Why I sew.

March 1, 2010

I was reading Sarai’s recent post in the Colette Patterns blog about why she started sewing (and other bloggers’ ideas about this), and I want to take the opportunity to post something about that here.

I decided I wanted to start sewing my own garments for many of the same reasons others did: the clothes in most mainstream stores don’t fit my body, the things I find are never exactly what I like, and the things I love are often too expensive (this is not to say I have found sewing clothes to be inexpensive, because I haven’t). I would say, however, that my primary motivation was that I love vintage clothing, and it’s very difficult to find it (dresses, in particular) in sizes and styles that suit me well, at a price I can afford. I do have a good collection of vintage jewelry, however, given to me by my grandmother.

One of my friends suggested that my interest in dressing vintage comes from my close relationship with my grandmother. My nana is an amazing person and friend, and an inspiration to me in every way, not just stylistically. Her family was financially stretched and she made clothing for herself and her children, and worked as a dressmaker in a bridal store as well. She made evening gowns for herself most often, because my grandparents apparently attended galas for which she could not afford to buy a new gown each time. One night, she sat us down and showed us a series of slides that spanned decades of her life–and she remembered every detail (down to where she bought the fabric) of every article of clothing she had made in the slides. It was especially notable in light of the fact that she does not always remember what she ate for breakfast. She passed on her sewing skills to my mother, who is, without question, the most talented sewer I know.

To be honest, I avoided sewing for a long time because I always saw it as my mom’s “thing,” and even though she tried to teach me to sew–on paper plates, no less–when I was young, it never stuck.  I never had an appreciation for the depth or breadth of her expertise until now, and I’m sad we are living apart at a time when I could be learning so much from her.

She bought me a sewing machine a few months ago and to say it has changed my life would be an understatement of epic proportions. After making several quilts, two dresses, a shirt, and some sleep shorts, I feel ready to embark on some vintage sewing. I bought the following patterns last week:

I plan to make the second dress above out of this fabric:

photo copyright Gorgeous Fabrics

I used a silk twill in my last two projects and have grown more comfortable working with it (thanks to my Singer sewing book), so hopefully this dress will be a success.  One of my grandmother’s sewing commandments is only to use Vogue patterns, but that isn’t always possible. I did, however, buy the pattern for this amazing jacket:

Luckily, there are many vintage patterns available in my size, and I’ve learned a great deal about resizing patterns from books and blogs.

In other news, I am looking into buying a dress form. I am getting a big bonus at work next month, and planned to use it to buy a serger and a dress form, but the serger may be unnecessary–my machine has a great overcast stitch that seems to do the job well enough for now.  I am looking at the Uniquely You dress form, which is the only brand I’ve found so far that will accommodate my petite measurements (I am about 31.75-24.75-33–it’s the hip measurement that gives me the biggest problem). It seems to be a considerable process to fit, so I will have to wait for the next time I see my mother (sorry, Mom).

Do you have a dress form? If so, what kind–and do you like it? And, most important, why do YOU sew? I’d love to hear what you have to say!