Friday, 29 January 2010
When I started teaching sewing and craft one of the problems I came up with again and again is that structured classes just don't work like this. The process of setting a goal, working through the process and solving problems along the way just doesn't fit into a class built around assuring a common outcome and pace for all. Don't get me wrong, for some things and some people that methodical step by step learning is ideal - obviously since that's how pretty much all classes are structured.
But I think knowing how to get started or how to improve on basic skills can be really difficult if you haven't had that learning by osmosis experience. Sometimes there isn't a class that speaks to exactly what you want to do, sometimes you feel classes move to fast or too slowly or can't commit to a whole lots of classes in one chunk. You want some help to get started, someone to ask questions and get an inside edge to working out different ways to do things. A lot of you who think you don't know anything simply need the encouragement to have a go and work it out along the way.
Adult learning principles stress that adult learners come to the classroom with finely tuned skills in other areas and that means no two students will be alike. It also means they often don't enjoy the controlled content and pace of a formal class. Adult learners tend to be more task or outcome focused. If they are learning a new skill they will have a reason for doing so and if the class doesn't connect well to that reason, it may not work for them. This again means that what they are interested in, ready for and challenged by may not be at all predictable and almost certainly won't be shared by a whole room full of people. Adult learners direct their own learning at the pace and to the goals of their choosing.
But running a class like this is complicated and I think that's why you don't see them much. For a start it's less comfortable for some people to take responsibility for what they learn back from the teacher to themselves. It requires a bit of prework, some discussion between the teacher and student, some careful thought about projects and materials and realistic expectations. This is not a one size fits all take it or leave it sausage making kind of class, it's not about churning out sewers with the same approach, skills or projects. So students really have to be prepared to set themselves some goals and pick a project or skill they really want to go for.
That doesn't have to be scary, in fact these classes can be very exciting and liberating and addictive too - there's every chance that after one a student may want to do another, either to finish something, to have another go at a failed attempt or to get straight onto a new idea. It is a place to not just learn from the teacher but to be inspired by each other's ideas and projects. A space in which by choosing a goal you really open yourself up to real achievement.
This has been my experience on an informal, and occasionally on a more formal basis. Sometimes it happens with friends, or with students within more structured classes. When people ask questions and follow their instincts and get excited. One thing leads to another and soon enough they are absolutely flying. People who ask me for help so often don't want me to 'be the teacher'. Often they don't want to hear that there's only one way, the proper way. They want to hear what I think they could do, what their options are, how I would reason through a problem and decide on a solution. They appreciate that I have a ready store of both failures and successes to draw on and that the central point is always in getting further to where they want to go, not where I think they should go.
So I spent a good deal of time thinking about how I could bring this framework to the classroom. I want to teach in a way that is fun, sustainable, exciting and varied - satisfying for me and my students. I want to be accessible to people who want to learn this way, who are ready to be challenged and who are excited to learn. I couldn't see how to do that in the structure of my old classroom.
When Tessuti Fabrics opened in Melbourne one of the things I loved most was that a visit to the store would invariably thrust me into a world of possibilities mindset. It is no challenge to think up projects or new ways of applying skills when you are surrounded by so much quality, interesting, unique fabric. From day one it seemed to me a fertile and inspirational place.
So I am super super excited, thrilled, positively giddy to be able to announce that come February I will be teaching regular workshop classes there.
I want to learn to sew, but I want to do it my way
If you've ever thought you might like to sew but just didn't want to do a standard learning to sew course then the beginners Sew Inn might be the place for you. These four hour workshops are an opportunity for small groups of beginners (no more than 5 - half the number in many standard classes) to do what they want with the help of an experienced advisor (that would be me). Whether your project is as ambitious as a stylish new frock or as simple as a quick make do children's dress up, the focus of this workshop is for each participant to gain the confidence to pursue their own sewing dream. This is not a class in which a teacher will be telling you what you must do, dictating how fast you must go or what the proper way to do it is. Instead the advisor (that's me again) will help you work out what it is you need to do next from choosing a pattern or fabric to working out how to finish off a collar or fix that whopping big mistake you made.
As a beginner you may not be aiming to produce a masterpiece straight away - and maybe for you that's never going to be what excites you. Maybe you really want to know how to just make something quickly and easily that's good enough. Or maybe you want to take the time and attention to detail to try and develop truly expert skills. Either way you pick your project for the workshop and you set the pace. You can come to just one workshop to get the ball rolling or return for more help and inspiration, it's up to you. Because the workshops are all about you and what you want to achieve there's no requirement to sign up in any set way.
