I’ve never sewn an item of clothing for myself that I’ve actually worn. If I had to unpack why I’d say there are a few reasons.
First, fashion is a part of life in which I simply lack confidence. I like beautiful clothes, but always seem to pick the wrong things – the dress with the unflattering neckline, the jacket in the sallow color, the oddly fitting pair of pants. (StitchFix has been a dream come true for me).
Second, the first step when sewing clothes is measuring my body and, as I’ve written about before, I’ve struggled with my weight almost continuously since I was 12. Sometimes its been to just too painful to focus on my body’s shape.
And finally, I think I simply felt it was hard. I sewed a pair of shorts in 8th grade Home Ec and remember being admonished for my wonky seams (it was my first ever sewing project). Nobody in my family sewed and knew how to help me. I took a class at G Street Fabrics the summer before starting High School and when I cut out the pattern incorrectly the teacher grew frustrated with me. I didn’t understand the language of sewing clothes from patterns and even though I was obviously very young and totally inexperienced, that lesson was the one that stuck most of all.
Recently, though, something has shifted in my feelings towards sewing clothes for myself. In two weeks I’ll turn 43 and I’ve found that the older I get the more I fearless I feel to simply do the things I want to do. And I’ve just lost a whole bunch of weight. I’m working hard at treating my body better.
Scrolling through Instagram a few weeks ago I saw The Rushcutter dress from the Australian indie pattern company In the Folds. I ordered the pattern on a whim. This dress seemed so approachable. It’s woven and loose fitting with no set-in sleeves. How hard could it be to make this? Plus I love those big pockets!
There’s a sewalong for the Rushcutter on the In the Folds blog with helpful tutorials for every step. My friend, Deborah, has the pattern, too, and told me which steps to finish with French seams (3, 4. 10, and 11) and which to use a zigzag (step 13) since I don’t have a serger. I made a muslin first from an old bed sheet. Then sewed this one from Robert Kaufman Essex yarn dyed linen in peacock. I love this fabric, but in retrospect, it’s a bit stiff and the fact that there’s no clear front and back made it not the best choice for a new garment sewist. I’ve already ordered some Cotton+Steel rayon to try again.
I wore the dress with my tortoise glasses but I have to shorten the dress by 2″ and the sleeves by a bit more (although I think I’ll make them even shorter next time) because I’m quite short. I had some problems with the neckline. It was too high for me, so I lowered it a bit, but it’s still a bit too high I think. I’m going to lower it more next time.
Sewing a dress was a truly wonderful experience for me. The satisfaction was akin to baking a really good loaf of bread or researching a story. I was totally absorbed by the process and thought of almost nothing else for several days.
All of this is to say that I get it now. For years I’ve been reading sewing blogs written by people who sew clothes and wax on about every detail and while I’ve appreciated their dedication, I felt like an outsider. But now that I’ve cracked the door open and gotten a glimpse of the party happening inside I’m so glad to be part of the fun.