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Oct 4, 2010

When Loved Ones Insist on Ready-to-wear

Friends, you know my partner Michael has been, and continues to be, a tremendous support throughout my short but dramatic sewing career.

He is forgiving of my growing sewing machine collection and has allowed me to take over way more than my share of the apartment, never suggesting we place a tape dividing line down the center -- a popular 60's sitcom plot device I've always loved.  He also proudly wears my creations albeit sometimes in outfits not entirely to my liking.  I let it go and love him more.

So imagine my confusion when he came home last week with this.

It's wrong on so many levels, readers, I'm not sure where to start.

But let's back up: to his credit (literally) Michael needed to return something of somewhat lesser value to our local American Apparel store and wasn't eligible for a full refund but rather an exchange.  So he had to buy something.  And the item he was returning was an article of clothing he had bought for me.  But let's not get into that today.

How do you feel about American Apparel, readers?  The bloom is so off the rose for me as I learn more about the owner/founder Dov Charney and his sleazy-if-not-outright-abusive ways.  But on top of that, I think the clothes themselves are overpriced and slutty -- and I apologize to the sluts out there who really don't deserve that kind of association.  The mens t-shirts are appealingly soft, however, and I pick them up at the thrift store whenever I find them there.

But back to Michael's jacket.  Did you notice what it's made out of?  That's right: corduroy.  WHAT have I been sewing with for the last two weeks?  What unfinished jacket has been sitting on my body form for the last six days?

Not only that, even the colors are similar.  Ouch.

You'll have to take my word for it right now that the fit is also poor.  It's a size Small but the shoulders are too wide and the sleeves too long.  Not a problem for Michael, apparently.

And then there's the price.  OK, so it's Michael's hard-earned money, not mine, and I shouldn't have anything to say about it, right?

But still...  Seventy-nine dollars for a corduroy jacket

I could have made that jacket for one-tenth the price.  Moreover, I intend to.  Look what I picked up on Etsy over the weekend:

Trust me, friends, when I say I will not be sewing this out of spite.  I would like a little jean jacket for myself, frankly, and I may even try making it in suede, if I can find a good source.  I still have countless yards of vinyl faux python too! 

Kind readers, maybe I'm not the most generous person in the world, but I do like to sew for others, unlike an embittered young sewer who has returned to the blogosphere at long last, putting to rest rumors that I was somehow responsible for her disappearance as her last public sighting was with me at Galanga Gardens one month ago.

Like most of you I am relieved to know she has arrived safe at her new home and pity her new neighbors but thus is life.  I miss Dan, mostly.

But back to the subject at hand.

Wise ones spanning the continents, is there someone in your life you enjoy sewing for -- or would enjoy sewing for -- who seems 1) less than interested, 2) insufficiently appreciative, or 3) downright resistant?

If so, what do you do about it?  What can you do about it?

Do you interpret it as a judgment on your sewing skills?  A hostile gesture?  Mere ignorance?

Do you think I should sew a new and better jacket for Michael just to make him feel guilty, or make myself a nicer one and make him feel inferior?

Any other passive-aggressive if forgivably human tactics you suggest?

A nearly eight-year relationship hangs in the balance!


  1. Sew a jacket that you can both share (some thing casual, perhaps a stylish take on a blouson-shape so that the syle is becoming to both of you)? Michael will see the benefit of well sewn clothes, you won't have to debase your wardrobe with inferior over-priced tosh, you'll both save $$$, and we get to see the garment construction here on your blog... it's a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN !! :)

  2. "I could have made that jacket for one-tenth the price."

    Isn't that what you told him about the family portrait suit? And, where is that suit?

    I rest my case.

  3. Sadly (or happily, depending how you look at it), my problem is the opposite. Hubby would love a Jenny-made dress shirt, which I keep promising and putting off. I really do want to make it... there's just so much fun stuff to sew for me first...

