Monday, 17 October 2011

Homemade Vs. Mass-Produced: Final Showdown

Do you want to know something that really saddens me? When creative people put lots of effort, time and energy into making their own clothes, then compare those clothes unfavourably with mass-produced garments made in a factory then feel pretty rubbish about their work. And do you want to know something that seriously pisses me off? Well, it's the other side of the same coin really. But what pisses me off is the attitude that so many of the general public hold that home-made garments (and yes, for the purposes of this post I am going to refer to our creations as homemade because, let's face it, they are made at home) are inferior to factory made clothes without really being able to express why. I would argue that so many unthinking people who have adopted this view are actually the recipients of a lot of brainwashing delivered through a couple of generations worth of advertising. That advertising has been designed to train us into rabid consumers, perpetually several purchases away from happiness. I want to spend a bit of time today explaining why I feel homemade garments are just as good, if not far better, than mass-produced garments.


  • Ok. I would really like to talk to some teenagers about where they think those sweatshirts in Nike Town come from and how they actually got into the shop. I think the responses would be pretty funny if, in fact, they were able to offer more than a shrug and a confused expression. Garments aren't popped out of a factory fully formed, kids. Garments, whether made in a factory in Asia or on your mum's kitchen table all start life as a bunch of fabric, some reels of thread, and any other things like zips or toggles that are needed for the final product. The differences between those two scenerios is quantity (1000's of metres of fabric or 2 metres of fabric, for example), quality (the stuff on the kitchen table is likely to be better) and cost (the fabric, thread and notions on the kitchen table will be many times more expensive).

  • Creating a garment is simply a series of procedures. Cutting out the pattern pieces, stitching seams, pressing sections, applying interfacing: all procedures that must occur for a garment to come into being. The difference between a homemade garment and a factory made one is that at home, usually it's just one pair of hands that completes those procedures, and a factory it's tens or even hundreds of pairs of hands that each complete a procedure. Which follows...

  • ....the maker of the homemade garment is usually more highly skilled than many of those pairs of hands in that factory. At home, he/she making a garment must figure out how to complete each step and in what order to do them. Most garment factory workers are classed as unskilled as they usually perform one repetative task day in day out. This is sadly one of the reasons many are exploited around the globe, but that is a whole area I'll go into more directly another day.

  • If you've ever spent time unpicking mass-produced garments, you'll often find they have been constructed in a way that is different to how you would approach constructing a similar garment. That doesn't make your approach in any way inferior. A factory's methods of construction and order of each proceedure has been calculated to save the company time, and therefore money. It doesn't make those garments any sturdier or destined for longer life. The order of construction most of us home sewers are likely to employ are also much more likely to facilitate alteration if needed at a later date. Similarly, seam allowances in mass-produced garments are often 1cm (3/5 "), rather than the 1.5cms (5/8") we often work with at home, simply to allow for tighter lay plans (when all the pieces are fitted together like a jigsaw in the most economic way) and therefore to save on overall fabric usage.


  • Possibly the main reason mass produced clothing can sometimes have a slightly crisper appearance to homemade clothing, is that the factory has all manner of machinery home sewers don't have access to. And because of the quantities in question, it is worth their while to employ technicians to tweak those machines so each procedure is completed with maximum efficiency. For example, there will be machines that have been set up to work perfectly with chiffon, because that is probably all that machine will sew all year. It doesn't need to work on denim the following week, or shirting the week after, like our hardworking domestic machines. And as nice as that brand new, ultra-crisp look can be, we all know that it doesn't last the first go through the laundry.

  • Little known fact about me: my parents used to regularly take the mick out of me for always smelling stuff when I was young. I think I may rely on that sense more than most people do, so believe me when I say that I enjoy the 'box-fresh' smell of a brand new mass-produced garment. Why do they have that smell? Because mass produced garments are made from new fabric which has not been washed before going into production. It would be viewed as an unnecessary cost. Almost all fabric is tested before going into production, the percentage a garment is likely to shrink by after washing due to the fabric is calculated and factored into the pattern. Homemade garments don't really have that 'box-fresh' smell because the fabric hasn't come directly from the fabric manufacturers and most home sewers pre-wash their fabric before starting (hands up who learnt that lesson the hard way?!).

