My Handmade Wardrobe Evolution

Grainline Studio | Handmade Wardrobe Evolution

Get ready because this is a bit of a ramble about the evolution of my handmade wardrobe and my experience transitioning from art, to fashion, to the home sewing world. This isn’t about how I got into fashion, or my academic and work route to where I am currently with my business, I think you all know that story by now, this is about the feelings I had on the way here and the ones I still have. It’s something I think about less these days since I’m now confident in my career path and interests, but this post on Dressing like a Feminist from Morgan over at Crab & Bee brought it to mind as well as this post that’s been going around my Facebook friends about uniform dressing and decision making. No promises that this post is going to make a full circle, or get to any sort of ‘point’ at the end. Here goes!

Back when I was a kid I was kind of a nerd, I had glasses by 2nd grade, liked reading, was super crazy shy, was good at hanging out on my own, and liked making things. All of these things are still true. One of my good friends and I would make all sorts of stuff for our dolls, dresses, beds, furniture, then we convinced our moms that we should learn to sew. I had grown up with my mom sewing most of our clothes and some of our toys so it didn’t seem weird to me at all that I would want to learn to sew. We took a sewing class and made pajamas (mine were light blue flannel with snowflakes and maybe snowmen) and some shorts (green cotton with dancing frogs) and it was pretty awesome! We probably made a few other things also but I can’t remember now. As I got older I realized that most people weren’t interested in sewing. At some point in Jr. High Home Ec. we had to make a stuffed pillow from a kit and I just remember loving it kind of secretly while everyone else complained that we had to sew. I also remember secretly hand-sewing the tiniest mini-quilt in my room after school one day with some of my mom’s scraps. She was, and still is, a big quilter and I wanted to try it, but I definitely knew it wasn’t a cool thing to do.

I’d always been into art, but high school was the first time that I’d been able to take more than one class a year and I dove into it full on. I think this thing happens in art classes when you’re a teenager where you kind of turn a little anti-fashion because you’re just into art and it’s so cool or whatever. We had a fashion program and I still thought about sewing sometimes but I did not fit in with the kids taking the fashion classes so it never even occurred to me to take one of the classes. It seemed like most of the kids who took these classes didn’t care about making things really, they just liked clothes and shopping, which I did not. I still hate shopping! Anyway, in high school I wore typical late 90’s art kid clothes – a wool military jacket I found in a closet in the basement, oversized button down work shirts, weird thrift store tee shirts, that kind of stuff. Not really ‘fashionable’ for the times, but I was kind of specific about it, so it wasn’t really anti-fashion or anything like that. It’s just what I liked. Whatever.

From there I went to school at the University of Illinois and ended up in the photography department. I did my art thing for the first 2 years and found myself going back to fashion and sewing over and over in small ways. I printed cyanotypes onto Hanes t-shirts (it was the early 2000’s guys), learned to knit on the way to NYC in fall of 2001 when my college best friend and I decided we needed to check out ‘more serious’ art schools (insert laughing till you cry emoji), and eventually brought my mom’s old sewing machine down to my apartment at the beginning of my junior year. I was probably a little precocious, we were the students who were always requesting extra art theory readings, pondering post-modernism, my best friend was a sculpture / women’s studies double major so we always talked about that. I felt sort of conflicted about the fact that I was sewing, traditional women’s work. I ended up making a bunch of super art school girl video art about this – if you happened to go to art school you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about I’m sure. By my senior year I realized that I wasn’t going to pursue photography, especially in the art sense we were studying it, and my real interest was sewing, specifically I wanted to know how to make the patterns. I was experimenting with doing trace offs and just winging things with measurements and it was frustrating because I knew it wasn’t the right way and I love doing things the right way. So I finished up my photo degree and tried to figure out what my next move was.

Eventually I ended up back in school but it took me a lot of going back and forth with my thoughts on pursuing fashion as a career. I think society definitely brands it as a shallow profession and this isn’t completely without warrant, especially with the rise of fast fashion etc., but that paired with my fine art education made me feel guilty about the whole thing. I mean, we were the kids who were going to move to NYC to make it as artists! It sounds so hilarious now thinking back but you know, when you’re 20 and weaseling your way into graduate art theory classes it makes total sense. I found myself wondering if I would end up wasting my life on this super shallow pursuit. Would I regret not doing something more ‘academic’ instead? I finally decided to just fuck it and go back to school.

While in school I realized I made the right decision. It was definitely tough being older than the other students, I was much more focused and knew what I wanted from the program, was paying for it myself, and was taking a full course load while working essentially full time, though at a few different jobs. A lot of the kids there were there because they loved to shop but I was really lucky that I found a few friends who were in it for the same reasons I was. I think I only made about 5 really close friends while I was there. I remember being a TA for one of the advanced patternmaking classes and the kids freaked out when they found out I was born in ’82, they could not believe how old I was! Anyway most people wanted to move to LA or NYC and make it big as a head designer at a large brand or strike out on their own as the next big thing, they wanted to be famous! I on the other hand, knew that wasn’t what I wanted and it was so hard to explain that to people. This was around the time that Built by Wendy released her pattern line with Simplicity and I just thought, that’s what I want. A small line with a little pattern line attached! It just sounded amazing to me, but super weird to other people so I mostly kept it a secret. Even when I started this blog and up until after I published my first pattern I still didn’t tell people I was blogging or that I wanted to make home sewing patterns!

Anyway when I graduated I was working locally as a patternmaker and decided to start my own little line, hound. I really just wanted a small line where I designed and produced things and I did that for a while. It was really fun, but also really stressful, and I dealt with a lot of questions from people like why I didn’t move to NYC, or why I wasn’t manufacturing on a larger scale, why wasn’t I wholesaling? One thing that people love to say to you is “but you’re so talented, you could totally make it doing ____!” but what they fail to understand is that you actually don’t want that. You want something smaller, more intimate, less stressful. The pace of fashion in NYC, the cost of living, just the hecticness of it all is something I don’t want for myself. While doing hound I got totally burnt out and happened to release my first sewing pattern on my tiny little blog I started for fun. It went well, so well that eventually I stopped doing hound, I love doing this so much more it wasn’t really a hard decision at all. People didn’t understand that, having your own line is so cool they thought! Eventually I stopped my day job and they wondered why I would take myself out of that environment where I was a ‘legit’ patternmaker, and here we are now. The funniest thing is that my students at Columbia now are so completely unimpressed with what I do. Even though I make a living doing exactly what I went to school to do, exactly what I want to do, the fact that I design home sewing patterns is so boring and lame, they just can’t understand why I didn’t try for something more. I suppose when I was younger I might have thought the same, but luckily when I went back I was old enough to know better what I wanted.

When I read a post like Morgan’s where people are questioning whether they should feel guilty spending time on fashion or making clothes (mostly in the comments, I absolutely love Morgan’s post!) it takes me back to everything I’ve experienced in my journey to where I am now and all the doubts I had on the road to justifying what I wanted to do with myself. For me sewing my own clothing is about a few things…

First of all, I am just fascinated with making the patterns to make the clothes. I absolutely love patternmaking, it really is just engineering for the body, but since making clothing is traditionally “women’s work” it maybe doesn’t get as much respect as it should. It’s incredibly intricate and detailed, knowing the curve that you need to make the perfect sleeve cap while not restricting arm movement, or the most flattering hem, it’s just endlessly interesting to me and I love challenging myself to make each pattern better than the last.

Secondly I’ve always loved making things and in my mind making your wardrobe is the ultimate thing you can make for yourself. You have to wear clothes every day to fend off the elements as well as prevent yourself from getting arrested (can’t be walking around naked!) so the fact that I have the ability to take a piece of paper, a pencil, and some rulers, make a pattern, then take a length of cloth and turn it into something I can wear every day, I just can’t get enough. You aren’t stuck with what’s available in the stores, you can make what you feel comfortable wearing which (at least for me) will in turn make you feel more confident. I really take pride in this second fact!

Lastly, making these sewing patterns allows me to share these things with other people who share similar interests as me. I’m able to share the pride I feel when I make an amazing garment that becomes part of my daily wardrobe. I don’t want to just sew special occasion garments, I don’t really do special occasions. I want to sew the clothes you wear every day so that when you’re on the train on your way home from work you can look down and smile to yourself that you made your shirt and it looks amazing. I love throwing on an outfit in the morning, heading to work, and in the car on the way there thinking, ‘I made my hat, gloves, coat, sweater, and shirt” and smiling to myself about it. It’s not about other people and what they think of it for me, it’s really all for myself.

I used to not really care if I had an entirely handmade wardrobe, and to some extent I still don’t. I love supporting business that make quality goods, especially ones that use local supplies and labor, but lately I’ve been falling more and more in love with making as much of it as I can without making more than I need. With all of the tutorials and variations I do it’s hard to not make more than you need. Lately I’ve been doing the sew-alongs in my sister’s size so I’m now providing both of us with handmade wardrobes which is pretty cool. One of my current sewing goals is to replace worn out store bought basics like t-shirts and tanks and to also make some workout clothes for the yoga I’ve started doing. Of course I’ll still be making fun things like silk button down shirtdresses etc, because I do love that too!

As far as feminism and sewing, I don’t have that much to say about it really, except that sewing is what I like to do and I don’t think that ignoring that and choosing a less traditionally feminine job would make me more of one. I love my job and I think that what you do in that situation is keep doing what you love and be cognizant of what came before you and also of what lies ahead and know the reasons why you do what you do. This idea kind of applies to most facets of life though, in my opinion.

Anyway this was a seriously long stream of consciousness ramble which I am not proofing because if I do I’ll probably decide to not post it. So, my questions for you after all of this are… Have you ever had similar thoughts about sewing? Why do you love sewing? What pushes you to make your own clothes? What are your sewing goals? Now if you excuse me, I need to plan out my winter wardrobe sewing and definitely check out Morgan’s awesome post!

