Photo by Karly Santiago on Unsplash
These five questions were inspired by reader Erin, who reached out recently about her instagram account she thought I/we might appreciate: paperbagwaist. She seeks out sewing patterns that are similar to items by the indie designers we all know and love: Rachel Comey, Elizabeth Suzann, Ace & Jig, etc. I’d been thinking about trying to re-learn how to sew, and this might just give me the push I need! Thanks Erin for sharing 🙂
I also follow Trine.Schroeder who makes beautiful pieces and posts about them. And Frumpyoldlady just posted a pair of sarouel pants she made that I love. So inspiring…
Anyway, all this is to say that I’ve been thinking for a little while about doing things with my hands again. I actually did a lot when I was younger (like high school/college) and lived at home. My mother was opposed to just sitting and watching tv for example – we had to be doing multiple things at all times LOL. And she always enjoyed doing needlework, quilting, sewing, etc., and encouraged me to do it to. I did cross stitch mostly, but also quilted pieces she put together.
I never learned how to knit, and although my mom made most of my clothes through middle school, I never learned how to sew a garment. I do remember looking through patterns and fabrics to choose what I wanted for the season – I loved that. And honestly, a lot of the garments I love now are rather simple pieces in terms of their patterns. Sourcing fabric is a different story, as Erin noted in an email, but I *think* I could handle putting together a simple pair of pants a la the Florence pants, or a boxy top.
I’ve also been thinking about dying recently – mostly because I can’t seem to sell the linen Ozma jacket/kimono I bought haha. It is still the wrong shape for me, but maybe if I dyed it indigo, or grey I might find it more appealing.
Enough about me…here are the questions! I’m SO EXCITED to read your answers, and would love to hear advice on starting sewing/dying/knitting etc. The best part of these posts are always your comments 🙂
- Do you/have you made your own clothes? what have you made? When?
- Have you ever dyed a garment?
- Do you do handcrafts for fun? What?
- Have you always been interested in sewing/handiwork? Or not? When did you start?
- What are your favorite resources for your preferred craft?
1. I have made my own clothes! Mostly in high school and college. Tops, skirts, dresses… a lamb costume one Halloween.
2. I dyed things for fun a long time ago but not since I’ve been an adult, not anything that I wear now. I would like to though! Looking at secondhand tops on Poshmark but none are the color I want. If I find something in the right fit and fabric I think I’ll try dyeing.
3. I used to knit but gave it up. I guess I don’t do any handcrafted things for FUN per se, but I do things when I need the thing and doing it myself is the best option.
4. My mom was an excellent seamstress and taught her children how to sew. We all started from a young age. My graduation gift from high school was a sewing machine.
5. I love to look for vintage sewing patterns, though I’ve yet to make anything from one. Etsy is a great spot for these if you want to browse! Also eBay, especially if you know the pattern number you are looking for.
1.Do you/have you made your own clothes? what have you made? When?
Nope, haven’t made my own clothes. My grandmother made (and sometimes still makes) things for me, but it’s usually small things like hats or scarves.
2.Have you ever dyed a garment?
I tried to bleach/lighten a dress from the Goodwill once, does that count? I haven’t dyed anything but I definitely plan to! I have some pieces that could use some dye to hide stains, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet (I don’t have a great setup for dyeing).
3.Do you do handcrafts for fun? What?
I bought a mending information book and have been mending items with holes in them lately, and I also read about crocheting washcloths with cotton and/or hemp, so I’ve made some of those as well as some small facial scrubbers… they’re easy for someone with limited experience. I always get a hankering for handcrafts in the wintertime, but lately my “crafts” have been more watercolor painting and mending vintage clothes.
4.Have you always been interested in sewing/handiwork? Or not? When did you start?
I’m generally interested and I REALLY want to learn Crewel embroidery, but it’s never been high on my interest list. My mom tried to teach me crosstitch as a kid but I didn’t have the patience/attention to detail to really get it down. I started knitting when a friend taught me a few years ago, and just taught myself to crochet last year. It’s a great activity on flights, I’ve learned!
5.What are your favorite resources for your preferred craft?
Ummm…?? RMTL blog has links to small companies that sell interesting yarns and craft materials, so I always check out those for inspiration when they come around, and I like Etsy for stocking up on my hemp yarn/cord for crocheting. Like I said earlier, I prefer watercolors so any decent art store (which to me, is an independently-owned one) that has good quality paints, paintbrushes, and watercolor journals is usually a good bet!
