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  • Why I Sew

    IMG_6980 Jane just started sewing, and she's already making amazing things! Dress Pattern: Merchant & Mills Camber Set. Fabric: Traffic in Cherry by Anna Maria Horner.

    It’s easy to fall in love with sewing when you’re surrounded by gorgeous fabrics. As every new shipment comes in, I swoon and sigh, and the wheels start turning. By now I'm pretty sure I’ve got a plan in mind for all 1,036 bolts of fabric in the shop. But let me back up.

    I was not always into sewing. Before starting at The Confident Stitch six months ago, I’d learned how to do the basics, and throughout the years made some curtains, napkins, and tote bags. In other words, very square things. My attempts at clothing always ended in frustration, irritation, and an utterly unwearable piece of clothing. After each attempt, the sewing machine ended up back in the basement to collect dust.

    Thankfully, I have since discovered a whole world of inspiration, and, more importantly, instruction. I’ve been introduced to the sewing blogs and Instagram accounts of talented sewers and pattern designers across the world, and am excited by a new generation of modern garment makers. The tutorials available online, particularly from the independent pattern companies we stock, are an invaluable resource. Closer to home, I am constantly impressed by the things our customers make; no two look alike, and each person's interpretation of a pattern is unique to their style. Finding this network of makers and doers online and in my own community convinced me to give garment sewing another chance. Armed with some good patterns and lots (and lots) of patient advice from Kate and Bonnie, I’ve become nothing short of obsessed.

    I’ve always been a consumer of other people’s creativity – artwork, food, books – but now I’ve discovered a way to explore my own. Just as quickly as I learn a new pattern, I end up changing it. Some changes are functional; I often need to tweak darts and or add length to the torso. Some are purely for fun: adding a shirt-tail hem or a keyhole neckline. But that’s the beauty of making my own clothing. It’s truly my own – the pattern is just the jumping off point.

    I still take out almost as many stitches as I put in. I’ve cursed at more bias binding than I care to admit. And I require much, much more practice before I can comfortably embrace the label of seamstress. But along the way I’ve learned that some silhouettes work on me and some never will, that my back has a deep curve to it, that my top half and bottom half are two completely different sizes. I’ve learned that clothes I’ve made myself are washed more carefully, worn more frequently, and complimented more often. I’ve learned the difference between rayon and voile, bamboo versus soy, and been introduced to that most magical of fabrics, double gauze. I’ve learned that a single pattern has infinite possibilities.

    And so, piece by piece, I’m building a handmade wardrobe, and building confidence in my skills. I’m heartened that the slow fashion movement is gaining momentum and that there is a new generation of (mostly) women breathing fresh life into sewing and pattern making. I’m stubbornly optimistic that we have options beyond the chains selling us unsustainable fashion. And did I mention that sewing is just fun?

    Quilting is another matter entirely. I’ll let you know when I take that plunge…

  • My First Sewing Retreat!

    I just got home from my first four-day sewing retreat. It was quite an experience! Organized by The Sewing Palace in Helena, 20 women gathered at a camp in Gold Creek, Montana. The sewing talent and alcohol consumption were both epic. Yes, there was dancing on the chairs. Yes, there was quilt-ruler limbo. Yes, there was loud music. Yes, everyone was able to stitch straight lines after a few glasses of wine!

    It was a great experience for an introvert who loves being with people (like me). I loved watching the others drink and sing and dance. I loved the music. 

    Arriving at the camp, I saw women unloading chairs, ironing boards and crates of fabric from their Suburbans, and I had a flash-back to my days as a swim-team mom. Back then, I would pack a couple towels for each daughter, throw in a few fruit roll-ups, make sure everyone had their suits, goggles and caps, and drive to the meet feeling like a well-packed mom who thought of everything. Then I'd arrive at the meet and realize my inadequacies. The other parents would be wearing matching t-shirts, have 37 towels for each kid, a snack-bar worth of food, folding chairs, a mini-DVD player to staunch the boredom. Summer meets were the worst -- families brought tents they could stand in, coolers, hibachis, giant blankets. 

    I clearly learned nothing from the swim meets. I packed three projects, my sewing machine, an iron, a small cutting mat, and an entire box of graham crackers to share. The other women brought adjustable chairs, yards of fabric, yummy food, wine, wine glasses, individual cutting and ironing tables, Orphan Girl Bourbon, Bose speakers.....

    This is This is "all" I brought.

    This is most of the fabric brought by Julie our organizer. This is most of the fabric brought by Julie our organizer.

    Julie and Laurie shared a little cutting and pressing table. Julie and Laurie shared a little cutting and pressing table.

    Not only were the women amazing sewers, they also brought their hidden talents. Beverly led yoga classes and trimmed hair, Dawn and Laurie were amazing dancers, and Sandra made sure everyone felt included. Have you ever attended a sewing retreat? What did you love about it?

    Beverly, our yoga teacher. Beverly, our yoga teacher.

    Sandra, the queen of fun. Yes, she brought that chair with her. Sandra, the queen of fun. Yes, she brought that chair with her.

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