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May 2, 2010

Why do YOU sew?



Sometimes I get so caught up in the drama of whatever sewing project I'm involved in that I forget why I'm sewing in the first place.

For me, above all, I sew because I like it.

What do I like about it sewing, you ask?

Here's my top ten list.

1.  It feels great to make something out of virtually nothing.
It still amazes me that I can turn ordinary fabric and some thread into something I can actually wear.  If the fabric cost $2/yard or $1.99 at the thrift store, even better!

2. Sewing is a fantastic creative outlet.
I have always been interested in the arts, be it film, theater, music, fashion, drawing, or dance.  For me there is nothing more fun than choosing a project (ideally some long-forgotten vintage pattern), finding the right fabric for it, and then slowly watching it be transformed into a three-dimensional garment.



3. I love the challenge.
Sewing is challenging in countless ways.  As I mentioned, it feels great to start with something mundane (bedsheets!) and see what I can turn it into; it's fun to push ourselves and go beyond what we think we can do.  Isn't that part of the reason for the popularity of shows like "Project Runway?"  (What will they be asked to sew with next: packing peanuts, cardboard, and bottle caps? Go for it!)



4. It's exciting to work with my hands.
Let's face it, these days most of us are no longer doing work -- let alone earning a living -- that involves making anything.  But there are few things as satisfying; it seems to be part of our human DNA.  I don't entirely understand why, but it is.

5. When you've finished a project, you -- or someone you love -- has something new to wear!
What could be more thrilling after spending hours sweating over a sewing machine and fussing with flat-felled seams and Fray Check than to have a brand-new outfit!



6. Sewing feels like self-sufficiency. 
Obviously, to use a sewing machine, we depend on electricity (well, most of us), which we're probably not providing ourselves, as well as on the people who make the fabric, the notions, the patterns, etc.  Still, doesn't being able to sew feel like taking care of your needs yourself? Doesn't it feel as good as growing your own tomatoes or drinking milk from your own cow (something I have never done, mind you, though I do belong to a raw milk collective)?

You'll never have to spend $550 for khakis!

7. Sewing stimulates the mind. 
There is SO much to learn when you start to sew: to interpret and (ideally) alter a pattern, to understand fabrics -- what they're made out of and how to work with them; sewing techniques; how sewing machines work.  You learn how to assemble a garment, to give it those RTW finishing touches, and so on.  What could be more exciting than learning so many things?



8. Sewing connects you to others.
Granted, compared to knitting, sewing is solitary (with the exception of quilting, perhaps), but think of all the fantastic sewing communities out there, like Pattern Review and BurdaStyle.  Today I'm actually going to be attending my first BurdaStyle Sewing Club meet-up, and I can't wait to meet the girls and talk about our FBA techniques!  Seriously, though, in the past year I have met so many talented, inspiring, intelligent people through sewing, not to mention blogging about sewing!

9. Sewing is sexy. 
OK, I'm kind of reaching a bit on this one and I can't back it up with hard evidence.  But sewers, I ask you, isn't it kinda' sorta'?

10. Sewing is resourceful.
You get to have the clothes you want and nothing you don't.  You're not lured by the 40% sale at Gap, from which you return home to find that you've spent your hard-earned money on something you care about not a whit.  Who hasn't got caught up in the frenzy of a sample sale and lived to regret it when you tried on your purchases again at home or, years later, discovered those pants still hanging in the closet, tags attached, that never did fit right and oh, that color.....


There you have it!   I think these are enough to convince even Sally McGraw to pick up an old Singer (no, not Wayne Newton, Sally) and get to it!

In closing, why do you like to sew?  What are some of your top 10 reasons?  Have I left anything important out?

Do tell!

33 comments:

  1. All of the above (well, except 9), but also because it is at times also occupational therapy. When life is a mess or you're having a bad time of it, just the act of making something can be a big help. (And having a swell completed item is a big boost too!)

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  2. When I was a little girl, things on me developed before others. My mother decided that she was no longer buying me really nice things that she would have to pay the same amount to have tailored to fit me. I was going to look like a ragamuffin and I better come to grips with it. She was frustrated, but just in case... I ask for a sewing machine at the next gifting opportunity. Who knew I would grow to love it? And I do. I like that I can create clothes from its components that actually fit and fit well. I like the look of envy on folks faces whe they ask where I got an item of clothing and I say I made it. An awesome hobby!

