Wednesday, September 14, 2011

handmade: a happy kind of making

One of the things I LOVE about making custom clothes for people, is that, while I'm sewing, I have some ideas about the person I'm sewing for. I have a sense of their likes and dislikes, their interests, their size, and where they live. So while I'm sewing up their skirt/s and/or bolero/s or whatever, I'm thinking about and imagining what they might be like. It's a connection. And while I have someone in mind - even if my imaginings are completely off-track - I'm feeling great about what I'm sewing, thinking about it going to its new home and being worn and hopefully loved by the recipient. Sometimes, when I'm lucky, people send me photos of themselves at weddings and on holidays, wearing the clothes I made. Sometimes I see my clothes on people in the street. Beautiful!

The good thing about this sale is that I've been CRAZY BUSY 'meeting' new people who have asked me to sew for them. I have really enjoyed this. But at the same time, I've also felt sad because, unfortunately, the vast majority of clothing that is bought, worn and then thrown away when it's no longer 'in' is made without any connection between the maker and wearer. I reckon this is a loss for both ends of the chain, though most obviously for the poor, usually exploited manufacturers who are responsible for making most of the clothes worn by us privileged whiteys. I know, I know, some things are hard to make - like undies! And even if you find some at the op-shop you sometimes might not actually want to wear them. But for most things, a more earth and people friendly option is usually available. Obviously, the op-shop should be your first port of call. Cheap and non-exploitative. What's not to like? But for new stuff, what to do? Well, you could support handmade-in-Australia type situations, like Pearl & Elspeth.

Check out Etsy! So much fun, interesting, imaginative stuff going on. And sure, it's more expensive than Target, but hey, at least the work that's gone into your clothing is being properly appreciated and valued. Surely this is worth something?

For me to make a skirt for fifty bucks is alright. I feel good about that amount of money. I'm not, by any means maintaining some kind of wild profit margin. But I'm lucky, because I love what I do. I love working with interesting fabrics, I love making people interesting clothing that's one-of-a-kind, and I love the connection I feel with the items I sew. When I imagine those people working in sweatshops, churning out probably hundreds of the same item every day, I feel, in my heart, the luxury of my position: I will never have to do that. Why should anyone?
So, to those of you who support, directly, the makers of your clothes - you rock. Like Meg, of Nana Glen, for example. She is the lucky recipient of the much-coveted native bird skirt (seriously Meg - people love it), a yellow wrap n' go, and a couple of boleros.

I had fun making this stuff for her, used up some reclaimed linen, and the money I made will go towards building a passive-solar strawbale home for my family to live in. If that's not a win-win situation, I don't know what is.


  1. oh how i love a rant, and one that is so close to my heart! i want to copy your post and post it everywhere and anywhere.
    by the way i think that floral bolero may just be the best ever, lucky Meg. xxxx

  2. Great post and very true why buy crap only to throw it away, I'm loving watching your skirts come to life
    Have a great day