I do quite a bit of sewing. I didn’t do sewing at school, because I was determined to do what the boys were doing (metalwork, woodwork, technical drawing). That was a big mistake. Being the only girl in a massively bogan school doing manual arts? A recipe for sexual harassment, bullying, and frustration. I was pretty good at technical drawing, and I still refer to the principles, but manual arts was a complete waste of time. I regretted not learning to sew, but then perhaps not learning to sew then was what motivated me to learn when I was about 22.
I did a TAFE course. Goddess bless TAFE. More people attend TAFE in Australia than university, and the courses are far more useful. That eight week course taught me how to sew. I was addicted. I’ve been sewing ever since, I’m on my second sewing machine, I own an overlocker, and I have a nasty (deliciously nasty) fabric habit. And I really need to do a course in fitting and altering patterns, so that I can finally – after sixteen years – make clothes that fit me properly.
I’m putting it off. But I shouldn’t.
I think being able to sew well is a lot like being able to dance well – you have to spend a lot of time doing it. You’ve got to make millions of skirts and trousers and shirts. Over and over. You’ve got to push yourself and make things like jackets and hats. You’ve got to know where to find fabric, and you’ve got to be prepared to try new things.
I love sewing. When I started, it was because clothes in the shops were rubbish. I was a hardcore second hand shopper, and I was always looking for something unusual. I had a shaved head and liked little floral dresses to wear with my cherry 8-hole Docs. Yes, I know. But in the early 90s, when I was first at uni, mainstream fashion was very, very ordinary.
I’m still sewing now. It used to be cheaper to make my own clothes instead of buying them, but these days with sweat shops and the increasing scarcity of decent fabric and notions (buttons, zips, etc), buying clothes is far cheaper. You can buy a reasonable pair of jeans for $15 at Kmart these days. It’d cost far, far more to make them myself, and they’d never fit as well. But I keep sewing, because I’d rather be the one sweating over those bullshit seams than a child in a warehouse working her fingers to the bone.
I would, though, really like to be able to make clothes that fit me well. So this year I’m thinking about another TAFE course. Well, if TAFE is still running the sort of course I need, with enough places for us all. There’ve been some pretty dire changes in Australian public education over the years, and the TAFEs have been gutted. That makes me furious. Just like sewing lightweight rayon with a blunt needle. That enrages me too.