Sewing machine was my most ecological purchase last year

It’s not that I was discouraged as a kid, but there are three things I learnt already early in my life I couldn’t do:

1. Singing: haven’t sung since the 3rd grade after choking at a school’s singing exam

2. Becoming a journalist: I was told I was “too shy” to be one

3. Sewing: didn’t touch a sewing machine for over 15 years, here’s why…

 

…I can still so clearly remember those painfully embarrassing home economic classes at ground school, where the teacher was sitting behind me yet once again to show how to thread that damned sewing machine while all the other kids were giggling and being finished with their tasks way before me. I was always two tasks behind the others and the teacher was spending a lot of time guiding and repeteadly showing me the basics over and over again. I just did not learn. After every class I remember holding back tears and swearing I would never sew again after being done with all the mandatory classes at school. I kept my promise: it took almost two decades to touch a sewing machine again.

There’s nothing you cannot do

It was before christmas last year, when I went to Finland to visit my mother. We had a whole day just for the two of us and decided to go shopping. I found a fabric I wanted to have for our new apartment as couch pillows, and spontaneously decided to try to make them myself. We headed home and my mom seated me in front of a sewing machine. “We meet again”, I thought to myself, as I was facing my nemesis after a long time. As my mom showed me the basic settings of the sewing machine, I couldn’t help but wonder: was it really THIS EASY?? That afternoon I was sewing for four hours and got myself some new pillow covers with zipper-closing and shortened a pair of pants.

Realizing in retro-perspective, it had nothing to do with the fact that I wasn’t able to, or didn’t have the needed skills. As a child I was just unmotivated and uninterested in learning, because I felt like I was bad at it and didn’t stand a chance. So I threw in the towel and refused to find any joy in it whatsoever.

Now I was excited and was already collecting a list in my head, how I was going to shorten my jeans, turn a too short dress into a top, sew kitchen curtains all by myself… It was like a whole new world, but most importantly it proved, that you can do anything if you have the right mindset and patience to practise. The day after I arrived home from Finland, I ordered myself a sewing machine. It’s yellow, the color of joy.

Sewing instead of buying new

I have been having this pile of clothes in my wardrobe, which I wasn’t sure what I should do with. It’s fits all the possible miscellaneous categories from “too nice to throw to donation”, “wrong size but waiting for it to fit”, “broken but still fixable”, to “these pants would look cool if I cut them into shorts”, and the list goes on. I guess I’m not the only one with a bag filled with clothes like that tucked on the back of the wardrobe to wait for their moment. After buying the sewing machine I pulled that bag of clothes out and all of a sudden saw them full of opportunities and second chances.

You can nowadays get clothes so cheap, that you’ll always have the chance to buy new ones – even if you didn’t need it. It’s also easy to see giving clothes to charity or selling them to someone as a kind of a free-pass to buy new ones; as long as you don’t see it in your trash can, getting rid of them is concidered guilt-free and you have a freedom to buy more. As much as all of this is better than tossing away, it doesn’t really change the fact that we continuisly bring new clothes into this rotation, and falsely see them as something recyclable.

There are so many bags of clothes I’ve carried to one of those yellow containers, because:

A. I bought something in a rush or spontaneously, which I didn’t like that much

B. I bought something of bad quality, which didn’t look good after washing it twice

C. I bought something for my imaginary self

D. I bought something that I don’t have a use for

Unfortunately I’m not the only idiot, who’s been doing this, which is why the consumption of clothes is what it is today and why places like Primark are crowded of people.

With my new sewing machine, my yellow hammer of Thor, I aim to value my wardrobe more. I want to take a good look at the things, that I’m not using, and give them a new life. I want my clothes to fit, so I will feel better in them. I want to learn how to manage with what I’ve got, and not be unsatisfied with it. Therefore I challenge myself not buy new clothes; I’ve done my part in this crazy consumption, and fell for thinking “things” make me prettier and allow me to express myself.

Further possibilities

Last year I have been thinking a lot about, how to change my consumption into a more responsible direction. The sewing machine has been an element to take it one step further. By making it yourself, you know where it has been produced and by whom and you can do it exactly for your own needs and wishes – meaning it will be a long time favourite. I think eventually a clothing not to end up in a trash or a donation pile needs to be durable, fitting, something you enjoy wearing and plan to get a lot of use out of.

After getting a bit better in this new skill I’m learning, I want to…

💡 go through a second hand shop with whole new eyes and spotting items that could be amazing after some modifications

💡 try to make a piece of clothing from a scratch. There’s a finnish clothing pattern label “Named”, where I’ve already spotted a few great patterns I want to try out. They also rate the patterns from their level of difficulty – meaning I can start with an easy one to stay motivated!

💡 figure out how to do responsible choices when buying fabrics: which materials are the most durable, which have been produced in a sustainable way, where can you find recycled fabrics…

 

So excited to see how this will affect my habits and values!

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