  • Many (I hesitate to write 'most' because I don't know for sure) suppliers of high street fashion knowingly create clothes from cheap fabric that has performed poorly in the legally required testing. Fabric is tested by independent companies and can be tested for many things, but there are about four specifics tests it must be put through, however the scores it needs to achieve in those are actually really low to be deemed acceptable for commercial garments. Many suppliers are fully aware, but do not care, that the garments they produce will not retain anything like their original appearance five or ten washes later. Most home sewers, by contrast, go out of their way to pick good quality fabric to invest their sewing time and effort into for a final garment (as opposed to a toile/muslin).

  • Talking of cheap fabric. Many high street suppliers will also rely heavily on using fabric with a very big lycra/elastane content for garments that are meant to be woven but close fitting, like sheath dresses or tighter trousers. This way they can create an acceptable fit for a wider range of customer body shapes. But home sewers do not need to rely on super-stretchy fabric or hoping their measurements fit the manufacturer's standards (which most people don't). Even relatively inexperienced home sewers can create garments with a superior fit to much of what is on offer on the high street.

  • Most retailers will order garments from their suppliers in quantities of 1000's or 10,000's. Which makes the likelihood of seeing someone else wearing 'your' top pretty high. When was the last time you walked into a cafe and felt embarrassed because another woman was wearing a Simplicity 3835 as well?!

I could go on, I really could, but I need some sleep. If anyone still feels less than proud of their homemade clothing, then they are crazy and I can't help them.

Massive love to everyone who has invested their time and creativity into making their own clothing. You look incredibly hot, BTW!

59 comments:

lladybird said...

this is a good post and you should feel good.

nothing bothers me more than listening to a sewer lament that their clothes aren't as good as ready to wear. makes me sad, actually :(

Camelia Crinoline said...

You always write the things I think but way more articulately. I think a lot of teenagers do know how their clothes are made. They just don't care. When I was a teenager my friends used to laugh at me because I hated mass produced clothing and I got angry about the exploitation of garment makers in overseas countries.
I don't understand the myth that homemade is somehow inferior. A lot of us home seamstresses love using fancy techniques that you wouldn't find on most RTW. Personally, I love doing things like french seams and handpicked zippers and they're things usually only found on vintage or really expensive clothes. Homemade clothing tends to be sewn with more care and is made to last longer as well.

liza jane said...

Yep, this is a great post. Something I needed to hear. I've been lamenting over the fact that I will never be able to make trousers like my rtw. But then when I think about, why WOULD I want to make them like my rtw? They don't fit in the thigh, sit too low, aren't the right length, fade after a few washes, etc, etc, etc... I should focus more on finding the right fit and pattern for me instead of comparing.

Miss Katie said...

Thank you for such an inspirational post, brilliantly written and so very true.

As a home sewer I used to be embarrassed about telling people that most of my clothing was "homemade" but now I'm proud and not afraid to shout it from the rooftops :) people who create their own clothes are artists in their own way, and they shouldn't forget that.

Lynette said...

I think we just live in an industrial world, and convenience wins. It's just nice to know that there will always be different levels of quality, and that you can have whatever you want.

woolcat said...

I'm a history grad student, and I have just been reading a book about the first big department stores in the late nineteenth century in America (it is called "When ladies go a-thieving" by Elaine Abelson, and her focus is actually on the origins of shoplifting). She talks about how the garment industry was changing at this time. Most women in the 1860s or so preferred their clothes to be home-made, by themselves or by a dressmaker who would come and do custom work for them. Ready to wear was associated with poor quality and fit, soldiers' uniforms etc. So to get women to buy ready made they had to do some major propaganda to convince them, first of all, that you couldn't tell homemade from factory made, and then that factory made was actually better. Now of course there were improvements being made at this time, and fashions were getting fancier so that sewing at home would have taken tons of time, and paying some poor girl a pittance to slave away at home in a tenement was a cheap option. But that propaganda to try to persuade people to buy in the nineteenth century has come down to us as a truth.

Funny thing is at the same time the home sewing machine was being mass marketed and for a few decades there its propaganda competed with the store propaganda. But since the 50s or so it's not really a presence any more. I did a paper on ads for Singer sewing machines in the 50s and 60s last year, and it was extremely interesting - the strategies they used, and what they came up with. The most convincing I thought was not that you could make everyday clothes more cheaply, but that by adding embellishments and details you could make something extra special for much less than the price of a fancy store bought dress.

Hearth said...

I think we've spoilt our expectations of learning, because so few of us know that it will take some time and some less than perfect garments before we have a level of skill that doesn't show our newbie mistakes.