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  3. In no particular order - saving money; having clothes that fit; creating something original; helping family to get something they want/need; intrinsic loveliness of fabric, ribbons, lace, buttons; absorbing and relaxing quality of planning, designing, drafting, cutting, stitching; escapism; continual learning;artistic involvement without the pretentiousness and expectations attached to fine arts.Will that do?

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  4. For me it's the construction process - assembling pieces of fabric, understanding how they work together and watching them form into an item of clothing. There's something so satisfying, almost magical about it, which I guess comes close to your 'making something out of nothing'. Although I find pattern/ fabric cutting quite tedious, the act of sewing is incredibly therapeutic and I have huge amounts of patience where it's concerned. I'm hopeless at understanding instructions (largely because I can't be bothered to properly learn - or remember - the basics of sewing vocabulary), but will happily do, undo, redo until I get it right. This is one area in life where I really get the satisfaction of a job well done.

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  5. Funny, I just posted about this one on my blog. The reasons I usually think of to sew are: 1. Saves Money. 2. Gives me better fitting clothes than store-bought. 3. A resulting wardrobe that suits my tastes perfectly. A recent visit to a clothing store, though, reminded me of reason #4: When I make my own clothes, I know I'm not supporting the questionable labor practices that are behind so many RTW garments. (More at http://sewsterhood.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/why-do-you-sew/)

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  6. I love to sew because I love fabric. I like wandering around fabric shops gazing at and feeling fabrics and imagining all the things I could make with them. I don't think I save money because I sew with expensive fabric but I love my clothes. I also love to sew because I don't like being dictated to by the RTW industry. Every now and then shops will decide to exclusively stock satin maternity dresses, or nothing but lime and orange, and I can simply say 'no thank you'.

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  7. Why do I sew? Well, I can't find anything that either fits or that I would want when I go shopping. And I'm not talking about something odd or strange - navy blue pencil skirt? Nope. Dressy dress that didn't 'take the girls for a walk' and that had some sort of sleeve? Nope. A winter coat with a lining that was not crap. Nope. Non sack-y knit dresses? Nope. We won't even discuss quality issues because I resent being presented with WTF prices on items that I know will go once through the wash or dry cleaning and come out ruined. No matter what I make, I will come out with something that is nicer, looks better and is better value when I make it than when I buy it.

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  8. I sew primarily for reason #5: "something new to wear!". I like thinking "I want a green dress!" and making one.

    I surely do not sew for relaxation - in fact, sewing tends to frustrate me. Perhaps that stress will ease when I become a more skilled sewer.

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  9. All of the above! One to ten -- and, yes, sexy, too, because feeling good IS part of being a healthy human animal, and creating seems to be the ultimate human "feel good" trait. (I don't know why, either, but, boy, it sure seems to matter.)

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  10. I agree with your whole list, even #9. Well, maybe not exactly "sexy," but it's definitely sensual. The colors, the textures, the whirr of the machine, the smell of cloth being steamed...it's a feast for the senses.

    Making my own clothes also has helped me hone my tastes and style. Having to make all those little decisions about fabrics and sleeve shapes and hem lengths--it's a fun intellectual exercise that results in garments that are truly ME.

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  11. Simply because I like it. You listed all the reasons yourself. Maybe not #8 so much--I'm a hermit. Also as Mae said, "I love fabric."

    I think sewing is sexy. A fabulous outfit that fits perfectly is sexy. Apparently my husband finds my sewing sexy considering the patterns he bought for me last week. I'll post about that later in the week.

    I have a sister-in-law who has no creative outlet whatsoever. I mean nothing at all. She's always miserable and depressed--and takes depression medicines. I think people need a hobby or way to create something. At least those people who do seem happier and more adjusted to dealing with things than the ones I know who don't have any creative outlet. My opinion.

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  12. You’ve already covered the bases, but here’s what I think:

    -Sewing is somewhat solitary, but blogs like Peter’s and Gertie’s do provide a sense of community. As well, I love looking at what they’ve made, because it’s so different from what I make, and a fantastic opportunity to get inside someone else’s creative mind. Also, their garments are so pretty!