The beginners Sew Inn will be held in Tessuti Fabrics Melbourne store during shop hours one Thursday (10-2pm) and one Saturday (11-3pm) per month. That means if you want to you can pick up your supplies in the store after you have had a chance to talk to me about what you are thinking of doing. Alternatively you can come fully armed with all the gear you need, or stop by the store prior to the workshop and talk to Lisa or Nichola or Liesl to get some advice on how best to prepare yourself to take the maximum advantage of your workshop time.
Workshops will cost $80 for four hours and groups will be limited to a maximum of 5 students. Sewing machines will be supplied, but you bring your own scissors, pins, fabric, thread, pattern and whatever other supplies you need. If you forget something or decide on a project while you are there you will be able to take advantage of a super special class discount of 15% off any purchases made at Tessuti on the day of the class.
Class dates are: Febraury 18 & 20, March 18 & 20, April 15 & 17, May 13 & 15, June 17 & 19 and you can book classes by calling the store on 03 9654 4566. You need to pay at the time of booking and a fee may be charges if you cancel and your spot isn't taken up by someone else. All the details will be available when you book.
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
goodbye enormous big I never want to clean you again ultra modern schmick house
goodbye sea breeze
goodbye blinding sun
goodbye neighbours that never spoke to us
goodbye fabulous local butcher with the super classic mullet
goodbye farmers market
goodbye lovely drive to Peregian
goodbye gentle, rough, exciting, soothing, glorious ocean swims
goodbye hated blue bottles with your horrible stings
goodbye lovely clothes line where everything dries in an hour
goodbye long hot afternoons
goodbye banksias and waratahs and grevillieas and pandanus
goodbye birds who wake me in the morning and then entertain me all day
goodbye oh sew noosa with your tempting wares and superior linen collection
goodbye noisy tradie boys over the side fence
goodbye stressful cream coloured couch
goodbye totally enormous telly with your overly complicated electronics
goodbye cane toads and green tree frogs
goodbye Kingswood destroying salt air
goodbye bushfire smoke
goodbye real estate agent and landlord
goodbye social isolation and empty streets
goodbye frequent gelati nights
goodbye kids' nudie time
goodbye raw honey from Stradbroke Island
goodbye boiling hot car and melty steering wheel
goodbye sandy bed
goodbye bare feet
goodbye filth collecting placemats on the table
goodbye stupid narrow can't ever find anything pantry
goodbye extremely limited wardrobe
goodbye fried jalapenos and Kross beer
goodbye phone that never rings (except when its about work)
goodbye missing family and friends and important events
goodbye thinking about packing and leaving
goodbye working from home
goodbye predictable weather
goodbye burning hot pavements
goodbye roundabouts every 50m
goodbye voluminous postal deliveries
goodbye summer nights that get dark before dinner
goodbye BBQ seafood every week
goodbye perpetually wet towels and dripping bathers
goodbye stupid dishwasher with third drawer
goodbye long distance relationships and skype dependence
goodbye night drives singing coin laundry and house of bamboo with the kids
goodbye to the people who made our time here better - the teachers and nice neighbours and carers and the friends Amy made (speshly Mia S and Ruby and their mums)
goodbye trying to figure this place out
goodbye school uniform
goodbye digital set top box and all day kids TV
goodbye to the endless goodbyes
goodbye big noosa adventure
Monday, 25 January 2010
I started some socks for Amy in the eye poking yarn she dyed for herself. I'm going to use the stitch pattern from the Bubble Wrap socks.
I am disturbed by all the nationalistic hoo ha up here. More flags than you can poke a stick at. I enjoyed this article, but frankly the comments are exactly what scares me about the whole thing. Everyone is so het up about it, quick to slag off anyone they perceive as opposing their point of view.
I am going to miss this sunrise, though hopefully I'll be trading it for more sleep, so I could be cool with that.
Wil's carer and our babysitter was shocked when I said last day today - she was thinking it was Wed. She got quite emotional about saying goodbye.
Wil got really excited this morning when Amy told him we have a sand pit at home, and a garden, and that he can go outside whenever he likes. He's also a bit confused about the difference bwtween an aeroplane and a rocket ship so he may be headed for some disappointment.
