A Tentative Journey Into Sewing (I Made A Dress!)

Sewing is something I fell into because, frankly, dressing like a cute vintage lady is expensive, and I thought sewing my own clothes would be less expensive. I think a lot of 21st century people start sewing with this idea–of saving money, of making things cheaper and more reusable, the way our grandmothers used to do. Reclaiming a skill in thriftiness that the abundance of cheap, passable clothing options has made redundant.

It’s weird to conceive of how to talk about sewing. I call it a hobby, because it’s something I do in my free time that causes me a lot of joy. But it’s also more encompassing than that. Can it really be a hobby, to learn how to make clothes? To spend 13 hours in one day attempting to create a dress? To yell “FUCK” when your machine makes the dreaded whine that means thread has gotten wound around something important inside the machine? It has really high highs, and low lows, and also, produces…a piece of clothing. It’s art, in a way, but a sort of mundane art. Everything about it is conventional, but in a quaint, odd way, a step out of place in a modern time. Sewing isn’t something that fits, easily. It certainly wasn’t ever something I thought I’d learn to like to do.

But I’ve found it appealing exactly because it is so many different things. You pick fabrics, patterns, using your sense of style to design what you’re going to make. You decipher a pattern, often having to visualize how something is constructed, and then build it from the inside out. You have to work with mildly dangerous machinery, cut and arrange with pinpoint precision. You have to try, probably unsuccessfully, not to hurt yourself.

It’s weird to talk about a “hobby,” for lack of a better word, that I’m still in the process of developing. I don’t even know for sure if I’ll still be sewing three months from now; I’m a notorious flake when it comes to pursuing extracurriculars long term. There’s a whole rich world of online sewists out there. It feels weird to add my voice to the mix, as if I have anything interesting or new to say. I don’t, really. Sewing is hard and rewarding, but I like it so far. Hopefully I’ll like it for a long time? Who can say?

Well, there’s a few things I can say, a few things I’ve learned. Sewing is, in fact, expensive. There’s pretty steep startup costs–a lot of accessories, some required, some just very handy–and fabric costs add up.  I’m saving money, but not, like, compared to Target. I’ve also learned that it’s pretty much impossible to finish anything worth doing in a day, unless you’re very good at sewing, and I’m definitely not. I’ve learned that it’s absolutely worth giving Joann Fabrics your phone number, because they send coupons almost every day, but that their coupon system is also highly manipulative. I’ve learned that Tilly and the Buttons is one of the best beginners’ resources, but that it can be just as useful to read the blogs of more advanced sewists. Like foreign language immersion, the more time you spend absorbing sewing content, the more you start to understand sewing as a whole.

I’ve learned that I like sewing; I like it a lot. It’s a great mix of creativity, craft, logic, and following instructions. It scratches the same itch that writing does, but also, the same itch as building a LEGO set. There’s also something meaningful to reclaiming a distinctly feminine art form.

I also like wearing pretty dresses. So I think I’ll keep sewing, and try to see where it leads. If this turns into a sewing blog, you’ll know it turned out alright.

You can talk to the author in the comments or on Twitter @yipp33kiyay.

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