• Emma Cartmel

Sew good for you

I truly believe that gaining a better understanding of how our clothing is made, will enable us to develop a greater love and respect for what is hanging in our wardrobes.


A great way to do this is? Give sewing a go yourself!


As some of you may already know, sewing has been a love of mine since my late teens. I studied it at high school, and as part of my undergraduate degree, and now I continue it as a hobby.


Therefore I thought it was time I dedicated a post to the subject.


What is ‘sew’ good about it?

Sewing offers a wealth of personal, social, and environmental benefits.


Here are just 5 reasons why I think getting into sewing is so good.

  1. I can personally vouch for the mental health benefits that come with the mindful act of sewing. Whether it be sewing by hand or machine, it will encourage you to be in the moment and concentrate on the task at hand.

  2. Sewing fosters creativity and expressiveness, offering a great opportunity to explore your own personal style and identify. You get to become the designer, maker and consumer.

  3. Sewing will allow you to develop new and existing skills, like creative thinking, problem solving, and precision.

  4. You will feel super proud when you complete a project, and you will love the end result even more than if you had bought it in store. Plus, receiving a compliment, or having a conversation about a “me-made” garment is pretty special.

  5. Sewing is a key contributor to the sustainability movement. There is this mindset that if something breaks we have to throw it out. Therefore being able to alter and repair garments prolongs their life, and at the end of day, keeps them out of landfill.

On the flip side however, I can appreciate that it can be an expensive hobby to take up. But it doesn’t have to be.


Why not start with a needle and some thread?

  • Mastering this one simple skill will provide the basis for a plethora of tasks from hemming, darning (i.e. repairing a hole or worn out area of fabric or knit), to sewing on a button.

  • If you decide to go down the path of machine sewing, keep in mind that you don’t have to spend a fortune on a fancy computerised sewing machine that does everything for you at the push of a single button. Trust me, I speak from experience when I say you will probably never use a lot of the options. Consider second hand. My mum’s older, original Bernina, that I was lucky enough to learn to sew on, is still one of the best (and most robust) machines I have ever come across. Or why not try borrowing, or sharing with a family member or friend.

  • Overlockers are great. Sure. But they can be pricey, an absolute nightmare to rethread, and not necessary when there are a number of alternative and neat finishes that will do the trick. Try binding, zig-zag stitch, french seams to rolled hems (refer to the included 'Resources' at the bottom of the post for some useful links).

  • The all inclusive sewing kits, that often retail for less than €10, are great. They have all the essentials, from pins, needles, tape measure, quick-unpicks, etc., to get you through most projects.

Sourcing fabric

  • Get creative when shopping, or simply look around your house or wardrobe. There is no reason why you can’t use that gingham tablecloth to make a dress.

  • To save a little money, use cheaper fabrics such as a light weight cotton for things like pocket bags or facings, instead of the more expensive fabric you might be using for the body of the garment.

  • Learn to love remnants! When I worked at a fabric store during my teens, I used to love it when a customer would almost finish a bolt of fabric. If a 1m or less remained on the bolt, it would became a remnant, which meant 50% off. Great for a student! Most online and bricks and mortar fabric and haberdashery stores will sell remnants. The sizes and price reductions will vary from store to store.

Sourcing patterns

  • Charity shops are great for patterns. They are usually really cheap, in good condition, and the vintage designs are super trendy (think jumpsuits and wide leg trousers).

  • Look out for those patterns that provide multiple options, such as a top plus dress with a variety of different hem and sleeve lengths. This way you have a little more creative licence, and get more bang for your buck!

  • If you don’t want to spend any money, but you have access to a printer, there are a ton of free patterns out there. All you need to do is a simple Google search. These are particularly great for small projects like mittens, hats, and now face masks (N.B. Just remember to check the scale that your printer is set to).

  • Many pattern companies offer PDF patterns, with the option to either print yourself at home (i.e. sticky tape A4 sheets of paper together) or professionally. I am a stickler for traditional paper patterns, so can’t really comment on their ease of use, but I do know that PDF patterns are usually cheaper.

  • Instead of cutting out the pattern to your particular size, try folding it back on itself so it can be reused or sold on.

Toiles

  • I felt like toiles could use a subheading of their own. They are basically a test garment created in a similar, but cheaper, fabric, or good ol’ calico. When starting out, testing a pattern beforehand could save you a lot of heartache (money), especially when you plan on investing a bit in your final fabric.

No fabric. No pattern. No problem.

Don’t see your old clothes as worn out. Instead see them as opportunities. Getting out the needle and thread, or behind the sewing machine, to alter and fix items already hanging in your wardrobe, not only allows you to freshen up your wardrobe without spending much (if any) money, but also allows you to put items back into circulation that you may have found yourself not wearing.

Here are three simple ways I have personalised, and revamped items already hanging in my wardrobe:

  • Added some elastic to the hem of sleeves or trousers for a different silhouette

  • Turned trousers into shorts

  • Turned a scarf into a belt

Please GET IN TOUCH or leave me a comment, and let me know if I have left you feeling a little more curious, or possibly motivated to get sewing. Or maybe you have your own tips, experiences or me-made projects of your own that you would like to share.


Additional resources

There are a plethora of tutorials and blogs that are easily accessible online to help you. Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Tilly and the Buttons have great "Learn to Sew" tab on their website, and their YouTube site includes some useful tips and workshops.

  • In the Folds website have great tutorials on sewing, pattern-making and garment fitting.

  • The Love Your Clothes YouTube site includes some great tutorials on caring for, and repairing your clothes.

  • Fashion Revolution have a "How to Series" on their YouTube site featuring videos on mending a jumper sewing on a button, basic darning, etc.

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