I feel numb and emotional all at once, and mostly like I am totally on top of it, but with occasional flashes of complete terror. I have to sit down every now and then and just knit a few rows to make things feel normal again. Luckily sock rows have 27 stitches (unlike that shawl which had over 400 at the end...).
A recent drowning has been the topic of much conversation up here. Three children caught in a rip were helped to safety by their mother who then got in the rip herself. Their father went to her aid and both parents were swept out and drowned. Locals said the rip was not particularly strong, but the parents panicked and were overwhelemed.
I wish I could say this was a rare event, but sadly, drowning is commonplace on our coasts. But it is a timely reminder for those of us In Oz, and those thinking about visiting Oz, that a little bit of care should always be exercised at the beach. If you have grown up swimming at the beach, are a frequent visitor and never come up close and personal with one of the drownings that take place on average every 2 to 3 days on our beaches in summer, then it is easy to be complacent.
Even very strong swimmers can get in to trouble in the blink of an eye and understanding what a rip is, how it works and what to do if you meet one face to face is the difference between the best swim of your life and the last swim of your life.
Take 4 minutes and 40 seconds to watch this video and if you have kids, make them watch it too. Talk to them about it and quiz them on what to do. Think long and hard about those kids who will grow up without their parents, and the many parents who will grow old without their kids. Don't let it be you.
And then go back to whatever else you were doing before I got all preachy and scary.
Sunday, 24 January 2010
My first finished knit for 2010 is appropriately wing like. I will be sending it off tomorrow along with the quilt to my cousin's wife. Like the quilt, I am very pleased with this - gorgeous yarn, lovely pattern - and would be happy to keep it for myself. But I am pretty sure she will like it too, and that receiving it will make her feel loved and happy, which is just what I would be hoping for.
It never ceases to amaze me how much blocking really makes a knit, that you take this
and get this
The pattern is Ishbel (available as part of this pattern collection) and it's well written, easy to follow and has words and charts for both types of brains. It comes in 2 sizes and this is the large, though I did more stocking stitch before I started the lace (because I'm stupid) and then did less lace to keep it the same overall size. If I was making it for me I think I would like it to be bigger still, which would be easy enough to do.
The yarn is Kiama 50% silk 50% merino, from the Yarn Workshop, and this one was dyed for me by Ingrid. It was lovely to knit and final fabric is light and warm and deliciously soft. Amazingly the whole shawl took only 2 rows over a single skein - and I could easily have cribbed the pattern to fit it into a single skein, which I may well do to use the other 2 rows less than a single skein. It took a three and a half weeks to knit (in the tropics where I don't knit much), so it's also very achievable!
I will definitely be knitting this pattern and yarn again and would recommend them both!
Saturday, 23 January 2010
imagining the future
and very occasionally wearing something nice made by me like this refashioned linen shirt and these pants.
We're all awash at the moment, floating about with our belongings and our thoughts and fears and hopes and excitement and to do lists and endless apologies for the things we are forgetting and letting slip. We are counting down the days and trying to get every last swim and sight and laugh in before this adventure is really over.
Friday, 22 January 2010
Thursday, 21 January 2010
When you start saying this time next week...and knowing you'll already be looking back on today as a distant memory, well, you gotta know the gig is up. Welcome to the final countdown - 6 sleeps and counting.
D just came downstairs and said will you need to do any more printing because I think I'll pack the printer up now. Will I need to print anything? I just don't know!
Wil is looking forward to riding in the plane but is a bit confused about this idea of going home. For him, this is home.
Amy is getting sad about whatever seems easiest to be sad about - this morning she cried for a full 10 minutes about a minor misunderstanding that happened between her and another kid yesterday.
Yesterday Wil was feeling sad about being the littlest kid in a bunch of four and came and sat himself on my knee, all tear stained. I want to be happy he said all quivering lower lip. So I asked him what he thought would make him happy. After much contemplation he said an olive. I duly procured him an olive which he ate and then said I happy now, all smiles he popped off my knee and went off playing.
Although I went on leave on Tuesday a big issue blew up at work today and there's phone calls and ruffled feathers and things in the newspaper and my head is awash with it.
It's 9am and I am drinking caffeinated tea and eating a chocolate biscuit and contemplating which particular nightmare to tackle first. The 6 months of receipts and paperwork and work papers and business cards and tax invoices? The stash of yarn and fabric and notions and pattern books and pattern pieces I never bothered to properly label? The kids clothes and things too small and things too stained and things I never liked anyway? The textas and pencils and drawings and cars and trains sets and big lego and little lego and jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces and bits of toys that belong with other bits of toys that can't be found right now?
