Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Sewists' corner

I know there are quite a few sewists in the house, but me, I can't even get the needle through the thread and my attempts to re-sew a button in exactly the right place on a Jean Muir coat were humiliatingly inept. I do not do or make things with my hands. And my rule is, as my Jacobean manor house friends discovered when I stayed with them last weekend and they invited me to play boules, it is not that I am competitive, it's that I only do things I'm good at. Which is good, because it leaves so much time for lying around doing nothing.

But the next big thing, apparently is home remodelling of your own clothes.

Lilli Rose Wicks hopes to change our habits. In 2007, she won the Visionary Knitwear award at Graduate Fashion Week, and was inundated with offers to design for the high street. She turned them down as she felt the stores weren't willing or able to change their environmental practices. Wicks' work is made from organic or recycled materials. Her passion has always been to make or refashion her clothes rather than buy them new. "Before I buy anything, I work out whether I can make it myself," she says.

Wicks now runs workshops, in collaboration with the Soil Association, on customising clothes, and that is why I arrive at Wicks' cottage in Somerset with an armful of my own clothes, which, instead of joining the 300,000 tonnes of garments that end up in recycling bins, are going to be refashioned. I'm nervous because, having first-hand experience of my sewing, I'm not sure I want to mess about with my clothes. "Sewing is something you can learn. Everyone starts somewhere," Wicks assures me. Having spilt oil on a skirt I like, I'm hoping Wicks can help me hide the stain so I can keep wearing it.


phyllis said...

Yep, this is defintiely a happening trend here in the States, especially with younger woman who want to get into sewing and can't find lessons or who don't want to deal with the lkearing curve. Isaac Mizrahi has published an aricle on doing this too.

Deja Pseu said...

I used to sew quite a bit and was pretty good at it, but these days with working full time and a child with special needs, there is no time, and our small house has no dedicated space. I told my husband the other day that when the boy gets older and I get closer to retiring, that we need to build me a sewing room.

Toby Wollin said...

For a lot of people who have had no exposure to sewing or mending or the other needle arts, I think there is a lot of fear - fear of cutting, fear of the machine, fear of doing it wrong and being laughed at. But for those of us who do sew, encouraging the youngsters to sew and mend is a real responsibility.

Kuri said...

This is something that's been going on for several years now - there's loads of examples on online crafting communities under words like "t-shirt surgery" or "reconstruction". Several books have been published on t-shirt reconstruction specifically.

It is a low-risk activity for learning to sew, too. Often a thrifted item is cheaper than fabric.

Nadine said...

Thanks for the link to a great article! I have to admit I don't sew from scratch as much as I used to pre-kids, but I certainly still do lots of mending and alterations.

Linda, honey, I think "sewist" is such an ugly word. Is it even real? People don't like to use "sewer" because it looks terrible written down, but personally I prefer "seamstress". (Which is not very gender-neutral. Does that make a man a "seamster"? If so, cool!) My brother-in-law calls me a "tailoress", which I like even better, but don't feel is strictly accurate.

Anonymous said...

Linda the first thing you must learn is you put the thread through the needle.

Anonymous said...

toby wollin:

The fear's legitimate. There's a lot to it. I've tried to learn more than once and if you don't as a kid have access to a sewing machine and kindly adults who sew it's particularly difficult. I've tried to learn as an adult several times, and apart from the huge amount of time and equipment needed, a lot of the teachers were complete jerks. They had no patience for anyone with the least bit of intellectual curiosity. Even if you take a course it's easy to feel overwhelmed.

Anonymous said...

I think the re-purposed clothes movement is interesting, but unless you're under 30 and comely, you tend to look ridiculous in those recycled t-shirts. Everyone else needs to learn how to sew well-constructed, clothes that fit well. That's takes a great deal of time, skill, and effort.

Sarah said...

This is an interesting discussion for me, as I learned to sew at a very early age and now, as a college student, make a lot of my money working as a stitcher for theatre productions. Any time I buy a piece of clothing I always check first to make sure it wouldn't be worth it for me to make it. For instance, jeans and knit tops won't be worth making for me, or things are detailed enough that I wouldn't want to bother.

Sewing a lot has completely turned me into a fabric snob, though, as good quality fabric is much easier to find on the bolt than on a hanger, and it's made me appreciate actually finding anything off the rack that does fit me. When I think about how many darts I move and nips and tucks I take when I'm making something for myself, it's hard to imagine anything being "standard."

For anyone who wants to learn the basics but is feeling overwhelmed, I highly recommend Wendy Mullin's book, "Sew U," which is very practically minded and doesn't expect you to know anything going in.

Belle de Ville said...

I'm glad to hear that there is growing trend for sewing.
It's a shame that kids in middle school don't learn practical subjects like sewing, like I did...way back in the stone age.

I was never great at sewing my own clothes but I knew enough to be able to sew costumes for my kids. Those costumes (bear, pilgrim girl, princess, etc) were so much nicer that what was available from a store.
Unfortunately, my daughter doesn't sew but she does loves knitting and makes all kinds of fun things with beautiful wools.
Maybe someday when I have grandchildren I'll get back to sewing again.

anne said...

Interesting "new" trend. I've been doing that for years. I have already recycled things before I knew the word "recycling" ;-)

But I have to agree with anonymous 4:12, sewing well fitting clothes is more important now that I'm 30+. And I love it!

m said...

here is a good site to check out what some people in the US are doing. Much of the work is actually more interesting and better made than the t-shirt into tube top kind of thing. I am tempted to try because I don't really know how to sew and work with patterns. Add to that being very short and a D cup which would require making alteration on any shirt pattern i try. to me it seems like a better work around to try to make something from a preconstructed piece than sewing a whole garment from scratch.

m said...

forgot link