Yes, I Made It: Slow Fashion and Making My Own Clothes Changed My Life

Clothing has always been one of my favorite avenues of self expression, providing a way for me to fit in (or out of) whatever environment I found myself. My love of fashion didn’t correlate with having style, as proven by my college years where I was decked out in khaki JNCOs and glittery butterfly barrettes. I struggled to fit in at my mostly-white elementary school, where I wore knock-off Keds from Payless, meticulously gluing the little blue rubber tabs from discarded pairs onto the backs of my new ones so that the kids would think I could afford the real thing (I couldn’t). At my Dad’s house, in a neighborhood literally on the other side of the tracks from where I lived with my Mom, I wore K-Swiss sneakers to better fit in with my black friends. I learned quickly that clothing was not only a form of self expression; it was also armor. I chose attire that helped me conform, attire that made me feel like I belonged, attire that didn’t belie the fact that I was poor.

As a kid I was good with my hands and very interested in creating things, but making my own clothing never even occurred to me until college. In order to meet the requirements for my Studio Art minor I had to take several design courses, and as luck would have it, costume design was on the list of classes offered. Turns out that I was not actually good at designing costumes at all, but I was great at constructing them! My first completed project in class was a gorgeous, embellished gown for Lady Capulet in our production of Romeo and Juliet, and although I had a lot of guidance from my teacher in the process, I still felt a gigantic sense of pride at what I had accomplished. Up to this point, my years in theatre were signified by my being onstage. I had built flats for theatre sets and done lighting design. I could work a sound board, direct a scene, and choreograph dancers for competitions. But none of those experiences felt as good as performing… until I built this costume.

The gown was comprised of several yards of red brocade fabric, with sheer sleeves that spilled out in huge silky puffs around the arms. The gown was cut low around the neckline and emphasized with gold braided ribbon so that Lady Capulet’s décolletage was beautifully, tactfully presented, and there was a break in the front of the dress where the deep brocade gave way to a smooth, drapey red fabric that floated around underneath. The dress was heavy as shit and probably really hot under those stage lights, but the actor who wore it never complained — I think she was thrilled to wear such a beautiful costume, and she looked amazing in it.

This is the actor who played Lady Capulet in my college's production of Romeo and Juliet wearing the first garment I ever sewed. She was wonderful onstage, and so was that gown.

This is the actor who played Lady Capulet in my college’s production of Romeo and Juliet wearing the first garment I ever sewed. She was wonderful onstage, and so was that gown.

For Christmas that year my Mom bought me my first sewing machine, the cheapest Brother that Walmart sold at the time. I brought it back to college with me for spring semester, where I would sew in my dorm room late into the night working on personal projects.

This photo was taken on New Years Eve, hence the glass of champagne; I do NOT condone drinking and sewing unless you are completely fine with making lots of drunken mistakes and doing your work all over again the next day. I had just received this sewing machine as a Christmas present from my Mom, and I still have it and use it! Expensive sewing machines are lovely, but cheap ones from reputable companies will still get the job done!

This photo was taken on New Years Eve, hence the glass of champagne; I do NOT condone drinking and sewing unless you are completely fine with making lots of drunken mistakes and doing your work all over again the next day. I had just received this sewing machine as a Christmas present from my Mom, and I still have it and use it! Expensive sewing machines are lovely, but cheap ones from reputable companies will still get the job done!

The very first garment I made for myself came from a Vogue pattern. It was a simple strapless summer dress with a darted bodice that attached to a slightly flared skirt, and it had a zipper in the back (which took me a REALLY long time to get right). I made it out of an earth-toned floral linen that I bought from Joann’s Fabrics, and I made a straight size in the pattern, meaning that I didn’t grade from one size to another or alter the fit at all. To my surprise, the dress fit me perfectly, and I was even more proud of it than Lady Capulet’s gown; I loved it because it was a wardrobe staple that didn’t look handmade or costume-y, and I had finally made something for ME! It’s been 14 years since I sewed that summer dress and it is still hanging in my closet, getting every bit as much wear as it did when I was in college. I don’t know what’s more impressive — the classic silhouette that has stood the test of time over a decade after it was made, or the fact that I can still fit into the thing. After all my years of sewing, I’m still convinced that this is the most perfect garment I have ever made.

This is the first garment I ever made for myself! This is the night I graduated from college and I am holding my sister Sedric at some event on campus. I would never pick out this fabric at a store today, but for some reason I think it works well on this dress; this dress is the equivalent of a security blanket.

