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Why Do I Sew?

Posted by Jacinthe Bisson on

Hello makers,

Me

I thought that it may be time to further introduce myself (it’s me there posing awkwardly for a picture) and try to explain why I decided to focus on sewing now. I am in my early 40s. I studied environmental sciences in university when it was a “not so cool” topic. I went on and did a 2nd degree in chemical engineering with a focus on environmental engineering. I worked as a consultant in air quality for over 10 years for all kinds of industries including oil and gas, landfills, wastewater treatment plants, composting facilities, leather tanneries, agrobusiness, paper mills, and much more. Life cycle analysis, supply chain management, circular economy are topics that I find fascinating. So, one could say, why the drastic career change?

Well, I consider myself as a fairly eco conscious person and based upon my formal training and experience I love challenges involving complex issues. I don’t always make the best decision for the environment, and I don’t necessarily have excuses for that. There are people whose life revolves around sustainability and I admire that, but I don’t pretend to be close to that type of living. I do what I can and I think that sewing my own clothes is a step towards my eco conscious living. I mend my family’s clothes. I try buying second hand clothing when buying is unavoidable. I tend to go back often to the patterns I love. I use whatever materials I have to sew – I often improvise. I choose projects I know I will wear.     

Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibilityMaking sewing a focus in my business and enabling others to make their own clothes is another way for me to promote a more conscious consumerism. To be fair, in my opinion, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything I offer has to have to lowest environmental impact possible. If it does, it’s great, but the action of sewing consciously, building awareness and enticing the willingness to make educated decisions and changes is the greater picture here for me.
What is the link between sewing and being eco conscious you ask? Did you know that the fashion industry is the 2nd largest contributor to global pollution? In short, it generates enormous amounts of waste, consumes tons of fresh water, contaminates soil and that’s only the environmental burden of it. I am not going to even touch on the social aspect of the life cycle of the mainstream fast fashion production chains.

Let’s talk about the costs of clothing or other items such as these. Sure, you can buy low-cost items easily from brand stores. However, what if I told you that spending a little more for quality materials and spending personal times making your clothes is actually the essence of being socially and environmentally responsible by avoiding difficult, sometimes unknown, social and environmental costs. For example, making a piece of clothing that fits you well and that you keep for years to come may just result in you not purchasing ten cheaper shirts, made by who know who and where, that will end up in the trash after just a few wears. The net result is less waste and maybe less money being spent by you.

 

Sewing machine upclose

Why do I sew? Because I love it, but the long answer has deeper ramifications than my love for this hobby. I do not “need” to sew. Cheap clothes are available everywhere, but I had the opportunity to be taught sewing from a young age and I choose to sew.

I hear a lot of people say “sewing is an expensive hobby”; my mind has a really long answer to that comment, but I am a person of few words – I usually reply “yes it can be”.

 

Recently, I read a post from an independent sewing pattern company relating to the cost of sewing your own clothes. They were proposing a template to estimate the cost of a sewing project with examples. Including fabric, pattern, notions…and TIME! Although an interesting concept the end result simply felt like it was telling us that sewing your own clothes is really expensive and a waste of time. It felt like I was being told that I would be better off investing my time and money doing something else. Grrr!

The crux of the issue is that they presented only one part of a project’s life cycle, it showed you the immediate costs involved but not the entire cycle which should include the social and environmental cost avoidances. It was not a bad analysis; it was simply an incomplete one. To show the entire picture, it needed more.

But let’s just forget about these economic and environmental concepts for a minute… I digress into my engineering ways… 😊 Let’s look at it a little more pragmatically… Tell me, have you ever heard someone who likes puzzles, but stops for a single minute to estimate the costs involved with making a puzzle? Does a person analyze the cost of the puzzle itself, plus the time it takes them to complete it as a deciding factor to purchase and complete or not the puzzle? In my opinion, it seems unlikely that this person, who enjoys the challenges of completing the puzzle, would say “I made a puzzle this week and it cost me 200$; 40$ to buy the puzzle + 8 hours at 20$/hr to complete it”. Another example is reading a good book… I mean how time consuming was that? Would you ever ask someone how much did your last good read cost you? I don’t think so. This is a hobby folks!

If you sew to sell, estimating the cost of your project is essential and should be more detailed that just the material and time. There are all kinds of other costs associated with doing your business that must be taken into account such as things like packaging, labels, machine use, electricity, etc.

However, if you sew as a hobby because you like it – which I hope you do – should you estimate the cost per project? Why? To compare it to a similar piece of clothing from the store? If so, sorry, but you will more than likely be disappointed.

There is more to a hobby than the cost of doing that hobby. For me sewing is rewarding, makes me learn continuously, allows me to mostly steer clear of fast fashion and it makes me happy.