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Jan 20, 2016

2016 EPIPHANY: I don't have to sew EVERYTHING!



I don't know if if it's because I'm a Taurus or just naturally bullheaded, but for the last few years I committed myself to sewing everything I wore and to wearing only what I'd made myself.

OK, a few exceptions.  I didn't sew my running clothes or swimming pool swimsuits (as opposed to beach swimsuits), and I continued to wear the underwear and undershirts I'd owned before I started sewing.  And sweaters, I mean, I'm not going to sew myself a cashmere sweater.

Lately, I've mellowed.  I've come to the conclusion that sometimes I like ready-to-wear better and it costs less -- often much, much less (especially at thrift stores or my local flea market).  Sites like eBay and, naturally, Amazon, are also sources of great bargains.  The Steven Alan cotton knit shirt up top, a recent find, is actually made in the USA and beautifully constructed.  I could have made something similar but not for $2.

Speaking of cotton knits, they haven't been a source of much sewing fun for me.  Finding the right weight knit for a project, as well as sourcing matching ribbing for cuffs and/or collars, are ongoing challenges.  Ready-to-wear knit shirts, on the other hand, are rarely wonky (i.e., neckbands lie flat and don't need pressing); everything matches.  If they don't fit, I don't have to purchase them. We all know how frustrating it can be to invest time in a project only to find that the fit isn't quite what we'd hoped.  (Naturally, there's a lot of crap out there too, so you have to be willing to hunt a bit.)

These days, I like investing my sewing time in the things I know will turn out well, like shirts and pants, rather than devoting an afternoon to making a cotton brief that, no matter how well-fitting, still wouldn't be mistaken for Calvins. 

A few weeks ago, I found these two Penguin-brand striped knit shirts at the Salvation Army.  Nothing earth-shattering but as good as new and about $2 each.  How can you beat it?





I bought Jockey all-cotton boxer briefs -- $6.99 for 3-pack (!) on eBay.  Do you know how long it would take me to make three pair of boxer briefs?  Sometimes I just need underwear!

Today, after dropping off that Brother sewing machine at the Salvation Army, I found this lovely wool blend intarsia sweater (below).  Three bucks.



Of course I love to sew but it feels good to be less dogmatic about it.  While I can sew everything I wear, I've learned that that isn't really the best use of my time, my skills, or my passion.

Readers, I ask you:

Do you try to sew everything you wear or are there some things you always prefer to purchase ready-made?

Are some items simply not worth the effort?

Have a great day, everybody!

63 comments:

  1. I love to make clothes that fit me, as that's where RTW lets me down. I will buy new on occasion, but prefer charity shopping, it's great fun! I don't see jeans or undies, but would like to give it a try. I'm not dogmatic about sewing all my clothes, I just generally like to.

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  2. The number following my name on ebay (fear me) says I definitely do not sew everything I wear, although a good deal of what I purchase I tailor or refashion. If I find something I like that's ready-made, well-made, and well-priced, I just buy it; otherwise, if it's something I really want/need, I make a version myself. I like the occasional challenge of making the unusual, like a ballgown or a bra, but have never felt the need to make every garment in my closet. Enjoy your finds as well as your makes.

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  3. I have no qualms about buying something if it is a good value and well made. And I have yet to see anyone come up with a way to make a seamless bra at home. :)

    You found some wonderful garments, so go ahead and enjoy!

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  4. I try to sew almost everything I make. Almost. (In 2015, I decided to not make bras anymore.)

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  5. Can I offer a suggestion re your knit shirts? Turn them inside out, then run a line of short, narrow zig-zag stitches each side, arm pit to hip, arcing in at the waist an inch or inch and a half. Try on to see how it looks. Arc in more, if needed. Knit shirts tend to be baggy through the waist.

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  6. I tried to sew everything but I couldn't keep up with that so, Yep, I'm all for taking the pressure out of stuff.
    Sew it if you wanna, but shopping ain't a crime!
    Sewing should be a joy, not a chore!

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  7. I preferred to sew things that are enjoyable, and buy everything else. I am a frequent shopper at TJ Maxx. Ready-to-wear fits me pretty well. I don't have a lot of fit issues shopping. To make a dress almost always cost more than to buy.

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  8. I used to be exactly like you and want to sew everything just because I could (and my birthday is April 23, which I believe is quite close to yours!) but I too had an epiphany. Now I put all my hard earned skill and time into special projects only, (jackets mostly), and only using fabric I absolutely love.

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  9. I love both shopping and sewing! I used to feel pressure to sew everything but have eased up this past year. I'd prefer to spend time on something interesting rather than sewing a t shirt I can buy anywhere for a few bucks.

