The transformative power of learning how to sew

the transformative power of learning how to sew

Each Saturday this past month I’ve been dragging myself out of bed early to head into my 9-5pm intensive pattern-making and sewing course. It’s been mentally exhausting (who knew there’d be so much maths involved!) and quite physically exhausting. Friday nights are limited to dinner and a movie at most, while Saturdays nights mean crashing at 9pm. Bye bye social life!

But as exhausting as this new Saturday routine has been, it’s also been incredibly invigorating. My work has always involved a desk, while my leisure time is usually spent my consuming something – whether it’s food, the latest TV show, or a new travel destination.

Creativity and craft have been excluded from my life for the longest time, and it’s a revelation to re-embrace the joy of learning something new and making something with my own hands.

Pattern-making involves a lot of different rulers.

Sewing as an act of resistance

Beyond the delight of finding a new creative outlet, I’ve also started to viewing sewing as a powerful antidote to fast fashion.

We’re buying and getting rid of clothing at ridiculous rates. It’s never been easier to pop into a shop like H&M and buy an outfit for £20 that we’ll maybe wear three times before deciding we want something new.

High street shops are feeding our frenzy for the latest trends, changing up their collections every few weeks, instead of twice a year as it was in the past. Despite knowing the environmental and social costs of fast fashion, I’m not immune to walking past a shop and spontaneously buying a new top I don’t need just because it seems too irresistible a bargain.

But by learning to make my make my own clothes, I now have a massive appreciation for the huge amount of work that goes into making one garment. I’ve started paying attention to details – the cut, the seams, the fabric – that I had no interest in before.

I’m definitely not going to make every stitch of clothing I wear for the rest of my life. But I am going to think more carefully about what I buy and how to take care of it. This has so many other benefits I’ll reap over time:

Saving money on clothes

Making my own clothes may not necessarily work out cheaper than buying from the high street, but by understanding and appreciating what makes a quality garment, I’ll be more careful about investing in clothes that last, and probably spend less on clothes over time.  I’ll also have the skills to mend wear and tear, and have the fun option of up-cycling cheap clothes from charity shops (this girl is my inspiration!)

Making less of an impact on the environment

Buying less clothing (especially crappy quality clothing) means I’ll also be contributing less to environmental destruction associated with fast fashion. The lifecycle of one garment has an incredible environmental impact, from the chemicals used to grow the raw material, to the toxins involved in dyes, and the textile waste resulting from our hunger for new clothes. By sourcing my own fabric as sustainably as possible, and reducing the amount of clothing I send to landfill, I will effectively be reducing my own negative impact on the environment.

Contributing less to the exploitation of other women

We know that exploitation is part and parcel of buying high street clothing, yet we still buy, drawn in by the lure of cheap pretty things. By shopping less from retailers that push for high production at the lowest prices, I’m also reducing my support for those exploitative practices. There’s a reason why the owner of Inditex (of Zara, and Pull & Bear) is one of the richest men on the planet. He’s sitting comfortably at the top of a value chain that is built of the backs of thousands of women often living and working under inhumane conditions for low wages.

Liberating myself from the tyranny of fashion trends

I often think of fashion trends as sophisticated brainwashing. Fifteen years ago I wore bootleg cut jeans. Now I wear skinnies. Why? Because the fashion industry reprogrammed my brain about what’s acceptable, and convinced me to go out and replace all of my perfectly wearable bootleg jeans. If I decide I want to embrace 50s style, but the fashion gods tell me that the 90s are in (why the hell would I want to wear the same stuff I wore as a tween?), I can tell them to f*off and instead make a dress from a 50s pattern, or customise a 50s dress I find in a vintage shop.
A basic skirt I made! Took forever…

Conclusion

As you can tell, I’m finding learning how to sew quite empowering. But I also understand that the ready-made garment industry has also done us huge favours. Thankfully most women don’t need to be hunched over a sewing machine making clothes for their family like back in the day. We can buy the clothes we need even when we’re on a tight budget (although this does come with a cost we don’t immediately see on the price tag).

While sewing, crafts and other DIY may not change the world, I do think these small efforts can help us become more intentional about how we consume, and give us a greater appreciation of material things.

Overall I’m glad that I’ve re-discovered the joy of creativity, and that this new hobby perfectly aligns with my other passions and goals – environmentalism, minimalism, and saving money.

How about you? Have you discovered a new hobby you’re excited about? Do you love or hate DIY and crafts? Comment below!

Learning how to sew not only helps us to rediscover our creativity, it also presents a powerful antidote to the world of fast fashion