I have a tendency to move quickly from one thing to the next but I really wanted to be sure and do a wrap up on my handmade summer wardrobe even though it is late October. Originally, I wanted to jot down reflections so I could have a record of the progress I made toward my goal. But, as I started writing I realized that I am also sorting through some conflicted feelings. I started the handmade summer wardrobe idea with a deliberate plan that involved assessing my fabric stash and finding the gaps in my summer wardrobe so I could make wearable items from what I have. I set out to make three dresses, three tops, two tunics, one romper, two pairs of shorts and a cardigan. I ended up making two rompers, three pairs of shorts, three tops, one tunic, one skirt and a cardigan. Overall, I’m thrilled I could tick off accomplishments and am proud of some strong additions to my handmade wardrobe. Most are things I will wear (the tunic and ikat top being the possible exceptions). It’s so neat and tidy as a little plan, isn’t it?
But, sometimes we create boxes to organize things and then we resent that we are sat in a box, you know? I guess it is the push and pull of creative limits? As it turns out, I hated my self-created limitations and often found I was reluctantly dragging myself back to stick to the plan.
As much as I was dragging myself down, I stayed committed. See, in the nearly two years of my Nothing New Project I’m still either buying used or making my own clothing. The trouble is, I get frustrated with my handmade clothing because I do not always make things I want to wear in real life. On some level, this isn’t always my fault. The challenge of making your own clothes is that you don’t get to try them on beforehand, right?! You have to go through the effort of MAKING it to find out whether it suits you are not. When that doesn’t work out, it feels like a real pain. (Even if you make a muslin first, you still have to prepare a pattern and make it). I do think the more you sew garments, the better your design eye gets but it’s still a process of trial and error, no matter what. The idea behind this structured, deliberate plan was to make clothes I would wear again and again. I was gonna organize the chaos of my mind. I really wanted to tackle this one.
But, good planning always hits up against a solid limit with me. The joy of sewing doesn’t come from a practical, planned place; it comes from a place of passion. I love the challenge of sewing, I love the creativity. I love that I have all the options in the world and I have to narrow them, focus in on something and then I get to try it out. I love that I am free to explore a new style and a new idea. I spent much of my early life dressing in a safe, conventional way…just hoping to fit in. I love that sewing frees me up to explore color, shape and construction while also celebrating that my sense of belonging comes from something more authentic in my old(er) age. I like this journey and its uncertainty is part of the thrill. Sometimes staying on track with my plan made me less adventurous and that was a bit sad.
(Just as a random aside, I fully reject the ecological damage and cold inhumanity that accompanies conventional clothing manufacture but I do sometimes long for the ease of just shopping, damn it!).
Some of this joy and passion was lost in the weeds of my big summer plan. And, truthfully, this whole sewing thing isn’t about ticking boxes. Sewing, really most sewing, is about finding the balance between the joy of making and the practicality of use. I want to find that place where I’m free to explore but also making something useful. In order to leave room for exploration; there has to be space for mistakes and I have to forgive myself for those.
It’s a struggle I plan on working through for a handmade fall and winter. Maybe it’s something I will struggle with for a while. Who knows? Perhaps a super structured plan isn’t exactly the right thing but I was successful at making handmade clothes I wore and will wear again and that counts for something.
After all those big process thoughts, I will say I”m proud of a few details. Everything I made for the summer plan has professional-level finished seams. Most of the time I made french seams (there is a great tutorial here) and sometimes even flat felled seams (tutorial here). It makes a huge difference to know that I can place a cleaned garment back into my closet without having to wrangle loose threads. Maybe this is where the intersection of practicality and creativity meet! At the seams?!