make-believe: making my own clothes

March 7, 2013

Lately, all I can think about is how much I’d like to be able to make my own clothes. I imagine running my hands over bolts of linen and cotton, cutting along patterns, getting the fit just right and having a whole collection of go-to dresses for the warmer weather that I know, I know, is just around the corner. I don’t own a sewing machine and the last time I used one I broke the needle not once, but twice. Still, I can’t help thinking about slipping on a simple dress to wear all spring and summer long. Here, a few beautiful bits of inspiration made by other people.

What about you? Have you tackled making your own clothes?

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  • Reply megan March 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I sewed on and off for a long time, I grew up with a family of very accomplished sewers, but I never got hooked. I could never find the fabric or the pattern that I envisioned and I also found you really needed to devote an afternoon or more to the process. So one day after scouring the stores for the exact fabric I imagined and not finding it, I decided I needed another craft… I landed on knitting. I went to the store, asked for 'all the supplies to start knitting and a good how-to book' and I haven't looked back. The sewing machine is getting a little dusty, cause I'm hooked on knitting. I love being able to pick up needles (even if for just five minutes) and have a little peaceful creation time.

    IF I lived in a city with better fabric selections, this story might be different…

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      oh, knitting. i never got beyond the "sew a big piece of fabric"-stage. one day! agreed: fabric selections are tricky!

  • Reply Annabel Vita March 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I started making my own clothes last year and have managed to make a couple of go to items but for the rest I'm still learning how to perfect the fit! One day I'll get there and I'm really enjoying learning.

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      that sounds awesome! i'm sure getting the fit right is a challenge.

  • Reply Abby March 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I've tried a few times to make my own clothes, but I've only had success with smaller projects. Just finished sewing some covers for throw pillows, and they turned out pretty well! It's easier for me to start small.

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      i'd love to make my own throw pillows! starting with something square seems like a smart idea!

  • Reply e. March 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I grew up with a mother & a stepmother who sewed for me, and taught me what they knew. But it took me years on my own before I really began to sew for myself. Creating clothes with just the right fit takes some patience and a developed skill—so far, I've only managed skirts and simple tops–everything else seems too complex (& wears on my patience). If you ever feel the urge again, just try something small, like a simple wrap skirt (no buttons, no zippers!)…and don't let the sewing needles frustrate you, even experienced sewing machine users manage to break a needle now & then.

  • Reply Charlotte | Charlotte's Web March 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    I broke so many needles when we were learning to use sewing machines at school that I wasn't allowed to take the class anymore – I was useless! Still, I'd love so much to be able to make my own clothes, or even just customise the ones I have to make them more unique x

  • Reply S March 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    I'd love to make my own clothes. I have the unfortunate habit of conjuring up an image of a top/skirt/dress I'd like to wear and can never see anything similar to buy.
    I do have a sewing machine (it scares me a bit) and make a few bits and pieces (mainly for the house). I don't know what it's like in the US but here in the UK it's quite difficult to find dressmaking fabrics now. Throwaway fashion means people buy rather than make. But I'd recommend you giving it a go – a good place to start is with a bag for your groceries/a drawstring one for storage maybe?
    Good luck x

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      good idea–i can always use grocery bags!

  • Reply Julia (Color Me Green) March 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    this is actually something i've been thinking about lately. except i have too many hobbies and not enough time for them as it is, so i don't see how i could fit in sewing.

  • Reply Joan March 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I did sew, long ago. Simple summer dresses and tops. I should maybe think about doing it again. Maybe. 🙂 The trouble is that the patterns are so expensive now. I think the reason I stopped was I could buy things cheaper than sewing them. Of course the quality is probably better with homemade, and you do have the satisfaction that you have made it yourself. Gosh, I haven't been in a fabric store for so long!

  • Reply Kirstin Anne March 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Ive just recently gotten into sewing clothes for myself as well. I really love a lot of the japanese sewing books, they have really simple lines, flattering fits, easy instructions. I also just bought both the tova dress and tank pattern from Wiksten, Jenny Gordy is amazing, and Im awaiting Anna Allen's release of one of her gorgeous dress patterns!

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      I love Jenny Gordy's stuff, beautiful every time.

