I have a pair of culottes currently under the sewing machine. Delustered Satin in a vintage floral print. You wouldn’t look at the fabric and think “culottes”. Maybe shift dress or box pleat skirt. But that’s why I went in an unexpected direction. Because I could.
It’s one of the things I love about sewing my own clothes. But obviously I don’t sew everything I own (although I’d love to). So how do I decide what to buy or what to make?
This year I’m not buying anything so sewing is really the only option (with fabric already stashed). I’m still limited though. By time, by skill, by inspiration.
I’m terrible with stretch fabric so I don’t try to make t-shirts or active wear. One day I’ll figure it out. While I have tried to make lingerie, it’s a little too fiddly for my liking. And I only get compliments from one person. I’ve made jackets before, but something that requires that level of construction is often frustrating. I’ve never bothered with jeans.
The things I like sewing are tops, dresses, skirts and pants. Things that take about a three-hour turn around time are my sweet spot. The less closures the better. Occasionally I will invest more time in a vintage pattern.
When deciding whether to buy or make I think about …
Why do I want something new?
If it’s for a special occasion, making something becomes part of the event. Part of the preparation and the excitement of it all. I will make things out of necessity — but the special occasions are my favourite.
How much time I have.
This is the big one. Sewing takes time and I need to be able to plan in advance. I sew in the evenings when the kids are in bed. And I am not too tired. And I don’t have a million other things to do. Yep. It’s a trick.
Can I buy it (sustainably) for a reasonable price?
If I can buy it (and I am over my no buy year) I probably will. Often sewing is more expensive than buying something. The joy really isn’t in the bargain. It’s in the creativity. In transforming material to a garment through the beautiful alchemy of needle and thread.
Do I feel inspired?
I need to be in the right headspace to sew. Something will generally trigger the enthusiasm. A book on sewing. Seeing a beautiful dress. Knowing a big event is coming up. How successful my last sewing project was plays a big part. Gorgeous fabric will inspire me. A trip to the fabric shop is full of dangerous temptation and limitless inspiration.
What fabric do I have?
Which leads me to the fabric stash. Every home-sewer has one of these. Mine is quite modest – fitting within a box. Looking through the fabric stash will remind me of forgotten dreams and abandoned plans. Some I will pick up again and others will change direction completely. The fabric that lies dormant in that box will often determine whether I sew or not.
Do I need a creative outlet?
Sewing isn’t just about the end result. But rather those quiet hours with the gentle whir of the sewing machine. It’s about touching fabric and moulding it into something new. There is the ancient joy of working with my hands and creating something that wasn’t there before. My work is very much centred around thinking, as are many of hobbies like reading and writing. So sometimes I need to escape into that less cerebral, more ephemeral world.
Do I want to be unique?
This is the loveliest thing about making your own clothes. You know that you will be the only person in the room wearing your outfit. There are times when it’s good to stand out. There is a certain confidence that comes with knowing that you are wearing an original (even if some of the seams are wonky).
Are you a sewer?
How do you decide whether to buy or sew?