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true value of sewing garments

claudia valentine
7 months ago

Among people who sew their own clohtes there is often heard that the garments are better made and going to last longer, be of better quality, and more economical even if you pay a lot for the fabric.

While there is some truth in that, it is not universal and is not the whole truth.


I gave some serious thought to this the other day as I was cutting up a not so old knit top that I had sewn some time ago, but not ages ago. As I cut it apart to render it into a rag project, I marveled at the detail and quality that I had put into the construction. It was darned near perfect! The knit fabric was a run of the mill one from Joanns.


Just the fact that I had put such fine work into it did not make it last longer or add more value to it than one that I could have bought. It either got stained, pilled up and/or got quickly outdated, or all of those things, and I put it on one day to do some painting and that was the end of it's usefull life. It had already pilled and faded and the knit fabric was suffering .

Things happen to clothes as we wear them and it does not matter where they came from or what was paid for them.....life happens.

This top probably cost me more than it would to buy one, it looked as if it were factory made, as I made complete use of my serger, and I spend time and resources creating it, buying the pattern and all of the things associated with sewing it. The real truth is that it was not any more valuable or of any better quality or design or style than a factory make one.


I do love many of the things that I have sewn in my life, and that is many. And, I am so slap happy that I can sew and sew my own pants, especially. But, I have decided that I will not sew anything that is not distinctly different from what can be bought. Why should I imitate fast fashion or factory made? Why would it be a compliment when someone remarks that it looks like I bought it?


I want clothes that suit a relaxed life and one that finds me often doing something that is real and not just to wear for when I get dressed. I want my clothes to suit my casual and often messy life. I dont want to pay upwards and over $50 just for the fabric for a pair of pants or shirt or casual dress. And, I sure dont want to sew things that look like I could have purchased them.


I feel the same way about knitting. If I am going to knit a hat , for instance, I want that hat to be something that could not be bought in a store and it wont be acrylic.


My point is that it is not always the full truth that something is better because we made it. One hears the same thing about knitted items and the same lack of truth to it.


But sometimes I wonder about this or that item that I sewed years ago and had been gone for years and I wonder if someone somewhere is still wearing it. There again, just because I sewed them did not mean the I didnt outgrow them or they got to dated or stained or whatever. They did not last as functioning garments any longer that if I had bought them, due to those factors . A nice white shirt that you paid good money to sew or buy has an equal change of getting a mustard stain or a tear or being out grown.


So I have learned to take a fresh and more truthful perspective as to what I sew and why. Like other aspects of my life, I am decluttering these things from my life as well as the material excess. I am focusing on less and on more use and enjoyment from what I do, what I need and what I want.

One thing that I dont want anymore is for someone to tell me that it has value because it looks as if I bought it.

I want someone to say, "Wow. I love your pants! Where did you get them? I want some like that!".


Cutting up that knit top really brought this into perspective for me. What a lot of work and effort for something that really held not more value than one from the store! I did too much of this in the past and it ends here.

There are more than material goods to declutter from our lives. Unreal expectations and untruths are disposable and best gotten rid of. Out they go!



Comments (17)

  • Sherry8aNorthAL
    7 months ago

    The problem with sewing is not the time, it is the fact that your cannot buy good fabric. It does not exist. There are only two or three mediocre fabric stores with only junk fabric.

  • Fori
    7 months ago

    Well, you explained pretty well why I don't want to bother learning to knit!


    But I should really learn to sew better because things I can buy don't fit me well. If I were skilled enough to make clothes that fit me nicely, it WOULD be worth it. But I'm not sure it is for normal size people. :)


    Currently my sewing is limited to things I can't buy--weird shaped canvas sacks for camping gear, welting for a chair I'm trying to recover, etc..., and I am terrible at it.


    And yes, fabric is hard to find.

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  • colleenoz
    7 months ago

    Making your own clothing means you get exactly what you want in the colour and style you want. It's not always possible to get off the rack clothing that fits those criteria.

  • Lars
    7 months ago

    I have no problem finding good fabric to buy, and I used to work for a furniture company that had its own textiles line, although the fabrics were mainly intended for upholstery. There are quite a few fabric stores here in the garment district downtown, but I have also had good luck finding fabrics online.

