Me? Sew? I don’t think so.

I get it. Sewing isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do. But then, neither is cooking for most people, and pretty much no one wants to rake the yard or repaint the living room. These are things that aren’t necessarily fun, though they could be, but which one is very happy to have done. If one can pay someone else to do them, all the better in most cases.

Unless you don’t like to have people in your house, or don’t like to pay people to do things you can do for yourself, or you don’t like how other people do things.

It turns out to be quite difficult to get others to do a thing in the way you wish it to be done. Tricky stuff.

So one finds oneself in need of a garment, and there are only a few choices. Go to a regular shop and see what the manufactures and buyers have conspired for you this season. Go to a non-regular shop, maybe second-hand or thrift, and see what’s available. Go to a friend’s closet and see what they have, and are willing to lend or give away. Shop online. Find someone who knows how to sew and tell them what you want and see how much they will charge you for something sort of along the lines of what you are thinking. Take something you already have, or just acquired at one of the shops, and cut it up to make it a little better. You will probably need to sew a bit, too. Or, if you can imagine using scissors and a machine, you could make something wholesale.

Just go ahead and make the thing you want. Kind of like when you want breakfast, and you could go out, but you really just want an egg on your favorite toast, made with bread that you get at a bakery nearby. It is not at all likely a restaurant will have that bread for you, let alone cook the egg the way you want. This is why you don’t give away your stove because you don’t like to cook. You might want something to eat that you cannot get at a restaurant. Or that you do not want to pay for at a restaurant. Or someone else might want something eat, and not want to get dressed to go to a restaurant. I know this doesn’t make sense to New Yorkers. But for most people, getting to a restaurant involves crossing a street.

Caveat, here. If the thing you want is a pair of pants, or a dress, or a jacket that appears to be made by a manufacturer, with all the bells and whistles, the stitching, and details, the buttons and zippers and pocket flaps, etc., you should just try harder at the shops, and remember that “alterations” exist.

In the same way that you should just go get the Salmon Frazer at Frazer’s, rather than try to mimic it in your own kitchen, if there is a garment you have seen and want, just buy it. You won’t save any money, and will spend much time, and possibly some blood and tears, trying to skootch around paying retail by making something yourself.

Sewing in order to make something that looks like you bought it in a shop is a labor of love. People do it, and the things they make are gorgeous, and impossible to get in a shop because of the interesting fabric choices and the specific attention to fit. If you have the attention for many hours of work on a single garment, by all means. For myself, I am willing to spend more time making a lasagna that will be gone tomorrow than I am willing to spend on a pair of pants I will wear for years. One hour for my pants. Two hours for my guys, because they want pockets. I will spend five hours on a lasagna.

Sure, some of that is sitting around, drinking wine with my friends, but that is true for making clothing as well.

But it is not just making garments. Not even just curtains and bedding things. If you are willing to use scissors and a machine, you can also repair the things you already have and love. In some cases you could alter something that no longer works, or never did, into something that is very useful. (I will resist making a list of things I have cut up into something better. No I won’t! I will make that list later though.)

Knowing how to use tools means that you look at things as possibilities rather than dull, static objects that degrade and then become useless. If a seam comes undone on a garment, a hem falls out, or there is a rip of some sort, it is likely that it can be repaired, and more easily than patching holes in the wall from framed photos past. Being willing to use a sewing machine means that your favorite jeans are repaired instantly, rather than being relegated to a pile of clothing that needs repair for years, until the whole pile is finally thrown in a donation bin. It means an unflattering or tired pullover sweater can become a delightful cardigan. It means pants can become actual shorts, not just shitty cut-offs. It means a piece of fabric that you love can become something other than a piece of fabric. (I recommend a robe, for most pieces of beautiful fabric.)

OK then. I don’t feel as though I convinced anyone to be ok with sewing. There is a stigma attached to it, which is only exacerbated by the sewing culture, as seen in magazines and videos. Don’t get me wrong about the videos. I love them all. A person can learn something from any of them.

The only reason to know how to use a sewing machine is that it is an outrageously useful tool for anyone who ever uses fabric in any way. Sewing by hand, which no one does well, no one, is not an acceptable alternative to using a sewing machine. To know how to use a machine, and to be willing to use a machine, is freeing. If only to be able to repair and adjust your own clothing, rather than have to find someone to do it for you. So, yes, you, you should know how to sew.

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