Self-stitched September: Reflections

Now that September is over and my Self-stitched September challenge is finished, I wanted to put together a few reflections on the month.

First, here’s a roundup of every outfit I photographed. (And can you spot the intruder in one of these?)

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Actually, it was easier than I expected to keep wearing my homemade clothes for the whole month. That is, I had enough items that I liked and that worked with my other clothes that I didn’t need to do extra laundry to make it work or end up wearing the same thing too often. I did wear some repeats, but of course that’s normal. My challenge was to wear something handmade for five days a week, but I often did it for six and it wouldn’t have been a stretch to make it seven. Nor did I feel too bored or constrained by my limited options; quite a few different combinations seemed possible, and I added scarves or jewellery if I was really wanting something different.

The one problem I did have was a lack of casual tops for warmer weather. Or, I should say, on the days I was at home and wanted to wear jeans and a light top, I didn’t have enough homemade options. (I had store-bought options.) At the end of the month I made one tee, but I wish I had made several at the start. Actually, most of the times when I felt frustrated with the challenge were just because the weather was different from what I had planned for.

More interestingly, I think that preparing for, and completing, this challenge forced me to be more practical about sewing, and this in itself has been the most fruitful challenge. I’ve already said that I did some careful planning and budgeting for key pieces, and that this was one reason I felt like the challenge was easier to accomplish. But this is part of a larger shift from seeing sewing as a chance to make something beautiful, and seeing it as a craft that produces the kind of garment I reach for even on a bad day or an at-home day. One tendency I have in sewing is to drool over wonderful patterns, fuss over details, and use the process as a sort of wish-fulfilment: ‘What I would wear in my fantasies.’ (It would be 50s-style dresses among other things, by the way.) The risk with that approach is that dressmaking becomes an artful hobby which produces special objets d’art, rather than useful garments that participate in everyday life. It’s kind of like becoming an expert at baking decorated cupcakes, but not knowing the first thing about making bread. My fear, I think, is that clothes which are comfortable and utilitarian are boring and possibly ugly – not what I want to spend my time on, not worth my time. But lately I’ve tried to see the practical nature of clothes as a challenge: how can they fulfil both the desire for beauty and craft as well as the desire for comfort? Far from being boring, that strategic challenge has been very stimulating. I feel like its results, e.g. a denim skirt, a plain tee, or a very ordinary dress, don’t look very impressive, but they are actually the fruit of a great deal of thought and planning, and I enjoy that this is their little secret.


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