It was once a much needed skill. Before the onslaught of globalization, it was imperative that a woman knew how sew, whether by hand or by machine. Nowadays, sewing has been relegated to the confines of recreation, something done for the sake of enjoyment rather than necessity. Which begs the question: how valuable is sewing today? I ask myself this question as I try to become more adept to the needle and thread. I yearn to be the homemaker that can fix a sagging hemline, patch up a hole, or whip up a dress with expert ease. Alas, I am beset with laziness and can barely bring myself to follow a pattern correctly, as the mangled black fabric hidden in the back of my closet that was supposed to be a maxi dress would tell you.
I should be more proficient. My mother is an avid sewer with a host of Easter dresses and matching outfits for my younger sister and I under her belt. To this day, she still churns out homemade replicas of current trends via her second-hand sewing machine with honed expertise. Teaching me the craft was futile, as I always had something better to do, a.k.a, watch reruns of All That. As an adult, I attribute this lack of motivation to the instantaneous of clothing nowadays. While I try to convince myself that I must learn to sew, my proclivity towards shopping squashes any notions of spending a few hours painstakingly piecing together a garment on my own. Anyone could argue that sewing in 2013 is not only unnecessary, but impractical. There is no shortage of mass-produced clothing while thrift stores and vintage shops are teeming with unique and timeless pieces. And I’m no stranger to either. Shopping as an activity is something I revel in, as does most people. I can always find something that suits my aesthetic in less time than it takes to thread the bobbin.
Then there’s the other half of my brain. The part that craves nostalgia and sees the endless possibilities of possessing such a skill. The part that wants to pass on something worthwhile and useful to my offspring. The part that knows I could most likely make that $200 caftan for $50. The part that realizes that modesty is a relic to most designers today. One of the reasons why I see sewing as something I need to practice is that since converting to Islam three years ago, one of my most difficult tasks has been finding clothing that is not only modest, but stylish. More often than not, the two don’t always coincide. When they do, however, it’s the price tag that always makes me think twice. Knowing how to sew gives you more control over your clothing, instead of following the dictates of an unethical system that promotes wastefulness, socioeconomic imbalance, and shamelessness.
The bottom line: buying clothes is easy. Sewing is work. But in the long run, when the dollar becomes obsolete and our capitalist system implodes, you’ll have comfort in knowing you can maintain the clothes you already have instead of resting on the assumption that there will always be more. Learning to sew is a part of self-sufficiency. Knowing this, I’ve gone to many lengths to train myself. Sewing classes, books, sewing blogs… they’ve all been of some help in cultivating a deeper understanding of the craft. Yet while my sewing machine sits in a state of stagnation and my collection of vintage patterns gather dust, the only thing I’m still missing is steadfastness. It’s the main ingredient, one you can’t do without. Because clothes don’t make themselves.