The joy of making your own clothes

Although I’m an absolute amateur, I’ve now made a few garments that just, well, fit. (OK, with more than a few making mistakes, but I’m calling these learning!) There’s no changing room self-hate, no trying to squeeze into different sizes and feeling that specific feeling that emanates from years of internalised fatphobia, no weird shapes from a piece of clothing that sort of fits in some places and gapes and/or constricts in others, no feeling confused about opaque supply chains and the ethics of clothes construction. And: POCKETS. Pockets in everything I say.

I’ve been inspired to write this following a brief Twitter interaction with LH/Daisy May Johnson. I’ve been making my own clothes for nearly three years now, even though I’m not quite at Wardrobe Architect levels. I’m also not 100% homemade pants; I still buy clothes from charity shops or save up for something that I know is a little more ethical.

I’m lucky enough to (semi) work in academia where, fortunately, my brain is valued more than whether or not I’m wearing make-up or fancy shoes. In my other job (library assistant) as long as I don’t look like I’ve leaped into a hawthorn hedge no-one really notices the dodgy serging within my Tilly and the Buttons Coco dresses, or the hacked In the Folds x Peppermint Magazine Vintage-Style skirt (see below images. I love this skirt – it was made for a storytelling event but I wear it loads). I wore a newly made Grainline Scout Tee to my PhD viva which I do think – along with my amazing supervisors cheering me on – helped my confidence quite a bit too.

Sewing isn’t always a go-to hobby for me – plus I’m definitely late to the dressmaking and sewing revival party – however, along with learning how to knit it has really helped me with spatial awareness and maths. Numbers tend to blur and dance when I look at them, but playing with patterns and dimensions and counting stitches have helped immensely. I’ll never be a maths genius but I’m not as intimidated anymore.

And sewing is good for making gifts or for making masks to help protect friends and family.

A selection of handmade masks.(Three layers of fabric, not medical grade but better than catching or passing on COVID-19. Plus: Daleks!)

A selection of handmade masks. (Three layers of fabric, not medical grade but better than catching, or passing on, COVID-19. Plus: Daleks!)

I am aware of the privileges that come with having access to a sewing machine, and fabric, and some spare time. I am aware that not everyone has access to these things, however, I hope that I can do my small bit at addressing the exploitative fast fashion industry and in trying to be more sustainable. It’s a quiet form of activism; for me, my ‘feminism and sewing seem fundamentally connected‘ (see: Bain, J. (2016) ‘“Darn right I’m a feminist…Sew what?” the politics of contemporary home dressmaking: Sewing, slow fashion and feminism.’ Women’s Studies International Forum, 54, pp 57-66). For me it’s about: taking back control, creativity, mindfulness, and attempting to address some of the broader issues around making, and social and environmental justice.

As for making clothes, while it’s not a panacea, and I’m no accomplished seamstress, this skill has allowed me to feel more comfortable in my body and not be constrained by shop sizing or by poorly fitting bodices. (Although you may notice that the one below wasn’t brilliant; I put the boob darts in the wrong place.)

A white broderie anglaise Nina Lee Bloomsbury blouse and adapted black linen In the Folds x Peppermint Mag Vintage-Style skirt (with amazing cavernous pockets) hang on a door frame.

A white Broderie Anglaise and cotton lawn Nina Lee Bloomsbury blouse (fabric from Stafford Market and Like Sew Amazing. And an adapted black linen In the Folds x Peppermint Mag Vintage-Style skirt (with amazing cavernous pockets).

An uncomfortable Jennie tries to take a rubbish selfie in the mirror while wearing the previous clothes. She is holding "Blanche the Baum Rabbit" crocheted for Sheffield Gothic.

An uncomfortable Jennie tries to take a rubbish selfie in the mirror while wearing the clothes above. She is holding “Blanche the Baum Rabbit” crocheted for Sheffield Gothic in 2015.

Some plans & schemes & ‘better dreams’

Hello hello to the readers of these irregular dispatches. Hope all’s well in your worlds.

Wow, August was physically and mentally exhausting. Bit glad that it’s done with, to be honest with you! Phew. It’s the last month of pulling my PhD thesis together and I can make out some dim light at the end of the dark tunnel (is that an angler fish? Best not think too hard about it).  So, yeah, anyway, that was August and now we’re into the colour changing days of September. And writing writing writing.

And sometimes writing, thinking about writing, worrying about writing, feels frivolous. There’s so much else going on in the world – if, indeed, there is any world left by next week – so it feels a little futile sometimes carrying on in this  (mostly) introspective endeavour. But carry on we must!

In terms of carrying on, this means keeping an eye out for jobs during the final Thesis Write Up™ so that I don’t become a Calderdale statistic once I’m done. Although if I do need to go to the job centre I will do so in the biggest, flounciest dress that I own.  Mostly to cheer myself up, mind. In all seriousness, I have had to sign on in the past and it isn’t a big bag of fun but it is a safety net that I have appreciated. I will never grumble about contributing to it.

Anyway, I’m not here to give big grandstanding political statements, not at the mo.

Moving on.

I’ve been thinking about this Wild Writes website and blog. I set the site up as part of a project originally, but it’s sort of developed away from what that was.  I’d like to keep this to blog with because I really like using WordPress. My other “professional” website uses Drupal which is a bit of a pain in the bum to use and I have guilt chills when I think about how much updating it needs (sorry Drupal fans). Once I’ve finished my PhD I’m going to have a bit of a think as to what to do with my social networks, websites & blogs as they’re a little unwieldy. I would like to keep a blog – to share practice and some blether on what I’m getting up to.  I’d like to just keep it even if it’s just to pop some of the gorgeous sights/sites of West Yorkshire, where I’ve moved to.  Oh, sharing some less salubrious sights too, of course.

tl;dr: I have too many online things, I want to rationalise them.

I think that I’d like to blog about making things; I’ve written somewhat on the writing process, but crafting feels different. Perhaps it’s because I feel that there is so little to lose in the process of making. Writing is important to me; it’s possibly one of the few things I love doing and know that even though I may get anxious about what others think of my work I do – most of the time – think that it’s something that I’m at least OK at! Crocheting, sewing, sketching, and baking I find fun and feel less emotionally invested in these endeavours as they are like a sort of release. Making is a kind of therapy (read that last term in your best Freud voice!). I have a load of sewing that I’m looking forward to as a reward for completing my thesis (including a compass-themed dress and pyjamas for my mum).

So yes, just thought that I’d share some thoughts and, hopefully, we’ll all be less worried about the threat of nuclear winter by the next update. . .

Here's to Better Dreams for all

Here’s to Better Dreams for all. . .