Oliver + S

Why do you sew?

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    KellyNYC @KellyNYC

    Just a general question I’ve been pondering tonight. I attempted my first 3 scissor patterns this weekend – Playdate Dress and Puppet Show Tunic and really struggled with some steps, eventually succeeding. I always learn a ton from each new O+S pattern, so no matter how difficult, it always ends up being a positive experience. But, in a moment of frustration I found myself wondering WHY am I working so hard on this, going to all this effort, when I could just buy a similar dress for $20. It was a quick passing thought and I quickly reminded myself how much I love the process of creating something so unique and beautiful and special for my darling daughter, and simply put, it’s my hobby. Having taught myself to sew just a year ago, these moments of frustration surface now and again but are thankfully quickly forgotten as well.

    So, I turn this question to you, for some inspiration and insight. What keeps you challenging yourself, and creating these beautiful garments for your loved ones? Is it the process, the outcome, knowing your child is the only one to be wearing that dress, cost savings, the pleasure of seeing something you made by hand with so much love and care on your child? For me, it’s all of the above, except probably cost since I have an unhealthy addiction to expensive fabric.

    Would love to hear your thoughts if anyone cares to share.


    sewinginthecity @sewinginthecity

    Interesting question. I have to say I’ve been sewing for twenty years plus, and I think I ask myself that question every time I sew. I wonder if I should be doing something more worthy like feeding the homeless. I wonder if I should be on a treadmill working off my winter weight. I wonder why I don’t just buy a shirt and sit back and watch a DVD. I wonder if my kid will wear what I made! I’ve never been able to put into words why I love sewing so much. I get a kick out of every step, even tracing patterns, and I’m always so glad I didn’t quit when I’m done. It definitely doesn’t save me time or money. But, there is nothing like having an idea and seeing it come to fruition in just a few days time. And I just love being able to really touch what I’m doing. You can’t do that if you read, draw, or watch a movie.

    I’m starting to think that anything worth doing will make you wonder, “why am I doing this?” at some point. Like when you travel off the beaten path and think, “Why did I come here? I could have just gone to a resort.”

    (Btw Hello fellow New Yorker)

    Violaisabelle @Violaisabelle

    What a great question!

    My reasons are much like yours. I think I would add that I can get a much, much better fit, be it for a small child or an adult. I can make things fit me, rather than ‘settling’ for something that only fits OK and is not well made or in fabric that is not to my liking. I can make garments that are the right length and width for our dressing standards.

    I enjoy watching the joy on the face of the particular loved ones, be it family or friends, who receive a gift made for them. It warms my heart that they know they are loved and they have an appreciation for the labour that goes into the gift.

    I adore historical clothing, so I have been studying antique and vintage clothing for the past 20 years, more in-depth for the past 10 years. I enjoy learning what our fore-mothers did with their garments. How they stitched the details, how they solved fitting issues and solved decorative detail dilemmas and reusing beautiful lengths of dress fabric to refashion into a current trend.

    While it is true you can pick up dresses for $20, I strongly suspect those dresses are not nearly as well stitched or with as wonderful fabric as you make.:) I also find for me, I do save money. I purchase my fabrics carefully. I like wonderful fabrics, but I am willing to wait until they are ‘out of season’ or on for a really good sale, I never purchase fabric at full cost so that I can make my fabric purchases stretch. This allows me to be able to sew garments for charities or special gifts, and that makes me very happy.

    I have learned to slow down in the sewing process to appreciate it and pay more attention to details and enjoy the process more. I use to sew fast and leave out details. Now, I am trying to savour the process even more.

    I think having the skills to sew is extremely important, even if you don’t create everything from scratch. Knowing how to tailor a garment you purchased to get a better fit is wonderful. Now that we know the cost of cotton is skyrocketing, being able to use our skills will become more important.

    I am looking forward to reading the other responses. 🙂


    Justine J @justmejay

    Good question!

    Short answer – because I enjoy it!

    I’m still a newbie sewer too (18 months) and it’s certainly not a cheap hobby (I am also an expensive fabric addict!). It’s time consuming and quite often frustrating – but I really really enjoy holding up something I’ve just finished making :). I love choosing the fabrics for each outfit and dreaming of what to make next. (in fact, my thoughts are usually focused on sewing!)