That learning curve on physical things used to be expected, but it's not now, and then people get discouraged by that first wavy-seamed skirt and give it all up as a loss.

We're not all playing WoW here -sometimes it takes more than a week to master a task.

seeks said...

Awesome post! Lovely vent. Well done. :)

I just wore one of my own-made dresses to work today and felt self-conscious about its quality (I'm still learning), but reading your post reminds me again of how much I like mine better than ready-made. :)

Amanda said...

Here, here! So well said. I was just talking about this kind of thing the other day. I wish more people in the world thought like this. My big pet peeve is when people complain about how much people are exploited in other countries yet they brag about how cheap they get their clothes (as in why would you sew if you could get it so cheap?). It's like they don't seem to understand the connection between people being exploited and their cheap clothes...

Linda said...

So well said!

Since stumbling upon your blog this year I've fallen back in love with my sewing machine.
You've inspired me so much.

Thank you!

ali said...

I love this post. I always compare home made clothing to custom made clothing since that is essentially what it is.

Miss P said...

Hmmm...well said indeed. I have found myself sub-consciously doing this from time to time if I'm honest. But more and more frequently, as my sewing knowledge develops, I find I am noticing all the little sloppy bits of rtw mass produced clothing and thinking "wow, I could do better than that!"
And what about all those hidden touches you get with handmade? Lace trimmed hems on pyjamas, hand picked zippers, vintage fabrics, couture techniques on everyday garments just for the love of it. Yep. Gimme homemade with love care and attention (plus the odd wibble!) any day of the week
Px

raqskie said...

thank you! I suddenly feel very proud of and quite attractive in my spotty blue t-shirt.

Jen said...

This is an EXCELLENT post. Superb. Thank you, I couldn't agree with you more!

Far said...

Hear, hear! I'm very new at this but I find myself reaching for the clothes I made myself more than RTWs nowadays. Since I only have a few, I've worn them over and over but with pride. Never mind that some friends' eyes glazed over when i say i sew.

Jen said...

I know I'm repeating what's already been said by others, but this post is so spot-on! I just had a talk the other day with a mom at my younger daughter's preschool class about sewing Halloween costumes. My justification is that they last longer and can be washed in the laundry multiple times without falling apart. She wanted to know if it was worth the cost, but then hastened to add that she purchased 'expensive' costumes. I had to explain that an expensive price tag didn't imply quality fabric or construction. My younger daughter will be Cinderella this year, wearing a dress that I made for her older sister 7 years ago.

FWIW, my children routinely choose the things I make them for repeated wear - much of what grandma purchases gets very little wear, despite the name on the label. My oldest has a favorite pair of jeans - ones that I made her. The greatest compliment I get from people when I wear homemade garments is, "That's so awesome, where did you get it?" I love saying, "Thanks. I made it."

Helena said...

Great post! It made me love my me-mades even more.

Dalígula said...

Great post Zoe.
Nobody should be embarrased for wearing homemade garments, since most of the time they're much better!
I went thru the loss of a lovely skirt that didn't survive the first wash... but I haven't had that problem in more than a year, when I started to focus more in sewing my own garments, which I know will be with me for a looooong time =)
Anyone sewing her/his own clothes should be proud!

Forgiving Fashions said...

You have articulated the arguments very well. I wish clothing customers would read/listen to such arguments. I feel the work of the dressmaker is devalued because we work at home. I also think that some people expect a "cheaper deal" because of this.

Sara in Stitches said...

A million times, yes! It drives me crazy when folks assume the ready-to-wear way is always the "right" way. I wear my homemade garments proudly, even when they have flaws, because they are my flaws and my choice. What woolcat noted makes a lot of sense--time for more home-sewn propaganda, perhaps?

Megha said...

I am so glad you wrote this post. I sometimes question myself about the effort I put in trying to make my own clothes and the results. And your post today answered all those questions. My garment might not be perfect today but it is certainly unique and I love it.

Louise said...

I completely agree with all your points and everyone elses, whenever I make a garment I'm reminded how intimate a process it is, every seam must be sewed, pressed, finished, every piece assembled, hemlines need to be neat etc etc etc. I'm concious that I'm touching every inch of the fabric and that commercially made garments will have gone through the same process but that someone else/many people will have been touching that garment. It doesn't make me feel so warm and smiley to know that multiple people have been handling my clothes. In fact I haven't bought any new clothes for such a long time because of this. It doesn't feel so rewarding buying something thats been put together in a short period of time and with little love.

