Why we sew

Now, why we sew has obviously been the subject of many, many posts. I know why I sew—to have something unique out of my own head. And with long enough sleeves (I still haven’t made a successful garment with long sleeves. Partly because it’s been warm, partly because I think I’ve trained myself away from long sleeves over the years).

But I was chatting with my mother about sewing the other day (I know, wasn’t this blog supposed to exist so I don’t yak her ear off about it?)… and she made a comment that she gave up sewing when she began having to alter the patterns right out of the envelope.

This took me aback a little.

Don’t most people sew expecting to alter their patterns? Isn’t most of the point of sewing for yourself so you CAN alter the pattern before making the garment? I mean, my mother is not particularly oddly-shaped, but she has the same gangling limbs I do, an even shorter waist, and a D-cup… of course she’s going to have to alter the pattern. And that’s without even talking about swaybacks, forward (or backward) shoulders, or any of those other subtler fitting dilemmas. And it’s not as if the ready-to-wear garments from the store have these alterations made to them!

But then I realized that in the era when my mother learnt to sew (the 1960s)… you still sewed for the sake of economy. Or tradition, or because that’s what girls did. And even when I was a child, my home-sewed garments were generally only the things you couldn’t get off the rack—those pioneer dresses I mentioned, for example. (Some of which have fabulous pintucks in the pinafores, by the way. Pintucks terrify me!) Many of her sewing projects were dolls—again, things not available off the rack. When it came to creative wardrobing, my mom far preferred to hunt the thrift stores and garage sales (even in the 80s!) or overstock places like Winners for bargains.

Which is fine, as far as it goes… it’s just a far different “world of sewing” than I am used to.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Why we sew

  1. When I began sewing in my early teens it was also a way to save money (my teens were in the 90’s). We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. My creations were less than stylish and the fabric was usually something from the clearance pile (not that you can’t make something fabulous from the clearance pile). These days, my financial situation allows me to afford much nicer things but I choose to sew because I enjoy the creative side. I like to make unique things for myself and of course enjoy making things to fit my body.

  2. Pin tucks are fun! I love them and they’re great for perfectionists. 😉 I have to admit that I would love to sew right out of the envelope, but you are so right when you stated that sewing is about getting the right fit. No one is going to be an envelope girl and have a perfectly fitting dress.

    • Hehe! I generally fall flat in my attempts at perfectionism—that is what scares me about the pintucks. I’m sure I’ll be seduced some day—they look gorgeous!

  3. Summer

    My mom used to sew for similar reasons, and to make me cute clothes. My grandmother definitely sewed to save money, especially for her kids. Once my mom was busier and both women were fulfilled by work they stopped. My mom continues to mend and alter though.

  4. Ali

    Very interesting post. I agree that sewing patterns are made to be altered and I’m surprised by when others follow them religiously (I’m incapable of doing that, I’m either altering the fit, or changing details). To me, that’s the whole point of sewing is that control we have over the garments we make. Granted, there’s someone to wag their finger at me when things so wrong (which is often)! :0

    But I totally understand the desire for the path of least resistance. Why put in all that work when something fits off the rack? I try and convince myself that my homemade garments fit better, but the truth of the matter is (esp when trying on jeans in the mall the other day) I’m not that good of a sewer to pull off what some RTW garments can do. It’s one of those instances where I’m juggling skill, time and desire. But I hope to get better …

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