I’ve been challenging myself not to buy new clothes, and six months into my yearlong sentence I’ve found some incredible second-hand items (not least a Celine spring trench coat for the delicious bargain price of £60). But to stay inspired and introduce some real changes to the way I make purchase decisions in the future, what could I do other than frequent charity shops and vintage boutiques? Enter if you please, the sewing machine.
My mum is a whizz at a sewing machine and during a shopping trip with her last autumn (pre-challenge), I spotted an oversized cape-like coat in Zara that we both thought was gorgeous but overpriced. My mum scoffed at the lack of lining, simplicity of the design and the cheap material that left tufts of fluff in its wake. Barely audibly, she threw away this comment: “I could make something like that, easily”. Little did she know how serious I was about embarking on my second-hand clothes challenge and little did she know I was in need of a new winter coat. However, she secretly likes a challenge my mum, and it didn’t take long before we sized up the inferior number from Zara and hey presto, my lovely new winter coat was completed two months later.
We sourced the outer material from Oxfam online, which does a great range of second-hand fabrics. The faux-fur lining was from a local fabric warehouse. The pattern we sort of made up as we went along. In total it cost about £60 to make.
With a new, sustainably-sourced coat, I felt inspired by what’s achievable with a bit of skill and creativity. There’s a great initiative called Love Your Clothes, which encourages this kind of thing – reuse, upcycling and generally slowing down the fast-turning fashion world we live in to reduce landfill. I know about it through my job but I’d recommend the website to anyone looking for ideas. They give plenty of tips including simple stuff like how to mend a hole or stitch a button. I decided to go a step further and signed up to a sewing workshop.
The two-hour class was hosted at the Fara Workshop in Islington by the lovely Grace and Anna whose company, Everything Colour, recycles discarded clothes, reinventing them into stunning new designs.
We set out to make a small, lined purse from second-hand fabric learning everything from how to thread a sewing machine and using a pattern to applying different stitches and fastening a popper by hand.
Sewing machines are scary implements so this class was a real confidence boost. My friend who took the class with me had never used one before but was so enthused by her newfound skill that she’s since acquired a second-hand machine.
The workshop was £50, and it was cash well-spent, particularly as the profit goes to the Fara charity. Plus I’m proper creatively fired up now. I’m determined to make a dress by the end of this year. Ambitious? Maybe, but doable? Why not!
Everything Colour will be at the Fara shop in Islington until the end of February. Check out their website to keep updated on upcoming workshops and events. There are lots of other places in London that offer sewing workshops too, including Sew Over It, Liberty and Sew It With Love. The London College of Fashion also offers short courses in garment making.