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111 Responses to My Handmade Wardrobe Evolution

  1. Laura says:

    This is a really lovely post, thanks so much for writing it.

    I totally get the feminism thing too. I eventually came to the conclusion that NOT doing something I love, because I’m female, would be really anti-feminist.

    Love your stuff & I’m glad you didn’t move to NY.

  2. Anna Marie Sansonetti says:

    Thank you Jen. This is a perfect article in so many ways. You have given me inspiration and a big dose of encouragement!

  3. Karen says:

    Thank you so much for this! It’s so interesting to hear how you got to here – it makes me love your patterns all the more to know how deliberately you chose to focus on it as you defined your life and work.

    I’m coming to sewing after flowing through an academic career (degrees in Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies), through graphic design, landscape design and now deep into merchandising in creative retail.

    I’ve come to sewing through knitting – been knitting my whole adult life, have designed knitwear for quite a while – and now wanting that handmade, intentional wardrobe as well.

    I wonder how we managed to get stuck with the notion that clothing ourselves well is ‘trivial’ or frivolous, or perhaps not a worthy place to create a career… The dichotomy of cooking vs. career as a chef (and the feminine/masculine stuff underlying that) seems parallel – and has similar “if you do it in X way, or do it in NYC to fame and glory, that’s the legitimate career making this kind of stuff” conotations.

    Thank you for doing what you do. Thank you for taking your love of engineering to dress the body and translating it into patterns for the home sewist to make beautiful things to wear in the world every day. It’s so helpful to all of us starting out. Thank you.

  4. Annet M says:

    Yesterday, I wore a dress, a Lady Skater Dress by Kitschy Coo (I have 2 completely different ones that I love), and I LOVED looking down and thinking I made this! When people complement me on my outfit, I could just be quiet and say thanks, but I get a certain thrill out of saying “Thanks, I made it” and love people’s varying reactions to that. I too grew up bookish, glasses, but haven’t really had many issues with people thinking it is weird that I sew (many people in my community are stay-at-home moms so it’s probably weirder to them that I work full-time and sew!), people at work and such just seem more in awe (which is weird, cause I don’t see it being all that hard, just follow the steps!).

    I still have a long way to go with learning more and my biggest issue is time (because I’m also into renoing my house on my own and those jobs never end).

    I also am mostly finished a Moss skirt (my first!) but am stuck on the waistband (I now realized I think I sewed it on upside down), so I need to get back to it (I hate facing having to take something apart).

    Thanks for you blog, I’ve learned a lot and glad I found you (not real sure how, but glad I did). p.s. could you do a understitch tutorial, or post a link to a good one? I’ve seen a few youtube videos but they aren’t really clear.

    • Tatiana says:

      Apart from all Grainline patterns that I love, the Lady Skater Dress is really amazing! I already made 6 versions of it, two peplum tops, and I won´t stop soon… Every time I come across a beautiful knit fabric I think about making another Lady Skater… They never look the same, even using the same pattern, ha!

  5. Katie says:

    Really great to hear you thoughts on this. Personally I think sewing your own wardrobe is a supremely feminist act (especially when it’s a about sewing wearable, practical, everyday clothes like you say).

    As women we are constantly pushed into a damaging cycle of buying more and more outfits to help us reach that unachievable nexus of beauty+fashionable-ness+cool (which is endlessly shifting anyhow), so to take time to sew a lasting and well-thought out wardrobe oneself is an act of rebellion I think.

    It was ‘women’s work’ back in the day when it was the only option open to women, but now that women have more freedom to choose whether or not they take on this work, and on what terms, coupled with the fact that we have all become so de-skilled in all areas of our life, I think it’s incredibly important to reclaim these skills, whatever gender we are.

    Bravo!

  6. Dana says:

    Jen-
    As a student who is studying math, apparel design and women’s/gender studies, I definitely experience dissonance between what I like to do, and what I “should” do. Often I feel guilt that I’m not devoting myself completely to math because there is such a dearth of women in STEM fields. Recently though, I’ve come to see sewing and designing as subversive: it gives us agency outside of a capitalist, consumerist system and allows us to make our own choices, it’s more sustainable, and it supports fair labor. (Furthermore, pattern making uses a TON of math!)

    Thanks for this post.

  7. carlalissa says:

    I had to read everything twice, cause I couldn’t believe someone else was writing my same feelings. I am by no means a pattern maker (wish I thought of that in my twenties!) Now that I am approaching my fifties I feel that if I do not do what I want to do my life would just be a waste. I am so happy for you to do what you want and no need to be in large scale, because you lose control. Keep it up! and thank you for being such a good designer love all your patterns.

  8. Farhana says:

    I’m totally loving this post, it sounds like so much that I want to say, I have a lot of the same feelings esp about patternmaking and a handmade wardrobe. I would post my comment here but I think it would best be suited to a blog post (coming soon) and thanks for sharing.

  9. Dee says:

    Awesome, informative, thoughtful post. Although I’m not at the level (or have the machine) to sew your patterns yet, I love reading your blog for exactly the reasons you outline why you love what you do. You reflect and think, and you consider what I think is important in garment design. Thanks for all you do for your loyal following and I hope someday to post excitedly that I’ve sewn one of your amazing patterns!

  10. Francis says:

    I have always loved ‘making’. When I was 10 the newspaper did an article on Christmas about all the gifts I had made for my dolls. You are so lucky to be able to do work that you love. And we are so lucky that you share your talent with us. I totally love what you make and you inspire me to make.

  11. Carol Wagner says:

    Good post. I am seventy, retired, and teaching 11-year-old twin granddaughters to sew. Sewing is hot in their age group. What is important in sewing is the creativity, the sense of craftsmanship, the persistence and adaptability in the face of “unfortunate results.” No apologies for working in garment design, please. Do what you love in life; you will not regret it.

  12. Kim says:

    Great post! Its so nice knowing that you are doing what you are meant to be doing. I have had similar thoughts about my career as an interior designer, womenswork, and feminism. I am also in a non-glamorous niche of the industry, but I love it and it is perfect for me. Like you, at the end of the day, I am proud and amazed at what I get to do everyday!

  13. Rebecca says:

    I just love this post and Morgan’s was so thought provoking as well. I can relate to so much of this. I went to art school too(Printmaking BFA) and remember thinking how my friends and I all wanted to be “serious” artists. I never considered fashion a career for just that reason, it seemed frivolous.
    Right now I’m a Stay at Home mom (I didn’t learn to sew until after my kids were born) hoping to go back to school soon to learn patternmaking and design. Ultimately I want to start my own small fashion/natural dye business, but like you I have no wish to do it on a large scale.
    I love sewing and being able to slowly phase out my store bought clothing for handmade is such a wonderful feeling. Being able to express myself creatively through my clothing is fabulous. To me feminism is really about doing whatever is fulfilling to you, and that can mean very different things to different people.

  14. i love this post! you have worked so hard for what you have now – i can’t believe anyone would say you should look for more when you are making money doing what you love!

    i also really enjoyed morgan’s post and meant to go back and comment on it. to me, feminism is about having the choice to sew our own clothes or not. i have seen articles about the rise of sewing, baking etc being a backlash against feminism and demonstrating that women want to go back to being housewives, but i feel this is fundamentally untrue. the fact that i can choose to sew the clothes i want in the size and style i want is liberating (or i can buy them and have to “make do”). in the past women were making do and mending and had no choice but to do so.

  15. ThreadTime says:

    It sounds like you have found the joy in your life, and that is a true gift! I firmly believe in finding what you love. It’s so much harder to find than we think. Our fist question is ‘where’s the money’. When we love what we do and can at least support ourselves, there is a peace that can’t be found racing around doing what we “should” do. I for one am really glad you found yourself at GrainlineStudio. 😀
    Thanks for sharing,
    Ramona

  16. mary says:

    Great post, I just turned 50 this year and like Carlalissa stated above, if I don’t do what I want to do, my life would just be a waste. Important lessons in learning to tune out the chorus. It is interesting how we, in the collective sense, cannot seem to be content in the small and sustainable. Yet, we yearn for intimacy and authenticity.
    I sew because I love to make things. I learned to sew when I was a girl from my mother. My grandmothers also sewed. I love to make things because I love the independence, creativity and self-suffiency of it. I do not see that as anti-feminist at all.
    As for feeling guilty for having an interest in fashion or making clothes, I have no guilt whatsoever.Guilt is just something I don’t do. I have several hobbies and my life would be so flippin dull without them. It’s a terrible thing we do to try to burden people with guilt. I don’t get why fashion or sewing would be considered more frivolous than other hobbies or pursuits.

  17. Alice says:

    Brilliant post Jen, Really enjoyed reading it and hearing your story. As an architect who loves to make so many things, I find knitting and sewing a definite creative outlet for me, I loved learning why and how you’ve got to where you are.

    As I get closer to creating a handmade wardrobe of my own, piece by piece (like so many others who are commenting here) I can’t help but wonder what would of been if I ever had the balls to go back and re train in fashion or pattern making. Gah, I’m pretty sure I’m just rambling now….it’s the excitement in responding to your post! I should really get myself to bed.

  18. Joanna says:

    I too made choices that didn’t bring me fame or fortune and were considered ‘not living up to potential’. At nearly 68, I look back and find that in retrospect, I don’t regret a single decision. Even with some hard and distressing times, I can honestly say I have had a wonderful life. You keep doing what you are doing. You have achieved something beyond price.