  • Reply Love me if ya dare March 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I'm still learning to sew, but I had to stop counting the broken needles, otherwise I would have given up ages ago 🙂

  • Reply Anna March 7, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I sew lots of things but don't make many clothes. Skirts are really easy and it is fun to play around with different ideas and fabrics.

  • Reply Julia @ WritersBlockNearYou March 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    I often daydream about this as well. *sigh* I keep telling myself that I'm going to take a class and DO IT, but I never seem to actually get around to it.

    My sister took this free online class and she is sewing up a storm!

  • Reply Denise March 7, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Did you ever try using the Sewing "Genie"? It's a teeny, tiny lightweight portable. I used to sew lots of clothes many, many years ago and my machine is now in a hard to get to attic. I got the Genie, so simple to use and so tiny, the size of a toaster. I am now making simple sundresses for my great-niece. Maybe this is the machine for you?

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      Never heard of it, but sounds awesome! Thanks for the tip.

  • Reply rebecca March 8, 2013 at 2:29 am

    i take my shirts to the cleaners when a button falls off, so, yeah, prolly not gonna make my own dress. however, i have NO DOUBT you would be a killer dress maker… and also, make me one?

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      ha! if i ever embark on the endeavor, consider yourself clothed!

  • Reply Kiley Kate March 8, 2013 at 3:16 am

    You make it sound so poetic when every time I'm making clothes I end up cursing and getting frustrated. I once swore that I would never make a dress with sleeves again they're so hard to ease on just right. At the same time there's a level of personal satisfaction to having made a dress for yourself, it's just not the most relaxing activity.

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      ha! that's what make-believe is for, right?

  • Reply Little Miss Know-it-all March 8, 2013 at 8:39 am

    We are lucky.
    My grandmother sewed everything until way into her 90s (she's 97). My mom learned from her and sewed a lot. I picked it up from my mom and sewed now and then fairly competently. My daughters all learned at school and the eldest sews regularly. My youngest is now doing a 3-year apprenticeship as a seamstress – no problem to whip something up!! Shame we're so far away… 😉

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      wow! definitely a shame!

  • Reply Nell March 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I can't sew to save my life but can attest to how little that matters when i slip a dress from modaspia on. Her clothes are just incredible.

  • Reply My Little Bungalow March 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I am so untalented when it comes to sewing that it isn't even funny. I even have to get my husband to sew buttons on for me! I admire people who can sew their own clothes, especially when I see the prices of things. Wow, it would be so economical to make clothes yourself, and so satisfying. The only thing I can do is knit and I have many beautiful scarves to show for it.

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      I think about the economics of it a lot. I admit that a lot of the fabrics that I like are actually quite pricey!

  • Reply Isabelle Dervaux March 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I did saw when I was a teenager. Got a sawing machine for Christmas which I have neglected to use so far. I never have time to do all the projects that I am dreaming of…
    By chance I have discovered last weekend a small shop called Flirt on 93 5th Ave. in Brooklyn that you would love. The owners who have written a book about skirts have started to teach privately at Home Ec. on 3rd Ave if you ever want to try out sawing. Also they have studio time for $10/hr I will definitely check it out.

  • Reply Rebecca Alexis March 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I MAKE BELIEVE all the time. Which is why i think i started blogging. I am constantly dreaming up schemes and things that i would love to do…but will never get around to doing. xo

  • Reply Anna V. March 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    My Mum and Grandma are very talented handcrafters, so I grew up in an artistic DIY environment. I was always fascinated by the idea of being able to make stylish clothes myself and watching my Mum cut and sew fabric into something beautiful – it was like magic! My other siblings weren't that interested, although they did like the fact Mum was able to make clothes exactly how they wished.

    I started following Mum's footsteps and sewing my own clothes since grade school. In highschool I was already able to make a trench coat (among other things) and soon I found myself sewing clothes for my friends and sisters as well. I love and hate it at the same time! The frustration when something goes wrong and you have to do it all over again… and the amazing happiness when finally wearing a perfectly fitting piece for the first time.

    For years I've been too busy to sew, but now I'm seriously thinking about getting back to it again. Perhaps even for living. My tip for anyone interested is to get a mannequin/ dressmaking figure or whatever you like to call it. It is so easy to adjust it to your own personal measurements and then start fitting the dress on and fixing it until it's perfect.