    When I make clothes, I also make my own patterns, and so I create designs that are often quite different from what one can find in stores. Sometimes I make clothes that are radically different, and sometimes I make clothes that follow more traditional styles, but I still make my own patterns.

  • claudia valentine
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    But Lars, you are one who happens to live and go places where there still are a few fabric resources . Ninety +% of America has no such variety. Most of America has no where to buy much of anything sewing related.

    You sound like an active and talented person and I always enjoy hearing your voice on this forum. But the sad reality is that it is true that most of the fabric is a far cry from the quality of the past and the fabric stores are almost gone from the landscape.

    I, personally have a hard time with online purchasing and. frankly, I dont find much that I want either. Maybe your choices are different from mine. I like old fashioned stuff and dont care one bit for most of these synthetic laden new ones.

    The lack of good fabric is one reason that I have downsized my sewing and my expectations. I certainly makes it easier to wind it down.

    We used to have a world class fabric store here.. They were a wonderland such as you would not believe! Sadly they all but folded up about two decades ago and one of the factors, as per a trusted source, was the fact that they could not get the nice fabrics anymore. And this is a business that had been ongoing for generations. They stuck with the bridal and fancy stuff and loaded in the mundane black synthetic knits. but still they had to move to a little hole in the wall storefront and I am not even sure that they did not completely close by now. They were once grand enough to host sewing celebrities from all over and had fabulous fabric art and fashion exhibits. Just extraordinary!

  • claudia valentine
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    colleen, your statement would be much more true if it were also true that we could find what we are looking for when we fabric shop. I find myself making choices of fabric much like I might make a choice of ready made garments. I cant find something that I want and so I make a very limited choice based on not which one is best, rather, based on which is the least objectionable.


    I also know that over these years I have produced any number of things that were not that great. All of us have had the experience of finishing it but not loving it and not wearing it. I have made too many of those things in my life.

    It is a bit like my dad used to say about the fish that he caught at the lake. By the time they were cleaned and fried up, those fish probably cost him about a hundred dollars a pound!

    The unloved things have decreased the value of the things that I made that are wonderful and loved. Much like my dads fish, the real cost was much higher, all totaled.


    Stilll I love my pants more than anything other garment. It is the one garment that I find the hardest to buy since I have gotten so accustomed to my own custom made ones. All of my pants are me made. I walk by the racks of them at the store and I just cringe at the thought of having to depend on buying any of them. Casual kind of knock around fleece stuff is one thing. I wont sew those .It is not worth it. And, I wont sew a tshirt ever again. I dont like them and it is not worth it, to me. I can go to the resell shop on half price days and buy knit shirts for less than three bucks. I wont wear old style tshirts but do buy a few knits. At the resell shop I look for heavier weight good quality ones . Thin, cheap or slinky knits I have no use for. I even have a nice serger but I hate sewing knits, always have.

    I really cant remember the last time that I made a choice at the fabric store or Kohls between two things that I love. For a long time now it has been based on the least objectionable. I feel that I settle too much, but do not revel in delightful choices. Not any more. It has all changed.

  • carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b
    7 months ago
    last modified: 7 months ago

    FWIW, I've had some really good luck over the years finding nice yardage pieces at thrift stores - silks, linens, cottons, woolens, and home furnishing fabrics, along with notions and even sewing machines - not to mention patterns.

    Of course it's hit or miss, but it's all priced pennies on the dollar. For instance, I got an entire bolt of Wonder Under that I'll probably never use up for just a few dollars.

  • c t
    7 months ago

    I can't make anything (I don't think) cheaper than I can buy it. I'm glad I can sew, because I can alter ready-to-wear to fit.


    I've also had the experience of making something - the right size, and it fits for what it's worth, but the style looks awful on me. Every now and then, a certain fabric speaks to me, I buy it and make something, but it's rare, now. Joann's it just...dreadful. How many Granny-style floral prints does any store need? Or fleece? That fleece must fly out the door.


    I will admit I'm not the most creative soul out here. Other people can see possibilities that I can't (My MIL was one of those people)

  • claudia valentine
    Original Author
    7 months ago

    I absolutely intensely dislike that fleece. Unfortunately the fleece sewing season is upon us, as people buy it to make gifts because there are so many no-sew projects.

    Joanns has less and less of anything worthy, but more and more fleece, so it seems.