This is the first garment I ever made for myself! This is the night I graduated from college and I am holding my sister Sedric at some event on campus. I would never pick out this fabric at a store today, but for some reason I think it works well on this dress; this dress is the equivalent of a security blanket.

My run of making awesome garments took a pretty long hiatus after the success of the Vogue pattern. There was the time I made a dress in light blue polka dot cotton that looked sort of okay but just wasn’t quite right. It was tight in the bodice and my fabric choice was all wrong, proving to be too stiff for the design of the dress which made the skirt stick out like a tent around my legs and the hem fold and gape. Although the fit was off, I still wore the dress because I was proud of learning how to gather fabric to create the neat little ruffles around the armholes, and I had gotten better at my zipper insertion. But the garment didn’t last very long in my closet.

This dress doesn't look so bad in the photo, especially for just starting out with sewing, but I wasn't very happy with it at all. I have learned that if I have to try and convince myself a garment I have made is worth keeping, it's usually not. I'm sure I donated this dress to a thrift store after I was done with it, but now I try and salvage as many of my makes as possible by either re-sewing the garment or saving the fabric for scraps- anything to keep it from the garbage dump.

This dress doesn’t look so bad in the photo, especially for just starting out with sewing, but I wasn’t very happy with it at all. I have learned that if I have to try and convince myself a garment I have made is worth keeping, it’s usually not. I’m sure I donated this dress to a thrift store after I was done with it, but now I try and salvage as many of my makes as possible by either re-sewing the garment or saving the fabric for scraps- anything to keep it from the garbage dump.

Then there was the time I made my costume for my theatre department’s annual masquerade ball! I went as a fairy and bought a pattern for a dress that I adapted to suit the needs of my design. I made a straight size of the pattern, but this time the fit was horribly off — way too big in every way. I hadn’t yet learned how to customize fit from flat pattern pieces, so when I tried the garment on and saw that it was huge, I just kept re-sewing the side seams to take in more fabric, as opposed to taking the pieces apart and recutting them and rearranging the darts. The costume was okay enough to wear to the event and I was proud to tell people that I had made it, but I wasn’t very comfortable in it. It bagged around my bust, was too big in the waist, and my wire and silk wings kept drooping and stretching out the back of the bodice; I spent the whole night hoisting it up because I was constantly on the brink of having a wardrobe malfunction.

I wore this pink number to the Blue Masque Banquet, an event our theatre department held at the end of every year. You can't tell how ill-fitting this dress is from this picture, so you will just have to trust me. Also the Dark Fairy in this photo is blurred because I am not really in touch with her anymore and I am too lazy to write her and I didn't want to be an asshole by posting her face all over the internet without her permission.

I wore this pink number to the Blue Masque Banquet, an event our theatre department held at the end of every year. You can’t tell how ill-fitting this dress is from this picture, so you will just have to trust me. Also the Dark Fairy in this photo is blurred because I am not really in touch with her anymore and I am too lazy to write her and I didn’t want to be an asshole by posting her face all over the internet without her permission.

Oh! And then there was the time I became obsessed with the dress forms in the costume shop and would spend hours late into the night trying to draft my own patterns. I remember designing a piece consisting of a tiny scrap of sequined fabric that I snipped and fussed over and sewed until it fit the bust of the dress form perfectly. Then I sewed several skinny elastic straps to the back of it and called it my “Going To The Club” top. I wouldn’t have been able to breathe in this top without flashing my goodies, let alone go to the club and dance in it, so it never actually got worn, but I still carried it around with me and showed it off to my friends. I think even then I understood that getting good at sewing was a process, and despite my earlier triumphs, I still had a lot to learn.

I honest to goodness thought I was going to wear this sequined shirt in public. This photo was taken the night I finished sewing it, meaning I did indeed spend MORE than one night sewing this 4 inches of fabric. Astonishing that one could spend so much time on something so tiny and flimsy.

I honest to goodness thought I was going to wear this sequined shirt in public. This photo was taken the night I finished sewing it, meaning I did indeed spend MORE than one night sewing this 4 inches of fabric. Astonishing that one could spend so much time on something so tiny and flimsy.

