Why I don’t sew my own clothing

DressYes, that’s a photo of me in a dress I sewed for myself (burda 07-2009-132).  I wore it at my sister-in-law’s wedding. And only 2 weeks before, I’d sewn a dress and worn it for her hen’s night.

Sudden productivity. It’s been a long time coming.

The backstory

You see, in 2007, I decided I wanted to sew my own clothes. Started collecting burda magazine. Didn’t sew anything, spent the year reading about sewing. That’s OK: I’m a read-everything-before-I-start type person.

In 2008, I made my first skirt and a couple of tops. A little too big, interfacing a little too stiff. And, admittedly, rather too complex patterns for a first-timer. An eight-piece pattern, top-stitching, self-drafted cowls. Asking a bit much of myself.

Then we moved to Tokyo. I thought I’d sew there, but really, I was too busy going out, exploring, trying to interact (and cope)…

And 2009? We came home. And? Nothing. I’m not generally lazy, so what’s stopping me sewing?

Shopping vs. sewing

OK, suppose you go into a shop, looking for clothes. You’re thinking whether the clothes will fit, look good on you, and be appropriate for the occasion. I mean, you usually know you want something for work, or something for a party, something for the beach…

Fit? Well, you know whether something fits or not once you get into the changeroom. And flatter? By now, I know what I think looks good on me. I mean, if it makes me feel ugh, there’s no point, is there?

So in a shop, you spend most of your time thinking about the occasion. Who else will be there? What will they wear? If I wear this, what will they think of me? Do I want them to think of me like that? It’s complicated. It takes a lot of thought, but in the end you can decide. Sure, budget’s always a factor. The rest of your wardrobe might be a factor too, if your wardrobe’s bigger than mine!

Why is sewing so hard?

I don’t mean sewing is difficult: it takes practice, but I’ll improve. What I mean is, mentally.

There’s no fitting room. Sure, I can measure, “tissue-fit” (hold the pattern up to me) but, well, I’ve still made plenty of mistakes. I’m never sure what I sew will fit. And flatter me? Even reliable looks for me: V-neck, fitted top with an A-line skirt… well, it turned out horrible. I’ve never shown you. Sure, I can analyse why: I’d simply never tried on a dress like that before. So two issues that are easy to eliminate when you’re shopping, they’re unknowns, right until I’ve completely finished my sewing.

Then the occasion. Yes, that’s still a worry. Particularly weddings, you know?

Plus, there’s the guilt. It’s nice fabric, will I ruin it? Is this the best use for it? Should I save it for something else?

And the decision paralysis. I mean, theoretically, I could make anything I want. I’ve collected burdas since 2007, that’s roughly, umm, 1440 patterns? In various sizes: no, don’t even get me started on sizes and the possibilities of grading! Or I could try to draft my own…

And that’s why I wasn’t sewing. Too much thinking. Too many worries.

How I solved my problem

I bought the fabric specially. Silk, usually an expensive fabric, but cheap if you sew your own.

I gave myself 3 days to worry, to re-decide a thousand times.

And then I said to myself: I’ll stop. The deadline for worrying has passed. It’s time to focus on making the tracing accurate, the cutting neat and the sewing right.

And so that’s what I did. Focused. And finished.
(Even though I’d picked the wrong size and had to design extra side panels, hah!)

8 thoughts on “Why I don’t sew my own clothing

  1. I find I don’t sew for myself for a few reasons. Like you, I often don’t get the fit I want despite tweaking the pattern cutting to accomodate my measurements. Then there is the time invested when I could just go to Cotton On, buy something that almost fits and then do a quick mod on it when I get home. And then finally there is the cost of fabric. I’m so used to buying half metres for kids clothes that ‘splurging’ on three whole metres seems too expensive. But having made some maternity capris for myself recently (from an Ottobre Woman pattern) and then wearing them every day for weeks as they were so comfortable has encouraged me to give it a go more often this coming year.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog again!

    I love all your thoughts because I, too, sit and think for ages before sewing (although I’m spending less and less time pondering the more I sew now) and it’s weird but there does come a time when you just know what’s going on! I suppose the only advice is, sew everything (and maybe use secondhand fabric first) and learn as you sew. You seem to be doing that anyways! ‘Cause I op shop so much, I rarely use new fabrics so when I stuff things up I don’t feel so bad.

    All the best for 2010!

  3. Hi Ginevra — great post. I can completely relate to what you are saying, despite the fact that I have been sewing since I was 17. One trick I have is to find “the” pattern– one that fits/flatters and is fairly simple. Once you get the fit right, and make it a couple of times, even making it out of an expensive silk isn’t a big deal. I have an old Butterick dress pattern with a really wide elasticised neckline which I make all the time as a top or dress with long or short sleeves and it only takes about an hour! By the way, you look gorgeous in your special dress. 🙂

  4. I too have found myself immobilized in sewing. I just ponder and ponder and ponder. I wonder if having a list of potential projects would be helpful to me? Then when I feel like sewing I could go through that and find what I want?

  5. Melissa: I so know what you mean about ‘splurging’ on 3 metres! And time is definately a factor too, I don’t really have time to waste, so I’m always looking for a sure-to-work pattern… doesn’t exist, does it?

    Veronica: I love that you almost totally use second hand fabric, zips & evrything! Unfortunately, even if fabric is second hand, if it’s pretty I still get attached to it…

    Sandra: I think you’re right about “the” pattern. Carolyn at http://sewingfantaticdiary.blogspot.com/ does this so successfully. But I kinda like novelty, too…

    Cidell: You might enjoy a list, I know you finish lots so it might be satisfying to cross stuff off. I also like your idea every second garment is something special.
    For me, I tried lists with knitting (Ravelry), but I currently sew too little to want to pressure myself with long lists (and burda has so many nice patterns, I know my lists would be long!!!!)

  6. Love the dress!

    Thanks for your support about Custard. We are going to meet a prospective friend for Jasper on Sunday 🙂

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