I only started sewing my own clothing in earnest about 1-2 years ago. All of the first items I made were relatively simple – boxy shirts in various fabrics, wide-legged pants with elastic waists, and so on. I was so proud of every single piece that I made! I wore them all immediately and answered any and all questions about how I made them. My friends, family, and coworkers were always so impressed with my sewing skills, and I enjoyed showing off new makes.
However, after the initial excitement over a new me-made item of clothing wore off, I realized that a lot of the clothing I’ve made doesn’t actually fit into my current vision of my personal style. Some of the items are made with prints that I just don’t like any more, or I made several pieces of clothing in a silhouette that actually doesn’t work well for me, or I chose a color that looked nice by itself, but doesn’t work with the rest of my wardrobe. A couple times I’ve worked really hard on sewing a particular item, only to finish it and realize “Hmm, this doesn’t actually look that great on me.”
Despite knowing that these me-made items don’t work that well in my wardrobe, I have yet to actually part with them. Most of the items that I’ve made but don’t wear are sitting in my sewing room, folded up haphazardly and deposited into a corner. I just don’t know what to do with them, and I’m also a little hesitant to give them away because I feel like the time I put into making them is for nothing.
But I know that personal style evolves, and as my own style changes, the things that I’ve made in the past just don’t work with my vision of the future. I have no problem at all getting rid of RTW (ready to wear) clothing — in fact, I do a regular closet cleanse of RTW items — I’m definitely not one to hang on to a piece of clothing that I don’t wear. But when it comes to getting rid of me-made items, it feels a little more personal…like giving away a piece of myself.
We all put so much time and effort into the pieces of clothing that we create, so how do we know when it’s time to part with me-made pieces? How do you sort through your me-made items and let them go? Are you hesitant, like me, to let go of items? Or are you more cut-throat with your me-made wardrobe? And when you finally decide to let go of items, where do they go? Do you take them to the thrift store, or gift them to family and friends?
I would love to hear about everyone’s process of letting go of me-made clothing!
Erin can be found posting about sewing, knitting, gardening, hiking, and dachshunds on Instagram @shortern.
What a great topic and thoughtful post. OK – Erin, you are in very good company! The fact that you’re so good at culling your RTW wardrobe regularly bodes well. My hatred of clutter overrides everything – so I know pretty immediately if I’m going to wear what I’ve made and, if I won’t, I either give it away to a friend/family immediately OR put it on my front lawn (I live in downtown Toronto) and it disappears within 10 minutes. That’s a great feature of living in downtown TO. No garage sales required!
I think it’s important to remember that the gift of sewing is in your ability and drive to make beautiful things. You shouldn’t be held hostage by the things that you are making that don’t bring you pleasure. And there are many others who can love the things you may not want to keep any longer. I actually spent weeks tailoring a suit that I hated, so I put it on the lawn. You’d think that would be hard – and it was weird – but I felt so much lighter for knowing I wouldn’t have to look at it endlessly and never wear it. I’ve been sewing for a decade now and my process and output have gone through many phases. For one thing, the home-sewist offerings have improved dramatically in the last decade. It’s easier for me to find the luxe fabrics and interesting patterns I enjoy most. My skill level has also improved so I am better at fitting and choosing patterns that will work for me over longer phases. I’ve now got a catalog of great TNTs.
But one of the other things that’s occurred, rather organically, is that I make fewer things. They tend to be more involved projects, though not always. I now sew to fill actual holes in my wardrobe – not to make fun things I don’t need. This is part of my objective to produce less waste – and I am NO eco-nut by nature. I’m just starting to wonder how this world can manage all the waste that I’m producing, never mind the other 7B people. It also works with my desire to do less and enjoy it more. However, I know what it’s like to be new(ish) at a craft – spinning anyone?! – and to want to do it more to improve and also to get pleasure from this great activity you’ve discovered and love. Hope this long ramble provides a smidge of insight into the process of someone else who loves what you love too 🙂
The first time I gave away clothing I made was hard. I would hold something and think “I was so proud of that waistband topstitching”, and I was keeping it to feel that pride rather than to wear the garment, but when I also felt pride in the things I was making AND wearing, I guess that feeling became redundant. It helps that my neighborhood holds regular clothing swaps, so I’m giving away clothes to a person, not a bin. One friend with a similar body shape to mine tried a pair of jeans I had made at a clothing swap and decided to learn to sew her own! When you do feel ready to pass on less-worn me-mades, I really recommend a swap. 🙂
I recommend a swap too! I have one friend I’ve tossed me-mades to over the pile, saying “you seem to like this brand.” 😉 And it is so fun seeing my makes out in the wild on other people!
