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

Featured Pledger: Sonja Beck Gingerich (Ginger Makes)

The Seamless pledge is nothing without its pledgers! Every week I’ll feature a new pledger on the site. Today, allow me to introduce you to Sonja of Ginger Makes:

Sonja in her Mello Yello vintage McCall’s 5995 dress

Name: Sonja Beck Gingerich

 Website: http://gingermakes.wordpress.com

Pledged for six months, now coming to the end of it.

Why did you take the Seamless Pledge? 

I’ve long felt guilty about relying on mass-made clothing, but I felt helpless when faced with the task of sourcing clothes responsibly.  So I was really excited to find a group of people who believe that it’s possible to walk away from unethically-made clothes.  I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement this group provides!

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

I’m not much of a shopper and I don’t have that many clothes, but I tend to make all my clothing purchases impulsively and unwisely.  I often won’t buy something I actually need, but I’ll pick up a novelty item on a whim without thinking twice!  I find myself more thoughtful about what I wear when I have to make something myself or source it secondhand– it takes a lot of work to add something to my wardrobe, so I want to make sure I’ll really wear it!  I’ve also found it’s really cool to slow down and appreciate the meditative process of making a garment.  I find so much joy and community in sewing, things I’ve never experienced while shopping!

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

Learn how to sew!  It can be tough to find exactly what you need for in thrift shops or on eBay, so it’s great to be able to make wardrobe basics that fit you and your personal style perfectly!

Make sure you check out Sonja’s blog for more on her creations. Want to be a featured pledger? Get in touch.