, who looked quite a lot like Liz Taylor and was very glamorous, made herself beautiful clothing throughout her life. I do feel very connected to all of them each time I make something, which is a joy, because I miss them all.

Meigan getmystitchon.blogspot.com

Wait a minute…you only brought 1 bottle of wine with you…for a week!! What are you going to have the other 6 days? ;)

I sew because clothes should fit me. I shouldn’t have to fit the clothes.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Haha! I know, as soon as I got there, I thought, “I should have packed two.”

alice stribling alicestribling.com

I sew because I’m tired of not being able to represent myself the way I want to with ready to wear.

It doesn’t fit well if you are outside the standard. I wear a DDD, E or F cup and have 42″ hips. I am very confident in my shape, but wearing garments that don’t fit correctly drives me nuts. I also really hate the body discrimination that happens in ready to wear. It’s bullshit.

Also, RTW doesn’t last unless you invest in custom or very high quality garments.

I’m active and I can’t find what I want as well. So I’m making my own. I would also like to get into the fashion business to offer my designs as well.

Mary

What a wonderful discussion happening here! I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember, from learning embroidery before I even started school to sewing machines long before my mandatory “home ec’ classes in grade school. Like so many others have commented, it’s a matter of creativity, “me” time, pride and personality. Then, there’s fit! (or maybe in my case, it should be first up). The frustration of ill fitting clothing made of cheap fabrics (to say nothing of the cost!) has driven me to raise my sewing skill levels and make it myself. Amazing how many of us are driven by fit issues yet the retail world just doesn’t seem to “get it”. Thanks for the chance to connect with so many other sewists.

Jenny

When I first started sewing (2 years ago), it was out of need – RTW dresses were hard to find that fit my body. If it fit my upper half, the lower half was way too tight. If it fit the lower half, the upper half was way too big. So I started to sew dresses. Now I sew because I find it therapeutic. It has taught me patience and I really, really enjoy it. It’s something I can do for just me and I can be totally selfish about it.

Victoria

I sew because it connects me to the past. Because I like to make things. Because I’m long and lean, hard to fit. Mostly I sew because I like to have things that no one else has and I don’t have to worry about someone else wearing the same thing as me or being able to identify where I got what I’m wearing.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

So true. It’s so weird when people know where your clothes came from without you telling them. I’ve had comments like, “oh, I saw that dress at Anthropologie!” and it’s always a little weird and embarrassing for some reason.

RavenNemain

Like many here, there are a lot of reasons, and my motivation is constantly evolving. I loudly and staunchly rejected sewing in high school, as it was presented as the girl’s skill course, and took metalwork instead (this was not that long ago, sadly). Then, about 5 years ago, my frustration with RTW boiled over. I always knew what I wanted to wear, but nobody would carry it, or it would be in a cheap fabric, and definitely did not fit my proportions or bust-waist-hip ratio. I would leave stores feeling worthless and frustrated, but after venting to my mom, she offered to teach me to sew. So my reasons…

1) I have a complicated relationship with my body – sewing has helped me love and be proud of myself, and not live in a constant state of shame.
2) I can express myself, and have my clothes reflect my personality, rather than simply what is trendy. It is wonderful having truly unique garments.
3) My clothes FIT. It is amazing what a revelation that has been.
4) I be more mindful in my consumption – sewing is an expression of both my environmental and ethical beliefs.
5) I appreciate my clothes more when I know how much work I’ve put in to them, and a compliment received about my attire is far more meaningful when it’s something I’ve made.

ShanniLoves shanniloves.com

I started sewing because I wanted a creative outlet. Too many nights in front of the tube playing games on my computer. I started out sewing handbags. I then got into sewing clothes. (I was perfectly fine prior to this going and spending my money at Forever 21 on some cheaply made cardigan that practically disintegrated the first time I washed it.) I struggled at first, and still do at times, but once I got into the hang of it and started working with my body instead of against it I discovered how fulfilling and how good I felt in something I made with my own two hands. It’s not until I started sewing that I really started paying attention to where and how cheaply RTW fashions are. Once I experienced the care, time and energy it took to make a well fitting garment I realized why stores like Forever 21 are so cheap. Maybe it comes with age too but the older I get the more conscious I am of the resources around me. This year I made it my goal to buy no RTW except for socks and shoes. When I do buy I’m more aware of who and where I’m buying from. Sewing has also improved my life by all the friends I’ve made around the world.

