Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sew Grateful Week: Reflection Post.

This is the day to reflect on the role sewing has played in our lives, reflecting on those who have been supportive in our journey and reflecting on what the online community means to us!  What are you sew grateful for? 
This past year the role of sewing took a different turn in my life. This past year, I read two books, recommended by other bloggers, that left a lasting impression, Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me and Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. And there were the heart-wrenching reports of conditions at overseas sewing factories. How can one's look at clothing and sewing not be affected after reading and contemplating these words and images? Personally, the words and imagines are still with me.

Shocked:  My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me is part autobiographical, part fantasy, part nostalgic look at the roles that fashion and literature play at impacting one's life. I would read pages from the book to Mama R and listened to sewing stories from when she and her sisters were young. I'm grateful for the time that the book brought us together in conversation. There was something in those pages that made me want to take the time in my sewing and cherish the time spent creating a quality item that seems lost in time in the era of fast-fashion garments. The book is a treasure of wisdom that is shared between mothers and daughters not only from the author's but also from the other protagonist in the book.

Only the rich can afford cheap clothes.  If something you see looks worth twice its price, you may be sure the illusion will not last.  What you buy must be good.  Cut is of the first importance, and cut of course implies fit (197).  ~Schiaparelli's advice on the correct way to dress.  
Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion was an interesting and tough read. The book had a part new-journalism part documentary style of writing. I was intrigued by the subject but distracted by the choppy writing. Despite that I continued reading encouraged by the many bloggers that said it was worth sticking to the end.  They were right. It was a book that held a mirror up for me to see the kind of shopper I had become. I have a tee-shirt that began pilling after only a couple of wears. I knew should have known better to proceed with caution after reading the word rayon on the label but I liked the twisted drape feature at the waistline and it was cheaply priced to match the cheap fabric. I didn't need to buy the tee-shirt but I was blinded into thinking it was a good value by the ultra-cheap price. Yup, I was duped. Many of us have been duped at retail outlets that fast-fashion is a better value than the effort and time of our own sewing skills. It is not true! I know that now. I guess I just needed Elizabeth Cline and Schiaparelli to remind me of that and set me on a journey.

Cline's book made me realize that not only are fast-fashion and ready-to-wear items are being made with plastic by-products, the fabric stores in my neighbourhood are also filling up with the same fabrics found in the retail landscape. If I want quality natural fabrics that have been disappearing from my local fabric store at an alarming rate, I have to stop being enticed by the lower price for lower quality fabrics. Yes, as a fabric shopper my judgement is flawed at times. I'm still sad when I look at the Marcy Tilton skirt that I made that has been pilling at the hip area. Now, I do realize that natural fabrics do pill but not as quickly as man-made fabrics. I wish I made the skirt in a good quality cotton knit instead of the rayon blend double knit. Maybe I would still be enjoying the fruits of my labour if I did.

The straw that broke the camel's back were the heart-wrenching reports about the sewing factories overseas. "Made in the U.S.A." or "Made in Canada" disappeared from our western landscape in the past decades as our heads were filled with the promises of globalization. I am no saint when it comes to some of my shopping decisions in the past. I have clothing produced by Joe Fresh and that have "Made in China" and "Made in Bangladesh" and yes, it makes me ill every time another garment factory fire occurs and innocent garment workers are killed. It is not cheap fashion when the high human cost comes to light.

This past year, I try to think of those who sew our clothes not because it is a hobby rather they are trying to feed their families. I am trying to be more mindful in my decisions and change my shopping behaviour of the past. I have learned to appreciate my sewing skills more than I did in the past. I now think of my sewing skills as more than a hobby. Sewing has become a form of social activism. I know how much I hate it when people take advantage of my sewing abilities and try to get work done for cheap or worse free. Yet when I buy fast-fashion am I not doing the same thing? It is one of the reasons that I joined Sarah's RTW Fast this year. I'm grateful for the community of fasters that have been supportive and inspiring in this journey.

And I still strive to improve my skills. I have slowed-down in my sewing. I realize sewing is not a race. I don't need to make "X" number of garments. With slow-sewing, I am able to create clothing that is a higher quality than the ones that I can find in ready-to-wear options. And I love the look of Hong Kong, bound and French seams even if they are unseen when I wear my garment and no one will ever know the amount of effort that I put into these seam finishes. To me they were worth the time and effort.

I developed a deeper appreciation for the sewing skills that I have and those people who played a role in inspiring and developing the passion I have for sewing. Of course, there is Mama R who was an inspiration growing up. There has been so many people along the way (Don Urban over at urbandon and Katja over at Of Dreams and Seams), through their books (Claire Shaeffer), blogs and journalism (too many to mention here but feel free to refer to my blogroll), who have helped to shape the sewist that I am today. And I can't wait to see where the journey will lead to next.

Thank you to all of you who blog about and share your sewing stories and reactions to world events. The conversations are important. You all continue to show me that sewing is more than a hobby.



  1. Absolutely fantastic post!! I want to read both of those books and I am very, very conscious of where fabric comes from….so many things to be grateful for!!!

    1. Thanks Debi! I wouldn't have sat down to write it if it weren't for your nudging with Sew Grateful Week's reflection post day. I'm trying to be more mindful and ask more questions about where my fabric choices come from.

  2. This is a brilliant post, and one that makes you really think! I haven't read either of those books, but they sound really interesting. But even just knowing now much work goes into sewing a garment makes you think twice before buying some of the cheaper RTW out there.

    1. Thanks Helen. I do recommend both books. I believe that I saw Overdressed out on paperback the last time I was at the bookstore.


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