  4. I'd like to sew for my son but he's very much "MEH" about it. Oh well...

  5. I used to enjoy sewing for my teenage daughter but I tend to complain and procrastinate whenever I do because she gave me tight deadlines. I don't like sewing under deadlines and as a result have missed a few and sent her to the store to buy RTW. She used to wear everything I sew for her to death and even proudly tell people that her mom sews it. Now, she won't let me sew for her anymore. Of course at first I felt slighted but then after thinking and finally seeing the whole picture, I have concluded that she just did not want to impose and maybe did not want to be disappointed by me not delivering as
    Don't hate me for saying this as I am only offering a different perspective. It is natural for you to feel the way you are feeling now but maybe Michael's intentions are good. Since you have missed the deadline of sewing a jacket twice once for him and once for yourself, he maybe thinking he is saving you a lot of of work. The fact that he bought a jacket of similar color and fabric
    could be because he thought that they are your favorites since you chose
    them for your jacket project. Hence there is a good chance you will like the
    jacket he bought... Just think about it.

  6. Personally, if they won't appreciate or want it - fugeddaboutit. I am not saying he doesn't appreciate your efforts at all, I don't really know. Many people are so ingrained about the "benefits" of RTW over home-sewn, from the last several decades of denigrating home sewing. Another topic, however. Pour the energy into what YOU want. My 9 year old likes for me to sew for her, but she is still so destructive on clothes and hates dresses, so I limit it to PJ pants, shorts, the occasional dress for Christmas, Easter. My 2.5 year old, however, will wear any dress, anything I make for her, as long as it's pretty and cute, her words, and that's a broad definition. My boys get PJ pants, shorts, occasionally something else. Remember, you're having fun with it :)

  7. Oh Peter, what pain you must feel. This is soap opera material if I ever saw it... a master behind the machine crushed by the sight of his love entering with store bought attire. Unselfishly putting aside your desire to be spiteful by wanting to create something beautiful but wait, the one you love doesn't care! He thinks your designs are on the same level as the rubbish sold by inexperienced teens. Oh the pain, the agony, the betrayal... how can you go on? But you must! Somehow you will find the strength, your passion for creating haute couture will get you through.

    Screw the suit, it would probably end up hanging next to this new jacket. Blah!

  8. Turn your issue around 180 degrees and answer honestly: Do you really want to make all Michael's clothes?

    I bet the answer is 'no'. It would just be too much work.

    Personally, I'm happy to sew shirts for my boyfriend and I recently made him a winter jacket, which he proudly shows off to all our friends and even to his co-workers. I've also made bermuda shorts but I'm very happy he's too attached to his Levi's 501's to even consider asking me for trousers. I draft patterns to size and whenever I've made him a certain style of clothing, he gets spoiled with the good fit and doesn't want a RTW version anymore.
    My younger brother gets a shirt each year and those are his only tops which aren't band t-shirts. And he wears them.
    I get strange behaviour towards my sewing only from my female relatives: my mother and sister. I've long thought they didn't trust me style-wise. My mother recently confessed that 'at her age she just wants to look in the mirror and decide whether it's right'. So I leave her be. She prefers silk poncho-like things and resists styling help, so I don't consider it a big loss. My sister, on the other hand, used to like my sewing when I was a lot less skilled, but is avoiding the issue now. And has been a lot less than appreciative of the most recent gifts. So, no more for her.

  9. I dabble in to many realms of fiber. I began with knitting, and you can save a ton of money on some stuff and not on others. I have learned the hard way there are some people you just don't make things for. Example: I used Manos Del Uraguay to make a camo scarf for my father. I don't think he's ever worn it, and can't understand why I went to the trouble of making it. My mother, on the other hand, is always using the various scarves, blankets, shawls, and dishcloths I've made her, and I hear about it regularly.

    The first gift is the hardest. I have to figure out something they'd like and use, but something I'd not be heartbroken to have tossed aside and forgotten. If they like it and I see them use it, then plans are underway for more. If not, well they can have the RTW and I'll get them something off the shelf for next time. But Michael likes your stuff. He was in a pinch. If he wants a nicer one, make it, if not, sew him a nice pair of trousers to compliment it?

    That's my 2 cents.

