Featured Pledger: Tina C (Down the Retro Rabbit Hole)

After a stint living abroad, Tina of Down the Retro Rabbit Hole changed her attitude to consumerism forever. Find out how her time living in India transformed her attitude to shopping centres and mass-made items.

Name: Tina C.

Website: Down the Retro Rabbit Hole 

Pledging for all of 2012

Why did you take the Seamless Pledge?

In 2011 my partner and I returned from a year living abroad in India where he was completing dissertation research for his PhD. Post-India, my views of consumerism shifted drastically. I’d lived in India before, in 1999, and was thoroughly charmed by the “walla”–a “guy” (the literal translation) who sells a specific item.

If you wanted fabric, you went to the Cloth Walla. If you needed a screwdriver, you went to Tool Walla. Want some chai (tea) or snacks? Visit your friendly corner Chai Walla! And so on. The really great thing about this system of wallas was the relationship that developed. The wallas I visited often knew me by name, my preferences, and gave me “pucca” (good) Indian prices.

However, during 2010, I observed a significant shift in the Indian economy from Walla to shopping mall/center.  It was heartbreaking as it meant a shift to an (even more) throwaway society, a decrease in product value and customer service and most definitely no more personal relationships with a friendly corner walla. I started to really think about the effect consumerism, specifically Western culture consumerism, has on the world.

When we returned to the USA in February of 2011, I just could not shop at malls anymore. I was acutely aware the clothing options neither fit nor flattered my figure AND the incredibly shoddy clothing construction. Furthermore, my age demographic (I’m 33) was definitely not represented as all I saw around me were items targeted towards teens, college-aged students, and grandmas.

Then and there I decided to not buy any clothing during 2011. Fast-forward to 2012 and I found myself with clothes I absolutely detested, but rather than buy new clothes, I decided it was time to (really) learn how to sew my own clothing! I stumbled across, and took, the Seamless Pledge and haven’t looked back.

What impact has the pledge had on your day-to-day life? 

I think a lot about my role as a consumer. I’m on a very tight budget and just cannot afford to spend money on clothing that lasts one season –if even that!–and then gets tossed. This thought now also extends to sewing patterns (I buy versatile vs. trendy), sewing supplies (good thread vs. cheap thread, quality scissors, quality trim, etc.), and fabric.

At first, I used whatever fabric I had on hand which mostly tended to be quilting cotton. Quilting cotton, while in abundance (and so pretty!) at fabric stores like Joann’s Fabrics, doesn’t work well *all* the time (Tilly, of Tilly and the Buttons has an excellent post about using quilting cottons).

During my first attempts at (re)learning how to sew garments, I used solely quilting cotton. The garments turned out okay, but aren’t anything I wear. Now I buy quality fabrics that fit the pattern specifications as well as my lifestyle. This means I have to be a bit more picky about what I make because quality fabric can be quite expensive! As a result, my wardrobe is still stuck in 2009, but slowly expanding.

Any tips for someone wanting to give up mass-market clothing?

Invest in a good sewing machine and its feet. Find a good Sewing Machine Repair Walla (mine picks up and drops off my sewing machine) if you’re buying an older model. Learn how to maintain your machine–I cannot stress this enough! A good cleaning of the bobbin area will cure half your machine woes.

A sewing class, if available in your area, may be of great help to you if you’re a total newbie. Buy, at the very least, one really solid but basic sewing reference–I highly recommend The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, Threads Sewing Guide: A Complete Reference from America’s Best-Loved Sewing Magazine, or something similar.

Invest–because they’re expensive–in a superb pair of sewing shears (I HIGHLY recommend Gingher–mine cut through fabric like a hot knife through butter). Change your needle often! I don’t change mine nearly enough and my machine hates me for it (seriously…it occasionally flings needle parts at my face). Learn a few basic pattern manipulation techniques; you’re clothing will fit AND flatter your figure if you do!

And finally, get involved online! The online sewing community is so supportive and
wonderful. You’ll make friends and gain skills and inspiration. The Sew WeeklyBurdaStyle, and We Sew Retro are among my favorite group-sew sewing sites. OH! And get/adopt a cat! All of us Super Awesome Sewasaurus Rex’s have one! Seriously, I have two

A big THANK YOU! to Elena for no only featuring me this week, but for coming up with the Seamless Pledge. It’s really awesome way to think about one’s relationship to and with their clothing.

Aw! Thanks Tina! Plenty of tips there to get you going, I think I need to take a couple of them on board myself! Make sure you check out Tina’s blog where she’s currently musing about ombre dyeing

11 thoughts on “Featured Pledger: Tina C (Down the Retro Rabbit Hole)

  1. rjwatters says:

    Hi there Tina, thanks for sharing your sewing insights and their connection to India – a place that transforms everyone, one way or another.

      • Tina says:

        You MUST visit! It’s amazing and challenging. And incredibly diverse. This last time in India we got to travel in the southern states and they’re so very different from the north (where I initially lived) and Gujarat (where we lived while my mister was doing dissertation research).

  2. Claire Cooper says:

    Totally agree with your thoughts! I decided to buy second hand or make all my own clothes this year before hearing about the seamless pledge. I’m gonna make a small exception as a friend has given me a gift voucher for one of my favourite clothing stores – who happen to be eco friendly, so i’m happy.

    • Elena Cresci says:

      That’s amazing, how are you finding it so far? Do you mind me asking which clothing store is your favourite? I’m looking into alternative places to buy underwear/tights and suchlike so it would be really handy to have an eco-friendly one on the list 🙂

  3. Aniko says:

    Really engaging interview! I really liked reading about the Indian walla’s!
    I couldn’t agree more on the sewing machine maintenance and learning the tricks – I was only too happy to blame my machine for a bad seam, a broken needle or any other hiccup it had until I learned that I was the one not doing something right not the machine. And it did fling some needles in my face too until I paid attention 🙂
    Great feature!

    • Elena Cresci says:

      I have to say, all credit falls to Tina on that front – I sent her the questions and she really made it her own in her writing 🙂

      Snap on the sewing machine front – I’m terrible for remembering to oil my machine. It was messing up not so long ago, I oiled it out of guilt et voila, we’re friends again.

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