What a great topic for discussion, Erin. I’ve been sewing steadily for about 6 years now so it’s absolutely necessary for me to get rid of my me-mades, for all the same reasons you mentioned — not my style, colour or print doesn’t work, tastes evolve, and there’s only so much space available in the closet! And I tend to take risks with my sewing, in terms of trying an unusual style or making something I don’t always have an occasion to wear. Which means I end up with some things I definitely won’t wear, and they have to move on to a new home, to someone who will enjoy it. I don’t tend to feel any remorse about donating them to a charity shop, because I know someone else will eventually wear it and enjoy the fruits of my labour and skills. That is enough for me.
I’ve noticed that as my sewing improves, handmade items last better in my wardrobe. This is partially because I buy nicer fabrics that sew, wear and last better and partly because my fitting and understanding of my own style has improved.
I’ve also slowed my output somewhat and focus on well made and well fitting garments that will last.
Lastly, I tend to re-use projects that didn’t work out or no longer fit. For example, I just made a skirt and used the lining from an old dress that doesn’t fit well. I will use the fashion fabric from the dress to make a top in future. This is more possible and likely with higher quality fabrics.
Well, it IS hard to know when to let go. For one thing, I do a lot of remaking, or restyling, of past makes. Quite often, I take items out of my closet that I’ve made earlier and haven’t worn much, try them on and suddenly see: ah, that’s what’s wrong! I change a sleeve, or shorten a dress into a top, I dye things or alter a neckline, and wow, I like it all over again, or maybe for the first time. Sometimes I’ve made another wardrobe piece since then that makes the odd piece suddenly feel a vital part of my current wardrobe. This happens quite often with tops or pants that need a different silhouette in their companion piece in order to look their best. Or a top and bottom needs a 3rd piece (jacket, scarf, vest, etc) that makes them perfect on me. And sometimes, the weather is what has made me overlook a piece one season, and then once the weather changes, it works again. For example, I have linen jackets supposedly perfect for spring weather, but if it pours rain all spring, I only get to wear them once a sunny warm fall comes around — in other words, it was not the fault of the clothing item at all! I find that with me- makes my unwillingness to let them go too easily has allowed me to really look carefully at the clothing in my closet and reimagine them. Also, they encourage me to reimagine my self. I ask, when I look at a purple sweater, why did I think purple would suit me, and sometimes it is because purple actually does suit a version of my self I hadn’t let out of the bag before, and having that purple sweater encourages me to look for something else to go with it that brings that self to the fore. I find myself playing with me-made more than I ever did with store bought. So I let myself do that for a while before I finally move something right out of my closet into a donation bin.
Excellent comprehensive reply. I think more iagination is needed to bring pieces back into use otherwise we are just another version of fast fashion.
I kep the first skirt I made. My sewing teacher told us to keep our first project so we can see how far we’ve come. Such great advice! Beyond that my criteria is:
1. Do I love it? If no, let it to to someone who will.
2. If I love it, why don’t I wear it? Can the “why” be fixed? If not, let it go. If so, how easily can I fix it? (Buying the right accessory, making a quick repair or adjustment, buying/making a coordinating piece?)
3. If I can fix the why….will I? If it’s actually too time consuming or too expensive to make the fix, I let it go.
4. If I can fix the why…is it worth it or would I actually be better off ripping it apart and repurposing the material?
I also remember that when I let my pieces go, I’m donating them to a charity who will benefit in some way. I’m also letting go of something that is either not my best work, or no longer works for me. That makes it all better.
I love this thought process, thank you. I definitely have some older me-made items that have been stuck in step 3 for a long time. Probably time to let them go…
Erin, I mulled over this post this weekend, and as I was wearing my “wearable muslin” first pair of Ginger Jeans and kept on fidgeting with them…. I finally thought to myself “why do I keep these?!! I put the zip in wrong, it keeps sliding down, they don’t have enough Lycra, I have to wear long shirts to keep the zip hidden… they’re terrible.” and I decided to let them go. I may cannibalize the denim, but I’m letting it go. I’ve been doing this too long to wear things that don’t make me feel good. Thank you. I needed this reminder…the reminder to ask myself, “why am I even holding on to this?”
I too was really precious with my me-mades for the first few years I was sewing. But eventually I found myself running out of space in my dresser/closet & knew I had to purge, especially because so much room was being consumed by things I wasn’t wearing–for the same reasons you mentioned. Not my style, poor textile choice, not well-sewn, not comfortable, didn’t fit right, whatever.