  10. I have made my husband exactly two items, shirts from the same pattern. I'm a little torn about doing more sewing for him. On the one hand, he's non-standard to fit so finding him RTW is a PITA, and I feel warm and fuzzy every time he wears one of those shirts, but on the other hand, he's picky, and do I really want that kind of judgment on my hand-sewn clothes? Half the pants we've ever bought him sit in the closet unworn because the waist is too loose or the legs are too tight or too short or some other minor, niggling issue of fit that he somehow managed to ignore when trying them on. It's bad enough when that's an $80 pair of jeans, but how much worse would it be if they were jeans I drove myself nuts to make him?

    I realize this may be the exact opposite of your problem with Michael... just wanted to let you know that I share your pain.

  11. Dear Peter, it sounds as if Michael is just possibly a tiny bit less interested in clothes than you - could it be that seeing that cut out cord jacket every day lodged in the back of his mind, and he picked out something superficially similar?

    I would sew for my daughter, but she wouldn't be seen dead. Doesn't mind my mending skills, though.

  12. Peter, you are an excellent seamster. Excellent! But that does not mean you have to clothe yourself and Michael all by yourself. If Michael is happy, then my advice is to let it go. Think of it this way, the existence of cranberry corduroy in the apartment for x number of days probably influenced his choice of color.

    As to your actual question, my DH is an odd size, and his clothes don't fit as well as I would like. But he has never ever requested a garment or even alterations. I am so slow a sewist, that this is probably a good thing.

  13. I made my 4-year old niece a dress because (in her mother's words) "she's still young enough to wear homemade clothing".
    A few weeks later she told me "I love my dress you made me Aunt Kelly!"
    Aw! How sweet!
    Then it was all ruined.
    "It's my new play dress!"
    Needless to say I haven't made her anything else.

  14. *trying dearly to suppress laughter at work* After the comment Debbie has left I don't think anyone else needs to say anything.... who can Michael

  15. that should be who can blame Michael

  16. I would echo what Debbie Cook said, but I don't want to rub it in. :-)

    I will say on my home front, my efforts are very much appreciated, when I can get around to them. I mostly stick with Aloha shirts (the louder the better, with the most provacative fabric we can find within the bounds of good taste). And I've been known to whip up a tailored shirt from time to time, but time IS the problem. What I should really work on is slacks, since DH is an ideal candidate for custom made as he is (ahem) not very tall, so slacks shortened proportionally (above and below the knee) would be ideal. But if he had to wait on *me* to finish something, well it just wouldn't work. Kind of like Michael, huh?

  17. I think that he's been looking at what you're making and it has subliminally influenced him. By buying the same-ish jacket, he's actually showing you that he likes what you are doing. It reminds me of the way I always (always!) look at black skirts and black shoes whenever I shop. Forget that I have so many already. I love them and I'm always drawn to them because I love them.

    Or, then again, maybe that selfish seamstress is onto something and we should keep our best work for ourselves. ;)

  18. I feel for ya. Don't take it personally. He had to buy something. Send it to me if you don't like it.

  19. Agree with everyone that your lucious merlot influenced Michael. I'd leave him be and just sew for yourself if he's not that enthusiastic about picking patterns & fabrics and being fitted. Learn to clamp tongue between teeth and carry on.

    I sew for myself, the critters and the house. At Christmas, I make things like slippers and robes for gifts. All my stuff, knitting and sewing, goes with a tag that says "if you don't like it, donate it." I only make what I know I'll have fun making so it won't be a total loss, and I never ask whether it's been used or donated.

    DH has finally come to the conclusion that he can't buy a shirt that fits him the way he wants or doesn't shrink and is hinting. Sewing for the world's pickiest man, for whom I buy nothing after the underwear fiasco, is way down my list. Maybe next years. (Underwear fiasco: I buy 12 pairs of his expensive gotchas and 12 pairs of socks, all same brand and size. Only 3 are acceptable as the others don't fit right. I measure and test fabric and think they're the same. Ditto for the socks. Good thing he's cute.)

  20. Debbie and ckh speaketh the truth. Make Michael another shirt that'll both compliment the new jacket and blow away it's quality. With your proximity to fabric resources you can surely find something amazing and I've seen your plackets, so get placketing and top stiching if the muse suits you!