Erin Orr says
Thanks for the mention Grechen! It’s most appreciated.
1. I have made many clothes, mostly costume pieces for live action role playing (mostly medieval fantasy settings), where I need it to be comfortable, durable, and easily washable. So I’ve worked with a lot of cotton and linen. I’ve made a few non-costume pieces here and there, but they never really turn out how I envision, mostly because of the fabric – I usually just get it from Joann’s, though I’d love to start buying better fabric online. I’ve made stuff for me, stuff for friends…but I don’t do a lot these days because of lack of time.
2. No dying. It’s just more mess than I want to deal with.
3. Not really anymore, because of time and energy. I do love sewing, but it can be expensive. I also like to make cards sometimes. I used to be a much better artist but just haven’t practiced it.
4. I’ve always loved sewing because I like being able to wear and display something I’ve created, and I’ve always been interested in fashion and costumes. My grandmother first taught me how to sew, and then I learned a lot from my MIL.
5. I don’t really have any good resources! I’m kind of a “fly by the seat of my pants” sewer. I’ll think up an idea, and if I can find a pattern that mostly fits what I need, I’ll get it, but honestly I don’t like fussing with patterns. So most of my costume pieces I’ve just drafted out from clothing I already own, and then make adjustments. This does not result in the most refined garments, but it does get me exactly what I need. Like one time I wanted a military style coat like the ones in the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist, and there was absolutely no pattern like it – there are super cheap, overpriced costumes online, but I didn’t want those either. So I just drew up an idea from scratch and put it together, made from some basic cotton. It turned out great and I’ve used that jacket for many events!
What has helped me in learning to sew clothing is looking at the pieces I bought somewhere that I love the most and paying attention to how they are constructed. I have also taken apart clothing I no longer wear and examined the seams and techniques. I look up some things online, but I’d rather just study a piece of clothing than read a book or look at a pattern.
I missed my mom’s crafty gene completely, but just wanted to say that Rachel Comey has a lot of her patterns available via Vogue Patterns, a branch of McCall’s. I read about it a while ago, and she works with the pattern company to make her designs available.
Annie M says
1. I have, and still do sporadically, make my own clothes. I’ve made all sorts over the years from jackets (not lined – I can’t do lining) to simple tops. I have found it’s not so much the style that causes problems but the fabric, so much as I would love to make a version of the silk Florence pants, I just don’t sew with silk – it slips and stretches all over the place. Linen is pretty much my favourite to sew with. I am a disaster though and have become a very practised unpicker….. I have sewed the two fronts to each other and the two backs on a pair of trousers ending up with a single tube, and I set a sleeve in upside down once (perfectly I might add) so looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Thankfully this has taught me patience!
2. I have dyed things but generally find that the thread on the seams doesn’t pick up the colour so well as the fabric so, for me, it would depend on the original and new colour and whether this would bother me.
3. I do like crafts when I have the time and patience levels (see 1 above – this tendency applies to pretty much everything I do!) – I used to do a lot of embroidery which I loved but just didn’t have the time when the kids arrived. Would love to take it up again once I don’t work so much. I also like a bit of DIY, reupholstery etc, again all subject to various disasters. I obviously have some kind of death wish. And I love knitting, if only it wasn’t so expensive (in the UK – is it the same in the US?). Can’t knit lacy patterns though as when I go wrong I can’t seem to unpick them….
4. Yes, pretty much always. Still waiting to make something without anything going wrong though!
5. I think resources have been pretty scarce in recent years. However, there is a fantastic haberdasher in Rye, East Sussex called Merchant & Mills, who sell the most beautiful linens, Indian cottons, etc and some great patterns (although I’ve not used one of their patterns yet). It was finding them online a few years ago that inspired me to visit the shop and get back into sewing. Also, in New York a couple of years ago I went to Mood Fabrics which was completely overwhelming – they have absolutely everything there, and thankfully will send to the UK too. I will definitely make a return visit there one day.
I obviously missed the craft gene (am not sure my parents had it either – they probably learned their lesson when they were younger). If you ever see me in command of a power tool or a pair of pinking shears, probably best to give me a wide berth!
Do you/have you made your own clothes? what have you made? When?
