Every year I teach my ‘Sew Fun’ classes at International schools here in Hong Kong. I’ve been doing this for nearly three years and as I prepare for another year, I have been thinking about the classes and what I really want my students to learn, besides sewing.
I remember when I first discovered that I could sew my own clothes. In the small coastal town where I grew up there wasn’t a whole lot of fashionable choice, and I loved fashion! I had a knack for making things, so once my Mum started teaching me on her old Singer I was hooked. I would beg to be taken to the local fabric store where I would unleash myself upon the cheap cottons and scratchy polyesters.
How exciting to have a project, something I could make and wear and show off! I poured over fashion magazines and madly sketched ideas for my burgeoning fabric stash. It was better than anything I’d come across in my sheltered life, and to this day continues to excite me.
That’s the spark I want to ignite in my students, the idea that they can create something with their own hands. And now more than ever, how important that is. In today’s fast fashion world, brands such as H & M, Zara, and Forever 21 ain’t exactly churning out original or high quality designs. When I take my daughters shopping I point out the inferior fabrics and substandard sewing. (Yes, I’m a very painful mother to go shopping with!)
In her book ‘Overdressed – the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion’ Elizabeth L. Cline talks about how quality and craftsmanship are hard to achieve for the big brands with their tight lead times. Fit and quality control are not priorities in the deadline driven cycle of getting items into store. I know I’ve tried on many sale items in these stores where the fit was so bad the clothes were clearly destined for landfill.
How refreshing to be able to decide what you want to wear, to be self sufficient and unique. How cool to recycle, mend, alter and wear vintage. I found this picture yesterday on the 1 Million Women Facebook page called the Buyerarchy of needs. I love it.
In the worlds of tweendom and teendom, girls particularly can feel pressured to conform from a young age. But it only takes one or two, and I see them in my classes, girls who have the courage and the creative spirit to make their own bold or quiet quirky statements. Fashion is a means of creative expression and sewing helps you to achieve that.
And that is what I hope my students take away with them, besides the skill of sewing.