Jet Set Sewing jetsetsewing.com

I’m sewing now to learn the secrets of the 20th century designers. I’ve stitched my way through 4 Chanel-style jackets, a Schiaparelli wrap, and currently a Charles James skirt from an original 50s pattern. Claire McCardell is next on my list.
It’s great to see these designs online or in a museum, but when sew them and wear them, it’s another experience entirely.
It’s as close as I’ll get to time travel.

Wendy

I hadn’t really thought about it before now, but there are a lot of different reasons that I sew. I sew for practical reasons, so I can afford nice clothes that fit my body. I sew because I’m disgusted by the negative environmental and social effects of many mass-produced goods. I sew because I’m a curious person who’s obsessed with learning how to make things. I also sew for what I guess I would call emotional reasons. Sewing makes me happy and it gives me a feeling of being connected with other women in my family (grandmothers, mother, aunts). I also sew because in my career I work towards mostly intangible and abstract “products”, while sewing gives me the satisfaction of having something material and useful to show for all my hard work. But in the end, I sew because I enjoy it!

francesca

you said what I feel… exactly.

Tracy Cooper-Posey tracycooperposey.com

I’ve already commented, above, but wanted to add how fascinating it is to read everyone else’s reasons for sewing, too. I keep nodding my head in agreement. (And I keep coming back to refresh the page, even though I’m technically supposed to be working!)

It appears I’m not the only novelist that sews, here. I wonder if there is a connection — beyond the similarity in planning the construction of a garment to planning the construction of a novel. Both require whole-project conception + fine detail planning.

t.

French Toast Tasha tashamillergriffith.com

I agree, it’s both heart-warming and thought-provoking to read everyone’s thoughts!

Betty Jordan Wester nouvellegamine.com

I think the main reason I sew and started sewing is that my body is hard to fit into modern clothes. I’m tall with broad shoulders, a small bust, and wide hips. It sounds like it should be okay, but finding a dress that fits top and bottom is nearly impossible. I get lucky once every couple of years. So, way back in my late teens I started altering my clothes and from there, making my own.
It’s turned into a way to dress in the styles I like but aren’t fashionable or are expensive. And the thought of spending a lot for something that won’t fit me nicely anyway speeds me to try and make it myself. My last big sewing project was when I was pregnant. I made a bunch of jersey skirts in bright colors and floaty cotton blouses that took me through my whole pregnancy. I felt great about myself even when I was bloated and very, very uncomfortable.
Currently, I’m really into Japanese patterns. Their simple designs, tiny details, and propensity to be designed for cotton make them perfect for me. I actually bought the Sencha bc it reminded me so much of that lovely Japanese aesthetic. I may pick up the Moneta bc I have a few yards of some lovely deep peach jersey and I love all the collar variations.

Heather L

I sew mostly because I love that “I Made This!” moment…(like when Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway shouts “I have made fire!”).

I love the challenge too and I think my brain just loves the process of learning and working through problems. Sometimes my hands just like being busy too…I was a knitter for about 8 years (and still knit) but sometimes sewing is a little more quicker gratification.

I am fairly tall, with a smaller than average bust, and once I get hang of fitting, that will be a great reason to sew too, making awesome clothes that fit great.

Helen http.

I love the sense of satisfaction in knowing “I made that”. It might not turn out as I envisaged, but I still did it. I love that I can look at something in a magazine, or a garment on a person, and picture how it was put together. I love that it focuses my brain, and turns off the work/life/being a parent chatter. I love that it has put me in touch with like minded people from around the world. I love that there is always something to learn, but no external pressure to do so. I love pretty fabrics, and especially haberdashery, so it’s nice that they now have a purpose! I love that I have a passion. I love that my 3 year old just assumes that sewing your own clothes is totally normal, and that all mummies do it!