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  10. I do love sewing my own clothing, and I don't know where I got the idea that I had to sew all of my own clothing, but I find it so hard to make myself purchase RTW clothes. It IS easier & cheaper. My husband recently told me (after I complained about my lack of t-shirts for every day wear around the house) "You know you don't have to sew all your clothes." I guess he's right!

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  11. We are a family of dedicated thrifters, for the fabric and the savings. But mostly the styles. The hip hop college teen, the suit wearing other teen, the grown man who swims in most clothes, and me, the box shaped mom. We can find what we're looking for, and we can all make it fit better. So we are all about the alterations.

    And frankly, I am not knitting socks.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I make the majority of my clothes but I do like to buy on rare occasions. The price has to be low or the "I can make that" will creep in and ruin my shopping trip. When I do buy, it's mostly sweaters because the sweater knits I love, I can't afford. LOL!!

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  13. Great post. This past month I have realized that I shouldn't feel like I have to sew everything (I've been trying). It is hard to keep up the pace for myself and my 3 children. So, I have made the conscious decision to slow down and focus on what is needed that I can do really well.

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  14. I am the slowest sewer (wow, that looks weird, maybe I should say "slowest sewist" instead)--but anyway I am the slowest in the world, no joke. If I had to make everything, I'd have very few clothes to wear! I think the important thing for me is to be intentional about what I buy, and not buy on impulse and end up with things I don't need or that don't match my wardrobe. Not that that's ever happened.

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    1. Yep, a "slow sewer" is never a good thing. Nor is a slow flusher, nor a slow septic tank.

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  15. I've found so many great buys at thrift stores that I consider sewing a higher-priced alternative and often a luxury; the reasons for sewing is for fit and/or something really custom as well as personal satisfaction. Since I dress very simply, I've never needed to sew. And when I can find brand new Hugo Boss suits in my size (needing only minor alterations) whose only flaws are their having been hanging on the Nordstrom Rack too long and are less than $200, tailoring is even less attractive from a time or economic standpoint.

    Nonetheless, thrifting seldom finds anything that offers me the potential of a self-made garment: 1) perfect fit; 2) perfect material; 3) perfect workmanship (or at least the flaws are my own). Then again, thrifting (whether actual thrift stores, discount houses, or clearance racks) offers the element of pleasant surprise: a well-fitting garment in a fabric I've not seen before or with interesting details or from a fashion house whose style and quality I really admire.

    Things I don't buy used: socks and underwear. And I'm very picky about shoes: clean and in very good shape, no funky smells, etc.

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  16. I barely sew any more. I had to sew back in the day. There was not access to tall girl clothes, or plus size clothes. When clothes for me were more available and the tariffs went up for imported fabrics causing home sewing to be more expensive than store bought,I stopped sewing. I still make special occasion clothes, and any home dec I desire, but I don't sew my clothes.

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  17. Sewing should bring us joy so I agree, spend time making what you really want to wear and will enjoy making. Personally, I love making underwear, but I'm with you on the Cashmere thrift store sweaters and neatly finished knits. Plus we can sometimes learn what we really want to wear in the fitting room.

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  18. I prefer to purchase most of my clothing and save sewing for special occasions. I mean it takes me a couple of years to finish some of my garments. It's almost sad. But, really the items I believe are not really worth my time is underwear. I am way to lazy to go there.

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  19. I wish I could sew everything but I just don't have the time and then there are some items that I wouldn't want to spend time making, like bras. So my wardrobe is a mix of what I've made and ready-to-wear.

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  20. I won't invest time, money or energy on a sewing project unless there is a high chance of a successful outcome. This automatically means the RTW option for some types of garments. Life's too short etc. Anyway, I want sewing to be fun, not a chore/frustrating/disappointing. It's the same reason I very rarely tackle alterations (ugh).

    Great sweater. Similar to the one you were considering ditching a week or so ago - only much nicer.

    Spud.

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  21. Hell NO! I don't think bra-making is for me...too many small pieces cut from flimsy fabric...plus I prefer a Tshirt bra for everyday use.
    There is nothing wrong with buying clothes. Usually on sale :)
    And drift store shopping is like my fave workout!

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    1. Oh, Aunty Maimu, I am stealing "drift store" from you! What a perfect description of the way most customers amble through, in a nearly somnambulant state.

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    2. It may have been a typo, but I'm stealing it too!

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  22. Hmm, so the sewing machine went to a new home...but what about all the clothes you were pondering in the last post?