  21. I don't like sewing for others. Sewing is a hobby that is quickly becoming an addiction. Sewing for others makes it a job. And that's not what I want it to be for me. I like getting excited to go into my sewing room. I don't ever want to dread it.

  22. Oh Peter! The nerve? Or maybe he was just inspired by your fabric choices and was fealing a little jealous?

    You are right though, I just read the Wiki on AA and I'm so not liking this guy, even though his motivation to make clothes in the USA is valiant, but at what price to his employees? I'm so waffling on that.

    I've sewn for my DH. A plaid shirt that he's worn to death and several shorts that he's in need of replacing...a luxurious bathrobe that swallows him. I've sooooo neglected him for too long and will need to sew more.

    You so need to one up him on this one Peter!

  23. You've done the first step: passive aggressively posting on your blog. The next step is to post passive aggressively on facebook about this. After that make the jacket for yourself. First of all Michael already has a corduroy jacket. Second of all it's much better to make yourself a jacket and them wear it around him constantly, shaming him for buying a store bought one when he could have had a jacket made with love.

  24. hmmm, I could comment on you and your crisis of corduroy, but I am really into me at the moment. My daughter called and told me how she wants to dress for Halloween knowing FULL WELL that I will drop what I am doing and make her something to her specs, just like I do every year. She is careful to say "oh really, you mean you don't mind? I don't want to be any bother". But that is just code for, "OK Mom, I know you have been waiting for this all year. Now you are permitted to sew for me. It is a Halloween costume to be once (or twice if there are enough good parties). Can you make it tight and sexy and please don't make it itch".

    OK but back to you ... he is on thin ice! You will have to fight fire with fire on this one. Or corduroy with corduroy, I guess.

  25. I am a lurker, but I have to say that I love your blog AND the comments. So wonderful. When I am not sewing, I want to live in your world.

  26. Since he bought the shirt for you but then returned it and bought something for himself, I'd say you're down a shirt. So, my vote is for making yourself a nicer one and making him feel inferior.

  27. Look at it from another angle: you are freed from thinking you have to sew for him. That leaves you free to sew for him when you feel like it. (Maybe that's the subliminal message he's sending.) My mother used to tell me "Save your battles for important issues." Where Michael gets his clothes is not one of them. Just hug him and tell him you love him, and let it go.

  28. $79 for that jacket? Merciful heavens! If you'd told me it was Faded Glory and found on the subway, I've have believed you.

    Sounds like Michael's not a clotheshorse. Over time, I was able to talk my boyfriend out of wearing bulky white Nikes and pale Wrangler jeans, but he's still not much interested in personal style.

    You can accept Michael's lack of interest OR you can stage a tragic bleach accident while doing laundry. The choice is yours.

  29. I understand the pain & the immediate wish for revenge! However I would have to agree with many others above that seeing your lovely cranberry must have inspired him, & he probably thought that by buying something similar you would be pleased. I know that seems illogical, but non-sewing people ARE illogical IMO. Keep in mind he probably thinks that you spending all those hours sewing one garment when he can just make a quick visit to the store & spend a 'mere' $79 is insanity too, it depends on what people value most. Yours is obviously personal fit & exquisite taste in one off designs, but he obviously values something else (perhaps his time??). No doubt he's totally oblivious to the pain he's inflicted & would probably think it was nothing more than a storm in a teacup if he only knew.... either way, I wouldn't get hung up on it(hard as that may be) & try to find the positives, such as more time to sew for yourself. And if he requests a lovingly sewn item, then put your all into it (not missing any deadlines of course, that has the habit of taking the shine off our efforts!) & make it something he will treasure forever & wear with pride!

  30. (This ongoing level-headedness is starting to grate.)