I was planning to sew today, but now I am thinking, perhaps not.
And what am I wearing? The denim shorts by me and blue maternity T-shirt you've already seen. So no photo. Anonymous will be happy!
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Spotted twist T by me cNov 2009: A cotton/viscose/elastine knit fabric from oh sew noosa, $15m I think, and I bought 1.5m but Amy also got a T from the remnants. The pattern is drafted using the instructions from Pattern Magic for the twisted top - although the fabric pattern and photo make the twist a bit hard to see. I am not 100% happy with this version (basically it is too big), I will alter the pattern in a few ways before making it again. This version looks much better over a black long sleeve T-shirt and will get a lot of wear back in Melbourne.
Capri pants by me cJun 2009: grey cotton/linen/elastine marle fabric from Spotlight, I can't recall the price because I bought some at full price but liked it so much I went back and got more and it was reduced - I think it was either $16m or $12. The pants took about 1.5m. This is a great fabric, with body and structure but just enough elastine to be very comfortable. I've made several other items from the same fabric. Pattern is an altered version of the Ottobre jazz pants pattern. I wear these quite a bit because I think they look good as well as feel great. Another photo here, although I altered them after this photo because they were too big.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Denim shorts from Thailand c2005: same as yesterday and the day before.
The appearance on the fabric market of organic denims with elastine and an ever expanding range of knits in natural and organic fibres is making this job easier and more fun, as is the growing presence of more interesting pattern making techniques. The ideas contained in the Pattern Magic books are just one example of how garments can be constructed in non-traditional ways to give new meaning to a simple knit top.
I guess this is where home sewing can leave shop bought clothes in the dust. Bespoke clothing solutions - garments tailored not just for physical fit but for lifestyle and ethical choices are always going to be more expensive in the market. Target's organic cotton undies are significantly more expensive than their regular kind (and they aren't anywhere close to fair trade or sweatshop free), but if I was making an organic cotton T shirt, the price difference between the organic fabric and the non-organic is much smaller, with the proviso that I am really comparing apples with apples here and not a crap quality knit with a good quality one.
A knit top in a really unusual print or fabric or cut in a high quality or organic fabric is the realm of the designers, they are hard to find (I mean how many shops are out there?), and when they are lucked upon at a good price they are not cheap (even the plain T-shirt I am wearing above from a mass production chain store was $30 nearly 10 years ago!). On the other hand if I am looking to buy a knit to sew there are only a handful of places I would regularly look and as a speculative or sale purchase I can usually buy these relatively cheaply. I can test the quality before I sew by washing and drying the fabric, and I can make a garment that ticks all my criteria boxes without compromise.
I suppose that what I am saying here is that the broader issue of cost is about making comparisons that are real: the cost of the clothes I 'could' dress in vs the cost of the clothes I 'do' dress in vs the cost of the clothes I 'want' to dress in. I can buy a T-shirt for $10 (not on sale for $10 but priced at $10), but my experience tells me that if I do I am wasting my money and time - it can't be a good quality T for that price and if it doesn't look like crap to start with it very soon will. To get it to market at that price there has to have been some fairly major corners cut in production (probably evidenced both in output and in processes like wages and waste and environmental impacts). I don't want to wear that substandard clothing and I don't want to support that substandard production. I am much more likely to buy the $30-40 T-shirt (hopefully on sale but probably not) and tell myself that although there are flaws in the production process at least if I am getting 5 years wear out of it, I am headed in the right direction.
When I buy my textiles for home production I can afford to take less compromises. That $30-40 investment in fabric alone means I can choose the best quality, possibly organic, possibly fair trade, possibly supporting a particular business I feel shares my ethical and quality concerns. If the production process is flawed (and it most certainly is), at least I am pulling it out of the market after the production of the cloth, thus not adding the flaws in the production of the garment to my sins. And I can turn that fabric into something that matches much more closely to what I really want and need without compromising sleeve length or fit lines or colour or neck binding or any other design aspect. I can also, should I so choose to accept a higher degree of compromise and lower quality or if I am lucky enough to find a fabulous bargain, spend a lot less money. I have used pure wool knits that cost $2 a meter (that's $3 for a long sleeve plus sized T), and regularly made kids Ts and leggings with cotton knits that costs $5 a meter (that's about $1-2 a garment).
