Sewing – a quick design

My mind is on new year’s resolutions at the moment, and I have decided that next year is the one that I get my head around sewing.  It’s not one of my official diploma designs, but as I am intent on doing it anyway then I might as well do a design for it like a good little permaculturist…

Learning to Sew – A Quick Design 



By the time I consider this design complete, I want to be able to do three things:

1) Adapt clothes that I already have to fit me better or to a style that I like better

2) Make new clothes by copying ones I already own

3) Make new clothes from patters



I am not completely bereft of sewing skills.  When I was a kid, my mum and I made loads of stuff together.  I more or less remember the basics of seam allowance, basting and making a toile.  I have a sewing machine (my Nanna’s old one) and I know how to thread it up.  So I have old knowledge, but it is rusty and there are plenty of things that I didn’t learn when I was nine…




In: Time, money, equipment, materials, patience

Out: Clothes and soft furnishings, beauty, a sense of achievement and satisfaction



Time: This is the biggest limiting factor.  I am already doing two courses in the evenings – sea swimming and photography and I expect these to continue for the coming year.  Two evenings out per week feels really balanced to me, so there’s no way that I am going to add ‘sewing class’ to this.  Any sewing I do will have to fit in somewhere else.  I also need to be aware that I won’t be able to do anything between May and September as this time of year is nuts for me, and I am not going to sit inside with a sewing machine…

Space: Will and I live in a tiny place, so it’s probably going to be difficult for me to sew when he’s around because of noise and taking up space.  I could go up into the loft where there is a work station, but there would be a lack of light and the woodburner and tea-making facilities are downstairs (it’s important!).

Money: I will be restricted by how much I can spend on this, but luckily I do own most of the necessary equipment.  I also plan to mostly use recycled materials for ethical as well as financial reasons.

Maths skills: Time to face facts, not being very good at maths is holding me back.  I need maths for sewing, for cooking, for photography, for woodwork, for business.  For pretty much everything I am doing.  I know that I can probably get some free numeracy training at the Friends Centre so I think I finally have to do that this year too…



Peoplecare: By making my own clothes I will feel empowered and will enjoy the products of my labours, I won’t buy stuff made in sweatshops (not that I do now, I hasten to add) and I’ll be able to make stuff for people and pass on the skills that I have learned.

Earthcare: I’ll be using mostly recycled/repurposed stuff

Fairshare: I will be able to make and mend things for people and share my new skills



Observe and Interact:  Because I have been observing my time for a while, I think that with this design I am being really honest about the time that I have available.  It feels good to acknowledge that I won’t get it done in the evenings this winter and that I won’t get it done at all in the summer.   I know what time I have available and what I am able to do in that time.  I’ve been observing the training options available for a while too, and I know what’s out there.  It’s also really good to acknowledge that I need to brush up my maths skills.  I have been meaning to do that for five years and have ‘never had time.’  Got to make time now, I think…

Catch and Store Energy: I don’t have any energy to waste, so I want to create a well-designed learning path for myself so that I am not floundering around knee-deep in failed projects.  I have learned this way in the past, and I am bored by it now.  I know that I won’t get everything right first time, but I want to make it as likely as possible that I will.

Obtain a yield: Clothes, soft furnishings, beauty, satisfaction, a sense of security and skillfulness

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: I haven’t done any sewing courses thus far because I am well-aware that I don’t really have time for it – however with modest ambitions and a modest amount of time, I think I can get myself started.

Use and value renewable resources and services: ???

Produce no waste:  I will be ‘repurposing’ materials – reusing things that might become waste

Design from patterns to details: Quite literally…

Integrate rather than segregate: I plan to get my mum to teach me some stuff, so I can use this as an opportunity for family bonding.

Use slow and small solutions: I’m going to start this design with a work-at-your-own-pace e-course which I will hopefully get finished before summer.  If not, it doesn’t matter.  The projects in this course are small and well designed and take you forward gradually.  I don’t feel overwhelmed by them.

Use and value diversity: ???

Use edges and value the marginal: ???

Creatively use and respond to change:  ???



– This winter, I will do HOME EC ONLINE – a basic online sewing course to ease me back into sewing and using my machine.  I can do this on free weekend days when Will is out gliding

– If I have finished the online course, by autumn, I’ll do my friend Kat’s ‘Make your own patterns course‘ as I will have finished my photography courses by then

– I will stay with my parents for a week and get my mum to teach me how she copies clothes.  We can prop my Nanna up in the corner and have a family occasion 😉

And that will be the end of this design, but I might also set up some sewing/crafting weekends (or join some, who knows, they might exist already…)

I shall begin implementation in the new year…


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