Why I sew


I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but one of my goals for 2015 is to not buy any clothing. I am making anything I need instead of going out and buying it. I frequently get asked why I sew, so I figured I’d put it down on paper, so to speak.  There are a couple of different reasons that I sew: flow, consumerism, and choice and fit. 

Flow is a concept developed by a psychologist named Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced approximately chick-sa-ma-hi).  It is basically a state in which you are so engaged in an activity that time seems to just fly by.  It’s not a mindless activity, like watching tv, but one that challenges you at an optimal level. I first came across the concept of flow during an undergrad positive psychology class. At that time, I didn’t think I had any flow activities, maybe running, but that seemed like a stretch. Now, I know that sewing is a flow activity to me. I’ll start sewing after dinner, and before I know it it’s past my bedtime and I just don’t want to go to bed. Sewing is a stress-reliever for me, and an activity I truly enjoy.

IMG_6667Moving on to my second motivator: consumerism. In high school and college, I went shopping a lot. Probably like once a week, even when I didn’t need anything. It was just something fun to do, and I never really thought about the consequences. Once I got into sewing after college, though, I started thinking more about quality than quantity.  Paying for your own clothes will do that to you… I wanted clothes that would last a long time, that I felt attached to, and that fit me well. This meant shopping less, because the clothes that I really wanted were hard to find…and expensive. Now, I can create high-quality garments, like my Anise jacket, for far less than I would pay in a store.

A few years ago I read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. This book explains the costs–environmental, economic, and human–behind the clothing industry. I found it quite eye-opening and highly recommend it. My copy is out being borrowed by one of my friends right now, but there are some great reviews out there online. Coletterie did an interview with the author that you can read here, and Sewaholic has a nice review here, as does Create/Enjoy here.

A few months ago, I saw a survivor of the Rana Plaza factory (where lots of popular brands made their clothing) collapse give a very emotional talk about her experience. If you don’t know about the collapse, google it. I won’t get too graphic here, but after explaining her experience on the day of and the days following the factory collapse, an audience member asked her how old she was.  She was just 18 years old, and no longer able to work due to her injuries. Listening to her talk really reinforced my desire to not support fast fashion, and the companies that are making money off of exploiting their workers. I realize that sewing instead of buying isn’t a perfect solution, because someone still had to make the fabric. I’m just taking one step in the right direction.

IMG_6700And finally, choice and fit. I find shopping for clothes very frustrating now. In addition to thinking about the workers who made the clothing on the racks, I also now notice how poorly things are made in a way that I never did before learning how to sew. Mismatched stripes drive me bananas, as do loose threads, clothes that are off-grain (ever wonder why your pants legs twist on that one pair of jeans?), and any other number of shortcuts. I’m also much more attuned to details, like the bows on my black polka-dotted dress, and picky about fit now.  Part of that has come from learning how clothes are supposed to fit, thanks to sewing, and part of that is from appreciating quality over quantity. If I only own 2 pairs of jeans, I want them to fit perfectly.

Well, that post turned out a lot more academic than I was intending. I guess I am a grad student even in the summer.  I hope it wasn’t too boring and gave you some interesting food for thought!

2 thoughts on “Why I sew

  1. Thanks for that post – it’s always interesting to find out what motivates other people to sew. I set myself a similar, but looser, goal to sew as many of my own clothes as I could this year as I too have fit problems and get frustrated with shop bought clothes because of the price (and often poor quality). I’m not very experienced at sewing clothes, but have enough under my belt that whilst I still buy the basics such as t-shirts (although I did have my first attempt at sewing a simple knit dress the other day – relative success – woohoo!), I can make the special things (pretty skirts, dresses for events etc) myself rather than buying something that I didn’t necessarily like, and at a high price! I love the freedom sewing your own gives you to combine fabric patterns with different styles and shapes – often I see garments in the shop in the right style, but not colour etc and find it really frustrating! I also really appreciate what you’re saying about ‘fast fashion’ and the way the workers in the industry are treated – I haven’t read the book you mentioned but do think it’s very important that people understand where their clothes come from and under what kind of conditions they are made. I feel that clothes are quite an easily disposable commodity to most people – if I sew something myself in a fabric I love (and hopefully get it to fit great!) I’m far more likely to take better care of it and get more wear out of it, trying to make it and all the hard work I put into it last for longer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s