I am not saying this as your mother or your overly nostalgic hipster friend who only wears hemp. I am saying this as that ridiculous girl whose blog you enjoy, because she is honest with her crazy and quick with a Buffy reference. If I were elected President of the Universe and asked to give one piece of advice to high school seniors, it would be this: Get thee a sewing machine! Other things are important, but people already learn those virtues from Mrs.Piggle-Wiggle. She does a much better job of telling you to bathe than I ever could. Instead, I suggest the needle.*
I can hear your doubts, kittens. Sewing is hard! Sewing is for old people! Why should I waste my time sewing, when Anthropologie exists? A couple of years ago, my thoughts were similar. For eons, my mother insisted that I learn how to sew. This advice usually came when she was mid-construction of a She-Ra: Princess of Power costume for Halloween, so I chalked it up to parental annoyance. Imagine my surprise when, in a fit of exasperation with current trends, I made my first dress and realized she was right. Sewing was the bee’s knees!
My biggest reason for sewing is simple: I adore clothes. My closet, large and spacious to most eyes, is stuffed with dresses and skirts and charmingly bow-bedecked cardigans. I’ve always held with the theory that a perfect outfit gives confidence in any situation. However, this love can bring woe. There is no worse feeling than setting out in search of a party dress, only to return home empty-handed, cursing fluorescent lights and designers who think boob ruffles are so hot right now. Or, worse, finding the perfect dress…in every size but my own. Quelle horreur! That never happens with sewing. Not only can I recreate Grace Kelly’s organza confection from Rear Window, but it’s always in my size. There is a freedom in that. No longer am I bound by tacky fads! I don’t have to worry whether something is well made, because I know it is. I made it myself!
What’s more, it’s super easy. When people go all wide-eyed at the mention of my hobby, insisting that they could never, not ever make actual clothes, my eyes fight a heavy roll. Y’all, have you ever seen Project Runway? There have been contestants who couldn’t navigate elementary social situations, but still worked a sewing machine. This is not quantum mechanics. I learned the basics from one afternoon of sewing with my friend’s mother, with later questions mitigated by the magic of YouTube. Sewing from patterns, specifically, is nothing but rudimentary cutting skills, second-grade reading comprehension, and following straight lines. You can do it, I swear.
It doesn’t even take that much creativity. Admittedly, I’ve always been one to fantasize about dress designs, but such sartorial daydreams are not a prerequisite. In addition to the your mother’s pattern companies (Colloquially known as the “Big 4”: Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick, and Vogue), there are an increasing number of super fashionable independent labels, like Colette Patterns or Deer and Doe. Take one great pattern and some fabric you like (online fabric retailers are the bomb) and – voila! – a cute new dress appears in a couple of hours.
For even more inspiration, we have the sewing blog-o-sphere, one of the most vibrant, positive internet subcultures I’ve participated in. Five minutes of internet-stalking is all it takes to disabuse one of the notion that sewing is a lost art. From New Zealand to Wisconsin, smart, savvy women are stitching up divine creations. There are those who specialize in vintage patterns and those who favor thrift store revamps. Down to a one, they’re welcoming and helpful and interesting. They also have the best Pinterest boards around.
Let’s be honest though, kittens. I want you to sew, because it will give me more people to gossip about fabric with. Plus, the eventual Wee Esmerelda O’Kelly-McGregor is going to need costumes for her school play and I don’t want to make them all myself. So, darling, please buy a sewing machine. Just don’t go down the path of quilting, because all those little pieces make me queasy.
*For sewing, not heroin. Perhaps I should follow up with a secondary piece of advice: Don’t do heroin. Track marks so ruin the look of a sleeveless dress.