  31. Ok so you really really want some revenge!!!
    (we're obviously being too calm & reasonable for you hmmm?)
    but anyway, I popped back to add one more thing, & this is what my builder hubby does ALL the time, which really annoys me, but there's an element of truth to it.
    Whenever I ask him to do something that cuts into his work time, he always relates the cost of what I've asked him to do to how much money he could have been earning if I hadn't asked him to do whatever it was....
    I think its his way of making me feel guilty for having the nerve to ask him to do something during work time! (but sometimes that's the only time he can do things due to other factors!!)
    anyway, I digress.
    So using a similar theory that our free time is actually worth something, assign a dollar value to your time (say $10 an hour, just to pluck a figure out of the air, which is way too little for my precious time, but soon you'll get the drift of what I'm saying)
    Say that jacket took you 12 hours of your time to make, even if you just count the actual time spent cutting, fitting & sewing that jacket (or whatever it is you're making)...
    NOW how much did that garment really cost you?
    How does that compare with ready to wear?
    We sewers WORLD WIDE are very quick to scoff at RTW becasue we can make things for 1/10 of the price, but in reality it often costs us more....
    what we gain is a one off design with quality & fit of course, but I find doing this little exercise can help put things in persepective if you're feeling slighted...
    Anyway, I thought you'd like to hear what prompted me to add this little twist, is reading about a selfish scarf some drongo in Europe is knitting, 'believing' she is saving all this money by making her own Missoni knockoff, but in fact she is spending countless "HOURS" hand-knitting the darned thing!
    True it is looking gorgeous, but that's beside the point as that's just a given....
    but dollarwise, its probably cost her twice the price of the one she has been immitating,
    AND (& here's my point, if ever I was trying to make one) its taken her HOW LONG before she gets to wear it???
    so just maybe this is where Michael is coming from (subconsiously maybe!).

  32. nothing says love like spending hours and hours creating something.

    You never know what reaction you'll get, but you have to decide you don't care.
    my grandmother didn't like my mom. mom was continually frustrated when it came time to give gifts to this woman. one year, mom made her an outfit in horrendous double knit, printed with suitcases. that woman loved it, but conveniently forgot that my mom had sewn it, or even been the one to give it to her.

    I guess what I'm saying is, you have to put your whole self into the creation and gifting, and then let go.

    so Michael isn't overly excited about having you make something for him. so what. what matters is that you are excited to make something for him. or not.

  33. Now that I've had my day's worth of caffeine and am feeling less snarky (although that was a pretty good snark if I do say so), I remembered I wanted to comment on this too:

    "He is forgiving of my growing sewing machine collection and has allowed me to take over way more than my share of the apartment, never suggesting we place a tape dividing line down the center -- a popular 60's sitcom plot device I've always loved. He also proudly wears my creations albeit sometimes in outfits not entirely to my liking."

    If nothing else, Michael is a keeper! Which I'm sure is not news to you. :-)

    And that tape down the middle of the room ... I was always so jealous of that, seeing that I was an only child until 8-1/2 and had no one to fight or divide rooms with. By the time my sister was old enough to get into my stuff, I was on the verge of moving out. Now I just take over whole rooms.

  34. Oh, Peter. You just crack me up. Whenever will you get a book deal? Anyhoo- I agree with the wise commenter who said that sewing for someone else turns a hobby into a job. Nonetheless, Michael must still be punished, and I believe a certain blogger who recently relocated to Europe could probably give you excellent tips on how to make him pay forever and you will never, ever, ever dare to even try to sew for him again. :)

  35. Imitation....flattery....that's the first thing I thought.

    Would Michael like to learn to sew?

    And just think how striking you'll look if you wore "matching" jackets while romping around town.

    PS: You looked wonderful at your reunion! Loved the photos! Even if you did wear that belt. I do have to say it - it was a good choice.

  36. Why not meet all this half way and commit to making him 3 staples: a knit shirt, a dress shirt, and a pair of slacks. See how he integrates them into his wardrobe, then after some time make a more committed decision.

    Far be it for me to discourage grand obsession. I just try to be a bit more reasonable about it :)

  37. Oh, dear, this thought is pretty level-headed and therefore no doubt grating, but seriously, IF you want 8 years of togetherness to become 30, you should probably leave him and his ready-to-wear taste alone. you be you, he be he, and you will live happily ever after.

  38. If your Michael is anything like a man I know, he probably picked it out because it was something that made him think of you. You did have the corduroy and the color out for a while, so he could think that this is close. Don't read into it too much. He can't sew, but he can buy. Be thankful and continue working on your jacket. Maybe you can make a better version of that style?


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