Why do I want to learn to sew my own clothing?

As a knitter who’s purchased $30 merino-cashmere-nylon sock yarn to make hand knit socks, I’m certainly under no illusions that it will be cheaper to sew my own clothes versus buying them (at least, not in the short run — more on that later). Most of us sock knitters have been asked why we bother to knit socks, when you can buy them so cheaply, and my answer to that will likely cross over to many of my reasons for wanting to learn how to sew: above all, fit; choice of materials; and pride of making something lovely with good techniques.

bayerischeAs a former Army officer, and as a veterinarian, I love the simplicity of uniforms.  I don’t have to think about what I’m going to put on when I dress for work at a vet clinic. I toss on a pair of scrubs and occasionally a lab coat.  I have a comfortable pair of clogs, and I wear my Bayerische socks.  I love that.  I get to wear comfortable clothes, suitable for my job. If I want to get on the floor with a big dog (or even medium or little dog!), I can easily do so in scrubs.

I have two main sets of scrubs, both in black. I have two scrub tops from 1st Care for working their vaccine clinics (the company uniform is black pants, with their blue scrub tops). I have one additional, older pair of scrub pants bottoms in turquoise-y green that can be paired with a black scrub top, but I rarely wear those.

It’s a good thing I don’t need an extensive work wardrobe. We have a small house, about 900 square feet. It’s also an older home, built in the 1920s, and as such, it has tiny closets, and small bedrooms.  There’s just not a lot of storage space. I share our bedroom closet with Dave; including winter jackets that only get worn if we go somewhere snowy, I get a little over half of the closet.  I also have a bookcase that I used for everything that doesn’t get hung up in the closet.  Work out clothes, jeans, sweaters, and underwear (along with a few miscellaneous items) are folded and placed on the shelves.

The idea of a capsule wardrobe, where you have a limited number of items that fit and that you love, from which you draw your daily outfits, really, really appeals to me.  I’ve not gone through and counted my items that I wear for non-work, non-working-out activities, but I’d be pretty surprised if it’s more than 37. Given I live in coastal Southern California, my wardrobe doesn’t change too much over the seasons, so I have that in my favor!  I tend to wear the same things over and over: jeans, a striped cotton sweater, a red patterned tank, a denim skirt, a corduroy skirt, a black tank top (I have two of those), and a chambray shirt. All go with my black Tieks ballet flats that I’ve worn so much they’re getting close to needing to be replaced.  (I do have a pair of cowboy boots I adore but rarely wear.)

I also feel that the idea of slow fashion is critically important for so many big reasons, including conservation of our world’s resources and humane working conditions for employees in garment factories. Here’s a more recent article from NPR. Have you read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion?  It’s well worth reading.

This all means I want to have a simple non-work wardrobe of clothing that:

  • Fits well and comfortably
  • Is well made with fine finishing details and construction
  • Will both last a long time and be stylish until it wears out beyond repair
  • I love to wear, that makes me happy

Fit is one of the hardest things. I hate shopping, I hate trying on clothes, I hate ending up with something that just seems good enough because I can’t find anything else.

Good construction goes hand in hand with fit — things that are poorly constructed don’t maintain their fit.  Good construction is, if you can find it, expensive (as it should be, to fairly compensate people for their work) — and this is the point at where it might make economic sense to sew your own items.

I believe, if I learn to sew, that I can construct a wardrobe, over time, that meets those bullet points.