[I know I am leaving aside this question of time - the time to make, the time to shop, the time to learn - as well as the space to make but I'll speak more directly to that in another post.]
So I do think in general (and I say in general because there are always going to be the odd exceptions) I can dress myself as cheaply in homemade as I can in shop bought even at the lowest end of the market, and I also think I can dress myself in good quality long lasting bespoke garments I make myself for much less than an equivalent market made garment. My life, like most people's, has space for both low end and high end garments.
In the past I have tended to devote the most time to the garments where homemade brings the greatest benefit over market bought (higher end clothes and the things that emphasis fit) but as time goes on I notice that homemade has naturally increased its market share in my wardrobe (my pledge to buy no more clothes will of course hurry this along). I think there are a few reasons for this. Habit is one, because sewing is definitely a self perpetuating hobby. Pleasure at the results in another and means I am less inclined to fork out money for clothing that is less pleasing than the things I have made (and cheaper too). Improving as I go along also means my garments are getting better and more interesting. Length of wear means a lot less of my stuff is going to the op shop or in the bin, and the shop bought stuff is definitely over represented in the turn over when compared to the handmade. But I think I am needing less too because as the number of things I really want to wear increase, my need for options diminishes.
I'm still struggling to imagine what will ultimately cause me to resort to the market for a garment. I'll never say never - I don't know what awaits me in the future - but from where I sit this daily reflection is doing nothing to dissuade me from the handmade path. And while I would never be preachy about this, or make judgements about others who don't make or chose handmade (I don't for a second assume we are all the same or have the same interests or constraints or whatever), I would happily throw down the challenge to anyone who thinks they can't make, or who doesn't think they can make cost effectively, to think that through more carefully.
Monday, 18 January 2010
And I wanted to thank you all for your lovely comments on yesterday's post. Not just for being supportive (which in itself is not to be sneezed at!) but also because so many of you offered up some of why this exercise I am going through here is meaningful to you too. Lots of the reasons I am doing this for myself were echoed in what people found interesting too, so that was very gratifying to hear. I hope you continue to find it interesting and comment with your thoughts - the conversational aspect is very engaging for me.
I didn't find the comment excessively upsetting, as I might have if the criticism had been different, though anonymous negative commenting is a brand of blog behaviour I find particularly annoying. There is plenty of scope to be questioning why I post as I do, whether the detail serves a purpose and so on, but that's a conversation not just a bunch of missiles tossed over the wall. Why do people seek anonymity like that? Why bother commenting if you aren't interested in dialogue? The mysteries of human behaviour I guess. Whatever their motivation I don't feel like the blog has to be anything to anyone - readers are nice, especially where they bring a conversation, but I have been doing this long enough to know that readers or no I love the blog for what it is to me. Funnily enough last night my stat counter email came through and it seems I have had more readers this last week than I have for ages, not that you ever know what those stats really say.
I do intend to write more about the whys and the whats with the clothing because this is a lot more than just pictures to me, and I feel confident that as we pass through the move and the tumult, time will free up enough for more substantial posts. At night when I lie down to sleep I am writing them in my head. Perhaps I need to write myself a list of points and then just post to one or two a day instead of seeking the time write the thesis as a whole. I'll see what I can muster.
And perhaps a what I wore this week format may also be a better routine for the future, once life becomes more routine. For now though, the daily discipline of posting is keeping me connected to the blog even when I feel there's not enough time for anything else, so persist I will!
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Instead I will take this brief moment to tell anonymous, who finds my what I wore today posts boring and narcissistic that I find anonymous nasty comments a bit cranky making. And kind of silly in an age when IP addresses ensure that no one can really be anonymous anyway.
I mean, I think blogging is by nature narcissistic and at least some of the time boring. And my reasons for blogging are almost entirely narcissistic - just as Narcissus gazed upon himself in the pool, so I gaze upon my life through the blog. You are right, this is exactly why I do it.
That the posts are perhaps a little more boring than usual may well reflect that preparing for an interstate move is about as boring as life gets. In this way I guess that the blog truly reflects life.
Also, I think the daily posts are boring in the way all data collection exercises are. Those who are interested in what I am trying to understand and come to conclusions about seem to be finding the daily posts a necessary (and possibly enjoyable) part of the journey. Not everyone just wants the executive summary! Sometimes looking at the detail and trying to learn from the nuances is the best bit.
