Growing up in a small town in beautiful south west Scotland, my initial forays into the world of clothes were late 90s and early 2000s trips to ‘the shops’ in Dumfries (Tammy Girl! New Look!), and on rarer trips to the big smokes of Glasgow and Edinburgh (Topshop! Miss Selfridge! Cult). So when I moved to Glasgow as a student in 2005 I was initially really excited about living so near to ‘the shops’ and I spent too much of my student loan on clothes in those first few weeks of ‘adulthood’.
I’m not sure what the exact trigger was but one day something clicked in my head and I knew that I wanted to learn how to make my own clothes rather than buy them. I’d like to say it was an early awareness of the excesses of global capitalism, but I think it was more about wanting to have an original outfit to wear on nights out. So I put the cart before the horse and took a pattern cutting night class – before I even really knew how to sew! In hindsight this didn’t make much sense, but on the other hand it was good to throw myself in at the deep end and it opened me up to all the complexities of garment making! Intermittent attempts to make my own clothes followed, and as this was a time before I owned a computer it never occurred to me to look up how to sew when I was on the internet at the uni library, which seems really funny to me now. So every so often I’d try to work things out for myself, get frustrated when they didn’t work, make something a bit mad and be really happy about it despite it being pretty shoddy.
In 2010 I moved to Brussels, Belgium – initially I thought it would just be for a few months so I didn’t bring my sewing machine with me. When it became clear I was going to be here for longer I knew I wanted my sewing machine to join me. Once I was reunited with my sewing machine I decided that it was time to get serious and really learn properly how to make clothes! Luckily, by this time the internet had happened! Like many people, I learnt most things through the wonderful online sewing community. In 2013 I decided it was time to start my own blog to log my progress.
Why do I love sewing my own clothes?
Being in charge of what I wear
I’ve always taken pleasure in clothing and getting dressed so I think that making my own clothes is just a really natural progression of this interest. There are endless possibilities to what you can make. Sewing your own clothes means it is you who decides how your clothes will fit and hang.
Sewing allows me to make something tangible with my hands. It is creative yet methodological and involves problem solving, seeing a lengthy process through, as well as dealing with and overcoming feelings of inability and a lack of confidence. While sewing can sometimes involve frustration (and even tears!) when everything works out as you wanted it to it is magical.
Sewing can involve approaching a project that might take weeks (or months!) – good news for bruised attention spans. Sewing is good for mental health as well as being an indicator of mental health itself: i.e. how you approach a sewing project (with fear or with confidence) at a particular time says a lot about the mood you are in.
If you have hermit tendencies and enjoy spending time on your own then sewing can also be a beautifully individual activity.
I don’t know that many people in real life that share my sewing interest so it is always nice when I meet other people who are into sewing too!
Politics in action
In a world where we have less and less connection with where the things we use, eat and wear come from, making clothes can be an active way of showing your disdain with the social injustices and environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Making your own clothes might not change the world but to me it seems like as good a place as any to start.
p.s. Write to me here: bonjourbelgianseams (at) gmail.com