Walking through the halls of ORHS, you’re sure to see countless personal styles among students.Wearing anything from business casual to workout chic to pajama pants, it’s always fun to see the unique ways students express themselves. As I’ve admired my classmates’ clothes this year, one particular style has caught my eye: students coming to school in beautiful clothes that they’ve made themselves.
It’s extremely impressive to me that people can take simple thread, fabric, and yarn, and create a piece of usable art they can wear on their bodies. I’ve considered learning to make clothes myself, but the world of sewing seems daunting and confusing, and I don’t know where to start. However, I’m still very interested in the idea of making my own clothes, and I wanted to learn more about it. So, I interviewed several people around our school who make clothes to gather information about their processes and how others can start sewing their own clothes, too.
The first person I spoke to, Elise Riddell (‘22), first became interested in sewing after watching the show Project Runway with her mom. “I was inspired. I wanted to try that!” she said. Riddell said she “needed something to do in the house and [sewing] was just what I hadn’t tried yet,” so within the first week of 2020’s quarantine, she cut up an old shower curtain and made it into a circle skirt.
Since making that first skirt, Riddell has made a dress, another skirt, and many other articles of clothing. Her favorite of these was the second skirt she made, where she took several old pairs of jeans and made her own unique pattern out of their different colors. Riddell has enjoyed sewing so much that she decided to do an Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) with it, where she works on specific sewing projects and meets goals as a student-designed course for ORHS credit.
Isabella Nocetti (‘22) is another student who loves to sew. She makes “anything that comes to mind,” which includes skirts, tops, dresses, and even her own suit to wear to prom. “Honestly, if inspiration strikes, I’m gonna make it,” said Nocetti.
Nocetti said she likes sewing because “it’s really helpful for my mental health — it takes my mind off of everything. I just focus in on what I’m making and I don’t have to worry about anything else that’s going on in my life. It makes me happy!”
One project Nocetti is especially proud of is a Victorian, Civil War-era day dress. Currently, she is “making a Victorian-era ball gown. It’s going to be royal purple with bell sleeves. I’m so excited for that one… I really like making Victorian-era dresses because they’re just a lot of fun and it’s not something that you typically see.”
Aside from sewing, there are many other textile-based crafts that I wanted to learn about too. Katherine McEwan (‘23) knits and crochets hats, sweaters, cardigans, socks, mittens, and more. After learning how to knit in fourth or fifth grade, McEwan said they stopped for several years. “Then, I picked it up in the first spring we were in quarantine, and I learned to crochet that fall” after being remotivated by the pandemic.
McEwan said one of their favorite parts of making their own clothes is that “it’s more customizable. Instead of having something that’s maybe not the colors I want… I can make exactly what I want. Also, I just enjoy the process. It gives me something to keep my hands busy.”
After talking to these three creative students, I also wanted to learn about sewing as a long-term hobby from someone who’s been doing it since before the pandemic. Andrea Drake, my math teacher who often comes to class in cute homemade masks with matching overalls or shirts, seemed like the perfect person to ask. Drake said she makes “anything and everything sewing and quilting related,” and says she has been sewing for almost all her life. She “started out learning to sew from my mom who primarily quilts, so a lot of what I’ve done has been quilting.” As time has gone on, she has made many bags and wall hangings, and recently has done more garment-making. “But, quilting is my primary love. I definitely love that,” she said.
Drake likes to sew because “I find it really relaxing. And, I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid. I remember being in my mom’s sewing room and watching her sew or quilt, so it just feels like second nature.” Additionally, “my job can be pretty logical and pretty right brain, and this is a way for me to exercise my left brain and have my creativity come out in a different way.”
Drake is also motivated to create because “I like the satisfaction of creating something that I can then display in my own home or that I can give to somebody.” She has also gotten very involved in quilting communities on social media, where she said that “being able to share my creations with other people is really a big motivation.”
Drake is excited that more people have been getting into sewing recently because “it transcends literally any sort of group. It’s something that you can always use and you can do it at any age.”
At the end of each of my interviews, I asked for any guidance for people like me who might want to start sewing or creating but don’t know how. All of my sources had great advice.
McEwan said, “I think the best way [to learn knitting or crocheting] would be to have somebody to actually teach you, or just to have somebody who you can ask questions to. There are also a lot of really good YouTube tutorials. I personally don’t like YouTube tutorials, but there are written ones or ones with photos too. You have to figure out what your learning style is.”
Riddell agreed with McEwan’s suggestions, and said that people interested in learning to sew should “watch a lot of YouTube videos before you start… Watching someone else really starts making your brain think in the way that you have to sew.” She added, “if there’s someone to teach you in person, it’s definitely a lot easier than trying to teach yourself. There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know about my machine until someone taught me.”
No matter how you learn best, Nocetti said that “the best advice that I’ve gotten is just go for it. Everybody starts off as a beginner, and you might not be particularly proud of the first few things that you make. But at the end of the day, if you finish the project, you have something. If you start the project, you have something to be proud of. So just make yourself a little design and just go for it!”
– Zoe Selig