Want to look snazzy without spending a bunch? And swan around going, “Oh this old thing – I made it myself”? Sewing your own stuff can be hard if it’s been a while since you last threaded a needle. But fashion designers and sisters Laurinda and Fatuma Ndenzako of Melbourne label Collective Closets say it’s time to feel the fear and do it anyway.
“Sewing is like riding a bike,” Laurinda says. “After you’ve been away from it for a while it can seem daunting, but those skills don’t leave you. Once you get started you’ll remember how to do it again.”
Here are a few gentle reminders from the sisterly duo to help you reconnect with your inner seamstress-slash-couturier.
Photos by Phoebe Powell
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE If you’re new to sewing, the sisters reckon simple silhouettes are best. “Don’t set yourself up for failure by choosing something like a wedding dress for your first project!” Laurinda says. Fatuma also cautions getting your head around the basics: “Give yourself a chance to familiarise yourself with your sewing machine… Maybe even start with cushions, so you can practise sewing in a straight line.”
2. PATTERNS ARE PRETTY “I love pattern books,” Fatuma sighs. “I used to love looking at them with my mum, the pictures are so inspiring. Picking a pattern is one of the most enjoyable parts of sewing!” But before you get carried away by the pretty drawings, she says it’s important to be realistic about your skills. “Choose a pattern that fits your level of experience. If you’re just starting, pick a basic pattern first. Then you can work out what sort of fabric you need.”
3. FABRIC, FABRIC, FABRIC Your inner five-year-old may try to steer you towards something sparkly or silky, but the sisters warn they’re not for beginners. “If you start off with $100-per-metre silk you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle,” Fatuma says. “Using something like a simple cotton fabric makes it so much more straightforward. If you make a mistake that you have to unpick, it won’t show up or damage the material.”
4. DON’T GET TOO SPENDY There’s no need to go and spend up big on a fancy sewing kit when you’re starting out. “Most of the bits and pieces you need as a new sewer don’t cost a lot, but it’s a good idea to spend more on thread and scissors,” Fatuma says. “You don’t have to go somewhere fancy and spend $500 on a pair of scissors, but having a really sharp pair of sewing scissors that you don’t use for anything else will make everything so much easier and you’ll be forever using them. The same goes for thread – buying a good quality one that won’t pull or break is definitely worth it.”
5. GO AHEAD AND ASK FOR HELP “You don’t need to go to the fabric store with a massive moodboard, but if you don’t know the lingo then showing the assistant a few pictures can really help,” Laurinda reckons. “People who work in these stores are amazing – they have a wealth of knowledge and they’re always really happy to share it. They can show you how to measure yourself, how to find the right pattern for your skill level, and how to get the right fabric.” And if you get stuck when you’re back at home, the internet is your friend: “Whatever you need to know will be on YouTube,” Laurinda says. “There are so many tutorials that show you how to do everything from threading your machine to sewing on a button.”
6. EMBRACE THE WONKINESS Laurinda and Fatuma both say that sewing your own clothes gives you amazing control over your wardrobe. “That’s the best part of making something; you’ve got that autonomy and the ability to make something to complement your body,” Laurinda says. “No one else will have anything like what you make, so just own it,” Fatuma adds. “Don’t worry if you have to redo something a few times or things are a bit wonky. No one else will notice your little mistakes and you never know, it might just give you the edge.”
This very useful and nice sewing chat was brought to you by Spotlight’s Spring Fabrics Season Launch, which you can learn more about over this way. To see more of Fatuma and Laurinda’s cool stuff, head here.
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