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    1. Oh, ye of little faith -- they're gone! (well, most of them)

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  23. Buying clothing has its place just like making clothing has its place. If you are extreme on any topic you might need to take a moment to really think about your standing. Feel free to keep the extreme opinion after you audit your brain but audit none the less. I went through that phase a while back and had to think about why I spent a three day weekend sewing underwear. After that I buy panties and sew pretty things I can't buy. Besides, sewing your own clothes has that perk where you get to say "oh this?... Yeah I did this". I guess not enough strangers see my underwear to comment.

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  24. I think I make pretty much everything by now. Until a few years ago, I didn't make underwear and I still have some RTW stuff in that drawer but anything new was usually made by me. Until last year, I didn't think sportswear was worth the trouble. Too many specialist fabrics and very simple fits. Over that year, I started to do more sport than ever before (rock climbing) and now I am slowly replacing all my sportswear with things I made because those are just much more comfortable.

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  25. Love this post! I think I've come to the same conclusion as you! I love sewing my own clothes but I love hunting for bargains just as much :)

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  26. About 18 months ago I decided to take some pressure off and buy rtw when I wanted, leaving my sewing time free to make the things that give me the most joy with fabrics I live. Finding gorgeous knits or the right denim or something yo make the perfect jacket isn't easy. Plus buying something rtw that works well for me often inspires me to make something similar.

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  27. I've made myself two pair of boxer briefs recently and I'm kinda hooked on them, they're my favorite pair. I usually buy cheap, Hanes boxer briefs but the fabric seems to be too thin for my liking and they don't seem to last very long. So, I've decided to continue making myself more underwear. It is nice to find good quality clothes one likes at a bargain price, however.

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  28. It is glaringly apparent (and bears repeating),from dumpster to department store, the universe adores you Peter!!!

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  29. I don't like most of the fabrics I've been seeing in the RTW landscape. And as a petite woman, I sew mostly because I like my clothes to fit and because honestly I don't like the selection in the stores. Give me a Vogue pattern over RTW clothes any day. I do take the pressure off of sewing everything though, I do know where my limitations are and I do have a brand of undies that I can't beat with my sewing skills.

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  30. I make a lot of what I wear, but I don't make things like camis, underwear and bras, tights, etc. I still buy workout clothes, but I'm starting to make my own. I recently started making tshirts and I'm addicted to them!

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  31. I did another blogger Ready-to-Wear fast a couple of years ago and just didn't go back to shopping as I had before. But I have also come to the conclusion that you have - sometimes it's OK to purchase clothing that others will see! I do hate to answer "Did you make that?" question with a "no", but that's the only drawback. My ego will get over it😉

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  32. Some people seem to really enjoy those challenges to wear only what they make. But if you don't enjoy the challenge, just make what you want. I have limited time to sew and make only things that add that extra zip to my wardrobe. I'm not spending my time making a white t-shirts.
    I love your blog, read it faithfully. I'm so appreciative that you are willing to share your experiences. But, as a knitter, the sweater, not intarsia. Maybe a form of fair isle. But no intarsia there. Sorry.

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  33. What a great question, Peter! I participated in the Goodbye Valentino RTW Fast in 2015 and only cheated a handful of times. I participated primarily because I wanted to challenge myself to sew more and improve my skills + I wanted to connect with other sewists. It was a win on all those fronts and I am so glad I did it! I'm still frequently uninspired by what I have in my closet. I am equally uninspired by most RTW options. Totally agree with you that a mix of RTW and me-made is the way to go. Moderation is key. I do think there is room for lots of cost savings/more unique selections for me-made bras and athletic wear! Workout clothes and lace bras are so pricey. But, i don't see a lot of savings for me-made t-shirts, sweaters, etc. In fact, I am about to hit purchase on an e-cart of J. Crew sweaters and tees.

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  34. I'm so with you! There are a few things that I just *won't* sew (jeans, bras) because I have a few brands that fit me really well so I don't feel a need to make my own. There are certain types of garments that I LOVE to sew (jackets and knit tops) that are pillars of my wardrobe, so those are the things that I sew most often.

    Love that intarsia sweater!

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  35. I'm just beginning to learn what I need to know to make my own clothes, and I can definitely see the draw to making everything I wear. At the same time, I have to be realistic about cost (and, in some cases, quality). I very much like the idea of becoming capable of having a choice, though -- right now, I've told myself I can't buy anything new as a way of disciplining myself to focus on learning to sew what I want. In the future, I'd like the have the option to do that -- or to purchase something I really love from a source I feel good about.

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  36. Sewing is expensive, more expensive than the thrift store shopping I usually do. I also like to buy and alter things from thrift stores but usually I don't have to alter them much. Sewing is also more difficult and I often end up with things that don't fit or just don't look right so I get very discouraged about sewing.