I instituted a one-in, one-out policy. For everynew me-made I added to my closet, one had to go. I could donate it to a clothing swap or thrift store, cut it up to re-purpose notions/fabric, or just trash it (in the case of especially beloved me-mades that had been worn into the ground), but something had to go.
My wardrobe is now in the process of a transformation into being well-stocked with well-fitted, well-sewn garments that I really love. & I’ve found that I’m not as sad about letting go of pieces as I expected to be. Each one is a source of information that helps guide my sewing journey. Whether a piece helped me perfect a sewing technique, learn more about working with a certain color or textile, helped me work on my fitting skills, taught me what NOT to do, whatever, it’s all learning that I can apply to my next project.
I’m also a real “out of sight, out of mind” person. I get emotional about garments that didn’t work out as long as they’re still in my possession, but as soon as they’re gone, I’m over it. That can make getting rid of things kind of hard, but realizing that I’ll feel better once it’s done helps a lot.
This is really an interesting topic. I definitely have a hard time letting go of my me made’s. I don’t really have a lot of RTW left in my wardrobe at this point so I need to let some of the me made stuff go or everything just keeps piling up. But I’m very reluctant to do so.
My biggest issue is the question of what happens to my clothes once I donate them. If I knew that they were going to be onsold and that someone else would be able to enjoy it I’d be more than happy to pass them on, but I’ve sorted clothes for charity before and they were adamant that anything without a label go in the “to be recycled” pile and the thought of just sending my clothes to the textile recycling bin just doesn’t sit right.
I would love to be able to just put them on the street and let whoever wanted it pick it up. I wonder if anyone around here would do that. Or maybe I should go and talk to a local consignment store and ask if they wanted them for free.
As it is at the moment they just go into a big pile to be remade one day in the never to come future!
Exactly let’s not kid ourselves that someone else is going to buy and wear the flawed me mades we no longer want – it’s going to land fill.
Such great food for thought! I sew prolifically, and I’d say that less than 20% of what I make is still in my wardrobe two years later. (Helps that I gain an inch a year! 😉 I pass it all on to friends or donate it, and I feel happiest that way. I get to sew whatever I want, and only keep the stuff that I can’t wait to wear!
Just another form of fast fashion then.
I am facing this very thing. My closet is getting crowded with memade I know longer wear. These postings have encouraged me to move them out. Crazy to think I would let them have some kind of hold on me.
In general, I tend to wear the me-mades to death. But I see the problem with the unloved ones. My advice would be to take them out and try them on once in a while – I have definitely had some changes of heart occasionally. But you should also use them as fodder for analysis. What exactly is it that you don’t like? I have mostly learned the marriage of pattern and fabric through trial and error, so be sure to learn from every error! After that, treat them as if they were thrift store finds – can you alter something into a better fit? Can you dye that unfortunate color into something more palatable? Can you salvage the fabric you like into a smaller project? And finally, cultivate some friends a bit smaller than yourself 😉, it’s easier to hand things diwn then, if you prefer to remain personal
That shirt might work as a skirt – that fabric is amazing and would look pretty remade.
I had me-made makes in my wardrobe for 30 odd years, because they worked with my wardrobe, but stopped making clothes for me when it was harder to find fabric and I didn’t need clothes – I tend to buy or make classic shapes and basics and wear them forever. I stopped sewing for my daughter when she hit the age of not wanting to wear homemade clothes. Currently I’m remaking my wardrobe after losing most of it in December 2017/January 2018 (long story on my blog) and am trying to sew garments that create outfits and work together, even when I’m checking patterns. I start by measuring the pattern and me, trace it with the obvious alterations (length, FBA), then try those pattern pieces against me before I start cutting into fabric, altering the pattern further if necessary. That means I am still looking for a shirt/blouse pattern that fits.
My daughter and I started wardrobe building by sorting through the fabric stash and organising fabrics into piles that would work with my daughter’s and my different wardrobes, taking fabrics that didn’t work to a fabric swap. We have bought some fabrics since, but I’m being careful not to buy anything I can’t use or don’t have a plan for, including how it is going to fit into my wardrobe. These days I even carry a little bag of fabric swatches when I go fabric shopping. A year ago I stood and dithered by the TMOS stall, eyeing up some amazing, very pretty TANA lawn, not buying it because I couldn’t work out what I could wear it with. Of course, when I went back with the fabric swatches he’d sold it all.
I worry about the environmental impact of using fabric: the Great British Sewing Bee quoted a statistic that home dressmakers can waste 30% of the fabric they buy. so I’m trying not to make clothes that aren’t needed and won’t be worn, and cut out to minimise waste. Having said that I have one shirt that’s awful (the bear fabric) and unwearable. Currently I’m wondering what to do with it. I keep scraps and try to reuse fabrics – strips for rag rugs, patchwork, gifts from scraps. My latest make was a half slip petticoat (and a bra that didn’t fit) from the third attempt at a shirt my daughter abandoned. Her previous two attempts have been: first, sent to a friend last month, second, to be posted to the same friend today. She’s currently finishing off a bra that’s worked from the same scraps.
