For five years, my home consisted of one room and the shared use of a communal area in a Buddhist community. Since moving into a flat, I’ve slowly begun to accumulate more and more possessions but I still value a minimalist lifestyle. However, I can be prone to prevarication when it comes to letting go of things, namely clothes – coming up with a plethora of reasons to hold on.
Ten months into my love affair with stitch, I felt compelled to examine my wardrobe. If I continue to create at my current pace, I’m in danger of over-indulging the inner consumer I had hoped to curtail. Reflected in the eyes of admiring non-sewers, I could perpetuate the myth that making my own clothes is driven by a lofty desire to reduce my carbon footprint.
Who am I kidding? Dig a little deeper and you’ll see the fabrics I’m drawn to are high end craft cottons as averse to recycled thrift. When it comes to patterns, I scan eagle eyed for breaking releases from independent designers and pour over Japanese dress books, beguiled by the clean lines and aspirational living shots. I’m consuming – just in a more palatable, aesthetically pleasing form.
On many occasions I’ve tried to hone my wardrobe and been hampered by reasons not to: I might wear it in future (I haven’t for years), I might lose a stone (I’ve put on a half) … the list goes on. So this time, I decided to adopt a different approach based on the Maria Kondo principle – does it bring me joy? It’s a emotional question which elicits an instant response and made easy work of streamlining my stuff. My working wardrobe is now a cacophony of colour, vintage finds and handmade creations.
WordPress and Instagram are vehicles which have allowed me to document my progress through words and pictures, connecting with like minded makers across the globe. Whilst I’m hugely encouraged by the support thereof, I’m mindful that the pressure to post does not propel the creative process. Cleaning out my closet has allowed me to fully appreciate what I already have and consider where I want my sewing journey to take me next.
In 2016, I’ve been concentrating on a capsule holiday wardrobe and unsurprisingly Japanese smocks feature highly. This month’s offering is another attempt at Yoshiko Tsukiori’s Dress E, from my beloved Stylish Dress Book. The first continues to garner the most positive feedback and the second is one of my most worn makes to date – however, I’m not convinced the capped sleeves work for me and am considering chopping them off. For my third, I’m using fabric sourced from Tim Holtz’s Eclectic Elements Collection, which found it’s way to me in the John Lewis January sale.
Construction was a stress-free staged approach, as I have painfully learnt from the errors of a sewing lock-in too many. I’m embracing a new tack of sewing punctuated by other healthy living essentials – namely cooking, eating, and sleeping. So far, it’s paying off and this make was a calamity free endeavour. I think the pattern and fabric compliment each other perfectly, with a home-made bias binding finish at the armholes to accentuate the green over pastel tones.
There’s always room for improvement and gathers continue to be my nemesis, as I lack the necessary patience to execute them well. The join on my bias binding is also unworthy of close inspection but I’ll dwell on these shortcomings no longer. Does it bring me joy? The answer is a resounding yes, so it’s a very welcome addition to my handmade wardrobe.
Whilst I’m yet to read Maria’s book, the wisdom in the words of this simple phrase have captured my imagination and the potential applications are all-pervasive. Food, friends, pastimes, sewing patterns … if they aren’t bringing me joy, I’m considering what they are bringing and whether it’s worth holding on to them so dear.