Kathleen said...

Last week I went to H&M. I hadn't been there for quite some time, but I saw some garments from their fall collection online and liked the pictures, so I decided to check it out. I was disgusted by the fabric quality. Seriously, some of their garments just felt like plastic. I'm not a big fan of polyester. At all. I almost left the store screaming.

My homemade garments might not be perfect, but at least I get a say in what materials I pick and which patterns I chose.

becci said...

Well said. I don't suppose you would like to have a little chat with my sister-in-law!

And let's all keep creating those beautiful, handmade, creative, one of a kind pieces that develop our skills and challenge us.

Jane said...

Oh Zoe, fantastic post, you're so eloquent, you should get yourself published. I wish I could have shoved this post, word for word, under the noses of my so called 'friends', who made my life a misery when I was 13 because I wore a handmade dress to a disco...
I now make a conscious effort to add an individual touch to my handmade clothes - a contrast pocket, bias bound hem etc - so I know that what I'm wearing is completely unique. x

Alessa said...

Wonderful post, Zoe! Especially since I've seen enough RTW clothing with ripped seams, loose buttons and other "quality criteria" after a couple of wears and washings...

While I don't usually go all-out couture on my garment finishings, and lots of my seams are just pinked, I still love them way better than my RTW clothing. Why? Because I even have guy friends who tell me that they love how unique my style is. And because of the happy feeling I get wearing stuff I made... :D

Tilly said...

Very well articulated as usual, Zoe.

I must say I've never heard this sentiment that shop-bought clothes are better quality than handmade, so I was a little shocked to hear that you and the people commenting above have experienced this. Doesn't make any sense! I regularly walk though the shops on my way to the office to look at clothing styles, and can't pick up a blouse without noticing the loose threads and missing buttons, and that's before anyone has even got it home! Part of the reason I just don't buy stuff anymore.

Law said...

Really interesting post Zoe.

Everytime I make something and people realise it's homemade someone always says, "it looks really professional!" in a really suprised way, and don't mean it as a a compliment.

It's like people assume all homemade things are badly made, and all mass produced things are well made! To be fair I think the average person comes into contact with home-meade clothes so rarely they don't know what to expect, and like you say don't really think about where their own clothes come from.

charlotte said...

I was suprised by this, I haven't met anyone that feels that home made is bad or weird. I get lots of 'oh I wish I could but I have no time' comments. My teenage sons think it's crazy but they do about anything I do, I have i am filtering good messages to them through a drip drip drip process.
Just so you know, you me and everyone else that do homemade, are cool creative and inspiring!!

khristie B said...

Love.
I've always felt proud of my handy work but you just made me feel that little bit more proud.
As a Mummy, I know my kids are proud and my 7 and 6 year old love that no one else has their clothes. Ah gush.

Jo Campbell said...

Great post and great comments. I love getting compliments when wearing my homemade clothes (even though I know every little error in them). But I accept the errors as learning experiences since I always cut corners and make changes to patterns on my good fabric (the only time I've made a muslin is when designing a friend's Medieval wedding jacket). Some of my favourite pieces don't even follow a pattern - I just made some measurements and a rough sketch in a notebook and then got cutting (evil grin).

weriem said...

Thanks for this very interesting post! I agree with you on many many points and for a long time, even before I started sewing. I'm always pretty happy with my homemade clothes and proud of taking time to sew something that I really love, with my favorite shapes, colors etc. Indeed, it's sad that our current reference is those mass-produced clothes! There is just one thing that make me more sad: how many time the fabric I bought was not very good quality? It's even more annoying as I spent hours on it!! How could I recognize cheap fabric before buying it?

Roisin Muldoon said...

This has come at a really good time, Zoe, thanks! I've been struggling a bit with my sewing mojo and it's partly due to finish etc - but of course it's so much more empowering to think of the fact that I have created a garment from scratch rather than thinking it's somehow less impressive than rtw. I'm having fit issues on a dress - and in this style I'm sure I would in a RTW one as well, so I should stop being so hard on myself, and finish the dress and wear it with pride!

The Old Fashioned Way said...

Hell yeah! You are so on the money but i have to say sometimes i even slip into the worry of thinking someone will see the tiny mistake i made on the dress im wearing-silly right? But truly since i've given up buying clothes for good, i do notice how shoddy some of the rtw stuff is compared to my homemade stuff-and stinky! That cheap synthetic fabric doesnt do your pits any favours!

emma said...