But mostly I just want to say, you know, if you find my reflection boring then move along to something shinier and more suitable. Preferably without the comments that only serve to make bad vibes for everyone and that you aren't prepared to put your name to.
Denim shorts bought in Thailand c2005. I can't recall how much they cost, I was so gobsmacked and excited to find ANYTHING plus sized that I don't think I cared. I know they were not expensive and they have had a lot of wear and don't show it at all. Good fit and I like them, even though they have embroidery around the bottom of the legs in pale pink and baby blue - something I would generally consider a deal breaker in any kind of clothing. But I was pretty desperate and there was bugger all to choose from. It was close to the end of our time living there and between the odd mishap and the accelerated wear and tear of high rotation wear on a limited number of clothes and the sun and detergents and tropical heat which seems to degrade fabric so fast, I was down to only a couple of wearable bottoms.
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Below the knee shorts by TS c2008. You can't see much of the shorts, but they are made from bengaline, a fabric I like for pants. Comfy, dries quickly, doesn't need ironing. TS pants work well for me but they are expensive. I think these cost about $60, maybe even more. I have a few of their pieces, mostly for work wear but I bought these in a hurry before a long beach holiday and I have gotten a lot of wear out of them without them looking daggy. If I was in need of clothes from them I would visit their factory shop - but I have generally bought their stuff when I was in great need and/or in a hurry - so usually at lunch time in town where I can go to their shop and be pretty confident of finding something that basically fits the bill. The last year or so I have liked their clothes less - maybe because my sewing has improved and their prices have seemed more and more unreasonable to me.
So now they are both out of the way I can start to think about the 59 other things that urgently require attention aside from the actual packing, which I am not even going to think about until I finish work next Tuesday. I have some buttons I need to sew on, some pincushions to make, a shirt to finish refashioning, a couple of mending jobs, a pattern to write, a masseuse to find (anyone know anyone who does mobile and would like to come to Lancefield in Feb?), some thank you and goodbye presents to make, a new kettle to buy (our one at home is no more I hear and I am contemplating going back to the stove top since gas is better environmentally than electricity I believe...recommendations?), a pantry of food to use up, some outgrown clothes to sort and pass on, a shawl to finish knitting, some teaching materials to overhaul, a project proposal to make, some friends to catch up with and goddam it some swims to have. And that's just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head.
I've also greatly enjoyed the comments from this post and want to respond with some follow up posts, and some posts about the transition we are undergoing and what I see coming over the horizon for our return.
Lots of stuff really.
And breathing, I need to put that on the to do list too.
Friday, 15 January 2010
Sundress sewn by me June 2009. Lightweight cotton fabric with embroidered square motif from Joy's discount warehouse for a song $4 m or something, and I think I used about 2m for this dress. I didn't use a pattern, it was quick to make. You can also see a photo of it here. I made this knowing I was heading into the tropics and I wanted a loose, cool 'house dress' for slobbing about. I wasn't aiming for anything stylish, which is lucky because I really think this dress is pretty awful. Daggy style+sloppy fit+lazy construction=crap clothes. I do still like the fabric a lot, both the motif and the colour but aside from chucking it over bathers or wearing it around the house I don't see this one earning its keep.
When I told her that I was interested in getting a more accurate perception of what clothes looked good on me, what clothes I wore most often, what my clothes cost, how long they lasted and thus which ones were better value than others and how all these questions related to whether I made or bought them, whether I could 'give up' bought clothes (whether that made sense in economic or other terms) and if I couldn't what kind of clothes I would continue to buy or in what circumstances.
All this led us into discussing some of the hidden costs of acquiring clothes. Now there's a whole lot of ways of calculating and talking about 'costs', and lots of them have nothing to do with money or economics, and while these things interest me, I am also interested in come hard cold data of the fiscal kind. I have been telling you how much my clothes or fabric cost but of course it isn't as simple as that. There are obvious add ons - thread and zips and buttons and patterns (if you use one), the cost of a sewing machine, and of course the really big one, the time it takes to sew.
But as my mum was pointing out buying clothes takes lots of extra things too. Like the shopping time - not just buying but also window shopping and the trying on of all the clothes you didn't like or all the stores you visited looking for the thing you liked. There's the time and cost of getting to where you do the shopping - cars, fuel, parking fees, or public transport fees or postage and internet connection fees if you are buying on line. Of course some of those costs are still there to buy fabric and notions but are they as costly?