Um, home ec in 7th grade (I made a dirndl skirt – it was 1985?) And a couple years ago I did a few single piece caftans – no sewn arms!
Have you ever dyed a garment?
Yes. Did a ton of tie-dying in high school (um, 80s preppy CT, go figure, it was very big in my high school) and I’ve done a couple things since then out of desperation and/or boredom. Never anything I cared too much about – the stakes were always low.
Do you do handcrafts for fun? What?
Nope. My crafts have always involved tools – I did a lot of furniture refinishing in the 90s and early 00s….But I got a new sewing machine last year (and have a very talented husband) and have started to think beyond home fashions (what I normally am sewing -again, nothing fancy, pillowcases, I can’t do zippers yet 😉 But I might try some shirts, or a fancier caftan! Like, with actual sleeves..
Have you always been interested in sewing/handiwork? Or not? When did you start?
Oops, I sort of answered this above. My mom didn’t sew when I was growing up, did some home fashion stuff a little later, but my MIL is an amazing seamstress and my husband learned from her (and does some industrial sewing with a VERY SCARY machine for one of his companies). So I’m contemplating trying more in the next few years.
What are your favorite resources for your preferred craft?
So, I sort of hoard fabric I buy when I travel. Which has led me to find ways to use it so it’s not just sitting in a basket on top of a cabinet somewhere….
Ok, I’m thinking of buying the jacket. I need a light summer jacket for work, but am kind of looking for more of a light sweatery type of cardigan. I have an Eileen fisher linen cardigan I love, but it’s more sweater material than like jacket material if that makes sense. Can you give me a little feed back on yours? is it more of a closed stitch? I don’t want to be hot, and I work with my hands, so can’t have the sleeves hanging.
OMG, you guys…. DYEING! I first read the post with Grechen saying ,”I’ve been thinking about dying lately” and though something major was amiss. I thought, how did we get from crafts to pondering the ends of our lives so quickly? – hahaha!
Interesting topic today!!
1. I haven’t sewed clothes in probably 10 years or so. I used to buy beautiful fabrics from a great shop in Denver. When they closed, I stopped sewing clothes.
2. I have never dyed a garment, but I’ve done workshops dying fleece, yarn, basket weaving supplies etc with natural dyes and mordants…definitely too messy to do on my own.
3. I do love making things with my own hands and imagination. Most recently that included knitting a great sweater for winter that I absolutely LOVED. Favorite design inspiration comes from Coco Knits and Purl Soho. Also love photography and scrapbooking and quilting. Have a couple of very lonely weaving looms that will get love and attention again when I retire (turning 61 this year).
4. Been into crafts since home economics in junior high and high school. Do they even offer these classes today?? My grandmother was a fantastic seamstress, and a so so crocheter. Mom couldn’t even sew on a button LOL.
5. Fav resources are Purl Soho, Coco Knits, Jessica Sprague for digital scrapbooking, many nice local shops for quilt fabric. Webs is also a great source of yarn.
1. No, not really but I want to. Except for: I took sewing in the 8th grade & made a one shoulder aloha print dress (it was the 70s in Hawaii, these were all the rage). I recently took beginner adult sewing and made a boxer shorts, the typical intro project.
2. Yes. When I was in college I regularly dyed my black clothing…wait for it…black. I wore tons of black (& still do). This is how I kept frugal, by giving my pieces a dye to make them look new again. And of course tie dye when we were kids. My mother used to dyeing and crafts when we were growing up, mainly vegetable dyes that she would make herself. I would love to learn Shibori.
3. I used to do simple origami and make cards/tags. It is something I’d like to get back into. I’ve been too busy at my new job and I don’t have my supplies with me (still at my family house on another island).
4. No, I think I was too obsessed with writing. Now I like writing + photography + graphic design mainly but also feel the need to have something tactile too. I want to learn to sew and play with paper again. THANK YOU SO MUCH for the IG account tip, this is exactly what I’d like to learn how to do – make some of the shapes that I love in the lines that I buy. I suspected many of the oversized architectural shaped dresses were inspired by old Vogue patterns. I do have a dress by The Tiny Closet Shop and she stated the dress was inspired by a specific vintage Vogue pattern as well.
5. None as I’m just getting back into it.
Jane W. says
Do it! I’ve been sewing for several years. In a big city like Houston you might have amazing local fabric stores. Online, I like Stone Mountain and Daughter, Fancy Tiger, Fabric Worm, Hawthorne Threads, Marcy Tilton, Emma One Sock, Jones and Vandermeer, and Purl Soho.
