Rosalind Jana Oxfam Fashion Blogger
22nd Aug 2012
Still being at sixth form, I tend to build up and mythologise the summer holidays into a never-ending, sunny time of creative pursuits, café visits and charity shop excursions. The reality is rainier, shorter and more dominated by college work and preparation for applying for university. The activities I envisaged filling up my weeks with - such as making my way through all of the photography and art books on my shelves, or scrapbooking, organizing endless shoots and dressing up with friends - are only achieved only in snatches and spare moments.
One of my big plans for the summer was to reclaim my sewing machine, to lift off the dustcover and get the needle whirring. I have a huge pile of clothes waiting to be shortened, taken in, hemmed, let down and generally hacked at. Some have sat there for several years, bought in a charity shop on a whim. It's easy to pick something up with the best intentions - promising to nip in the waist or take off the sleeves the minute it reaches home.
Instead, it gets put on the pile. Occasionally I rescue one or two items - a long skirt, perhaps, that needs some marking out with tailor's chalk and a steady hand with the scissors, or some trousers ready to be turned into rather attractive shorts.
However, for most of the year the sewing machine sits silent. Despite all of my good intentions, the transition from thinking about altering clothes and actually doing it is rarely made. Often it's thanks to other commitments or time constraints. But it's also, I must admit, due in part to my own frustration with the slow pace required for sewing. It's a shame, as the sense of achievement when something is hemmed or elasticated is wonderful. I often tread this line between frustration and elation. On the one hand, the process of ironing, pressing and stitching a seam into
place can be laborious (particularly when parts must be unpicked and redone) - but on the other it can be therapeutic and immensely satisfying, while also providing a new addition to the wardrobe.
There is no doubt that the results make it worth doing. Basic skills with a sewing machine open up all sorts of possibilities - and make charity shop purchases all the more compulsive, as the potential of the garment is sized up. A large shirt might benefit from a dart or two, while a relatively plain dress presents numerous options for customization.
Of course, I am only talking about the most basic of actions here - the bread and butter of sewing, rather than the fancy recipes. One day I hope that I can put the many patterns (and offcuts of vintage fabrics) lying around the house to good use as well. Many of these have also been purchased in either charity shops or flea markets - deemed as being too beautiful or unique to pass by. This is another skill entirely - one that seems to belong more to the era of 'make do and mend' than to the world of rapidly produced fashion we are so used to. Maybe it's a skill to add to
my burgeoning list of things to do next summer holiday - and perhaps, for once, I might actually complete it.