Nisha Williams bluesundayblog.com

When I was young (pre-teen through my teenage years) I loved to put together puzzles. The more complex the puzzles the more I would enjoy them. I was one of those people that would spend a few hours every day meticulously putting together a 2000 piece puzzle to get this amazing picture. I remember spending quite a lot of time on the puzzle aisle selecting my final puzzle …. because that final picture was my end game. It was what I was laboring over. I wanted to achieve that end result that was usually so beautiful.

When I sewed my first garment, it brought me back to that place. It was just like putting a puzzle together. Granted more complicated with fitting, fabric, etc. But the end game is the same … when sewing … I am creating something beautiful to call my own. What makes sewing a richer experience is that when I put that “beautiful something” on … it’s something I’ve labored over myself, it makes it even more beautiful to me.

And seriously, sewing is a lot less expensive than therapy. :)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Your comment (and similar ones) are reall thought provoking for me, because I too am an obsessive problem solver. It’s why I also enjoyed coding. When I see a math problem, logic puzzle, or code that needs debugging, my brain is like a dog with a bone.

Jane

I remember why I wanted to learn to sew when I was a teenager as I hated all the clothes that I could afford and wanted the ones that I couldn’t. Some 14 years later not much has changed although my reasons for sewing are both more practical and ethical. Having worked in the fashion industry previously I found myself increasingly frustrated with the excessive throwaway nature of it, even though the clothes were being designed and made in my home country.
These days I love sewing for the respite it gives me from being a parent to two small children and that I can conceptualise and complete an outfit in my head about the way I want to look. I’m also excited about passing on knowledge to my girls (if they are interested). I remember my mother being a fabulous sewer but she gave it up when I was very young (I remember hours of sitting in her sewing room picking up dropped needles).

Amy

I sew, because, like you said – I love it. My desire to sew was nurtured by my mom, who sewed. She made most of mine, and my sister’s clothes when we were growing up. She stopped making mine when I learned to sew. I sewed most of my older two kids’ clothes until I started working. Today, I don’t sew so many articles of clothing – although I’m trying to get back to that. Today, because of school, I don’t have much time for sewing, so I go for the quick and easy projects. Last night I sewed a pincushion/thread catcher that I found a pattern for online, because I had a little time. And I’m as likely to sew something completely by hand as I am to sew something by machine. By hand is so relaxing – and intimate.

A Morris

FIT
PURE ENJOYMENT
`ME` TIME
USING MY CREATIVE ABILITY (NEVER ANY GOOD AT SCIENCES)
CREATE AND WEAR! …TODAY OR THE NEXT DAY ….READY TO WEAR!!

Monique

I started to sew because it was mandatory in school for girls to take sewing classes. In the process, I discovered that it gave me more control over my wardrobe (my mother made my clothing choices) and I could make things to that fit better than RTW. At that time, RTW clothing were all too big for me.

Now at 58, I sew because:

1. RTW is too young or too old.
2. I’m trying to be more ethical in my clothing purchases.

Once one knows what goes on in the garment industry, it’s hard to ignore the facts when shopping. It’s the same reason I knit. I only buy yarn from the few companies that do not abuse their animals. Now, I wish I could buy wool fabric from ethical companies.

Great topic!