  19. Lana Pugh says:

    I have a fine art photography degree too and remember when things got really stressful and tough I would pull out the sewing machine and just sew. I even did a series of liquid emulsion prints on unbleached muslin that were hand colored with acrylics and attached hanging loops at the top like a quilt. Everyone wanted to know who did the sewing. I think I got a little burnt out by the pretentiousness of art school honestly. I love sewing and enjoy that and use the eye I gained in college to improve how I pick fabric and cut. I also still work on my photography at the pace I enjoy doing the projects that make me happy. They would kill my professors soul I think. 🙂

  20. Heather Lou says:

    Great post Jen. I would kill to see some of those art school videos, hahahahha. You synthesized a lot of my thinking about why I sew – that rush of looking down and seeing an entire me-made outfit is so insanely satisfying!

  21. Sandra says:

    What an awesome post! Thanks for sharing that information. I love sewing my own clothes because I love the endless possibilities. I work in a corporate environment and I don’t usually tell people I make my own clothes, I like incorporating the garments I make in with the clothes that I already own but my real goal is to make all of my own clothes. I love learning new techniques and have only really been sewing for the past 2 years. I am still learning how to fit a garment, working with knits has been amazing as I recently found a great skirt pattern that works for me and sews up quick!!! I don’t have a lot of time to sew (not as much as I’d like) because my commute is long but I try!!
    Anyhow, kudos to you for deciding what you want or don’t want and going after it. I can’t wait to try the Archer, have the pattern ready and the fabric but have not jumped in yet.

    Please keep posting and drafting patterns, I love what you share.

  22. Elle says:

    I loved reading this. I’ve never really had a feminist dissonance with sewing because, growing up, BOTH of my parents were major makers. Granted, they do very gendered “making” (my dad has a wood shop and my mom knits/sews/embroiders), but it was never really a thing with them. They just both liked to make the stuff they liked, and sometimes it was practical and sometimes it was just for fun, but I definitely absorbed the notion that making something, anything, was commendable and hard work and something to be proud of. They’re also both big feminists and conscious consumers, and so when I came to sewing about two years ago, it was based on the notion that I wanted to stop “voting with my dollars” for fast fashion, a concept that they definitely instilled in me. So for me, it was never really a womanly art, it was just making something to fit my needs and my style. Like you, I don’t feel that itch to make EVERYTHING I wear, but I like knowing that I’m learning new things, being kinder to the environment and that I’m not giving money to sweatshop labor.

  23. christiane says:

    Wait. Things got out of hand with this comment! Sorry for that! But I’m so impressed with all you’ve written down! I have already read the post over at crab&bee, which I really enjoyed. I feel in so many ways connected to what you are talking about: I just finished my cultural studies degree, very good, and my final paper was held to have great potential for future research. Sure, this is great, don’t get me wrong but, I end up asking if this is what I really aspire to and which I really want to live, most importantly. Working as an assistent at university I see the hectic, never-ending applications for funding and burnt out faces of all these young academics, me included, day in day out. That makes me not want to work in this field, it simply kills my interest for all the things that had initially drawn me to my studies: literature, popculture and society, feminism (yes, and those postmodern texts about it!). In short, I love to stay critical!
    I have, too, always loved making things, I handsewed/painted/refurbished.. until I finally discovered sewing. And I cant stop it. I love it! I think about it all the time! It gives me satisfaction. However, I rarely talk about it. Let me give an example. Last year I had to make a poster for an upcoming workshop with a feminist from Australia (at my university in Germany), I sewed something abstract and photographed it. My professor really liked it and even our visitor was so excited about it, she said she hung it up in her office in AUS. As she told me that in person, my professor next to me joined in and said: “Yeah, can you believe that, she stitched it.” She was all “oh yes, really?” and told me about her grandma who used to knit. I thought this was great, and sure I loved the compliment to begin with, but, the next moment silence hit and I could feel how they we’re trying to shift topics.
    It was all getting weird & awkward so I stepped outside. This situation has shown me a few things. First, quite often feminist stances of how women should live deliberately are pretentious. They (unintentionally) push girls/women to try for something they maybe wouldn’t choose, they might only do just because they are today, theoretically, empowered to do. Thus, is everything considered feminine (like sewing) less valuable, rather like something to do when you’re a grandma? My experience and behaviour leads me to think that. Looking back I, too, functioned this way: I was always reaching higher, studying harder, reading more than others because I wanted to be recognized as clever and smart, not feminine or maybe naive.. as if that is mutually exclusive, duh!, and as if femininity was something to get rid of to be accepted. What for? Feeling overpowered with something you only do because from outside it looks like a great achievement? (Ever wondered why girls are better at school? Sure not because they are smarter on the whole but social pressure upon them is higher) I often wonder why people always seem to want more, be it money or other capital, recognition..To work their ass off to enjoy it afterwards? I’d rather have less money (yes, and less clothes!) but enjoy what I’m doing right now. Because yes, in the end I do it to please myself, not anyone else. Although I’m sure people close to me appreciate this decision as well. I admire people who can free themselves from societal beliefs about what is valuable, acknowledge-able. I think it’s not about how impressive your CV is, or how much income you have but rather it’s about how you feel about what you do. It might sound pathetic to some but this is what I think holds truth for me. I tol myself that if I hate something or just don’t enjoy it anymore I’ll quit it, not submit to it. Be it a job, shopping, wearing uncomfortable clothes..the list goes on. I think that is a real hardcore feminist thing to say nowadays although it’s not that obvious. And I mean hardcore feminist in a good (& feminine!) way!
    I think what you have created with grainline is wonderful. I really love the aesthetics and attitude of it. Your article – and I think your mindset, is the bomb! Thanks so much for having the guts to share your thoughts. I felt I wanna go along and share, too, and I hope its not too exhaustive to read! I’m curious what everyone else says. Gonna read the other article now..

  24. Knitsandsews says:

    This is a great post that sums up so much of why I love your blog and your patterns. I applaud you for doing what you love and finding a way to make a living doing it. My favorite thing about your patterns is how “real world” wearable they are. I am a stay at home mom to two little guys, and I love sewing because it allows me to accomplish something that is super satisfying and just for myself.

    I have knit for years, but only seriously got into garment sewing in the past year. I have built up enough of a wardrobe that I now feel naked leaving the house without something on that is handmade. People rarely notice that my clothing is handsewn/hand knit but it feels like my own personal suit of armor – I love what I am wearing, and that is enough!

  25. Kathleen says:

    Your post touches me in so many ways. You have been brave to follow your heart and mind in doing what you love. Born nearly 30 years before you, I had similar childhood experiences (I can remember almost every item I sewed in high school and wish I had the wool camel cape and velvet Juliet mini dress to show my daughter), but sewing and fashion didn’t fit into the academic or career expectations in my world; I didn’t have the courage to step away like you have. It’s interesting that so many years later you faced the same issues. Anyway, so much for feminism! Your patterns are one of a handful I sew over and over. My nearly (not completely!) me made wardrobe gives me a profound pleasure and satisfaction. I look forward to every release and all your posts… the sewing world is internet based these days for better or worse. Lastly, I want you to know my first Linden is in the works and this morning I woke up excited to finish it up. I found a cream luxe lace remnant in my stash,adding grey heather sleeves, and am fiddling with hem length. Thank you for your thoughtful, on trend but classic, meticulously designed patterns that jumpstart creativity.

  26. Bethany says:

    I didn’t discover sewing until after I turned 40! Like you, I started in photography and video and went to art school in NYC, later transitioning to paper cut collages which were intricate and time consuming. I worked in the art world and felt totally disgusted by it. I always knew I was meant to be a maker but felt I just hadn’t discovered my perfect medium. Then two years ago I started making quilts and last year started making clothes, and I cannot tell you the excitement and fulfillment this has brought to my life. I feel like I have found my thing. It is creative yet technical and precise. Functional yet expressive. It makes me so happy and I will be doing it forever. And the wonderful sewing blog community is always giving me new ideas! I am just so thankful.

  27. Alison says:

    Thank you Jen – you really hit on something that I’ve felt strongly about for years. I’m also an uber nerd maker who has struggled to explain why I am so interested in sewing my own clothes but my profession is software engineering. Sewing *is* engineering – it is creating 3D forms out of textiles that enclose a living, moving body. Talk about a dynamic, multi-variable engineering problem! And then you add in the art of color, texture, and yeah, fashion and culture. What begins as a valuable spatial and creative challenge results in a custom, well fitting wardrobe that is a joy to wear. Hell yeah, it is worthwhile pursuit on so many levels!

    This leads me to my other main gripe these days…I am done with our culture’s tendency to segregate art from engineering/math – for many, these interests originate from the same inspiration. We do a disservice to the next generation when we silo off disciplines from one another. Some of the most exciting and valuable innovations come from these intersections. Check out the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, math + art) movement for more.

  28. So much of this resonates with me. Up until you got to college, I felt like I was reading an excerpt from my own biography. 😀

    As far as sewing and feminism, I see the outward dilemma. Allow me to get really lame for a minute and say, I feel like this issue is nicely addressed in the conclusion of the movie Mona Lisa Smile (because, it’s a great idea to take life lessons from Hollywood), wherein the protagonist chooses the course of a traditional 1950s housewife despite her abounding potential and ability to do other things. The ability to choose, not the choice she makes, gives her strength/power and makes her feminist.

    What can I say, I never figured out how to be cool, and I love Julia Roberts (she is a knitter, after all).

  29. Grace says:

    Our paths to fashion are eerily similar… The difference is I did move to NY (it IS hectic and expensive) and I do work in fast fashion (tech design). Whenever someone (even those in the industry) learns that I sew my own clothes and take pattern classes at FIT in my free time they always ask when I’m going to start my own line. I don’t want to do that either! I just want to make my own clothes that fit ME and be able to communicate effectively to those who are actually doing the pattern work for my company, many of whom are on the other side of the planet and spoken to through an agent.