Great post!
My first job was as sewing jackets, I used this machine for top stitching, that machine for overlocking, another for button holes etc. I never actually learned the whole process from start to finish in the correct order or how to set up the machines for each process.
I've recently started sewing again at home and love it.
You have inspired me to make more for myself. First with refashions, now I'm ready to take the plunge and work from a pattern. Any advice? Have downloaded sorbetto top pattern may start there. Here goes...

Gwen said...

Yes, yes,yes.

Also:

On issues of fit: if you try on tens or hundreds of rtw items you can find things that fit you well by trial and error. Novice sewers get discouraged when their first attempts don't compete with hundreds of attempts by the rtw industry. This is an unfair standard.

Most of my clothes are rtw but purchased used (sometimes then altered). This gives me a useful filter: I mostly see garments that survived a few washes already, and fabrics whose smoothing chemical coats have already been washed off. Purchasing used gives me real information about the rtw I buy.

christina said...

You just nailed it down! And also the comments were so interesting. Thank you Zoe.

Was there a situation triggering this post???

Ali said...

Zoe, bless you, you're the patron saint of homemade garments and you always get us riled up about these issues. I'd say, for non-sewers, your argument is extremely valuable. There's so much that goes into garment creation that folks are completely oblivious about, especially in the US.

From a sewing perspective, though, I'm guilty as charged. It's not that I think RTW is superior than homemade, that's not it at all. I just think that MY homemade garments/skills are not yet at the level that I can wear them without being self-conscious. It's not that I want perfection, but I want ease of wear and that introduces a whole bunch of issues fit, fabric, etc. I largely source my fabrics second hand and I've delved into pattern alteration and I'm getting there, slowly.

But when I'm running out the door, what do I throw on? A tried and true RTW, and I think there's something to be said for the RTW pieces we love. I've had some fast fashion pieces for a decade. And I think examining what we love about them can teach us a lesson we can apply to being less wasteful (buying what you know you like, investing in quality, esp since fast fashion is premised on us going through clothes in a matter of weeks) or even better, sewing! Why not take the things we love, copy them and make them better? All I'm saying is I think there's a role for RTW in all of this and that with our sewing skill and knowledge of the industry, we can make it work for us, rather than the other way around.

Sigrid said...

Thanks Zoe for reminding us how hot we are for making our own, well-fitted, sweatshop-free, slow wardrobe.

threadsquare said...

Amen to that! I always like to say that the only blood, sweat & tears that go into my garments are my own, and it was worth it. The varied reactions, even just a look, one gets from people when they find out my garment is homemade run the gamut from surprise, disdain, to shit-that's-cool.

Clare said...

I. Love. You. Awesome post. I am trying to train myself out of 'yes I did make it myself, but the seams are a bit messy on the inside', and just saying the first part with a beaming smile :D I remember once actually, asking an acquaintance if she had made her top because it looked so expensive and unique - she looked at me in horror and couldn't be convinced that I'd meant it as a compliment..

superheidi said...

That's interesting, though I never meet anyone these days who states that homemade clothes are inferior.

And I think there is a wide range mass-produced clothing. It's not all cheapest of the cheapest and falling apart after a few washes. There are very pretty things of quality in many shops with special cuts, detailing or fabric (treatment) that you just cannot copy at home. I have many RTW clothes that I wear for years and washing them over and over. There are so many "machine made" vintage items on sale, RTW that survived decades and still can be worn.

And yes I also make clothes. And like someone else commented, I have bought some horrid cheap fabric as well and made ill fitting garments. Sewing great stuff doesn't happen overnight. It really takes blood, sweat, tears, time and UFOs. Not everyone can or wants to do that.

Maybe I could add a slight shift of focus as handmade Jane hinted in her comment already. My mum used to make all my clothes when I was a kid. I hated it when I got in my teens. A home made jeans, just looked home made and uncool, period! Homemade was more economical, poor people had to make their own. Hence it felt like we were on the poor side. So it wasn't about the quality (which was there), it was about looks, brands and status.

And that might have changed since some highstreet shops sell incredible cheap clothes. Hence handmade gets more status now in some (peer)groups.

Uta said...