    -Sewing is meditative, at least until you break a needle or jab yourself with a pin and the profanity starts flying.

    -Sewing is a way to get exactly what you want. If I didn’t sew, I could not have made my friend an apron with John Deere-themed fabric, or another friend a late 40’s-style apron without the shoulder ruffles and featuring a vegetable print—-simple requests, but precisely what they wanted.

    -Sewing is tactile. I love touching the fabrics at the store and feeling them as I cut and sew and press them. I like ironing and watching the wrinkles and creases disappear.

    -Sewing has a visible, tangible end result that will last longer than a loaf of bread.

    -Sewing certain things does save money. I have a lot of clergy friends, and I have occasionally made vestments for them. A purchased stole is at least $200, and there’s maybe 1/2 yard of fabric in it. Even with a somewhat expensive fabric, I can make one for less than half the dollar cost. A cassock, purchased, is at least $300—I made one for about $100, and with a zipper, as requested, not 35 tiny buttons. And, of course, most clerical garments are made to fit men (or pillows, as one woman pointed out). At least I can make something to account for a woman’s figure. Also, the recipients tend to have some idea how expensive vestments are, and understand the monetary value of the work you put in, which rarely seems to happen with garments or quilts. Not that they particularly care about the money—they’re clergy, after all—but they really have a much better sense of the emotional value of the work. These become true labors of love, a joy to make and a joy to watch them receive.

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  13. It creates order out of chaos! All of your reasons are, of course, totally true. Esp. the sewing is sexy one. :-)

    And Sal has to start sewing. It's written in the stars.

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  14. That's a fantastic list. I agree 100%, especially with the "sexy" bit!

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  15. Order out of chaos -- hah! You should see what my living room looks like these days!

    Great comments, everybody.

    Nicola, so you're the one who's been poking around my creative mind lately...

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  16. Peter, I really do admire your creative vision, and besides, I have to have some relief from clergy-oriented sewing! :-)

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  17. I agree with everything you listed and will only add a connection to my past. My grandma was/is a skilled seamstress and I seem to be the only person in the next two generations with any real interest in it. It makes me feel special to be connected to her in another way and I secretly think she likes that fact, too.

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  18. I have to admit that during the last year, I've sometimes thought about this, why DO I sew in a more of the "why do I bother" way. The answer I came up with, was "what should I do, if I didn't?". The best reason would be, the extreme pleasure of wearing something I made myself! I made this! Yes, I did! Yey!

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  19. I got my first sewing machine as a Christmas gift 2.5 years ago. I looked at my mother like she was crazy-"why would I want a sewing machine?" - because I had been totally turned off of sewing by my grade 8 home ec teacher.

    Then I decided to make my own cloth diapers for the baby I was expecting. Then I pretty much packed it up, other than making bibs and such. Fast forward a year, and my daughter is tall and thin, diaper trained-which means that no RTW pants/shorts/skirts fit her. Now I make ALL of her bottoms, and I've grown to LOVE sewing. I make crafty items as well as clothes, but have just started sewing clothes for myself. I can't imagine not sewing, now!

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  20. I'm a SAHM so while I get lots of job satisfaction, I don't get to see the completion of projects since my children are pretty much work in progress. And those projects that I do complete, like washing up and tidying, are pretty well only complete for as long as it takes me to leave the room. In fact a lot of the time I feel like I'm living through groundhog day. Sewing gives me a sense of achievement - last week I completed 4 garments and felt just great! and it also gives me privacy, both in my head and in the sewing room. I also find that when I'm sewing, I'm not worrying. Now that's great therapy.

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  21. I sew partly because I love it, partly out of necessity, and partly because I can make cuter, better constructed clothes for Little Bits than I can buy in a store. Where could I buy cuteness like this in a store for an affordable price? I maybe have $10 in this little dress (probably less) and it's incredibly cute!

