I Sew Because I Am an Artist (Not Because I Am a Woman)

Sometimes, I get a squirmy feeling in my chest when I tell people that I sew. It has less to do with me and more do with their reaction, which can go one of two ways: a very enthusiastic response about what a “classic” and “rare” woman I am, or a sort of sneer of confusion as to why I would want to partake of something considered part of women’s domestic past. These two responses land at opposite ends of the spectrum but are both rooted in the same misconception about what it means to be a sewist. Both see sewing as a submission to a woman’s traditional role in society, and both are wrong.

Assuming that I sew because I am trying to fulfill my role as “good woman” is not only insulting to women, but it is insulting to the craft. Often, popular understanding of what constitutes art is far too narrow. For most of my life when people asked me if I was “artsy” I felt compelled to tell them no, because I am not some type of painter or illustrator as people usually assume is attached to the title of artist.

Our culture leads us to believe creative activities historically associated with women, such as cooking and sewing, aren’t art. Yet, everything about them is artful. Art is not easily defined, and that is the way it should be. The only requirement I attach to the definition of art is creation. Sewing is creation. Looking at a rectangle of color and being able to envision it as something whole, to see exactly where I would place the darts and what accent colors would make it pop, to translate a piece of nothing into an expression of my being–I dare you to tell me it isn’t art.

Sometimes the people who reject sewing as art are well-meaning progressive women who just never want to be forced to squeeze into a traditional role. This fear of this forced assimilation is totally valid, but the way it is expressed is not helping anyone. It’s not feminist to reject and shame things that are traditionally feminine. Feminism is about the choice to express ourselves however we want. But it’s also about dissociating traditionally “feminine” things with negativity. That means supporting women and recognizing their artistic expression as valid, even if it is different from the way we choose to express ourselves. It’s an important act feminism to reclaim textile art as just that–art. Detach art from the gender binary. Give sewing the power and reverence it was neglected for far too long.

What other arts have we neglected because they are seen as feminine? Maybe we’ve never thought of our grandmas as artists but maybe they are the most artful members of our families.

I encourage you to give Faith Ringgold, Suzan Engler, and Toshiko MacAdam a search to see just how broad and innovative textile and fiber art can be.

Make It Last: How to Mend Your Own Clothes

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Sewing is a practice of sustainability. You probably forgot sewing was an actual skill-set and not just the punchline of sexist jokes. However, producing, consuming, and throwing away fewer pieces of clothing all hinge on one habit– keeping your clothes for longer. When you dance a little too hard and a hole materializes in the armpit of your favorite top, don’t just throw it away. That’s your favorite top, darn it. A lot of people are held back by the assumption that they are not skilled enough to fix their clothing or that it is a skill that older, more feminine humans are supposed to learn. I do not care how old you are or what your gender identity is, you can and should learn how to mend your own clothing. Emphasis on can.

I may tell you some things that would make my mother’s professional-seamstress-heart cry, but it will get you through. I’m not going to make my own tutorials because there already so many great ones out there, so I will just link you to think ones that are most helpful.

Create a small kit.

This shouldn’t cost more than seven dollars, and should last a long time. Items on this list can be purchased from your favorite craft store, Walmart, or stolen from your grandmother’s house.

  • scissors
  • a package of needles (I always get the widest eyes to make threading easier.)
  • black and white thread (You’ll almost always sew from the inside, so they won’t be seen anyway.)
  • a cheap pin and cushion set
  • a good attitude (You got this!)

How to repair a hole in most garments.

This video from youtuber Koumori No Hime Cosplay is so clear and simple, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. This can go for any hole, not just one in a seem. The ladder stitch makes the thread almost invisible.

How to repair a hole in a sweater, specifically.

This video by Professor Pincushion is a bit similar to the first video that I linked, but it contains some important information pertaining specifically to sweaters. When a clothing item is knitted, a hole could cause the entire garment to unravel, so sewing up a hole takes just a bit of extra care.

How to sew on a button.

I love that giant button. Also, Nicki Callahan’s dolphin simile: 10/10. Anyway, everyone needs to know how to sew on a button. This video makes it super easy to see how it is done.

Ending thoughts: security over beauty. When you’re repairing a garment, you’re usually going to flip it inside out, so you’re not going to see the stitching anyway. Don’t worry about perfection, your clothes will appreciate the TLC nonetheless. If you’re getting frustrated, take a break.

If you’re financially secure enough, you can just pay a tailor to do it. They’ve got to put bread on the table too. It’s important to know how to fix something in a pinch, but it’s no less sustainable to pay a professional if you can afford it.

Put a Sweater Under It

My fall and winter motto: put a sweater under it. Specifically, a turtleneck. This way, I can wear all of my favorite summer dresses all winter long and no one (or temperature) can stop me.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it is the absolute best time in history to have ears because the earring trends are INSANE right now. I bought these earrings at Dig It in OKC and I can’t stop wearing them. They were super reasonably priced, too, at around $12. I’ve been trying to shop minimally for winter and fall, but these earrings were worth adding to my wardrobe.

I handmade this dress in early high school and it’s still going strong. A lot of the dresses I made back then are a little big on me now, but they actually work out perfectly for putting over sweaters. I loving mixing brighter colors with muted tones and pastels. 

