Old Pants, New Tailor

“Grandma, can I spend the night?”

It has been ages since I’ve heard those words from my beloved grandson. Risk or no, I could not have refused to save my soul. I reasoned that since we’d both been at home (and not exposed to potential nastiness), that we should be okay.

He was fascinated as he watched me sewing masks. Question after question was asked while I worked until he finally discovered my bag of sewing scraps.

“Grandma, can I sew on this fabric?” Grandson asked.

Once I gave permission, he announced that he wanted to make pants for his G.I. Joe doll. A few minutes later, he reappeared at my side with the creation in the top photo.

Those pants would barely fit upon his fingers.

I praised his attempt and reassured him that his next attempt would get better. The next morning, I discovered his first attempt at making a pattern:

Grandson’s second attempt

It was time to find the kid a pattern. He was obviously determined. After a quick online search, I found a basic pattern to work from. I printed it out and we went to work.

Grandson cutting out the pattern.

Since I didn’t have the doll available to check the pattern, I sacrificed a pair of my old sweat pants to the cause. I’ve widened a bit over these past few months so they’d gotten a bit tight and they won’t be missed. The stretch in the fabric would compensate if the pattern happened to be a bit small, I reasoned. We cut out the pieces and then started sewing.

Grandson sewing his first pair of pants from a pattern.

While he worked, I told him stories about how men who sew are called tailors, and how tailors used to be much in demand for sewing men’s clothing. I made an effort to discuss male fashion designers as well because I know in this area many consider sewing to be the exclusive realm of women. I wanted to mentally prepare him to know that it’s okay for guys to sew.

He was so proud of his creation!

Grandson’s finished pair of doll pants.

I am so proud of him! He did really well on those pants. I told him to let me know if we needed to alter the pattern, so the very next evening after he left Middle Daughter messaged me. She’d had to buy him a sewing kit and he was happily creating an entire wardrobe for his G.I. Joe. I gather she’s trying to locate a small sewing machine for him because she asked if I would teach both of them how to use it if she found one.

I readily agreed.

Back in the day before corporations trained us to buy their mass-manufactured garbage we used to make the clothes that we wore and the clothes we placed on our children’s toys. We made our own curtains, sheets, quilts, and anything else we wanted. We even knitted our own socks! My grandmother was so skilled at it that she didn’t even need a pattern; she could just look at an item and “know” how to re-create it at home.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately as I sew on those masks. We would sew what we needed, wear it out, re-purpose the fabric into quilts and other items, and then make more, so we didn’t have a lot of excess clothing. Even better, we appreciated the clothing we had, but due to the mental programming we’ve received we now look at clothes as disposable. We buy it, wear it once or twice, and then pass it on to someone else, donate it to a thrift shop, or toss it in the trash where it ends up in a landfill.

What if we changed that? What if, instead of giving money to the corporations who have programmed us to buy and buy, we started making things for ourselves to wear instead? It would cost a bit more to buy the fabric but each individual piece would have a part of ourselves in them, and they could be tailored to fit us properly. We could even select fabrics that reduce the harm to our environment by avoiding synthetics. If we wore those pieces out, re-purposing them into quilts or other items, we could reduce the burdens on our landfills even more.

I believe that I am going to do that. As I wear out the clothing I have already, instead of replacing them with commercially sewn options, I believe I may make some instead. When I mentioned that to my daughters, they were delighted. Middle Daughter wants me to teach her how to sew and Katie has already placed a few orders with the shop of Mom. As I become more comfortable with that, I do believe I may be able to take it a step further by re-working hand-me-downs and thrift store finds, which would reduce the environmental impact even further.

Time will tell how far I take it but I like the thought of reducing my reliance upon mass market goods even further. I like the thought of preventing the greedy corporations from receiving financial encouragement to treat workers as disposable objects so this is a thought I am definitely pursuing.

Have you given any thought about reducing your reliance on mass-produced goods? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

11 thoughts on “Old Pants, New Tailor”

  1. I’ve lost 45 pounds over the winter so my clothes are huge now. I just keep pulling the strings on my yoga pants tighter and tighter. Since no one except my husband sees me in these isolating times, why should I care? I had purchased tops in a smaller size when they were on sale in anticipation of the planned weight loss so I finally switched to them today. The old ones are indeed old but they are still in good shape so they will get passed on. Eventually I will have to buy smaller pants but I am in no hurry to do so. I do wish I could sew a straight line, though, so I’d have other options.

    1. Great pants and great idea. I’ve seen several YouTube videos about repurposing thrift store finds into useable and personalized clothing — that’s a worthy goal.

      It is sobering to think that it costs more to buy the fabric to make a dress than it does to buy a new one made in an overseas factory.

      Annie — I love your thought process and I am right with you in deciding to become more self sufficient.

      As for sewing machines, Facebook marketplace has lots of used ones near me.

      1. Hi, Belinda! I’ve got a machine coming from my auntie once this is over! It’s an old Singer; the very same Singer machine she sewed clothes for her and her children on so many years ago. She says that the thread bunches from the bottom now, but I’ll repair it and use it with pride. I’m so excited!

        Fabric is terribly expensive these days, so I am definitely going to hit the thrift shops and learn how to rework clothing and other items. I’m not sure when that will be, but I am tired of this disposable society. I have decided that it’s time for this old girl to rebel. 🙂

        1. Annie — I have seen postings from folks who have been cleaning out their closets during this time at home and they don’t know what to do with the stuff they are getting rid of. I’ll bet a post looking for donated fabric or cotton clothing (= fabric) could result in a lot of items. Might be worth a try.

          As for the old Singer, I use a portable one from my aunt that must be about 80 years old. It does just fine.

          Happy sewing!

    2. So that’s where all my weight has been coming from LOL! Where I’m not able to take walks or go places at the moment, I am getting thicker around the middle. I’ll lose it when this is over, so I’m not going to stress over it. I am seriously thinking of making myself some clothes if I outgrow my pants, however. I’ve a few pairs that I’ve already had to add to my recycle pile.

      As for sewing a straight seam, I can’t sew a perfect seam to save my life. I’ve simply reached the point where I consider those wonky stitches my trademark and let them go. Perfection is highly overrated, so try it and above all, have fun! As long as you are having fun, what does it matter if your stitches aren’t perfect?

      Sending hugs!

  2. I’m delighted they are interested. It’s an excellent skill to have and use, whether it’s repairs, makeovers or creating whole new garments and/or patterns from whatever you have to work with.

    1. I know right, Barbara? I was surprised that he was interested so it took me a bit to realize that he was serious. I am so thankful that I paid attention.

  3. Your grandson is awesome! He did a really good job on his first sewing project. I love the look of concentration on his face while he is sewing. He is “in the flow”, meaning that he is totally concentrated on what he is doing. Cheers to you, Annie, for encouraging him and for being such a wonderful example. When I see kids being interested in learning skills like sewing, I know there is hope for our country. I hope your grandson keeps on sewing, because it’s such an important skill to have (and also because it’s wicked cool! And also because it’s fun being creative.)

    1. Aww, thank you so much, Jen! I’m proud of him! He’s apparently having a blast at home now that he has a pattern; his mother has told me a few stories of his sewing adventures. I gather he’s quite serious. It warms my heart to know I had a hand in that 🙂

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