Monday, 27 October 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. :)