Lost Art Series: Sewing Your Own Clothes & Its Creative Process

Our fast-paced society with its high technology is leaving behind some skills known as lost arts. Reasons vary, but one thing is certain – what used to be commonplace is no longer. One such lost art is making/sewing your own clothes.

When I was growing up, I was taught to sew my own clothes. Each school year I would pick my pattern, choose my material, and sew my wardrobe. Patterns were $.25 (I’m dating myself), high quality material was $1 per yard, and zippers were $.25. Ahh, those were the days. My entire wardrobe cost less than a good store-bought jacket. The cost and creativity were the reasons for sewing my own clothes. I hate to see it becoming a lost art.

It appears that sewing your own clothes is becoming a lost art for reasons in addition to our fast paced society. Some of these reasons are:

1) Changing preferences. Even those who know how to sew, choose to buy their clothes. It is usually quicker and cheaper.

2) Changing global marketplace. Many firms in the U.S. contract with “sweat shops” overseas that are known for hiring low cost workers. These workers, in turn, produce a massive amount of clothing items for dirt-cheap. When these items come into the American marketplace, the prices cannot be beat many times.

3) Convenience factor. It is much easier to pick and choose your clothing off the rack than to sew your own clothes. Choosing what you need for sewing your own clothes is a time-consuming process.

4) Higher costs involved in sewing your own clothes have skyrocketed.
a. Patterns, which used to cost $.25, now average around the $10 range.
b. Raw material. One yard of material now costs as much as an entire store-bought clothing item – in many cases. I know, for instance, the material needed for a top would have cost me $11. I could buy one store-bought top for $6.
c. Sewing supplies and accessories. These have increased in price, but not as much as patterns and raw materials, I believe. (Although, zippers can easily go for close to $5.) By sewing supplies and accessories I mean thread, pins, tracing paper, measuring tape, etc.These items are necessary for the lost art of sewing.

I think the saddest part of losing this lost art of sewing your own clothes is the loss of the creative process. Non-sewers would not understand. Craftspeople and other sewers would understand this.

I’d like to describe the process involved in sewing your own clothes to show others what they are missing. It really is disheartening to not have experienced this wonderfully creative process of sewing. It is all part of a lost art. The steps are as follows:

1) Making the decision of what item you want to make.
2) Heading over to the material/crafts store.
3) Perusing the pattern catalog until you find what you like.
4) Visualizing yourself in that item.
5) Reading the recommended materials for best results.
6) Determining how much material you need.
7) Picking up the pattern and heading over to the material section.
8) Arriving at the section with the material type you seek.
9) Cottons, corduroys, mixed, silk, satin, etc.
10) Taking the time to touch the material to find its appeal. This is the best part of sewing for me.
11) Visualizing the clothing item with that material
12) Choosing which color material you desire.
13) Having chosen the material, you take it to the cutting counter.
14) The material is cut into your required amount.
15) The person cutting your material will probably ask you what you are making.
16) You share ideas and a pleasant conversation.
17) You carry that material (and your pattern) over to the sewing supplies area.
18) You read your pattern (or know by heart) what items/supplies you need and their sizes.
19) Zippers are a certain size. Buttons are a certain size, shape, and color.
20) You match the items/supplies to your material. Zippers must match. Buttons must match.
21) You find sewing machine needles. They need to be a certain size.
22) Once you have decided upon your complete unsewn package, you go to the checkout counter.
23) At the checkout counter, you will probably strike up a conversation with others standing in line. You all share a love of sewing your own clothes. The creative juices are flowing and the atmosphere is wonderful. The cashier will probably join in on the conversation
24) You walk out of the store full of creative ideas and a bagful of goods.
25) You sew your own clothes.You cherish what is now known as a lost art.

It is a shame that sewing your own clothes is becoming a lost art.

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