Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A ready-to-wear fast in 2014

Ok, I did something crazy yesterday ... I committed to a ready-to-wear fast in 2014. That's right: I made a commitment that I would buy no clothing from January 1, 2014 all the way through December 31, 2014. Instead, if I need clothing, I will either sew it or knit it. I'm making an exception for bras, underwear, athletic socks/tights, shoes, purses, and belts, all items I don't tend to overspend on, except for bras, which are a necessary expense for my girls. I haven't purchased a belt in donkey's years, so who knows if I'll get to it ... and maybe I'll make one instead!

Why am I doing this? The main reason is that I like to challenge myself and was encouraged by Sarah at Goodbye Valentino, who went on a ready-to-wear fast a couple years ago and is doing it again in 2014. I was blown away by the beautiful clothing she created during that year (and beyond) and was doubly impressed when I learned she hadn't really sewn much in the 25 years prior to making that commitment.

I sewed or refashioned a lot of my clothing in high school, but put my machine away once I went to college where I took up knitting. (Smith College has a strong knitting tradition among students.) During my late 20s and 30s, I sewed mostly home dec, then when my son was born, I started sewing for him. Sewing kids clothes helped me hone my skills so that when I gingerly started sewing for myself again, I had more successes than misses. I'm confident of my basic skills.

Other reasons for a ready-to-wear fast include not wanting to buy cheap throwaway clothing created in an exploitative economic system usually found in developing countries; a desire to wear clothing of impeccable quality (not that my skills are impeccable, but at least I can get the details the way I want them); to eliminate the bulk of my extensive fabric stash; to improve my SAHM jeans-and-t-shirt wardrobe to something a little more tailored and elegant; to give myself a creative outlet from my day job as a freelance journalist; and maybe to save a bit of money, although don't kid yourself--home sewing can be an expensive hobby, especially if you're anything like me and swoon over fabrics like silk charmeuse, Irish linen, and wool from Scotland.

It's a bit mad to commit to this: 2014 is going to be a crazy-busy year for me. Economic circumstances dictate that I put off the MSW, so my co-author (and friend) Linda and I are building up our Renegade Writer business. We have big goals with lots of deadlines attached to them. On the other hand, most people who sew (and knit!) have full-time jobs, too.

So wish me luck if you're so inclined. And if you're interested in giving up ready-to-wear clothing, you can commit to it on Sarah's blog. I'll be curious if you go through with it as I plan to do. :)


I'm getting a jump on 2014 by heading off to Staples to print out a pattern for my next project: Liesl & Co's Woodland Cape! I mentioned this pattern last week on the blog. It's not quite Sherlock Holmes, which I think would look a tad ridiculous on me, but cape-y enough to satisfy. I bought this camel/rust/olive windowpane wool at Fabric Mart a couple weeks ago, and I'll be lining it with olive Bemberg rayon I bought at Fabric Place Basement in Natick. The only thing left to purchase are three leather toggles and two buttons.



  1. I have never made an item of my own clothing in my life! I think it is fabulous that you can do this. Really cool.

  2. Jan, some items are very easy to might be surprised! The hardest thing (for me, anyway) is finding time. I can do knitting anywhere, which is why I'm so productive there, but a lot of sewing has to be done around my tools/machines.

  3. Just curious where would you start for easy to make wearables?

  4. Good question, Jan! The first thing I would consider is, "What do I like to wear?" or "What do I use a lot?" Then next is to be honest about your shape. Skirts tend to be easy to make, but if you don't wear a lot of them, why bother? When I got back into garment sewing, I started very simple: tote bags, summer blouses with simple lines, knit skirts without zippers, etc. I'm not a large woman, but I'm curvy, and curves bring fitting issues, thus why I like to sew knits -- they're more forgiving and flattering. My advice would be to start with projects that have few pieces and straight lines -- even a pair of pull-on pants made from linen can be super easy! If you want some specific pattern advice, let me know what you're interested in making and I'll be happy -- nay, thrilled! -- to help. :)

  5. Thanks! I may just take you up on that in the future. :)


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