Monday, September 5, 2016

The economics of sewing

One of the maternity dresses I made
Thinking back to how I got into sewing as an adult, well it was mostly to save money and partly due to not finding what I needed when I was pregnant and living in (then West) Germany. Sure, I could have bought maternity clothes from German stores, but they were expensive. I could have also mail ordered from Sears (remember when we did that?), but again, the options were limited and cost more than I wanted to pay, plus shipping to Europe took weeks. So I made my maternity clothes—a couple of dresses, some tops, some pants—nothing elaborate and not a whole lot of them either. I figured I didn’t need a lot of clothes since pregnancy isn’t all that long anyway.

I'm second from the right,
in a dress I made
I kept sewing in my 20s and 30s because it was still cheaper. I remember making dresses for myself that cost between $10 and $25, including the pattern and notions. This was also when you bought patterns by the size, no multi-sizes printed on the same sheets of tissue the way they’re printed today. I was a straightforward size and didn’t need to make any alternations (nor did I learn how).

The first time I bought fabric that cost over $10 a yard, I was very nearly sick with nerves cutting it out. I was horrified by that high price, although today I’d think it was a good bargain.

This is the jacket & skirt I made
from the expensive stuff
I’ve sewed off and on ever since. Kent and I got into sewing in a pretty big way in Boston and now we own two sewing machines and a combo serger/cover stitch machine. And we have a fair amount of fabric. We joined Julie’s Club through Fabric Mart and let me tell you, fabric buying can be pretty impulsive especially when you can touch and see the little swatches they send you every month.

I felt a little guilty about having bought all that fabric and not using it, until the last couple of weeks. The clothes I’ve made this weekend definitely aren’t cheaper than what I could buy at places like H&M or Uniqlo (more about that in a second), but I already had the fabric on hand. Oh and the thread, patterns, zipper and interfacing.

So here’s what I’ve made the last few days.

First up is a dress which is meant to replace the one on my dress form. That dress is a lovely Eileen Fisher dress made of a soft merino wool. You may not be able to tell in this photo, but the Eileen Fisher dress drapes beautifully and absolutely doesn’t look like a sack when worn. My copy is from a sweater knit I got when we were in NYC a couple of years ago, and I used Butterick 6258. I'm pretty pleased with this one, it's got the same body skimming style of the Eileen Fisher one.

This outfit is completely me-made, skirt and top. The skirt is a very simple knit skirt, also from Butterick 6258. The top is another Burda pattern, 7051. I’ve made this one before too, but a different view. This time I made view A and I absolutely love it.

Next up is a sweater I made to replace the one you see in the dress form (another lovely Eileen Fisher sweater). My new one is from a merino wool knit and I used Burda 6990 (view A). I’ve made this pattern before and fortunately I’d traced it and not cut the tissue. That meant I could cut a smaller size and not have to re-purchase the pattern. The skirt is the same knit skirt from the photo above. Also ignore the cheesy expression, I blink super fast when my photo's being taken so I end up concentrating really hard and I look kind of strange but it's better than blinking.

And this skirt is a pattern hack. I want to make a couple of pencil skirts but don’t have a pencil skirt pattern. I do have this New Look pattern (6123, no link because it's out of print but you can see it in the photo), This dress is basically a bodice (top part) attached to a pencil skirt. I’ve got some lovely Italian wool I got when Kent and I were in Rome a few years ago, but I sure didn’t want to experiment with that! So I used this ponte knit. To be honest, I have no idea what I was thinking I’d make with this but pretty clearly I had something in mind because I bought three and a quarter yards of it. As it turns out, I like the fabric a lot and it feels amazing on.

Cheesy expression

Close up of fabric

Dress pattern I hacked

Finally, back to Uniqlo. If you’ve never heard of Uniglo, well they’re a Japanese clothing company and I love their styles and their prices. They tip toe just this side of fast fashion (i.e. cheap fabric), and since we don’t have a brick & mortar store in the area, returns are often more of a pain than they’re worth. But when the clothing works, it’s pretty amazing.

Ignore the scowl on my face, I was in a great mood when Kent took this—but I wanted to show you why it’s not always the cheaper option to sew my clothes. This coat is made of a felted wool knit and cost $69. I can’t buy fabric to make it at that price; I know because I looked.


Harriet said...

Wow, these are all amazing. I especially love the white top and the fabric on the last skirt. There's a huge Uniqlo around the corner from my office and while I don't always find things I like there, the things I do find are always staples. I love that coat!

D Russell said...

Those look fantastic and fit so well! Great workmanship, as usual!