    Side note: I AM working with one of our in house pattern-makers on a style and it is so awesome to have her in the next room. She just came over to negotiate the back neck drop. She disagreed with my spec request… we discussed it and boom, done. No relying on someone half a planet away to ask a question or wait 2 weeks for a fit samples that doesn’t fit.

    The fact that you are directly in control of your design work and pattern-making is so amazing. I admired Hound, but I am thrilled to buy your patterns because I trust the quality of the drafting. I can see that there is nothing muddling the process between design and the final pattern (contrast that with: knock off patterns, merchandiser input, costing limitations, tech designer generated specs, agent translations, factory pattern makers interpretation, buyers decision making, multiple fittings etc…).

    At the end of the day, I am nowhere near the proportions of any fit model I’ve worked with. I HATE shopping with a passion. It really is no wonder I make my own clothes! It’s also no wonder we home sewers really need to make muslins; RTW makes at least 2 samples before a style goes into production to check fit and construction.

    I sew because I love to create and I need my clothes to fit in order to be comfortable. Most of my handmade clothing is on the fun/special side, so I am trying to turn my energy toward the essentials. I think the problem for me is that I want to make all the things! My goal is to focus on a few key patterns so that I can make them several times and work on personalizing the fit and mastering the construction process.

  30. Katie says:

    Such a great read, Jen! For me, sewing my own clothing started as a way to detach myself from being “fashionable” (I’m from Indiana, living in Los Angeles) – all of a sudden, it didn’t matter if what I was wearing was “trendy” or “cool” because I made it! My pride in my garments (even the early ones), made me feel so good about myself that I didn’t need to conform to any kind of LA standards. So liberating!

  31. First of all, U of I and artsy-surely you went to the Art Coop!

    I am a solid feminist and sew, bake, etc. I sew because I hate trying to shove myself into the image of what someone thinks I should be. I can express myself through my sewing and nothing is more strong than self-expression.

  32. Grace says:

    Jen, thank you for such an honest and personal account of your career choices. I can definitely relate to the concern that fashion and clothes in general can seem a trivial pursuit.

    Having said that, fashion and home sewing, while both relating to clothes, are of a fundamentally different nature. Fashion is an industry and, as such, it can only survive by creating enough pressure on consumers by playing on their insecurities and their desire to be ‘current’, so that they keep buying clothes they don’t need necessarily need. Home sewing on the other hand, like other crafts, has been re-launched recently by our desire to claim back ownership of our clothes, furniture or food, in order to affirm quality and craftsmanship in contrast to the cheap and shoddy nature of mass-produced goods. (To be fair, everyone needs clothes and not everyone can or wants to sew them, so we need fashion and retail as well, maybe not the pressure that goes with it…)

    About the question whether a talented and creative woman should devote her efforts to the home sewing market rather than pursuing a more glamorous career in fashion or a more intellectual one in the Arts, I suppose there is no such thing as the right answer, as there are as many answers as there are human beings. Besides, there is always conflict between different sides of our personality, not to mention the necessity of earning a living.

    Jen, you have done well. Not only you have established yourself in what has already become a very competitive market, but you have done so with honesty and a sound knowledge of your field. I am sure that the aesthetic awareness and the artistic sensitivity developed during your art education years, far from being set aside, still play an important part in the business you have created and the person that you are today. All the best.

  33. Tatiana says:

    Jen, your patterns are the best! The style, the drafting, they are the basics with a twist, patterns that we want to make over and over again (Three Archer shirts and counting!). Please keep doing what you are doing, you rock!

  34. Niina says:

    Funny thing. I just started to make an Alder shirtdress and improve my sewing and it is a result of very similar thoughts on everyday clothes, making your own wardrobe etc. In my life everything is going to that direction, not just get something from store but pay attention to details… I found your blog very recently but you´ve already taught me most important things on sewing and it´s so nice to hear what lead you to make these amazing patterns.

  35. Diana says:

    Wow, this post + Morgan’s post both came at exactly the right times. I’m 25 and struggling with balancing what I like to do and gives me joy with what I feel like I *ought* to want based on any number of factors (family expectations, the BA from a ~ fancy school ~, ideas of sustainability/anti-capitalist-consumerism, feminism, etc.)

    Chief among these is that pressure to maintain a certain sort of ambition that manages to ultimately be anti-satisfaction: if your dream is to be famous and adored and powerful, how do you measure when you’re famous and adored and powerful enough? But if your dream is to make positive impact on others and to do things that feel satisfying to you, then as long as you’re not being an asshole and you’re taking steps to be doing the satisfying thing more often than not, you’re already winning.

    I’m going to stop deriding myself for wanting to make beautiful things instead of planning how to Save the World.

    Jen, thank you so much for this and your blog and generally existing!

  36. Rochelle New says:

    I love this post. I have so many thoughts I’d like to share, but they all sum up to “I feel the same as you”. …I mean as lame as that sounds, it’s true. I can’t really say it better than you did. Keeping things “small” does not mean you’re missing out on something better or more or fame or whatever. Sometimes I forget how Fashion and Making are two completely different things. One tends to be so superficial and the other is about community and support and nurturing like minded people. You’re a Maker, a really talented one at that, and I totally get it. I’m also super inspired by Morgan’s post and I’d really like to try something like that. I totally have a bed time uniform that never waivers, but I’ve been reluctant to adopt something like that for everyday. It’s the guilt of needing to feel “fashionable” that makes me hesitate, but that’s stupid because I’m not even into “fashion”. I’m a Maker. And if I want to sew and wear the same thing every single day then damnit I’m going to!

  37. Andrea says:

    Oh my goodness, you had the guts to go after what you really wanted! How many of us do what we think we should do! I am the later who would love to be the former!

  38. Great post. There’s a lot of subjects that resonate with me. I have a MA in Philosophy and a Bachelor in Environmental Science, but sewing and pattern making are my passions. When I started pattern making and still had a job in environmental science, I always told people about my other job, never about the pattern making. Depending on who asked, I was afraid they’d think I was shallow for doing something with fashion and clothing, or I that they’d think I wasn’t that smart. When I told my colleague about it he actually made remarks along the line of whether I also crocheted and baked, and he did not mean that in a good way.

    I’ve learned now that your intelligence shows through just talking to people, about anything. I don’t need to ‘prove’ it by mentioning my masters degree, even though I know how much math goes into pattern making. I feel more confident now. This is what I do. At least I don’t have a boring office job where I’m dreaming of doing something else every day.

    Also: being an entrepreneur, handling your own company, how can anyone say that is not feminist?

  39. Really enjoyed reading your “stream of consciousness” post Jen. Felt similarly after finishing my degree that NYC just wasn’t the thing for me.

    As far as my hobby, I’ve never really thought of sewing as anti-feminist. Probably because I’ve always loved all the things that are considered woman’s work and just decided I was some sort of throw back.

    However the thought of my hobby being frivolous has crossed my mind semi-regularly. My mother hasn’t got a fashionable bone in her body and often was exasperated by my changing tastes in clothing. To this day she says, “Well I didn’t get you clothing cause you WON’T LIKE IT.” (It’s true, she has horrible taste. LOL) In the end I decided that dressing up and making my clothing makes me really happy. Yes I’m the only person in a room filled with L.L.Bean that’s wearing a pencil skirt, heels and lipstick. But that’s fine cause I’m happy with my appearance and have enough tact not to try and make others dress to my own standards.

  40. ipires says:

    Great post! I love reading about the career path of people that followed their creative dreams.
    I do love my job as a scientist/lecturer but I always wonder what would have happened if I had gone to art school and did illustration… Oh well 🙂

  41. Melissa says:

    This resonates with me on so many levels! High school art classes, fashion school, not knowing if fashion was the way to go, and on and on! You were smart though, you didn’t come to NYC! The industry sucks on so many levels and I think it’s funny how I go against the norm by knitting and sewing up my own wardrobe. My job is to follow trends and create mass market nonsense for others and I think that is the main reason I make clothes for myself. I don’t want to be one of the crowd, I want to be one IN the crowd.

  42. Erin says:

    Hi! Just wanted to leave a quick comment here because I was in a few classes with you at CC back in the day and remember you being so focused and talented. I was probably one of the kids in the class thinking I was going to have my own fashion line one day (looking back, I had no idea what I thought I was getting into). I did end up moving to NYC and do technical design work now. I wish that CC would have explained more options to us when we were students there, because when I graduated I really had no idea where to go from there. I’m glad you are there to show new students that there are viable options for their degree besides being ‘famous designers’. Anyway, I love everything you are doing here, and I’m so glad it’s successful!

  43. Katie Emma says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I agree with others here that creating and wearing your own clothing daily feels very empowering. I always make sure to wear something I made that I’m proud of when I have to give presentations for work because it boosts my confidence!

    Oh, and your students being unimpressed by your career is so ridiculous, but I think it’s common for young people to assume their dreams should be shared by everyone. It reminds me of studying biology in college, with classmates wondering why I didn’t want to go to medical school, even though I did so well in my classes. I went into biomedical research because that’s what I was excited about, not because I couldn’t hack it as a doctor – but that’s a totally foreign concept to aspiring MDs !

  44. Kerrt says:

    I really enjoyed the detail and depth of your post and identified with a lot of it too. I’m movin towards replacing most of my clothing, it’s part enjoyment of sewing and partly a desire to take more responsibility for what I produce and consume. Great community too!