    One thing to keep in mind about what you sew and what you might buy is to think about how, when you go into a dressing room at the store with an arm full of things to try on, you will be right away able to accept or reject. But, when you sew something, you dont know exactly what it is going to do, or not going to do, for you once you are finished with it, until you are finished.

    Those sewing room rejects can add quite a lot of expense to the ones that we do value and wear.

    Sewing creates a lot of waste of all kinds, not just rejected makes. And, it costs more than many are willing to acknowledge.


    "Crafting" is another one that produces an awful lot of garbage, from the materials to create it, to many of the things that are created. It goes back to the adage about how just because you can, does not mean that you should.


    As I cut the clutter from my physical world, I also cut the clutter from unreal expectations and am trying to focus on a limited scope of things.

    Gotta agree with you about the granny florals. My daughter calls them "old Florida lady florals". There was a time when I loved them and still do love an old world floral. But, I would like more abstract prints and more good woven fabric choices that dont look childish or are ugly big prints.


    There are few choices at Joanns and I just cant make peace with online ordering of fabric or clothes. I could never buy a garment online, and could never be bothered to return it via whatever truck delivered it to my door.

    I see some sewing sites where these people just sew , and sew, and sew. And, I wonder what do they do with all that they made? When do you realize that you have enough and dont need anymore?

    By much the same token, I have stopped knitting.


  • beesneeds
    7 months ago

    I don't do much Joanns fabrics.. but I'm not going to slag them for what they got either. There are a lot more fleece users, quilters, specialty dress and costume makers than there are everyday clothes makers. Everyday clothes fabrics are sort of uncommon and can be expensive and space-wasters on the shelf for them. My local one does carry some clothing fabrics, some suitings, denim, better flannel, a little cotton. And a lot more of the more commonly used fabrics that sell well for them. Some of their cheap stuff is great work fabrics- I make some clothes, and do a lot of other fabric makings around the property.

    I do also indulge in some of that other awful lot of garbage... Joanns is one of many sources of materials for all that garbage I make. Not a frequently used one. Like their slim selection of everyday clothes fabrics, their materials are a fairly slim selection of what I use to make garbage :)

  • Fori
    7 months ago

    My mother is an excellent sewer (I see this term and I guess it's better than "seamstress" but I still always read it wrong) and makes a lot of things for a local charity's sale and sometimes comes back with more than she donates. But I've had to ask her to not give me any more of that stuff. It's beautiful--but mostly holiday themed--and I can't use any more it.


    Don't get me started on quilts. They can be so beautiful and require so much talent to make. I love looking at them. But I don't want one.

  • carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b
    7 months ago

    People now use the term 'sewist', FWIW...

  • Fori
    7 months ago

    That is much better. "Sewer" sounds fine but it sure reads badly. 😉

  • beesneeds
    7 months ago

    Sewist does read better than sewer, hehehe. I tend not to single out my sewing skills because I don't do just that or specialize in that over other skills. I'm a maker, a crafter- sewing is just one of many skills in my repertoire.

  • claudia valentine
    Original Author
    6 months ago

    Yeah, I cringe to use "sewer" and "seamstres" seems almost socially forbidden by those who keep track of such things. "Sewist" seems the best alternative.

  • c t
    6 months ago

    I'll tell you what I did the other day at work: I took some spare fabric, cut it into 4 inch diameter circles. I took some contrasting cotton and cut it into 1 1/2 inch bias strips. then I layered two circles together and bound the edges with the bias to make some coasters. (It was a rare slow day at work) Other than that, at my house, jeans turn into potholders. Other clothes become cleaning rags. I don't buy paper towels so if the cat coughs up something, I can just scoop it up and throw it away with the rag and not feel bad. I'm at the age where small rugs are just trip hazards. I won't be making those.


    I used to joke though, about making nylon net pot scrubbers out of the net cut off when we shortened bridal and special occasion gowns at the bridal store.


    I work in a mens' clothing store. Each season we get new fabric samples, and some old ones are thrown out. I've saved them for a couple years and I'm making a quilt out of the wool samples. I'll have to buy backing and batting, of course. The upside is that it will be big enough to suit me, and I've never seen a blanket /topper / duvet big enough for what I want. Other half has a habit of wrapping the blanket around himself as he rolls over. The standard size isn't big enough.

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