Sustainably Sewing Journey: a reality check

During my no buy year challenge, I decided to sew my own clothes. I thought I could: 1- learn how to sew ; 2- sew with organic fabric only ; 3- sew items that fitted perfectly and were exactly what I wanted. Reality check: It didn’t go well. Well, taking a look at it again, it is actually kind of a disaster…

Can’t pass another good reason to display my Singer 15K!

Learning how to sew

I guess this isn’t the worst part but it depends how sewing is defined. Sewing a straight line became easier! LOL Understanding a pattern and following the instructions is still really hard.

Along the way, I’ve discovered the crazy number of ways that exist to do a hem. I still master pretty much none. Hems are just one of a hundred examples of things I don’t know about sewing. It’s scary and overwhelming.

See down below an incredible way to do hems! Meanwhile, I’m just starting to get somewhere with my zigzagger!

Sewing and getting somewhere with the zigzag
zigzag success!

To make matter worst, I got lost in videos of underlining today (because of the coat that is still not finished!)! Very interesting and yet a little depressing!

Organic fabrics

I thought it would be easy to find organic fabric. It kind of is and yet, it’s not. Lockdowns and travel restrictions have made matter worst obviously. Maybe if I could go to Paris, all my troubles would be solved. Maybe…

Still, I found some, of course, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. So I didn’t sew what I wanted, with what I bought. The slightly vicious circle starts here.

In addition, there seems to be so many standards and labels, it’s really hard to understand what is more greenwashing than green. Of course, one can educate oneself on the meaning of those but right now, it feels like between the nifty gritty details of each certification and the types of fabric one can get, it is really hard to get what one truly wants.

Fitted clothes

So indeed I thought I could sew clothes that were well fitted because what’s the point of sewing yourself, if you can’t fit it properly!? Well, that didn’t go so well either. I’m not even going to count the number of times I redid a piece to make it fit better. That’s game I suppose.

The big issue is that I soon realized I needed to use patterns to sew clothes. yeah! I know, silly me! Cloning existing pieces is possible for simple items. Cloning a jacket, a piece with numerous darts, a top with thrills or whatever is probably not impossible but requires skills I do not possess.

So pattern it is. But seriously how do you even select them? How do you know in advance what is going to fit your shape? I suppose you learn – I mean you should know in advance your body type and stuff. Yes of course – But with patterns, it seems particularly easy to end up sewing clothes that are not a good fit for you! Those drawings on the cover are not what they seem, if you ask me! But I suppose you have to learn to understand such drawings as well.

Yes, I’ve used old bedsheets to do mocks-up so and it only led me to realize that I had lost a whole day or more, sewing something that would probably never look good on me or that I would at least, never feel comfortable wearing.

And there is something else with patterns…

As you probably know these are rated depending on the sewing difficulty of the model. The good thing is that some are marked as easy and are actually still quite nice. They are not boring at all. But, I found some that weren’t actually easy at all, despite the label but that’s a different issue. The issue here is that, I bought patterns for things that weren’t truly what I wanted/needed just because that’s what was available in the easy section. The fish tail skirt is one of them. It is not exactly what I wanted but that is what I got! Double or triple or maybe even quadruple fail on the fish tail!

Singer 15K sewing machine
Subtle coordination of my fabric with my machine! 😉 see below!

In short: It’s kind of a disaster!

The things I’ve been sewing are in fabrics that are not truly what I wanted, do not fit how I hoped and are not even the exact style I actually wanted! That’s a real bummer!

A reality check I needed.

You may wonder how I go to this point but seriously, it just happened! One thing lead to another and it pretty much all went side ways.

What bugs me most here, is that this is all against my wishes to create a sustainable / eco-friendly wardrobe.

There is nothing eco-friendly about sewing a garment that I can’t wear because it doesn’t fit or because it doesn’t end up being what I wanted. It is just like buying something and leaving it unused, tag one in my closet, but with hours of work spent on it.

The small upside

A few handful pieces I have sewed turned out ok. (My underwear are super comfy! I have one light coat that I happily wear in my living room. There is also the first skirt I made that I do wear in public. I talked about these already). And my most recent achievement has the puffy sleeves of my dreams!

Puffy sleeve... finally
Puffy sleeves success! and kind of coordinated with my machine!

Most of the things I have sewed don’t fall apart. Yes that is a surprise! Something I find miraculous!

I’ve done pretty good repairs and mending jobs, thus extending significantly the life of some of my existing store bough clothes. That is a plus in terms of sustainability.

And I do use most of the scrap pieces of fabric, one way or another. I have a zero trash policy that I have managed to pretty much keep so far.

Most of these things I have mentioned before but I have to reassure myself again! Yet, it clearly isn’t enough.

The next steps?

It is hard to make plans that would lead to the desired result, knowing what I know now.

I had mentioned before that one thing I was planning to do is to upgrade thrift clothes but pandemic being our new normal, I haven’t been to any thrift store. That is therefore not an option at the moment. Plus, clothe alterations are hard.

So I’m back to my original plan to sew new clothes.

However, I clearly have to update my plans and for now, I shall follow the following :

1- Revisit the style of clothes I’m sewing. Items that aren’t too fitted are less risky. I shall start by basic items and keep building up from there.

2- Be more careful when buying patterns. I shall really study the drawing provided and look for pictures of the end result. A lot of seamstresses are publishing pictures or videos of their sewing projects and this can really help the decision process. Vintage patterns may be bought for later use, but vintage shapes and sizes seem to be different than more modern ones.

3- Study the art of patterns! Measure, measure and measure again! Before cutting any fabric! Daaa!!! Understanding where the darts will be for example, will help with the fitting. Being careful to the type of sleeves is paramount. I have an upmost dislike of raglan sleeves for example!

4- Fabric wise, I shall do my best but maybe try to no sweat it so much for a while. Meanwhile I have to continue searching the web for sustainable and organic fabric. Most importantly, I have to understand the different types of fabrics and their common usage. The basic of ‘what type of fabric to use for what’. Yeah, very basic!

Conclusion

To be honest, considering my lack of result sewing wise, if we were not in the middle of a pandemic, I would have probably had to buy new clothes. Just to be able to go to the office not wearing the same outfit all the times!

I laugh at myself when I recall that I thought, back at the beginning of all this, that I would be sewing one new item a week!

Yes, I’m hillarious that way 😉

Well, that is it. I have to push forward as I refuse to give up.

*****

Once more, I hope that, if you are like me, just starting your sewing journey and struggling a bit, this piece will have shown you, at the very least, that you are not alone!

A crazy, incredible hem! #NotAnyTimeSoon!