  45. Rebecca says:

    Lovely post! I’m about the same age as you (’83) and have been sewing for as long as I can remember thanks to my mum who sewed for herself, us and taught it also. Both my brother and I still sew for ourselves. Never once when I was growing up was sewing made more than it is – if you enjoy it, do it. Just like learning the piano & playing sports & going camping – I wanted to learn and was encouraged to learn because it was something I enjoyed to do.
    Fast forward all those years and sewing continues to be my “creative outlet” – I’m a mum (who put working as a medical professional on hold to have kids) and love the engineering, maths, creativity, method, beauty & routine of sewing to create something wearable.
    AND I totally have bought just about everyone one of your patterns. Jen- I had to laugh when you said your college kids think what you do is a bit ho-hum. I (and I’m sure so many of us in the online sewing community especially) think you are a freakin’ GENIUS for designing timeless and amazing patterns that fit so effortlessly into the style of clothes that I want to wear. I think if I ever met you I’d feel like I’m meeting a celebrity, so I guess it all goes to show that context is important!
    I loved what Rochelle said, above – you are a Maker. I am a Maker. And lets just keep doing it because we love it!

  46. alicesleight says:

    Thank you! This is just perfect and I can totally relate. I’m currently at university studying a fine art illustration/fine art textiles degree and over the summer I fell in love with sewing again, after sewing a little when I was younger. I know now that my degree is wrong for me and am looking forward to graduating so that I can concentrate on sewing!
    I still get that buzz from wearing my handmade clothes all the time, even if my classmates don’t think it’s that ‘cool’ either. I find it really empowering to be able to make a new garment when I want and it is a shame some people still look down on traditional sewing skills.

  47. Anna says:

    I similarly spent a while mediating between how my skills in design , art, sewing and fashion philosophy might translate into making money and not just liking but loving day to day work. I trained in multiple schools in fashion design, textile printing and philosophy but it wasn’t until after school that I sat down and realized cottage industry level knitwear was where things felt right. Computerized industrial knitting was too big. Hobby machines were too small….a lot of that stuff is about how current industry attitudes and corporate structures create both a barrier to entry and an opportunity to enter in a different incarnation. Fashion can be very Darwinian in that sense.
    On another note: I enjoy your patterns because there is a practical simplicity to them. They are not overwrought or over designed.

  48. Karin says:

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been following your blog for awhile (since I found it through Meg at Elsie Marley, I think) and this post helps me understand why I love your blog and what you’re sharing with the world so much more now than a few years ago (not that I didn’t like it then, obviously). You’re awesome.

  49. Hélène says:

    Love that post. It is a great reflexion on being strong and authentic to what we love. Not always easy but certainly worth it!

  50. Lauren says:

    I found this post and all of the comments that go with it so interesting to read! I’m going to uni next year to do a degree in costume making because fashion and I just don’t go together, but I still want to be able to do what I love (sewing and being creative) I think it’s so important to do what you love for a career no matter what it is or how much you will earn if you are going to spend a lifetime doing it! It had never occured to me that it may be anti-feminist, and I think that the key thing is that we have the choice to decide what we want to do, whether it’s traditional women’s work or not.

  51. Aless says:

    Beautiful post!
    I have been a ‘maker’ ever since I can remember. I even battled my dad when I was 10 and wanted to build a little book shelf to sit beside my bed. He said ‘Get back in the kitchen with your mother.’ (She didn’t want me there- she hated teaching us stuff!!) So, I proceeded to make my own bookcase, and was so proud, even though I didn’t know that butted joints would make it a parallelogram bookcase!! LOL! This was the same father who wouldn’t pay for me to go to university because “You’ll only get married and waste it.” TRUE! I took a teaching bursary- happily, I LOVED teaching!
    I have taught myself every creative endeavour from books. I live to make things. Sewing is my most precious time. Women who say “You are so creative.” get told that I am a great copyist. I can copy someone else’s design and make it mine through colour. These are often the same women who say “I haven’t got time to sew.” I point out that I still sewed (though a bit less) when I taught 10 year olds full time, AND had children of my own. If you WANT to do it, you will. As my darling husband of 42 years says- they probably spend time watching television when I’m spending time sewing.
    Since the internet became a big part of my life (and I am now retired), I have even made sewing friends who live far away from me. We have even visited, and one, in particular, I email with constantly, and visit at least once a year. We share our life stories as well as our sewing adventures. Both of us are outgoing, young- thinking, and up for a challenge.
    Sewing, to me, is like doing an amazing puzzle, but with the bonus of having something permanent that makes ME happy when the puzzle is solved. You can’t beat that!!

  52. Birgitte says:

    Ahh… you struck several chords with me with this post! Having gone to the same school for starters, and being older than my classmates (though I would think maybe my class you TA’d for was not the one shocked at your age? I think we had a significant number of “late bloomers” in there, haha!). Other peoples perception of success can be hard to respond to sometimes – with assumptions that having a clothing line, or moving to NYC or working for someone famous or having a storefront is success, with no regard to what *I* would concider a success – what do *I* actually want to strive to make happen? In the last year I’ve actually started saying I studied garment design instead of fashion design – I’m pretty sure it’s not because I think fashion design is frivolous, but it doesn’t align with what I feel like I’m doing. Garment design feels closer to the pattern drafting, constructing, utility and consideration of person and usage that is so much of what I love about making patterns and garments.

    Rock on all of us!

  53. pastryelf says:

    As a woman with 20 years on you, I took a similar but slightly different path to the same position. Not to in any way jump hijack this thread, I wrote about these issues about a month ago on my blog here:http://agatheringofstitches.com/blog/2014/10/2/impgpn5houwrwg6wzssnwpm9z4aetk. It seems to be an issue we’re communally grappling with. The distinct pleasure and satisfaction of working with one’s own hands to fashion a garment that feels good on the skin, on the body, on the psyche is priceless. And powerful. I am reading Women in Clothes right now http://www.womeninclothes.com, and highly recommend it to everyone reading this thread….

  54. samantha says:

    I really liked this post. I just recently started sewing because I had this yearning to be creative again ( I use to draw a lot when I was younger) but I also loved the idea of being able to make my own clothes. I hate mainstream fashion, I’ve always hated shopping and I love the idea if having a simple, comfortable wardrobe that makes me feel like…well…me. Being a newbie to sewing but falling in love with it, I’ve thought about taking some courses one day (who knows if that will really happen) but it’s funny because what you described about your experience is exactly what I imagined taking fashion courses would be like. I love that you had a goal in mind and that you it wasn’t influenced by mainstream success and fame.

  55. Nina says:

    You were only born in 1982?! So young! In my family, although it’s now only the women who sew, we don’t think of sewing as “women’s work” at all, because my great-grandfather was a tailor (and his father before him). He worked in the Burton menswear factory in Leeds, England, and I’m pretty sure all his colleagues were men. And in fact I suspect that pattern design work has historically been even more of a male profession, although that’s just a hunch. So many other (mostly agreeing) things to say but don’t want to make my comment as long as the post!

  56. Ellie says:

    Your post struck a chord with me because I am a feminist and I chose a career as a nurse – a typically female role. I wondered as I got into nursing about whether I should try and become a doctor, and if I was just choosing nursing because it was more socially expected of me to take one a more caring, traditionally female role. As I have become more confident I have realised that no, I love what I do, and it would be more ‘anti-feminist’ of me to choose to do something that does not naturally ‘fit’. I love to nurse, sew and knit, and this does not make me any less of a feminist. I refuse to apologise for what I enjoy. The fact that I can choose to do these things means that I am free.

  57. Carolyn says:

    Amen! Life is too short to not be doing what you love. (BTW, I’m currently a full-time student at age 34 and can totally relate to being an “old TA.”) 🙂

  58. loved reading your post–it brings up a lot of things that i’m working though, like going back and forth between career decisions, and trying to pick up on the things that have kept resurfacing over my life. sewing is one of those things for me as well. it helps to hear how you chose and where it led you 🙂

    i really liked your take on sewing and feminism. i agree with others in the comments, that sewing is a complex and multifaceted practice, that can combine math and engineering and art and design and expression and communication and social good. thats why i like it 🙂

  59. Nina says:

    Thanks for sharing. As a giant feminist, I feel that women should be respected for their choices, including sewing. I think it’s a feminist issue that women’s work like sewing (cooking, child-rearing etc) doesn’t get the same respect and attention that traditional men’s tasks get.

    Anyho, I love your patterns because they are truly comfortable, flattering everyday wear, worthy of uniform wearing. There’s nothing better than sewing a piece you literally wear out. I’m a big fan of the uniform too 🙂

  60. Diane says:

    Your students might not get why you do what you do (just yet), but the fact that you have developed a business that you can make a living from and are happy and fulfilled in what you do each day is an amazing achievement! You’re taking ownership of and directing your own career, and I definitely take inspiration from that. Your patterns are fantastic, and have helped me teach myself to sew and take steps towards creating my own handmade wardrobe, so thank you Jen!

  61. Great post, Jen. I sew clothes because I can’t not to. I draft patterns because maths soothe me 🙂 So really, if someone considers sewing uncool, I really can’t care less.

  62. Miranda says:

    This is such a great post, Jen. I’m glad you published.

    I’m so glad you are doing what you love–and killing it every time. The authenticity of your designs, patterns, and posts is awesome, and I have loved following your journey over the last several years. I’ve always been so impressed with you (and can’t wait to make it to Chicago one day and hang out irl!)

    A month or two ago I started doing a capsule wardrobe, and put everything besides about 40 items I clothing–including shoes and jackets, etc.–away until Jan. About half of what I kept out is handmade, but besides that, it had been really nice to really only wear what I need. I feel like because of the extensive closet editing, I’ve been able to dress far more like myself. Like I only hung on to the essentials, and therein have been able to see my real style.

