Suddenly, everyone wants to learn to sew, and my sewing machine is no longer an oddity, but an object of lust. Sewing your own clothes may not be cheaper than buying them (always), but each item is a process, an expression of your creative self, and if you have to choose between spending an afternoon at the mall, or at your sewing machine, I'll bet you can decide which would be better on your budget.

I have always sewed. As little girls, my sisters and I clamored to use the sewing machine, leading to a family rule: on our eighth birthday, we were permitted to train on the pedal-powered machine. The oldest, I was the first to take my rightful seat behind the machine, and went on to occasionally go on sewing marathons. I made my own prom dress, and my own wedding dress, my own maternity clothes. Every year in a flurry of desperate last-minuteness, I make Halloween costumes for my children.

But it has only been in the past year that people have come through my house, asking almost hungrily, "where did you get that sewing machine?" (I bought it on eBay, and its provenance is its own story, but that's for another blog post.) Everyone, but everyone, wants to learn how to sew, and get their own machine to do so. The publication of the learn-to-sew book Bend-the-Rules Sewing by a local blogger and crafter, Amy Karol in 2007 was a marker: people wanted to learn to sew. And they'd like to learn to make their own clothes.

While making your own clothes is often no more economical than buying them new, it's an entirely different process; in fact, the process is much of the fun. Retail therapy? Meet creative, crafty therapy, creating your own fashion "out of whole cloth," as it were. It is certainly possible to spend a lot at the fabric store, but it's also a time-consuming craft. A few afternoons might flash by as you snip and stitch and iron and stitch some more; a far greater sense of accomplishment than picking out the right color t-shirt at The Gap. And what riches: to finger a hundred bolts of cloth before you pick the one that's right for you; to tailor the garment exactly for your body; to finally give an outlet to your inner fashion designer.

And if you reclaim fabrics or find them on closeout racks or in thrift stores, you'll find that fabulous fashion-forward garments can be yours for a few dollars apiece. Whether or not you save money, you'll save a lot of yourself.


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