It took a while before I made something I was proud of again, but eventually I tried my hand at another Vogue pattern, a blouse made out of a stretchy woven material with a little bit of sheen. The style was perfectly suited to the early 2000s; a merlot-colored one-sleeved wrap top with an asymmetrical hem and a cut-out at the shoulder. It had a lot of competing design elements and it’s clearly not something that I would wear again in a million years, but for that little snippet of my life, it was my absolute favorite thing to wear. It fit me like a glove, and it really spoke to my sensibilities at the time — it was unique and cool and expensive-looking (well, expensive for a poor college student). At this point in my life I was beginning to feel more at-ease in my skin, and this shirt was a testament to how much my tastes and ideas about myself were maturing. In college I stopped struggling so hard to fit in like I had in high school, and I started experimenting more with how I could set myself apart. Despite the protests of my friends, I cut my long hair really short for the first time. I was just beginning to reject the beauty ideals that I had grown up with, proving to myself that I, a woman of color, didn’t have to have long hair to be feminine or pretty. I didn’t have to bare a lot of skin to feel sexy and desired. I could define my style on my own terms, and not feel ashamed or embarrassed if someone didn’t like it.

This photo speaks for itself. We were out of town at a theatre conference which is why I am in a messy and poorly decorated hotel room. This was my outfit for "hanging out in the hotel lobby with all the other college theatre kids". I had a terrible time and was convinced that the best part of my night was this here outfit.

This photo speaks for itself. We were out of town at a theatre conference which is why I am in a messy and poorly decorated hotel room. This was my outfit for “hanging out in the hotel lobby with all the other college theatre kids.” I had a terrible time and was convinced that the best part of my night was this here outfit.

When I moved to NYC after college, my Brother sewing machine came with me, crammed onto the top shelf of a tiny closet in each of the seven apartments I lived in during my eight years there. I didn’t use it much because I spent most of my time either working or auditioning, so several years later, when my partner and I moved to Vancouver indefinitely for my work, I decided to leave it with the rest of our belongings in a storage unit in Brooklyn. But it was only a matter of months before I had replaced it with the ‘Euro-Pro Denim SEW-lution’, a used machine I bought for $40 at a going-out-of-business sale. I didn’t exactly need to have a sewing machine in my possession in Vancouver, but there was (and still is) something reassuring about always having one around. Plus, I’m not one to say no to such a great pun. During our first few years in Canada I didn’t accomplish much on the machine other than making curtains and hemming some vintage clothing, and I eventually found out that “Denim SEW-lution” was a complete misnomer (it could barely get through several layers of wool, much less hefty denim seams). But it had some good sewing mojo in it yet; it was on this machine that I made my first quilt, which I gave as a gift to my co-star’s new baby. I also sewed my first garment for my partner, a cute button-up made from a lovely quilting cotton that she picked out herself. The shirt was much too big for her and we ended up giving it to my Dad, but I didn’t consider it as a failure — after taking such a long hiatus from sewing, my interest in the craft had been re-ignited and I dove in again head first.

This is the sewing machine workspace in my craft room. One of the reasons I wanted to buy the house we live in is because it has sizeable detached basement which I have devoted to all things craftastic. Photo by Claire J Savage

This is the sewing machine workspace in my craft room. One of the reasons I wanted to buy the house we live in is because it has sizeable detached basement which I have devoted to all things craftastic. Photo by Claire J Savage

I discovered that after so many years away from sewing, there was now a booming online community of at-home sewers, and I read blog posts from all over the world by entrepreneurial individuals who were writing sewing books and designing patterns printable from home. My immersion into the indie pattern world began with Gretchen Hirsch, a sewing blogger who published a book of vintage-inspired patterns and construction methods, and she became my sewing guru. The first successful garment I made from Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing was the Wiggle Dress, and it marks the first time I put significant effort into ensuring that a garment would fit me. For starters, I made a muslin and worked on it for hours until it fit — something I had been too lazy to do before. A muslin is a piece of clothing you make from a pattern intended for fitting purposes only — you construct the garment as per the directions, then you adjust the pieces as necessary, usually using an inexpensive fabric or a lightweight cotton called muslin. I thoughtfully chose my garment fabric to make sure that it would work well with the design, and I learned a few new techniques in the construction of the dress, like making gussets so that there was extra fabric in the underarms to keep the dress from riding up when I raised my arms. I feel stunning when I wear this dress. I had spent decades thinking that I didn’t have the kind of body type that looked good in close fitting dresses like this, but when it was completed, I realized that that wasn’t true at all — I had just never before tried on a slim-fitting dress that actually fit my measurements. Learning how to create the clothes that fit my body instead of trying to make my body fit the clothes has been a powerful revelation.