    Anyway, that’s a whole other ramble totally unrelated. Basically I just think you’re the best and I’m glad I decided to hop into feedly after maybe half a year of not reading blogs and stumble into this one, cause it’s great.

    xoxo

  63. Sophie says:

    Interesting. Love hearing your thoughts on this! I have always always loved clothes, fabrics, colors, prints, patterns, designs and especially how clothes make you feel! I grew up with a bit of a bush-walking, world wild life supporting, anti make-up, anti-anything-remotely-superficial mum and so I’ve always had this feedback that there was something about my love of fashion that was shallow. I’ve also been considering going back to university lately and one of the options for me is to study fashion but there’s this part of me that still feels like maybe I should go do journalism or communications or business; something more real-worldy…such conflicted souls we are Jen!

  64. Rebecca Wagner says:

    Beautiful post 🙂

  65. Gudrun says:

    What a great post. Interesting read! Makes me love your patterns even more!
    I was so glad when I found your website because you have such wearable patterns. Like you I don’t really do special occasion wear but after finding your site I’ve gone from having nearly nothing handmade to wearing something handmade almost every day – and I was so happy when I realized I was washing my handmades every week – because I was wearing them! My pops once asked me what I had made recently and I told him I had made my tshirt. Really? said he surprised, and explained he just hadn’t realized that a tshirt was important enough to bother with sewing (in a totally non-offensive way though!). But that is what is so great about sewing, being able to control every aspect of your clothes, and when you wear a tshirt every day a tshirt is important! And isn’t “customizable” all the rage, too? What’s more customizable than the clothes you wear every day!

    As for the feminism I can relate a bit. I’m a stay at home mom until next fall, probably, and it’s a bit conflicting for me because it seems so anti-feminist somehow. I’m glad that we can afford for me to stay at home but at the same time I feel like I should be doing something -more important- to advance myself, career or what have you. Precisely that is what bothers me, nothing is more important than raising your children right but society doesn’t even value it as a real job worth doing. I think I’m starting to sound a bit anti-feminist myself now hehe.

    I saw a very interesting piece of art too, a few years ago. It was a sort of knotted fishing net on a wall in a big circle and was supposed to picture the invisible work of women through the centuries. Made me think of all the cooking and cleaning and sweeping and washing and child caring that has been done over and over and never noted. I’m glad I get to be a part of that and that I get to deal with important stuff, like tshirts!

  66. sallie says:

    Great post Jen! I actually wrote a response post to Morgan’s post as well because it just touched on all these little things that swim around in my head regarding sewing and fashion and how I sometimes feel conflicted about engaging in traditional ‘women’s work’ without much thought about changing the dialogue around it. However my post was FAR more tortured and really just unreadable so it never got posted! Haha! Your response is way better!
    Since I work with artists everyday I always have this uncomfortable moment when they find out that I sew clothes, but also have this serious art background, and I invariably get comments about such and such an artist who did this project where they made garments and it was all about the clothing industry and feminism and blah blah blah and I should really look at their work…. Ugh. And if it really annoys me I just cut them off and say, “yeah I’ve seen that work, but that’s NOT what I’m doing. I’m just earnestly trying to sew my own clothes.” But it’s still a conversation that grates on me, and I try to avoid it when I can. There seems to be an unfair disconnect between supposedly more ‘academic’ pursuits and things like sewing – which often gets relegated to ‘hobby’. But that goes back to that patriarchal hierarchy of what’s considered ‘women’s work’ vs. ‘men’s work’ doesn’t it? Funny that in a conversation about art that is trying to draw attention to this hierarchy, I’m made to feel ‘lesser’ for doing the thing (sewing) without irony or ‘meaning’ behind it… Oh and don’t even get me started on the “But you’re so talented, you could be doing xyz!” conversation!! I might run screaming for the hills if one more person tells me I should try out for Project Runway (which, by the by, sounds like my nightmare!)
    Anyway, I better end this comment before my tortured feminist&sewing rant post just gets transferred to your comments section! I loved reading about your evolution from angsty-artsy teenager to an older-than-average student who knew what she wanted and pursued that. I can relate to your teen and art school years SO well! Haha! And your views on trying to carve out a professional life for yourself that feels intimate and meaningful and overall less stressful than whatever a talented and smart woman SHOULD (wtf?) be wanting for herself, really resonated with me as well. Keep doing your thing, Jen.

  67. KZ says:

    What a really awesome post! I am so glad that you wrote about this. I couldn’t agree with you more on so many parts. (I was born in ’83 and always the crafty kid in school that never really fit in). I, too, went to art school and studied fashion. I couldn’t believe how many people came there just because they loved to shop and thought it would be easy. It was hard to find friends/like minded people who just loved to make and create. I love the feeling when sewing/making that you come away knowing what went into the project, the accomplishment, the challenges, the dedication, etc. Thank you again for a great post!

  68. violicious says:

    This is a great post, thanks for it.
    Outside of the sewing world I encounter puzzled looks as to why I would bother making my own down and dirty day to day wear. I have a brood of small children so special occasion wear is ridiculous and I like sewing. Before I began this life I am living now I wholesaled my pieced to high end boutiques. It’s exhausting and I was selling to folks that did not move in my circles. I love fashion that loves women, that highlights them rather than some weird predetermined cultural shilly shallying. Your patterns are right up my alley. My children are both gender and they sew and do woodworking (by the way, I always highlight how similar the garment construction is). You change the world one tiny increment at a time and sewing is one way. Okay, anyway thanks for this post. I love what you are doing.

  69. Anna says:

    On the topic of sewing, feminism, and patriarchal structures: Fashioning Apollo is such a great book. It’s about how playtex the bra company successfully made all the spacesuits on the Apollo mission. It’s also about how the structure of design and sampling grated against the processes industrial design and engineering. Ie: Soft design versus hard design. It helped me understand sewing within the framework of design and why it can be problematic to talk about. I love how Jen, certain sewing blogs and diyers have taken a final design and formalized and in some cases let others take ownership of the design by promoting and facilitating “hacking” or alteration. I think sewing and knitting are quite unique in that framework Just my two cents.

  70. gingermakes says:

    Really interesting post and really great comments, guys! I think it’s really wise that you allowed your career to take the shape that made the most sense for you. It seems like so many people plod away at what they “should” do, even if it’s totally joyless or not a good fit for them. My plan was to study fine art (at Columbia College Chicago, actually!), but through an odd series of events I took a detour into film and have been there since. I’m trying to get out now, as I feel like I’m on a ladder I don’t want to climb up any further, but so many people think I’m crazy for wanting to jump ship! The world of film is just really, really different from what it seems like when you’re in film school- you want to make movies to draw people together and change lives, but it’s a big business that operates like a big business, so you often find yourself on projects where no one wants to be there and no one, not even the folks getting top billing, cares about the project. I find it totally inspiring that you carved out a path that really works for you and aren’t bowing to any outside pressure about your career.

    I do think it’s lame that there’s a stigma attached to home sewing. And I struggle with feeling like it’s an “unimportant” thing to devote my time to… I should be painting or writing or something more IMPORTANT instead. But I really appreciate the way that sewing is creative, but also practical- it scratches the itch that I have to create, but also helps me feel like I’m breaking the chains of fast fashion in a small way every day.

    • Kara says:

      I have already commented above, but I had to come back and read what everyone else is saying! I totally agree with you about “breaking the chains of fast fashion in a small way” – I feel like creating my own wardrobe perfectly links my need to create with my personal ethics. I know some people think I’m nuts – how can my few handmade shirts make a difference to a global industry?, but I feel good knowing that I can opt out of a business that I disagree with.

  71. linda says:

    Jen, I so admire your work and your choice to do what feels right for you regardless of what others feel is the more popular route. I think I’ve mentioned this to you in an email or comment before about me growing up around sewing when my mom used it to provide income for our family. I think it’s one of those life skills that’s wonderful to learn, regardless of the attention or lack of attention it gets.

    I think your choice to do what you love really echoes to others who feel the same way about their own craft, be it sewing or not. I get asked by my family and friends all the time about whether or not I plan on “going big” with my paper shop…and I tell them, too, that I want to stay small, because at the end of the day, I don’t care to make it big. Staying small and manageable makes me happy, and I think it takes guts for ladies like yourself to tell that to the world. Thanks for sharing!

  72. christinehaynesdotcom says:

    I have so much to say, that I’m basically not going to say anything, except yes, yes, and yes! And I wish I could now go have a drink with you and really talk about all of this! xoxo

  73. arianek says:

    OMG I am SOOOO glad you posted this!

    I just had a similar epiphany a couple weeks ago and tried to talk to a couple people about it but they were kind of nodding and looking confused. The epiphany was tangentially triggered by reading The Artist’s Way – long story short, I realized I just want to feel okay about doing what I love doing, far more than I actually care about becoming a career artist. But then I realized… the way I was thinking about “realistic” careers (like web development) vs. being an artist before, I’d begun to think about art vs. sewing in the same way – all I want to do when I have energy is SEW. And yet, I kept telling myself “I want to be an artist” – and I realized part of the reason was because I was looking down on sewing, as not being a respectable career pursuit. For shame! I love sewing and it is completely respectable! Damned ridiculous conditioned mind.

    There’s a second part to this story, but I can’t post it publicly… Maybe, I’ll email it to you or something. You can keep a secret right? 😉

  74. SaSa says:

    Thank you for this interesting post! I have made two archer shirts which I love and have used the sleeves for an Belladone dress (Deer&Doe). Actually, I am making an Alder dress with Archer sleeves.
    After reading your post, I like making dresses off your patterns even more!
    SaSa

  75. kkegeland says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I live and work in San Francisco as a freelance costumer. I have often been asked why I don’t move to LA and get involved in the movie/TV industry. However, I love the intimacy of what I do and the expressive and experimental art that San Francisco supports. It is so important to feed your soul above your ego.

  76. sunie says:

    Thanks for this great post Jen!

