Making your own DIY clothes might feel like a process that’s more work than it’s worth — especially if you’re not already proficient at sewing. But step back for a minute and think about how good you’d feel if you could wear around a water color you made in art class. If you can become good at reading patterns and sewing, you can make your own clothes in the time it takes most artists to make a painting. Plus, it could lead you on to bigger and better things than that. Read on to find out how.
DIY Clothes: A Success Story
I’ll be honest, I don’t have much of a knack for this, but my sister is an excellent seamstress (her word choice, not mine). Her name is Kristen, and she’s been sewing since she was a little girl. She started with buttons. She would put buttons on pillows, on hats, pretty much on everything. Later, she got into cross-stitch, which isn’t as practical, but it’s simple and artistic. Some cross-stitch patterns get really complex, too, so it was challenging for her. Then she got a sewing machine when she was a teenager. This unlocked a lot for her, believe it or not.
After she got the sewing machine, it hardly ever left her side. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I do remember having to take it on the plane once to bring to her at college. She used it all the time. First to make curtains. For everyone. Then she got into quilting, which is a whole other artistic medium. At this point, she was good at sewing straight lines and began to be better at curving her stitches. She started altering clothes that were already made. Before long, she was making her own clothes, starting with dresses and shirts, and then getting into more complex designs. At the same time, she started hand embroidering, which can be hard on your mits, but is really artistic.
But that’s not the end of the story. Later in college, she got an awesome job as the head costume maker in the theater department. (She went to Colby College in Maine.) It paid great and she got to do something she loved. She got really good at making DIY clothes. She started working in stretchy fabrics, which are the toughest. At this point, sewing, embroidery, DIY clothes — none of this was really a career choice. Her plan was to be a lawyer.
When she graduated, she took a job as a legal assistant at a real estate law firm here in Boston. She was applying for jobs at more prestigious firms, but the job market was tough. The recession hit the market for aspiring lawyers hard. Then she got a job at a local patent firm. A big one. A really good one. And why did they hire her? Well she had listed her job as a costume maker on her resume — from back in college. The lawyers at the patent firm knew that if she could make complex clothing from patterns, she could turn complex new devices into blueprinted patterns. Her core job at the patent firm quickly became creating the “patterns” for these new technologies by looking at the designs the inventors created and reading their notes.
Today, she’s a first-year student at one of the best patent law schools in the country, Santa Clara University Law School. She’s following her dreams all because of her hobby making DIY clothes.
Getting Good at Making DIY Clothes: A Breakdown
Now that we’ve got a little inspiration, let’s break down this story into the steps she followed to become good at making DIY clothes and see what we can learn:
1) Start Small
Kristen started sewing by hand, with something she could get really good at really quickly: buttons. By not setting her sights too high, she gave herself a goal that was attainable but challenging.
2) Ease into It
For her, the next step was cross-stitch. The cloth used for that ensures every stitch is evenly spaced, and this improved Kristen’s dexterity with a needle.
3) Move to a Sewing Machine When You’re Ready
My sister didn’t get a sewing machine until she was older for a reason. Sewing machines can be dangerous! Even then, she stitched her hands to the cloth on more than one occasion.
4) Start Slow with the Machine
For Kristen, starting with curtains and long straight lines made sense with the sewing machine. When she got into quilting, she had someone better than her help put all those squares together evenly. It takes hours on the sewing machine to get good.
5) Move into Clothing by Altering Things First
By taking a too-big shirt and tailoring it to fit her, she learned how to sew the lines on the side of a dress shirt. Altering clothes first, and understanding how the pros put them together, she learned how to make her own.
6) Graduate to Making DIY Clothes from Scratch
Kristen made some clothes that were terrible at first, but luckily plain cloth isn’t too expensive. Eventually she graduated to making DIY clothes from scratch. But it wasn’t without hard work. For her, at least, that hard work paid off BIG!
How did you get into making DIY clothes? Are you ramping up to it? What tips do you have for newbies? Share your tips below!