Making your own clothes gives you a real advantage when it comes to making them last – I have no idea if this analogy is going to make sense (I know nothing about building houses), but we’ll just go with it. The process of actually making clothes – choosing the fabric and sewing it all together is sort of like the foundation of a house – the stronger the foundation, the longer it will last. So, read on to find out what you can do to give your clothes a headstart in lasting as long as possible.
GET THE HIGHEST – QUALITY FABRIC THAT YOU CAN AFFORD
The foundation of the house starts with the materials – using low-quality materials means that some crumbling is going to be inevitable. So I’d recommend getting the highest-quality fabric that you can afford. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend loads of money on your fabrics – there are loads of shops which offer really great quality (and ethical – check out this post to read about the best places to buy ethical fabrics online) fabrics without the massive price tag.
Of course, toiles and things won’t need anything fancy and can be made out of a cheaper material. Old bed sheets (as long as they aren’t showing signs of wear and tear) are a really great idea for toiles and final products alike, and are a really sustainable choice too.
MAKE A MENDING KIT
Something really useful that you can do as you go along making (or after you’ve made something) is to put together a ‘mending kit’ while you sew, or once you’ve finished. If you’re interested in How to Make a Mending Kit for Your Handmade Clothes, you can click that link to read the blog post! The general idea of making a mending kit is that once you’ve finished sewing whatever garment you’ve just made, you pop any spare pieces of fabric, spare buttons or any other notions that you might have left over into a little box or envelope, and write the number of the thread colour that you used on the front of the envelope, along with the description or a photograph or a garment that the mending kit is for. That way, if the garment ever needs any (invisible) mending, you can just whip out your mending kit, and pop on a patch of fabric, or stitch on a spare button.
USE THE RIGHT NEEDLE FOR YOUR FABRIC
There are so many different needles out there – different types, different sizes, all sorts. I know that it can get confusing and might seem easier to just whack one in and use it for all of your projects, but the machine needle you use is an important thing to consider before you start every project. Here are some resources I’ve put together for you to make needle choices as easy to understand as possible:
THE SEAMS AND SEAM FINISHES
The seams and seam finishes that you use while you’re sewing are really going to impact upon the lifespan of your clothing – we’ll get into the absolute basics of seam finishes here, but if you’d like to know more, there will be posts coming up on the site in the next few weeks which will go into more detail.
The majority of the time, a simple standard seam will be plenty good enough to join the pieces of fabric and keep them strong. The raw edges of the seam, though, will need to be ‘finished’ in order to prevent any fraying. There are lots of different options for finishing the raw edges of fabric, but the simplest options are to zigzag stitch the raw edge on a sewing machine, or overlocking (also known as serging) them.
There are cases where more specialised seams will be needed, such as when you’re using delicate, lightweight or stretch fabrics. Areas of garments which will take a lot of wear or weight, such as the crotch seams of jeans, or shoulder seams of tops and dresses will need to be reinforced or have extra care taken while they are being sewn to ensure that they’ll hold up well while you’re wearing them, and you won’t be the victim of a ripped-seam faux pas!
Don’t worry though, like I said, there will be a very detailed post about seams, seam finishes and which seams you should use on specific garments or fabrics going up in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled!
TAKE YOUR TIME
A few months ago at a sewing meetup, I had a conversation with a few fellow sewists about how we as dressmakers always seem to get excited about our next project, before we’ve even finished what we’re currently working on; sort of like the fast-fashion of the sewing world.
I must admit, I was particularly guilty of that when I first started sewing, but as I’ve continued to build up my handmade wardrobe, I’ve realised that it’s so much more rewarding to really take time over something and finish it to the best of your ability – figure out which seams will work best for the fabric so that the finished article is as strong as possible, press everything properly and unpick parts that you’re not so happy with. How well something is made really goes a long way in determining how long that garment will last, but there are lots of other factors as well – and realistically, you need to start thinking about those as soon as your new item of clothing comes off of the machine.