Pattern-wise, consider starting with 100 Acts of Sewing. Deceptively simple and boxy-looking, but with lots of options for customization and chic in drapey fabrics. Also check out Papercut Patterns, True Bias, Deer and Doe, Closet Case, Grainline, and good ol’ Vogue.
I also knit. Check out Knitty for adaptable patterns. There’s a great pattern on Ravelry called “Relax.”
Happiness is making (my house really needs a good cleaning. Ahem.).
I got into knitting and have made a linen top with lace panel for summer, a short sleeve top for spring, and have a queue of VERY stylish and expensive looking sweaters for winter. I love that I can choose my own yarns (fair trade wool/silk/alpaca/cashmere blends, belgium linen hand dyed in italy, etc.,). So far my tops are ranging from $60-$200 which is about what I would spend on something much less nice. I would like to learn how to sew next!
Grechen Reiter says
so nice!! that is why i’d like to learn how to knit – to make sweaters, and blankets myself. and choose the right fabrics! what patterns do you use?
Grechen Reiter says
i looked at 100 acts of sewing on instagram recently!
thanks for all your resources!! i love it 🙂
Grechen Reiter says
i used to love doing origami also; it can be very relaxing! but for me often, with a lot of “crafts” i get frustrated if i don’t get it right the first time. or mess up lol. which is not relaxing. but i need to get better about that!!
Grechen Reiter says
hahahaha!! it’s an honest mistake 🙂 🙂 🙂
Grechen Reiter says
oh! weaving!! i would love to learn how to do that too… one thing at a time i guess 🙂
thanks for the resources – i think i’ve seen purl soho? weareknitters on instagram i follow too and wool and the gang.
Grechen Reiter says
what a great idea to buy fabric when you travel!! i love that. hoarding on the other hand LOL 😉
So far I’ve tried: Tegna, which is one of the most popular tops on ravelry and my first ever sweater, Quince & Co patterns, and Madder patterns. I am really liking Julie Hoover’s designs as well for extra luxe sweaters. Purl Soho does simple patterns in very luxe yarn as well. My friends in colder climates like Brooklyn Tweed.
I too knit — sweaters, mittens and lots of socks. Nice to have something to do while watching tv.
Karen @ sustainablefashionchat says
1. Yes – I had a blast making a ton of clothes last year (mostly ES inspired.) In fact, for fun, I just posted a review post of all the pieces I’ve made.
2. Yes – I’ve dyed a few of my silk and linen pieces with ok success. I actually used to run a little business and sold dyed yarn so it’s not 100% unfamiliar territory.
3. I love knitting. That’s my go to craft because it’s quiet and portable. Good for watching movies with hubby that aren’t that interesting to me, or kids sports events!
4. Yes, I’ve loved handicrafts as long as I can remember. I’ve knitted, sewed and quilted since I was a kid.
5. Ravelry.com is by far the best resource for knitting. And fabrics-store.com has a great selection of linen fabrics.
Yes! I love, love, love making my own clothing. It really feeds my spirit and gives me a creative outlet that I so need. I am mostly self-taught and have taken a smattering of classes through our local community college and sewing studios in my city over the past decade or so. The internet is a treasure trove of sewing info and many indie pattern designers put out very detailed, photo-heavy sew-a-longs on their blogs with each pattern release. I second the recommendations for 100 Acts of Sewing, Papercut Patterns (the sapporro coat!), grainline, and closet case. Tessuti Fabrics out of Australia also has a line of patterns that are mostly beginner friendly and have some really interesting shapes (I love the demi pants). Other pattern companies that are great are Named Clothing, Sew DIY, Sew Liberated, and Merchant and Mills. There are tons of wonderful online fabric shops–The Fabric Store (out of New Zealand) has an amazing selection of linens, merino wools, and fashion industry leftovers, pickering international does awesome organic basics, including hemp blends. There’s no greater resource than a good, locally owned shop for getting in person tips and help.
I also knit and love it for its portability and meditative properties. Ravelry is a fantastic resource for finding patterns.
For inspiration, instagram is amazing. There is a whole world of craft ‘gramming that is lovely, supportive, and inspiring. You can find me there @thestoryclubpdx