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(Getting Over) The Fear of Sewing Clothes

With the exception of a couple of experimental projects in high school (a sweatshirt where I sewed the neckline shut), my Senior Homecoming dress (where I tried to self-draft a dress and had no idea how to make straps or a lining), and LOTS of pajama pants-- I used to fear sewing clothes.

Quilts, home decor, baby gifts: these were no problem. I had no concerns about jumping into the unknown with new quilting techniques or zippers or other crafts like knitting or embroidery or fabric dyeing but sewing clothes made me anxious.

There seemed to be so many variables: what fabric to use, how did I make it fit right, why were there so many different pieces?? I was overwhelmed.

But here's the problem with me and clothes: I hate clothes shopping. Like really really despise it. I either don't know if something looks right on me, or I'm sure it doesn't fit or worse yet, I have an exact idea of what I want and it doesn't exist (or does, but not in my price point). So about 3 years ago I decided the time had to come to dig in. I needed to learn to sew my own clothes.

I agonized over that first pattern. Seriously, I must have spent months poring over online patterns trying to find the "perfect" one. I wasn't worried about the sewing part, I was worried about the fit part and I had no idea how any of these pictures on my screen would fit me. Finally I decided on the Wiksten Tank. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I pressed purchase and I was sure it was the most wasted $10 in my life.

Then it came time to select the fabric. I knew all about quilting cotton but there were SO. MANY. OPTIONS. for apparel fabric. After another couple of weeks I finally chose La Palos Verdes voile. Again, so much more stressful then it needed to be.

Ok, so now the pattern and fabric were picked and I had to figure out how to make this thing fit me. And, eventually I did figure it out. It took two muslins (test garments) and I had it. I have since made 4 Wiskten Tanks-- it takes me about an hour start to finish now.

Modified Scout Tee by Grainline Studio-- can you tell that I'm incredibly exhausted in this photo and didn't have the energy how to fix that over exposure??

With just one garment under my belt, I had moved past my fear of sewing clothes and let me tell you-- it was LIBERATING! Just like everything else sewing clothes takes practice and some guidance but it's so worth it.

Here's why:

-I pick the fabric. I pick the colors and patterns that I love and make them into something I can wear.

-Through making my own clothes I now have a better understanding of what actually fits me. If I purchased a ready-to-wear garment that was too short or gaped in the back I just assumed it was a "me" issue, not an issue with the garment. It was endlessly frustrating. Turns out I have a long torso and rounded shoulders. The clothes I sew now account for that and fit me correctly.

- I purchase clothes much more sparingly. I could buy a $50 shirt from the store but do you know how many yards of fabric that could get me??

-I can make what I'm looking for. This past summer I was pregnant and in that funny inbetween area where normal clothes don't fit and neither do maternity clothes so I made a ton of "transitional" clothes that could fit me until I popped.

(Top left: Modified Graffiti Dress by So Sew Easy, Top Right: Modified Scout Tee by Grainline Studio-- we make this in the Garment 101 class!), Bottom left: Modified Wiksten Tova and Purl Bee City Gym shorts, Bottom Right: Modified Wiksten Tank and Hudson Pants by True Bias)

Sewing my own clothes is not an overwhelming success every time. Sometimes patterns still take a couple of muslins to make it fit right. Sometimes I realize a pattern and me just aren't meant to be. Sometimes I pick a fabric that turns out to be so very wrong for the project that I have to scrap it. But usually it's not the case. In fact, I realized the other day that I wore something handmade every day for two weeks without thinking about it because most of my wardrobe is handmade!

So here's my advice: just try it. It may be frustrating at first and it may not fit right the first or second time but eventually you will figure it out. And I'm happy to teach you some tricks along the way-- did I mention our Garment 101 class starts soon?


And I'm working on taking better photos of my clothes, but I'm not a natural in front of the camera and I'm still learning to use my tripod and little remote clicky thingy! So I leave you with this outtake. While it may look like an attempting a model-looking-out-to-the-horizon pose, the truth is that there was a group of power walkers heading my way and I was mortified to be caught taking photos of myself outside the Elizabeth Park's bathroom building (it was the prettiest backdrop!)

Happy Stitching!


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