And that led us to talking about other even less obvious costs. The tremendous advantage of being able to try before you buy and the sewing (and knitting!) disasters that chew up time, materials and sanity - it's not like you buy clothes that simply don't fit. But a lot of sewing disasters give rise to other projects where materials are at least partially salvaged, and we've all bought clothes on impulse that were fashion 'risks' that never paid off, or which felt apart on washing or shrunk or in other ways proved disasterous. We both agreed we were much more likely to buy more than we needed if we didn't have to plan and make it ourselves. I don't shop much but it frustrates the hell out of me how often I set out on a simple shopping errand and return home hours later with lots of extras I didn't really need...
If I was a good economist I would also be introducing the concept of opportunity cost. I know these all factor in differently for different people, so I am not universalising here. For me the time spent sewing is not generally 'free time'. It is often time I only partially own. In between sewing seams I am minding children or hanging out washing or answering phones or baking bread or being as quiet as I can so as not to wake children. If I wasn't sewing what else might I be doing? More housework? More gardening? Watching TV or reading books? Relaxing? Perhaps I would be taking up a hobby, not something purposive but something designed to challenge my mind, keep me learning and engaged and entertained and happy and feeling good about myself...perhaps something just like sewing or knitting only less useful and more costly? What would I be doing if I wasn't shopping? Well, for me, pretty much anything! I don't shop with my children, so the 2 hours I may have spent going to a shopping centre, looking through a bunch of shops and returning home exhausted, poorer and perhaps with stuff I did or didn't need could be used to prepare and elaborate and interesting dinner, bake bread, do a load of washing, sew a dress, watch a film, visit friends.
Don't get me wrong, I haven't reached my conclusions before the experiment has barely begun, and I completely expect that not all things are equal in this buy or make question. There's no amount of fiddling the numbers that will make buying a $25 pair of jeans a better deal than making my own in purely financial terms and there's no denying that sewing takes both time and money, and that for some people that time is as pleasurable as a visit to the dentist and for others a visit tot he shops is a much looked forward to and fun outing. I completely get that just because that could not be less true for me, doesn't mean everyone feels the same as I do.
All of which brings me back to where my conversation ended up with my mum. My goal here is to see what's going on more clearly. If anyone learns anything from this I hope it is to be reflective and mindful too - to realise that what you 'think' is true may not be borne out if you really look at the data. If the day is rapidly approaching where reducing our consumption is no longer a choice then everyone needs to know where they can trim consumption without losing out. Next time I pick up that piece of fabric or a shop made T-shirt I want to know whether buying them is a good use of my dollars and a positive consumption choice, and I don't think I can really know that unless I now more about how a lot of variable work together.
I haven't touched here on other very important things - like the production process. How textiles and garments are grown, made, processed and transported and their impacts on the land and air and water supplies and the people who produce them and who profits from them and what would be going on with that land and those people if they weren't making that stuff and what happens to the waste and what alternatives there are...these are very big and very important questions and they are becoming more important all the time. I need to learn more about these things, and everyone else should too if they want to be informed and mindful consumers.
But I will stop here because life is hotting up for me on the busy-ness front right now. With less than 2 weeks till we move back home and a number of fairly critical jobs on the list to be done before then I will be a bit thinner on the ground around here for a while. I hope you'll bear with me as I come and go and sort myself out.
Thursday, 14 January 2010
T-Shirt from Target c 2001 - bought early in my first pregnancy. In a rush, in need, a major compromise. It cost $30 I think and I bought it because (and I'm not exaggerating) there was only 3 plus size maternity tops I could find in my lunch hour. I was working long hours, working hard to make our new house habitable (walls of the bathroom were still black plastic - need I go on?) and working hard to stay upright, not lose my lunch and bother to even get dressed. Sewing seemed out of he question then and on a budget I had to take what I could find. So why do I still have it? Why do I still wear it? Mostly because it seems shockingly wasteful to get rid of a serviceable T-shirt. And because whenever I put it on D says to me gee you look great in that colour. I love you in that top. And it is even more rediculous to willingly give up a predictable compliment!
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Shorts made by me in 2009 from lightweight and only very slightly stretchy slubby cotton/elastine denim. Fabric from oddzandendz about $12/m and these took less than a metre. Pattern a variation on the Jazz pants from Ottobre magazine. I made these to be my hot weather everyday shorts and they have done a great job. Super simple, hard wearing but light and comfy (you can see better photos of them here, here, here and with the same T here). Wil also has a pair of shorts from this fabric and it has worked well for him too.