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Top 5 Reasons to Sew for Others

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Sewing for others-12

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!

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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!

Sewing for others

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?!).

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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.

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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.

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21 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons to Sew for Others

  1. Pingback: The Perfect Menswear Sewing Pattern for Beginners | Thread Theory

  2. Pingback: Slopers for all – Teak & Orange

  3. Absolutely. And I can’t wait to see the finished wedding dress!

  4. Great post, Morgan. The dress looks fantastic. I really love that photo with the hand sewing needle — I hope the hand sewing on this project has been enjoyable for you. Those hand sewn details make the work so personal and, to me at least, create a sense of closeness between the maker, the material, and the person who will wear the garment.

  5. All very good reasons to sew for others! I’ve pretty much stopped sewing gifts for others because they are often (but not always) under appreciated. I prefer to sew for someone if they request something and invest some time in talking about what they want, fabric, etc. I like to see them enjoy the garment again and again. And I love hearing that they get compliments while wearing it. 🙂

    • This is pretty close to my approach too. I find, if I try to hand sew gifts, especially for Christmas, I end up feeling a bit like I’m working in a sweatshop. If the person actually requests the item it is far more likely they will appreciate it. And I think it is very exciting for someone who doesn’t sew to see the object they have imagined become a thing of reality!

  6. What a beautiful post! The dress looks like both a labour of love and a work of art. I’m sure it will be appreciated so very much! What you said about the constraints is so true. My teenage sons still ask me to sew things for them, and they have very specific requests. Basically they want really plain garments these days which are kind of boring to sew. However, if I really stick to what they have asked for, the amount they wear the clothes makes it so very, very worthwhile. It’s pretty cool to be able to bring someone else’s vision to life.

  7. I agree with all of these! I like sewing for others but sometimes I doubt that the person really means it when they say they like whatever I’ve made for them. But when I see them wearing the garment over and over (to the point of holes in the case of my brother’s Jedediahs, which represents its own challenge to make more hard wearing trousers!) then I guess I can accept that they really love it! It makes me so proud when I can say I made everything my husband is wearing – and from Thread Theory too! Well almost everything – he’s not a fan of the Comox style. Any chance of a more loose fitting boxer short in the pipeline?! 🙂

    • Wow, sounds like your brother and husband really appreciate what you make! I will keep some loose fitting boxers in mind – maybe from a woven material to make them very easy for beginner sewers? I have hesitated to create a pattern like this so far because so many similar patterns exist but it really is starting to seem like a hole in our pattern line up!

  8. I love seeing others wearing the clothes I’ve made for them. Mostly I sew for my sons and husband, and when they choose my handmades over the RTW, I am proud. Also I’ve seen my mom wearing a top I made for her, in situations when she didn’t expect to bump into me, which makes me believe she really likes wearing it 🙂

    • Ah yes, I sometimes wonder if a few of my handmade gifts sit lingering in a closet until the recipient knows I’m going to be around lol! That must have been a pleasant surprise to catch her off guard wearing the top!

  9. This is a lovely post! I’ve been learning to make quilts recently & love to see how happy my friends are when I’ve given them one for their new baby. I also love making clothes for my toddler, who produly says ‘mummy made it’ when he wears something I’ve made – hopefully that’ll last a while longer!
    The wedding dress looks so beautiful, what a wonderful gift to give your cousin’s future wife, and your cousin!

    • I hope your toddler continues to be proud of his home made clothing! My friend’s daughter is 6 years old and has worn homemade clothes since she was born. She is still enormously proud of her mom and her clothing and all of her school friends admire her outfits daily!

  10. What a timely post- my summer holidays are almost over and I was lamenting about the 8ft braided rug I have been sewing allllllll summer out of scrap knit fabric for a friends classroom- but you just touched on some of the reasons I came up with the project in the first place. Thanks for the reminder! Btw, my Mum, who lives in another country, says the same things about the stuff I have made her – just like a big hug 😊

    • That’s so neat that your Mom says the same thing! A homemade garment would feel extra special for her since she can’t actually hug you in person (my Mom just gets double the hugs I guess lol).

  11. This is so good–I have a long way to go in my thinking here. I’ve been terrified to sew for other people and do whatever I can to avoid being asked because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to do it well enough (SO adult, I know!…). What you shared about your mom is so soul-nourishing—what a gift for you. II’ll have to remember that!!

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