I heard/read somewhere that ready-made foods/meals from a box or from the freezer were deemed "better" at the time they were invented and advertised for. That's unimaginable today; everyone knows that food made from scratch is better for you. Maybe it's the same with other industrialized processes like clothing production? Maybe someday the average consumer will recognize the superiority of individual, well-fitting clothes.

StephC said...

Hey Zoe, I really enjoyed your post. You started me thinking about fabric durability and laundering... http://3hourspast.com/2011/10/18/fabric-durability-and-home-made-garments/

Uta, I think you're on to something there. I read an article AGES ago about the future of brick and mortar stores. The author suggested that kind of retailer would survive by offering completely individualized service- a customer comes in, tries something, then the store orders it and it shows up in a few days. The store would help the customer customize the item (fit, color, etc) so that the final product would be truly superior...

Hmmm...

Felicity from Down Under said...

I agree with all that you have said and what has been said by others, so sorry if this sounds like a "me too" commment. Many of my clothes were made for me by a dressmaker aunt (daughter of a tailoress grandmother) and the notion of home-made being inferior never occurred to me.

I did, however, suffer greatly as a teenager when wearing clothes that were meant to be "fashionable" (you know, that's what the pattern said) but clearly weren't. It wasn't a good feeling at all. I continued to believe, and still do, that clothes for special occasions were and are best not bought in a shop but made at home by someone who knows how to do it (as against which, you might buy a dress for a once-only occasion then retire it to everyday wear; and if it fell to bits after it had been washed many times, you'd probably had your money's worth out of it).

As I'm now the one who "knows how to do it" (and my skills are rusty and I'm not as clever as I perhaps ought to be) but on a low income, I often find myself wishing I could afford to make clothes that would last/buy the fabrics to do that; but I simply cannot.

I make my RTW clothes last for a very long time indeed by mending them. And I mend everything: backpacks, cycling bags and gear, you name it. I'm seen as the miracle worker in that respect (and sometimes, it's probably true).

So while I have no quarrel at all with the idea that what I make would be better quality, I find I presently can't afford to do it. Is there some sort of answer to that dilemma?

mienkintoshfairie said...

Great post, I do agree with what you had to say.

I have been on both sides of the fence. I started making my own clothing when I was in middle school, and the biggest compliment to me was when they didn't ask if i made it. They would ask where did i get it, THEN I would tell them that I made it proudly.I have heard people say that handmade was inferior, in the EGL (elegant gothic lolita) world, brand is better than handmade; lace, prints, styling and ect.

I worked in NY, in the heart of the fashion industry. The big-time designers have the garments draped, and made on site. Some are original pieces. Is that not what we do as well? Make original pieces, with superior techniques. I have respect for tailors who make custom suits. They might have better machinery and irons, but if you live in certain areas, you too can get this equipment. In fact, I am in the market for a serger that does factory finishes that a regular home machine cannot do.

I like handmade, I do not feel inferior to my work because I have trained and sewed for years, and i'm self taught. People should not feel bad about their work! Handmade is awesome! It's great! No one else will have you work.

-Aja`

Bunnykins said...

You hit a nerve here. My DD#1 tried on a sweater I knit her of a lovely hand dyed soft cotton and said "well, I guess the goal is to make something almost as good as store bought." I haven't made her anything since. Not nice to want to smack your own child. I used to be asked to knit & crochet for the lys, so I know what I'm doing and the thoughtless insult didn't sit well. She doesn't make her clothes, doesn't get it, and might be somewhat typical.

I've been sewing forever, and used to get the old "oh, it's homemade, sniff" comment the odd time. Not so much now as people are just surprised that I made something as fewer people sew.

The overseas factories don't look much different from the garment industry that used to be where I live except that they are newer. The work is the same: hard, boring, pressured and vastly underpaid. It's always been that way, and there's no excuse for keeping it that way. Sometimes I think it's because it's done by women.

For the most part, I don't like store bought clothes. Most are put together with a red hot needle and a burning thread, as my mum used to say. And the fabrics are, for the most part, awful. There are a few techniques to be learned from rtw like the cut-on waistband with the elastic stitched to the edge of the facing in my rtw stretch fabric flat front pants. That's what I do like: looking for easy ways to make things as some patterns choose the hardest way possible.

margaret said...

Amen sister, you're preaching to the choir.

One thing though, I learned early on to use 1/2" seam allowance because a) it cuts down on bulk, and b) it does save on fabric, especially when using premium goods. It works for me but I suggest anyone else just do what works for them. I find commercial patterns to be ill-sized and habitually oversized which wastes fabric.

