Sewing Cafe

Patterns, Tutorials and Works in Progress from the Sewing Studio of Lynne Williams

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

For The Love or the Economy of Sewing?

This NY Times article about Bespoke Tailors was just brought to my attention thru  Made by Hand - the great Sartorial Debate  and I thought I should pass the favor on by sharing it with will all of you.  Please take a few minutes to read it and be sure to look at the photos.   I love seeing peoples/companies sewing rooms don't you?

Marvin Orellana/The New York Times

Obviously sewing for yourself and/or others is a time consuming and not always inexpensive endeavor.  Homemakers in the past sewed for economy's sake....but does that still hold true today?  With fabrics costs rising and RTW clothing prices being so affordable why do we bother sewing?  Why do you sew?

Lynne Williams at her cutting table in the Williams Studio sewing room

I often tell my students to compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges.  By this I mean compare the price of your custom made pants to a pair of custom made pants, not to RTW pants you could pick up at JC Pennys  This only makes sense right?  We cannot custom make a pair of pants for the same price a factory can crank them out for...thats apples to oranges folks....apples to oranges.  While it is true that when you begin sewing your skills might not be as good as factory standards, but you are gaining so much more than a garment.  You are gaining skills, sewing, fitting and style skills, critical thinking skills, not to mention, patience, endurance, humility and pride of accomplishment.  This is valuable human development!  Sure some might argue that shopping will provide some of the same lessons, but I prefer the that just me?
 While those around us might wonder why we bother....we know why, its far more than having something to wear, its having something to wear that was constructed especially for us, completely unique in fit and style, just like each of us.

Please let me know your thoughts on the article and how you benefit from sewing for yourself and others.


  1. That article is brilliant, thank you for bringing it to my attention. I am a 'perfectionist craftsperson' as Davidson puts it and have indeed found that it is difficult to maintain a high standard of quality and still make money, but I refuse to lower my standards. People have become accustomed to cheap mass-manufactured goods that are poorly constructed and because of that many people don't have the same appreciation for quality goods made by skilled artisans that they once had. It saddens me that there is such a disconnect now and that many of these trades that require such skill are slowly fading away, being replaced by mass manufacturing. A bespoke suit is truly a work of art, well worth the $4000. It is a couture garment. How many people do you know that can make a suit from beginning to end completely by hand? It is an incredible skill.

  2. Thanks for that link - it's a very well-done article! Although my "perfectionism" in the sewing aspect is still far from perfect, the comment about the "perfectionist craftsperson" definitely hits a truth.

    I will keep sewing, for myself and others (and I'm REALLY enjoying earning a dollar or two here & there doing it!) for a long time to come, I'm sure. I could buy RTW, but I don't expect to ever buy (or even want, for that matter) couture, but I really can't afford the sort of custom-make, OOAK, arty clothes that I love to wear. Even if I could find something that I loved, and that fit, I would get SO much more pleasure from it by making it to please me.

    I think your apples to apples analogy is perfect. Would it be cheaper to dress in RTW? Yes, definitely. Would it be cheaper to buy custom-made? Rarely.

    Thanks - great post :)

  3. Thanks for the link Lynne. It was fascinating, and I learned even more about the effects of moving our manufacturing overseas. I sew because I love the process of creation, and I can make things to my specs. I cannot afford couture, or even high end lines. Sewing also releases me from the tyranny of big box fashion.

  4. I sew exclusively for myself because...I find the RTW rarely suit me. And as I use cheap materials I can make things cheaper than the RTW clothes I like (I have expensive tastes). Plus I'm creative. I like to have something one of a kind that suits/fits me. I don't have the skills to make an entire wardrobe or the time (I hand sew everything) so will buy RTW items I think are value for money, classic pieces I can mix and match with what I sew. But making my own clothes definitely has made me more aware of buying quality items when it comes to clothing. Its no longer a case of 'that looks nice' = buy. I now examine the stitching, how its constructed and the feel of the material (I've actually started checking the label for fabric content).
    I find myself saying "I'm not paying £45 for something with a couple of overlocked straight seams and no fit, no darts and cheap thin fabric...etc."
    Its saving me a fortune in shopping. Problem is I go spend the savings on fabric and notions. lol!

  5. Lynne, it's great to see your studio! thanks for sharing the article. I sew because I love the process and having something made by me. Ever since I was little I was drawn to crafts, but only had the opportunity to learn how to make garments a couple of years ago. I don't have much problems with fit actually (H&M pants, dresses and skirts fit me like a glove for example) and in terms of finishes I wouldn't say that RTW is much worse (think H&M, Zara, Massimo Dutti to name a few) than my skill set actually. Probably the materials are worse in some cases. But I love sewing, it's my hobby, I like learning, so I do it anyway.
    I think motivation is often the key to sewing these days. Certainly for people like you who do it as their job and create unique products is different.
    Certainly what bothers me is that due to economy of scales craftsmen (and tailors) can hardly make a living while RTW companies make loads of profit. It really makes me sad!
    I love your saying we should compare apples to on!

  6. I agree, sewing for yourself is something you do because you want to sew for yourself, not because you want to save money. But the satisfaction that comes with wearing your own custom made clothes is priceless :)


Please share your thoughts with Lynne

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