This is the first dress that I spent a substantial amount of time working on to ensure that it fit me well, and it's one of my all time favorites. The insides don't look very good- I have gotten much better at finishing seams in the past few years, but even the messy innards can't keep this dress from fitting beautifully. photo by Robin Roemer

This is the first dress that I spent a substantial amount of time working on to ensure that it fit me well, and it’s one of my all time favorites. The insides don’t look very good- I have gotten much better at finishing seams in the past few years, but even the messy innards can’t keep this dress from fitting beautifully. photo by Robin Roemer

Since making the Wiggle Dress I have become… well, obsessed. My style is more refined now because I can make virtually anything I want for the price of fabric and my time. I buy new patterns as fast as the indie designers can make them, and my arsenal of sewing machines has grown to include a Bernina 350, a Janome serger, and a beautiful Singer from the 1950s that my real estate agent insisted I rid her of. My cheap Brother machine is still going strong, too! Unsurprisingly, my shopping habits have decreased significantly since I traded visits to Bloomingdales for visits to fabric stores, but most importantly, I am learning about the concept of “slow fashion,” becoming increasingly aware of the poor impact that the global fashion industry is having on the environment and the lives of the garment factory workers they employ. Sewing began as a creative outlet for me, an activity that married my love for theatre with my love for DIY, but it has since progressed into a more nuanced understanding of my body, my style, and the consequences that my personal choices have on the world. Of course, sewing your own clothing isn’t going to singlehandedly solve the issues that the fashion industry is causing, nor is having the money, time, and skill set a privilege that everyone is afforded. Sewing has, however, made me more conscious of what I am supporting when I shop at a store, and it has affected the way I understand my participation in consumerism.

Me working on a dress that I am wearing in the next photo. photo by Claire J Savage

Me working on a dress that I am wearing in the next photo. photo by Claire J Savage

A photo of me in my craft room below a gigantic portrait of my parents. photo by Claire J Savage

A photo of me in my craft room below a gigantic portrait of my parents. photo by Claire J Savage

My goal is not to abstain from ever buying ready-to-wear clothing again, and I’m not particularly interested in hand-making every single item I wear for the rest of my life. But I would be lying if I said that wearing a store-bought item has the same significance for me as wearing something me-made; when I wear a dress that I put a lot of thought into — from choosing the fabric to cutting out the pattern pieces to making fit adjustments for my body — it shows. It shows in the way I carry myself, in the way I interact with others. The added oomph I get from wearing clothing I made with my own two hands outweighs that of wearing an item I bought from the store. Clothing is still a way for me to communicate to the world how I feel and who I am, but now that I have learned to make most of it it myself — everything from bras to jeans — clothing also makes me feel empowered. I might be having a shitty day that makes me feel inferior and daft, but at least I look amazing in this handmade dress! Hilton Al’s White Girls might have been so far over my head that I barely made it through a hundred pages, but hey, I know how to make shoes! The zombie apocalypse may be looming ominously in our future, but guess what — I’ll be able to knit all of us chunky sweaters to keep us warm in the darkest of winters!

This is the first dress I ever knitted and I love it. Photo courtesy of Robin Roemer.

This is the first dress I ever knitted and I love it. Photo courtesy of Robin Roemer.

I haven’t worn my clothing as protection in years; now it serves as insight into the kind of person I am, the kind of person I want to be. My clothing is an invitation: Hey! I love horror novels and I know all the words to RENT! I am a queer biracial woman of color. I am creative. I am ambitious. I am an introvert. I have a lot of patience, with myself and with you. I am proud of myself and the things I make, but I am also enthusiastic about sharing my knowledge with others. Every time someone comes up to me at an audition and compliments me on what I am wearing, I thank them and tell them I made it myself. Their first question is always “Where can I buy your stuff??” I explain that, for a multitude of reasons, I don’t sell the clothing I make, but that I would be happy to teach them how to make something for themselves. And I mean it. I’m still waiting for someone to take me up on the offer.

Jasika Nicole is an actor, illustrator and DIY enthusiast living in Los Angeles, CA with her wife, Claire, and their dog, Rosie. She finds it impossible to watch TV without simultaneously knitting and very much enjoys cooking with peanut butter.

Jasika has written 5 articles for us.