    My own story is a cliched one of a girl from the finance industry wanting very much to, like you did, make patterns and start my own small but cozy and sustainable fashion line. I find immense fulfilment in every moment spent on creating, but so often still the others’ expectations nag at me, and I still doubt myself and my choices so often.

    I myself spent a long time thinking about it – Fashion now to me is both about the final wearable product but also about the journey in discovering the fabrics, making the pattern, the tools that go into it, the pple that contributed, the music i listened to that moment, the tea i drank, i lipstick i was wearing, the emotions i felt etc. And it is my hope eventually to have a line that embodies that.

    In the mean time, I continue trudging along. Your blog plus many other sewing blogs and talents that I just discovered inspire me to carry on:)

  77. Inge says:

    I love this post for so many reasons! I don’t think I can list them all, for some reason I’m really bad at writing a very articulate comment, but you’ve definitely inspired me to write a post of my own about some similar topics, especially wanting something smaller, more intimate, less stressful. I love the journey you had to make to be where you are now, satisfied with and proud of what you do (and able to make a living from it, too). I’m still on my journey, which is a long one. I think it’s great that you did your own thing with hound and also that you stopped when it proved to not be what you wanted. I’ve fallen into the trap of doing too many things I was “supposed to do”, like making certain products and doing wholesale even though I really don’t enjoy it. Money has been instrumental in those decisions as well, but that’s a whole other topic. I’ve also debated with myself whether or not being in the fashion/home accessories business was too shallow, but at the end of the day you have to make up your own mind about it. The idea of it being too shallow comes from society, but you might not agree with it when you think about it. I still have to come to terms with some of those ideas, make up my own mind about some things. As far as the feminism thing goes, for me that’s all about women being able to do what they love, whatever that is. Not pushing women to do “bigger” things when they don’t aspire to it. Well, there you have it, a rambling comment for a rambling post! (Though it wasn’t really a ramble, I was impressed you didn’t proofread!)

  78. ashima says:

    Jen, such a thoughtful post, thank you.

    I’ve always felt that there’s a bias that women’s inclinations and pursuits, particularly those tied to domestic arts, like cooking and sewing, are thought of as requiring less brain power. I was asked to speak to a group of college students in Wisconsin to encourage more women to go into their Computer Science Program and when asked why there were so few women in science and math, one guy offered, women are not into such things. They like interior design and crafts, he said. My response was a surprise, even to me. I told them I grew up with women of makers. My Mom and my aunt made our school uniform. I told them that my Mom recently came upon my grandmother’s crochet blanket that had been damaged and my mom, without even blinking, picked up where the damaged stitches were and repaired an entire section replicating the pattern faithfully from instinct and memory. On the spot, I reflected that many of these domestic arts are deeply rooted in science and math. I told them that making clothes for people required geometry that is quite complex, such as figuring out the shape of an armhole. I told them that knitting has a lot of math progressions, how a knit and a purl is the perfect example of a symmetrical function, a fundamental math axiom, and related that back to how functions in computer modules are similar. When I came to from this on the spot reverie of the wealth of math and science concepts in domestic arts, I saw the glazed look in my audience’s eyes. 🙂

    In the end, I said perhaps if we just tweak the way we think about math and science and include examples that appeal to both boys and girls, we can begin to change the stereotypes of what knowledge and pursuits lends itself to a respectable career.

    I think what you are doing so totally awesome and radical.

    I’m rooting for you.

  79. robinsnc says:

    My childhood experience with sewing is identical to yours but diverges in the high school years. For my freshman year I signed up for a home ec class about sewing clothes. When my dad found out he was livid. My parents made me drop the class for a typing/computers course. I appreciated it because the sewing class wouldn’t have been “cool.” And in hindsight I can see how my (progressive) parents would have been disgusted that I’d take a home ec class, and that computer class is where I first learned to use email in 1998. But I sometimes wonder if my education/career path would have been different if I could have pursued sewing with out the hang ups of not being cool or useful.

  80. Ruth says:

    So glad you decided to go with your gut. Love your patterns. 🙂

  81. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this post! I wish I had time to post a long reply- maybe later- but just know that a lot of what you said about why you make/sew really resonated with me and I deeply appreciate your craft and encouraging others to pursue this drive to make.

  82. Lara says:

    Thank you for writing this, Jen! I think the most substantial thing you can do – is do what you love. I have struggled with some of these same thoughts and doubts. I admire your work to make things that are long lasting and I would LOVE to embark on the journey of assembling a handmade wardrobe. Perhaps this is the year!

  83. Heather says:

    This is a really great post! Thank you for sharing it. I have had some of the same thoughts as you, and I agree with pretty much everything you said. I absolutely love sewing, and I really love that when I see my reflection I see myself in things that I made with my own two hands. I am so happy that I am able to make the basic things that I wear everyday, like jeans and button downs and t-shirts. I take so much pride in making things that I really love to wear. And I really don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
    I am so glad you do what you do, and it makes me happy to know that it’s exactly what you want to be doing. I love love your patterns!

  84. Amy says:

    Aww Jen, I love the backstory. It sounds like you have integrated many of your interests now and what a release it must be. It took me until I was about 35 to be okay with my continuously winding road. It’s all about integrating parts of myself. There were many parts I just didn’t understand or know when I was 20… and at that stage of life I was hungry for mentoring. I didn’t care where it came from, academia, the art world (in my case music), whatever. I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences or even education for the world; even if they are not directly applying to what I’m doing now, they inform it in subtle ways.

    On the whole fashion vs. academic pursuits, or craft vs. fine art pursuit—I can relate to this wholeheartedly. I remember writing post-colonial Lacanian analysis papers on Emily Dickenson, and feeling guilty about my passion for shoes. I don’t anymore because I understand the culture of academia and art school. In an environment that places a high value on intellectual and analytical pursuits, physical and emotional intelligence are often less important and sometimes stigmatic. I love growing my mind but I also need these other intelligences, too. And also none of my other skill or educational experiences—music, literature, writing, etc. satisfied my love of spatial thinking and building, which is exactly what patternmaking does for me. Before I made patterns, I played a lot of chess, haha. Anyway, I’m so glad the handmade movement has become a global phenomenon, because it is really changing the face of craftworking itself, be it sewing or espresso pouring or woodwork, as a “calling” in its own right.

  85. Jane says:

    I wish that there had been a blogging/sewing community when I had completed a pattern making course over 15 years ago. At that time there was very little on offer for the home sewists- just the usual suspects from your local fabric store. I made a lot of patterns for myself and ended up working for a small clothing company for many years but became disheartened by the fastness of fashion and couldn’t find a good fit career wise that suited how I was viewing the world in a more sustainable way. I retrained as an ecologist and while I still sew for myself and my children and love what I do career wise, I would have loved to take a different path had it been the right time/right place.

  86. Lilly says:

    Wow. Great post. So much to say, but I will try to keep it short. You and I have similar stories and education paths (and it seems like many of the commenters do as well, so interesting). I have a BFA in photography and ended up with a corporate job working for a large fashion retailer doing e-commerce photography (high volume product photography for the web). I have been there for almost 10 years and was so excited when I first got there, but it has changed so much over the years, into something I’m not sure I love anymore. The fashion retailer I work for, is not fast fashion per se, but have always been conflicted about working for such a big business and some of the implications of that. I share your feelings about fashion (being interested in clothes and their history and construction, but not loving the shopping aspect of it) and think I would also enjoy doing something on a smaller scale. I have always loved sewing, made stuff in home ec and bought my first sewing machine for myself when I was 18. Nowadays, it’s my corporate job that allows me the time and money to sew as a hobby, but as I become less interested with my day job it’s fun to fantasize about what else could be. The dilemma for me arises when I start thinking about turning my passion for sewing into some sort of other career. Anyway, it’s inspiring to hear that you figured it out and really has me thinking! I will be at your event in Seattle on the 29th, so maybe we can chat more then!

  87. This post really resonated with me that I made my boyfriend listen to me read it aloud to him. We are both makers and he also agreed with the sentiments in your post. I, like you, am an art school graduate with a photo major and theory minor. (I also have worn glasses since I was eight). I grew up in the thick of the garment manufacturing industry. My mother was (still is) running a smallish apparel factory in Indonesia and she was always so busy! I loved drawing dresses and often designed my own halloween costumes and special occasion dresses. Throughout my schooling I often thought about designing and sewing but seemed to go in other directions. After finishing my photo degree I worked in a gallery for a number of years before deciding to give up my day job and work as a full time artist.

    I, like you, have returned to sewing, but in a rather different way. I have taken up sewing and making soft sculpture as part of my arts practice. I sew my own clothing for my own satisfaction and daily wear, but have also incorporated this into arts projects and exhibitions. I recently exhibited a project that was triggered by a memoir written by my great, great, great Aunt who happened to march with the suffragettes in London c.1910. I have become increasingly interested in contemporary contexts for feminism and ‘women’s work’. In fact this is a topic I have spent the last few weeks deeply thinking about (on my bedside table I have a book on Louise Bourgeois and a book on the Bauhaus textiles designers).

    Unlike what Sallie seems to have experienced (in an above comment), I don’t feel belittled by other artists and arts workers about my sewing pursuits. As fellow makers, there is a mutual understanding about the satisfaction of sewing ones own clothes, making things with our own hands, and even growing our own food -which I also happen to be doing (gardening and sewing both are areas which I have only been exploring within the last 12 months or so). I sometimes make things for no reason at all other than the desire to make, and other times I feel thoroughly immersed in the critical thinking around ‘women’s work’, the slow movement, sensual experience, and performance.