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  37. Limited time means I sew the frosting and leave the basics to RTW. I hope one day I will have time to sew everything I want including jeans, bras, pjs and casual tops. But I just can't see ever spending my precious sewing time on undies, tank tops and running clothes.

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  38. As Nancy Zieman, founder of Nancy's Notions, once said, "Even Julia Child eats out occasionally!" Instead of sewing everything you wear, enjoy makng everything you sew.

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  39. Like many others who have commented, I only make frosting pieces, and only ones that I can't buy. And a small thing, but that lovely sweater you are wearing in the last shot isn't intarsia, it's stranded knitting and more specifically Fair Isle stranded knitting.

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    1. I concur, stranded colorwork. Intarsia is for isolated motifs, not all over designs.

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  40. I prefer my me-made wardrobe pieces for fit and comfort and they seem to last the longest through laundry, etc., but realistically, I just don't have the time, energy, or budget to make every last thing. And it's OK.

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  41. I HAVE to sew some things, and I am very surprised how expensive sewing really is. I'm new to sewing, well kind of forced! My daughter loves cosplay, and there is no way I can buy the outfits she needs, they are so unique. I stumbled onto your site from clothingpatterns101.com in the comment section, trying to find out how to make a pattern for this jacket, https://www.flickr.com/photos/trekkiebeth/9604022636. The photo doesn't show it, but the jacket has tails. I searched online and cannot find anything close to the pattern of this jacket. I am self taught, kind of, if you can say I am actually learning something lol. My last project took me 3 times, and 3 months to make. If you or anyone else can direct me to a pattern, I would love you forever and ever. I am still looking, but I think I have exhausted Google.

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    1. Here's a link to a woman who modified an out of print pattern that you could probably find on ebay. http://columbiascloset.blogspot.com/2011/03/modifying-tailcoat-pattern.html

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  42. oh crap, forgot to click on Notify me! Click here to respond pretty please. Thanks! :D

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  43. I don't sew knit t-shirts. I can get them 3 for $5 at any women's store in the mall. I'd rather spend time working on something more substantial.

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  44. When I think of pointless-waste-of-time-energy-and-money sewing, I immediately think of the time I decided I was going to sew my own bras. Gigantic pain in the butt, and you can only sew styles that have annoying seams through the cups that can be itchy and often show through clothing. Much better to buy readymade bras with smooth, molded cups. I could always decorate my Maidenforms with trim and rhinestones if they get too boring! :-)

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  45. yes, you don't have to make everything. Especially, as now you know you can if you want to.

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  46. I've been a loooooong time lurker and this is the first comment I'm making. haha Love all your creative designs. I love style and fashion so I've recently started sewing classes with a local instructor and I'm not the biggest fan of sewing myself (some stuff is such a long process) but I promised I'd give it a year before I give up to see how I feel once I know more! Can't wait to see what more you create!

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  47. Does anyone actually sew everything for themselves? I don't read every blog and I suppose it's possible but I've yet to come across anyone who actually does. Is that a worthy goal? Why?

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    1. I think Lladybird, at http://lladybird.com, might actually sew everything she wears, or comes very close to it. She is obviously a superb and fast sewer, though.

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  48. No way. I sew so slowly that I'd be picking my son up from school in a Chanel jacket and my underwear.

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    1. Think of the bragging rights he'd have, though! :D

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  49. Hey Peter, one question for you. You have said that you're taking a class at FIT. As someone who can obviously already make some nice clothing, what are you getting out of your pattern-making class? Do you feel that it's really helping to elevate your game? I've always considered going back to FIT to take some classes (Majored in something completely different there).

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    1. I just really enjoy learning more about the various facets of clothing design/production. Always more to learn!

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  50. I can't find a reason to sew EVERYTHING, unless it is only to feed the blog, and write inspirational posts about it. But for me it is a recreational art form. I make things I love (mostly), take my sister's cast-offs, and then buy the pieces I love. Sewing is about not ever having to settle, mostly.

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  51. Oh hell no! I do NOT have the time to sew ALL THE THINGS!! Certain basics that wear out easily like socks, basic T-shirts and tanks, are best store bought for me. I'd rather dole out my precious precious sewing time to projects that I get to show off to a wider audience.

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  52. When I first started sewing my clothes, I was obsessed with doing everything myself! I still sew most of my clothes, but I've realized I don't really want to waste sewing time on things like sweat pants and tee shirts. Also, sometimes I find stuff I really like in RTW! It can be hard to source good ribbing and other notions, so sometimes RTW has nicer or more unique options than I can find. What I like about sewing my clothes is that they fit, and also that I have unique things. But often, I still like trends. I usually make sketches of RTW that I see in stores or catalogs and make them with my personal edits or fabric choices.

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