54 Comments

  1. I can’t tell you how uber impressed I am by that Juliet gown… as your first freaking project??!! Yow. I think I sewed 4 simple kitchen aprons before I could even imagine attempting pj bottoms (which totally didn’t fit in the bottom) or an infinity scarf. That you were doing darts and gathering right off the bat is amazing. Extra amazement at your knitted dress, it’s gorgeous. You have a real gift.

    • Thank you so much for your lovely words! It was really cool to look back over all these photos and see the visual progression of my skills. I still learn a lot and there are tons of things I would like to get better at, but it feels good to have a body work that you are proud of, warts and all (no shade to warts).

  2. Wonderful article! I was very suprised to see Slow Fashion October mentioned here! (Woo fringe association) It’s like a Venn diagram of my interests, bein’queer and making stuff!I wish I knew queer knitters in my town, as most of the other makers I know are older farm type ladies and I never know how “out” to be around them. Your “Allegheny” dress is stunning! Love!!!

    • I have been trying to participate in the slowfashionoctober hashtag on my TryCuriousBlog instagram, but I was out of town for a bit and kind of fell off the wagon! Anyways, I love seeing my interests intersect in unexcpected ways, too- thanks for your lovely words!

      • Oh, cool! Gonna go follow you! Even if it’s not in October, I like how slow fashion October is making me(and others) think about clothing and the process of making. I’m not participating very actively, but reflecting on what I make and why had been very interesting. I’m trying to make more things that I will actually wear… Not just knitting crazy sweaters that are fun to knit and look impressive. I’m also spending a lot of time thinking about the privilege I have to be a maker… the time, the resources.

    • I’m a queer knitter! I also started sewing by recreating Victorian corsets, and I will again, as soon as I have a sewing machine. I’m self-taught, but so often, I’ll pick up a book I wouldn’t expect to learn something from and will realize that there are three different ways to do a technique I’ve hated, and that two of those three ways are quite pleasant. I would definitely take up Jasika Nicole’s offer to teach me how to make something. Mostly, I want to know where she learned to make sturdy buttonholes on stretchy fabric, and where she learned how to make shoes!

      Jasika, if you’re reading this: Are there any books, sites, or people who were particularly helpful in learning DIY stuff?

  3. I am SO star struck right now (Astrid!!![heart eyes emoji]), but I just wanted to say that that knitted dress is AMAZING!! It is SO well fitted. I haven’t moved beyond crocheting flat things and tubes. This post is so inspiring!

  4. This is really inspiring. I knit pretty regularly, but I really want to use my sewing machine that is sitting in my room gathering dust. I need to learn how to make the seam go in a straight line though . . .

  5. This is a really great article! Wish I had the sewing skills to make clothes, but crafting is always a relaxing way to opt out of fast fashion/ quick turnover of products. Plus the dresses look stunning- so impressive. Go Jasika!

  6. I haven’t sewed more than a button but I really enjoyed reading this article. You have a gorgeous way with words and a great sense of style. I particularly love the wiggle dress. Such beautiful fabric and a really flattering fit. Fair play! ??

  7. I have just recently picked garment sewing back up after a few years’ hiatus, but I have always evangelized how much better it made me feel about my body making things for myself. I liked being able to opt out of vanity sizing sometimes. (Also, I NEED to know where you got the pattern for that blue dress.)

    • You mean the blue polka dot dress? Gosh, I have no idea- it’s been so long since I made it! I know it was a big 4 pattern that was out in the early 2000s, but back before sewing was a full time hobby of mine I didn’t keep track of all my sewing stuff very well- it probably just got lost in one of my many moves from Alabama to adulthood.

      • I meant the later one, from the picture of you in the craft room, although now that you mention it I have some fabric that would work pretty well in the first one. So many cute dresses I really should have clarified that more. 🙂

        • Oh right, sorry! I forgot that picture was in there! That royal blue one with the bees on it is actually a dress that I kind of made up myself- I don’t fancy myself much of a pattern maker but every once in a while when I know what I want and I can’t find what I am looking for, I give it a shot. I started with the Zip-Front 1940’s dress in Gertie’s first book “Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing” (pictured here: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAcQjRxqFQoTCNWL99nB1MgCFcM3iAodV_0AEQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F143974519309434616%2F&psig=AFQjCNETvtlKKVwqCmHfsdhMZneY4VZImQ&ust=1445549508976776) but it’s an adaptation of a different garment in the book and has way fewer instructions, (and perhaps even some missing ones). I tried two times to make the dress with the specified alterations from the book- the first turned out to be a massive failure and the second (the blue dress with bees in this article) would have also been a disaster if I hadn’t disregarded the pattern completely and taken matters into my own hands. All pattern pieces except for the skirt were altered, I omitted the sleeves, drafted button plackets and facings for the bodice, and made a bunch of other design choices to salvage the garment. It came out way better than I anticipated, but it was a long and difficult road to get there. The funny thing is that I am pretty sure you could find a design for the finished dress pretty easily in a Big 4 pattern.

