Category Homemade

Handmade Style: Sewing Simple Skinny Jeans

Sew-Liberated-Skinny-JeansI am one of the lucky few in my generation who had a grandmother and a mother who sewed and taught me to sew. In the 4th grade I chose sewing over other extra curricular activities and took a class where I sewed my entire wardrobe for that year! I did a little sewing in high school and then nothing until my early 20’s, when I picked it up again and sewed mostly aprons and bags (I love bags!). When we started this blog I knew I wanted to sew some more clothes for myself. I thought it would be a good way for me to connect with some of the ideas we are talking about, especially what “fair labor” would look like in the fashion industry.

How much should clothing really cost? What efforts really go into the items that I wear?

I decided to sew myself a pair of jeans. My favorite fabric store in Austin, The Cloth Pocket (seriously, you need to go there!), has Sew Liberated’s pattern for Simple Skinny Jeans so that’s where I started. I’m not a particularly fast seamstress and I tend to make mistakes. This leads to tearing out seams, which leads to tension headaches and a frustrated stream of profanity. But these jeans were sewing together so well! It was my first time to use a double needle and I was so pleased with how much more professional it made the pants look. Sadly, when I sewed up the side seams my first thought was, “my, those pants look small!” Turns out, they were. Although I took my measurements carefully before I began sewing, the pants would not fit me. And by “they would not fit me,” I mean I couldn’t even get them on. I finished them anyway, but adjusting them enough that I could actually wear them was a lost cause. So there it is, the ugly truth. I tried to sew my own jeans and ended up with a pair of really cute jeans I could not possibly wear.

Will I try again? Yes, I think I will!

Sew-Liberated-Skinny-Jeans-BackThe jeans were simple to sew together, the instructions were clearly written, and I found the video tutorial that you can access after purchasing very helpful. These jeans turned out to be super low rise, so even if they had fit I’m not sure I would have enjoyed wearing them. I don’t think I will be using this pattern again because of the fit issues.

In Beth’s post about her Aster shirt she talked about what it would have cost to make her shirt. So here’s the cost breakdown for my project:

  • 4 hours (roughly estimated time because #sewingwithkids, am I right?) at Texas minimum wage of $7.25/hour = $29
  • $60 in materials (needles, thread, fabric, elastic)

The total cost for these jeans would have been $89 without any mark-up for profit.

Have you ever purchased brand new jeans for $8? I have. How are they doing that? Likely, by not paying the seamstress a fair wage.

Sewing clothes is hard, but it was such a good reminder of what goes into making a quality garment.

Doll-JeansSide Note: I felt like I needed to redeem the situation a little and I had some extra fabric leftover so I sewed up these tiny doll jeans! I even used vintage hem tape. I may have also cut out a tiny doll jacket to go with them.

Have you ever had any disappointing sewing experiences? Do you have any patterns that were huge successes?

Let’s talk about this some more over on Instagram at @DressWellDoGood. We would love to hear what you think about this topic! And of course, don’t forget to sign up to receive our posts by e-mail (upper right side of blog).

Homemade Style: Aster Button-Up

For me, sewing my own clothing brings me so close to the garment industry that it is inescapable that real people, not machines, make our clothes. And while I’m sewing, I get frustrated, I struggle to make my sewing machine cooperate, and sometimes, I can’t get the clothes to fit the way I envision.

It’s challenging to sew clothes. And it’s even more challenging to sew clothes that fit well.

With 7 years of sewing experience, this button-up top took me 7 hours to make, all in the name of reconnecting with the process of making clothing through slow-fashion.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 7 hours at Texas minimum wage of $7.25/hr
    • A quick note about minimum wage: one could argue that the minimum wage is not high enough to be considered a living wage in America. For example, in Texas the minimum wage is $7.25/hr, where a 40/hr week adds up to $15,080 per year. The 2014 Federal Poverty Level Threshold for two people (say a single mom and her child) is $15,730.
  • $40 in materials (pattern, fabric, interfacing, thread, buttons).

Without any mark-up for profit, just paying for minimum wage labor and materials, the total for this shirt would be $90.75.

Does this make it crystal clear why paying $4.99 for a button-up shirt is really scary? The real person that is constructing your shirt is not being paid fairly. The end.

Yes, there are economies of scale in factories that I am not afforded. But $85 in economies of scale? Just something to chew on as we continue this conversation about ethical fashion.

On to some sewing details for you seamstresses (or would-be seamstresses).

This sweet little button-up shirt is the Aster Pattern from Colette Patterns. If you are getting into sewing your own clothing, I highly recommend their patterns as they are the clearest and easiest to understand patterns I have come across. And their styles are beautiful, adaptable and timeless!

Colette-Patterns-Aster-Top-Flat-StyleThe fabric is Anna Maria Horner’s Loominous Line, Traffic Cotton Chambray in Forest (similar). Both the fabric and the pattern came from our awesome local Austin fabric store – The Cloth Pocket. They carry THE BEST fabrics. Check them out in person if you are local, or just browse their website!

What do you think – is it worth it to make our own clothing? Is the learning experience and time that it takes a worthwhile trade-off?

Let’s talk about this some more over on Instagram at @DressWellDoGood. We would love to hear what you think about this topic! And of course, don’t forget to sign up to receive our posts by e-mail (upper right side of blog).