Shelley

When I started to sew it was all a matter of fit. RTW had no ‘petite’ or short sizes for me and my mother was a large woman that only found a handful of dresses in 2 shops in town …she was a size 24..which today is on the lower end of sizes I’ve seen in Walmart, Fred Meyer’s, etc. So in the beginning my learning to sew was to help fix the limited fashions for both of us and keep them in repair. I went along with it in high school as the idea of being able to make something in colors I like that didn’t drag on the floor had great appeal.
Fast forward – sewing was for my kids, to save money. At that time designer stuff cost and there were these neat patterns by Kwiksew, Stretch & Sew and Burda that had MULTIPLE SIZES..oooh ahhh. This was awesome since I could use it more than once ( I always trace patterns). The selection of knit fabrics was really great too. My kids grew up in Janson knits from the outlet shop, OShkosh denim and beefy cotton blend sweatshirting from Fabricland sales. Also kids clothes were very fun to make and styles weren’t very fitted. This was the best creative period for me, fueled mostly by magazines and Nancy Zieman.

Today, it’s back to fitting learning to better fit my aging body. Also learning to fit daughter who is a young woman now and has a lot of my body fit concerns , short, wide mid back, hip tilt. Son also has challenges because he’s tall, slim and long limbed, plus works on construction sites ( repair).

Through it all, I’ve always found great satisfaction in a unique, well fitting, comfortable garment in a color I like. Also agree with those who are dismayed at the quality of RTW, not to mention the time spent to sort through it to find something that comes close to fitting. I’d rather play in my pattern software trying to copy an Anthropologie top instead or check to see if anyone shaped like me blogged or reviewed a like pattern I was considering. If I actually do shop, it’s to snoop and often then get annoyed by why it has to be in the current color trend ( I hate orchid) or the darn neckline doesn’t sit right.

The ‘awesome’ of this era of my sewing is the ease of finding instruction and inspiration from other non sewing celebrity folks ( like Patternreview), personal blogs, etc. Not that I don’t like celebs too, my latest addiction is Craftsy. This one is a biggie because I will never be able to justify the hundreds of dollars to take a class from Kenneth, Sandra, or Suzy now matter how cool they are, but a video class works with my budget. I guess the challenge nowdays is to get my head out of the education and do more actual sewing. < : )

Janet

I sew because I love making stuff. I like working with my hands. I like the puzzle of putting together a pattern. I love operating machinery. I love fabric, texture, colour, style and fashion. I love looking at patterns – yeah, I am weird like that. I like the freedom of being able to make clothes that are unique and uniquely me. I dislike the ugliness that is in the stores now. RTW garments that I generally can afford are so unattractive. I like the slow clothes movement. I am 51 and the clothes I like don’t fit me anymore. (I am an average size for 50 – but not slim) It is better for my self confidence that I make my own clothes. I love having a skill and learning how to do it better. I love time to myself, for myself. I like that it is so much different than what I do for a living. I love the online community and my sewing studio: The Make Den, in Toronto….What else? I could go on…

Tracy Cooper-Posey tracycooperposey.com

You think you’re weird because you like looking at patterns? Nuh-uh. I spend hours combing through Vogue, Burda, Simplicity, etc., adding patterns to my wishlist and studying the line drawings to see how they do it (because I sometimes think it would be easier/cheaper to just draft the design from scratch to ensure a better fit).

You’re not alone!

Annette Tirette annettetirette.com

If I wasn’t sewing, I’d be creating something else. It just comes naturally, I’ve been making things all my life and couldn’t imagine not doing so! Sewing is still a hobby, while I consider drawing my job (even though I still draw just for funsies, it doesn’t happen that often anymore because of physical reasons). Sewing is a creative outlet without the stress and deadlines of my day job. Aside from that I’ve developed a real interest in fabrics, clothing construction and style, so ending up with garments that suit my body and taste is a massive plus!

Pamela pamelabanis.blogspot.com

I’ve loved touching textiles all my life. That is why I sew. From selection to
Finished product.

Ally D

Wow! What inspiring reponses to this post! I loved reading them all :)

For me, sewing is ultimately about honesty. That what I wear is reflective of not only who I am, and fits the body I have, but also the skills I possess. I am telling the world about who I am in as many ways as I can. Additionally, that honesty also reflects my values surrounding the ethics of how clothes are made, and the way we are poked and prodded into buying MORE. Trends, fast fashion, poor quality; the instant satisfaction of the world I live in is suffocating to me. The pace I can move making my own clothes, discovering what I really do like, and the clothes I need for the life I really lead allows me honesty.