  8. I’m unfamiliar with slow fashion, but enjoyed this article very much.

    A sewing machine is like magic sometimes. Most of my sewing says these shorts were a t-shirt, this cape was a curtain. I sew more kid clothes than anything and alter existing clothes.

    This is just fantastic.

    • Was just chatting with my manager about this and he was saying he would love to see some kind of photo essay that takes the reader from the very beginning of a garment to the end, highlighting the important steps in between. I think that making your own clothes can be really intimidating if you are starting from scratch, so sometimes it helps to see a visual breakdown of all the pieces that go into it- when you take it one step at a time, it becomes a lot less daunting! I would love to work on something like this in the future…

    • Thank you, Yvonne! I really can’t stress enough how much more confident I feel when I am wearing something I made myself. It doesn’t have to be a big project- sometimes it’s just a really simple fabric infinite scarf that is sewn together on the ends, but it doesn’t matter how big or small it is- the feeling is always good!

    • Honestly, no one taught me either- I have taught myself most everything I have learned about DIYing, including knitting and shoe making. My costume design class in college was great, but I didn’t learn much technique in there- it was mostly me trying things out myself and then asking my teacher “Is this right?” over and over again. I understand that not everyone learn things the same, so some people might absorb information better when it’s hands-on teaching and others (like me) learn best from books and written instructions. All this is to say- never underestimate the power of teaching yourself how to do things! There’s a whole world out there waiting for you 🙂

  9. This is amazing! Can we please have some sort of regular column on sewing/DIY clothes? I’m learning to sew and I’m a total beginner but LOVING it, and I’d love to see tips and projects and stuff on here! Also – knitting tutorials maybe? Or at least recommendations on where to find good ones? I want to learn to knit! 🙂

  10. Ahh this post makes me so happy. I’ve been sewing for a couple of years, and writing and reading blogs, and I love it, but my sewjo has completely vanished this year and I just haven’t been into it. Your post has reminded me how happy wearing homemade clothes makes me. I couldn’t agree more about it affecting the way you hold yourself and see yourself. After the recent break up, and hopefully a new job on the horizon, I’m hoping that I’ll be a bit less stressed and have a bit more headspace and actually want to sew again, and this post has definitely served as a reminder of why sewing is so awesome, thank you.

  11. Oh my godddd. This makes me want to jump right into the sewing world so hard! I am a big fan of style (not fashion – my style is my own!) but I really want to find more low-impact ways to indulge my love of clothing.

    I have been making my own accessories, though! I’m wearing the silk flower headband I made right now, in fact. There’s definitely something fabulous about wearing something you’ve made.

  12. OMG. I didn’t know “Astrid” wrote for Autostraddle! I mean I saw the name but I was like, “No. Can’t be. Maybe?” Then I clicked the link. Holy Christ on a tricycle! I loved her in Fringe and she makes her own clothes. Extra cool points, for sure. J’adore. <3

  13. JASIKA i’m so excited i had to share: because of you i bought a (beginner) pattern online and ordered fabric for it today! i’ve been knitting on and off for years but always thought “i could never sew; that seems like it takes so long and has so many steps.” after reading this i realized that the average sweater is like 45 hours of work and also i have carpal tunnel, and not sewing is ridiculous. thank you for the push i needed! i can’t believe you made your own shoes!

    • Omg OMG this is SOOOO FREAKING AWESOME!!! I just got the biggest smile on my face when I read it, and you’re right- I love knitting so so much, but sewing generally does take a lot less time than making a sweater, and it’s also a lot easier to fix if you make a weird mistake during construction, as opposed to having to frog a hundred rows and then redo them all one stitch at a time. I am sure that you will take to sewing very quickly and have so much fun doing it, but if you ever have any questions at all about your project, feel free email me and I will be happy to point you in the right direction! What pattern did you get?? I have so many fav indie designers and I want to know which patterns/companies stood out to you!!!