Sounds like you really do your best to do the fabric justice.
I tend to let go of the clothes I make possibly too quickly! I tend to be a bit too hard on myself with the work I produce. I think of it this way now: style, fabric and fit. If it scores two out of three it is a strong contender to stay in my closet.
About a year ago I realized that there were a number of unloved me-made garments in my closet, so I took them all to Goodwill. But before everything went out the door, I pulled out my camera and recorded a vlog where I talked about exactly why I was not keeping each garment, and the lesson that it taught me. Like you, when I started sewing again 4 years ago I was so thrilled to make anything, and I was seduced by print and colour … but then I looked at the ME I wanted to present that many of those silhouettes, colours and patterns didn’t feel comfortable.
I’m getting ready to go through it all again. Some of the lessons learned the first time weren’t repeated, but others were. I figure it’s all a journey!
Well. I try to be as low waste as I can so either donating them or rip em apart for rags, stuffing, and other smaller clothes if it’s still in good condition.. The fabric I buy is expensive and I don’t wanna waste any anyways lol. When it’s absolutely at the end of lifecycle I compost since its not synthetic fabric but natural chemical free fabric.
I love your top 🙂
I can be just as ruthless purging handmades as i am with ready to wear. Some garments have hung around longer than they should because of fabric love (and I know I won’t repurpose it because that just isn’t my thing) or because it’s an “only” in my closet.
If you have the space, put them in a bag or bin and if you haven’t thought of them in xx number of weeks or months, just toss em!
I think part of learning to sew is learning to sew things that you will wear rather than things you just ‘want’ to make to see if you can, or it certainly has been for me. Even jut recently I sewed a jacket I have been thinking about making for literally years, but now it’s made, although I like it on the hanger and I feel I have done a good job of it, when I put it on me it just doesn’t feel right. Dyeing it may help, or it may not, I don’t know, and I am wondering whether to take the plunge with this at the moment or just accept it needs a new home.
I’ve certainly got rid of a few things over the years without too many regrets. I remember once seeing a woman wearing a pair of jeans I’d customised and embroidered then not worn and donated to the charity shop, I think she was a bit bemused by an over-enthusiastic me bounding up to her in the street to tell her I’d made them and how happy I was to see her in them! Other things I have restyled or re-used the fabric. I am really trying hard now to think about whether I actually will wear something before going near the fabric and sewing tools, though, and I am getting better at it – partly by having a few tried and trusted patterns that I know I like the fit of which then just leaves fabric choice to get right.
I’ve been making my own clothes for about 40 years, and I’ve done many of the suggestions above! My friends and family covet my makes, so when I’m ready to let a piece go, I add it to our ongoing “free box”, which visitors are free to take from. Letting go of a special item is actually fun when I see how excited the recipient is, and I know they will wear and treasure it (or pass it on to someone who will).
I love the top! Did you embroider the design? It looks great on you. I suggest keeping it, wearing it and….when you are done, recycle the gorgeous fabric into another item (small purse, patch/decoration on jeans, child’s dress or top….) If all else fails, I’ll send you my address : )
A great post. I made my first clothes in around 1969 or 70. Then, maybe 30 year of business work, where shoulder pads and Liz Claibourne won out over sewing time. In the last 10 years, I’ve retired to a more casual pursuit (I work for SVP Worldwide selling sewing machines in their Austin shop), and so have a wee bit more time to make clothes. However, none are made slowly… at 64, I know that as much joy as I receive making, I don’t really get so sentimental about them. I make what I like, wear them, and wear them out. Donating them to goodwill, or (rarely) cutting them into the quilts that I make more excitedly than clothing to wear! So, time marches on, out attitudes towards what we do, what we like, and dislike change… it’s OK, that’s life! Enjoy the making… afterwards, well, just wear them til ya can’t anymore! A friend sells hers are a serious discount on FB, which is probably a great idea too – if I only had the time!!
I never had any trouble giving away self-sewn clothes, I quite happily add them to charity shop bag with RTW clothes. Having said that, I first think about how I can repurpose the item: make a bag out of it or use it for pocket linings etc. I’m often wondering whether they are actually put on the shelves though or if they land in the rags pile.
I’m more reluctant with hand-knitted items, I’d rather repurpose the yarn or sell them for the price of the yarn if at all possible.