I’m two days away from the final fitting of the very first wedding dress I’ve ever created. Way back in January, Matt’s cousin’s girlfriend Facebook messaged me to let me know that she and Matt’s cousin were engaged (yay!) and that she was hoping I would sew her dress. I was extremely flattered and excited by the prospect. When Matt and I got married I didn’t have the time or confidence to sew my own dress despite the strong desire to do so! I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to ‘test my chops’ and actually implement all of the techniques I so often find myself pouring over on blogs and in magazines.
Mika lives three hours away and so we have not had many occasions to meet in person to fit the dress. In fact, the only fitting was a quick try-on of a very rough mock-up in the back hallway of a fabric store last March! Due to all of the work I have put in to this dress and the building anticipation for the final fitting, I have been thinking quite a lot about why I love sewing for other people.
Since the vast majority of Thread Theory customers are women who are buying our patterns and supplies to sew for male family and friends, I thought you might relate to my thoughts on this topic! Let’s see if you have any other reasons to add to this list. Here are my top five reasons I love to sew for others!
1 It’s Challenging and Skill Enhancing
Many of the projects that I sew for other people involve construction details and fabric types that I would never have occasion to use if I just sewed for myself. Over the years of sewing for myself I have developed many preferences that I rarely diverge from, for instance, I avoid delicate fabrics (I’m clumsy and tend to engage in sessions of impromptu gardening in whatever dress I happen to be wearing!). I also steer clear of a close fit around the hips (I find this uncomfortable) or of thick fabrics with very little give (they make me feel claustrophobic). I’m sure you have similar sorts of restrictions for yourself – whether they involve silhouettes, color, prints, or fabric types. When I sew for other people, I must learn what their preferences are and often find myself challenged to learn new skills as a result! For instance, when I sew for my Mom, I have the treat of fitting an hourglass figure (as opposed to my fairly straight figure). When I sew for Matt I get to use rugged and rigid fabrics that require special needles or topstitching threads. When I sew for my sister, I get to experiment with technical fabrics and interesting ways to strengthen a garment at points of wear (she is an adventurer and yoga enthusiast).
And now that I am sewing for Mika, I have finally had the pleasure of working with delicate silks, chiffon and beading!
2 Constraints Encourage Creativity
This is perhaps my very favorite reason to sew for others! It is also my favorite reason to sew menswear. Menswear, historically and for the most part, today, features all sorts of rigid expectations that, when ignored, result in something few men are comfortable wearing (though I admire those who bravely do!). There are far fewer acceptable silhouettes and styles for men’s clothing than there are for women’s. Menswear designs can push an occasional boundary but they are usually most successful when any boundary pushing is balanced by the majority of expectations being met. A button up shirt, for example, that features a wildly shaped collar is most approachable when sewn in a very classic shirting material with a very conservative fit. I find that I feel most creatively inspired when I am working to add my own mark within such boundaries. Perhaps you might liken this to a creative writing supersize. If you were to stare at a blank piece of paper faced with the challenge to ‘write anything’ you might feel dismally incapable to write anything more exciting than what happens to be on your mind (a grocery list, perhaps?). If you sit down with a piece of paper after having been given a tantalizing first line or perhaps a loose concept to work within, you (or at least I) will feel far more capable of extending the mind to think creatively.
Mika’s wedding dress has provided all sorts of boundaries for me to work within. Mika created a Pinterest board of various dresses that she adores and told me which elements she liked on each dress. She also chose the exact color of both the chiffon and the silk lining. She asked for a beaded empire waist and for shoulder straps of a very particular sort. She wanted a draped cross-over bodice and a low cut back featuring a short and poofy bow. By the time I had absorbed all of these criteria I was just itching to put pen to paper and to draw the dress! The dress I drew didn’t look like any of her Pinterest dresses but incorporated each of the design features she loved the most.
Have you ever sewn a garment after drawing how you hope it will look? I find that to be so exciting – something about matching fluid, three dimensional fabric to a stagnant two dimensional drawing is just so appealing!
3 You’re Forced to ‘Do It Right’
I don’t know about you, but when I sew for myself, I often get so eager to wear the garment, that I take quite a few short cuts to get it finished faster! I also don’t worry very much about finishing the interior of a garment nicely…I get lazy and just serge the insides rather than adding lining (expensive!) or french seams (time consuming!). It is a whole different story when I sew for someone else though. I bust out all the fancy sewing tricks! I guess I feel that a custom sewn garment should be something special. The person who has asked for the garment has made the choice to take the ‘slow’ route. They have decided to skip the quick trip to the store and instead, long for something very particular that is perfectly suited to them. I only sew for people who respect the amount of time that I will put into their project. It is very easy for me to tell when someone wants a garment enough to warrant spending the time to create it! Whether it be a pair of rugged Jutland Pants for my dad or some unique yoga leggings for my sister, I want my work to result in something that will last for many years and will make the person feel very special when they wear it. This thought process motivates me to fit carefully, choose quality fabric, add inner structure, sew slowly, and unpick any errors. I definitely don’t sew that way for myself (I really should though, shouldn’t I?!).
4 The Stakes Are High
This is a bit of a silly reason to like sewing for others…but here it is: I find it to be an adrenaline rush! I want the garment to fulfill all of their expectations (and all of the expectations I ridiculously imagine them to have…most people probably don’t notice the tiny hand stitches that I have assumed they require!). I don’t want to waste their money, time and fabric. If I rip or stain my own dress part way though sewing it I will simply get creative and patch it up as a ‘design element’. When I am sewing for someone else who has an expectation of how the final garment will look, any mistakes, be them holes, stains, poor fit or poorly executed techniques will be noticeable as an element that was not included in the original plan. Reading this ‘reason’ so far, you would think this would cause me to fear and hate sewing for others! But it doesn’t! I am enjoying the nervous anticipation for Sunday’s dress fitting…what if the dress is way too small? What if the proportions are off? Or…what if Mika is thrilled with it and thinks it is the perfect wedding dress? What if my sewing skills have made her dreams come true (eep!)? See, the stakes are high! 🙂
P.S. The hole in the photo above nearly stopped my heart but, don’t worry, it will be okay! I’m tucking that bit of fabric under the silk bodice lining so it will no longer be visible.
5 It’s Enormously Fulfilling
Seeing someone else wear my hard work really makes me proud of my ability to sew and it makes me feel very connected to them. When someone compliments me on a dress that I have made for myself, my thoughts usually flash to all of the mistakes I made while sewing it and I tend to think to myself, “Little does that nice person know that this is actually a poorly sewn dress that they would never want to wear themselves!” Harsh…I know…but it’s true! When I see someone else take home a garment I have sewn, wear it, wash it, and wear it again and again, I feel so proud because that person has really gotten to know their garment and still feels comfortable and happy wearing it! Plus, the person thinks of their connection with me whenever they put on their custom sewn piece and the entire time I sew for them I find myself thinking about the person’s character, preferences, appearance and the times we have spent together. Sewing for someone really strengthens a friendship!
Whenever I sew for someone else I happily think of one of the sweetest things my Mom ever said. She told me that whenever she puts on the wool coat I made for her, she feels like she is receiving a warm hug from me! THAT is why I love sewing for others.