What We Lost When We Lost Home Ec

I don't know about your home economics class, but mine was a Middle School wasteland of ugly pillows, uglier posters and burnt grilled cheese. My teachers were two cranky old ladies who were old and had always been old, and had been installed in that building so long they had taught some of my friends' parents way back when.

I grew up in a family of makers. My father knit, made bread and built WWII fighter planes out of balsa wood. My mother was the queen of classroom birthday desserts and, once upon a time, taught herself sassy cross-stitch. My sister constructed impenetrable forts from our old Christmas trees in the woods out back of our house.

Nothing about my Home Ec class made me want to continue using my hands or creating in a meaningful way beyond writing fanfiction during lunch hour (don't laugh, I wasn't the only one).  Who wants to make anything with two church nanas yelling at you from across a room? Or breathing down your neck while you work a sewing machine? Or chop vegetables "the wrong way"? (which later turned out to be the right way. Thanks, Food Network.)

No one. That's who.

Nothing about my feelings toward this singular class could lead you to the next thing I'm about to say: I make my own clothes. Really.

I knit sweaters, socks, hats, scarves and gloves. I embroider and bead and scroll through online fabric stores in my spare time. I agonize over color combinations, patterns, textures and "use value" of a particular garment. I sew bras and knickers, shirts and skirts, coats, and (most recently) my very own pair of handmade jeans. I made my own graduation dress, which will be making its debut in three weeks.

It’s my hobby, my stress reliever, my main source of clothing outside of vintage shops. It calms my busy hands, gives me a reason to listen to hours of podcasts and spend all Saturday on Hulu. Its hands-on math and art with problems to be solved. It sparks joy. It’s pure magic.

It makes my closet one-hundred-percent mine.

That was a very long, aggressively artsy way for me to say “I want you to make your clothes”. I want you to make your clothes. Or, at the very least, be adventurous with your wardrobe. Did you play dress-up as a kid, trying on outfit after outfit? Don’t you remember the hours upon hours of fun in styling your Barbie dolls? Do you miss the rush of excitement, the little leap in your heart when you land on the Perfect combination?

When did our closets lose their joy?

They don’t have to, and I believe that learning to make the things you wear every day can inject pure happiness into your life. Imagine going to class in a top you really love and, when people compliment you on it, you get to say proudly “Thank you, I made it!”

I’ve been making my own long enough that at least one of the things on my body at any time is handmade – including bralettes. Walking around in a brand new sweater, knowing you look fabulous is the greatest high ever known to man. And I swear, it never wears off. Every time you finish a project or put together a new Me-Made combination, you’ll experience the same rush. Every time someone compliments you – even if you’re wearing a dress you made 10 years ago – you’ll feel a rush of pride. I promise.

But, I hear you. Getting started is a whole thing, and a lot of us have forgotten that making your own clothes isn’t all that hard. Let’s put it this way: if you can survive a language class, figure out the PAT busses or know how to kind of use chopsticks, you can learn to sew. If you can pick up a pen and write your own name, you can learn to knit.

Seriously, you can do this. You’ve got a big-brain and you’re killing the college game. I think you can make a scarf!

The easiest place to get started is the internet. Do some Google searches, scour YouTube and blogs. It’s all there. My personal favorites are Seamwork and Closet Case for sewing.  Ravelry is great for knitting. Seamwork is technically a magazine that you need a subscription for, BUT you can read all their back issues for free and they answer so many questions. Closet Case is run by Heather, one of the sweetest people in the whole making world and the reigning Queen of sewing jeans. Yes, JEANS (You can do that!).

The Love To Sew podcast and the Great British Sewing Bee are super fun. I spend a lot of time lurking through the #handmadewardrobe and #MeMadeMay tags on Instagram for inspiration. Once you see all the cool stuff that other people have made, you’ll want to jump in to!

Still not sure? Hit me up. This is an open invitation to slip into my Instagram and blog DMs if you have questions or just want to chat colors. I love teaching and would be over-the-moon happy to help you out any time!

One last thing.

We are all perfectionists; and even if you think you aren’t, you are. We all want to do our best and anything less can weigh on you. When you make clothes, you have to let that go. It’s very hard to, and even the most experienced makers never really get rid of their perfectionism. Making is a practice of keeping your perfectionism in check. Not everything is going to be Project Runway worthy, but none of those seams are permanent. You can always adjust, resew, recut and unravel until you land on the right recipe for you.

That perfection extends to your body too. Making teaches you to wrangle with your body, all the things you like and don’t like. But, tell you what: When you make your own, you are in control. You don’t have to subject yourself to the B.S. sizing of mall stores. You are working towards a piece of clothing that is designed for you, to fit you and only you. I speak from experience: every body is a good body and you will never love yourself more than when you’re wearing clothes that fit you just right. Right down to the color of the fabric and the stitches on the sleeve.

Go forth and bravely make, ladies!

Photo Cred: All photos are author’s own