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Monday, October 27, 2008

Learning how to sew

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

I loved Sadge's post below. Since my journey into a simpler life, one of the things that has come as a surprise to me was how much I loved learning how to sew.

Prior to my 'transition', I did not consider myself creative in any way at all. I failed home economics during highschool (I got a 'D' for cooking and an 'F' for sewing). As an adult, I was the type that threw away clothes if a button fell off.

Later on in life, I started to think about learning how to sew (properly) but as a mother to two little ones and with no babysitting available to me, opportunities for me to go to a proper class were very limited.

This all changed when I took up the challenge to not buy anything brand new in 2006. At first, everything was fine, until - you guessed it - a button fell of my jacket. So after borrowing a needle and got given some thread from my neighbour (yep, didn't have those at all in my house), I sewed my first button back on. It was then that I realised that I needed to teach myself how to sew if I was to stick to my challenge.

So first stop was to the op shop, where I found some white acrylic wool and a large needle with a big hole on it... later on I was to learn that it was an upholstery needle.

Next step was that I needed to now have materials to sew it with. I didn't want to spend a huge amount of money of learn how to sew (and I couldn't buy brand new fabrics anyway without breaking my challenge). So fate came along and taught me a new word: "Reconstructed Clothing". Reconstructed clothing is clothing that was made using old clothes. Basically, you pull apart clothes and make new ones.

So armed with an old jumper (that I pre-shrunk in the wash) and with the help of the Internet (Google and Youtube are fantastic resources to learn how to sew), I made this outfit for my son:

Yes, the sewing's crooked and it took me about 2 solid days to do it, but I was so proud of this. Plus, I had the added bonus of my son looking cute (well, I think so anyway) in it and I could tell myself that this distracted people from the crooked sewing.

Since then, I have graduated from hand-sewing to finally using a machine (again bought second-hand). Slowly, I acquired the necessary sewing materials - pins, scissors, pin cushion, more thread. Everything I acquired was second-hand. My generous friends also gave me a whole heap of clothes to experiment on (not to mention my own clothes!).

Reconstructed clothing not only allowed me to learn how to sew very cheaply, but by pulling apart already made clothes, I learnt a great deal in how they were put together in the first place. And because I was using clothes that would've been thrown away anyway, it freed me to be more daring and experiment a lot more than I would have.

Yes, I have since made a few disasters but as the disasters didn't really cost me anything but my time, I was able to just concentrate on the learning opportunities those disasters gave me without thinking of the amount of money I might have "wasted" otherwise.

So there you go, that's how I learned how to sew. If you would like to learn, I would highly recommend learning by reconstructing clothing and/or using materials from op shops.

Anyway, here are a list of websites that have helped me in my journey: (lots of tutorials here for reconstructed clothing)
Sew, Mama, Sew Blog Tutorials
And also Youtube and just searched for specific items (eg. "sew a zipper" or "sew a button hole" etc)

For those who may be interested in sewing an outfit similar to the one I made for my son, this is the tutorial I used for the pants: The rest of the outfit, I just hand-sewed as I went along using my son's actual clothes as templates and somehow fluked it.

All the best!

ETA: THANK YOU Sadge for reminding me of this great site: I got heaps of inspiration from this site when I was learning how to sew (still do too). You can join them and pledge not to buy brand-new clothes for 2 to 6 months. Then everyone inspires each other to sew or to reconstruct clothing. I had a lot of fun joining in here and I would highly recommend it for newbies to sewing. :)


Tammie said...

what a great post. and thanks so much for the links. i'm learning to sew as well and need all the help i can get.

Posh And Trendy said...

What a neat idea of using used clothing to learn with. Very clever indeed.
Myself I learned at my mothers knee as she made our family clothing so I never gave much thought of what it would be like to learn as an adult.
I love your sons outfit and you did a fab job on it.

annette said...

a great post! I just love youtube tutorials. =) Your son looks great in his 'new' threads.

claudia said...

That reminds me of a time when I had little resources and three girls who wanted costumes for Hallowen. I had this ugly orange and brown strpied material I had pick up at a garage sale, and wouldn't have used it for public worn clothing. I found a T-shirt that fit my oldest loosely to use for the template, cut out the material and sewed it into an American Indian woman's type of dress. Cut fringe on the bottom and made some to sewn into the sleeve seam, added an old pair of squaw boots. Oh! And I had some black yarn that had become tangled, staightened it out and crocheted a skull cap, braided up the rest of it and made the "hair" to go with it. I then cut a strip of the leftover fabric to make a head band. That costume was argued over for years! I wish I had a picture of it now.

Sadge said...

This is a great site to see what others are doing refashioning clothing:
It might jumpstart some ideas for your own "projects"

She sure is strange! said...

I just found your blog via Heather(beauty that moves) and it is fooking awesome!!!! I'm going to put it in my blogroll asap because its quite possibly the best blog ever!!


Molly said...

What a timely post for me! Thank you!

Quinne said...

Hi Eilleen :) What an encouraging post! Thanks for the information and for sharing your story. Blessings, Q

Vegbee said...

When I tell my story it sounds a whole lot like yours. In fact, I started learning how to sew in 2006 also. Thanks for the great post and sharing the outfit for your son - I need to make up similar for my boy with cold weather beating on my door over here.

rhonda jean said...

Your son looks really cute! What a great project. Eilleen, I have to tell you that I made the most progress in knitting and sewing after I made a mistake. Mistakes always give you things to think about and help you to do things differently.

Karen said...

thanks for this, i dream of making my own clothes, pioneer-style dresses and skirts, and am lucky enough to have a good friend just *giving* me a sewing machine!! so ... i will probably make use of your links, as i don't have extra money to spend, either (nor want to).

dragonsue said...

What a lovely post! I wish I'd seen it years ago when my girls were small, I had to borrow books from the library to learn how to sew, and until I read this post I'd never even heard of 'reconstructed'! What a brilliant idea!
Now where do I start in my wardrobe??...

Yabusame said...

My girlfriend tends to have the sewing skills that are needed for creating new things (she has a wonderful embroidery on the go) whereas I just have the basic skills necessary for repairs. In the past few months, I have repaired a quilt cover, an umbrella and I have some jeans that need the hem sorting out. I think sewing is a skill that everyone should have.