Blanche Neige said...

i agree with what you wrote. That's the first time i comment here, but i read your article regulary since months!

I need to say that in france (i'm french, that's why my english is...strange!) homemade clothes don't make a real good impression on people. The main reaction is "You are so poor that you can't afford clothes and you ... have to... sew it on your own!!! ohhh, poor thing!!!"
Everything is about high street brands, you are what you wear so when you wear no-brand clothes = you are nothing, just a poor thing.
I just can't stand people with such an opinion, and i'm very proud to say i sew my clothes, i'm proud to say i added some details on the original design.
I'm also a little bit worried (oh, that's maybe too much) about people that buy "new" clothes in a store and wear them immediately without washing it. First : you don't know how many people tried this clothe before you decide to buy it, and you don't know in what kind of conditions the clothes were stored (in a box under the rain for example? and that, in the best case!)...
You don't have this kind of problem with handmade clothes, because you have the control on everything aorund, on all the steps.
So again, thank you for your great article, it was very interessant and very complete, on my opinion.
I enjoy reading your blog and will continue :)

XXX form france!

Kate said...

If I walked into a room and someone was wearing the same pattern as me I think I might cry from excitment. I have very little patience for sewing everday outfits and much prefer to make party dresses and tops. As such my friends, all non sewers, have to tolerate me describing my garment in detail including pattern company, fabric composition and price before they get to ask me how I am or inquire if I had made said item. Finding someone who might be able to understand my excitment would be amazing.

Kate said...

@felicity from down under
I buy my fabrics from independant small fabric stores in "questionable" areas of town. I dont know what part of aus you live in but I have found some decent ones in Footscray and on Sydney rd in Melbourne.

You really have to dig but you can find some great stuff for cheap. I've found some 100% silk silky fabric for $4 and stretch cotton sateen for $2 which was better quality then the stuff I found at spotlight for $9.95. I take what the sellers tell me what the composition is with a grain of salt and do my own burn tests.

I have also given up on using all iron on interfacing after deciding if I am going to pay $15 a meter for something it better not bubble or peel off after the first wash. I have been using self fabric, silk taffeta, silk organza or poly organza depending on the look im going for which I have found at those little independant places most for less then $15 and they all stand up better then iron on stuff you find at spotties.

I'm saving money, supporting local business (as well as overseas manufacturing but it seem its impossible to get away from that were ever you shop) and my garments look better then ever.

Margaret said...

I really got burned by a client this week who wanted it all at the last minute for very little cash. And I said Yes, so I had to go back and re-read your post. In fact, would you consider "guest posting" on my blog?

Unknown said...

Gokak Mills is a specialist and one of the largest manufacturer and exporters of yarns out of India. Is also recognized as the number one quality supplier of canvas.Technical Textiles Manufacturers, Dyed Yarn Manufacturers, Yarn Manufacturers.Dyed Yarn Manufacturers, Yarn Manufacturers, Industrial Fabric - India

chrrristine said...

since you mentioned teenagers that have no idea where their high-street clothes really come from, there was a great show on the bbc a few years back, sending a couple of british teenagers to the places where their clothes were being made:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/thread/blood-sweat-tshirts/
I thought the show was really well-made, and I still think about it from time to time.

as always, thanks for the inspiration , Zoe!
xx
C

urbandon (Don Pezzano) said...

Also, shipping mountains of clothes around the world uses massive amounts of pollution.
(The 15 biggest ships in the world emit about as much sulphur oxide pollution as all cars in the world combined.)

Unknown said...

Gokak Mills places a high premium on employee welfare. The company hospital, residential complex, educational institutions are one of the best in the region. More than half the company's employees were born and educated at these facilities.
Yarn Exporters, Yarn Manufacturers, Technical Textiles, Dyed Yarn Manufacturers.

For More Details Visit http://www.gokakmills.com

Diane said...

If rtw clothing had real value then the thrift shops wouldn't be packed to the brim with it. 10 million tons of Chinese labor discarded every year and what is the real cost?

The rag trade is born of the rag man who acquired garments from the wealthy or dead (or stole them) for resale. Clothes had such value that they were often recorded in ledgers along with one's other possessions.

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Textile Industry List.

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Providing Bangladesh Garments Exporters, Bangladesh Garment Factory and Industry, Bangladesh Clothing Manufacturers and Bangladesh Textile Industry List.

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