I gave a few reasons why I still sew–even though cute children’s fashions are available inexpensively–and I opened the floor for comments. I somehow knew all of you would have more interesting reasons for sewing than I do! Thank you all for your comments and emails. Your responses were so well-thought and well-written, I thought I would assemble them for part 2 of this post about why we sew. So let’s continue, then:
4. Customized fit. Sarah C said, “There is no better way to get that perfect fitting garment you are looking for.” She’s absolutely correct, and I can’t believe I forgot this on my list! We’re built long and slim in my family, so when I sew for S, I make her a size 3 with a size 4 length. It’s easy to make adjustments like this when you sew, and it saves a trip to the tailor, too.
5. Tangible results. Karen made the excellent point that it’s nice to feel like you’ve actually accomplished something at the end of the day. When you’re rearing children, that feeling can be a little elusive. Sewing something, however, gives immediate results. Perhaps we’re better parents when we can balance the long-term goals with the shorter-term end products?
6. Selection of fabrics. Sarah C also made the excellent point that you can choose your own fabrics when you sew, which also means that you can select from the very best qualities. Designers are often limited by price, but a seamstress can splurge whenever she wants and production won’t complain a bit (although the family bookkeeper might have something to say about that topic). In other words, it’s nice to have a choice when it comes to fabrics.
7. March to your own drum beat. I’ve been on a hunt for the perfect apple-green skirt for months now; I should probably just make it myself, since it’s not a color that’s currently available in stores. After all, who says we all want to follow the latest color trends? Make your own trends, or just sew what you like best.
8. Working together. Sallyavena said it well, “It’s for the details and the ability to take one pattern and adjust it or add to it whatever my daughter wants. It’s also fun to ‘design’ a dress/outfit with her. She gets to add her opinions, pick out the fabric, or something along those lines and it’s a little bonding time for us.” One of my favorite childhood memories is going to the fabric store with my Mom to pick out a pattern, select the fabrics and trims, and “help” (or at least watch) her sew it. This is the primary reason I became a designer (did you know that, Mom?); the process inspires me, and I adored that quality time with my Mom. Plus, I had a great dress to wear when it was done.
9. Ability to make something more beautiful than you can afford to purchase. Sarah-Jo makes another good point. When you sew, you can make garments with details that you might not be able to afford in a shop. Very high-end clothing lines often include details that a seamstress can achieve at home, if she’s willing to spend a little time on them. (Maybe this one does fall into the category of sewing to save money, but I think this is really more about the quality of the results that someone can achieve by putting passion, love, and sweat equity into a project.) This is one of the aspects of my job that I like best. I love the little achievable details, and I like to include them in our patterns too.
10. The “you made that?!?” jaw-drop effect. OK, maybe it’s vanity. But don’t you love it when people are stunned at your awe-inspiring needle skills? Come on, it’s true.
11. Matching (or co-ordinating) outfits for children, families, and dolls. But before you go too crazy with all that matching, please take heed of this family photo from the 1970s. (Sorry, Mom.)
12. Keeping the art alive. Mirjam emailed to say, “And then there is also the aspect to take care that the wide variety of different techniques don’t die out. It really doesn’t take many generations. Soon the old experts are gone to tell us their little trade secrets. And show us their pride and joy in doing a good job. Machines can’t do that.” Very true. As we purchase more factory-made goods, are we losing the ability to make those things ourselves? Are we also losing that connection to our history and to self-sufficiency?
13. Age-appropriate dressing. Karen also made mention of this issue, which I hear frequently from our customers. While I don’t insist, personally, that children should be dressed “modestly,” I really don’t see why anyone would want to dress a three-year-old to look like a hoochie mama. That applies to eight-year-olds, too.
14. Creating heirlooms and memories. I don’t mean this in the traditional sense of heirloom sewing, like elaborate Christening gowns and the like. Hollie said, “I tend to want to keep the clothes I’ve made because of the time (and money) I spent on them…. Perhaps it’s because creating something is so personal that it’s difficult to let go. I tend to think it’s because those items have such great memories attached to them. We get to revisit those memories each time we clean out the closet.” It’s true; I adore the dresses my Mom made and kept for me, and it’s wonderful to let my S wear them now that they’re starting to fit her (like my butterfly dress, below). I’ll save the dresses I’ve made for her so someday she’ll have her own memories to pass along and share. Emily added, “When my mom is gone someday, we will still have this link to her creativity, love, practicality, and skill.”
15. We’re spending less elsewhere. “I probably spend more on fabric than I would on a garment, but I’m driving less, getting fuel less, wear-n-tear on my car less (the closest decent mall is 30 minutes away), getting mochas less, spending elsewhere less… it might even out,” says April. Very true. As a hobby, sewing might mean we’re actually spending less on other past times than we would if we weren’t sewing. On a side note, I’ve heard other seamstresses say (perhaps only partially in jest?) that sewing is cheaper than therapy. Hmmm.
16. Love. I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue myself, and Keri said it well: “I love the act of giving that’s involved [in sewing]. In an entirely tangible, practical way I can lavish the recipient of my handmade work with love, attention, and time, whether it is my daughter, husband, self, friend, or famil
y.” When we sew for the people around us, we’re telling them that we value them enough to spend our time making something for them. And we’re giving them something that has love sewn right into it. Indywriter said, “if I have taken the time to create something handmade for you, it’s because you are special to me or to my family. I am not only giving you a dress, I am giving you the precious gift of my time and my thoughts during the process of making it.”
So there are sixteen excellent reasons why we sew. Most of them have little to do with saving money, do they? I think sewing today is much more about these reasons than it is about being thrifty. We might be spending more or less, depending on our choices, but we get so many other benefits from our craft.
When you sit down at your sewing machine tonight, what are you going to make?