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This outfit is full of pieces I’ve owned for years, yet I’m still finding new ways to style them. I totally recommend walking into your closet with a fresh mindset before you decide to go out and buy something new.

Lemon Drop Dress Transformation – Handmade Fashion

Over spring break I had a few spare moments to work on a small project. Sometimes I don’t have time to sew an entire dress from scratch, but I’m always making alterations on pieces that I pick up at the thrift store. Keep scrolling to see a vintage dress transformation.

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Before:

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Personally, I would argue that there is not necessarily anything wrong with this dress in its original form. However, the length is not very practical and the sheer amount of pattern contained in this skirt is not very wearable unless I were attending some kind of clown-prom. I loved this quirky dress, but I knew that I would not have many occasions to wear it if I kept it at this length.

 

After:

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I gave my six-dollar dress a chop at the finger tips. Who doesn’t love a mini dress? Now the dress is more playful and can be worn on a daily basis.

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This was such a simple alteration. I just hemmed the bottom to a length that is flattering on me. There was so much fabric left over that I even made this cute lil’ matching scarf. Thrifting is so much more fruitful when you are able to sew. Instead of looking for items that are perfect, I often look for items that have potential and then make them perfect for myself.

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Let me know if you guys are interested in more handmade pieces and thrift shop transformations!

Spring Break – Handmade Fashion

IT’S SPRING BREAK, FOLKS. Well, it’s almost spring break, at least. Today’s outfit is reflective of the care-free times and sunny weather that I am wishing for all of us.

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This bright yellow and peach top is a result of me experimenting with pattern-free sewing. The style is mega simple. It is just a straight tank with no darts of any kind. Seriously, this tank was laughably simple to make. However, I’ll admit, being hecka flat-chested made this project much easier for me than the average girl, as this fabric has no stretch. This fabric was bought second-hand from a vintage shop in Siloam Springs, AR. I love vintage florals; they are so much more vibrant than a lot of the floral prints in stores today.

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Say hello to my favorite shoes of spring. Can you believe these dreamy rainbow pastel shoes are so wearable? My mom gave me these Rocket Dog sneakers as a gift, and might I add, she has fantastic taste. My mother has always encouraged my fashion escapades, no matter how wild, and I am eternally grateful. Whether or not her keen eye for style was passed down to me, her appreciation of the strange and beautiful has made me the person I am today.

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I have owned several slightly different variations of these John-Depp’s-Willy-Wonka-esque glasses over the years. I am honestly not sure why I keep buying the same glasses, but they are still working for me. Also, I know you are coveting my high-end “aesthetic” bracelet. Too bad for you. It is one of a kind, made for me by my sister. I only wear the finest jewelry. 

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Since this fabric has such little stretch, I needed to create a way to actually fit my head through the collar. I used this as an opportunity to add a cute little bow detail to the back.

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There are not too many different hairstyles for short hair. On most days, I do not mind this at all, but when the weather is warm it is nice to get the hair out of my face with some little buns. It seems that this hair style is being referred to as “space buns” on the internet, although I have no idea where the name got its origin. My brother once referred to these buns as “the biscuits on your head,” so that works, too.

I hope you all have a fun (and safe) spring break!

Baby Blue – Handmade Fashion

This blog has been up and running for several months and, yet, this is the first time I have featured a clothing item that I made myself. This is mostly due to the fact that this blog has only ever known fall and winter, and 95% of my sewing projects are dresses. So, without further ado, brought to you by an unexpectedly warm day in the middle of February, I present to you one of my own creations.

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This dress was made from a reproduction of a vintage 1960’s pattern. 1960’s mini dresses are one of absolute favorite pieces of clothing, ever. They are so cutesy and whimsical and wearable. I love how the 60’s style is very doll-like. These dresses are versatile, easy to style, and do not blow up in the wind like most dresses, which is a pretty huge plus if you ask me.

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I picked up this vintage, baby blue fabric from a second-hand store in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. One of my favorite places to buy fabric is at thrift stores and vintage shops. Not only is it more inexpensive than buying new, but I can always find unique patterns and colors that I wouldn’t be able to find somewhere like Jo-Ann’s or Hobby Lobby. These colorful buttons were found in one of the many, many jars of my mother’s button collection. Having a sewing teacher for a mother has its perks. The button details add a lot of character to a dress which would otherwise have a lot blank space.

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My friend Charity took these super fun pictures for this blog post. I am infinitely thankful that I have so many friends who have an artistic eye and are down for impromptu photo shoots. Also, Charity told me I had to pose by this because it matched my yellow button.

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This was my first attempt at using a decorative zipper, and I love the way it turned out. I usually opt for an invisible zipper, because they are easy and unnoticeable, but, like the buttons, this zipper is an example of how small details can make such a huge difference.

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I started sewing my own clothing mostly because I was having a hard time finding clothes in styles that I wanted. Vintage shopping can be expensive and time consuming, and sometimes the pieces I have made up in my head just don’t exist yet. Sewing gave me a creative outlet; a way to put the inside of my brain on the outside of my body. Now that I am learning about ethical fashion, being able to sew my own clothes is a great option because I know exactly where every piece comes from. I’m looking forward to spring so that I can post more of the pieces I designed and made myself.

I hope you are all staying warm these last weeks of winter.