Do you sew for eternity?

[The pictures in this post show my ongoing trenchcoat project: it is taking FOREVER and I hope to be able to wear it for a long time.]

Alright, eternity may be a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve been thinking about my sewing projects, how I plan and execute them and how I envision to wear my garments. Essentially it comes down to these two questions:

  1. How long do I plan on wearing this garment?
  2. How long will this garment last (=be wearable)?

The first question is more personal: Do I know what I like to wear over and over again, or is this just a trend that’s passing and might feel old in the next season? I guess I’m somewhat sure what my style is (although it does evolve over time…), what I like to wear -even if it’s not “in” anymore. This does apparently not mean that I will always stick to the same old patterns and colours, but I like to think that I have found a “style area” that I like and suits me well. Apart from that I really am not opposed to garments that are only wearable in a particular season. We have all fours seasons here in Germany and I don’t see why one shouldn’t embrace that -fashion wise and other. I started packing up my summer clothes a few weeks ago and consequentially dug out my winter clothes. (Hello, beloved corduroy pants!) Honestly, I do love the change of the seasons and with it the change in my wardrobe. A good plus is that some of these seasonal garments do last longer as they are only wearable half of the time.

This brings me to the second question: How long can or should a garment acutally last? There are many criteria that have a big influence on the lifespan of a garment. For one we have the fabric: By now I’m quite good at recognizing a good quality fabric from cheap ones. But some fabric types just last longer than others. In my experience, everything with some stretch in it (jerseys, fiber mixes with elastane etc.) doesn’t hold as long as a woven fabric. (Apart from polyester fabric: This stuff practically lasts forever, but I hate wearing it. So that’s not an alternative for me.)

Another area is the general quality of the construction of your garment: Nowadays I’m way more inclined to make an effort, sew those french seams or Hong Kong bindings. This is in part due to the fact that I spend more money for fabric (hello, better quality) and therefore, want my finished garment to stand the test of time and last a long time.

Lastly, there is the handling of your garment: How careful are you with your garments? How often do you wash them? On what occasions do you wear them? I belive that it can have a huge impact on the life span of your garment when you handle them with care – every step of the way. I try to wash my garments as rarely as possible (apart from underwear, socks, tights, etc.) and rather treat them separately. For example, wash out a spot by hand or airing out over night. And I try to not take the obvious risks (food, that spills / dark jeans that might bleed out / makeup while putting our clothes on or off) with some garments (white blouses, light tops) by either changing or trying to protect my garments otherwise.

Do you think about the lifespan of your garments when you sew (or buy!) them? And what do you do to make your clothes last longer? Any more tips?

Look at all the shoes I didn’t buy this summer

I’ve had plans for this summer. Shoe plans to be exact. With a few years worth of knowledge in researching sustainable and fair footwear, I started this spring to look for my favourite pairs.

I started very strategical and really thought long and hard about how and when to wear the shoes. And this proved to be very forward-looking. I really only bought one new pair of shoes this summer (okay, apart from some Birkenstocks, but the ones I bought I almost only wear around the house all year long, so they don’t really count as new summer shoes).

I’m still not really sure, why I didn’t buy all these pretty new shoes. I liked all of them and they fit my style pretty good. But I asked myself over and over again whether they really fulfill a new purpose or are just a variation of a shoe I already own.

First on my list were these green raffia shoes by Abury. In my imagination I thought I would wear these instead of sneakers with jeans or skirts. I really don’t own any shoes that come close to these and would’ve liked a new color on my feet. I’ve put them in my cart about five times but never went ahead and ordered them. Now the summer is almost over and the shoes are sold out. I hope they are fullfilling someone’s summer shoe dream right now. We’ll see if next year has something similar in store and whether I buy them then.

 

Next on my list were one or two sneakers. However, I haven’t worn many in the last few weeks, so I guess it was the right move not to buy new ones. For one I thought about the iconic Volleys by Veja in all white. These too, went more than once in my shopping cart and I never ordered them. I was also eyeing various models by Startas. I really didn’t know this brand until this year and have no idea how I missed them: They are made in Croatio (so are more or less close by) and the brand has been around for decades. They have great patterned shoes als well as your standard colors (black, white, red, blue). Truth be told, I had been looking for fair sneakers in a more slim form for quite a while. So, no idea why I didn’t buy three at once, since they are also fairly priced. Probabaly because I still have two Veja pairs that are one or two years old and still fullfill their comfort shoes purpose. And really, I couldn’t justify owning more sneakers. But I still fancy them.

I also liked these leather ones by Po-Zu. I think like the hole pattern makes them special. I couldn’t decide between black and natural for ages. Even when they had a sale going on, I didn’t go ahead and bought them. But I think what made me hesitate was the uncertainty of what size to order and the (possible) inconvenience of sending back an internationl order. (Not that I’ve ever had a problem with that but I like to see problems where there are (almost) none.)

I’ve already planned about five outfits with these sandals. In my head they would just go with everything. I don’t own any shoes by El Naturalista (don’t know why though!) and wanted to try them out. I still like them very much and now they are on sale. But fall is just around the corner and I fear I wont get much wear out of these this year. Maybe they are still on sale next spring, or maybe I just don’t buy them at all. We’ll see.

So, you might be wondering what I actually wore this summer!? Well, I didn’t have to leave the house barefoot. As it turned out, I already own quite a few summery shoes. Sure, they were neither new nor shiny or exciting, but dependable and broken in (no blisters for me this summer!) and, most importantly, I still like to wear them, even if they are already a few years old and show some wear.

I did actually buy one pair of shoes this summer. You’ll hear my thoughts about those in another post.

The look of handmade garments

At the beginning of my sewing journey, it was very important for me to achieve a “store-bought” look. Meaning I didn’t want anyone to think I made my own clothes. I tried to copy the quality of garments from H&M, Zara or C&A, which seems ridiculous now that I’ve sewn for almost 10 years and my sewing quality is much better than the garments offered in these stores.

But when you start out with sewing, it seems like a miracle to sew a zipper, buttonholes and an even hem on your home sewing machine. Honestly, in the early years I just thought some things weren’t possible for home sewers. All of these tasks were intimidating to me.

Knowing this, it’s not hard to believe that a high compliment for me at the time was if someone thought I had bought my handmade clothes. This seemed to me to be a proof of good quality. “Good” high quality garments would be bought and handmade things would always have some flaws.

But sometime in the last years my thoughts on this changed. I guess with more sewing experience my understanding of a quality garment changed as well. Nowadays, I don’t try to be as good as fast fashion stores, but rather as good as couture houses (well not with every shirt that I sew, but it’s the general aim and inspiration). And on the other hand I don’t fear someone might suspect that I’m wearing a handmade garment: I hope they do!

Really, I used to think that handmade clothes couldn’t be as good, nice or stylish as ready-to-wear garments. Well, in my defense that’s about 10 years ago and home-sewing or the handmade scene in general has come a long way since then. Nowadays even people that don’t make their own clothes, appreciate the effort and passion that go into the making of a handmade garment.

I used to avoid zigzag-stitches by all means, so no one would suspect my handmade style from afar. Zigzag-stitches just screamed handmade (and not in a good way) in my head. Today I almost never use a twin needle and would always good for a nice zigzag-hem. I don’t know, the zigzag-stitch has grown on me and to me looks more chic than I sporty twin needle hem.

Nowadays, I’m happy if someone spots my handmade garments and doesn’t think a bought them off the fast fashion rack.