Six Tips For Making Your Own Clothes

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Lydia has set herself the challenge of making her entire wardrobe in a year so she can give her shop-bought clothes away.

Once the year is up, all of my pre-existing shop bought clothes must be given away…

I have given myself one year to make all my clothes. I began creating my dream wardrobe on 1st January 2016, so by the end of June I will be exactly half way through this one woman mission. Once the year is up, all of my pre-existing shop bought clothes must be given away, so I’ll only have garments I have made left to live, breathe, work, play, eat and sleep in. I’ve been writing about every new garment I create here

So far I have completed just over 30 items, from silk bras and denim jeans to winter coats and embroidered jumpers. The whole project has made me appreciate how much time and skill goes into making good quality garments and how terrifying it is that the current fast fashion system completely devalues this. Made My Wardrobe is my way of detaching myself from the multi-billion pound global fashion industry that generates poor quality cheap clothing made in sweat shops by garment workers without basic rights or fair pay.

Made My Wardrobe is my way of detaching myself from the multi-billion pound global fashion industry…

As the project continues I find myself understanding more and more why I am doing it. I’ve realised I no longer wanted my clothing choices to be constructed for me or dictated by what is available to buy. As I get dressed in the morning I want to feel connected to the clothes I am wrapping my body up in. Wearing clothes I have made is the most honest way I have of being in the world; it is my little way of celebrating and expressing creativity each day.

I am constantly taking inspiration from film, theatre, art and couture as well as the incredible British designers I have worked with over the last few years. But if I had to describe my ultimate style aesthetic it would be an eclectic mix of ‘The Danish Girl’ meets Frida Kahlo meets Dolce & Gabbana.

Looking for beauty in the world and then translating it into garments that express the way I feel is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever been able to do. In case you fancy dusting off a sewing machine and turning your hand to making clothes for yourself, I have put together a few top tips.

1. Show Your Machine Some Love

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All sewing machines need to feel loved, if you are going to create beautiful clothes you need to be at one with your machine. So before you start, give her an MOT. Treat her to some oil, perhaps a nice new sharp needle, take the bobbin case out and blow all the fabric fluff away that accumulates down there. Most importantly give her a name; mine is called Phoenix.

2. Sharpen Those Shears

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A good quality pair of fabric scissors will last you for life if you look after them. Get a sharpening tool and use it regularly. Guard your shears at all times from non-sewcialists who might try and take them near paper.

3. Buy Good Quality Thread

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You are only as strong as your thread. Steer clear of bargain threads and stick to ones strong enough that you can’t snap them with your fingers. If you are hand sewing, wax your thread. This was the most useful thing I learnt whilst doing work experience on Savile Row, it makes the thread even stronger, smoother and stops you getting those annoying little knots which are impossible to untangle. If you don’t have any tailors wax, don’t be afraid to use an old candle, it works almost as well.

4. Iron Like You Have Never Ironed Before

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I’ll be honest I hate ironing, but when it comes to making garments I spend as much time at my ironing board as I do on my sewing machine, so I’ve had to learn to embrace it. If you press accurately and regularly the whole garment will sew up so much easier. Try to find yourself an iron with a decent steam function that doesn’t mistake itself for a jacuzzi.

5. Be Your Own Mannequin

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If you are making something for yourself you have the luxury of being able to fit the garment as you make it, so use that luxury. Keep trying it on at every stage to see how it’s falling on the body. Especially before you add any collars, cuffs, waistbands or fastenings, as once they are on it’s much harder to refit.

6. Do Not Fear Mistakes

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Sewing should be creative, don’t be afraid to ignore methods and go freestyle. You will make mistakes but that just allows you to get even more creative with your design, add another embellishment perhaps, or make friends with your seam ripper and start again, either way you will find a way to make it work and probably make the garment more interesting as a result. If you have the right tools and beautiful fabrics you can rewrite the rule books as much as you like. What is the point in creating clothes that look like they could have been bought on the high street? We can all be more creative than that.

If you’ve tried your hand at customising and creating your own stuff, get at us – @rifemag

Up-cycle, customise and create, learn tailoring and sewing skills to bring your designs to life at the Urban Arts Space