For many sewists, sewing is a way to show off your unique personality to the world. For others, sewing is the foundation of a creative life. That’s why we talked to Elizabeth of Elizabeth Made This. She’s a DIY enthusiast whose blog is all about teaching people how to look at the creative side of sewing from refashioning, to pattern hacking (changing up a pattern) to making your own textiles with fabric dye and block printing. Always exploring and testing ideas in her sewing room, she talks about the joy of sewing with handmade fabric.
The Joy of Sewing with Handmade Fabric
1. How many years have you been sewing?
This one is tough to calculate! My Gram taught me the basics of hand sewing when I was 5 or 6 and I continued hand sewing until I got married. I made everything from doll clothes, to 8 twin-sized yoyo quilts, to a duvet for my college dorm room. After I got married and spent about a week sewing and block printing curtains for our apartment, I decided I needed a tech upgrade and bought a sewing machine!
I’ve been seriously sewing garments since 2008 when I was pregnant with my oldest son.
2. What’s your favorite sewing pattern/technique?
I tend to take one pattern and use pieces of it until it’s literally falling to pieces. I look at a lot of designers for ideas and then I’ll pattern hack a base pattern to get what I want. The Jalie 2921 Scarf Collar Top is probably my most used pattern. Every t-shirt I make starts with looking at that basic pattern and adding or taking away from it.
As for techniques, DIY runs deep in me. If I can’t find a fabric that’s the right color, I’m quick to grab a bottle of dye. Right now I’m into ice dyeing which is probably one of the easiest dye techniques out there for people who aren’t sure about playing around with fabric dye. There’s a special joy that comes from sewing with fabric that you’ve had a hand in making. It’s easy to find beautiful fabric, but when your own sweat equity is in the fabric itself, it’s a good feeling!
3. What is your favorite project that you’ve ever done?
Two Halloweens ago, I took on a month-long cosplay sewing project for me and my husband. For him, I made a full tailored suit for his depiction of David’s Tennant’s version of Doctor Who. For me, I recreated his companion, Rose Tyler’s purple leather jacket.
My husband’s suit was straightforward other than being a really long process and having to fit someone other than myself. The jacket, on the other hand, was a very creative process that involved a lot of research and looking at screenshots to get all the details right. I even went so far as to paint the faux leather I was working with because I couldn’t find any faux purple leather!
4. What is the greatest tip that you could give a beginner to learn sewing?
Make what you want to have in your life. I think it’s easy to fall into a trap of the next latest greatest pattern or fabric, but in the end, step back and think about what it is that you want to make. If you don’t have the skills or knowledge to get there, ask for help. The wider sewing community on the internet is so generous in sharing! And if you don’t find the perfect fabric, don’t be intimidated by getting your hands dirty creating your own fabric!
5. What are some of your favorite sewing tools?
I love a good point presser/clapper combo. They’re really wonderful for getting beautifully shaped collars and lapels. I also always keep small embroidery scissors handy for ripping out mistakes and clipping threads. Here are some more of my favorite helpful sewing tools.
6. What is your light set up in your sewing room?
I sew in my basement, so I’m always looking for good lights to add to my cave. In fact, I’ve had to upgrade my lights after my old lights tricked my eyes into painting that purple leather jacket the wrong color. I had to remix new paint and redo my work!
I have 2 IKEA floor lamps, a small clip a couple of small wall lights over other areas of my room and a desk lamp behind my sewing machine. There’s also a huge LED light for my videos that I turn on whenever I find myself sewing on off-hours. Since coming across Brightech, I’m adding the LightView Flex to my wishlist for some better direct light for my sewing machine.
Want to read more about sewing? Check out our interviews with Stephanie from Swoodson Says and with Tami Meyer. And if you’re interested in starting your own sewing hobby head over to our interview with Wendy Gratz, you’re going to love it.