Lisa sweetpeabaking.com

I sew because I love to have a project that I can manage, start to finish, in a small amount of time. I like to COMPLETE things, and I feel like my work life (owning a business) is a project that never ends. Sewing makes me feel accomplished, like I’ve finished something. And having a finished project that is a nice quality article of clothing is just a wonderful bonus!
And I have to admit, I love how it feels when someone tells you they like your shirt and you get to say “I made it!”.

Colleen

I sew because I gave up writing, or trying to write and I needed to have a creative outlet. I began by quilting right after 9/11 and I’ve never ever ever, not once, tired of it. It has become who I am.

I grew up knowing that my mother was a brilliant seamstress and now my daughter feels the same about me…that I can make things and that I WANT to make things for the people I love.

Maddie madalynne.com

At my heart and soul, I am a creator. Whether it be a blog post, a page in my scrap book or a garment, I have to have the ability to make something. My mind is active, not passive; I don’t have a TV and read instead. It really boils down to this.

Connie

My grandmothers and mom sewed. As a child of 2 or 3 I would sit on my mother’s lap while she created baby clothes, children’s clothes and adult clothes, including prom dresses. I love the process of created and figuring out the plan for making the items uniquely my own. I also quilt, knit, embroider and cross stitch.

Tina knittingcontessa.com

I agree with Maigan, that is not nearly enough wine! :)
Now, sewing—- I’ve been sewing for 54 years and ohmygod that sounds positively ancient. I sew because it is who I am and I tell people all the time that there have been times in my life that if I didn’t sew, I’d have been nekkid. I don’t understand people who don’t want to sew, really— I don’t get it at all. My garments are much simpler now but oh so me– coastal and happy and, well…. me. I still get a kick out of people who have as the first comment when they hear you sew that it is such a great way to save money. Let’s face it, nothing is quite as funny as that!

Laurel

Tina @knittingcontessa: You and I share reasons for sewing, including the length of time we’ve been doing it, My widowed grandmother raised 6 kids by sewing. She saved fabric scraps for me to turn into doll clothes. My mother sewed clothes for herself and me when we would also have been “nekked” had she not (Mom and Dad were writers in the entertainment industry – sometimes their work sold and sometimes it didn’t.) I got my first machine (a vintage Singer treadle) when I was 8 years old – a thwarted parental effort to make me exercise a polio crippled foot. Ha! I just used the other foot. The next machine was the 13th birthday Singer- still my main machine but there are five others (including Granny’s two grandmother’s “Black Head” Singers in their round wood cases, and a new-to-me thrift shop solid metal 1950s Singer in its original case, WITH INSTRUCTION BOOK! How great is that?) It’s interesting so many commentators mention dresses as their main sewing project. I don’t own one single dress. Trousers & jeans work best on my short legged body for career and social events and are more attractive with mandatory leg braces and clunky shoes. Making tops for a 40D bust and small waist is preferable to buying most RTW, though I do alter thrifted shirts, putting my old costuming skills to work to combine fabrics, change necklines, shorten sleeves, etc. Also, a shocking amount of RTW for mature women is stupidly fetsooned with glitter, silly embroidery and cutesy flourishes more appropriate for five year olds. Bsides all that, sewing is fun. And I totally agree that more wine is definitely needed.

Jen

I sew because it gives me a confidence I’ve never had before. To create a piece of clothing, something wearable and comfy and attractive and have it be exactly my style, it makes me feel like I can do anything.

Lianne

Mostly I sew because I have to–in the sense that if I didn’t, I’d just feel so lost and unlike myself. But also I sew because I want to know how to make things, and I want to teach people how to make things, and I want people to make things for reasons other than profit. We humans must continue to cook, sew, carve, build, plant, paint, etc, etc, else we will continue to lose these skills and the knowledge that has built up in our cultures for thousands of years.

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