  14. Thank you for this! I learned how to sew growing up but fell prey to the thought that it’s only really a useful skill for making pillows or Halloween costumes. Your sharks and rainbows shirt is AMAZING and totally inspired me to try making something I could wear outside a costume party!

  15. I love this. Getting to read someone else’s sewing history is fascinating. Your wiggle dress is beautiful.
    I caught the sewing bug from my mum. She made most of my and my brothers’ clothes when we were kids because she couldn’t afford to buy us new ones. I got a second hand Brother machine for my 18th birthday from my parents and have loved sewing ever since. Now I mostly sew on a 1950s Elna Supermatic that I bought for $15 in a thrift store but I still use my Brother for buttonholes.

  16. I loved reading this so much! I am having flashbacks to sewing class in high school and remembering all the things I created. I haven’t sewn in so long because I lack the space but hopefully one day I’ll make it a priority. It’s a lot of fun!

  17. Thank you so much for this article! I know I’m echoing everyone else’s sentiments but it has to be said right? I’ve been teaching myself to sew over the last couple of years and one of the most frustrating things that I found when I was looking at all the sewing blogs was how hetero they all seemed to be and I have longed and ached for a queer sewing guru. These dresses are so excellent and beautiful.

    If you did do a whole series, I would love an article on making undergarments! I’m so keen!

    Thanks again 🙂

  18. This is so cool and that knitted dress is amazing. So far, the best I’ve done is glue patches on the blown out elbows of my favorite flannel shirt, but my grandmother is dying to teach someone to sew and I’m ready to take her up on it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  19. What a wonderful article! It brought back so many memories for me. I don’t sew nearly as much as I used to, but being able to make my own clothes saved my self esteem when I was growing up. When I was 13 I grew six inches in a year without gaining much weight, and for most of my adolescence there was literally nothing in any size that would fit me. After many tearful and futile shopping trips, I learned first to alter garments and later to make clothes that fit my body and helped me develop my sense of style. Now that I’m grown, my body has rounded into a shape that ready made clothes will actually fit, I only sew when I want something special that no one is making. But I still treasure the sewing skills I learned in my youth, and the creativity they helped me to find in myself.

  20. Growing up, my mom made a lot of my clothes and I never really appreciated the skills she taught me until now. I was making simple patterns (shorts, pjs, purses) before I finished middle school (and clothes for my American Girl dolls to match, obviously).

    I didn’t realize what a gift it was until I went to college and my friends were offering to pay me actual money to do simple things like hem their pants or fix buttons. I’m an unusual size person, and knowing how to alter or make my own clothes is a really great thing for my self-esteem. I would love to see more stuff like this on AS.

  21. I have the same sewing machine as the one you got in college! My mum got it for me when I was in grade nine. I can totally recognize it from that picture and I just got all the warm fuzzy nostalgias. Thank you! And thanks for the rest of this great article and sharing your beautiful sewing 🙂

  22. I love this! It has inspired me to try using my sewing machine (that my partner gave to me last christmas) for something other than wonky quilts and party bunting. I think I’ll start small and try to fix the many ill-fitting and oversized shop-bought clothes I have in my wardrobe…

    (Your clothes are beautiful by the way!)

  23. This article is amazing and inspiring. I am starting to save today to buy my own machine!!! What would the world be like if everyone was making their own clothes, or at least more people.

    Can this be a regular column with projects, tips and tricks?

  24. Quote I’ve seen around a few places… “Knitting is like sex, if I like you and you appreciate it, it is free. Otherwise, you can’t pay me enough.”

    Probably applies to sewing too.

  25. I asked my mom for her brand new sewing machine that she’s had for YEARS and never once used. I am a stay at home mom and looking for all the ways I can contribute to my family by staying home. That means, finding the healthiest recipes and making them all nutritious dinners, finding hobbies that I can share with them to help them in the real world, sharing all I know so they will be prepared when they go to school. I want to learn piano so I can teach them a musical talent. I’d love to learn to sew and see how good I could be at it for them as well. If they wanted a certain custom made thing, there’s old mom to do it for them. To me, that’s more than I could ever offer them at a full-time job that only brought them money and nothing else. I love how you’ve included you’d have something to offer in an apocalypse, as that is basically my mind set when I think of all the things I want to learn here at home, that I wouldn’t have time to were I working away from home. I hope I can do as good as you because you are KILLING this stuff. I loved the knitted dress!!

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