    I’m also finding that as time goes on and I get better at sewing, I’m learning to love all the steps of the process – the tracing, cutting etc – I never used to like these steps, but now I do 🙂

    There’s also the whole issue of finding appropriate clothes for my nearly 9 yr old – RTW doesn’t really do it for me – I am not a ‘Hannah Montana’ fan!

    mela @mela

    what a great question. I sew and sew and sew and i have never stopped to ask why I do it. It just makes so much sense to me. I put a lot of thought into my projects. I plan them out obsessively. I think about what fabric I will use, what pattern, how she can wear the finished product, etc… Instead of watching tv when my daughter goes to bed, I sew. I’m a chef and I think I love cooking and sewing for the same reasons…you start with raw materials that you put a lot of thought into selecting, then you follow a series of steps to achieve a finished product that has a practical purpose, but meaning and beauty as well. Also, my mom had a stash of clothes and blankets that either she, my aunt, my grandma or great grandma made for me when I was a baby. she didn’t save any of the store bought items, even though I’m sure there were some really cute ones. Only the handmade items were important and special enough to save. I love that my daughter will have a stash of clothes she knows I made for her. There’s all that and then there’s my love of fabric! it’s my addiction.

    KellyNYC @KellyNYC

    Thank you so much for all of your heartfelt replies. I can honestly say I felt choked up reading each of them…what a sewing dork I am! I echo all of your sentiments and feel so fortunate to have found such a wonderful hobby. I, too, find myself obsessively thinking about patterns and fabric combinations and endless possibilities for too many hours of the day. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hooray for healthy vices, this wonderful, supportive community, and the great O+S patterns for shepherding us all into master seamstresses!

    Tamara @justsewit

    This is such a great question and thanks for asking it.

    I sew because firstly, it provides me with a way to create beautiful things for my family,friends, home, and myself. Secondly, I sew because I live in a rural area where I have to travel everywhere to get anywhere and so it gives me something to do and it also is (contrary to popular belief) economical. Thirdly, I think I was born with a needle and thread in my hand and acquired a huge interest in the sewing machine because of my generational background – if you grow up around it you stand a high chance of loving it. And fourthly, it is a stress buster for me. I can take the handsewing parts with me to sports practise and on holiday and indulge in the sewing machine side of things at night and during the days when husband is working and the children are at school.

    I love to see the process happen from fabric on the bolt through to the finished product. I love the fact that I can produce a version of what someone else has designed and still make it original. I especially love the admiring comments from others and the happy exclamations of “You made that? Wow!” and “My mum made this for me.”

    Bottom line, sewing makes my heart sing.

    janimal @janimal

    Why sew? Great question.

    My grandmother was a single mother in England in the 30s who supported her family as a seamstress. I recall visiting her tiny attached home in Manchester, and seeing her sewing machine proudly displayed in the front window, announcing to the world her profession.

    My mother was also a single mother, and $$ was tight. I wore my school uniform or hand me downs from my brother, most of the time. But I had a few very special girly garments that my mother hand sewed for me from fabric she salvaged from who knows where. There was a dress, red with tiny white flowers and a lace trim, and she had made a matching tiny little bag for my treasures. And skirt, drawstring waist, perfect to twirl in, cream with tiny blue flowers and blue lace trim. In my memories I was must have been about 4 years old, dancing around the living room in my special girly clothes.

    Having a daughter of my own really inspired me to get back into sewing. My Mother and Grandmother are long gone, but I enjoy some connection to them by sewing pretty things for my daughter, as they did before me. I hope Delilah remembers the pretty things I make her with the same fondness I had for the items my Mom made me.

    I don’t save any money sewing — another expensive fabric habit here! But nor do I think I could buy similar quality clothing cheaply. I hope that some of the garments I sew would be able to last for another generation. I sure do wish I still had that red dress for my daughter!

    And one other thing, the creative process itself I find quite soothing and relaxing. These days just walking into my sewing room can just make me feel a little more relaxed. It’s my favorite stress relief.

    meleliza @meleliza

    Well, for one, I like it. It gives me satisfaction to create things for myself and children. It’s therapeutic and rewarding and counteracts the stress of the massively consumer culture we live in. I feel better on days when I get sewing done.

    For another, I’m a major type A only child perfectionist control freak. I like everything just the way I like it and am therefore seduced by the allure of DIY. If I do it myself, it will be perfect and perfectly the way I like it. Please don’t point out the flaws in that logic. 🙂

    Finally, I completely disagree that you could get something similar for $20. You could buy something with which to cover your nakedness for less than $20, but if that’s all you cared about, you wouldn’t be here where quality reigns. If you think sewing is an expensive hobby, well, you clearly haven’t met knitting! 🙂

    TriMama @TriMama

    I need a creative, hands-on outlet. I’m a technical writer by day and get frustrated that my desk looks exactly the same at the end of the day as it does when I arrive in the morning. Since all my work is done on the computer, even when I work my tail off, I have nothing tangible to show for it.

    I like that when I sew, I have something tangible when I’m done. I can touch it, wear it or see it on my kids. I also love when someone says, “Wow! You make that?”, although I never volunteer that I made it.

    Plus, sewing is much, much cheaper than triathlon, which is my other vice.

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