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  22. I sew for pretty much the same reasons as you. Today I am wearing a linen blouse that I made from a piece of linen I bought at the op shop for 50c. It also has bias tape that I bought at another op shop for 20c. The buttons came in mixed bag from yet another op shop and cost 50c for a sandwich bag full. It cost me under $1 and a couple of hours of my time and it always gets a lot of compliments. I like that I have garments that fit me and no one else has anything the same. I totally concur with you about satisfying something in our DNA.

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  23. I love all your reasons, and I have one more I didn't see in skimming the comments... the ability to have a one-of-a-kind garment. Even when someone else makes the same pattern, it never, ever looks the same.

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  24. Hahahaha. You do make a convincing argument, Peter, but I just can't see it happening for me. I'm a total dabbler! I've been a drummer, knitter, guitarist, gardener, and so many other things very intensely for short periods of time. I even tried a bit of sewing once, but it just didn't stick. I would LOVE to make my own clothes, but feel like I'm way too distractable to be effective at it. Still honored to be singled out, and delighted to live vicariously through you and my other sewist friends!

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  25. I get ideas and then I HAVE to make them. Searching for something LIKE my idea in the store has no appeal at all.

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  26. I started to sew because i always had to hem my RTW pants, and the hemming alone costs 10 euros. So then i decided i'll get a sewing machine and learn how to do it myself. And then there was no way back, i was hooked! I'm now learning to sew and loving it. It is amazingly meditative to me, not to mention incredibly rewarding in so many ways.

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  27. I've been sewing forever, and second all the reasons everyone has stated, especially the parts about working with your hands, creating something, and playing with fabric. Sometimes I'll have an item of clothing in mind, and I know I won't ever find it in a store, in my size, and my price range.

    The "one-of-a-kind garment" comment reminded me of this incident: My mom made mother-daughter sundresses for us about 1968. We were wearing them in the supermarket when we saw another woman in the exact same dress, same fabric! Fortunately, that's the only time something like that's ever happened. What are the odds, eh?

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  28. I love your blog - and your list! Quite honestly, I sew because I just plain *have* to. I'm a maker, I'm just wired to make things. I embroider, paint, sew, garden, cook, etc. I actually become depressed and restless when kept too long from some kind of handiwork. I tell you, I honestly can't imagine what life is like for people who don't make things. What do they do with all their free time, I wonder? I'd go nuts if I wasn't busy.

    #9 is TOTALLY true (because resourcefulness, vision and intelligence are sexy, and sewing takes all of these things!)

    And are you up on your Walter Benjamin? Let's talk about the aura of the handmade, one-off garment, shall we? Who doesn't want their clothes to have that certain *realness*, that mark of human handiwork?

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  29. I sew cuz I LOVE to. Love your site !

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  30. I started sewing 50 years ago at the age of 12. In those days all the women of the family sewed, all girls learned to sew in school or at home. We did it because that was the way you got something special without traveling to the big city. Today I sew because what I want to wear is not in stores. And I began major sewing because I wanted to put my children in cotton pajamas instead of polyester. And because my special needs daughter needed things that you could not buy in a store and clothes that needed to be adjusted for her different size. It is part of my job.

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  31. As far as getting something home and not liking it, that can happen with something you sew. I love love love fabrics and patterns. I love to imagine the possibilities. I like to change patterns around to "work" better. I can make something out of quality fabric and in a design I want and to fit me.
    I found when I didn't sew for quite a few years in the midst of lots of home remodelling and then a move, that I had forgotten quite a bit. I had to review how to make buttonholes for example. My latest thing is I want to learn to use all those old type sewing feet. I've used a ruffler before and love it. I want to work with the others and figure them out ( once my elna super arrives that I bought on ebay and is serviced!) I bought a Threads archives DVD and there are tons of articles on using attachments.

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  32. I keep buying suit patterns and I am semi retired and work out of my home. I want to be able to make some jackets for my attorney daughter but she is extremely fussy. I wish I could surepticiously sp? get a duct tape sewing double of her body!

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  33. "Why do you sew?" Originally it was to see if I could operate a sewing machine and not injure myself. Then it was to see if I could sew together a project and finish it. Then I wanted to see if I could make something that looks as good as ready to wear. Next, I wanted to see if I could make it look better than off the rack. I can state I achieved my goals and after years of sewing I am happy to say that continue to learn and improve.

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