    Interestingly, throughout the comments I have read above, there seems to be a feeling of conflict between ‘serious art’ and home sewing. Perhaps the art school experience has disenchanted people which I can relate to. For me making things for the gallery and making things for my own body are not two separate categories and both serve the same purpose mentally, emotionally, sensually. I bring my ‘home sewing’ into the gallery context and don’t separate my hobby from my profession if I don’t want to. Being your own boss, following your passion, empowering yourself, standing up for what you believe in: these are feminist acts.

    P.S. One of my favourite films is Jane Campion’s ‘Bright Star’, a biopic of John Keats or rather his love interest, Fanny Brawne. She sews and loves it.

  88. elsie says:

    i just want to say a big big THANK YOU. your post relates to me in so many ways. I’ve always liked sewing since young. but I do live in an Asian country (Singapore) where not many people sews. in fact, I dun think any of my friends know how to operate a sewing machine. it was only when I came across blogs like yours when I think I might be quite normal after all. 🙂

    your sewing patterns have given me lots of confidence when it comes to sewing my own clothes. I have no education in sewing and have no knowledge about making adjustments to sewing patterns. it often frustrates me to no end when what I visualise comes out totally different and un-wearable. your sewing patterns and posts on sew-alongs have taught me so so much. I’ve made your scout tee and archer so far. since I live far away, my only access to sewing patterns very much relies on PDF.

    really thank you so very very much. for providing wonderful sewing patterns. for making sure people who sew (like me) are able to get your patterns even when they like far far away.

  89. Jen, you rock so much (as does this post). My progression as a sewer is similar to your own experience (learned from mom, loved making things, worried that it wasn’t cool, etc). But I just wanted to add that YOUR pattern line has been such an instrumental part to my development as a sewer! I’ve always loved sewing, but was so frustrated that the available patterns didn’t reflect my own style aesthetic at all (and I lacked the skill to design my own clothes). The stuff you put out (really, all of it!) is EXACTLY what I want to wear, and has been such a positive experience in making things that I love and will wear for a long time. Thank you!

  90. I really identify with your story. I always loved making things but felt that I needed to study something intellectual. I actually earned a degree in math before deciding that I should back to art school, where I studied graphic design. It was really tough to realize that it was ok to pursue something so frivolous. Throughout it all, I’ve always been sewing. I love being able to make my own clothes just the way I want them. Yet, I rarely talk about it with friends (I just think it would bore them!) which is why I really love being able to share my love of sewing with this amazing online community.

  91. As a designer and maker I always felt empowered by sewing my own clothes and knew that it was the one thing I could work on that it didn’t matter what guy was being a jerk etc. I always feel good vibes when productive and it has always been an outlet for me.
    In the industry I have worked for some mass market retailers and thats when I think about consumerism and waste but the clothes I make for myself I wear for a very long time and when it no longer fits I give it to a friend.
    xo

  92. Wow. A lot of common themes posted here. I spent 3 years writing a blog called “Finding Soul Balance” in order to realize that art and fashion can actually help people and contribute something substantial to society. I just started my clothing line a few months ago and struggle with the idea of “going bigger” – is that something I want or something society is telling me to do? I really want to “go different” – and I’m trying to figure out what that is.

    – Meredith
    http://www.meredithmhoward.com

  93. Sara Berkes says:

    Late to the party, as per usual (as you know from my SUPER late email response I’m behind on everything, including the blog roll) but I’m so glad I finally got the chance to sit down and read this post! Aside from everything to do with sewing, I actually completely related to this in the business sense. This line: ” I found myself wondering if I would end up wasting my life on this super shallow pursuit. Would I regret not doing something more ‘academic’ instead?”—really resonated with me. But even more than that, this wanting something smaller, something where you can actually connect with the people who are buying your products (or in my case, services), and how weird, and sometimes even lesser, that makes you in the eyes of others in your more general industry—I totally get that. Anyway, this is mostly just a ramble to say “I feel ya girl!” but I just have to say, I really can’t wait to meet you at Camp Workroom Social! I think that despite our different experiences of the 90’s (mine was more Sesame Street and fleece outfits my mom made me) we are truly kindred spirits.

  94. “Even though I make a living doing exactly what I went to school to do, exactly what I want to do, the fact that I design home sewing patterns is so boring and lame, they just can’t understand why I didn’t try for something more.” It makes me so sad to read this. I mean in this day and age (with high post-grad unemployment and the insane cost of college/grad school), how many people are lucky enough to say that they make a living doing exactly what they went to school to do/exactly what they want to do? So great to read your story and to hear that you found your way, even if you took a few detours along the way. As for sewing being women’s work and all that, I know what you mean. I’ve always loved making things (knitting, sewing, baking, etc.) but work in a very male dominated profession and so I find myself really only divulging this part of my life to people outside of work. I’ve gotten better about compartmentalizing over the years but find that I’m a very different person outside of work than at work.

  95. Trish says:

    Jen,

    I know this is a very late comment but I wanted to say thank you for writing this post! It really resonated with me and I can relate to so much of what you have experienced. I have personally struggled to find the right career path, having originally wanted to be a fashion designer. After doing some internships I realized that I didn’t necessarily want to be a part of the fashion world and fast fashion especially. I stopped sewing for a few years while I pursued a liberal arts degree that I did not find fulfilling at all and was extremely confused about what I should do.
    At this point I discovered indie pattern companies and fell in love with sewing again. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in it and now I see that there are other possibilities, like designing for a sewing pattern company! Whatever I end up doing I know it will be on a smaller scale which I agree with you a lot of people don’t understand, and I have a difficult time explaining it.

    That being said I decided to go to school for fashion design, this coming fall, with the knowledge that I don’t necessarily need to pursue a career in haute-couture or a large scale RTW fashion line. I can use the skills to do what I want to do, even if the end result is not widely considered “impressive.”

    Anyway, just wanted to say that you’re an inspiration and I think designing home sewing patterns is anything but lame! I hope that I am as lucky to have such a cool and fulfilling job as you!

    -Trish

  96. Kath says:

    Great read! My aunt was a dressmaker in her spare time. I from a early age I got this feeling from her that it could never be a real job so I never followed that dream. But now 30yrs on I think what a wasted life, not doing what I truely wanted. I’d love to have my own wee business that just ticks along pays the bills and doesn’t take over my world. It’s all about the balance. No stressing and enjoys everyday but feeling like you’ve achieved something. I sew because nothing fits me I’m 6ft but 100kg geez don’t tell anyone:) and I have always like the idea that no one has the same outfit on as me. I would love to have a full me made wardrobe. Sewing consumes my mind. To many ideas not enough time to sew it.

  97. Isis says:

    great read, thanks x

  98. Beth says:

    Love this post.

  99. PsychicKathleen says:

    Love this post too! I think when I started sewing at 17years (44 years ago) I was also defining myself as a feminist (1973) and in those days the conflict between the 2 was more acute. That was “women’s work” and if I were a “true” feminist I would reject sewing out of hand because of that. But I always loved sewing. I couldn’t rationlize that for anyone, I just loved it. In this post you’ve put a voice to that tug of war yet have also stated clearly why they are certainly not at all disparate! I love to wear what I make and not for anyone else’s benefit but for my own. I love the challenge, creativity and excitement of choice, imagination and manifestation. Now I realize it’s even more important because I know how hard it is to make my own clothes! I don’t want to support slavery on any level nor do I want so many material things that I have to keep moving into bigger spaces to accommodate them! Thank you for sharing your story. I loved reading it!

  100. nellie says:

    I just discovered this post in your annual roundup and have to thank you for sharing and capturing all of the emotions of making so beautifully! I am jealous of your students and wish I could learn from you. Bravo for going back to school for fashion. I have long dreamed of doing that… but have never considered it seriously with so many grownup responsibilities on my plate. You are an inspiration.

  101. Wendy says:

    This was a fantastic blog post and I can relate to everything you said. I was a double major, psychology and women’s studies and spent a lot of time analyzing the academic value of needle arts through history. (hello math and engineering…isn’t that what sewing really is when you break it down).

    Occassionally I judge myself against other women with stronger types of careers but then I remember that to feel shame in what I genuinely love to do, (and what I think I am pretty darn good at) would be like saying what is feminine is somehow inherently inferior to what is masculine…and goodness wouldn’t that be a lie! I just turned 41 and I now I proudly say I make butterfly costumes and unicorns. I can tell most people kind of roll their eyes – but when I wake up in the morning and head down to my studio and get to work I have respect for myself. That’s enough. I feel much better about that than when I had my “real” career and my life was all about faking it until I made it all day….and staying up all night sewing. 🙂

  102. Elizabeth says:

    Yes! I completely understand and relate to your post. Isn’t it strange this internalization of the idea that sewing, and making or designing clothing isn’t feminist? Designing or making other things is OK though? Who decided that? I think being feminist actually has very little to do with one’s vocation or profession. To me it’s more about understanding that women and men are equals in society, no matter what they do to earn a living.

  103. Shanna says:

    Thank you for your blog and all the wonderful comments. I just recently started sewing following in my mothers footsteps. I love everything about the mental process and the physical result. I have my degree in art but have worked for 25 years in a traditionally male profession. The challenges in creating clothing are every bit as challenging as any engineering feat. Thank you for creating the patterns that allow me to learn the art of creating clothes.

  104. Ellen says:

    As an art school ex-pat (I have an MFA in painting) I loved reading this, as it articulated many of the things I find pleasurable about making my own clothes. I think there’s much more to be said about the value of craft, and about the intersection between art and craft.

    I also think, as I reflect on 2016 and the great feminist resurgence that hopefully is just getting started, that part of the appeal of sewing for me right now is being able to play with the line between gender, authority, and attractiveness on my own terms. As a 50ish woman working in tech, I am a definite minority, and I appreciate having the skills to craft an image that’s all about what I like, regardless of what anyone else expects “someone like me” to project. Very empowering.

    Plus, I love your patterns!

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