These days, if you can imagine an item, someone somewhere is probably selling it online… so why do we DIY-hard makers and crafters opt to create our own? The exact list of reasons varies from maker to maker, but here’s a few of my own personal motivations for making a mess in my creative studio:
I want to discover how things work
I’m generally a curious person, and I’ve rarely met a rabbit-hole I couldn’t trip and fall down when my interest in a topic is piqued. If I need or want The Thing, why not sneak in a little bonus hands-on learning while I’m at it?
I’m a bit of a control freak
The closer I can get to “from scratch”, the more I can control elements of a item’s journey that are otherwise often mysterious or sketchy when they come to me as a finished product. For example, when I cook meals from whole (or better yet, homegrown) ingredients, I can be confident that I know everything that goes into them and how it was prepared; when I make my own clothes, I’m less beholden to other people’s choices about labour conditions and supply chains.
I need something really specific
It can be tough to just grab something off the shelf when you’ve got a relatively niche need, like a body type or size that’s mostly ignored by your local mall, or inconvenient food intolerances, or tearing away your pants dramatically at exactly the right beat of the music.
A creative outlet improves my mental health
A glue gun certainly doesn’t cure chronic depression or anxiety, but oh damn do I ever notice it getting worse whenever I’m stuck going any length of time without making things. An engaging hands-on project provides my brain with something creative to obsess over, rather than a never-ending catalogue of ways that I suck.
I like the idea of being (relatively) self-sufficient
I like to joke that I want to be able to throw a post-apocalyptic wine and cheese party. I mean, sure, I’m not exactly equipped for total self-sufficiency in the event of the zombie uprising, but it’s nice to know that I have some basic taking-care-of-Maslow’s-hierarchy skills.
OK, this one… do recall, I said “motivation”, not “realistic outcome”. I grew up without a lot of financial resources, so doing it myself with whatever I had access to was often the clearest path to getting something I wanted (go-go boots) or needed (dinner). Sometimes this approach really does work out, especially when:
- I can use up or recycle materials that I already have on hand;
- I already have access to any tools and equipment I need; and/or,
- my time is more plentiful than my income.
On the other hand, sometimes I end up buying multiple power tools to build a “free” table out of salvaged wood. So… y’know.
There’s also the matter of what my point of reference is: if I just need a bra, any bra, to cover my nipples so that Instagram doesn’t ban me, I can almost certainly pick up something from a fast-fashion emporium for less than the cost of materials to make my own; on the other hand, if I’m comparing my hand-made, custom fit, one-of-a-kind upcycled silk lingerie to similarly “artisan” products, I’m probably coming out ahead. And that’s not even counting…
The satisfaction of knowing “I made this”.
Welcome, welcome, WELCOME, my fabulous friends! I’m busy here behind the scenes perfecting my first pattern for the shop, and I’m so excited to share it with you when it’s finally ready. In the meantime, I would love to introduce myself and my goals for this little corner of the sewing universe.
I’ve been a performer for as long as I can remember, from childhood musical theatre to TV in my teens, through circus, bellydance, drag, burlesque and more as an adult. The other equally continuous passion of my life has been designing and making creative fashions to wear, both for performance and for daily life – though, with my weakness for bright colours and sequins, it’s sometimes easy to mistake my streetwear for circus costuming.
After years of self-taught sewing and draping for one-off garments, I studied fashion design for mass-market production, where I learned how to draft precise, reliable flat patterns, and how to construct garments with efficient industrial methods. However, I was never interested in becoming a mass-market designer; my heart still belonged to unique designs created for an individual character, rather than an abstract target market.
In the following decade, I tried my hand at many roles: designing a one-of-a-kind upcycled clothing line, creating bespoke dance and circus costumes, drafting patterns for a small local line… I even took a break and had a brief career at a tech startup. The trouble is, making only one of something, having to reinvent it each time, is not efficient… or cheap. I dreamed of helping people wear unique, custom clothing and costumes, but it seemed like I’d only be able to charge a tiny fraction of my real labour costs to keep my prices in a range that my fellow performers could realistically afford.
Then recently, after leaving my tech job, I began to revisit sewing as a leisure activity, rather than a means to an end. I began sewing lingerie and jeans, drafting patterns because it’s interesting (I’m a nerd), slowing down to learn new things and taking joy in the techniques that are “too inefficient” for profitable production. I rediscovered the wonderful online community of home sewists (which has grown so much since I last looked!) and devoured entire blogs and YouTube channels at a time.
But still, it took me a while to realize that DIY is the link I’d been missing all this time: rather than creating a thousand identical garments from one pattern, I can provide the tools and guidance for an unlimited number of sewists to create infinite customized variations to suit their own unique purpose.
Since I’m an entertainer, I specifically want to focus on the types of pieces I reach for again and again when assembling a great costume. Burlesque, especially, relies on its costumes to be not just beautiful but also functional: to respond to the performer in specific technical ways that can make or break an act; this means that off-the-rack clothing usually won’t do the trick (literally) without heavy alterations. Making custom costumes means you can build this functionality in from the start, so each of my patterns will have tips for both onstage and offstage adaptations.
If you’re new to sewing, I want to teach you. If you’re experienced, I want to empower and challenge you. Performers and audience members alike, I want to inspire you to look at what you put on (and maybe take off!) your body in a whole new way.
Like I said: I’m excited. I hope you are, too!