Progress Report

24 Mar

It’s been about three months since I decided I wouldn’t buy any clothing retail, and that when I wanted something to wear, I would make it myself. So, “How’s it going?”

Oddly enough, I have a lot more clothes.  More, perhaps, than had I been shopping for them. Rather than feel limited in my options, as you can see, I’ve been making a lot. One of the good features of being in this mindset, I’ve found, is that it’s given me an incentive to finish projects I started long ago. I’m finding that many of my earlier craft intentions are still interesting to me now, so I might as well finish it. I love this side effect, it’s been a delight to rediscover creative projects long left buried or passed over for other distractions.

The other big change is a newfound immunity to retail stores and websites. Years ago, I cut out sugar and white flour from my diet for a time, and I remember the most remarkable thing during that period was that I would be on a street lined with restaurants and bakeries, and I would think, “but they have no food!” What I meant was that they had no food that I could eat, on that particular diet, but it was peculiar feeling, of being immune to all the options that surrounded me.

I feel that way now with my former shopping temptations. I haven’t set foot in a retail boutique in months, I’ve unsubscribed from endless email marketing newsletters, and recently I pondered a storefront with a little odd detachment, like “what are these places filled with endless copies of the exact same garment done over and over again?”

The third effect I have noticed during this time is a renewed creative focus. I had forgotten how soothing I find the “making” process, how engrossed in the process I become, and how happy it feels, to be fully in that state of creative “flow”. I  can be working on something small and simple, meaningless–but it’s still immensely satisfying. I find it very calming and restorative, and I realize I’m using this project very much as an excuse to prioritize this hobby, for now, and take time out just to be by myself in this comfortable state.

And that is why I’m ending up with all these brand new clothes!

I also feel I should confess here that I have purchased one wearable item, a hand-made and hand-dyed scarf, which I bought directly from the maker. I was inspired to support the craft of other creative designers and workers, as well, and hers is a craft I have yet to attempt, let alone master, so I thought for that reason I would make an exception.

Although, unlike my inspiration, Natalie Purschwitz, I am continuing to wear my ready-made clothes right along with my handmade clothes, these days I find I wear something self-made nearly every day. The the head-to-toe handmade outfits happen more and more frequently without intention. But even more days are about 2/3 handmade–if I spent a week or two focusing on little tops and tees for layering, I could likely remedy that in short order, one of these days.

Someone asked me recently “So are you going to do it all year long?” and I found myself replying, quite before I had time to think about it, “at this rate, I may never buy retail clothing again.”  We’ll see!

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12 Responses to “Progress Report”

  1. Funnygrrl March 24, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    It is really admirable that you’ve done this challenge. I think you could append your commitment to allow you to buy other handmade items that you don’t make. Yet. 🙂
    I am more of a shopping binger. I won’t go in a retail store for months but on vacation I buy a lot. Then I tend to buy things I don’t really need.
    I am going to visit this commitment for myself. Your thoughts were inspiring. Thanks.

    • handmadejulie March 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

      You’re welcome! I guess, for me, focusing on each item makes it more “special”, so the satisfaction is greater than for purchased goods.

  2. roobeedoo March 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    I made the same pledge at about the same time as you and my downfall was a scarf too! But mine wasn’t handmade, even though it was “ethical”, so you win! I also realised I don’t really like having “multiples” of the same garment, as even handmade they seem less special. Lucky there are so many different patterns to try out!

    • handmadejulie March 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

      Whoo! And it looks like you’ve been super-busy making stuff, as well! Nice job. Onward we go.

  3. StephC March 25, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Fantastic post, Julie! That’s exactly how I feel about making my own clothes. It’s really freeing isn’t it?

    Sometimes when I quizzically peer into a store window, I also ask myself- “Where’s the other half to those poor dresses??” because they’re so. freaking. short. Like a dress cut in half.

  4. ataylorsews March 25, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    I’m with you 100%. I have had the same realizations you mentioned here. My goal also is to get my wardrobe to 100% handmade by me. Skirts and pants are easier to make so I have more of those and need to make more tops too. It was very comforting to note that my best clothes — quality, fit and durability — are all made by me! I’d love for my entire wardrobe to be like that. I can’t afford the retail clothes as nice as I can make, so I too will keep making my own clothes and throw out all the retail. You are an inspiration, Julie!

    • handmadejulie March 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

      That is a really good point: I can’t afford retail clothes as nice as I can make. The details make all the difference: fit, fabric, and unique “extras”. Thanks for commenting!

  5. On the Lettuce Edge March 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    thanks for sharing this, I have been sewing too (but blogging about other things mostly). But I feel like sewing has a powerful effect, it is a lot more creative than I expected and so empowering to make things. I am a beginner. Good job on your blog, I like reading it!

  6. PendleStitches March 29, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Very inspiring. I’m hoping to move more and more towards handmade clothes as I don’t enjoy clothes shopping and am increasingly concerned about the ethical issues. I look forward to seeing where this journey takes you.

  7. Angela April 12, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    I found your post really inspirational. I have had the same experience you describe with food myself because I found I could not really tolerate wheat if I wanted to feel well. I expected to feel deprived, but often felt liberated from the ocean of choices which normally confronted me. That really surprised me! I was not really thinking about how handmade things might play to that same sense of liberation, but it really makes sense to me. I have friends who ask me why I would bother to make clothing when it can be bought so cheaply, and I’m always at a loss to explain it, other than to say I enjoy the creative process. That usually makes no sense to them, since it’s not something that they see as art. But your post made me realize that there are other things I like about it, too. There is something satisfying about pulling a handmade dishrag out of my drawer to do dishes, and I never have that disappointed feeling that spending money on something less than perfect can sometimes give me. And it is liberating not to be caught in the feeling of craving all the consumer stuff that is always being pitched at us. I get that calm, restorative feeling that you talk about in your post instead of suffering the anxiety (and often post-purchase regret) that shopping always creates for me. I just wanted to thank you for reminding me of those things!

    • handmadejulie April 13, 2012 at 7:06 am #

      You’ve put it very well. I hadn’t thought of the role of “anxiety”. I guess that consumer anxiety isn’t something we talk about very much…or even admit to. But it’s not surprising, with so much corporate pressure everywhere we look, pressure to buy, pressure to believe that whatever we have is inadequate, and we must buy more…it almost makes any form of of self-sufficiency into a subversive act. Whether cooking or home improvement or sewing, doing it yourself takes the process (and the profits) out of a cycle of marketing and manufacturing that’s become the constant pervasive backdrop to our entire culture. Swinging the focus from “getting” to “making”, from “acquiring” to “doing”, does enact a bigger mental shift than I’d expected, for sure.

      Thanks for commenting!

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