    Good luck to you! It's definitely worth all the effort! 🙂

    • Reply Erin March 8, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      I'm pretty impatient when it comes to getting things right the first time, but you've made the process of trial and error sound lovely.

  • Reply Jasmine Brink-Li March 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    This is also something on my to-do list, and I have the sewing machine. I just never seem to have any time to tackle this. But yes, it would be amazing. And money saver!!!

  • Reply KP March 8, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    I don't sew, but my cousin does.

    In fact, not only does she sew, but she raises the angora rabbits that lead to the skein of wool that she makes into a hat. I should aim higher than simply being able to sew on a button.

  • Reply saradowle March 8, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    It's such a wonderful thought that you could just throw on a simple summer dress that you made yourself.

    I tried, wow, probably 3 years back and got to the point of attaching the straps and sewing in the zip – I stopped at the last hurdle! I think it was because the dress didn't quite fit as I wished, and to this day it sits on a shelf in my wardrobe at my parents' house!

    Maybe this summer, I'll have another go….?

  • Reply my name is karen. March 10, 2013 at 3:19 am

    I had never used a sewing machine before, but I wanted to sew clothes for my daughter (she's now 2). I love it! Patterns- even easy ones- can be super tricky for beginners to understand sometimes, but finishing and having a tangible result of your effort is super satisfying. I say go for it, and I agree with others who say start with simple projects.

  • Reply Inge March 10, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Making your own clothes is something that really goes well with my outlook on life and that's why I've been wanting to get back to it for a while. When I was younger I used to make my own skirts with the help of my mum, but I was always too impatient. But I've reconnected with my love for fabric and sewing and found I'm not that impatient anymore. I'm tackling smaller projects at the moment, but fabric for a dress is waiting to be cut, so soon I will be able to throw on a simple summer dress that I made myself – which is a wonderful notion.

  • Reply flora bloom March 12, 2013 at 3:27 am

    I sew a lot of my own clothes, particularly summer dresses! I love it, it's very soothing, it makes my brain stretch in all sorts of funny geometric ways (it's really about constructing a 3d object, and at the end you get something beautiful. Fabric and patterns can be expensive but you can always repurpose second hand clothes and sheets, and find patterns in op shops. I inherited a box of patterns from my Mum and aunt and i love that all the old styles come back around again. Do it!

  • Reply flora bloom March 12, 2013 at 3:28 am

    I sew a lot of my own clothes, particularly summer dresses! I love it, it's very soothing, it makes my brain stretch in all sorts of funny geometric ways (it's really about constructing a 3d object, and at the end you get something beautiful. Fabric and patterns can be expensive but you can always repurpose second hand clothes and sheets, and find patterns in op shops. I inherited a box of patterns from my Mum and aunt and i love that all the old styles come back around again. Do it!

  • Reply fibreandspice March 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    You can do it! My mom made my brother and I both make our own tunic aprons as kids, and I think we still have them somewhere. Since leaving home, I don't own a sewing machine so I've also switched to knitting which is awesome, but also time-consuming. But you should try your hand at sewing! Do make sure you start off with easy to use fabrics (like cotton or linen, not slippery or fancy schmancy stuff that runs or snags easily) and a decent machine. And heck, if you hate it, you can always sell your machine and buy a new outfit. Best of luck to you!

  • Reply Mika Lane March 13, 2013 at 4:43 am

    I highly recommend learning to sew. I love it!

  • Reply Rebekah April 14, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    I'm new here, and I know this is an old post, but I thought I'd chime in. A few years ago I stumbled across a book from Alabama Chanin on hand-sewing with jersey knit fabrics. The idea intrigued me, so I bought it and gave it a shot. I've been hooked ever since. The company founder, Natalie Chanin, has just released a brand new book that is absolutely beautiful and includes a CD with 10 patterns that can be printed for home use. The garments are very simple to construct (No sewing machine required. Just a needle and thread.) and can be left simple or embellished as much or as little as your heart desires. If machine-sewing seems intimidating, or cumbersome, give hand-sewing a try. Their website is gorgeous, too.

    • Reply Erin April 14, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      I love Alabama Chanin! So glad to know that you've had luck with sewing by hand! I've got to steel my nerves and give it a try!

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